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Rachel and the Case of the Shattered Glass Ceiling


My pre-teen bedroom was a wonder to behold. The purple crayon piggy bank with the years of savings and detailed plans to run away and work at Disneyland. The posters from teen magazines (mostly of JTT) and Hot Topic. Glitter in all forms. I can remember dressers I was allowed to paint, the candlesticks that nearly burned the house down, the Adidas pull-off trainers. The bookshelves – the pleasure of lining them with the classics – Boxcar children, Hatchet, Shabanu, Babysitters’ Club, Anne of Green Gables. 

It smelled like Bath & Body Works and looked like a Delia’s catalog mated with a Wet Seal. She sounded like Sarah McLachlan singing over a modem dialing up at 2.3 MBPS from the kitchen to connect to my AIM address so I could share personal details with absolute strangers. 

It was glorious.

One book series I had inherited from my mom – Nancy Drew. Numbered, yellow spines, blonde bangs and a flashlight and a complicated romance. I was so in. Who didn’t want to be a teenage detective? Maybe those feelings were still lingering (twenty something years later) when I woke up to an ABSOLUTE CRIME on my patio, here in Hong Kong 2021.

I give you: The Case of the Shattered Glass Ceiling.

*cue MUSIC! Intense MUSIC!*

I watched some documentary about social media that asked – what kind of person are you – the kind that checks their phone before they get up and pee in the morning, or the kind that checks it while they pee? (I might be paraphrasing) but I am the person who first slaps at their phone three times (I’ve built in snooze alarms just for this) and then checks their phone while practically dancing horizontally before getting up to go pee in the morning. 

On the morning of Wednesday, October the 6th, I didn’t have a lot of notifications to get rid of, because I’d been up most of the night. I was texting my friend about an event we were going to later, and how I was tired from being awake since about 3am but I didn’t know why I’d been awake. I padded over to my curtains to draw them back and gave a full on gasp. I had meant to pull my laundry in, but I couldn’t even open my door. A panel of the glass ceiling that partially covers my patio had completely shattered all over it. It was a pretty dramatic sight. 

I quickly took some video and texted my landlord, having no idea what to do. He asked me to look for suspicious objects, but it was totally unsafe to even open the door. I had to get to work, but he said we’d call the police in the afternoon and file a report.

Sounds dramatic, but okay. (omg i love it)

police on the scene

All day I was wondering what the what it could be. I lived next to a truly disturbed person for a year. Lots of drugs, late nights of karaoke, screamings, throwing beer bottles, banging on walls and doors. I confronted him several times about it, the police were involved, legal charges pressed, he wrote me a note saying I should kill myself, until finally he was forced to move out. I couldn’t help wondering if he was somehow involved? And that felt quite scary.

So I had a nice anxious day of waiting, and then raced home to meet my landlord and the security guard. They both gasped at the scene, which made me feel better about my reaction, and then immediately called the police. Then we waited, and two guys I definitely weighed more than came to save the day. They shoved open the door and looked for clues, interviewed me, went around to all the neighbors, and were very sweet in general. Hong Kong is super safe, and I got the feeling I was the only thing that had happened all day.

They asked if I had good relationships with my landlord, my neighbors, if I could provide alibis for my whereabouts, etc. 

We found a few things on the patio that I could say for sure weren’t mine – a round white object, some pink crystals, but I live on the bottom of a 20-floor apartment, and things often fall from the sky. They are just usually laundry clips and napkins and don’t shatter roofs. 

After a bit, they decided to call CID for a more in-depth investigation and photos. So we waited. Now, I live in a small studio, so it all got a bit awkward just standing around, especially when I had to use the bathroom, and there was all the shuffling in and out of shoes, and the staring at my very Western style house, but these things happen.

When CID showed up, they took more pictures, sifted through the patio some more, put the pieces together, and figured it out! An expensive jar of face cream had fallen from somewhere and must have landed just right to shatter my ceiling. We looked it up on the internet and found the retail value, and decided we were looking for a clueless neighbor with great skin who lived a few floors above.

EVIDENCE

OR WAS IT MY CRAZY EX NEIGHBOR, THROWING LADIES’ CREAM AT MY HOUSE IN AN ATTEMPT TO DEFLECT THE TRAIL OF EVIDENCE?!

Actually, in any case, it’s weird. Windows don’t just open readily here, and if they do, it’s to laundry wires, and there’s usually a couple of air con units in the way of something just dropping straight down. 

The cops said I had to come to the station to make a statement, which was a big whoa. I had an event to go to, so I packed a bag and peed and then off we went. I climbed into a car with three men, no English, and went to I didn’t know where, and I just really hoped they were actually police. 

When we got there, I was led down a few halls to a room with some old computers. This always boggles my mind about Hong Kong – it’s supposed to be this financial hub and secure and forward-thinking, but has the most ancient technology. 

My detective opened an older casefile, deleted the particulars, and then asked me to type my own statement, as that would be quicker and easier than getting a translator. So I wrote in all my information, a few paragraphs of things I thought were important, and just kind of giggled the whole time.

In the end, they checked it, apologized that their English wasn’t that great, which I said was totally okay, as we weren’t in England or anything, and then I asked them to print me a copy of the statement as a souvenir! So now I have that to . . . eventually throw away one day. I guess it’s just nice to know that despite all my general mischief, it took 37 years to have to go to a station and make a statement. 

The other day, someone came by and made a bigger mess of the glass ceiling in the name of cleaning it up and measuring for a replacement, but we’ll see. He broke most of the glass out of the roof, but left me to clean it up. I hauled it all into my trash can and then weighed it, learning it was over 40 pounds of glass, which actually makes me furious. I’m in the process of drafting a “WANTED” poster on Canva, but am pretty sure we’ll never catch this monster with just great, amazing, smooth skin.

faves

But life goes on, as it always does. I walked from the police station to an 80s dance fundraiser for women in Afghanistan at a gay bar. The day after, I learned about a million special needs that made me scared to ever have children, and then led a staff band playing pop sing-a-longs for a teacher development day. 

That night I played three hours of volleyball as the only person who spoke English, and then went to a hippie island and got to be auntie Rachie to my faves. We spoke to fish and made messes and stayed up too late solving the problems of the world. Then I nerded out with fellow aficionados at a Harry Potter pub quiz, spent two typhoons at a hotel, dressed in a dirndl for a fake-tober fest, and now here I sit, a studio full of plants and ideas and pumpkin-scented things, ready for and yet dreading a return to work. To life.

These last few years have made it hard to count on anything, plan on anything. Today on my hike I just kept thinking “I’m so damn glad my legs work so I could get up here and see things” even though I have hiked that path at least 50 times before.

Sometimes I feel far behind in the imaginary race we’re running with the false mile-markers, but I’ve got a lot. I’ve got so much. So many stories, and so much fun. So we keep going on, solving the cases, living through the raised eyebrows that turn into funny memories, together. Together.

Life in the Time of Corona


It’s already tomorrow in Hong Kong, so hello from the future. This is Week 10 of Coronalife. Yes – it’s been so long, we don’t count days anymore, my sweet summer child. But I’m finally on a very anti-climatic Spring Break! I was meant to be in Morocco today starting a two week tour. Instead of camping with Bedouins and wandering through markets in Marrakech, I’m doing my best to hold the couch down and trying to get everyone to watch “Tiger King” because I need to talk about it a LOT.

I miss watching movies over people’s shoulders on planes.

I’ve been blogging for ten years, but when I started, would never have thought so many people would one day be reading some personal nonsense about living through quarantine in HK (this got like 80k hits, which was a wow).

I would have never thought this for many reasons. One being that I never had any plans to come to Asia. Or to be a teacher. Or to be in a pandemic. Or to be 35, talk this much, look this okay and still be single and have time to fiddle around on the internet. Self-high-five!

a year ago’s spring break in England and Scotland!

In case you’re new to this hot mess of a blog, or high school/church camp/that one hostel in Central America where we met was so long ago you think you can’t just message me out of the blue** (which is NOT true and I love those messages), I’ll quickly reintroduce important facts:

  • Note: I use the word “important” loosely.
  • I grew up in California, have lived in Seattle, North Carolina, Rio de Janeiro, and now Hong Kong.
  • Travel quite a bit. Love to talk about that.
  • I don’t have a TV, and this has added years to my life. I highly recommend only reading news and not watching it.
  • My fav color is mustard yellow.
  • The thing I miss the most about normal life from BC – Before Corona – is hugs.
  • Have been teaching for 10 years now, which is a great job for me because I have a childlike enthusiasm for most things, including learning stuff, grammar, highlighters, and jokes (please tell me a joke).
  • I am definitely not a medical expert. However, my family has lots of nurses and doctors, so I think I have absorbed some medical sense. Not knowledge, mind you (although I have lately become somewhat of an infectious disease expert groupie). Family dinnertime conversations are mostly about things I don’t understand and I just wait for a mention of the dogs or the weather or something on my level. Personally, I hyperventilate into a faint if told I need to get a shot and have a pain threshold of -1, so. 
This is a HARD PASS for me.
  • My subpoint to this would be that I never learned how to properly blow my nose and am hypersensitive to all things hospitalesque, so the knowledge that the coronavirus test involves an invasive nasal cavity swipe makes my knees weak.
my park is closed now.
I love the signs in Hong Kong. Always so polite.

It feels like a lot of life has been canceled (does anyone else think of that Portlandia skit OVER when they say this) due to this horrible virus but actually other inconvenient and bad things can continue to happen as you go through this time! Let’s example:

  • My dating life was way behind everyone else because of my lifestyle choices and NOW YOU WANT TO THROW ME THIS!? I will die alone. Time to start gathering cats. 
  • We still get periods during this?! And grow hair in places I normally pay to not have hair?! OUTRAGEOUS and UNFAIR.
  • I thought to take advantage of the “extra” time and went hard at the gym. Fractured my foot. I live on the 6th floor with no elevator. So that’s been fun.
restaurants are still mostly open, but you must sit every other table, and four people or less or you get a fine.
  • Flatmate was hospitalized for undiagnosable reasons for nearly a week. I had to accept that whatever she had, if it were contagious, I probably had it as well.
    • She tested negative for Covid-19 twice.
    • I was still scared out of my mind.
    • She had acute tonsillitis, which was super weird because she had had her tonsils removed, but that’s just how crazy life is in 2020 – you can grow your tonsils back.
  • I woke up a few days ago with a nasty stye in my eye, which I haven’t had since I was a child. Dr. Google told me it’s usually caused by makeup irritation, which is an insult to injury considering I haven’t worn makeup in nearly two months. But I am super irritated.
  • I made a terrible decision in weakness and went to the black market American store, buying like 500 dollars and 5 million calories of things I didn’t need. Now sometimes I just sit on the floor in the kitchen and spoon frosting directly from the Betty Crocker container into my mouth for temporary amnesia from self-induced sugar highs. (Rainbow Chip for life)
love these fun emails.
  • Hong Kong experienced a huge spike in positive cases, mostly because a lot of people traveled back to HK after being abroad in the US and the UK. Because of this, new social distancing measures have us in stricter lockdown, like parks, bars, restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, trails, etc., officially closing. We also aren’t allowed back on the school campus, where I was sneaking to use the fast internet for my online teaching.
  • The other teacher in my year group found out her brother had gone missing on a hunting expedition on a remote island in New Zealand. We feared the worst, given the temperatures and the terrain. They did three days of search and rescue before de-escalating to search and recover (a body, if possible). 
  • Due to my homemade bread habits and other things I won’t take responsibility for (food is good, okay?!) I have gained (conservatively) six pounds.
  • In all of this, my flatmate decided to move back to the States permanently. So now I am alone alone. 
photo shoot on our street for the mems!

I love my flattie, and this time has been so stressful that we have become even more important to each other. Her leaving was devastating. For both of us, it was the longest we’d lived with anyone who wasn’t a family member. We are really similar and get along so well that it was like losing a sister. 

I’ve never lived alone. I’ve never wanted to (because is the spider going to kill itself?! Lol no). Since I’m moving out in May when the lease ends, it’s not like I can decorate and try to make the space my own or anything like that. There’s nothing to enjoy about it or look forward to. 

All of this together added up and I got overwhelmed with a deep sad. The kind that makes your fingers too heavy to text back, where nothing makes sense and nothing matters and I stayed in my room, black-out curtains drawn, AC on high so I could wear a sweatshirt, ignoring everything except pasta. Pasta doesn’t ask questions. Pasta has cheese and I can usually add bonus cheese. Pasta understands.

April 5, 2020

When things get this bad I try to make myself repeat what I know is true and good. To stop the cycle in the too much that is my mind and my feelings.

And I have a few miracles to report.

  1. I am healthy. Frustrating foot thing aside, I am healthy.
  2. I am working, which keeps my mind mostly busy. I am getting paid for this work.
  3. I have a place to live and it’s comfy.
  4. The sun still rises every day even if I don’t see it clearly.
  5. I did fracture my foot. However, putting me securely into my living room to do nothing but get chubb(ier) and write, led me to scribble out a viral blog post and get re-invigorated about my writing dreams.
  6. This foot injury also kept me from the gym twice a day. Two weeks ago, I received an email that a gym member had tested positive. The times they listed for the visits matched the evening times I usually go. God saved me from that contact.
  7. My colleague’s brother, lost on that island in New Zealand, against all odds, was found in the bush. He had survived three days on the deer he had shot and some local plants. Absolute miracle. 
  8. When my flatmate was hospitalized, I was politely uninvited from a bachelorette party, which I was initially upset about, but understood. One of the main activities was a karaoke party. Hong Kong just saw an outbreak of cases at karaoke bars. All karaoke bars are now closed. God saved me from that (none of the girls got it, but it still gave me a grateful pause). 

I don’t yet know what else God is saving me from or preparing me for amidst all this madness in the world. I can hope that I’m ready. I can hope I approach it with a good attitude (ugh. Working on it) and a sense of humor (intact). While I wait, while you wait, while we do our part and stay inside and support the work being done, here are some new ideas for how to entertain yourself! 

Warning – I’m a bit weird.

just found this and I am THRILLED
  • Eat everything in your house before you grocery shop again. This will lead to some cool moments where you will try and balance the sodium content of your canned tuna with your Top Ramen until you remember that nothing matters in quarantine, just do it! I’ve also eaten a LOT of popcorn.
  • Now that you are home all the time, you might realize how freaking much you shed hair. Collect this hair and donate it to the birds outside your window, that have now become your dearest friends. 
  • Pick a word that defines your mood and search your music library for how many songs exist with that in the title. I had a go:
    • “California” – 10 songs
    • “Home” – 56 songs
    • “Lonely” – 20 songs
    • “Naptime” – none? What the heck. I need to write a song.
  • Place a bet each morning on how many dishes you will use in a day. Who knew so many?
  • Figure out how much toilet paper you have like this hilarious dad. (mild language) Realize we can all calm down about toilet paper.

I wonder when I can ever get home, and what it will be like, and when we might ever feel normal again, and how many things will have changed. It’s been ten weeks with no end in sight over here, so thank you to those who have been checking in. My extrovert is showing in this, and I really appreciate feeling not so alone in all the madness. 

Until next time – take care of yourself and each other.

Send selfies.

15 Ways to Survive the Holidays when You are Single – an update


me doing the most me in HK

There are seasons where I am happy beyond reason to be living and traveling through this life solo; making all my own plans and decisions, spending money on frivolous things with no one to argue with me, or being frugal at the hostel because it’s just me to fit into that tiny bed. I don’t have to defend eating McDonald’s instead of sketchy street food in xyz country, or my need to see the world’s largest fillintheblank in Random Place, Somewhere. 

I love swimming through seasons when the engaged couples leave early and skip the dinner because they’re saving for a wedding, when married couples fight and make things awkward, when the parents with fussy babies go home early. But me? I stay to dance all night, eat and drink what I want, flirt with whom I want, and see where things take me.

we stay up late

There are moments, long moments, sometimes stretching weeks or months where I am able to drown out everything society quietly and not-so-quietly tries to tell me, and am gentle with myself and my journey, and I can forget that the world strongly suggests my purpose is to find someone else to go through the life thing with. 

I can forget that the message is that if I’m not sharing life with someone that it’s not as real or important. That whatever it is I do is somehow not as real or as serious if I’m not splitting my time and worry on not only my own needs, but someone else’s, too.

I honestly forget I’m single and that’s somehow very important and everyone’s business and I shouldn’t want to be all the time. Because being single is really not an important descriptor when I think about what I know about me. I forget that being a good daughter, sister, roommate, friend, teacher, colleague isn’t enough to qualify for a full and meaningful life.

Then there is the age bit. 

I forget how old I am all the time. I don’t know if that’s because I’m kind of classically immature, or because I’m a teacher and always around kids, or if I’m in a clinical stage of denial. When I do take an Actual Moment and realize I am thirty freaking five and all that might mean to my biology, it does kinda freak me out. But then I get over it.

If you try to tell me I am too old to do this I will throw a chicken nugget at you

I’ve said this many times, but I genuinely had no plans beyond like, 22. I figured I’d be married and popping out really cute biracial, progressive, multilingual children by then. I assumed there would be no time for my own selfish plans about career or life goals or anything, so why make ‘em?

That attitude might have been a product of the family I grew up in with really young parents and not based on what my own intrinsic ambitions were (and looking back, not at all an Actual Good Idea), but those biological feelings still lurk somewhat dormant within my ovaries, springing forth and reaching out to every infant that crosses my path.

That magical, Taylor Swift-blessed year of 22 came and went, and I moved the goalpost back a few years. I’ve been an overachiever all my life. Maybe the growing up part was where I let other kids beat me without putting up too much of a fuss.

But growing up in church, let’s make that a capital C Church, there is an unspoken expectation that you will be married and having kids by a certain age. Preferably like, 25.

And if not by then, you might be accosted in the church bathroom, as I was one morning, in between leading worship for two services. A well-intentioned (at least, I am choosing to believe she was) woman came to me as I was washing my hands and said “I just want you to know I am praying for you, because I don’t understand why you’re not married, because you’re great, and you should be.”

I’m sure she thought she was complimenting or encouraging me with these unasked-for-prayers, but as I stood stock-still within her embrace, unable to return it, I could only think some very un-Christian thoughts.

For a long time, through many holidays and life moments, I was with someone. I thought we were getting married and I changed my whole life for him. And then we weren’t together anymore and then I changed my whole life to get over him (because a very rational and mature reaction to heartbreak is to move countries. Trust me, I’ve done it twice now) and I’m thankful.

Life goes on. Your friends get married, your little sister gets married, you go to baby showers and are the only single, childfree person there (which, by the way, those type of functions should have automatic freeflow options for single, childfree people). 

Life goes on. And it goes fast. I don’t think I really believed adults when they said “oh, in a blink of an eye” but now I blink and there’s grey hairs and chin hairs and hangovers and my back hurts and are we all just going to be always tired, forever, from here on out?

So here’s me, 35, single, childless, awesome. Financially stable, educated, well-traveled, physically fit, capable of entertaining 27 nine year olds for eight hours a day at a time while only peeing twice. Sometimes I wake up feeling like I just might run for President. Great hair. Killer guacamole recipe.

Single, childless, awesome.

…and part mermaid

And I’m fine. I’m great. I’m so good about it right now, compared to the countless other seasons in my life I was positively beside myself with agony and despair over being single, that I’m almost worried I’m too good. Because then I start to overanalyze that and think “If this is it, and I’m okay right now, will this then become my always? What if I’m not always okay with what this is?”

Or I start to wonder what other people are thinking of me being this age and still single. Or I wonder “maybe God’s looking at me, and He’s like, ‘she seems alright, I’m gonna let her go wander and help everyone else get married and start families.’ So maybe I need to act more worried so He knows it is important to me?!”

Six years ago I wrote what was then and is even more now a funny blog post called 15 Ways to Survive the Holidays When You’re Newly Single. Having just broken up with my ex and too embarrassed to fly home for Christmas, I was stuck in North Carolina for the holidays.

almost heaven. a rare happy moment in those troubled times in the Carolinas.

There I was -waiting tables and bartending at a barbecue joint, living in a large and possibly haunted house with a man of unknown age or sexual orientation named Brook who had a demonic cat. Brook was a lawyer but thought he was an actor, which meant he directed a play about lizards who fell in love (I kid you not) and spent many hours in our living room practicing terrible English accents. One time I walked into my bathroom and his dad was pooping in it so we had some differences.

I had spent that post-breakup Thanksgiving with my Dad, but was my first Christmas alone alone. I bought tater tots, frozen pizza, a lot of wine, and watched the entire season one of Scandal in bed. I didn’t talk to anyone except via text message, pretending the time difference made it too hard (oh, how I laugh at just three hours difference now!). It was a hard, hard time for me, and getting through the emotions of a massive breakup and the holidays alone did feel like survival.

But here I am alone in my apartment in Hong Kong, eating a 7-11 Thanksgiving of instant mashed potatoes and my favorite 5 dollar wine from college. I’ve baked three cornbread dishes in round one of food prep and have decorated the house. I’m currently crafting turkeys out of toilet paper rolls and some feathers for a game I’m inventing for my Friendsgiving on Saturday, when I’ll be joined by friends from Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Philippines, Canada, and England for a ton of food and organized fun. And two weeks after that I’ll be home for Christmas holidays and you know what? It doesn’t feel like a game of survival anymore to be single in this time of celebrating and joy. Maybe parts of it are still hard, yeah. I did almost cry at work today. But that’s mostly my job.

There are situations and relationships that are a lot harder than being alone, and as I’ve gotten older, I see my friends and family go through those tough times, and feel grateful I don’t have to know them personally. My tough decisions at the moment are things like “do I absolutely need to wash my hair today?” and “is this worth getting angry about?” and “watch something new on Netflix or comfort watch a childhood cartoon?” and I am okay with that.

So I’m updating my list on how to “survive” being single at the holidays. Because you are not going to die if you are. You might feel a little lonely, you might field some awkward questions, you might eat too much or drink too much or roll your eyes right back into your head at some of the tasteless questions people ask but. I’m fine. And You’re fine. And we will be fine.

How to Survive Get Through Stumble Make it Persist Through Enjoy the Holidays When You’re Single

  1. Decide if you’re going to ignore or embrace the holiday. Sometimes it’s easier to pretend nothing is happening, it’s just another day, and get on with it. Sometimes it’s easier to throw yourself into festivities. Listen to your heart and do what you want. And you can change your mind! One year I was TOTALLY AGAINST IT and then last minute brought in a large branch from the backyard and decorated it, so. Do you.
  2. Turn on your Tinder and update your location. That goes for all dating apps you’re on. I have found my matchability increases in certain geographical locations, and it’s fun and an ego boost and can be as harmless as you want it to be. 
  3. Do not call your ex. Do not text your ex. Do not stalk your ex on social media. There is a reason and probably LOTS of reasons why you are not together on normal days and those reasons are somehow forgotten on holidays but DO NOT LET THEM BE FORGOTTEN.
  4. Do a conscious thing to relieve the stress of the holidays. Some years I decide not to buy any presents, and I just donate money somewhere. Some years I get everyone the exact same thing. Some years I book a trip to another country and skip it. You decide.
  5. Do buy yourself a present. Whatever is too embarassing to put on a list for anyone who might ask, get yourself. For me, it’s usually laser hair removal. Last year was the Harry Potter movie collection. Bless yourself. 
  6. Adopt the other holiday orphans. There will always be people around you who can’t get home for the holidays. I invited them to my house for some spaghetti and card games. Now I have things to do and people to be with!
  7. Clean things. Work out. Organize your socks. Make a list and tackle that ish. Productivity feels great and keeps you busy and keeps you from calling/texting/online stalking your ex.
  8. Get an accountability partner to make sure that you do not call your ex. Honestly. The holidays have this “does he still think of me?” tint to it and it is dangerous. 
  9. Accept the love of strangers and friends and family. People will be worried about you. Whenever I’m away for Christmas, friends reach out and invite me over, and all older women ask how my momma is handling it. I’ve been invited to different churches, to people’s homes, to the traditional Jewish Christmas of Chinese food and movies. I’ve had my hand held by old gay men who wanted to take me drinking, and offered recipes for “a really good roast. You need good food, dear.” I’ve been surprised with packages from family, friends, and even a relative stranger from church! Love is good. Allow yourself to be loved.
  10.  Get to church. Sing the songs, pray the prayers, feel the feels. I always leave church happier than when I came.
  11. Do good. That’s what the holidays should be about. Volunteer somewhere. Bake goodies to drive around to your favorite homeless people. Write random Facebook messages to friends you haven’t talked to in a while. Sprinkle love via text messages. Let your mom know you’re okay. Take silly pictures of yourself to send to your siblings.
  12. If you are alone, Enjoy being alone. A few years ago, I would have been swimming in my own tears just thinking about being alone on Christmas, but now I’m like, “hey, my roomie is gone, I can take a bubble bath for hours, mimosas all to myself, set my laptop up next to the bath and watch chick flicks until my toes turn to raisins.” I won’t have to wear a bra for three days, my dishes will go unwashed, and I will get to sleep-in uninterrupted. I can control the heating system, play music at all hours, cry when I need to and dance when I want to.
  13. Get into Nature. Everything feels better outside. And your problems feel smaller in the best way when you look at the wonder and beauty of Earth in a big way.
  14. Indulge. Having lived in four distinct cultures now, I can say with authority that American culture is not one that respects rest. It is vital for mental, emotional, and spiritual health to have times where you are deep into what gives you peace. 
  15. Remember, this is just another day, and you’re no less of a person if you’re single today than you were when you were single yesterday, or when you’re still single tomorrow. Maybe it looks like everyone in your Facebook feed is winning at life with the rate of proposals, marriages, babies, promotions, marathons, traveling, etc. that everyone but you seems to be doing. But you’re on your own path. March on, soldier. March on.

With as much wine and chocolate and Netflix and Youtubes of puppies and late night chats as is necessary.

thirty5


For the last few years, I have written birthday blog posts filling out the same set of questions each time, so I can look back each year and feel what it was to be me in that moment. A time capsule, of sorts. Here’s the last 365.25 days:

hi from the highlands

What are you doing exactly right now?I just got home from about 24 hours of travel from a two week trip to London and Scotland. I dropped off laundry, came home, made a breakfast burrito for dinner, opened some wine, and am trying to stay awake as long as I can to get myself back on HK time!

What shoes and clothes are you wearing? My “The Future is Female Sweatshirt” and some boxer shorts. I turned on the AC so I could wear a sweatshirt and light a candle. Oh and a stain from tea and collagen eyepads. #basic.

What did you last eat?  Soooo sometimes when I feel sorry for myself, I go to this American store that smuggles in goods from Trader Joes and Costco and stuff and sells them. A few weeks ago, I did just that, and got some expired cartons of those hashbrowns you take camping, where you fill the little milk carton with water for a bit, then drain it, then fry up some goodness. I put that and some eggs in a tortilla and smothered it with salsa verde, which is all I really wanted after two weeks of bland UK food. Oh and then an entire carton of Haagen Daz.

Where are you living? Still in Hong Kong, and just signed a contract for another two years, which I still waver back and forth on. Two years is a long commitment to make to a place I don’t necessarily love. I *do* love my friends, and having a proper income, and being able to travel. Maybe this is a “work to live” kind of period in my life.

had my first family visitor! Aunt Martha and me on the roof of my school

Where do you work? Same school as last year, this year has been . . . well, lets just not! At the moment, I’ve been pulled to teach first grade while someone is on maternity leave. I love getting to be with kids more, to feel more useful and needed.

Where have you traveled this last year?Back home to California for summer, Virginia to visit Dad, South Korea in October, Thailand for Leslie’s wedding, Vietnam, Cambodia at Christmas, Borneo for Chinese New Year, England to meet mom, Scotland for a solo trip!

When did you last cry?On the plane, three times – 1. Watching “A Star is Born” 2. Watching “Bohemian Rhapsody” – both were incredible movies. My goodness. and then 3. when the turbulence got so bad I had a brief moment of thinking this was how I died, until I convinced myself otherwise.

What was the last movie you watched? Bohemian Rhapsody was so good. So good. I wanted more. Singing along on planes is frowned upon, though, just FYI.

Favorite TV show of the moment? Roomie and I have been rewatching “The Office” since we finished our series rewatch of Parks and Rec. That’s all the tv I’m doing at the moment. I wish I had more time for it! I just finished “Luther,” which was epic. Kept me on that treadmill. But that’s it.

Favorite toy/present of the moment? I upgraded my phone as my bday present to myself. The picture quality is amazing.

What book are you reading? The Hours

How many books did you read in the last year?  Highlights? I read 21, not including some rereads I did, because it comforts me sometimes. Highlights would include Educated, Hillbilly Elegy, Where the Crawdads Sing, and rereading all the Jane Austen books.

Me staring into 35 like

When did you last laugh really hard? Mom and I were in Bath on our little tour through England, and I am and have always been super obsessed with Jane Austen. she lived there for a few years, and a lot of two of her novels take place there, particularly in the Pump Rooms, where everywho (a combination my brain just made of “everyone who is anyone”) would gather for tea. So we made reservations there for a nice champagne tea. We got nice and dressed up, but no one else seemed to understand how IMPORTANT it was to be in the room. Anyway. The quartet started playing “Happy Birthday,” and I looked up, and our server was coming over with a cupcake on fire. With a candle. I blushed, which I don’t do, but was happy and then waved to the band and then asked Mom to get just *one* good photo of the moment, which was magical. You can see what she came up with here.

What are you most looking forward to right now? I’m throwing a birthday party for myself for my friends on Saturday, and I’m so excited for their surprise! It’s an “R” party, so everyone has to come dressed as something that starts with the letter R, and then I have an activity planned. I love activities. It’s going to be R-rated! Lol jk we are teachers everyone will be gone by 9pm.

What’s your favorite song at the moment? Still “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac on repeat most days, but also “Strong” by Christian Paul, and randomly “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret and some Norah Jones has been popping through my playlist and my mind.

a wee bday brunch with besties at potatohead
Mr. Potatohead was not available for photo but sends his regards.

What’s the same about your life last year that you’re happy about? This is tough. The last year has brought about some pretty dramatic changes and challenges. But I’m happy my besties and I still have never-ending text message threads. I’m happy I fit in the same clothes. I’m happy to keep sharing this flat with Suz, who is amazing. I’m privileged to have a lifestyle that allows me to travel as much as I do. I still work hard play hard laugh hard love hard.

What’s different about your life from last year? What surprised you about this last year or changed it for you? I started taking even less shite. With strangers, family, with dating, in friendships, in the normal day-to-day. I had a lot of encounters where I realized that by “trying to be nice,” I was suffocating what I wanted or what I stood for or what was right. I want to be kind, and I want to be honest. To myself and to others. That has meant a lot of tears and adjusting a lot of expectations; learning when it will matter to say something or not. If I know it will still hurt in a few days if I don’t say something, then I do. But if I can get over it, let’s do it quickly and make it a good story for later. I’ve been trying to be more conscious of that this year – having hard conversations if necessary, going to counseling, trying to dig deep and heal and know and love myself better so I can know and love others better.

mum’s too cool for my selfie.
“for the content, ma!”

When and what was your last vacation? Had the greatest two weeks in the UK – my mom was able to come out for a few days, and showing her London for the first time was so much fun. We spent a week between London, Bath, and Oxford before she had to go. Then I went to Scotland for the week – Edinburgh and the Highlands. It took everything in me to get on a plane and return to Hong Kong. Made me realise a lot of things. For starters – Scottish men are . . . dreamy. And my destiny. Secondly, I thought I was afraid of cows, but I love them. Third, I can only go ten days without salsa. Fourth, if people don’t know how old you actually are, you are only as old as you act and sometimes in Scotland I was 55 and asleep on the bus and sometimes I was 12 and looking for faeries in the rivers.

What are you proud of this year? PAYING OFF ALL MY CREDIT CARD DEBT!!!!! Working in Hong Kong has been miserable at times, but it’s worth it to know that my debt is paid, the years in Brazil are erased, and savings can start. College debt will be paid, soon, and I can travel freely (freer!) knowing I’m not adding to.

What’s your current favorite joke? It’s from Easter – What do you get when you pour boiling water down a rabbit hole??

Hot cross bunnies.

looking forward to packing the entire house in order to camp for three nights with this weirdo

What would you like as a gift right now? It’s funny – my request last year was for someone to figure out my taxes for me, which are complicated as I’ve lived abroad for five years now. And I just figured them out this afternoon! Yay! Um right now . . . I guess just for time to go faster so I can get home to see my family. I’m ready for this professional year to be over and to rest in knowing a new one is coming.

one card reads “Mrs. Weight – your the most funniest teacher in the school i think. your so nise.”

What’s an important relationship at the moment? I might say with my class. At the highest in my career, I was seeing up to 100 students a day, so to just be with one group of 22 complete rascals is a kind of magic. I love the absolutely silly things they say, and that the girls come in and tell me I look like a magic princess. There is a kind of magic to teaching kids so young – how to use a ruler, how to tell time, and the tooth fairy is still very real, teaching kids to sell body parts for money. We have our inside jokes and our routines, our songs. I know all their quirks and they have finally realized I’m probably joking 99% of the time. They remember everything I say (and it often comes back to haunt me), and I remember when they say things like “you look like a princess” and “my grandma has a dog named Nugget and I know you like chicken nuggets so I thought I would tell you” and “my tooth is quite wobbly so I can’t concentrate and take this math quiz.” There’s one who always has a mysterious ailment right before Chinese class. There’s one who starts yelling “I didn’t do anything!” whenever one of her tablemates start walking towards me. There’s one who someone falls out of his chair and spills lunch everywhere every.single.day. One has started some kind of underground blackmarket ring in homemade slime trade. They drive me bonkers, their hands are always in their pants or their noses or touching each other, I worry about them constantly. And I love them very, very much.

having a tHairyffic time

What are your goals for the next year? To be able to bake chicken without texting my mom or looking up directions. To finish this book I’ve been trying to write for ages. To send more letters. To hold on to only things and people that spark joy and make me a better person (yoga pants, plane tickets, my besties). More animal selfies.

Here’s to another trip around the sun and living the dream! Adventure is out there. Here’s the last year of it:

birthdays, how to friend, first dates, ritz crackers. days 11.12.13.14


Feb 21 – Day Eleven – Happy birthday, Jenna!

“isn’t she perdy” – said in grandma great voice

It’s my sister’s birthday today! She’s celebrating in Seattle with our aunts and cousins. Family birthdays are something I always miss about living abroad. Everyone in the living room, discussing the dogs, eating Los Panchos or Zacharys (the only two food establishments my family truly needs), talking loudly over each other, Gma Jackie hitting the harmony at the tail end of “Happy Birthday.” And then eating Mom’s yellow cake with homemade chocolate frosting. And then reminiscing about all the cake disasters we’ve had over the years. Good times.

I haven’t been home for Jenna’s birthday in probably five or six years, since living abroad. But she was really there for me for the 30th birthday. I had just broken up with my boyfriend, who I had moved across the country for, and just driven back home, across the entire dang country (shout out to Seghs!) in a kind of depressed, shame-ridden, unemployed funk.

The only point of joy in my life was my mom’s dog, Kismet Oreo, who was the ball of fluff I needed to have a reason to get out of bed every day.

And I was about to turn 30.

Oh, joy.

your birthday . . . santa maria . . . 2008!? I dont know! but we liked it!

I had thought, like most girls who spend the tail end of their twenties in a serious relationship, I’d be spending my thirtieth year, for some reason a huge number year, planning a wedding in a rustic barn in North Carolina, finding a perfect teaching job so I could quit the bartending I had taken up on the side, thinking about raising kids barefoot on a goat rescue farm.

Instead, I had moved back in with my parents and was trying to convince the dog that she liked going on walks. Because walking was the only thing I could do where my body wouldn’t let me cry at the same time. And I carved a footpath in the Iron Horse Trail those few months, walking and walking until the big part of me that was in pain figured out how to be smaller.

I sometimes get really depressed and weird around my birthday, and it was especially so around this birthday, and Jenna decided that instead of sitting around waiting for 30 to happen to me, we could take a trip.

must. go. back.

So we went to Puerto Rico. Jenna found an amazing AirBnb, we rented a car, we explored, we tanned, we ate. On my birthday, she let me sit in the kiddie pool on the roof and kept bringing me margaritas all day and let me be a tiny bit of a wreck because she cares and I’ll never forget that trip. I think she let me watch like five episodes of “The X-Files” that day. MULDER! I LOVE YOU!

Love you Jen! Happy bday. Thanks for always being there.

Feb 22 – Day Twelve – How to friend

I joined this group called Girl Gone International when I first moved to HK, and it’s been a total Godsend to be in a community (and several very active Whatsapp groups) with like-minded women who have moved abroad, are away from family and the familiar, and are trying to make Hongkers home. We do happy hours, brunches, birthdays, and give and take great advice. It’s sweet. This week I went to a different kind of event – girl power embroidery and champagne free flow.

Yup.

i’ve already tried learning how to knit. but. knitting is for morons, anyway.

We started with introductions, and I ended up having mutual friends with three of them, and quite a few were teachers. Then we got to sewing instruction. I felt the spirit of my Gma Susi smiling on me as I learned how to cross stitch super simple patterns. I felt like a rockstar. The bubbles were adding to the confidence, but as the night wore on, definitely not to my concentration. My piece still sits unfinished in a ziploc bag in my living room, but I’m excited about picking it up again soon.

is….is this penguin my friend?

During the introductions, although we were hailing from South Africa, Australia, England, Ireland, California (I don’t say I’m from the States anymore), and Chile, the common denominator at our table was a sense of being slightly overwhelmed in Hong Kong, but wanting to make friends, and glad we’d found the GGI group to help.

Making new friends in your thirties is just about as hard as dating. Where do you find new people? What do you talk about? How do you sustain the friendship when we work and travel as much as we do? How do you get people to answer text messages and commit to activities at a rate that makes you feel like you do have a genuine friendship?

When we were younger, we met people all the time with school and sports, family friends, activities, summer camps, etc. Now it requires much more of an effort.

I’m glad I’ve found others also willing to make it.

Feb 23 – Day 13 – First date jitters

Awhile back, I said I was done with the online dating. I had a pretty terrible experience, blogged about it, it ended up getting worse. A week after I had said no thank you to seeing more of him, there were some nasty text messages and it got a bit scary, so I took the blog down to try and end it. Being a female is hard.

I had started talking to another guy on Tinder. He was older, too, because the older ones are usually more likely to strike up a convo and keep it going to the point where you actually meet up. Younger guys (and my age guys) are there for hookups and the dopamine hit of being “liked” back, I think. The conversations rarely go further than “hey.”

But this guy and I had been chatting nonstop. He was sarcastic, had a lot to say, also in education, handsome, etc. This went on for two weeks and I had to be the one who said we should move it to Whatsapp. And then I had to ask if he was ever going to ask me out on a date. He eventually did, and we decided to meet up and go see a light installation I’ve been wanting to see, and I asked him to figure out the bar. He named a place, and when I told everyone I know that I finally had another first date and the place we were going, I was promptly informed that said bar had closed. Perhaps it was a bad omen I should have paid more attention to at the time. Alas.

so quotable.

So he found another place, a British pub, and we agreed to meet up on Friday.

For SIX DAYS I had the absolute nerviest of nerves. Because what if it’s amazing? What if this is the first date that ends all other first dates? Based on what I know about him, I have already plotted out the rest of our lives together.

What if this first actual meeting is a story we end up telling over and over for forever?

I actually googled “things to do on a first date” and “things to talk about on a first date” and “things NOT to talk about on a first date.” As if I have ever met a stranger or ever had problems talking to someone in my life. But when we play this whole dating game, especially in our thirties and living abroad and online so much, the point is, at least for me, to find THE ONE that will be there for the rest of this life. So I get nervous. I pace in front of my closet in a towel, texting my friends, trying to invent last minute excuses for canceling on a date. I can’t word. I giggle and sweat. I swear too much and say things I shouldn’t, share things I shouldn’t on a first date. Or any date.

The flipside of “Because what if it’s amazing?!” is “But what if it sucks?”

What if after texting nonstop for two weeks, we come to find out that there is no IRL (in real life) connection? No genuine spark?

What if, because we feel disappointed by that, and upset by that, but feel like we have to be nice about it all, we pretend that there is? And just go along with things for a while, perhaps too long, to the point where we realize that this is leading someone on, but by now it is too late?

What then?

What could happen that would be okay then, that doesn’t leave you feeling a bit sad, and upset with yourself, and the system and the world and the patriarchy and anything else handy to blame this on . . . and missing the texting conversations you’d had, while knowing it would be unkind to keep dating someone when you’re sure there is no future.

First dates are too hard. I can’t do this much longer. I just one want more. Please and thank you.

Feb 24 – Day 14 – happy bday month, gma susi

happy birthday month, gma susi. been thinking about you a lot lately. wish i could share these teaching adventures with you. you’d get such a kick out of the places i get to go and the people i get to meet. but, rest assured, kids are the same anywhere and everywhere. i give and get lots of hugs.

You died before i moved to north carolina. You died thinking i was running off to marry that boy at that time. We’d gotten to talk a little bit about my first four years of teaching, but nothing since. You dont know that i lived in brazil for three years! That i saw the most beautiful beaches and capybaras and antartica and monkeys crashed church service. You dont know about Carnaval, and wine country in Argentina, and salt cathedrals in Colombia, and that I can speak Portuguese now.

You dont know I moved to hong kong, and have been tramping all over asia now, and seen so many things. That im considered tall here, and delightfully fat to the point im pointed out of stores, and that i make constant blunders with asian culture.

I’ve seen japan, thailand, cambodia, vietnam, malaysia, the philippines, indonesia, korea, macau. Youd love it. I teach all English language learners! How much we’d have to talk about.

Sometimes when i think about you, when something like Ritz crackers, or the Oregon trail, or caffeine free diet coke, or sewing, or teaching first grade comes up, i can hear you talking, looking over the rim of your glasses at me, your big bottom lip sticking out, your painted nails clicking the pen as you worked on the crossword puzzle at the back of a “People” magazine, head shaking just slightly, hair thinning and curly on the top of your head.

“Now, Rachel . . . “ you’d always say to me. All your sentences started with “Now, Rachel . . . “

I’ve spent more time with primary teachers now, and I understand you better. How it’s not something you can turn off so much. I want to ask you questions, like: How to deal with crazy parents, and how to deal with administration that just doesn’t get it. I want to ask you how you celebrated the 100th day of school, how you found the energy to drive to Antioch and teach every day for so long, how you differentiated your learning, how you did it all without a learning assistant or computers or the internet.

you would love that i wear this to work every year.

How on the weekends you still puff-painted shirts for us and made jumpers and flower girl dresses and later sewed my prom dresses and costumes for “West Side Story” and “Grease.” My God. You were a wonder woman and I didn’t know it enough at the time and I’m sorry but I will say it now.

You are amazing. You’re still with me. As long as a “MRS/MS/MISS WEIGHT!!!!” still rings out in excitement every school day morning, you’re still with me.

i will never forget seeing that for the first time. nearly ten years ago.

r2hk: clockenflap, turkey, water buffaloes


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:

the oddly intoxicating bird dino things that danced around . . .

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.

the clockenflap crew. in pre-feces times.

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.

silent disco = all my dreams come true

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.

Ireland, England, South Africa, America, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Philippines, and more :)

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.

make your own family.
make sure they like the food you like.

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.

no really. the ark.

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.

hiking with the kids

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.

veggie tales kids know – 
“everybody’s got a water buffalo . . . “

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.

always goes down smooth.

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.

(nearly) all the rest of the photos and thoughts about Patagonia/Antarctica


img_1829Imagine the most rickety roller coaster ever. Now give it some drugs and Froot Loops. Now take away all it’s sense of direction and safety and suspension and brakes. Now I want you to imagine that the ride lasts 2.5 hours each way. And now I want you to imagine that you are riding it with a bickering family of three from Mexico, who can’t decide if they’re going to speak English or Spanish. But they can decide they are familiar enough with you to announce “it’s a good thing we’re all so thick here in the backseat, otherwise we’d be sliding all over the place!” as his wide hips slam against your child-bearing ones for the umpteenth time.

img_1804And yes, you are seated in the back. Next to the son, who is holding on to his mom, who is screaming for every minute of the 4×4 ride you are taking “ay! papi! ay! dios mio! ay! ay no! ay!” in a manner that is somehow amusing and yet painful and yet mostly painful. Son, meanwhile, is saying “I got you, Mami! I got you in a tight grip!” every three or four minutes, while Papi in the front films the whole thing on one of three devices, yells “SHUT UP ALREADY!” or laughs and says “oh shit, lady! you really know how to drive! show those assholes how it’s done!”* to our driver, a petite Brit named Naomi who wore a beret and exchanged several over the shoulder eye rolls with me as we puttered along the backroads swamp to see the penguins we were all so anxious to see.

img_1575‘Welcome to the Falkland Islands,’ the sign said. Although it’s also referred to as the Stanley Islands or the Malvinas, as three countries have been fighting claim to her for some time. I meant to read more about it before we went, I did, but I didn’t. I asked Gma why countries as civilized as the UK were still fighting over small spits of land thousands of miles away in the 20-whatever centuries. “Men,” she said, flatly. “It’s always men.”

We finally arrived to the small beach and fell out of the cars, awestruck. Three colonies of penguins – gentoo, adelie, KING! spread out over the beaches and peat moss bogs. It was freezing and windy and pouring rain, but nothing like penguins, the silliest creatures God ever created, to strike 100 adults dumb. They are curious creatures, and will approach you and nudge you if you stand still long enough, which I tried. My animal selfie game went up leaps and bounds that day. I wandered down to the beach with them, watched as they argued over directions, watched as they explosively pooped all over each other (no elementary science textbook covers that tidbit, which was hilarious). I listened to their donkey-like braying and laughed and the teenagers – awkward and embarrassed in their mid-fur state.

img_1800Penguins are weird. We could see a lot just from our verandah – swimming away from the boat, waddling up the hills to tend to their young, perched on glaciers. The videos I have of them are hilarious and will be a week or so to come, but every time I get stressed about some element of this trip, carting my grandma all over God’s creation, I remember that I sat on the beach next to a penguin and talked to it about it’s day. I will have that for the rest of my life.

img_1807After the Falklands it was a straight sailing day to get to the mainland. Turns out I am not and will never be a sailor – the open water plays a massive mind game on me. Our captain announced it as “now we will have some adventures!” with the swells. I just looked out at the waves and felt them roll beneath me and literally had to stay in bed the entire time and watch ‘Downton Abbey’ to pretend I wasn’t scared to death. I alternate between wanting to stand on the forward bow and “I’m the King of the World!” it and worrying if my body will throw itself over the edge just for fun. This happens to me on car rides, tall buildings, etc. Is that stupid? I don’t know. But we room-serviced and Crawley family-ed it through a few sea days, finally landing in southern Argentina.

Puerto Madryn is a tourist stop. Nothing natural occurs here except some sea lion colonies. I was blessed to see a sea lion birth and then, I kid you not, watch seagulls fight over the placenta. I nearly vomited. Then we visited a sheep farm – these lands are where Merino wool comes from. We learned a lot about geology and sheep-farming, probably too much, watched a sheep-shearing demonstration and ate some snacks but mostly I fell in love with the adopted guanaco, Julie. I also found a cafe with fairly decent coffee and blessedly free wifi. Pretty sure I didn’t blink for the two hours I was there, just browsing instagram and finally seeing people’s Christmas and New Years pics!!! I hope everyone had a great time!!

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i just really like this translation.

After Puerto Madryn, we had another perilous day at sea before Uruguay. This was spent in calmer waters, thank God, and I got to spend time with some of my friends on board. I think if I had to list highlights of the cruise, it would be the scenery, the wildlife, and then just talking to random people. I met an ex-Air Force turned car salesman from Scotland, a print shop owner from Holland (who offered me his basement to live in!), an ex-undercover FBI agent and his tech teacher wife from D.C., a professor of linguistics from Houston, a realtor from Camarillo, an administrator for the family business of commercial insulation from Newcastle, England, and retired physicists from Austria, just to name a few.

We played (terribly) at trivia together every night, danced to the pretend Motown hits, shared plates of Nachos in the afternoons and pretended the hot tub was hot enough to tempt us. It was so fun. I love people. People are great.

And sometimes I just hang out by myself. As a teacher, you kind of need that alone time to recharge, I think. To not answer any questions, to answer any asked exactly how you feel. To wander. To just be “Rachel.”

img_1571I’ve finished six books on this trip, and I’m pretty sure set the record for tea consumption and most consecutive games lost of solitaire. How much can one lose to one’s self? How many games until it’s really sad? Is this a metaphor for the greater picture of my life? It just makes me throw things, then laugh, then order more wine. Then I make my friends try and play a game with the same deck of cards so we can decide if it’s cursed or not. Or I make them learn how to play Arizona Golf with me. Now my diary has entries of games played from people all over the world and it makes me smile. Collect memories.

Uruguay, I’m sad to say, was a disappointment. We just had bad luck with our cruise excursion. So bad, the cruise actually refunded us for half the tour price. The only highlight was finding a decent restaurant with intermittent rounds of wifi so we could let our family know we were alive. I’m sad, too, because I don’t think I will have the time to let the country redeem itself before I leave South America for good in June.

img_1543
playing with the new “fish eye” filter Gma got me for my camera!

We landed in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 9th and did a day trip out to las Pampas to a gaucho farm for a demonstration (read: this is now a tourist destination and not actually still run as a gaucho farm, but I immediately thought how cool it would be to marry the one in the red beret and have our wedding there) of how the gauchos controlled their horses, the games they played in the old days, a tour of the old clothes and chapel, a traditional Argentine asado and of course, tango and dancing. I was destined by being the youngest there lucky enough to be asked by the famous “besame mucho!” cowboy to dance with him in front of all 300 people. Gma got video. Yay.

And we left the ship yesterday. I’ve nearly accustomed myself to walking straight. I miss my friends terribly and am upset that so many old people still reject Facebook as a legitimate form of staying-in-touchness. Gma met someone who said an elderly German woman actually passed away while we were still at sea, but she didn’t know her name, and I’m desperate to make sure it weren’t someone I know, but have no way to check on that. I hate it.

But we’re in Buenos Aires – indulging in Malbec and steakhouses, balconies and potted plants and cobblestone, tango and late nights. And here I sit in a bar called “Camping” where the servers are dressed like sexy boy scouts. Can’t decide how inappropriate I feel. There is cigarette smoke everywhere and I literally just kicked – made contact! – a pigeon who wanted a piece of the caesar salad I’ve been steadily plowing through in an effort to get as much Caesar and Ranch dressing in before returning to Brazil, where we don’t have such luxuries.

I’m still processing the reality of the cruise – I went to Antarctica, I saw penguins in their natural, I saw so many whales I couldn’t count them, I saw a sun that never set, glaciers and global warming and the end of the world and legitimately feared that we might just spin right off it after a closer look at a globe. I woke up and looked outside and felt the biting cold of an Antarctic summer on my face and saw shipwrecks, and spoke to sailors, and made friends from around the world, and held my hand out to albatrosses that floated on our slow, scenic crawl through glacier alleys and ice bergs and penguin colonies.

img_1574I celebrated Christmas off Chilean fjords, New Years Eve in Drakes passage (I think?) while singing Elton John harmonies at a piano bar.

What a lovely and surreal life I lead sometimes. God knows I don’t deserve it; I can only hope to represent it well.

Thank you to Grandma Jackie who has let me be her translator and tour guide and porter for these last three weeks, and I’m so excited to take you home to Brazil for the next few days to meet the friends and places that have made it the wonder it is to me!

If you haven’t heard it today and you need to, as wondrous as penguins are to me, you are to me and to the one who made you. Waddle on as you may. You make life good.

*I apologize to my gentle readers, but I am an honest quotationer.

**I haven’t even uploaded my nice camera photos yet, that will come in a week or so, so . . . look forward to a lot of pics of water in different forms then. and penguins. PENGUINS!!!!

*&&!@#!@(#*!)@(#* = for those who want to know, we went on Holland America cruise, the 21 day trip from Valparaiso, Chile to Buenos Aires, Chile. I have a lot to say about all of it, that doesn’t seem appropriate here, but if you want to talk, use the “contact me” part of this blog, please.

Gringa DiariesÑ There will be errors in this.


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i am here!

I am somewhere in a jungle in Argentina, at the intersection of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, where a magical spot called Iguazu Falls (spelling based on home country) exists. It is one of the wonders of the world. And in a fit of rage about life about two.5 weeks ago, I booked a trip with points to here. By me lonesome.

Most of my expat acquaintance in Rio has already been here to collect their visas, so I had to come sozinha. No bother, I reminded myself. I{ve done Ireland and Colombia and bits of Chile and Spain and England alone. I like it, I think. So I threw a credit card at everything I was feeling, and here I am. Piece of cake! Totally.

Well, it wasn{t quite that easy. As you can imagine, knowing me. Being an even year, the Giants were torturing us through the playoffs, threatening another World Series, and had a game last night that obviously I had to stay up and watch. So I finally starting packing at about 2am. I{m also not exactly known for my packing powers, despite how much I have traveled. Each time I try to go somewhere I end up cleaning the entire house first, doing my taxes in advance, and working on conversational Russian before I even decide which duffel bag will be abused.

Then I realized in the morning that I had never gotten my replacement ATM card, and had no way to get out any money. Hmm. Then I get to the airport, breeze through check’in, am pleasantly surprised at the lack of line at customs, and start thinking about how great life is, and HERE it all really starts.

If you don{t know me well, let me tell you that before this, I{ve been on a flight with an exploding engine_ or the other time it took me four days to go somewhere that takes hours_ or emergency landing for medical reasons three times_ or when TSA took my carryon_so. here is the latest disasterÑ

Computers in Passport control shut down. Twice.

I get sent somewhere else. He asks me, all friendly like, about my life here, rifling through my passport. He stops and asks for more ID. More ID. And then anything else I might have.

Turns out my work visa has expired. TWO DAYS AGO. And my residency has also expired.

I could see the money figures in my head of what I paid for this trip in a spontaneous moment, a moment of fury and {I deserve this[. I felt God{s punishment. I was already back at square one ‘ how do I get home now, what do I do to get a refund, etc. But the man very kindly looked at my hysterical tears and made some phone calls and stamped my passport so I could leave Brazil. Whether I can return or not remains to be seen. At this point I do not care and just want to feel free for a few days.

Two bumpy flights (and i didn{t cry even when I wanted to! hashtag growing) and a cab and a bus ride and a lost hotel reservation later . . . I am here! In a jungle, with a huge room and balcony to myself, and a TV! Luxury. And a three day forecast of terrible storms. all lower case yay.

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my room is down this hall and honestly i am offended at being called the odd hall.

It used to terrify me, but I{ve learned to like being alone and I was ready to be alone for awhile when I booked this trip. As the hour drew nearer, I regretted my solitude by choice. God, in his sense of humor, saw fit to put three students on my first flight, so I was no longer [aloneÑ. But then He apologized for his sense of humor and gave me a row to myself so I could put in my mouthguard and nap without shame.

Anyway. Alone I am. It was 6Ñ30 by the time I reached the hotel, and I hadn{t eaten all day. So now I sit in the hotel restaurant-bar, eating all the steak and drinking all the Malbec, because when in Rome. And even though I left my laptop in Rio by choice to have an unplugged weekend, I find myself in sweats amonst the suits, in the business center at the hotel, blogging about nothing to I am not sure who.

Matchbox 20, Dave Matthews, Nathalie Merchant, and Semisonic have made plays on the hotel speakers, but it is mostly an unhealthy dose of Michael Buble. At this point I would punch him on sight.

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feeling like a G on this currency! oh, and look, women and things besides men on the bills and no one died. hmm.

I can hear some English being spoken a few tables away and I am tempted to reveal myself as a fellow English’speaker and make some friends. But even as I question the prudence of a solo trip when my head and heart are in such turmoil, I am in fact enjoying the challenge of being alone. The quiet. The fluidity of speaking Spanish or Portuguese or English to suit my needs and fly under the radar as much as I want.

I{ve pulled out my ipod and Eddie Vedder is telling me there will be Better Days and I can believe it. I just want one good day at the Falls, with a million rainbows of God{s promises, and finally a reason to use my selfie stick, and another story to tell. So stay tuned.

hot dog spirit
here is me as a mama hotdog with her hotdog baby to cheer you up.

The world is hard. But we are here. So if you haven{t heard it today and you need to, you{ve been so kind and generous to read this.

traveling stuffs


I like this pic of me. Adventure, animal, travel, and I miss that scarf.
I like this pic of me. Adventure, animal, travel, and I miss that scarf.

I love me a good travel. I’ve done tours, backpacking, solo trips, road trips, chicken buses, well-planned and no plans. To date, I’ve been to 29 countries, mostly Central and South America and Europe. And I’ve been to 31 states. I’m from California, have lived in North Carolina, Washington, and Brazil, and am moving to Hong Kong in July 2017.

My last trip was Chile/Argentina/Faulkland Islands/Uruguay on an Antarctic cruise. PENGUINS!

My next trip is Idaho!

I’m by no means a professional traveler or professional blogger. My travel stories tend to run on the “check out this totally crazy thing that happened and here are the pics.” I hate when people are snobby about traveling, or post a bunch of “Date a Girl who Travels” or “You Should Totally Travel” without recognizing that most people don’t get to travel because they can’t afford it, or are married and have kids.

To be honest, I can’t afford it. Some of these stories are mission trips that people sponsored on. For Central America, I sold everything I owned to go. For Brazil, I sold my car. And I always live pretty cheaply in anticipation of traveling.

When in doubt, be someone people want to be around. Like Sasquatch.
When in doubt, be someone people want to be around. Like Sasquatch.

WHAT YOU WONT FIND HERE

  • me describing the cute outfits i wore somewhere. i’m lucky if they’re clean.
  • me figuring out cool travel hacks. my bar for success is just surviving.
  • me doing a yoga pose during a sunset somewhere. beer bellies make most poses very uncomfortable.

WHAT YOU WILL FIND HERE

  • that I am able to find a karaoke bar in any country ever.
  • that I am able to find cookies in any country ever.
  • several stories that explain why my mom often refuses to read my blog.
  • a stupid amount of selfies with silly things.
  • stories of friends from around the world.
  • animals.
  • nature. nature’s my favorite.

Please let me know if there is anything you would like to see, or like to know! Until I figure out something better, the blogs are organized by country or concept:

RinR: The Facebook “Shared Memories” Thing, and other thoughts if I get there.


Three years ago . . . and my, how things have and havent changed!
Three years ago . . . and my, how things have and havent changed!

I can’t decide my feelings towards Facebook’s flashback feature. Like so many updates over the years, I feel it snuck up on me one day, the way the newsfeed and political garbage (if this Donald Trump madness persists I am moving to the moon) and “87 lists about the 25 most important things you won’t believe happen when you click on this no-legged puppy with alopecia and a disco ball for social justice.”

One day it was just there, with confetti, asking me to revisit the past. And. Mixed feelings.

OR "oh hey, this is that one time I hung out with Richard Simmons in an airport with my youth group kids at 5am in PA." "Also, where is that shirt I want to wear it again."
OR “oh hey, this is that one time I hung out with Richard Simmons in an airport with my youth group kids at 5am in PA.” “Also, where is that shirt I want to wear it again.”

On the one hand, it gives a certain thrill to wake up in the morning, set the coffee to brew, shuffle to the bathroom, load Facebook while I pee and then go “oh hey. Seven years ago today I was living in Guatemala. Wild.”

“Three years ago today I was at a Giants game on club level with people I love.”

“Two years ago today I grew a cucumber. What a cute wee thing.”

And then I throw non potable water on my face and go about the business of dressing for work.

It was adorable that something like my teacher-versary came up on the timeline, as that’s not a date I normally remember. It was breath-taking to see a memory come up asking for prayer for my friend Robyn, who had been in a terrible car accident and we were holding a prayer vigil for her. She’s since recovered beautifully, finished college, been doing youth ministry in England, and is getting MARRIED in a bit. I can’t believe it.

i like these memories.
i like these memories…

However, it’s bittersweet to relive the passing of loved ones, the prayers that went unanswered, the posts and photos so full of joy and promise that all feature an ex-boyfriend who I haven’t spoken to in almost two years now.

Hopelessful stupid stupid hopeful romantic that I am, it’s hard not to think useless thoughts like “if we’d been able to fix it, if I’d stuck it out a bit longer, we could have….we might have….by now we’d be….” and –

As I was typing that, a mosquito just whined in my ear, landed on the blanket next to me, fat and flying slow, probably full of mine own blood. I filled with inner rage and went to smack it and it ran away from me. Now I’m coughing expletives among the cloud fumes of death spray I just unleashed here in my room.

more of this instead. note my grandma.
more of this instead. note my grandma.

And maybe God was reminding me that these thoughts, these foolish thoughts I let myself think about the “would haves” about the things I know I don’t want and am thankful to not be a part of anymore, are just annoying, useless, ultimately painful thoughts, that I bring upon myself, unless I have proper protection. Like cancer-inducing Raid cans within an arm’s reach at all times.

Also did you know mosquitoes are attracted to sweat and the color black? And probably moderately attractive women in glasses? Black yoga pants are my uniform and sweat is my lotion and perfume. I can’t catch a break.

So the only things I accomplished this weekend would be: face-timing my youngest brother and getting to watch him play piano and talk “fill a popsicle” (philosophical) with him about the perils of elementary school, and completing two full seasons of “The Walking Dead.”

I am emotionally compromised by this show. BUT what had an even greater impact would be sitting in the recliner at midnight thirty, after 10 straight hours of watching zombie attacks on beautiful men and some other characters, and watching a large thing fly THWACK into the wall.

we're besties.
we’re besties.

I am already an easily startled human being, as any prankster coworker can tell you, but combine that with like five straight days of walker-watching, this induced quite the panic. Turned out to be the largest, loudest flying roach Leana and I had ever seen. And you know what’s awful about a chatty flying cockroach? Everything.

Of course, in a moment of make believe, I had thought it was okay to walk around my house barefoot, so I was screaming. I scrambled to the kitchen for Raid, we both stood helplessly on chairs, a useless maneuver since the butthead was capable of flight. We sprayed him into kingdom come as he ducked into the tv stand. And when, above the sound of the rain, we could STILL hear him kicking and gasping, we decided to call it a night. Shut our bedroom doors reeeeal tight, like that helps.

i would marry you so hard.
i would marry you so hard.

Speaking of sleeping and things that happen then – I generally hate when people talk about their dreams, because like, unless I was in it and I was dating Han Solo and Aragorn at the same time, who cares, right? But I woke up the other morning in a panic because I was dreaming that I couldn’t remember the code to my bike lock, and I called my mom and she reminded me that I had changed it to Whitney Houston’s birthday. Who even am I.

Other faves this week: 

  • song: throwback to “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You” – Lauryn Hill
  • spotify playlist: Vida de Cão – a playlist to help relax your dog. If it speaks Portuguese.
  • moment: getting a message on Yelp from the owner of Hot Biscuit in Humble, Texas. I went twice when I was airport stranded for a few days and left a nice review about the ease with which I was able to acquire cheap house wine and extra sides of Ranch. The owner thanked me and said I can come back anytime for a free meal. God is real.
  • quote: Don’t say maybe if you want to say no.

And in case you haven’t heard it today and you need to – you are someone I would share the last bagel bite with.

RinR: The Things You Think When Englishing.


english funTeaching English is funny. You do a lesson on something, say occupations. Then you start talking about uniforms and farmers in overalls and realize your students don’t know much about clothing. Which is not much of a surprise, since we wear very little of it in Brazil. Or you realize they don’t know a lot of little words we use to describe things like “top” or “bottom.” Or you ask them to write a quick paragraph description of their parents to practice occupations, and realize they don’t know the difference between “long” and “tall,” and it’s confusing because both are used with “short.”

So then you start changing all your lesson plans, realizing it’s pretty important that kids know how to describe people, because the paranoid person in me leaps to “what if there is stranger danger and they need to provide a description to the police!?” So you’re thinking you’ll do a really quick and easy straightforward lesson about physical descriptions and you try to use a universal figure as an example person to describe, so obviously you choose Harry Potter, only belatedly realizing that some Christians get pretty weird about their kids discussing fictional wizards, but then you end up spending over a week on a mini-unit because somehow kids always end up telling stories about their scars and wanting to know what you call a mole that has hair growing out of it like Grandma or a witch, as if women with hairy moles are either one or the other.

this is taken from a website titled "i miss enrique's mole."
this is taken from a website titled “i miss Enrique’s mole.”

You show pictures of what you think are universal celebrities, picking ones with obvious facial features to highlight the desired vocabulary, and the kids scream and laugh and point at them and have no idea who they are. (Enrique Iglesias for the mole, Arnold Schwarzenn-something for muscles, Bruce Willis for baldness, Queen of England for wrinkles, Snoop Dogg, who I chose because he was wearing braids AND sunglasses AND has moles.)

"Miss! Is so cute! Can we watch video?"  *twiiiiiist my arm*
“Miss! Is so cute! Can we watch video?”
*twiiiiiist my arm*

Or you teach your second graders a unit on animal body parts and where they live (because apparently all reading comprehension exercises in English are about squirrels (which we don’t have in Brazil) or deer and foxes living in dens (another don’t really have)) and you kind of want your kids to be able to succeed in reading. And then you have to look up pictures of all kinds of things like raccoons and porcupines and hedgehogs that a lot of the world is unfamiliar with, and then sit for twenty minutes looking up the word origins for the animals you just googled, like “Chipmunk,” because why is that such a weird word? (It’s derivative of some Native American language) Where did this all come from?

you think english is easyIt’s only because it’s our native language that we never think of it. We’re surrounded by it 24/7 for nine or ten years before we can really call ourselves truly fluent, because kids are still making errors in oral proficiency in fourth grade. But it’s just there, so we never think about it. We just absorb it. But it makes my head spin, because kids, being kids, are always asking “why” “Why” “WHY” and there are a lot of things I can’t really explain.

We started doing the Carlton dance and singing “English is craaaaazzzyyy!!!” whenever Miss Weight can’t sufficiently explain something. Then we put it on our ever-expanding poster of weird English sayings.

Here’s a fun example: The group “ough” can be pronounced in eight different ways in English. The following sentence contains all eight:

“A rough-coated, dough-faced ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough, coughing and hiccoughing thoughtfully.”

Just like read that and…I just…I can’t even…sigh. And my students have a hard time, too. Imagine being surrounded by 200 people all speaking something you can’t? And you’re supposed to learn maths and science and reading and eat all the food on your plate or you can’t play at recess. So sometimes there are days like today, where instead of getting 50 minutes of instruction, there were 20 minutes of hugs and crying and trying to help him communicate what had happened on the playground to make him so upset. I couldn’t understand, and his frustration was tangible. So I let him beat me at “Spot It” and cuddle and cry into my neck, even though he’d be quick to remind you he’s a big boy, almost ready for second grade.

Luckily, I love that crazy stuff. I love reading 20 minutes of information about chipmunks and why they are named chipmunks and spending my lunch finding the cutest video to show my girls. Or looking up what soda and taxis and the word for “pretty” is in different countries and why. Or trying to find an easy way to visualize and hook and explain all the irregular verbs English has. Or making a thousand different posters and handouts in different colors to help explain something (maybe) that doesn’t get lost immediately (maybe). It fires me up.

BummerBirthmarkMost of the time. Some of the time I’m like “oh geez you’re right that escalated quickly and I don’t have a good response so. lets um…lets…hey who wants to look up more pictures of animals with heart shaped birthmarks?”

I’m a professional.

(in an effort to be transparent, it should be noted that I accidentally threw a kid’s pencil case on the roof today. but i am a professional. and got someone to get it down for me. and then blamed the child.)

silent letters

english grammarwhy english is hard

Time Capsule of the Year


I bless you in your 30th year.
I bless you in your 30th year.

Last year for my bday, I thought it would be a cool new thing to try and encapsulate the 28th year of my life, since life changes faster than I can blog. I created a format to look back specifically at the last 365 days, and remember exactly where my life compass was at this moment. Here goes.

Where are you living? At the moment, in the office/guest room with my parents and two of my sisters in Alamo, CA. Earlier this year I lived in North Carolina for a spell. And we have learned that I will never drive through Texas ever, ever, EVER again.

What shoes are you wearing? Super barefoot and admiring my tan against my bright pink toenails.

Bienvenidos a mi clase!
Bienvenidos a mi clase!

What did you last eat? A super bomb red, green and white bomblette in honor of Cinco de Mayo (side note – as a former Spanish teacher and enthusiast of all things Mexico, if I worked at the bar still and worked today, I would make everyone tell me the reason for the holiday before I served them. And if they said “Mexican Independence Day,” they would get nothing. Nothing!). And I drank a kombucha, which I realized I was allergic to about halfway through. Now it’s grapefruit juice in a wine glass, because I’m on post-vacation detox, but still want to feel fancy.

Where do you work? Nowhere, at the moment! I worked for a wedding blogger for a hot minute, tried subbing in North Carolina, and ended up serving and bartending. I feel now that despite the pain of getting rejected from over 40 different jobs in Carolina, God was protecting me from starting a career there so that I would be open to pursuing teaching abroad! I’ll be teaching at an international school in Rio this year.

Where have you traveled this last year? Ireland, England, Spain, Wyoming, Montana, Kentucky, New York, and the drive across the country TWICE are highlights. Also had a family reunion in Mexico that was amazing, and a random Thanksgiving dinner in the basement of an Irish pub in Virginia!

me in forty years, probably.
me in forty years, probably.

When did you last cry? Last Friday, before leaving for vacation. Because I was single, turning 30, and just needed a good cry. I didn’t cry on my actual birthday though, which breaks the six year streak of doing so!

What was the last movie you watched? Saving Mr. Banks on the plane. Before that, probably Frozen.

 Favorite TV show of the moment? Parks and Recreation. Orphan Black. And have recently been rewatching all the Xfiles and realizing how awesome that show still is.

IMG_9161Favorite toy of the moment? THE PUPPY!!!!

When did you last laugh really hard? When I was describing to my sisters and cousin my new invention. The conversation went like this:

“I was texting a friend, and I thought ‘wouldn’t it be cool to be able to send like voice texts? I could talk to them, and then they could answer back with their voice. But like, really quick.’ And then I thought about it, and realized I had invented talking on the phone. Which is what I’m trying to avoid by texting.”

Which is kind of like the time I posted some Facebook status about wishing vegetables were easier to eat, like if I could get them through a straw. And realized I had invented the smoothie.

What book are you reading right now? Heaven is for Real. A Dance with Dragons. Farmer Boy.

What are you most looking forward to right now? MOVING TO BRAZIL! In 78 days!!!

What’s your favorite song right now? “Let it Go,” which you can literally apply to every situation in your life. And “Fancy,” although I hate myself for it on occasion.

What’s the same about your life last year that you’re happy about? Um. This question sucks! Haha. Hmmm I guess…I haven’t lost anyone this year to death or the end of a friendship. I still have a lot of really good people in my life.

i miss teaching so much. i took it really seriously.
i miss teaching so much. i took it really seriously.

What’s different about your life from last year? WHAT WAS I THINKING MAKING THESE QUESTIONS. Okay, okay. It’s an exercise. Well, I’m single. It’s been almost a year since I was in a classroom. I kinda miss grad school and I definitely miss all the volleyball. But…I think a big difference is my future seems wide open to possibility in a way that it was not last year. And my attitude about that uncertainty wavers, but leans towards excitement.

What are the last five things you googled? “cheap flights to Brazil,” “penguins in love,” “infinity,” “baby goats standing on goats,” “do i need a passport for puerto rico.”

When and what was your last vacation? I just got back from Puerto Rico last night! My sister and I went for a whole week to celebrate turning 30 and spend a lot of time in the sun and drink too much beer and take naps. It was amazing.

una medalla en la playa
una medalla en la playa

What are you proud of this year? Taking chances. Lots of chances. Getting quite a few things published on Huffington Post, and even something in Australia, which got a lot of random hate mail. Ah, the internet. Hitting 200,000 hits on this blog. Crossing off a lot of my thirtyx30 bucket list.

What’s your current favorite joke? Everything Obama said at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. That guy is my hero.

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