Thursday, December 24, 2009


I'm busy enjoying my Tennessee Christmas, which came complete with a snowstorm that kept us at home for several days (though it was a few days early...I'm still glad that we had a White Pre-Christmas, if not a White Christmas). It's been great to see all the old ornaments and enjoy time relaxing with family and just getting that much needed rest. Many Christmas Blessings to any of you who still read this!

In keeping with one of the colors of this season, I thought I'd post some pics of China that I've taken lately. The theme is, quite obviously, RED.

Boats on French Street, Wuhan

Photo Shoot at Temple of Heaven, Beijing

Child playing at Temple of Heaven, Beijing

Everyday construction, Wuhan

On the street where I live, Wuhan

Everyday construction decked out for 60th Anniversary, Oct 1, 2009, Wuhan

Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of PRC, 10/1/09.
On the street where I live, Wuhan

10/1/09, Wuhan

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Photos from Xi'an!!!

As promised, I'm FINALLY adding some pictures to my overly-wordy blog. Here are some shots from my last trip to Xi'an. Enjoy!

This little girl was flying kites near the Drum Tower. I love her

A pillar inside the Great Mosque in the Muslim Quarter. The Great Mosque is really interesting in the way it combines Chinese and Islamic architecture.

The Big Goose Pagoda. Xi'an was the end point of the Silk Road and you can really see the influence here...the simplicity is of this pagoda is unique in China.

Trying out the local cuisine...this is Yangrou Paomo. It's a soup with lamb and bread pieces and tastes really good.

Finally on our way to see the Terracotta Warriors. They take you first to the workshop where they make replicas. Soooo fun.

Warriors, warriors, all around...

but not a drop to drink.

This is the farmer who ACTUALLY FOUND the Terracotta Army...he was just digging a well and pulled up a head. Now he comes into the museum whenever he feels like it and signs copies of his book.

Seeing the warriors for the first time. This is Pit 1, the largest.

I had a picture of this guy in my 6th grade history book.

Like I said in my post about the trip, I was most fascinated by the pits where the warriors had not yet been restored. Notice the warrior buried up to his shoulders...

Notice the lone face emerging from the mud in the middle.

Xi'an is one of the only cities to still have its old city walls. We spent a little while walking around on top and I got this shot of this guy napping in the shadows of the wall.

Katera and I on our way out of the city. We got a motorized tuk-tuk to get to the train station when there were no free taxis.
More photos of China to come!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Home again, home again, jiggidy jog.

I've been back for a week now and am finally feeling able to rejoin the world. Jetlag this time round has been much more pronounced than I remember it last time. It's getting better bit by bit, but man, I've been sleeeeeeeppy!

My first week back has been all that it needed to be. I began the week at my aunt and uncle's house in Charlotte and was able to catch up with family and with Katie and David, a couple who I worked with in China last year who are now dear family to me too...then mom and I "bopped" down to Atlanta for a day. Mom's a huge fan of this blog where the blogger has now made a cookbook and was doing a book signing tour around the South, so we went to see her and to check out the shopping in ATL. I was too wiped out to go to the book signing, but did manage to do some damage in Macy's and Bloomingdales the next day. When you've been surrounded by Chinese fashion and have been wearing the same clothes for 2.5 years, it's amazing the pull that shopping now has! Then we drove back to my hometown and I've been resting and enjoying the couch and the driving for a few days.

Here are a few random thoughts from the first week back:

--I may have mentioned this last year, but the feeling when you first arrive in the airport in San Fransisco or LA is o.v.e.r.w.h.e.l.m.i.n.g. After alllll that time living among people who speak in a language that you have no hope of understanding, suddenly your ears are FILLED with the english-speaking conversations of everyone around you. It's like when you get glasses after going for a long time with fuzzy vision--all of a sudden you can see EVERY leaf on EVERY tree and EVERY blade of grass. You cannot tune out the conversations of those sitting on the other side of the waiting room, much less those right beside you. It almost makes me feel like I'm going mentally insane...all those WORDS...all around...that I understand.

At first it's kind of fun, but it quickly becomes annoying...because, you know what, people can be obnoxious. They say dumb things. I do not exclude myself from this category of "people"...but yeah, sometimes being able to tune people out is a good thing. And it takes a few days to regain that ability.

--Speaking of obnoxious, I have an impulse to tell EVERYONE that I've been living in China for 2.5 years and have been gone from the States for 1.5 years. And to repeat it many times. In an obviously showing-off way. Some times it's out of the counter of the sub shop in San Fransisco when I was about to eat my first authentically American-made deli sandwich in a year and a half--I was so excited that I was grinning from ear to ear like an idiot and felt the need to explain my ridiculous joy in the corned beef and rye that I was ordering. But then other times, like when I'm standing in line at Kroger, there's no reason to tell the person behind me in line that this is the first supermarket trip I've made in so's absurd. I do restrain myself alot of the time, but sometimes the obnoxious comment pokes through anyway.

--It's insanely gorgeous here in East Tennessee. Yes, it's the beginning of winter and yes, the trees are bare, but this is seriously one of the most beautiful places I know. There are soooo many colors...even with the leaves already fallen, there are just sooo many colors. And the sky is SO BLUE. Even this morning with cloudy skies and rain, the clouds were grey and's just so different from the dingy smog-covered skies that cover Wuhan. Even when we get days with "blue sky," they don't compare to what we have here. Apparently, I'm one of the only ones who sees all of this...I keep telling mom, "Oh, that's so pretty." and she replies, "WHAT are you looking at?!" and I point out some random hillside or patch of woods that are probably nothing special...but I'm happy to be looking at it.

--There's a lot of junk available here. Now, I have a few qualifiers to this comment: there is very possibly JUST AS MUCH entertainment industry junk in China, I just don't understand it. Also I enjoy some basic celebrity gossip and cheap junk food as much as the next person. For heavens sake, I've watched all the seasons of Gossip Girl! So I'm not superior about this one...but goodness! There are soooo many different outlets for just plain junk over here. Whether it's food or entertainment or just stuff....the shear VOLUME of it all is overwhelming. It makes me want to not get a tv when I come back to the States. But I'm sure I will. And I'm sure that I'll sit with the rest of the masses and watch all about Tiger Woods and his many mistakes. But I wish that I wouldn't.

Here's the thing, right now, I'm on vacation. So yes, I'm going to watch some of the junk, and I'm going to eat some of the junk, and I'm going to buy some of the junk. And I'll feel ok about it because I'm about to return to a much less junked up lifestyle; where the TV I watch is what I buy on DVDs, where the food I eat is made from scratch and fresh vegetables and high fructose corn syrup is much less present, and where I don't buy many things because most of the things I would want to buy aren't sold in Wuhan. BUT--the REAL challenge is for all of you who are here, and for me when I return to the States to live.

In China, it feels like you have to make an effort to FIND the junk: I have to actively search to read the internet stories of celebrity misconduct, I have to go to the import stores (and walk quite a way to get to the bus or taxi) to buy the unhealthy snacks (ok...not totally true since I CAN now order some fast food for delivery...but it's more expensive so there is still some personal prohibition), and I have to actively search for junk that I would really want to bring into my house.

Here in the's all THROWN at you!! All this junk is SHOVED in your face all the time everywhere! Why read a book when you could watch E!? Why buy fruit and cut it up and serve it with yogurt when you could have it already blended into a "healthy smoothie"...although the smoothie comes with massively high levels of sugar and dye and artificial flavoring? Why conserve and save the environment when you could buy millions of throw away one-use items for oh so cheap!? It just feels like it would be sooo much harder to live simply here. My mom does a good job of it though, and I'm grateful for her example. I just hope I can show such discipline when I return. And again--this is not coming from a "judge-y"'s coming from a perspective of knowing how easy i would give in to it all and quickly have a life that it just filled up with junk. I'm grateful that China has taught me so much about a more simple lifestyle.

--I can't stop driving. Seriously, on the way home, when I'm supposed to turn right to go home and park the car, I can't. I love it sooo much that I end up circling the house twice before I can actually stop. Driving is one of my favorite things in the whole world. And I love being back in my hometown, this little place full of so much of my personal history, so many memories of friends and loves and fun times on these roads that I just keep circling them and laughing and singing along to my music again. It's really lovely. I'm so glad to be back.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

quick update

I'll write a real post soon, am currently just trying to recover from jetlag and alllll that travel! But since I'm back in the States, I've finally been able to add some photos to facebook...will try to add some on here soon! While you're waiting though, you can check out this album of my trip to Xian and the Terracotta Warriors here! Hope you enjoy!!