Tag Archives: California

on the road to a new life

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Already tired but ready to get this show on the road.

When I was 18, when most of my friends went just two hours away from home, I drove 2,500 miles for college. It was a scary time, and an exciting one. I’d lived in the same small town in Northern California my entire life. I was ready to see something new.

In many ways, that decision was a turning point and a defining moment in my life. This small town girl was exposed to a whole new world — Chattanooga, Tennessee was nothing like Placerville! You see . . . Where I came from, a “hog race” would indicate a pig race not a Harley race. Thunderstorms happened only rarely (and only during winter) at home. “Y’all” and “you’uns” were not in the dictionary. And grits? Fried okra? Sweet tea? Huh?

In many ways, it was like being in a new country, with the only difference being that English (albeit Southern English) was the written and spoken language, and I didn’t stick out everywhere I went — that is, until I opened my mouth.

In embarking on our recent journey from Tennessee to California, Jon and I created something of a reverse culture shock for him — and taken it to a whole new level. If Placerville was nothing like Chattanooga, Chattanooga is on a different planet from Berkeley! From rural Signal Mountain where Jon could recognize friends by the sounds of their cars passing on a two-lane highway, we’ve moved to busy University Avenue, where traffic never stops and our closest friends live several hours away!

The best example I can think of regarding the difference between living in a small town versus a big one, however, occurred while waiting in line at Comcast the other day. Jon and I were waiting to pick up our Internet modem when a large African American woman began a loud telephone conversation in line behind us. “. . . Hey, yeah. Yeah, I’m jes’ out payin’ bills. Yeah, I know. Jes’ remember we can’t affor- no f***-ups. I . . . Yeah, I’d like to see you, too, but I’ve jes’ been so bi-sy . . . Nobody gives me no respect. You hear that? No-body. Everybody is always disrespectin’ me and the way I raise my keeds and trying to tell me what to do. And so you know what? I’m gon’ re-move myself from the situation. I’m jes’ gon’ go away so there ain’t no one can find me no more. If they don’t respect me, I’m jes’ gon’ go away . . .”

Oh, boy.

Below are pictures from our road trip across the country. We drove the northern route, through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. It was a beautiful drive, but man am I glad that it’s over. I cannot stand sitting in a car for hours on end!

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At Jon’s before we left — that’s a scooter and three bikes on the back of that truck!

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Hello Illinois!

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Can’t forget the St. Louis Arch.

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Because my friend Jeff lives in Nebraska, I’ll go ahead and say it’s an awesome place. Otherwise, I’d just say it’s flat!

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Old barn somewhere along the way.

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Jon contemplating our truck’s sagging hind end at a gas station. That scooter was heavy!

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Hello, Wyoming.

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Light at the end of the tunnel.

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I heart clouds.

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Electricity.

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Somewhere in Wyoming.

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Snow-swept.

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Boulders in Wyoming.

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Snow!

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Salt Lake City area.

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Salt Lakes, Utah

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Wind-blown and worn out

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She’s still holding up!

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Sky meets salt.

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Jon was excited about this.

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Getting closer.

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Driving, driving, driving.

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Almost home.

 

 

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listen to your heart

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What is yours telling you?

I’ve been starting blog posts in my head all week.

“Looking back, I should have stormed out of his office.”

“I got a job offer. I didn’t take it.”

“What does ‘meaning’ mean to you?”

“Does everything have to be a lesson?”

Instead of finishing them, though, I’ve been writing things like this:

“Hi!

My name is Jessica. I am contacting you regarding your ad for a one-bedroom apartment listed on Craigslist. Currently I live in the Sacramento area, but I need to move to the Bay Area very soon . . .”

I’ve then been driving to and from Berkeley (about two hours each way) every day looking at places and realizing that finding housing in the Bay Area is IMPOSSIBLE. Even if you have money (I don’t), the housing demand is so great that no sooner does a person put up an ad on Craigslist than twenty business professionals/students/etc. are banging down their door.

It is a cut-throat fight to find anything around here.

And so days have passed since my eventful “working interview,” which turned out to be a total sham, and which proved to me once again that any time someone is rushing you about something important, it’s time to RUN.

The company was a “direct marketing” firm for big names like the Oakland A’s, supposedly, but what they really were were door-to-door salesman who’d been fooled into thinking they were on a fast-track to management. While they were working tirelessly in a field they hated, another man was reaping their rewards and getting rich. I could go on, but when the CEO tried to make me feel bad for asking questions and indicated that money should be my biggest motivating factor, I knew something wasn’t right.

I left the interview exhausted and upset. I knew I needed a job, and needed it soon, but could I compromise who I am and what I believe in to do a job I hated, not to mention didn’t feel right about?

My answer came that night when I got home. I checked my email for the first time in more than 48 hours, and what did I find? A response from a job I’d applied for weeks earlier and given up on. I won’t say too much more about it right now, but I will say that my first interview went well. In fact, I’ve had three exciting interviews since the marketing interview disaster . . .

And so it really is true: We should always listen to our hearts.

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Image: Pinterest

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here’s to adventures

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Drove two and a half hours to Walnut Creek today to look at apartments and interview for a job. Planned for a one-day outing (I wasn’t even sure what I was interviewing for, honestly — it ‘s a marketing firm; I’m not in marketing!), but then, towards the end, the lady said, “I’m doing short interviews of thirty people today. I can only invite five of them back for working interviews. Why should I invite you?”

Umm . . .

“I’m the hardest worker you’ll ever meet. Right after college, I took an internship that turned into a job, and when I left, they begged me not to go . . . Uhh (I was really fumbling here), I’m a great writer and have experience writing marketing materials. I could convince people that the bottom of their shoes taste good (okay, not really, but) . . . I’ve worked in customer service and like dealing with people (I really have — I’ve been a server and worked in retail). Umm . . . I adapt well to new situations and am a fast learner. In Asia I managed large classrooms of 9- to 14-year-old students, and I didn’t even speak their language!”

While I was talking, the lady wrote a large “B” in red ink on the top of my resume. B? Gulp. Was that my grade? This was not looking good.

Imagine my surprise, then, when a few minutes later she said, “So does tomorrow 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. sound good?”

Say whaaattt?!

“Umm, sure. Yeah, great. Thanks so much!” Meanwhile, my mind was racing. 8 a.m.? Tomorrow? How am I going to pull that off?!

So here I am, several hours and several more apartments crossed off my list later ($900 a month for a ROOM? Are you kidding me?), in a hotel room at Motel 6. I have my disposable toothbrush and travel-size shampoo and conditioner, a new shirt (so I won’t be wearing the same clothes two days in a row), I’m writing this post on my iPhone, and here we go!

Life really is an adventure. Like my friend John said, “Hands on the wheel at all times!”

Wish me luck!

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if i could go anywhere

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If I could go anywhere, I would go to Carmel, on the coast of California, in the year 1990. My family would be staying at a small condo by the beach. It would be foggy and misty. I would be six years old, and my mom would be turning 32. We would be there to celebrate her birthday, and I would be laughing and twirling and calling her an old lady.

I would then take my six-year-old self on a trip around the world. I’d stop in Delhi, Dhaka, Beijing, Tokyo . . . Manila, Sydney, Cape Town, Istanbul . . . Bucharest, Athens, Rome, Lisbon . . . Moscow, Santiago, Pell City, Montreal . . . Continue reading

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the last piece (or, i lied)

Jessica:

Part seven is the last piece of my rock-climbing story. Here, I talk about how my accident still affects me today. Yes, I recovered. But eleven years later, there are still things that remind me of my injury every day.

Originally posted on shift:

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There are things you learn to live with. Things that never cross your mind—until “that time.”

That time when you’re ordering at Starbucks and the barista says: “What was that?” “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?” “Are you sick?”

That time when you’re chatting with a friend, and your voice cuts out and cracks, then dies.

That time when you’re calling across a street, and no one hears.

That time when you’re in a noisy restaurant, and you might as well just look into each other’s eyes.

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how to not die: the road to recovery

Jessica:

In “The Road to Recovery,” I talk about just that: recovery. This is where I found my passion for cycling and scared my mom to death by water-skiing only a few months out after my injury . . . Ha!

Originally posted on shift:

Ten years ago (on January 25, 2003), I fell 80 feet (24 meters) while rock climbing at T-Wall, a popular climbing site in Tennessee. The doctors said I might not live; when I did, they said I’d never be the same again. Today, not only am I “normal,” most people don’t even know this incident ever happened. This is the last part of my story. (To start at the beginning, click here.)

THE ROAD TO RECOVERY

8 a.m. Wednesday, March 12

*”Rise and shine, it’s butt-whoopin’ time!”

I opened one eye and squinted at my brother in the light. A goofy grin engulfed his face. With my good arm, I threw a pillow at him. “Where’s my lucky egg?” He ran from the room, laughing.

Moments later, my mom appeared. “Awake?” I nodded. Cradling my right arm with my left, I slipped out from under the covers…

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cling to hope

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:

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In December, 2009, I moved to Taiwan. My viewpoints were challenged. My perspectives, changed.

I shifted.

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At Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan

Continue reading

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this blood will bleed us dry

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Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe on January 3. This place should be BURIED in snow.

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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

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it’s a hard knock life

eldo-raleysI’m walking to my car in a Raley’s parking lot. It’s about 6 p.m., dark, and cold. I shiver as an icy breeze picks up. Why oh why did I forget my jacket?

Suddenly, I notice a woman off to the left. Her car is parked across a grassy divide facing mine. She’s at her car, like I am now, only . . . What on earth is she doing? The woman isn’t getting into her car but, rather, is pacing beside it. From trunk to passenger’s side, to trunk to — Nope! Nope! she looks at the driver’s side — passenger’s side. She looks angry. Safely inside my car now, I realize what’s going on, and, I’ll be honest, start laughing. The lady has parked her car a little to the left in her parking space. The truck beside her is parked a little to its right. The lady is about 100 pounds overweight . . . She can’t get into her own car! Continue reading

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a simple life

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A home overlooking Lake Folsom in El Dorado Hills

It’s a simple life, an easy life,
in El Dorado Hills.
Where cookie-cutter houses sit,
on cookie-cutter hills.
Where all the people drive to work
in fancy, shiny cars.
And all the children laugh and play
and look up to the “stars.”*

It’s a simple life, a quiet life,
in heaven’s spot on earth.
With all the fences whitely washed,
and mothers giving birth
To little ones who’ll laugh and play
and look up to the “stars,”
and grow up doing just the same,
in fancy, shiny cars.

It’s a simple life, a little life,
the one we’ve bought and sold.
Where all that matters is our health,
our riches when we’re old.
Where nothing’s to be thought, of course,
about the world outside,
for all that matters is our own,
America’s our pride.

*Stars as in celebrities

For an audio recording of this poem, click here:

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Image: Google

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the truth behind travel

While on my trip a dear friend from high school posted this photo on my facebook page:

fernweh3“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

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where does the thunder go?

Rainy Day on Folsom Lake

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We’re on our boat and it’s Labor Day. No one’s out because it’s stormy, and we like it this way. The lake is ours.

With the wind in my face, and the rain to my back, I pretend I’m alone. I am alone. My thoughts fly with the wind rushing past me — over mountains, hills, and plains; forward, backward, now. And I realize:

I am not alone. Earth is ours.
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“Why the Egyptian, Arabic, Abyssinian, Choctaw?

Well, what tongue does the wind talk? What nationality is a storm? What country do rains come from? What color is lightning? Where does thunder go when it dies?”

― Ray Bradbury

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Image: Folsom Lake, California (by me)

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can you feel the love?

After my last Friday post, someone asked why Taiwan had been so influential. And I said, “How couldn’t it have?” The following is one of thousands of illustrations of just how “different” a world this white California girl entered when she moved to Taiwan.
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Wellcome to your local grocery store . . ..

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This is the entrance to the local grocery story in Sanjhih. I often walked or ran here from my apartment, which was up a hill about a mile away. One day I arrived to find the road beside the grocery store blocked off for . . . Continue reading

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i love . . . me?

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Flower girl at about age 4

So, I’m in line at Costco the other day, and I’m watching people, like I always do. I’m seeing them come and go, and talk and laugh, and argue, and yell at their kids, and hit their brother or sister, and talk on their cell phone, and stand quietly, and I’m wondering, Do I really love these people?

And I’m realizing: Yes, I do.

And then I’m wondering, But, if I love them, why is it so hard . . . ?

I have never been the “cool kid.” In grade school, I wore thick glasses that made my eyes appear twice their normal size. (I am extremely far-sighted.) I wore pink and purple matching outfits covered in kittens. I put bows in my hair and was incredulous when, at 11 or 12, my friends started wearing training bras and shaving their legs. Aren’t we too young for that? I hissed. Continue reading

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what the world needs

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All of the inspiration I need is in the stars.

I went running tonight, as usual. It’s been too hot to run during the day recently, and I like running beneath the stars best, anyway.

If there is one area in which Taiwan does not not compare to Northern California, it is the night sky. The humidity in Taiwan and, in many places, the smog and bright lights, make star-gazing an almost impossible dream.

In Northern California, on a moonless night, they’re all you see.

But I was worried, tonight, that I hadn’t been clear in my last post. You see, although I loved Taiwan, it would be a lie to say that I loved every minute I was there. Continue reading

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oh, taiwan

Seriously?

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

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why i love travel

IMG_0251ed3One pedal, then the other. Over and over and over again. Almost there. Just me and the road, and . . . That old guy who just flew past me.

Seriously? . . .

. . . He was pushing a much lower gear.

I felt better.

Then, suddenly, “Hiiiiii!!!” I looked to my left. High up on a balcony, a little boy and his dad were catching the last rays of the setting sun. The little boy was waving vigorously. I smiled. “Hiii!!” I called back and waved as I pedaled on. The boy grinned.

(A few minutes later. Heading down the hill I’d just pushed up, contemplating my next blog post [now my next-next post] . . .)

A group of men, strolling. Hands clasped behind their backs, chatting amiably on the sidewalk. A few wore caps. They were tan. Asian. One of them looked at me as I flew past. His eyes smiled, as though he were amused, as if he were saying, “What are you doing here?” Continue reading

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searching for the here and now

I’m in Tahoe this weekend. Lake Tahoe is about an hour from my hometown and an hour and a half from where I currently live. It’s a lovely place, famous for its natural beauty. Just outside my cabin window are huge pines and a forest floor littered with pine cones and dry pine needles. During the winter, it snows.

Lake Tahoe is the largest freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevadas, and, at 1,645 feet (501 m), is second only to Crater Lake as the United States’ deepest. The lake is 22 miles (35 km) long and 12 miles (19 km) wide, making it the 26th largest freshwater lake by volume in the world. It’s a popular destination for tourists, including cyclists, skiiers and snowboarders, gamblers, and renaissance fair enthusiasts.

To me, though, it just feels like home. Continue reading

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heartless, or . . . ?

homeless-guy-sign-paypal-donation2I was being compulsive. Again. I’ve told you I’m a clean freak, right? Well, I am, and today it was about my car. I’d just gotten it washed after my trip to San Francisco (more on that later), and now, next door at Chevron, I was wiping dirt off of the engine under the hood.*

As I was working, I suddenly became aware of a car right behind me.

“Excuse me. Miss?”

I turned around to see a large Hispanic man leaning out of an old tan Buick. He was wearing a long-sleeved shirt despite the warm weather and a thick black mustache over pale lips. A dark-haired woman sat in the passenger seat beside him. Continue reading

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learning from a legend

Some people were made for this.

IMG_0003Last Thursday, I had the privilege of listening to a legend. B.B. King was performing at the Fox Theater in Oakland, and, knowing it was my birthday, a friend invited me to go. I hadn’t been to a concert in years. How could I say no?

I made the right choice.

“Thank you. Thank you. You’re too kiiind,” said King as he entered to a standing ovation, waving, from stage left. His voice was rich and deep. It went well with his glittering jacket.

“It’s good to be here . . . Oakland. Oakland, California. I’ve got stories about Oakland.” King sounded mischievous as he sat down on a chair at center stage. “But . . . Well. I’ll save those for a-nother time.”

The audience laughed. I was amazed by his stage presence. It was as though he’d been in the spotlight all his life.

. . .

“I’m eighty-seven.” The audience erupted into applause. “Eighty-seven! Can you believe that? . . . Now, you young folks: Don’t be goin’ ’round sayin’, ‘He’s eighty-seven younggg! B.B., you’re younggg!’ . . . No. Eighty-seven is olddd! I’m olddd!” Continue reading

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how to not die: the rescue

Ten years ago today (January 25, 2003), I fell 80 feet while rock climbing at T-Wall, a popular climbing site in Tennessee. The doctors said I might not live; when I did, they said I’d never be the same again. Today, not only am I “normal,” most people don’t even know this incident ever happened. This is part two of my story.

THE RESCUE

There were voices. They echoed off the hills and were magnified by the silence. Flashes of light bobbed in the distance. Leaves cracked and branches snapped.

My rescuers were coming.

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My rescuers–I’m hidden behind (image: chattanoogan.com)

My friend stood up. “Over here, we’re over here!” He ran in the direction of the voices.

Moments later, helmets with lights bounded onto the scene. The helmets were attached to people wearing jeans and jackets and thick gloves. Apparently, they had work to do.

A helmet with a mustache knelt beside me. “Hi, there. What’s your name?”

“Jessica.” I grimaced.

“We’d better call Cliff-Cave,” said a red helmet. “This is farther up than I thought.” Continue reading

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on privacy

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.

Oh, no!

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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

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the end of an era

My grandfather died today. Grandpa Joe.

A gruff blue collar man, Grandpa Joe knew little beyond his tow yard in Akron, Ohio. That’s where he was comfortable, see. That was his empire.

He came to California once, before I was born. That was for my parents’ wedding. Since then, we’ve visited him. California is a l-o-n-g way from Ohio.

During their marriage, my nana and he were often at odds. They yelled and bickered; Grandpa Joe threw things once in a while. They spent much of their time annoyed with each other—that is, until these last few years. With both of their health on the decline, and his on a slipperier slope, they began to depend on one another. I talked to my nana last week; her voice was soft and sweet. “Joe’s been eatin’ real good . . .”

Their 60th anniversary would have been on the 9th.

Nana and Grandpa Joe at their family reunion last summer

Nana and Grandpa Joe at their family reunion last summer

And it’s left me so, so sad. No, not for my own loss. While I would have loved to have known my grandfather better, the storytelling-grandpa stereotype just wasn’t him. And that’s okay. Rather, I’m sad for my nana, and for my mom. Like her mother, my mom’s relationship with her father had begun to improve over the last few years. Out here in California, she didn’t get to say goodbye.

But it’s more than that, too. I’m sad for the loss of companionship and the lonely nights ahead. I’m sad for the end of an era without a start anew. I’m sad for the way time passes, and how life changes. Sometimes it changes for the better, and some things improve with age. But I’ve never heard anyone say it’s easy to get old.

Have you?

P.S. I love you, Grandpa Joe! I’ll see you again someday soon. :)

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this contradictory life

Ever notice how life is full of contradictions? Like, the thing you love most about something is also the thing you like the least?

  • “I love the early morning, but I hate getting up early.”
  • “I despise cleaning, but I love my house clean!”
  • “I love his energy, but I wish he would calm down!”

“Landing” in Taiwan… “Well, *some* things are the same.” (image: cartoonstock.com)

That’s exactly how I feel about Asia.

I grew up in a small town in Northern California. Everyone drives cars here and goes to supermarkets to buy their groceries. There is no night market, and no one sticks out here, no matter where they’re from.

Not so in Asia. As a blonde in Taiwan, I often felt like a celebrity. (“Hi! Hi! Can we take your picture?”) People drove scooters there and shopped markets that spilled from tiny stores onto crowded streets. Fresh slabs of meat hung in open-air stands. And let’s not even talk about the food at the night market!

Taiwan was so different from California, in fact, that I was often surprised to see the same stars there that I could see at home. Surely I was on a different planet, wasn’t I?

It was this difference that made adapting to Taiwan so difficult at first, but which made sticking it out so satisfactory in the end. When I couldn’t handle things on my own or had questions I didn’t understand, I had to rely on Taiwanese friends. This gave me insight into Taiwanese life and forced me to reflect, sometimes with startling effects, on my own long-held beliefs. (I.e. How much of religion is cultural? What is so great about the States? How could I not love a country whose people would bend over backward to help a stranger?)

I could tell story after story of how my Taiwanese friends helped me time and time again . . .

For now, I leave you with a question: When was the last time you were out of your comfort zone? What did you do? How did you cope? Did the overall experience harm you, or help you? What might be the benefit of getting outside of your own box?

farmers’ market in taipei

much more than language exchange friends

shilin night market in taipei—this happens *every* night

this is how you get *your* hamburger, isn’t it?

mmm. squid on a stick.

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lesson from a pair of pants

It occurred to me as I was pulling on a pair of pants: Americans are pansies.

The pants were stiff and tough; ugh! They weren’t comfortable at all. The last time they’d been washed—and hung to dry—I was living in Hong Kong.

The same thing had happened, in reverse, when I first moved home. Pulling a shirt out of the dryer, I was amazed. So this is what it feels like to use a dryer . . .

And it struck in me a memory. I remembered previous journeys abroad—to Italy, France, and Taiwan. And I remembered a particular sense of dread each time: I’m going to have to HANG DRY my clothes??!!

[Pause. Cough.]

Hang dry your clothes? YES, you’re going to have to hang dry your clothes, you big sissy! And it’s not going to kill you, either. Millions, no, BILLIONS of people around the world hang dry their clothes every day. How do you think people dried their clothing a hundred years ago? . . .

And they do it in humidity, too! You’re at least lucky you live in California.

Pshh. As if this is something you should even be worrying about.

And besides! Did you know that, while Americans make up only five percent of the world’s population, they use 20 percent of its energy*? Do you realize how much energy you can save by hang drying your clothes?

[Pause. Sheepish grin.]

Although, I have to admit: Remember when your clothes used to smell like mold? Using a dryer is nice.

(Believe it or not, people can change.)

*Source: worldpopulation.org.

yes, i cheated. i used a heater.

my “dryer” in hong kong . . .

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