Writing Camp, Summer 2014
My favorite professor in college used to tell a story. As a young man, he’d been in a jazz band and then the army. He’d traveled solo around the world, dreamed of being a pilot, gone to flight school. After receiving his pilot’s license, however, he couldn’t find work. Times were desperate; money, scarce. One day, in a moment of frustration, he cried out, “Lord, please . . . What do you want me to do?!” Continue reading
Some of you have wondered where I’ve been. I’ve been posting less often, commenting the same . . . Have I given up blogging? Have I given up loving? Am I heartless? Do I not care?
Hardly, friends! Anything but! I do care, and care all the more! It’s just . . . my life has been shifting. To give you a review:
In December, 2009, I moved to Taiwan. My viewpoints were challenged. My perspectives, changed.
At Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan
… Continue reading
Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe on January 3. This place should be BURIED in snow.
There’s a story often told about the Eskimos. In the dead of winter, when out hunting caribou, hunters plant blood-covered knives blade up in the snow around their camp at night. The blood on the knives attracts wolves who, rather than attack the camp as they would have, lick the blades excitedly, thus cutting their tongues. The wolves are so excited about the blood, however, that they ignore their pain and go on licking, not realizing that they’re drinking their own blood . . .
The truth is, this story isn’t true (Google it if you don’t believe me), but there’s a lot of truth in it — at least in parallel. I am thinking particularly of the drought in California. Continue reading
While on my trip a dear friend from high school posted this photo on my facebook page:
“I think you’ve been satisfying this need for a couple of weeks now,” he said.
And I wondered: Was it true?
I’ve been a seeker all my life. From the time I was ten, I couldn’t wait to get my driver’s license. Six more years! How would I make it? In high school, my Catholic boyfriend challenged me to examine my Protestant beliefs, and when it came time for college, I chose a school 3,000 miles from home — Southern Adventist University in Chattanooga, Tennessee. At Southern, I uncovered a whole new world, one in which umbrellas were a necessity year-round (a strange phenomenon for a California girl) and the correct way to address a group of friends was not “Hey, guys,” but “Ya’ll”! It was the start of what has made me me and a part of what eased my transition to life in Asia — I already knew about this cicada and humidity thing!
But, I guess my question is: What is travel? And why is it — is it? — important? Continue reading
I blinked. I blinked again. Each time I blinked, searing pain ripped across my right eye.
Something’s not right.
It’d been going on for months. Every morning I’d wake with red, painful eyes—my right eye worse than my left. I’d quit wearing contacts weeks ago, but these days the redness wasn’t clearing up like it used to . . . and drops weren’t helping.
The heat pummeled me as I stepped into the garage.
What is this? The Sahara? . . .
. . . I might actually have to get a gym membership if this keeps up.
I was headed out on my bike. It was 10:30 p.m. The current temperature was 90° F (32° C). I was miserable.
. Continue reading
Sometimes you don’t know how much something means to you until . . .
I looked. I looked again. What on earth?
My jewelry box was missing.
Where could it have gone?
It was late. I was tired. But I couldn’t sleep–not now. I began searching. Under the bathroom sink, behind the toilet, in my backpack, in the trashcan . . .
In the trashcan? you’re probably thinking. Are you crazy?
Perhaps I should explain. Continue reading
used to feel guilty for being who I am.
I am a U.S. citizen. I was born to two loving parents who worked hard to provide for their children. I have never had to worry about food or shelter. I have never been abused, raped, or neglected. I have a college education and have been privileged to travel to many different parts of the world.
Why me? Why did I laugh as a child while other children cried? Continue reading
I remembered, after my last post, a conversation I once had with a friend.
“My teachers told me I was stupid.”
I looked at him. “They did what?”
“They told me I was stupid.”
“That’s terrible! Why would your teachers say that?”
“I don’t know. My grades were bad.” He looked out the window. The sun was sparkling on the water. It was a surprisingly clear Hong Kong day.
“Your grades were bad because you didn’t study, not because you’re stupid.”
“The education system is messed up.” He glanced back at me and then down at the table. There was a checker board there, in case we’d brought pieces to play. Continue reading
He was short. When he walked, he lilted—up and down and up and down—bobbing as a buoy on the sea. Maybe because one leg was slightly longer than the other. Or perhaps he had flat feet.
No matter the weather, he wore a t-shirt (fitted tightly over rounded belly) with shorts and flats. Sometimes he wore a sweatshirt. His sandy beard he kept unkempt. His bus, however, was immaculate.
I saw him often—on my way to and from home. He drove the 103M, the minibus between Tseung Kwun O, the closest MTR station, and Clear Water Bay. Around and around he’d circle, letting passengers on and off, waiting in the dimly-lit parking garage for people shivering or sweating to fill the bus so he could take them home. While he waited, he’d wash the bus windows. Sometimes, he’d whistle. Continue reading
My running route in Hong Kong.
There are roads—
paths I know by heart.
Up and down and up and down,
End to start.
There are paths—
friends I pound apart.
Fast and slow and fast and slow,
with no restart.
There are friends—
routes of little art.
Loud and soft and loud and soft,
They know my heart.
- what orion said (jesscy.com)
When I turned 25, I was sooooo old. That was before I went to Taiwan. I knew everything by then.
When I turned 26, I went hiking and ate “authentic” Italian food at Pizza Olmo in Sanjhih.
When I turned 27, I was the director of an English camp in Taiwan.
When I turned 28, I was a teacher in Hong Kong. I learned that love can be like a pile of laundry—and that that’s a good thing.
When I turned 29, the pope abdicated his “throne.” I visited friends in San Francisco. I realized I have 365 days to accomplish all of the goals I set out to accomplish before 30. And I remembered: Continue reading
“Heyyyy! I thought that was you!”
I didn’t recognize the man who had appeared out of nowhere beside our table.
“How’s that arm?” He touched my shoulder. “Your dad was so worried about you—and not just about your arm, about your life! How long ago was that, anyway? . . . And how ’bout Hong Kong? Your dad told me you were over there. What were you doing there? Bet ol’ Placerville feels small now! I’ve never been to Asia. Born and raised in SoCal; moved up here and never left. Did a rotation in Dublin once, though. One of the best times of my life. What ya doin’ in ol’ Placerville?”
I wondered, briefly, how the man breathed. His lips hardly seemed to keep up with his mouth. Continue reading
It was dark. Suddenly, as I scurried about my apartment cleaning and folding laundry in shorts and a tee, I realized my blinds were open.
The view from my window.
I live on the first floor near the entrance of a busy apartment complex. Directly outside my bedroom window is a sidewalk lined by grass and trees. Across the street is a pool and fitness center. A nice location, for sure, but not when one considers a little thing called privacy.
Here in the West, privacy is held in high esteem. Close the blinds, Johnny! Someone might see! Even when I lived on the second floor of a large home on several acres—when a person would have had to climb a tree to see in my window—still, as soon as night fell, Close the blinds, Jess. Someone might see! Continue reading
What I really want is to go back to bed. To crawl back under the covers and hide there. Or else wake up and find it’s no longer humid and that there aren’t gnats all over my floor. And that that bright red spot on my face has faded away.
That’s what I want.
But life isn’t about getting what you want. Some people think it’s about what makes you happy, but I’m not sure it’s about that, either. Sure, it’s good to be happy, but at what cost? The long, warm shower I took this morning might well have emptied the reservoirs of malnourished children living in Africa. Maybe it would have been better to have just splashed my face with water and run out the door?
And what is happiness? Is happiness living in comfort and having everything you need? Or is it helping others get what they need? Is it getting or giving? Is it from within, or from without?
Honestly, I think it’s both. The best Christmas present I ever received was the feeling I got from giving gifts away. This life can’t be all about me, or all about happiness. This life is about so much more: it’s about loving others, and learning to love yourself.
Recently, I discovered journaling with my students. I want to encourage my students to think outside the box (gasp!) and get more comfortable expressing themselves in English. In addition, journaling gives me a chance to breathe and maybe even catch up on some grading.
The other day we started our entries with “If I were a tree . . .” and “I wish trees could . . .” Check out what Jin, my Korean student, wrote:
If I were a tree, I would grow different kinds of fruit so people don’t have to go to tree to tree. I would grow watermelons and Iwould drop it on my enemy’s head. I could also give oxygen so people can breathe fresh air.* I wish trees could grow potato chips [that] fall in your mouth. And grow money. Nobody would ever be poor! I wish trees could be time machines so that I can go to the future or the past. I also wish trees could have arms so it could do my homework.
*We learned about photosynthesis in Science earlier this year.
Or how about this one about cell phones, also by J-:
What would happen if no one had a cell phone? What if you wanted to know your friend’s birthday? What if you and your friend is 5 miles apart! You walk 5 miles just to say, “When is your birthday?” You walk 5 miles for just a little thing. [Or what if] you get lost. How can you call your mom and dad? That would happen if no one had a cell phone.
Pretty cute, huh?