Saturday, December 29

Holiday Link Fun

It's a little late for this link, but it might still be fun. Mix your own holiday music tracks here.

My sister's house is just down the street from a yard that is famous for the inflatable holiday yard decorations (for every holiday, not just Christmas). So, I got a kick out of looking at the photos I saw on this link on blogger's blogs of note yesterday.

I'm excited that My Dear Aquaintance (A Happy New Year) by Regina Spektor is a free single on itunes this week.

One of my Christmas gifts, inspired by Advent Conspiracy was from this catalog. I have become the hard-to-buy-for person because I can't carry a lot of stuff around with me. I don't mind being difficult in this way and would be happy if we could turn all of our Christmas giving into giving to others instead of to each other because we have so much!

This isn't actually a holiday link, but check out this fun origami done with money.

Tuesday, December 18

Gingerbread House Party

Last weekend I went to a gingerbread house making party. I wanted to try my hand at rolling my own kimbap, so I did and took it, with kimchi in the middle. It was yummy. I had been craving some Korean food and this hit the spot. It mostly went over well. Everybody called it sushi (it's not, but most people don't have another word to call it) and most people tried it, but I did have some left to take back to my cousin who was glad to have it.

We had four groups competing to build the best gingerbread house (they were really graham crakers instead of gingerbread).

We were lucky to have a guy who built our house to California earthquake standards.

We also had a guy who put a firepit and bench in the backyard. He said he'd like to "take a lady out there."

Our main competition was this pueblo style house that they said was SANTA Fe style. We watched Shrek the Halls afterwards and had a fun time.

Friday, December 14

a little crying, a lot of waiting

My cousin told me I can blame it on it being the holidays. I don't think that's the reason, but I've recently cried while watching Paul Potts on Youtube last week, today while finishing A Thousand Splendid Suns, and when I watched Into the Wild and Bella a few weeks ago.

No common thread really. A really normal guy who gets recognition for doing what he loves, realizing a dream. A story of hurt lives and a father's love that was shown too late. A guy with such potential to bring something meaningful to the world but ended up missing it. A wonderful movie about life and the potential to give it.

When I lived in Korea, I went to watch the movie Tae Guk Gi in a theater with some friends and ended up bawling at the end of the movie. I'm normally pretty successful at holding it in (today I didn't let myself really cry because I didn't want my Grandma to get worried!), but that movie really hit me somehow. Two of my friends even rode part of the way back with me on the subway instead of hanging out with the others after the movie that night because they were worried about me. I still have one friend who brings it up sometimes when others ask about my interest in Korea. But I haven't known much of that same passion to well up again until recently.

I am starting to feel like my time in the States should be drawing to a close, but I still have to wait a little longer. At the same time, I know that time here has been good in many ways. I've been able to soak in time alone, think, struggle with my purpose, allow some of the dryness I was feeling to be replaced with living water. Maybe that's where the tears are coming from. Maybe, even though I'm ready to go, I'm supposed to wait a little longer. Not too long, I hope. I really do think if I have to pick a theme for my life, it's waiting. Maybe that's the theme for many of us if we'll allow ourselves to realize it. There's a lot to learn in waiting.

Wednesday, December 12

e-mail from my Chinese tutor

I got an e-mail from my Chinese tutor today and I love it.

Long time no see,i miss you so much.
How are you going? and what about your sister's baby?
when will you come back to china? want to see you as soon as possible.
now i am looking for a job,but it is difficult, i want to Shanghai,but my spoken english isn't well, and i also not pass the CET-6. in shanghai, it is important, now i am not-confident, some campany come to my school to recruit the students, i attent the application. at the interview,the manager said that :you are excellent, you are better than any other students,but we only need some people who know korean, and you know only a little, so i am sorry, i can't recruit you ,even you are so excellent. at the moment, i am not sure whether i am excellent. most of people say i am so good, but it is difficult to find a job which i want .
some time is going, and i am well now, i will still go to find the job i like, i am sure i will find it, because i am qingmei, i am so confident,
i will come back this school at next May, hope to see you at that time.
hope you are hapy at vacation.

Tuesday, December 11

Christmas is coming...

I spent a lot of the weekend with a family from my home fellowship. We saw the walking trail of lights in Marble Falls. This peace on earth picture tells a lot by showing only one part of the earth. Maybe we should wish peace for the other side too!

My friend Caleb and I made a tree from magazines, inspired by the ones Starbucks is using to decorate this year.

He showed me how to make one from a whole magazine by keeping the pages on the binding and just folding them. I love it!

And I started my Christmas cards last night while listening to my Christmas playlist. With the weather actually being cool and rainy in Austin right now, I'm almost in the Christmas spirit!

Thursday, December 6


Our fellowship created a set apart space where I've spent some good, centering times alone. Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our lives are in danger. Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, without distance closeness cannot cure. Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our actions quickly become empty gestures. The careful balance between silence and words, withdrawal and involvement, distance and closeness, solitude and community forms the basis of the Christian life and should therefore be the subjects of our most person attention. Let us therefore look somewhat closer, first at our life in action and at our life in solitude.
-Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude

(Back in the Austin area for a while. Enjoying warm weather and the festiveness of the season with that special Austin flare.)

Friday, November 30

I'm still in Abilene after a busy Thanksgiving week of cooking for the gathering at my parents' house on Friday, then travel to the farm for a wonderful enchilada dinner organized by my could-be-a-caterer cousin where we had a great, but too short time, together on Saturday. I got to see my now three month old nephew, who has already changed so much.
I have my computer set to show pictures from the Tibet folder of pictures on my computer, because they are some of the best pictures I have, I think. So, even though I'm not anywhere near where these pictures were taken, and they're over a year old, I found a few that I don't think I posted the first time to put up here just because.

This isn't a fantastic photo, but I like the negative space in it.

This is a former student at the university I taught at who traveled some with us. She bought some pencils to hand out to the kids in this village we stopped at and she was good at crowd control, as you can see her here with her hand up telling them to be patient and get in line.

Looking at these pictures, feeling a little out of place here (especially during the holiday, for some reason), living out of a suitcase, and other things keep reminding me of impermanence. I'm ready to go back, but not anxious, and still not sure exactly when I'll go back. There are a lot of unknowns in the near future (and the more distant future) which keep me in a daily dependence.

I got my immunizations up to date today at the public health clinic. I haven't made any time for language study since attending a Korean church a few weeks ago, and that's something I need to be doing. I'm trying to find this balance of enjoying being here at the same time as I keep taking the steps necessary to go back.

Thursday, November 22

Thanksgiving snow

It started snowing here around noon and has kept going all day. It's beautiful! I took pictures of my parents' backyard after a rain about two months ago (man, those two months have gone by quickly!) so my mom commissioned me to take some snow pictures. I probably would have done it anyway, since I have such a fascination with snow.

We're having a non-traditional Thanksgiving here. I made chicken with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes in a lemon sauce for just my parents and me. My sister, brother-in-law and nephew are coming in tomorrow along with my grandmother, aunt, and cousins, as long as the roads aren't nasty, so we'll have our real Thanksgiving tomorrow. On Saturday, we are travelling to the West Texas farm to see the other side of the family.

Saturday, November 17

Advent Conspiracy

I had lunch with two friends today who were talking about the Advent Conspiracy, so I looked it up (at my Grandmother's house whose neighbors have fixed the free wireless problem!). I have been thinking a little about Christmas this year and what I want to do. This is a start!

Tuesday, November 13


Yesterday morning at breakfast, my grandmother is reading the paper, apparently looking at the celebrity birthday list. She says, "Today Whoopi Goldberg is 52." (pause) "I wish she wouldn't wear her hair like that."

I say with a sigh "Oh, Mimi. If I were black, I'd wear my hair like that." I sigh because I don't understand why it matters to my grandmother how Whoopi wears her hair.

She sighs, groans, and says she's sure glad I'm not black. She goes on to say that cornrows are okay, but those "drablocks, or whatever they're called" are just messy and ugly.

Last week, she put down the paper at breakfast and asked me to explain "in one syllable words" what google is and what it does. I said the main thing people use it for is to search for what they want to find on the internet. She was happy with that. She then proceeded to ask me what pilates is. (She pronounces it pilots, like the person who flies a plane. This is the second time she's asked about this and she's still not sure I'm giving her the right answer.)

I tell her that pilates is a form of exercise that is a little like yoga. She asks me if I'm sure and says she thought it was something they sell at Radio Shack.

Friday, November 9

mountains and cotton

(I'm sure you're in awe again at the imaginative titles I come up with.)

Last week in Colorado, a friend and I were escorted by a local to Red Rocks and some walking trails in the surrounding mountains one afternoon. (My battery was low and when that happens, sometimes the shutter doesn't open all the way, thus the black corners.)

I drove back all day Saturday and in Texas I got to see a lot of cotton ready for harvest.
Now I'm back in Austin. I already ate at Hula Hut again (I wasn't even picking the place to go this time!) and had a fried stuffed avocado. It came out looking like a fried ostrich egg, they had done such a perfect job of putting it back together after stuffing it. I wish I had let the Asian part of me take a picture of it, but I didn't, so you'll have to use your imagination.

When I came to my grandmother's house a month or so ago, I was super happy to discover one of her neighbors had open access internet that I used. It worked when I came back this week too, but only for one day. I don't know if they got fed up with me using it or what, but now I have to go to other places to get online. It's not a big hardship since just a few blocks away is Mozart's, where I can use the internet for the price of a drink.

I've been filling my days with reading this book, writing and sending out an update letter (if you didn't get one, e-mail me), and spending time with people in my home fellowship, among other things. We launched a 24-7 pryer room this week, too, which has been so good.

Monday, October 29

weekend in Denver

Enjoyed some free time this weekend in downtown Denver.
We got to experience some of the excitement of the first home game for the Rockies of the World Series. We were this close! Unfortunately, the Rockies didn't win a game.
And then we had a great day yesterday at Castlewood Canyon. It was a beautiful day!

Monday, October 22

i can't get enough of...

snow! You might have noticed this before. I have a love relationship with snow. I went for a walk today even though the snow is melting into slushy rivers on the dirt roads. It was nicer in the fields under the tall pine trees where we made deep footprints and didn't have to deal with the mud. It'll be gone soon, so we had to enjoy it today! Tonight I think a few of us have made a date to go out and enjoy the awesome Colorado stars.

Sunday, October 21

snow in Colorado

I drove in to Colorado yesterday and stayed with my next door neighbor from my freshman year in the dorm at ACU (which was a long time ago, and we haven't really seen each other since) and her husband. It was fun to catch up with them. They warned me that it was going to get cold today and possibly snow and it did! It's supposed to be back in the 70's later this week, but I am happy to experience some cold weather for a change.

So, this is where I am now. At a nice little spot near Colorado Springs.
I spent a few relaxing and re-filling days in Kansas City with a friend I know from China. So glad that worked out. It was good to have someone who's been where I've been and who I relate well to. I drove the nine hours across Kansas into Colorado yesterday and went through Abilene, Kansas. Not that anyone will care about that, but I've always heard that's the place my hometown is named for, so I set foot in it, got this picture, and then drove away.

Saturday, October 13

pumpkins and letters

By some standards, it's fall here. The temperature has stayed below 90 for the last few days. Evenings and mornings are getting cool. The church down the road has their pumpkin patch. I stopped today to get a few pictures.
Young families were out taking pictures of their cute kids, some in costume.
I got to two of my favorite Austin eating establishments this week: Hula Hut with my first two Korean tutors who I met more than four years ago and Kerbey Lane for an early breakfast with my cousin. One of the special pancakes at Kerbey Lane was pumpkin, so my cousin and I shared those and the green chile, chicken, sour cream omelet. There's such good food to be had in Austin!

Almost two days of the week has been spent reducing my number of boxes of stuff, mostly stored in my Grandma's shed. It's interesting to go through the stuff that I thought was worth keeping four years ago. About half of it I decided was not worth the space to keep it, even though the space is free. In four more years, I might look at the stuff I kept and wonder what I was thinking.

While I was going through the stuff, I ran across a bunch of old letters and journals. I'm not throwing those away yet. I didn't let myself read many of them, but the ones I did look at are so great. Reminding me of friendships, many of which are not as close as they used to be, but so great to look back on. As I took a long walk through the beautiful old neighborhood my Grandma lives in tonight, I was thankful for all the people who have made my life what it is. People who have taught me, who I have taught, who were and are close. I'm blessed to have been formed by wonderful communities along the way.

I'm leaving Austin Monday morning for a weeklong trip up to Colorado, seeing family and friends along the way, and then a two week long stay in Colorado. I'll be back to Texas after that.

Monday, October 8

in Austin

I'm in Austin now, visiting my other grandmother, my cousin, and my home fellowship. I spent Friday and most of Saturday with my cousin in North Austin where she lives in an apartment complex that is almost resort-like. A nice pool (it's been hot here), free breakfast on the first Saturday of the month, shuffleboard table, and a little gym. I guess all that is not so uncommon, but I was still impressed.

I hear that Yanji is getting cool - that it's almost time to start wearing long johns underneath clothes. They just finished their October holiday, which doesn't make me jealous, since I'm on a long holiday myself, but I did miss the annual harvest volunteer trip, where students and teachers go out to a nearby farm to spend the day cutting rice, corn, or soybeans. I missed seeing the new freshmen going through military training before the fall semester starts and seeing their impossibly wide eyes when their first foreign teacher walks into the room of their English conversation class.

I'm not ready to go back yet. I've still got a lot left to do here in the States and I'm looking forward to spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with family. I don't feel so out of place here, but there are still moments when I find myself in a little of a surreal atmosphere. One of those, strangely enough, is in bathrooms that provide toilet seat covers. I am now used to public restrooms providing toilet paper, but providing seat covers too? Wow.

I was also a little shocked on Saturday while out to celebrate my younger cousin's birthday with her family and my grandmother. I thought we were in a relatively normal restaurant. It was packed with people, but most of the entrees were at least 20 dollars! I found myself looking around at all the people there - they looked normal. I couldn't believe all those people were paying such prices.

Anyhow, life here is good. I'm enjoying it while also missing being in China.

Friday, September 28

West Texas

I don't have much to say anymore (or maybe I never did), but I have become a photographer of things that I didn't think of photographing before. Maybe one of the best things about getting to see so much of the world is getting new eyes to see the world you grew up in when you come back. I appreciate the endless plains of West Texas, the drawl of the lady who walks next to me talking on the phone in the mall, and being able to speak the language of the people around me fluently.

The last week was spent mostly with my beautiful Gramaw in West Texas.

I got to experience a little of the South Plains Fair on Monday night with my fun-loving aunt and uncle.

The sunsets in West Texas are wonderful (among the best in the world in my opinion because you can see clear across from one horizon to the other). And they're made more interesting in pictures with the cotton harvesting tractors in the foreground.

I borrowed my Gramaw's car to drive back to Abilene, enjoying a book on CD and the scenes of America along the way. A lot of windfarms have popped up like the one in the background of this picture.
I've been able to see a few friends from college and one of my middle school teachers this week, but still have a little list of people to visit. Today I'm headed to North Carolina for almost a week.

Wednesday, September 19

in Abilene

I was sitting outside an office waiting for my sister and bro-in-law to finish up their first check-up with Wesley and I saw my reflection in the bumper of a car. It prompted a series of pictures where I could see my reflection in odd places.

Now I'm hanging out at my parents' house in Abilene. I took some pictures of their front and back yards today after some rain.

The reflection of clouds in the street.

This stack of books (largely culled from my Mom's library) is waiting for me. I want to see some friends here in Abilene, but haven't made the initiative to do that yet. I happen to be here during Lectureship, so I went to the Asia interest dinner and went to hear Landon Saunders on Monday night. I was really impressed by his boldness, courage to speak about hard things, and his passion for people on the outside. His voiced cracked when he talked about his passion that every human would know what it is to be saved. That's humbling for me.

Two people in the art department (one of whom was my Mom) gave a talk for Lectureship on turning swords into plowshares and they had an iron pour outside Monday night. Other than that, I've been taking personality tests and working on other things in the application process for the group I'm joining. I'll be heading deep into West Texas on Friday with two of my cousins to see my grandma, then back here on my way to North Carolina for a week or so, then back to Abilene again on my way to Austin before I go to Colorado. If you're in any of those places, I hope to see you soon!

Tuesday, September 11

the last of Kentucky

I took these pictures of the stage in between tobacco growing in the field and tobacco in the barn. I posted them out of order, but here is the tobacco staked in the field, where it dries for a few days before they hang it upside down in the barn to dry some more.

On Saturday, there was a fall festival hosted by the fellowship next door.
There is one guy who comes to the gathering in his horse and buggy whenever he can. He offered horse drawn carriage rides and a sorghum making demonstration. Here you can see the sorghum being stirred as it's heated.
They used a horse powered sorghum press to get the juice. The guy in charge of the sorghum making gave me some rhubarb last week, so I shared the pie I made with him. He gave me a jar of homemade sorghum in return.
There were gospel bands and an auction under the tent, as well as taxidermy on display, a dunking booth, a yard sale, and other attractions outside the tent. I leave Kentucky for Texas this Saturday. I was glad to get to experience a concentrated taste of Kentucky on my last full weekend.