December 27, 2006

out of service

The internet in China is down, southern China for sure. Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taiwan (and myself in little Nanchang) cannot communicate with the outside world. A couple nights ago there was an earthquake off the coast of China near Taiwan. It was a 7.1 and damaged many of the underwater data cables in the oceans between China and the rest of world. We haven't had email during the last couple days. And it seems the only surviving things are those related to Google. So, my gmail (Google email) account works and so does Blogger (which is now owned by Google). Big bummer because I wasn't able to call Christmas night or today (the 27th in the US) when my family gathers together at Grandma's for Christmas.
We actually felt the earthquake here, but justified the shaking because our guy teammates were dancing in their apartment to Vanilla Ice. They'll be embarrassed that I posted that on the internet.
They say it will be 2-3 weeks before it is fixed. If you call me on Skype, it sounds like I'm underwater. Ironic huh?
It seems we're going old school for the next 2-3 weeks, write me a snail mail letter. Or email me at my gmail account. ;)

December 25, 2006


It is Christmas morning here in China and our team is meeting together for breakfast in about an hour, but I wanted to send out an update on the Christmas celebrations in China.

Celebrating this holiday has been so interesting in a new culture. The decorations of Christmas in China are pretty much all Santa Clause (compliments of a huge Chinese beer company). The company pretty much has decorated our city with the same picture of a large Santa with a blonde haired woman on his lap. The only other signs of Christmas is at the local McDonald's and Pizza Huts where Chinese girls serve in Santa mini-dresses, and the occasional grocery store decorations. As a marketing major, I'm ashamed.

I wanted to know more about celebrating Christmas in China and my best source of information is always my students. So I began to ask around. In class one, many students were of the thought that Jesus was from America and he was somehow friends with Father Christmas. They concluded that they must live near each other and work together. (Remember this is university level). At that point I completely changed my Christmas lesson plan. They got a handout from the Book.

As a reminder I teach 8 classes of 50-60 students so in a normal week I see about 400 students. I teach every lesson 8 times over, so this week I was able to act out/read/sing Christmas to 400 students. If you know me, I am a horrible singer, but my students love my voice. So I performed Silent Night, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, and O Holy Night in the classroom. They received a handout with the entire story (fill in the blanks to keep them alert) and we talked about the origins of Christmas traditions such as the tree (from Germany), Santa Claus (from Myra/Turkey), and the term 'X-mas'(from Greece)(which is what the beer company used). I was able to get a world map and show those countries as well as Israel and Egypt and it's proximity to China. We also talked about Wise Men from the 'East'. I pointed out that America was not even close to being discovered at this time, and that Jesus never went to the US. At one point in the classroom I started to tear up when I was describing a manger for my ESL students.
The students were fully engaged during their two hour class and many came to multiple class sessions.

On Saturday the team of 7 threw a enormous Christmas bash in our apartments. We all live stacked upon one another so someone coined it the 'Tower of Christmas' and had our students sign-up to come in 20 minutes increments to move up the Tower of Christmas. On the 3rd floor there was the Story of Christmas, on the 5th floor there was star ornament making, and on the 6th floor there was dancing and singing. The students would stay in each apartment for 20 minutes and then move up the tower. The festivities started at 11am and the last group left at 9:40pm. We were exhausted but the new group of students running in to our homes totally excited was always rejuvenating. I'm not doing it justice, but please know that the hundreds and hundreds of students experienced a stellar party. The Father was really working in our team and in the students. Some Chinese teachers heard about the party and came to help. It was really an incredible time that will hopefully open the door for many conversations in the future.

And finally... Last night we had a Christmas eve dinner and service with the foreigners serving here in Nanchang. The Word was read in 4 different languages and we sang, thought for our students during this time, our families at home, and people serving all over the world. We sang and the sound was absolutely beautiful. At one point I looked out of the window in the conference room (at a local University) and a crowd of Chinese students had gathered to hear the singing they heard from the street.

Being around such amazing, committed, and loving teammates and Chinese friends has made missing this holiday season with family a little easier. We have today (Monday) off because of our contract, but our students are in classes. Tomorrow when you are celebrating, I will be teaching a full day in the classroom. I'm excited to teach tomorrow and have follow-up conversations. After that I'll be giving finals and then we'll have time off for the Chinese New Year.

Chinese New Year plans include a mini-tour of India, staying with Indian contacts there. We (four of us) are finishing our time in Kolkata to work in the homes of Mother Teresa, but we don't have a contact there. If you have someone you know in Kolkata, I'd love to take them out to dinner. Then we're heading to Thailand for a conference, and I'll be going with some of my girlfriends back to Koh Payam the island that I went to for tsunami relief. I am so excited to see the nationals there again. A bungalow on the beach is $2.50/night, so we're spending a week there. Big spenders I know.

Well friends that's it. It's time for Christmas morning. We put a 20 kuai cap on each others gifts (about $2 US) so I'm excited to see the creativity. I'm attaching a picture my teammate Dan took last night when I was yakking away telling a story. Just put this face to these words and it's like I'm in person ;)

December 17, 2006

the incarnation

Rachel, my roommate is pretty incredible. She's really thoughtful and full of thoughts. (Those are different things.)

She wrote this the other day and I can not stop thinking about it.

“The immensity of the Word that spoke worlds into being couldn’t keep his head upright without his teenage mother’s hand behind it.”

to will one thing.

“Most of us are like Mother Teresa in that we want to will G and the poor. The problem is we want to will everything else as well. We want to be a saint, but we also want to feel every sensation experienced by sinners; we want have a simple lifestyle, but we also want all the comforts of the rich; we want to have the depth afforded by solitude, but we do not want to miss anything. Small wonder life is often a trying enterprise and we are often tired and pathologically overextended. Medieval philosophy had a dictum that said: Every choice is a renunciation. Indeed. To choose one thing is to turn one's back on many others. To marry one person is to not marry all the others; to have a baby means to give up certain things; and to pray may mean missing television. No wonder we struggle so much with commitment. It is not that we do not want certain things, it is just that we know that if we choose them we close off so many other things. It is not easy to will the one thing.”
-From the book "Holy Longing" (borrowed from Mikayla)

December 15, 2006

raging Friday nights

Tonight Mikayla and I are doing lessons plans for next week's Christmas lesson. We're on the couches with Apple laptops on our laps (appropriately enough). This is how we roll on Friday nights in Nanchang. Lesson planning tonight so that we can enjoy the weekend. The pressure... to fit this huge celebration/tradition with all it's meaning and then present it to students in 1 hour 40 minutes... is a little heavy. We're working hard and hope to shine some light on what is an 'adopted American party' in China with Santa Claus posters everywhere (which happens to be sponsored by a big beer company).

Right now we're shoulder shrugging and head-nodding to Phoenix's "Long Distance Call". Our soundtrack also includes Over the Rhine, Something Like Silas, and old school Phil Wickham. We've drank tea and hot chocolate while being bundled up in my 65 degree apartment. I'm chewing cantaloupe flavored Chinese gum and every once in awhile we look up from our lesson plans and ask random questions. Tonight I used one of my two Starbucks Tazo Chai teabags. It's funny to think how we ration our American stuff. I opened the tea bag an hour ago and Mikayla and I smelled the black tea goodness. We laughed at ourselves, but then continued to smell it. Awhile ago Stephen got some oatmeal and I asked for a packet (I think I bargained some how). I asked Mikayla if she was going to ask for Oatmeal and she replied, "I mean we're close, but we're not oatmeal close. You know?"

I'm convinced sometimes that our lives are Reality TV worthy. C'mon who wouldn't want to watch Lesson Planning and tea bag sniffing. And what culture uses Apples and Cinnamon Oatmeal as currency? It's all real interesting.

December 13, 2006


I'd be lying if I said moving to China was a smooth transition. I've come to the realization that I was (and probably am) quite spoiled. I took for granted freedoms (to meet, speak, etc), air conditioner/heater capabilities, water coming out of a faucet, warm showers, soft couches and beds, internet access, etc. I assumed that life had those things. I didn't expect the staring (at us 'foreigners') or to be treated differently.

Today I had such a frustrating experience at the copy shop. A 5 minute service turned into a 35 minute test of my patience and levels of anger. I stomped in the copy shop like a spoiled American (no one noticed because they were staring at my face and speaking loudly in Chinese) but the point is that I stomped. I felt so much anger and hostility in that moment and longed to be back in America where I could be anonymous and warm and understood. I wanted a hot shower, down comforter and a soft bed. I wanted to be in a public place and understand the language, and I wanted to express my anger to the copy machine guy.

I got home and the internet was down and no water was coming out of our faucets. I whined to myself. I started to think, "Could it get worse?" and then realized that I'm a fool. Of course it could.. .and is all around the world. I don't have it bad here.

I'm writing this because it's reality and there are days that it is harder to be here. There are days that I think, "What the heck am I doing this year?!" And often times during that same day, I know why I'm here. It's as clear as it can be. Tonight I had a group of friends over and we talked about long-lasting Things and had great conversations. That's what I'm doing this year.

December 7, 2006

would you rather...?

This week was a catch-up/review week in the classroom and one of my equalizing activities was the game 'Would You Rather...?" The classes that were a little ahead got to play this personal favorite of mine. My classroom has come alive in recent weeks as students are becoming more comfortable with showing creativity and expressing thoughts and opinion. The students are not just names and faces, but friends. Many have come over for lunch, or I've been to their basketball games, or they attend our weekly Coffee Talk. So, their personalities are becoming more evident before my eyes. I hope that some of their "Would You Rather...?" responses will give you some cultural insight, give you a good laugh, make you think, and most of all that you might answer a few yourselves! Comment away!

So, here it goes...


swim the Pacific Ocean OR walk around the world? (Hannah)

be the first beautiful girl in the world but very stupid OR the leader of China but very ugly? (Robin)

have a kangaroos abdomen OR a camel's back? (Elaine)

a black face OR big and fat fingers? (Cynthia)

have red hair OR a big face? (Kathy- who notes, "I don't want to have a red hair, but I had it since I was born. So I dye it to black.)

have lots of pests in your abdomen OR lots of parasite in your stomach? (Kathy)

be the last one study in the Harvard OR the No.1 study in the deaf-mute school? (Dawn)

become a man OR become a panda? (Lena)

always watch a ghost on TV OR always hear a cry sound around? (Angel)

live at the top of the Alps or live in the ocean? (Gabe)

all of paper becomes money OR the water we drink becomes oil? (Selena)

If your husband require you to stay at home as a housewife. He hates you get out for work. So, would you rather to obey him OR to find a job what you like? (Crystal)

have no money OR no future? (Jennifer)

be a millionaire but no friends OR be a poor but have some friends? (Lindsey)

Miss Allison, would you rather marry a millionaire you don't love OR a poor man you love? Shawna goes on to say, "I can choose one, because in such a economic society though money isn't everything you can't do everything without money."

have river and mountains OR Mr. Right? (Nichol)

have elephant's leg OR pig's waist? (Nichol)

live in a desert OR travel to Egypt? (Lucy)

have cancer OR birdflu? (Andy- important to note that birdfly is circled)

learn language fast OR sleeping good every night? (Louis)

eat an ant OR eaten by a tigger? (Cori)

have a umbrella made from mushroom OR soft bed made from bread? (Ellie)

drink petrol OR drink tears? (Carly)

If Catilin and Cynthia are in danger, you muse help one would you rather chose Caitlin or Cynthia? I don't know what I should do! (Oxford- commenting on the two girls that adore him.)

go into snake's hole OR go into the lion's cage? (Melissa)

a God in the heaven OR a devil in the hell? (Ginger)

body folds into a car OR arms like propeller? (Jude)


December 5, 2006

livin' the dream

When I was in college at SDSU, I met many incredible friends- two of them were James and Vince. As the three of us dreamt aloud our post-college plans, we all agreed that our desire was to serve. We would bounce ideas off each other, often times read the same books, challenge each other- you get the idea. Well I think today is officially the first time we are all serving overseas at the same time.
James is in India, Vince is in France, and I am in China. And to think, a year ago we were all taking finals in San Diego and dreaming of 'the next year'. This picture was taken at a good-bye party for the 3 of us, given by Drew Lundgren. How I miss the sunsets of California!

November 25, 2006

this life... not my own. is so much different than i ever thought it would be. is blessed. is so adventureous. can be taken in a moment. exists for Him. will have disappointment. will have incredible triumphs. is for the nations. is a dot on the string of eternity. is full of amazing friends and family. is just, plain amazing.

November 24, 2006

more than turkey day

Right now I'm laying on the couch in my livingroom. (which is more like outdoor wooden furniture with the thin tie on cushions) I'm listening to an amazing R&B artist- John Legend. Rachel is on the phone calling our teammates for spices because she's making stuffing for our Fellowship's Thanksgiving tomorrow. Our apartment smells like toast (for the stuffing), and the pumpkin spice candle I have lit. The weather has changed really quickly. A week ago I wore a short sleeves in the classroom and today I wore my winter coat all day, indoor and outdoor. The classrooms have no heating, so I 'm learning to never stand still. Right now, I should be working on my lesson plan for next week, but updating this blog sounded more fun.

Yesterday, we hosted a Thanksgiving feast at our apartment for about 20 of our US friends. There was football on TV (a recorded 2005 Texas A&M vs. Sooners game), live football on the school soccer field, a turkey (one of two in the city!), card games, and definitely a family atmosphere. Everyone in attendance were fellow English teachers that I've known since Day 1 in Los Angeles, except for a great family from another city that joined in. This family had two children, and they were given so much love and attention by the group of 24 year olds. The parents were such a blessing to be around, and added a breath of fresh air to our group.

I taught my students all about the Thanksgiving holiday and the lesson went very well. Until Wednesday afternoon, when I was in the classroom and was just getting started. I took roll and was moving a chair off the platform that I teach from. As I slid the chair off the platform, I straightened out from my bent position and came up on the sharp point of a rod-iron television case. I thought, "Ah, it's just going to be a painful bump". But I touched my head and my fingers were bloody. My students gasped, I made a face, and we all didn't move for about a minute. I tried to downplay the pain, but the blood wouldn't stop and I knew I needed to do something. I walked into the hallway and called Dan, the leader of my campus. I explained that I had hit the top of my head and was bleeding and he ran over to my teaching building. Needless to say the school cancelled that class. I learned a couple of things from that incident. Apparently, fruit is given to the hurting in China for their health. I had a steady stream of students stopping by for a couple hours dropping off apples, bananas, and oranges. There's no way Rachel and I will be able to make a dent in this fruit. Secondly, I learned that my students and the school officials are not afraid to touch blood. Little napkins covered in my blood were touched without hesitation. At one point I was sitting in the school office, with a wad of napkins on my head and about 8 teachers crowded around looking at me. It was awkward. All day today students would say something to the effect of, "Hello Miss Allison. How was your holiday? And what about your head?" News about the foreign teacher spreads quickly here.

My mom's surgery went well. She's was recovering at home after she snuck out of the hospital during a false hospital alarm. I'm pretty sure that right now she's in Hawaii, on beach, with her arm in a sling. Seriously.

My relationships with students are great! I'm having opportunities to study together, opening up before my eyes. Today I spent about 5 minutes in awe about how He works. Truly a moment of, "I'm not worthy!"

November 1, 2006

Reader's Digest version

Updating this blog has been consistently on my to-do list for weeks. After avoiding it for so long, I find that there is way too much to even begin to update well. In the words of my mother, I'll give the Reader's Digest version.

Teaching has really picked up. I laugh in my classes so much. The creativity is starting to come out and my students are forming opinions, no matter how small they are. As an example, I teach 3 idioms per class session. The other day one of the idioms was 'music to my ears'. I described that it's not literally music, instead it is used to summarize something you like to hear. I gave examples such as 'the voice of an old friend' or 'the sound of the ocean' or 'good news from your family'. I scanned the room and saw Maria. She was smiling. This either means she is interested, or just received a funny text message. I said, "Maria, give us an example of 'music to your ears'." She replied, "When the school bell buzzes loud (signaling the end of class), it's music to MY ears." So good, great usage. She gets it! The class was awkward and then laughed when I laughed. Note: The buzzing is consistent for a solid 20 seconds and only heard in certain classrooms. Either way it can be frustrating. One time I kept my students 10 minutes over because I never heard the bell. Not one informed me of my mistake, they just sat there respectively.

Chinese lessons are twice a week and I'm starting to recognize words and phrases in everyday conversation. That has helped me feel so much more comfortable here! I've spent the last three months in an ignorant haze. I am not claiming 'understanding' just recognition.

The team is great. We celebrated Halloween by watching 'The Incredibles' and some teammates carved Chinese squash. I'm helping to coordinate a Thanksgiving dinner for our 17 American friends in Nanchang. Dan, our leader, has recorded an old football game, we're going to play cards and do some transplanted family traditions. No turkeys in China, so we'll substitute chicken. There will be a lot of substitutions. But I really look forward to our Thankful time. We have so much to be Thankful for.

On a different note, there's a bread lady that we all know and appreciate. She makes a flat bread, that many other vendors make.. but Wang's is the best. Our interactions are so funny. I say, "Ni hao Wang." She says, "Oh! Ni hao Allisong". We both grin. I (or someone on the team) hands her a kuai (12 cents US) and she gives us bread. She cuts the bread morning to night and everyday of the week. When it rains she has a blue umbrella overhead. A couple weeks ago I asked her to see her hand which is always gripping a large silver knife. She opened her palm to reveal the most obvious calus I've ever seen. How many years, 7 days a week, has she cut this flat bread with her right hand? Our team would agree that Wang is the jolliest street vendor near our campus. A close second is the street vendor that sells little electronics. When he sees me coming he turns on a little radio and I stop to do the infamous 'San Diego snap dance' for about 4 seconds, smile at him, and keep walking. We've never talked, but he cracks up when I (the foreigner) dance. Dan witnessed the exchange last night and could not stop laughing. I love things like that. Consistent, hilarious, and unspoken.

When Rachel and I first moved into our apartment we kept our toothbrushes in a colander on our kitchen counter. Twice a day, we'd walk into the kitchen and get our toothbrushes and take them into the adjoining bathroom, brush our teeth, and then walk them back into the kitchen and put them in a baby blue colander. Our bathroom doesn't have counters or shelves, just a free standing sink, shower head, and a toilet. Weeks later, we cracked up at our situation. Consistent, hilarious, and completley unspoken.

On Saturday night Mikayla and I held a party for our Coffee Talk students, inviting about 35 of them. We partied hard, played Uno, ate Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, looked at photo albums, talked, and danced to a couple Michael Jackson songs. No SD snap dance that night.

I've picked up painting more since being here and I'm having students over to paint this Saturday. I got canvas' today, which in China are pieces of wood, not cloth. Relaxing and expressive, all the same. I was telling a friend tonight that I miss sailing.. or the option of it. I think I miss the freedom of it most, ah freedom...!

Confession: oranges here taste great and I probably eat 4-5 a day. It's easier to eat two oranges for lunch, than go get rice or noodles outside of campus. I have a sore throat and I'm blaming it on the sheer volume of acid going down my throat from my new orange addiction. I just can't stop...

I have about 18 more random things to write about, but I'm exhausted. I miss feeling anonymous. My teammate Adam calls us 'rockstars'. I never want to be a celebrity. I miss my family. Thanks for the card Mom, you crack me up.

October 11, 2006

There are no dryers in China

This morning I woke up early and had a great start to the day. The shower was warm AND pressured (often times it's one or the other). I put on some Jennifer Knapp and got ready for the day. At 7am we had team Thought time and the focus was "Delighting in the Father". Talking to the Father with the team is always good times, but it was especially good this morning.

I don't teach until 10am on Thursdays so I came home to get some stuff done. I pulled laundry out of the washer and went to our quasi-balcony to hang my clothes to dry. With wet clothes in my arms, I felt this really peaceful wind come over me, like no matter what- I was and am taken care of. Those moments of comfort can not be described for others, but I know when they come and try to fully experience them. I pictured myself next to a beautiful creek in the mountains, sitting in a teak chair and just watching water rush by. In that silence, the Father reminded me that it had been a year since my earthly father died. That didn't process for a couple seconds. My thoughts were, "Really? A year? There's no way..." I don't pay attention to the dates here, but I checked and it has been exactly a year- October 11th.

I just continued to stand on the balcony not really moving, just thinking about the past year. I think anniversaries give a great opportunity for reflection. What has happened in that year? What have I learned? The beauty of it all, is that I probably wouldn't be here, in this foreign land, if October 11th hadn't happened a year ago. I realized that seeking status, money, and prestige were a dead-end road. Delight is not found in those things or in materials accumulated, but instead found in the Father. I am not most happy in the times that I have a new possession, but when I am hanging laundry to dry on a balcony.

My inheritance is not in a will, but in His Will. In the film, Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams reminds his students to 'Seize the Day' because when it's over, our bodies are 'pushing up daisies'- we will not take our Corvette with us. I took a good look at my priorties and decided that I would not live a mediocre life, attempting to attain. Instead, I would spend my life with purpose.

I also realized that I had an AMAZING group of friends surrounding me that loved me deeply. They were real with me, comforted me the best they knew how, and were available to just sit and let me talk. Thank you James, Lisa, Cynthia, Kyle, Cori, Jen, Anya, Misty, and Vince for your ears and love during that time.

Using the term Father when Thinking was pretty difficult at first. Over the last couple of months, that title has become easier to say... and mean. I think it's just incredible how our Father takes care of us and loves us so deeply. I want to delight in Him everyday.

October 9, 2006

Let me dispel the rumors

I've been in China for a couple months and I still have not found the following stereotypical American-Chinese items.
1. Fortune Cookies- I once thought it was a staple of Chinese food, but alas I have still not received one with my bill.
2. Orange Chicken- We found Lemon Chicken in Beijing, but Orange Chicken does not seem to exist outside the U.S. Panda Express establishments.
3. Chinese Finger Traps- Haven't seen one yet, but thanks to the girls in San Diego for sending them in a package!

September 24, 2006

adjusting well

I've been pretty busy lately, but wanted to post some pictures. This week's lesson is on American culture and adjusting to new cultures. I've believe our team is past the 'honeymoon' stage and in the 'acceptance' stage. It's a good place to be.

September 13, 2006

Thought requests

Being here in China has affected me in so many ways. I have been forced to grow in areas that I didn't know I needed growth in. My Thought life being the most changed. No one on my team can know me as well as my Father knows me. He knows what I have experience, He knows my desires, and He knows my future. Adjusting to a new culture, getting to know 6 complete strangers, taking on a new profession as an English professor... are all ways to bring someone to the Father.

I am learning to love teaching and find that I actually gain energy from my students and their enthusiam. The days here seem especially long, but I've been in college for the past 4 years, so a 6:15 alarm Monday-Friday can be a little rough. I teach 16 hours a week and have office hours 10 hours a week. Any teacher knows that the job doesn't stop when you get home. I find myself grading papers and looking up exciting items for lesson plans, even when I get home. I have 348 students (with more adding today), so getting to know each one is a daunting task. I have the same classes all year and relationships will surely deepen over time.

Speaking of relationships, some Thought requests. My best friend Cynthia has a brother, Donny. Donny is a great guy, engaged to a great girl Aimee and soon to be married. A week ago he was feeling pretty weak (he's a personal trainer and manager of a Starbucks, so he's buff and highly caffinated- he doesn't know weakness) so he went to the doctor, went to the hospital and was diagnosed Leukemia a couple days ago. I just found out that he's responding well to chemo, but Thoughts for Donny and his family would be much appreciated.

Also... James is in the Congo for 5 weeks with what we like to call "CCC- Chocolate Chip Cookies". He is helping with translations of a popular Film. He is on a team that will translate 5 languages in 5 weeks. Please joing me in Thinking for his safety, effectiveness, and love for the people. He's been waiting for this adventure and I am so glad he's there, doing exactly what he loves to do.

There are more requests on the way soon.

September 5, 2006

Open Session Questions

As a new foreign teacher, I am asked some common questions. I asked the students to write questions and put them in a hat, I answered them at the end of the lesson, time permitting. Below are the top notes I've received.

13. How much money you go abroad? Because I want to go abroad, so I want to know this question. That's my dream forever. Why is it hard for us to go abroad? -Cathy

12. First your eyes are charming. Second your skin looks very good. How can you do that? -Katherine

11. Nice to meet you! Do you like the super star Jay Z? Which person are you like the most about basketball? How about Yao Ming? I wish we can have a good time in this time. -Rose

10. Miss Allison Ricks, could I make friend with you? Can you tell me your family? Tell you a secret: I very like you! Maybe I hope you are my good friend. -Fiona

9. Do you want to go shopping with me? We can go to Wal-Mart.

8. Do you think you can take me to your hometown? I want to travel very much. It is my dream.

7. If you see a beggar, what do you do?

6. My name is Lydia. Nice to meet you. Welcome to China. I'm really really like English. Please believe me! I think you can speak a beautiful English. Thank you! -Lydia

5. Miss Allison. In this class I hope you can speak slowly. Thank you. (then the redeeming...) Welcome to China. You look very beautiful. (nice touch!) -Mary

4. I speak English not very well. Maybe I don't know how to say sometime. How do you think of my weakness?

3. Your favorite color is red. Why do you dress in black and yellow? Are you hair nature or not?

2. Are you married? Do you have a baby? How old are you? Please tell me.

1. How old are you? Do you like the world-cup in 2006? Do you want to find [a boy (crossed out) live and (crossed out)] marry in China? Do you have a boyfriend?

September 4, 2006


Today I taught. And it went well! Miss Allison is my name, English is my game.

Really, it was such a successful day. My first class was 50 students, the second was 41, and the third was 38 students.

I am one of only 2 foreign teachers on this campus, the other 5 of us are at the new campus. I assigned homework- I never liked when professors assigned homework on the first day, but I did it. Bummer... I know.

The memorable part of the class was the initial "ooooohhhhh" when I walk in the door as their only foreign teacher. It was completely shocking for some, as they've never had a conversation with a Native speaker.

I taught for 6 hours today in a classroom without A/C! I'm exhausted! And this city is so humid, but I'm not complaining. Very fulfilling/challenging/amazing time. I promise to update this blog much more often. Sorry to disappoint you, I just had to do a ton of editing of it. Catch my drift? Many posts have been deleted, my apologies. Goodnight.

August 10, 2006

overwhelming joy

I met my team! And they're great! I'm not just saying that because some of them mentioned liking my 'blog'. It's true, I love the different strengths they bring to the table and look forward to great friendships with them. We had dinner together as a team, guessed each others middle names (Mikayla is a 'Jo' too!) and talked about past travels. We laughed, shared our hearts and I think simultaneously realized that we've been going the same process together, seperately.
We sang together and it was beautiful to hear the voices of a bunch of 20-somethings crying out in absolute abandonment. I'm pretty tired, but I plan on resting well tonight. I pretty much met my family for next year. We laughed saying that we'll know every freckle on each other's's the 8 of us together everyday for a year. Wow- Psalm 67.


It's 10:44 on Thursday and I'm getting ready to meet the team for the first time this afternoon. I'm pretty nervous. I woke up early and went to coffee with Misty, came home. took a shower and then got back in pajamas and sat on the couch with Vince and Cori.. putting off getting ready. I have "Come Thou Fount" (David Crowder Band) playing on Vince's iPod. Last night a group of 7 of us went to Fleming's steak house for our goodbye dinner. We then drove to Mission Beach for one last look at the Pacific Ocean. We came back to Cori's, chatted and said goodbyes. I couldn't fall asleep last night.. it was anxiety about today, sadness at saying goodbye, and excitement for the unknown.
I'm tempted to show up to orientation this afternoon in unmatching clothes, with a big gangster chain around my neck.. I won't of course.. I'll probably check the mirror in Cori's Jetta wondering what my team will think of me. Oh.. first impressions!
It's my hope that I can update this blog overseas, but I'm not sure if that's possible. I'm not sure how many people read this- supporters or otherwise.. I might just switch to a good 'ole paper journal. Cor's making banana bread...Switchfoot's "Let That Be Enough" is playing now- I'm an emotional mess.

August 3, 2006

august 10th

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
~ Anaïs Nin

July 31, 2006

road rage confession

Yesterday I spent the afternoon helping Cynthia with her wedding invitations. The process was involved, requiring precision and creativity. I decided that if I get married, that will be a "pay someone to do it" expense. I always thought wedding invitations were easy, I was wrong.

As I was heading out the door to drive home (at 12:15 in the morning) I joked with her brother Donny about our records times from Kingsburg to Kerman. (He dated some Kerman girls years ago.) The towns are both farming communities, with populations around 9,000. The distance is about 38 miles between the two, and the only landmark along the way is the city of Fresno- the rest is wide open country road. He bragged a record of 18 minutes, admitting he was driving "over a buck twenty". My best time is 24 minutes, set 2 years ago, I'm pretty proud of it. It's legit, 24 minutes.

So last night I jumped on the 99 freeway and looked at my clock.. 12:21. I was cruising along, no one else was on the road. I turned up the Classic Rock station and looked forward to getting home. I slowed down for construction zones and overall was making great time, my (alleged) narcolepsy started to kick in, so I rolled down the windows. I got on the 180, and the country road began. Grapevineyards, almond orchards surrounding a two lane highway, big moon in the sky, windows rolled down and steering wheel tapping Classic Rock.. not bad at all.

On this 17 mile stretch of road there is only one opportunity for a passing lane. I got behind a brand new Mitsubishi just before the passing lane started. Great, I thought, as he was traveling slower than I was, it couldn't come at a better time. When the lane started, I waited for him to move over to the slow lane, that didn't happen. So I moved over and started to pass him. That's when he gunned his gas and went well "over a buck twenty" to not allow me to pass. I refused to make eye contact, and definitely did not desire to drive anywhere near 120 mph. When the passing lane ended he slowed down again, considerably. At this point there were a procession of cars so I couldn't cross over to their lane to pass. Two different times, I tried to pass when the road was clear and he again sped up so I couldn't... then slowed down to a crawl of 30 mph when it was impossible for me to pass.

I've NEVER had road rage before. I've sat in hours of traffic in LA, lived in Ft. Lauderdale with infamous Canadian drivers, and travelled internationally with crazy car experiences... but never have I wanted to yell and kick someone in their shin because of their driving.

Maybe it's because it felt so personal. Maybe it's because I was tired, Maybe it's that he ruined my Rock session. Maybe it's because I took well over 45 minutes to get home. Maybe it was because he pulled into the city of Kerman and the only thing I could do was hold down my horn for about 5 seconds. Maybe it was because he was from my little town and I hate to think jerks live here. Lastly, maybe it's because this town is so small- that it's likely I know that jerk.

Whatever the reason, I raged inside. I don't even remotely have anger issues, but if that guy confessed in the grocery store today, I'd want to shake my head and tell him he's rude. The truth is... I'd probably shake my head and then ask "How have you been since high school? How's the family? Do you still have your dog Max? blah. blah. blah." The sad part is that I'd really care about the family and dog and the Mitsubishi driver. And I'd forget about the virtual fight scene I created, while driving 37mph on a 60mph road. For the record, I won the fight, easily.

July 20, 2006

Excerpt from Walden- Henry David Thoreau

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear, nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to "glorify God and enjoy him forever."

As a child I loved the movie, "Dead Poets Society". I loved the poetry, the music, the theatre, and probably the rebellion. My mom can attest that I was often trying to talk a friend into watching it with me, but Nickolodeon usually won out. John Piper's platform in the book "Desiring God" is that the chief end of man is to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever". I read it and was reminded this poem. I wonder if he's a fellow DPS fan. Any others out there?

July 13, 2006

Dakota and Brody

I'm pretty convinced that I have some of the funniest little cousins alive. My little cousin, Amelia is one of the funniest. She has probably embarassed me on a solid 5 occasions. One time at a big family get together, either Thanksgiving or a birthday party, she looked across the table and said with a straight face, "Alli Jo, were you born with those pimples?" Instant mortification and laughter from everyone at the table. It was pre-college, pimples are expected, right? The only problem is that it comes up over and over again. I'm not sure if she meant to compliment me, but the night before I graduated college she commented that my skin glows like an angel.. how nice I thought. Then she said, "I'm going to call you.....the... REFLECTOR!" Perfect, just perfect.
Today I hung out with Dakota and Brody to give their parents a break. I'll try to capture the car ride to the movie theatre, because I cried laughing. This blog doesn't give justice to their hilarious faces, their timing of jokes, the way that my mom and I would look at each other and cry laughing. Some highlights:

Mom:I hate to break it to you, Brody, but you're not wrapped-tight...
Brody: Yeah, I'm a riptide!

Dakota: Alli Jo, I have 13 trophies!
Brody: No, Dakota we counted them... you got 22.
Dakota: Thank you for your correction.
Brody: I only have 2 stinkssss...
Mom: That's ok Brody, Dakota's older...
Alli: Why do you have so many trophies, Dakota? What do you get them from?
Dakota: Oh, cause, I'm a sprinter.
Brody: I'm a vegetarian!
Mom: Brody, we talked about this.. you eat chicken and hamburgers.. you're not a vegetarian.
Brody: Ok, well, I have a joke. Everytime I ask you a question, you answer "rubber buns!" What do you put on your hamburger? Rubber buns! What do you put on your hot dog? Rubber buns! What do you do when you see a girl? Rubber buns!

Brody: You're a doctor right, Alli Jo?
Alli: No, why do you think that, Brod?
Brody: I just thought you were.
Mom: It's because of the color of her shirt, right? Her shirt's green like a doctor?
Alli: No, its just that I'm so smart, Mom.
Brody: No, I just thought you were a doctor...

The funny thing is that Brody still believes he's a vegetarian and we have no idea why he thinks that I'm a doctor. He's going to create a robot that does anything for you like "Go get me a juicebox and it does it!" He is going to price it at 100 dollars, but we convinced him that he should charge more like $5000. He answered, "Fine, I'll charge $99.99." In fact right now he's sitting next to me, reading this. He just put a Post-It on my forehead. I got to go, Brody wants to play marbles. He says I'm going to get smoked!

July 11, 2006

big transitions

I'm here. In Clovis, California.. a far reach from my life in San Diego. I've tried to be flexible and it seems to be working well. I drove a U-Haul 7 hours from San Diego to Kingburg on Sunday afternoon. I couldn't help but think that it was very close to a therapy session. I was alone, on the road, listening to music (lots of Bob Seger, Phoenix, Rod Stewart, U2, and Third Day) and crying. I'm not a 'crying kid' but I was pretty emotional for that drive. At one point, on the Grapevine that bridges the gap between Los Angeles and the Central Valley, I just turned off the radio, prayed (eyes open), and let myself feel all the emotions. I know that this is a pretty monumental part of life and I might as well feel myself through it. Last Friday I turned in my last college assignment, Saturday I had my last day at Aveda, and Sunday I packed everything and moved from a close family of friends. I can't figure out if that final weekend approach is wise or not, but right now it feels right.
On Monday I went to a funeral for Tony Silva, a friend from high school. The funeral in Kerman was the greatest showing of support I've seen to date. Over 900 people attended to support his wife Toshia and two children Tessa and Trace. They don't know the cause of death, although he had been having problems with diabetes. I can't think of a person from Kerman that wasn't there. Naturally, I cried again when people shared about Tony and his impact on their lives. He was a simple guy that loved his family and his community. My mom and I went to the Kerman Community Center afterward. I saw people I hadn't seen in a solid 4 years, but it wasn't awkward apart from the fact that we were re-connecting at a funeral reception. Additional awkwardness included the warm hellos and hugs from people that were entirely unfamiliar or I could not remember their names. My mom saved the day on one occasion and the other ones I was left floundering wishing I had a better memory. Kerman is such a small town that people get updates from the most random sources. I think some have to be from my grandma at the local post office or at a baseball game, because I just don't know how some of these people know the things they know. Those couple hours at the Community Center really made me appreciate growing up in a town of 7,000. People have really pulled together in hard situations, such as a death of a 24 year old. Toshia is so supported and it was apparent that she is really trusting in it all. She was beautifully gracious, aware, and appreciative of everyone's thoughts, flowers and the dozens of cookies that showed up on their doorstep. I bet I hugged about 250-300 people. That's a lot of quality hugs. And the great question/statement repeated over and over again, "So.... Chinaaaaa?" "Yeah. Let me explain.... "
Today I slept in, my mom made a great egg, turkey bacon and toast breakfast and I lounged the morning away. In the afternoon, my friend Matt and I went to see "Nacho Libre". I liked it. On the way there we hit every red light possible and a rock from a semi hit Matt's truck and cracked the windshield. I was concerned that he'd be put in a bad mood, but we both cracked up laughing. When we got to the theater he took a couple minutes and played a fighting game at an arcade to get out his frustration. We spent the rest of the afternoon at his house, again lounging. He has a coy pond in his backyard, pretty impressive for a house of firefighters I thought.
I'm trying to stay up to date on the bombings in India, because my friend Jen is supposed to fly out in a few days for central India. We couldn't find a new update on TV, I don't think enough attention is given to International news apart from the war in Iraq. My mom, her boyfriend Rod, and I went to Costco. I called Cynthia on the way there and she happened to be down the street shopping. I think Cynthia and I had our first spontaneous hangout. She drove over to Costco and we sat on a Costco leather seat and read a magazine together, while my mom and Rod bought out Costco. Cynthia and I are so used to being long distance friends that we were super excited to just sit and co-read People magazine in the middle of Costco. My mom decided that we're throwing a dinner party tomorrow night. The menu is Chicken Enchiladas (my mom's an INCREDIBLE cook- it doesn't hurt that she taught Home Ec) and Tiramasu for dessert. I made a witty joke that Mexican and Italian food sounded like Cynthia's pairing for marriage. (She's Italian and her fiance is Mexican). Harsh crowd, I barely got a chuckle. I still think that's pretty funny, I'm laughing right now. So tomorrow night some family, Cynthia, and other friends are coming for dinner. This house is perfect for large parties, I'm going to figure out the surround sound soon so we can have a movie night.
I'm spending tomorrow doing pretty perceptually boring stuff, but I'm excited. On the agenda- read the 89 page Instructor's Manual, figure out my digital camcorder, give away a pile of clothes, learn how to make my mom's enchiladas, look into white water rafting at Kings Canyon and get my graduation ring resized.
I miss many things about San Diego and of course the people that live there, but if I continue to dwell on it all, I just would lay in this huge bed and cry. On the ride home from Costco, Rod put the top down on his Jaguar and we turned up the radio for the C-Low song, "Crazy". The sun was setting and the weather was warm with a good breeze. It's the simple things that are making all this change a little easier, driving fast in a car with the top down and a setting sun isn't a bad way to finish off a day.

July 5, 2006


So, I'm officially moving out of San Diego this Sunday. I reserved a U-Haul, and I'm packing possessions up and going to Kerman for a month. In Kerman, I'll prepare for China, relax (a little), and teach 2 weeks of swim lessons. Then I'm off August 10th. I'm listening to Norah Jones right now, but she's just making me more sad about everything.
In my China support letter I have a typo on the 5th word. So lame if I aspire to be an English teacher! The funny thing is that most of the people that know me well said, "Oh Alli, that's totally something YOU would do!". What does that mean? ;)
Tonight a group of us went to the San Diego Embarcadero to watch the fireworks. From one spot you can see 4 different shows. We brought blankets, water, sandwiches, and sunflower seeds and waited for the show. I laid down on the blanket at one point, all my friends laughing and talking around me, a plane was flying across the blue sky, perfect weather, barefoot, and life felt really simple. I love to extend moments like that. Those are ones you pull from in random times. I thought, "don't forget this one for a long time".
I have some things I want to do before I leave San Diego. I want to go people watching at the airport with Katie, I want to walk down India Street late at night and bring Ray some Jack in the Box 99 cent tacos, I want to ride the trolley one last time, and I want to get a Chai and go to the lookout point on Coronado just for a couple minutes.
I'm finally getting to my reading list that I've been putting off for months.. but the reality is that I want to go back to some old favorites to understand them better.

June 22, 2006

on my mind.

One day there's going to be this coffee shop called Just Cause Coffee Co. It'll be in a major city- perhaps Portland, Seattle, Boston, NYC, even San Diego. A warehouse style establishment, with brick walls and super high ceilings, with a sizeable stage in the back corner. It'd be non-profit with ALL profits going to social injustice around the world, not just to the organizations, but to actually sending people to be the hands to help. On the walls would be large photos of real people, supported by the shop, serving needs around the world. The employees could work 10 months and go serve 2 months of the year. The coffee and tea mugs would be from actual locations around the world. The tables could have shadow box letters and artifacts from around the world. There would be poetry slams, concerts, and art shows, all benefitting a designated cause. Organizations and individuals could come together in this place. M's could come off the field and recharge, perform spoken word about their experience, encourage supporters, etc. Prayerfully, all operating costs would be given by supporters with the idea that good stewardship of a small amount, can be multiplied into profits for legitimate needs. I'm excited about this one day happening.

I have much more on my mind, but I need to head to bed. More thoughts soon.

May 31, 2006

yesterday was amazing.

As I fell asleep last night I couldn't help but think of how great a day it was. I woke up at 7am in my new house for the summer. I live with 5 other amazing girls for the next 6 weeks while I'm in summer school. Sure, it's not Little Italy, but I've really appreciate life here. I live in a quiet house with a garage and front yard- contrasting with the 17 story condo with construction in the middle of downtown. Life seems incredibly simple, perhaps it's a good transition. So, I woke up at 7, showered, ate some oatmeal, and walked to school with my roommate Katie. I'm talking two summer school classes: Multicultural Education and Strategic Marketing Managment (talk about a contrast!).
In Multicultural Eduacation we talked about discrimination and racial/gender bias. It was a very interesting discussion and I got to share my Girl Scout affirmative action story. People love that story. In Marketing, we did a day of recap of our last 4 years of learning.. from consumer behavior to finance to accounting to advertising... we recapped it all with a little game of Wheel of Fortune/Jeopardy combo. I was Vanna White for the morning and thoroughly enjoyed my job. My professor kept making little quips about people's answers that only I could hear.. super funny comments.
I walked home from school and Kyle picked me up for a lunch hangout. I talked him into the Cheese Shop, my favorite lunch spot in the middle of the Gaslamp district. The Cheese Shop's great, it's a local restaurant, super affordable, and great atmosphere. They have super high ceiling and the building in made of brick. The employees are down to earth, friendly, and frankly, I'm a regular now. Kyle really liked it and it was great to just catch up with him and talk about topics outside of college. He gave me some great pointers on raising support and I asked him about his responsibility of raising 3 kids.. what he and Wendy have learned over time, etc. Kyle is a perfect fit for San Diego Metro ministry and it's been a real pleasure to get to know him and do ministry together over the past couple of years.
When I got home from lunch I sat on the couch with my laptop to write my discrimination editorial that was homework. That lasted about 20 minutes, when I fell asleep for an amazing nap. I can't remember the last time I was both healthy and sleeping during the day. It was so nice to wake up refreshed.
At 5, my new roommates and I went to La Jolla Shores and went sunset surfing. The water was warm and the waves were decent. I felt a stingray slide past my leg, later to find out that they were pretty abundant because of the warm water. Aside from the stingrays, being in the ocean at near-sunset was so nice and relaxing. At one point, I was sitting on my board pretty far out, the water was calm, the sun felt nice on my face, the late sun glistening gold on the water. I just sat there for a couple minutes.. one of those slow down moments. I'm not artistic, but I seriously wanted to paint the scenery. I felt so grateful... grateful for pretty much everything in my life. The mellowness lasted just a few minutes and I was only interrupted by a great wave forming about 20 feet away. I turned my board around, paddled hard, and caught it. I could have kept sitting on my board and let it pass by, but I didn't. There's a great rush when you're being carried by a wave and I realized that that moment was no 'better' than the peacefulness of a moment before. Life is made up of the relaxing slow times and the crazy adrenaline times and it's not like they sit on opposite ends of some spectrum of enjoyment- instead they're both incredible and meant to be enjoyed for what they are. I think sometimes I value one more than the other..a grass is greener mindset.
When we got home, we all made dinner and sat and watched Grey's Anatomy. I'm not too good at the medical shows, but they really like it and I can see why. I'll admit.. I'm semi-addicted. LOST still has my loyalty though. I also found some support checks I had put in a safe place and had forgotten the safe place's location- such a nice surprise.
I went to bed pretty late, but totally content with the day. If I could find checks, surf, have lunch with a great friend, spend time with incredible girls, and enjoy summer school more often.. that's be ok with me.
I'm going to miss my homeless neighbors in the parking lot, endless trolley stories, Little Italy streets lined with white lights at night, It's A Grind coffee shop, the Embarcadero and watching cruise ships come in from my balcony, and riding my beach cruiser to Gaslamp. I'm taking the trolley to Little Italy right now to turn in my keys to Amanda. Change is good, I have to remind myself of that.

May 28, 2006

a tribute to the old Kerman by Mel King

....i usually take a drive thru town and get nostalgic for the place i love now and hated then....seriously many of y'all get to drive your little bro to school on a grey morning when the almond trees are in full bloom lookin like snow....the moss on the old farm houses is neon green...and u can see the snow on the huge mountains miles away that make this the central valley of californaiyae? drive doesnt take very long, i start out by passing a "mural" (really a billboard put up at the edge of the grapevines as u enter town) that says "Historic Kerman" over it and shows a boat on the San Joaquin river that has now been slowed to a trickle because of damming.....right after that is the back of Auto Zone and save mart (blank walls screaming for a REAL (i.e timely, community oriented, thought provoking etc) mural))......and the newly installed, suburban-Tope-colored Perkos Cafe and something i believe called Video Zone that must be our new corporately owned video store since the locally owned video store that had been around forever went out of business a few years ago....then comes Taco Bell, where a sign says they are "now hiring friendly people".....ah yes, kerman...where the 98Cent store is having a clearance sale, and you can get your hair cut at a place called "good haircuts" i finish my drive and round the corner where there used to be an old horse we liked to pet over the fence...I see its now called Quail Run (ive never seen a quail here in my life...) and there are track homes where the horse and grapevines used to be......

May 21, 2006

commencement complete.

The title of this post is a contradiction because commencement means beginnings, but I can't help feeling like more things are coming to an end. I am so emotional lately, something very new to me. On Thursday before my last final I found myself with my face in the pillow on my bed listening to Norah Jones- that translates to depression. So I jumped out of my bed and went for a walk in downtown. I know that this will all pass, but it's hard to say goodbye to almost everything I know right now.
I'm most definitely excited about China, but I'm also very aware that it will stretch and challenge me along the way. I don't know anyone going, I don't know the language, should be interesting.
The last couple days have been a blur.. I'll try my best to recap. Thursday I had my last final, which comprises the solo A of this semester (I've never gotten such a low GPA ;) After we finished, we went to our graduation party already in progress. It was a super overcast afternoon on South Mission Beach, but there were so many people at the bonfire to celebrate. It was great to share the party with 7 other graduates and just to laugh and enjoy the company of good friends. Afterward, Vince, James and I went to Denny's for some marching down memory lane. There was a little 3 year old celebrating his birthday at midnight. His dad was wearing an ivory net t-shirt.. it appeared to be the same material as a basketball net.. and they had a huge cake that they cut up and gave to people in the Denny's.. it was all very strange. Tourists for SURE.
Friday morning I worked at Aveda with Ashlyn, we always have a really good time at work- productive, of course, but fun. Friday afternoon my mom, grandma, and sister came into town for the graduation festivities. We went out to dinner, but before we did my mom gave me a graduation present. I think I stuttered when I opened the box.. an Emerald cut pink Tourmaline ring with 26 tiny diamonds surrounding it.. so amazingly beautiful. The above picture isn't the exact ring, but it's pretty close. The ring itself has been a joke for well over a year. Whenever I'm in Fresno, we'd stop by Rogers Jewelers and they'd let me walk around with it on... never believing I'd ever have it. I'm not an expensive jewelry wearer, but this ring is quite nice.
Friday night a group of friends and I went out for drinks.. We went to Yardhouse, until it closed. Then to Cafe Lulu, until it closed and then we finished off the night dancing in the streets to music from Vince's stereo. I learned my limit on celebration champagne, enough said about that night.
Saturday morning I graduated at 8 am, on 1 1/2 hours of sleep. I was struggling staying awake during the ceremony. I got an energy pill from a girl and it definitely helped out. The people there for my graduation was a great group of ladies.. my mom, grandma, sister, Aunt Kathy, cousins Amelia and Daisy, and Regina. We picked up Jen after the ceremony and went to Cafe 222 for brunch. My little cousin Amelia is pure comedy. The tourmaline products from Aveda that guarantee radiance must be working because 9-year old Amelia said that she's going to call me 'The Reflector'. She said I'm always glowing "like an angel, Alli Jo". I don't know if I want to be called 'The Reflector', but I appreciate her acknowledging any radiance. She's the same little one that 3 years ago at our huge Thanksgiving asked when the table got really quiet, "Alli Jo, were you born with those pimples?" Talk about an observant, inquisitive little one.. the stories go on and on with interactions between Amelia and I. After the graduation ceremony, I took off the cap and gown and she begged me to wear it. I loved watching people's reactions thinking this 9 year old must be some sort of genius. She walked so confidently through crowds of people, staring at this little girl owning her graduate status.
I was so tired Saturday afternoon, I don't know if I had more than 5 hours of sleep any given night for the past week and a half, so I feel asleep watching TV at 4 in the afternoon.
Now, I'm home.. doing laundry, cleaning up from the whirlwind of family, watching the news (I can't believe Ray Nagin got re-elected!) and trying to take in the last week. It was odd at the graduation party on Thursday saying good-bye to people I'll potenitally never see again... people that have really influenced me over the past 4 years. Sure, it's part of life, but it doesn't mean that it's easy.
I'm so excited to see what the future holds, but I also want to not forget the incredible memories, lessons, and people of college. Laying on my bed with my face in the pillow and Norah Jones playing on my computer doesn't help, I guess..but I feel like a little Norah right now.

May 16, 2006

commencement prep

the last few weeks have been pretty emotional for me. i've been so busy, but have also desired to write about them to help me remember what i'm feeling and thinking.

about two weeks ago we had our last CRU meeting. it brought a lot of closure for me, and in some ways it felt like that night i graduated. the night started with the band of Josh, James and Donnie. it was so fun just to be with good friends and sing out in the classroom, i kept thinking that it was sweet smelling incense to Him. next, each graduate was introduced by a person they had influenced over the years. i was reminded how impactful we are as leaders and upperclassman, and how often times the small stuff is what sticks in people's lives. jen intro'd me and said some super nice and thoughtful things. ariel jumped up to add on some final thoughts.. it was great because we're three different ages and share the same sense of humor. after we were intro'd we shared 5 things that we've learned in college. sean rapped about his college experience and called me up to beat-box. i made a fool out of absolute fool. i think my beat was super lame and eventually tailed off because i was trying to hear why everyone was cracking up at sean's words. all that to say, it was so much fun.

after the little speeches, we had a great slideshow that vince prepared. it had new orleans, urban immersion, australia, imperial beach, ensenada, kickball, gap nights, thailand and so much more. i was so happy to look around the room and see most of my closest friends smiliing and watching the screen. i got home that night and cried.. i cried because i realized how much i love these people, how much i'll miss 'running into' them on campus, how i've truly shared life with them.

i've had people congratulate me on graduation and frankly i'm waiting for the sweet part of bittersweet to come into play. right now the only positive aspect is that i won't be bubbling in scantrons on a weekly basis. being a college student affords us many opportunities we wouldn't otherwise have. we can be irresponsible, we can skip obligations to grab coffee, we can hear incredible (and often boring) lectures on real world conflicts, we can be activists on almost everything, we can have an empty bank account and laugh, we can stay up late and talk, and dream about the future together. i'm so lathargic right now, it's good that i'm writing, it helps.

tomorrow at 1:30 i have my final interview .. then i'll know for sure about going to China!

the other day on the trolley i had a funny experience. i was on my way to aveda for our PURITY event. we had to wear all white. i was wearing a great linen white skirt, a white tanktop with a cashmere white cardigan on top. i had on white bohemian flat sandals and a white shell bracelet on. i had on silver angel wing earrings.. really trendy from a local boutique.

i got on the trolley aware of my appearance which contrasts sharply with the red interior, not to mention the attire of others onboard. there i sit in white head to top, my hair tied back, legs crossed and angel wing earrings and i pulled out Tozer's book to read which has in large font, "The Pursuit of G" as the title. The man sitting across from me, looks up from his book to look at mine.. his eyes go upward to my face where he looks at each ear and then he looks at me with the widest eyes. i think he repented that very moment. ha.

it's 12:43 and i just woke upself because i fell asleep sitting up on my couch. i am so very tired.

May 1, 2006

Shawn Haggerty met Jacob.

I am so thankful that I got to meet Jacob.

For those of you who have seen Invisible Children, you know Jacob as the 14 year old boy who cried after being asked what he would say to his brother who was murdered by the LRA. The one who said he had nothing, and that he would rather die than stay on earth.

When I first watched Invisible Children, it was this moment in the film that broke my heart and changed my life. When he cried, it was a cry of real, raw pain, the kind of pain most of us, especially me have never come close to feeling. Something inside of me snapped and I realized that this is REAL, and its happening NOW. Inexucusable atrocity and horror. All I could do was silently apologize to the Jacob on the screen, crying tears of regret. How could I have turned my eyes away for my 19 years and done nothing? Right there I promised that I would never again live that way, unfeeling and apathetic.

So that was February 9th..
And yesterday was April April 27th..

And I got to meet Jacob.

We were at the Invisible Children offices, standing in the hallway with a few of the people who work there, and Jason and a boy walk out of the office. Jason goes, "have you guys met Jacob?" and I saw a very familiar shy face looking at me. And immediately my heart was in my mouth. Jacob? Could it be the same Jacob who forever affected me, who I cried for and prayed for, who I apologized to and promised to never look away from? And there he was, shaking my hand with a shy smile and then reaching to hug me. They had flown him from Uganda to the states for the GNC, getting him a passport last minute.

I was truly in that moment. I was right there, my heart and mind and soul, all of me was right there in that hug. It was a moment planned by Him. A gift to me, a gift to him. Theres so much I could say if I had hours but I just had a moment, and I took it. Its so hard to put into words, but moments like those tell me I am on the right track, that there is nothing more important than people and compassion. Everything else fades into the background. The fact that I am flat broke, the fact that I have a million finals and papers coming up and no time this weekend to start, the people who have been bugging me or hurting me lately.. Its all gone. It might make no sense but I really experienced Him in that moment. I'm learning more and more that He doesn't make sense to me, or that I can't make sense of Him, and it makes Him all the more wonderful and mysterious. It was like a taste of what it is to fulfill my purpose. Jacob was only one, but he represents the hundreds of thousands of war-torn kids in Uganda. I plan to hug all of them.


April 26, 2006

invisible children

This Saturday is the Global Night Commute, as a peaceful protest to the US' inaction regarding the child abductions in Uganda. It is also a great way to raise awareness. The pictures are ways that we (CCC students) have raised money to help. I'm excited to watch Oprah this afternoon. The three filmmakers from San Diego are going to be on her show.

April 14, 2006


The timing! In Christianity, we compared and contrasted the Catholic and Protestant faiths. Tonight on Larry King LIve, there were 2 full-time priests, a former priest that left and became married and John MacArthur (a pastor). Interesting discussion that asnwered many questions for me.

April 11, 2006

late nights

I love those days where you think you know what will happen, and things change. The unexpected is great. I woke up early-ish and went on run to the bay. Downtown mornings are so great. The streets are full of produce trucks for the restaurants, people rushing to work, dogs getting their morning walks, and sometimes the random person who is still experiencing the previous night. I came back, took a shower and spent the next 2 hours handing out surveys for Marketing Research. The local business owners were super nice and willing to take the 10 minutes. I found some businesses that I didn't know existed. I walked into 'The Pilates Room' and the place looks more like torture than a workout. I heard that's what Demi Moore uses, so the torture is apparently worth it.

I came back home and had great intentions.. I was going to figure out HRBlock's website and finally file my taxes. I think there were some compatibility issues with my mac, so I abandoned that idea and popped in Amanda's season one of LOST. Needless to say- it's addicting. There goes a very productive two hours of my day. I was supposed to have a group meeting for a case study in my International Strategic Management class, but one of the guys cancelled. It was at that point I realized my almost comedic grocery situation. Honestly, the only things I owned in the refridgerator were condiments.. and the only thing in the pantry was some cornbread mix and spaghetti. I boiled the spaghetti and then searched for something to go on it. My best option was raspberry vinegarette... my mom the former Home-Ec teacher would be so disappointed. It was at this point I called Vince and asked a gigantic favor- a ride to Trader Joe's.

The bummer about being carless is doctors appointments (I don't think I've even had one, but it'd be hard if I did), grocery shopping, and hanging out with friends. I just pictured myself going to Ralph's in downtown with my backpack.. buying enough to fill it, and riding my bike back home. It'd take at least 4 trips to pull off a legitimate trip to the store. By the last trip they'd know me by name.. you better believe.

This rarely happens, but sometimes the reality of being home alone in a big city.. well, it sets in. The fear is usually triggered by something scary. I had been watching another episode of LOST and it ended on a mysterious note. When I get scared, I make as much noise as possible. I start a load of laundry, run the diswasher, put on the radio and vaccuum. I don't actually do all of those things. The dishwasher or laundry hum is great comfort.

My eyes are closing and my head will soon hit the keyboard, so i'll go to bed now..

April 9, 2006

rock in her friend's shoe...

I've been extra tired lately. It's the second round of midterms, I'm working more hours, and I've had company in town the last two weekends.. no wonder! My birth-weekend (it was definitely a drawn out event) was great. I felt super loved by family and close friends. On Saturday night we (Cynthia, Mom, Emily, Rod, Wielands, Nazaroffs, Cori, James, Vince, and I) went to dinner at Miguel's on Coronado. Afterwards some of us went to National Comedy Theatre to watch an improv show. The next morning, about 20-25 of my closest friends went to Extraordinary Desserts for a morning coffee/brunch. It was so great to look down the table and see the faces of people that that influenced me so much in college. Old roommates, co-workers, friends from CRU, friends from Kerman.. all sitting together and laughing. It made me happy. My college friends chipped in on a great gift- a black Nikon camera with 6.2 megapixels and 5x zoom! The card cracked me up. It said something like "On March 29, 1984 a baby girl was born. (My birthday is actually the 30th ha ha) Her name was Allison Ricks. The Jewel in her mom's eye.. the Rock in her friend's show.. and the hope for the China Man..." There was a picture of me standing with a Thai shop owner that I had bartered a wooden elephant with. We're both grinning from ear to ear. Probably my cheesiest picture. Rock in her friend's shoe... What the heck?!

I spent Friday night and Saturday with my childhood best friend, Trisha and her husband Sean. They live in Kansas City, Missouri and attend school on the campus of IHOP. It was fun to get sushi with them and talk about all that our Father is doing around the world. Trisha has this way of telling stories- she fills them with unnecessary details, until she loses track of the subject. It was funny to have her tell a story, switch subjects quickly, fill it with details.. until I finally have to admit that I'm completely lost. She has been an incredible friend to me. I can't count how many times we laid on the trampoline in my backyard and talked all night.. rollerbladed every sidewalk in Kerman, and swam in my grandma's pool. It's great to see her happily married. Her husband Sean is a perfect match.. they're hilarious together. It's hard to believe, but they both talk so much that I barely got a word in. They flew in to San Diego because they were spending a week in Ensenada on a trip. The last time I saw them was at their wedding last summer, so it was a fun mini-reunion.

I need to do my taxes, do 50-75 surveys in downtown for Marketing Research, study for Operations Management, do laundry, and pass these classes. Last week I got my cap and gown for graduation.. it was weird to think that I'm almost done. James just told me we only have 40 days left. I think I'm going to run to the bay for the next 40 days until we graduate. It'd be great to have a devo every morning on the water. It has become a morning ritual to have coffee on the balcony looking at the water.. this will only be an improvement. 40 days.. wow.

March 31, 2006

Turning 22.

Yesterday I turned 22... from here on out birthdays are a tally mark. Wait, I think at 25 you can rent a car... that'll be an exciting one. :)
I feel like I should do a run down of the day... so I will. I woke up early for my regular Thursday accountability coffee with Lisa. I look forward to spending time with Lisa, so I was happy to kick off a birthday with her. She told me that she'd pick me up at 8. Usually I just walk the 3 blocks to "It's a Grind", but she said that it was supposed to rain the next day. I looked up the forecast on and she was wrong, but I'm notorious for ruining things, so I let her be sneaky. She took me out to a fun breakfast in Hillcrest at the City Delicatessean.. New York style! Conversation never lulls with Lisa and we had a great time.
She drove me to the Old Town trolley stop and I made the train by a minute (that kind of timing only happens on your birthday). I had a great ride and studied my ugly "Effective Public Relations" book for my test that afternoon. Let me say this- Public Relations does not need it's own class. The field is narrow and I could summarize the entire practice in 2 lectures... not the 16 weeks I'm currently experiencing. My professor wrote the book so everything is testable. I won't get too into it, but let's just say that it's ANNOYING.
Anywho.. I love the random birthday calls that occur. People you haven't heard from since 7th grade call you. It's a beautiful holiday. The student sitting in front of me I guess was listening in on my conversations and right before getting off at SDSU, he turned around and said, "Happy Birthday.. so you're moving to China". We both laughed. Then I got up and threw my backpack at the same time this small Mexican woman was getting up from her seat and I elbowed her head. I apologized profusely, but there was a language barrier. My spanish kicked in with "Lo siento... lo siento". She just nodded and held the side of her head. That was a convo-killer with my new trolley friend. He just walked off and waved.
I ran into some friends and tried to study more PR... eventually I just decided that I had mastered the material (without ever reading the last two chapters).. and started answering the Happy Birthday phone calls.
I took my PR test and the essay question was on a theory that I had read, comprehended, and eloquently reiterated. It was a beautiful essay and the 75 MC were easy enough. So far, so good on this birthday.
Once my scantron was handed to Professor Broom, I went to Chipotle for lunch with James, Sean, Ben and Ben's friend. James bought me lunch and we talked about thrill-seeking skydiving, bungeejumping, etc. They're pretty adventerous guys so it was a fun topic.
Then I had Marketing Research with Professor T(for short, in case he ever Googles himself, he'd fail me). This guy is seriously the most defensive guy I know. He takes everything personally. Asking, "Could you clarify this test question, I don't think I understand what it's asking"... you might as well be saying, "Professor, I don't understand anything through your thick Indian accent. You haven't mastered the English language... you probably shouldn't be teaching.. you're so dumb". That's not what I believe.. but that's how he reacts. It's the strangest thing. This guy is a legend at SDSU.. people warn each other about him. I thought he can't be that bad.. HE IS. He gave back our tests from the previous week and everyone had done poorly, because his wording of questions is so difficult. His English is not that advanced, so he forgets words like "a" and "the". Example: "Hello my name Professor T. Today we study how sample and how pick size." It's hard to take tests like that. It was 2.5 hours of him defending issues that were never mentioned. I'm feeling like this post is very negative... but I'll type onward.
I had Christianity next. We talked about Pluralism, Buddhism, and the similarities between the Cross and the lotus from a scholarly perspective.
I went to CRU and it was a very candid night. Asking ourselves questions like, "Are we fulfilling our call on this campus? Are we acting like a transformational community? What has gone wrong? What does the Bible say about these issues? Are we a prayerful movement? Are we acting like a movement?" It was deep.
Afterwards, about 10 of us.. including Kyle went to Cold Stone for some birthday ice cream. After that, Sean, Vince and I went to Yardhouse for a couple hours. They're humorous.
This weekend, my family and some friends from Kerman are coming to SD. I'm having a breakfast at Extraordinary Desserts on Union Street on Sunday morning. There's a stickball tournament in the streets of Little Italy on Sunday so that'll be fun to watch. I'm excited that about 30 friends are coming for the brunch. I feel extremely blessed by my friends. They're so good to me. This weekend should be rather interesting.

March 20, 2006

Kate Boland writes...

Sitting in 4 day old jeans that've traveled through airports and towns in a 7 passenger van that defied all rules of capacity. From New Orleans to D.C. to L.A. and back here to San Diego.

This past week was a journey, a story, an encouragement and a frustration. Led by Campus Crusade for Christ 12 friends and I flew to New Orleans to do Hurricane Katrina relief work for our Spring Break. We stayed at Light City in the 9th Ward, which is basically the Compton of New Orleans. In a warehouse with 2500 other college students from across the country we slept on cots and bathed in makeshift showers. Let's just say we know how many water bottles it takes to wash your hair and I now have a new definition of clean.

The story of the storm was told on every building and house through a spray painted x with numbers and letters on each side indictaing the date the place was searched, how many evacuees, the number dead found and number of animals found. It was a bit hard to imagine the eeriely quiet, desolate state of New Orleans as a thriving community. No sounds of dogs barking or children playing, the streets still filled with abandoned cars, front doors open to empty homes many people will never return to.

We spent 4 days working, gutting and clearing out houses that were ruined by Hurricane Katrina. Breaking down sheet rock, taking out nails, prying base boards off and doing what we could to rid the home of the mold and debris that seemed to infest the place. We wore lovely masks, made huge piles of trash in front of the house and saw awesome snowflake patterns of every color of mold you could imagine. It was hard work, disgusting and amazing.

Our last day in town we went about 2 miles from Light City to the Lower 9th Ward, which is right next to the levee which broke and got hit the worst. Mounds of debris and decaying wood lined the streets. Roofs detached, wrecked cars on top of eachother, stuck between or underneath houses, some houses pushed from the floodwater to the middle of the street. Remnants of what used to be homes and memories and peoples lives piled up in hills of trash. Most all the people we met told us how different and depressed people have been since the storm and were super appreciative for our help, though we all felt it was the least we could do.

I arrived and left the 9th Ward thinking 'This is not America." 6 months after the devastation of Katrina and most of the city still looks as if the storm hit last week. Where is everyone? Where is all the help? There just seems to be so much destruction and so little help. And this is where frustration entered. Upset by the conditions, annoyed by the lack of aid and most of all disappointed in America. A nation that claims to be the best of all looks to be too busy to help it's own country. So we know the response to Katrina was late and insufficient from the President and Government. Okay. Now get your act together and do something. Act on your beliefs and bring about the change that only gets talked about too much. Get your hands dirty. Listen to real stories of loss, love and hope. And take action to help our neighbors.

I know that this change starts with me. Acting upon my beliefs. Doing more and talking less. This trip will stay with me the rest of my life. Because it wasn't just a spring break or a relief trip. It was an experience. Trying to understand the faith and the pain. A lesson. About what a true servant is and what it means to be humbled. About real lives and hearts and stories. It was about community. The 13 of us working, laughing and getting lost together, becoming a family over the week. And it was an awakening to what's really going on in New Orleans, in the world and in my heart.

Wow. I guess this is what happens when your life is changed by something, all these words just flowing out from somewhere.

March 19, 2006

back home

I got home from New Orleans early this morning. It was a great trip that taught me so much, and reinforced things I'm already learning. If I had to throw a theme on this year of college, I think it'd be something like, "Life:Simplified". Last May when I went to Thailand was probably the beginning. I saw and encountered people that had lost every single thing they owned. When I got back from Asia, I lived with my grandmother for the summer. Life there was simple, to say the least. I taught swim lessons in the mornings and went on walks with her in the evenings. On weekends, I went to BBQs at friend's houses. When I moved back to SD, I didn't have a car. That's an instant simplifier. Friendships went through changes and gained clarity. School is definitely harder, but now that I'm a senior I think I've finally grasped some time management and study habits that are making 19 units bearable.
And all last week, was spent in the 9th Ward of New Orleans (Google it for more details). We visited where the levee broke and the houses were completely wiped out. We saw houses lifted from their foundation, moved into the street, with cars underneath. My first thought was that it looked like a war zone. The same thing kept ringing through my head.. that the things of this world fade. That we can accumulate and store possessions, but they don't last. I could work in Marketing and make a lot of money, and have nice things, but I wasn't put on this earth to have a huge home and Egyptian cotton sheets. I was put here to serve others. I don't know exactly what that means right now, but it'll come in time. I'll write more about New Orleans when I find time, it was definitely an experience I want to write about sometime soon.