2013: A year of Adventures

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The first of the year always brings with it reflections of the previous year.  I started to get down on myself for not accomplishing everything on my lofty “to do” list for the year.  I may not have lost the weight I wanted, wrote a book, or learned a new language…but as I reflect on the things I did accomplish I realized it might not have been as unproductive as I originally thought.  It turns out I had quite the year!

Things I Accomplished in 2013

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1)  I finished my Master’s Degree and Graduated from Purdue University, ( I ran a race the day after I finished my degree.)

 

2)  I ran a two 5k races, two 10k races and my second 1/2 marathon!   13.1 Miles!

 

IMG_29923)  I returned to Spain….and it was even more beautiful and meaningful than the first visit. I visited my favorite parts of Madrid and we were reunited like the old dear friends that we are.  I also had the chance to make “New Friends” of the enigmatic Granada, the majestic Alhambra, and the leisurely Mallorca.  Most importantly, God spoke directly to me during this return pilgrimage to Spain, and I learned how to Abide in His love and through that, my joy was made complete.  This return to Spain last April was one of the most spiritually rewarding experiences of my life.  I will always treasure this trip, as I will always treasure Spain.

 

4)  2013 will be the year that I lived with my brother.  We shared an apartment this year and on top of being the best brother anyone could ask for, he has also been a great roommate! I respect and admire him so much for the incredible man he is. it has been great fun living together!   I will be forever grateful for the this time we spent together here at Ashley Place.  Derrek is more than my brother, he is one of my best friends.

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5)  I attended my first professional soccer game… a Quarter final championship league game at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium in Madrid.  I  wanted to go but I couldn’t afford even the cheap tickets.  However, God provided above and beyond my expectations!  He took the opportunity to show off and I was GIVEN 14th row VIP tickets!  It was an incredible once-in a lifetime experience!

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6) I was awarded the Lilly Grant witch funded my summer research trip to Asia. I planed and organized this massive 2 month expedition.  I found the schools, teachers, and translators necessary to complete my research, as well as plan all the travels, get my visas, and arrange all my 19 different flights.  It was a massive undertaking that included 15 different cities.  In two months I didn’t spend more than three nights in a row in the same bed. A large part of my year was dedicated to planning and implementing this project, but I learned so much about the Asian academic systems and the unique Asian Culture.   This trip also allowed me to add seven new countries to my map which include; Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, China, South Korea, and Japan.  It even extended my total country count to 25!  (I only have 5 more to go in my whole “Thirty before I’m Thirty” plan!)

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7)  It has been an amazing year of adventurous firsts! I walked the great wall of China and I explored the ancient temple complexes in the Cambodian Jungle.  I got a real Thai massage in Thailand. I navigated seas off the coast of Phuket in my Cave Canoeing adventure.  I rode (and fell in love with) an elephant named “Sabo”. I saw the most beautiful orchids in the world at the Singapore Botanical gardens and I journaled in front of my hotel room window that displayed the mighty Petronas towers of Kuala Lumpur.  I saw an epic light show dance across the Hong Kong Skyline,  I stood in attention with the ancient Terra-cotta warriors of Xi’An,  I explored the streets of old Beijing, ran to the birds nest and visited a real silk factory.  I attended both a dumpling feast and a tea ceremony.  I sailed down the river Li and witnessed its glorious 20,000 peaks!  I met the kindest people I will ever know in a South Korean coffee shop.  I ate a black egg that had been boiled underground in the sulfuric waters under Mt Fuji.  I attended a festival in Kyoto, saw the Golden Pavilion, stayed in a traditional Japanese Ryokan (inn) by the sea where I slept on mats on the floor and bathed in (public) natural hot springs.  I also visited a real Ninja House!

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8)  I also dated someone for the first time…it turns out I am not really good at that sort of thing. I really prefer my independence it seems.  However, it was a great learning experience and I am glad that I went on my first real date in 2013…..finally!

9)  I had a student teacher teach in my classroom. (I know! When did I become old enough to be the one imparting wisdom to future teachers?!)   I did not enjoy this experience as much as I had expected as it was more difficult for me to give up control of my classroom than I had anticipated.  Maybe there is a theme here and in 2014 I should work on being less independent and more collaborative.

10)  This year I also took a chance and applied for a Fulbright Fellowship in Finland.  This is perhaps the biggest adventure I have dared to pursue.  It would mean me leaving my teaching position in Westfield for a few months to head to the Nordic Country of Finland for a 4-5 month research project.  I will not know until April if I will be accepted into the prestigious Fulbright community, but I put myself out there and dared to dream.  Who knows what the next year will bring, but I think I can content that 2013 was an amazing year.       Image

HERE is to another great Year!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Singapore the Melting pot of the East

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And so I arrived in Asia…..Kind of. A resident of Singapore told me that I chose a good city in which to ease into the Asian culture. With a heartfelt chuckle he described the city as “Asia lite.” There is truth to his statement. The city reminded me more of New York or London than anything I could conjure from my limited knowledge of Asian culture. Because it is a city of Ex Pats or Ex-patriots, it lacks a true identity. These ex-pats leave their home country seeking the thrill of living in an exciting and financially powerful hub of the Eastern Hemisphere. Along with their wives and children they bring with them their unique qualities that embellishes the unidentifiable flavor of this booming City State. It is a true melting pot. At first glance I didn’t think so. I thought it was just English. Everyone spoke English, the signs were in English, they used English electrical plugs, and even drove on the left side of the road. However, one trip to little India, or china town or Arab street you can see the different threads that weave together this beautiful tapestry that creates the lovely nation of Singapore.

My first night in Singapore I got to really taste what it is like to be living in a vibrant city full of culture and depth. I still don’t know how God worked this all out, but I ended up staying with a lovely friend of a friend of a friend. Her name was Britta and she was originally from Germany but I know her now to be a true citizen of the world. She proved herself to be the most gracious and willing host even BEFORE I had even met her. When I asked her why she would be so open and welcoming to a stranger she simply stated that she had received so many blessings from individuals around the world in her own journeys that she was pleased for the opportunity to help a fellow traveler. I have often felt the same way and I knew right then that I was going to learn a great deal from her.

My first night Britta took me to her friends art gallery opening. (pantone my art). It was a display of 10 different artist. Each artist painted the same subject but each had a designated color and medium. The night was full of art, culture, food, drinks and interesting people from around the world. This incredible experience was followed by a rooftop feast of THE BEST Indian food with the incredible Singapore Skyline as our backdrop.

20130623-231844.jpgThe next day I explored the beautiful Singapore Botanic Gardens which includes the worlds largest collection of orchids. It was a beautiful day and I really enjoyed seeing the calmer side of Singapore. I had lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant and had time to contemplate my surroundings. The people people of Singapore were incredibly friendly, kind and helpful.. And everything was orderly, clean and efficient. The city, which outlaws gum due to its messiness, was spotless. There was never ANY trash on the ground despite the fact that I could NEVER Find a trash bin. I found out later that one reason for the cleanliness was that the city can fine you up to 1,000 dollars for littering or make you do hours of community service. A country with ACTUAL consequences! How refreshing! The fact that crime is truly punished (ie drug trafficking is punishable by death) creates a city with a very low crime rate. Funny how that works.

20130623-232515.jpgLater that evening I had dinner with a friend from Malaysia I had met on the train from Prague to Luzern Switzerland two years previously. Through the power of facebook we figured out that we would both be in Singapore and he graciously showed me around the city and took me out for a traditional Malaysian meal. I have to admit that I was nervous to try Sting Ray, but it was actually quite good!

20130623-232637.jpgThe next day my friend Teresa arrived from Indy and we explored China Town and Little India. We tried the countries beloved Durian Fruit. While I can appreciate the giant building in the city that is shaped like a Durian, I did not love the taste or the SMELL of the Durian Fruit. Later in Thailand I would find a sign that prohibited the Durian to be eaten inside the building because of the smell…which if you have ever smelled a Durian is quite a reasonable request.

20130623-232753.jpgThat evening, Teresa, Britta, Britta’s friend from Sweden and I went out for a ladies night. We started on Arab street and ate at a Turkish restaurant. It was incredible. Probably my favorite dining experience I’ve had so far on this trip. After dinner Britta took us to some amazing spots around Singapore. One of which included the famous Marina Bay Sans hotel. This building is famous for its giant boat shaped rooftop infinity pool that lays across the three towers of the hotel. What fascinates me the most about this structure is not the remarkable pool but the knowledge that this incredible building resides on reclaimed land. It, and all of the incredible buildings around it are now standing where the ocean use to reside. It is knowledge of structures like this that give me a huge appreciation for the civil engineers, like my brother, who have the ability to create these structures and make them safe.

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So…in three days I was in Singapore I experienced the foods of India, Vietnam, Malaysia, China, and Turkey. I had met many people from all around the world. And I got to see some pretty incredible sights. It is a very interesting city. It seems to be always on the move. Just like the people who move in and out, it is constantly changing and adapting and molding itself into the gorgeous tapestry of individualized threads full of life and flavor.