Monday, December 28, 2009

My Blog Has Moved!!!

So this whole not sitting still issue has spilt into my blog as well now and I have decided to change hosting sites.

Check out my new blog at:

Sunday, December 27, 2009

We live by faith, not by sight. ~2 Corinthians 5:7

Faith to me is one of the most amazing gifts I have been given. If I were to be honest God sometimes feels like a large fairy tale that I was tricked into believing. God doesn’t speak to me (at least not in a clear definitive manner) and he’s let me slip a time or two too many if you ask me, yet somehow none of that has ever swayed my heart. My faith continues to be unmovable and as it fervently grows I am able to recognize more of God’s blessings being poured out into my life. My relationship with God and my hope for 2009 was very much blind faith this past year, blind faith that I previously cursed and now am eternally grateful for.

2009 has pretty much been one huge blessing. As I look back on my year to recount all my beautiful experiences, growths, and changes I cannot begin to fully compile my overflowing list; it really is just too big. Some of the highlights of my year have been the amazing friendships I have made, the goals I set and achieved throughout the year, being blessed to have the year off from work to enjoy myself and travel to thirteen amazing countries, getting to know my heart and my spirit in a whole new light, and having a wonderful supportive family that were kept healthy and uplifted throughout the year.

I began writing my blog a year ago which was more-so for myself. The original purpose was actually for me to work on the goals I had set for myself at the beginning of the year and hold myself accountable in a more vulnerable way. Although my blog has become much about my travels and adventures and is more censored due to my audience, I believe it served its purpose and I am very glad I began this outlet.

Im not a New Year’s resolution type person (basically cause I hate people telling me what to do, even if it’s a day of the year telling me) but last year maybe out of desperation I did write down a few goals for myself and I gotta say I am exceptionally proud of everything I accomplished this year. All but one of my goals I managed to complete in a way that I felt absolutely proud about and satisfied with. Actually, looking back on this list today really did make me smile so big with satisfaction.

My very first blog:
“This year I will smile more, I will enjoy myself and my world to a greater degree, I will challenge myself to new adventures, I will show more people my art, I will step out of my boundaries, I will try something new, I will be vulnerable, I will spend more time with God, I will relax, I will taste something foreign, I will set goals and keep them, I will be more positive, I will shave my legs more often, I will chip down my wall, I will meet new people, I will love deeper, I will work on freeing myself of my past, I will laugh more often. I will....”

And so, last years ending does indeed still apply. This blog is an opportunity for me to journal my adventures of 2010. I will share my ups (and possibly even my downs), I will log where I go, what new opportunities I arrive upon, and what makes my soul sing. Enjoy!

2010 goals are yet to come…

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Home for the holidays

I have been home from my trip now for just over a week and although ive promised an update I havent yet to have time to do it. My week has flown by me. It has been an intoxicating, exciting time and I haven’t even wanted or had energy to sit down long enough to write.

Fearful, bummed, resistant, contemplative; stepping onto the plane in China I had a million feelings about returning to Canada and to be honest most were negative. I had such an amazing time on my travels and I was eating up life over there, I wasn't ready to put that behind me and my anxiety was growing as I wondered about what my next steps would be when I returned. But somehow when I landed in Calgary and stepped outside into the cold it wasn't as bitter as I imagined and I felt I could breathe easier than I had before leaving. It really was an answer to a prayer.

I came home and spent a week in Calgary and now I am in Arizona visiting my family and spending the holidays here with them. I feel lighter here right now. I am excited to be back and so happy that I made the decision to be with my family for Christmas and New Years.

I cant even explain how amazing it felt to come home and sleep in my own bed. To breathe clean air, to drive to the Hat and visit my healing Grandpa, to admire the wide open space that this country is spoiled with. The endless coffees and catch ups with friends has made me feel so spoiled, and the family gatherings that make me feel at home. Eating cheese again, going grocery shopping and home cooked food has been a special treat too (it is possible I may have a pound or two to lose in the New Year). Living out of a closet rather than a suitcase, having a warm house to come home too, the convenience of my own cell phone (that is already getting way too racked up), listening to the radio, and the familiarity of a city that doesnt take effort to discover. All of it, simply all of it has been such a treat.

So much changed while I was away and I am eagerly discovering all those changes. My best friend brought a child into the world, I came back to a beautiful friend refreshed and alive again and unfortunately found another good friend grasping for his life once more, my grandfather went through major surgery and is recovering well, my sister moved to a new province, my niece began talking at a crazy rate and my nephew grew into a moose. So so many changes, yet my favorite one would have to be the change I feel inside myself now that im back. So yeah, im in love with being home for the holidays and cant wait for this next week.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Great Wall

It is sad to admit that there are few things that just take my breath away or get me squirming in excitement. It is a mix of being spoiled beyond belief and from not being too crazy in my automatic reaction to things personality wise. Don’t get me wrong, its not like lots of things don’t get me excited but the whole excited beyond belief that many people get in certain situations just isn’t my style.

Last year my father took Tiffany and I to a hockey game. There was man in the row ahead of us probably in his forties and he was so excited to be there. He was taking pictures of all the players, the crowd, the jumbotron, I mean he really was trying to capture every single moment of that game. I remember sitting there wondering when the novelty of things like that wore off for me. And its not just hockey games, I mean there were times when I was wondering around some amazing countries just kinda thinking ”meh”. Im a camera fanatic and there are certain whole freakin countries that I only have maybe fifty pictures of and for me that is nothing.

The other day however I had a moment that just took my breath away. When I planned my trip to China I figured I would have to make time to see the Great Wall, I thought it would be interesting but to be honest for some reason it wasn’t anything I was super crazy about seeing. My friends that I was staying with, Tim and Rebecca decided to treat me to a day out and since they have their own car here they wanted to take me to their favorite part of the wall. They failed miserably at the description of where they were taking me and I was actually kinda disappointed they weren’t taking me to the main part. We drove for about an hour and all the sudden I saw the wall. My heart started racing and instantly I was crying. It was easily one of the most impressive things I have seen. Never in my life (or my dreams) had I envisioned being in the presences of something so old and magnificent.

Where they took me was a completely original part of the wall which was on a farmers piece of land. We paid the farmer two Kuai (rather than the standard hundred) and walked up a huge mountain on his land, climbed a raggedy old ladder to get onto the wall and had the entire place to ourselves. Can you imagine, the Great freakin Wall with no one in sight? It was insane!

For not being restored the wall was in really great shape still. I could not believe the twists and turns, the drastic uphill climbs and the steep downhill drops. Some of the wall had steps and some of it was flat rocks so I was climbing at a huge angle with my nose practically touching the hill I was climbing. The wall went on for as long as I could see, it winded up and down in a magical way. It was intense to think about the endless labor that went into building the wall, the bodies buried deep below us, the profound meaning, the age, I mean all of it was simply unbelievable.

I have seen many incredible things in my life. Some the natural beauty of the world, some the magnificent wonders that man has made, but the Great Wall absolutely topped one of the most incredible things that I have witnessed. The day I went to the Great Wall was the day of Kiyas birthday. It was really neat to me that I was blessed with such intense beautiful feelings on the exact same day two years in a row. It was symbolic to me I guess, and I was so thankful to see something so brilliant on such a special day.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

How much is that doggie in the window??

To all my vegetarian friends and animal lovers, do not read on! One of the things I was interested in experiencing when I came to china was the different foods they have here and so far I have definitely had my fair share.

The first new food for me was chicken butt hole soup….mmm sounds delicious hey? It wasn’t bad but the butt hole itself is exceptionally chewy and it got to me after a while. In China they eat the entire chicken except the breast. In bigger cities like Beijing you can go to the store and buy chicken breast but it is nearly impossible in a restaurant. Usually the breast is shipped to other places (because it is worth so much more) and they eat the rest of the body. At the store you can buy preserved chicken feet as a snack, they eat every part of the inside and often sell the individual body parts on a stick at a barbeque stand. I have tasted nearly every part of a chicken including boiled skin, intestine strips, and fried fat.

Speaking of meat on a stick they have those bbq stands everywhere. At the stands you can buy anything you can imagine including snake, scorpions (which I also ate), shark meat (again I ate), sheep penis (which is insanely long), starfish, blowfish, cocoons, all sorts of insects, and cow balls. Yesterday I ate donkey and it was very good, one of my favorite meats ive ate here actually (it beats Asian beef even). They serve it cold in thin slices and it tasted kinda like a preserved beef.

Today I did every animal lovers worst nightmare and I tried eating dog. But for all you puppy owners don’t hate, its not as bad as it sounds. Dogs here are bread for eating purposes (like they originally were long before they became household pets). They are raised on farms the same as chicken, pigs, and cows and cooked in all sorts of ways. I decided to have the cold plate that is covered in a Korean type sauce. It was alright, I think if I would have known it was a different animal I would have enjoyed it a bit more. It was kinda like roast beef the way it shreds and it was quite tough too. It really wasn’t bad but I must admit the thought of little Coca smelling my breath after I ate one of her own made me a touch sad. I am glad I ate it, it is important for me to try foods from the different countries I visit but I will admit it isn’t going to be on the top of my list next time I order from a restaurant.

So yeah, that is my experience with food here. In the south you can still go to restaurants and order monkey brain. They put the monkey under your table pull its head up through a hole in the middle of your table, kill the monkey, open the scalp, and cut off pieces of the brain and fry them up on a hot plate. I will not be in an area that does that and I don’t know if I could anyway but it sure sounds interesting. Im not sure if there will be any other foods ill be experiencing but im not into turning down much so I guess we will see what else my little taste buds will be devouring!

Awkward Acquaintances

Today was my first experience on the train in China. I took a twelve hour overnight train to Wuxi from Beijing. I was quite nervous at first maybe because my wallet was stolen here and I heard theft was bad on the train. Thankfully it turned out to be a fine night, my stuff was left alone, and I had a decent sleep. I took the hard sleeper (its much cheaper) which means there are six beds to one room (three stacked on each side) and no door for privacy. I was in the middle bed at eye contact level for anyone who walked by. I was the only white person on the train and people would just stop in my doorway and stare. This has been a frequent occurrence in China since arrive, sometimes I find it very annoying and sometimes I just find it confusing. Case and point people staring at me while im trying to sleep, I mean I get it, many people especially the older generations coming from the villages literally have never seen a foreigner and some of them are just simply intrigued but what is the point of watching someone in bed? And its not like when I look at them they look away, sometimes people will stare for a good ten or fifteen minutes no matter if you stare back, smile, or shake your head, like I said its just confusing.

There was one lady probably about thirty who walked past my cabin a few times in the night and just smiled at me. In the early morning when the bed underneath me opened up she walked by again and jumped on the chance. She moved all her stuff into my cabin and I woke up a few times to her just staring at me and smiling. I would politely smile back and close my eyes again. Then I felt a quick tap and when I woke up again she was offering to share her cereal with me. Many Chinese (especially the older generation) take a lot of pride in being very polite to visitors which includes foreigners, so many times I will be walking down the street and someone will stop me, dig through their purse, offer me a candy they found at the bottom of their bag or pocket, smile, and walk away. Not wanting to be rude myself I awkwardly took a bite of her breakfast. She then took out a huge loaf of banana bread ripped it in half ate one side herself (without hands which was quite amusing) and gave me the other half. Next thing I know we are sharing a lemonade, eating apples, and using the same napkin. It was a surreal experience, I really cant describe it in any other way than very confusing.

There have been many similar situations since arriving here and they all just make me laugh. Whether it is taking my picture, coming up to shake my hand, or mocking my laugh (which is apparently a huge gut buster around here), I have just felt like im having an out of body experience so many times. After the train I got on a bus and was sitting in a row by myself. There was a really good looking guy that had been eyeing me up in the train station and he came to sit down on the row across from me. He knew minimal English but still managed to try and have somewhat of a conversation. When we realized it wasn’t going past “where are you from” he resorted to sharing with me his coffee candies and French bread. After a while I was off in lala land and my window was all fogged up so I resorted back to childhood entertainment and drew a big heart so I could see out the window. About ten minutes later I look over at the guy and he drew an arrow on his window. Aww it was so cute, it’s a different kind of non verbal flirting around here for sure, actually its probably the most adorable flirting ive experienced but where the heck do you go with it? I smiled and just kinda felt awkward the rest of the way.

I only have another week left here but I cant wait to have my next awkward experience. They happen so often and are always so interesting that although they make me feel not-so-nice inside at times, I also cant wait till the next one just to see what its all about. Ohhh China you sure do make me smile.

Life in the fast lane

In China much is based on appearance. Although it is similar at home, it really is on a whole new level here and hard to adjust too. It was explained to me by a few Chinese people I have met along the way that status is exceptionally important but so is privacy. Rather than being intrusive and asking personal questions about what a person does they just show everyone. Through clothing, jewelry, hair styles, what you own and whatever else it is very obvious here what socioeconomic status people fit into.

One of my friends that I met here used to go to the zoo and rent a dog for an hour. They had a selection of dogs to choose from, brought in from many different countries. You would pick your dog and go into a gated area and walk it in a circle for an hour or two. This was a big thing for Chinese people because only the richest people could afford dogs here (the bigger the dog this richer the person because they would have to have a bigger house to keep the dog in). She said this was really special because dogs were so rare here so not only did she get to feel what it was like to have and walk a dog, she also got to feel rich for the hour, and take many pictures to show her friends. It was so interesting for me to hear about this.

A Chinese couchsurfing host of mine is a teacher and she was teaching a class on happiness the other day. She said any time she teaches this class the first automatic answer is money which usually is in the form of owning a house and a car. It is typical that the top five answers or so are based around financial position and then they move on to feelings, love, respect in the community, family, etc. This is one of the reasons Chinese like foreigners so much. Traveling is a huge sign of money for them so they believe every person visiting from another country has a lot of money themselves. What they don’t necessarily realize is that Chinese people have the hardest time out of anywhere to receive a traveling visa. Among an endless list of requirements is the sheer fact that you need to own a house or a business with at least 50 000 down on it before the Chinese government would even consider letting them leave the country. So for them traveling is the ultimate sign of money and position and for those who cant afford it they love to dream away about foreign lands and fill their ears or eyes with people from afar.

Beijing has grown and changed an exceptional amount in the past ten years. It is almost unrecognizable. Every skyscraper and tall apartment has been built within the last dozen years; only a decade ago Beijing was still a countryside looking city. My friend was talking about how fast things would change here. She said one day cells phones came out and they were huge bricks only for the rich and overnight the small ones hit the street and every single person owned them. Can you imagine things changing that fast, literally! One day they would tear down a community and literally the next day there would be a park with green grass and a playground on the property. For the Olympics they were told they had to build a whole new underground subway line that goes across the entire city in less than six months and they did it! That is unheard of, a whole freakin subway line! When my friends parents bought their first home they paid 5000 rmb for a two bedroom apartment (which is only about 800 dollars), today they could sell it for over 500 000 rmb now and they have only owned it for 15 years! The growth here is amazing and truly unbelievable, it has been my favorite fascinating topic of conversation with the local Beijingers.

Life here moves at lightning pace and it is quite interesting to learn about but as for keeping up I think I can count myself out on that one!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Birthday Girl!

One year ago today the most magical thing I have ever experienced happened to me. On this very day last year I watched a child being brought into this world. It was simply the most amazing thing I have witnessed.

Last year Tiffany called me and said she was having some problems and needed to go to the hospital. Because she was so early (nearly two and a half months) they were doing what they could to not have to deliver sweet little Kiya quite yet. We sat there for hours just talking, waiting for some test results, and fooling around to lighten the air. Then out of the blue a nurse comes in, essentially tackles Tiffany to the hospital bed and says shes needs to deliver the baby now. Through all the confusion I just wanted to support Tiffany and I never even realized the power of what was happening at the time, I never realized the depth of what I was going to experience.

Tiffany said I could watch the labor so they put me in a little glass room and there I was left to watch the delivery take place. Still, I did not realize the depth of this moment in my life. I was anxious because at this time the blind was down and I just wanted to see Tiffany, the moment they put the blind up I saw the fear in her face and I wanted the blind down again, I didn’t know how to handle it all. That blind marked a pivotal moment for how I saw my sister. It was like the moment it was lifted I was looking into the eyes of a mother. I saw the fear of a mom, the joy of anticipation for her baby to be born, and the look of selflessness that only a mother can have.

It was strange. I was looking at my sister and that was all she was to me, just my sister. My baby sister with big ass glasses and huge front teeth, brave enough to jump out of the top floor window in our house because she trusted me, small enough to throw around, and dorkier than you could ever imagine. But then I blinked and magic happened. I opened my eyes and my little sister melted away, in a millisecond she became a mother, a beautiful woman who made a child and brought life into the world. LIFE people, can you comprehend how amazing that is?

And so, a year ago today I watched a child, my niece being born. I watched the tiniest little human being take her first breath of life. At about this time last year I was the crazy Auntie standing in the window taking a million pictures and unable to wipe the grin off my face. There are moments in life that forever change you and watching Kiya being born was one of those moments for me. To see a baby take their first breath of life, to see how life starts so small and ends so big, it was intense. It was by far the most beautiful gift I have ever received.

And with that my prayer for today is this…
Lord thank you so much for the gift of Kiya. Thank you for creating such a beautiful child to bless my sister with. Lord I pray for Tiffany and Kaleb today that You just wrap their hearts in Your hands and hold them so close to You. Help them to celebrate the life of their daughter today and to receive the gift of peace. Lord first birthdays are so special and I pray You make Kiyas an absolute delight. Spoil her like crazy with lots of hugs and kisses, send her all the love of her family today, and let her eat as many cupcakes as her little heart desires. Thank you so much Lord for all you blessed my family with a year ago today. Send Kiya my birthday love and let her know her Aunty is thinking of her lots. In Jesus name, Amen!

Happy Birthday Kiya Jade, Star belly Sneetch, today is your day baby girl!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Beautifully Flawed...

Written: December 2nd 2009

I am beautifully flawed. I am wonderfully made yet filled with blemishes. I am an enticing mess, a delicious disaster. I am me, I am whole, I am broken, I am loved.

Today, I am broken, actually lately I have been broken. I don’t know if it is my travels coming to an end, the fact that I am feeling very small, insignificant, and lonely in the world lately, or that I am unaware of where my constantly changing heart will lead me when I arrive home. It is a pile of things lately, but that pile seems to be rolling into a path of ruin and my heart is worried.

You see I don’t know, I simply do not know what I want from myself. When I arrive home I want so many things, none of which can be done simultaneously. I think most people know the general direction they want their lives to go. Whether it is working on a relationship, settling down in a little city, traveling the world, whatever it is it is generally a simple direction they chose to go in. Me…nope, never. I want to go home and fall madly in love. I want to get my own little place in Calgary and get all settled in with a job. I want to move to BC, either Vancouver or Kelowna to see if my load would be lighter without those harsh Alberta winters. I want to move to Europe and date a million Europeans till I find the one who doesn’t just capture my heart (which is sometimes too easy of a mission) but who also captures my attention for more than one year down the line. I want to be a bum in my parents basement, save more money and continue to travel. I want to find a home business so I can have that up and running by the time I begin having children. I want to put some of my great little ideas into life and make nick knacks to sell at some hippy booth in a farmers market (which seem so magical to me). I want to practice my career again and do what my heart loves and yet I want to find the simplest most stress free job that makes me the most money. I want to move far far away to a land that captures my soul (I have many in mind) yet I don’t want to live far away from my family.

Contrary to many popular opinions I do not want it all, if I did this blog literally would not end but I am aware I want a lot. It is a simple equation of process of elimination I suppose but for some reason I cannot do that. I want too many things, too many opposing things and it is leaving me feeling like I am drowning in confusion. One day I want this, the next day I want that.

And so, as “home” draws near I draw back and anxiety becomes a good friend of mine. How do I make a decision and not regret leaving a different option behind. How do I figure this out? And why the heck don’t I have a general direction, most people seem to have that yet I don’t have the slightest idea. I want all my wants and it is simply not an option.

A while back I finished a book called Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho and in it he wrote:
She thought she would feel happy because she was going home, but she wasn’t. She thought she would feel sad because she was leaving a city that had treated her so well, but she didn’t. The only thing that she could do now was to shed a few tears, feeling rather afraid for herself, an intelligent young woman, who had everything going for her, but who tended to make the wrong decisions.

I love this quote, it makes me feel comfortable. I don’t think I always make the wrong decisions but I am scared this time I will make the wrong decision and I wont know the difference until it is too late. Oh good ol home, I cant wait to get there just to leave again!

Fun times!

Written: November 24th 2009

How is it that less than two days after my last blog I am already eating my words?

Tonight I got my wallet stolen and let me tell you it was not fun. At first I panicked, went through my stuff again and again, after a short while I resorted to bawling my face off in the middle of the city center. I tried to ask people for help, to ask for the police, but nothing, dozens and dozens of people and no one spoke English. I get it, its CHINA seriously why would they speak English, I mean its not going to be long until all those English speaking people will be learning Chinese themselves, but come on, its so frustrating. With each person that responded to my one word questions with a blank response or a “hello” hoping that it would somehow prove they do indeed speak English my chin began to quiver and the tears opened like flood gates. My only solution became to sit on the steps and sob. It felt good at the time but within minutes I had a crowd of oh maybe twenty or thirty people surrounding me just to stare so I quickly got up and went back into action mode. Actually a few of them were laughing too; I don’t get what this whole laughing at people, in people’s faces is all about but I do not like it one bit.

So yes, here I am in a small town that doesn’t even have a western union. My wallet is gone, my ID cards, my visa, my cash, my debt card, my departure card which I need to leave the country, all of my memorabilia plane tickets of the last eight countries I have visited, a bunch of papers that were important, and a few bandaides (which might I add are freakin expensive here). Im stuck and so very frustrated!

You know the worst part, it was totally my fault. I wear a sling purse with no zipper so I always have it over my chest so it is tight, no one can get in, and I can see it at all times. I was in a rush, trying to order food and I left it over my shoulder which is prime time for pickins. Isnt it the worst when things like this happen and you know its your fault? You play it over and over in your head thinking you should have done this or that and why were you so stupid. Uhg I just keep kicking myself!

I went to the police and thankfully my CouchSurfing host came to meet up with me or nothing would have been accomplished there since they don’t speak English either. Basically they too laughed at me and said even if the money is gone people wont bother phoning in or returning an empty wallet. I am out of luck and they had no solutions to offer. On the upside they gave me a ride in the back of their car with the lights on, it was kinda cool.

The cool thing that happened was that in the midst of my frustration from the thief I was reminded how giving people are here. First, in my bawling fit a man who did not speak English approached me and signed to go with him to find a computer. He took me to an internet café so he could translate from Chinese to English “you look like you need help, what can I do”, it was so kind. He was the one who phoned the police and my host for me and got everything sorted out. He did not speak a word of English and still found a way to communicate with me to make sure I was alright. It was extremely kind. After I thanked him profusely he typed (translated) “yes I think I am very brave for what I did”. It was cute. It made me smile.

Also, I found someone who spoke English (or so she said) and asked her to write in Chinese a note that said “I lost my wallet, have you seen one”. It sounds stupid I know but my wallet was stolen at one stand and literally five stands down I realized it was gone so I had a short distance to cover and desperate times call for desperate measures. Anyway, I was showing people my note and everyone was handing me money, I mean dozens of people were pulling out their wallets and trying to give me anywhere from one yuan to twenty. I didn’t take it and soon found out that my note actually said “I have no money to get home, can you give me some”. I felt a little stupid when I found out but I also felt very overwhelmed and warm by how many people were willing to help out. I know for a fact that simply would not have happened at home and it was a good reminder of why I love other countries so much. I suppose everywhere you go there is always the “bad apple” but I am grateful that bad apple has not spoiled the bunch, at least not for me.