Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Young Now

Christmas is over, and the decorations are coming down in showers tinsel and pine needles.

This part of the holidays always makes me sad. I want the before Christmastime to go on forever. Anticipation is best, with all the wrapping paper secrets and sugar cookie baking. But the after is nice too in its own way - - quieter and more reserved than the before, who rushes towards the after in a flurry of airy movement.

Ray Bradbury writes in Dandelion Wine, "you're not the dates, or the ink, or the paper. You're not those trunks of junk and dust. You're only you, here, now - - the present you."

Even though before is wonderful, after is best, because after is who you are.

"You're in the present, you're trapped in a young now or an old now, but there is no other now to be seen."

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

Last night i stayed up to welcome Christmas Eve in. I can't believe tomorrow's Christmas...can someone slow down time please?

Over the summer i taught my Vietnamese students about American holidays. I showed them how to make Valentines, which caused much blushing and a few teasingly said, "I love you, Teacher."

I showed them how to make turkeys by tracing their hands and coloring in the beak and feet. I told them we made turkey hands for Thanksgiving. They called them chickens.

And i told them about Christmas, about the trees and stockings and cookies. I even tried to explain snow, but only got them to understand that it was like crushed ice that fell from the skies.

Sometimes I miss that crazy Saturday morning class.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I'm supposed to be writing for my Creative non-fiction class. But ideas won't come. I've tried typing, handwriting, writing in pen, in pencil, in colored pencil! For goodness sakes, this must stop.

But I did come across a beautifully decorated house on Design Sponge (which is my new favorite website).

Check it out . . .


Beautiful, right? hmm.

Friday, November 19, 2010


One morning this summer, my teammates and I decided to walk down the street to the indoor market to purchase some fruits and vegetables. Usually we bought street food for meals, but after the twentieth bowl of Pho (beef noodle soup), we needed some variety.

For simple purchases like chopsticks and bowls we never had a problem communicating in broken Vietnamese and hand motions, but buying fresh produce turned out to be complicated.
After much hand-waving, we ended up with a sad bunch of bananas . . . which turned out to be plantains. We tried frying them, but they smelled so bad, that our sweet landlady ran up the stairs, scolding us in Vietnamese and threw them out.
The next morning, we were in the living room lesson planning when our landlady came in with a giant clump of bananas.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Vietnam Days

It's been three months since I left little Bien Hoa, Vietnam, and I still haven't written about it like I have wanted to. So I'm going to begin posting pictures and stories from my summer, just small, enjoyable stories that I have been thinking about lately.

Story number one: Laundry.

I wish i had taken a picture of our sad washing machine; it fought hard for us. After washing our clothes, we hung them on long metal poles that crossed above the courtyard.
Like this.

And while they dried, our landlady cooked . . . directly beneath our laundry. Our clothes always dried with the scent of Vietnamese dinner. Sometimes i miss laundry days at the hotel, even if my clothes dried crunchy and smelled like food.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pumpkin Goop

...This is how we carve pumpkins...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Indian Pudding

I had my wisdom teeth pulled yesterday morning, and so i am confined to pudding and mashed potatoes. What a sad fate.
But i was determined to make the best of it, so this morning i cooked some Indian pudding for myself. It almost tasted like pumpkin pudding, but more cornmeal.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Oh Streusel

When i come home, i bake.

Somehow in the jumble of flour and spices life untangles itself and i can breathe again.

I decided to bake with pumpkin this afternoon since it's October and all, and i made these delicious little pumpkin muffins.

They are absolutely de-lightful, so i thought i'd share. Bake.Eat.Enjoy. :)

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cups pecans, roughly chopped (i used walnuts)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups solid-packed pumpkin
  • 1/3 cups vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat two 12-cup standard muffin tins with oil and set aside.
  2. Mix the cream cheese, 1 egg, and 3 tablespoons sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Toss 5 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 cup flour, pecans, butter, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon together in a medium bowl and set aside.
  4. Combine the remaining sugar, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and remaining cinnamon in a large bowl. Lightly beat the remaining eggs, pumpkin, oil, and vanilla together in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, pour the pumpkin mixture into the well, and mix with a fork just until moistened. Evenly divide half of the batter among the muffin cups. Place two teaspoonfuls of cream cheese filling in the center of each cup and fill with the remaining batter. Sprinkle some of the pecan mixture over the top of each muffin and bake until golden and a tester, inserted into the muffin center, comes out clean -- 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Monday, September 27, 2010


I ran at Clifton Gorge over the weekend. . .
Miles and miles of trails covered in crisp and colorful fall leaves.

And i had lunch with some beautiful and wise friends. And we talked for hours . . .

I baked a cake - lemon and coconut - and went thrifting with my mom. And i watched football with my dad.

And of course i played with our puppy, who wiggled all over when she saw me, and seemed genuinely sad when i left. Oh Sadie, dog.

Friday, September 17, 2010


"Waiting Room"
by Jonny Diaz

Here in this waiting room yearning for You to say go
And though I’m convinced that a yes would be best
This time You’re telling me no

It’s not that I don’t have an answer
It’s just not the one that I’d like
But through this time Lord I must keep in mind
You’re always wiser than I

You have a much better purpose
And You have a far greater plan
And You have a bigger perspective
Cause You hold this world in your hands

The things that I seek are from You
Like the strong healing touch of your hand
But when You say no help me trust even though
There’s a reason I can’t understand

When that miracle comes cause Your answer is yes
I will praise you for all of my days
But when Your wisdom declares that a no is best
I will praise You just the same

Thursday, August 19, 2010

No Place Like It.
I'm back in little Cedarville after two months of traveling.
One evening back and i already feel as if i had never left...good friends can do that :)

It's not the place, it's the people. And God has filled my life with lovely people.
Warm summer nights. Guitars. Friends. God. It's easy to to feel content when my life is as smooth and as beautiful as polished glass. But will i be as content when situations change?

Going overseas to Vietnam tipped my delicately balanced "contentment" into a horrible spiral of discontentment. I found myself continually asking "why" ? Ultimately questioning God. Questioning if He had a purpose for me in this strange country. Questioning whether He knew what He was doing with "my" life...as if it really were "my" life.

I read this passage over and over again in my little room in the midst of Bien Hoa, Vietnam:

"Why do you say, O Jacob,
and complain, O Israel,
'My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God'?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can
(Isaiah 40:27-28)

Who am i to question what God has planned for me? Who am i to doubt the God who breathed life into me, died for me...loves me? Who am i without Christ...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

I'm Home.

So i'm back in America after two L o n g days of traveling. I have so much to tell, but i just wanted to thank all of you who followed my blog and supported me this summer. You are much appreciated.

Love from Seattle!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

From the Back of a Motorbike

Vietnam is such a beautiful country - the people, the land, and the way of life here is truly beautiful. I don't always appreciate it the way i should, but every time i ride on the back of a motorbike to and from the classes i teach in the factories here, i really fall in love with this country.
Here in Bien Hoa every inch of the streets are used. Traffic buzzes constantly and horns honk as motorbikes and cars whiz through the streets, and bicycles and people weave in and out of this pattern. Shops line the streets and small roadside stands dot the sidewalks - and there are always people. People in the shops, which are open to the road, people squatting on the sidewalks talking and smoking, people walking, little children laughing, people eating. In Vietnam the people here are always with each other, and genuinely care about each other. I will miss the hub-bub of people and noise when i come back to America in just a few days.
Today as i was riding back from the company class it started to drizzle, and small streams formed on either side of the street. As i was watching the people on the streets i saw two little boys run out from a shop, laughing and talking, to place two small paper boats in the stream and then stand back to watch them sail down the little river. It was the cutest little thing. I love seeing all the different sorts of food they sell here: the long bread (about 2 feet!) sticking up out of baskets on a cart, whole ducks hanging from their necks inside glass stands, ducks being roasted on spits over open coals, fresh corn roasted in garlic and butter, rice, noodles, cafes, and so much more that i haven't gotten to taste yet! Small markets sell fruit stacked in pyramids: pink dragon fruit, green Vietnamese apples, Jum Jum, and other colorful greens vegetables. These food stands dot the sidewalks, and behind them are shops selling clothes, furniture, hardware, and wedding gowns. I love taking all this in from the back of a motorbike - it's a wonderful ride...i wish you all could experience it as well. I will really miss this.

I only have two more days of teaching here, and then i'm off to Ho Chi Min City for a few days with my team before we fly back to California. This summer has been incredible, and i can't believe it's almost over. There's definitely been some low points, and i miss America, friends, and family alot, but i'm also sad to be leaving this place and these people.

Well, i'm off to teach another class! Leave me some loving!!!
Love from Vietnam!

Friday, July 23, 2010

I Have Been Blessed.

The people here in Vietnam have beautiful hearts. I have been so blessed to get to know the staff here at the school i teach, as well as everyone else i have met, beginning with my housemom.

Our housemom is the landlady of the hotel, and is beautiful both inside and out. She always welcomes us with a warm, genuine smile and waves good-bye when we leave for school as if we were 10 years old getting on the school bus :) Even after I locked my keys in my room twice, she still laughed and got me a new set (after fake scolding me haha). She lets us borrow her dishes and hangs our laundry up to dry when we don't have time to take it out of the washer. I can always smell her amazing cooking wafting upstairs from her little outside stove and hear her talking to her husband and her son. I wish i could speak her language - she laughs at us when we attempt Vietnamese :)

My motorbike driver here at the school.
Today it was raining when he came to pick me up, and i had forgotten my poncho, so instead of just letting me get wet, he gives me his (he insisted!) and drives me to the school. And he doesn't just give me the poncho, he puts in on me - he's such a wonderful fatherly figure, and he doesn't know a word of English. I wish i could speak his language. The most i can tell him is Com on. Thank-you.

The owners of restaurants that we frequent. They always laugh when we come back...again and again...to eat their delicious (and safe!) food. They show us how to eat it, because here food is eaten in steps, and laugh when we do things the "wrong" way.
Today a teammate and I ordered "Hot Pot" which is a soup on a burner with spices and vegetables. This also comes with raw meat that you cook in the boiling soup, vermecelli noodles, and big vegetable leaves (sort of like spinach). We kept turning the burner off by mistake and the owners laughed at us and just kept helping us turn it back on. They are lovely people.

There are so many other people who have blessed me here, and it's sad to know that once i leave i won't see them again. I can only hope that i left as much of an impression on them as they left on me. I hope that they can see Him shining through me.

Just a few thoughts on this rainy day here in Bien Hoa.

Love from Vietnam!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Rain here in Bien Hoa is not like rain i have ever seen before!
It doesn't just rain...it pours! The streets flood, and everything seems to shut down except for the motorbikes, cars, and taxis that chug their way through the small rivers.
Today a motorbike came my hotel to pick me up for my class this afternoon. I wondered why the school hadn't sent a taxi, but didn't question my driver and obediently donned a poncho and helmet. I ducked my head behind my driver and braced myself for the torrents of rain. We sloshed through the alley into the main street (i mean river) and began slogging down the road. I had to lift my feet up off the motorbikes pedals to keep them semi-dry. Rain penetrated my poncho and i could feel myself getting wet. A few minutes later my driver turned around and said, "Taxi?" I nodded dramatically, "YES! Taxi." We slogged back to my hotel and i continued my trip to the school indoors in a taxi. Ah, the joys of life in Vietnam. I actually love the rain here, though. I love hearing it pound on our metal roof so hard that i can't hear myself talk. I love hearing the thunder and watching the rain pour down onto Bien Hoa from my balcony. And the rain brings cooler weather, relieving the hot sticky days here.

Last weekend my team and i made a trip to Ho Chi Min City for a river boat trip - very touristy and very fun!
We rode a bus to HCMC and from there took the tour bus into the country with our tour guide, Dang (and the name says all! haha). The sky scrapers faded to rice paddies and small country houses nestled in green foliage. In amongst the rice fields we saw workers in the traditional pointy hats, squatting down in the fields. Here they bury people in large stone tombs above the ground right in the fields - so we saw many tombs. It was kind of creepy, i mean who wants Grandma and Grandpa right in the front yard?
We arrived at a small river and took a boat to Unicorn Island where i saw how they make coconut milk, get the meat from the coconut, and make coconut candy. We tried some fresh candy - delicious! We also tried coconut wine and snake wine! The snake wine has snakes inside the bottles. Creepy! I also saw how they make rice paper over open fires! So cool. We took motorbikes through the island and stopped now and then for some tourist attractions like holding Michael - the snake - hearing traditional Vietnamese music, drinking tea with honey made right on the island, and eating a delicious meal for lunch! I had elephant fish served whole and upright as if it was still alive! It was actually good! I'll try to post the pictures on Facebook soon, so you can really see everything - words don't do the countryside justice. It was so beautiful...
Well, i hope all of you avid readers are having a wonderful time in the good old USA!

Love from Vietnam!

Friday, July 9, 2010


Well, I'm just finishing week two here in the bustling, crowded country of Vietnam.
I must say that the newness has been wearing off as i fall into a routine of teaching, eating, lesson prepping, and coping with language and cultural differences.
Somehow reality is much different than how i had imagined this summer to be. For some reason i had expected this summer to be one great fabulous adventure...and while it is that, it's also stretching me in many ways. For example...
I get stared at, whistled at, and hit on ALL the time. The staring that at first seemed so innocent and that made me smile has become an annoyance. I feel like something on display in a shop window, and force myself not to glare back into the dark eyes of these Vietnamese people.
I miss the food from home...noodle soup for breakfast and rice for almost every meal is becoming repetitive.
Some of my classes have been quite a handful and i am forced to play the part of a strict disciplinarian - a part i don't really enjoy playing. BUT despite all of this, i have been learning to rely on Him for my strength, my courage, and my perseverance. He has supplied me with faith when i have doubted that i have a purpose here in Bien Hoa. He has supplied me with strength to face each day. And He has provided me with some amazing people here. But please be thinking of me...
On a more positive note: I have had the pleasure of teaching a few classes at the Nike factory here in Bien Hoa and have enjoyed it immensely! The adult classes are much easier to manage and i have begun to form relationships with them, even in the few hours i am at the factory. I have gotten to know the staff better at VMG and have had some fun time in the office late at night when we're supposed to be lesson prepping :) I have eaten chicken feet, cookies with pork in them, and have tasted moonshine. Overall i have to say that i have been blessed and can only hope that i will be able to touch the people's lives here as well.

Well, off to lesson prepping for some classes!

Love from Vietnam!

Monday, July 5, 2010

The First Week

Well, I've spent about a week here in Bien Hoa, and it's been an interesting one to say the least!
My classes on Saturday went well for the most part. My first class of "teens" were actually 9-12 years old and mostly boys, which made it crazy! i felt like most of my time was spent on discipline, so i was a little disappointed. But my next class went much much better and i was able to actually get through my whole lesson plan! I have learned to be tough on the students the first few days so that they will respect me and i can maintain order in my classroom!

On Sunday my team and i visited a local orphanage and it was overwhelming...
There were about 150 kids and only ten workers. The poor little infants looked so sad and limp because they do not get the touch that they need. Once we held them they perked up and started moving a little.
The children were all so beautiful, but you could see the sadness in the older one's eyes. We played games with them, danced to music and met some of the staff. Some college students from Ho Chi Min City were also there and we were able to talk to them a little since they knew English. We're going back next Sunday so please remember me while i gather emotional and physical strength to return to the orphanage.

Sunday afternoon we shopped downtown by VMG (the school) and i found some amazing teaching clothes and some gifts for people back home. Everyone stares at me here - they stop and line up to stare and point. They tell me i look like a doll because my skin is so white. Lovely.
Sunday night Nu and Huong - two of the Vietnamese teachers - took us to a night market, which reminded me of a street fair at night back in the states. It was so fun! I had my first experience bargaining there and have discovered that that's not my forte!

Last night the girls and i lesson planned at the school and then we went to see Knight and Day at the theatre and got popcorn! (That's one American food i have missed so much!) The popcorn here though is sweet like kettlecorn. Salty popcorn does not exist.

Fun Fact of the day: I love riding on the Sami's here! Sami's are like taxis but are a motorbike. I ride on the back of them to and from school. It's so fun, but slightly scary because of traffic!

Today i will be teaching at a factory for a couple hours and then will teach at the school after that.

Oh, and i have big news: I have raised all my money!!! Thank you all who have been so gracious and generous - i appreciate you more than you can know! Well, i need to go and finish lesson prepping! Thanks so much for reading this blog - leave me some comments!!!

Love from Vietnam!!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I'm here!

Hello avid blog readers!!!
Well, i finally made it Vietnam after a week of vigorous training, and two long days of flying!
What's it like you ask? Hot and humid! But i'm so glad to be here.
I got all settled in my little room yesterday. I'm staying in a little hotel with five other girls on my team. We each have our own room with a bathroom and they all open out onto a balcony that overlooks the inner courtyard of the hotel. We're about a couple minutes walk from the main street with all the shops and markets.
There's so much to tell even after only a few days of being here, so i'll just hit some of the highlights.
- Traffic here is INSANE. Traffic rules don't seem to apply. I crossed the street for the first time last night and thought that I was going to die.
- I'm starting classes on Saturday and will be teaching one teen class and two adult classes. I'll be teaching tues, thurs, and sat. We got our curriculum just a few hours ago, so i'm excited to look over that!
- I had Pho for breakfast this morning at a little shop on the street. Soup for breakfast will take some getting used too! But i'm getting better at chopsticks!
- There's so many people here! On the streets, driving, selling things, and just talking. Even though it seems so busy here, the culture is very relaxed and people oriented. I like it.
- I had coconut milk yesterday still in the coconut with a straw inside. My new favorite drink!
- I had vanilla ice-cream yesterday made with coconut milk...loved it!
- There's so much to tell, but i think those are the highlights :)

Love and miss all of you!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

25 Days!

I recently found out what city i'll be teaching in, and who will be on my team there! I'll be in Bien Hoa, a suburb of Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam near the coast. It's so exciting to know where i'll be in about 30 days!

In 25 days i'll be on a plane headed to Pasadena, California for training...it's all coming so fast and i still have so much to do!

I went shopping this afternoon for a few little things like an address book, a camera case, and a few teaching supplies. Little purchases add up fast, but i was able to find a bunch of sales, which was really nice :)

I'm getting pretty excited to meet my team and to fly to Cali and then on to Vietnam! oh baby.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I've been meaning to get on and write for days now! So here i am :) School has been keeping me on my toes lately as well as preparation for Vietnam! I'm SO busy...but it's nice. My support raising is going wonderfully and I have been able to connect with a few members of my Vietnam team over facebook...i am so stinkin excited for this summer! Speaking of summer, summer weather is finally making its way to Dayton, TN! And this weekend i was able to spend a whole day outside in the sunshine at a track meet :) I got slightly burnt...and it was nice.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chopsticks and Noodles

I'm going out for Vietnamese with Vianna in a few hours. She's spent four years there, so i'm sure she'll be able to give advice about this summer and tell me more about Vietnam. I hope i like the food...and that i can manage chopsticks!

Also...i found sandals for this summer at Target! Durable.Cute.Comfortable. Success!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Movies and Literature

The more i read about Vietnam the more i realize how much i don't know. I'll be leaving for training camp in CA in about three months....which sounds so close to me. I have so much to do! I'm on spring break this week and have been trying to read up on Vietnam, learn a few phrases, and work on support raising while i have a break from school. I'm heading to the library this afternoon to pick up a few movies and books that TeachOverseas recommended i look at before this summer.
These are a couple movies they recommended: The Quiet American and Scent of Green Papaya.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lets Be Friends.

“The Vietnamese and Asians in general know how to maintain a relationship. In the West you might become friends, but you can do business without becoming friends. In Asia, you must become friends before doing business.”
—Vietnamese Manager

Monday, March 1, 2010

For Me?

An interesting tidbit i learned...

In Vietnam using both hands to give and receive items viewed as polite, and sends the message of
intention, care and thought - an action that expresses sincerity.

I am so excited to meet the Vietnamese people :)

Also, my passport came in! I've never had one before, which makes it so exciting...i can't wait to use it and to travel!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sandal Weather

While talking to the people at TeachOverseas i found that sandals are a must in Vietnam. They will prove to be the best type of footwear considering the climate and for getting them on and off frequently (when entering homes). I will be doing a lot of walking in hot weather so cool, comfortable shoes are a must. Flip-flops are unacceptable for the classroom but fine for everyday wear...so i now have the perfect excuse to buy a new pair of cute sandals...but now the question is what brand should i get and where should i look?

The sandal search is on!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

An Internet Cafe

In Vietnam, Internet Cafes are available in nearly every town and city in the country and only cost $0.30 an hour, which is how I will probably be connecting with my friends and family back home. International phone calls are really expensive, so i will be using Skype to connect with people through internet cafes...it all sounds so new and exciting...i can't wait!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Universal Welcome

After weeks of rain here in Tennessee, the sun finally came out this past weekend, and it was pure bliss. Some friends and I went hiking Friday afternoon, just soaking in the warm sunshine...and it made me smile. I think we were all grinning from ear to ear that day...

And I decided that i wanted to know how to say "smile" in Vietnamese.
So...Smile. Cuoi len (kuy leen)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Singing in the Rain

“Don't say that the weather is the same all the time

here, because it's not. In fact, it's two degrees cooler

today than yesterday.”

—quote from the movie Good Morning Vietnam

The hot rainy season in Vietnam lasts from May to September, right when i will be living there. So i have humid weather to look forward to. There goes my hair. poof. :)

From October to April the weather will get a little cooler, but from what I've read it's pretty hot all year round there. Thankfully I'll be missing monsoon weather. No complaints there!

I plan on investing in a good raincoat and umbrella...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Lately I have been reading a little here and there about Vietnam and have come across some interesting culture taboos. I discovered that sitting cross-legged should be done with care to not face the bottom of your foot toward another person. They may see this as insulting since feet are the dirtiest part of the body.

I have so much to learn.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Learning the Language

Among writing support letters, applying for my passport and visa, and keeping up with a million other things in preparation for my Vietnam trip, i have been trying to learn a new Vietnamese word or phrase every day or so. I definitely won't be fluent by the time i am immersed in this new culture, but i will be able to say a few basic words. So...here goes.

Cam on
(pronounced "Gahm un")

Now you know how to say "thank-you" in Vietnamese :)

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Xin Chao! (Hello in Vietnamese)

This summer i am traveling to Vietnam through TeachOverseas International to teach conversational English in the schools. Eventually this blog will be about my adventures i will have in Vietnam...and the people i will meet.

But for now, i will share little facts about Vietnam, phrases i am learning, and foods i hope to try.

I am so very excited!