Never Stop Beating

Recently as I have sat down to put pen to paper or even my fingers to the keyboard, I find it hard to write out exactly what it is I’ve been thinking for the past days, weeks, or even months. The first year living here I found it easy to sit and write out anything humorous or touching. I feel I have run out of the humorous stories that come within the first year. There are many touching stories I want to write out, but for the safety of myself or others I have to refrain. So I write them in a notebook. “Stories that Beg to be Told” is what I call it.

There are people who don’t have voices, but everything within me screams out to give these people a voice. To tell their stories. To let people know they exist and what they go through.

There are times when you beg and will your heart to be quiet. For your heart to be still. That first date, when you can barely hear the words of the other person because your heart beats so fast and so loud. That moment when you sit before the Father and try to focus and drown everything out, but the noise of your heart overwhelms the quietness of the room. That view of the most beautiful thing your eyes have ever seen and you are trying to soak everything in. You want know everything all at once. Who this person is you are with at dinner. What the Father wants to reveal to you. How something could be so beautiful. You beg your heart to never stop beating. To be calm. To be quiet. But to continue to move you forward.

This past week has been one of those where I visited a new place. I sat on the side of a mountain and looked down at a tiny village (of 40,000 people) and was overwhelmed with the loud beating of my heart. The passion it brought about in me. The new feelings that welled up inside. This village is perfectly wedged into a bowl of mountains. Nothing more could fit inside it if it tried.

I wish I could tell you of all the things these eyes have seen. The things these ears have heard. This nose has smelled. Lips have tasted. But I can’t. Words and photos don’t capture the beauty of the moment, the heartbreaking stories. Unique experiences can’t be captured in photos. It can’t be captured in descriptive words. Not fully, anyway.

Walking away from this week, I am filled with passion. A passionate heart that I beg and will to never stop beating. To keep pumping the Life Blood to keep moving me forward. To giving a voice to the voiceless and hope to the hopeless.

Never. Stop. Beating.

 

The Day I Became the Village Idiot

There are many surrounding villages near the city I live in, here in China. One of my local friends invited a foreign friend and me to her brother’s wedding. The wedding was in a village 45 minutes outside of the city.

So, my local friend, my foreign friend, 6 other locals, and I loaded up in 2 cars and headed for the village early one Thursday morning. We drove through the dark, the mountains, and neighboring villages. The three people I was sharing a car with spoke Qinghai Hua (the local language in this area). They very rarely speak Mandarin to one another, unless a foreigner is actively participating in their conversation. My Chinese is no good… So I was not actively participating.

We made it just in time for sunrise. The sun slowly rose over the peaks of the mountains surrounding us. We went inside for a hot breakfast. Breakfast was basically lunch… They served us green beans and cabbage and soup that tasted like chicken noodle soup. It was amazing. Weird to eat lunch as breakfast, but amazing.

After breakfast, my two local friends, one of their brothers, my foreign friend, and I decided to go out to the river. The river was completely frozen over. So we started playing on the river. The entire time I kept saying things like, “be careful!” “don’t jump on the ice, we don’t want to take anyone to the hospital” … So on and so forth. We then moved on to sliding on the ice with cardboard we had found. From there my friend’s brother decided to “surf” down the ice. At that point I moved on to phrases such as, “children, don’t try this at home,” and “BE CAREFUL!!”.

All of the sudden I felt the urge to join in the madness. Why was I being so cautious anyway…?

 Village Idiot – The Video

Oh wait.

That’s why.

Feel free to watch it a few more times if you need to. Go ahead, relive my stupidity.

I became the village idiot Thursday, January 30. I even laughed for awhile after it happened … shock, maybe?

After I fell they all asked me if my leg was ok. I was confused until I looked down. My right hand was stroking my thigh, but my left hand was holding my right shoulder. I told them my leg was fine, but I was trying to figure out if I could move my hand and arm. They tried to pull me off the ground and I realized I couldn’t move my arm. I told them I thought I dislocated it.

We had to hike back up from the area by the river, which included a steep climb up a hill to the road. One of the girls told us her grandfather is one of the village doctors. So we went to 3 different places looking for him. That was fun. Walking all over a village looking for a village doctor, holding my arm in a makeshift sling from the scarf my foreign friend had been wearing. We gave up on finding him and went in search of a different village doctor. We had to go a little further into the village and to two different places to find him.

I knew it was a bad idea. I really did. A village doctor usually doesn’t have much, if any training. But, it was just a dislocated shoulder, and surely he could fix that.

Remember, I’m the village idiot.

The first place we went to had a ton of farming equipment and a vicious dog. We waited for 20 minutes and then were told the doctor was too busy to leave his house, but we could go there. So there we went. When we walked through the first entryway of his village home an even more vicious dog awaited us. I seriously thought I might get attacked by a dog after dislocating my shoulder. Luckily, Cujo (outdated movie reference) didn’t attack me.

We went inside to find the super “busy” village “doctor” watching tv with his son or grandson and smoking a cigarette. I sat down, my foreign friend beside me. The village doctor asked if I was ready and proceeded to put my arm back in place. CRACK At this point is when I believe my shoulder was broken. But at the time we all thought it meant my shoulder popped back in place. WRONG

They took me back to grandfather’s house, sat me on the couch, gave me weird Chinese medicine, and told me someone could bring me back to the city in the afternoon, it was 11:30 am at this point. We thought that meant 1 or 2. Around 1 we were told it would be 5 pm. We had called a friend during the wait to ask about the healing process of a relocated shoulder. Swelling and pain were mentioned, so I thought my arm swelling and the pain in my arm was all normal.

I AM THE VILLAGE IDIOT

At 5 pm, one of the girls asked if I would mind waiting another hour. Ummmm…. No…. I would like to seek medical attention, please. We were able to get someone to take us to the city around 6 pm. When they told me the brother that would take me home was there I was excited and reading to get off the couch I had been sitting on for six hours.

Up to this point, I hadn’t cried. As I attempted to get off the couch I screamed in pain and started weeping. It. Was. Awful. I told my friend I refused to stay there and made her pull me off the couch. Every step I took was excruciatingly painful. I thought if I stood in the road and someone hit me with their car it might take my mind off the pain (+5 bonus points if you recognized the “Major Paine” reference). My friend had to push me in the car. I told her there was no way I was staying. So, she pushed me, gently, into the car. I cried. Again.

We started off down the road. With every little or big bump I started crying harder. It suddenly dawned on me to tighten my makeshift sling. Once tightened, bumps were nothing. We made it into the city and to the Red Cross Hospital. A friend was waiting at the gate of the hospital with hydros. PTL for narcotics. How fabulous they are.

We walked into the hospital ER, they sent me for an x-ray, after we showed them the video of how it happened. The x-ray tech asked me to straighten my arm. Heck to the no! I may or may not have thought and/or said swear words. They were in English, so she didn’t understand …

Went back to the ER from the x-ray, by this time the medicine I took was kicking in. Majorly. I started acting more goofy than normal and being obnoxious with trying to speak Chinese. Just trust me on the level of obnoxious I was being. The ER doctor began putting a cast on my arm to hold everything in place and keep it stable. The medicine really started to have an affect on me. I started falling asleep. Standing up. One of my friends was holding me up in the front, another holding me up in the back, and a third doing whatever the doctor or the two friends told her.

Days later, I went back to the hospital to have a CT scan to see if my arm was broken or fractured. Broken. Definitely broken. Matter of fact, the ball and joint of my arm that goes into the socket was in crooked and broken almost all the way off from the rest of my arm.

Oh joy.

Three days after that I went back to see the foreign doctor (he is Swedish). Surgery.

Oh joy.

All because I became the village idiot.

Hong Kong, I’m Coming For You

Sometimes there are just those journeys we have to go about alone. These journeys (metaphorical or actual physical journeys) help us find who we are, reflect on the things we haven’t taken the time (or wanted to take the time) to look at in our own lives.

In a few hours I will be on a plane headed to Hong Kong. Alone. This is the first time I’ve ever traveled somewhere without the intentions of meeting a friend or acquaintance at my destination. Thailand, two months ago, was the closest I had ever come to that. I met a friend for lunch at a mall a couple of hours before I headed back to China.

This time is different. This time I take the journey alone.

I’ve decided I’m only taking a messenger bag that includes basic necessities only. My journey is only 47 hours. Literally, 47 hours. This is unless flights are delayed. I don’t need much in my daily life, so 47 hours journey means I’m taking toothpaste, tooth brush, shorts and t-shirt for sleeping, a Book, another book, camera, and my iPad. That is it. That’s all I need.

Being on a tourist visa, I’m required to exit the country every 60 days until I receive either a work or student visa. Both are currently being looked into. So this has given me the opportunity to do some self discovery and see the world in a way I never expected.

I’ll be surrounded by people and things. I’ll be an observer. Looking into myself, a new adventure, and at a completely new place.

So Hong Kong, I’m coming for you. I’m coming to see what you will teach me about the world. What you will show me about who I am, completely alone; just me, my thoughts, and a world of opportunity.

I am coming with an open mind, pen, paper, and a camera.

Show me something new.

It’s All a Dream

Everyone has a dream.

Some may dream to sing. Some dream to be a doctor. Some dream to become a writer. And some dream to travel the world.

I have many dreams, even now in my mid-20s I have many dreams. One of my dreams is to visit as many countries as possible. Live in them. Meet the people. Hear their stories. Cry with them. Laugh with them. Be part of their lives. Learn their culture and language…

Traveling, like many things, is a challenge. It takes money and time and energy and a willingness to conquer the challenge of language. Yet it all seems so worth it.

The other day I sat down and thought about the places I have been and how blessed I have been by going to each place and doing each thing. It all seems like some sort of hazy dream. Not quite real. Barely a memory. Maybe someone else’s memories being retold to me.

Recounting the memories of the places I’ve traveled to, the things I’ve seen, the foods I’ve eaten, and the friends I’ve made reminds me of how much more is out there. These are the memories I never want to lose. The vivid images of faces and places that I want to stay etched into my mind. An encouragement to do and see more.

May my adventures never become lost hazy dreams, but always vivid memories and encouragements to keep going, seeing, doing, and meeting.

Below are pictures from the trips I took (outside of the US) between 2006-now.

Venezuela-2006
Italy-2012
S. Korea-2013
China-2013

Not Your Typical Spring Break

The months of March and April are typically filled with children, of all ages, skipping with glee filled delight just knowing they are going to have a week away from school. Many college age students choose beach locations or even skiing locations. I am a bit unusual, in many ways, and my spring break plans the past two years reflect that for sure.

Last year I went to Rome, Italy and stayed with a friend. I gallivanted the streets of Rome tasting the food and touring the sights. This year, I went to South Korea. Both experiences were extremely different and taught me far more than I think anyone wants me to write about here.

Many people asked me if I was nervous going because of all that was/is happening with North Korea. My answer was no, and still is no. In the days leading up to my departure, to boarding the plane, to landing, to adventuring, to leaving S. Korea to come home… my answer is and was no. There was no fear of anything happening to me because of N. Korea. I wanted to visit the DMZ (the N. Korean border) however, that was not possible for various reasons. It seemed as if it would be an opportunity of a lifetime, to be able to say “I have been to the N. Korean border”. The entire trip was the opportunity of a life time. My life time. My life. My opportunity.

When I travel I always meet interesting people and get asked interesting questions, mainly because I am from Arkansas. Apparently people in the rest of the world did not know Arkansans travel outside of Arkansas. We do, people! We do! Every time someone would ask me what was taking me to S. Korea their first assumption was always a business trip. Then they would immediately ask if I was studying abroad there. When I told them I was going for spring break, they all seemed shocked. They didn’t know how to handle that. It was so different. It just isn’t the place people typically go for spring break. They would make jokes like, “No Panama City Beach for you this year?” – Just so you know, I have only been to PCB twice. Both were for church camps in junior high/high school. – People just looked at me like I was some type of alien. After they found out I hail from Arkansas I would receive an even more strange look from them. I halfway thought they were going to send me MedCure (the place you can donate your body to be studied for science). They had this glazed over look like they wanted to poke and prod me to see if I was really human.

This type of trip didn’t, and still doesn’t seem that strange to me. I have eaten the food, attended their classes, visited their spas, explored their palaces, taken part in their changing of the guard ceremonies (funny story with that one), walked their famous streets, ridden the rides at their amusement parks, nerded out at the sharks in their aquarium, toured on their river cruise, hiked the Bugak mountain, viewed the city from the sky tower, and learned how to use their metro and bus systems. It was an amazing spring break, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.

Born an Adventurer

Ahhh… to travel the world.

Most girls dream of big weddings and new clothes. My dreams, well they are that of wanderlust. Wanderlust is the strong innate desire to rove or travel about. This very accurately describes how I feel … constantly.

Growing up, if my dad heard someone mention a city, country, etc. he had never heard of or wasn’t sure of its exact location, he would look it up on an atlas. Over the years we have had a number of maps and atlases flow through our house like a steady river. It was something I grew up loving. It was an adventure in itself to just daydream of the places that still need exploring. I used to love walking through tall grass and pretending I was in a forest. A few miles from our grandparents house was a huge canyon. Ok, so it was an over glorified dirt pile, but in had canyon like features (I’ll keep telling myself that until the day I die). I loved when papa (my grandfather) would take us out there. There were snakes and dried up weeds and rocks and dirt hills and… so much to explore.

When people would tell me they had imaginary friends as a kid, I felt sad because I always pretended to have one but I knew I wasn’t one of “those” people. I wasn’t cut out to have an imaginary friend. I wanted (and craved) adventure even as a child. I daydreamed about the places people would mention, even if it was just in passing conversation.

In junior high I had an opportunity to go to a church camp in Florida called Big Stuff. It was the first time I had really gone away somewhere without my parents. I have always been the one willing to jump out of the next and try to fly, even before my wings were ready to spread out and fly me to safety. Because of my willingness to jump out and take flight I have had some really amazing adventures.

Some of those adventures include:
Caracas and Barquisimeto, Venezulea – 1 week trip
Orlando, FL – worked at Universal Studios for 10 weeks, worked at Discover Cove Sea World for 10 weeks
Rome, Italy – 1 week trip (and several fun airports – Switzerland, Germany, and Canada)

And my most recent trip to Seoul, South Korea will take place in two weeks. (More to come on this later)

I was born an adventurer and I plan to keep it that way.