This site contains the archives of my travel blogs from 2010-2016.

I'm now blogging via Medium. For other life updates, including opportunities or requests to collaborate, visit my personal website.




Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Dog and a Pool

"Hey Mom....at our next house can we have a pool?!
You have to have a pool for at least one day in your life.

A dog and a pool....(pauses, then continues wistfully, with a sigh of pensive satisfaction)
....are about the best things ever in life."

-Raam Foy, 9 years old

He was only 4 in this photo, but it's one of my favorites :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Some things in life are the same in every language

This is so adorable, I just had to share. Even if you don't understand Spanish, you can't help but fall in love with this darling girl.



Charmed from Chris Light on Vimeo.

...and charmed I was.  
This is a beautiful expression of Chris' daughter, Eden, riding her bike for the first time.  

Conviction at its finest

I happened upon this tonight while browsing the web and happily licking a spoonful of chocolate frosting....my first "treat" after losing about twenty pounds in the last month and a half.  Needless to say, I immediately put that spoon down.  

"Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar.  Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch.  Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc., hard and fast.  Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow.  Routine is the enemy.  Keep workouts short and intense.  Regularly learn and play new sports."

- Coach Greg Glassman

I like this guy!  And since I'm allergic to almost all grains anyways (I can only handle a little white rice right now) the diet part isn't that difficult.  Because of Celiac disease, my punishment for eating cake isn't just a few extra pounds....it's a few days of utter misery (i.e. intestinal malfunction and malnourishment because the gluten essentially attacks my body, my digestive track shuts down, and I completely stop absorbing nutrients).  So if you've been wanting to lose a few pounds for a while but keep falling off the wagon, just pretend you have Celiac disease.  

Can't wait to hit the gym in the morning and work off those spoonfuls of frosting.  I can truly say I'm glad someone caught me in the act! 
PS - the frosting was gluten free, so I wasn't poisoning myself...just ruining my wholesome diet

Monday, July 26, 2010

Language shapes how we think

I copied this from Capucha, another blog that I follow.  

Pretty interesting article in the WSJ today. Basically says that language profoundly influences how we see the world. Some examples:
  • Russian speakers who have more words for light and dark blues are better able to visually discriminate shades of blue.
  • An aboriginal community in Australia doesn’t use terms like “left” and “right”, and instead uses north, south, east and west for directions. As a result they have greater spatial orientation.
  • People who speak languages that drop the agent of causality, for example “the vase broke itself” versus “John broke the vase,” don’t often associate blame for events.
  • One group who uses the words “few” and “many” in favor of actual number words have difficulty keeping track of exact quantities.
  • English speakers see time on a horizontal plane, with the best years ahead and the past behind us. Whereas Mandarin speakers see new events emerging like a spring of water, with the past above and the future below.

This is so fascinating to me! You can read the full article by clicking HERE.

"Pastors are so lucky..."

While driving up to South Umpqua Falls this afternoon on a family excursion after church, Jared pipes into a conversation...

"Man, pastors are so lucky.   
They get paid to do what God has called everyone to do."

- Jared Foy, 17 years old

Sunday, July 25, 2010

From a reader's perspective...

"Books are the treasured 
wealth of the world
and the fit inheritance
of generations and nations."

Henry David Thoreau   1817-1862

China: First Impressions of Beijing -- 8 July 2008


**This is a never-before-published journal entry from July 2008.

I've just updated my email list, so for those of you who are getting
an email from me for the first time:  I've returned from China last
week and have sorted through some of my pictures.  Now I can share

I decided I better just start at the beginning.  This may take several
weeks to tell the stories and share the pictures, but I want to do it
for myself as much as for you- even though I tried to keep a daily
journal, sometimes sleep was more important than journaling.  This way
I'll have all the stories and pictures together in one spot.


I arrived in Beijing at 6:30am on June 7th, after 2 long flights and a
layover in Kuala Lumpur (that's in Malaysia).  There were supposed to
be some affiliates of the Global Youth Leadership Summit (GYLS) there
to meet incoming students, but after strolling the length of the
suspiciously small terminal it was clear that I had no welcome party.
In fact, there wasn't an English speaking person to be found anywhere.
 Even worse, I didn't know the code to dial out of the country, so my
trendy (aka expensive) BlackBerry Global Phone was technically
useless.  I turned my luggage cart around and headed back towards a
bench, not knowing what I was going to do.  Within a few steps, a
familiar voice caught my ear.  Well, I thought it was familiar-- it
turns out ANYTHING I could understand sounded familiar.  There was a
western couple standing in front of the arrival board, arguing in
French.  It turns out she's from France but is working for a Chinese
company and speaks Mandarin.  Her boyfriend is from Seattle but lived
in France and now teaches English in a Chinese High School.  I was
Aimee showed me how to dial out of the country (all the GYLS people
had US cell numbers)- but unfortunately, upon dialing the Emergency
Travel Number, I got a answering machine.  To this day, no one has
returned my call.
Anyways, I left a message and since I didn't know what else to do,
hung around and talked with my new friends while they waited for a
friend's flight.
When we started talking about Australia, and how I had gotten to
China, Aimee said, "Oh that's funny.  Your flight landed at the
Domestic Terminal."  Now that I thought of it, I didn't go through
customs.  I decided the group must be waiting at the International
Terminal so after saying goodbye to Aimee and her boyfriend I caught a
trolley to the other terminal.  Thanks to them I found my group.

I never did figure out why my international flight disembarked at the
wrong terminal, or why I never went through customs-- which makes me
wonder how I got out.  Besides the boarding attendant in Kuala Lumpur,
no one even had any record of me entering China!  Oh well.

 A strange Chinese ice cream ad in the domestic airport in Beijing

Aimee and her boyfriend, to whom I am eternally grateful

The following photo was taken in our hotel complex in Beijing.  It was
called the Beijing Friendship Hotel and has quite the history.  The
complex boasts a huge campus of around 20 buildings and back before
the 70's and 80's it was the only place foreigners could lodge while
they were in Beijing.  China wasn't very open then, and most
foreigners only entered for business.  The Chinese govt. required all
foreigners to be registered with the city and were only allowed to
stay in the special hotels for foreigners.

This picture was taken the same day I arrived, and you can see a bit
of haze everywhere.  As my plane landed that morning, the pilot came
on and gave us the weather update.  He said, "33 degrees (105 F) and
clear skies."  After landing I thought, hmm...those skies don't look
very clear to me, but I assumed it was just morning fog that would
burn off.  It didn't hit me until around 4pm that the morning fog
never burned off.  Oh the horror when I realized it was SMOG--
pollution that I was seeing.  I remember thinking that night, 'this
must be what it feels like to smoke a pack of cigarettes.'  Ick.

The next photos are from my first excursion out of the safety of the
hotel and into the city -- and I went completely alone :)

My only goal was to visit the large mall across the street.  As I left
the hotel, a Faculty Advisor told me just to watch out while crossing
the street in front of the hotel, "You kind of have to play frogger."
KIND OF was an understatement.   The "street" turned out to be an 8
lane highway with frontage roads on both sides.  I gave up looking for
a crosswalk after watching all the locals jaywalking.  Even in rush
hour traffic they made it look safe and easy.  A little bit timid, I
sidled up to a group and prepared to step out--just as a city bus
changed lanes and almost creamed me.  I was scared now, to say the
least, but wasn't going to return to the hotel defeated.  The only
person now on my side of the road was an elderly Chinese gentleman,
looking to be around 85.  "Surely everybody would stop for this guy,"
I thought, and linked arms with him, begging him to help me get
across.  I don't think he understood, but regardless, we ventured out.
 I was mistaken.  The cars didn't stop.  I could have sworn they
actually sped up, recklessly changing lanes in an attempt to avoid

I lived to see another day, and even explored the mall across the
street.  After a month I actually got used to the traffic customs in
China-- only to be chided by my aunt during my stopover in San
Francisco on the way home.  Every time we got out of the car I'd kind
of glance both ways while stepping out, prepared to dodge one or more
vehicles.  She'd always have to pull me back, "Shirah, there's a
light."  haha

The next pictures are from one of our many group meals at restaurants
around the cities.  You can see Coca Cola, which we called "OJO OJA"
as is so clearly written on the bottle in Chinese.

The last bunch of pictures is from our first outing-- the 800 yr old
Summer Palace in Beijing, just across the lake from The Forbidden City
(the Emperor's home and head offices of the ancient govt.)

I know this is long, but, if nothing else, enjoy the photos!

A very, very, very old rock....over 4,000 yrs old if I remember correctly

From China to California in negative 2 hours, net

**This is a never-before-published journal entry from July 2008.

Well, I made it.  I got back to Medford just in time for the 4th of July.  The jet lag wasn't that bad...until yesterday.  It was a feat of time travel, actually.  I left Hong Kong International Airport at 11am on Tuesday, and arrived in San Francisco at 9am the same day.  So I made it in negative two hours, net.  Pretty good, eh?  But a little confusing for the brain.

I've finished uploading all 1500 pictures from my various memory cards to my computer, so now all that's left is to sort through them-- I haven't even seen them all yet!  

This trip has been the most eye-opening experience of my life.  It's ironic, seeing as China is a self-proclaimed communist country,  that it would be in this very country that I'd witness the greatest disparity of wealth I've ever seen- especially in such close proximity.  Literally right next door to one of the tallest skyscrapers in Xi'an is an area about the size of 3 football fields covered in makeshift housing of cardboard, corrugated tin, styrofoam, and cloth.  

What struck me is the generous and hospitable heart of the Chinese people.  I visited the homes of several families who, in America, would be considered below the poverty line.  Yet they were excited and more than willing to share whatever they had, in terms of food, space, and furniture, with us.  

Heaven is Hong Kong -- 1 July 2008

**This is a never-before-published journal entry from July 2008.

You would not believe this place. If I would've known how good it would be here I would have been tempted to stay all month!
After working my way from the north all the way down to the south of China, Hong Kong looks like heaven. And it almost could be.  I can breathe!!! The mountains are green green tropical, there are lots of banana trees and just beautiful peaks rising out of the sea. The tops of some of them are hiding behind groups of fluffy clouds suspended over the deep blue ocean and flourishing foliage.

I'm sitting outside the hotel spa in a modern yet classic orthopedic wicker chair with beautiful cream cushions, listening to the indoor waterfalls, and relaxing until my dinner appointment in the unbelievably inexpensive grand sushi buffet-- one of the best in the world I'm told!

Oooohhhh and here's the best part.  My room is so pretty and has an iPod player!  The thing I hate about traveling alone is that I always get lonely. But it's a lot more fun to be in a room where I can plug in my iPod and listen to my own tunes :)
Plus I can charge it for the looong flight tomorrow.
And tonight I'll get my complimentary massage.

I wondered what was up with that and finally figured it out when I got in the elevator to go up to my room and had to put in a special code to even be able to get the elevator to stop at my floor. Apparently they are all booked up w/ regular rooms so I got a VIP Club room. That explains the price.  But it might just be worth it for one night in paradise.... :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Revisiting the Global Youth Leadership Summit - 25 June 2008

**This is a never-before-published journal entry from June 2008.

Hi again from China!
A big thank you again to all of you who've contributed to my trip.  This has been by far the most unforgettable trip of my life.  China isn't just on the opposite side of the globe, it's on a completely different planet. 
The Global Leadership Summit was an amazing experience through which I formed some great relationships with fellow students.  During discussions in formal meetings, on the bus, and over dinner, I was touched by their insightful thoughts and opinions on anything and everything.  I'll never forget Lema, a girl from Beirut, Lebanon who had lived the scenes we watch on our televisions about the conflict in the Middle East. 
I was happy to see how much my past travel experiences positively affected the way I was able to skip over cultural barriers and relate to many of the international students.  After having lived in a variety of countries and states I was easily able to share inside jokes with Germans, Australians, some Mexicans who spoke French and German, students from California, Alaska, Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, New York, etc., Icelanders, Trinidad and Tobago-ese?, as well as a smattering of people from all corners of the globe. 
In fact, I found a lot of people just like me; students who have been lots of places for relatively long periods of time, and have taken bits and pieces from each culture they've encountered.  Although I most certainly am still American (and don't want to be anything else), there may be a lot about my views and habits that are foreign.  This trip came at the right time- just when I was starting to doubt if I might ever find that group of people where I really fit, I met a whole new group of people, an international community where we all share the same joys of traveling and exploring, and the same struggles to fit in once we get back home. 
The 12-day Summit included A LOT of sightseeing.  Although this was fun, many of us felt that the schedule placed the academic goals of the Summit second to tourism.  We would have liked to have more time set aside to work on our group projects. 
A total of 300 students participated in the Summit.  We were broken down into 9 groups of about 35.  Each group was assigned to a Chinese province.   My province was Shandong-located on the east coast between Beijing and Shanghai. 
Here's the simulation we were given:  The Chinese Govt. has set aside USD $800 million to be given to one or more provinces this year.  The awarded province(s) will have developed and presented a project that will better their province as well as surrounding provinces and China in general. 
Our goal as a group was to conceive, develop, and present a project that we would present to the "Govt Board" (a panel of students) on the last day. 
All of the research and late nights paid off-- when it came time for the awards my group received first place and was one of only 2 groups to have their project fully funded.  Of course, it was fake money.  But it was a great exercise through which I learned a lot about China's infrastructure, social situation, government structure, and how each is affected by the others. 

The Chicken Story - 22 June 2008

**This is a never-before-published journal entry from June 2008.

Hi Mom, 
The Liu family are very very hospitable and generous people; they remind me of Pascal and Anna- how excited they were to show us around Belgium.   I have already made some unforgettable experiences with Christine and her parents.  It's unlike me, but I am having short moments of homesickness- like yesterday when we walked up to Christine's cousins' house.  A lovely girl my age and her older brother were at a makeshift kitchen counter just outside the front door of the shack.  As she turned around to greet us I saw she was holding the the bound feet of a chicken.  Her brother briefly turned his head to acknowledge us; as he turned back he twisted around the chicken's head and snapped it's neck.  I instinctively threw my hands up in front of my face and almost screamed-- instead just sucking in tons of air.  They thought my reaction was hilarious.
When I nervously, incredulously, asked Christine what they were doing, her cousin instead answered innocently, "We're...killing....chicken..........to eat.  We eat chicken for dinner..........tonight."  

Despite not having eaten much that day, and having walked-- a lot-- my appetite grew smaller and smaller as I remember Christine's dad telling me we were going to have dinner at his brothers' house.  Throughout the course of our hour-long visit I tried to ignore the innumerable breaches of standard kitchen health code.  While playing with Christine's eldest cousin's baby I tried to invent some kind of genuine reason that would excuse me from the evening meal.  

Christine's adorable nephew "David" with Mrs. Liu

Heat stroke was the only thing that came to me, which seemed very plausible as it was 110 degrees in the shade (even at 5:30pm) and humidity hovering at about 85%.  The Liu family are amomg the most kind and genuine people I have met- so ready to share everything they have, though it be so little- and I really did not want to offend them, but after witnessing their food preparation techniques, I sincerely could not picture myself walking away from that meal without the avian bird flu- or at least a serious case of the chicken pox.
So you can imagine that it was MUCH to my relief when Christine's dad came in and declared the men (him and his 3 brothers) had reached a consensus: There was not enough food in the house for all 17 adults, so they had made reservations for half of us down at a local restaurant.
Our mode of transportation to the restaurant and my experience there is a whole other story.

I miss you, and your delicious, normal food. :)

As you can see by the arrows painted on the pavement, the two brothers driving us both drove the wrong direction on the freeway to get to the restaurant.  A short cut, no doubt.

Walking up to the restaurant, we passed a man cracking mussels on the ground, then depositing them into a plastic tub and some very used Styrofoam coolers.  My first clue that outside the major cities health codes just aren't enforced the same. 

The restaurant consisted of a main kitchen, patio, and public dining room, as well as several private dining huts with large round tables.  The entirety of the structure was built on stilts over a pond on which floated a variety of aquatic plants including lilies.  

Also featuring a floating chicken coop...

...a full-service aquarium...
...and snakes!

This is the puffer fish that I picked out for my dinner from the aquarium out front.  The guy caught him and puffed him up in front of me just to demonstrate his health, I guess.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Excerpts from short little updates to friends - 19 June 2008

**This is a never-before-published journal entry from June 2008.

"I CAN'T WAIT to get back home.  The one consistent lesson I've learned in every country I visit is that America is the best place on earth....Don't get me wrong, I love to travel.  But life is so much easier in America."

"I have the most awesome picture.  This morning Christine and I walked over to South China Normal University (I don't get the name) which is literally right next door to her appartment building.  All the sudden we walk by this building which has a huge red and gold banner over the entrance which reads, "A Warm Welcome to all the Principals from Tennessee, USA here for the International Youth Leadership Program."  Haha, who would have ever guessed?  I insisted on exploring all 6 floors of the building in hopes of stumbling upon some fellow Americans but with no luck.
Oh well, I had a good laugh."

"I actually didn't bring my laptop with me to China for security reasons, so I'm storing all my photos on memory cards.  Fortunately these have become very affordable and I'm able to buy a 2 GB memory card here for around 7 USD.  Pretty amazing.  It's been in the high 80's and 90's since I got here, and humidity is hovering around 90%.  So you can imagine that's a big change for someone coming from a mild, dry, 55 degree Australian winter.
Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers; they are truly a comfort in my times of uncomfortable and unassured situations."

"I wake up every morning in awe and anticipation of the day that lies ahead.  There is no way to convey in an email the extent to which my life has changed this month.  I'm going to have to write a book.  I already have actually; my travel journal. It's 8:30pm and we're driving back from a village about 40 km outside of Guangzhou, where I was stared at all day by Chinese rice and pig farmers who have never before seen a foreigner-- especially not one with reddish hair and freckles.  I was warned about curious Chinamen but was not prepared for the intensity of their questioning expressions.  In an attempt console me, Christine tells me that when Chinese people stare it's actually a compliment; that they consider a beautiful woman to be one that commands the attention of passersby when she walks down the street.  Hmmmm.....I get the feeling that it was more my awkward Hello's and various short Chinese phrases (surely spoken in the wrong tone) that got their attention. Haha.
On the up side, I seem to have mastered the chopsticks and receive compliments by all the waitresses wherever we go."
Dinner with the Liu brothers (Christine's dad & uncles) in a local sushi hut
Pig Farmer - Mayor of Small Town - Pig Seller - City Boy (her dad)

"I'm flying back July 1st.  Really can't wait.  I've never really had homesickness before in all my travels- but, as amazing as China can be, it's just too foreign.  There are just too many cultural norms here that really aren't normal.
For one, nobody seems to mind not being able to see the sky or buildings just a km away.  They don't seem to notice the fact that breathing is almost impossible.  I miss America and her clean air more than anything.
I'm sorry for complaining so much."

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