A Fantastic List

I am absolutely exhausted from a wonderful day, so a quick list of what has happened in the past few days.

  1. I have found a kick ass apartment where my roommates and landlord sit in the living room and argue over who gets to sing “Let It Go.”
  2. I went to the National Palace Museum, saw a ton of calligraphy, some jade, some more calligraphy, cool bronze age stuff, and yes, more calligraphy…but I like calligraphy so it was cool.
  3. Met two fabulous students from the mainland and we went up the Maoka Gondola to see a spectacular view of Taipei.
  4. I have drank twice my weight in bubble tea.
  5. I bought way too much stuff for about 15 USD at the big Night Market.
  6. On the steps to the museum I was thrown into the middle of a Japanese tour group for photos, because the best souvenir from Taiwan is a photo with, moi, a 20 year old American here for the first time.
  7. I realized that my student ID gets me an amazing discount in most places.
  8. I made no babies cry today…in fact I even made a little kid giggle a bit.
  9. I have a hotpot date planned for later this week.
  10. And a beach date.
  11. I have successfully adjusted my clock 13 hours ahead of Milwaukee time.
  12. I found a t-shirt that says “Mith, Milwaukee, Unionize” (and yes I bought it).
  13. 14 million mosquitoes decided I am their favorite meal.
  14. I slipped off my bed and hit my hip because I have freaking awesome silk sheets, that are slick yes, but still dapper as all get out.
  15. A lot more that I am not awake enough to type out.
Have a good day/night.
Originally published on http://kongleibukenlei.blogspot.tw/
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Excited Exhaustion

After a two hour drive to Chicago, a 13 hour plane ride to Tokyo, a three hour layover, and a four hour flight to Taiwan, I finally made it to Taipei. And after less than 24 hours in the city, I am starting to realize how much I will love this place.

The flight was beyond fantastic. I am usually absolutely atrocious at getting comfortable on any form of transportation, but Japan Airlines really made it a wonderful trip. They started out by giving me a full sized blanket, a memory foam pillow, slippers, SONY (what a shocking gift from Japan)  sound blocking headphones, and a moisturizing mask. I was fed three times in 13 hours. And of course I was sat next to a wonderful Japanese Neurologists who told me all the best places to visit in East Asia. When I just had to tell someone that this was the best airline I had ever been on, he looked at me for a second and laughed. “You are in Business Class, what were you expecting?” he managed to get out between gulps of hysteria.

Apparently I had been upgraded from Economy to Business Class for no extra fee…so Japan Airlines really is the best for allowing me such a wonderfully cheap luxury seat. (I am crossing my fingers for First Class on the return trip, knock on wood.)

Upon arriving in Tokyo, I met a boy from Chicago who was traveling to Vietnam. He had studied Mandarin in Taipei the year prior and made sure to give me all the current tips and tricks for surviving the city.

Three hours later, I was blessed to sit next to a man flying back to Taipei after a business trip in Japan. Au (pronounced “OW!”), had wonderful English from a semester abroad in Atlanta, Georgia. He taught me a few Taiwanese slang terms, told me about the upcoming festivals, showed me pictures of his adorable daughter, and as soon as the flight landed in TPE, he turned on his cell phone and called a hostel for me to stay at because my plans had fallen through. Don’t worry mom, I looked it up to make sure I wouldn’t be abducted. 

For 55 USD I got the comfiest bed I have ever slept in…actually, I do not know if it was that comfortable, or if I was just so exhausted that any safe place felt like heaven.

Woke up in the morning, not exactly feeling like P. Diddy, but rather feeling ready to tackle this absolutely foreign city. Went to a 7Eleven, which are literally everywhere, and had a weird triangle rice thing filled with fish that was delicious. I thought I bought aloe vera  juice, but after I opened it, I realized it was asparagus juice. It was…interesting…not bad, just interesting. Regardless, it sustained me enough to make it through a few hours of getting lost in the MRT subway station and walking to the wrong side of town with my luggage when I was trying to meet up with fellow UWM Panther, Teresa.

Alas, with the help of my asparagus courage I managed to use broken Mandarin enough to get a few Taiwan natives to say, “我幫你.” The best words in the world! Literally, when you hear those words you can count on Taiwanese people to stop what they are doing and walk you four blocks away and let you use their phone and buy you tea. If these people were not so friendly I would probably still be lost.

Once I met up with Teresa, we had a wonderful meal, shopped a little, got lost in town a little, got lost in the MRT a little, and met a wonderful American expat who has lived here for 11 years teaching English. Now, we are in a cozy room about to fall asleep way too early from Chinese overload and exhaustion, but happy to feel a little more comfortable in this city.

The only bad thing that happened today–I made a baby cry with my foreign/white face!

Originally published on http://kongleibukenlei.blogspot.tw/

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The Approach

Reposted from kenleilenae.com

A unique mixture of musty marble and salty air permeate the senses before rounding the corner to the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. The building is not quite in sight yet, but the elongated shadow of the structure reaches for you to announce the approach of midday prayers. And finally, you see it.

Towering 689 feet into the heavens, the mosque’s minaret acts as a beacon for the Moroccan coast. This is a place of community, worship and serenity. Each tile, each piece of layered stone holds a memory and a prayer of the Moroccan people. Despite the youthful age of the mosque, your fingers feel history as you run them along the mosaics. The grit of the mortar between each beautifully crafted tile mirrors the ancient stories of Casablanca.

Cool blue-green glazes and sandy stone accent the Atlantic backdrop of Hassan II. The nautical pallet and blazing sun paint a forgotten scene of North Africa. For a moment, you forget that you are in the 21st century. Then another shadow approaches.

Hundreds of Muslim women swathed in black hijab congregate on the western end of the mosque’s plaza. Their low voices hum with excitement as a film director shouts in Arabic about forming a group shot for his project. The scene seems odd in the context of the noble structure. However, the women and the cameras strengthen the scene reminding us of the endurance of the Muslim people–keeping true to the traditions while finding wasy to become modern and cosmopolitan citizens of the world.

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Agnes as Farm Dog

Four days trips to Menards and the guys in the lumber yard begin to anticipate your needs, despite a change in cars.  Gil dug down the east foundation and we waterproofed prior to installing a secondary drain tile.  While I sorted through boxes, Gil painted the tank room and we began construction of the entry floor.  Through it all, Agnes tries to be very “helpful,” tugging on holding straps and collecting scraps of wood for possible use in our projects.

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On the Way

Setting off on the first trip of the season. Sent Gil  and Agnes on their way in the U-Haul,  since their trip promises to be slower. I swung by Janesville to drop off goodies at The Carousel (and of course snag a few “new” things). Headed on now, with as ETA of midnight. Hmmmm….we’ll see if I have to nap.

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Sitting still…

“Boredom is like a pitiless zooming in on the epidermis of time.  Every instant is dilated and magnified like the pores of the face.”  ~Charlotte Whitton

I’m not a person that likes to sit still. Unless I’m sleeping, I need to be doingsomething. I have some sort of project in my pocket most of the time, knitting or crocheting away the moments in the grocery store line (much to the amusement of those around me). Sitting at a restaurant waiting for the food to come, I fold every available scrap of paper into a crane, leaving flocks of origami in my wake.

That being said, I’m immensely enamored of the idea of meditation. I think it sounds incredible, stilling your mind and body. Like most infatuations, this, for me, is completely unattainable. Sitting still and doing nothing for any span of time sounds like my own personal version of Hell. I’ve tried, so many times; I sit down, begin the process of quieting my mind… then my nose starts to itch. That traitorous itch, if I attempt to ignore it, will maneuver itself around my body until I feel as if I’m crawling out of my own skin, a feeling that will not dissipate until I finally satisfy the overwhelming need to scratch it. Of course, then my concentration is completely broken, I can’t stop fidgeting. I try to sit still and stop worrying every inch of my skin, and I grow bored. My fingers ache for movement, and I can’t stop thinking about all of the things I should be doing… bills, afghans, vacuuming… literally anything but sitting still. Sometimes I feel as if the thoughts in my head are screaming at me; I mean that quite literally – I sometimes feel the need to get out of my own head because it is simply too LOUD. So, I try to meditate, and the whole vicious cycle starts all over again.

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Waking up from winter…

“To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.”  ~George Santayana

For me, there has always been a certain joy in the changing of the seasons; something is lost, but something else is gained. This is something that is especially true of spring. As the snow, become ubiquitious in the tedious and cold winter months, melts away to reveal the dead-but-awakening grass, I always feel this deep sense of anticipation. I have spent weeks (many of which involved uncharacteristic swings from snow to sweltering and back), waiting for my world to wake up.

Now that it has finally started to feel like spring, complete with torrential rains like today, I feel like things are starting to move again after months of winter hibernation. I feel as if my creativity, the part of myself that is most essentially me, is opening her eyes. She is stretching and yawning amidst a pile of rumpled bedclothes, hitting the snooze for just 10 more minutes. But really, I’m waking up.

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Should I Be Appreciating the Scenery?

Original published at kenleilenae.com

So here I sit…in a over heated car on my iPhone doing anything but paying attention to what is going on outside the car (don’t worry I’m not driving). I must admit that I am slightly disgusted with myself for not being able to appreciate the storybook winterscene for more than a few moments. It seems that my generation is so wrapped up in our BlackBerries and iPads and MP3 players that we have lost our attention spans and our ability to just intake the beauty of our surroundings.

Yes I know it may sound a bit hypocritical for me to comment on this observation while practicing what I preach…however, this is a realization for me. Now I am going to put down my electronics and just watch as the snow flies past my window as I listen to Christmas music.

Want to bet how long it’ll last?? No? Well I will tell you how this venture will end. I will get so motion sick because I am not used to just watching the moving scene that I will take some Dramammine and pass out for the next few hours.
Is that sad or what?

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Nooks are Possibly a Godsend

Originally posted on KenleiLenae.com

For the past few weeks  I have been contemplating whether or not I should go out and buy a nook…yeah I have the money to get  (saved from half a year of working at the local Chinese restaurant) but did I really want to spend $200 on something when I have to pay for college in less than a year? The answer? Yes!

My mother and my AP Lit teacher were at Barnes & Nobel looking at the nooks to see if they were worth buying for the high school library. My mother called me up with a bounce in her voice asking if I wanted her to buy me one. Mrs. Parker was also in the background talking about how amazing the nook was. Maybe it was my previous debates on whether or not to get one, or just the pure joy in my mother and her best friends voice when they talked about them, either way I decieded to have my mom pick one up for me that night.

Almost immeadiately after hanging up the phone  I felt a tinge of regret to saying yes. It just wouldn’t be the same. I wouldn’t have a cover to hold onto. I wouldn’t have the pages to smell. I wouldn’t have the money to actually purchase books for myself. Luckily I had my mother thinking about all of these things. She and Mrs. Parker picked out a cover to put over my nook (matching to Mrs. Parker’s of course). The smell of the pages…well now that I think of it who really smells the pages of a book? And as for the money issue, my oldest sister has a nook and said I could share an account with her. There are also a ton of free books, as well as the “Lend” feture which means I can borrow books from friends for up to 14 days. What else would I need in an electronic book?

Oh that is right an awesome touch screen!

I am all about the aesthetics and the navigation via touch screen is definitely an eye pleaser. “It’s just a gimic,” said one of my friends who sports a Kindle (which I have also enjoyed reading on prior to my Nook purchase). I just said to him, “You haven’t even used it…plus it was cheaper than your Kindle and has the ‘Lend’ feature.” Not to dis the Kindle because I do rather enjoy that device as well, but the nook is just more…Kenleiish.

My only complaints are that I will be less inclined to buy printed books now and might never accomplish the floor to ceeling books shelves I always wanted. And the little ’N’ for nook reminds me of my kindergarten teacher who told me that my ‘U’s’ were upside down.

Ah well. I can’t wait to go curl up with Dorkus (that would be my nook’s name) and explore a far away land in the not so distant future of an Ereader

Yay to Nooks

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I Do Not Want to Fight

Politics, while technically defining systems of state governance adhered to by a given community, more often expresses itself as a person’s belief in a given system–whether that is adherence to one nation’s ideals, or to certain disputed opinions within that country.  Religion, likewise, is an expression of  belief.  In religion, individuals adhere to a set of beliefs that define the nature of universal existence, rather than existence within a community. Too often, however, it expresses itself as the right to personal existence, with disregard to the rights of others.

Both politics and religion can be used to present beautiful expressions of an ideal. They can also be used to justify the demonstration of very ugly behaviors in the pursuit of those ideals.  The ideals (platforms, catechisms, creeds) rarely project hate. Behaviors too often do.  People, in the name of politics or of religion, stand upon their hate to cushion them from their foundational ideals.  They build pathways on which to stand that circumvent the more difficult terrain of political craft or religious inquiry. The build houses in which to reside, separated from those who do not share their beliefs.  In this way, they navigate quickly and easily THROUGH through the philosophies they claim to embrace, failing to engage in the one thing philosophies need to flourish–dialogue. They REST only in places where they can avoid others who think differently.

What passes for debate in the political and religious forums of today lacks the back and forth EXCHANGE of ideas that characterize dialogue.  Exchange suggests an amiable giving and taking of ideas for the purpose of compromise, settlement, even agreement. What we see to often, these days, is a volley of ideas, hurled at one another.  The thoughts and beliefs of the opponent hit us in the face, splatter against our own beliefs in an attempt to destroy or obscure.  We are left defending ourselves, huddled down with arms wrapped protectively around our minds.

Conservative or Liberal, politicians who refuse to listen to the “other” side, who display only distain for the heartfelt beliefs or the thoughtfully constructed ideas of their opponents are not statesmen at all.  Fundamentalist or Liturgical, religious adherents who fail to love those who follow a different path, or stand at a different point in their spiritual journey are not religious at all.  These people are warrior-combatants, mercenaries who live for the fight.  And I want them to know:

I am an American.  I believe in the ideal of democracy.  That ideal, in it’s profession that all members of the community have an equal voice and equal rights, is not an easy or quickly navigated space.  I want to listen to and consider ideas that are not my own.  I want to look for common ground where we can discuss more comfortably those regions in which we disagree.  I do not want to fight.  I want to talk.

I am an ecumenical  Christian.  I believe in the ideal of forgiveness.  That ideal, it it’s profession of God’s love for all people, is not a sparse nor homogenous place.  I want to meet and listen to others who understand God in a different way.  I want to look for common space where we can more easily embrace and discuss our differences.  I do not want to fight.  I want to pray together.

Please don’t hurl your ideas at me, lest I defend myself.  Instead, offer them to me and I will nurture them.   Please don’t attack other people, lest I defend them. Offer them your hand and I will help you draw them closer to you.

Remove the hate from beneath your feet and feel the uneven ground that we all walk together.

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