Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Rice Sock

You passed away on December 1, 2008. I had just driven back down to school the night before. After only 24 hours away from home, I was on a plane. I stayed the whole week. Many friends came by and gave us many things. Flowers, food, cards. One of my best friends gave me a rice bag. I used it every day. It gave me comfort and literal warmth. It was my safety. Mom said that the smell of rice would forever be a part of my smell. I slept with it, I warmed it up when we were going out, I had it on my lap when I ate. When it started to get warm in St. George I was sad. I wanted an excuse to use it and cuddle up with it.

Today I made a rice sock. It reminded me of that. The smell of rice and the warmth of it against my skin. I miss you, Dad. It's hard thinking that you won't "be there" when I get home from the airport, and that I won't be able to see you, but I know you're there and I know you're even here sometimes. That's where the rice sock comes in. It's my reminder that you're here and that you're near and still love me. I love you, Dad.

I'm in LOVE!

Dad, today was so tender! There's just something about about having a hand a fraction of the size of yours in your hand. I was walking, holding Lee's hand and he looked up at me with his cute squinty, Chinese eyes and I swear he has four sets of dimples. One on each side in the normal spot and then another pair closer to his eyes. And when he smiles all four are engaged and he sucks on his bottom lip and his little teeth poke out a little. Melts my heart!! I have to bring him home. He's adorable. And the class he was in gave me a kiss on the cheek after following his example. I had a million miniscule, white butterflies surround me. He's so precious, Dad! I hope I can get a picture that captures his cute smile. You've had to have seen it by now, but I have to show everyone back home. I told you before and I'll tell you again, Dad, I'm in love. That little boy has stolen my heart and is holding it hostage. I have no idea how I'm going to leave him.

Mom sent me some pictures of Christ. I hung one up right above my bed. He has a little boy close to his shoulder with his hand on his head. It makes me think of you. I don't know why. You didn't really do that. You gave me hugs, but you never did that exact thing with me. I sometimes feel like you are now, though. I miss you a lot, Dad. I haven't 'seen' you in so long. I know you're there. It's hard thinking I won't see you for a while. I hope you're doing well, Daddy. Stay near, okay?

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Our trip here began with such a fabulous day. We got to our hostel with plenty of time to get ready for church and we actually got to attend the branch that we just listen to over the phone. Relief Society was so great! Sister Ricks gave a fabulous lesson. She's one of the most tender people I've ever met. You would have enjoyed the meeting, Dad. The Lewis's then had us over for dinner. They even provided a van to take us all the way out to their house. So generous. And it wasn't just us they had over. There were four groups. Our nine, four from another ILP school, three from a university up north, and a family that just moved here from Brazil.

Dinner was fabulous! Taco soup with cheese, wheat rolls, salad with ranch dressing, fruit salad and then a cake for one of the sisters' birthdays and homemade chocolate chip cookies with ice cream. I had everything. Licked my bowl clean, had two wheat rolls, a salad and plenty of fruit salad. I was so full from that alone but decided to have a small slice of birthday cake and then two cookies with ice cream in the middle. I felt like I needed to lay on the couch and just moan I was so full. But I couldn't just not have some of that fabulous food! It made me miss home with all of the normal food and good company we have there. Afterwards, we got a group picture on the stairs.

As we were waiting for the van to take us back to the hostel, President Lewis told me to put all of my stuff I was holding in one hand and he grabbed my empty hand by the wrist and proceeded to give me multiple high fives with the other hand. It took me a second to realize what he had done and why, and when I did it was all that I could do to not burst into tears. A few glistening tears did streak my face. Okay, so more than a few. Thank you, Dad. Thank you for being there and reminding him of what he had read in the newsletter. It really made me miss you.

Once back at the hostel we just wanted to chill. We had had a full day. We didn't get back until six with all the time we spent at the Lewis's. It was there that we met up with the two girls that stayed behind in Fuqing while we were in Xi'an.

We woke up the next day and went to the Forbidden City and Tienamenn Square. It was so crowded! So many people. And there's this huge portrait of Mao right before you enter the Forbidden City. Weird. That's like hanging a portrait of Hitler in Germany.

The Forbidden City was cool, but I wish I had known more about it before going. There was a Cartier Jeweler Show that we got to see. Crazy expensive jewelry! Then we found a red wall to take pictures next to. We spent a good afternoon there and then we went to a park opposite it on a hillside and could see the city from the mountain. That was cool!

Then it was off to the Olympic Park! So cool! Now that I can relate to. It was cool to do ancient China and then modern China in one day. The Bird's Next and the Water Cube were so cool! I sat in the arena where Michael Phelps won eight gold medals! I got a cool shirt from there, right before I ripped my pants trying to do a runner's start in front of the Bird's nest. Kind of funny.

The next day was the pearl market! Got quite a few cool things there! And for cheap. Can't wait for Christmas now.

Wednesday was the Summer Palace. The place of residence of the emperor in the summer. So gorgeous! The group was a little pooped so we didn't get to see as much as I wanted, but that's okay. We then ended up with a lot of free time and I did something really stupid, Dad. I went to a Chinese hairdresser and got a perm. It pretty much fried my hair and he cut off quite a bit too. I cried so hard! I've since done things to help my hair recover and it's actually looking pretty good now, but the cut is still awful. I'll just have to wait until I get home to fix it.

Thursday was the silk market. People there were a lot more aggressive and a lot more stubborn. It was really hard to barter. I did get some good things for family for Christmas! I'm so super excited to give them out!

Friday was the best! Nihao ma Great Wall?! Instead of taking the cable car up from the parking lot like most groups do, we hiked up the stairs. So we really did climb the great wall. Took us a good twenty minutes, but it was so worth it. It made it so much more sweet once we were actually on the wall. We ran into the NBA Pacers. That was cool. I think that was wasted on me though. I don't follow basketball or really even care about NBA players. It would have been better if they had bumped into someone else. But on our way down I saw an old man inching along and I offered him my shoulder. He was so cute! He clung to my shoulder and asked all about me. His name is Bill. He wanted to introduce me to his wife. So cute!

Saturday we finished shopping and then headed to the train station. Another wonderful, very smoky twenty hour train ride. It's good to be back to Fuqing, Dad. I still miss you and home. Don't worry.



Wow! What a trip! Dad, I'm a little explorer. Can you believe it? I only kind of can. Part of me still can't believe that that's what I came home from doing.

We left September 30th for Xi'an (she-yawn). This time we were smart enough to get a sleeper train. It would have been death on a train if we had attempted to do that thirty hour train ride in a hard seat. Before we left we were under the impression it was only a 24 hour train ride, but the last six hours were do-able, so it wasn't so bad. It was so nice to have my own space. I read my scriptures, listened to my audiobook of Edgar Sawtelle, talked with the girls, got food from some nice Chinese people and actually slept when it was time. Quite luxurious if you ask me. Toward the end, Lauren and I were getting super bored so we started having a little rave. Who says you need disco lights and music that everyone can hear? It was hilarious. (photo number one and video)

The video is of us listening to this song called Sandstorm. You'd probably just roll your eyes, Dad. Once we pulled into the train station we worked our way out to the street and no taxi would pick us up! It was so frustrating. We were already going to be arriving to our hostel later than our hostel wanted to and I was just super nervous. I almost teared up I was so frustrated. Turns out the reason why they weren't picking us up was because that time is a shift change and people were going home. Finally, we did get three taxis and made it to our hostel with almost no problem. The taxi I was in dropped us off on the opposite corner. Good thing we ran into a Chinese man who not only spoke English but who knew where all the hostels in the area were.

That night I was pretty exhausted, but Tina convinced me to go walk around some. Out of the entire week of holiday that night was the actual holiday. Down the street from our hostel we saw some people with paper lanterns that they'd light something in and then they'd float off into the sky. So cute! Tina's exhaustion caught up with mine and we went and showered the train grime off of us and hit our beds. We had to be fully rested for the day that was awaiting us!

The terra-cotta warriors gave us a wake up call. They were a little late. We were supposed to be out of the hostel by 8:30, but I think most of the girls missed their thunderings through the hall. We didn't realize, either, that it would take us an hour on the bus to get out there. But, oh boy, am I grateful that we've figured out public transportation. The bus ride cost us seven yuan, a little more than a dollar, where a taxi would have cost us upwards of 130 yuan. It was so cool to get there and see something I've only studied in a textbook! There were so many of them.

It was while there that we discovered that we can't sit down for an extended period of time without getting mobbed by Chinese people and their cameras. Muslim Quarters were then calling our names away from the herd of Chinese paparazzi. One of the coolest places in China I've been. Alleys packed with people selling awesome things and funky food. On our way there my flip flop broke. So annoying! My nice volcom ones, too. So I bought myself some cheap Chinese slippers.

We then headed to our hostel because it was dumpling party night!! We got to make dumplings! The meat ones were quite good, but the leek ones weren't so much. It was fun making them too. I really want to learn how to make the dough and the filling though. All I did was put the filling in and close it up. While we were eating our dumplings we had some interesting conversations with an English and Scottish guy. They asked about the church and such. That's the only time we're allowed to even mention the gospel. After a long convo, we went to a dance club in Xi'an. It was pretty fun, but not really my cup of tea. You know me, Dad. I enjoy dancing and goofing off, but really only with my best friends back home and not in a place that is bogged down by clouds of smoke. Emily, Katrina and I left early. Fun, but not worth making myself super exhausted for the next day.

And the next day was so fun! We biked the city wall. It's more ancient than the Great Wall. What a bumpy ride! It took us a little more than an hour and was so fun. I whipped out my iPod and was listening to my music while riding a bike in China! The plan was then to go to the museum, but once we made it there we found a line that would take us 3 hours to get through and we had a train to catch that night, so we opted for the Wild Goose Pagoda instead. Not a bad plan B if you ask me.

The pagoda and it's surroundings were so pretty. We loved Xi'an because it felt more like ancient China with it's architecture and sites like this. Fuqing is definitely more of the modern China. But the pagoda was huge! We didn't go up in it, but all of the little rooms of worship around it were so captivating. It was there that I first saw people actually praying to statues. Kind of weird and foreign to me. First thing I thought was how personal I feel God is to me compared to a statue that they can actually touch and see. I may not be able to touch and see Heavenly Father, but I know he's there and that he loves me. I just got a really strong feeling of how lucky I am that I know my God knows and loves me individually and separate from any of his other children.

We then had to book it back to the hostel after getting snacks at Walmart for the train. Rendezvous happened as planned and we were on our way to the capital of China.