December 20, 2008

We've Met Before...

Last night I went to a Christmas party with my roommate. It was hosted at a beautiful home, finger foods were abundant and eggnog was readily available. About an hour into the party, I realized that I was one or two age brackets too young for the gathering. I'm confident I was the youngest person there. Here are some pointers that lead me to that conclusion. First, my SDSU media management professor was in attendance. And when I told him so, he responded with, "So, you're what... 21?" No! I'm 24, almost 25...thank you! Second, I was introduced to a woman who immediately said "We've met before, at another party...". Nope, I'm pretty sure we haven't.

This happens often. More often than you'd think.. and I'm starting to find the two most common sources of 'connection'.

1. I have been on your friend's fridge for two years. My face with Tracy (my Chinese student), and something to the affect of "Serving in China". Every time you went to the fridge at their house, and you swung the door open, our eyes probably met. You think you know me, but you don't, we've only just silently stared.

2. I told you which shampoo was best for your oily/dry/curly/straight/uncontrollable hair. I recommended a bottle of $62 shampoo and $54 conditioner of Aveda goodness. You also got a body scrub, hand lotion and an eyeliner. I gave you a hand massage, showed you some blush and we chatted a bit. We felt like friends because I wasn't pushy...there was no commission on the line... just genuine concern for your dry hair and skin. You think you know me, and you do... but not from a party. I know you're not a natural blonde, and that's more information than you'd relinquish in small talk at any party.

Last night, it was the latter. I knew the crowd and it was full of Aveda junkies. Their radiant skin and silky hair told me so. When I said, "I worked at Aveda in college, maybe I helped you there?" She exclaimed, "YES! I love Aveda! But, I'm still mad that you discontinued Curessence!"

That was my cue, I silently slipped out and went to Cori's house down the street.

December 16, 2008

Tour de la Tundra

I'm sitting in a winter wonderland. Eight inches of snow have fallen today and more is expected overnight. Tomorrow I'm supposed to fly out of O'Hare at noon and had grand ambitions to take the El train the whole way, but those have been changed, instead Rachel will give me a ride to the airport in the morning. Apparently, it wouldn't be easy to roll my 50 lb. suitcase through a foot of snow. I recently learned that El is short for Elevated...I think someone misguided me in saying that the route was shaped like an L.

While sitting comfortably in warm California, I've heard of long delays at O'Hare, and from what my friends here tell me, tomorrow I'll become one of thousands looking at the flashing 'Delayed' and 'Cancelled' next to my United flight number. We shall see...

This trip to the MidWest has been much needed. I started in Colorado (is that technically the MidWest?) and worked for 3 days at the Tedder's dining room table. We worked, took a walk, worked, drank a latte and played ping pong, worked, ate Mexican, worked, then watched America's Funniest Home Videos. I can't help it, I love that show. Call it slap-stick, but I just can't get enough of the montages of falling people. The Tedder's view of the Rockies, their hot tub in the snow, and Mark's barista skills always make for an enjoyable time. It's honestly a pleasure to work for them and I'm excited to be a part of The Door project. I can't help it, I had to post the's my job.

From Colorado Springs, I went to Denver and was able to spend some time with Ryan and Amanda. They're newlyweds and a great compliment to each other. To know them is to love them. Amanda took me to the airport in the morning, and from there I flew to...

Chicago! What a city. Rachel, my China roommate for a year and an aspiring writer, picked me up from the airport. I secretly hope to be in one of her books someday. She assures me that traces of my personality will be found in a character, but I'm lobbying for more. In the morning we met a group of friends at Egglectic in downtown Wheaton. I mistakenly called it Eggcelent a couple of times, which made Rachel chuckle. And it was there that I was reunited with Mikayla. I had never used the cliche of "you're like a sister to me" until I met Mikayla. We somehow turn the most mundane activities (lesson planning, waiting, performances, bus rides) into laughter and pure joy. She shares my love for accents, for the world, and for odd topics. I spent every day for a year with her and hadn't seen her for a year and half! In that time she had gotten married, and I was able to meet her husband Erik. Also at breakfast were Kathy Kastner (music professor extraordinaire and culture junkie!) and Nita Martindale (the Beijing hostess with the most). We talked about Tibet, about Twitter and updated each other as we ate our scrambles and crepes. As I walked away, I wished that we could all meet at Egglectic weekly, I have so much to learn from everyone at the table.

Next, we headed into the city. Rachel, Mikayla and I took the El into the heart of Chicago. We took pictures at the Bean, watched people ice-skate, went shopping on State Street, and had a late lunch at The Walnut Room in Macy's. The day ended with The Blue Man Group. We ushered the show to get in free, which was a genius move on Rachel's part. Mikayla and I intended on speaking in British accents, but it seemed the tables were turned on me. An interesting BMG employee would come near me and politely ask, "How's it going?" and then in a raspy voice "Hellllo preeetttty". At first I thought I was hearing things. But just a couple minutes later he came to get a booster seat for a child. He said nicely, "I'm just going to grab this..." and then in a deep grunt "Hiiiii Dolly." I signaled to Mikayla across the room that he was talking strange and gave her an awkward face, but she just waved and danced to the music playing. After cleaning up all the paper towels used in the show, we went to Giordano's. We reminisced and laughed our way through a deep dish pizza.

The next day we drove to Mikayla's house in northern Wisconsin. It was at this point that I felt as though I entered another country. I wish I could pinpoint why Wisconsin felt so foreign. Perhaps it was the large metal cows? Or more cheese signs than gas station signs? Either way, I felt the need to take pictures and document the culture.

Mikayla and Erik were gracious hosts and we were even able to see them sing in the choir of Handel's Messiah. An interesting fact, the reason that everyone stands during "Hallelujah" is because in the first performance the King of England stood. Such an educational trip this has turned out to be. Katie Wilson drove all the way from Minneapolis and we were reunited. Ah, how I've missed Katie. She drove 5 hours to spend a day with us, and I felt so loved. We all played Balderdash late into the night.

I could keep listing the fun things we did together, but I think I'll end here. The point is, I needed the MidWest. I needed the microbrews, the long talks, the cheese curds, the cross-stitching of ornaments, and the late night Balderdash. In many ways, being here with these good friends in the middle of snowy prairie land has felt more like home than California. I had no idea that the MidWest could be And I feel like an ignorant fool for the way I've judged it in the past. Seriously though, Wisconsin feels like another country. Trust me.

Just some of my family...

When Grandma Jo turned 80, she took a picture with her grandchildren at the party. I'm related to all these kids. This isn't including aunts or uncles or those distant relatives that show up at Thanksgiving.
Please note that I'm one of two brunettes in the entire bunch. Dominant genes...

November 29, 2008

November 25, 2008

India, I want my $395 back.

Nation of India,

Last year I visited your vast land, and although I wouldn't call my time with you a 'vacation', it was most definitely an 'adventure'. I spent time with your tribes (I'm a huge fan of the Panga tribe), spent 3 weeks eating with my hands, and tipped everyone including the lady that pointed a finger to the paper towels in the bathroom. You took more of my money than I budgeted, and you made me cry in the face of complete poverty, but in the hills of Orissa you afforded me the clearest starry night I've ever seen. Thanks for that.

A rift has come between us, and we both know the root of it. I took something from you, however small, it was significant to you. Your nation's greatest treasure, had a very small portion 'under construction', and I took a tiny momento. In hindsight, it was a mistake.

That being said, I think you've overreacted. You made my co-conspirator Jev so ill that he had to spend a week in a Thai hospital and now a year later you've stolen my identity in credit fraud. That's right, I know all about it! One of your people opened a credit card in my name and spent $395.

I'm really sorry about all the things in our past, but this vengeful attitude has got to stop! I want this $395 resolved immediately and, in turn, I'll stop gossiping about you. If the opportunity arises, I'll even return your little gem to your soil.


November 19, 2008

Sunsets at the Embarcadero

While other cities give a cold shoulder to their residents, San Diego remains warm and inviting.

November 11, 2008

The Power of 1.

It might be November 11th and Veteran's Day here in the States, but today a billion people are celebrating the Chinese holiday of Single's Day.

11-11, four 1's in a row, for all the single people to have a day. Perhaps it's a Chinese protest to it's 3 month older cousin, Valentine's Day?

Today, if you're young and single (or old and single for that matter...sorry for the age discrimination)'s your day, and you didn't even know it.

Pat yourself on the back, toast yourself for a great year, and then tuck yourself into bed tonight! It's your day!

October 29, 2008


Last night, my friend Cori and I were having gelato in Little Italy next to some classic old Italian men. I'm talking gold chain, chest hair, Aqua-Net hair, and thick accents. With a week until election day, politics eventually came up in their conversation. The guy with the biggest gold chain said, "Yeah, well that Bak O-Rama is going to...."
Go ahead, say it out loud in your best Italian accent. CNN is a lot more entertaining when you mentally insert some O-Ramas.

October 15, 2008


I want to be a grace guerilla
no longer a chameleon of karma
the time has come to stand out from the crowd.
I want to give forgiveness a fighting chance of freeing me
I want to live in love
and live it out loud.

I want to drink deep of the foolishness of wisdom
instead of swallowing the wisdom of fools
I want to find a source in the deeper mines of meaning
to search out the unsearchable
to invoke the invisible
to choose the truth the TV hypnotists aren't screening.

No camouflage
no entourage
no smoothly fitting-in
I want a faith that goes further than face value
and a beauty that goes deeper than my skin.

I want to be untouched by my possessions
instead of being possessed by what I touch
to test the taste of having nothing to call mine
to hold consumption's cravings back
to be content with luck or lack
to live on water as well as on wine.

I want to spend myself on those I think might need me
not spend all I think I need on myself
I want my heart to be willing to make house calls.
Let those whose rope is at an end find in me a faithful friend
Let me be known as one who rebuilds broken walls.

No camouflage
no entourage
no smoothly fitting-in
I want a faith that goes further than face value
and a beauty that goes deeper than my skin.

I want to be centered outside the circle
to be chiseled by a different seam
I want to be seduce by another story
and drawn into a deeper dream
I want to be anchored in an undiscovered ocean
to revolve around an unfamiliar sun
a boom box tuned to an alternate station
a bullet fired from a different gun.

No camouflage
no entourage
no smoothly fitting-in
I want a faith that goes further than face value
and a beauty that goes deeper than my skin.

-Gerard Kelly on The Door CD/DVD (released 12/1)

October 4, 2008

The Farmer's Walk

I can't count how many times I mumbled under my breath, "China, you win! You always do!" over the last couple years. Today was no different, and for an entirely different reason. I'm not talking about the nation that holds 1/4 of the world's population, the land of Mao, tai-chi, or incredible eggplant dishes. I'm talking about actual dishes...porcelain plates, bowls, and cups (also known as china).

The day started off wonderfully. I further explored San Diego's mass transportation and took the Coaster train from San Diego to Oceanside, then the Sprinter light rail from Oceanside to my friend's house in Vista (about 40 miles away). On the agenda today: 8 year old girl's birthday party. And it had all the essential ingredients: stickers, scavenger hunt, and sugar. We partied hard for 4 hours and just before I left my dear friend gave me a gift, two big 12 piece sets of dishes for my new house.

I was thrilled and thankful, and then I realized that I had many mass transportation adventures ahead of me and 24 new items for the ride. The Sprinter, the Coaster, the Trolley, and then the Walk. There's no 'the Walk' mass transit system, I'm capitalizing it because I'm feeling like it deserves it. In the same way that that we capitalize the Fall (of man), the One (we'll marry), the Boss (pictured above).

We double bagged the boxes with sturdy Trader Joe's bags, and it seemed like an easy plan. I hoped that a friend would be able to pick me up from the Old Town Station so my shoulders wouldn't disconnect from their sockets.

If you think I'm being dramatic, the next time you come over and enter the kitchen, I'm going to hand you our 8 plates, 8 large bowls, and 8 mugs and encourage you to take a 12 block walk including uphill portions and stairs!

I have great friends. But they're important, busy people. They're invited to parties, weddings, or BBQ's on Saturday afternoons. They don't have time to transport my new plates to their new home.

So I did the Walk...all .6 miles uphill, no joke. (GoogleMaps says .6, but it felt like at least 2 miles). Rainclouds loomed above and I threatened heaven with a "Don't you DARE!". Can you picture it? I'm walking home, it's pouring, the brown bags get soaked, the porcelain falls through, shatters, and I collapse on someone's yard to laugh/pout.

Instead I had a moment when I felt like the world (well maybe just the weather) revolved around my little life. As I put my key into the lock, exhausted and kind of shaky in the shoulders region, I felt a raindrop hit my forehead, and just as I had both of my feet on the hardwood floors of my house, the downpour began! How I wish someone was there to witness the poetry of the timing with me...I really LOL'd by myself in an empty house. If it has been just 5 minutes later, you'd have found a mysterious and troubling scene involving a 24 year old standing in an intersection- breaking, throwing, and juggling 24 pieces of dishware on the evening news. Caption at the bottom of the screen: SoCal Residents React to Rain.

The best part: Katie just told me that there's a CrossFit workout called The Farmer's Walk, that's basically the same thing. You have to carry dumb-bells around the gym. I was thinking about signing up for CrossFit, but my life lately has been a series of interesting workouts. And it seems that no matter how far I get away from little ole Kerman, I'm still called a farmer.

September 27, 2008

Sure and Shir

"Suuuure." That doubtful delivery of the word 'sure'. When your cheapskate friend says they'll pay you back you think "Suuuure". When your "Always Late But Worth the Wait" bumper sticker friend promises to be on time..."Suuuure". When the lady at Trader Joe's says that Fat Free Half and Half tastes REALLY good...

The Mandarin word for "yes" is shir. Pronounced just like "sure". Often times it's used like we would use "yeah". For example, if someone gives you instructions or tells you facts, you'd say "shir" to confirm you understand.

To find a common word that means the SAME thing in both languages is exciting, but moving back to America it has made for some funny interactions.

For example:
When a homeowner is showing their home that's up for rent. They say, "The hardwood floors are in great shape, we've taken good care of them." "Shir/Suure". They side glance, Katie gives me a look, I'm confused. Ohhh, I sound like the skeptic tenant, doubting the hardwood floor maintenance.

When I'm interviewing for a job and I observe the very 'laid back' culture of the office. During the interview the interviewer says "And we pride ourselves on the work environment, everyone gets along really well here". "Shir/Sure". He responds, "Really, no one has a problem with anyone else". I nod, and realize I sound like the pessimistic new girl.

For the record, landlord with the Victorian home, your hardwood floors do look great, I agree.
And new employer, I'm excited about the work environment, I noticed the laid-back atmosphere when you weren't wearing shoes as I came in the front door. I can't wait to kick off my shoes and work really hard for you... really. Thanks for hiring me, despite what appeared to be a doubtful attitude.

September 8, 2008

Chew on this...

"Forgiveness flounders because I exclude my enemy from the community of humans and exclude myself from the community of sinners." -Miroslav Voth


September 4, 2008

A New Kind of Celebrity

In small town China, I was famous. I didn’t do anything to gain my celebrity; it was based purely on my white skin, oval eyes, and pearly whites. A day didn’t go by without someone stopping, pointing and staring. These days also included someone announcing that I was a ‘laowai!’- the reminder that I was a foreigner- that I looked different from everyone around me.

Now that I’m back in San Diego, I’m getting attention for an entirely different reason. The stares and pointing fingers have turned to waves and smiles. Why? Because I own a really cute bike. More specifically, a light yellow beach cruiser. The people of San Diego love it! Old men tell me about how they once had a bike like mine. Mechanics yell out “Nice ride!” and runners along Pacific Coast Highway wave and smile through heavy breathing.

I’ve tried to pinpoint the reason people feel the need to respond to a bicycle and I’ve concluded that it’s more than the bike. I make people feel good about living in San Diego. With high rent prices, high gas prices, and busy lives...a beach cruiser riding along the harbor with sailboats in the background makes people feel good. It doesn’t hurt that I’m smiling. I’m smiling because it’s 74 degrees, sunny, and I have the Pacific Ocean on one side and palm trees on the other. I’m smiling because the sky is a deep blue.

And I’m smiling because I met the postman of my new house and he ended our conversation with “Welcome to the ‘hood!” It’s good to be back.

August 28, 2008

irrelevant laws!

this, my friends, is how we were able to be at the u.s. men's beach volleyball game the next morning. definitely the most lively event! american classic rock, dancing (and falling) olympics mascots, sunshine, and great competition.


August 26, 2008

Zaijian Zhongguo.

That's Mandarin for "Goodbye China". After two years of calling this country 'home', I'm jumping on an airplane and heading back to the States, more specifically San Diego. No more Chinese visas, or Chinese buses, or authentic Chinese food. Thousands of thoughts are running through my mind, but what stands out most is the people. I'm going to miss my Chinese friends tremendously. Their hospitality, their sense of humor, their kindness towards me, and their loyalty.
I don't know the next time I'll step onto Chinese soil, could be next year, could be ten years from now. But I'm thankful for these beautiful friendships and the opportunities that I had for growth because of them.

August 25, 2008

Battle for the Bronze

Basically Brazil badly beat Belgium.

August 17, 2008

Reunion at the Great Wall

Beijing is a city of millions, with multiple tourist sites, and hundreds of thousands of tourists...I ran into Lomong again at the Mu Tian Yu Great Wall site. This time we took a picture.
In other news, I ate a scorpion last night. It was crunchy.

August 13, 2008

4 Down, 2 To Go

1. Women's Soccer- Canada vs. Argentina
Final Score: 2-1
Commentary: Canada's #15-MVP, Argentina's #6-Extremely Scrappy

2. Women's Soccer- China vs. Sweden
Final Score: 2-1
Commentary: Talk about home field advantage! 98% of the crowd was roaring for China, and 2% for Sweden. All but one of Sweden's starters had golden hair.

3. Men's Soccer- Nigeria vs. Japan
Final Score: 2-1
Commentary: The crowd was totally behind Nigeria (Japan and China don't have the best relationship). The most exciting game to watch thus far, full of action.

4. Men's Soccer- USA vs. Netherlands (Holland)
Final Score: 2-2
Commentary: Most of the action happened in the 2nd half (after we left to catch the only train back to Beijing). I learned some geography during the game, I once thought that Holland was a country- in fact, it's a province within the country of the Netherlands.


Track and Field at the Bird's Nest, August 18th @ 7pm
6 Final events along with Medal Ceremonies!

Bronze Medal Soccer at Shanghai Stadium, August 22nd @ 7pm

On a scale of 1-10 in excitement, I'm about an 9.86.

August 11, 2008

An Epic Race

Trash talking by the Frenchmen before the race, saying they're going to "smash the Americans".

Michael Phelps' goal of 8 gold medals in Beijing.

After three swimmers, USA is behind by about a body length as 32 year old anchor Jason Lezak jumps in the water.

The crowd is roaring, everyone's on their feet.

Lezak swims 46.06, the fastest split in history, and wins by a fingertip.

Crowd goes wild.

Jason Lezak, Michael Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gale, and Cullen Jones win the Men's 4x100 Free Relay.

Gold medals.

Straight out of a movie.

August 9, 2008

Change, Change, Change...

For the former Beijing laowai's out there, I have some news...there's been changes in just the last month, that might leave you feeling lost in a city you once called home.

Here are some changes that I've noticed:

1. The absence of grandma recyclers. You know, the old women that encourage you to polish off your 1/4 bottle of water so that they can crush the precious plastic and stick it into their rice bag. I miss their little frames, big grins, and even bigger love for our Earth. ;) There must be a law, because the entire city is a recycler's dream.

2. Dongzhimen Station has been transformed. The long distance buses aren't formed on the street, instead there's an indoor bus terminal. (It's the large building that many hypothesized would be a parking lot.) And it's organized with signs! In addition, the much anticipated Airport Express has been opened, it's amazing. It's just like Line 5 (with the Hong Kong inspired glass doors). Don't worry, it still has it's Beijing charm, the entire place is lacking escalators. Travelers clad with 50 pounds of luggage, on their way to/from the airport, have to lug their bags up and down dozens of stairs. Good ole China, looks alright at first sight, but poorly built. Don't be mistaken, instead of spending the money on the escalator, there's a security guard being paid to help passengers struggling up the stairs. Why pay for technology when you can the hourly wage of 2RMB ($0.33/hour)?

3. Taxi drivers wear uniforms! Every Beijing taxi driver now wears the same light yellow, short sleeve, button up shirt with a navy blue/yellow striped tie. It's endearing to see the old men wearing their uniform, yelling "Hallo", and honking their way through the crowded streets.

4. Kro's Nest pizza has closed their Bei Da (Peking University) and Worker's Stadium locations! We eventually found their new location in an area of town that I'm not familiar with. I'm not sure why the Bei Da location closed, but the Worker's Stadium location is closed until the 26th because their location was within the Stadium's security area. We talked with the owner a bit, had a dance off, and my 10 year old cousin Daisy challenged a 40 year old Olympic cameraman to a split competition. Such a great atmosphere, no matter how many times it's moved. Not to mention, great pizza.

Some things haven't changed a bit: The vendors at Silk Alley are still grabby, the toddlers still wear split-bottom pants which makes for questionable puddles, and everyone still 'cuts' in line. Old men still read their newspapers on their fold out seats on the sidewalk, and the "mei you" (don't have) are still abundant and just as frustrating. The "yu xiang qiezi" (fish-flavored eggplant) still sounds questionable, but is as delicious as you remember it. Stop salivating, I know you are.

August 8, 2008

Lomong carried the flag for the US!

It's such an American story. A lost boy of Sudan, refugee for 10 years, adopted by a family in upstate New York and learns English. He then gets a full-ride scholarship for track and field to Northern Arizona University and goes through the process to become a US citizen. Just a year (to the day!) after becoming a US citizen, he qualifies to be on the US team for the 1500 meters. Then, through a democratic process, he is selected to be carry the US flag at the Opening Ceremonies.

Being around my ultra-patriotic grandma has rubbed off on me. I teared up last night when the US team walked around the track.

When asked about being voted to carry the flag, Lomong said, "The American flag means everything in my life -- everything that describes me, coming from another country and going through all of the stages that I have to become a U.S. citizen," Lomong said in the statement. "This is another amazing step for me in celebrating being an American. Seeing my fellow Americans coming behind me and supporting me will be a great honor -- the highest honor. It's just a happy day. I don't even have the words to describe how happy I am."

Here's the full story:

Smoggy Skies and Shaky Fists

Beijing has tried so hard to have blue skies for the Olympics games. They've seeded the clouds, they've created odd/even days for driving (depending on the last digit of your license plate). They've shut down the coal factories, and all other factories surrounding the city. They've planted trees, millions of trees.

And here I sit, on 8/8/08, the day of Beijing's Opening Ceremony and it's smoggy. I can't see buildings just a block away. And I feel bad. I want the skies to be blue, I want the BOCOG to be able to keep their promise to the athletes. I want the media to be wrong, and to write articles about the clear blue skies.

On the August 6th we went to the first Olympic game of the '08 games- women's soccer in Tianjin. The temperature was 95 degrees, with 84% humidity, and smog so dense that we couldn't see the other side of the stadium clearly. Sitting still in that heat was not enjoyable. The game however was a lot of fun! Argentina vs. Canada was the first game and Canada dominated the game with a 2-1 victory. The Argentinian women were scrappy players, I've never seen soccer played like that.

The second game was China vs. Sweden. As a Stilson, I was cheering for Sweden, but the home field advantage was undeniable and China won the game 2-1. There were about 30 fans for Sweden and about 68,000 for China.

The way home was a disaster. All the bullet train tickets back to Beijing were sold out, with the next train being at 3 am. I won't get into the details but it involved a ton of frustration and 'shaky fist' moments. We eventually had to take taxis home, and didn't walk in the door until 1:30am, minus my grandma's wallet. Yeah, that's right...lost a wallet in a random Beijing taxi.

We're headed to the Lido Holiday Inn for an Opening Ceremony BBQ. That's right, celebrating in style.

August 5, 2008

Just pick the best kisser...duh.

At the moment I'm sitting on the couch next to my 12 year old cousin Amellia. We've walked many kilometers today and we're resting before a Kung Fu show tonight. She's reading an insightful novel titled "Invasion of the Boy Snatchers". She's really secretive about the content, but I 'snatched' it a couple minutes ago. The only line I managed to read (before being attacked) was "Just pick the best kisser, Nina said" If I'm ever torn between two great guys, I'll just remember Nina's advice.

I've been immersed into the world of two California teens (10 and 12 year old girls) and it's been kind of refreshing. Phrases like 'IDK' (I don't know), 'perf' (perfect), 'that's haut!' (adopted from the brilliant Paris Hilton) and many others fill our conversations. Last night while falling asleep on the couch I even took part in a giggle-fest. Are we ever too old for that? I hope not.

After a full two years in China, I find it interesting to see the culture through another's eyes. Amellia noticed that boyfriends carry their girlfriends purses almost immediately. We tease Daisy that she's running for mayor of Beijing. Her blonde hair and blue eyes attract stares, but she turns them around into a chance to make friends. She grins, waves, and happily obliges to all photo opportunities.

The photo ops were especially abundant today as we made our way through Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. At one point, we were approached by the Phoenix NBC news crew and interviewed about our time in Beijing during what can only be called Olympics Madness. During their interview, Lori and Johnny kindly called me their 'lifeline' in China. Super kind of them. I remember my first months here and being immensely grateful for people that translated for me. After the lifeline title was given, the Action 12 news asked me a few questions about living in China/language/Olympics. So IF you live in Phoenix and IF you watch NBC, you'll find our faces on your screen.

I'll close with another line from "Invasion of the Boy Snatchers" that Amellia allowed limited access to after I told her I was including her in my blog.

"Nina, am I a used Band-Aid?"
"Uh, no." Nina's eyes were fixed on the soccer players.
"Then why did you just rip me off?"

I'll have to remember that line.

August 2, 2008

Plate Spinning Aspirations

After a 25 kilometer/3+ hour bike tour of Beijing this afternoon, we went home for quick (much needed) showers and then to the acclaimed Chaoyang Acrobatics Show.
I sat next to my cousin Amellia. This is Amellia that asked me when I was 17 (and she was 5), "Alli Jo, were you born with those pimples?" This is Amellia that calls on Thursdays with questions galore. She's also the girl that walked up to Vince's black afro, tapped it, and said "Check, one...two..."
Tonight as the acrobats performed and we ooo-ed and ahh-ed with each jump and bend, ever-observant Amellia called me out on a common fault of mine.
It seems that I have a problem. It's gotten me in trouble on many occasions. Without realizing it, I often imitate/mock things that are new to me. Once at a restaurant, I picked up the thick Indian accent of a guy at our table. After a couple minutes, he looked across the table and politely asked "Are you mocking my accent?" I was horrified! I, indeed, was. Cynthia quickly made it better by mocking me.
The plate spinners took the stage tonight with 4 wooden sticks and 4 plates in each hand. What a skill! I pictured myself in my kitchen with 8 sticks and 8 plates, showing my dinner guests my skills. Apparently, what I pictured in my mind...translated to my actions as I sat in the dark theater.
Amellia in true form, leaned in next to me and asked a simple question, "Alli Jo, why are you shaking your hands like that?" Reality: I looked like I either had Parkinson's or was rocking out with egg-shakers.
Embarrassed and exposed. "Uhh, I guess I'm trying out being a plate-spinner..." followed by LAUGHTER, the uncontrollable kind. The kind that makes the guy in front of you turn around, not because he's annoyed, but he longs to share in your hearty laugh. In the same way, I long to spin plates someday.

August 1, 2008

Taking one for the TEAM.

As I checked in at the United counter at SFO, I politely asked for an upgrade to Business class. Apparently, I'm an 'elite' member- I have no idea what this means, but it wasn't enough for a $700 upgrade. It did, however, afford me an upgrade to Economy Plus in the exit row with a full 5 feet of leg room in front of me.
When I arrived at the gate, I was surrounded my Team USA. It seems the US Olympic Committee bought the majority of the seats for my flight. Athletes competing in Track and Field, Judo, and Gymnastics were everywhere along with members of the International press. It was at that moment sitting among muscular bodies outfitted in Nike gear, that it became real.. I'm going to the Olympics.
We boarded the flight and I was stoked about my seat, 12 hours of comfort ahead! This is where empathy got the best of me. Ahead of me in the Economy section was a 6'6" Long Jumper in a seat that literally could not fit his long legs. We hadn't even taken off and he was extremely uncomfortable. He asked the stewardesses for an upgrade, but they refused.
I pictured this guy going for the gold and missing it by an inch because he had just gotten off of a 12 hour flight that killed his legs. So before I realized what I was signing up for, I offered him my seat. He was shocked and jumped (pun-intended) at the opportunity.
As I moved up to the Economy section, I found myself sitting next to more Track and Field athletes. Across the isle from me was Lopez Lomong, seated to win the gold in the 1500 meters. More impressive than that, was his life story that he proceeded to tell me over the next couple of hours. (
Born in Sudan, he was separated from his family at 6 years old. He moved to a camp in Kenya and lived there for 10 years until he was adopted by a couple from upstate New York as a Lost Boy of Sudan. So at 16 he moved to America, learned English in 6 months, and started running. His running got him a full ride scholarship to Northern Arizona University, and now he's a professional athlete for Nike. He always brought back his success to the fact that he hopes to use it as a platform to help the kids in Africa, especially Darfur.
As we exited the plane and he was ushered into the Chinese fanfare, I stood in the long line at customs and told him that I'll be cheering him on.
So it seems, like most things, when we think we're making a sacrifice, we get so much in return. I know Lopez Lomong, he told me his life story, I taught him how to barter in China, some Chinese history, some Mandarin phrases, and plenty of small talk...we go way back.

July 28, 2008

packing for peking

i've been stateside for just over a month and now i'm heading back to the land of mandarin-speaking, chopstick-eating, smog-choking, beijing living.

activities include: the beijing olympics.

august 1-12: showing my uncle, aunt, 2 cousins, and 80 year old grandma (cuenta lo!)all the joys, thrills and sights of beijing.
august 12-15: r&r in the suburb of huairou.
august 15-26: hanging out with some infamous college friends- vince and james. bronze medal soccer in shanghai among other things.

my goal is to try and keep the ole blogger updated on a daily basis...yikes!

i haven't packed a thing...but i got an apartment in little italy/south mission hills. a real beaut! house warming party upon my return.

July 10, 2008

global warming is real.

i taught swim lessons today in 112 degree weather.

July 7, 2008

pictures of childhood

I was a cute kid, not gonna lie. But I've found a couple themes, while sorting through a large box of childhood photos. Every picture can fall into one of the following categories.

1. Forced picture with a gift for a long-distance relative: Basically, I'm holding up a new dress or other Fed-Ex'd gift, giving a reluctant smile (no teeth), and have a hand on my hip. I'm usually squinting, not because it's sunny, but because I'm trying to convey the pain of the forced action. These pictures were taken for the dozens of family members in California, that spoiled the first grandchild in the family. What an ungrateful child!

2. Military stance mixed with excitement: Long straight brown hair with straight-across bangs, ruffles/bows/flowers/ribbon dress, arms straight by my sides, and huge "I can't stand like this a second more, all I want to do is hula-hoop!" smile.

3. Swim-suit shot: I'm convinced that 88% of my childhood was spent in a bath suit. Living in 'Lauderdale by the Sea' steps from the Atlantic, with an adorable black lab named Sheena, a bright red convertible Volkswagen Bug, and an unlimited supply of bikinis.

4. Nakie with cowboy boots on: It seems post-beach, I liked to get out of the bathing suit, put on my birthday suit and my cowboy boots. Now one or two of these would be cute, but I have dozens over a span of 0-5 years old. Seriously, what's that about?

5. Young and in love: During my same cowboy boot phase I was also having a serious relationship with a young man named Alex Pacman. Our moms were friends. Pictures include sitting side by side, swimming, birthdays, and roller-skating.

6. Narcky shot: It's late in the day, I'm tired, but I want to stay where the action is. So instead of admitting defeat, I continue to 'pretend' that I'm awake, while getting some great rest (in the middle of the action). That way, if something really exciting happens, I'll wake up. These pictures look like I'm completely disinterested in the activity (even my own birthday party). The reality is that I just swam for 8 hours, or rocked out in my cowboy boots, and I'm exhausted. My mom must have found these moments particularly endearing because I'm finding dozens.

I promise to scan and post an example of each for your entertainment. Sidenote: Former roommates and other close friends, I realize that I'm still a narky.

June 30, 2008

Substitute Nanny

La Jolla Recreation Club on a sunny Sunday morning, a tennis tournament nearby, and I'm running around chasing a 1 and 4 year old on the playground.

The sun is shining, the diaper bag is on my shoulder, and I'm using banana chips as currency.

The most urgent thing on my mind is helping the 1 year old go down the slide feet-first. What a contrast to just a week ago in China.

Check out that spiderman web action.

June 20, 2008

The ENFP Box

I took a personality profile test. I've managed to dodge them for years, but after living in China for two years I've encountered some personalities that have boggled my mind. Someone recently explained/opened my eyes to the facts of overseas living- there are two types of people that move overseas (said somewhat in a hush, as if it were a secret). The first group- legit people, that "get it" and are living the adventure of Life. The second- weirdos (very strange people), that move to escape something, are trying to find their niche in society, and might be (usually are) highly socially awkward. I would agree that people in the long term expat community fall into one of these two groups. You can just hope that you have a higher ratio of group one around you.

With a return to the States just a week away, I thought it might be helpful to finally give in and see what personality "box" I fit into, to help with job opportunities. It turns out that I'm an Extroverted Intuitive Feeling Perceiving, with the title of "The Inspirer". Nice...

So this is how I'm described:
ENFPs are initiators of change who are keenly perceptive of possibilities, and who energize and stimulate through their contagious enthusiasm. They prefer the start-up phase of a project or relationship, and are tireless in the pursuit of new-found interests. ENFPs are able to anticipate the needs of others and to offer them needed help and appreciation. They bring zest, joy, liveliness, and fun to all aspects of their lives. They are at their best in situations that are fluid and changing, and that allow them to express their creativity and use their charisma.

ENFPs are energetic and enthusiastic leaders who are likely to take charge when a new endeavor needs a visionary spokesperson. ENFPs are values-oriented people who become champions of causes and services relating to human needs and dreams. Their leadership style is one of soliciting and recognizing others' contributions and of evaluating the personal needs of their followers. ENFPs are often charismatic leaders who are able to help people see the possibilities beyond themselves and their current realities. They function as catalysts.

It says a lot more about living, learning, loving, working, and leisure. The leisure part was right on- it basically said that I love to read and travel. I fit into the box, and I don't know what to think of that.

June 3, 2008

The 5 Zi's

This is success in the eyes of the Chinese:

1. Fang Zi- House
2. Che Zi- Car
3. Qi Zi- Wife
4. Er Zi- Son
5. Mao Zi- Hat (means political power)

A little cultural insight: By the year 2020, there will be a shortage of 40 million women.

May 28, 2008

Beijing Blue Crayola Crayon

Dear Crayola Crayon Company,

I've been meaning to write you for quite sometime. There's a big problem in Chinese classrooms that I believe MUST be addressed. Children all over this vast country love to color and draw but their pictures are inconsistent with their surroundings. You see, when they pick out the "Sky Blue" crayon from their crisp yellow Crayola box, the color is nothing like the color they see out their window. This confuses the youth. It starts with confusion at the crayon box, and it's all downhill from there.

I suggest that you make a new crayon named "Beijing Blue". Only it won't be blue at all. Now, let me explain. It's going to take a mixture of black (for the coal in the air), with some dark gray (for the exhaust from the millions of cars). Last you'll need to add a bit of glowing yellow (for the fires, and the effect of the sun trying to get through the gray thickness).

With one in every four people in the world being Chinese, this is sure to be a 'best seller'. Kids all around China deserve to have a crayon in their box that they can use to color the skies of their pictures. Leaving "Sky Blue" as is, will only increase their longing for a distance land named 加利福尼亚 (Jialifuniya/California). Once they see the blue skies and (gasp!) sunsets, it'll be hard to get them to return. Like I said earlier, it's starts at the crayon box...

Yours Truly,
Disgruntled Californian/Beijing Resident

P.S. What's up with the pronunciation of your product? I say the one syllable "cran" like cranberry, but others say a two syllable version like "cray-on". What's your official stance on this?

May 23, 2008

Another Day at the Office

I teach ESL (as you know) and with the low class today we were brainstorming food for an activity.. the categories on the board were meat, fish, veggies, and fruit.
It was boys against girls and they had to yell vocab out as I wrote their responses on the board. It sounded something like.. "cucumber! tomato! squid! beef! pineapple!"
And then just as it had become quiet down for a second- sweet, little Leona yelled out "ass meat!" very loud, kind of proud that she found one that hadn't been mentioned yet...
It took everything in me, my friends...

May 22, 2008

my empty water glass

This morning my roommate and I woke up early for some Olympics festivities. The city is buzzing with Olympics excitement and with 77 days left until the Opening Ceremonies, I suppose they should be. Leading up to the actual Olympics there are Good Luck games at the venues for a fraction of the price, and a fraction of the athletic talent (let's be honest). Today, the Bird's Nest was open for Athletics events (javelin, shot put, hurdles, long jump and sprints galore).
After 3 hours of watching other people run, Diana and I took a walk to T.G.I Friday's for lunch. My favorite Western food in Beijing is a Friday's BBQ Chicken salad. (My mouth just watered and I ate one 6 hours ago!)

Some people say that one bonus of living in China is that there is no tipping for services. Tips are not expected for waitresses or taxi-drivers. Amazing, right? Well, kind of. It comes at the expense of service. If you want more water for your teapot, or napkins, or anything for that matter- do not expect a waitress to come over and "check on you". You need to belt out "fu yuan!" (waitress) in the dining facility and eventually someone will mosey over and raise their eyebrows, no smile. That's your cue to politely ask them for more water in a sweet voice...because, remember, they're doing you a favor. I don't mind this usually, especially when it's an older woman that give an extra portion of attitude. Beijing is famous for cranky old women waitresses, and I openly try to befriend them. This is confirmed the next time we visit, when they say "Hello" before taking our order.

My frustration comes when I go to a place like Friday's...a Western restaurant. The poor waiters and waitresses must weigh an additional 10 kilos due to their abundance of 'flair'. The place feels like America- guitars and STOP signs on the walls...but the service is distinctively Chinese. It's disheartening when a person wearing smiley-face buttons, suspenders, striped socks, and a Dr. Seuss hat gives you an eye-roll when you ask for more water. I understand when China Grandma gives an extra sigh, and I empathize with her...she's old and tired, and serving a lot of KungPao Chicken. I get that.

I wanted to draw in the waitress today and whisper to her, "If you manage to keep this little glass of water full for 50% of the time that I'm here, I'll tip you.. I really will. I'm American, it's what we do! And it's not just a few coins, we usually give 20 percent!" (At this point, I'd nod and raise my eyebrows, as a way of saying "Ridiculous, right? But it's true!")

I tried to respect her and do the two-finger raise as a sign that I needed some attention, but she didn't get it. Eventually Diana said "fu yuan" and a waitress came over. We gave up on the water and asked for the bill. When it came, we didn't tip. My water glass was bone dry, and plus, there's no tipping in China. No need to disrupt the system, right?

May 13, 2008

7.9 Earthquake in China

Monday afternoon my roommates and I were on video Skype with a friend in Changsha when she exclaimed, "Whoa, I'm shaking.. Do you guys feel that?" Clothes hanging in the background were swaying and the shaking lasted a full minute. Changsha is in south-central China, and Beijing is in the northeast. We assumed it was a smaller earthquake closer to her.
But, a couple minutes later my roommate Megan got a call from her boyfriend who works at an International school here in Beijing. He said they were under their desks and wondered if we were o.k. He called back to say they were evacuating, and eventually canceled classes for the day. This was before any news was available. And let's be honest, news isn't readily available here.
That evening at the gym, I watched the Beijing news. The report was that 4 people had died and 900 students were trapped in their middle school. The largest city to the epicenter is Chengdu in Sichuan province and news reporters were among evacuated hospitals, interviewing what people felt, etc. There was no sign of damage and no one was hurt. People were just fearful and concerned, as well as unwilling to go back into buildings.
The fault line of the earthquake is where the Sichuan plain meets the Tibetan mountain range. That area is far from Beijing, to the southwest. Sichuan is also the most densely populated province in all of China.
When I got home the logic just didn't make sense, an earthquake felt 900 miles away in Beijing and there's hardly any damage? I checked CNN, BBC, and ABC and they were just reporting what they were hearing from Chinese media sources.
Late Monday night I checked my foreign news sources again and found a different story- 2,000 people dead, 80% of buildings in the area destroyed.
On Tuesday morning I taught two different classes. In the first class (higher level English) I printed out an ABC news report and we looked up new vocab, discussed facts and figures and then spent time Lifting up the people of Sichuan province.
In the second class (beginner English level) I talked in simple terms about the earthquake and suggested that we Think for the those that have lost family and friends. Leona started crying, her family lives in Sichuan, in the city of Chongqing. She had tried to call, but phone lines are down as well as power in the area, so she's just waiting to hear. Leona cried throughout class, the silent tears, that just fall down your cheek. She tried to learn grammar and pronunciation, but her mind was elsewhere.
As of today, Wednesday morning, over 12,000 have perished and authorities expect that number to rise as they start to clear rubble from the epicenter.
I am completely fine in Beijing, thank you for your emails and calls of concern. The Chinese government doesn't want International relief workers, but will take money and supplies. At this point, I just plan to help Leona attempt to get in contact with her family.
Earthquake in China, cyclone in Myanmar, earthquake in Japan... what's going on in Asia?

looking forward

As these two years in China come to a close, I know it's a good idea to both reflect on the past as well as look forward to the future. Here's some things I'm looking forward to...

*Sunsets! I picture a late afternoon reading a book at La Jolla Shores and then a San Diego sunset..sigh...I crave sunsets daily. Beijing smog affords one every 3 months, and it doesn't hold a candle to California.

*My mom, the Debster. Laughing a lot, crying through made-for-TV movies, playing cards/Scrabble, belting Rod Stewart lyrics, and getting pedicures. Our upcoming trip to the Grand Canyon is sure to be memorable.

*Couch time at 5111 with Cori, Jen, Mullins, Lovas, Teeny, and Ann..each in our unsaid, but assumed spots on the huge green couch.

*Reading the Fresno Bee newspaper at my grandma's diningroom table, eating Cheerios, and discussing all things Republican including some Rush Limbaugh zingers coming from the kitchen.

*Riding bikes through Gaslamp, along the embarcadero, to Hillcrest to have sushi at Ichiban with friends.

*Live music at Lulu's/Poetry slams/Flood worship with Kate and Shawn.

*Singing in the Previa with Sean, no music on because his radio is broken (insert beat-boxing, and laughter)

*A good haircut, let's be honest.

*Riding the San Diego trolley, I would say driving, but I don't have a car anymore and CNN has told me the price of gas. My friends, that's more per gallon than high quality orange juice.

*Spending an afternoon watching Kaitlyn and Emyle with Josh. Along with random marital advice from Russian grandma Boonya Frances.

*Coffee with Carly, Lo, and Lisa. People watching, catching up, being honest.

*Teaching swim lessons to adorable, yet utterly terrified kids.

*Seeing Mikayla and Rachel in their element in the great mid-west! Gosh, this could not come any sooner. These girls are pure gold.

*Thanksgiving in Malibu, surrounded by dozens of amazing family members, and a traditional fierce game of Spoons.

*Attending the 4th Annual project:connect this November. Wow, times flies.

*Cynthia- singing in the car, playing Dr. Mario, eating Mexican food, and talking about everything under the sun.

*A long walk through Balboa Park, with stops in museums along the way.

This, by no means, concludes my list. As I look at it, it's just another reminder that it's all about relationships. I truly feel blessed in that area.

May 8, 2008

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

I've been lying in bed for quite some time, unable to fall asleep.
My heart in undoubtedly for relief work- aiding the displaced, homeless, and needy. So many things are running through my head. I think of the classic marketing model of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The most basic needs of humans are food, water, shelter, and clothing. As I lay here, under a down comforter, in a warm apartment, with great vegetables for dinner, and a buzzing water cooler outside my door.. I can't help but think of the thousands.. maybe millions that are across a river in Burma.
I'm angered that they aren't allowed access to humanitarian aid because they're under a military junta that is fearful.
I feel guilty that I have a decent apartment in China, and next door there are so many going to bed tonight without the very basics.
I realize that this is nothing new, poverty exists, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't churn with compassion every time we are faced with it.
Whether we build houses post-tsunami, or demolition houses post-Katrina, or feed the homeless in our local cities, we have to respond.
Father, thank you that you give us these desires. Thank you for the passion you've placed in me. Help me to be a good steward- that you'd receive all the glory. Comfort those in Burma tonight as they fall asleep and open doors for aid. If it's Your will, send me.

Jump Into the Love River

I'm sitting Indian-style on my bed, wearing a pink Wheaton shirt and drinking some Oregon Chai.
I didn't realized the significance of Indian-style until I was sitting on a floor in India last winter in a tribal area, eating off of woven leaves...and it hit me.. Indian style. Mindlessly we pick up language, without realizing what it means. For example- in English we say we're "falling in love". In China they say they're "jumping into the love river". I love that. I'm jumpin' in, not to be confused with a catchy Steven Curtis Chapman song. (Apologies if you're now humming the tune).
The Wheaton shirt is comical. I didn't go to Wheaton, it was sent to me in a care package by a former teammate, Mikayla Hoffman. I don't wish I went to Wheaton, I'm proud I went to SDSU...despite it's current smearing on the news. This week over 100 people were arrested as part of an extensive drug ring at my alma mater. Six fraternities have been suspended, and ties have been made to the Mexican mafia. I'm not surprised, the subculture on campus was not really covert. I'll be interesting to see what comes of all this. Now we're the Rubio's Fish tacos, drug ring university.. great.
And Oregon Chai.. what a treat! I've been holding on to this goodie for months, waiting for a cloudy afternoon and some time to savor it. I'm just going to come out and say it- care packages are better than the sum of their contents. They are a package of caring. I've watched a group of sane Americans in China, go crazy. Now, don't misinterpret this as a plea. I'm leaving China in 7 weeks, packages wouldn't reach me in time. But James and Vince are in Thailand for the next 7 months and Schwenk is in Africa. Write a letter, send a few things- you'll likely make their day. If you need tips, contact the Wielands.. they're the best package preparers.
In other news, The Weepies have a new album titled Hideaway, and it's gold.

May 6, 2008

Sunlight for the first time

24 years in darkness. 24 years of fear, rape, and imprisonment. I'm referring to the developing story out of Austria- where a 73 year old man kept his daughter underground from the ages of 18-42 and had 7 children with her. What a horrible, dark existence. I've been shocked by this story and have loosely followed it with my limited online news sources. I'm reminded that we live in a fallen world, and more-so the depths of His grace. If Josef Fritzl repented and believed, he too, could experience full and complete grace. Is that hard to swallow? I've been chewing on it for awhile.
I wonder what it's like for an 18 year old who has spent his entire life underground. I've read articles on about the two boys screaming in delight as they passed cars, experienced sunlight, and saw other humans.
I wonder, what's their concept of the world? What are their thoughts on the Creator? When all you know is captivity, what does instant freedom feel like?
The questions abound, I would be interested to hear your thoughts/questions and any updates that you've gotten on the other side of the ocean. Is this a big headline in the US?

April 13, 2008


It's a shame that a couple minutes of intense frustration can taint a great weekend. Today, on a beautiful, 72 degrees and sunny afternoon in Beijing, China I found myself making that growling noise through clenched teeth. I even raised my fists in frustration to show this city (and the dozens of surveillance cameras around me) that I, as a Westerner, do not understand the system. Let me explain.

With the Olympics a couple months away, Beijing has begun to host a series of Good Luck games, in effect a way to test the venues and work out any 'kinks'. I am not the first to say that there are a lot of kinks. Last month at the baseball game, there was an enormous line to get into the game (it took over 30 minutes to enter the baseball stadium, funneling thousands of fans through a single entrance with 3 guards checking tickets). Lesson learned I hope. We missed Jet Li throw the first pitch..bummer.

This weekend my Minnesotan friend Katie and I, again, spent Saturday and Sunday exploring the diversity of this city. I met up with a San Diego friend Pat Hall for lunch and together we took the subway to Wudaokou (the university area of Beijing). Pat was spending the weekend with some Chinese friends and I was meeting up with Katie for an afternoon of hiking (destination unknown).

We made a quick stop for coffee, but our conversation kept us sitting much longer, drinking our iced coffees in oversized and oh-so-comfortable chairs. We then set out to explore the vast campus of Tsinghua University. Two hours later we were still walking through it's tree-lined lanes and spent sunset watching a soccer game and some determined kite-flyers despite almost non-existent wind. As we walked home, we were invited to dinner across town at Pete's Tex Mex with friends. Pete's is the quintessential American restaurant and makes some tasty ice-cream concoctions that has earned it local honors for years.

After a nice dinner, we trekked back across town. When I say across town, I mean over an hour of walking/subway/transfer/walking. A street vendor was selling books as we were walking and I bought 'Good to Great' by Jim Collins. I've been meaning to read this book for quite some time, and 15 kuai was an amazing price. Once we got back to Katie's place I discovered that some pages were copied backwards.. you get what you pay for.

Katie and I slept in 'til 8:30, probably the first time in weeks that I've slept past 6:15, it was glorious. We had breakfast al fresco at a cute little diner called 'the bridge'. Sunshine, fresh OJ, granola with yogurt, and a fun friend.. it was good stuff. The rooftop patio reminded me of The Broken Yolk in PB, but instead of the distant ocean, I saw not-so-distant construction cranes.

After fellowship, we had some tempting lunch offers from other friends but decided to head over to the National Aquatic Center to buy some tickets for the Synchronized Swimming Good Luck games this week. We walked to the subway (25 minutes), jumped on one line of the subway, transferred, and got on a second subway line. The temperature outside was pretty warm, but the inside of the subway car was exceptionally warm and everyone was sweating. In a country of no deodorant, this was extremely unpleasant for the 25 minutes we stood side by side with our fellow commuters.

Katie and I were still in good spirits as we exited the sweaty subway and made our way to the box-office to get our tickets. The internet said they would be on sale from 10am-6pm, but when we got there, the place was closed. An angry Chinese man was banging on the glass window. Finally, someone opened the window and the man expressed that he wanted tickets. The response was "Come back here tomorrow at 10am. We're not selling any tickets anymore today!" The Chinese man continued to yell "Wei shen me?!" translated "Why?!". No reason was given. Our Chinese advocate stormed off. Now it was my turn to knock on the window and represent the small crowd of foreigners that had gathered with hopes of buying tickets. Again, the same response. This time in English, "Come back to this place tomorrow, 10am, ok?" said very sweetly, and then the glass was shut and the conversation was over. I wanted to follow the example and yell "WHY?!" Instead, I grrrr'd. This is when I raised my fists. There's no reason for this disorganization. The inconsistencies are everywhere...plans change constantly. It'll be interesting to see what happens when some less patient people come this summer, and much more is on the line. Defeated, Katie and I made our way back to the subway, not really saying much, trying to be quiet rather than giving a voice to the negativity brewing in our thoughts.

The best part? We're meeting back at the National Aquatic Center tomorrow morning at 9am to get tickets. China, you always do.

March 25, 2008

Resident and Tourist Part 2

Xi'an Soldiers
Classes were canceled on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week and it didn't take more than a few minutes for my roommates and I to decide to travel together. Our destination was Xi'an, the home of the famous Terracotta Warriors. With limited time, and even more limited money, we put together the cheapest and fastest trip possible. We left Beijing Monday afternoon at 5pm, on a 13 hour overnight train that put us in Xi'an at 6am. The train ride was eventful- Diana and I played rounds of Speed, we befriended a great young woman, and I spent the remainder of the evening talking to a Chinese professor who's top bunk sleeper bed was directly across from mine. Our conversation ended when an old Chinese woman reprimanded us in slurred Mandarin and told us to fall asleep. We silently laughed, but immediately obeyed her. The elders rule this country- respect!
Some local friends picked us up from the train station and took us to their home for showers, breakfast, and lots of coffee. By 9am, we were on the road- bound for the warrior's archaeological site. The area was split up into 4 different discovery sites, each with specific significance. The most impressive were the layers of soldiers protecting the Emperor's Tomb. They stood with weapons and chariots prepared to symbolically defend their leader in the afterlife.
The highlight of the 2 hours walking around looking at human and horse pottery was when I (with a great concerned face) told Diana that I accidentally dropped our giant China Lonely Planet book into the tomb and broke a clay soldier. Amazingly funny, I got a video of her reaction. Seriously though, the Warriors were interesting, but I couldn't help but think of dozens of ways to improve the museum. I think Chinese museums have more of a "look from a distance" approach. There is no interaction/experience component, no video component, just poorly translated informational posters. I've learned to visit a Chinese museum after I've studied the contents beforehand.
After the Terracotta Warriors we explored the vibrant Muslim Quarters for the reminder of the afternoon and then made our way to the train station for another 13 hours on the train back to Beijing. As I climbed onto my hard-sleeper bunk that night, I definitely didn't need a Chinese grandma to tell me to go to bed.

Resident and Tourist

I live in a rich culture, one I do not claim to understand. And although I'm in my second year here, I sometimes approach my daily surroundings with a renewed sense of awe and amazement. When I see a sidewalk haircut, or an extremely crowded subway, I'm reminded that I am, indeed, a foreigner.

The last couple months have afforded me the amazing opportunity to be a tourist in this giant city. I can't really describe the sheer size of Beijing, but trust me when I say it's BIG.


In small clusters all around Beijing there are 'hutongs' which literally means alleyways. These alleyways thread together to created a unique tapestry of traditional Chinese homes. Four homes face inward toward a center courtyard, where meals are shared and people relax in community. My friend Katie and I spent an afternoon navigating these one of these preserved communities. Many hutongs are being replaced by more profit-making high rise buildings.

Padres Baseball

Major League Baseball made it's debut in Beijing on March 15th and my friends and I were there to witness it! Most of the game's attendees missed the first pitch- in fact most of the first inning had empty stands due to a bottleneck at the security check. We took it in stride knowing that this was just a kink that needed to be worked out pre-Olympics (when much more is on the line). The most fervent Padres fans (besides yours truly) were a group of Korean and Japanese exchange students that chanted just behind us. Parellel with the 3rd base line, planes took off and landed at Beijing Airport. The wind cut through every layer of clothing, and the blue sky glistened up above. I've said nothing of the Padres performance, which wasn't exactly exemplary. I think the real joy of the game came from the overall experience of baseball in China. Watching young Chinese boys shove a hot dog into their face, hearing baseball chants in other languages, seeing Fox News cover the event, and contemplating the use of cheerleaders in baseball were much more entertaining than the Dodgers and Padres 2nd string players. The final score was 3-3.. a collective and ultimately very appropriate, I suppose.

March 24, 2008

the The's

Lately, there's been quite a bit of wedding talk in China...
The Ring, The Vows, The Reception, The Honeymoon.
I'd like to this opportunity to publicly congratulate my peers on their recent engagements! It's looking like a summer of weddings ahead!

Ryan and Amanda
Jev and Rachelle
Dan and Jenny
Peter and Shannon

A huge congratulations! I'm stoked for your lives together! Also, Emily Chernekoff and her recent engagement in California!

March 13, 2008

Padres in China!

I've been excited for this game for weeks! The Dodgers and Padres will play the first professional baseball game in China, this weekend.

Today the players, staff, families and media of the Padres climbed the Great Wall at Badaling. They couldn't have picked a better day. The sky was cloudless and deep blue, air quality was excellent, and the sun was really shining. I read on a blog that the Friar mascot confused Chinese tourists at the Great Wall. I must admit, the bald, robed, double-chined Friar is a bit strange without context.

Six of my closest China friends are making the 12 hour journey to Beijing on an overnight train to spend the weekend with me! We're going to the game together on Saturday afternoon and then the plan is to celebrate Michael's and my birthday (we're just a day apart in age).

With no real "home team", I wonder if AC/DC's "Hells Bells" will come on in the 9th when Trevor Hoffman gets on the field to close the game. And I wonder if anyone will be with me to stand and cheer?

March 7, 2008

Shiny Black Shoes and Crickets

I go to a gym in China. I'm the only foreigner that goes, so I don't need to show my membership card, everyone knows who I am. I basically stick to the treadmill and elliptical because I'm also the only the girl that goes to this gym. I wonder if it's males-only and they just didn't have the heart to reject me in my broken Chinese? Or, perhaps they told me and I just nodded and smiled? I wonder this mainly because this week I saw something really funny.
On the treadmill I was rocking out, when a businessman walked in, in a full suit. He started to work out.. suit, tie, shiny black shoes and all. He was building up quite a sweat so he left for the locker room. He returned wearing only his long underwear and shiny black shoes! He continued to work out (through what I'm assuming was his lunch break). When he got on the treadmill next to me, I moved to the elliptical, I just couldn't do it. I could feel the laughter rising and knew I wouldn't be able to stop if I started.

This week I rode the bus to Beijing to meet up with my new (awesome) friend Katie. On the bus I sat in the very back row with two old couples. I wish I had a picture of us. 5 of us crammed into the back, me in the middle, with a couple on each side. Every time my iPod lit up (changing a song, turning up the volume) they'd lean in to see my gadget. When my phone rang they unashamedly stared as I spoke English. When I hung up the nearly toothless woman on my right nodded and said "hen hao, hen hao" (translated very good, very good). The only annoying thing about the ride was there was this consistent sound coming from the left side of the bus. Every time we hit a bump it would stop and it'd only start again when the bus slowed down or got stuck in traffic. I couldn't place the sound and even looked around to find it's source. The mystery was solved when the old man on my left fell asleep and his jacket popped open. Inside was the source of the noise..his pet cricket in a small wicker cage. The sound is apparently soothing to the ear and a source of good luck and entertainment for the older generation in China.

I love China. Today I'm exploring the hutongs of Beijing with above-mentioned Katie. We're collaborating on a Beijing Bucket list, there's so much to see in this city.