Good things

  • The Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix: It had been way too long since I had read a high fantasy novel, so this set of books has been a real treat. Long, aimed at young adults, taking place in a fascinating magical world, full of fascinating and well-balanced female characters, all mean that these are quick becoming favorites. I am only half way through the second in the trilogy, plus the author recently came out with a 4th book as a prequel to the trilogy, so there is plenty left to read!
  • Between listening to the Shovels & Rope that Jonathan pointed me to and my other new favorite Lily and Madeleine, I am awash in good new music.
  • It is Friday and to celebrate Alex cooked me breakfast for dinner. Pancakes, bacon and sautéed spinach are the perfect way to say good bye to a week.
  • In-laws that are a treat to be around – Alex’s grandparents took us both out for Indian food earlier this week as belated birthday treat. They are in the 80s, but sharp and still living independently in the same house that Alex’s father grew up in. Hopefully Alex gets some of those longevity genes.
  • Cold spell in Seattle: I know that those of you in the Midwest probably don’t really consider mid-30s cold, but for Seattle those temperatures definitely register so. But the real reason I like the cold is that it brings with it clear sunny skies.
  • Odd genetic quirks: Thanks to a combination of Alex’s strange Norwegian ideas about temperature and my own childhood mantra of “Just put on another sweater” we haven’t actually had to use our heat yet in our apartment. Maybe we can make it to January?

dear internet

I just wanted to write you a note about how much I love you.  You give me pictures of babies, cities, fresh fruit and rocking outfits.  You tell me when yet another college acquaintance gets engaged/has a baby/graduates from law school/goes off to live in the boonies/starts a blog.  You teach me the meaning of frustration by hiding pages, refusing to refresh, and dropping links.  You show me what a wolf whistle is, how dandelions reproduce and how to make cheap lighting fixtures.  You seduce me with offers of 1 dollar shipping and outlet sales.  You like to take all the minutes of my day and suck them into your giant beautiful black hole and then to top it off you sing me to sleep.

a letter to a friend

S—-,
I am working in a library now, a high school one, here in Etown. It is huge, larger than all the schools I have attended in my life combined. Student enrollment is around 3,200, so we have two libraries, one for fiction and the reference library. I work in the reference library, mainly in charge of periodicals, but basically I do lots of other random things as well. I am by far the youngest person in the department, probably by around 12 years, but I also work with really good people, so that helps. As for how I finagled it, I was lucky enough to find out about the job through J’s mom Sh who works here as well. Then I guess I just appealed to them. I think being a recent graduate helped, but I really don’t know why it was that they hired me.

The library itself is really beautiful, I mean especially if you find books beautiful. But the main room is two stories high, with books lining every wall. There is also a balcony, or a narrow walkway on three walls of the room. The fourth wall of the room is a huge bank of windows, with these long rust colored drapes on it. On mornings like today when the sun shines directly in, some of the blinds are closed, but still sunlight comes pouring through. Making all the computer screens hard to see. My little desk is in the entrance way between the main room and the reference room. I have my own phone, although I have yet to figure out how to set up my voice mail. And my own computer, which I use for such wasteful purposes as emailing and interneting, although I try very hard to limit it to before work or during lunch.

I am still learning things here at work, trying to figure out my place in the department and learning various library tasks. It is funny that I have already been here a month, only 9 more of those left in this year. My favorite of the random tasks I have taken on, was stamping all the new fiction books in this years “July” order. Basically this gave me an excuse to look at all the new books and call first dibs on them. So far I am reading both Freakanomics and The Book Thief.

Fall is definitely arriving here in Etown, the leaves are beginning to change, and the weather is moving from crisp mornings to just a little chilly. But this morning the sky was brilliantly blue, with just a few puffs of clouds. How is C—- treating you? Are you feeling more settled in? Have you tried the baozi yet? What kind of classes are you teaching?

Anways I am due to actually start working soon, but I too would love to know what you are up too and I apologize for my lateness of emailing. I feel like in all this transitioning I haven’t had time or energy for much more than unpacking and sleeping. But I think things are getting better.

take care,
Abby

an open letter to my mom for her birthday

Dear Mom,
I am sorry about the lack of happy birthday on your actual birthday, but I was planning on telling you that on the phone. But because that didn’t work out I figured I would send you one by email instead. Although as a good daughter I should know this, I am not sure what age you just turned. 53 would be my guess? or maybe 54? But then you could just take this forgetfulness on my part as a compliment and indication of your timeless quality 🙂

I just had a really nice Indian food dinner with Dan, Meryl and Steph. Although pricey by Chinese standards, it was only around 5 dollars and the food rivaled that of a good restaurant in the states. So our group was quite happy. On the way back we took a taxi and I successfully communicated our school name to the taxi driver, which was actually a first for me. Chengdu looks quite beautiful when you drive through it at night. The street lights reflected off the river and the skyscrapers loomed. The streets were full with people, but not bursting as they some times are. The days are getting cooler here, which is a nice relief and the open window of the taxi created a nice breeze.

Anyways, this email is about you, so I just wanted to say I think of you and Dad often and all the rest of our family that is scattered around the globe. What did you end up doing for your personal day? I actually did quite a bit of journaling on my birthday. How does marking another year lived feel for you? I am sure you feel this even more than I do, but sometimes I am amazed at where the years went. While I do feel older than my junior high self, I also can’t quite belief I am two full years into my twenties. I think I tend to find my birthdays a little bittersweet as of late, I mean while I am still young, each year that passes does tend to remind me that my life is very temporary in the grand scheme of things. Last night I watched one of the animated shorts from the 75th Academy Awards (I bought a DVD of them, pirated of course) in which it tells the story of two rocks on a hill and when it is in their time humans whirl through history starting from the stone ages and speeding onto modernization, but for the Rocks it takes only a few minutes. I guess sometimes I look at my own life and feel a similar temporariness.
I hope you and Dad are doing well, I just read the Assemblyline for tomorrow and saw the fall retreat is coming up and the barn dance. I hope both are better attended this year. Maybe having fall break on a different weekend will increase college students attendance at retreat? Have you heard much back from Marshall and Bethany about their travels? Tonight Dan brought up how neat it was that they attended our send-off, I know all of us former MYFers really appreciated it.

Well this email is getting on in length. Oh I have really been enjoying buying presents as of late, I figure since our Christmas presents this year are taking the form of plane tickets I would make up for that while I am in a place where most everything is so much cheaper than the states.

Anyways I should head back over to the Waiban, but much love and a huge hug from your very loving if slightly late daughter,
All the best,
Abby

teaching and tutoring (a mass email home)

Dear Folks,
It feels weird to realize how quickly I am approaching the halfway mark of SST. Our estimated departure for Hong Kong is Nov. 20, which is less than 2 months away. But there still remains so much to experience here in Chengdu. This weekend our group went to see the Dujiangyuan Irrigation system and climbed the Daoist mountain, Qing Ching. The day was also very misty and a light rain was falling for most of the day, so by the end of the day we were all quite happy to return to our comfortable and dry dorm rooms. Although I was also pleased to actually be chilled, maybe this marks a turn in the humidity here to the promised crisp lovely weather of autumn.

This coming week is our last week before National Day (the anniversary of the declaration of the People’s Republic of China and the following week long national holiday. Most of us will be attempting to get ourselves invited to various homes and towns of our Chinese students and friends. I have a possible invite that I hope works out and another invitation from my host family, so it should be an interesting week. Speaking of my host family I just returned from a delicious meal at their apartment, my host mother made fried jiaozi (dumplings), huanggua (cucumbers), nurou (pork), and my favorite huangdou (soybeans). Home cooking is something that I rarely get to experience here, because all our meals are eaten in restaurants, which at first was a wonderful novelty, but i am realizing how much I miss cooking and eating in private. I think the fact that we are still somewhat novelties in restaurants also impacts the experience. Prior to dinner, my host father took me to a very nice tea house and we chatted about racism, the Chinese experience during World War II, the treatment of minority cultures within China, the debate about Tibet, educational system, advising by professors at the undergraduate level. And no that conversation did not take place in Chinese, only in my dreams of fluency would I be able to carry on that conversation. But I am very lucky because my host father is obviously almost fluent in English.

This past week also brought about my first encounter with teaching English. I met and taught my class for 45 minutes. It went well, but I was surprised at various parts of the lesson. My class consists of junior level tourism majors, and luckily enough I have only 29 students (some of my fellow SSTers have 40-50). Although I felt that my class respected me, I was not prepared to have to bring up discipline issues such as listening when their classmates where introducing themselves. However I think this was also due to the redundancy of this activity for them, seeing as they already knew each other and hadn’t understood that I was doing this as a means of giving them practice and giving myself a chance to evaluate their English level. It was also difficult for me to find a balance between being the teacher and wanting to interact with them as peers, because after all they are only a year or two younger than myself. But it was nice that they seemed very surprised when I told them how old I was.

Along with teaching, this week in our Chinese class we began learning a few characters, I now know how to write “I am American” in characters and can recognize a few basic signs. But considering it is estimated that one needs to know approximately 3000 characters to be able to read the newspaper, I have a long way to go 🙂 This week we also finalized our tutoring sessions in various Chinese activities, I selected Tia Qi (incorrect spelling), a form of deep breathing and slow movements which has some similarities to yoga, and traditional Chinese painting. So my weeks look like they are quickly filling up.

In other news I found out this past week that a friend from my graduating class at Bethany High School, passed away from a overdose. Although I was not particularly close to him, several of my fellow SSTers knew him well and it has been a more difficult week. Your prayers both for his friends and family is appreciated along with our SST group.

I heard from various sources that many of you attended the MCC relief sale this weekend, and I hope you all had great times and ate many apple fritters. My best to all of you and keep the emails coming!
Love,
Abby

english letters

Today I opened my gmail inbox (which I am now forwarding all my goshen mail too) and there were two wonderful emails from England. The first from JP, my friend from my summer in N. Ireland. He has relocated to England and is ENGAGED and gonna be a Daddy! It was wonderful to hear from him and invite myself to his wedding 🙂
The second email was from Jonathan who went on the Arts and Theatre in London May term. He just arrived yesterday and so was definitely still experiencing the good ole jet lag.

But speaking of jet lag, I learned yesterday that China is 13 hours ahead of Goshen! Yeah talk about half way around the world. Mandarin is definitely kicking my butt, but we had a really good study session last night and this morning went rather well. Maybe I actually will learn some Chinese.

I also applied at Panara Bread yesterday, so maybe I’ll work there part-time over the summer. Or I may also try to apply at South Side Soda Shop. I have never been a waitress before, but it seems like a job I should try at least once.

Peace House Letter #4

Dear friends and family,
After being inspired by my Dad’s weekly email and an update from David, I decided that it was indeed time to finally send another mass email. I have fallen out of the habit of it this semester because I have been blogging instead of emailing as much. So here it is an update on the last month or so of my life.

This past week has gone well for me, we had a few days that were particularly spring like which was lovely. I have also been learning the ropes at HH, which is my supplemental internship that I picked up. I am continuing at the State Museum but just reducing hours so that I could find another internship that offered more direct peace and justice connections and experiences. HH is a homeless day center that is open during the hours that most shelters are closed. It offers services such as laundry, showers, phones, storage, case managers, and a place to rest and hang out that is off the streets. The majority of its clients are single men of whom a high percentage are veterans (it is interesting to think what this says about how the army has supported its own troops). I work mainly at the front desk, checking people in, answering the phone, making appointments, etc. This has really been a nice addition to my more academia based internship at the State Museum. I have also helped out a little in employment and through this and issues from class have really began to think about the difficulties of living on minimum wage jobs. Another nice aspect of HH is that is about a half an hour walk from peace house, so in nice weather it makes for a good chance to se the city.

This weekend we had a group of Manchester students staying at our house while they were attending the Midwest Peace Summit. They are a good group and it has been nice to have the company. We also hosted an Earlham student who is hoping to come here for the summer term, she was on her way home for their spring break. She was quite nice and I enjoyed showing her around a bit.

Speaking of spring break, for our “spring” break (back during the first week of march), our house went camping in Louisiana at a state park around an hour north of New Orleans. It was a fun, challenging time that grows more fond in memory then it probably was during the time. This being mainly due to our forgetting the fact that just because it is spring break does not mean that it is actually spring. So while we enjoyed sightseeing in New Orleans in 60 degree weather, we all shivered our way through the upper 30’s nights. For a more detailed account check out:
http://amarien42.blogspot.com/2005/03/camping.html

Life here at peace house is going well, we have moved beyond the superficial getting along to the fun place of actually interacting at levels that while sometimes involve conflict also seem more likely to produce lasting friendships. This afternoon is our open house from 3-5pm. So if any of you goshenites leave soon you could make it 🙂 We would love to have some of you all.

Last night Samuka, David and I played pool for a few hours. Which was a first in a while mainly due to the fact that we could rarely see the surface of the pool table. Anna is in Ohio for the weekend, so we have been missing her, but she returns this afternoon. Currently we are in the midst of a spring cleaning rampage due in part to the soon to occur open house. I also went grocery shopping last night to the kroger a few blocks north of here and discovered how much it makes a difference when you have to carry the bags home using only your own arms and legs. I definitely woke up sore this morning.

Well that’s about it for this update and I would love to hear from you all about your lives and how your semesters are going.

Peace House Letter #3

We finished up our first full week of having both internships and classes to attend this past week. The combination definitely lessens the large amount of free time we were enjoying previously, but getting into the routine is nice too.

This weekend my parents drove down to see me and deliver a few key items such as my computer and my sewing machine. I gave them the tour of the house and introduced them to my house mates. Samuka cooked a good west African meal for us and afterwords we sat around talking for some time. It was really nice to see them again and for them to now have a mental picture of where I live and a little better idea what my life is like. Saturday morning we drove up to Broad Ripple, an area full of little shops and cafes around College and 62nd St, for lunch. We ate at Three Sisters, which was the same place our house had eaten when we went up there our first weekend here. I really like the restaurant, because it has a wide variety of choices and a lot of vegetarian options. My parents then left shortly after to return home and deal with all the snow Northern Indiana seems to be attracting.

Earlier this week I began my internship at the State Museum. I get up three days a week at 7:30am to catch the bus to work. I then work from 9 until 5, both of which are making me realize how wonderful some aspects of college life really are. Overall my internship has not been as good as I had been expecting. My boss, KT, has been experiencing a lot of stress from her personal life, I believe her Mother is in the hospital, so the work I have been doing has often not been really explained to me which leads to feeling like a personal assistant than an intern. But the exhibit KT is working on is a really interesting one called Spread the Word. It focuses on African Americans in various media outlets including radio, television, and newspaper. I continue to hope that things will improve with the internship once KT doesn’t have as much stress on her life and hopefully her mother improves.

One highlight of the week was going with the house to see the movie “Finding Neverland”, which I would highly recommend. It tells the story of the author of Peter Pan and his real life inspiration found in a widowed mother and her four boys. We went to see it at a downtown theater that costs 1 dollar for students with the catch that you must buy one item from their menu. While the popcorn still cost 4 dollars, my total ticket came only to 5 dollars, not bad for a movie in the city.

During the past few days here it has been snowing some, which although bothersome when one is waiting for the bus, makes this house and the surrounding neighborhood even more beautiful. I hope you all have a wonderful week.

Peace House Letter #2

It has been almost a week and half since my arrival at Peace House and things have been going really well. This week we had our first full week of classes. We started out with our Urban Peace and Justice Issues class on Monday afternoon with JH Jr (for those of you who went on the Indy Fall Break Service with me in 2003 he was the director of HH). It looks to be an interesting course, however seeing as John has not taught a course previous to this he still has some learning to do. But his varied experiences and enthusiasm help make up for that.

Then on Tuesday I had my interview with KT from the State Museum. She is really enthusiastic about having me work with her and had really good things to say about Laura Rheinheimer (also from Goshen) who interned at the Museum over the summer. I also found out that the State Museum will be hosting an exhibit about Lord of the Rings the movie trilogy!! Which as most of you know really makes me happy, however the exhibit won’t be installed until Oct 6, 2005, so I will have to wait till I get back from China.

Tuesday evening was also very memorable in that I watched the movie Amistad for the first time. It tells the story of a ship of Africans captured and sold into slavery who overthrew their captors, yet were fooled into sailing to the States. The movie follows their legal battle to be returned to their homelands along the west coast of Africa and takes place in 1839. I had not seen the movie previously and found to be very moving movie but what made it even more interesting was that the language spoken by the Africans was Mende which is the mother tongue of Samuka. He translated to use several parts of the movie and both he and Miriam added a lot of insight.

Then Wednesday we had our first class of Methods of Peacemaking with MM, which was really exciting. She has over 25 years of experience teaching law and working as an activist, so I think the course will go very well. The class also really connected with some of the themes brought up by the viewing of Amistad.

I continue to really enjoy getting to know my housemates and we seem to be getting along very well. This week I also got to test out my rice cooker and vegetable steamer, discovering that it worked very well for both and seems to be a very valuable addition to our kitchen.

Thanks to those of you who have kept me updated on your own lives, I hope things continue to go well for you (especially those who are also away from home).

Peace House letter #1

As probably all of you know by now I am not on the Goshen campus this semester and I am instead participating in the Indianapolis Peace House program. The program consists of two peace and justice related courses, an internship and living together with the 4 other participants in an old house located in the Old Northside of Indy. So far I have only really experienced the third part of the program and so far it is wonderful. There are 5 of us in the program, myself, Anna Y, David M, Miriam M, Samuko K. The first 3 all attend Goshen, however other than Anna, I really didn’t know any of them from on campus. So far I really like them all, and we are quite diverse, Miriam although born in the states is from a Muslim background from Somalia, David was born in Mexico, and Samuka is from Sierre Leon. Also Anna and I are the only Mennonites!

These past two days have been filled with orientation which has included icebreakers such as “what’s your favorite color?” and some deeper discussions about what community is and how to create it. Although originally scheduled for tomorrow the 5 of us got the room selection decision out of the way the first night and like last semester’s group decided to just keep the rooms we were randomly assigned. Our first attempt at consensus seemed to work well in that everyone seemed satisfied with their room. That has worked out well for me in that I am going to be residing in the master bedroom which is quite large, contains two closets (one of which I may convert into a sewing room), a jacuzzi and a sauna. I have been dealing with some feelings of guilt about the niceness of my room, which I account to my high level of Mennonite indoctrination about simple living. So while I do have my own bathroom I have promised the rest of the house that the jacuzzi and sauna are there to be used.

Today a large part of our orientation in the afternoon was spent going on an informational scavenger hunt of our neighborhood, which was quite enjoyable (despite the very cold temperatures). We were divided into two groups, myself and David on one and Anna, Miriam, and Samuko on the other. As motivation we decided to make the losing team vacuum the high-traffic parts of the house. David and I won, but only by one point! It turned out to be a really great way to see the neighborhood and get some much needed exercise (considering that we walked for over 2 hours).