Sunday, December 19, 2010

The First Gift of Christmas

I really don't think I can ask for anything more.
I have the craziest, most incredible friends that a girl could ask for.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Small Dose of Perspective

"You were recommended to help run the last leg of the relay that began with Adam and Eve because your premortal spiritual valor indicated you would have the courage and the determination to face the world at its worst, to do combat with the evil one during his heyday, and, in spite of it all, to be fearless in building the kingdom of God.

You simply must understand this, because you were born to lead by virtue of who you are, the covenants you have made, and the fact that you are here now in the 11th hour.

Now the glorious but sobering truth is that, in spite of your eons of premortal preparation, the day ahead will at times "wrench your very heart string," as the Prophet Joseph told the Twelve. If you've hoped to passively, comfortably live out your lives, let me burst that little bubble once and for all. Now, please, do not misunderstand me: This is a magnificent time to live! It is a time, said President Spencer W. Kimball, when our influence "can be tenfold what it might be in more tranquil times." The tranquil runner wants to run the last leg of the relay.

But the last days are not for the faint of heart or the spiritually out of shape. There will be days when you feel defeated, exhausted, and plain old beat-up by life's whiplash. People you love will disappoint you--and you will disappoint them. You'll probably struggle with some kind of mortal appetite. Some days it will feel as though the veil between heaven and earth is made of reinforced concrete. And you may even face a crisis of faith. In fact, you can count on trials that test your testimony and your faith.

But He recommended you and me. This is the last leg of the relay. This is when He needs His strongest runners. That is who you are, and it is who you have always been."

(Sheri Dew, BYU devotional Dec 9, 2003)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Musings on Public Restrooms

It is Saturday and I am on campus. It is about 1:00pm and, on a scale of 1 to 10, my motivation to study for finals is at a -5.

So, instead of being productive any longer, I will tell you some things I have been thinking about lately...about public restrooms.

You may think that I am a little crazy for thinking about public restrooms, but I kinda spend a lot of time in them lately. I am honestly never home - that is what finals do to you.

So, for your reading pleasure, here are some personal observations (pet peeves?) on a very public place that really should be personal.

Sanitizer is NOT Soap
When I was in China we introduced one of our Chinese classmates to hand sanitizer. We put a drop of it in her hand and she rubbed them together tentatively, slowly. The look on her face said that we might as well have spit in her hand and told her that it would make them clean. She didn't buy it. "How do you know they are clean?"

A very fine question. While I believe in the anti-bacterial power of a substance that is 70% alcohol, I always left feeling a little unclean. Hand sanitizer should be used when there is no soap and water - and when you get to a place where you can properly cleanse your hands - you should do it. That being said, the sanitizer dispenser at the door does NOT COUNT as washing your hands. And even if it did, what if you get into the habit of not washing your hands and one day you walk out the door and there is no handy dispenser? Stay with what your mamma taught you and keep washing your hands.

Caution: Automatic Faucets
Speaking of habits. The Tanner bathrooms really mess with my head. There is an old wing and a new wing in the building on campus that I like to call home. In the new wing, everything is automatic. In the old wing, everything is, well, not. That means that when I wash my hands in the old wing, I put my hands under the faucet and wait for the water to turn on. When I am in the new wing, if I lean forward to look in the mirror, the faucet starts pouring out water and it freaks me out. every. time.

A Bathroom Stall is NOT A Telephone Booth
Is a call ever important enough that you have to take it in a public restroom? And if it really is that important, aren't you a little worried that the person on the other line will hear toilets flushing in the background? Or aren't you at all bothered by the fact that we are all in a tiny space and at least one another person in the room is overhearing every single word you say? Oh, your not? Well then, by all means, keep talking in the bathroom.

Hide and Seek
I am not really sure where this comes from, but I hate seeing people in the bathroom. (maybe because people don't walk into my bathroom when I am at home?) Don't get me wrong, like any normal female, I have no problem going into a public restroom with a pack of friends, but if I walk in there by myself and I hear the door opening behind me, it is like the gun just went off at a race and I will find my way into the nearest stall and hide like I was running from the cops. I must not be seen. In the same vein, if I am washing my hands and I hear a toilet flush. I will dash out the door, paper towel in hand, and avoid at all costs seeing whomever was just finishing their personal business. I like to think it is a respect thing, but I really have no idea.

Emergency Feed
To wrap things up with something a little more positive, HRH posted this a little while ago and I thank her for it. Even if public restrooms are strange, often uncomfortable places, at least they are well prepared in case of an emergency:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Almost There!

My teammate Morgan and I have been singing "Almost There" from The Princess and the Frog for the last several days now. It is 1:23am. One bowl of brownies and ice cream and 4 chapters of The Help on audiobook later, I am almost done with the 26 slides I have been working on pretty much all day for our big presentation tomorrow! This presentation counts as the final for 3 1/2 of our classes. Yikes! It is just a tiny bit important. BUT WE ARE ALMOST THERE! In a mere 11 hours we will be in our last minutes of Q&A. I can't believe that I have almost survived my first semester of grad school!


Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas at the Tanner

I walked into school this morning and this is what I saw:

There was an adorable little elementary school choir putting on a concert in the Tanner atrium. Apparently they come every year and put on a concert for the Tanner staff before their big official concert. Good thing I am friends with the staff here...
Between this and our MPA Ugly Sweater Christmas party yesterday I don't know how I am supposed to concentrate on my last 2 weeks of school! As the children sang today:

I picture my self on a snowboard
Not sitting here bored...

Count down to Christmas vacation?

13 days

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Sick and Afflicted

So, you might recall just one or two posts ago how I managed to sprain both my ankles to some degree almost 2 weeks ago. Well, to add insult(or infection) to injury, I got incredibly sick Saturday evening. This led to my barely surviving through sacrament meeting at church on Sunday and what was most likely a very incoherent closing prayer from yours truly. The rest of the evening, and most of the week, continued as follows:

Sunday Evening
More Sleep
No School
The Dark Knight (with Jess who was also sick)
More Theraflu
More sleep
More Theraflu

I am pretty sure that I am now fairly familiar with what hibernation feels like. I am also fairly sure that I have consumed more theraflu than is legal in the state of Utah - and that is by no means a bad thing.

However, I will also tell you that visits from friends mean more when you are sick than they do when you are healthy, Camilla's grilled cheese tastes like heaven (when you are sick or healthy).

And getting better is the greatest part of all! Finally being able to swallow without wanting to die and be able to walk somewhat like a normal person again? Priceless

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Exceedingly Grateful

It is after 11:00pm and tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I can't believe it is already here! I am sitting on the counter and waiting for my potatoes to cook. Maybe part of my not believing Thanksgiving is almost here is the reason that I didn't start cooking till now... I don't know, but either way, this seems like the perfect time to post a gratitude blog.

I am grateful for a couple few things - maybe more than usual this year. A lot has happened in the last year. This week last year I was in D.C. with Hali and Lindsay. I had just decided to apply for the full-time MPA program at BYU and I am pretty sure that I thought I was insane. Now I am an unemployed, overworked, full-time grad student. I have quit my job, been to China and almost completed my first semester of grad school - AND I have lived to tell the tale.

That makes me grateful.

Here are some highlights of the things I am grateful for this year:

Running, cause I think I am staring to get the hang of this thing
New music, for giving me new ways to express myself
The BBC, for giving me Austen, Simon Schama, Sherlock, Matt Smith, David Tennant, many happy memories from my childhood, AND A SONIC SCREWDRIVER!
Macaroni and cheese, because after all these years, it still makes me so happy
Aspirations, because I will never achieve half the things I dream - and that's ok
Art, for keeping me in touch with who I really am
School, because it reminds me that I can be more
Team Jacob, for taking on our ridiculous name and taking on everything school throws at us
My laptop, because I never thought we would be so close
Top spots at the Tanner, cause they keep me motivated to get to school on time
Simply Orange and Izze sodas, because they make me feel fancy
The Cocoa Bean, for making absolutely anything into a reason to celebrate
Lou, for being me on a ten year delay
My heater blanket, because it makes going to bed in the winter so delightful
High-top Chuck Taylors, even if I should be more lady-like.
New friends, as I am constantly amazed by the people who come into my life
Old Friends, cause I think they love me so much that I couldn't stop them if I tried. Heaven only knows what that is about, but I am grateful for it.
The gospel of Jesus Christ, because I do know where I would be without it - and I am grateful that I am not there

There are, of course, many more things that I am grateful for, and I don't think I could ever adequately express the gratitude I feel for all of the blessings in my life, but I really am grateful. I am overwhelmed almost everyday by all that I have been given. And all of you have contributed to that. Thank you. I am grateful for you. I hope that you know that.


Monday, November 22, 2010


Last night I pulled out my journal from my trip to Europe. It has been more than 2 years since Erin and I took off to see the world. It's kinda unbelievable. As I flipped through the entries I remembered writing every day about the things that we were doing and wondering if it would ever be interesting.

Here are some excerpts of our boring, everyday happenings:

"Ate fish and chips at a pub in London. The water tastes like it came straight out of the toilet."

"Got lost and stumbled on Bernini's The Ecstasy of St. Theresa."

"Eiffel Tour Sparkle. I'm glad I found out about this before hand. It would have been so easy to miss."

Anything but boring.

Anyway, the point of this is that my journal was a little moleskin notebook, and they all come equipped with handy little pockets in the back. Last night I reached into the pocket and pulled out all of the little papers that I had tucked in there during my trip. This is what I found:


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weak Ankles

Tuesday night my facebook status read as follows:

New playlist. Check. Running shoes. Check. Rockin the beanie? You bet. Rolled ankle in the first song...Really Mitchell? Really?!

It was unfortunate, especially as HRH and I are signed up to run a 5k on Thanksgiving. I put my foot up, iced my ankle and hoped for the best. After about 2 days I was feeling pretty good. One more day of rest and I should be right as rain.

Apparently, the universe found my confidence amusing. Friday afternoon I was walking downstairs at my house and then, suddenly, I wasn't walking anymore. I took the last 7 steps in one fell swoop. As I was falling, I somehow found myself with a lot of time for thinking.

"Wow, this can't be good. Nope, this can't end well. I am going to have to come down again at some point and it can't be good. I wonder if I will break something? I have never broken anything before. I hope my insurance is good. Well, no matter what, I can't land of my left ankle. That would be tragic for sure."

So I landed on my right ankle. Really Mitchell, really?! This is unreal...and more than a little uncomfortable. On the upside, I haven't got a lot to do this weekend and my couch is rather comfortable. So here I sit, with an ankle the size of Africa, watching movies and painting my nails. Maybe this is exactly what I needed after all.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

You, Me, and Sara B.

Last night Camilla and I took a little trip up to the Salt Lake to see the one and only Sara Barielles! We bought our tickets about a month ago and have been eagerly awaiting this day. Little did I know that I would have a test that would be moved to the 17th and a project that would also be moved to be due on that very same day. Yikes. The result was a lovely morning of skipping class to sit on my bed and take my 3 hour Econ test. (You think I just when I say lovely? I do not.) The less lovely was trying to cram my project into the remaining daylight hours. (Which are few, thanks to daylight savings). Well, I ended up taking my laptop along for the ride and working on my project whilst Camilla drove us in the Subaru(room)-of-requirement.

Have you ever worked on a laptop in a car before? I have watched movies on my lappy in the car, but this was a new expeirence. The sense of multi-tasking was exhilarating. I can, indeed, create excel spreadsheets while moving at 75 mph! Wow.

Well, we got to the concert in time to catch the last several songs of the opening act - Cary Brothers. Now, lest you think that this is a band of brothers, I will tell you that it is not. It is merely an unfortunate man with an even more unfortunate name. I will just say that, although marginally talented, as a whole he was rather disappointing.

Maybe I think back on it with such distaste was because when he finished up his set - nothing happened. Nothing. For more than 30 minutes.

The audience started chanting, "Sara, Sara, Sara" two different times. And she did not heed the call. Really?

Here is a picture of how we felt after waiting all. night. long. for Sara to come sing us some songs:

Here are all the people. Just standing around. Forced to listen to lame music. (I have never understood why music venues can't play something decent between sets)

After MUCH waiting...the show finally started!

Sara B. is phenomenal live. That girl can SING. I have nothing but inestimable respect for artists who sound better live than on their records. The show was high energy and the audience was great. We had some crazies around us that made the night that much better.

The end of the show came all too soon, but it certainly ended with a bang. During her last song, Sara got up ON THE PIANO and sang her heart out. Someday Sara B., someday. Camilla and I both now have a life goal to find a situation where we can get up on a piano and sing our hearts too, without getting in trouble. It will happen. No doubt.

Overall, the show was a wild success. And the icing on the cake was that they were selling the song book for Sara's new album. We have been looking for it for a bit now and it is nowhere to be found. Nowhere but here.

One the way home we cranked up the Sara B. and I worked away on my laptop. When I got home I was so full up of good music and tired that I promptly fell asleep (almost on my computer) and slept right through my alarm. So much for getting my project in on time - but totally worth it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Black Dub: Tiny Desk Concert

I do love me some NPR Tiny Desk Concerts. I would REALLY (Hear that? REALLY) love to work somewhere that crazy-mad talented people just dropped by and played a set AT MY DESK. Anyway, what I am getting at is that I feel like I struck gold recently with one of their concerts.

Do yourself a favor and take a listen - and prepare to be blown away. This girl has soul like you wouldn't believe. I think that if I ever meet a genie, one of my wishes is going to be to have a voice like Trixie Whitley. I would quit everything I am doing and just sing. all. day. long. Man, I just love this.

Black Dub: Tiny Desk Concert

Saturday, November 6, 2010

It Doesn't Get Better Than This

I am the luckiest Auntie in all the world. The other day I came home and found 4 voicemails waiting for me on my phone. This is what they said:

Message #1
Hi Jennica
Uh, you're the cutest auntie I ever met
You are gorgeous and beautiful and how lovely I love you
Please call Aliea
I love you bye
I want to talk to her
She's already gone

So they called back...

Message #2
Hello Jennica
Im just wondering
I love you in the best one and you're the little
you're the little
And you're the little tootsie roll in the entire world
she's a tootsie roll

Then they called again...

Message #3
Hi Jennica
You're the rock and roll star
Please call me again

One last time...

Message #4
Hello sweet potato
You're a sweet potato and I love you sweet potato
and you're the best sweet potato
I love you sweet...and.. yeah!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why I Do What I Do...

I have been saying this for a long time - just not so eloquently:

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. - Barack Obama

Sunday, October 31, 2010


And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work. Doctrine and Covenants 4:5

This morning we had a Stake Meeting and Elder L. Tom Perry presided. Our stake president spoke, the Provo mission president spoke, the Provo temple president spoke, and Elder Perry concluded the meeting with his talk. The meeting was actually fairly simple, but I learned a lot.

What I learned today was also supplemented with a quote that really stuck out to me today as I was listening to a talk from general conference. Elder Erying gave a talk entitled, "Trust in God, Then Go and Do" and in it he said, "God does not rule in nations, but He is mindful of them. He can and does place people in positions of influence who want what is best for the people and who trust in the Lord."

This is what I am attempting to do. I want to qualify for the work. Should the time every come when the Lord would place me in a position of influence, I want to be ready.

Actually, I suppose that, ready or not, I am already there. I firmly believe that everyday we are in positions of influence. Whether it be among our family, our friends, our classmates, or co-workers - there is always someone watching. As much as it can be hard to accept that there are people in the world who would prefer not to be around us, we often find it difficult to believe that there are others who watch us, learn from us, and love us for who we truly are. I would hate to let those people down. I would hate to think that, when given the chance, I influenced someone negatively, rather than for good.

So, I make an effort to qualify myself for the work. The best that any of us can do is just try to be in the right place at the right time and make the best of what we've got.
The Lord will take us the rest of the way. There is no reason to wait.

"...And if you then go and do what He would have you do, your power to trust Him will grow, and in time you will be overwhelmed with gratitude to find that He has come to trust you."

-Elder Henry B. Erying

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sandwich Tuesday Episode II

Today my sandwich was two sugar cookies that I decorated with frosting and lots of sprinkles. That is a very good sandwich.

I ate this particular sandwich because last night I went to bed after 1:00 and woke up before 5:00. No time for makin' sandwiches when you are designing power point presentations and handouts at the last minute.

The funny thing about all of this is that, since I started grad school, I have found that I perform best on days when I get very little sleep, get to school early, and set out to conquer the day. I love it! Of course, this leads to extreme exhaustion every 10 days or so, but it is fairly exhilarating and I kind of dig it.

Maybe this grad school thing will work out after all....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sandwich Tuesday

I have a huge crush on Ian Chillag. If you don't know who he is, that is ok, you can rest assured that you are not a major geek. Ian Chillag writes for NPR's Wait, Wait Blog. He is funny. Very funny. My favorite thing to read on the WWBlog is the "Sandwich Monday" article. The premise is this: the producers of the show find a CRAZY sandwich and they sample it for lunch. Next, they give a review and say hilarious things about the culinary mess they have just ingested. It may not sound like much, but it is often the highlight of my week.

Some of my favorites include:

The TurDoggin at Franks 'N' Dawgs in Chicago

Ian: A hot dog should only be eight dollars if it comes with a side of six dollars.

Ally Sheedy's Sandwich from The Breakfast Club

Eva: Every time I chew I die a little.

Hot Pockets Sideshots

Mike: Last time I saw this, Han Solo was stuffing Luke into it to keep him warm.

See? They are funny. Well, they are to me. Maybe you should click on the links and go read it.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that yesterday, my love for Ian Chillag, my love for macaroni and cheese, my lack of sleep, and my grad-student-no-budget lead to Jennica's Sandwich Tuesday.

The sandwich of the day?

Ham and Macaroni and Cheese
A new twist on an old classic

Yup. This is not a joke. And it wasn't disgusting. I don't know if I would ever attempt it again, but it did the trick for dinner.

Now I think that it would be a good time for you to try to be as cool as the "Sandwich Monday" guys and leave a funny comment.

Happy sandwich!

Monday, October 18, 2010

When did this happen?

A patient willingness to defer dividends is a hallmark of individual maturity. It is, parenthetically, a hallmark of free nations that their citizens can discipline themselves today for a better tomorrow.
- Elder Neal A. Maxwell

I think that I have grown more in the last two months that I have in the last two years. I am coming up against all of my weaknesses and it is not. always. pretty. However, I also know that it is exactly what I need.

This is the time to be strong. This is the time to finally put all that I have been learning to the test. Can I really do this all on my own? When the odds are stacked against me, and I have no excuses left to hide behind, will I rise to the occasion? This is the time to prove my character. The last 4 years have been incredible, but life never asked much of me. I went to work, I traveled, I did anything that I pleased. Now I have more constraints on my time, energy and finances than I ever thought possible. (and I thought A LOT was possible)

With some regret I will say that, when tested, I am certainly found wanting. But I am also improving. I am learning quickly and doing my best not to repeat my mistakes. I am learning to speak up and to keep my mouth shut. I am learning to wake up earlier than I ever have, even though I am also staying up later than I ever have. I am learning to serve others when I am overwhelmed and I am becoming intimately acquainted with the peace that the Lord can provide when life's storms are raging all around us. I am finding an inner strength that I never believed I was capable of.

I am growing up.

And I love it.

I never thought I would get to the point where I loved the idea of being grown up. To quote Peter Pan, I just wanted to be "a little boy, and to have fun." (minus the little boy part)

But now, here I am - growing up - and even though these growing pains are intense, I am loving every minute and I can't wait to see how it all works out. I am so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who sees fit to let us struggle and learn. I am struggling, and I am learning, and I am so happy.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Grad School

“It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”
- The Red Queen, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Monday, September 27, 2010

MTC Provo, UT 84602

Ok, so don't throw up, but I got some bug bites two weeks ago that have turned into quite the nasty rash. I fear that I may have a flesh eating bacteria that is slowly consuming my right leg. Not. Fun. I wouldn't even tell you this, but I have to tell you what this experience led me to find:

This morning I got online to schedule an appointment at the BYU Health Clinic - and when I logged in the system automatically filled in my address:

MTC Box 188
Provo, UT 84602

Wha? The last time I was registered with BYU Health Care was when I was a missionary! Who knew? That is just adorable. It has been 7 years since I was in the MTC, in fact, 7 years ago last week I flew out to Philly as a brand new little missionary. I felt so grown up then. It was an incredible year and a half and I am grateful for the Health Center's little reminder. Memories of my first week in the mission include:

  • Getting kissed by an 80 year old man while tracting
  • Translating the discussions that I had learned in broken Spanish back into English(they came out just as broken as my Spanish)
  • Seeing my first Delaware sunset (They may not sound like much, but I promise that it is)
  • Longwood Gardens for Sister's Conference
  • Seeing My Mom sing with the choir for General Conference and feeling truly home for a moment
Miss you Philly!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tuesday, September 21

On Tuesdays I have class at 8:00am. Today I slept through my alarm and arrived to class at 8:06am. That was unfortunate.

Class finished at 9:15am. My next class will begin at 2:00pm. This leaves lots of good time for reading and doing homework. However, I don't know anyone who can do homework for 4 hours and 45 minutes straight. I certainly can't.

This is how "homework time" has recently gone for me:

- Open gmail to get the most recent communication from the MPA program and my classmates (Responsible, no?)

- Open google docs (God's gift to grad students)

- Work on homework

- Login in to yahoo account just in case someone sent something important to my other inbox

- Log out of yahoo and see that Drew Carey is back for another season of The Price is Right and that he has lost a bunch of weight

- Watch video on Drew Carey's weight loss

- Discuss Drew Carey's weight loss with my roommate. Was it natural? (It was) Should this show even be on now that Bob Barker is gone? Why does that contestant look like Snooki?

- The video continues with a segment on Rachel Ray visiting the Kardashians. What has TV come to?

- Close out of video

- Back to homework

- Open to learn how to spell a big word

- Open as long as I am on the web. Gold! The Breakfast Club stars reunite!

- Finish homework!

- Work on homework

School is fun!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Best Friends

We had a fellowshipping fireside today. Being as I am a fellowshipping co-chair, I was there. And I spoke. Yikes.

While I was up on the stand, my very dear friends made lots of faces at me. I can't tell you how grateful I am to have friends who will make faces at me. They are the bestest friends in all the world.

Here is a list of a few of my friends and why I am particularly grateful for them right now:

Amber - For saying that I am like Santa Claus and meaning it in a good way.
Jessica - For baking billions of cookies and being so blasted funny.
Megan - For her sass. And for leaving the money - Cause the kids, they like the money.
Oliver - For his fake hugs - and for telling me that I looked hot today.
Rob - For his top-notch complimenting skills.
Angela - For always being genuine.
Camilla - For not actually getting angry if I only have sliced onions on hand at a dinner party.
Kathryn - For making things happen and for rescuing me in style when necessary.
Andrew - For always saving me a seeta in class.
Heather - For orange juice, ice cream, and natural remedies.
Hali Lyn - For being a grad school sage and reminding me that this is possible.
Natalie - For coming over early!

I know that I missed a lot of people, and I promise that I am grateful for you too - these folks just happened to rise to the top of my gratitude list today. I am so incredibly blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life who so genuine care about me.

Thanks Loves!

Follow up to my last post and BYU's cruel joke....

I attend church in the JFSB on BYU campus. I would just like to shout out a big thank you to BYU for leaving at LEAST 5 of the stalls in the women's restroom on the bottom floor of the building WITHOUT toilet paper.

Thank you!

I am really starting to cherish these experiences.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Really BYU, really?

One of the new and exciting things about attending school at BYU is Tuesday devotional. Elder Hales came and spoke today, and it was absolutely phenomenal. Even though most of campus shuts down for the devotional and it is broadcast on almost every TV in every building, we decided to go to the Marriott Center to see Elder Hales speak. We made our way through a sea of freshman and made a little pit stop at the ladies facilities once we got inside the building.

Inside the resting room there were a few stalls that were not being used. Weary of such stalls, I kept my distance, but heard a few people saying that there was no toilet paper. No big deal. I just waited my turn.

I entered an open stall once it was vacated and a moment later I heard a voice next to me asking for toilet paper. I looked to my TP dispenser to give this poor stranded soul some relief and found that mine was empty too! A chorus of voices went up saying that they had no toilet paper. There were at least 4 stalls in a row that were clean out of toilet paper.

*spoiler alert* Everything ended up good and right.

But what happened to the people right before us?

And those after us?

I felt like I was in China again. Only this time, no one warned me.

Note to self: Never stop carrying those little packs of tissues.

Note to BYU: Next time you have an event where THOUSANDS of people are congregating, be sure to stock your restrooms.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Day of Caring

So, we down at the BYU MPA are out to change the world. It truly is an incredible (and often intimidating) experience to be around so many do-gooders all the time. One of the pluses of such an environment is that, after no more than a week of school, we canceled classes to go serve at the United Way Day of Caring. There were 6 or 7 groups of us that spread out all over Utah County to spread a little love. My group went to paint the mobile home of a couple who had lost their house after experiencing health issues that had brought incapacitating medical bills. We had a great time and it was nice to be able to get to know some people a little bit better. Our program is full of rock stars. Every person I meet makes me want to do a little more, do a little better.

This is why I decided on an MPA. I love that you can major in making a difference.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

No turning back now...

I am almost to the end of my first week of grad school. You would think that this would make me feel all grown up and responsible, but instead I feel more like a 7th grader than anything else. I have a backpack, a locker and I pack my lunch daily. I have secret handshakes with two of my classmates and I am intimidated by the second-years(second-years...that makes me feel like I am at Hogwarts).
The first week of school hasn't been too bad - they have only started hinting at the tidal wave of homework that will be hitting us soon. One nice thing is that almost all of our work is done in groups. The same group. My team is made up of 5 other students and we are called...drum roll please...TEAM JACOB! I think it is hilarious. Not everyone in the program agrees. They'll get over it. I want to buy a Taylor Lautner cardboard cut-out and bring him to our team presentations. That would be awesome. I'll have to see just how much I can get away with in this place.
Bring at BYU is an interesting experience. Talking about church in class and sometimes starting class with prayer is nice, but takes some getting used to. It does add some flair to our team name though. Our team scripture is Jacob 6:12, O be wise; what can I say more? We will put it at the end of all of our presentations.
I think we are so funny.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Math Camp and Morning Kindergarten

I signed up for Math Camp. That means school unofficially starts next week. Grad school math camp is like summer school for the kids who are maybe a little behind in math. (or in my case, a lot behind) I never really did the whole summer school thing when I was a kid. I was a smarty-pants in elementary school. My only summer school experience was when I was in 4th grade and I went to summer school for smart kids. We read books by Gary Soto, made cookies, played with a parachute, and learned the words to "I Just Called to Say I Love You". It was a lot of fun and it made me feel smart - and special. Math camp doesn't make me feel smart or special and I don't think that it will be a lot of fun. Hmm, when I type it "Math Camp" it looks like it could have the potential to be a Disney Channel movie, like "Camp Rock". Maybe the Jonas brothers will be there. Megan would like that.

I wonder what Math Camp would be like next week if we made it into a musical? Maybe I will be the girl who comes in with a bad attitude and leaves with a boyfriend and a new found love of all things mathematical. I will totally win the big math competition on the last day of school, make a lot of new friends and learn something about myself in the process. Then we will all sing about how we are "all in this together" and we will dance our way out of math camp and into our next big adventure.

Maybe math camp won't be so bad...

BTW I got into morning kindergarten! In the MPA program there is a morning section and an afternoon section. Yesterday we got emails with our team assignments and I am assigned to a group in the morning section! That is just what I always wanted! Hooray!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Home again, home again

I am back! I am officially over jet-lag! It is wonderful feeling. I have spent the last several days slowly getting settled into my new apartment in Provo. It has been strange to be back home. I am very grateful for tap water and regular toilets. I am thankful to be eating food that isn't going to make me sick. I am also grateful for freedom of speech and my closet full of clothes. I miss chopsticks and using an umbrella for shade. I miss $2.00 meals and Chinglish signs. I also kind of miss having people want to get their picture taken with me. Fame is so fleeting...

So, overall, China was incredible. It was a wild adventure and I am so glad that I went. Now I am gearing up for a new adventure. Grad school officially starts in 2 1/2 weeks. I feel a bit like I did before the mission. I knew that even after all I could do to prepare, I wouldn't really be ready, because you just don't know what it will be like until you get there. It is a mystery, and I am excited to see how it goes. I just hope I survive!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

In China it is 5:30pm. That just happens to make it 3:30am here. For some reason, jet-lag is always more difficult for me on the way back. It may have something to do with the fact that international travel is a little bit exhausting and therefore weakens my ability to fight the lag. Perhaps this time it is also a little worse due to the fact that I am wading through the waste land that is my final paper, and stressed about moving next week, and worried about officially starting grad school, and my baby sister just had a baby and I am not going to make it out to Nevada to welcome her to the world, and I am readjusting to soft beds, and normal food, and dry air. Maybe that has something to do with it...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A 3 Hour Tour

Yesterday Megan updated her facebook status with this statement, "I have seen heaven and it is called Guilin." I couldn't agree more. We got off the plane Thursday morning and were greeted by our English speaking tour guide, who made sure that we each had a bottle of water as soon as we boarded the bus. (It didn't take long for us to feel like we were in heaven. Compared to Nanjing last week, this was unbelievable.)

Our guide's name was Katherine and she was great. She was about our age and we made friends quickly. She was adorable. She always called her boyfriend her "lover" and she kept telling us about the bars in Yangshou with the sexy steel poles. "Very sexy." Somehow, we missed seeing those. Our group was smaller this time and without Dr. Walters there we may have felt a bit more free to relax. We played games and sang songs on the bus. Our first destination was the Reed Flute Cave. It is massive and is displayed as only the Chinese can do. Much of the cave is lit by neon green, pink or blue lights. In the largest cavern there is a laser light show, complete with music and bubbles. Can you imagine seeing that at Timp Cave? The workers there are all in parkas, even though we thought the temperature was perfect. I guess anything under 85 is just too cold.

After the cave we climbed Fubo Hill and had an incredible view of the city. The formations in Guilin were formed when the whole area was underwater. It is easy to feel like you are still underwater when you look out over the green, otherworldly peaks of the landscape.

We checked into our hotel that afternoon and had 3 hours of free time. That seemed a little excessive, so we decided to add our own extra tourist spot. We would walk to the Solitary Peak/Prince's Palace and have a look around. It would cost 15 RMB. It was a good plan. Then we started walking, and walking. It took about 45 minutes to find our destination and cost 70 RMB to get into the park. However, even though things didn't go as planned, we still had a great adventure. We climbed to the top of the peak on stairs that were at least 8 inches tall. I had a hard time scaling them and can't imagine how the Chinese can walk up them with their petite legs! In the park there was a Peace Cave that we really wanted to see, but the doors were locked. We could hear people in there and became determined to find our way in.

It turned out that only tour guides had the key to the cave, so we waited for a group and then sneaked in with them. It was a little awkward because several members of their group were sneaking pictures of us while they were waiting for their guide to explain the cave. They weren't actually very sneaky. Sometimes I wish they would just ask us for a picture so they didn't end up with pictures taken from strange angles as they creep around behind us to try to get a shot. We are all pretty used to it now. I will post a facebook album when I get home of all of our paparazzi pictures. They are pretty great. The cave ended up being less than impressive, but we were still proud of our mad sneaking skills.

When we were ready to go back to the hotel we were running short on time so had to hail a cab. In China. Without a Chinese speaker. This hadn't happened to us yet. We ended up showing our driver our hotel key card and that worked just fine. On the way back we witnessed a drug deal outside the car window when we were stopped at a red light. More adventure for us!

The next day we took a river cruise down the Li River to Yangshou. It was a 3 hour tour and it was phenomenal. The river cuts right through the famous peaks of Guilin and there were people on bamboo rafts on the river, others doing their laundry, and there were lots of water buffalo along the banks of the river. It reminded me a lot of cruising down the Tracy Fjord last year, but this time it was anything but freezing outside. When we got to Yangshou our tour guide took us to ride another boat. None of us were exactly sure of what the activity was, but she said we might get wet.

Heather and I did NOT want to get wet. We only went on the condition that everyone in the group would promise that they would not get us wet. When we got to the river there were hundreds of bamboo rafts, built for two floating on the river. We each got on a raft and our guides pushed us along the river with their bamboo poles. As we were pushing off a little old lady came out on one of the rafts to try and sell us a water gun or plastic bags. We didn't want the water gun for sure, but it was only as we were pushing off that I realized what the plastic bags were for; they were to cover our shoes and suddenly I knew that we needed them desperately. We practically threw money at her, and she reached out to hand us the bags. They ended up being lifesavers.

We sat back and relaxed and took in the view for much of the ride. Every once in a while someone from a neighboring raft would spray us with water guns and we would put up our umbrellas to protect ourselves. There were rafts in the middle of the river selling beer and dried fish. The whole thing was very quaint and incredibly beautiful. Halfway through the ride our guide gave us a water gun so we could defend ourselves. I don't know if he was being merciful or malicious. Once we started defending ourselves, we had much more to defend. We worked out a system where one person would shield us with both umbrellas and the other would squirt our attackers with the water gun. Of course, this just made them more persistent, and we ended up getting soaked by lots of Asians who were getting a kick out of seeing these two American girls hide behind umbrellas. We had a marvelous time. Everyone on the river was good-natured, and we all came off of the river wishing that the ride had been longer.

After the river we went to a park where there was a 1,000 year old banyan tree. We all walked around it for luck and longevity. Soon it started to rain, and even though we were already soaked, we ran to the bus and back to the hotel. We spent the evening bargaining on West Street and went to sleep incredibly happy. For most of us it was our favorite day thus far in China.

Saturday morning we drove back to Guilin and visited the Elephant Truck Hill. (It looks like an elephant, if you hadn't guessed.) We had some more great paparazzi moments and spent too long posing with elephant statues in the river. Because of time we ended up eating lunch at KFC. I will tell you now that NONE of us complained. We are enjoying the Chinese food, but sometimes we just need something familiar.

After lunch we rushed to the airport and flew back to Xiamen. We got in at 3:30 pm this week, as opposed to last week's 3:30 am. We were exceedingly grateful for that, even though I think all of us would have been happy with more time in Yangshou. This weekend was unbelievable.

Monday, July 5, 2010

How I Spent My Nanjing Vacation

We were up bright and early on Tuesday to catch our 7:30 flight to Shanghi. Once we landed we drove to Zhouzhuang. It is often referred to as the "Venice of China". It is an old canal city that is very beautiful, but it is also very small and packed with tourists. They did have boats running up and down the canals with little old Chinese men and women piloting them and singing traditional Chinese songs. That was one of my favorite things that I have seen thus far.

The Nanjing area is known as one of the 3 furnaces in China and let me tell you, it lived up to its name. It was so incredibly hot. When we first got here we saw all of the girls carrying umbrellas and fans on hot sunny days and we thought it was adorable. Now we know that it is both adorable, and a necessity. We don't think twice anymore about busting out an umbrella for some portable shade.

We also visited a Buddhist temple and had some very fancy meals. I ate duck brain again. I had to. The boys were daring each other to eat from the duck head and when they gave in, they just picked out little bits of meat that weren't much different than the meat on the plate. When Jasen said, "Jennica, show them how it's done," I had to. I couldn't look as I cracked the head open, but I sure ate that brain and showed everyone up. It was a triumphant moment, if not a little disgusting.

On the second day we visited some very beautiful and very Chinese (surprise!) gardens and made the 3 hour drive to Nanjing. (My favorite garden was the "Humble Administrator's Garden". We all made jokes about becoming humble administrators. I am already succumbing to MPA humor. Yikes. At this point I was on day 2 of heat exhaustion and I didn't know if I would make it through the day alive. I was feeling less than congenial and it showed. When Seth and Sarah asked me how I was doing, I said that I wanted to kick a kitten. Now Seth asks me how my KKM (kitten kicking meter) is doing. It is usually very low, just so you know.

However, in that moment it was at 100%. Our tour guide didn't speak any English, so we just had to follow him around and listen to 10 minutes of a Chinese explanation of a rock or a bush or an old room that looked like all of the previous 50 rooms that we had seen and then one of our Chinese speakers would translate the 2 sentences that they could remember and we would shuffle along to the next place. It was excruciating. It was 94 out with 70% humidity. I honestly didn't think I would make it through the day.

We had arrived in Nanjing at the Presidential Office of Sun Yat-Sen. We had just driven 3 hours in a poorly air-conditioned bus and the site closed in an hour. Our guide talked at the entrance, in the heat, for at least 30 minutes. I wanted to die. Luckily I lived through the day, if only just barely.

That night the beds at our hotel were soft. SOFT! I haven't slept in a soft bed for almost a month! All of the beds here (including hotel beds) are just raised sections of floor. They are rock hard. I am used to sleeping on them now, but it was a treat to sleep on a soft bed! We also had "western" breakfasts at our hotels. It was Chinese style french toast, breads and cereal, but it counted and was a relief from some of the crazy food we have been eating. Usually I am very adventurous with food, but after a month I am just craving sandwiches and cereal.

Our last day in Nanjing was incredible. We were met in the morning by an MPA grad who is working in China. He toured with us and acted as our interpreter! It was so refreshing! We saw the tomb of Sun Yat-Sen. We had to walk 392 steps to get there. Each step represented 1 million people who lived in China at the time of his death. It reminded me of the Spanish Steps in Rome. We also went to see the Ming Tombs where the emperor of the dynasty is buried. (Along with his 40 concubines that they buried alive so they could all be together in the afterlife). Yikes.

My favorite part of the tombs were the stone animals and soldiers that guarded the way to the tombs. There were huge stone elephants, camels, lions, and chimera. We took a lot of pictures with them and our Chinese tour guide thought we were nuts. In the afternoon we went back to the Presidential Office and then had about an hour to run through a Night Market. Our group is becoming rather adept at haggling.

At dinner we found out that our flight was going to be delayed more than 3 hours, but less than 4. (At 4 hours the airline has to put you up in a hotel.) That put us flying out at 1:30. It was a long night. However, the airline did hand out Sprite and ramen while we waited. I can't imagine an airline in America ever doing that. We finally got home at about 3:30 and discovered that the University would be having an all day power outage starting at 7:30 in the morning. What a warm (literally) welcome home. We showered before we went to sleep and got up just as the AC clicked off for the day.

We were all especially grateful for church today. It was fast and testimony meeting. When it came time for testimonies, they asked for 2 volunteers from the Xiamen group, so Jasen and I volunteered. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to bear my testimony across all of China. I imagine that I probably won't have many more opportunities to bear my testimony via Skype. It was a little weird to have my back to the group and just talk to the computer, but it was also pretty awesome.

After church we had a 4th of July BBQ! Skip and Callie had brought buns and BBQ pork, and potato salad, AND homemade rootbeer! Alicia provided the salad, brownies, and jello and we brought drinks and chips. I am not kidding when I say that several of us were very close to getting emotional over the welcome sight of such familiar food. We all ate our fill and were incredibly happy.

Traveling abroad always makes me very grateful for all of the blessings that we enjoy at home. I am very grateful to be an American.

We went home and struggled through the rest of the day without electricity. We tried to nap, as we had only gotten 3 hours of sleep the night before and, as Talia said, "We slept like sweaty babies". It didn't last last long. We went out to find some kind of relief and discovered the only hotel on campus that still had AC and sat on a couch there for 4 hours until the power came back on.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder and there are no words to express how fond I am of air-conditioning.

Today I miss regular toilets (not squat pots), and reliable electricity. I also miss fireworks on a warm summer night. God bless America.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite

Monday was moving day! Our housing turned out to be less than desirable. We found out that the management handed out room keys like candy. We all had to bleach our rooms because they were pretty much filthy, there were cockroaches, rats in the entry way, and finally - bed bugs. Bed bugs were the final straw. As soon as Dr. Walters found out about them, he set out to find us some new digs.

We somehow finagled our way into the international student housing (where we would have been from the get go, if not for some unfortunate logistical issues). We checked in there and checked out at our old place. Once we got the word, we were all packed within the hour. We were quite the sight on our journey to our new place. We had a 20 minute walk with all of our luggage and all of the cleaning supplies, food, and water that we had purchased since we got here. And we thought people looked at us funny just because we were American. Try eleven Americans hauling all they could carry across a busy campus.

It was a little crazy, but in the end we all feel a million times better. A million. We have a security guard at the university gates and also in our building. We have a beautiful view of campus and there are no bed bugs here! What luck! Maybe they put us in the other place first so that we would appreciate what we have now. The only downside to our new little slice of heaven is that we do not have internet in our rooms. We are working on it, but it is going to take a few days. We leave for Nanjing tomorrow, so I anticipate internet maybe Monday or Tuesday.

As of today we have one month left here in China, and I have officially been gone for 3 weeks. Class is going well and we are finally all feeling at home in Xiamen. The food here keeps making me sick, but we have pitchers to boil water in our rooms now, so I think that I will just be eating a lot of ramen over the next month, and try to avoid the cafeterias with all my might.

We had a movie party last night with some of our Chinese classmates. We watched a Kung Fu movie and now we all want to learn some Kung Fu. I don't know if we will get that chance, but my project partner (Vivienne) brought a friend who is a Tai Chi expert, and he agreed to teach us Tai Chi! We had a lesson today and he wore us out. It lasted just over 2 hours and we were practicing in the afternoon heat. We are not very good at Tai Chi, but maybe we will be experts when we come home. We will see. Tai Chi is usually only practiced by the elderly, so everyone got a great show, seeing seven young Americans trying to play Tai Chi. Good times all around.

Well, the group leaves at 5:45 tomorrow morning, so I had best be off to pack!

By the way, I miss pizza, macaroni and cheese, tap water, safe fruits and vegetables, and dry air.

When I leave China I will miss lush greenery, my classmates, choco-pies, magnum bars, and meals for $1.50.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Under my umbrella, ella, ella....

As many of you have probably heard, there has been a great deal of flooding here in southern China. Last I heard 4 million people have been displaced and approximately 400 people have been killed. Fortunately, we are on an island that is just off the mainland, so we have avoided most of the danger.

We have seen a lot of rain though; just the other day we were eating lunch at the cafeteria when a major downpour started. After eating we ran to Heather and Dr Walter's hotel (which is on campus and therefore very close) to wait out the rain. It didn't stop. We decided that we would just have to brave the weather, as we had pressing responsibilities back at our apartment. (Talia is finishing up TA duties and had to turn in grades ASAP). We walked outside and the rain gutters were pouring rivers of water into the streets. We hadn't ever seen anything like it! So, we did what any good American girls would do. We put up our umbrellas and took pictures under the torrents of water coming from the roof of the building. It was a classic Gene Kelly moment and the Chinese people who were around got a good laugh.

Not long after we set out for home, the rain stopped. It was perfect timing. We did, however, still get our feet wet. It had rained so much that there was no way to exit the campus without walking through 6-8 inches of water. I don't think it had rained more than an hour. I am exceedingly grateful for my umbrella. Everyone loves umbrellas here. They are sold on most every street and in Hong Kong they even had umbrella vending machines. Umbrellas are used rain or shine. When it is sunny it is so hot and humid outside that the shade doesn't really make a huge difference, but anything helps, and it is nice for blocking the sun if nothing else. Sunburns are no fun.

The flooding did throw a wrench in the plans of half the group recently. They were supposed to go see the Hakka toulous, (and I was supposed to have a leisurely day here), but the roads were flooded and they couldn't go. There is only one more chance for them to go at the end of July, the rest of our days are booked. Things are going to start getting very exciting. We can't wait. Most of this week has been dedicated to exploring Xiamen, and we are feeling a little "explored out." We have seen most of the area and are ready for new and exciting things! Details to come shortly....

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Church in China

We had church today. We all piled into 3 cabs and met Sam (the area group leader) who showed us to his apartment where the meeting would be held. He lives there with his wife Alicia, and their two children Indiana and Havana. They are from Australia and have been here about a year. Skip and Callie were the other two locals who came. They are from Idaho and Skip is here doing business for his family's saddle business. Both couples are relatively young and I think they are glad to have us there. In total there were 17 of us there for the meeting. For church we Skype into Beijing. There is a presidency that meets in a class room at a Beijing chapel and they direct the meeting. The congregation is made up of about 20 groups who are Skyping in from all over China.

This is how it goes: they begin the meeting and after the sacrament hymn the connection is muted for 5 -6 minutes so that each group can bless and pass the sacrament. When the connection comes back on there are two speakers who have been assigned from the congregation. So, wherever they may be in China, they sit at their computer and give a talk. The topic today was the Holy Ghost. It was strange to just sit on a couch in someone's house and listen to church. After the meeting they have a roll call and then they rotate between Relied Society, Priesthood, and Sunday School. (btw they were very impressed that we had a whopping 17) Because there were so many of us, we decided to hold our own Sunday School meeting. Dr. Walters led the discussion and we just followed the gospel principles lesson on the Holy Ghost. It was a very good meeting.

After church Alicia had prepared some snacks and I ate my first fresh vegetables in a week and a half. The Chinese aren't really into raw veggies. They tasted so good. All of us were extremely grateful.

Church was so refreshing and Sam and Alicia and Skip and Callie and all great. It was rejuvenating in so many ways. I am really going to look forward to Sundays here.

Also, we are going to have a big dinner together on the 4th of July. It falls on a Sunday, so we are going to celebrate with our little group. Sam and Alicia, being from Australia, will just be along for the ride, but I am already excited for it. The church is so incredible. Anywhere you go. I am in incredibly grateful. This is an experience that I will always treasure.

Bli-hizzity Bli-zog

So, here in China my blog doesn't work. "That's ok." I thought, "I will start a new one." Unfortunately, that one doesn't work either. So, I will send the posts to my adorable little sister and she will post them here. Now my blog does work!

We are officially at Xiamen University now. We are all moved into our ever so humble housing. After complications with the university we have ended up off-campus in rooms that are, perhaps, less than desirable. However, after many trips to the local super market and lots of bleach and scrubbing, these places are becoming more and more livable. They have AC and that is really the most important thing in the end.

On the last day of our conference we took a sightseeing tour to see the Hakka toulous. They are very old, very round houses that were built at least 700 years ago. They are meant to house 5 or 6 families at a time. They are also in the middle of the jungle. We had a 2 1/2 hour bus ride to get there. We got to see a lot of rural mainland China. On Xiamen motorbikes are prohibited to try to reduce pollution. On the mainland, they are everywhere! Often they will have 3 or 4 people riding on them. It is quite the sight. At the tulous we walked around some old villages and we even saw a presentation of what a traditional Chinese wedding is like. They picked Daniel out of the crowd to play the groom. I told him that he had just gotten the best souvenir ever, but he didn't bring her home.

When we came back we got moved into our apartments and spent the next few days getting settled in and showing the other students around the area as they arrived. When the other big group got in from Shanghi, we all went out for Korean. It was so nice to have something familiar. Talia was the last student to get in. She is my roommate. She is most recently from Detroit, but she has lived all over, including Australia and Germany. Needless to say, she is pretty cool.

We start class on Monday. We will have a 3 hour class from Dr. Walters on M/W and on Tuesday will have lectures on Chinese government from local professors. I am excited, but I am also a little nervous. It is at once exciting and overwhelming to have your first class of graduate school in China. I have certainly learned a lot already and school hasn't even begun!

Today? Today I Ate a Duck Brain.

Originally posted 6/15/10

Right now I am eating a snickers. An hour ago, I was eating a bit of duck brain. We had a 2 hour long welcome dinner tonight that consisted of more than 15 traditional Chinese dishes. It was probably one of the most adventurous meals I have ever eaten. Included were; earthworm gelatin, crab, rock fish, giant prawns, duck soup, abalone, squid, and many other mysterious foods.

We sat at a round table with all of the food on a rotating platter in the middle. There was fried rice with caviar and a big fish that was looking at me with it’s beady eye. At one point Jasen pulled the duck head out of the soup and the next thing I knew, he was offering me some duck brain. How can you say no to that? I didn’t. Yikes. Mostly, it tasted like tofu, but I am pretty darn proud of myself. Overall, tt was a perfect introduction to mainland China!

The conference was good today. Many of the sessions were rushed, and most of the presenters were very difficult to understand, but for the most part, I feel smarter already. I think that is a good sign.

Good Morning, Hong Kong!

originally posted on 6/14/10

When I woke up in Hong Kong I looked out of my window at the skyscrapers across the harbor on Hong Kong island. The Samsung building flashed the time and then the message “Good Morning!” Hong Kong was glad I was there and so was I. The art museum was across the street from my hotel and there were 2 women doing their morning exercise, dancing with fans, just outside the museum. The day looked cool and cloudy, but that was definitely not the case.

When we walked outside it felt a lot like jumping in a pool. The air was hot and sticky. Hong Kong is basically a massive sauna. The first place that we visited was the Wong Tai Sin temple. It is a Taoist temple and it is beautiful. We walked around the Good Wish Garden and then we went to get our fortunes told. Each of us were given a container that had 50 or 60 sticks in it. We were to shake the container until just one stick came out. That stick had a number on it that would correspond with a fortune poem that would help to discern your future. The number on my stick was 42. I though that was pretty incredible, as 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything. (The fortune-teller also told me that I would be successful, get good grades on my exams and go oversees a lot.) My overall out look: quite good. I can feel good about that.

After the Wong Tai Sin temple, we went to see the Hong Kong LDS temple. It was closed for cleaning, but we did meet up with a guy named Colin who was also visiting HK before going to the mainland for school. He came to lunch with us and then we all parted ways. When I say ALL, I mean ALL. I was headed to Disneyland, and for some odd reason no one else wanted to come with me.

I can now say that I have been to every Disneyland in the world. I am kind of blown away at this, besides Anaheim none of the trips I made were Disney-specific. I just kind of happened to end up where all of the parks were - and this was my last one. Kinda geeky, kinda cool. I love it. HK Disneyland is just as small as everyone says, but as least the Jungle Cruise ride is in a real jungle. You just can’t beat that.

For the next two days we took the city by storm. We ate chicken feet as part of a traditional Dim Sum breakfast. We walked about 10,000 steps on the day we went to see the 10,000 Buddhas in the New Territories. (Which btw, was one of the most incredible things I have seen anywhere in the world). We rode the subway across all of HK and up to the mainland (even though our visas did not permit us to leave the station). We visited Victoria Peak to see the view of Hong Kong that has been on my desktop at work for the last two months. While there, we also saw the spot where Hong Kong was dedicated for missionary work in 1949.

On Sunday we had church in Mandarin and we went to the art museum and the Hong Kong history museum. I do love me some museums. My favorite part of the art museum was an exhibit of pieces by Wu Guanzhong. He recently donated 30 pieces of art to the museum and I loved, loved, loved them!

That night we had Bombay Delight curry pizza at Pizza Hut and watched the light show down by the river. The next day we just ran around Hong Kong island and went to some local markets. Soon it was time to leave and we headed off to the airport. The flight to Xiamen was only an hour and 15 minutes. On the way I started to read The Piano Teacher, turns out it is set in Hong Kong. How crazy is that?

A group of students met us at the airport, brought us to the university, and helped us get checked into our hotel rooms. I can’t believe I am in China. Real China. Mainland China.

Now it is time for the real fun to begin…

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The only thing constant is change...

As I was sitting in Institute tonight I realized that one week from that very moment I would not be sitting in Institute. I would be sitting on a plane -- on my way to China. This is it folks. The countdown begins. In one week I will be eating noodles and rice. In one week I will be about a foot taller than everyone around me. In one week I will be officially starting my grad program.


I had another realization this week that shook me a bit;I have been on UVU's campus since the Fall of 2000. I left for my mission and to teach in Korea, but UVU had been a very big constant in my life for the last 10 years. 10 years. And that ends in just a few shorts days. Everything is changing. I like change. Change is good. That doesn't mean that it isn't hard. This is incredibly hard. It isn't just a couple of little things that are changing, NOTHING is going to be the same. However, this is usually how things go for me. I don't like to do things small.

So here goes...

It all starts in t-minus 7 days...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Moving Day!

Well, today is moving day. I have officially moved out of my office and will be working out of a cubicle for the next week and a half. A week and a half. No point in settling in. This is weird.

I have been working here at UVU for almost 5 years now. I didn't think it would be very hard to leave, but here it really it. It hasn't always been perfect, but I have spent the majority of my life the past 5 years giving tours, presenting at high schools, managing ambassadors and eating free ice cream. It is so strange to think that I will just walk away from all of it in a week and a half.

I am excited for all of the things that are to come, but it might be a little harder than I thought to leave this all behind.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


About 3 years ago my sister introduced me to LOST. Season one had me hooked. Seasons four and five almost lost me. But I have stayed true. Now, it is rapidly coming to an end. When I say "rapidly", I mean that there are only 2 episodes left and they are killing people off. No one is safe. I don't know if I can take it.

I just wanted to get that out there.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

All Grown Up and Going to China!

Remember in Mulan when Mushu says, "My little baby is all grown up and saving China"? Well, I don't know that I will be saving the country, but I am going there! In just 44 days I will be flying off to China for 2 months. I will be taking a Performance Measurements class that is a part of my masters program and I am all at once excited and scared to death. Well, maybe not scared to death, but I am certainly nervous. I am mostly nervous about the class and getting along with my classmates. Many of them are halfway through or finished with their degree and that makes me feel VERY green. Traveling makes me only a little bit nervous. I love adventure and I love to see the world. I can't believe that I have had the incredible experiences that I have, especially when I remember being 19 and thinking that visiting the east coast was the impossible dream. Now I have seen the world and am so excited to see more of it. Adventure is a wonderful thing!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dr. Who

My roommate Queen Kate recently started hanging out with a pretty cool boy. We like to call him RDS. RDS is fun and witty and he watches Dr. Who. Did I mention that he watches Dr. Who? Who watches Dr. Who?! I remember watching Dr. Who with my family when I was little. I remember Tom Baker(pictured below)the most. I also remember Peter Davison, but just a little bit. We loved the show and I still get a very excited feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I hear the theme music.

Dr. Who recently came back into my life when I met my friend Nan. Nan is pretty much everything I wish I could be. She is cool and artsy and well versed in all things BBC. Hence, she watches Dr. Who. (When I discovered this, I knew we were meant to be friends) David Tennant is her Doctor of choice.

So, what this all comes down to is that last night RDS came over with the newest episode of Dr. Who in tow. It just aired in Britain on Saturday night and features the new doctor. The new doctor. He is acceptable. But he is no David Tennant.

As I watched Dr. Who sans David Tennant, I realized just how much I love David Tennant. I guess that absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. Have I mentioned that I love David Tennant? Mostly, I decided that I probably shouldn't love some one so much when I have never actually met him and I know for a fact that said person spent time dating Kylie Minogue. You just can't trust that at all. Oh, well.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Musings on Today

The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain, but the snow in Utah is out of control. It is April for heavens sake.

Returning a video to the redbox machine at Walmart would be much easier if I had a husband who would stay in the car so I wouldn't have to park it and turn it off just to pop inside and return the video.

Women used to wear dresses all the time and they looked super classy.

I would rather eat a cupcake than a salad. Unless it is a very good salad.

Flavored water is much easier to drink lots of than normal water.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thailand = No, GRAD SCHOOL = YES!

Yup, I was going to jet to Thailand for a week. Just a little last minute vacay, half-way around the world. But, the trip is off. All weekend I had an uncomfortable feeling about the trip. When I told my family about going, when I researched things to do on the internet, and when I told my boss that I would need a week off, I didn't feel like things would work out. Every time that I told someone about it I had a really hard time getting excited. It seemed so strange! Who doesn't get excited about a free trip to Thailand?! The plane ticket was purchased on Sunday and upgraded on Monday. How could it not work out? And yet, I still had that uncomfortable feeling. I talked to my sister about it and finally said out loud that I felt like maybe I shouldn't go. Then I knew, that uncomfortable feeling had been the spirit. Oh well, it looks like I will be going to Asia soon anyway because...I got accepted to grad school! They only accepted about a third of the applicants (usually they take half), so I pretty much feel like a rock star! I will start the program with a six week course in China this summer and then I will begin full-time in the fall at BYU. I am a lot excited and a lot scared to death. I am going to quit my job, leave my comfort zone, take out zillions of dollars in student loans, and I am going to conquer grad school. I am going to be the first kid in my family to go and I can't wait! I did it!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Waxing Brilliant

I went for a walk with my roomie today. We like to pretend that Spring is here, and so we walked in the sunshine until our ears froze and we could no longer sustain the fantasy of Spring. We waxed brilliant as we talked about some of life's challenges and how our approach to them can change their nature entirely. We talked mostly about attitude and complaining. Here I will tell you that HRH is pretty much brilliant. Besides being a therapist and roommate-extraordinaire, she is on a quest for self-mastery. (Personally, I prefer to sweep my weaknesses under the carpet and pretend that they don't exist.) HRH however, is facing the world head on and making an honest effort to constantly improve herself. Her two nemeses as of late are sugar and complaining. She is taking them both on valiantly. I don't agree at all with abstinence from sugar. It makes me a horrid and disagreeable person. Hence, said abstinence should never be attempted for long periods of time. Complaining, however, would be a worthy adversary. I am a first rate complainer. I can complain, criticize about anything. The best part is, that I am very good about rationalizing my complaining away, so I never have to feel bad about it. However, the more I talked to Megan, the more I realized just how much of a negative impact my complaining is probably having on me. Seriously. Why do I complain? a. I haven't gotten my way b. someone has something that I want c. to support someone else by taking sides d. to show how much better I am than the stupid people I am complaining about. Ouch. Complaining is a very "me" focused activity. Although I believe I am awfully funny and witty when I complain, it brings a negativity that I would rather not have around. So here I go. I am going to try to curb my complaining. What are you trying to leave behind? How is it going?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy New Years!

Feliz Ano Nuevo! It has taken me almost a week to recover from ringing in the New Year! (and from some extensive dental work, but we won't talk about that )
Anyway, New Year's was great. We had a wild 2 1/2 day party unlike any New Year's party I have ever seen. All of the hullabaloo included:

Endless sparkly beverages
60 party guests
30 baggies of confetti (that subsequently ended up on the floor, in the cd player, in people shoes and every where else you might imagine confetti would go)
20 party poppers
16 noise makers
1 midnight breakfast
1 midnight showing of Star Trek
1 lovely morning of sleeping till 11:00am
1 fancy pants dinner with my first successful homemade pots de creme
2 mattresses that ended up in our front room for a giant slumby
2 more VERY classy movies: Tristan and Isolde and (no joke) Crossroads (the 2002 Britney Spears hit movie)
About 6 Food Network show episodes that kept us entertained in our catatonic morning state

Let me just say that if the first two days of 2010 are any indication of the year to come, I am going to have one very stellar year!