Sunday, December 24, 2006

My Old Kentucky Home

Currently I am having flashbacks to three years ago, when I was in a very similar position to now. I'm in Almo, Kentucky at my uncle's home, a couple days away from Urbana. Way psyched. That's me. So much has happened since then- and I wish I had my father to hug goodbye again right before leaving.

Wednesday was a wonderful day, even though it was my first birthday without dear old dad. It began with an early breakfast at a diner with a friend, sitting and chatting about East Asia and religious things that bug us as well as a few old hometown memories. A short stack of pancakes with candles was brought out, and the resident old-guy-morning-coffee-drinkers as well as 4 guys from my church who give great hugs sang a sad rendition of happy birthday (which was hilarious). I love smalltown America. People being nice even though I'm a stranger, speaking English, and even teasing me the way old farmers do.

For lunch, my grandparents took mother and me out for some great cafe food where the waitress called me 'birthday girl' for two hours. It was good to be with family again.

And finally, once everyone got out of work, a few dear old friends (I've known Allison the longest- 15 years maybe? Rachel 6? Maribeth and Susan 8?) took me to Applebees (yes, the only place open later that's not a bar- well it is a bar, though...) and we talked about our lives, reminiscing and getting excited just being together. This is one part of my birthday that I have grown to love since college began- since it is near Christmas, people are off from school and mostly home, so I get to see them! Too bad we're all finishing with college now and moving away... it's especially sweet to be with them in knowledge of the great changes pulling us apart. I wore one of dad's old shirts (can you believe he wore that?) as a way of both enjoying his awesome clothes and remembering him. I've always loved his 70s style.

I'm especially glad to have been able to be with Susan (on the other end) again the other night. She spent almost a year working in several places in Southeast Asia, and it's just so good to have someone to share the experience with, even though she never went to China and I only went to China. We spoke of DVDs, being tall, being vulnerable, wanting to hop on a plane to go back, talking the talk, and all the gorgeous sights we miss...

This morning I spoke Chinese with someone! It was odd to be seen as one who really knew the language...I'm so used to being around native speakers and barely understanding what they're all saying.

Merry Christmas


Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Originally uploaded by sarah_laughingguts.

I can't believe I went out after a concert and the night before our two last concerts of the season.

I must have done something right, though, because I still had a voice the next day.

It's three days later that my voice began to go...

The Crew

The Crew
Originally uploaded by sarah_laughingguts.

Blogger working again in China!

Alrighty then. We're back.

xinqi yi wo hui meiguo! Monday it's back to Chicago--Michigan--Kentucky--St. Louis!

I'll look into getting some pictures on here for those unprivileged enough to not have the time or the access to my pix...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


courtesy of

Don't give up
It's just the weight of the world
When your heart's heavy
I, I will lift it for you
Don't give up
Because you want to be heard
If silence keeps you
I. I will break it for you

Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved
Don't give up
Because you are loved

Don't give up
It's just the hurt that you hide
When you're lost inside
I'll be there to find you

Don't give up
Because you want to burn bright
If darkness blinds you
I. I will shine to guide you

Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you...
Everybody wants to be loved
Don't give up
Because you are loved (you are loved)

You are loved (you are loved)
Don't give up (don't give up)
It's just the weight of the world!!
(you are loved)
Don't give up (don't give up)
Everyone needs to be heard (don't give up)
You are loved (you are loved)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Unforeseen Challenges

For some reason unbeknownst to myself, messages from me to blogger to the outside world (or sometimes simply messages I want to convey to blogger) do not make it very far.

So please see to read the latest from Dingxi Lu!

Sorry and thanks :-)

Monday, October 16, 2006


The good news is the weather is magnificent. Nothing lower than 65, nothing higher than 85. Isn't that ridiculous? More good news is that I had a friend to spend the morning with. It's always good to have those. And I had my first fresh-squeezed apple juice after a year of none.

It was also good that gramma answered the phone. Because the bad news is that my uncle passed away this weekend. I don't take deaths in the family all that well. There've been so many, it seems. I can't grasp how my friends feel who have never had a close one die. The first funeral I remember was great gramma Dathel, when I was six, maybe. I still remember how she would reach for my hand. Or at least, I have a memory of it, whether it really happened or is just one of those memories we think we have from childhood.

This distance thing, while I knew it would be hard, is harder than I thought, I think. Or perhaps it's just the actual feeling as opposed to the theoretical. Because now that I think of it, I really did think long about how hard it would be. It's really tough with my closest friends being virtually inaccessible. Tanzania-shmia. Out of minutes and 12 hours difference. 13 hours difference and the middle of the night.

I think I may need some different friends. It was really stupid to come to China without my address-book!

Friday, October 13, 2006


Today, I began to celebrate the weekend's arrival with coffee. Yes, delicious coffee. It's 'expensive' here, which means it's more than other drinks. But if you do the math and divide by 8, in USD it's not really all that bad.

Lunch was another scrumptius affair- I had spaghetti with mushrooms, sauce, and bacon bits and a side of Chai Latte. Oh international food!

It's crazy having it so readily available. This summer (which was excellent!) ice cream and water were the most familiar home things...and I think was a more authentic Chinese experience. But Shanghai- well now this is just a different place entirely. It's not your usual China big-city life, and even the locals go for foreign food all the time.

So really, I'm just embracing Shanghai culture when I go out for Hello Pizza or Taco Bell Grande...sure I am.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Roomies on the Bund

I forgot to mention these are my roommates: Kate, Noelle, and Jackie. We're posing on the Bund, part of the old French concession in Shanghai. Type in Bund Shanghai and you'll find plenty of better pictures of the JinMao tower and the Pearl TV Tower (the one that looks like a space-age structure)


Like a College Student

Just now, I'm in the middle of a sugar high from my roommate Jackie's carepackage from the states: Krackle, Reese's Cups, and Kisses, oh my.

Last week, Lance was here and we visited Zhouzhuang, the number 1 watertown. I hope he puts up the pictures soon. He's so good at getting shots. And even though he was a little cranky (it's a lot more expensive and a different world in Shanghai than Changsha or Loudi) I really enjoyed being a good hostess for him. Makes me wonder about doing something like that for a job someday...floor mom at an orphanage or something!

This week, it's chinese test #2. I have to have something like a 10 minute dialog with a classmate, talking about studies, why we're in China, and other creative things (more points for more creativity). I can hardly believe I'm supposed to know this much Chinese. Speaking, pinyin, characters, structure; there are so many parts to it! Even if I knew how to speak, I'd still be crippled because I can't even read a menu. It's quite a challenge.

In other news, my first piece of mail from the states came in! From Philadelphia, of all places. Thanks a zillion, Amber. A little letter packed with words of goodness for the soul of a friend.

I wish I could connect deeper. But then again, it's always like this. Being in a foreign country just magnifies some things. It takes time to solidly build a good friendship. I just hope that's what's happening here. There are a few I hope to hang on to when I leave this place in December. It sure would be nice to visit them in the states someday. Did I mention Erica is from Hawaii? ;-)

I'd like to figure out how to drop these walls. To really risk vulnerability. Not just my own walls, but share and be shared with. And really appreciate what I'm hearing. I'm reading a book right now, Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Goldman Gelman, and she mentions how she shares tough, real things about herself to get through the chitchat that happens early in normal relationships, since time is limited to really get to know people. I definitely agree with that part. I wish I did it more- it's what is at the heart of who I am, that tough stuff- that's what makes people, the things they live through. It's awesome.

Well, I'm going to try and get come pictures up...check 'em out!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mid-Autumn Festival

If you know anything about China this time of year, you know people are beginning to go crazy- getting plans finalized so they can get home in time for national day with their family (october 1), buying mooncakes to give to friends, and traveling! I heard on CCTV 9 just now that over 3 million people are traveling by plane for the holiday in China. I would imagine the number of train riders is a whole lot higher! Many of my CIEE program tongxuemen (classmates) are among them, going to Beijing, Kunming, Xian, Inner Mongolia, the Three Gorges...

And then there are those who are sticking around- ready to get out and about Shanghai. I for one will be riding my bike around a bit, ringing that little bell like crazy so as not to get killed from traffic that comes in from more directions than you would expect. And talk about riding on the back! Dude!

But I'll be doing more than riding- I'll be traveling around the area with friends, one of them being Lance Webel himself, the only one I know in China who shares a Pleasant Vineyard history...

I can't even say how much that excites me. Coming to China, I've tried hard not to have expectations too specifically, since plans seem to change 90% of the time (at least). But a good old friend. Oh, now that's one thing in China that I have expectations of for sure.

Until then, I'm going to try and beat this nasty sickness that has taken hold of me. In a way, I hope no one calls, because I'm not very good at turning down a chance to hang out or be in any way attached to friends...


Here's just a random list of the last week...
-went to a hip-hop rap event at an expat bar
-had first Chinese test
-visited Shanghai Art Museum's Biennale event
-rode on the back rack of a bike (it's very common here)
-had my parked bike moved two separate times in 2 hours
-ate more streetfood and love it (the fact that it's $.25 makes it taste great)
-visited the largest library in Asia
-tried out for a solo in a Christmas Cantata (sang 'Give you Everything', mom)
-getting familiar with the feeling of being crammed into the subway car
-bought first train ticket all alone and in Chinese :-)

Thursday, September 21, 2006


The latest from Shanghai:

I don't exactly understand what the big deal is. Sure, people wear PJs all the time around here...but how is that uncivilized?? I don't understand.

Oh, friends...

What goodness it is to hear from y'all now and then.

Krista, thank you for the exciting comment! I hope you do. I know where you should go, too :-) I'll see you at Urbana, right? Only 97 days!

I'm learning an overload of Chinese- or am supposed to. First test on Monday. There will be listening, speaking, and writing (not pinyin, but characters, of course...) I haven't actually counted - since I'm not feeling that nerdy - but I know for sure we are to know at least 50 characters so far. Seems like we've learned over 100 words too, in 2 weeks of classes. Whoa! So that's the result of 16 hours of instruction and 4 hours of tutoring.

Maybe Monday I'll know.

Until then, though, I have plans to make snickerdoodles (tentatively), visit a bookstore and the hugigantic library, and enjoy a little of this 'indian summer' weekend. The weather is hen piaoliang lately - very beautiful :-)

Adios muchachos!

Saturday, September 16, 2006



Today, I was witness to kites flown in the "No kite fly" area, paid entrance fee to a park on a rainy day, took on the challenge of the obstacle course (which was almost all wood and certainly not be allowed nowadays in an American park), and had a grill-out with some people who seemed to have never before in their lives had a barbecue.

It was great, except for the exhausted feeling I've had since 4pm.

And it all took place just an hour from downtown Shanghai! I spend the day with 2 Austrians, 2 Koreans, 1 from Hong Kong, 1 Massachusettes-an, and 1 I am unsure of, but his accent was a bit British and he looked semi-Asian...

Getting up at 7 on a Saturday to take the subway and walk to a place you've never been before sure can tire one.

Well, I am going to go get some sleep...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Nimen Hao...

Hello friends!

I just finished my first day of class, which included dreary rain, 2 chinese classes, and Chinese community&social development...

I am having a problem with popcorn (as in, eating it), even though it's not as good here (for some reason doesn't pop well) and I should be eating chinese, not expensive american goods.

One point, though, for the good, are the two kabobs I had from a streetvendor and the jiaozi (dumplings) at a hole-in-the-wall place today. Mmmm.

Today, I felt like life was normal as I sat at my desk, drinking a latte (from a package, it's popular to drink instant coffee here...) and reading my text for class. What a sweet feeling. Of course, though, immediately I thought of how it's not normal, and never will be again.

I'm in Shanghai, China, and have been in China almost 3 months (that's a quarter of a year!). I'm going back to the states only after spending half a year here and will experience major dissonance, having grown attached to China which is half a world away from USA in terms of distance, and incomparable in terms of cultural difference, really. And the family back home will only keep feeling more different as family members go home to eternity, like uncle ron, grampa, and dad... I realize in coming to a foreign country I signed up for major screwing up of the senses. I feel for you who have spent time abroad as well!

But enough pity party on a blog- the good news is I've been seeing over and over that here (china) is where I am supposed to be. It takes time to adjust to this new life in Shanghai, of course, and it is nice having a little more background than most of the beginners in my class (which numbers something like 12 students in the first, and 6 in the second class)

I can tell already that my english is going down... (props to Clare on that one)

Friday, September 08, 2006


So I have arrived to the place I have been preparing for since official acceptance in April, and living in China since July 1: SHANGHAI. To be precise, next to Changning Community College and down the road from KFC and Chinese KFC (I'll get a picture up someday of it, it's hilarious. I have called it KFMao to many, but "Kentucky Fried Mao" doesn't sound politically correct. Perhaps "Mao Fried Chicken" of MFC would be better. Man. What silly thoughts about words no one would even care about...funny isn't it?)

I have an amazing apartment. After having one small room with 4 bunkbeds this summer with one roommate and having to walk down the lane for hot water, it's almost like heaven. I feel very pampered. Let me elaborate.

I walk into my apartment, which has 4 similar-style bedrooms with a single bed, closet, windows, a desk, and fun lighting system. The living area has a couch, big-ish TV, chair, and air conditioning. That section is just a step away from the glass-top dining table and 6 chairs. Walk through a glass door and you're in the kitchen, which came with a washer and dryer, microwave, fridge/freezer, and rice cooker. My bedroom holds the 2nd bathroom, which I share with myself (let's not be greedy, here) and each bedroom has an air conditioner with remote. Excited yet? :-)

So I didn't get a chinese roommate as I'd thought would happen, but I have been able to meet some very nice people in the 90-student program so far this week. We even took a scavenger hunt in groups of 5 ALL over the city, using the sweet transportation system. Did I say it was sweet?

I got place in beginner chinese (6 credits), modern chinese history, modern chinese literature, chinese community and organization development (or somesuch), and am checking out a comparative literature course on how myths influence culture, particularly China, which tells us why people behave as they do. It's because of where they came from. Can you tell I sat with that professor and heard her explanation already?? ;-)

We've been fed amazing food. I just had some amazing popcorn. I just sang some amazing songs tonight with amazing people. I'm going to read some amazing literature.

And for those of you who know I learned some chinese this summer, you will be intrigued to find that what I learned, like "what are you going to do this weekend?" is just about all in my lessons for Chinese this semester. If only I could remember everything we studied and knew the characters, I could be in second semester beginner!!

So for my friends who shared that delightful summer with me and who are looking at coming back, please study your Chinese and learn the characters and you will have a really good start.

I missed you at home a fair bit this week. In the midst of all these new acquaintances, an old face would have been nice.

I suppose I'll just have to wait until Lance stops in to visit...


Thursday, August 31, 2006


I knew I would miss cheese.

It was actually easier not having it at all rather than now, when it is available but very expensive. The temptation is great.

That said, I have plans to make grilled cheese sandwiches tonight for our dinner here, and sometime this weekend eating pizza. Oh the anticipation of satiating a craving :-) I really truly hope the pizza is good.


Sunday, August 27, 2006


I am greatly comforted by the connections all about me...Lisa Rex once observed that I valued networking, and boy am I in the right country for that! I hope that my brain grows enough to have space for all the people that I am meeting. Already there are so many good contacts in Shanghai who I know will be of great help. I hope they enjoy my presence, because they will have to put up with me for 4 months! At the least ;-)

Here is a picture from my dinner Friday night at a friend of Clare's...

Monday, August 21, 2006


Sunset over Tianjin

Well, things are falling into place here- Hopefully today I'll get my ticket to Shanghai. Did you know plane tickets aren't that much more expensive than train sometimes? Like now? It's amazing. So I'm flying to Shanghai. It will take less than 2 hours, as opposed to the way I was going to go, by train, which was about 12. What a difference, eh?

I've been at Clare's for a week now, and getting the hang of life in Tianjin a little more. It's so different from Guyuan. But even with all the perks of a big city, I think I will continue to prefer the small-town. Maybe living in Shanghai will change that. But then again, maybe it will just confirm it.

This second homestay is amazing- two Chinese roommates and 2 American roommates, although Leslie is pretty much moved out, and she's basically Chinese anyway. She's been here about 5 years and is getting married in early October to a Chinese man.

Melissa is the other American, from of all places Ohio. She reminds me of Brittany, my dear Brittany. She teaches English and is athletic. She played volleyball in college. Her personality is very laid back, but she is persistent when she really wants something done. Like the light switch to start working again, or the refrigerator to stop leaking.

Jennifer is the other Chinese besides Clare. She is a teacher assistant at the international school here, and very sweet. She's very responsible too, being the eldest child and helping support her parents and other brothers and sisters. She likes to tease Melissa, and they sometimes sound like an old married couple. It's quite humourous.

As for me, I've been spending my days either volunteering at the orphanage nearby, reading, writing, or trying to get pictures online. It's very relaxing. And yesterday we had spaghetti for dinner, complete with mushrooms, tomatoes, and garlic bread. Reminded me of dinner with mom, dad, gramma, and grampa. Thanks for the memory!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Loving it


Hello sweet coolness!

Alrighty- update: I am now in Tianjin, about 2 hours from Beijing, living with my dear friend Clare 
and her roommates for the next couple weeks.

My goodness so much to say! I really miss Guyuan- the smalltown (270,000?) life is definitely 
more familiar to me than the crowded craziness of the subway in Beijing or the bus in Tianjin. 
Although the bus yesterday wasn't too bad. We just had to push push push to get on and we 
made it!

Today and yesterday have been very cool. I think it may be because of the storms in the south 
bringing us cool weather. 2 nights ago when I was in Beijing, it rained almost the whole night, 
which is nearly unheard of here.

It was sad to say goodbye to my American family at the airport- but I am so thankful for Clare, 
who was with me and has many of the same memories. Those guys know me so well from the 
past month. So thanks guys. I'll try and get out those weekly updates to you- but we'll see how 
that goes.

Clare and I ordered 2 dishes last night and rice, and it was waaaay too much! I am so used to 
eating with at least 7 others at meals, it will be sad to have only 1 or 2 choices of dishes for the 
next few weeks and in Shanghai. Hopefully I'll make friends quickly, and learn how to order the 
food I like. There are so many good things to eat!

Okay, hopefully that is sufficient for an update for now. Maybe I'll figure out how to get my 
photos online someday soon (maybe today?) so email me or give me your email if you want the 
link and don't have it.

Tsai Chien! 

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I'm here!

Sitting in the internet cafe with my roomie for the past month! Whoa! The time has flown. Positively. I could use a better keyboard though.

Life is good. So good. I am having a great time in Guyuan! Sad to think of being gone in less than 2 days. Then it's on to Yinchuan and then Beijing, then Tianjin and finally Shanghai for school in September.

I can hardly believe another summer has gone by. And I was at summer camp- although it was very very very different from the last three. This time I was with 1 roommate for 4 weeks! And I have only had 5 others in the past 7 weeks :-)

Well I better get going. An hour goes by quickly on here. Sorry to have been so silent. Give me a few weeks and I'll have more access again. I've been working with only about 1/2 hour a week! And no, dear ones, I have not missed the internet. But I have missed many of you periodically.

Send some ni hao!

ps- sorry for the weddings I have/will miss. I really truly wanted to be there for you. Especially Katie, Kristin, Sarah, and Elizabeth. Sorry guys.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Heard of it?

I've heard about Le Parkour before, and seen clips, but this clip is amazing.

It's been described to me before as skateboarding without the skateboard...looks like a lot of fun but potentially very painful.


Saturday, June 24, 2006


Hi everybody! I did a little remodeling this morning...what do you think of the new look?

My new purpose: This is to be a point of connection with my stateside and my international friends. It is my hope that not only will I be posting here from time to time, letting friends and family know what I'm up to, but also that they will use this to respond to me