Friday, December 17, 2010

It's Spring!

All my blabbering about winter, and now the snow's melted, it feels like spring, and I feel like a whiner. We've had several sunny days scattered over the last couple weeks, and it's WONDERFUL to be able to see mountains again, not to mention the sky!

Winter break has been fairly busy so far. Put in about 20 hours of work for GetLit!, went to several events/meetings/things/parties, finished Christmas shopping and mailing. Yesterday, though, Isaac treated me to a "me" day--went with me to run some errands, took me to breakfast, hung out while I worked and watched Project Runway, made dinner and watched a perfect--he is SOOOO good to me, even though I'm often such a selfish brat.

Exciting news--Isaac and I are going to Minnesota for Christmas! It was a last-minute change of plans, and we are both really looking forward to it. Not that it wouldn't have been fun to spend it here in Spokane, though.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Spokane Winter Events

Well, fine folks of Spokane, two weeks later, and it's still snowing! Hope you weren't too disappointed this past Sunday when it stopped for a few hours.

Take a look at some of the fabulous events we have for your enjoyment this winter.

Plowing Week

Location: Spokane, city-wide

The only week every year that Spokane pulls out all 30 of their snow plows and actually shovels the streets! Come watch that tundra in your front yard become a road again.

(Don't park in the street or your car will be impounded.)

Bumper Berms

Location: Downtown

Tired of losing that middle lane to a wall of snow? Play a fun game of Bumper Berms. Try to skid into and bounce off the berms as much as possible.

Winter Road Trip

Location: Any drive within a 20-mile radius

Next time you commute to work, count how many cars have just careened into the ditch. Extra points if a police car is already there. My total: 8 in 2 days.

Snow Days

Location: Eastern Washington University

Skip school! If you drive, you'll get stuck in the snow. If you take the bus, you'll probably get stuck in the snow, and you'll definitely be late.

This event is proudly brought to you by Eastern Washington University, located in the impossible-to-get-to-in-the-middle-of-a -blizzard town Cheney, also known as a field.

Sun Hide-and-Seek

Location: Probably everywhere in the entire Pacific and Inland Northwest

See how long you can avoid the sun. It's harder than you think to hide in the snow; everything is white--the ground, the streets, the sky, the houses, the trees--but then again, you probably won't see the sun until March anyway.

Car Sledding

Location: Hills, with the central event on South Hill

What else can I say? We're all doing this already.

Icicle Contest

Location: Eaves

My icicles have grown five feet in a week! Who can top that?


...meanwhile, in Minnesota... It's in the 40's. They are plowing an inch of slush off even the dead-end residential streets. I can't BELIEVE I'm saying this, but....

I miss Minnesota winters. If there has to be winter, I at least want to live in a place where they know what to do with it.


A few (positive) notes:

-I'm not trying to complain. I'm just prone to focus on the negative, out of some sick fascination.

-I have wonderful snow tires that Wescombes are letting me use. They really make a difference; in fact, I am even starting to enjoy the challenge of winter driving.

-The hills are actually pretty well tended, at least the main streets. The car sledding thing is just in response to my own fears, which are, as yet, unfounded.

-The bus drivers are WONDERFUL. I can't imagine how stressed they must be.

-When there's enough light to see it, the landscape between Spokane and Cheney is beautiful. Trees totally white with snow, a few long grasses poking up, the hills like enormous sand dunes.... Some days I might complain that everything west of Spokane is bleak, but deep down I'm a little in love with it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Blizzards in Spokane

I am such a baby. Because it's snowing today, because there are 6 inches of snow on the ground, because it's 0 degrees, I decided not to walk ten minutes to the bus to go to school. What a joyous 5 months I have to look forward to.

Also, it really is blizzarding all over Washington.

In other news, my parents are arriving on the train Thursday morning at 1:40 a.m. (give or take a few's Amtrak)! I love that they're taking the train here--because it's adorable and because it means they'll be here :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Welcome Back to Snow

Today was the first real snow--it's been going all day, and they say by tomorrow we'll have 7 inches. Despite having lived almost 10 years in Minnesota, I'm a total winter pansy. I'm terrified to drive in snow. I hate the cold. I have no real waterproof shoes. I will take this into serious consideration when I move on to the next place.

This last week has been sort of crazy, but just enough that it's gone by fast, not too much that I've been completely stressed. I had 7 meetings (covering pretty much every area I'm involved in), which I guess was what made it extra busy. Then the usual--class, internships, a couple poetry readings. The best activity was a reading by Naomi Shihab Nye, my absolute favorite poet! :) I've never heard her read before, and it was wonderful. In case you're curious, here's a poem by her (I'm attempting to make this blog a bit more than a badly written public journal, in case you can't tell):

Two Countries

Skin remembers how long the years grow
when skin is not touched, a gray tunnel
of singleness, feather lost from the tail
of a bird, swirling onto a step,
swept away by someone who never saw
it was a feather. Skin ate, walked,
slept by itself, knew how to raise a
see-you-later hand. But skin felt
it was never seen, never known as
a land on the map, nose like a city,
hip like a city, gleaming dome of the mosque
and the hundred corridors of cinnamon and rope.

Skin had hope, that's what skin does.
Heals over the scarred place, makes a road.
Love means you breathe in two countries.
And skin remembers--silk, spiny grass,
deep in the pocket that is skin's secret own.
Even now, when skin is not alone,
it remembers being alone and thanks something larger
that there are travelers, that people go places
larger than themselves.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I was mistaken in my ridiculous belief that Spokane was pretty much sunny the whole year. We're into our second month of always-gray skies, and it's really messing with me--it's this odd, claustrophobic feeling that I'm half-asleep all the time, waiting and waiting and waiting for morning that never comes.

It fits great with the blahs that come toward the end of the quarter and the anxiety about winter weather and about the responsibility and time commitment I'll be taking on at the Writers' Center. And of course the general anxiety about life--future, relationships, guilt that I'm not good enough, etc. etc.

There have been positives too, of course. Been hanging out with people a lot. Spontaneously went to a Josh Ritter concert with Erica and a couple of her friends. Had coffee with Cara. Explored the Davenport Hotel with Natalie. Went to "Begin," this free event at the MAC (Museum of Arts and Culture--It's in Browne's), with Ann and Isaac and some people from church. Drove to Idaho with Isaac because we've been so stuck in Spokane (we started to drive around Coeur D'Alene Lake and then found out it would take a few hours, and we were almost out of gas and it was getting dark[er]. It was beautiful though!). Got my hair cut. Went to small group (pardon me, "missional community"). Submitted a few poems to a contest.

I posted some more pics to my album, from Ken and Maile's visit and our drive and a couple other things:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rainy Halloween...and a poem

Almost November! I'll be glad when Halloween weekend is over. All these parties I don't want to go to for a holiday I don't enjoy. I don't have a problem with Halloween in general, I've just never been interested in costumes or crazy partying.

School's clipping along. Nonfiction is going better. I finished both of my presentations for the class, and they went well, plus I'm gaining more confidence to speak out in class. Sometimes the readings and the essays I have to write are really stimulating and even fun. I loved (for the most part) reading and presenting on Ben Franklin's autobiography--he is hilarious and super fascinating and has an honest, down-to-earth voice. And by the way, he's my great-great-great-great-great uncle on my paternal grandpa's side ;) My claim to fame.

The most fulfilling things are writing poetry (I actually like all my homework, but it's a treat to have a couple hours just to write) and my internship with Get Lit!--which is busy and very posts (btw, the blog is, in case you want to check out some literary news!), newsletters, author bios, website pages, and pages for the festival program guide.

I had a wonderful birthday--laid-back, just the way I like it. Isaac took me to a nice dinner and to see The Social Network, and the Wescombes--plus Meghan and Nate and Meghan's roommate, visiting from Colorado--had a sweet birthday dinner for me.

Ken and Maile made a trip out here from Seattle last weekend. It was a surprise for Isaac, and it was fun planning it and seeing how totally stunned and overjoyed he was to see them. It rained all weekend (actually, it's been gray and gross for a couple weeks now) and Isaac worked for one of his classmates for most of Saturday, but I took them around downtown and to the waterfall, and we had a great time at a Fall party at Erica and Aaron's place.

I think I've mentioned Erica and Aaron (a couple from our church), but I should talk about them again. We've been hanging out with them quite a bit, and I feel like Erica has been the first friend I've really connected with here (though I also really enjoy some of the girls from school). The other day she and I went to the humane society and squealed over the adorable doggies :) I WANT ONE!

Isaac is crazy into cooking, and when I have time and inspiration, I get into it, too; we've been eating well and learning a lot. He's mastering bread baking and making mayo from scratch, and I get bored and want to find delicious healthy meals that only take like 5 minutes to make. Ha.

I don't usually do this, but here's the most recent poem I wrote. It's a first draft and I'm sure in a couple weeks I'll be ashamed I posted it as is, but I'm still in the honeymoon phase with it and want to share it. It's pretty different than anything I've ever written:


Mtongwe Ferry Disaster, 272 Dead

Cresting the hill like a dam’s been released,

a crowd floods from Mombasa town

to the lip of the harbor, daily

commute back to the villages

under an ebbing orange sun.

Women wear crowns of rag-wrapped

charcoal, skinny boys flap

in paper-thin sandals.

She arrives lumbering, eases her ramp

to the ground, voicing the groans

the people are silencing in throbbing bones.

At the touch of steel to concrete, the crowd

swirls on board like a wind,

pressing into corners, swelling

to fill imaginary space.

There’s an echoing shuffle of feet

on rust, bodies aligned, balanced

and rigid, the umber scent of tropics

thick in the silvering air. Children strain

their faces to catch a breath above

the forest of legs. Still the crowd leans in

and in toward the sea. Pupils blacken

in black eyes the sudden moment

they know it’s too much—

the coxswain on his loudspeaker

spitting metallic words into the air:

Ferry inondoka! Ferry inondoka!

The ferry is leaving. Stop boarding!

The ferry is overloaded!

The gangplank is up; she

cuts loose from port,

travels 40 meters before

she starts to list.

Panic ignites;

the crowd staggers

as a solitary drunk sailor,

side to side,

lunging for higher ground.

People begin to peel away

screaming, groping, hurtling

one by one

to the black surface

and icy slash

of the propeller.

Seawater slaps the ferry’s hull,

bending to pull her angle

sharper, deeper—

Saturday, October 9, 2010

That last entry I actually wrote a couple days ago and only had a chance to post it now. It was right after class and I was pretty bummed, but at the moment I'm ok.

This weekend has been interesting. Yesterday after writing poetry all morning (sigh, how wonderful!), Isaac and I went to run some errands. We got back in the car at Huckleberry's grocery store, and the car didn't start. After trying to roll start it, I called AAA, and they tried to jump start it and couldn't. So they towed us to a shop, which was closed, and they fixed it today. Turns out it was the battery, which thankfully is cheaper than if it was the starter or something (so I'm told), but still, expensive and a hassle. Yuck.

This morning I hung out with a couple girls from my program, Ann and Frances. We ate pho at a Vietnamese restaurant and talked about our various experiences living in Asia, and then we went to Manito Park, which is huge and has six gardens. I am making an effort to hang out with people, though for some reason it's been hard for me. Tonight Isaac and I are going to a game night thing with some other people from EWU.

Staying positive

School is not my identity. Writing is not my identity.

I have to remember this when my nonfiction professor calls me out in class because I’m the only one of 17 who hasn’t joined in any of the discussions. And when she calls on me, I have nothing to say.

…when I actually do have good things to bring to the discussions but I can’t get the words out.

…when my classmates talk about writers I’ve never heard of and use words I can’t define (ALL the time).

…when I realize people are making friends with each other, yet I still hold everyone at arm’s length, constantly putting myself on the outside of circles and imagining that’s where I belong.

…when I read poems that are impossibly amazing.

…when I read poems that are terrible but people praise them, and I wonder what’s the point of trying to write well, if it’s so subjective?

…when I realize there is always someone better suited for the things I’m doing—the internships, the writing, the GSA. I find I’m not nearly as good at things as I thought.

…when I spend all day reading and writing for class and feel guilty for taking breaks.

…when I fall in love with writing, and then find this romance shattering my heart when doubts arise.

...when I look back on the only poem of mine that I love and realize I can never do it again.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hello, Office Job

As of yesterday, I found myself working 8 hours a week at Get Lit!, one of the programs I'm interning with. And turns out it's 8 hours of sitting in front a computer. Which sometimes I love (after all, my grant writing job was the best I've had), and sometimes the minutes DRAAAAAG by. Right now all I'm doing is researching the bios of the authors who'll come to the big literary festival in the spring. Eventually it'll be blogging and writing press releases and articles for the program guide.

Classes are going well. The nonfiction class will not be my favorite of my two years in the program. It's focused on pre-20th century essays, and the ones we've read seem self-centered and pointless, not to mention tedious. The only reason I'm enjoying it at all is because I'm still a little in love with simply being back in school again...reading, thinking, reading, writing, reading....

Poetry workshop has been more comfortable and pleasant. Reading poetry and discussing each others' poetry. We "workshopped" for the first time last night, and everyone was SO nice, even about poems that weren't great. I hope people won't sugarcoat it when my stuff needs serious work.

It's so interesting being part of a secular school as opposed to the Christian college I went to. I can see the differences even in the philosophy of writing. So often I think, "What's the point?" Writing seems like a way for people to love their own voices, nothing more.

Theoretically, each credit is 3-4 hours of work per week. So that puts me between...42 and 56 hours. Oh, actually doesn't seem so bad when I add it all up.

Isaac and I are getting involved with a church we really like. It's called Vintage Faith (I know, right? Everything cool is "vintage" these days, so annoyingly trendy). They meet three times a month at a girls' scout building nearby and then have one week of "scattering," where the small groups (called community groups) go out and do stuff together in the community. We're part of one that meets in my neighborhood, and we've hung out with one of the couples--Aaron and Erica--from it once or twice. The heart of the church is SO solid... focused on doing life together rather than the unhealthy church model of only going on Sunday mornings. And so deeply Christ-centered, so real, grounded, actively helping people.

I wish I could get as involved as I want to in the things that are available. There are so many cool people to get to know and events to go to and new places to explore and student discounts to take advantage of...and...homework. Oh, yeah.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Weird, I go to a huge school

If anyone's looking for me, I'm the (almost) 24-year old walking wide-eyed around a college campus in Cheney (i.e. the middle of nowhere). Since most of my MFA stuff has been in Spokane so far, I forget that I go to this huge school with thousands of youngsters. But it's SO much fun thinking that with a student status, I can take advantage of a lot of great opportunities on the main campus of a huge university.

The last couple days, I've come out here to Cheney (about an hour-long bus ride, including one transfer, actually not too bad) to get some training in the Writers' Center. I'm starting out just learning how to do the "responding" (like tutoring, but not tutoring at all), and as the quarter goes on, I'll learn more of the GSA responsibilities I'll be taking on next quarter. So far so good.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hooray, school!!

Let's be honest... I've waited over two years to start this MFA program. And here I am, starting it :) Last night was my first class, 3 and a half hours of Form and Theory--Nonfiction I, Pre-20th Century. Tons of work--reading a book and writing a 500-word essay every week, two big research projects and two final papers, plus various daily assignments at random. A lot to fit into 10 weeks. But it felt so good to sit in a class again, go over a syllabus, have a class discussion.

I've met a bunch of people in my program now. I went to a couple Willow Springs meetings, went thrift-store shopping with Cathie, a classmate from California, went on a hike with a bunch of fiction and poetry first years, and now have met people in class. I love that everyone is from somewhere different--North Carolina, Indiana, Hawaii, Wisconsin, D.C., Texas, California, Tennessee, Florida, Michigan, Iowa. I think it says a lot about the program.

Things are almost totally together move-wise. I have all my furniture except a desk chair, and I have everything set in place except internet. Senia stopped by on her way from Minnesota-Vancouver the other day, and I was telling her how I like Spokane because it's a low-profile city...not a destination, nothing huge, just this little city no one really appreciates but which has some awesome stuff to offer. It feels really good to be here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

the end of the road (in a good way)

I really do plan on keeping my blog up. I’ve been thinking almost daily about writing in it and haven’t had the chance.

Had a wonderful time in Portland/Seattle/Maui. Spent a short flurry of time with family and friends, got to see Martha in her new apartment overlooking (kind of) Puget Sound, met her awesome boyfriend Austin. Caught up with a lot of people in Hawaii, all my old coworkers and friends from church. Went on hikes and swims and snorkels. I’m kind of amazed at the crazy vine-swinging rock-jumping water-plunging stuff I did while I lived on Maui, and was much more hesitant to do it again. The wedding prep took up quite a bit of time. We helped the family wash dishes for catering and ended up putting together all the music for the ceremony, reception, and dance (I had the honor of working the ipod at the wedding). It was all a lot of fun, and great to spend more time with Isaac’s family (not to mention finally getting to see Isaac again and knowing we don’t have to part ways this time!).

I forgot how beautiful Maui is. I must have said “it’s so beautiful” a hundred times when I first moved there, and it hit me fresh. I’m glad to not be living there anymore, but it still felt like a special place and there were plenty of nostalgia waves.

And then Isaac and I flew back to Seattle for a couple more nights to hang out with Martha and Austin, and then drove my car back to Spokane—what a feeling of homecoming! Here we are in a brand new city neither of us has ever lived in, and it feels like we can finally put down roots and establish a sense of normalcy individually and together. We stayed at Wescombe’s for a few nights, but I moved into my new apartment pretty quickly, and very shortly thereafter, God provided the perfect apartment for Isaac, and he moved in two days after we first looked at it. We both found total gems…. My apartment gets amazing light, has fantastic kitchen and bath
room floors, and has a fold-down bed, table, and ironing board; his has a balcony and beautiful hardwood floors and a gas stove (which he really wanted for cooking). Both are in our price ranges and have very few problems.

The last week has been kind of insane, what with moving, registering my car, getting my WA drivers license, figuring out new driving/biking/walking routes, going to a million thrift stores, buying groceries and other necessities, meeting with people about various school-related things, buying textbooks, setting up electric and internet, getting renters’ insurance, changing our addresses with a bunch of companies, and working out problems with mail delivery. But good. I’m having kind of extreme nesting anxieties because I’m missing major pieces of furniture—a futon (my Murphy bed is not very comfortable) and a desk—so I’m still sleeping on the floor and my stuff is still in boxes lined against the wall. I’m so antsy to put things away and decorate, but it feels like I’m (still) living out of a suitcase.

I met with the director of a program called Get Lit! through Eastern Washington U, and I think I’m going to go that route for my required internship credits. They have this huge literary festival every year that brings well-known authors to Spokane to do readings and workshops, and they also hold poetry slams and kids/teens writing programs. My position would be writing/editing assistant, and I’d put together little articles and author bios and write press releases, mostly. It sounds like it could be great experience working for a non-profit that focuses on something I love. As the time gets closer, I’m getting anxious for how hectic my school schedule is going to be, but I’m also so excited to read poetry and write again. One week to go!

Oh, and exciting news—this summer I finally got my act together and submitted poems to a couple journals. One turned me down, but the other—called Rock & Sling—is going to publish one of them! Yay!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Green Victorian House Next to a Park

I got an apartment!!! I mean, I still have to decide exactly which unit I want, sign the paperwork, and put down a deposit, but I got official confirmation over the phone today. It was a bit of a nerve-racking day. I'd like to say I gave my anxiety over to God and trusted that it would all work out, but really I was tied in knots all day. For a while I didn't think my application would go through--apparently I look pretty bad on paper because 1. I have no job, technically, nor have I since 2009; 2. I have no renting history (oh, except for the year I lived off under-the-table work-trade in a hippie town on Maui, ha); 3. I haven't lived in one place longer than a year since I was 17. I squeezed all the responsibleness I could into my conversation with the property manager when Natalie and I checked out the apartment on Monday, and they're going to let me have it :) with a few conditions--a co-signer, and 2 or 3 months of rent up front.

The apartment is really wonderful, in a well-maintained green Victorian house in "Historic Browne's Addition", right across the street from a huge park...good neighbors, a murphy bed, grocery and coffee shop and pub and bus stop and downtown and the river within walking distance. Slightly higher rent than I had hoped for, but after visiting several places under $400 a month, I quickly realized that I would probably be anxious and disturbed if I lived in any of them...think haunted houses and/or cigarette smoke and incense.

I have a home!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Furaha and Baraka: 1400 miles later

OK, it may sound a little cheesy, but I named the Focus--after officially signing the title!--Baraka, blessing in Swahili. I figured it was good luck for him to have a name before we went on our long drive together. And no, his name has nothing to do with our president. It might actually have more to do with a Ken I named Baraka a long, long time ago. Maybe.

And we made it to Spokane! It took three days of driving--7 hours, 9 hours, and 5 hours--and was actually quite enjoyable. This is everything I fit in the car:

-well...basically everything I own, besides several boxes in my parents' attic and a couple full bookshelves. It fit with lots of room to spare.

-tent, camping stove, lots of snacks

-mixes my friends made, Where Men Win Glory on CD, and a short story that Isaac read out loud and recorded onto a CD (I KNOW, isn't he sweet?)

-my bike attached to the back of the car (which unfortunately really cut down on my MPG)

First two days were extremely uninteresting, totally flat and straight. North Dakota is the flattest, hugest, most boring chunk of land probably in the whole world. Eastern Montana is not much better. The third day was better; I had to be on my toes more driving through the mountains (and I'm such a Midwestern girl--I was going under the speed limit a lot of the time because hills scare me).

I got to town early afternoon yesterday. Cathie and I took Grandma to Didier's for frozen yogurt and then she drove me all over Spokane to get a feel for the neighborhoods. It's a very manageable city and has some fantastically beautiful parts, especially along the river. I fell in love with Browne's Addition, a neighborhood west of downtown where a lot of EWU students live (though the campus I'll be attending is on the east side). It's the oldest part of the city and has a lot of amazing victorian houses mixed in with apartment complexes and condos. Today I'm looking at a place a couple blocks from the river and right next to a huge park. I am SO excited to live here!!

And I'm not too stressed (right now). The move to Hawaii really helped me have confidence to know that everything will get done and that I am a fairly capable person :)

I'm starting another facebook album:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Big Move Looms

Less than two weeks until I leave for Spokane! I am ready. It's been busy and fantastic enjoying all that the Twin Cities has to offer--friends, bike trails, ethnic restaurants, pretty drives, Flugtag, art fairs, amusement parks, lakes, vintage stores, coffee shops, barbecues, ice cream parlors, two great downtowns, art galleries--but, as usual, I'm itching to move on to the next thing. And I guess my life has kind of been heading this direction for the last four years.... I finished college, got a few adventures/travels out of the way, and here I am on the last stretch before GRAD SCHOOL.

I'm especially excited for the next step because Isaac will be there with me. After a lot of thought, we both decided we wanted him to move to Spokane too, and we'll be starting up new lives together there at the beginning of September. At times it bothers me how it might look to other people--my boyfriend following me around--but it's what we both want, and I really think it will be the best thing for us. Finally, after a year of dating (yesterday, officially!), we will live in the same place. We've actually been together less than 5 months, and it's been spread out thinly throughout the 12. Long-distance SUCKS. No more looking on the bright side about it--it's over! Anyway, he will be doing his second year of school at Spokane Community College and then plans to transfer to Gonzaga.

And who knew it was so easy to get to Spokane from here? I take one highway the whole way there. Wow.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

There's something about this time of life...

What is it about the early post-college years? So many crazy ups and downs, uncertainty and excitement and joy and terror....

Right now I'm in an excitement phase. I'm planning out details for stuff like car registration (lots of money, yuck) and I'm about to register for classes! I got a packet from EWU with a course list, info about Spokane, and a list of my new classmates. It's real--there are 9 other real people with real names starting a two-year poetry adventure with me. (One of them is another Kristina, haha. Great.)

And Isaac and I are tentatively moving forward. We still have things to work through, but I have this weird sense of peace feeling like for whatever reason, God purposely has us in this time of uncertainty. It's not a bad thing, even though it's miserable at times, and it doesn't necessarily mean there's something wrong with our relationship. If nothing else, I'm learning what it truly means to focus on God and release all my anxieties to him.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An Attempted Update

OK, I'll do my best to catch up on stuff.... The trip back from the Philippines actually went quite smoothly. Total it was about 30 hours, with 4 flights (Cebu-Manila-Hong Kong-Chicago-Minneapolis). Isaac and I were on 3 of the flights together, so that was great. We spent a week back in good old Minnesota (I have to admit...after seeing a lot of different parts of the world, and after being pretty anti-America for most of my life, now I think the U.S. is probably the most beautiful country in the world. Not to mention generally clean, diverse, well-organized, open-minded. Who knew?) and then took a road trip to Maine. We camped at beautiful places along the way (one night by these sand dunes on Lake Michigan and one night in wine country in New York) and had fun with Kara and her siblings and their speedily growing families. I loved meeting Kara's 11-month old, Sammy, for the first time :) :) On our drive back, we went through Canada and then met up with my parents to camp a couple nights on the Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

And then, to make a long story short and to get it over with--Isaac and I decided we are not in the same "place" right now and we need to do some growing on our own, and he suddenly went back to Seattle. It's still very open-ended, and we both feel a lot of peace about the decision, but it's so hard nonetheless and we still both care about each other a lot and hope that it will work out down the road. It's especially sad right now since my parents really like Isaac and we were all looking forward to hanging out in the Twin Cities this summer.

Besides a sense of peace and a new motivation to really refocus my life on God, I have a lot of things to keep me stable and busy this summer. I've been organizing and starting to pack up stuff for Spokane, looking at apartments online, and making lists of all the stuff I have to do to move. And fortunately, I still have a lot of friends in the area, and my calendar is filling up with plans.

I'm REALLY excited (and also fairly scared) to move to Spokane!! I'm finding some awesome studio apartments on Craigslist :) My tentative plan, though I am pretty drained from travel and don't relish the idea of more cars or planes, is to drive to Spokane at the beginning of August, then drive to Portland, take the train to Seattle (Martha and Austin just moved there!), fly to Maui for Maile and Kenny's wedding, fly back to Seattle, train back to Portland, and drive back to Spokane at the beginning of September. Phew.

I have a couple new photo albums:

Summer in Minnesota and Maine

Friday, May 28, 2010

Last Thailand Pictures

I made the final additions to my Thailand album:

Philippines pics to come.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Our last week in Bangkok was interesting. The violence kept getting worse, so they issued a city-wide curfew between 8 and 6 for a day and then 9-5 for four more days. It seems like it worked, because Bangkok is a lot calmer now. On top of that, I got really sick (sore throat, cough, fever), so I spent most of my last few days there in our apartment. I did manage to finish teaching my class (though Isaac had to come in and do the final because my voice was cutting in and out) and had several goodbye parties with classes and Santisuk staff. Rung, Nan, Awn, Kwang, and Tai brought us to the airport late Saturday night, and I'll admit there were several tears shed (including mine).

And then it was off to the Philippines! We took off in a thunder storm, and it was super turbulent. I really thought we might die. As soon as we got to Cebu, Martha and her Ate (who took care of all the kids when they were little and now is still a good family friend) picked us up and we took a beautiful van ride and a ferry to Bantayan Island to meet the rest of the family. The Nordines are having a family reunion for Martha's parents' 40th anniversary, so we got to join in with all of them (Martha, her two brothers, sister-in-law, and two little nieces). It was relaxing and fun until I got even sicker. Today is our first day back in Cebu City, and I've been staying inside sleeping all day. :( Tomorrow I'll go to the hospital, because it's just wrong to be this sick for two whole weeks.

From what I've seen of the Philippines, I love it. I immediately thought it was more beautiful than Thailand, and it reminds me even more of Kenya. I especially love the unique varieties have here. The public transportation is jeepneys, originally old military jeeps turned into buses. They're like matatus in Kenya, colorful and crowded. And then there were all these tiny car/motorcycle/bike contraptions on the island.

It's great to see Martha again. It's been a year and a half! The group dynamics have worked out pretty well--me, Isaac, Martha, and her brother Will get along and have fun together.

And I am still really eager to get back to my parents in Minnesota! The end is in sight.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Smoke over Bangkok

I realized I haven't been updating much about the political riots over the last couple months. In case some of you don't know anything about the situation in Thailand, the "red shirts" are a political group who side with the ex-prime minister, Taksin, who was ousted from office by a military coup a couple years ago. The red shirts started peaceful protests a while back trying to get another election, and it has slowly turned into a huge fight between them and the government, plus a bunch of people who seem to be taking their own sides. Since April 10, over 40 people have been killed and tons of people injured. The last few days have been the worst since April. Down town there's a lot of gunfire and it's totally closed down. The sky train and some buildings are on fire. From here we can see thick smoke clouds several places over the city, the closest one being at Big C Mall about three miles down our road. I'm glad to be leaving soon, nervous that something will prevent us from flying out, and sad for all the Thai people who are being hurt in so many different ways. Pray for the peace of Thailand.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I added some pictures to my album:

And I made an album for Laos:

Good news--I got the GSA in the Writer's Center at EWU!! The interview was only OK, so I was surprised to hear back quickly. What a HUGE blessing and relief. I'm sure it'll be a big job (tutoring and being the administrative "go-to" person organizing workshops), but it'll be worth it not to have to worry about finances.

Had a good, short trip to Cambodia last weekend. I got a beautiful one-page visa for a five-minute stay in the country, haha. My passport is overflowing with pride these days.

Last night my small group had a goodbye party for me. About eight of my students came, and it was really fun. Isaac and I have three more goodbye meals/parties this week. What a crazy week this will be.

Lately I've been struggling a lot with uncertainty, particularly about my relationship with Isaac.... We have a lot of ups and downs trying to figure out what comes next, and I'm often frustrated that even when I think I'm trusting God, he doesn't reveal his answers to me. I love these quotes by Oswald Chambers:

"God does not tell you what He is going to do--He reveals to you who He is."

"Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life—gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life."

"To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring."

"We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The end already?

Time's almost up! I have a problem where right before I leave a place (not like the day before I go but a few weeks or months before, depending on how long I'm in the place), I am so eager to take off. I think in a few weeks, I'll miss Thailand a ton, but right now I'm starting to check out and get tired by how much emotional work it takes to live here. Sure, I'm definitely sad to leave people and this city, but all the little things that come with living somewhere and shouldn't be annoying (but are) are starting to kick in big time. If I was planning to be here a year or more, I'd fight through this stage, but right now it's so much easier to get ready to leave.

I'm actually starting to get really nostalgic about Maui. Trust me, I remember how miserable the last few months were, and I don't want to go back, but the memories and feelings and excitement and beauty of our year there are getting stronger. I guess it takes leaving a place to really appreciate it (or unrealistically romanticize it, more likely).

All that said, I am still learning to be "present" in the place I'm actually in. And it's good.

The last week or two have been so busy! I've had meals out with people a bunch of times; went with Rung on a fun weekend trip to Vientiane, Laos, to renew my visa (unfortunately, they only gave me two weeks, so I have to make a day trip next weekend to Cambodia to get another one); went to Hua Hin, a supposedly great beach about three hours south of here (I'm going to give Thailand the benefit of the doubt and say that I still imagine the beaches in Pukhet are great); and went to Ampawa floating market with some students. Aside from some serious emotional lows (not sure about putting details on my blog), it feels good to know I'm getting quality time with people here before I leave.

Tomorrow is the last day of my writing class, and next Tuesday is the last day of my level 1 class. Wow!

Oh, also, I have an interview tomorrow night on Skype with the Writers' Center at EWU. I'm really hoping to get a GSA there!! The tuition break and stipend wouldn't kick in until second quarter, but it would still help sooooo much.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Just a few weeks to go!

I'm trying not to be too excited to leave Thailand. Because really, I will be sad to leave. Overall, it has been an awesome experience. And yet it's hard not to be SO excited to visit the Philippines, to be back in Minnesota for a couple months, and to start grad school.

Classes are going well. My writing class is better than I thought it would be, though I still come up with a LOT of revisions as I'm teaching. It seems too good to be true that I wrote a 70-page book for a 30-hour class and the students are actually gaining something from it. And my level 1 class is awesome. I knew most of them before we started, so it's been an easy, fun transition. People are in and out of Santisuk so much. Even the level 1 students I started with in February have only one more month and they'll be done studying here! It must be hard on the long-term staff and teachers to see so many people come and go.

This last weekend, Isaac and I hung out with Charles and Sally, two of the teachers here. She is Thai and he is Irish (he actually usually teaches at another school, but they were desperate for extra teachers here this month). We went to their apartment and played video games and then went bowling. It was fun (and also a little weird) to do some "couple" activities. With our teaching schedules, Isaac and I don't get nearly enough time together, it seems. We have a few hours in the mornings, but it's not long enough to really go anywhere (not to mention all the interesting places to go are dangerous with the political riots and stuff). It's SO GOOD to have him here, I'm not complaining, it's just tiring always craving longer chunks of time alone together. That's another reason I look forward to the Philippines and Minnesota.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I added pictures! They are pretty. Click below:

I also officially RSVP'd to EWU--I'm going in the fall!!! Yay!

Today is the first day of class. I'm nervous to teach my writing class! There are 7 people signed up, a pretty good turn-out for a level 5 class. Isaac's first class this morning (level 1) went well. I think he'll be an awesome teacher.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


I'm almost positive I've decided to go to Eastern Washington (I know, big surprise)!!! UW didn't accept me, which makes an easy decision even easier. EWU offered me another fellowship, which would let me pay in-state tuition (out-of-state tuition is $11,000 more per year, ridiculous). I applied for two GSAs that would waive the tution, so I'm still waiting to hear back about those. Jonathan Johnson--the prof who's been emailing me--had a lot more encouraging things to say about the GSAs...they are definitely rooting for me.

I can't believe how quickly the end of my time in Thailand is approaching! Our April vacation flew by. Last weekend, Isaac and I went with our friend Kong to Chinatown, walked around, saw some temples, ate dim sum, almost got caught up in the biggest clash between the red shirts and the government that they've had yet (21 people killed and somewhere around 800 injured--it was already getting intense while we were there, and we missed the big hullabaloo by about half an hour), escaped on motorcycles, survived.

On Sunday we had a cell group "outreach" which took about ten of us on a van ride to the beach. We took a ferry to Ko Larn, probably the closest decent beach to Bangkok. It wasn't stunning, but it was super fun to swim and play on the beach.

Last night we (Isaac, Tai, Kwang, Rung, and Awn) got back from a 3-night stay in Roi Et (province about 7 hours away) with May Awn and Rung's families. The first two nights we stayed in a small town with May Awn's parents. They live right on the river and have rice paddies that are sooooo beautiful. We took a drive to "play water" in Mukdahaan, a neighboring province (that's just across the river from Laos). That was super crazy. It's like a mardi gras water fight.... Everyone is on the side of the street or in the back of trucks with water guns or dumping buckets of water on each other. The kids have a great time with it, but so do the teenagers and adults, who get drunk and dance in the streets and smear powder on everyone's faces. It was fun for a while, but sitting in the back of our truck while everyone targets you for being farang and sometimes dumps bucket after bucket of ice water on you before putting their powdery hands all over your face gets a little tiring.

The third night we stayed at Rung's mom's house in a bigger city. It was sweet to see what real Thailand is like and to see people relaxed with their families. There were a lot of cultural things that would probably make good details for poems, but I'm still pretty tired from the whole trip and trying to get in the teaching mindset again, so that might have to come later.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Finally Adjusted

So, Isaac is here! It has been a great transition. We both feel comfortable here (besides the April heat) and are excited to be doing something to serve together. I have to say, we function very well together in another country. We've spent most of our time around the Santisuk area; we went downtown the first day he was here, but everything was closed because of the "red mob" protests (at least we got the excitement of being caught up in the political action). We spend a lot of time in coffee shops, walking around, or at the mall waterpark.

The most difficult thing is having to follow very strict boundaries set by the school. The two main rules are no holding hands (and of course anything like hugging and kissing is totally off-limits) and no privacy. It takes a lot of energy to be out all the time, especially because Bangkok is extremely crowded (and did I mention hot?). I can't WAIT until we are free to simply sit on a couch together and hold hands while we watch a movie!

Isaac has been helping me a ton with my writing class. I now have a 56-page rough draft.... It's pretty intense. I also found out I have a week to apply for a GSA at Eastern Washington (I have to put together my first "curriculum vitae," wow. I had to google that one.). I haven't heard officially from UW yet, but unofficially, they have already made their first offers to the first-choice applications, and they said they couldn't offer me any scholarships even if I was accepted. EWU, on the other hand, offered me a second scholarship in addition to suggesting 3 GSAs I should apply for. So...yeah.

There's been a chicken pox epidemic. Several of the kids around here have it, and Rung picked it up too. She's staying somewhere else in isolation for the time-being. I'm not too afraid of getting it again, but it seems like they make a pretty big deal about it here.

Oh yeah, and did I say how hot it is? Up until this past week, I've been enjoying the heat for the most part, but finally it's getting to the point where I am constantly soaking in sweat in 100+ degree humid weather. It's not completely unbearable, but it's definitely a constant presence.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I haven't been as annoying on my blog as I have been on facebook about the countdown until Isaac arrives! Only TWO more days!!!!

Tomorrow is the last day of class already. I'm actually pretty excited about it; while I have been enjoying teaching, I haven't really bonded with my students as much as I did the first session. I tell myself it's because one class is mostly high schoolers and the other is mostly middle-aged students, but it might also be because I'm not a very interesting teacher. Today I had my level 3 class (the high schoolers) over to my apartment for pizza and games, which was pretty fun. Tomorrow night I'll go out for dinner with my advanced conversation class.

After this session ends, we'll have a 3-week break and then start up again April 20th. During the break is Sonkran, Thai New Year, the biggest holiday of the year. The tradition is to throw water on each other for blessing, which has turned into a nation-wide water fight on April 13. Crazy, right? After Sonkran day, Isaac and I will go with Rung, Awn, and Kwang to visit their hometowns in rural Thailand. SO excited :)

Isaac and I will be the only volunteers for the next session, so all of the foreign staff (a couple Americans, a couple Filipinos, an Irish guy, a Tibetan guy...) will have to pitch in and teach as well. Everyone is super curious to meet Isaac, especially knowing how quiet I am; it makes me a little nervous to know we'll be analyzed so closely by a lot of people.

Last weekend we had "friendship camp," an overnight stay at a retreat "resort" in Saraburi with about 60 students, teachers, and staff. It was a lot of fun--mostly meetings, talks, discussions, and eating. We also got to go to a waterfall and swim around. It reminded me a little of adventuring in Hawaii except with smaller waterfalls and more people. It was sweet because it turns out Nan isn't like most Thai girls I've met, who are afraid of swimming, and she jumped off the waterfalls even before the farang. The adventure was complete when we got chased out of the water by a snake. One of my students, Sud, came along to camp, and we were in the same room. It was cool to get to know her better.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Curriculum Blues

I don't know if I'm lazy or a whiner or just out of (writing) shape, but this curriculum writing is SO HARD. It doesn't help that I only have a week and a half left to outline 30 hours of class (is that a lot? It sure seems like a lot) and then only one extra week after that to polish up and teach it. I feel like I should be good at this kind of thing, but it's excruciatingly time-consuming and ridiculously difficult to organize. And I have this feeling that even after it's all ready, it's going to be a challenge making it work in the classroom. ESL is hard.

I think I'm just a lazy, out-of-shape whiner.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Had a good, full weekend again. My weekends always seem to be characterized by long, hot, exotic trips and huge meals. This past Saturday, I took the train with Rung, Awn, Kwang, and Tai to Ayuttayah, the ancient capital of Thailand, about an hour outside of Bangkok. We rode a little subalu (a itty bitty pickup) to a few different ruins of temples and palaces. As far as history goes, all I really picked up was that the Burmese invaded and destroyed all these buildings a few hundred years ago. For some reason, they also knocked all the heads of the Buddha statues even though they’re Buddhist too.

The best part of the Ayuttayah trip was a leisurely elephant ride after lunch. I got to sit on the head of the elephant—so crazy! At one point, our elephant leaned down to drink water, and I thought for sure I would topple off over his head. Most of all, I loved being able to see and feel the wrinkly skin, the weird hairs, the trunk, and the ears up close.

After we got back to the city, we planned to go back home, shower, and change before a fancy dinner that Rung has been planning for months with Awn and Kwang. Unfortunately, we found our way blocked by the “red shirts,” a political group protesting the removal of Taxin, the former prime minister, by a military coup a few years ago (wow, that sounds like I know what I’m talking about!). They’ve been protesting for a couple weeks now, and they spent Saturday parading the main streets of Bangkok. There are no “back ways,” so we hung out down town a bit and then headed to dinner, sweaty and disgusting and all. But dinner was SO worth it. We ate at the top of the Baiyoke Hotel, the tallest tower in Thailand, with a huge international buffet on the 83rd floor and a revolving sky-view thing on top. I. ate. so. much. Amazing!

An update from EWU: they still need another couple weeks to find out if they can offer me a teaching assistantship. The prof who’s been contacting me said I was still “very much in the running for the TA,” but he suggested another GSA I could apply for that involves tech writing and the international/nontraditional programs office. It feels so good to know they really want me there.

I’ve got most of my flights home booked. Isaac and I will be leaving May 23 to go to the Philippines (Cebu via Manila). Then I fly back to Minneapolis on June 1 (I’ll be arriving at 5:55 p.m., in case anyone wants to see me!!!). Isaac is still figuring out his plans, but he might fly straight to Minneapolis too. This is probably too much information, but I am really excited to start pinning down the plans!

Check out my new pictures:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Exciting Things

I've been here a month and a half!

My most exciting news these days is that I got accepted to Eastern Washington University!!! I'm still waiting to hear if they can offer me a teaching assistantship, but I'm just so honored and thrilled to have been accepted :) The prof who emailed me to let me know had some really encouraging things to stay about my writing, and he said he was "keen" to work with me. He also said I was high on the list for assistantships, fingers are crossed.

At the same time, getting such an awesome offer from EWU would complicate my hope of living in Seattle. I haven't heard back from UW yet, so I don't know for sure what my options are, but I have a feeling that I have a really hard decision ahead of me.

Had a fairly chill weekend. On Friday, I went to a market with Dow and Nos, two girls who've taken classes at Santisuk. On Saturday, Rung, Marie, Cassidy, and I went to King's Park, a big park with a couple gardens, paddle boats, tree house, paths, etc. Then we got these amazing massages (2 hours for about $7). It was everything I'd heard a Thai massage was; I was stretched in ways I didn't know I could move, was walked on, had my fingers and toes cracked.... It was great! It was wonderful to spend more time with Cassidy and Marie, too. For the first time since coming here, I'm starting to feel like there are people I can be myself around. I've been having a good time with the women in my small group, too, especially Nan. She and I have so much stuff in common. If we spoke a common language fluently, I'm sure we'd have even more to talk about.

This past Sunday we (my small group) had a pizza party at my condo. Only three of my students ended up coming, but it was still fun.

I'm working on some big curriculum revision for Santisuk's writing class. Cathy, who's been working on all the curriculum writing and publishing, asked if I could incorporate my ideas for the creative writing class with some stuff another teacher put together a few years ago (mostly I'll have to change her stuff though, because she copied almost all the lessons directly out of other books) and organize it into a book/guide that could be published and used every time someone teaches writing. It's a huge project that I don't know if I'll be able to get done, but I'm so excited about it! This definitely falls into my "skills set." It's hard to find time, though. I realized that even though I only officially work about 20 hours a week, my free time is either too short to really get into something, or I'm out most of the day with people. Sometimes I daydream about the wonderful feeling of having an entire day to myself. Selfish?

Isaac comes in 16 days!! I just realized how soon it is :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Moving right along

Since I last wrote, I finished one session of classes and began a new one. The last day of class last Thursday was great. My morning class (plus about six students I inherited for the last week from Toni, a teacher who’s out with a bad back) went out for breakfast after the final. Jan, Pui, and Pisamai took me to the Royal Grand Palace and this sweet teakwood museum, two big touristy spots in Bangkok that are pretty worth seeing. I made it back in time to give my p.m. class their final, and then we all went out to this nice restaurant for dinner. We had a lot of fun together—or at least, they had a lot of fun and I enjoyed watching them have fun (because most of the fun was in Thai). We ate a LOT, of course.

I’ll miss my students! I’m glad most of them are still around for level 2. My morning class requested to have me for level 2, but I think they like to let the students have a variety of teachers, for some reason. Anyway, I’m honored, even if the spokesperson who put in the request happened to be a male student who’s also given me fruit and snacks a few times. Hmmm.

This past weekend I went to Saraburi, a province just outside Bangkok, with Rung and Kwang. It was a business trip, to check out the campsite where the school is having “friendship camp” in a couple weeks. It was nice—I think it will be a good place to have a retreat. It was also the first time I was really aware of how hot it is. April is the hottest month of the year, and the temps are creeping up above 40C these days. I enjoy spending time with Kwang (I think I spelled it “Gwang” before). She’s May Awn’s daughter, 17 years old, and she’s such a sweetie. She’s in one of my classes this session :) When we got back to Bangkok, Rung took us to her favorite restaurant, one that’s floating in a pond. I’ve decided that if you’re at all interested in food or shopping, Bangkok is by far the best city in the world. It has SO many incredible restaurants and SO many markets. I don’t think you can even imagine it until you see it. Oh yeah, and we ate a LOT.

Last night Rung took me to see Alice in Wonderland in 3-D. It was actually the first full-length 3-D movie I’ve ever seen, and it was pretty sweet.

The beginning of this new teaching session has been so much smoother than my first. It’s satisfying and encouraging to look back and see how much I’ve adjusted over this past month. I love knowing how things work here, how to get around, order food, say a few things, teach classes, etc. And I love having friendships that are starting to get below the surface. I feel like I’m right in the middle of a pendulum swing, where I can still feel the extreme I came from (wishing I’d never come) but can anticipate where I think I’m headed (wishing I never had to leave).

Because it’s summer, there are more students this month, and also more teachers. There are a couple volunteers in their 20’s, Cassidy and Marie, who’ve done short-term overseas stints before and came here together. I feel like I connect pretty well with them, and I’m so grateful to have them around. Even though they have each other, I hope I can be a support for them if they need. Yesterday we had meetings all day and I found out what classes I was teaching, what time, and got trained for them. I have a level 3 class from 1-3 p.m. and an advanced conversation class from 7-9 p.m. I am STOKED to not have any morning classes! It seriously makes an infinite difference. My creative writing class was cancelled because not enough students signed up for it :( I guess most of the interest was from other teachers and from my level 1 students, none of whom are allowed to take a level 5 class. I’m praying that I’ll get to teach it in April, and I’m glad for more of a chance to prepare it.

Level 3 is structured fairly similarly to levels 1 and 2. I have 9 students, most of them high schoolers. Advanced conversation is very different, and I think I will like it. The structure is flexible, and the point of the class is, well, conversation. So basically we get to ask questions and talk to each other for two hours every day—it’s a class in making friends. There are only 4 or 5 people in that class, two girls around my age and two people in their 40’s or 50’s.

Isaac’s visa came through! So he’ll be here starting April 3!! The time is flying by. I have to get on the ball with making various travel plans—a trip to Chiang Mai, one to Rung’s province, one out of the country (maybe to Laos?) to renew my visa, one to the Philippines (hopefully with Isaac!!), and finally, a one-way ticket back to MN! I know I’ll be sad to leave Asia, but I am also deeply looking forward to being in Minnesota again for a little while and having a lot of good friends in close proximity. I never realized what an incredible luxury and blessing that is.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I've been a busy girl lately. Here's a summary:

-I went with Nan and her Chinese friends from university to the Ancient City, a replica of the old Thailand. You can ride a bike around the mini city and check out all these old-looking buildings and beautiful gardens. On the way there, we got into a car accident (Rung was driving)--a truck to our left turned right into the front of our pickup. We were all fine (thank God! Nan and I were squished in the front seat without seat belts, right where the truck hit) but our car wasn't great. Rung had to figure out insurance and go to a car shop, and the rest of us continued on by taxi.

-Our cell group sang "God is so good" at church in four languages--Sebuano, Thai, English, and Swahili. It's fun having so many cultures represented in one group.

-I ate barbecue at this big restaurant nearby. It was a buffet-style dinner where you get your own raw meat (including seafood in tanks) and then cook it at a little grill/boiler thing at your table. Awesome!! I'm amazed that with all the random meats I was cooking myself, I didn't get sick at all. My stomach has been a great little trooper so far, and I'm really grateful.

-Some of my students took me to Kogkret island, a pretty place known for Thai desserts, pottery, and woodworking. None of them had been there before, either, so it was fun for them to see it for the first time. We took a boat around the island, ate a lot, and explored. I loved spending time with Puky, Nok, Aom, and Aom's husband and baby girl. I kept forgetting that I don't speak the same language as them, and I'd start to ask something complicated like "What would you have done if you hadn't gotten into engineering?" and realize all those verb phrases are too much. I'm constantly impressed with and blessed by Thai people--everyone I have met has been welcoming, generous, hard-working, polite, helpful, and fun. I think I may have found the ideal people group. By the way, see my previous post to check out pictures!

-Rung and I went to the market one day and got all the ingredients for Ethel to make us Filipino food for lunch. We had squid, shrimp, fish, and a bunch of veggies, all cooked various ways (this is where technical jargon fails me). I have been eating SO much, especially on weekends (during the week I guess I'm hidden away working on my creative writing class all day, and I just snack on random things). I had squid four times within 48 hours. And of course rice or noodles and fish or pork for almost every meal. There is so much variety it's overwhelming! I think Thai food is perfect. It tastes great, even to foreigners, there's something for everyone, and no matter how much you eat, you don't gain weight.

-I've been putting in about 7 hours of planning for every day of my creative writing class. Now I not only admire my friends who've gone overseas to teach for a year but I'm pretty much in awe of them. Going thousands of miles away from everyone and everything familiar + lesson planning (sometimes from scratch) + lesson planning in ESL = Wow. I wish I could have a refresher of all the grammar and writing classes I took in college. I never thought I'd say this, but thank you Dr. Black for advanced grammar. If only I could remember how to tree sentences....

-Some biggish news: Isaac is arriving April 3 :) :) Can't remember if I mentioned that yet. His application still has to be approved, but I think it will be ok ;) ALSO, Martha is moving to Seattle this fall!!!! Oh, the sweet possibility of living in the same state as her. It's too much to bear :)

-Thai lessons are going pretty well. I have one now--have to run!

you will enjoy yourlife

Not sure if this is ethical, but I want to share an essay one of my students wrote:

"Once in the past of my life, I must go to work oversea in other country. At the first time, I was afraid because of if you never live alone in other country then you will get home sick. I feel want to go home. I think of my mom very much. I think in my mind “How will I do.” I must contact everything by myself. for example where is the hotel? Where is the office? because my administrator in Thailand contact to them by email. I know information by email only. After I went to overthere I must bought sim card for contact them.

After you pass that all event then you will grow up. You won’t afraid to go to other place in the world. you will enjoy yourlife. you will see the world more than other people."


I have some pretty new pictures:

Friday, February 26, 2010

Three weeks!

I thought after two weeks, things would be normal, easy, fun, but I’m finding that while some things get easier, a lot of the time it’s still really hard. Sigh.

I started Thai lessons this past week. Pi Khwan, my teacher, says I have good pronunciation, even though I think I have a hard time memorizing vocabulary. I guess living overseas for the first 12 years and listening to a language I was never brave enough to speak well at least gave me an ear for non-English sounds. It’s really fun to practice the tones and start to recognize words and phrases in conversation.

I’ve been struggling a lot with not knowing what exactly my talents are. It seems like since graduating from college, I’ve only been doing things outside of my comfort zone (or talent zone), and the things I vaguely have an idea that I’m good at—writing, organizing, planning—haven’t been utilized in a solid way. However, I’m surprised and grateful that teaching is starting to satisfy those gifts and passions. Though planning the creative writing class has been a huge challenge, I get pretty excited about it at times because it lets me do a lot of things I love—researching, brainstorming, and putting together ideas; fitting lessons and activities into a daily structure; and thinking about both writing and cross-cultural communication.

Class has been genuinely fun a lot of the time, and I understand what the volunteers mean when they say they fall in love with their students. One day we were doing the sound of the day, where I have to read a bunch of words with difficult sounds—like final l and r—and they repeat them. Everyone is so cute, leaning forward and starting intently at me with perplexed expressions. One woman, Rungtiwa, is SO intent. She always strains way forward and repeats everything I say a million times. Another girl, Puky, started cracking up watching her, and soon the whole class (including me, and Rungtiwa too) was laughing so hard it was hard to keep going. I don’t want to make them think I’m making fun of them or disrespecting them (especially since most of them are older than me), but sometimes it is sooooo funny and adorable to hear them try these foreign sounds that to me are so simple. (Btw, they enjoy when I try to speak Thai—I think the role reversal is refreshing.) They are such hard workers, it’s awesome. It seems like everyone in Bangkok works incredibly hard. After all, most of them are here for the purpose of going to school or working to make money for their families. The Thai people are such a good mix of busy and relational. Anyway, my students have been bonding with each other and have been inviting me to a lot of stuff (though coordinating schedules is proving to be difficult). At the least, I'll have meals with both of my classes on the last day. I really enjoy eating out with big groups of people, especially because they order everything and put it on my plate for me.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I think I'm in Asia

The busy schedule I anticipated is beginning. In some ways it's nice because it keeps me, well, busy, but I also do enjoy spending time alone, relaxing, communicating with people back home, sleeping, stuff like that.

This past weekend was pretty packed. On Friday I got to visit my friend Nan's university. She is in my small group and is an English major at a respected university in the area. She gave me a tour and we met up with her friend who is Chinese but studying Thai. Between the three of us--none of us really fully speaking the same language--we had some fun conversation. :)

On Saturday I joined a big group outing to visit Kanjanaburi, the famous site of the Bridge over the River Kwai. There were about 25 Americans--the regional directors of the Baptist General Conference (they visited our classes on Thursday, and I happened to have Dr. and Mrs. Sheveland in my class, who I found out are the president of BGC and his wife...haha, no pressure)--and about 15 Thai students and staff. One of my students, Jan, came :) She's a sweetie. There's a girl from Bethel here with her dad, who's one of the regional directors. It was nice to have an American girl my age around, too, though surprisingly I find myself connecting well with any random people I meet these days.... I feel most comfortable with the Thai people who I've been getting to know, but I've had some good conversations with middle-aged visiting Americans, too. ANYWAY, the outing was nice. It was good to get out of the city, to see some green and some hills and some beautiful rivers. Very...Asian-looking, rice paddies and all that.

Sunday after church, I had ice cream with the girls in my small group, Nan, Gaan, Joy, and Jin. Then Rung invited me out for dinner. I wasn't sure I wanted to go because I hadn't done any lesson prep yet (and I really have to work on the creative writing class that starts in March!!), but I'm glad I did--it was one of the coolest things I've ever done. We went with four other Santisuk staff and drove about half an hour in a direction I'd never gone out of the city. It was getting pretty; the sun was setting and there were marshes and lighted restaurants along the way. We pulled into a parking lot and went into what I thought was the restaurant but turned out to be a dock where we boarded a boat and took off down a series of waterways (I can't for the life of me figure out the word for rivers and lakes that are actually part of the ocean). It was like driving down a street in a rural neighborhood, except that the car was a boat, the road was a river, the houses were on stilts, and the driveways were docks. We could catch glimpses of people in their homes; I guess walls aren't that necessary when you don't have close neighbors or cold weather.

Eventually we pulled up at a large, long restaurant on stilts, sitting alone where the river opened up into the ocean. The floor was an uneven boardwalk; there were spaces where you could see through holes to the waves below. There were no walls, just a thatched roof and a row of lights hanging from the beams. We sat at a low table on cushions on the floor and stuffed ourselves with fresh fish, crab, squid, clams, and shrimp. It was pretty busy, but it was awesome because it wasn't touristy at all--a perfect tourist setting but totally local. I was the only white person and for sure we were the only table that spoke any English (though I mostly sat and listened to Thai). It reminded me of eating outside in Tiwi with Fatuma and Juma--totally dark outside, good but unfamiliar food, and a foreign language drifting around on a warm breeze. It was so fabulous, I wish I could describe it better. Needless to say, we didn't get back until late, so I didn't get much sleep and I'm feeling even more crunched to work on class stuff.

Some new developments--Isaac is applying to teach here April-May! We talked and prayed about it for a while, and we both feel like it would be good. He is taking a break from school spring quarter anyway (starting film school in the fall) and I think teaching and working overseas would be a good fit for him. And of course we would both love love love to not be thousands of miles away from each other. There will be challenges, definitely, since we'll both be busy with different schedules and we'll have to adapt our relationship to fit what's culturally appropriate (haha...I'm sure everyone knows how hard it will be for us not to be able to hold hands). But it's kind of a dream come true, working in a cross-cultural setting together, both feeling like we're doing something to help others.... Any challenges will be worth it.

So. I think I'm in Asia. It's finally settling in on me. I live in Thailand, can you believe it?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Some pics!

Not the most amazing pictures ever, but they'll give a good idea of the area where I am:

Halfway done with class session #1


It’s a lot of work to come up with a 30-hour class from scratch! I knew I would probably be teaching a creative writing course here and that I had to prepare all the material for it, but I haven’t been thinking about it until now, when I realize the class in only two weeks away and people are definitely expecting me to teach it. It’s also hard because I don’t know the English ability of my students and because I have to take the American-style writing I learned in college and make it culturally relevant. Even one of the most crucial aspects of Western creative writing—critiquing each other’s work—isn’t really acceptable in a “saving face” Asian country. Anyway, I’m pretty excited to think about teaching my favorite subject, but also anxious about the responsibility. And about being able to come up with enough material in the next two weeks!

In case it’s not clear (which it’s probably not), I’ll be here for three class sessions; each is four weeks long. I’m already halfway through the first one! The second starts March 9th, and the third not until April 20th.

I think somehow word has gotten out to about half of the 130 students that I need friends. I’ve gotten gifts, notes, and offers to hang out from a lot of people. And Rung asks me how I’m doing—she says people can tell when I’m having a hard time. It’s really sweet, and I’m grateful for people to get to know :) At the same time, I’m grateful that I’m content alone, too. I don’t want to rely on having alone time, but I’m never bored and I’m only lonely because I lack close friends, a problem not solved by being with people all the time.

Tonight I’m planning to go to a night market with some girls after class, and then Friday to the beach with them. Saturday there is a school trip to Kanjanaburi, which I think is a scenic spot a couple hours outside the city. Sunday maybe another trip to a market with one of my students.

Good news—I mostly finished my FAFSA and my taxes yesterday, and it only took me maybe an hour. It’s amazing how easy it is to get W2s online and to file everything electronically. I just have to file my Hawaii state taxes and I’m all set. Yay! And I found another internet spot for weekends—a coffee shop a couple blocks away. Again, yay!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Three new ones

I had to write the last two entries from my room and wait until I had internet to post them. I found out there's a little internet place just down the street; it's a little crowded and the connection is slow but it's cheap and it's so nice to know it's here. I was getting desperate because the school is closed on the weekends and I can't find anywhere else with wifi.

Yesterday was good but really tiring. With Nit, Eng, and Janice, a couple students and the teacher of the public speaking class, I went on this river boat tour for about 8 hours (including bus, sky train, and ferries). We stopped and saw a couple temples and a barge museum. I'm not a big tour or museum person, but I love seeing new things and watching people, and it's nice to get to know some people. I know they appreciate practicing their English, too, and I'm glad I can help that way. Then I went to Chinatown with Rung, Ohn, who works in the Santisuk nursery, and Ohn's 17-year-old daughter Gwang. After a minor fiasco where the break lights on the Santisuk truck got stuck on and we had to find a repair shop, we had fun in Chinatown the night before Chinese New Year. Saw the pretty lights and the crowds of people, ate some good food (like no Chinese food I've had in the U.S.), rode some tuk tuks around, and saw a huge flower market.

Today my student Puky isn't able to get together, but I'm actually kind of glad for some time alone. This morning I met with the women in my small group and had lunch afterwards. From here I'll probably go to a coffee shop and do some reading and writing. Ahhh.

The most amazing thing…. I am starting to be a little happy. I’ve had really good support and encouragement from a lot of people. Spent yesterday with the American volunteers, Julie, Rick, and Darlene, got $7 facials with the women and then swam at the water park on the top floor of the Mall Bangkapi, had American-style lunch and dinner with them. They packed me a big bag of groceries they’re leaving behind (they leave tonight) and it reminded me of the way my mom would stock me up when I came home on weekends in college: “Why don’t you take this can of soup?” “Do you think you’d use some tuna? How about peanut butter?” “Do you need any toilet paper?”

And my class last night was fun. I don’t think I mentioned my night class students: Rung, Rung (pronounced differently), Ket, Bum, Earth, Tai, Aom, Nok, Puky, Choke, and Son. They’re more energetic and fun-loving than my morning class (and of course I am also more awake at 7 p.m. than I am at 7 a.m.). I’m getting really comfortable leading the class and working in interesting/helpful tips and games. My favorite thing is doing the sound of the day and seeing 11 people leaning forward watching me, their faces intent as they strain to hear the difference between “sh” and “ch.” Most of them are so eager to learn. I’m learning some Thai, too. I’m surprised how much I can grasp after only a week. I mean I can recognize numbers and greetings and “yes” and “water” in conversation, stuff like that. The sounds in English and Thai are so vastly different; I totally get why my students have a hard time with English because I have an equally hard time with Thai.

Today after skyping with my parents (yay!), I had lunch with Joy. I appreciate her because she’s enough of an outsider to understand how I feel but is also Asian (from Philippines) and has been here for seven years so she has an insider perspective. Tonight was church, and I found that as I looked around at the pre-service dinner, I recognized and felt comfortable with almost everyone. How opposite that is from last week! I’m excited to get to know the women in my cell group, too (meets Sunday mornings)—Joy, Gaan, and Nan.

Tomorrow I will go with the advanced conversation class on a day trip, then go to Chinatown in the evening with Rung and a few others. My Sunday seems like it will be full too—cell group and then an outing with a student, Puky. It feels good to be busy.

First week of classes done! I can get some sleep now! In some ways, teaching at Santisuk is not as stressful as I thought it would be, and in some ways more. I haven’t been nervous speaking in front of people (7 in my morning class and 12 in my night class), and I’ve even been able to let loose and have fun playing games with my students. But it’s hard fitting each part of the lesson into the correct time frame and making the material interesting. And I think the worst thing is the expectation that I get to know my students outside of class and plan two class parties for each class. I’m honestly not sure I have the guts to do it. I invited one class to join me for dinner one night and no one showed up. I’ve been hanging out a little with some students in other classes—I hope that counts, haha. There’s Em and Te and Top, none of whom speak English well enough for conversations, and Som and Nit, who are level 3 or 4 students and are teaching me some Thai. Most of my own students are in their 30’s or older and a lot of them work right after class.

So far this week I’ve spent large chunks of the afternoon alone in the apartment. I feel lame and guilty, but I can only extend myself so far before I shut down or start crying.

If I had known ahead of time how hard it would be here, I wouldn’t have come. So I guess it’s good I had no idea. I knew it would suck to keep doing the long-distance relationship thing with Isaac instead of actually being together, but even that is more difficult than I could have imagined. I’m realizing how much of my reason for coming here was selfish—personal enrichment—and it’s really getting in the way of selflessly serving others. But the more I stress about how self-centered I am, the more I think about myself and the less I can love others. It’s an exhausting cycle.

I wonder if Americans struggle with culture shock so much because we are so individualistic and so in tune with our own feelings. And because we are used to having our comforts just the way we like them.

I love 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” It seems so backwards…. Christians are weird! And yet I would choose this backwards kingdom over any false sense of peace and satisfaction the world can offer.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Day one (almost) down

My first day of classes went surprisingly smoothly. I was less nervous than I thought I’d be and I didn’t have to stall for time too badly. I think the main challenge will be having enough material and enough variety to fill each 2-hour class. I’m working on coming up with activities and games to provide relief from all the lessons. All the main curriculum is provided for me. Every day students must write several sentences from words provided, practice the sound of the day (for example, th vs. d), and work through reading activities in a workbook. There are 4 short essays and crossword puzzles and 2 exams as well.

My students’ names (most people use nicknames; even Rung’s real name is Rungrudi/Lungludi): Kong, Tui, Jam, Pisamai, Afaf. They are all in their 20s or older, some students but mostly they work or are looking for work.

It is odd having a ten-hour break between classes. Unstructured time can be stressful for me, so I set several tangible “challenges” for myself, like going grocery shopping, planning some class parties, and figuring out the post office. I’m hoping to take Thai classes, so that will help. This morning after class I had breakfast with some students (cashew chicken and rice; not the breakfast I’m used to), played Phase 10 with them, and then had lunch with some other students. There are always people around Santisuk, so when I get hungry, I plan to hang out around there until someone invites me to eat with them.

I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to communicate mostly in very basic English every day and spend lots of time listening to a language I only know a few words in (sawatdeeka=hello/goodbye, kobkunka=thank you, chieu(l)alai=what’s your name, mai phet=not spicy, ar(l)oy=delicious). It is as hard to think and speak in simple English as it is to read and discuss really lofty technical English.

When I think too far in advance, it stresses me out. Right now, I can’t imagine having to get up at 6, teach two classes, and figure out what to do for 10 hours and three meals for the next three days. Let alone doing something similar for three months. One day at a time. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so challenged as I do here. At least I can say that I didn’t take the easy road. I am totally out of my element. I’m exactly opposite my element.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


I've still been going through a lot of ups and downs. Many times a day I ask myself what I'm doing here and how I possibly thought it was a good idea to come. I'm so anxious and so focused on myself I don't think I'll be good at building relationships with my students or helping or serving anyone. Everyone else seems to know what they're doing, or to have someone else to be bummed with, or to be so independent that they flit around without a second thought. I start teaching tomorrow (my classes are 7-9 a.m. and 7-9 p.m...awesome) and I'm totally freaked out.

I'll try to keep the emo stuff short on the blog posts and focus more on descriptive things and stories.

Yesterday was a good day; I should have written yesterday because I was happy and creative. Rung took me along to the Bang Sue train station (we took a bus and the subway to get there), where she teaches English to the kids whose parents sell food when the trains come in. It was a lot poorer than what I've seen so far in Bangkok but still not quite reminiscent of Mombasa. Then we went to this huge weekend market at Jeje Park, which I think Bangkok is famous for. HUGE HUGE HUGE. Never seen so much shopping in my entire life. I'm not in a shopping mood quite yet, but I'll keep in mind that if I want ANYTHING for under $5, I'm all set. There were so many foreigners there, too, Europeans and Koreans mostly, and I LOVED people-watching. Then we took the light rail downtown to see a few HUGE HUGE HUGE fancy fancy fancy malls (there are 10 in this one area) and eat lunch. And then took the water taxi back to Bangkapi (Bangkok is super huge and the area Santisuk is in is kind of on the outskirts...well not really but it's not downtown), walked along the canal past a pretty temple and a mosque, and took a little tuk-tuk-like "subalu" back to the apartment. Then last night there was a farewell dinner for one of the staff who is moving to Vietnam, and we ate traditional food--grilled fish, noodles, clams, and sweet and sour peanut sauce wrapped in lettuce leaves--sitting on the floor. I got to talk to some new people and some people I'm starting to get to know. I'm FINALLY remembering names, which is hard because there are some letters that exist in Thai that don't in English, and vice versa. So there is Kwahn/Gwang and Sally/Saree and Rung/Loong (and the r-l thing isn't to make fun of Asian accents--l and r really are interchangeable). Some of my favorite people here are the Filipina missionaries, Ethel and Joy. They speak amazing English and are a lot of fun. And they both know Martha :)

Anyway, I am going to meet Rung for dinner (she's taking me to get bak, or worms, haha). I'm glad this post turned out much happier than I actually feel.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

29 hours down!

Because this will probably only be my really free time before I launch into a busy schedule, and because so much is changing every single minute, and because I have internet in the air-conditioned library at Santisuk, I'm going to blog twice in one day.

Today got a lot better after 12:30 p.m. While Rung was at appointments and work, I stayed in the apartment in the morning and called Isaac and my parents (using precious minutes on my Thai's worth it) and cried and read and journaled and fell asleep again. Then I got my act together and ventured out into the neighborhood. I walked a little less than a mile down one side of the street, explored a Costco-esque grocery store, walked into and out of the mall, felt overwhelmed, walked down the other direction and found a coffee shop my dad had mentioned. Coffee (and a somewhat familiar coffee-shop atmosphere) made everything better, and I made a list of things I am thankful for. Here are some of them:

-small accomplishments, figuring out one thing at a time
-people here who welcome me
-the incredible blessing of having the resources to come here and stay so long
-the opportunity to serve others and grow in my relationship with God
-finally feeling like writing!
-REALLY supportive family, friends, and boyfriend
-internet access and some phone access
-a chance to be challenged professionally
-a home in a strange city and a Thai roommate to show me the ropes
-cheap living expenses
-excitement to get comfortable here
-independence and maturity, seeing how much I've changed over the years
-a worldview that encourages me to travel and learn and do things that are hard
-God's incredible grace, blessing, and strength. He is all I need.
-a church to automatically be a part of
-appreciation for Isaac because he wouldn't be afraid to venture out and order food and make mistakes
-SO much to explore still!
-learning about myself (for example, I love observing but am afraid of engaging)
-being a minority again...for real, not like in Hawaii...but being stared at a LOT less than I would in Kenya
-seeing pretty Thai writing on signs
-knowing I'll have a real schedule soon, for the first time in a year and a half
-freedom from fear and anxiety, if I'm willing to accept it and let go of my own control
-knowing it's only four months here and not longer
-laundry washed, line-dried, and folded by someone else for less than a dollar

I'm sure I'll go through a million crises in the next few months, but I think I'll make it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


And here come the emotions I thought I was somehow free of.

Almost all 30 hours of travel time between Portland and Bangkok went well. No mishaps or late planes or lost luggage, nothing too confusing in the airports. I actually slept for 6 or 7 hours on my longest flight (13 and a half hours), which was great because I had the worst headache I've ever had, I think from the pressure in my sinuses (I have a cold). My ears were also plugged the whole time and I felt like I was in a tunnel. I really do love that time of transition; it makes me feel creative and intrigued by my surroundings.

Rung, my roommate for the next few months and one of the staff at Santisuk, met me at the airport. We've been skyping, and it was cool to get to meet her in person. She brought me back to the apartment, a little studio with white tile floor and a balcony that looks out onto a very Mombasa-like scene. Bangkok totally reminds me of Kenya...muggy, dirty, loud, crowded, colorful. I love it. Well, perhaps love is still a strong word at this point. Then she gave me a tour of Santisuk, a tall but cozy nice corner building just across the street from her place (there's a little pedestrian bridge to get there). I met a bunch of people, felt overwhelmed, went to this huge mall, felt overwhelmed, ate at the foodcourt at another mall, felt overwhelmed, went to this market, felt like I was in Mombasa and totally enjoyed it, and then came back to the apartment and cried for a while. I sat in on part of an evening class and then crashed a little before 9.

I'm so bombarded by emotions.... It's nice to be able to overlay everything with what I know about culture shock, giving myself room to freak out a little and know I'm not crazy, but it doesn't make it easier to be suddenly cut off from everything and everyone familiar. I wanted to call my parents and Isaac so many times and I couldn't. I don't get internet in the apartment (I'm using Rung's computer right now--she gets it through her phone). I've never felt so alone, even worse because everyone here is so together, so comfortable with each other. I didn't really think about what it would be like to live for four months in a place where I don't speak the language and most people outside of Santisuk don't speak English. I didn't think about a lot of things, I just dove in.

I feel a little bit like when Jeanie and I moved to Hawaii--overwhelmed by all the things we had to do to adjust, literally and emotionally. It would have been so easy to get buried under the weight of all of it, but we could push each other forward. Now there's no one, I have to push myself forward.... Or I guess I have to learn God really is enough and his strength will get me through anything. My faith has never been tested quite like this before.

Really, it could be worse, and I think about friends who go somewhere for a year, who don't have internet access at all (I can get wifi at Santisuk), who haven't lived overseas before.... I can deeply sympathize with them.

Anyway, I hope to eventually write more interesting things than how bummed I am, but it might be a little while.