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RinR: Things I Miss While Living Abroad

kiz1. My dog. I should probably feel guilty about not putting my family and friends here first, but those people can Face my Time. Kizzy and I have tried communicating that way, but it stresses her out to hear my voice and not find my actual person. I ease my eternal ache by forcing my students to look at pictures of her and playing videos my mom sends me over and over. My mom also sent me a minute-long clip of a blanket, which she swears the dog was under. And I watched it twice to make sure. My standards for entertainment are incredibly low in my post-TV world.

Oh yeah baby remember when I brewed my own beer for a few years? the days!
Oh yeah baby remember when I brewed my own beer for a few years? the days!

2. FoodI think I began the list in my diary of foods I want to eat once I’m back home in October. Don’t get me wrong – the food in Brazil is incredible. I am well-fed. But as soon as I am on American soil. I want to be double-fisting tacos and deep-dish pizza with an IV-drip of only the finest Napa Valley wine. I want frozen yogurt by the POUND, to walk to a Starbucks just to drive to another one, and the smell of bbqs, and craft beers, and eight thousand dips and chips. I want to eat salsa out of a tub like it’s ice cream. And sleep with an avocado.

i miss road trips.
i miss road trips.

3. Driving. I sold my car before I came here (THAT was a fun nightmare) and it’s actually been awesome learning to navigate public transport and also to walk everywhere. You have to really want something to walk and go get it. My favorite grocery store is over a mile away. I miss driving for the convenience, and also for the windows down, music up, where do you want to go? feeling. I do not miss paying for gas or insurance, or paying attention, or sitting in traffic. But I miss the freedom afforded with a car. I miss making a five hour playlist for a 45 minute airport run.

like, it was great? but weird?
like, it was great? but weird?

4. A familiar concept of weather and seasons. It gets dark at 5pm here. In June. I can’t. Also it’s “winter” but I’m sweating? All the time? Still? Christmas is hot? Easter on the beach, too? Does not compute. Also whenever it dips below about 80F, Brazilians put on parkas and beanies and turtlenecks. It’s cute, but confusing.

im a big fan.
im a big fan.

5. Random farms and nature-y bits. I miss open spaces of grass…and fields of mustard flowers…and cows and sheeps and llama farms, and miniature horses.

6. Running into people I know. Which is funny, because when I was living at home in the Bay, the last thing I wanted was to see someone from high school or someone’s parent I played AYSO soccer with when I was five. While I do enjoy my anonymity quite a bit here, sometimes you wanna go . . . (ps if you didn’t immediately start singing WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME then I just don’t know).

7. Target. Mossimo brand tank tops, sunscreen, goat cheese, cheap wine, cute towel sets, dollar bins, $5 movie shelves featuring ALL the classics, and sunglasses that break almost immediately all in one place? I need nothing more from this world. I want to get married there and they can sponsor my wedding. I will put the Target symbol on my butt I don’t even care I miss you so much.

also - remember how i made my homemade bucha!!!
also – remember how i made my homemade bucha!!!

8. Kombucha and Whole Foods and the weird healthy stuff I like, and the stuff that pretends to be healthy from Trader Joe’s, particularly their condiments section. Could have filed this under “foods” but “hippie healthy stuff” deserves it’s own category.

9. Pools and hot tubs. And backyards. And firepits. And decks. All we know here is an apartment. “Backyard” is actually a vocabulary word I have to teach all my students. As is “lawn.” I want to float on something with a drink holder, and then walk across wood slats so hot they burn my feet. And later, sing around burning things that fill my hair with smoke smells for days.

10. Proper showers: Water pressure in the shower. Hot water in the shower. Room to shave my legs in the shower. Actually feeling clean after a shower. I sweep and clean up my bathroom and bedroom and shower once or twice a week, and even in cold weather like this, I can make tiny sandcastle villages with the amount of beach I drag in with me on the daily. And I haven’t had a warm or hot shower since . . . I think I had a few in Colombia in January. Certainly not here. Something is wack with my shower, but at the same time, it’s like *shrug.* I live in Brazil. Stay mellow. Cleanliness is a state of mind. Cold showers build character.

knitting is for morons, anyway.
how much money has Michaels made off my family and failed craft projects? The world may never know. The scrapbook season of my life was a doozy.

11. Cheap stuff. Clothes, school supplies, fast food, buying a bunch of stuff at Michaels because I think I’m going to spontaneously become talented in the crafting arena, failing within five minutes, but not caring too much because I only spent 8bucks. Eight bucks here is 25 reales and five terrible beers on the beach when I’m hot so no-can-do crafts.

12. That Family Stuff. When you move to a different country, you end up creating your own family – people you can celebrate Thanksgiving with and not feel like a moron for how much food you feel compelled to eat, people who understand the importance of red solo cups and baseball and Halloween, people that also have two eyes…we all have our own standards for this. But you will miss what’s happening at home.

always good to be with my sisters.
always good to be with my sisters.

There will be gatherings, weddings, babies, group photos, “happy birthday” songs sung, traditions and holidays and guess what – life itself – will all continue with or without your permission. You’ll come back after a year or two and realize everyone is taller and has a lot of stories and references to things – personal or pop culture – that you simply don’t understand. And so will you. You’ll have to explain a hundred times how your public transport works, or the exchange rate, or what exactly you do for a living.

Me: Gma do you want a beer? Gma: Sure! I haven't had a drink all day! (it was 1130am)
Me: Gma do you want a beer? Gma: Sure! I haven’t had a drink all day! (it was 1130am)

It can be shocking to learn that family gatherings will still happen without your approval – Grandma Great will turn 100, with or without my blessing (and actually probably outlive us all). But you find a way to Facetime, or at least text sympathetic things to your siblings while they endure the events in person, which is just as helpful, I think. Or I like to think. :)

This list could get longer…because I sometimes miss really specific things, like ice cream trucks and vending machines. And feeling safe in a car. And hot Cheetos!!! But even when I look at this list of largely superficial things I miss about being home . . . dang, it’s always always good to live in Brazil. Especially as I post this right before I leave for four days on an island :).

Come visit.

love you for reading wish you were all here.

How to Survive A Solo Road Trip

go drive places. see stuff. make friends.
go drive places. see stuff. make friends.

I’m on the road a lot – luckily, it’s all for fun. I LOVE to travel, particularly a good road trip. Which is a good thing, because in four sleeps  I get to pack up my life and move across the country for the second time in seven months. Oh joy. Thank sweet baby Jesus, my friend Seghs is flying out to come with me, and I’ve already begun working on a playlist. As this is clearly the most important thing. I’m sure my room will pack itself into my Corolla all on its own.

On my last trip to Kentucky, I started brainstorming some of my tactics for making the most out of  your time on the road, particularly if you are alone. Here are my tips:

  1. britney speaketh onto my spirith.
    britney speaketh onto my spirith.

    SNACKS. Road trips require Pringles, soda, and bin candy from gas stations. Actually, a really fun game to play is to find a weird kind of chip at each rest stop. I usually fuel my road trips with Happy Meals, and have prayed my whole life that McDonalds will ask me to be the official spokesperson of chicken nuggets.

  2. Practice your accent. This is always fun. I say “ello, guv’na!” one time and I laugh for like five minutes.
  3. See how many languages you can count to ten in.
  4. Practice faces to give other drivers. Most people give angry “what is wrong with you” faces, but I think a nice sympathetic “buddy, you need to learn how to drive, no one here likes you,” face is more effective.
  5. i can't believe googling "kitten flossing" actually works. but. it is the internet.
    i can’t believe googling “kitten flossing” actually works. but. it is the internet.

    Floss. I like to keep floss in my car. I don’t do it on the regular, but you know how sometimes you eat something or just get a weird feeling and are pretty sure you will go MAD if you don’t floss within two seconds? Floss in car. I also keep tweezers in my car because the lighting is amazing. And frightening.

  6. Raise your hand up to other cars and use the force to keep them out of your lane.
  7. Listen to yourself address other drivers and determine your top five sayings. Mine are usually “what’s your plan, there?” “Go right ahead, your royal highness.” “I need you to reevaluate your life.”
  8. Decide what names you absolutely will not name any future pets or children, based on complicated associations with people from your childhood. Example: there was a mean girl on my soccer team named Alexis when I was like six. She had stupid curly hair and was mean.
  9. like, does this guy know how incredible he is? is he humming a little theme song for himself?
    like, does this guy know how incredible he is? is he humming a little theme song for himself?

    Think about what different animals might think about. I like to wonder if bunnies enjoy hopping. If they hit a really nice hop and are like, “did anyone see that?! So much hop.” And like, I’d be stoked if I started to fly, but are birds just like, “this is my life now.”

  10. Practice comebacks for a future argument. I like to get really upset over hypothetical situations all the time.
  11. Name and spell all 50 states in alphabetical order. Name their capitals. This gets me every time.
  12. Take out those “Learn French” cds you bought after your college Europe trip and never opened and…open them.
  13. Make “friends” with other cars/trucks on the road, and feel offended when they pull off the highway. Then get excited when you see them again after a rest stop.
  14. Enjoy the brotherhood that is blocking a jerk who is trying to speed up in the right lane and cut over, and you and the cars that are your friends are like, NOT TODAY.
  15. Work on your drum solos on the steering wheel.
  16. Pick a song to sing along with, then cut the volume down for 30 seconds, but keep singing, then put it back up and see if you have any musical timing.
  17. Play an entire album all the way through without skipping a song and think about life.
  18. Practice interview questions and answers: “What would you say your greatest weakness is?” “Chocolate! Ba dam bah! hire me I’m poor.”
  19. Pick a song and see how many times you can listen to it on repeat before having a mental breakdown. I made it to six with “Dirty Diana.”
  20. "hi brian um yeah i like you tee hee here's a picture from our future."
    “hi brian um yeah i like you tee hee here’s a picture from our future.”

    Practice what you would say if you ever met a celebrity you’re obsessed with. This could come in handy one day, you never know.

  21. Save all your empty water bottles. You never know when you might get stuck in snow and need to make your own water. I’m not sure why I have always thought this was so important, but it is.
  22. Practice your limerick skills: 

there once was a girl in a car

she had to drive very very far

she had to stop twice

but the bathrooms were nice

and now she’d like to go to a bar.

Things you should not do on a road trip by yourself:



run out of gas in a creepy town. thats how horror movies start.

The Lost Art of a Road Trip

rear view mirror

I grew up on road trips – the mini ones like the hour drive to my great grandma’s, the hours up to Clear Lake or Pinecrest, and what seemed like a billion years to Disneyland. Plus, there were volleyball or soccer or swimming tournaments every weekend. This was in the olden days, where we had no cell phones or DVD players to keep anyone occupied. We didn’t even have Sony Discman yet, let alone an ipod for everyone. We only had a radio, cassettes, and each other to occupy ourselves.

But you know what? I feel like those were the glory days. I have so many memories of my mom and aunts teaching us 4-H songs, or my grandma playing music really loud because her car would start dinging obnoxiously over 70mph, so we would start singing The Eagles at the top of our lungs.

Me and Bigs hanging out in Pinecrest.
Me and Bigs hanging out in Pinecrest.

We’d practice reciting the states in alphabetical order, or make up games to play with each other. I remember Sophie barfing on my new khaki shorts on the way to Calistoga, and every dip in the road up to Camp Blue. My sisters and I would pretend to be spineless and fall all over each other whenever Dad turned the wheel. We sang the entire canon of “Sound of Music” and made the noise of any animal we passed on the road.

Of course there were fights. “SHE’S TOUCHING ME!” about a thousand times. Glaring at the back of mom’s head when she played Susan Ashton (which I hated for no good reason). I had this weird tic sometimes where I would only let myself blink if we were driving past a tree or telephone pole could fall and hit us in the car as we moved past it.

1988 Dodge Caravan
Omg the memories in this car.

But I feel like we talked to each other. We had every commercial on the radio memorized. We lost countless french fries in between the seats of my mom’s Dodge Caravan. We looked out for slug bugs and out of state licenses and cars that looked like grandma’s. We freaked out when we saw anyone we knew. We noticed landmarks that indicated we were reaching a destination. We didn’t have a phone telling us where to go, so we got lost and discovered new things, or got mad and hated each other. And then had to ask strangers for directions, like peasants.

Never at any point did we not want to get out of the car once we reached a destination because we had to finish a movie or a game on our phone.

Now you take a road trip with your friends or family and at any given point, one or every one is on their phone. Sometimes even the driver. It’s depressing. We keep talking to each other, sometimes, but mostly about things that we’re looking at on our phones. Go driving at night, look in other cars and notice how people’s faces are all lit up by little screens. Or the kids are watching DVDs…sometimes they each even have their own player. We can’t even watch a movie together in the car (first world problems much?).

a relic of the past?
a relic of the past?

Now we never get lost, because we have Googlemaps. No more pouring over a Thomas Bros. mapbook before, during and after a big trip to see oh, the places you’ll go! No more watching your chosen rain drop race the other rain drops down the window, tracing it with your greasy finger – now we get mad when the kids get greasy fingerprints on the iPad screens (at least the road trip snacks haven’t gone away – God bless gas stations and Pringles). We have to yell over the sound of someone’s earphones to get them to answer a question we’re asking (“Hey Drew – are you hungry? Drew! Do you need to eat? Drew! Are you hungry? Do you want something? DREW! DREW! DREW!” *pulls out an earbud* “What?”).

This makes me sad. The beauty of a road trip was the mutual suffering that brought the group together, that we survived in order to get to a place that was greater than ourselves. United by our common pain of being confined in a vehicle with everyone’s musical preferences, but only one radio; with everyone’s smells; with the limited space; with only the whole wide world around us and our own personal stories for entertainment….

I feel like this is getting lost. We should remind ourselves to look outside and notice what we’re driving past. We should start unplugging. The road trip should be about “getting away from it all,” and really meaning it.

What say you?

Related articles

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.


  • 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.


  • 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:

The (not so) Glamorous Life

honestly...pretty modest.
honestly…pretty modest.

I live in one of the most beautiful, sexy, energetic places in the world. However, it is a Saturday night*, and I am currently sitting in my living room, in stained yoga pants that have never once yoga-ed, in the same chair I have occupied for the last three hours, drinking flavorless tea, and filling up an online shopping cart with things I don’t need and then closing the browser tab. Last night I spent about four hours defrosting our freezer before falling asleep in the recliner, waiting for the rest of the ice to melt, promising my roommates that I knew what I was doing because I had read something about it on the internet one time.

supes exciting night.
supes exciting night.

At work I say things like “You need two vegetables on your lunch tray. Pasta is not a vegetable. Croutons are not vegetables.” and “I need your sentences to not all be about an xBox.” And my favorite this week, “I need you to pull your pants up and not show me that. Pull up your pants. Pull UP YOUR PANTS. PULL UP – go wash your hands now.”

The nice thing about teaching elementary school kids is that if you are having a rough day and need a hug or some candy or stickers, they all understand and are quite willing to share.

I’ve hit that point in this journey where things are starting to get hard. And maybe I need some hugs that leave me with chocolate cake lips stained on the front of my dress, and marker stains around in back, roughly at the height of a six year old. Always attractive.

I live with my boss/bestie and my other roommate is also a teacher at the school. We’re the kind of people who call shotgun over certain spots in the living room. Who have to pull post-it notes off each other’s behinds, because we’re teachers and there are always post-it notes. All three single. 30s. Biological clocks ticking madly with every Facebook post of another mason jar and white string lights Pinterest wedding, every adorable way to announce the sex of your baby, which I meanly want to mock with my own photo shoot of my stomach, laughing and sharing loving looks with bottles of wine and the sushi and margaritas I’m having that my friends in a family way can’t enjoy.

guess which snacks i brought, which were rejected.
guess which snacks i brought, which were rejected.

We have a women’s snack fest bible study on Wednesday nights, where we socialize, try to not fall asleep during the video segment, and then reflect on the message, silently wondering to ourselves who will start crying first during prayer requests. Last week we asked “what’s something maybe good you gave up in order to come to Brazil?”

This thought keeps me up nights — I’m scared that I might have given up what I always thought about my future marriage. I’m scared that if I spend the next four or five years here, immersed in my job and rediscovering community and my purpose in life, I might end up without a husband. I’m not against marrying a Brazilian, for all the inconvenience it sounds like from my friends who have (the govt here is the polar opposite of “efficiency.”), but I think my mom would murder me if her grandchildren were in another country. And as I’ve said many times, the pool of single, Jesus-loving, stable in all ways, man enough to handle all the woman-that-is-me men is shrinking to a shallow wading pool. Full of pee. Far from the snack shack. Which is where the curly fries are.

daria food talk to meI want to do what God wants me to do; I want to use the gifts He’s given me and further the Kingdom and all that Christianese but I’d REALLY APPRECIATE IT if what God wants me to do, in a time not long from now, is be found by The Guy That Is To Be Mine and we get married in a not-expensive-for-your-friends-to-be-involved kind of way, travel the world for our honeymoon having all kinds of crazy sex, have adorable children  and take road trips every summer to obscure American landmarks. Also he has a beard. Is this too much to ask?!

my beach!
my beach!

Anyway. To my married, bun in the oven/parenting friends who might feel a twinge of jealousy over my move to Brasil…the only touches upon my skin at night result from mosquito gang initiations, whose participants mark my body from armpit to hip in such precisely linear manner, I am forced to wonder if they carry tiny rulers.

I always smell like humans, my hands are dyed black and blue from dry erase markers, and my blood is more coffee than anything else at this point.  The nature of my job is like the most potent form of birth control known to man, while the Nature compels me to procreate; to aim for the white picket fence and a Dodge Caravan to drive around tiny beings of my own. It’s not all caipirinhas and Carnaval as a 30 year old single teacher living in Rio. Sometimes I stalk your babies on Facebook and wish for a life very different from my own.


Please bring me a jar of green salsa. I’d sell my soul.

*yeah. posted this on a monday. just got really caught up in my sleeping and church going. :)

Traveling with Rachel

just a few more sleeps and I can stop photoshopping myself into family BBQs
just a few more sleeps and I can stop photoshopping myself into family BBQs

So I went on a walk, and this squirrel was screaming at me in squirrel talk from this tree (I am terrified of squirrels), and that’s when I decided I was going on a road trip. I’m going to Georgia, Kentucky, hopefully touching the state of Ohio and possibly Indiana within the next week. Just as a nice warmup for driving back across the country in a mere 25 sleeps!

I love going on road trips. I am terrible at packing for them. I’m actually notoriously unprepared for most things that involve preparation. Example: I went on a hike yesterday, and I got to the spot, was sitting in my car, looking at my phone, when someone slammed a car door next to me. I was so startled that I got out of my car with only my phone and my keys, and proceeded to wander through the snowy woods for about two hours, getting royally lost, with no map or water, and casually wondering if bears still hibernate.

"is that a bear print?" "is that a bear print?" me, to everything.
“is that a bear print?” “is that a bear print?” me, to everything.

The snows are all melty, so sometimes I had to ford small creeks and I would think I was stepping on piles of leaves, but it would actually be a puddle. The water was REALLY high in some places, with slippery bridges, and I was trying to remember the plot of “Bridge to Terabithia.”  I was freezing, because I had forgotten to grab my scarf and mittens because of the startling (I am easily startled). I had to pee like CRAZY, and was certain I was going to die out there, when lo and behold, a beacon of hope rose out of the ground – a pit toilet. I opened it in relief, and the seat was covered in poop. So I had to climb up on it and squat toilet style. But I felt much more hopeful about my survival.

I eventually found the trail I’d been looking for, and made it back to civilization. Just FYI.

Okay so back to packing. I’m a really good traveler, in that I’m fun to be with, will do anything, can fall asleep anywhere, and will take good pictures. But packing?

Packing is not my thing.

This is pretty much how I do it:

  • decide to go somewhere
  • begin vague list in head of things to pack
  • pick out my scarves for the trip
  • realize i need to do laundry
  • grab a glass of wine while waiting for laundry to finish
  • “I’ll just check Facebook real quick”
  • “I’ll just check tumblr real quick”
  • roll over in bed on top of suitcase
  • “I need to pack!”
  • find the chargers to items and begin charging
  • “better check the weather report”
  • “ooh! a notification!”
  • moves clothes to dryer
  • “I need to pack.”
  • found this guy. Inside: mascara, lip gloss, bandaid, ponytail, hair clip, and lots of pine needles. ?!
    found this guy. Inside: mascara, lip gloss, bandaid, ponytail, hair clip, and lots of pine needles. ?!

    Finds thing I didn’t know I was missing, proceeds to think about thing for a long time, texting friend about discovery of thing, wondering how I could have ever misplaced it.

  • Finds old favorite shirt and hugs it.
  • Finds old pair of jeans
  • tries on jeans to see if they fit. they don’t.
  • grabs second glass of wine for comfort.
  • “I need to make a playlist.”
  • “I need snacks for my trip!”
  • “I better eat all this food in the fridge or it will go bad while I’m gone.”
  •  “I could write a blog about how bad I am at packing”
  • “I need to pack.”

My Season of “The Bachelorette” – Part One

i…i kind of miss you.

Okay, I’ve given up on this season. I give up at some point every season, but this year, I more give up. The Bach has been on for…20 seasons? We’re just shamelessly recycling plot lines. How many times have we encountered fears of heights? Or made out in waterfalls, which is actually a good way to drown and never as sexy as it looks on tv?

Instead of recapping, I thought I would tell you about my season.

just being the most interesting me.
just being the most interesting me.

Yeah. This chubby brunette sassbox thinks she deserves her own season. It’s time the producers have someone who looks and acts like the typical American woman:

Someone who wears yoga pants everyday with a sweatshirt that doubles as a napkin, or kleenex, depending on if I’m only eating my emotions, or leaking them out my eyes, too. Someone who is less interested in wearing jewelry into the hot tub on the first date, and more interested in how many jokes you know or what books you’re reading. Someone who knows the power of being average.

That someone is me. Here’s how it will work:

First – Limo introduction night. This will be the best I look all season, so drink it up. After this, it’s back to my uniform of black dress/brown boots/scarf….or workout clothes that stand a very tiny chance of an actual workout. Each man comes out of the limo and has to give me a tiny momento of some sort, but nothing cheesy. Could represent their occupation, hometown, hobby, whatever. Something thoughtful. For example, I would give a mix cd, because making bombass mix tapes has been my spiritual gift since I got my first boom box.

60% of the time, this works on me every time.
60% of the time, this works on me every time.

Automatically dismiss any guy who orders white wine or something ending in “-tini” as his drink for the first cocktail party night. Automatically dismiss anyone without a real job (dog lover? DOG LOVER?!)  Automatically dismiss any guy who leaves the limo in something other than a traditional suit,

unless it’s this:

AND instead of wandering around the mansion for hours faking small talk, I would do icebreakers. I’ve been a camp counselor for my whole life. And Leadership 101 is you break da ice. I want to see how they interact not only with me, but with each other. It’s important to know that my future man-piece can get along with his peers.

DATES: This has always bothered me about the show – the “star” picks the dates. Don’t you want to know what your potential mate will plan for your dates?! I propose that every other week, the people that are picked for one-on-ones get to/have to plan the date. And when it gets down to a manageable bunch, like 7, they all have to plan one-on-one dates for me. It says a lot about a person and your compatibility.

"i was so scared to be in this totally scary situation! but then we made out and i was still scared! but now also aroused?! GET ME OFF THIS!"
“i was so scared to be in this totally scary situation! but then we made out and i was still scared! but now also aroused?! GET ME OFF THIS!”

Dates I would plan = things I like to do. Hiking, the beach, game nights, dive bars, road trips, karaoke, etc. At one point, the remaining contestants should have to cook a meal for me. I love a man that can cook a few things. And no facing any fears just so we can try to make metaphors about how jumping off a building is like falling in love. FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT THINGS.

For a group date, I would have my potentials hang out with kids at a camp for a few days. I want to have a wee brood of my own children, so it’s important you can hold your own against small peoples. I want skits, roasting marshmallows, telling scary stories, and to see how you react when someone pees their sleeping bag.

Cocktail Parties: These would have themes, like “Margarita Monday” with mariachi bands, pin the tail on the burro, tortilla making lessons, guacamole contests, and maybe we all play bingo. Anytime someone cries in the bathroom, they’re automatically sent home. Maybe we also have talent shows, or play charades.

We would definitely have talent shows.

CAN YOU HANDLE GRANDMA GREAT?! just keep the Coronas coming.
CAN YOU HANDLE GRANDMA GREAT?! Hint: just keep the Coronas coming.

Meet the Family: This would happen waaaaay sooner than it does on the show. Nothing is more important than family, and I have a big one. It be important AND entertaining to see how my future husbands react when placed in a room with the motley crew I’m related to. I’d give my sisters, grandmas, cousins and aunts a few glasses of wine and then throw the men into the room. Whoever doesn’t run away within twenty minutes is in the clear. I’d also leave him with my 98 year old Grandma Great, whose memory is worse than a goldfish, and see how long he can handle it.

GUYS: There is something really sexy about a man who will pay attention to your girl’s family. Who is polite, asks if they can help, brings mom flowers, etc.

Then I’d make them hang out with the men in our family. Go golf with my dad and uncles for a day. Have a BBQ competition. Their opinion is only slightly less important, if only because they stubbornly would never think anyone deserves their collective daughter.

are you even cool enough for my brothers i just don't know.
are you even cool enough for my brothers i just don’t know.

Then I’d have them hang out with my brothers and cousins. All male, they are mostly impressed with any video game skills you might have. They may be tiny, but their opinion is important, and another good indicator of you with kids.

Meet the Friends: One night, I wouldn’t show up. I’d send my bests in to the party, and hottie mcChris Harrison and I would hang out in the control room. Each friend hands out a rose, and if you don’t get a rose, go home, bro. My bests are an extension, often a more realistic and honest extension of myself. And I need them to like you, and you to like them.

my tinkly backyard. we date here.
my tinkly backyard. we date here.

Locations: Until the last few episodes, we go nowhere cool. I want to see their apartments. But this would be a surprise, so they couldn’t prepare. Are you a hoarder? Do you collect jedi figurines? What’s in your movie collection? Do you have a pet bird (creatures from satan!)? Is there any food in your fridge? Do you have toilet paper?

We’d hang out in my backyard, at my parents house, take walks around the block, hit up the farmers market. NO surprise concerts, no dinners in the mouth of an active volcano, no dates so involved we don’t ever actually talk to each other.

So there’s my start…what else do you think I should add to my season??

flashing numbers

i’m sure i’m not the only almost 40-something out there noticing they not only got infected with, but might have also gained the covid-19 in the last three years, and have been trying to work it off. as hong kong keeps working to throw off the vestiges of three strict years of pandemic rules (we still live our lives masked; all my lip gloss has gone sad and stale), i have been working to throw off this weight gain that has slowly crept on almost unnoticed as i’ve lived strictly in athleisure and maxi dresses from behind a screen for a majority of the last 36 months. with no occasion to zip into jeans or spanx for a formal moment, there have been no reality checks on size change for a while.

I’ll admit it’s been minimal effort at times to get in shape – i said “no” exactly zero times for the six weeks i was home this summer, had three weeks of debauchery in SE Asia for Christmas hols, and did a week of Egyptian goodness. but i’ve been going to bootcamps, getting back into running, and signed up for meal deliveries. i make 10k+ steps a day, hydrate the heck out of myself, and play volleyball and hike every week, too. 

after weeks of this, and waiting until my period was over, i stepped on the scale this morning, confident i would see a substantial weightloss and maybe like, firework emojis or an alert from my tinder app that I was hot again. or something.

instead, a number that indicated a kilo GAIN flashed up at me. this was (unfortunately, or fortunately?) followed by a “low battery” warning, and then the scale refused to work again.

but i’d seen the number. 


I had seen it. It had been seen. And i had immediately decided i hated myself and nothing i ever did ever worked and it was pointless to try and make healthier choices. maybe God just wanted me to weigh this much and maybe even more and i was just fat and always going to be and simply wasting money on bootcamps and nutritious food, and cheetos and oreos and wine are cheaper than entering that upcoming 10k, and no one will ever love me because i weigh this much. so i should just give up, order a size up, ring for a pizza, cuddle up under my duvet, and call it a life.

i’d decided all that in the span of like, oh, twenty seconds. because that’s how well-trained most women are to hate themselves based on a number that literally no one but ourselves will ever see. my brain is super-efficient at destroying all my confidence and sense of self with just one weigh-in or one awkward angle in a window as i walk by. it’s incredible, really. if only i could channel the power into something useful for mankind.

nevermind that i’d actually been feeling healthy, stronger, fitting nicely into my clothes, hiking mountains, or getting decent sleep. one green flashing number on a small machine was going to determine how i felt about myself for the next few days, despite any and all physical, mental, emotional, professional, relational accomplishments i might make. 

At least, that’s what was going to happen. That’s what’s normally happened when i’d jumped on a scale and seen anything higher than the last time i was there, expected or no. but this morning, when i did see that number, despite it’s unexpectedness and uninvitedness, when i started to feel those feelings and thoughts creep in so swiftly and threaten my peace of mind, i stepped off quite decisively said, out loud, “nope. NOPe. not today, satan.” 

Because when i saw that number, despite the self-hating war that years of terrible patterns and socialization had created against me, i was in a place where i could realize that: 

  • No one knows this number but me.
  • It’s just a number, a NUMBER, and so it:
    • measures nothing important about me at all.
    • can change every minute, every day, every hour, for the rest of my life. And that’s nothing to build a belief about myself on.
    • doesn’t tell you how fit i am. The miles i can run, the mountains i can climb.
    • does not describe my killer hair, my spirit, my jokes, my eyebrows, my earring collection, my ability to make a meaningful playlist, or the other things i truly like about myself.
  • This number might be someone else’s goal weight, dream weight, what they’re fighting for.
  • If someone told me that this was their number, it would literally change nothing about the way i feel about them.
  • In all honesty, although it’s not what the “ideal healthy weight” is according to charts likely made decades ago with mountains less knowledge than we have today, it’s not at all a true reflection of my overall health or prediction of my lifespan.
  • I know more jokes than this number.
  • I have more friends than this number.

And so I said nope and i stepped away, dressed cute, and went about my day. 

the moment came back to me at bootcamp that night, with two women and our trainer. Our trainer is (obviously) super fit, and the others include one really tall and thin and blonde Saffa, and then another tall brunette Brit. and i’m somewhere in the middle of them in shape-sense and size-sense. We were chatting about how humid it was and our trainer said we could work out in just sports bras. the thin blond quickly and seriously said “oh i couldn’t possibly, i’d never have the confidence to do that.” 

people’s opinions about their own bodies are hard to comment on, but she is objectively smaller than myself and the other woman, who had not yet commented. it struck me as insensitive for a moment, but i decided to read it as a lack of self-confidence. i had recently found some of my own again, so i chimed in with this:

“Yeah, i get that. But then i remember all the times i’d be at the gym looking at other people, sizing them up, wondering if they’d be my crush, wondering what they thought of me, comparing my body to theirs. And the moment i left the gym after a workout, i could not have told you a single thing about them, could not have picked them out in a lineup. Because no one is ever thinking about us as much as we are think about ourselves. And we are our own worst critics. So wear the crop top if you’re hot.”

There was no response to my truth bomb. Because our trainer made us do burpees and bear crawls until we were ready to cry. But. i think the sentiment was understood and heard.

Lately, I’ve noticed Facebook and my shutterfly app often pop up with a notification to check out memories from years ago. I’ve been on facebook since it’s infancy – back when you had to have a college email address to join, so the memories run the gamut of welcome and cringe.

i often look at these pictures, moments of magic captured in time, and i can still feel the hot seat of my bike cruiser as i pedaled to class at ucsb, and i can taste natty lite at a DP party, and remember the trips to mexico, dc, europe, different places around the states through my twenties, then backpacking through central and south america, then starting my teaching career. way too often for my liking, i look at these pictures and find myself saying things like “i was so hot back then.” and i don’t even have the time to lament friendships i’ve let fall to the wayside, too busy lusting for that body again. 

But then i remember sharply, with a pain somewhere under my ribs, that even when i was living in that body that i’m currently willing to sell my soul for, i hated myself the whole time i was in it. I didn’t enjoy it, flaunt it, capture it in as many pictures as I wish I had now. Instead, I compared myself to everyone I knew, did crazy diets, pills, starved myself, tried insane workouts, and in darker moments engaged in self-harm. 

Milk ads, music videos, Neutrogena commercials, low-rise jeans, friends, family, belly piercings, volleyball uniforms, PE requirements, early puberty, genetic bone structure, family habits, personal likes and dislikes, created this world where i was never the right body, the right look, the right size. I was the chubby sidekick whose homework you could copy or who could translate for you on trips abroad or talk to the hot guy and let him know you thought he was cute. I was always sidelined for my size. 

But i look back and i’m like “rachel, you were a freaking babe. At all ages.” 

i never got to know that, or own that in the moment. And my guess is that all the gals i thought were objectively ‘babes’ back then, and was sometimes insanely jealous of, probably also hated themselves. I’d venture a guess that none of us ever felt good enough. 

now, at almost 40, reaching new levels of confidence/don’t-care-what-others-thinkidence almost daily, feeling freer and happier daily, i still jokingly wish for the body i didn’t know was so great when i had it. 

but more than that, i want to hug the girl i was then and whisper in her ear “you’re effing gorgeous. But better than that? You’re kind. You’re clever. You work hard and you’re a good friend. So eat dessert first, wear what you want, charge ahead to make your own way. Take all the pictures. Live it all. You’re stuck with all of all of you forever, so learn to love you, because you’re pretty great, actually. You’re actually pretty great.”

I wish that for you. For you and for me and everyone we know with a body. That we can consistently experience the peace of knowing that our worth is so much more than a few numbers flashing on a machine. 

You’re loved. 


The 2020 narrative has gotten so far out of hand that I will accept anything you tell me at this point. It has gone or could go like this:

February 17th

“Rach – people are going to believe a rumor that toilet paper factories are going to stop producing TP in favor of masks, so there are going to be fist fights and robberies for WEEKS over toilet paper across the world.”

Me: “Um. Okay. Sounds fake, but okay.”

“Rach – Aliens are real! All those years watching the Xfiles are about to pay off.”

Me: *Shrug* “Yeah, okay. Sounds about right. When do I get a Mulder?”

“Raquel – koalas will cure chlamydia.”

Me: “Dude – that is adorable and strange. What a comeback after those bushfires.”

“Rachel – they’ve found a cure for Covid-19 – you just shine a light in . . . in your body somewhere, and drink some bleach, and take anti-malarial pills, and don’t take any tests, and just ignore it, and it basically goes away and doesn’t exist!” 

Me: “ . . . okay, you’re just paraphrasing trump there. That’s just stuff he’s said. He has actually said that and people actually believe him and it’s actually killing people. The other things were funny.”

“We – you – yeah, you’re right.”

Me: *sighs, puts on leggings, pours wine harder* “Yeah, okay.”

Admin: “Okay, we’re going back to school, but everyone is going to stay one meter apart, with constant vigilance over temperature, the slightest cough, hand-washing, masks, there will be no running around, students will be accompanied to the toilets, teachers will have to distribute and collect all supplies, sanitizing everything shared in between, no parents or visitors allowed on campus, two teaching sessions a day with supplemental online work provided.” (This paraphrases our actual instructions before we went back into the classroom for the last six weeks of school.)

somehow we made it!

Me: *Cries for a bit. Flails around classroom. Rearranges furniture. Lowers expectations on self to a realistic level.* “Um . . . okay?”

Then smashes it for six weeks like a CHAMP.

We just don’t know what’s going to happen next. But I am pretty sure I will be wearing a mask, trying to have a good attitude, and eating too much about it.

At my school in Hong Kong, we were able to spend the last six weeks physically together in the classroom, after four long months of online learning. It wasn’t the year we’d hoped for in many ways, but I’m grateful that I got to have that time with my students, to complete some writing and be able to show them how much they’ve grown, do some fun art projects, show them my favorite Disney movie “The Emperor’s New Groove” and watch their reactions from my desk, sign yearbooks, and be able to congratulate them all in person on a job well done navigating all the surprises and changes we’ve had.

we waited allllll year to open these!

On the last day of school we opened up letters we’d written to ourselves on the first day of school and everyone had a good laugh at how their handwriting had changed, or what goals they had set for themselves way back in August 2019. I think about that first day and all the plans I had. I could never have imagined the protests Hong Kong went through, with eight days off school. Covid giving us four months of online school. All the field trips we missed. The cool ideas for my class that never materialized. What a different person I was and what a different world there was back in August 2019.

This was our goodbye assembly to the teachers that are leaving this year. All the classes lined up along the balconies (my school has 8 floors) and looked out over the edge to say farewell!

I held back tears saying goodbye to some of my kids who are moving abroad or to different schools. One of the hardest parts about teaching is you are a major part of someone’s life for a year, and then you might never see them again. Part of teaching is being a crisis counselor for kids in need, a motivational speaker, a talent show director, behaviour therapist, social interaction mentor. You can pour all kinds of time and energy into kids and their parents and then never see what happens next. I get really close with kids and then have to say goodbye and never know what they do with their lives, always wondering what became of so-and-so and hoping in ten years they might find me online and send an email, like I’ve done with some of my teachers. It’s like starting 25 new books every year and never reading the ending.

surreal scene – an empty Hong Kong International Airport.

I’m returning to Hong Kong next year to teach fourth grade again, but with a new teaching partner and a new classroom, so the end of the year was hectic with packing on top of the emotions of goodbyes. Before I left, I stocked up on some dry goods to have ready for my return, when I will begin a strict two week quarantine (more on that later!).

pretty standard look for the airplane

Because of the state of the world, my flight options were really limited (unless I wanted a casual 20 hour layover in Beijing, which no thank you) so I didn’t fly home for a few days to secure a nonstop flight (which sits at 14 hours). It was surreal to walk through what is normally one of the busiest airports in the world and find it completely empty. I would say my plane was maybe at ⅕ normal capacity, which meant I had a whole row to myself! I found a way to buckle in while laying down, placed various masks and physical barriers around myself, and promptly fell asleep for 13 hours. I missed every food and beverage service, but managed to watch “Frozen 2” for the first time in 20 minute increments when I could be troubled to be awake. 

And then I had 29 days of vacation. I’m halfway through it now, at “home” at my mom’s house in California, where it’s ironically much more dangerous (in terms of violence, drugs, gangs, Covid, all things, pretty much) than the Hong Kong I left two weeks ago. This summer was going to be a challenge, I knew, but I’m still glad I chanced it. I was so burned out of Hong Kong and starved for social interaction and physical affection . . . I was ready to come home. 

But it’s obviously quite different than any summer I’ve had before. My grandma went to hospital the day I landed, and we couldn’t visit her for five days, and then she had pacemaker surgery. I’d booked my tickets expecting to see my baby sister, who is pregnant, and throwing her a shower on the fourth of July, my favorite holiday, but that all wisely got canceled. This does mean, however, I won’t see her for at least two years. Won’t see her pregnant at all. No idea when I’ll meet the baby. 

an early morning walk when the jetlag was bad.

I normally have a few trips planned each summer to visit friends and family around the country, but this summer’s highlight was just a family girls’ camping trip to Gold Country, which was a privilege, as basic as it was. We got to drive somewhere, be outside, stare at a fire, play games, share food, get dirty, share memories, harass and heckle each other in the nuanced way only family can.

I went to visit Traci in the city and we had White Claws for the first time and bumped 90s rap and slow songs from middle school dances at 4 in the afternoon, much to her housemates’ delight, I’m sure. Then we watched “Hamilton” for the first time and omg I can’t stop singing it. 

aint no party like a bestie party cuz a bestie party is in pajamas by 9pm watching Sister Act.

The other fun thing I get to do at home is have a baby tooth pulled. Yes. I am 36 and still have two baby teeth. They don’t have permanent teeth behind them, so they never got pushed out. I think it’s an indicator of my subconscious reluctance to move from childhood to adulthood. I had to get it extracted and I have major dentist anxiety after three root canals in Brazil and other various problems HOWEVER – this baby tooth came in when I was 2, so it’s 34 years old. So . . . what do we all think the going rate is with the Tooth Fairy? My hopes are HIGH.

hair net, iodine swipe, xray jacket on top to quell my anxiety, ready for my jawbone to be drilled.

I’m actually going to miss this little guy . . . we’ve been through a lot together and it hurts in a kind of good way to wiggle it all around . . . but I’m also taking my fingers and just sticking them directly into my mouth to do so, just like you totally should during a highly contagious pandemic situation, so it’s probably for the best that it has been extracted. 

The operation was somewhat traumatic – my pain tolerance is very low and the drill he used felt like it was just going directly up into my brain and there was quite a bit of blood. What I found distracting was when they tried to have me look in a mirror to show what was going to happen, and all I could think was “oh my gosh . . . my pores are huge! What?!” and then get irrationally angry at a tiny hair coming out of the mole on my chin that had somehow escaped my constant vigilance. Then I noticed how dirty my glasses were, and wondered if I had boogers or what my breath smelled like, when my real thoughts should have been directed at the several thousand dollars worth of titanium that was being screwed into my jawbone.

But this got me thinking – has anyone combined a dentist office with dermatology clinic or Botox? Because if there had been a little spa or esthetician next door to my dentist today, I would have walked in and said “take all my money.” I was feeling vulnerable and sorry for myself because of the pain and had also seen what several people had looked at for hours – my face close up under a light. I think it’s a great idea. Skin care attached to dentist. I am a genius and you cannot convince me otherwise. 

silver lining – i’ve never had to take so many meds I required something like this to keep organized.

Instead of any facials, I ended up at Target, just magically my car went there, and I bought some Rainbow Chip cake in a mug, which I’ve never had before, sunglasses, and a pill organizer, because I am that old now. I have to take meds for the pain and also to make sure I don’t get infection and I just don’t trust myself to remember to do it at the right times. 

“Adulting sucks!” she says, as she spoons chocolate syrup directly into her mouth.

just a week left of puppy love.

I have a week left and then I’m headed back to Hong Kong, where I will go through what I’m sure will be a well-documented process to be tested for COVID-19 and then quarantine alone in my apartment for two weeks. I’m kind of terrified to spend that much time alone in my 150 sq foot studio, so have been coming up with things to do during this time. Please feel free to send suggestions:

….and then pretty much whatever you guys think I should do! Maybe I could write down all the suggestions on paper and pull one out of a hat any time I get bored.

Sending love and light. Wear a mask.

Coming Home-ish

home is sitting in the backseat while my dog helps my grandma drive.

I’ve lived abroad for five years (six if you count the flash year I lived in North Carolina (much of the South could qualify as another country, to be sure)). So when I come “home-ish,” which is where my mom cooks and the dogs are, it is a capital B Big Deal for me.

There is preparation involved: I make a playlist for the plane ride, crowdsource via Instagram for books to load on my Kindle and probably not read, strategize over when to take a sleeping pill to minimize jet lag. I plan a facebook status update, incessantly check weather and turbulence reports, and prioritize food to eat while Stateside.

It’s work, people. 

In the end, despite all good intentions and years of practice, I usually have some wine, stare at the suitcases for an hour, hope a packing fairy sneaks into my apartment and does it all for me, and then throw things in a bag, knowing that as long as I have the essentials (glasses, mouthguard, comfy shoes) I will be okay. Because in beautiful, sweet, blessed America, there is Target. If I need to buy underwear and hair dye in the same hour I pick up a gallon of milk and redecorate my home, I could get it done. It’s what America is all about. It’s what the pilgrims came here for. Like, for sure.

home is a Giants game and a local IPA.

As organized as I think I am, every year I also discover boxes of clothes I stashed away in a relative’s closet from last time. Or the time or time before. Which makes for a mini-Christmas as I open each box and say “I had forgotten about this dress!” Then it becomes slightly depressing because “ah…. thanks, my thirties and Hong Kong – that dress no longer fits!” But I donate now, instead of holding on to them and pretending I’m about to spontaneously lose twenty pounds. The spirit of Marie Kondo’s Netflix special hovering over me, I thank them for the joy we shared together, and then donate them to those that need a floral or mustard yellow anything (it’s my spirit color).

my cinders…an actual angel on earth

I come home to the States most summers with big plans and ideas, and enthusiastically accomplish all the ones that have to do with food. My goals are always to spend time with my dogs and my family, and see friends if possible. Moving away and coming back sporadically speeds up the natural shakedown of friendships that occurs from your late twenties into your thirties. Instead of feeling like I need to see everyone I ever knew, I now just follow up on the people who reach out to me and can accommodate when I say “so, driving kind of scares me now. And I’m on a no-makeup, yoga pants every day kind of vibe for the next five weeks, and never want to leave my dogs. How does that work for you?” and see if they text back after that.

It always delights me to see who is in fact, able to work with my weird. Former drama teachers/babysitters/small group leaders/students/childhood soccer teammates cool enough to say “yeah, that’s fine. Let’s catch up.”

love these women and the example they are for me

Because people are generally lovely.

One of my most treasured annual home-ish traditions is to go camping. This year, my sister Jenna and I went to Donner Lake, one of my favorite spots. If you don’t know, the Donner party were CANNIBALS! They got stuck in snow crossing a sketchy mountain pass and basically all ate each other. There’s a museum and all this history we learn as young Californians and I have always had a morbid fascination with the tale. So I like to camp on those spooky grounds.

There’s a lake and meadows and normal camp stuff, too. FYI. But CANNIBALS.

We had a magical campsite with hardly any children around and nothing behind us except a meadow. We’d brought an eight person tent, which gave the two of us just enough room to not kill each other over four days. It’s important to plan for a little space and grace in camping, because I usually bring round tablecloths for a square table, or grab folding tables instead of the right amount of chairs.

There are so many things I love about camping. I love getting out to nature and seeing how dirty I can get before I gross myself out and pay for a shower. Dirt collects around my feet until I look like a hobbit and I’m almost ready to fish through the seat cushions of my mom’s car for quarters for a shower but then we head to the lake. And going in a lake counts as a shower. Science. 

I love that the only appropriate music while camping is country or classic rock. One must eat bacon every morning. And the perfume that is citronella and sunscreen and campfire. I love that it feels absolutely necessary to have certain snacks while camping that we never have in normal life, like onion dip and salami sandwiches. That everyone becomes a ruthless Vegas cardshark while camping.

these little buttholes . . .

I make a massive, detailed Pinterest board for every camping trip I take, full of creative “hacks” and ideas. And then we just de the same thing my family’s been doing for 40 odd years of camping – premade spaghetti and taco salad for dinner, overpack the snacks, and rely on gas stations for the essentials we forget. 

The rebel in me and the teacher in me loves being challenged by the absence of rules or real sense of time and proper behavior when camping.  We just set up the tent, so, beer? Yes. It’s 9am, so, s’mores on that fire we just made for coffee? OF COURSE. We caught nothing at fishing today, and that looks like a restaurant, should we stop? VAMONOS!

lake day!

We buy things from REI that we probably don’t need that never fit back into their tiny packages and eat Cheezits and read a book a day and stare at flames for six to seven hours every night. And call it a massive win. Camping was beautiful this year, as it always is. Thanks, sister.

Another favorite summer ritual is hanging out with my bestie Traci, dancing to songs from college, eating everything in my parents’ pantry, snuggling into bed to watch terrible reality TV and staying up all night like we’re 19 and invincible again.

this chicken nugget is getting MAWWIED

In all the catching up with friends over this summer, one person I have particularly missed is my baby sister, Sophie, who has moved to Tennessee and is getting married in a few weeks! I am so happy for her, even if I was so sad this summer to miss all the normal time we spent getting dressed in workout clothes to drive to frozen yogurt shops, and then laying in bed all day watching movies we knew all the words to. Day drinking by the pool and telling the dogs we’d throw ourselves in front of trains for them. Plotting to marry Channing Tatum or Mr. Darcy. 

people let me tell you bout my be-est friend.

I’ve spent all of my thirties abroad. I turned 30 in Puerto Rico and have hopped around the world since then. Ten, fifteen years ago, had you asked me, I would have said my thirties would be spent raising kids and coaching their various sports teams and driving a minivan and finding french fries in the center console. I would have pictured a somewhat beat up house in Pleasant Hill, close to where my parents raised me, bikes on the front lawn, dogs peering over the fence and paperwhite flowers under the windows, smelling like a little bit of heaven, just like I had growing up. My sisters and best friends would live on the same cul-de-sac, and we’d raise tribes of well-educated, kind, feminist, multi-lingual cool as kids together. Enough for our own soccer teams. There’d be Fourth of July Pancakes at the Senior Citizens Center, chaperoning field trips to Rodgers Ranch to learn about goats and churning butter, and walking on the Contra Costa Canal to feed the ducks, casually embarrassing my kids by pointing out the bench I got my first kiss on.

My other life plans included starring on Saturday Night Live and then flawlessly transitioning to an Oscar and record deals. Alas.

My current and ever-evolving life is so far from that, God has to be laughing at my plans. I picture this almighty being cry-laughing, wiping away tears, looking at me fondly from the Heavens, chuckling with my guardian angels, saying “ah, Rachel. You do amuse me.”

this little creature from our hotel in Nashville . . . prob not a guardian angel. but like LOOK AT HIM.

Meanwhile my guardian angels (I’m assuming I get at least two, due to travel and personality demands) are begging “please, Lord, a different assignment. She is so troublesome. We’d really like a win. This one feels much more like a general public warning.”

If I am a general public warning, then that means I have some regrets to speak to and let you all learn from my wisdom. Let me dig deep here for a moment and see if I have any truly important lessons to depart that I’ve learned from these last few weeks at home. 

In no particular order:

  1. Tell your truth. Maybe not with everyone. But with those who have earned the right to hear it.
  2. Wear sunscreen and drink water and do crossword puzzles.
  3. Show up. In a text, in a meme, in a call, in a letter, on the front step. Show up.
  4. Eat when you’re hungry. Sleep when you’re tired. Laugh if it’s funny.
  5. It’s lovely to be bored.
  6. Love and live with no expectation of return on investment. 
  7. Because lists should be in sevens . . . if it’s not great, add Ranch dressing.

Until next time, California!


Thirty5 Came! And went! And I didn’t even cry once, which was amazing. Part of that is that I have been so so busy lately there hasn’t been enough time to get sad even if I wanted to try. And most of that is because I had a really, really fun birthday party.

my HK sisters

Thirty5 is a odd number (MATH JOKE) because it sounds quite serious – it divides your life in expected half, to a certain extent. I never thought I would be this old. I say that every year. About every age since I turned 21. But it’s true.

I wanted to have a cool shindig, and I love fancy dress, so I said the theme was “R” and everyone came as something that started with an R. What was really cool about this was I could NOT find a costume for my OWN party. At first I wanted to be a raisin, and wear a trash bag with duct tape, but my mom said it was my birthday and I needed to be cute. Then I thought I would be Ramen, and just cover myself in noods. There’s so many jokes there! That was also vetoed by my mom.

for a brief moment at the party, Ricky Bobby was “Rachel buying hats she doesn’t need at Clockenflap”

On my last day in the UK on a two week break, literally in the last hours, I looked through my purse and found all these pounds I had tucked away and didn’t realize I had (this also happens when I try on clothes). I wanted to spend them, but didn’t want to eat or drink or really shop. I was walking miles back to my shoddy hotel, when I looked up, and from the Heavens, literally, because I had looked for a party store for the last two weeks, WAS A PARTY STORE. Like, God is SO good.

her sign explained and also who doesnt love poo

I walked in and it was all about bachelorette parties and baby showers, so I hissed and was prepared to walk out. Because God is laughing at me. But then I was pointed to a downstairs. It was full of costumes, and an American lady with a tiny beard who was working the register let me get somewhat naked and try on costumes until I found one. Then I bought decorations with llamas and glitter and balloons. It was hilarious. I spent all my cash, charged 9 pounds on my card, and shoved it all in my carry-on. (shout out to stepdad Mark – I had saved your birthday cash to buy this!)

I think the picture they had to get was “find some recycling and make it sexy”

Of course, I had massive party anxiety leading up to the event. Like, texting my bestie saying “remind me to NEVER celebrate my birthday again. no one will come. no one loves me! why was I borned?!” and bothering my roomie with it until they were probably both ready to throw me over a ledge but they are good people and instead of throwing me over it, both managed to talk me back off it. about once a day for the whole week.

Most of my friends here are from work, and we actually were working on the Saturday of the party at some nonsense “professional development,” which meant we were even more ready to party. I couldn’t wait to see everyone’s costumes, as they were mostly secret. Raisin and Ramen being rejected, I was the “Roaring twenties” which is the decade of my life I am still mentally living in. And even though it was raining (OMG EVEN THE WEATHER WAS ON THEME! RRRRaining. I love the earth.) and we had to move from my roof to inside my house (and let me tell you, spaces in Hong Kong are not designed to hold 25 people at once), we had a blast.

I will forever laugh at this invisible bench. on point.

I love nothing more than organized fun, so my activity was to make everyone to play a photo scavenger hunt around my neighborhood, gathering pictures of 35 objects or challenges in 35 minutes! They had to find the letters R and W, the number 35, something American, a cute dog (ugly dogs accepted), video a hot guy wishing me happy birthday, sing a national anthem and part of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” take a shot in a bar, stand in a tiny space, and reenact Abbey Road! They also had to fist bump a child and do a time lapse on the escalators. It was epic. The boys drew naughty pictures on my calendar, people were playing darts indoors, and a dog came. So it was a pretty good day. And it’s a good life.

i just love cards and notes and words and things.

A nice thing about living in another time zone is that my birthday can be really long. When I wake up, it’s still the night before in California, because I could not be farther apart in time from my family and friends than I am right now. Except that as the day goes by, I remember how many thoughtful friends and friends that feel like family are all around the world, like both my sisters who texted me at midnight my time, and the slow trickle of messages that span almost 48 hours.

I just checked through the Facebook ones today, three weeks later, and there were posts from former students, people who knew me growing up in church or at family summer camp, my Chican@ studies professor from UCSB, kids I met on mission trips to Mexico, people I met backpacking Central America ten years ago, my Brazilian family, and high school and college friends that are now in China, Cyprus, Canada, Australia, and all over the United States. It was really special. My love languages are definitely words and it’s been truly lovely to hear and read some from some good friends.

“the team in a Reflection”

Before my birthday, I tried to get through my 35bythirtyfive bucket list, but sadly, there were things I wasn’t able to do. And I don’t know why? Why, in five years, was I not able to do one specific random act of kindness and buy someone a coffee behind me? Part of that is I stopped buying coffee and I make my own lunches. Which is the best money-saving advice I have to offer. But I also wasn’t able to publish a book (got lots done of it – should be there this summer) or go in a floatation tank (but going next week!) or give up restaurants for a month. In my defense, I moved to Hong Kong, which is like the foodiest of places.

never gets old

I’m still working out the details of my next list  – 40byforty. I’m not ready to understand that I will be 40 someday. My life doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. I’ve done a million things I never thought I would do, but there is so much that hasn’t happened yet and I start to wonder if it ever will. But I think it’s encouraging that I didn’t cry about this birthday. Normally the tears come because I start to get the blues about being single, not having a baby, still living in rented apartments, can’t keep a cactus alive, yadda yadda. But that’s not really helpful, is it? I gave up online dating for Lent and am still going strong, and I think that’s been helping my frame of mind about the whole being single still thing. As long as I have my phone, I’m never truly alone.

So if you were so inclined as to make a list of things to accomplish in five years (not like a five year plan. I’m way too silly a person to do something like that) what would be on it? I’m open to ideas. I got about 25 ideas at the moment, which leaves left.

Dare me to do something.

I’ll do nearly anything that makes sense, and then most things that don’t.

kids say things, things fall apart, do things matter? things in HK. days

I became a teacher for a number of reasons. 1. I needed a job. 2. I got hired at a school.

warm teaching fuzzies

I graduated college and need to start a career right as the US economy was taking a fantastic nose dive. Starbucks and Safeway wouldn’t hire me. So through a series of events that only made me believe harder in Jesus as my homeboy, I was hired to teach Latin at a classical Christian middle school. Fun fact – didn’t know Latin! Lol God, you are so funny.

During my interview, when my future boss asked me “So, you don’t know Latin, you’ve never taught before, what makes you think you can do this?” I literally said “Well, I love kids and languages and Jesus. I’m sure this will all work itself out.”

Man, I miss badass, charm my way into any situation, “who needs sleep, anyway?” 24 year old Rachel.

I started teaching, and guess what? It did work out. Mostly because no matter how hard it was, no matter how difficult any element of it was or those first few years when 18 hour days, 6 days a week were the normal just to keep up, kids were and are the highlight of my life. I had NO IDEA WHAT I WAS DOING EVER for a long time, but we made memories. I still keep in touch with a lot of them via facebook and instagram, and they’re awesome people.

One of my favorite inventions during teaching was the “wall of awesome,” which was just a poster I made once a year, by my desk, upon which I would write whatever insane thing someone said, or a particularly cute card from a kid, or a love note confiscated. One of my favorite quotes was from during a 7th grade Latin class, and this kid who I had purposefully sat very far away from me, because he was just too much, had raised his hand during my lesson, and despite me ignoring it for a few minutes, because he was infamous for never having anything on topic to ask, he kept it up there a while longer. Finally, I called on him. He looked at me, confused.

“Nathan,” I said. “What is it? Really?” I gestured to his hand in the air, which he looked at, confused, and slowly took down.

“Oh,” he said. “Yeah, I was just thinking with my hand in the air again.”

I just about died.

Lately, a few highlights have been:

“Teacher, you’re as precious as a reindeer.” Context: was helping them draw triangles. I have no idea where this came from.

“You know what time it is? Time for Hug of the DAAAAY Miss Cupcake!” – we have invented this game where I am named after a different kind of food or animal every day.

“You have poop hair just like me. I wish it was unicorn hair. Also we need horns and wings.”

(after being asked if I knew the song “Bohemian Rhapsody.”) “Of course you know what Queen is. You’re old.”

“Do you think we could have a snack together one day?”

“You smell like cake.” (I have been told this MULTIPLE TIMES OVER THE YEARS. It’s my aura. Cake aura.)

Feb 26 – Day 16 – Things fall apart

Part of the reason I started this blog-a-day journey was to hold myself accountable to the workouts I’d signed up for at this hardcore gym. There was meanie trainer, who basically made me feel like I couldn’t do it, there were some personal goals I had set for myself, and I just needed a bit of an overhaul on my general fitness plan. Which mostly consists of elliptical while watching “Luther” on Netflix and now I think everyone is a serial killer.

It’s been about three weeks of consistent training, and I’ve made some friends at the gym, and although I can’t see it yet on my body or on the scale, I feel stronger already. Which is great. I didn’t necessarily commit to a lifestyle overhaul to feel unnoticeably strong. But I’ll take it. However, today was one of those days when I was in some kind of pain, yet felt I had to push through and make it to my workout, because I’d already paid, and I had to prove people wrong.

It hurt though. I had to dig deep. Especially on that end-of-the-night two minute group plank. But I did it all. And then on the walk home, started to feel some pain . . . walk it off, champ, walk it off. The inner athlete forgets she hasn’t been this active in almost 20 years and pipes in.

The walk home, which involves just one big hill, was miserable. I stopped in Marketplace to pick up some goods, bent over to get some bacon, and it was over. My lower back and right leg seized up in a kind of pain I haven’t felt ever before. I started doing the fish out of water, open mouth, silent cry in the meat aisle, clutching at my back.

And I felt it. I felt the “truly old” feeling I’d been dreading. Thirty-five this year. It doesn’t seem possible. I didn’t ever make a single plan for this part of my life that didn’t involve a husband and kids and my many “rescue animal” schemes. Now my back hurt, and walking hurt, in a way that made me truly panic. Because you can’t live in Hong Kong and not walk. You cannot. I live six flights of stairs up. I climb up and down 20 flights of stairs just to get to work in the morning.

I got home at about a crawl, and lots of tears, some meds, a prayer from the bestie and several ice packs later, I woke up the next day and I was feeling better. I had to sit down awkwardly to get dressed and undressed, and nothing felt comfortable.

It’s odd to me, absolutely backwards, how I will work through pain, tears, blood and sweat, to spite someone else, or to prove someone else wrong, even a complete stranger, to show them I can do the thing they say I can’t. And I find it much harder to do something well and finish to the end simply because I know I should.

I need intrinsic motivation – the desire to do something good for me, for me. I wonder if they sell it on Amazon.

Feb 27 – Day 17 – I wonder if it matters

I made this goal for myself nearly five years ago, this whole “write a blog every day for a month” goal. I can’t remember where I was, what I was thinking, my inspiration behind this goal. But as I plow through it, I wonder if it’s about discipline.

I like accomplishing things – I like to make a to-do list, with a bunch of super easy, possibly already almost completed items at the top. And then some important ones that are also doable. And some dreams. And then cross off a bunch, get distracted, forget about it, notice it again next Saturday when I wake up fresh to possibilities and think “I should make a to-do list.”

So this “blog a day” thing is a discipline. It’s get something done every day. And everyone and anyone reading this is my accountability partner. Would you notice if I didn’t complete this goal? No. But the threat that you might makes me work for it. I have found my carrot on a stick.

That is possibly not the right metaphor.

…i need to finish this baby, too!

But does it really matter if I finish or not? Would anyone be mad at me? Would anything fall apart? Would anyone notice?

I sat here thinking about that for a while, and realized that I would know. I would be mad at me. I would fall apart a little bit. And I need to start taking myself and my opinion of myself a bit more seriously. It should be enough that it matters to me. So here we go. Here we keep going.

Feb 28 – Day 18 – The Thing About Hong Kong Is . . .

People often ask me what’s changed about my life since moving to Hong Kong. Only everything, but I was thinking today of what some of the most major things are, good and bad. Insert short list.

hongey kongey
  • I don’t miss driving. It actually gives me anxiety now, when I go home to California and have to drive anywhere, espeically if it’s the least bit unfamiliar, or there is weather. I am much happier now walking anywhere, using public transport, or tuning out in the back of a taxi. I really don’t miss finding places to park.
  • I miss driving. I miss buying heavy items, items in bulk, and being able to get them home. I miss the radio, windows down, sun tanning my left arm. I miss having a bunch of random items in my trunk, specifically costumes, snacks, a sweatshirt and a change of shoes. I miss being in charge on the road, and long trips, and just getting and going somewhere.
  • I am out of touch with pop culture and news. I haven’t lived with a tv in my house since 2012, and we don’t get magazines here, and I deleted my Twitter account because it was causing me a lot of anxiety. I have no idea about anything celebrity, the bare minimum of politics, don’t watch any current TV, see about two movies a year in the theater. And it’s okay. Pretty great, even.
  • I’ve given up even more personal space. In Brazil, you learned that it just didn’t exist to the same degree that it did the States – Brazilians love to touch you, hold your arm, give hugs and kisses, lean in close. That was different, that was done in love. Here there are just way too many people, and you have to stand close, walk close, sit close, live close. Sometimes it is painful. Especially when people sneeze or cough or hawk. Which is all the freaking time.
  • I eat internationally. I never had Thai, Vietnamese food or Korean food, or even a lot of sushi or anything growing up. I liked fried wontons and fried rice, but that was it for Chinese. And now I find myself saying things like “I really need a curry or some xiao long bao today. Like stat.”
  • I don’t shop. Partly because I don’t fit into the clothes here. Part of that is also I just don’t have the space for anything new! My bedroom is a twin bed that touches three out of four walls in my room, with some drawers beneath it. I’ve got a wardrobe that’s about three feet wide and six feet tall. One skinny shelving unit. And that is IT. For EVERYTHING I OWN. So I just choose to own less.
  • I take a lot more pictures. I think how shameless Asian people are about taking photos helps encourage me, but it’s also how I remember all the crazy and beautiful things I get to see, and share them with people back home. The 16 hour difference makes it much harder to keep in touch than the 4-6 hours from Brazil, so I feel like instagram is a lifeline.
  • I live in a forced efficiency now. When I leave my house at 7:10 every morning, I have to have everything with me I will need until at least 12 hours later. Charging cables, earphones, money, food for the entire day, water bottle, grocery bags, gym clothes, shoes, umbrella, sweater, etc. And I will carry this all until I get back home. I have to know all the things I want to do and how I will get there.
  • I’m a better person for having lived in a hard place. It’s made me more patient, more resilient, more self-sufficient. I’m more adventurous, but smarter about it than I used to be. I’ve learned a lot about myself. Thanks, Hongkers.

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