Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hong Kong

One of the reasons I chose to re-locate to Guangzhou is because of the proximity to both Hong Kong and other Southeast Asian countries. I'll get to see parts of the world which were difficult for me to see when I was in Tianjin.

I'll be honest: I'm not really a fan of Guangzhou. It's bigger and busier than Tianjin and I feel like I have NO personal space. Despite my loathing of big and busy cities {and I moved to China? I know}, Hong Kong is one of my very favorite places. The character just oozes out of every building there. It truly is east meets west, and I think, what most westerners first picture when they think of "what China is."

I went for the first time with my friend Olivia, from Tianjin. It was wonderful. Western manners, lots of English, and Chinese food. I had a fantastic time and have already been back several times.

Some highlights from my first three trips: Victoria Peak {gorgeous}, Disneyland, a ropes course, the JCC, and shopping. Lots of shopping. Y'all, I can't get enough of this place.

What are your favorite places?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


One of the nice things about working for a big company is that from time to time we get to do fun things as a "team building" project. Although I disagree on what they call "team-building" over here {sometimes, that just means dinner}, our trips are often pretty fun.

Last September {has it really been that long since I've been? Yikes!} we took a center-wide {my work location is called a "center"} trip to go "rafting." Well, it wasn't really rafting {no steering or paddle required}, but it WAS a lot of fun. Each person got into a "raft" with a partner, and you spent the next hour going down what is essentially a big water slide. The water was cool/cold, and surprisingly clean. I'm skeptical about the usefulness of the "safety equipment," {a dubious helmet and pfd combo}, but it was definitely a good time. 

As a bonus, we got to eat a catered lunch on a river boat on the way to the rafting spot. The whole thing was reminiscent of Schlitterbahn {oh, I miss Texas}, and makes me want to be in the Hill Country again. 

In October I returned to the same county to help lead adventure trips. The scenery is just beautiful, and it was so nice to be camping and biking again. It makes me crave more outdoor adventures! I have some plans in the works for Spring Festival (February) and also Christmas in the US. Whoop!

What adventures have you been on lately?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Book Review: And the Mountains Echoed

Well, hello Book Club Friday, visitors. I haven't linked up in a looong while, mainly because I haven't felt like writing. But, never fear, I HAVE been reading. I picked up And the Mountains Echoed maybe a few months ago, and put a "starter" version of this post into my post list, but never finished it. So, here's the final entry for Book Club!

I was a big, big fan of The Kite Runner and and even bigger fan of A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseni. So, when And the Mountains Echoed came out I put myself on the wait list at the library immediately. I finally got tired of waiting and ended up buying it from Amazon.

{Source: Goodreads}

The plot of the story is split. The  novel begins with a father telling his kids a story. We meet a brother and a sister, and learn a little about their lives in a small, rural town of Afghanistan. What follows is an extraordinary story. The kids are split and sent follow drastically different life paths. Meanwhile, war comes to Afghanistan and the people and places they knew are changed. 

I have to say, I wasn't wowed. It was good. Hosseni is a great author and this novel had some good characters. But, at times, I felt like it moved slowly and I had a hard time staying with it at some points. I also got really confused, sometimes, about who was who, so then I had to go back and read to remember who everyone was.

That being said, if you enjoyed his other novels, you should read this one. It is powerful. As an American who has never been through the uncertainty that war brings it's easy to forget how simple our lives really are. This narrative is a strong reminder of how the world functions for many of it's inhabitants and how as humans we can be more aware of the impacts we make on others.

What books have you read lately?

To catch up on what I've been reading, visit me on Goodreads or my Pinterest Books board.

Also, here are the top 10 books that have stayed with me.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

My Top Ten

People often ask me what my favorite book is. That, friends, is an impossible choice. I like so many of them and so many have had an influence on my reading habits, and frankly, my life. So, when my cousin Samantha challenged me to list my top 10 books on Facebook, I thought it was a more manageable list than just 1.

In no order, here are the books that have influenced me the most or stayed with me in some way:

1. The Mists of Avalon; Marion Zimmer Bradley: This novel was one of the very first fantasy novels that I read where women were the heros and the strong ones. Still one of my favorite series.

2. Outlander; Diana Gabaldon: One of the kids I babysat had a mom who was a big reader, and when she found out I read some of the same stuff she did, she told me I should read this novel. I put it off for awhile and FINALLY picked it up last January. I ended up reading the whole series straight through {thank goodness the library had all of them for my kindle}. Now, I gush about this novel {and series} any chance I get. You can read my review here. Run, do not walk, to the bookstore to buy the whole series. Then ensconce yourself in a flurry couch with some coffee, and tell your friends you won't see them for a few months. They're THAT good.

3. The Red Tent; Anita Diamonte: Again, with the strong women! This is a biblical fiction novel about Dinah, a sort of foot-noted character in the Tanach. The story really illustrates the type of society we could have where women take care of each other. It was an awesome read.

4. The Giver; Lois Lowry: I love dystopian novels, and as far as I am concerned this one is the best. I read it twice before I *had* to read it in 8th grade. I couldn't get enough. It simply doesn't compare to other novels. It is the best one.

5. The Little House on the Prairie; Laura Ingalls Wilder: I secretly wanted to be Laura when I grew up. And, to some extent I have. I can bake bread from scratch {and cook for a crowd}, I love being in the woods, I'm practical with money, I'm a teacher. I'm not very good with livestock, but we can't have everything in life!

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; JK Rowling: Let's be real, the whole series should be here, but the last one was the most poignant for me. I do re-read the whole series once every few years, and I'm due another re-read {the last one was when I first came to China}. Harry Potter is my childhood.

7. The Sleeping Beauty Series; Anne Rocquelaire: You know what I really love about this series? It's erotica written by a woman for women. It's intense and full of fantasy and wonderful.

8. Ender's Game; Orson Scott Card: I got this novel first from a friend in high school {hi, Ben!}. I kinda took his and he had to buy a new one. I've now read most of his series and they're pretty solid in the way of science fiction-y spaceship novels.

9. The Chosen; Chaim Potok: Reading this novel was the first time I laughed out loud at a novel {that I remember}. It was just so....Jewish! The mannerisms, the stuff I recognized from my own life, it was all there. I never realized how a novel could connect me so much to my own background and identity.

10. The Cry of the Kalahari;  Mark and Delia Owens: I read this book as a freshman in high school and, really, I devoured it. The Owenses sold everything and made their way to Africa to study lions in Botswana. I read the sequel, also, and it was fantastic!

11. Flow; Mihayli Csikszentmihayli: Well, I cheated and added another one. Flow basically guided my entire thesis and it's not really about sex at all. Czikszentmihayli argues that a flow experience is one where we lose track of time and everything around us, and it's used quite a lot in recreation theory. It's highly readable, and fascinating.

And, of course, there are many more. So, some honorable mentions go to: The Time Traveler's Wife; Wuthering Heights; Shanghai Girls; Monique and the Mango Rains; The Host; My Life in France; The Boxcar Children series; The Babysitters' Club series; Into the Woods; The Lemon Tree; Ready Player One; The Queen's Fool; The Children's Book; The Uncoupling; The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society; Pillars of the Earth; Island of the Blue Dolphins; The Forgotten Garden; A Wrinkle in Time; The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.  

And, let's not pretend this is all of them. Just what I could remember when I went through my Goodreads list!

What books have stuck with you?