Aug 30, 2011

Money and God.

Hello little bloggy,

Today I want to talk some serious stuff with you. Mainly because sometimes I go back over my blog and read it to myself (narcissism?) and I want this to be a reminder to me. So - here in e-world it gets documented. For myself. And you, I guess. But mostly, me. (wow.)

I want to talk about finances.

I know, booooringggg. But important. Because when I evaluate my personal finances, I see a bigger picture - I see God.

My current situation goes like this: I am 25 years old. I am single. I am a full-time PhD candidate at the 3rd best school in Chi.na. My housing, tuition, books, lab fees are all comped by the Ch.inese gov (thanks!). In addition to everything free, I recieve a "living stipend" of about 250USD a month that is direct deposited into a Chin.ese account for my personal use, (thanks, again!).

I pay no bills, and receive a stipend for electricity. If I go over my per-month limit, I pay $10. In 12 months, I have only gone over once, (my first month I went nuts on the AC - it's hot).

This government stipend is not enough to accomodate my desired lifestyle (gym membership, internet in my room, phone calls to people in other cities ($$), bike maintenance, tithing, shopping, the occasional Starbucks coffee ($) and eating in restaurants.) So I have 3 other jobs. (private tutoring, Professor, English teacher at the hospital). Between all these jobs I make enough money to live comfortably in Ch.ina and save to travel.

If there were ever an emergency, I'm screwed, and still rely on my parents for plane tickets home (although technically, I could pay these, but my daddy is uber generous and likes to take care of me in this way - thanks, Dad!). I budget every month, sometimes I get dangerously close to have zero money to my name, but I know that at the end of the month another wad of cash from the Chin.ese gov is coming, so it's all good.

So what is the deeper meaning of all this?

Timing.

The first semester of last year I was not tutoring, just working at the hospital and getting the living stipend. Because I had moved and had to buy a lot of big-ticket items (fridge, internet, etc) I was not making ends meet. It was rough. I prayed, "God, am I destined to be poor as dirt? Because this really sucks." And He was like, "You need more money? Ask for more money."

So I did. I called up my boss, bargained hard, and got a significant raise at the hospital. (about 12 dollars more a week).

Then second semester my dad called me. "Want to meet your family in Spain?" ding ding ding travel opportunity of a lifetime to backpack Europe!!! But there was no way I would have enough money for that because the Chi.nese yuan is like monopoly money when held next to the Euro.

About 2 days after I talked to my dad I got 2 phone calls from Chin.ese people wanting English tutors. A few days later, a third. I stacked my Saturdays to tutor the 3 seperate kids (about $80 a Saturday) and after 2.5 months, these tutoring days practically paid for my 3 week trip. I would not have been able to go otherwise. Talk about timing and provision.

I was still nervous about affording the trip, and then my sister showed up in Prague with a gift from my grandparents of $100. At the end of the trip when my parents showed up in Barcelona, I had literally 20 Euro in my purse. Without my grandparents' gift I would not have made it - or would have had to be more frugal. Their generous gift sustained me.

Then when I came back to Chi.na, I literally had no money. I had left myself a small nest egg in my Chin.ese account to live off of until I get my stipend again in September. But then the gym had a sale. A two year membership for 2200rmb. I had 2300rmb in the bank.

I took a leap of faith and paid it.

The day after the sale was over, there was a new sign in the gym. Now a 1 year card is 2200rmb (the price I paid for 2 years) and they have eliminated the half year membership (that I had before I bought the extension). This is a 50% increase in price. If I had not bought the sale, I would have had to quit the gym, (and that would have made my quality of life awful because I love the gym.) I really believe that the timing here is miraculous. It just baffles my mind that if I had missed the sale, or chosen not to do it, that I would have had to lost this part of my life.

Also, after I made that huge purchase, an old student emailed me to go tutor her son every day for 10 days. So I did. And that money became my living money until September, meaning that buying the gym membership was canceled out.

Timing and provision. Over and over again.

Between the work raise, tutoring gigs, gifts from family, and the gym sale, I see how just when a situation could go bad, I am saved. Just before I run out of money, I recieve a gift - whether it be a gift, sale, or opportunity for more work. All of this can't be a coincidence, I am being provided for by the ultimate Provider.

Recently I've become nervous again about money. The stipulations of my new work contract are that I am only paid in 2 incriments - October and December. Because I have lessoned my work at the hospital from two days a week to one, I will have to live off less until I am paid in October. I am also not making as much as I thought, so my big hopes of moving off campus (and thus obtaining more personal freedom and an automatic washer) have been dashed.

While I am so pre-disposed to complain and wonder, "Why me?!?! Why do I have to live like this scrubbing my undies in the sink??" I need to remind myself of the million ways I have been provided for along the way. It will work out.

I have faith that I won't have to live here in this piece of crap dorm 3 more years. I have faith that I will live fine until I get paid in October. Maybe it means I have to work more. Maybe it means I have to be satisfied with less.

God's timing is perfect. His provision is generous and sufficient for where I am at now in life. (translation - I won't be left dead in a ditch somewhere, I have a free place to live, so I need to shut up and be thankful).

So, you hear that, Jessica? (ya you - reading this blog months later) ... don't worry about money. You've been provided for in the nick of time a thousand times. Trust that it'll happen again.





walk slow. xoxo.

Aug 28, 2011

baptism, bikes, and booty burnin.

Today was long and good.

(Isn't that a nice thing to say about a day?)

This morning I went back to the International Fellowship for the first time in mooooonths. I became upset over how some orphan ministry issues were handled back in like, March, and instead of handling my feelings and confronting people - I disappeared. Healthy (not). Ugh.

Well, the beauty of life is that change is possible, so I spoke with some people today, shared a little of my heart, confronted the issue, apologized for my lack of communication/confrontation skills and began the process of moving forward. In a group of people with such varying cultures and ways of doing things, beaurocracy and hierarchy of leadership can be a tricky thing.

I love and respect these people/this place, so I was so happy to be back after my summer travels.

What was especially awesome about service today was that my friend/dormmate E from Scotland was baptized! After a year of interesting discussions, I returned from Europe to find E fired up about Jesus. He's one of the most interesting and intense people I have ever met and I felt priviliged to be a part of his story and wish him well as he leaves HZ (he brought is suitcase to the chrch, and left on a train tonight - talk about dedication.) He's one of the bajillion people that I come across, learn a lot from, interact with in meaningful ways, and then seperate from probably for good.

E, me, and our friend Kevin from Cameroon:

After chrch I got to hang out with some new friends who have just arrived. We went bike shopping where I got to translate things like, "please move the bell to the left side of the handlebars," and, "please add a basket to this bike." The little worker boy loved us and it was funny to watch other customers faces as the big, white dudes tested bikes in the aisles:

We split up in the grocery store and I walked the 2 miles home with my purchase (a bike pump for my ailing tires). I spent about an hour looking up Oprah.com's weightloss inspiration quotes (secrets out: I'm middle aged, haha) and then I headed to the gym for an intense butt burnin' session! I was down on my body today for some reason (Chi.nese food induced constipation is probably to blame), but none-the-less I needed a good sweat-sesh at the gym to feel better about myself, so that I did.

After the gym, I walked to another grocery store to buy canvas drawers for my, "organize your room you've lived here a year get over it and do something," room make-over. I'm really proud of the outcome! Pics to come soon once I tackle laundry mountain. haha.

And now I'm here. Telling you about all of this. What a random post. Wow. What a random life. Wow.

Confronting past feelings, a friend's baptism, buying bikes, Oprah.com, constipation, working out, room organization. Yep, I guess that covers today.

Well, I'm off to go take some fiber pills. Cheers.




walk slow. xoxo.

Aug 27, 2011

the love.

In this land, nothing is ever as it seems or was planned.

And today was a perfect example of that truth.

A week ago Chi.nese bestie Michael called me up and told me that this weekend he had a small personal donation for the orphans and wanted me to go with him. He also said that two teenagers would go with us in his car and that he wanted me to talk to them about, "the love."

"What do you mean, 'the love'?" I asked.

"You know, church, and the love."

"ooohhhhhh."

So today began with Michael banging on my dorm door at 8am because he forgot his phone, gifting me a gorgeous Estee Lauder makeup kit, "because I travel a lot and wear a lot of makeup." hahhaha. And then we were off to the orphan hospital to meet Lin. I noticed the absence of the two highschoolers and he replied that they were, "meeting us there with their families."

Oh dear, I thought, 6 more Chin.ese people to have to deal with. (I was in a sunshiny mood - not, haha).

We chatted away for the hour drive and pulled into the orphan hospital driveway to see a hoard of families - and about 10 young children running around like mad in the parking lot. No teenagers anywhere.

We looked at each other in shock as my heart sank a bit - having that many people is a bit of an annoyance to the staff and I was in NO mood to deal with children screaming "foreigner" in my face.

My heart sank even deeper when I spied my dear friend Lin who works at the hospital was on the opposite side of the parking lot as the families with a look of "WTF is going on" on her face.

We parked and a woman approached Michael. I listened to their chat and figured out what had happened. Apparently, Michael had mentioned to a surgeon during heart surgery that he would go this weekend to the orphanage. He invited her and her husband and child. She then invited her whole apartment floor.

So there they were. Token families of 3, one-child policy style. Waiting in the parking lot for someone to tell them what to do.

But then something amazing happened.

All these (seemingly rich) people opened the trunks of their cars. And started pulling out boxes of Pampers and milk powder. And then Michael and I led them into the lobby of the orphanage and up to the fourth floor like a wild, milk-toting parade.

And I felt joy.

What was supposed to be just me and Michael and two teens, turned into me and Michael and two teens and their parents, and then ultimately was me and Michael and a whole apartment block.

This is such a perfect metaphor for Chi.na life (or many kinds of life). Nothing goes as planned. The in-between causes stress. But the outcome is greater than the original plan. Repeat.

Here's some pics:

the diaper brigade entering the hospital:

the neighbors, me and Michael:

L - fave of faves. One of my modern day heros. A sister, friend, and inspirer. She's fiesty, warm-hearted, doesn't give a crap about the rules, only cares about what's best for the kids, and wears sequins to work. Basically, everything I aspire to. :) haha.

One day I want all these beds to be useless because every child has a home:

the donations, halle-freakin-lujah!

My little friend remembers me each time. I tend to not get to close to the children because I hate the in-and-out of volunteers in the hospital. It's not healthy for the kids:

Here's a video of some of the rich little kids singing to the orphans (sitting in the circle). The woman in the green shirt on the left is the orphan's teacher. She is a jewel (who makes less than 300USD a month).

video


After the visit, Michael and I were taken to a fancy, yummy lunch by one of his co-workers who was at the visit. We talked about Chin.ese food, learning English, and...the Love.

Nothing works out as planned. Many situations are stressful. Everything works out differently and better than expected. If we only wait and see.

Today's lessons learned.



walk slow. xoxo.

Aug 26, 2011

signed. sealed. delivered.

I did it.

I signed the contract.

It took me ten days and 2, "we need your contract asap," emails from the HR department to actually get the gumption to do it - but today it happened. I signed on the dotted line. I have a mini-version of my dream job. Foot in the door. First step. Whatever they call the bottom rung these days.

Because I do not live in the real world, I had to wander around until I found a print shop where I could print my contract from a USB, fill out the forms right there, then pay the workers to scan it and put it back on my USB to email back to California. The whole thing cost me about $ .90. I think they cheated me. ;)

One day my life will be less complicated. I'll have a home, a yard, a washing machine and a dryer, a dishwasher, and neighbors who don't chant N Korean patriotic songs at night. I'll print out my own papers and send them in from my own home office. One day. But not this day.

This day I was signing my big girl contract sitting on a stool in a print shop in Chi.na, sweat dripping down my back and legs and dealing with comunication issues because I said the word for "scanner" in the wrong tone. It all got sorted out though, and I walked out of the shop with a feeling of...legitness.

Homegirl holding my contract...

whoooo-hooooo legit...


I celebrated with a cup of watermelon juice from a stand near the shop.

I walked about an hour home and thought along the way about how every year in Chi.na has been so different. There has been a pattern of "upward" job/education movement each year, (even though that's not the ultimate reason for being here). I sense His hand in it all. Everything has tied together even when it didn't make sense at the time.

Two years ago, the Dean was on a visit to the Chin.ese university where I taught spoken English. He mentioned to me in passing, "How would you like to possibly teach a practicum class?" I was still a Master's student at the time and got chills on my arms just thinking about the possibility. I remember thinking, "You trust me?"

At that time I had no idea I would be getting a PhD on a government scholarship. I had no idea just how long I would stay here. All I knew was that this was a passing comment that I was not going to let up on. I've maintained rational optimism along the way that the right timing would come and I would get the job. (there were many factors involved in my hiring that were out of my control - like student enrollment).

Two years later....without even an interview...I'm contracted in. I've been hopefully waiting for this job for 2 years. And today signed on the dotted line.

I kind of can't believe it.

I'm thankful. I'm scared. I'm ready as I'll ever be.

Professor JG at your service. :)




walk slow. xoxo.


Aug 25, 2011

the end of summer.

Summer's ending.

I know it's painfully cliche to say, but this summer really has flown by. For me, summer came in 3 segments, 2 weeks pre-europe, europe, and 3 weeks post-europe. Those 3 "post" weeks are coming to a close - school registration is next week, and my new job begins the first week of Sept.

I ended my tutoring on Monday, so these past few days are just chillax days, kind of a "calm before the storm." But I'm not anticipating a storm. Just real Chi.na life.

Finally, I recieved my contract for my new job, things have been crazy regarding getting paperwork done from across the world when the HR dept. is in California and I am in Ch.ina. Thankfully, most everyone has been super helpful. It's not been a particularly smooth experience, but the people involved have been great and that makes such a difference.

I've (not surprisingly) recieved zero information regarding school/signing up for classes/etc. I'm debating when to go marching into the office since Chi.nese people don't routinely answer emails. This isn't causing me stress though, because I don't really give a crud about school. I just figure I'll go in one of these days and see what's up.

These past few days have been really nice: the gym, re-organizing my room, and visiting the hairwashers again. My hair dresser has moved on to bigger and better things in Beijing (waaaaaaa) so I am now trying to find a new guy to cut my hair. Because I permanently straightened it, I have to get it cut rather often, and finding someone I trust and can communicate well with will be difficult. I tried out a new dude today who is new at my salon and I think he's a top contender. At least he says he has cut foreigners hair before, so we'll see. haha.

Here's some pics from a lunch my friend Ting bought from Chi.na's Groupon site. It's safe to say she's a Groupon fanatic. (the company just started business in Chi.na this pat year and it's caught on with young people).

This Groupon included a set menu lunch for 3-4 people. It was at a cute, Tib et an style hostel out near the tea fields. It was great scenery, great food, and presh friends. It made me reminisce for my first days in Ch.na when all my experiences were new and fresh. When every meal was this exciting. I want to find that feeling again. (sounds like a marriage gone bad, huh? haha).

Anyways, here's some presh pics:

breaded tomato slices = YUM

how cute is this place?
up in the hills, overlooking the tea fields...

walking down the hill toward the bus stop...




Peace.



walk slow. xoxo.

Aug 21, 2011

lunch with the Xuan's.

One of my student friends at the hospital found out I was tutoring near her home each morning and invited me to have lunch with her family.


We talked about her beginning the process to immigrate to Ame.rica. (she recently spent 2 months in Cali on a hospital exchange program and has come back fired up about the American lifestyle of fre.edom and awesomness.) It's interesting to hear about the process of actually changing this part of your identity. Crazy, deep, complicated stuff.

I like the nitty gritty conversations I can have with some of my closer student-friends. I learn a lot from them and their perspectives - however varying from my own.

Then this dish showed up on our table...

I took a spoonful and announced my love of it before asking, "What is this?"


"Crab sperm tofu."


"Oh. My favorite."





walk slow. xoxo.

Aug 20, 2011

300 months.

I turned 25 today.

Half way to fifty.

Quarter of a century.

The big 2-5.

It was a good day. A normal day, but a good one. I tutored, went for a birthday run on the treadmill, spent the afternoon with a can of beer on a friends couch while stopping by to pick up things she's getting rid of during her upcoming move (dishes!!), and then topped off the evening hanging out with my new friend Addison...

In 24 years and 11 months exactly, she'll be the age that I am today...


This means that while she celebrates her one month birthday I was celebrating my 300 month birthday (31 of which have been spent in China...) It's crazy awesome to me that in the time I've been here I have a friend who arrived single, got married, and has a baby. Being here for all of it was special...

She chilled with me after her bath and I taught her everything she could learn from Auntie Jessica. It was a nice chat, but I think I bored her...


Yay for life. New and well, not so new.





walk slow. xoxo.

Aug 18, 2011

Foot Phone!

I've talked the foot massage place manager into "teaching" me Chine.se reflexology. Apart from my desperate need for healthy touch (living in a no-hug culture is rough) and obsession with dirt cheap Ch.inese massage, the foot massage parlor is one of my fave places to practice Chin.ese.

We now can talk almost fluently, so I figured, why not learn massage from a master?! I also don't want to have lived 800 million years in Ch.ina and not learned anything cool (besides the language, of course.) Reflexology, tea culture, acupuncture, Chin.ese cooking...all things I should have some knowledge about after living here for half a century. So, why not start with a fave?

We haven't really started "classes" yet because I have not been able to download the charts he sent me online because I have an Apple computer and Chin.ese internet/programs/life is not conducive to Mac. (I couldn't download the forms).

Last night Rachel and I went in for a good foot rubbing and I brought my USB for them to transfer the charts I have to memorize...

Yikes. haha. I'm hoping that I can get by with learning the names of the pressure points verbally and not having to read the charts in their entirety. Because that might take awhile. I have the reading ability of a fetus.

Anyways, here's me and Rach with Bu Wei, foot massage extraordinaire and patient teacher to over-zealous foreigners...

After our massage, Bu Wei brought out the plastic feet models with pressure points on them. "Oh no, we're having class," I told Rach.

What I thought would be a class turned into a crash course of 4 minutes learning the points on the inside of your foot. These points are connected to our spines. Right under the big toe is the neck, alongside the arch is our spine, and our heal is our butt bone. Cool. I learned how to massage these areas and then our session quickly turned into a photo shoot. (normal).

And I had a sudden flashback to childhood-------

FOOT PHONE!

Did your mom ever do this to you when you were a child? Use your foot as a phone?!?! Well my mom did. All the time. And I forgot about it until last night.

Good memory.

Cheers to reflexology and childhood memories - and how they somehow combined.




walk slow. xoxo.

Aug 15, 2011

Here.

Less than ten days ago, I was here...on a cruise ship in Spain with a butler named Johnathon, a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean, daily bread and butter and ice water and sunshine, and most importantly, my family.

Today I am here...being made homemade dumplings for lunch by head nurse Sherry after I finish tutoring her high-school son...



Here where I receive 1am text messages from my hair washers asking me why I haven't gone into the shop to see them since I've been back. (answer: I'm broke).

Here where I pass a man selling live ducks tied to a stick outside Sherry's apartment complex...


Here where I dry heaved on the bus to class this morning because a man was spitting loogies into a napkin in front of me.

Here...where I found a bag of Ukranian candy left for me by a dorm-mate who just returned from a summer trip home...

Here where young grocery store employees pointed and gasped as I meandered by cart by their tea stand. "Look at the white, white foreigner with pretty eyes!"

Here...where I fill this bucket with hot water from the boiler to hand wash my unmentionables...

Here where I live.

I caught myself today thinking about how nice life was a week ago. How comfortable and beautiful everything was. How I dressed nice and didn't sweat through my clothes. How I had an amazing shower and fresh towels. Not in an uber longing way - but in an Hmm...that was really nice, kind of way.

And then I thought about the depth of my life here. Sherry and ducks and hair washers and international community and sacrifice and blessing.

Here. It's all here.








walk slow. xoxo.


Aug 13, 2011

no spitting.

So.

Lots happens here. I almost forgot. Every day could be like 800 hilarious blog posts.

But I forget most everything by the time I get home and crash. Oh well.

Ha.

So anyways. I started tutoring 2 high school boys today. It's a short-term gig for the head nurses (Zheng)'s son and nephew before they start school. For the next ten days we will spend 2 hours each morning together.

This morning as I sat across the table from them at Zheng's house and felt happy. Just really happy.

I love teaching.

I love going to Chin.ese peoples houses and sharing with them my life and their lives.

I love teaching English - because through language learning so many ideas and lessons are shared.

I love that after our lesson ended I did not leave for 1.5 hours because we all sat down together and had hand-made noodles. Zheng, her hubby, her son, and nephew and I sat around the table and spoke Ch.inese - our common language.

And then I rode the bus to the gym and realized: I love Chi.nese - the language. Speaking makes me happy, like I'm doing what I'm made to do. (deep).

Truth is, I was expecting the return to Chi.na this time to be very difficult, basically dreading it the whole trip. I thought I would get hit with culture shock and be angry at Ch.ina for being, well, Chi.na.

But I'm not.

In fact, surprisingly, quite the opposite has happened.

My second night back, I was in a taxi with my friend Steph and the driver was all giddy to have us in his car. Our conversation went like this:

Him: Where are you from?
Me: Guess.
Him: Russia?
Me: No. Guess again.
Him: America?
Me: One of us is from America, which one?
Him: Guesses Steph
Steph: Nope, she is, I'm not. I'm from England.
Him: England? But you guys look similiar.
Us: Really? (we look nothing alike, just both white)
Him: But you (points to me) are fatter than her (points to Steph).

(I'm 5'10", Steph is 5'2")

...silence in the cab for a minute...

Him: I mean, you are fat (points to me again), thinking we didn't understand him.
Me: But fatter is more comfortable.
Him: Oh yes, laughs, you are both beautiful.
Us: hehe Thanks, blah blah blah....

Case and point: I was called fat to my face within 24 hours of returning to Ch.ina and I did not rip the guys face off. I laughed with him and felt sympathy for him that he doesn't know better. And that he hadn't eaten 800 Italian pizzas in the last two weeks.

That is progress, people.

I guess my point is that I am thankful that I was able to get away. Thankful that I am dealing a little better, maybe I just needed to get out of my rut. Climb out of my valley.

I know that everyone's life has challenges. Life anywhere else in the world might not be any easier. And frankly, all my dreams are coming true here. I speak Chi.nese. I'm a college professor. I hold orphans on a weekly basis.

So those have been my thoughts lately. Random, but good.

In other news:

I signed a 2 YEAR contract at the gym today. (they were having an amazing sale that has rendered me completely broke, but in the long run saves me dough).

2 YEARS.

It expires October 5, 2013. (And then I'll still need to sign up for another year after that).

That is in like, forever.

I'm here for the long haul.

And if this post couldn't get more random...here's a friendly public reminder courtesy of the Chin.ese gov...







walk slow. xoxo.

Aug 12, 2011

ch ch ch changes.

Chi.na is a country that is changing faster than its people can keep up.

For a country that's only been "open" for 30 years, the rapid development (in the cities - not widespread) is crazy fast. (But you know this, just read the news).

In the 3 years I've lived in Hangzhou there have been a zillion noticeable "westernizing" changes. We now have 4 H&M stores, a Coldstone, an IMAX theater, and yogurt. There are import sections in the grocery stores (most with only random assortments of chocolate and alcohol, but hey - better than nothing). I feel like I am witnessing history - living here during a very exciting time for Chi.na. The economy is at rapid fire, but somehow society still lags behind in social norms. (more on this later).

Every time I leave and come back there are changes. Even being gone three weeks, I noticed differences upon my return. There is a new restaurant, "Lotus" where there was a massage place on the end of my street, yogurt went up in price .30, and the never-ending construction on my alley way has resulted in 3 new ditches along my walkpath.

But perhaps the most interesting change in the last 3 weeks is the new murals along the street on my walk to the grocery store.

The murals hint at what I find as Ch.ina's biggest irony - a rapid economic growth with backwards societal practices. People drive BMW's down the road while children are pooping on the sidewalks. (no lie).

But thanks to these public notices, maybe things will change...

Winnie the Pooh is teaching us to say, "hello."

It is not common to use the word, "please" in Chine.se, in fact, it's too formal for most occasions.

the little bunny thing is teaching us to say, "sorry."

I'll keel over and die of shock if this one ever catches on...

and my personal favorite, this one roughly translates to, "Pay attention to public health." (*cough* 6 months on TB pills):


Yes, in a city of 10 million people and in one of the world's next "power" country's, they need to have signs teaching citizens basic manners.

I'll report in if these make a noticeable difference.






walk slow. xoxo.

Aug 10, 2011

returned.

Whew.

The last 4 weeks have taken me on a route I never imagined for this summer: Prague - Vienna - Venice - Barcelona - then a Mediterraean cruise to Florence, Rome, Naples, Palma, and back to Barcelona.

I got home last night - lugging my backpack down the alley and up the stairs to my Chi.nese dorm room. It's still sitting on my purple loveseat, packed, draw-string tight around the things that have sustained my travels the last few weeks. I can't bear to open it (mostly because that means I have to do laundry).

Today I enjoyed jet-lag induced sleep and a trip to the gym and grocery store, slowly becoming acquainted again with the cast of characters in my life. The newstand lady looked at me without a smile and said, "you came home."

I looked at her stunned for a second.

"Yes, I came home."

It was one of those trips that take a lot of debrief. Friends and family and foreign countries. Too much goodness to absorb all at once.

I climbed Mount Vesuvius.

Visited the Colossuem.

Explored the ruins of Pompeii.

And now I sit on my twin bed in Chi.na, hurrying to post this before my hot water gets turned off for the night, wondering did that really just happen?

Pictures prove it did.

Here's some pics from my trip post-seeing Hannah and Rae in Prague and pre-cruise:

nightly free opera movies projeted onto City Hall in Vienna, Austria...

masks in Venice, Italy...
was in l-o-v-e with the Italian sky-line...

when you're on a budget, you're on a budget, Equity Point Hostal, Barcelona, Spain...

schnitzel in Vienna, Austria...

"I lift my eyes up, to the heavens...." Vienna...

waiting for our parents at the Barcelona airport...

boarding the Vienna - Venice express train...

first day in Venice...
pizza. love.

reunited!!! waiting to board the cruise...


I miss my fam so much it hurts. But seeing them and having such an adventure was amazing.

I'm overwhelmingly thankful for the friend time, family time, adventure time that this summer turned into. I feel refreshed. Thankful. Ready for another year of Chi.na-livin.

Like my newstand lady said...I came home.






walk slow. xoxo.