The Random Writings of Rachel: July 2014

So It Begins.

Angel, eager to try out his Mandarin, asked a security guard at the apartment building where we stayed overnight in Hong Kong, "Can guan zai na li?" ("Where is a restaurant?")

She looked at him in utter confusion. English brought the same result. He began miming eating while I realized I should have warned him that it's more likely he'll find Cantonese speakers here than Mandarin speakers. And I don't know a single word in the Cantonese dialect.

It was 6:22 a.m., and the breakfast restaurant we eventually found wasn't open yet, but I was starving, due to my boycott of any and all airplane foods during our long trip (why can't airplanes just serve rice krispie treats or apples or something guaranteed to not smell nauseating? I definitely have suggestions for improving the fare, although I can't complain about the frequency of meals served by Philippines Airlines, they even served a meal on our two-hour flight between Manila and Hong Kong!)

Because of my intense hunger, we finally found a convenience store where I bought Doritos and Gatorade--an auspicious first meal in Asia, don't you think?

 Gatorade, bright and early this Hong Kong morning.



Already Angel and I are learning bits and pieces of Chinese culture. Angel points out the characters that he can recognize on various signs and I'm somewhat dismayed by how many characters I still don't recognize. Angel noticed that the apartment building where we stayed overnight didn't have a 13th, 14th, or 44th floor--I assume that is in an effort to avoid the most unpopular numbers. I'm sure you all know that 13 is an undesirable number for many, but the number 4 sounds very similar to the word death in Mandarin (I don't know about Cantonese, though?) and because of that it's generally considered unlucky.


Our breakfast receipt.
When the breakfast restaurant opened, we ordered a set breakfast by pointing to the picture that looked most appetizing (being able to read Chinese characters is not much use when you and the cashier pronounce them completely differently), which turned out to be a huge bowl of ramen noodles, topped with a fried egg and two sausages, plus a cup of hot milk tea. It was enough for us both to share, because, of course, it was time for my second breakfast. The grand total cost of this meal? The equivalent of $3 in American money. At this point I felt quite justified in talking Angel out of the $9 bowls of noodles we'd seen for sale in Hawaii a few days previously.

We were only in Hong Kong less than 24 hours before boarding our bus into ShenZhen. I'm sure we'll be back in the future. But for now, on to explore our new home. (Is it just me or is this the never-ending journey?)

Oahu Adventures on a Budget

 (If you are offended by photos of people wearing swimsuits, I recommend skipping this post.)

I'm not sure why, but somehow, I thought that this would be a more laid-back vacation. I did comparatively little research ahead of time--I didn't have my usual filled-to-the-max itinerary that has been a signature aspect of every vacation I've been on since I was a preteen. We even didn't cancel our Netflix account before we left, thinking that we'd hang out in the room and watch movies sometimes.

Silly me.

We don't have laid-back vacations.

Diamond Head Crater Oahu

Waikiki Beach Oahu

Dole Plantation Oahu


Manoa Falls Oahu

Manoa Falls Oahu

 During our 5 days in Oahu, we did:

Diamond Head Crater
Boogie Boarding at Waikiki Beach
Pearl Harbor
Dole Pineapple Plantation
Manoa Falls Trail
Ala Moana Shopping Center (food and wandering around)
Ala Moana Beach
Stand-Up Paddleboarding at Waikiki Beach
Kahala Mall (food and wandering around)
Koko Marina Theater (Angel had to see the Rock in Hercules)
The Koko Crater Railway Trail
Sandy Beach
Halona Blowhole
Halona Cove
Hanauma Bay

SUP Paddleboarding Oahu

SUP Paddleboarding Oahu

Koko Crater Oahu

Koko Crater Railway Trail

Koko Crater Railway Trail
Sandy Beach Oahu

During the same 5 days, we learned:

-When food is expensive, we don't place a high value on it. We bought oatmeal, eggs, and snacks from a grocery store and ate out as minimally as possible. We did, however, treat ourselves to a few smoothies from Jamba Juice.

-I am not actually a very good swimmer. I can swim just fine in a pool...but put me in a ocean at a depth over my head and add real waves...and I kind of suck at swimming. I was wishing I had a life jacket. Also...I've never actually swam in an ocean before, so waves are new to me. (Yes, I did grow up a couple steps from the Indian Ocean but our beach was too polluted for swimming and wading).

-Stand-up paddleboarding is dangerous. We both ended up with bloodied feet after being knocked off the board by waves and landing on rocks that were near the surface. Also--full disclosure, I never even stood up on the paddleboard. I am definitely a sit-down paddleboarder. In spite of the blood, I absolutely loved it!

- A hike classified as "easy" in Oahu is not the same as a hike classified as "easy" at Mammoth Cave National Park. I don't know about you, but when I heard "easy hike"--I think of a wheelchair and stroller accessible, paved winding trail through the woods...because that's basically what an easy hike at Mammoth Cave National Park is. By those standards, the "easy" Manoa Falls trail is a muddy death-trap. It was awesome. Possibly the most fun trail I've ever walked, and the waterfall was amazing. But I saw parents with toddlers--and very nicely dressed senior citizens attempting this trail--I imagine they were also mislead by those who call it "easy". Easy, it is not, awesome, it is.

-Climbing the Koko Crater Railway trail at 2 in the afternoon is crazy. I didn't actually make it all the way to the top. I made it a little more than halfway before deciding that it would be wiser not to allow myself to faint on the side of a mountain. Angel finished the hike--he's tough.

-What mystified me was that many of the public bus stops have no shelter or shade. The only bus system I'm very experienced with is that of my hometown in Malaysia--a similar tropical climate with sun rays of death. Shelters over bus stops are a lifesaver (or, at the very least, they make a 30 minute wait way more comfortable!)--I was very surprised that they aren't the norm in this American town.

-Angel really seems to like places where it's semi-socially acceptable for him to not wear a shirt. He also got pretty sunburned on his back, while I escaped all sunburn except some slight rosiness on the back of my lower calves...the lesson here is that wearing clothes is healthy for you!

-It IS entirely possible to go to Hawaii without spending one's life savings. Stopping over en route to China so that our flights were next to free...renting a tiny guesthouse through Airbnb instead of a hotel room...walking and riding the bus everywhere instead of renting a car...cooking in the room instead of going out for every meal...and choosing the freedom of making up our own adventures instead of joining tours allowed us to have a trip that fit both our love for adventure and our wallets. No, we didn't do any cruises or shark encounters or luaus or trips to other islands--we skipped anything with a significant ticket price...but as you can probably tell, we had more than enough to keep us busy from morning till night! (Hiking is free!!)

That Time My Hips Were Suspicious


 Angel, guarding our luggage during our 6 hour plane delay in San Francisco. After both the hip incident and the delay, I've decided that SFO is not in the running for my favorite airport. Thus far, Singapore and Gerald R. Ford International are the top two.

I had to get patted down after going through the scanning machine at security.

I try so hard each time to figure out what to wear so that I don't get patted down. I was wearing a cotton dress with jeans underneath--apparently this combo didn't work for me.

I'm silently submitting to the pat down when the lady asks, with her hand on my hip,

"Ma'am, have you removed all items from your pockets?"

"Yes." I confirm.

"Well, it feels to me like you have something hard that sticks out of this pocket right here, can you please remove that?" she says, patting on my hip.

"Umm, that's my hipbone," I say.

 Her other hand moves to my right hip, as if to confirm that my body is roughly symmetrical in shape.

"Oh, well, then, you're good." she says, and waves me on by.

Now, perhaps my hipbones are a little pointier than average, but that's the first time I've ever had them considered a suspicious item on my person.

I feel like there's a joke to be make out of this...but I'm too sleepy. And it's fairly awkward to write an entire blog post about hips, so give me a few minutes to get over that.

(Also, please, no worries about my health. I've been the same weight and size for over 10  years and it's very normal for my bones to be a little on the pointy side.)

Goodbye, Michigan

Our driveway, our yard, our home-that-was.
6: Years--Of living in West Michigan semi-continuously (I spent two entire summers in Malaysia)

8: Semesters of College

11: Months of Beauty School

2: Years of Blogging

2: Homes--Grandma and Grandpa's (2008-2010), and my home with Angel (2010-2014)

3: Times our car broke down within a few miles from home and had to be towed

9: Cats-- Amoxicillin, Morphine, Narcan, Morphine 2, Narcan 2, Clyndamycin, Clyndamycin 2 Penicillin,  Pipperacillin Tazobactam

3: Vacations with Angel: Kentucky Honeymoon, Minnesota Trip, Malaysia trip

2: Vacations without Angel: A trip out west to Wyoming, and DisneyWorld

5: Trips to Texas to visit family (twice by plane, 3 times by car)

5: TV shows we got slightly addicted to and watched every single episode of: The Office, Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Psych, Once Upon a Time

3: Wedding anniversaries: 1st: celebrated at Craig's Cruisers Arcade, 2nd: at Great Wolf Lodge, 3rd: with a much-belated weekend in Chicago

Countless: bonfires and parties with friends and family, movie nights on the couch, bike rides down country roads, visits to the beach, sledding in the backyard, shoveling snow, cooking quesadillas with my husband, going to Bible study with friends

............................................................................


I honestly thought that I wouldn't feel sad when the day came for us to leave Michigan. Out of all of the places I've lived, it took me the longest to adjust to this place when I arrived here in 2008.

However, now that the time has come, now that it's real, even though I'm so excited to go, I have my moments of sadness. They come when I'm driving down a very familiar street, when I suddenly realize that where I'm going, there are not yet any familiar streets. They come when I'm awkwardly saying goodbye to someone I love--giving them a quick hug and trying to imagine that I'll see them again soon...but knowing that it won't actually be soon.

After 6 years here, I guess it's expected that I've grown a little attached to my place. No, I never saw Angel and I settling down in the farmhouse where we've lived--but still, it's the house we arrived home to for the first time together on the evening of our wedding. It's the house where I fell off ladders as I embarked on my quest to paint each room a different color of the rainbow. I always knew it wouldn't be home for very long, but it has been our home, and now it's not, not anymore.

A couple years from now, we won't be able to take a little drive and show our kids the place on the lawn of our college campus where "Mommy and Daddy first met." I am going to miss seeing my little cousins regularly and being a part of their lives as they grow up. We won't get to meet up with our college buddies every couple months anymore.

I'm so happy to go. I have no doubt that this is precisely what Angel and I ought to do with our lives. But that doesn't stop the little pang of sadness that always comes with leaving.

I was wrong. I thought that leaving Michigan would be the easiest thing I've ever done. I've had some not-so-good times here--my freshman year of college and beauty school and every single never-ending winter among those times. This hasn't been the easiest place for me to fit in. But I got used to being an oddball, and I thank God that I will miss this place a little--that alone shows that there was plenty of good stuff mixed in with the bad. I think it shows that my years here haven't been a waste--I very much hope that some of the people I'm leaving behind will miss me, too.

With Michigan, I know it's never a permanent goodbye. I'll always have family here, and that means I get to come back again someday. But when we do come back, it'll be for short trips and visits, not a permanent stay...it'll be different. The Michigan countryside that I've grown pretty familiar with isn't ever going to be my everyday view ever again. I knew I was going to miss my family and friends--saying goodbye is always the hardest part of going anywhere new, but I must say, I'm surprised at how hard this goodbye is to say.

A Summer Tradition

This past weekend we went to a Steam and Gas Engine/Tractor Show.

Have you ever heard of such a thing?

 One of my little cousins and my Grandma's John Deere H.

 My uncle driving Grandpa's John Deere D


As I wandered around the grounds of this particular show, which hasn't changed much, if at all, in recent decades, I had a sudden feeling that most of the world probably has no idea that "tractor shows" or "steam and gas engine shows" exist.

Hard for me to imagine, as I attended this particular show on the day before I was born, and many of the summers since.

A tractor and engine show comes about when a bunch of people who own tractors and engines load them all up on trailers, truck them over to the prearranged spot, and arrange them in neat displays in a field or fairgrounds.

Then tractor and engine enthusiasts spend a weekend driving each other's tractors around--oftentimes there's quite a bit of buying and selling and trading of one engine or another. At this show, huge steam engines roll steadily around the field periodically. Most people wear the logos of their favorite brand of tractors, and you'll see plenty of cheeky slogans among the different groups, such as "Why farm half when you could FARMALL?" and "If it ain't red, leave it in the shed."


Did you know that brand wars existed between tractor fans? I imagine it's somewhat like fans of different sports teams. My family is a John Deere family, which is why you might notice the preponderance of green and yellow. My Grandma had her 1941 John Deere H at the show and my Grandpa had his 1931 John Deere D, so there were plenty of rides to be had for all of us.

Engines and tractors aren't the only draw, and driving them around and talking about their horsepower isn't the only thing to do--in the opinion of this not-particularly-mechanically interested girl, that's a good thing. There's also a blacksmith at work, and a running sawmill to inspect (am I the only person who instantly thinks of the tragic accident that took place in Lemony Snicket's The Miserable Mill every time I see a sawmill?)

Activities go on throughout the day--there's a tractor parade, and a tractor pull (which involves tractors pulling a huge weight, to see which tractor can pull the heaviest weight the furthest--with the strongest tractor winning.) This year was the first year they had a pedal tractor pull. Angel and I joined in....because how many adventures can you have if you don't join in?


Only three women did the pedal tractor pull, and I placed 3rd...if that tells you anything about my capacity to pedal a tractor while pulling 313 pounds behind me. But still...I got a 3rd place ribbon!


A lot more men did the pull, and Angel placed 4th from last...to be fair, the guys who won it were a good 100 lbs. bigger than Angel and he didn't really stand a chance when it came to brute force.

My favorite part of the show is the model radio control airplane show they have the in evening--it boasts quirky model planes like lawnmowers and flying John Deere tractors and irons...another key feature is excessively corny jokes and explosions. They also have specialty planes, some with real jet engines and helicopters that can do some pretty awesome tricks. They've been doing pretty much exactly the same script since they started the show, but I always think it's fun to watch!


There's the lawnmower, about to take off! And below, you can hopefully make out that it's a plane in the shape of a truck:


Have you ever attended a tractor show and experienced this little piece of culture?

Angelisms, part 7



Scene: Angel, carrying his laptop, walks past me and into the kitchen announcing:
"I'm just going to make myself some chocolate chip cookies."

Knowing that my husband can cook, but has never actually baked, I volunteer to help him in his sudden quest for home-baked goods. He took me up on  a suggestion of making "the big cookie" as my family always called it, slightly easier than actual chocolate chip cookies.
........................................................

Scene: Playing Boggle

Angel tries to pass off gleet and gile as real words.

...................................................................

Scene: Hanging out on the couch.

Angel: "So-and-so {his coworker} has a TON of chest hair."

Rachel: "Umm, why and how do you know that?"

Angel: "Because I asked him whether or not he had a lot of chest hair."
...........................................................................

Scene: Making lunch together

Angel: "I was just thinking about the question "What object would I dis-invent in order to ruin my Rachy's life?" "

Rachel {In horror}: "WHY were you thinking about that question? That's awful!"

Angel: "I decided on the perfect answer: Malaysia."

Rachel: "You cannot dis-invent Malaysia and you should not be thinking about how to ruin my life."

Angel: "Well, what would you dis-invent in order to ruin my life?"

Rachel: "Chocolate."

...........................................................

Scene: Chatting in the car.

Angel: "So, I was thinking when we get to China, I should introduce myself to everyone with a nickname."

Rachel: "Why, exactly?"

Angel: "China's like a fresh start, so maybe I should have a new name."

Rachel: "What nickname were you thinking of?"

Angel: "I'm thinking either Ang or AJ."

Rachel: "Ang rhymes with mange, so I don't like it. What is the J in AJ supposed to be for?"

Angel: "Angel Junior, of course!"

Rachel: "Okay.... I vote for sticking with Angel. Unless we want to give you an entirely different name, like Geoffrey."

Angel does not want his new nickname to be Geoffrey.

................................................. 

Scene: Angel had made smoothies for us to take to the park for a picnic. I had suggested putting them in our thermos-type water bottles. When packing for the picnic, I couldn't find the smoothies in the fridge.

Rachel: "Hey, where are the smoothies you made?"

Angel: "Right here! [in my Rubbermaid storage bowls that usually house leftovers, this is why I didn't recognize them as containing smoothies] I wanted to make a LOT and I didn't think the water bottles were big enough, we'll just pack these and drink the smoothie with a spoon."

You gotta give him points for creativity...I'm pretty sure it would never occur to me to bring a smoothie to the park in a Rubbermaid storage bowl and drink it with a spoon...but hey, if that means I can have more smoothie than will fit in a water bottle, that's a good thing!

...............................................

Scene: An 8 year old kid asks Angel if I (Rachel) am his mom.

Angel: "No, she's my grandma."

(By the way...I am not even remotely old enough to be Angel's mom. Or grandma.)

..............................................................................

Scene: During a lull in the conversation. With a friend, coworker, or family member. This has happened several times, but Angel always asks the question to a married man.

Angel: "So, did your wife have a lot of boyfriends before she married you?"

(The response is usually spluttering, laughter, or "What kind of question is that?)

.............................................................................

So, everyone's funniest Angel just had a big birthday. His 30th, to be exact.

We went to his favorite restaurant on his birthday, and discovered that Culver's was born the same time he was! 
 
My secret goal in my 22 while 22 post last year was to create a surprise of some sort for Angel's 30th birthday. I had many different ideas for surprises throughout the year, from big gifts to vacations to parties, but eventually settled on one that took our plans to move just days after his birthday (and our upcoming vacation) into account: his surprise was a little black notebook. I spent the last 6 months coordinating its travel from one friend or family member to another with orders for them to write out a memory of Angel in honor of his birthday. The result is a seemingly ordinary notebook with a compilation of over 30 stories from his family, mine, and our friends handwritten inside. Angel said it was the best birthday present he'd ever received, so I'd count that a success. I also asked my grandma to secretly make him a Texas Sheet Cake, so he got a surprise dessert, as well!

By the way, he got me curious. Is it normal to contemplate what you would 'dis-invent' in order to ruin your spouse's life and if so what would you dis-invent?

Meals for the Rest of Your Life

 Roti Bawang--the breakfast of my dreams

I think it's time for another icebreaker question involving a hypothetical scenario. I truly believe that such questions are important for understanding society and building strong relationships. And yeah, I ask them probably more often than the average person does...

Today, I'm asking, if you could only eat 5 meals for the rest of your life, which would they be?

I'm just going to go ahead and completely disregard health and basic nutrition in my answer. I realize that these five meals are probably not the building blocks of a balanced diet. I'm going with my absolute favorite meals in the whole wide world:

1. Butter chicken masala with naan bread and papadam as appetizer.

No explanation necessary. Heaven on a plate.

2. Roti telur bawang with curry

Okay, explanation probably necessary. It's a kind of fried flatbread (roti) filled with eggs (telur) and onions (bawang) and you dip it in curry....this is the kind of food I literally dream about. Best served with ais limon (iced water with sugar and limes) to drink.

3. Raspberry, blackberry, and strawberry crisp

Totally not a meal, but you eat dessert for a meal sometimes, right? This is the best dessert of all time.

4. Popcorn fried chicken with mashed potatoes and ham gravy and steamed broccoli

But only the kind I make. No one else makes fried chicken like I do--popcorn style (tiny bites and boneless) and very spicy (okay, fine, my mom's and my brother's fried chicken qualify, too, but that's it). I almost never have ham gravy (because how often is someone cooking a ham?) but this is my ideal meal, so what I say goes.

5. Black pepper chicken, with a fried egg and onion side dish, with a bok choy side dish, with fried rice.

This would be what I would order at your typical sit-down Chinese restaurant in Asia.

Those are my 5 meals. Unfortunately, I can't even make all of them at home! Making roti telur bawang is an art that I'll never be able to master. My mouth is watering at the mere thought of these dinners. It's probably obvious, my weakness is fried foods and I would happily eat no other meat besides chicken for the rest of my life.

I asked Angel what 5 meals he'd choose, and he said he wanted my fried rice, his mom's ceviche, his dad's steaks, his own hamburgers, and tandoori chicken with rice. What 5 meals would you choose?

Compromise

 
Sponges.

I don't understand it, but Angel likes sponges. My family never used sponges for cleaning or for washing dishes when I was growing up. We used washcloths, which I think are a better option because they are washable and reusable and they don't sit there staying damp all day and collecting germs.

But Angel likes sponges. Not only does he like sponges, but he likes them so much that the only way he'll wash dishes is if there is a sponge to wash them with, rather than a washcloth. I do not like washcloths enough to insist that all dishes in our house be washed with a washcloth, because that would mean I would wash all of the dishes. So, I always make sure that we keep a good supply of sponges handy. And I also make sure to change sponges and throw away the old ones before they get gross. I'm slightly suspicious that if it were up to Angel, he's just keep using the same sponge till it fell apart.

Sometimes adult men remind me very much of the men I knew in college. And sometimes, a little compromise is part of the privileges of being married.

What have you chosen to compromise on?

My Strangest Job





I know this is a stretch of a topic for an outfit post, but I was looking at these photos and thinking about how cotton dresses get wrinkly the minute you put them on, which, of course, led me to think about my days as a professional ironing girl.

What is the strangest job you've ever had?

Some jobs seem to make sense for certain people, and others not so much. But it seems that the vast majority of us have to pick up at least one or two jobs that don't quite suit our personalities at some point in our lives because of the simple fact that life costs money. For example, it makes me giggle to think that once upon a time Angel worked at Target.

Probably the most unexpected job I've ever held was that of "ironing girl" for a family wealthy enough to hire separate "ironing girls" and "cleaning girls." And yes, that's what my employer called me, "Ironing Girl."

Now, on the surface of it, it's not that odd of a job for me. I grew up with 6 younger siblings--I am very skilled at just about any household chore, and I am especially skilled at ironing. I'm fast and thorough at ironing, and I liked that the job didn't require a lot of commitment, just 3 hours once a week, and that it paid well over minimum wage.

But the experience of being someone's "ironing girl" was, I must say, rather a strange one. Every week I showed up, and headed to the basement to iron the rack of clothes, tablecloths, pajamas, etc., that would be ready for ironing (Yes, I regularly ironed pajamas and t-shirts). Sometimes my boss would sit in a chair next to the ironing board and talk to me while I ironed--mostly about her children and about how out of all the ironing girls she's ever had, she'd never had anyone that was as skillful as I was at the job. That was a constant theme in her conversation--that I was excellent at ironing. So you can imagine that it came as a shock to me that she fired me, twice.

The first time, she called me up on the day I was supposed to come and iron and told me that she could no longer have me working for her, goodbye. The next day, she called me again and told me that she was so sorry, she must have been crazy, and that of course she still needed me to come and iron for her. So I continued working for her. I knew when I got married that I would no longer be able to be her "ironing girl" because moving in with Angel would mean I would live about an hour away from her house. I told her that I needed to quit, giving her several weeks notice, and at first she responded that she would be very sad to lose me. However, the day before I was supposed to come over for my last ironing session the week before my wedding, she called me and told me that my services were no longer required, making no mention of the fact that I had already planned to quit.

For three semesters of college, I was an "ironing girl," and I did a pretty good job of it. I have to admit, the first time she fired me, I cried. I was 18 and had never been fired before, and I thought it was really strange. But the second time, I didn't. I was happy to put my career in ironing behind me!

So, what strange job have you held?

What We're Packing for China




 {But first, I thought I'd share a mini-tour of what's left in our home. We do have some furniture, still, as you see, only because it's heirloom or borrowed furniture--none of it belongs to us, but we are happily using it for the time being. Our suitcases are mostly packed at this point, so anything left in the house is just what we're living with up until the 22nd when we leave. By the way, I actually love living in a nearly empty house, it looks so clean all the time!}

Here's a relatively complete look at what's coming with us on our move overseas (since you are human like me, I assume you're curious):

Boring, practical clothes and shoes for work (slacks, button-ups, covered toe shoes--I can also wear dresses at work, hurray!)
Clothes and shoes that Rachel is too fond of to let go (i.e. red high heels, Bettie Page dress, etc.)
Clothes and shoes that Angel is too fond of to let go (i.e. basketball shoes, Mephisto shoes, his cardigan, etc.)
Angel's USA, Mexico, and China flags (Only the three most loved. South Korea, Brazil, and the rest of the collection didn't make the cut)
Our wedding clothes (2 reasons: Angel is supposed to have a suit to wear to formal school banquets, so he needed to bring his suit anyways. Plus, we have a tradition of wearing our wedding clothes again every year and I can't skip that in China! And my dress, unlike most wedding dresses, is very non-poofy and doesn't take up much room...it's almost like I was secretly planning on a vagabond's life...)
Chacos (sandals) for both of us
My Doc Martens (I hear it does get slightly chilly in ShenZhen in the winter...and I love my Docs and I've only had them for a year, so I want to keep using them as long as possible)
A miniature pewter nativity scene (first Christmas without any family? I at least wanted one little decoration from home)
2 Laptops
External hard drive
Angel's iPod touch
Camera/Camera battery charger
My haircutting scissors and comb
My jewelry and accessories
Angel's favorite prism
My little swiss army knife
Chinese/English dictionary
A few, very few, books...like 3
Light jackets for both of us
A stock of basic meds we might need (ibuprofen, allergy meds, stomach meds, etc.)
Notarized copies of important papers/ids/etc.
Potato Peeler
Can Opener
A few makeup/facial skincare products
Toms deodorant
Yes To... chapstick
A 31 brand tote someone gave us (we figure, lightweight and great for organizing since we don't expect to have much furniture)
Travel Boggle (to play on the airplane and whenever else we want to play)
My Fabric USA Map  (It's cute and it's made of fabric, it will take up hardly any room I promise)
Silverware (just 2 complete sets)
Angel's pewter cup
My Purse from the Red Buffalo Road
The extra HK dollars that we had from last time we were in the HK airport


And I think that's all that will fit. Actually, it might not all fit in the 2 suitcases, 2 carry ons, and 2 backpacks we're bringing (1 each per person). We are bringing a few little luxuries, as you saw, and both are a little more fond of our clothes and shoes than perhaps we should be. That's the reason I plan on wearing my Doc Martens, jeans, a tank top, a dress, AND my denim jacket on the airplane (in July, as you know). Either I'm trying to make a fashion statement of some sort or else I'm just trying to sneak a little extra clothing along with me. That's okay, I'm always really cold in airports and on airplanes anyways.

Now just ask me in a couple months what I wish we had packed but either forgot or didn't have enough room for...

A Moment's Legacy

I remember when I was at a fast-food restaurant and while my family finished their order I was sent ahead to find a table for 9 where we could sit. A lady  walked up to take away the chair next to me at the table I chose. I turned to her and said, "Oh, I'm so sorry, but my family is coming to sit here right now, so we need the chairs." She walked away in a huff, saying loudly, to no one in particular, "Some people just think they can save everything!"

I remember when I was wandering around a grocery store and a lady stopped me and said, "I just have to tell you that your shoes are too cute!"

I remember being 13 years old, about to sit down in my seat on an airplane when the lady sitting directly in front of me jumped up out of her chair, turned to me and said, quite viciously, "If you kick or bump my chair ONE TIME I will immediately call the stewardess and have you removed to another part of the airplane."

I remember one time, after a play I performed in as a teenager, a random man came up to tell me: "You are very talented. I wouldn't be surprised if you end up as a professional actress one day."

I remember walking into an elevator with my mom and the lady inside sneering and spitting out the words: "Orang putih!" ("white people")

I remember a girl who thrust a doughnut and a napkin into my hands after seeing me walk into one of the buildings on my college campus sobbing, my makeup ruined with tears. "Eat this," she said, "Sugar will make you feel better."

I remember a cosmetologist who spent my entire haircut railing on about lazy, dirty, no-good Hispanics who use up government funds.

 {I don't think it's ever a good idea to go on political/social rants of that sort while cutting a client's hair...but it's probably an even worse idea if your client is married to a 2nd gen. Mexican...}
 ....................................................................

I don't know any of these people. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't even recognize them again if I saw them. I've only had momentary encounters with each one of them, but I've remembered each of them for years.

We never know what kind of an impact we make on the people around us. With most people, we may get one, and only one, chance to make an impression.

All of the encounters I mentioned above left an impression of that person on me. I may have been confused, offended, had my feelings hurt, or I may have walked away with a smile, feeling unusually appreciated and cared for.

Maybe a moment isn't enough to judge the true character of a person. Maybe the lady who snapped at me on the airplane isn't a grumpy kid-hater, maybe she was just feeling really sick and having a bad day, but normally she's really nice. Maybe the girl who gave me her doughnut to cheer me up isn't actually a kindhearted person, maybe she's mean and stingy and accidentally had a moment of generosity that she regretted forever because now she didn't have a doughnut to eat.

I mean, maybe. But even if those scenarios were true, I would never know from their actions to me. From my encounters with these people, all I know about them is the legacy that they displayed in the moment that I knew them. Maybe the "Orang putih!" lady and the cosmetologist aren't actually vocal racists. Maybe.

We all experience encounters where we only get a moment to leave a legacy. When a stranger stumbles and steps on your toe while passing you in the street, in that moment you have a choice of how to respond, of how they will forever remember you. When buying a pack of gum at the gas station, when sharing an elevator, when a teenage girl like me walks by with tears running down her face...

I know I've left legacies that I'm ashamed of now. In the moment, I was annoyed, or my temper flared up and I said something I now wish I didn't say. But the moment is gone. Chances are slim I'll ever run into that person again, and there's no way to change the legacy I left.

It's worth considering. Most of us think about the legacy that we want to leave at the end of a life's work done. But how often do we consider what kind of legacy do we want to leave after a momentary encounter with a stranger?

It may not seem like it at the time, but a moment matters.

....................................................................

Do you have a story, or a few, about an encounter with a stranger that left a strong mark on your memory, for better or worse?

Angel Fashion

Shirt: Target
Shorts: H&M
Shoes: Old Navy
Shirt: JC Penney
Pants: Gap (circa 2003)
Shoes: Keen

 Sweater: Gift from Mom
Pants: Ross
Shoes: Mephisto

This is his impression of me posing for outfit photos. And, although I never say where my clothes are from, he insisted that I include that information because he want to look like a legit fashion blogger.

Love you, Angel!

Doesn't Make the Cut



Before you start gushing over how beautiful I am in this dress (sarcasm fully intended)...it failed to pass the test required to make it to China, on many counts.

1) Clearly, this dress isn't professional wear, so I couldn't wear it to work.

2) It was a free hand-me-down. I tend to be less emotionally attached to clothes that I didn't pick out for myself.

3) It's made of plastic, or it feels like that anyways. If you've ever lived in the tropics you know that wearing plastic is not ideal.

4) No sleeves. I prefer sleeves--my shoulders are nothing to write home about.

5) The dress is pastel yellow. I have nothing against pastels in general but they aren't the best colors for me. If you notice, the dress very nearly blends into my skin. Apparently, I have pastel skin...which is why I'm not in love with a pastel dress!

All of these factors combine to determine that this dress will not be with me much longer. I will leave it in order to make room for a dress which is a little more well-suited to me, like this one.

The denim capris, on the other hand, are definitely coming with me. It's not easy to find comfy jeans that fit perfectly, and the length makes 90 degree weather quite pleasant indeed.

The decision about the shoes is still up in the air. They were cheap, $4 from the children's section of Target cheap, and they aren't incredibly comfortable, but they are sparkly pink ballet flats, so they have that going for them.

Moving somewhere is one of the best remedies for getting stuff that you like but don't love out of your closet!

p.s. I don't have small feet. I usually wear a size 7, sometimes 7.5. But apparently children's sizes are larger than you would think, because these are a 4. So women with average-sized feet like me might find it completely possible to buy cute and colorful shoes from the children's section for less money. I can also fit children's Chacos, which are about $30 cheaper than Chacos for adults--bonus! Have you ever tried shopping in the kids' shoe section?

Nightmares

I've never been the type to have monsters in my nightmares. My nightmares are always semi-reasonably related to my current life stage. Here's a list of the main ones:

Have I ever shown you this picture before? I think it's utterly hilarious. Apparently you can get four kids to sit still and look at a camera but the infant won't have anything to do with such business. This was taken around the time when I became quite terrified of interruptin my mom.
Childhood nightmare: I interrupted my mom while she was talking to some people. I knew better, interrupting was against the rules, but I did it anyway. She immediately dragged me down to a dungeon where hundreds of children were chained to the wall, told me that these were all of her other kids who had interrupted her before I had, and locked me up to spent the rest of my life in chains because of my transgression. Talk about dramatic!

Bride-to-be Nightmare: It's my wedding day, and Mom and Dad come and tell me that Angel is refusing to marry me, but not to worry, they found someone else who will marry me, so none of the money or arrangements will be wasted, I just need to go and marry him right now. In a daze, I go through with the ceremony, but at the reception, I see Angel there, and he's very upset. It turns out that my parents had been lying the whole time, and it was all a scheme to get me to marry this stranger, even though Angel had wanted to marry me all along. I chase after Angel to find him and explain that I didn't want to marry this guy, I'd been tricked, but it wasn't too late, we were still at the wedding venue and the papers hadn't even been filed yet.

Senior Year of College Nightmare: It's the seventh week of the semester, and I completely forgot that I had signed up for a class, and at this point I have failed to attend any of the sessions or do any of the coursework, simply because I forgot that the class existed. I'm trying desperately to find the prof and the classroom, which are seemingly impossible to find, because I need to straighten out this mess and find a way to fix my grade before graduation!

Newly-Licensed Cosmetologist Nightmare: I'm licensed, I already passed my state board test and I have the fancy card in my wallet--yet through some strange turn of events, my hours were calculated incorrectly and I have to return for one more week of cosmetology school. I'm devastated by the news.

About to Move to China Nightmare: I'm at an Indian restaurant, but the only language that the Indian lady who owns the restaurant and I share in common in Mandarin. And, bizarrely, my knowledge of Mandarin has disappeared and I'm left stumbling over a simple question "What hours is this restaurant open?" I manage to get out "restaurant" and "time" and "open" and she understands and tells me they're open till 10 p.m. but I'm so embarrassed that I can't string one sentence together. When I wake up, I immediately test myself, "Qing wen, nin de can guan cong ji dian zhong dao ji dian zhong kai shi?" What a relief. I haven't lost either my good sense or my Mandarin skills.

p.s. I'd like it to be noted that my parents are actually good people, they only play evil characters in my nightmares, it seems.

Do you ever have nightmares related to your actual life circumstance?

The Two of Us

I know I generally give a very lighthearted view of my marriage around here. Angel's a funny guy--it's only natural to appropriate his humor for my blog posts.

But I wanted to say, on a more serious note, I'm glad I married him.

We're really married, ya'll. Four years ago today we got engaged, which means that later this year we'll be celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary. I may look pretty much the same but I'm no longer the 19 year old blushing bride I once was.

You know, we never had a fight till after we were married. I remember, back in the day, Angel telling me, "I can't imagine ever being mad at you."


Well that was just in the beginning. He's been mad at me..2 or 3 times. I've been mad at him...noticeably more often than that. We aren't a particularly tumultuous couple but every once in a while we fiercely disagree with the other. Over the past few  years we've learned how to fiercely disagree in better ways. I've learned that timing matters--don't bring up serious conversations when he's just come home from work after 4 days of 12-hour shifts in a row. He's learned the importance of admitting when he was at fault and that telling me not to cry is never, ever going to actually make me not cry (never).

I'm more likely to joke about marriage, and tell funny stories about my husband, because those are the kind of stories I like to tell. I love real life humor. Real life is more hilarious than fiction could ever be. But that's not the whole story. Our life has its serious moments, too. We make big decisions together, decisions that I can't quite believe I'm old enough to make. Together we pray, we work, we study, and we teach each other from our own skill sets. Angel makes me push my limits and do things I'm scared to do, but he also knows me well enough to help me in situations I really don't know how to handle. On the other hand, because of me, Angel's begun a lifestyle he never thought he would have wanted.

We're so different. Sometimes I wonder what could I possibly have in common with this athletic California boy who eats foods that I think are disgusting, tells jokes to complete strangers, and thinks it's fun to wear a bear costume. The funny thing is that we agree on everything that really matters, and that's the miracle. One of my sisters said once that Angel and I are perfect for each other because we're both a little odd and we understand each other's oddness better than everyone else--and it is a very, very good thing to be known by someone who understands you so well. We're good together, and we've gotten better as time has passed.

When I went off to college, my grandpa told me to stay away from boys, especially Christian boys who I met at Bible study. I asked how he expected me to ever get married. He told me that when I was done with college he would give my his permission to not stay away from boys anymore and instruction on how to proceed to the marriage stage of life, but in the meantime, I had to obey the rule. I promptly broke the rule. Back in 2010 Angel and I decided to do life together. I didn't know what that would mean in reality. I don't think anyone does. I still don't know what our future life is going to look like exactly. But I'm convinced our story will be one well worth the telling, and that's all I ever wanted.

Up in the Air

I don't have a bucket list, but if I did, painting the second story of a house from a boom would be on it. Last week, I got to check that experience off of the non-existent bucket list. It was like a free carnival ride and it was awesome.

Angel operating the boom, and obviously, those are ladders, not me, in the boom. I couldn't take a picture of myself up there.
 
Angel and I had the opportunity to join in on a community work project put together by my grandparents' church. If you've ever heard of the city of Flint, you know its reputation--but Flint is one of my many homes. This church is located very close to downtown Flint, and about 8 years ago some of the members who work in construction had the idea that one of the most effective ways that this church could make an impact in their own community was to help their neighbors in a very practical way: By spending a week every summer taking on home improvement projects for local homeowners who lack the financial or physical means to perform needed improvements on their own homes.

Every year, the teams managed to tackle projects on about 8 to 10 houses in the neighborhood--we specialize in putting on new roofs, painting houses, and rebuilding rotting porches or stairways. I am so grateful that this group has seen a need in their own community and figured out a way to meet that need and be a blessing to the people around them using the skills they have. A lot of people who see us working on the houses ask why and what we're doing--to me, one of the best explanations is found in Micah 6:8,

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Justice, mercy, and humility--that's what we're supposed to be about. This work project allows us to make friends with people living near the church building and meet their physical needs while also letting them know that the reason why we do what we do is because of what Jesus did for us. This is my third year joining in on the work project. Angel cares, perhaps a little too much, for his wife's physical safety, so I didn't join any of the roofing teams at his order (I was only standing on a roof to paint the side of the house). I got to work on three different homes that were painted. Angel couldn't stay the whole week since he had to go back to the hospital to work, but he was able to be there for a couple days.




People like Angel and I just provide the muscle for the project, and that's easy (or, in my case, it's less muscle and more just a stubborn willingness to work). Leaders of this project take on all the huge and complicated tasks of deciding which projects to take on, acquiring supplies and equipment, getting permits, and organizing teams to complete the labor on time. I am inspired by the people who have the vision to keep this project happening every year and the mark that it leaves on Flint is plain to see.

I feel like most of the time, the only Christians you hear about are the ones who get into big trouble because they aren't living out what they claim to believe. I simply want to say a thank you to those who are willing to put their time and money where their mouth is. These guys actually DO what they believe, and I'm glad to know them.