Friday, September 13, 2019

The Typhoons

Funny story. When I first went back to Seattle for the summer, I was a little salty about Shenyang because when I left, the weather had been so extreme, alternating between thunderstorms (which I didn't mind in the slightest) and sandstorms. Having said all that, I was fully expecting to get back to a boiling hot but calm Shenyang in August. 

Oh wow, was I wrong. 

Two giant typhoons, Lekima and Krosa, were cruising north up the coast of Asia in early August. We didn't get slammed by the wind (probably the only time I will ever say that about Shenyang), but wow, oh, wow did we get the rain. Essentially, we got all the moisture that got kicked out of the storm by the winds. 

The rain from Lekima first hit on Saturday, August 10. I remember this very well, because I was on my way to visit Maggie, my friend who owns the tea shop. When I got into the DiDi (Chinese Uber), the sky was ominously dark but the roads were completely dry. About ten minutes in, a wall of rain hit. In the space of half an hour, it went from bone dry to water up to my knees. Fortunately, that cleared up quickly enough and let me get home, but it still took half an hour to get a DiDi home. 

We had threatening, rainy weather for that week (so bad that they pushed the start of school back another day), but that was probably the worst of Lekima. 

Krosa was worse. 

On Friday, August 16, I was planning to go to French Corner, a place where we could practice speaking French, after the first day of school. First, I went back home to change out of my work shoes and get dinner. I went to my favorite Chinese place in my apartment complex, and right when I was about to get the bill, the rain hit again.

Same story - less than one hour, the rain went up to my knees. 

This happened in about half an hour.

This, however, was considerably worse because the rain did not stop. It being a Friday night, and Shenyang being a city that loves to have fun, everyone and their cousin was out doing something. Then the rain came, and the streets absolutely flooded. Half of the teachers were still at school, meeting with friends, or out getting pampered, and they were stuck. People sat in cars for something like five hours just trying to get home. I was probably the luckiest of the ones that went out. 

That video is only my video, but it was far from the craziest one I've seen. The worst one was a video of water - rain water - washing over the hoods of cars. (But that was taken by my friend, and it's not really a good idea to share videos that aren't yours.)

You know the funniest part of all of this? I've lived in Seattle my whole life, except for college and China. Seattle is famous for raining all the time. And yet, I have never seen a flood before. (I was even caught in a typhoon before, but never a flood!)

Well, now I have. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Beautiful Shenyang Skies

When I left Shenyang, I was (more than) a little salty about the city because when I left, the weather was alternating between heavy thunderstorms and mini sandstorms. I did a lot of sweeping sand out of my windowsills (and I'm on the 33rd floor!).

But then I got back here, and after the two typhoons passed (oh yes), I had a chance to enjoy the beautiful Shenyang sky.

Shenyang, like Montana, doesn't have many trees but does have gorgeous views of the sunset and the wide open sky. Here are just a few of the pictures I've collected:

This was in June, at approximately 4:30 in the morning. I woke up thinking it was 4:30 in the afternoon.

Lovely thundercloud skies

I love how there's sunlight on the ground but clouds in the air. 

This is from my apartment complex. 

Also from my apartment complex. 

From out and about - different night than the other one. 

Overall, I enjoy living in Shenyang.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Awesome Things I've Seen Written Around Here

How have I only made one post about living in China before? It's not as though there isn't much to talk about...

Have you ever seen those memes about someone getting a Chinese tattoo on their arm, thinking it said something deeply profound, and someone else saying it means something like, "Chicken dinner"? I've seen enough of those to be scared of getting tattoos at all.

The thing is that Chinese people do the same thing with English words. Apparently, as long as the lettering is Roman lettering, it's cool. Here are some of my favorites.

First, I've seen one lady wearing a t-shirt that says: "SICK: New York". (Accurate.)

I've seen this bumper sticker around quite a few times:

Last weekend I saw a t-shirt that had the word "Fnvention." I assume that F was supposed to be an I.

Then, when I went fabric shopping, I saw this printed on some fabric:

That's not very epic. 

This is definitely one of those things that people all over the world do - they see something in a foreign language, think it's cool, and show it off, when in reality is just commonplace writing. Oh,good times.

It makes me smile to see that people are essentially the same in America and China.

Friday, August 23, 2019

My Summer Update!

I meant to get all kinds of posting done over the summer, but I have a very valid excuse for why that didn't happen.

Apparently, after you get LASIK, it really hurts to look at digital screens.

That's right, I got LASIK! I now have better that 20/20 vision, and the colors, oh the colors! I can turn around behind me and see Shenyang out the window, and there are colors I had no idea were in this city. Neither Shenyang (nor Seattle nor anywhere else, for that matter) quite compete with the mountains, however. Just the day after my LASIK surgery, my family all went up to a town called Leavenworth, which is basically a German tourist town in the Cascade Mountains. Being able to see all of that without my glasses... wow.

LASIK really is better than glasses. I've had glasses since I was 12-ish (don't remember the exact year...) but something about the last pair I had just dimmed the colors. I didn't even notice I was missing out on the colors until this summer. What a ride!

Anyway, other summer things included a lot of professional development online (working toward being that star teacher, after all) and brushing up on some aspects of history I forgot after not revisiting it much in the last three years.

I also was introduced to a symphonic metal band called Sabaton. They're a Swedish band that makes songs about historical battles in Europe. Most of them are modern history, so not really my cup of tea (and metallic music even less so), but I still have a lot of fun listening to them. Check them out!

My favorite of their songs, about the Battle of Itter Castle:

That's my favorite of their songs, but here's another video that gives me chills:

The reaction from the crowd is the part that sends chills up my arms.

And, because I'm sure my mom will be reading this, I've duly included her favorite:

So besides the new music, the family reunion, the surgery, and the PD, I also did a two other major things. First, I went to visit Wisconsin, and got to see a collection of college friends and professors. That was so nice! I've never been to Wisconsin in the summer, and it wasn't as terribly hot as I was expecting. While there, I went to a writing corner, visited a gaming pub (which I am definitely revisiting if I end up in Milwaukee again), and also met with another author by the name of Emma Selene Monroe - and in the future, make sure you check out for stories that we collaborated on!

The last major event of the summer was something that I wrote off as professional development, but it was also lots of fun. If you're in Washington (state), you've probably at least heard of Camlann Medieval Village, a living history museum out in Carnation. I've been there at least once every year, mostly to enjoy the magician, but sometimes to go to their feasts. It just so happened that my last weekend in Washington was their Saint James' feast, and as it turned out, they were short on volunteers. So I volunteered to help out for two days!

(You can probably tell my eyes are still bloodshot from the LASIK surgery, but they didn't hurt anymore.)

That was a very exciting experience, because I "knew" a lot of the people I got to work with. But this time I saw the effort that goes into preparing for a medieval feast firsthand. I'm debating having a day of this with my students in my Ancient World History class...

Anyway, that was my summer (or more accurately, my month of July). 

Oh, and by the way, of course I got a lot of writing done!

Monday, April 15, 2019

What Makes a Good Story?

Hello, readers!

My life has been crazy busy (in case you can't tell by the long absence from my blog, Facebook, and my Travel Blog), but now I'm on second spring break, and this time I had the good sense to only book a short trip. Now, I have a few days to actually do some blogging.

The thing is, though, that I have a hard time trying to decide what to write about, at least as far as nonfiction goes. Most of what I've been doing really belongs on my Travel Blog, I can't talk about work the way I used to talk about school, and the articles and various support stories I've been reading for fantasy authors are just a little too touchy for me to comment on right now. I do have some rather depressing news about a fellow author, but I'll share that to my audience at a later time (spoiler: it has to do with a new book).

Anyway, as I was pondering what to write about, I got to thinking about a quote from John Stephens, author of the Emerald Atlas series. I used it for some of my work at SPU, and I've been thinking about it since:
[N]o one comes to write fantasy who is not, first and foremost, a lover of fantasy, who does not know its ins and outs, the various plot stratagems, the characters who insist on popping up. It somewhat stands to reason that when that person goes to write his or her own fantasy book—as I did— they don’t immediately set about chucking everything that came before; rather, they embrace those tropes, decide what their own spin will be, how they will breathe new life into the genre that they love. [1]

That's true, and I'm guilty of that myself - and I'm not sorry in the slightest, for the same stated reason.

But of course, there still needs to be something new to each of these tropes and stories, or else it's just not good writing. (Am I guilty of this, too? I don't think so, but you be the judge.) That's the point of Stephens' last line - "breathe new life into the genre that they love".

That, I have decided, is going to be the theme of this series of posts. It will be tagged with that "What Makes a Good Story Label", so you should be able to find them easily when you wish. Hopefully there will be some detailed research with this, but like I said, my time is limited (and my access to peer-reviewed databases tends to be iffy at best), so they may end up just being my own theories and ideas.

Anyway, I'm thinking of beginning with what I think of as the three sub-genres of fantasy (other-world fantasy, this-world fantasy, and dual-world fantasy) and considering what is good, bad, and what kind of story I haven't read yet. Then, I'll dig into my favorite part of the stories: the characters!

This probably goes without saying, but I really hope for feedback from you, my readers, for this part. I'm aiming to make this a serious part of my blog, and I want the blog to become something more regular in the future, but that won't happen without comments and support. So, if you want to read more of my blog, please be alert for these upcoming posts!


[1] Stephens, John. "On Fantasy." Journal of Children's Literature, vol. 39, no. 1, Spring2013, pp. 42-46. EBSCOhost,

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving Abroad!

Because my school is technically an American school, we get Thanksgiving off, even though the rest of China doesn't. Additionally, the wonderful HR team put together a Thanksgiving party for all the staff! 

Due to a variety of things, I didn't know whether I was going or not until after the bus left from my apartment. Then I decided I would go, but first I would sleep more, because I was exhausted. But, I had the location, so I thought I would just catch a taxi. 

Now, I should mention that I've taken taxis around Shenyang lots of times. They're ridiculously cheap, and lots of them go right by my apartment, so there's no reason not to. 

Today, however, I had the wrong location. So I ended up walking about two miles around the more rural part of Shenyang. (Seriously, I don't know how a city with 8 million people can be that quiet. Shenyang is both the biggest city I've ever lived in and the closest thing to the country I've ever lived in.) 

Fortunately for me, I got there with no more hassle. 

Anyway, as is my custom, here is my blog list of things I'm thankful for this year. 

1. My Lord and Savior

The thing about God is that He doesn't change depending on where you are. I always knew that, but it's taken on new meaning for me when I'm in a culture that has such a completely different viewpoint on gods, religions, worshiping, etc., than the western culture. It is a blessing that God does not change, no matter where you are. 

2. My Family and My Friends

My mother and father were and are extremely supportive of me moving to a different country, and they've continued to give me useful advice and support. They even helped me vote!

My friends were all extremely supportive of me moving this far away. More than that, they all go to lengths to stay in touch with me. Especially the ones who are coming to visit!

3. Writing

Need I say more?

4. My China Family

There's a couple here that has pretty much adopted my roommate and me as their honorary daughters, and I always get love and support from them. More than that, the people here welcomed me with open arms. I miss my American people, but I'm not exactly lonely, because I'm very well loved here. Someday I want to introduce all of them, so I have all my families together. 

5. My Job

I don't think it's possible to get a better "first job out of school" than this one. I love all my kids, my boss is beyond amazing, I don't have any crazy parents to deal with, and it's just a nice, useful environment. I'm not going to say teaching is always awesome, because I've heard from enough people to be reasonably sure that it can be terrible. But it's not terrible here. It's pretty great. 

6. My Home

I like Shenyang! It's easy to live here, and there's plenty to keep me happy. 

7. My Country

I also love my USA. This November was an election month, and as usual, that's a poignant reminder of the true blessing of living in a country where you can vote. Where you, the citizen, have a say in how your leaders do things. 

That list is by no means exhaustive, but it's the most important stuff. 

Now I'm off to bed, because it's late here. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 12, 2018

AWESOME News Out of Turkey!

According to the BBC, the American pastor who has been in prison in Turkey has finally been freed!

I remember when I was in Turkey, one of the leaders of our group brought this up:
Actually, I remember on the bus, the guide leader led us in prayer for an American pastor in Turkey who was arrested and being held on some trumped-up immigration charges.
 I don't know when he was charged with assisting the Kurdish rebel group, or whether it was before or after May of 2017 (and, frankly, I have too much work to do to find out).

According to Open Doors USA, Turkey is ranked #31 for most dangerous countries for Christians. The country's fact sheet, downloaded here, reports that it is not illegal in Turkey to convert from Islam to Christianity,* but Erdogan is trying to push the country into a more strictly Muslim country, so Christians do face national pressure.

Anyway, that's the short version of this. A Christian was set free from a difficult situation in Turkey, and now he will return to the US.

It's worth noting that Pastor Brunson had been living in Izmir (the very Western city) for over 20 years. I'm not sure how much the USA will feel like home to him. I'm sure he will have a difficult time adjusting. But, at the same time, he is safe. I actually saw a report somewhere that he had to be moved from prison to house arrest for health reasons. What a relief to be on the way back to America!

Celebrations, commence!

*I think typical laws for Muslim countries are that it is not illegal to be a Christian in a Muslim country, but it is illegal to convert from Islam to Christianity. If I remember correctly (again, too busy to really dig into this), that comes from the Qu'ran.