Last night, I was given the most generous thank you and most heartfelt goodbye I’ve ever received. Amanda and I arrived at our last English Corner to an auditorium of students, many of whom had sat waiting for an hour just to see us. Some from this term, but also students who we hadn’t spoken with in a year or so, who just wanted the chance to talk to us one more time.

The English Corner leaders planned everything, and when we walked into the room, hundreds of students clapped. They lit our initials in the dark, and gave us a slideshow of all the memories they’d collected over the years. 

If that wasn’t enough, they gave the audience of students time to say thank you and give short speeches to us. Four girls in my women’s group stood up, then Kerry, then Sunny, Fern, Jenny, student after student, on and on, telling Amanda and I how much we’ve affected their lives and how much they love and will miss us. 

If that’s not enough to make you cry! Then, they gave us cake, sang us songs, and one by one came to hug us and give us notes and gifts. Then they cried! I was sobbing.

I have had my moments and doubts at times as to what kind of impact, if any, I’ve had here. But, times like this make it apparent and obvious how worthwhile every moment I’ve had here was.

I’d do Peace Corps again in a heartbeat, anywhere. Because, even if you really never know what kind of impact you’ll make, it will surely make an impact on you.

Started the leave process.

Requires us to collect stool samples to send to government labs. Today I pooped in a bag on my floor. Stool sample #1 complete. 

Last week, we finished all the main details. Added flowers and pictures and more today. Couldn’t have imagined it would turn out this way—can’t believe all the hard work paid off. Feels like I haven’t slept in months! 

That time I got robbed. And other rambling unedited thoughts.

So, I have to say. After the past couple of months, I’ve been going through some weird ups and downs emotionally, preparing to meet the inevitable day when I have to say good-bye to my home of 2 years, this country, and my adopted family. There’s no real way to deal with good-byes, and anyone who knows me, probably knows that I’m the worst at them. 

Luckily, I’ve been getting over what silly thoughts and negative feelings I had and have started the process of acceptance. Accepting my leaving, my upcoming circumstances, and ending my service in the Peace Corps. Saturday, I spent lunch with my women’s group, and intended to spend the rest of the sunny day finding new glasses, getting a new backpack, some stuff for the resource room, and picking up souvenirs. I took a bus downtown and after finding the perfect new pair of specs, took a stroll down the main street purchasing little reminders of China for friends and family. I had my brown purse that has two zippers, and inside, my camera, my wallet that my students had just given me—which inside held the remainder of all my money in China (since I had a lot to buy and only 2 weeks left), about 1000 RMB. Not much to any average person (160 USD), but to me, it was pretty much all the money I have until whatever part of the measly Peace Corps readjustment allowance I get after paying off credit card bills from flights and loans that comes my way on my way out of China. 

Luckily, as I was browsing, I found some awesome Mao Zedong pendants to give to  a couple friends and after I had settled on a price, I reached into my bag to pay the woman and realized my wallet was missing. With all my keys and ALL MY MONEY, except the 3 RMB (50 cents) I had in my hand. I panicked and my eyes went wide. I dug wildly through my purse hoping it was a mistake. I told the woman what had happened and she stared at me blankly and asked for her merchandise back. It took me a second to register that I had already put it in my bag assuming I would be able to pay for it. I ran up the street, hoping I had dropped it. I felt so safe in China for 2 years. I had lost my iPod, but assumed no one had stolen it, really. That maybe I had just lost it and someone would eventually return it to me. That never happened. Now this. My guard was down. Two things I realized—One, I was comfortable in China. So comfortable that I assumed I was safe and had let my guard down again.

And two, I was being stupid. I know better. I know better than to ever let my guard down, ever. No matter where I am, or what it pertains to, I need to respect the idea that not everyone has good intentions. 

I had been blown away by the kindness of strangers for 2 years, that I had forgotten what it’s like to truly feel helpless. In that situation, I did what I could. Nothing. I took a bus. I cried. I called Amanda. Then I called Peace Corps safety and security. I spent the afternoon with the police and my school administration. Later that day I met the kids I tutor and got locked out of my house. And had 3 other locks put on by the security guards at my school. Patiently, while my “Chinese mom” waited with me and told me that everything was going to be okay and that Chinese people aren’t all perfect.

I refused to let this incident soil my 2 years of experience working with some of the most hospitable people I’d ever met. So, I didn’t. 

Instead, I played volleyball. For 3 hours with my students. I went and got coffee and cookies for the guards that had helped me. I took money out with my credit card (which will bite me in the ass later, but that’s later :-D). Upon returning to my house, my lock was broken again. The security guards helped me. Again. My students came and sat with me. They told me how sorry they were. Then they tried to leave money in my house they had collected between the 5 of them. 1000 RMB. I almost killed them. I shooed them out of my house. I had to continue to chase them down and return their money. They were persistent, but I’m stubborn. I won. Their kindness was all I needed. That, and my mommy. 

Life isn’t always easy. Living somewhere else is hard and sad and horrible at times. Crime is everywhere and the world isn’t always just and perfect. After 2 years, it doesn’t get better when these kinds of things happen. But, in this time, one thing has changed—my reaction to these events. My relationships that I have built have given me a reprieve from daily hostilities, and comfort that I will miss. Living in China has given me a sense of calm and patience that I’ve never had before.

Today I decided even though yesterday was horrible, I wanted to go through with my plans to climb the local mountain for the last time. I woke up at 6 and met some former students and members of English corner and we spent the day hiking and chatting and bargaining for Mao Zedong posters. It was lovely and I’ll continue to think fondly of China and the people here, and enjoy my last 18 days. 18 days. Wow.


你好,六月 Hello, June

Goodbye China.


你好,六月 Hello, June

Goodbye China.

Today, I had made plans to celebrate my birthday with my women’s group. I promised to take them to Nan Shan Park and treat them to the restaurant at the top of the mountain. We grabbed a bus, and hopped in a cab while I crossed my fingers and prayed it was open. Amanda joined in the festivities and provided her usual charming company, and cake. Because she’s an angel.

Luckily, the restaurant was open and they had all my favorite foods! My girls had never been there, but they had a similar reaction to me the first time I went there—-in awe of how cute it is! They gave me a photo album full of photos they had taken of us over the past two years, a frame and a new blue wallet. A cute way to end a cute birthday. 

My real birthday in photos—in a nutshell.

This weekend, I accepted an invitation to attend and speak at the Lanzhou University of Finance and Economics Women’s Professional Development Conference, held by my ultra fierce and famously organized friend, Anna. She’s a Response Volunteer, meaning she took on an additional 6 months in China after already serving in Bulgaria, and even extended her service.

The conference was all day Saturday, and my topic was ‘health’, but I was asked to emphasize reproductive health, something of an unpopular topic even in medical schools in our area of China. It was the first time the school has hosted this conference, so even my powerpoint was edited to prevent “embarrassment”, I was told. But realistically, the students who attended had less of a problem with my material than the administrators. Funny our generation and how open to new ideas they are—even funnier is how the older generation thinks they aren’t ready. This generation is ready.

Since I couldn’t get into too many nitty gritty details, I focused on what others and I have seen as the biggest health issues our students face: preventing illness (how to sneeze/cough/wash your hands correctly), yo-yo dieting, eating disorders, body image and weight, losing weight through healthy eating and exercise, exercising correctly, myths about menstruation (not touching cold water or showering the first few days of your period)—strange, I know!, depression, domestic abuse, rape, HIV/AIDS and other STDs, among other things. 

When I gave the students a chance to ask questions, I told them to write anything I hadn’t covered or they wanted more information about on a slip of paper and through it into my umbrella. I wasn’t expecting much, knowing how silent my own students can be when they feel embarrassed or shy, but I was amazed to receive about 10 questions to answer in the first session. The second session, we had an already full class and had to find more chairs. Students offered to share just to attend. The school leader apologized for making me edit my presentation after talking it over with her husband. And though I don’t have any real photos to keep the space feeling safe, this was one of the most memorable experiences of my time in China. 

At the end of the whole conference, we held a Q&A panel for all of the students, and one student stood up and told me how much she had learned, how comfortable she felt and how thankful she was. Then her question for me was, “You seem like you have so much energy, how do you stay so happy?” I remarked something about my intense affection for coffee, but realistically, being a teacher and having amazing students is probably more accurate. 

Today we held English Corner in the new library! The students took to the (new) stage to present their advertisements they created.

Though things haven’t gone as smoothly as we’d hoped—it’s here. We did it! There’s a space for the students to feel comfortable and read, and have fun learning English. Tomorrow night I teach yoga again. This time to a room with lots of new yoga mats! :-D

Most recently, I’ve been struggling to explain myself and the mixed emotions I have about leaving here. I had convinced myself that all my self-doubt and guilt was related the idea that I wasn’t a good enough volunteer. That I could have done better, done more. It wasn’t about comparing my service to anyone else, it was about the things that I never got the time or chance to experience, or the things I chose to do instead, thinking I’d have time later. 

What I’m realizing now, is that it’s not guilt or regrets. I’m really happy with what I’ve accomplished. I’ve changed so much over the course of these 2 years and I don’t doubt I’ve planted some seeds for change too—even tiny little baby ones. I’ve left some sort of a mark, albeit I have no idea what kind. My problem is that I’m just not ready to go. I want more time. If that’s the one thing I can share with the new volunteers is that it’s over before you can even blink. Two years is nothing. 

Luckily, I’m back into my routine which helps slow things down and I’ll be able to spend my last weeks doing things I love and spending time with the people I love. My women’s group got together for lunch today and they spent half an hour trying to convince me to eventually have my wedding in Gansu. Who knows what my future holds? 


与人比较不会让我们更好,我们只需要珍惜现在的自己,凡事竭尽全力。Comparing yourself with other will not help you to be better. Just be thankful of who you are and do the best you can do.

Real talk.


Comparing yourself with other will not help you to be better. Just be thankful of who you are and do the best you can do.

Real talk.

Overwhelmed with feelers.

All these feelings I feel—can die in a fire.

Last week, Amanda and I realized we have to finish up our PCPP grant in 2 days and spend the remainder of our money—8000 RMB, 4000 RMB of which we allocated to books that we’ve been having a rough time getting online. Living on such a small budget though has made us deathly afraid of spending any money though, and bargaining for things that are already extremely cheap—to the point where we can’t get rid of this money!

So, this weekend Amanda and I hopped a train to Xi’an with nothing but empty suitcases to fill with English books. Having no time to write out directions, we somehow magically got off the bus and asked a security guard how to get to the bookstore we were looking for, right across the street!

We bought 60 books, then hopped a bus to grab a sandwich and coffee (our own money :-D), and say hello to an old friend. Afterward, we realized we still had 1400 RMB to spend and when we left the Starbucks, there was another English bookstore next door! Too easy! The hard part was carrying the suitcases out, on the bus, and home, however.

We haven’t slept all week, and tonight we started painting the stage. Most of all the fun furniture is still in our office, with the books, but this week we’re planning to open (which means no sleep this next week either)! 

This has been one of the biggest and most difficult projects I’ve ever taken on, and Amanda has truly been a gem to work with.This would be nothing without her, and I love that I get to work with my best friend everyday. I’m so proud of all we’ve accomplished, and so excited when our colleagues and the library manager tell us they’re excited and happy too. 

Really, watching all of this come together has been one of my most rewarding parts of Peace Corps.

Language Assessment Time

Just finished my Language Proficiency Index exam: my roleplay was mega boring: tell about an occurrence that happened on a trip to a country.

When I realized I couldn’t think of anything and I was boring my teacher, I told her I went to the countryside of Iceland to get married but then my husband was eaten by a shark and died. Then I asked her to help me find a new husband. Maybe that went well?

My tutor!

Haven’t seen my language tutor since Christmas! She’s 6 months pregnant! She’s having the baby 4 days before I leave—hopefully it comes out on time! :-D