Thursday, August 26, 2010


"It always fascinated me how people go from loving you madly to nothing at all, nothing. It hurts so much. When I feel someone is going to leave me, I have a tendency to break up first before I get to hear the whole thing. Here it is. One more, one less. Another wasted love story. I really love this one. When I think that its over, that I'll never see him again like this... well yes, I'll bump into him, we'll meet our new boyfriend and girlfriend, act as if we had never been together, then we'll slowly think of each other less and less until we forget each other completely. Almost. Always the same for me. Break up, break down. Drunk up, fool around. Meet one guy, then another, mess around. Forget the one and only. Then after a few months of total emptiness start again to look for true love, desperately look everywhere and after two years of loneliness meet a new love and swear it is the one, until that one is gone as well. There's a moment in life where you can't recover any more from another break-up. And even if this person bugs you sixty percent of the time, well you still can't live without him. And even if he wakes you up every day by sneezing right in your face, well you love his sneezes more than anyone else's kisses."
- 2 Days in Paris.

Has the cycle finally been broken? Love.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

this american life.

I'm writing this blog post at Starbucks. In America. Iced latte in hand. Blackberry beside me. Typing on my MacBook computer. A view of the lake in the distance. I just finished exercising in an air-conditioned gym that is less than 3 miles from my house. I drove to get there. Last night I served $20 steaks to people who are among the wealthiest in the world. Then I went home to sleep in a bed, under a fan, complete with pillows and sheets. Soon I will begin working on my second degree at one of the most expensive universities in the nation. I do not take these blessings and privileges lightly. But today I wonder, why me?

I am immensely grateful to have been born in this country and at this particular time in history. I have been given a life of comfort greater than most can dream. I don't plan to renounce my citizenship or even clean out my closet full of clothes and shoes, but a sense of guilt does wash over me now because I know I have not done enough to make the world a better place. Three years ago I traveled through some of the most poverty stricken nations on earth and now I live as if I've forgotten all that I've seen. I shop too much, spend money on expensive and unnecessary drinks, and do not set myself apart as someone whose purpose is to serve the needs of those less fortunate. It's so hard to remain passionate about the world when surrounded by affluence and apathy. But I blame no one but myself. Listening to Tracy Chapman's song, "Mountains O' Things," reminds me of the calling I've received to care for the poor and provide education to the millions of children living without. I will use my blessings to change the world.

"Oh they tell me, there's still time to save my soul. They tell me, renounce all of those material things you gain by exploiting other human beings." - Tracy Chapman

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

goodbye asia.

It’s strange to think that one small variable in life has the power to change the whole course of events. I wonder who I would be today if I hadn’t decided to move to Changsha, China 3 ½ years ago. Would I still be living and working in Arkansas? Would I regret not having been brave enough to follow my dream of seeing the world? Who would I be now if I hadn’t met Grant and started traveling throughout the country every weekend? Would I still have fallen in love with Asia, or would I have returned after just 1 year? What career would I have chosen if I hadn’t explored teaching and discovered so much satisfaction in helping others learn? Would I have pursued an advanced degree or would I still be working in youth ministry? So many events have shaped who I am today and I am thankful for the journey. My time in China and South Korea has been the source of invaluable lessons and has forever shaped perspective of the world. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Right now I am flying high over the Pacific Ocean and am about to begin a new adventure. Transition is never easy. My mind is filled with memories of days spent traveling and living in Asia while trying to remain positive and hopeful about the future that awaits me in America. I know that I am ready for a change, but it doesn’t make the move any easier. So much of my identity is now wrapped up in being a foreigner among a sea of people with a language and customs so different from my own. I have grown accustomed to the stares and unfamiliarity. I have found contentment and happiness in the ability to make friends easily and travel to exotic countries on a whim. I have never felt as free as I have during these last few years. In many ways Asia now feels like home. It’s hard to say goodbye to a place that has provided so much joy, so many friendships, and countless new experiences. However, I know that this part of my life must come to an end if I want to move forward and reach new goals.

As I prepare to close this chapter I couldn’t be more thankful for the memories that will always remain. I will never forget the initial excitement of boarding that first flight to the Far East and not knowing what to expect upon arrival. The friends that I laughed and partied with on the backpackers trail in Southeast Asia. The joy I felt hopping on the back of a motorcycle taxi at 4 o’clock in the morning to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The uncontrollable laughter shared at a belly-dancing show on the beaches of Thailand. The moped rides through the streets of Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Eating a breakfast of fresh fruit, banana pancakes, and hot coffee on a porch overlooking wing-tipped Balinese rooftops. Riding buses and trains to new cities throughout China. Exploring the markets of Malaysia and feeling so content to travel alone. Photographing beautiful Indian, Khmer, Chinese, and Korean children. Walking around the sparkling streets of Singapore with my best friend and favorite German. Dodging cows and tuk-tuks throughout Rajasthan. Hiking the Great Wall of China for the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth time. Feeling empowered and confident while teaching university students. Turning the corner and seeing the picturesque Taj Mahal. Strolling through the night market in Luang Prabang followed by a heavenly massage before bedtime. Spring mornings spent reading and writing on the patio of the Coffee Bean in Olympic Park. Dancing until the sun came up on the beaches of Thailand, the Philippines, and clubs of Seoul. The hours spent in front of the Forbidden City after midnight laughing and trying to get the perfect Facebook picture. Shopping in Myeong-dong and Sinsa with my best friend. And these memories are just a few of the hundreds that I am lucky enough to call my own. One person doesn’t deserve so much happiness. I am immensely blessed.

I am now returning to America with the hope of obtaining a master's degree in education and social change so that I might one day help to educate refugees, immigrants, and children in developing nations throughout the world. Perhaps the greatest thing that I have learned in Asia is that as a person who has been given every opportunity to succeed in life it is my responsibility to give back. And so a new journey begins.

“Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.” -Unknown

Sunday, February 21, 2010

india revisited.


I ate Indian food today. I swore I'd never do it again after traveling through Rajasthan last year and being sick almost the entire time but so far, so good. The chicken tikka masala, palak paneer, and butter naan tasted delicious but I'm still not convinced I won't have to run to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I guess tomorrow I will officially know whether or not I am once again a fan of Indian cuisine.

The moment I walked into the Indian/Tibetan/Nepalese restaurant this afternoon the smelled of curry hit my nose and memories of the trip came flooding back. The frustration of arriving in New Delhi after 36 hours of travel and with no luggage. The crowded streets full of beggars and tuk-tuks and cows and turbans. The feeling of turning the corner and seeing the Taj Mahal for the first time. Stepping in a fresh cow patty while wearing flip-flops. Taking a boat ride along the Ganges River and witnessing sacred Hindu rituals. Photographing snake charmers, children, and colorful sarees. Eating Indian food, getting sick, and then eating it again the next day. Bathing under a faucet in almost every hotel room. Almost dying in the Muslim quarter thanks to a show-off driver. Mutton curry with the texture of a sponge. Touring old Maharaja palaces. Being forced to pay an excessive amount of money for a bad henna design that stained my hand for 3 weeks. Passing camels on the side of the street. Cheering when Shahrukh Khan finally got the girl in a Bollywood film. Missing the train to Mumbai and seeing it as a sign from God to escape to Singapore. Spending time with the most wonderful travel partners.

So many wonderful memories, and even more that I'd rather forget, all from a simple lunch date with friends. Sometimes it's fun to reminisce about the past which almost always seems better in retrospect. Although I will most likely avoid revisiting India in the future, I am thankful for the experience and the lessons learned. And I am thankful for chicken tikka that doesn't cause food poisoning. Yummm.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

the lunar new year.

Celebrating holidays overseas always provides a great opportunity for learning more about a country's history and traditions. This past weekend was the Lunar New Year in Asia, known as Sol-Nal in Korea. On Thursday all of the kindergartners came to school dressed in hanboks and we had a fun afternoon spent playing games, eating dumplings and chapjae, and making kites.

Here are a few photos from the day:

my class (and wonderful korean co-teacher) wearing hanboks to celebrate the new year. getting everyone to smile for this picture wasn't the easiest thing i've ever tried. and i obviously didn't succeed.

my aspiring artist, olivia, showing off her cute smile and dress.

playing a traditional korean game.

jiwoo... my little genius. today we spent almost thirty minutes devising a plan to publish and market his latest mystery novel. i am the editor and was promised $20 upon the book's release. he is six and amazes me everyday. is it wrong for a teacher to have favorites? if not, he is mine.

the kids learning to properly bow for their grandparents.

새해 복 많이 받으세요!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

happy valentine's day!


"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." -1 Corinthians 13:1-8

favorite foods.

I love Korean food. I love the spicy flavors, fresh vegetables, and perfectly marinated meats. I love the taste of kimchi and the texture of squid. And I've even developed a love for the different varieties of rice. Food is perhaps the one thing I will miss most when I leave this Asian peninsula next week. I could be wrong, but I don't remember having so many healthy choices in America.

A few photos of my favorite meals:

dolsot bibimbap. vegetables and rice mixed together with a spicy sauce and served in a steaming hot bowl. my #1 favorite!

donkasu. fried pork cutlet topped with sauce and served with rice.

kimchi jigae. spicy soup made with vegetables, kimchi, and tofu. eaten with rice.

fried "pancake" made with vegetables and squid. yummm.

sam bap. BBQ pork wrapped in lettuce leaves.

kimchi and side dishes! served with every meal.

Bon Appétit!