God’s Magic Palette

8 05 2018

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Yunnan is well-known for its beauty and the diversity of people and places. We took a trip in May to experience the Dongchuan Redlands, famous for it’s high altitude and abundance of colors, nicknamed “God’s Magic Palette”. Due to unpredictable but high temperatures and lots of rain, the soil has been oxidized over many years, giving the soil and crops a unique red shade. It was a beautiful trip with a reminder of how big our Maker is. This area took us an entire day just to drive around, and we met a number of local people, as well as a 1000-year old tree that gushed wordless music to us in the wind like a waterfall. No wonder the people believe it to be sacred.


Chinglish Rocks.

21 01 2018
Chinglish Rocks

The poster for our music night.

Our team and two musically-gifted friends—Li and Jean—formed an impromptu band named “Chinglish Rocks” (we mainly played Christmas songs). We were invited to play at our friend’s restaurant and brewery and it ended up being a really fun night. Our band even did a few of our own songs.

Chinglish Rocks

From L to R: Li, Kayla, Micah, me, Megan, Jean


The name of our band even inspired me to put together many of the Chinglish pictures I’ve collected over the years into a book named 3-Q: The Never-Complete Guide to Chinglish and It’s Wonderful Influence on China. (Let me know if you’re interested in purchasing .)

Oops, I forgot. #1-5

15 01 2018

Countries have different customs, cultures, and rules. The following are five things that are easy to forget when coming back from China to America:

1. Waste basket or toilet?

Two Toilets

Found at an elementary school.

In China, facilities don’t often supply toilet paper for their patrons (in fact, many countries operate in this same way). And after using your compact tissue packet, you can’t throw it in the toilet–it goes in the waste basket. When I first came to China, no one warned me that the drains can’t handle toilet paper, and my toilet was plugged within a week. So when I come back to America, I have to think twice about where to put the paper. Half the time, it still automatically ends up in the waste basket.

2. Honking and weaving in traffic.

Traffic in Kunming

Light traffic in my city.

It’s a normal part of life in China to hear horns and watch people weave through lanes of cars to “get there” first. Because if you don’t take the initiative, you’ll never arrive. And if you don’t honk to tell someone you’re behind, how will they know? I find that returning back to America makes me second-guess when I should honk and when I shouldn’t . . . or if it’s rude to pull into that empty lane without blinking or not.

3. Commenting and Language.

If we don’t speak the same language, it’s easy to feel like I have freedom to comment about life around me. “Wow, that bag looks heavy,” “Um, yes, that is my back you are touching,” “Do you see what his shirt says in English???” But when you’re in America, everyone can understand English . . . and they understand it well. Sometimes that’s hard to remember.

It’s also difficult to remember that, in America, I can’t speak half in Chinese and half in English.  Often, I find it hard to find the correct ways to tell you how “mafan” (a pain) that was, remember that questions don’t end in “ma”, and that I’m supposed to say “right?”, not “shi bu shi?”

4. How do I get there?

In China:

  • Going to the grocery store and bringing back six bags of groceries? Bike. Fill your backpack, balance four bags on your handlebars, and strap the 10-pack of toilet paper to the back. Carry them up at least three flights of stairs.
  • Going to school or work? Bus on rainy days or bike through bumper-to-bumper buses, cars, construction workers, and thousands of potholes on the way.


    Standing in line for a fast train.

  • Going to travel? Rent a public bike or walk to the subway, ride 40 minutes to the slow train, and take a 8-hour sleeper train to the next province over.
  • Going to play a sport? Bike forty minutes (around 8 km) to the nearest open grass field, play for two hours, then bike another forty minutes back in the dark. Good exercise!
  • Visit a friend down the road? Walk. Visit a few of your shop owner friends along the way.

In America:

  • Going to the grocery store and bringing back six bags of groceries? Take the car. Find the closest parking spot to avoid carrying the groceries too far and bring them inside via the cool, covered garage that attaches to the house.
  • Going to school or work? Thaw the car out for ten minutes while you shovel the driveway, then drive on the highway for fifteen minutes. The car will be warm by the time you arrive . . .
  • Going to travel? Ten-hour road trip coming up! Or jump in your car, park, and hop on a plane.
  • Going to play a sport? If there’s not an open field down the road, drive to one and drive back with the music and air-conditioning blasting.
  • Visit a friend down the road? Just take the car! It’ll take, like, ten minutes to walk.

5. Money.

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At first, money from other countries looks like Monopoly money. Then you use it long enough, and money from America starts to look a bit weird. After a while, there are certain things you can’t remember the normal American prices for.

Um, so how much would that be in RMB?

Why are dollars all the same size and color?

Why does America use so many coins?

Wait a second, did I just give you yi kuai (1 RMB) or a quarter?



Red Riders

8 01 2018


This year, I happened to be on a soccer team with a guy whose family was from Mongolia. This man’s business friend flew in a famous singing/dancing group to Kunming to perform for three days. I went to both the more-relaxed meal (where the Mongols honored the guests with blue scarfs and very strong droughts of alcohol and we talked in Chinese and danced together) as well as the more professional performance, which was amazing but not quite as intriguing.

The story I heard about this group is extremely interesting, though I have since found that what I was told cannot be corroborated for thus far. Therefore, you’ll have to decide for yourself if you think evidence can support the following story:

These people are one of the few remaining “Red Rider” troupes, groups formed by Mao during the Cultural Revolution. The main purpose of the Red Riders was to travel around Mongolia, spreading propaganda through song and dance. Today, the groups have little political significance and most have disbanded, but there are still a few who sing songs of national praise for cultural purposes. This group is one of them.


Two particular features the Red Riders display are their distinctive “horse head fiddles”, or morin khuur, and their ability to “throat sing”. Horses are a huge part of Mongol culture, and, when played together, the fiddles can create an upbeat song not unlike a horse neigh or horse race, or a slow, mournful tune. Throat singing is unique to only a few cultures, where singers use circular breathing to create guttural sounds and whistle-like harmonies at the same time. You can listen to a sample of it here.

People of Kunming: Rebeca

18 12 2017

This is Rebeca. She is from a city in southern China and teaches English to twelve- and thirteen-year-old students. Here is a taste of our conversation together:

“Everyday, I’m a little busy. I have class [from 7am to 5pm], and then I correct some homework [until 7pm]. It’s very routine; afterward, I eat, then I sleep.

“The first most important thing in my life is work. The second most important thing is when I get do fun things, like meeting new friends, making foods I like to eat, and doing sports I like, which is any sport besides running long distances. I like playing ball sports. The third most important thing in my life is my family. Besides myself, my parents are the most important to me, and I hope they can have the best health possible.

“If I could change one thing about my life, I would change my work. But changing it is impossible now. I would not want to be a teacher, I would want to be a policeman . . . When I was young, I thought policemen were heroes and were very cool because they had guns. Even though you can’t have guns in China, I have a dream! I admire policemen because they enforce justice.

“[The worst thing in the world is] age. At my age, I am pressured to marry. My family members will all stress that I need to look for a boyfriend.”

People of Kunming: A Series

13 12 2017

Ever since moving to Kunming, I’ve been hoping to share a little about the lives in this city. Thus begins “People of Kunming.” Each month, I hope to give a snapshot (literally) of the people who have touched our lives: their hopes and dreams, goals, and beliefs. Although this culture is very different from us, we are still connected in the most fundamental ways under the sun. Enjoy!


These Are the Days He is Building

19 01 2017

A beautiful day in my city of ShaoXing, China, overlooking the many canals.

Generally, I prefer to post pictures and let them speak for themselves. And I’m about to do just that–create a few posts with pictures from the blessings of this semester.

But just this once, I’m going to take a few extra lines to give credit to our Father who is my constant hope and strength, and who only tears down in order to build much stronger.

I thought about how to communicate my life this semester, and I figured that I could sum it up by telling you a little about our “rubbish street.” Generally, it’s a bustling place, where the students hang out after hours and eat what they describe as “delicious” food. But this semester, rubbish street changed. In face, it didn’t just change, it got torn down.

We first got wind of this when our favorite restaurants started clearing out their shops. One day, they were there, the next day, gone. This is the nature of China. Nothing is consistent; change is a given.

Next, the homes and restaurants were gutted and the city put up barriers so you couldn’t see what was happening. Then, demolition. It was a sad few weeks to walk past our favorite street and listen to the crash of concrete and see how our rubbish street had, indeed, become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


This woman is still selling street food, despite the destruction behind her.









But then, something else started to take place amidst the heaps of rock and steel. We started to find our old friends popping up in nearby locations. The other side of the street suddenly was occupied with life and new stores. And we were excited every time we were reacquired a friend or a food that we had been missing.

People often ask me: “How is China?” which is a bit of a daunting question. China is many things. I am many things. And when you bring two different things together, even more happens. Kind of like those science experiments you all did in high school, only this is life we’re talking about.

There is a time for everything, and sometimes God allows things to be torn down, even if it’s just the many obstacles we construct to make us think we are in control. I’ve actually come to appreciate the changes I see in China. I don’t always like the reasoning they destroy and tear down, and I almost never know what is going to happen in the future, but it’s also not in my control. It probably shouldn’t be.

Sometimes people in China say that they can “chi ku,” which means to “eat bitter.” If you never eat anything bitter–if you never experience changes and life circumstances that are out of your control–you never notice how new life keeps popping up on the other side of the street. You never get excited for the things that God again blesses you with, like unity, friends, a home, health, beauty, family, praise, love, etc.

This semester has personally been full of change for me. God has done some tearing down and some building up. We’ve gone on grand adventures, and we’ve shed a few tears. We’ve been unsure, but then we have prayed. Through it all, He has reminded us again and again that He is bigger and it’s okay when we don’t know the answers.

In the end, HE always constructs His houses (us) with a grand design in mind. In a few years, our quaint rubbish street will probably be a place to shop and drink tea and eat “delicious” food. I honestly don’t know. But I know that I always want to be ready for change. Change in the context of China might mean future uncertainty, but change in the context of Christ never just ends there–it means transformation.


“For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” -Hebrews 11:10