Life’s been moving pretty fast lately and I haven’t had time to write about all the little adventures, which is the only way I remember them. But I will try to give some recent highlights:
I crossed off TWO things from my thirtyfiveBy35 bucket list when I attended my first music festival – Clockenflap. I danced my face off and heard some music I love and some music that was new, helped strangers vomit safely, felt old, drank beer until I felt better, and saw way too many students (including one from my Northcreek days!!! Lol). I also thought I was standing next to a celebrity, and then after a few minutes realized it was just someone I follow on instagram. But by far, the strangest part of the weekend involved feces.
We were standing towards the back of the crowd when a commotion broke out just a few feet ahead of us. A teenage boy was unconscious, nearly blue in the face, and his female friend was holding him up and shaking him, trying to revive him. They were screaming for a medic, and as a recent graduate of our school-sponsored CPR and First Aid, I briefly wondered if we should step up and try to help. But suddenly he came to, and supported by a few others, began to walk away.
HOWEVER. As he was walked away, something fell out of his baggy pants.
Yes, my friends. The youth had shat himself.
Immediately a few people shone their phone lights on the offense, trying to help the medics, arriving too late, before they rolled the wheelchair over it. Alas, they rolled right through it. As a collective, we widened the circle and tried to shine yon cellphone lights harder. A brave soul stepped forward and set her beer cup over it. I stepped forward and did the same. We were applauded, heroines among men.
Then things got weirder. Because then we turned it into the worst game of reverse Jenga ever. Slowly, people stepped forward, and gently placed their cups atop our poop shrine. We all watched with bated breath as each contestant stepped in, carefully positioning their cups on top, a collective applause emerging as the tower grew higher.
But all good things must come to an end. As our circle widened, people drew closer and wanted to play what they thought was an innocent game of stack a beer cup. I made it my mission to tell everyone who had children “THERE IS POOP THERE!” and warn them away. A drunken teen thought we had made a circle for break dancing and wandered in to shimmy and had to be carried away. But the weird twist of fate was when a hippie walked forward and saw about twenty cups she wanted to carry away to recycle, and gathered them all up from bottom to top.
We screamed at her to stop, but she walked away, determined to save the earth (respect), not knowing what she held in her hands. And then my group of friends looked at each other, proclaimed “I need a drink” and went to the beer tent before the next act. I’m still not sure if that was terrible, what we did, or a testimony to the resilience and creativity of the human spirit.
And kids and adults – hugs not drugs. That was scary to watch.
My fav moments were: the silent disco, which burst into spontaneous conga lines. The dancing uterus people. The human slinky. The deejay tent with my friend Jake. Swaying to Khalid with Ben. Fangirling over Erykah Badu. Rocking out to Interpol. The weird genius of David Byrne. Thinking that buying a turban with a giant sunflower on it was a good idea. Wearing glitter in daytime and sipping Fireball from a flask to compliment terrible pizza. Holding a cup full of wine in my teeth because my hands were full, and then deciding to talk to my friend. Watching a mime mime the heck out of his mime routine.
I hosted the United Nations for Friendsgiving on the roof last Saturday, even though I still hadn’t figured out how to replace the table that was smashed in the typhoon. But God was good and let me borrow a closet door from the neighbors to stretch over our table frame. Amie bandaged up the edges and we covered it in brown paper to make a long thanksgiving table that I think my mom would have been proud of, complete with gourds, poinsettias, melting citronella tea lights in fake pine cones, and markers to draw on the tablecloths (or table, as someone accidentally did!). I asked everyone to dress up as something American and got the most beautiful surprises out of it. Lady Justice showed up. So did a pimp. So that was something. I got to wear a cape so a great day from the start.
My oven is really a toaster, so prepping the proper amount of gluttony was something to think about, but some companies here in Hong Kong prey upon lonely Americans and do Thanksgiving-specific catering. Everyone invited contributed a dish or two, even red white and blue Jello casserole! I made Gma Susi’s potatoes and we ate and ate and ate. We played Thanksgiving Scattergories, shared what we were grateful for this year, and in my ongoing quest to teach everyone in the world something good, played flip cup.
I was lucky enough to be teaching some impressionable year sixes for November and got to force my culture on them during morning devotions, which was so much fun. It’s moments like those that you realize how different your life is.
I taught them how to make hand turkeys, what a corn maze was, how to place bets on football score squares (realizing belatedly I might have introduced them to gambling), the term “religious freedom,” the delight that is the word ‘cornucopia,’ and that all male turkeys have the same name of Tom. We decorated leaves with what we were thankful for. Most listed the invention of Fortnite, whatever that is. I got a few shoutouts. And thanks to the internet, had a hilarious photo booth prop set to play with.
It’s hard to be away from home on Thanksgiving, a holiday so truly American and nuanced. I live in Hong Kong; I literally live in the tomorrow, and my whole family was together in their little ways, and the dogs were there to howl at each other and beg for scraps under the table, especially under Grandpa Steve, and it was loud and chaotic and someone cried at some point. The someone was probably me, in Asia, in the tomorrow. Because I love Thanksgiving – the eating too much, the kids table, the 5000 piece puzzle you’re working on in the corner, the football game on mute unless it’s halftime commercials, changing into stretch pants after the most painful part of the evening – family photos to send out as the annual Christmas card.
It was hilarious to explain that the day was really about eating a lot. Stretchy pants. Napping with all your relatives. Blaming the tryptophan. Playing that one board game that’s hot at Target at the moment, and then putting it away for the next decade. Getting emotional with one random relative in the backyard and spilling family secrets.
My flatmate works for YoungLife here in Hong Kong, an organization I’ve only become involved in because my brother Andrew told me a lot about it from his high school experience. Now I lead it at my school, have met so many amazing people involved in it in Hong Kong, and last weekend got to lead worship with a few others at a retreat in a lifesize recreation of Noah’s Ark! It was good for the soul, exhausting in the best way, spend the night in bunk beds with people who love Jesus, be inspired to keep pushing on kind of way. There’s something about singing hymns on a rooftop with fairy lights and fog and the city all around you and away that brings things home.
Last month I got to be a camp counselor for a few days with the year 5 and 6s, which, if you know me at all, is my dream profession. In my personal opinion, there could have been WAY more skits and songs and pranks. But it was technically a school activity, so I reined it in as much as possible.
It was awesome to see my kids outside of school and watch them face challenges like be away from parents, dress themselves (kids who have to wear uniforms all the time have terrible fashion in general), sleep in a tent, use a port a potty, be outdoors for extended periods of time.
Hong Kong kids (many of them) live a really weird life where we are in this chaotic, claustrophobic city that moves a million miles a minute. They are often raised by live-in helpers from the Philippines or Indonesia with one or more parents working/traveling most of the time. I don’t know how often they spend long periods of time away from screens or get to touch grass or go barefoot. Hong Kong teens have one of the highest anxiety and suicide rates in the world, citing pressures for academic success and social success as a leading cause.
I got to help kids learn how to ride a bike for the first time ever (at ten years old!), and hike so hard we ran out of water and felt nauseous (and that was the adults), and fall apart during team building exercises. They “surfed” and learned how to tie ropes, made smores for the first time, ate more food than could possibly go in their tiny bodies, and cried over everything. We dodged water buffaloes and their cow pies and took group showers and nearly ran face first into massive spiders. It was awesome. They held my hand when we walked in the dark and I nearly NEARLY found a limit to the number of hugs I can have a day.
My favorite was helping a somewhat special kid on the hike. Turns out he is scared of just about everything, and on the way down kept saying “who put that rock there?!” and meaning it literally. I kept saying “God, dude. We are on a giant rock.” He also said “SH*T!” really loud at one point, and when I said we shouldn’t use that language, he replied “Why not? That’s how I feel.”
Out of the mouths of babes.
It’s that time of year when contracts come out for international teachers, and I really don’t know what God has in store for me for the next few years. It had seemed so clear before, but now a lot of things have changed and I’m asking myself what I’m capable of, where I belong, where I can serve, what I really want out of this one wild and precious life. How lucky am I to feel free enough to face possibilities. May I be wise enough and brave enough to step into the right ones.
I’ve so much to look forward to – my friend’s bday with mini golf and a trip to the yacht club, a British Christmas with my girlfriends, Christmas day at the horse races, work parties, girls nights out, celebrations with my small group, leading worship at Beer and Christmas Hymns, the weather turning colder and allowing me to rotate through my way too big collection of scarves. I’ll be spending Christmas traveling south east Asia – Thailand for a wedding, then Cambodia and Vietnam for the first time.
I’m mostly happy and very lucky. God gives me all I need and even some of the things I want!
Cheers to all those I love and hold dear, far and near.