A few days ago, some friends and I held a Halloween party. There was laughter, lots of glitter-y makeup, general chaos. Most of our friends know only vaguely, if at all, about this ridiculous American holiday where people dress up, act like hooligans, and children run from door to door begging for candy. (It’s official, Americans are kind of crazy.) Still, they couldn’t have been more excited to celebrate with us. So we invited friends, made dessert, and set up the girls’ apartment with an abundance of costume options: scarves, headbands, colored paper for making masks, feather boas, outrageous eye shadow, robes… you get the idea. I felt as if I was a little girl all over again, playing dress up in my grandparents basement.

Amidst the general shrieking, we had the opportunity to talk about the masks we all wear: masks of achievement or  of (false) perfection. After Halloween, we in the West take off our costumes and return to usual life. But how to remove the deeper masks we wear? There is a way to freedom and to authenticity, to genuine joy that is not merely put on as a costume discarded once we are alone again.

The goods: special napkins and paper plates (shipped in from America, wahoo), cupcakes, candy corn, and more.

The girls: all decked out edition.

The games: make your own mummy costume from toilet paper.

The hosts: QingQing and Talia (there were several more of us, but QingQing is pretty much the star of any event)

The aftermath: this is how the girls’ apartment looked after our friends traipsed out. Some of my friends may be just a tad dramatic.

These Days

We’ve been settled in our Asian home for two+ months now and Halloween (followed shortly thereafter by Michael’s birthday, heads up people) is just around the bend. Last year Michael was busy with the corn maze and couldn’t participate in our celebrations so my friend Mary Elizabeth and I went as Snuggies–what the costume lacked in originality it made up for in warmth, a key factor as our Halloween plans were for an outdoor rooftop party. (File that under “things to miss about Chattanooga.”) This year’s theme is hands down better than the Snuggie, although I can’t reveal it or I will risk the wrath of… well, those who are in the know. Pictures to be posted post-Halloween, don’t worry.

I’ve not taken the time yet to introduce you all to our family for the year and, since I’ve not been great about getting out the camera, I’ll have to rely on some stolen Facebook shots from our friend Sarah. We see these people just about every day in class and outside of it, but once a week we get together and eat dinner. This is usually just a great excuse for us to make some Western food and show off our cooking skills (you should all try our friend Owens’ cornbread) but sometimes dinner just isn’t enough.

Take last week, when everyone decided to spice up our weekly dinner by coming dressed as either a pirate or a ninja. Please don’t be confused, this was not our Halloween celebration, this was just us dressing up like ninjas and pirates. Obviously. Without further ado, here is our family….

Talia and Valerie, aka the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They are both originally from West Virginia, although Talia’s family now lives in Houston and Valerie spent the last several years loving life in Asheville, NC. (Who wouldn’t love life if you lived there?)

Fearless leader Audrey, from Tuscaloosa, Ala., via Huntsville. I think the balloon parrot is really the finishing touch.

Sarah is the mastermind behind most of our outrageous ideas and–who knew?–she can even make balloon animals. Obviously, the girl is talented.

Owens (from Birmingham and then the U of A) and Ross (south Florida) battling it out in the epic battle of pirates vs. ninjas, or pirates vs. Muslim shepherds. Whichever you prefer.

QingQing is pretty much our mascot. We love her!

Umm, oh yeah, we participated as well. Michael was a West Virginia ninja… I recommend looking it up.



rad-Ven-ture  -n.  A combination of ‘random’, ‘rad’, and ‘adventure’.  Often used to describe an outing in East Asia.  The awesomeness that ensues from a radventure is duplicated nowhere else in the world.

Last week during a national holiday, Blaine Robinson, four other friends and myself embarked on a radventure, starting with a THIRTEEN HOUR TRAIN RIDE.  Thirteen hours sitting upright in a smoky, full-capacity, baby urine-filled, you can kiss sleeping good-bye, train.  Radventure!

Once we arrived at our destination, it was non-stop radventure.  We saw the 8th wonder of the world, wandered around a Muslim night market, biked around the city walls, and hiked from 8:30 p.m. until 4:40 a.m. to summit one of the five most famous mountains in our country.

Yeah, I’d say it was a pretty good national holiday.  Even the train rides could cast no shadow over some much needed community and fellowship.  Well, maybe it was a small shadow that smelled a little of a small child’s feces (I’m not lying), but still.

Random thoughts (mainly about food)

-We were at the grocery store last night, looking to pick up some body wash. We thought we had picked a winner (it’s quite a process when the labeling is in characters) when we realized this body wash actually promised to lighten our skin. Sadly, I have already been told repeatedly in the last couple of days that I am “so pale” (which is actually a compliment, like being told you’re really tan in the States). Getting even lighter is not really something I’m after, thanks.

-I’m all for the “buy fresh, buy local” thing. However, I’m still a little squeamish when “fresh” means picking out your fish from the aquarium, and then throwing it, repeatedly, on the ground to kill it. I also feel slightly frustrated when I get misted by the frenzied floppings of my fellow shoppers’ dinner.

-Butter and cheese continue to rise in my estimation of precious and wonderful things in life. We can get them here… it’s just that the closest store that stocks them is about an hour and 15 minutes away. I am so thankful for my freezer.

-It makes me a little sad to realize that when Asians think of Western food, they think only of McDonald’s and KFC. Most of my friends are disgusted by American food–and I can’t really blame them when french fries and greasy hamburgers are the only representation they’ve ever seen.

-I like that I can, and do, walk just about everywhere: class, the store, restaurants, to meet friends. And when I’m not walking, it’s public transportation. One of the great joys of living in Asia is that other people do the driving while I get quality time with my iPod and books.

-I just thought everyone should know that Michael has successfully constructed an outdoors fire pit for our porch. It is awesome. Pictures to come soon.