Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ten Thousand Villages Faves

I've been perusing the Ten Thousand Villages website lately, and I can't believe how many cool things are there. It's kind of sad, really, since I can't really get any of their stuff. It doesn't appear that they ship out of North America, and even if they did, I wouldn't have any space in my tiny room to accommodate any new stuff, no matter how cute.

The other thing that I like about Ten Thousand Villages is that its purpose is to provide a market for artisans in developing countries. Their stuff may be great, but they won't sell much of it if no one knows about it. This gives them a selling venue. Also, Ten Thousand Villages is a free trade organization, so it consults with the artisans and experts in the area to set a fair wage for their work. They were voted one of the "World's Most Ethical Companies" by Forbes Magazine for the past three years. Cheers!

Anyway, even if I can't have any of these lovelies myself, I thought I'd share them all with you.

This scarf is awesome! Not to mention green and blue, just the best colors in the world (especially green).

A super cool necklace. I would wear this over diamonds any day.

This is probably my favorite item! Isn't it amazingly cute? In their own words, it's so round, so fat, so cheerful!

I don't even know, but this is sweet.

This is a "Red Owl Wall Candle Sconce." Basically, you hang it on your wall and put a candle inside. I could see a whole row of them in a backyard, lit up for parties.

So what do you guys think? Do you have any Ten Thousand Villages favorites?
Here's there website, if you want to look for yourself.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Music Monday: Hong Kong Hardcore!

This is one of my most exciting Music Mondays yet! At least it is to me. I'm totally ditching my Christmas theme because the most exciting thing happened! Ready for it? I WENT TO AN ASIAN HARDCORE/METAL SHOW!

See? Isn't that thrillingly stunning? Of course, I have to share my enthusiasm with you all, even you metal-haters.

Before I even left the States I had searched for Hong Kong metalcore bands. I ran across King Ly Chee, a hardcore punk but a bit metal-inspired band. I liked their music a lot and thought I'd check them out when I got to Hong Kong. When I arrived, they were on tour and were playing in Korea or something like that. I didn't see any shows listed anytime soon, so I kind of forgot about it.

Just the other day I was thinking about how much I missed going to shows. Last year I went to around ten, and here I hadn't gone to any in seven months. Pretty sad. On Friday night, I randomly decided to look them up again and saw that they had a show on Saturday, the next day! Unfortunately, I had planned to go the movies with some friends. I called one up and apologized for ditching them. I felt a bit bad, but then again, I hadn't gone to a show in seven months and I didn't know when they'd have another one. They said on their site that they don't really like doing Hong Kong shows. I also messaged Hamish, the only person I know in Hong Kong who kind of likes this kind of music, and asked if he wanted to go too, but he had to come a bit late.

I had to work on Saturday, of course, but I got off work at six thirty. As soon as I was done, I rushed over to the MTR station. I didn't even have time to eat dinner! The show was in an old factory building in San Po Kong. I had trouble finding the entrance, but saw a bunch of people dressed in black going in this small entrance. Bingo.

There weren't many people there at first, and I stood there for a long time, waiting for the show to start. It was really odd at first, because the back became super crowded, but there was this HUGE space in between the people and the stage. It's like no one wanted to get anywhere close to the stage. The first band, Protoss, asked everyone to move forward, and they grudgingly agreed, still leaving a very large space up front. I didn't really want to stand in front, since I stand out enough anyway, but I felt bad that no one was moving forward so I ended up at the front on the side.

I really liked the first band, Protoss, an all-Cantonese metalcore band. I really enjoyed their sound, but the crowd was pretty sucky. They all just stood there with a bit of head-bobbing. I did a bit of head-banging and stuff, but it's weird when you're the only one. I was missing Rosey, my concert buddy!

The next band was Shepherds the Weak. I liked them as well, and was quite happy that the crowd picked up. There was even some moshing and dancing and running a circle pit. I felt much more uninhibited in my dancing. I really like that there was much more pure dancing/headbanging than at most of the shows I went to in the US. There was always some, but not too many people. The last show I went to, As I Lay Dying and Demon Hunter, me and Rosey and a couple other guys were all in a line dancing, but not many others were. Yeah hardcore dancing!

Hamish showed up in between sets so that was cool. He had a nice video camera with him, so that prevented him from joining in too much of the festivities, sad day. The next band was a post-hardcore band of Westerners (English!) called This Is Ammunition. I had listened to them before the show and liked the brief listen, but it didn't transfer as well into a live show. It's not like they were bad or anything, but they had several strikes against them. First, similarly to bands like As Cities Burn, they just sound better in a recording. Secondly, their music is not as easy to rock out to as metal. Finally, they're a newer band with not quite the same fan following as the others. Still, they were fun too.

THEN....King Ly Chee. This band has been around for a long time, like ten years or something. They're supposedly the founder of the Hong Kong underground hardcore scene. They're also really into activism and social change, so that's pretty awesome. They're also funny. Their lead singer, Riz, went into a long rant about Canto (Cantonese) pop which is the dominant music genre over here. During the whole show he kept going in and out of English and Cantonese. It was pretty funny because sometimes he'd switch in the middle of a sentence and never translate the rest. So he'd say stuff like, "Do you know why there are all these names on the stage?" Then he'd switch to Canto so I'd just make up my own version of why there were names on the stage. Fun times.

King Ly Chee was definitely good. They'd better be, considering how long they've been a band. :) The crowd really got into it, especially towards the end, which made it really fun. During a couple of the songs, people were just going insane. I liked that it wasn't as intimidating as US shows, since the guys were smaller, on average. Not that I'm saying that all Asians guys are small; definitely not. BUT it is true that they were mostly my size, a bit smaller, or a bit bigger. Not too bad. Even though I love US shows, I do try to stay away from the really big guys. Even at this show, there were a couple of Western guys there who joined in at the very end of the show and I was trying to stay out of their way. I said I wasn't going to mosh or anything, but it seems much safer than the last time I did it, so I might have done it a little bit. Just a little.

Since Hamish had his video camera handy, he taped a bit of the show. If you've ever wondered what goes on at such shows or why I'm so addicted to shows, then have a look. Of course, it's pretty hard to get the feel through watching, but maybe you'll get a glimpse of the incredible energy that goes on at shows. SO awesome.
Here's something wonderful called a circle pit. I don't always get in them, since they're hard to get out of and can turn a bit violent, but they didn't seem bad at this show.
And here's a bit of the fun/dancing.

Anyway, my neck's sore and I have this strange welt on the back of my leg (how in the world did that happen on my calf?), but it's all worth it. Hopefully I'll get to go to a couple more of these shows. There's supposed to be one next month...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cool It

It finally started to cool down. When I woke up this morning, I was a bit chilly, even with two blankets and a comforter. Now I'm in a conundrum because I didn't bring very much cold-weather clothing.
Whenever I talked to my parents when I was packing, they kept talking about how hot it was and how they didn't even wear jeans anymore. Thankfully, I still packed two pair. And I thought I was overdoing it!
My work is very casual, so I usually wear jeans on most days. Unfortunately, both of my jeans are wearing out! I'm not quite sure what to do now, since finding jeans here is no picnic, and I probably won't go stateside for quite awhile. I'm thinking of having Mom go to a Kohl's at Christmas and buy a random pair of dark-wash jeans. It's still a dangerous prospect because I usually have to try on ten to fifteen pairs of jeans before I find one that fits right, but all we can do is hope for the best.
I also am missing my comfy pj pants! I didn't bring flannel pants or sweats or anything! So now I'm wearing a pair of stretchy shorts and a hoodie. Yes.
Besides the difficulties, I am glad that the weather is finally getting cold-ish. It makes it feel a bit more like Christmas, although it still doesn't. It probably doesn't help that we haven't decorated or anything. Maybe I should make some eggnog or something.
Maybe I will.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Toni's Visit

Toni left this morning. Although it was short and I had to work a lot, her visit was quite wonderful! It all started at the airport. I stood for an hour waiting for her to come out of the gate, staring dutifully at the monitor in case she went out of the other gate. Then I feel a tap on my shoulder. Yep, she's standing right behind me. A whole hour watching for nothing! Apparently she came out the other gate and I missed her. I blame it on her hat. The whole time I was watching for blonde hair and she had to wear a hat covering it up! Oh well. Next time I'm going to tell her to come and find me. I'll be at the coffee shop reading.

After our hour and a half bus ride, we made it home! It was only eleven thirty, so we went and got dumplings at the hole-in-the-wall across the street. Then we walked around the praya (the park/walk by the harbor), talked, and then went to bed.

Saturday, I had to work all day, unfortunately, but my parents took Toni around. We met up as soon as I got off work. My friends Josh and Lillian called, and they were in the neighborhood. We met up with them and two of Josh's friends to go to a sushi shop.

Sushi shop!

The next day was church, and we got there a bit late (we stayed up talking until three so we were just a little tired). After church, we went out to get dim sum with Lillian. Dim sum is a bunch of little dishes which mostly come in round, wooden boxes. It's pretty darn delicious.

Dim sum!

Sunday night we finally made it to Ivan the Kozack's, a small Ukrainian/Russian restaurant. It's near the Escalators, the longest escalator system in the world. There's all sorts of restaurants and bars and clubs around the escalators. I had been to that place once before, but we had trouble finding it. We rode all the way to the top of the escalator system and then found it on the way back down. It turns out it's right at the beginning, down an alley. We split a chicken and mushroom blini and a strawberry and chocolate blini. The atmostphere was awesome.

Toni, contemplating the icon calendar at Ivan's.

After that we took the tram back to Wan Chai to go dancing. My swing dancing group meets every Wednesday, but occasionally it will meet on a Sunday or Saturday. We danced and talked for a couple hours and then headed home. Once again, we stayed up until threeish.

The tram!

I didn't have to work until one on Monday, so we decided to go to Stanley Market to do some Christmas shopping. We took a sampan over to Aberdeen and then a minibus from Aberdeen to Stanley. It was pretty fun, except I was almost late to work.

On the sampan!

Toni joined me during a free talk session and then read while I taught some more lessons. After I finished, we went to a Thai place to split some spring rolls and sticky rice with mangoes. Delicious stuff. We were trying to get to the light show, but didn't make it in time. We decided to give up and go to St.'s Alp, a Taiwanese tea place, but that was also closed! After that, we went to a market for more Christmas shopping. Unfortunately, most of the stuff there was closed as well. Fortunately, one shop was open and we found some good stuff.

After that, we headed home. We showed my parents our loot, talked awhile, then went out to get some dessert. There's a dessert shop down the street called "Kingdom Sweets" or something like that. We shared a huge plate of shaved, chocolate ice cream, which is always delicious. Finally, we walked on the praya and watched funny youtube videos before going to bed.

This morning at six thirty, I walked Toni to the bus stop and sent her on her way. I'm so glad she could come visit! It was definitely fun times.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Toni's Coming!

I'm sure this is old news for some of you (I've been blaring it around fb for a week), but my good friend Toni is coming to visit me! I love having visitors, and it will be especially nice to have Toni here.
It's a little sad that we don't have more time together (she's coming in Friday night and leaving Tuesday morning, and I have to work two full days), but we will certainly make the most of it. I've been thinking about all the things we should do, like eating dim sum and riding a sampan and getting smoothies at the corner and going to church and watching the light show and all that good stuff. So much fun is in store!
It's almost like Christmas is tomorrow. Oh boy!
This also reminds me how much I like having visitors. Hospitality is a big deal for me. Last year I used to have at least one person/group of people over for a meal a week. NowI have a lot less friends (nearby, that is) and I don't live in a central location in the city. It's not easy to drop by. Finally, since I live with my parents now in a small apartment (flat), I can't do anything without clearing it with them. They are very hospitable people as well, but it's still different.
Like, if I were living by myself I would totally sign up as a couchsurfing host. Basically, I would be letting people who are travelling sleep on my couch or floor when they're passing through. If I had the time, I would cook for them or show them around the city. Wouldn't that be awesome? I would be able to meet people from everywhere and help them out in a real way! Hong Kong also could use some couchsurfing hosts. According to the couchsurfing website, Hong Kong has two profiles, neither of which I could find. Thailand has over two thousand. C'mon, Hong Kong, that's lame.
If only I could do something about it. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Music Monday: O Come O Come Emmanuel

This is also one of my favorites. It's very solemn, beautiful, and minor!

Apparently, this song was originally a Catholic hymn written in Latin (Veni, veni, Emmanuel). The modern version we are used to was written in the 1800s, but the original could be as old as the 8th century. It also might have been used as Gregorian chants or a processional for Franciscan nuns. Sweet!

Although we usually think of it as a Christmas carol, it's actually an Advent song. It's taken from Isaiah 7:14 which predicts the Messiah coming to us. Obviously Jesus has already come, but now we use Advent as a time to remember his coming as well as to look forward to his next coming.

The Latin (traditional) version.

The Sufjan Stevens (indie) version.

The August Burns Red (hard) version.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Saturday night I got to hear Francis Chan speak. For those of you who don't know Francis Chan, he wrote a book called "Crazy Love" and is now a popular speaker. He talked about truly accepting God's love and feeling secure in him. While talking about love, he brought up the topic of authority which kind of reminded me of some conversations I had today.

Francis said that one of the reasons he had such a hard time accepting the idea of God's love is because he grew up in a very traditional, authoritarian, Chinese household. His father's word was law, and harsh punishment would follow any infraction. For Francis, he could understand God as a holy, just God whom he needed to obey; he just couldn't wrap his head around the fact that that same holy God could actually love him. A lot of Chinese seem to have a similar experience with authority.

I've recently joined a lifegroup at my church. It's basically a group that meets weekly to talk about God and our lives, and pray for one another. There's only three in my group so far, Josh, Lillian, and I. Although we certainly don't agree on everything, we've been having a lot of fun together. We went out to eat for dinner, and our talk also brought up some interesting insights into authority.

I don't even remember what we were talking about, but Josh made some comment about how a guy would need to talk to a girl's dad before asking her out. I said that I wouldn't want a guy asking my dad first, and they both seemed very shocked. I was actually a bit surprised how shocked they seemed, since asking the girl directly is not exactly a groundbreaking concept.

Josh explained that he believes that the father is the head of the household. As the leader of the family, he has the responsibility to guide his children in their decisions. Josh went on to say that he had asked his father's permission before moving to Hong Kong, and initially his father had said no. Had his father continued to say no, he would have followed his father's wishes.

While I totally respect where he's coming from, I think in a completely different way. The independence stereotype is alive and well in my life. At eighteen, Dad told me that I was now an adult and I needed to start making my own decisions. During major life decisions in my life, I would call up my dad and talk to him about the pros and cons. He would listen and give advice, but he'd always tell me in the end that it was my decision, he couldn't make the decision for me. When I told him about our dinner conversation, his comment was, "What are you, fourteen?"

Basically, my parents tried to instill in me good sense and direction when I was younger; now they trust me to make the right choices. Even if it is a bad choice, it's my choice.

I can see the good and bad in both viewpoints. In the more authority-driven viewpoint, life decisions are made in the context of your family, your community. You have an older and wiser head to rely on, a leader to care for you. Maybe you would get bogged down by emotions or whims whereas a father could look out for your best interest. Francis Chan also pointed out that, unlike his other American friends, he understood the concept of God's authority. He didn't try to argue with God or get angry at God's decisions. He's God after all.

On the other hand, that can lead to a reliance on others. When things don't turn out, it's not your fault, it's your leaders fault. If only he wouldn't have made such a bad decision. It can take away incentive to think things through and figure out what God wants you to do. Also, what do you do about bad advice or bad leadership? Yes, God is the perfect authority that we all bow to, but authority figures on earth will never be perfect. They can make bad decisions. While I definitely condone getting the advice of older, wiser leaders, the ultimate consequences will be on you.

On my independent side of things, I think that we are ultimately responsible to God. Yes, we need to be in community, yes we need to listen to leaders. But God is the ultimate leader to who we should look. When we make our decisions, hopefully we are relying on his wisdom to help us make our decisions. Besides, this is my culture, the way I was raised. I can't just throw all of that away; it's stuck to me now.

Although I am stuck with this independent mindset, I need to remember that I am not a lone-ranger. I do need others and I cannot rely solely on myself. This can breed a narcissistic and self-righteous attitude that is not good for me or others. I need to watch these tendencies and root them out!

I'll conclude with our final dinner agreement. We're different; that's cool.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What Next?

I know it's a long ways off, but lately I've been thinking about what to do after this year. My contract doesn't end until October, so I'll be here at least until then, but I don't know what I'll do after that.

Should I stay here? I like my job a lot. It's probably one of the most relaxed and (mostly) fun teaching jobs that ever was. As far as making money and paying off my loans, this is a pretty good place. I could probably make more money in Korea or China proper, but this is still decent. Besides, it's nice to have so many English-speakers around. It's nice for church, meeting people, getting directions, etc. On the other hand, it isn't so great for my language learning. I don't have as much incentive to learn Cantonese as I might if I had to use it to get around.

Another factor is whether my parents will still be here or not. Housing is SUPER expensive here, so it would be tough if I had to pay for my own house. Another thing that I don't like is how much money I spend here. Most of the people I come into contact with are definitely not as thrifty as my last group of friends. I always feel like a cheapskate because I don't like to pay much more than $5US for a meal (but we eat out so much!) and think the clothing prices are atrocious (not much for thrift stores, sadly). BUT I do like it here a lot, and it's a fun city to be in. Not such a huge fan of working six days a week, but it happens.

Should I go back to the States? I miss a lot about the States, some things more than others. Food is one of the things I miss the most. This is kind of lame since Hong Kong probably has the most Western food of any place in Asia, but it doesn't have everything and some of the prices make me stay away. Because of milk prices, we always use powdered milk. I'm not a huge fan of powdered milk, so I won't drink it; it's for cereal only. I used to drink a least two cups of milk a day. I think I've drunk milk maybe two times since I've been here. Sad. Also, I MISS MEXICAN FOOD! Or any kind of Hispanic food, really. Tacos, burritos, chips and salsa, horchata, pupusas....I could go on but I won't. I hear that there are a couple Mexican places around, but they look super expensive.

I miss friends a lot, but even if I move back to the States that won't change. If I went back, I would probably move to Denver and a lot of my friends are still in Arkansas and Oklahoma. But, I could still go see them. There are small things that I miss about living in the States. I can almost imagine a life in Denver, and it's so great. I always imagined what life after college would look like. I'd share a small house with some people, decorate it to my heart's content, work some kind of job, invite people over for dinner, welcome couchsurfers, go to lots of local events, cook and bake a lot, get involved in a church, hang out with teens, etc. I never thought I'd be over here. Although I'm so glad to be here, a part of me is waiting for the excitement of that "normal" life to start.

There are so many little things that I miss. Farmer's markets, driving, houses, concerts, people who like my music, hang-out nights with friends, seasons, thrift stores, jeans, used bookstores, decent libraries, eggnog, campfires, camping, playing in creeks, my pets, snow, snow ice cream, cars driving on the right, parades, carnivals, rodeos, traditions. Really, I don't think of these things THAT much, but they all come up every now and then. It would be nice....

Should I go somewhere else? Even while I dream about life in the States, I also think about other places I'd love to go. Thailand? I loved staying in Bangkok and was tempted to stay there. Somewhere in Latin America? I could really learn Spanish and experience yet another culture. Korea? More delicious food and good money to pay off my loans quickly. Because that's the rub, really. Places like Thailand or Latin America or the Philippines or somewhere in Africa would be awesome, but I would have to make enough to pay for these stupid loans. Who knew that they'd dictate where I'd live? If only I could wish them away and do what I want. Maybe I'd be able to work something out. We'll see, we'll see.

What do you guys think? Thoughts?

Friday, December 3, 2010

My Tired Ferris Wheel

I worked a long day today, about eleven hours. We had three teachers sick and two were on their off day. Sigh. I taught a lot today.
Whenever I have time to post, like tonight, it seems like I'm to tired or lackluster to do it. Whenever I'm in a class or on the bus going to work, ideas spin through my mind like an intangible ferris wheel, idea after idea flipping by. But when I face the screen, the carnival has left town. It didn't even leave any funnel cakes.
Maybe I'll be more inspired in the morning.
Maybe I should make some funnel cakes for breakfast...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Music Monday: Carol of the Bells

In honor of the Christmas season, my Music Mondays will be dedicated to some of my favorite Christmas carols.

Carol of the Bells is one of the most popular Christmas carols that most people can't actually sing. I confess that I am one of those people who can't sing it. It's beautiful, but sung extremely fast and the words are not always clear.

This song is Ukrainian and was first titled Shchedryk. Try saying that ten times really fast. According to, it is about "a sparrow and the bountiful year that awaits a family." Yeah, I somehow missed that. Maybe they mean it used to be about a sparrow.

The first line is like this

Hark! how the bells
Sweet silver bells
All seem to say,
"Throw cares away."
Christmas is here
Bringing good cheer
To young and old
Meek and the bold.

So yes, I hope you all have a great Christmas. Even you meek ones.

For your listening pleasure, I'm including links to a couple different versions of Carol of the Bells.

For just the regular version, here is a random youtube video with pictures of presents.

For nice instrumentation and walk-dancing, here's Celtic Women.

For a slightly more amped up version, here is August Burns Red. But no worries, there is no screaming. Just awesome guitars.

Merry Christmas!

P.S. It's hard to get in the Christmas spirit when it's still in the sixties and seventies.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Across the Puddle

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, as many of you know. Of course, we don't get the day off, but I did manage to celebrate anyway.

Several English-speaking churches across the city put together a Thanksgiving service. It was at noon at St. John's cathedral, an Anglican church in Central. Wow, that was quite the building. They had huge vaulted ceilings, beautiful stained glass, dark wood. The benches were pretty awful, though. The stuck out at the top, so the only part of your back that would touch the bench was right under your shoulder blades. I don't think that promotes good posture.

It was a nice, very formal, service. They had a guy with a big silver stick who would walk around and escort the different speakers to the altar to speak. One of my pastors, Pastor Steve, gave the main message, and different pastors read scripture or prayed prayers. The US consulate even came and read us the Thanksgiving proclamation from Barack Obama.

After the service, we had refreshments outside. The food was very good, but not terribly traditional. We had egg salad and minced turkey sandwiches, fried potato fritters, quiche, mini pumpkin and pecan/cranberry pies, and orange juice. Very delicious. I smuggled two pies out so that I could give them to one of my coworkers. She had never tried pumpkin pie and wanted to.

Here's some pictures from after the service with my friends Dulcina and Josh.

I had to work at two, so I rushed away from the service. I made it there just in time. I had to work until nine, but I wished all of my coworkers happy Thanksgiving, and I told all of my students about the holiday. Not quite the celebration I'm used to, but nice, none the less.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Music Monday (Tuesday?): Stickable Songs

Once again, I'm writing my Music Monday post on Tuesday. But really, I go to work in the morning and work until six. Then I rush home and eat before I do a private lesson. Then I usually work on the lesson for the next day before going to bed. And I think it will only get busier since I've agreed to take on two more Monday night lessons in January. Busy!

I may just have to move Music Monday to Tuesday but still call it Music Monday because calling it Music Tuesday is just lame. Sound like a plan?


What song do you have stuck in your head right now? If you don't have one in there now, you probably will sometime today. Or tomorrow. Or this week. Basically, it happens a lot. You can't stop singing or humming it. It plays in your head while you're walking. It's your theme music when you're driving. And whenever you've just about forgotten it, someone else will start humming it and bring it all back.

I've had "I've Got A Feeling" by the Black-Eyed Peas stuck in my head for the past several days. I keep singing it in the elevator but then quickly cut it off whenever anyone jumps on. The worst for me is when I have screamo songs stuck in my head because I can't actually sing along to them. I can whisper scream, but that wears my throat out after awhile.

Have you ever wondered why songs get stuck in your head? I don't really know why they do, but I did read something about it. Whatever I was reading said that the things in your brain (you can tell that I've been out of school for a bit; I could look it up and pretend that I knew it all along, but I won't) will sometimes get stuck and keep firing. That's why songs get stuck because your brain will keep playing it over and over again. Interesting, I think.

So what do YOU have stuck in your head right now?

"Cause I've got a feeling that tonight's going to be a good night...."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Nostalgia: The Best Time of My Life

In church today, Pastor Steve asked us to close our eyes and think about the happiest time we can remember, the best time of our life. Then he asked how many of us had people in our favorite moment. Most of the hands went up.

I also raised my hand. When I closed my eyes, my brain was briefly scanning through many, many good times. I've had a great life with awesome experiences. Some that came to mind were our family vacations, playing with the neighborhood kids in Florida, Christmases with family and friends, getting our pets, hiking with my dad, brother and sister, my sophomore year Spring Break trip, and many times over the last two years. It's almost a bit hard to choose, but my mind did rest on one thing.

The last half of my junior year was a great time. I had a lot of friends that were all concentrated in about three spots. My good friend Toni and I lived on the same hall, and we would always run over to two townhouses or one off-campus house and there would always be someone to hang out with. So many fun times.

It all ended in one awesome weekend. Graduation. It didn't start out so awesome. The night before graduation I went around saying hi to different people and hanging out. Around one or so I headed back to pack up my room. I had done the same thing last year, pack all night and check out of my room in the morning before graduation. I remembered around four in the morning that the year before my family had showed up at six to help me out. I had SO much to pack and no help on the way. I packed desperately and transferred all of my boxes into the hall. Thankfully I lived in a corner and the girl next to me had already left. The RA came to check me out at nine, but I wasn't quite ready. She came back at nine thirty and checked me out while I changed into my dress. Then I ran to graduation.

I was late, so I had to wait until all of the graduates had walked in to enter. Then I had to sit by myself, desperately trying to stay awake. As soon as the ceremony was over, I took some pictures with people and dashed back to my room. My RA told me that all of the boxes had to be out of the hall by twelve thirty. It was already eleven. I worked madly, carrying boxes down to the storage room two floor down and trying to coax them onto the top shelf, the only one left. Thankfully, my friends Hannah and Toni got done with their room around one and came over to help me. With all three of us working tirelessly, we managed to finish by three. Not twelve thirty, but oh well.

(Grad pics with friends. I managed to not look TOO tired)

At that point, I hadn't slept in about thirty hours and I hadn't eaten in about fourteen. Hannah drove us to get Subway and then we went to a beautiful sunny park to eat and lie in the grass. That was heaven.

That night, Hannah headed home and Toni and I spent the night at a friends. I went out to dinner with my brother at Tower BBQ (he paid) and then hung out the rest of the night with people. The next day we went caving at Devil's Den, making The Descent (movie) jokes the whole time. Caving was followed by pizza which was followed by hot chocolate and roasting marshmallows over a stovetop which was followed by watching and mocking the first Twilight movie which was followed by talk and sleep.

(We somehow avoided getting eaten and killing each other off while we were under the surface)

At times like that, I feel too happy. These people, this fun, it's too much blessing. This is a rather rambly, nostalgic post, but I seriously am amazed at how blessed I have been. Things aren't always sunshines and rainbows (I'm quoting someone who always says this but I can't remember who at the moment; sorry anonymous person) but I definitely remember way more good times than bad times.

Last year after MY graduation (another wonderful day), I wrote a song/poem about friends and graduation. I hadn't thought about it in a long time, but all of today's reminiscing brought it up. If you've already read it, you can just stop reading here. Hooray for friends. What are some of YOUR favorite memories? If you haven't read it and want to, here it is.

(Hanging out with a bunch of cool people after my graduation)

Just yesterday we sat one last time
pretending it wasn't the end.
We talked all night
with faces of light
grasping at minutes that melted away.

These last several years full of moments we've shared
can it really have all slipped away?
Of dances and walks
a thousand great talks
Now memories are all that I have.

Sometimes they seem to fade with the miles
but what will always remain
all of us there,
for a moment no cares,
just laughter and ice cream and sun in our hair.

This is goodness, this is life,
friends more dear than the world.
The times we've had,
the simple, the sad,
And the joy that covered it all.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Oh Dear

After posting fairly regularly for the past couple months, I have let it slide! Oh dear!

This seems to be a common trend in all of my past journal-writing experiences. I'll be really good for a half a year and then I'll just stop for a year or so. When I had a Xanga, it was the same way. I was really good about writing, and then I'd stop randomly.

BUT I'm convinced that I won't let this happen again. Not only do I want to keep those of you Stateside (well, and you Russians and Taiwanese and Germans who somehow found my blog) updated on my life, but I also want to keep in good writing practice. Writing, as with everything, is a skill that can be forgotten if not practiced. I must keep it up!

After looking over my recent posts, I've realized that I haven't really talked much about what my life looks like. I haven't really talked about my job, life in Hong Kong, cultural insights, festivals, etc. So I will make a more concerted effort to write about such topics.

I have several things in mind such as hot pot, holidays in Hong Kong, my job, etc., but that will have to wait until later. I have to leave for work in a n hour and a lot to do before then! Look for more "life" stuff.

I'll try to be good. :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What Would You Do?

Have you heard about the ABC show "What Would You Do?" It's kind of like Punk'd only with real-life scenarios. A bunch of actors go to some public place, make some kind of awful scene, and see if any decent citizens are willing to step in and help. They've done all sorts of things. In one episode, a saleswoman loudly told a black lady that they didn't need "her type" in that store because she didn't have time to watch her and then had the security guard frisk the poor shopper. Another episode was of an abusive boyfriend berating and "slapping" his girlfriend in a park. Yet another episode in a grocery store featured a lady chewing out an overweight mother with her overweight daughter pushing a cart full of junk food.

One of the worst videos I watched was the Latino hate crime episode. In that episode, they had a group of three white thugs beating up a Latino while screaming at him to speak English. The Latino actor was wearing pads underneath his sweatsuit to protect him, and they had used makeup to make his face look battered and bleeding. So, do you think people helped?

During the two days that they shot the footage, ninety-nine people witnessed the beating. Twenty five people intervened. Seven people called 911. And SIXTY SEVEN PEOPLE just walked right on by. Can you believe that? SIXTY SEVEN? I can understand that three violent young men are intimidating, but you could at least call the cops or go get help. That would take you a total of two minutes. Seriously.

Watching that video made me sick. At the beginning of the show, they talked about "Mexican hunting." Apparently there have been many cases of ass-holes who decide they're bored so they need to go find a Spanish-speaker and beat him up. One man they interviewed had a brother who died from his injuries. It just blows my mind that this actually happens. IS THIS REALITY?

There are many horrible, stupid people in the world who inflict pain on others. Racism is alive and well in the world. While I cannot comprehend how people can do something like that, I am also so disappointed in the people that just let it happen. If you asked those people if they were racist, they would deny it. Still, they let a hate crime just happen. And it doesn't just have to be about race. The same thing happened in the girlfriend abuse video. Some people stepped in, but a ton of others just walked on by. I'm sure they would say they're good people, but they are enablers. Apathy can almost be as bad as hate. What is that famous quote? Something about the only thing evil needs to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Yeah, that's totally true.

Some of the people did help. My favorite help scene is when an SUV stopped next to the scene and this girl pops out and runs in to break it up. She was a lot smaller than all of the thugs, but she kept yelling at them to back off and even got in between them and the victim. Yeah!

This show does fulfill its purpose. After watching the clips, I was asking myself, "What would I do if I witnessed one of those scenes?" I'm certainly not a person who is afraid of confrontation so maybe I would intervene. I pray that I would. At the same time, it's one thing to declare my heroic intentions in the safety of my bedroom after watching these inspiring clips and a whole other thing to actually do something in the heat of the moment.

I guess all I can do now is pray that God would keep making me into the kind of person that will get involved, that will step up to help those in trouble. I definitely have the desire and I hope that courage will be close behind.

It's not just in these extreme situations that we need courage, though. Stopping a hate crime is very heroic, but in what other ways can we be courageous and help others? It takes courage to tell a friend that they shouldn't be rude to others. It takes courage to admit we've been wrong and ask for forgiveness. It takes courage to tell the truth when lying could save us embarrassment and pain. Let's be courageous.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. --Joshua 1:9

P.S. If you want to watch the original clip, here it is, although I suppose I've probably ruined at least part of it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Ankle Sock Controversy

On Sundays after church, I've been going out to eat with some of the other church people. Sometimes it's with a group of thirty-somethings who first talked to me when I visited and sometimes it's with two twenty-somethings that I met later. Last Sunday, two guys from the first group (Daniel and Adrian) invited me and Lisa (from the second group) to lunch. So we went.

We ended up at a Thai restaurant that had some delicious green curry. :) We all ate and talked, just like any old lunch. Lisa and I were talking about KevJumba videos, and I mentioned when he was in Sweden on the Amazing Race and had to walk through snow. His feet were freezing and he said, "Ankle socks are cool; that's why I wore them."

Lisa and I were laughing when Daniel interjected by saying "Ankle socks are so gay-looking! Why would anyone where them?" So we get into this, I kid you not, half-an-hour argument over whether ankle socks are cool or not.

Daniel and Adrian kept saying that guys should wear real socks, and Lisa and I were saying that they were real socks. We told them that they really are cool and even athletes where them, but I don't think they listened to us. We said you don't want to wear grandpa or dad socks, do you?

Anyway, I suppose it's just the generation gap. Lisa and I like to talk about YouTube and think ankle socks are cool. I'm sure when we're in our thirties we'll disagree with those funny twenty-somethings.

But seriously, who would have thought that ankle socks were so controversial?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Music Monday: Children 18:3

Yeah, yeah, it's not Monday anymore. Well actually, for most of you, it IS Monday. So I suppose it's still ok. I was just so tired last night that I couldn't bring myself to do anything. I worked all day and then came home to tutor a private, then hung out with the parents, then worked on a lesson plan for a couple hours. Whew, I was tired. So enough with my excuses. Back to the regularly scheduled program.

Children 18:3 is another one of my favorite bands. They're punk, but not your typical punk. I'd say they're almost a punk/alt rock mix. But enough with classifications.

I really love their music. As with House of Heroes, they make incredibly intense songs without screaming. They are a bit rougher, a bit more raw-sounding than House of Heroes, but I enjoy that. They also have a nice mixture of songs. In their newest album, they even have a song that sounds like it's performed on an old player piano (The Last Laugh). There are a couple songs that are a bit too major/happy-sounding for my taste, but maybe that would mean some of you would like it.

One of my favorites, both musically and lyrically, is Even Sleeping. It's super intense! It's about someone whose friend got in a car accident. They're with their friend, begging them to stay. The chorus goes, "Oh, what would it take to keep you here in my arms bleeding. Oh, what would it take; is it so much to just start breathing? Stay with me, even sleeping." So sad!

Last year I totalled my car (poor Sophia) on the way to a Children 18:3/Project 86 concert. None of us were hurt, thank goodness, so my brother picked us up and drove us the rest of the way to the concert. Also unfortunately, Children 18:3 were just finishing up when we arrived. No!!!!!! It's a little ironic that I was most excited about hearing them play a song about a car wreck and then I wrecked my car on the way there. Hm.

While some of their lyrics and topics are undeniably awesome, others I go back and forth about. For example, I LOVE the music to their song "Oh, Bravo." The topic is about a little girl at a talent show. She feels bad that everyone else is doing better than her, and her dad comes and comforts her. I do like the lyrics, but I LOVE the music so much that I almost wish the lyrics were about something wonderfully profound or something. I feel that way about a couple of songs, like one about Bourne Identity (LCM) and Cruella Deville (The Cruel One). At the same time, I guess it's pretty cool that they can write songs about simple things. Why can't you write a song about a movie? So I haven't decided yet. Do any of you have an opinion?

I've been having trouble copying links into my posts (hence no links last Monday) but I finally figured out how to do it! Unfortunately, I still haven't figured out how to make them clickable, so you'll have to copy and paste them into your address bar. Sorry.

Anyway, here's some to try, if you want to. These are some of their more intense songs, so if you don't like them you could always try others. Enjoy!
P.S. I'm not responsible for any of the cheesy videos.

Even Sleeping

Oh Bravo

Homemade Valentine (in the perspective of the disciples after Jesus died)

Ok, I'm done.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Stereotypes: The American

Saturday is our busiest day at work. We are totally filled with lessons all day long. I really enjoy one of my morning lessons, an adult student "Julie." She's very friendly and talkative, and we usually just talk about different things. I'll correct her grammar and explain new words that I use or ones that she's heard during the week. She's also very interested in slang, so I've been compiling a list for her.

Anyway, during the last lesson the word "stereotype" came up. I told her what it was and then gave a few examples of different stereotypes (Americans are fat, Asians are hard on their kids, Germans are rude, etc.). After discussing it fairly thoroughly, we moved on.

At the end of our lesson, she told me, "When we first met, I thought you were a British girl." I asked her why she had thought that, and she said, "You are so nice and polite. All the American women on TV are very rude and selfish."

I wasn't quite sure what to say to that. I told her that TV isn't a very realistic because they want to have interesting characters. If all the TV shows were full of nice, normal people, who would want to watch it? They wouldn't have much for drama or intrigue. I mean, look at reality television. Yeah, it's "reality," but how many people actually act like that in real life? We're always intrigued and a bit horrified by their behavior. Did she really say that to him? Are they seriously in a fight? Producers tend to try to get volatile characters so that the show will be more interesting. It's "reality," but a hand-picked one.

It's kind of funny because I've talked with numerous Americans worrying about this very thing. We've always said that if others around the world judge us by movies and TV shows (especially TV shows) they would think we're awful people. They would think that us younger ones are obsessed with sex, drugs, and partying while the older ones are having affairs. Most families are broken, and dads are usually mean, stupid, or absent. We're also materialistic, cocky, and full of back-stabbing drama.

Of course, we are all those things. But not all the way. Yes, we are a very sexed society. Yes, divorce is rampant. Yes, we can be cocky. But that is not all of who we are. The problem with these shows and movies is that they often amplify our faults. We don't care because we say, "It's just TV; it's not supposed to be real." What about those people who have never met an American before? They have nothing to compare it to. Great.

In Julie's case, she developed a negative image of a whole people group. And this is Hong Kong, an international city! If she got the wrong idea living here, I can't image what others in more isolated countries think. Well, I guess I do know of one more example that was pretty awful. A friend of mine had a sister who was in Nepal with her husband. She said that she was constantly being groped when walking down the street. Apparently the guys there thought that all American girls were sluts so it would be ok. That's just awesome. Not.

It's no secret that Americans aren't exactly popular around the world. A lot goes into that. History, politics, wars, international business, lack of knowledge, and cultural differences are all contributors, and Hollywood certainly isn't helping matters. I don't really have a solution to this. It's not like I think we should force all directors to only make nice TV shows about us. Not only would that be wrong and propogandistic, it also would make for some boring and even more un-realistic TV. Yeah, I've got nothing.

All I know is that this sucks.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


So now I've been thinking about hope. Not really in the "never give up way" way. Although I do espouse that mindset, I'm really a "wake up and smell the bacon" type of person. No, you're probably not going to be the next J.K. Rowling. No NBA for you, pal. And no, he won't break up with her for you. Just saying.

Of course, I do recognize that hope is important. No one would ever write an award-winning novel or become a world-touring rock band if they hadn't believed it was possible. Some hopes are good because they keep you afloat. A person who is working a dead-end job and going to college at night has to believe that things will get better. Hope is good. At the same time, hope can betray you. My Nordic side can't forget about the others.

What about the aspiring actress that finally gave up and became a hooker? Or the athlete who was injured his senior year, losing his college scholarship and dreams of pro sports? Or the girl I recently wrote about who hoped that the relationship would lead to the altar but it really just left her heartbroken? These stories don't make for good movies, but they're reality.

The Bible even talks about this in Proverbs. "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." The problem is, then, that you can't choose which hope will be deferred or not. Will this hope lead you to the tree of life or to heartsickness? Hm.

I guess the key is putting your hopes in the right things. It's probably a good idea to try to be at least a bit sure of something before letting yourself get carried away in daydreams. If you want to be an NHL star but are always on the bench, that's not a good sign. It can happen, it's just not likely.

More importantly, God is ultimately where we should be putting our hope. Do you know how many times the Bible talks about putting our hope in the Lord? Well, I don't either, but I know it's a lot. If I were a good blogger, I probably would go look it up. But oh well. The point is that we should hope in God because only in him are our hopes safe. If our dream is to live for him, to praise him in suffering, and put aside our own ambitions for his sake, then we will never be disappointed. If our hope is truly in him, we can handle the heartbreaks and setbacks in life. We will never lose our hope.

Well, that's the end of my thoughts-related portion. On to the poetry portion. I've been thinking about writing a collection of poems where I would write three poems for each topic. Each of the three would treat the same topic in vastly different ways. Who knows if I'll actually finish the project, but I did write my first triplet on hope and hope-related things.

This one is about the struggle between emotion (which embraces hope) and logic (which tries to push hope away).

The Battle
Hope, that niggling mite, the cunning weed,
the worm that burrows into the core of a heart
and makes a home in the warm, red pump.
It's an infestation no amount of Raid will end.
So, the battle is on.
Brain v. Heart,
Brain, the favored contestant.
It stems the red tide with its
solid, unrelenting mass.
But blood bubbles up, overwhelming the gray matter
with crimson waves.
The brain rallies, slowly subduing each pulsing spurt
'til all that is left is a black puddle
and the taste of metal.
Hope is lost, banished to a far-off atria
to nurse its wounds
and plot its inevitable escape.

This is a look at how hope can often be duped.

The Same Story
in an annoyingly repetitive collection.
Hope is locked away in a tower of steel,
Swiss bank walls and bullet-proof glass.
To be kept from prowlers,
princes, hunters, knaves,
witches with apples,
meddling neighbors,
fairy godmothers and their so-called help.
Then comes a breach.
A prince with drills and ladders and wheedling declarations of love.
Poor Hope, pitiful, deluded Hope,
lets down her hair to let the loving liar inside
so he can pillage her jewels and cast her out,
flinging her to the roses
who take her sight in payment for the landing.
So the happy ending finds
the prince riding off with his loot
and Hope blindly wandering the wilderness,
weeping for her bullet-proof glass
and cursing boys and broken promises.

Ok, here is an optimistic one for those of you who like hope.

I Hold Hope Close
Not sewing it to my sleeve
or casting it about like a farmer planting seeds.
For sleeves soon rip
and seedlings die under searing sunlight.
I hold hope close,
tucked in the corner of my heart
and it lights the shadows of my life,
glowing in tears,
shining in laughter.
I hold hope close,
but I wait for the day
when hope has forever died.
Not swallowed up in darkness,
but faded into light.
For what was once hope
will simply be reality.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Music Monday: House of Heroes

I love House of Heroes, yes I do. They're not my typical ska or metalcore madness, but quite a solid alt rock band. I saw them in concert last year and was amazed that all three of them have such great voices! They were doing a sound check and all of them were belting it out! I never realized they had so much talent. Unfortunately, I've heard a couple stories about them letting fame get to their heads, but I've never met them so I can't substantiate the rumors.

I only recently found out that they have a new album (I'm living in a slight musical void at the moment), so I'm only discussing their older stuff which is awesome.

I really like their music and they way they mix sounds. In their song "In the Valley of the Dying Sun," they use several different singing styles, musical elements, and levels of intensity. It's like sound texture! They also have an intensity that doesn't come from harsh guitars and lots of drumming. Don't get me wrong, I love the head-banging intensity, but their style is very interesting, refreshing even.

One of my favorite things about them is their lyrics. They have very nicely written lyrics as well as awesome subjects. They go deeper than the run-of-the-mill party and love songs. They do have some about love, but it's love with a twist. In the song "If," the lyrics go "If you were mine I'd tear the altar down to all that I've lost to romance. If you were mine I'd risk my dignity if only to give love a chance." Sweet. "Pulling Back the Skin" is one of my favorites (and they didn't listen to Ian, Steph and I yelling for them to play it at the concert we went to; sad day). It's about a guy who's finding that his ex isn't exactly gone from his life. He doesn't really want her back, but he's still jealous of her. While not particularly pleasant, I thought the honesty was nice.

BUT the best lyrics, in my humble opinion, are their historical lyrics. I do think that artists tend to limit themselves a lot when writing songs. You can write songs about ANYTHING and they always tend to write about love, friends, hard times, sadness, alcohol, partying, etc. These are all well and good, but it's nice to see a bit of creativity. Their "Code Name: Raven" is about a French spy during WWII. The song begins "Maybe you'll see me on the evening news, maybe you'll see me with a bag over my head. If that's the case then I've met my doom. If that's the case then my comrades are dead." It's full of energy and lively lyrics. Wonderful!

I finally figured out how to post links here again (use Google Chrome, not Internet Explorer) so here are some more songs to enjoy.

In the Valley of the Dying Sun (music video)


Pulling Back the Skin

Code Name: Raven

Friday, October 29, 2010

Public Transport

For the most part, I love Hong Kong's public transport system. It's convenient, quick, and there are many different kinds. There's big buses, mini-buses, ferries, sampans (little ferries), taxis, the MTR (subway), and the tram (trolley). So many options.

I've had several people ask me if I thought Hong Kong was more convenient than the last place I lived. Well, not really. Maybe if I lived in another city I could say that. For a city, it is definitely convenient. But I don't think you can really compare it to a small town, or driving for that matter, because cars will always be more convenient. I'm not saying that public transport is bad, not at all. I think it's great to save gas and walk and take buses and all that. But it's a simple fact that in a car you go straight to your destination. You don't have to wait for your car to arrive, you don't stop for other people to get on (unless you're picking up hitch-hikers), you don't have to rely on the driver's speed. In Canon, it took me seven minutes to get to school and nine minutes to get to work. Here, I always leave at least forty minutes early for wherever I'm going. Just something to think about.

But now that I am car-less, I have fully embraced the range of transportation options here. I ride buses, for the most part. I pretty much use all of the options (well, taxis I only use when I'm with other people, but I suppose that still counts). The MTR doesn't reach out to where I live, although it should be here in about five years. Hooray. My favorite mode of transportation is mini-bus, since there's a stop just three blocks from my house. I use big buses too, but then I have to walk up a ton of stairs to get there. Yes, it's good exercise, but it's hard to make myself want to do it, so I stick to when I have to do it, like on Sunday mornings.

Thankfully for me, I work in Causeway Bay, where one of the min-buses goes! Usually it's a fairly simple matter of hopping on the bus and then jumping off at the gold dragon, yelling "Bassi cham, m goi" to tell the bus driver I want to be let off at the bus stop. Usually it's fine. Not yesterday.

In the middle of the day, think ten to two, traffic is light. There's no traffic in the tunnel, and the bus usually makes minimal stops to pick people up. Although I've been leaving forty minutes before work just in case, it generally only takes fifteen minutes to actually get there. I like to be safe, though. Yesterday I was running late and only left a half an hour early. Bad idea.

I know, I know, I should always expect something to go wrong. But the last ten times or so it's only taken fifteen minutes to get there! How was I to know I'd have the one mini-bus driver doesn't drive like a racecar maniac? Still, it was my fault.

I got to the stop at twelve, and no bus was there. That's not normal, but it does happen sometimes. Finally, the right bus pulls up and I hop on. Three other people get on behind me and we sit. These buses can hold sixteen people, but during non-traffic hours, three is enough for a driver to go. Not this one. He waited for ten minutes to see if anyone else would come. Then he slowly drives off down the street. We kept stopping to pick up more people, which is also normal, but not THAT many people at that time.

Finally, we were full, so I thought that he would speed it up. No. We were the absolute slowest vehicle on the road. EVERYTHING was passing us. Trucks, cars, big buses, vans, other mini-buses. I was like, "What is wrong with this guy?" We come up to a green light. Most people would accelerate when you see a green light. But no. This guy SLOWS DOWN! By time we're at the stop it's yellow, so of course he stops. Thanks.

The rest of the way there I was verbally yelling, "Drive faster! You're not a ninety-year-old woman! See how everything's passing you? Doesn't that tell you something?" But of course I was polite and kept quiet. He probably wouldn't've understood me anyway.

We finally made it out of the tunnel and to the golden dragon. I made it to work, but I was five minutes late for a lesson. A couple students and teachers told me that this school is flexible so they don't care that much if I'm five minutes late, but I care. I don't like to keep people waiting, especially if they're paying for my time. Sigh.

I guess I just need to make sure to always leave forty minutes early. I suppose I can take a book. Or steal a mini-bus and drive it myself.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Yes, I am skipping Music Monday today. To those of you who either don't like Music Monday or don't care, then you can rejoice. If there are any of you that actually like Music Monday, well, I'll get to it next week. And it will be good.

I actually wasn't going to post at all today. In fact, I just got out of bed to do it. I've been praying for some time tonight (in bed, of course) and I couldn't get this topic out of my mind, so I decided I should just get up and write it down before I actually fall asleep. Or type it. Whatever.

I recently finished reading Redeeming Love by Francene Rivers. I've read it before, but I brought precious few books over here, I don't have a library card, and that was one of the few novels my parents had lying around. So I read it again. For those of you who haven't read this popular Christian woman's novel, it's basically a retelling of the story of Hosea. God tells Michael, this young farmer (living in Old West California), to marry a prostitute, Angel. He does, and then he's in for quite the ride. Angel had been sold into prostitution at age eight and came with a lot of baggage. She didn't really want to be there at first, and she continually was running away from him. He kept trying to bring her back and assure her of his love. Just like Hosea, Michael's relationship with Angel mirrors God's relationship with us. We are always running back to the world, away from God, even though he offers us unconditional love, a better life, everything.

I'm sure that, like me, a lot of you have heard this before. I guess what really made it stand out in my mind tonight is when I attached it to heartbreak that I see in this world, in the lives of people I know.

Last summer, I worked at a camp with a dating couple. They worked in different areas of the camp and didn't always get to see much of each other. Even when they did, it was painfully obvious that something wasn't right. The guy was not that nice to her. She would ask him how his day had been or something little like that, and he would just brush her off. Although he was working hard at building relationships with other staff and his campers, he would never seek her out and work on their relationship. He basically abandoned her.

Their anniversary was during the summer, and the girl had been working all summer on this album of their first year together. When she finished it, she showed me and a couple others the finished product. It was beautiful, really. It showed them goofing off, dancing, him kissing her cheek, posing in front of the camp sign at the beginning of summer. While she turned one of the pages she said, "He used to like me a lot."

Oh! Such simple words, but the downcast eyes and slight hitch in her voice spoke volumes. I've never forgotten it.

It's been well over a year, but I can still hear her saying that. It plays back at me sometimes when I see a happy new couple, glowing with enthusiasm. He, too, once felt like that. When I see a girl crying over a recent breakup, I hear it. I definitely hear it when I learn about a new divorce casualty. They used to like each other a lot.

They broke up. Facebook told me that he's now engaged to someone else. I haven't kept in contact with her, but I wonder sometimes how she's doing. Did he break up with her (I assume so, since she was hoping to marry him)? How did it feel to learn he was dating someone else? Has she moved on or started dating anyone else?

This is just one story, but I think the sentiment is the same in many breakup stories. Whether it's a month-long relationship or a marriage, there is some degree of heartbreak involved in a separation. You believed in that person, gave them your love. You hoped that they would love you back as much as you loved them. Then the ugly truth becomes apparent, the beautiful dreams torn to pieces. They don't love you anymore.

God feels this way too. In the very beginning of time, Adam and Eve rejected God's plan for their life. Hearbreak. In Noah's day, God was grieved because man had abandoned him to live only for themselves. Heartbreak. In the book of Hosea (and most of the Old Testament, for that matter), all of Israel had traded in God for other lovers, their idols. Hearbreak.

This makes me wonder about my own life. Does God ever grieve over me? When I go for long periods of time without praying or spending time with him, does he miss me? When I'm wandering and ignoring him, does he ever say "She used to like me a lot"?

I don't want to break God's heart. I want to love him with an everlasting love. I want to make him glad that I love him back, that I'm faithful. As the old song goes, I pray that God "bind my wandering heart to Thee." Of course, I can only humbly thank God that he has a neverending patience with my failings. He is the ever-enduring lover, always welcoming me back with gladness when I return after a bout of unfaithfulness.

Thank you, God, for you know I don't deserve this. Thank you for your love and your patience to deal with the heartbreak I give you.

I love you.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

On Anger

I've never thought of myself as an angry person. And really, I'm not. Anger is a very rare, fleeting emotion with me. If someone does something mean or unkind to me, I'm more likely to feel sad or kind of annoyed or just shrug it off totally. I let things float past me easily. Some people live with their emotions close to the surface. They anger easily, but it also leaves them quickly. For me, I think hold my emotions a bit deeper. Most stuff won't make it down far enough to affect me majorly, but when it does, it stays. For a long time.

Just the other day I was lying in bed in that wonderful drowsy state before I actually succumb to sleep, letting my mind wander as it pleased. In those times, my mind usually flits from thoughts about my day to plans for the future to books or movies to memories of the past or who knows what else. For some reason, it stopped on an angry memory. I was at once awake. Although it had happened almost two years ago, I was almost as angry thinking about the memory as I had been during the actual incident.

Really, it was such a small thing, and I doubt anyone but me even gave it a second thought. I used to be the Food Forum moderator for my college's website. Although forums are notorious for becoming heated, I figured not much contraversy could be stirred up over food. I mean, probably the worst would be whether carbonated beverages should be called soda, pop, or Coke (it's pop, by the way). Anyway, one day I started a thread asking about people's favorite restaurants. I don't even remember all that I put down, but I'm pretty sure Chili's was on there (for their Chicken Crispers) and possibly Fazzoli's (breadsticks). When I went back later to see who responded, there were several different restaurants posted, but also an interesting comment on my orignal post. This person had written that not everyone had Daddy's credit card so they can't eat out whenever they wanted to.

Such a small thing, but it made me so pissed. I remember all sorts of indignant thoughts bubbling up. My family almost never went out to eat as a kid, except maybe the occasional 99 cent fast-food burgers on road trips. On my own at college (at that point), I went out much more--once every couple of months. I've never owned a credit card. Besides that, I had never asked my parents for money while in college. If I didn't have much money, I would deal. And this person had the nerve to insinuate that I was a spoiled rich girl who manipulated my parents into giving me money instead of earning my own.

While lying in bed the other night, I stopped my silent tirade to really analyze it. Why was I angry? What was it about that comment that upset me so much? I think that all comes down to my pride in my independence. Ever since I turned eighteen, I've thought of myself as an adult in some sense. When someone else would talk about getting their parents to take them shopping for clothes, I would look down at my thrift store/bargain outfits and smile quietly to myself. I may not have been as fashionable as them, but at least my clothes were mine. Whenever faculty would make jokes about college kids calling home for money, I would smugly think that that would never be me. And, at least for the first three years of college, it wasn't (breaking my wrists kind of changed that, as well as moving to another country with no money).

But really, that's a silly attitude to have and a stupid reason to get angry. That's the independent attitude that they always say Americans are blessed/cursed with. I'm not saying it's always bad. God does tell us to work with our own hands and support ourselves. None of us are supposed to be lazy. And hey, an independent attitude gets things done sometimes. On the other hand, the Christian life is definitely the opposite of self-reliance.

I've been learning a lot about self-reliance over the past couple years. I still like parts of it. I think it's good not to rely on other people too much. Too often have I seen others who base their decisions, self-esteem and happiness on others. Yeah, that fails. At the same time, our reliance shouldn't really be on ourselves; it should be in God. But I digress. I've already written a whole post on lessons in dependence (typed during the time of my broken wrists, of course). Basically, I've learned that I shouldn't get upset when someone calls me dependent. As a Christian, I should be dependent!

Then there's my other anger incidents. Again, they don't happen often. Most of them stem from someone being a jerk to others. I can still boil when I think how one of my high school teachers treated some of us. My freshman year of college I got majorly pissed at some JBU students who were jeering the other team at a basketball game. They were going way beyond spirited ribbing; they were cruelly taunting individual players, especially targeting their looks. Oh, I was angry. I never forgot the students who did it, and it affected how I thought about them for the rest of college. In those cases, I don't think I was wrong to get angry. They were obviously out of line. What was wrong was holding onto it so long. That isn't righteous anger; that's a grudge.

So how do I change? With God's help, only. Starting a couple years ago, I began praying whenever old, mouldering angry thoughts arise. It really has helped. Sure, sometime things get me angry still, but I don't hold onto it as much. I can let it go.

Still, don't call a basketball player with corn-rows a tire-head in front of me. Just don't. You sound stupid anyway.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Swing Kids

I just got back from swing dancing! Yep, swing dancing in Hong Kong. This really is the city that has everything (well, except for cheap Mexican food). Two friends from church invited me. Apparently the swing madness happens every Wednesday, and it's free! It's in the basement of Jardine's House in a place called Grappa's Cellar. It's also a restaurant, so there were diners and waiters around the place. Occasionally one of us would bump into a waiter, but it seemed to work out ok.

Even though I've danced swing for years, I kind of felt like a beginner tonight. First of all, I haven't danced for eight months or so. Forever, basically. So I was a bit out of the zone. Also, JBU swing favors the simple basic (or whatever it's called) while the people tonight liked the quickstep and some other pointing toe-step. I was a little messed up on things like spins since I didn't always know what to do with my feet with the different steps. I would automatically revert to the simple basic and then would be messed up. But I suppose practice makes better.

Still, it was really fun! Although there were more girls than guys, it was much more even than what I'm used to. Also, everyone did a very good job of circulating and dancing with different people. Awesome! Although most of the people there were in their twenties and thirties, there were a couple of older and younger people. I even danced with a high schooler and a middle schooler! They get a lot of points in my book for being gutsy enough to go to a mainly adult swing club.

This makes me want to watch Swing Kids again. I'll have to troll the internet and see if I can find it.

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Music Monday: Becoming the Archetype

Ok, I confess that this is about Becoming the Archetype just because BA is the only band I've listened to today. I had some other great ideas (well, "great" in my mind at least) for today's Music Monday, but now it's late, I've spent most of the night working on tomorrow's lesson, and I need to go to bed. Lame, I know. I've failed you all. And most importantly, I've failed myself.

Ok, cutting the dramatic crap, Becoming the Archetype is an absolutely amazing band. Yes, they are metalcore, so I know a lot of you won't like them. But you know I had to talk about metalcore eventually, right? I mean, look at all the other MM posts in which I abstained.

Back to Becoming the Archetype. I really enjoy their music, and they are one of the clearest metalcore bands I've ever listened to. I don't have to concentrate at all to understand them! Their version of "How Great Thou Art" is just amazing. If you feel like listening to it, here's the link (the comment on the screen is kind of amusing). See how clear they are? And I love their instrumental intro.

And for those of you who don't like screaming, they also do some instrumental stuff too that is pretty nice. The first one is called Night's Sorrow and the second one is called Nocturne.

See? Something for the whole family. Now I'm going to bed.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oh, Meditation

Recently my friend Dulcina and I decided to meet weekly to discuss a Christian book we're both reading, Spiritual Classics by Richard Foster. I'm super excited about this book, as well as having someone to go through it with. I bought it last summer at an awesome Christian coffee shop in Gunnison. It has sections on all of the major spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, service, solitude, and confession.

Dulcina and I started comparing notes on Monday. The first two sections we read were on meditation and contemplation. I have to say, I think meditation is definitely one of the neglected disciplines. I mean, I've occasionally heard a pastor or speaker mention that we should meditate on God's word, but that's about it. I've never really known the nuts and bolts of how it's done.

The first section we read was written by Thomas More, an awesome dude who stood up to King Henry the Eighth (to six spouses was wedded. One died, one survived, two divorced, and two beheaded. Sorry, this always pops into my head whenever I hear King Henry the Eighth) and told him that it was wrong to divorce his wife and make himself head of the church. For his boldness, he was executed. But they do say that he went to his death gracefully, even joking with his executioners. Sounds like a good guy to me.

His work was a poem of some of his own meditations called "A Godly Meditation," and it almost takes my breath away. Each one of his lines is just amazing and full of depth. For example, he writes,

Gladly to be thinking of God,
Piteously to call for his help,
To lean unto the comfort of God,
Busily to labor to love him.

I mean, seriously. Am I really always glad to think of God? Do I eagerly turn my mind to him during the day? And what about "piteously to call for his help." His use of "piteously" reminds me exactly of my helpless position in this world. What can I do on my own? If I think that I can live life on my own, I find that I'm utterly mistaken and have to call for his help. I could go on, but I won't. Basically, More's whole poem is awesome. You should buy the book and read it.

The next section is written by Joyce Huggett. I'd never heard of her before, but I'm glad that I read her section. She actually explains the difference between meditation and contemplation (the former is more focused on scripture while the latter is more focused on God's love) and tells you practically how to do it yourself. Awesome stuff.

For me personally, I think mediation is easier. The point of meditation is to take a bit of head knowledge and roll it around it our heads until it "trickles down to our hearts." With meditation, I have something tangible to think about, to focus on. Contemplation, on the other hand, is hard for me to grasp. Instead of words, you're supposed to focus on God's love and let its reality envelop you. That seems so much more intangible, and I know I haven't "gotten" it. Although, I suppose that is the point of a discipline; it's hard and you have to practice it.

So I'd love to hear from you guys. Have any of you read anything from either of these guys? Or have you read/learned anything else about meditation and contemplation?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Music Monday: Run Joey Run

Confession: I got hooked on Glee last year. Sure, it's kind of a mix between High School Musical and a soap opera, but it's still very hookable. Besides incredibly ridiculous (yet hilarious) characters, it also has some fun musical numbers. And yes, I like musicals.

I was quite saddened to find that doesn't work overseas. I use other sites to watch certain tv shows, but Glee isn't on any of them. My dad recently figured out that it does show on tv at certain times, but I hate starting a show in the middle of a season. I've decided to wait until I go back and then watch the whole season. Maybe even in one sitting (assuming I could stand all of that high school drama in one sitting).

I have watched a couple clips of some of the songs, and I really liked the Run Joey Run redo. It was totally over-the-top and hilarious. I especially love the end part where it shows the three different guys speed-walking down the misty corridor. Too funny.

I looked up the original song, and it was done by David Geddes. It was a US Top 5 hit in 1975. After listening to the original, I have to say that I like the Glee version WAY better. The guy's voice is ok, but I like the sound and emotion better in the Glee version. Also, as several netizens pointed out, the original girl sounds like a nine-year-old boy with a stuffy nose. Basically, she sounds like Justin Bieber. Someone even made a video of Justin "singing" this part.

But I'll let you guys decide for yourselves. Original or Glee-ified?



PS: It looks like the boy drama in this episode is ridiculous.
PPS: The actors playing Fin and Puck are WAY too old to be playing high schoolers.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Real Hitch: Professional Pick-up Artists

I'm sure most of you have seen the movie "Hitch", a popular option for Friday night entertainment. For those of you who haven't, the story revolves around Alex "Hitch" Hitchens (Will Smith) who is a dating coach. He takes insecure, clueless men and helps them land dates, even relationships. He advises them on the first contact, their personal style, dancing, kissing, women signals, etc. He takes a chump and turns out a Casanova.

While I always thought it was a fun movie, I never knew that such coaches existed. I recently discovered that there's a whole "seduction community" with "professional pick-up artists." These PUAs write books, run blogs, and teach seminars that focus on helping men land women. Neil Strass, a famous PUA, wrote a book called "The Game" that explored the seduction community, following leading PUAs around on their daily pick-ups. Mystery, one of the most famous PUAs, even has his own reality tv show called (surprise, surprise) "The Pickup Artist" where he takes Average Frustrated Chumps (AFCs) and teaches them how to be a real pick-up artist. Both Strauss and Mystery have had numerous articles written on them and were both featured (separately) on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

I was curious about this "seduction community" so I read a couple of articles and watched a few episodes of Mystery's show. At first glance, I thought it was terrible. At second glance, I thought it could be a great thing. At third glance, I decided that the seduction community has, as does everything, a good and bad side to it.

Let's start with the good. I really think that a lot of things that I saw on the show could be very helpful for guys. Mystery worked a lot with the guys on self-confidence and self-esteem. He showed them that it wasn't just about getting women to like them; it was also about respecting themselves. The confidence they learned not only helped them with women but also with people in general . They learned to communicate.

I also think it's good that it gives nice guys a fighting chance. Maybe a guy is nice, but he doesn't know the tricks that other guys do. He doesn't have the natural talent or confidence to just walk up to a woman and start a conversation. Maybe they'd get along great. Maybe they'd make a wonderful couple. But they have to meet somehow, and that can often be the hard part.

Sometimes these guys are slammed for using canned openers (the ways they begin a conversation with a woman or group). They'll share interesting questions or stories to start conversations. True, these aren't terribly original (and maybe even a bit dis-honest), but it does help initiate contact. In the words of Hitch, "Does it ever occur to women that maybe a guy might like to have a plan, you know, because he's nervous? He's not sure that he could just walk up to you and you'd respond if he said "I like you."" He's right. Most women would not respond well to that, because they don't know the guy. Maybe those canned lines will give them both a chance to get to know each other so the woman can make a fair judgment.

In my personal opinion the best aspect of the seduction community is that it teaches guys how to read women's signals. I think that's awesome. I mean, how many times have you beamed sympathetic thoughts to an uninterested yet ever-so-polite girl that is listening to an enthusiastic yet ever-so-clueless guy. Or tried to think of an excuse that isn't a lie for not giving a guy your number or meeting him later. OR, on the other end of the spectrum, seen a googly-eyed girl hang on the every word of some poor schmuck who never even takes the hint. Yeah, it happens all the time. And guys like Mystery are trying to give other guys a clue. I think they could use it.

There are definitely downsides to the seduction community. Sure, some PUAs are looking for the girl of their dreams. They use their new knowledge to try to make friends and ultimately find a girlfriend. But, for every good-hearted Romeo, there are plenty of chauvinistic slimesters trying to manipulate their way into girls' pants. They know how to read the signs, use just the right amount of friendly touching, make their target emotionally safe, and suggest that the women go with them at the right time.

Then there's the whole objectification thing. What do these women really mean to PUAs? Do these men actually care about the girls or do they just appear to care as one of their techniques? Is each new woman just a conquest that will raise their credibility as a pick-up artist? I don't know. I know that some just want a normal relationship and need the tools to achieve that, but others seem to have their hearts set on being man-whores.

I do have to admit that despite all the bad things that comes along with PUAs, some of their openers are pretty great. For example, here's a clip of Neil Strass (a seemingly likeable guy) demonstrating the Five Question Opener. I thought it was very creative.
See? That's just fun.

So if a guy ever comes up to you in coffee shop with one of those amusing games or anecdotes, know that he probably isn't that funny on his own. But then again, maybe it doesn't matter.