Monday, December 15, 2008

New year, new goals...

My family: Thanksgiving 2008

This has been the best year of my life. I was blessed to be able to do and see so many things. I have the greatest friends and the best family. The only thing I worry about is that next year won't be as great. I'm sure I will find some more adventure along the way, I always do!

As I look back on the past year and the lessons I learned, I decided that this year I would make a list of things I want to learn next year. That way, I can actively pursue my future, rather than passively accept what comes my way. Life is too short to be passive.

I had a friend about a year ago who died this last summer in a boating accident. He was amazing. He knew more about love, charity, and humility than any other person I have become acquainted with. He wrote a list of rules that he decided to live by after losing his hand when a firework exploded in it. I want to share them with you. These are the things that I want to learn this next year. I have also added a few of my own. 

The Rules

  • People are always more important
  • When I am about to get mad about something, be it a dirty dish, or a rude comment, I will try my hardest to remember that the person is always more important. By saying something about it or reacting harshly, it only makes the situation worse. More feelings get hurt, and contention increases. 
  • Do what you need to do when you need to do it whether you want to or not.
  • I should get paid for how amazing I am at procrastinating. I save everything until the last minute. I have been getting better but I have a lot of room for improvement. Think of how less stressed we would all be if we just took a little extra time to get things done early. 
  • I am not a victim, ever.
  • Playing the victim never solves anything. Sympathy gets you nowhere.  We make our own choices and must accept the consequences. We each have the power to recognize the need for change in our own behavior. There are always people that are hurting worse than us. Life is great. 
  • Purity is power.
  • We will be blessed if we are true and faithful in everything we do. Power comes from
    harnessing our desires. We will be blessed for keeping ourselves un-spotted from the world. Bro. Bott says never to do anything that can jeopardize our eternal rewards. 
  • Leave it better than when you found it.
  • No matter where we go, we can see room for improvement. Why not pitch in and help in the smallest ways to make this world as beautiful as it was intended to be. Not only places need beautifying, but also people. We can leave people better than we found them by making sure they know how important they are to us and to our Father in Heaven. It takes little effort to make someones day brighter. 
  • Life is a joy, a journey in becoming like my Heavenly Father.
  • Elder Wirthlin taught, "Come what may, and love it." That really is the only thing we can do sometimes. There is no sense in getting angry over the little things.  We can lift one another up by doing that, and our burdens will seem lighter. Life will throw curve balls, but many home-runs have been hit off of those same pitches. I will not be defeated by the unexpected events that transpire over this next year and beyond. I will love them, and thank my Heavenly Father for continuing to test my spiritual strength so that I might be prepared for any other trials that I will experience.
  • Live with purpose.
  • We all have a purpose here on Earth. Instead of finding our purpose, we can make our purpose. One of my favorite quotes is "Life is not about finding yourself, it's about creating yourself."  We decide what we become. We have the power. What a chance we take when we let others decide who and what we are.  
  • Be a Nobel servant, not a self-serving Nobel
  • This counsel came from President Uchtdorf in this last conference. What a powerful statement and phrase to live by. When we are constantly seeking what others can do for us, it will never be enough. If we do things for people, expecting nothing in return, we will be blessed greatly with humility and joy. When we receive something in return, we are happy and elated to have been thanked so warmly. The opposite would be a dreadfully pessimistic view at life. Life is not a zero-sum game.
  • Take every chance to learn something new                                                           Learning is one of my favorite things to do. I love to pick up a book and look at the cover and imagine what is inside. To think that when I am done reading the book the information lives on in my head, to be used in the future, is amazing! I never go anywhere without a book. I love to read and hope to be able to read a lot over the next year. 

  • Theses rules are great reminders of what we are on this Earth to do. I hope you all have a great end of the year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

    Me and Avery

    Love this girl!!!

    She did this to herself...

    Thursday, October 30, 2008

    Social Media: A Necessary Evil.

    Cheryl Snapp-Conner is the president and founder of Snapp-Conner PR. I don't know if she planned on talking about social media when she presented to my PR class, but what she said really inspired me, and also made me realize that all forms of social media are a necessary evil.

    Why evil? Because never before in the history of the world has anyone had this easy access to personal and revealing information about us. From blogs to micro-blogs and social networking sites like Facebook and linked in, anyone can see what you are doing and who you are doing it with. This is scary...but also intriguing...need I mention, addicting?

    As a future PR professional, I need to be connected with people. People are my source for everything. I can't survive without them. In 5 years (or even sooner) our Facebook friends list will turn magically into a professional network. Our linked-in accounts might land us a sweet job, and our Twitter followers might provide us with conversation currency when talking with friends or colleagues. In a perfect world, our Facebook pics might provoke a prospective lover to ask us on a date. Of course, these sound like extreme outcomes, but they do happen. They happen everyday.

    I deleted my Facbook account last summer because I was so annoyed with the social media craze. This was a huge mistake. After about two months, I realized I had totally lost touch with people. I had no idea who was where, and who was with who. I was meeting new people, and wanted to stay in touch, but the old fashioned ways of calling and hanging out have gone the way of the buffalo. Face it. We are busy people. That doesn't mean we don't want friends. Quite the opposite in fact. We NEED friends. We need to feel connected. This is perhaps the best way, and a revolutionary way to be connected to all those people whom we might need, and those who will need us in the near future...

    To help you on your way to being a social media whiz, I have done some research on the most popular sites and have complied a list of need-to-know items. Study-up. Or else you could get lost in the midst of social networking, and left out of the game. Remember, I am new at this too, so if you are a social networking guru, please help me out and let me know if I am forgetting any key players.

    Social networking sites:

    Facebook: This is the most popular social-networking site among college students. Totally free and getting more updates every quarter. Increasingly, we are seeing more professionals joining in. The fastest growing demographic for facebook is people 30-40 years old. The easy to use interface and the clean style make it something almost everyone can master. You can easily search for friends and add them to your friends list. Basically, Facebook is so popular that if you don't have it, you are out of the loop. So out of the loop, that you might not even be able to hoola-hoop....ha ha, forgive me. I found it funny that Facebook has been banned at many places of work to increase productivity. I can't lie, my GPA would be higher if I was not addicted. It has more than 110 million active users worldwide

    Linked-in: This is primarily for professionals. It is also free but, I don't like it, but I probably will when I am getting ready to graduate jobless. It allows people to upload resumes and network or 'connect' with people in a specific field. People can also 'recommend' other people they trust in business for a position, or just vouch for them in general. Employers use the site to list jobs and people can search the listings for free. It is definitely catered to the older more professional generation, but like I said, most of the people reading this blog will be there soon if not already. This site gets over 3.2 million visitors per month.

    Bebo:"Bebo" is an acronym for "Blog early, blog often" It too, is a social networking site. Not unlike Facebook, bebo users can add quizzes and polls for their friends to vote on and comment on. Photo albums with a maximum limit of 48 per album, can keep their friends updated on what fun things they have been doing. It also has its own blog section--kind-of like the Facebook 'notes' with a comments section. There is also a list of bands of which the user is a fan, and a list of groups that the user is a member of. (Facebook has these too)

    Not up to speed on what a blog is? Have you been living in a barn for the past year or so? Wiki it and you will find this: "Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, Web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs."

    Blogger: THIS IS BLOGGER..isn't it great?

    Wordpress: Another blogging service. I have heard good and bad commentary on both blog services...I like Blogger.

    Micro-blogging is another type of blogging, one which consists of blogs with very short posts.

    Twitter: Twitter allows you to blog as a network. With limited characters, you answer the question, "What are you doing?" You and your friends, or random people you 'follow' can have discussions about whatever you want. When I first joined Twitter I was was a little confused. Why on earth would I want to know what someone else is doing? Well, it is pretty fun. Also, you get to know people a little better. Cheryl Snapp-Conner said she is connected with some very powerful people on her Twitter page. She said she might not have a personal relationship with them, but she knows what they ate for breakfast!

    I just recently heard that terrorists where using Twitter to plan attacks....A friend heard it on NPR. Bwahaha. I guess the report sent Twitter into a coding frenzy to stop this from happening.

    Twinkle: It t is basically just like twitter only it is an Iphone application (get it for free here). Users like it because it syncs to your phone and it also says where the person is located. If someone twitters that they are having a bad day and it says that are in Hawaii... you should probably tell them they are stupid because even if they are having a bad day...they are still in HAWAII.

    Popular Stories:

    Digg: This is a really fun site to check out when you are bored...or not bored. Digg is a Web site made for people to discover and share content from anywhere on the Internet by submitting links and stories, and voting and commenting on submitted links and stories. Voting stories up and down is the site's cornerstone function, respectively called digging and burying. Many stories get submitted every day, but only the most Dugg stories appear on the front page.

    Well, that is pretty much all I have for you. Here is a list of other sites I would recommend you check out. They all offer something different.


    Don't be afraid of social media...embrace it. It is the wave of the future.

    Thursday, October 23, 2008

    In a time of utter discontent, Mr. T says it best.

    It's true. Mother's cookies are no more. I'm most upset by the fact that my future posterity will not experience the joy of kneeling on itchy church carpet, playing 'jungle' with the cute, sprinkley "animal" shaped crackers. My mom bought these for me and my siblings so we would have something to keep us happy during Sacrament meeting. How on earth will I recreate this experience for my off spring--should there be any?

    GI Joes and Hot Wheels are nothing like these tasty morsels, and they certainly don't leave that priceless film of wax in your mouth. Barbies have way to many accessories to even compare to the simple delicacy of Circus Animal Cookies. If you lose a Barbie shoe, Barbie is forced to go barefoot, soooo not OK. If you lose an animal cookie, you just grab another one from the colorful bag. Chances are you will find the cookie eventually... and it is quite possible it will have melted to the lining of your pants pocket and you will find it when you do your laundry. Fruit--no good-- inevitably stains clothes and, come on, it is so much more fun to bite the head off an indistinguishable animal cracker than it is to chew grapes. Cheerios..the worst idea ever. Coloring books and crayons? I think NOT. Mother's cookies are infinitely better than a box of crayons because you can't eat crayons. Although, I do know a few people from elementary school who would disagree.

    I don't think I can handle another one of my staple foods going under. I have already tried a Western Family knock-off of the cookies and....blargh, there is just no magic anymore. It is far too apparent that the love is gone. These fakers were NOT made with love.

    I guess the only thing we can do at a time like this is turn to our real mothers. They love us. They are sweet. They take care of us in times of need. So switch your attention from one mother to another. If you don't know how, I have brought Mr. T in to tell you just how to treat your mother right. May we find peace and solace at this time by burying out heads in our mothers bosoms.

    Sunday, October 19, 2008

    Meet my lover: Zeus.

    I have wanted a road bike for a good three years now.  Finally, I get to call Zeus my own. 

    Tomorrow we have a date to go up the canyon. 

    Wednesday, October 8, 2008


    I do solemnly swear that never, under any circumstances, will I commit a typographical error. I am dedicating my educational life to hunting down misplaced modifiers, comma splices, spelling infractions and superfluous redundancies. I will seek and destroy such heathens.  Starting now, if anyone finds typos in any of my school work, blog posts, resumes or letters, I will lick a toilet seat. 

    Sunday, October 5, 2008

    Cinderelli! Cinderelli!

    So, in case you didn't know... I am interviewing to be a character at Disneyland for this next summer.... We will see how it goes. My interview is tomorrow, Monday at 6:15 pm and then my audition is on Halloween. I wonder if I will still be as excited then as I am now. Either way, I am hopefully going to get to dress up like a Disney princess everyday next summer. It will be magical. If I get the gig, of course I will let as many of you that come see me in for free... no strings attached. OK, maybe just a little string, you have to bring me sour patch kids...

    Sunday, September 28, 2008

    Good, Better, Best

    This week was fantastic and horrid all at the same time. I think I went through a whole box of s'more pop-tarts this week due to stresses and triumphs.  S'more pop-tarts really are the best way to celebrate a success or comfort a weary heart.

    My week started out with a disappointing grade on an assignment. Then I forgot about a paper that was due in one of my classes. I was able to cope, but I hate when I don't perform to my best ability or lazily forget about something important. I am usually really good about it, but for some reason this last week was just not going like it was supposed to. 

    In the midst of all this craziness, I had the greatest epiphany ever. I was just finishing up my nightly routine when I realized something that has helped me to rethink my life. First, you need a little background...but not too much. I have been praying for the same thing for a long time now. I was beginning to feel like my prayers were going unanswered because of something that I had done, was not doing, or any other slew of reasons.  I was beginning to think that maybe I was going about it the wrong way when it hit me. 

    The Lord doesn't withhold blessings from his children if they are worthy of receiving them. I think that the principle of good, better, best, applies to blessings as well. When there is something that we are praying for, the Lord might have even more in store for us than we can even imagine. We just might not be in a position to receive the blessings for one reason or another. Maybe we wouldn't recognize it if we were given it. I don't think that the Lord will bless us with just "good" blessings if he knows that we are on our way to receiving the "best" blessing. It is our responsibility to be living in a way that we can be worthy of receiving the best blessings that our loving Heavenly Father wants to bestow upon his obedient children.

    So, that was my epiphany.  

    Thursday, September 4, 2008

    Anyone want to help with a couple really good causes???

    As most of you know, I am a public relations major. PR is a very fascinating and diverse field and I am so happy that I have chosen it. I get to work on projects that really make a difference in the lives of people all over the country and all over the world! It is awe inspiring how much difference just one person can make. History is full of stories about people who took matters into their own hangs and made a positive change in the world. I hope to be one of those people who make an impact for good. We already have enough people making a bad impact on the world these days.

    I have just been given the opportunity to oversee the PR side of a very exciting project. Here is a video that explains what the Tap Project is all about.

    Sounds pretty cool huh? Well BYU's student-run PR firm, Bradley Public Relations and the student-run adverting agency, Ad-Lab are working together to bring this effort to the attention of Utah consumers. We know that by getting the right people informed about the needs of people in countries that are not as developed as the USA, and by providing them an easy way to help that doesn't feel like an all out effort to save the world, we will be able to make an impact that will literally save millions of lives.

    If you are at all interested in getting involved, please e-mail me and let me know. We need people from all backgrounds so even if you are an EL-ED major, you can still help. My e-mail is

    The second effort that I am trying to get people involved in is one that directly effects the people living and working in an around the Utah and Salt Lake valleys. There is an awesome organization called the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective. It was started by 4 avid cyclists that decided their knowledge of bikes and bike safety could be a great asset to the community. They take old bikes, repair them, donate them and sell them. If someone needs a bike and can't afford to pay, they offer another option. The individual can come to their shop and build an entire bike from scratch and then keep the bike.

    Here is their website: Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective - Home

    This endeavor has greatly blessed the Salt Lake City area by providing people who need reliable transportation with a low or no cost way to get from point A to point B the earth friendly way.
    Utah is the new home to many refugees from war torn countries. The refugees can go and get a bike for free and they can also get riding lessons or safety lessons for free too.

    What I am going to do is help get the word out about them and also by helping those of us who ride bikes to and from school, work, and play and have no where to park our bikes because the bike racks are chalked full of bikes that people have left to waste away year after year.

    I am organizing a Bicycle Harvest. This will help to get the word out about the SLCBC, clean up the bike racks, and also get a hefty load of bikes for the people in the community who need them desperately.

    If you are interested in helping in anyway, please contact me by e-mail. I am going to be needing a rather large committee to help with everything and it will be a great chance to see what life is like on the inide of a real PR campaign to take back the racks. So whether you have a rusty bike in your backyard or garage, or you have a couple hours to get some hands on PR experience, please let me know.

    Photo courtesy of SLCBC

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    The End of the Best Summer of my Life

    This truly has been the best summer of my life. I really can't think of anything that I wanted to do that I didn't accomplish. I was so blessed to be able to go to China and get to know a totally new way of living and a new culture. I made friends that will last a life time and memories that will last even longer. Living in Los Angeles taught me more than I was expecting and I now have an obsession with the beach and frozen yogurt. I don't want to re-cap everything I did in LA but I do want to share some funny or exciting things that happened while traveling up and down the Golden State.

    1. Probably my favorite thing that happened in LA was when David Garcia won Tickets to see Wicked on the front row. We had tried three previous times to win tickets but had failed. I blame myself. I am cursed when it comes to raffles, drawings, what have you...basically anything that requires luck. I have never won anything and I told David that as long as I was present at the drawing we weren't going to win. On Saturdays at the Pantages Theater on Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles there are two showings of Wicked. If you show up to the theater 2.5 hours prior to the show, you can put your name in a raffle and possibly win two front row tickets to see the greatest show ever for $25.00 each. David and I showed up for the afternoon showing and we didn't win. I went home hanging my head in defeat and was ready to call it quits. After being at home for a few hours, I get a phone call from David and he said "Want to go see Wicked?" I freaked...literally. I had seen it once before but this was like watching a completely different play. To say I loved it would be an understatement. It was remarkable.

    2. Trapeze school was also ridiculously awesome but you already know that.

    3. My short road-trip with Mauri Earl from Reno to San Francisco was spontaneous and quick. Almost a little too quick seeing as we made the trip in about 3 hours and 15 minutes. I love talking to Mauri.

    4. Yogurtland is hands-down the most amazing place ever. It is a self-serve frozen yogurt place that will change your life. I would consider myself somewhat of a frozen yogurt connoisseur. I have worked in the frozen yogurt business for over a year and also have been eating it ever since I can remember. I would say that there are a few things that determine the success of a visit to get this delicious, cold, creamy yet healthy treat.

    *Variety-I can respect any place that sells Frozen yogurt but I will respect them more with the more flavor options they have. Yoasis in Provo has one measley flavor. I admit that it is the best flavor to go with fresh fruit but still, not everyone is going to be in the mood for fresh fruit all the time.
    *Toppings-there must be a wide variety of toppings. Fresh fruit is a must but also, you should have some cereal toppings, candy bar toppings, and also some strange ones like Moochi and cheesecake bits. Granola and strawberries are my favorite toppings.
    *Price-portion ratio- At some frozen yogurt places, you will pay about 5 bucks for a very small serving of yogurt. Not only is the yogurt way over priced but the toppings are breaking the bank. I like toppings just as much as (but probably more than) the next person in line and I hate when I have decided to splurge the $.50 and I get a $.10 version.

    Monday, July 14, 2008

    Flying through the air with the greatest of ease...

    I finally did it. I finally accomplished one of my life dreams. Ever since I can remember I have been telling my parents that I wanted to become an Acrobat. Of course they laughed at me and thought I was joking like they do with every amazing idea I have. After going to the circus and realizing that none of the acrobats were taller than 4 feet and all of them were Asian, I was sure I would never reach my goal. Well now that I am 22 years old and more than ready for any type of adventure, I decided to enroll in the Trapeze School of New York in Santa Monica, California. I was a little scared that I was going to be the only person over 7 in the class but it turned out that it was me and 3 other girls about my same age all just looking for a fun adventure and it was exactly that. I have done some daring things before but this was totally different. Not only was I sacred of dying but if you mess up, EVERYONE on the Santa Monica Pier can see you look like an idiot. Luckily I didn't have any embarrassing failed attempts at the trapeze. It was so fun. I want to go back again and again. It was totally different than I thought it was going to be like but so worth all the apprehension.

    The coaches and the other people in my group were all so nice. Here is a picture of us all after we were all done.
    I learned two tricks. One was the knee hang and the other was the bar split or something like that. I have included some pictures and hopefully I can figure out how to add video to this.

    Sunday, June 1, 2008

    Guilin and Yangshuo trip

    Last weekend was the best weekend I have had in China. We went to the most beautiful place I have ever seen. It was called Yangshuo. A tiny tourist town in the northern part of the Guangxi province. I did NOT want to leave. We arrived in Guilin at 4:00 a.m. from the over night train. We then got on a bus and drove to Yangshuo. When we got there it was about 6:00 a.m. and we immediately were corralled by a man who had a hostel that he was offering us. It was actually an amazing deal. It was super nice and ridiculously cheap. Only about $4.00 a person a night. We had our own bathroom and our own showers. After that we headed to "Western Street" and got some breakfast. I had toast! It was glorious! I missed it and I didn't even know it. Then, we rented bikes and scooters and we decided to just explore the city. It was awesome. I loved being able to just go and see whatever I wanted to see. I took so many pictures of the amazing mountains and hills and rice fields. After we rode around the city for a long time we went back and ate some lunch, rode the scooter some more, and shopped the street vendors. After a while, Christy and I decided to trade the scooter in for a two-person bike. It was so fun. I loved that.

    The next day, we rode in a hot-air balloon. Yes, a made in China one. It was probably one of the coolest things I have ever done. The sight from the balloon was so incredible. Even a photograph can't totally show how amazing it was. We were in the air for about an hour and went over 1200 meters up. We landed in a tiny village and all the little kids within a mile came running to see the balloon and the white people. It was more expensive than the entire trip to Yangshuo but it was so worth it.

    The next day we hired a rafter to take us down the Li Jiang River on a bamboo raft. All I can say is wow, it was awesome. I have never been in such a beautiful place. Our rafter didn't speak any English but we were actually able to communicate quite well. He was so nice. He took us to his home village. It was over 300 years old. The town looked like a ghost town but then someone would poke their head out and it was kinda funny. The little village had its own school and they had the most ghetto ping pong tables. The net was a log on bricks. After the village we went to lunch farther down the river at the shabbiest bamboo hut. I was a little scared because they killed our chicken right after we ordered it. The price of the meal was really expensive because the rafters get a cut of the money. We were more than willing to pay a lot because the 6 hour raft trip/tour was only 7 dollars a person and the lunch was about the same. After lunch we continued on the river and it poured rain! It was really pretty on the river. After the rain stopped, the clouds lifted and the mountains were even more beautiful with the clouds hugging the tops of them.

    After we finished our raft trip we went back to Guilin and caught the overnight train back to Xiangtan. It was pretty cool on the overnight train, aside from the people eating chicken feet and other parts of animals that we American's would only tripple-dog-dare people to eat. All the traveling around China has made me want to go to Europe really really bad. I hope that I can go there someday. Maybe after graduation! Anyone can come!

    All in all the weekend was fantastic. I want to go back there again. There was so much that we didn't get to do because we were pressed for time. I hope to go back and do the mud caves and the natural water slides. They also offer cooking lessons and rock climbing tours.

    I was not super excited about coming back to Xiangtan after being in Yangshuo. This city is dirty, loud, and not very pretty. The redeeming qualities are the students here and the cheap food. I will really miss the students. I will give my final exams next week and then head to Hong King for a short stay. Then home for just about 12 days and then I head to LA for a fun summer at the beach! I am anxious to start school again in the fall. I think this experience will really change what kind of student I am. I also have so much MORE respect for teachers. It is a really hard job. It has been the most rewarding thing I have done though. By far.

    Wednesday, May 28, 2008

    No more facebook....but here are some pictures!

    For those who are mad at me for deleting my facebook account because you wanted to see pictures from China, I have made a web album so you can see them anytime you want. The links are below. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I have enjoyed taking them!!!

    the most recent:

    Pictures from the beginning of China:

    Sent May 16, 2008

    Hello again,
    I wasn't going to write so soon but there seems to be a lot of question as to whether I am alive or not. Well, I am happy to announce that yes, I am. Monday's earthquake has caused more damage than any report can accurately portray. The stories are so sad and a lot of our students can't find their friends and family members. I am in the Hunan province just east of the Sichuan province. I didn't personally feel much but a lot of my students felt it. Everyone in the library ran out during the quake. Most people had never been in a quake before. The school I am at has started taking donations for the victims but there are so many people and the cities effected are literally obliterated. The students here have very little money as it is. The Chinese govt is really doing an amazing job with the relief effort though. This has been a hard year for the Chinese. I hope everything goes well with the Olympics. Please keep the earthquake victims and survivors in your thoughts and also take it as a reminder to be prepared in case of an emergency.

    On a lighter note, my birthday was amazing. My friends and students really out-did themselves. My "eleven dwarfs" took me to lunch at a really good restaurant. They surprised me with some 'traditional Chinese handicrafts" as a gift. They are the funnest group of girls. Hanging out with them is kinda like hanging out with a bunch of beehives. I had about 10 surprise parties this week. I loved it! The other foreign teachers and Lany, our "China mom" and some good friends from the school took me out to a delicious restaurant. It was northern food so it was much sweeter than Hunan food. Lany bought a delicious cake. It was so good. It got kinda smashed but it was still amazing.

    On Tuesday night I told my students that they could come to a park near our apartment for a very casual party. There were a ton of people there. I was surprised that we didn't get in trouble but it was a blast. I have included some pictures. I got some of the most random gifts ever and I loved each one. Everything from boiled eggs and ancient Chinese medicine to batteries and a back massager. They are so funny. I still don't know what the battery is for.

    This week my university was being inspected by the Ministry of Education. They cleaned everything up and made it look really nice for the inspection. They filled in the dump, made all the vendors leave, and improved the food at the dining hall. The students were threated with demerits for being late and they had to memorize pages of information about the school to regurgitate in the event that an inspector asked them a question. I didn't see any of the inspectors was pretty intense.

    No one was allowed to leave the campus this week (that is what they told us anyway but I saw plenty of people leaving). We were told Tuesday that our trip to Guilin the next day would have to be postponed. We were not to happy about that. Hopefully we can go next weekend. We are running out of time. I only have three more weeks of teaching left and then I am off to Hong Kong to see my friend Samily. Then I will be home. So soon. I can't believe it.

    love and miss you all!!!

    pic 1- me and my eleven dwarfs outside of their dormitory before my birthday lunch
    pic 2- some of my guests at my awesome party
    pic 3- the strangest b-day gift of all.....time


    Sent April 30, 2008

    Hello Everyone!

    How are things going in the USA? I have been hearing stories that make me want to consider staying in China for a lot longer! But then I think about grilled cheese sandwiches and tacos and I decide that even if the USA is crumbling, at least they have a delicious variety of food.

    This weekend is the Labor Day Holiday. Isn't the rib cook off this weekend in Reno? My body aches for some Kinder's BBQ sauce. Regardless, I have 4 days off this weekend and we are going to have some fun. We were going to go to Guilin but with all the crazy traveling traffic, we are waiting for a couple weeks. I feel much better about that. We will be here in Xiangtan for a relaxing weekend. I am going to buy some painting supplies and paint some pictures.

    I have made good friends with some students here. They are not my students but they have been teaching me how to play ping pong and they are so funny. There are 11 of them and 10 of them live together in one room that is much smaller than a single car garage. They are small though so they pack them in like sardines. All of the girls are about a foot shorter than me. I have dubbed them my "eleven dwarfs" and I am Snow White. I will miss them a lot.

    Not a whole lot has changed since my last e-mail. Things in China are still going well. There have been some interesting developments with the Tibet problems and the Olympics that have made things a little shaky here. The day after the guy on CNN made the comments about China was very interesting. My students were very offended and were expecting me to have the same opinion as the CNN reporter. I felt like I was trying to regain a toddlers trust when I was explaining to them that not all American's think alike. This concept is very hard for them to grasp because in America, we all think for ourselves. We do what we want to do when we want to do it. But in China, they are VERY group oriented. They seek to be a part of a group and also to be just like everyone else in the group.

    The students brought up censorship and this launched into a week long discussion of whether or not it was a good thing or a bad thing. It is very strange to talk about it with them, but also very interesting. They are almost 100% for the censorship of the media. I asked them the question of why or why not and one of my students said that if the news wasn't censored, there would be riots and the country would become very unstable. I didn't argue of course but it is just very interesting to hear their opinions. Another funny example was from another one of my students and he said, "Censorship is good because if a political person did something really bad, the media would keep us from knowing so that man's image wouldn't be tarnished." I laughed out loud and then I told him how one of American media's favorite things is to expose these such cases to every listening ear. haha... kinda funny.

    One of the coolest things about being in China has been seeing another side of the story. It is nice to be able to see something from someone else's point of view but it also makes me very frustrated because now I don't know who to believe. The Tibet problem for example is quite comical for some young Chinese...They feel like how we would feel if say Texas, decided that it wanted to secede from the nation...again....They also hate the Dali Lama with a fiery passion and regard him as a terrorist. They say that he is using his religious influence to gain political power in Tibet so he can return to rule over it. Also, they feel that the rest of the world refuses to understand their history and culture. My students told me that in 1951, Tibet was peacefully liberated by China, acquiring it as one of the largest Chinese Provinces. China then built up Tibet and gave the people there a better life. When I tried to read some sort of history about Tibet online for anything that would help clear things up, ALL the websites were blocked. I don't know if this is because the internet is slow or because....... Either way. There are two sides to this story for sure.

    The thing that I keep thinking is how much I wish I understood what is going on all over the world. Not just in China but everywhere where there is conflict. I think that sometimes we make to quick of assumptions about things and are too quick to judge situations and people. This last few months has certainly taught me the importance of seeking to understand something before seeking to be understood.

    Well, before I make this e-mail any more political, I better go. My e-mails are surely being censored. I ate mashed potatoes tonight. It was incredible. I love American food.

    Elizabeth Jenkins

    Sent April 1, 2008

    Hello everyone,
    A lot is happening so I figured I would write and get you all updated...

    The most exciting news first...I got an amazing internship with a PR firm in Los Angeles when I get back from China. I am so excited. I will be going with one of my friends from BYU and we are going to have a blast. I am not sure what exactly I will be doing but it will be some sort of lobbying. I will also get to go to the beach anytime I want and finally take trapeze lessons like I have been wanting to do for a million years. I will start work on June 23rd so I am going to leave China a little early, on June 15th as opposed to June 25th and go to Hong Kong and Macao for a couple days and then I will fly back to the states. This will be an awesome summer!

    I have been having a really hard time with the food here. It was bad at first, and then good, and then really good... and happened... I was eating at this one restaurant that looked a little sketchy, but really, all the places to eat around here are really sketchy... anyway. I was eating this one dish that had potatoes and something that I knew was meat...but I don't know what kind of meat. I picked up a piece of meat with my chopsticks and went to put it in my mouth when I noticed that on one side of it, there! I'm not talking about 'a' hair.... im talking about a full on section of animal fur! I wanted to puke ....and since then I have been unable to eat meat. even now, just thinking about it... yuuulck!

    And also, we found out that they add MSG to everything. It is a very common ingredient in all their food. I remember seeing it in bags at the grocery store when I first arrived and visualizing in my mind the Chinese restaurants in America with neon signs that say "NO MSG". haha I have a suspicion that it is addictive. One of my students said that if her mom doesn't use it, she wont eat her mom's cooking. haha

    The other night, Christy, my roommate and Doug, one of the other teachers, and I went to a street (Lian Jian Lu) that has a lot of places to eat. It is on campus and we go there a lot. We were walking down the street when we noticed that between the buildings, you could see a huge field of vegetables growing. This was where a lot of the food was grown that is sold on the campus. We walked down to see it when we came to a stomach churning realization. We realized that uphill from the crops was the university dump...literally like 30 feet away... Everytime there is a rain storm, our vegetables are watered with toxic waste water. YUMMY. Also, there was a stream of water that was watering the vegetables and it had a really funky film on the top of it. It looked like what the street looks like after it rains on a car oil drip. All marbled and cesspool-like. I pretty much stick to bananas and peanut butter ever since I saw that. Sick nasty.

    Our trip last weekend was canceled because it was rainy. We were going to go to Zhangjiajie (zhong-ji-(like eye) -jay). If you want to see a Web site about it, go here >

    It is beautiful. We went to Changsha, the capital of the province again instead to stock up on peanut butter. The weather was horrible but it was still fun. We are going to Zhangjiajie this weekend for sure though. We already bought our bus tickets. The bus will take about 5 hours to get there. We are leaving on Friday and we will come back on Sunday. There is a huge elevator that goes up the side of one of the mountains. We are totally going to take it. I believe it will cost about 100 yuan (14.00 USD) to go up and come down. You can get out at the top and take pictures. It is the tallest elevator in the world.

    It is really interesting to hear what the students think of America. There is a movie out in America called Juno. It is about a 16 year old girl that gets pregnant and she gives the baby up for adoption. It is actually a really funny movie. They showed the movie on campus here a few days ago and a lot of my students went to see it. This week they have all been asking me questions. The first thing they said about the movie was that it was unrealistic. To quote a student, she said "a 16-year-old girl would never get pregnant" Oh how naive they are. I told them some statistics about teen pregnancy in America and they were floored. They were so shocked that their squinty eyes became round. It is interesting to see what the different problems and issues different countries and cultures face.

    Everything else is going well. It has been a while since I have seen the sun...I hope it comes out this weekend. Please keep me posted on what is going on in America. And PLEASE take a deep breath of fresh air for me and drink a big glass of water straight from the tap. Oh how I miss that.

    Love and miss you all,

    Sent March 21, 2008

    Nin Hao!!!

    I thought I would get in a quick e-mail before I take off for a few days. We are going to have an adventure!

    China is remaining awesome. I don't have a lot of new news other than we are taking our first trip this weekend. We are going to Mao's home town. It is about 45 minutes away and we are going to stay the night and see all there is to see. I am not sure just how much there will be to see there but I am looking forward to getting off of campus. The weather is so draining here. It is gloomy and cloudy and rainy way too much and I am so sick of not seeing a blue sky. I hope that the weather is good for our trip tomorrow. We haven't totally figured out all the details yet but we are taking two students with us so they can get us there and back. haha It is so difficult not knowing the language. I bet it will be really weird when I get back to America and I can tell the person what I want to eat rather than point to it. One thing is for sure, I will be able to whip anybody at Charades when I get back.

    My classes have been going well. I had to lay down the law in one of them this week because it is a class full of slackers. They saw a side of "leezer" that they didn't know existed. For the most part, all my other classes are doing great. I have to meet with a few students outside of class to help them because they are sooo far behind. It is frustrating when they have no idea what you are saying and they are English majors and they just repeat everything you say. I would say the most tiring thing about teaching is straining to understand what they are talking about. They are trying so hard and they pause for like 30 seconds between each word haha. Cracks me up.

    Ping pong is basically my new addiction. I played for almost 6 hours straight the other day. I love it. I play everyday that it isn't raining. I have made a lot of friends by playing and I even bought my own "pie" (paddle) I am so going to join the BYU Ping Pong Club when I get back. And buy a ping pong table for the garage....haha mom, dad, don't think I am lying. I am hoping to get a lot better before I come back. Good thing the Chinese train hard.

    I bought a cell phone today. One of the other teacher's students works for one of the two cell companies and he hooked us up.I got an amazing deal. For 200yuan ($28.00), I got a phone and 252yuan worth of minutes. That is about 2500 minutes that never expire. Also, in April, we get to pick 5 people that we want to talk to for free. haha that is like...everyone in my phone book. I love the Chinese. haha

    Well that is pretty much all that is happening right now. I am sure that over the next couple weeks things will get more exciting because we are going on a lot of trips and we are getting more and more involved with things happening on campus. If only the rain would go away. I would be outside playing ping pong all day everyday.

    Love and miss you all. Keep me posted on what is happening!!!
    oh and no, we didn't feel the earthquake. Good thing too because they freak me out.

    Elizabeth Jenkins

    Sent March 7, 2008

    Hello Friends and Family,
    I hope you are all doing well. I hear that spring break is just around the corner. What are you all going to do? I don't get a spring break but I do get to have some awesome adventures everyday. This past week or so has been very fun. We have been able to do a lot. I don't really know where to start.

    The woman that takes care of the foreign teachers here at Xiangtan University is Lany. She is very nice and makes sure that we are happy and healthy. She is Buddhist and thought that we might enjoy a visit to the Buddhist temple. I was really excited because I had never seen a Buddhist temple and I was not sure what to expect. Lany had a driver pick us up at 7:00 a.m. last Sunday morning and we drove to the Temple. It was very different than what I expected. The street (or ally) that the temple was on was full of people and the gates to the temple were just in the middle of it all. I don't think I would have even noticed them had Lany not pointed them out to us. We went inside and we were expecting a service to be starting but as it turned out, all the nuns were meditating and had been for hours. We decided to take a look around and Lany told us what each of the Buddha's represent. It was really neat because I didn't know anything about the religion before that. We met this lady who was so sweet. She was so excited to see Americans. She just kept thanking us for being there and we thanked her and she thanked us and we thanked her and she thanked us and back and forth over and over. It was really funny. Maybe we need to learn more Chinese phrases other than "thank you" and "Your welcome". The first picture is one I took of the lady that we met there.

    We decided to go get some breakfast down the street and then come back and have a meeting with the Master of the temple (She is the one in brown in the second picture). Then we went back to the temple and met the Master. She was so nice. It was kind-of the same situation where we just went back and forth telling each other how great they were back and forth for about two hours. Then we ate some lunch and it was delicious. My roommate informed me about an hour ago that while we were eating, she saw three giant rats running around the kitchen...I am so glad that she decided that it probably wouldn't be a good idea to tell me that while we were there.

    The nuns at the temple treated us like royalty. It was really interesting to see how much they loved us and they don't even know us. English teachers are very appreciated here because they believe learning English is the door to a brighter future. They just think we are the greatest and they don't hesitate to tell us over and over again. haha. The master of the temple gave us these really cool bracelets that Buddhist people wear and these little charm things as a thank you for our visit. She also invited us to come back and stay the night at the temple and be a nun for a day. I thought about it and I decided that I didn't want to. My roommate is going though. I decided that I would rather spend the day in the city with some of my students. We are going to have a super fun day of shopping culture.

    On Wednesday night our friend Dennis, who is the equivalent of student body president, was in charge of a fund-raiser for the victims of the ice age. We didn't really know what was going on but I think it was an event to honor the students who raised the most money. How they did it was they sold oranges. The money from the oranges went to the farmers who lost all their trees from the snow. In the middle of the event, Rita pulled out some money to donate so we thought it was a good idea too. We handed the money to one of the people that was working at the event and she looked really confused. We told them that we wanted the money to go to the farmers and then all of the sudden all these cameras were on us and they were thanking us and we were even more confused and then they told us that our oranges would be delivered in the morning. After trying to explain that we didn't want the oranges, we just wanted to donate, and failing miserably, we gave up. We thought that we bought a few oranges and we felt good about helping out the farmers. Well, the next morning, I came home from class and there was a HUGE bag of oranges in our front room. This things has to weigh more than me. There are probably 400 oranges in the bag. Anyone got any ideas for how to have fun with 400 oranges?

    I really love teaching. It is so fun and the students are so eager to learn. I love making them laugh and helping them to learn English in a fun way. They get so excited when they see us on campus and they want to do things with us. I taught about 5 of my students how to play basketball a couple days ago. They are actually really good for having never played before. I loved it.

    This week the number of students I teach doubled. I originally had about 200 students and then I was given 5 more classes of college juniors to teach. I now have about 450 students. I have made a real effort to memorize their names and I think I have about half of them. It is a lot harder than you think because they all look so similar still! For the first week, I swore that the same girl was following me everywhere. It was probably a different girl every time, I'm just an idiot. I taught them about emotions this week and ways to express themselves. I lost my voice practically every day this week because of it. Showing that you are ecstatic and enraged and terrified is hard on the vocal chords. haha I think they got the point though. I also taught them about music. I played some of the hits of today and some Beatles songs. They love the Beatles and they love Mika. They really like country to which I though was funny. I taught them the head-shoulders-knees-and toes song, and the Itsy Bitsy spider song... they hated learning those hahaha.

    Today, Friday, was Women's Day here in China. Apparently they adopted this holiday from us but...i had never heard of it before. I think in America we usually refer to it as "Take your daughter to work day." Anyway, there was a big conference in Xiangtan City that was for all of the most important people in the city. Rita, Christy, Lany and I were all invited to attend. I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was I did NOT want to have to do any sort of chanting. We got to the place where the conference was and it was a beautiful hotel. The only 5 star hotel in the city. The meeting was all in Chinese of course but Lany helped to translate. Our table was in the front of the room and they were broadcasting the show on TV. The hosts/emcees were dressed like they were hosting the Oscars or something. They had Chinese dancers and a few people did Karaoke (they love that here and take it VERY seriously) and they presented awards to some people that were very helpful during the "Ice age" (they refer to the ice storm as the ice age) A lot of people in this province were badly put out by the storm. Many people lost their homes and many even died.

    The Chinese love to toast to...everything. I now know what a room full of tipsy Asians looks like. They get up and walk to all the different tables and toast to each other and drink red wine. Christy and I both don't drink so it was funny because after the toasts, everyone would look at us and stare like we were forgetting something...oh well. Our table got a lot of attention and we just smiled and nodded because we didn't know what they were saying haha. Lany leaned over to us and said, oh now it is time for you to be interviewed for the TV. Uhhhhh... excuse me? WHAT?! So we were all interviewed and they asked us questions about how we celebrate this day in America and ....since we don't, I had to make up some stuff. Rita, one of the other foreign teachers decided to turn it into a Hillary Clinton Rally...gag. She loves Hillary Clinton so in her interview she asked the entire conference to stand up and toast to Hillary Clinton. It was really funny and I just kept thinking, I hope this doesn't make it back to America. After the conference, they gave us these awesome "China Red" tea cups and saucers. They are so beautiful. I was so excited. It will be something that I keep forever. Then we went to a super nice hotel and we had Lunch with all of these important people in Xiangtan City. They all kept saying how I look like Barbie with my humongous eyes. haha At least they don't say that I look like a bug or something.

    After we got back from the celebration, we went to the salon and had our hair washed and blow-dried. It was fabulous. I feel like my hair has never been so clean and smooth. I will be going back...every week. Then we came home and took naps and then Rita called and told us to turn on the TV. There we were. They were showing us at the conference and our interview and they talked about us for about 5 minutes. It was ridiculous. I took pictures of the TV to prove it! haha. So random. At the end of our interview they had us hold hands and raise them in the air and say "HAPPY WOMEN'S DAY" haha. Awkward. There are some pictures of that too.

    Everything is an adventure here. We have made friends with almost all the street vendors between our apartment and our classrooms. They just laugh at us because we are clueless. Oh well. I love China and the people here are so generous. I have to fight my students to let me pay for my own lunch. The people are very curious and they just want to talk with us. I hope they know that I really am not as cool as they think. They keep saying how grateful they are for our contribution to the students of China but I really think that I am getting more out of this experience than I ever imagined. I love it here.

    I miss you all and I am enjoying the replies I am receiving. Keep em' comin'!

    Elizabeth Jenkins

    Sent February 24, 2007

    Hi everyone!
    I hope that you all had a good last few days. Today is Sunday and I am just hanging out in my apartment because it is really cold and rainy outside. Humidity is something that I am unfamiliar with. The temperature isn't very cold but the humidity makes my fingers and toes go numb. I hate that.

    So, I was really hoping to avoid any accidents here in China but I wasn't so lucky. Friday for lunch I wanted some rice so I was boiling water, The only pot we have is a pressure cooker. My mom had always told me they were dangerous but she never told me why. Well, i was trying to get the lid off because I wanted to see how much water was left in it. It was stuck so I kept trying to open it. My friend Doug said.. "uhhh I wouldn't try to force it's like... under pressure." Yeah... I wish I would have listened because right after he said that KABOOM... the pot exploded and boiling water and steam went everywhere. It even shot the ceiling! I was very lucky because only my eyelids got the worst of it. I was just a little red for a day. Now I refuse to put lids on pots.

    Yesterday we went to Changsha, the capital of the province. It was pretty much like a NYC but everything was in Chinese.... except for "WAL MART". We successfully found peanut butter there. Wal-mart is pronounced war-ma. haha. It is very different here. In the stores they have dead animals hanging everywhere. No really... Oh and our next door neighbor had chickens and fish hanging from the clothes line all week. Yummy.

    On a lighter note, the bread here is purple. They make it with taro. I really like it. I like it more than American bread I think. It is delicious with peanut butter on it. But then again... what isn't delicious with a little P.B.? So far I have made two dishes that I like. One is rice with vegetables and the second is vegetables with rice. Who knew I could get so creative with food! I'm your average Martha Stewart. Or should I say Mahta Stoowaht.

    Tomorrow is my first day of teaching. I am so excited. Ill let you all know how it goes. I hope that they don't think I am some dysfunctional American. I'll have to keep that a secret for as long as possible.

    Hope to hear from you soon!


    Sent February 24, 2007

    Hi everyone!
    I hope that you all had a good last few days. Today is Sunday and I am just hanging out in my apartment because it is really cold and rainy outside. Humidity is something that I am unfamiliar with. The temperature isn't very cold but the humidity makes my fingers and toes go numb. I hate that.

    So, I was really hoping to avoid any accidents here in China but I wasn't so lucky. Friday for lunch I wanted some rice so I was boiling water, The only pot we have is a pressure cooker. My mom had always told me they were dangerous but she never told me why. Well, i was trying to get the lid off because I wanted to see how much water was left in it. It was stuck so I kept trying to open it. My friend Doug said.. "uhhh I wouldn't try to force it's like... under pressure." Yeah... I wish I would have listened because right after he said that KABOOM... the pot exploded and boiling water and steam went everywhere. It even shot the ceiling! I was very lucky because only my eyelids got the worst of it. I was just a little red for a day. Now I refuse to put lids on pots.

    Yesterday we went to Changsha, the capital of the province. It was pretty much like a NYC but everything was in Chinese.... except for "WAL MART". We successfully found peanut butter there. Wal-mart is pronounced war-ma. haha. It is very different here. In the stores they have dead animals hanging everywhere. No really... Oh and our next door neighbor had chickens and fish hanging from the clothes line all week. Yummy.

    On a lighter note, the bread here is purple. They make it with taro. I really like it. I like it more than American bread I think. It is delicious with peanut butter on it. But then again... what isn't delicious with a little P.B.? So far I have made two dishes that I like. One is rice with vegetables and the second is vegetables with rice. Who knew I could get so creative with food! I'm your average Martha Stewart. Or should I say Mahta Stoowaht.

    Tomorrow is my first day of teaching. I am so excited. Ill let you all know how it goes. I hope that they don't think I am some dysfunctional American. I'll have to keep that a secret for as long as possible.

    Hope to hear from you soon!


    Sent February 21, 2007

    Hello Everyone!
    I just wanted to let you all know that I made it to China safely! I absolutely love it here. It is incredible and strange all at the same time. School doesn't start until Monday so the three other foreign teacher and I have had some time to explore the campus and the city. Our first three days here in China were spent in Shanghai. I loved Shanghai. Shopping there is really fun because you can always get a good deal. They love to sell to Americans because we love to spend our money. Especially when you can get a pair of $50 shoes for $7.00.

    After Shanghai, all the teachers split up to go to their school all over the country. I am in Xiangtan City at the Xiangtan University. It is a really nice university and almost everything that I will need to buy while I am here (except for Mcdonalds and kfc) can be found right here on campus. It is a really big campus. The school has about 30,000 students and almost all of the students and faculty members live on campus. There are apartment buildings everywhere you look.

    Our apartment is pretty awesome. It will make for some great stories someday I am sure. Our bathroom is more like a shower-toilet-sink all in one. Every morning shower is an adventure. We are definitely used to a different style of living than they are here in China.

    When they say that Americans are treated like celebrities here, they are not lying. Everywhere we go, people just stare at us. Some people run up to us and ask us where we are from, others just want to practice their English on us. We are the only Americans, that I have seen, in this entire city. People just don't come here because it is so far from anything touristy.

    I have not seen the sun in about a week. It is just really really foggy/smoggy. I hope that it clears up soon. Every morning I am woken up by roosters. They like to hang out by our apartment building. There are also lots of stray dogs and cats everywhere here in Xiangtan. I should probably carry my pepper spray just incase one of the dogs thinks I want to play.

    So far I have had some good experiences with the food and some bad ones as well. Trying to find American food in the grocery stores is really hard. I am craving peanut butter and Lucky Charms cereal. I am going to have a huge bowl of it when I come back home. We did find some oreos though. They are the peanut butter chocolate flavor. They taste so good!
    Yesterday we were hungry for some American food so we took the bus into town and found a McDonalds. It was the best tasting food I had had in a week. I didn't feel guilty at all. You can find some really good fruit here. There are peasant ladies selling fruit and vegetables right near our apartment building which makes it very easy to eat well.

    I think either today or tomorrow we are going to go to the capital of Hunan. It is about an hour away. It is called Changsha. Maybe we will get lucky and find a Wal-mart there.

    Well, I hope all of you are happy and healthy. I miss you all and I wish you all could be here to see what it is like here. Please let me know what all of you are up to. I look forward to hearing from you!

    Elizabeth Jenkins

    Saturday, January 19, 2008

    Rosie Posie Puddin Pie

    This is Avery Rose. I call her Rosie. She is the funnest thing in our family right now. I am really going to miss her. I have also included a video of her. She is so cute.