Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Something Heavenly.

It's time for healing time to move on
It's time to fix what's been broken too long
Time to make right what has been wrong
It's time to find my way to where I belong
There's a wave that's crashing over me
And all I can do is surrender

Whatever You're doing inside of me
It feels like chaos but somehow there's peace
It's hard to surrender to what I can't see
but I'm giving in to something Heavenly

Time for a milestone
Time to begin again
Reevaluate who I really am
Am I doing everything to follow Your will
Or just climbing aimlessly over these hills
So show me what it is You want from me
I give everything I surrender to

Whatever You're doing inside of me

It feels like chaos but somehow there's peace
It's hard to surrender to what I can't see
but I'm giving in to something Heavenly

Time to face up
Clean this old house
Time to breathe in and let everything out
That I've wanted to say for so many years
Time to release all my held back tears

Whatever You're doing inside of me
It feels like chaos but I believe
You're up to something bigger than me
Larger than life something Heavenly

Whatever You're doing inside of me
It feels like chaos but now I can see
This is something bigger than me
Larger than life something Heavenly
Something Heavenly

Thanks, Sonia.

Soul Goodness.

This man is now blogging. I highly recommend checking him out. It's a very worthy read.

And I'm on a soul kick from the 60s and 70s these days, spurred on by a song by Gladys Knight.

Check out this goodness:


Saturday, November 22, 2008


There are more and more days in which I find the words, "I have the coolest job in the world" coming forth from my mouth. This morning was another one of those.

After our two Saturday morning classes, Jimmy and I started out on our walk home. As usual, we have several students who walk with us, as they live in the same direction. They usually straggle behind, doddle on the sides of the road talking, or run ahead. Today, however, the kids were a bit more clingy and eagerly grabbed our hands and walked beside us. We usually go around the alley they all live down and take the main road, but today, with the insistence of the kids, we walked with them into their neighborhood.

Small, poor homes and rickety shops opened to the narrow alley sandwiched between old, small apartment buildings. This alley lead to many others, each branching off in it's own mystery and level of poverty. It felt like we were a small parade. Here we were, 2 tall white foreigners, and 20 Chinese children walking, talking, and laughing. Adults looked up from their work, poked heads out doors, peeked around doorways, to see us coming. We passed a massive, old, vine covered tree where several kids had gone before and were already playing. They eagerly jumped from its mighty branches to join our little band. I held the hand of several girls, but one stuck by the whole walk. Her name is Mary.

Mary is a 5th grader and probably one of the smartest kids at the school, in her English as well as other studies. She is a little lady, very responsible, always watching the world around her, loving, and eager to learn. She, I believe, is the oldest child in her family and therefore has had to grow up much faster than most kids her age. She cooks, cleans, does housework, homework, and looks after younger siblings while her parents work all day. Though Jimmy is her teacher and she loves him dearly, I've always felt this little pull in her to be near me, to talk to me, most likely because I am female. As we walked and she talked of her home and neighborhood with her limited English, I couldn't help but smile. What a beautiful opportunity I have been given this year, to love these kids. As we came to the cross street where she lives, she tugged on my arm to go home with her. "Not today," I said. I do so hope someday though...

I am learning perspective in China. Many people here have asked why I would come here; to a busy, dirty, traffic congested, industrial city to teach poor kids. I always smile. Yes, I am getting paid and with that am able to pay off some student debt, yes, I get to see the world and live abroad, but there is so much more than that. It's all about perspective. I have been called this year to live and to love these people, these kids. Seeing the joy on their faces, watching them learn, understand, and apply their learning, watching my often frugal attempts to teach them a language and give them hope for a brighter future - it's priceless. It's about who I serve, who He is my life, and how that flows forth. That is why I am here. I daily am reminded of that. On days when I don't want to teach, I'm tired, or discouraged, the old motto from my summers at Indian Hills Camp rings through my brain, "This may be your 8th week of camp, but it's these campers' first!" Well for me in China its, "This may be your 3rd English class today, but it's their 1st - make it the best one ever!"

Perspective. It changes everything. He changes everything. He changes how I live, how I love, why I love. I truly do have the coolest job in the world.

In my life be lifted high
In my world be lifted high
In my love be lifted high

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm in need...

...and in search of some good jazz. I've got a bunch, but I'm itching for something new. It always reminds me of this time of year.

Any suggestions??


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Apart yet a part.

I sat in my room today, feeling a cool China breeze blow through my window, staring out at a gray sky. I am home sick with the flu/a cold and as people take colds seriously here, I am ordered to rest so I don't infect any of my little ones.

As I lay on my bed editing photos and listening to Chinese Christmas music, I thought about the map that hangs on my wall. It is of the world, all the country maps, and timezones, surround by photos of my loved ones. I stopped as I realized how symbolic it is of my life.

The photos (unpurposefully) form a heart around the globe. Ironic. Here I am living in China. I have traveled to several places in this world (each highlighted on the map) and I have loved/do love it. But all those people in those photographs are not here. My heart has been stolen by this world, by it's needs, and it's people. But it is also so taken with people back home, in America.

Sometimes I ask why I have been brought here. Why me, an art major, with no experience teaching, who struggled in school, who dearly loves family and friends, would leave all that behind and come to China to do the very thing I don't know? Why would I choose to leave the culture I was born in and the familiarity, security, and freedom of home? Why has my heart been wrapped around this world only to have to say goodbye and leave some of the things I care about most?

The title of my senior show at Biola came to my mind: A PART. Also a few choruses from an old garage worship band I loved in highschool called Vella, began to stream from my computer:

And I have fallen for you
God there is no one else

I have left, I am here, because I am a part of something greater - we all are. But I am also apart from many people I deeply love. It is hard at times. It is lonely at times. My heart has been wrapped around this world, it's countries, it's cultures, it's languages, and it's lost souls. But it has also been wrapped around people I dearly love in America. Sometimes it feels like it's being stretched too far, that the distance is too great to bear alone. But then I remember truth and words like what Vella sings:

And I will follow you
With all that I am
I will run to you Lord
With every breath I breathe
I give to you
You're the only thing I want

If that is what being in China is all about for me then it's worth it. If going, being, serving, and falling in love with people all over is all about leading me back to Him, then it is worth it. His heart broke first for this world and as his follower, mine will too. That sometimes means saying goodbye, being alone, being foreign, being white in a sea of yellow. But it's worth it.

I miss: fall leaves, the smell of home, pine trees, San Diego beaches, raw vegetables, Mexican food, hugs, being known.

I love: Asian smiles, eating with chopsticks, Shantou sunrises, tea, my school, my students, Chinese markets, unexpected gifts from new friends.

It's worth it. So very worth it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I was inspired.

Tonight I was inspired.

I have been fighting the symptoms of the flu today, so after my Saturday classes this morning, I have been home resting, trying to sleep, and fight it off with vitamins, herbs, and water. My Mom has trained me well!

After being cooked a simple dinner by my dear roommate Sammy, I crawled into bed with my heavy head and aching body to watch the 1958 movie, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, a story based off the life of missionary Gladys Aylward. As I watched this old movie, with the old view of China, now so changed in our 21st century, I smiled, a bit tearfully, in humble sympathy. A stubborn, independent, visionary woman, leaves her home of England by herself, for an unknown land, not knowing the language, not knowing what will happen, to share love with it's people - true, honest, genuine love.

She walks through life seeing only children -- not complicated or cruel. Just dirty ones needing to be washed, fed, and loved.

Though I'm sure this movie is an overly dramatized version of the true story (one I now commit to read!), I felt her tears, her frustrations, her disappointments, her heartbreaks, her joys, her successes. The impact she made throughout northern China, the people she connected with, the lives she touched and saved in so many ways, is absolutely inspiring. I don't know how much of the movie's rendition is accurate, but if it is, it leaves me speechless at her courage, her bravery, her perseverance, her commitment, her dedication, her love. I want to love the beautiful people of my modern day China like that. It's not as easy, I'm not a remote village, but the potential is equally as great.

Sammy asked me tonight if I will stay in China. She has asked me that many times since I came. I told her I do not know. There is much at this time that would make me consider staying longer: the kids, the future of the school, continued learning of the language, planting my roots firmer in this community of people, consistent pay. But there is much at home that draws me back as well. I do not know. All I know is right now I am being called to China, to Rong Chang Hope School, to Shantou. The rest of up to Him.

A life that is planned is a closed life, my friend. It can be endured perhaps, but it cannot be lived.

Thank you, Gladys Aylward, for inspiring this one, young, American girl similarly walking in your footsteps so many years later. Your life, your testimony, brings tears to my eyes, courage to my heart, and hope to my soul.

Sometimes I think my life really started in China.
I think this journey was meant for me.

Thank you.

Friday, November 14, 2008

There are days...

...where I stop, smile, and think I have the raddest, coolest, most awesome job in the world. period.

Today was one of those days.

After a successful day of fun classes and review games, myself, all the other teachers, and 8 select kids, waited around the school for about an hour to go out to dinner together with Mr. Siu. While waiting, I was able to do one of the raddest things ever: watch those kids play and practice their Chinese instruments for our upcoming Christmas program at the school. Yes, all those beautiful, mysterious, Asian sounds so stereotypical to this region, were being plucked and strummed right before me. Two of my students showed me how to hit a few notes on the Yanqin, another few let me attempt to play on this little violin type thing called an Er-Hu (which when I tried, ended up sounding more like a dying chicken rather than music), another few let me plunk on the Chinese piano, or Guzheng. Absolutely amazing. wow. SO beautiful. SO rad. SO very fun!!

We then all piled into vans and headed to a Northern Chinese restaurant. It was so fun to listen to the kids giggle and watch them enjoy this special feast. They got to show off their English knowledge to Mr. Siu and the other company guests and I took pride in hearing them answer with confidence my English questions. It made me feel like all my hard work in teaching these past 2 months is truly paying off. They are indeed learning.

After dinner, Mr. Siu, myself, Jimmy, the kids, and Mrs. Wong all headed to McDonalds to get ice cream - or "bin qi lin", as they say in Mandarin. It was here my "I have the coolest job in the world" feelings were completely confirmed. Why? Because after stuffing our faces with chocolate sundaes, I got to crawl around the McDonalds playplace with my kids. Oh yes, teacher Jen, waaay to big for the slide, slid anyways, surrounded by the sounds of laughter, cheers, applause, and hands pulling me up, in, and down over and over again. It was absolutely amazing. These kids don't have much, and seeing the joy on their faces was priceless. Their smiles, their sweaty faces, their laughter was so worth my dirty knees, being crammed in a plastic tube reeking of stinky feet, and crawling through a space far to small for my 23 year-old body to go.

I truly have the coolest job in the world.

Here are some photos to share with you just a glimpse of it. They're not good, but they say so very much, and they are priceless.

1st Grade - captured from Jimmy's camera phone

2nd Grade

Mikey and Johnny talking to Evan over Skype

I have a confession...

In looking over my blog, I realize that many of my photos look a bit drab. Quite drab actually. This is partially because I haven't edited any of them (I'm lacking in time and resources) and also because the weather here is random and unpredictable: cloudy, hazy, smoggy, rainy, then sunny, hot, all with this strange sub-tropic lighting that I'm still figuring out how to shoot.

My confession and realization is that I need to actually work on my photos before posting them. One, to be professional, and two, to keep up my editing skills - which are, essential, in digital work these days. Not a ton, but just a bit. My apologies for my lack of profession.

So here's to photoshopping...but only a little.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008


This past weekend the kids had their national semester testing, so Jimmy and I had a 3 day weekend and decided to head north to the coastal city of Xiamen. It wasn't what we expected, but ended up being a delightful experience. And China is indeed beautiful.

Our adventure began early in the morning at a Chinese bus station. It's truly crazy to enter a building where the only sign you can read is "TOILET." We drove 3 hours through gorgeous green China countryside.

We went to the famous island of Gu Lang and stayed at a quirky hostel - my first experience at one - and bunked with some overly friendly mosquitos.

Gu Lang was not what we expected. We thought: island, beaches, waves, tropical and wild, not a ton of people, right? Wrong. Gu Lang is a huge tourist destination island complete with cutely paved roads, decorative street lamps, shops, sea food restaurants, hotels, French influenced quaint buildings, etc. But there is a college of art and design and a music school on the island. Random but actually quite enjoyable.

The trees were insanely amazing!

We walked around the whole island which delightfully took about 5 hours total. We wandered down on some golden beaches...

We ate purple ice cream and drank out of a coconut...

We climbed around a wall and snuck into an abandoned and closed off building - we thought it was the old hospital...

We watched the city at night and then followed people into a tunnel which took us to the inner side of the island, where the "real" people live and work away from the glitz and glamour.

The next day we got caught in a wonderful storm. We found a cute little American restaurant, sat outside under a huge umbrella, ate fluffy pancakes, potatoes, omlettes, and fresh juice, all while watching the storm pass across the green ocean before us, showering rain. Beautiful.
A cool strong breeze, dark clouds, the green churning sea = AMAZing.

Shantou, Jiexi, Hong Kong, Xiamen.
4 cities down.
Now like 10 gabillion more to go...isn't China exciting?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Joyful, joyful, we adore thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
hearts unfold like flowers before thee,
opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
drive the dark of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness,
fill us with the light of day!

All thy works with joy surround thee,
earth and heaven reflect thy rays,
stars and angels sing around thee,
center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
flowery meadow, flashing sea,
chanting bird and flowing fountain,
call us to rejoice in thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving,
ever blessing, ever blest,
well-spring of the joy of living,
ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our brother,
all who live in love are thine;
teach us how to love each other,
lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the mighty chorus
which the morning stars began;
love divine is reigning o'er us,
binding all within its span.
Ever singing, march we onward,
victors in the midst of strife;
joyful music leads us sunward,
in the triumph song of life.

Christmas is coming.
I am excited.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Well, sort of.

Okay, so we really don't have it in Shantou, a coastal southern city, but today it DID feel like it! It was about 75 degrees and everyone was wearing longsleeves and sweaters. haha. I never thought I'd consider 75 fall, but I'll take what I can get.

And I want to go here. bad.

Anyone want to join?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I went to Hong Kong...

...and it is is indeed BIG, BUSY, CRAMMED, and exciting!

I had to take a "business trip" (how rad is that?!?) to renew my visa since China won't let me do it in country anymore. And this is what I found...

city. city. city.

The subway...or MTR rather

A yummy little street market - one of my favorite things about China. People set up their fruits and veggies anywhere and everywhere!

Dim Sum...yummmm...

Lafayette HK office staff, my new buddies :)

Flower Market Road!

flowers! flowers! flowers!

There was even a shop with Christmas stuff which made my day!

Fuzzy flowers! I think the were called Rooster Crowns or something like that...

Can we say gorgeous?!

I like walls.

Exiting the subway into the unknown...ANND....

TADA! Kong Kong Island!

An adorable elderly couple.
And the man was shooting with an old school Nikon.
I don't know how to shoot a city, much less one as big as HK, so I shot a fishing boat and city. Old meets new, I guess.

And finally, Hong Kong at night.

I shot the moon. w 0 0 t.

A lovely trip.
Lovely new friends.
A lovely time wandering and exploring a HUGE and fascinating city.

Yay for successfully traveling Asia by oneself!