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Showing posts from 2013

Now that's a good start to a shift

"So what do you do when you're not working at Panera?" I asked one of my coworkers this morning.  Most people react to this question as if they're not sure where I'm going with it, but mostly I'm just curious.  I like to know something about the people I'm spending hours with on a daily basis.

"You know," she said, "sleep off working at Panera --" she often is there before I am, even on days when I work opening, "--cook for my family, clean up the house...go to bed.  Sometimes I do stuff with friends.  What about you, what do you do?"

"Cook," I said.  "Read... I'm working on applying to grad schools.  I actually did submit one yesterday, because that was the deadline."

She laughed.  "What are you going to grad school for?"

"Maybe political science, maybe something with languages and literature --"

"Really?" she said, suddenly interested.  "That's what I want to do, lin…

Bucket Lists, Books, and Random Thoughts

I've never really kept a bucket list, I think partly because I don't like being disappointed, and making a bucket list seemed too -- vulnerable?  too much like setting myself up for disappointment?  -- I don't know.  Too something.  But lately, my mind feels like a continual bucket list generator, constantly thinking of statements that start with I want...

I want to get a kitten.  (Grey.  Or black.  Probably because it's the most cuddly pet that is feasible right now.)
I want to go back to Israel.  (Preferably for a few years.)
I want to see my friends in China.
I want to get a tattoo.  (Of what?  I don't know.  An ichthus?  A cross?  Xaris [in Greek] and Shalom [in Hebrew]?  You see why I stick to sharpies.)
I want to get a PhD degree.
I want to get married and have kids.
I want to actually get the massive story that I've been working on with friends for the past few years into readable order.
I want to cook all the things. (Well, maybe not quite... but not so far …

Four quotes

I love finding quotes that, at some point in the past, I found interesting enough to write down.
Here are a few that had been stored on my old computer.
"There is no longer earth-bound purity."  
"If a man asked what was the point of playing football it would not be much good saying,  'in order to score goals', for trying to score goals is the game itself, not the reason for the game, and you would really only be saying  that football was football  --which is true, but not worth saying."
"She still believed in words so much.   Farid believed in other things:   in his knife, in courage and cunning.   And in friendship." 


"Every time you decide, there is loss, no matter how you decide.   It's always a question of what you cannot afford to lose." 

Wedding!

I met Amy during our first week at college, on a bus trip heading into Pittsburgh.  I got to know her better later because we had a lot of mutual friends.

I met Tyler during our junior year, I think; we were going on the same trip to Aliquippa.  He and Amy were maybe interested in each other and Amy asked me to keep an eye on him during the week and let her know what I thought of him.

I was impressed.

Today I went to their wedding.  It must have been nearly a year ago when Tyler sent me a message on facebook, asking if I expected to be back in America in October 2013.  Up until that point, I didn't think I had much committing me one way or another.  But I said yes.  I really wanted to be at their wedding.

When I think about either of them, my mind fills with memories -- evenings with Amy in Schoolhouse, talking about life; drives with Tyler around Aliquippa, too many quotes to record, having hot soup slosh all over me and wearing his spare rain pants for the evening.

There was a deep j…

Two perspectives

Today I got an email from friends who live in Changchun, asking that we remember the city (and the people who live there) because the air pollution levels are extremely high right now.  It's over 400 on a scale that goes up to 500... the current level is called "very hazardous," and they said it's the worst they've seen in the ten years they have lived in Changchun.

I can imagine to some degree.  There were a couple of days last year that it was just nasty, but nothing as bad as what they have right now.  It's gross to go outside and you think what am I breathing?  GAK!

Not too long later, I got a message from a dear friend who's a student at Huaqiao, telling me about how her birthday had been.  The last message she sent read:  "It's been foggy all day and it's beautiful."

Yes, the pollution needs to be cleaned up.  A lot of life is like that... filled with real problems that pose real dangers.  But often the solutions are not going to come…

Some thoughts on contentment.

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I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content, wrote Paul.

I have not.

I was thinking about this last week because I was feeling really discontent.  I have a job, but I don't have enough hours yet to be making much money.  Also, let's face it: somehow making sandwiches at Panera is a little less glamorous than teaching at a university in China.  It doesn't exactly have the same ring of I'm doing awesome things when I tell people what my job is.

I like people thinking that I'm doing awesome things!  I enjoy feeling that my life is an adventure.  And while  a bus ride to find cheese in China seems like an undertaking worthy of epic theme music, a bus ride in Ohio usually seems like a nuisance.

See what I mean?  I haven't learned to be content very well.

But at some point last week, when all of this was sort of bubbling around in my head, it occurred to me that I was being ridiculous.


I don't have to deal with the daily frustration of not being able to ex…

Same same... but different. (Pumpkin edition)

So, last year in China, I really wanted pumpkin.  Pumpkin anything.  Pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pancakes.

The difficulty was that (as far as I could find) Changchun is not exactly full of cans of pumpkin waiting to be used.  Solution: I bought a small pumpkin, hacked it open with one of my multiple cleaver style knives, baked it like crazy and smashed it up into glorious pumpkin puree.

This was a fairly easy and relatively painless process (i.e. I did not drop the pumpkin on my toe or put my hand in the way of the large knife.)  So this year, I said, "Hey!  Let's get a pumpkin!  I want to make pumpkin things."

We got a pumpkin.

It sat on the counter for... um... three weeks?  Something like that.

Please understand, this is not because I lost interest in turning it into pumpkin puree.  I had just underestimated the importance of the tool that I used last year.  Somehow, the paring knife just... wasn't cutting it.  I tried stabbing it and the knife sort of wob…

Book Report

Since I'm not working many hours yet, and since I'm living in apartment with quite a few books I've never read before (and close to a bunch of awesome libraries)... I've been reading a bunch.

I'm sure that you're all shocked.

So here's what I've read in the past month.

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The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

Since Mom reads the Happiness Project blog and sends me random things from it sometimes and talks about it, when I saw her book sitting on the shelf, I decided I may as well read it.  It was fun -- she writes very conversationally and has some good and motivating ideas.  I wouldn't say it was life-changing, but there you go.  It's worth reading, or skimming at least... but probably not buying.

Lulu in the Sky by Loung Ung

After being in Asia, I find that I'm way more interested in reading other books about... Asian things.  Duh.  Anyway, my friend Dominic's passion for Cambodia made me really curious to learn more about the country, c…

All the Things!

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Most days, there is no shortage of things that I want to do and things that I need to do and things that I ought to do.  Being bored really is not usually a problem.  (I mean... there are more books to read... there are more languages to work on...foods to cook...)

I think that chaotic combination of way too many things is a huge part of what I love about story writing.  It's probably true of any kind of creative crafting -- everything sort of layers together and one thing leads to another and before you know it, you're in over your head.

Recent example:  I decided that characters should have some sort of tattoo indicating what religion they follow.  This led to quite a lot of obvious questions (such as how did I want to divide up the religions and what do the tattoos look like and is there a standard placement for them?) and then some connected questions (what does modesty look like? what is the climate like?) and then some google searches like exercise clothing in Thailand and…

Waiting to Cross

I was on the corner of the sidewalk, waiting for the signal to cross the street.  Next to me was a man who had been there when I crossed the first time; his job was to bounce around a sign advertising $5 pizza at Little Caesar's.  I was not especially inclined to talk to him for at least these two reasons:

There are a lot of sketchy people.  (I could have a blog of bus "friend" stories.) I don't live in Detroit, but the area here isn't the most, uh, friendly and reputable either.I was kind of in a hurry to get across the street and to my interview at Panera.
Am I wasting my time just standing here?

Shouldn't I be talking to him?

The questions came into my mind suddenly.  But I'm in America now, I don't have status as a "foreign expert" that I do in China -- why would he listen to me?

And what would I say, anyway?  "Hello, sir, you look kind of sketchy and I look like a high school student (or maybe college, if you're feeling generous) bu…

Kid Hotel

Showing a picture of my siblings to my students generally resulted in great reactions.  Faced with a situation that even many Americans feel awkward about responding to (“Boy, uh, your sister looks a little... darker than you...?") Chinese students often went the route of a confused series of glances between the pictures and me.
I know, we don't look much alike.
I wouldn't trade them for anything.
There are so many things that I love about my sibs, things that make me realize what an incredible blessing they have been in my life.  Having four siblings is stressful.  Being the oldest is stressful.
But I really wouldn't trade it for anything.
I thought about this today while AJ was driving me all over creation as we did crazy missions getting last minute gifts for Mom's birthday.
I thought about it when C was lounging on my bed, working on making the list that I was dictating to her, filling in categories of ways she could spend her free time.
I thought about it tonight wh…