Currently reading: Time magazine, 18.12.2006 edition
(Both compliments of Jen and Melva :)
One thing that Blogger lacks is the feature of listing current music and books, so I'll just make my own for the beginning of each new post.
Since I'm kind of at a loss regarding where to even begin blogging (yep it's been officially a month since my last real post when I left to go to Tianjin on Christmas vacation), I want to start with my list of the books I've read since I came to China.
My airplane book for the journey over the Pacific Ocean was Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller. I initially picked it up just because of the hype surrounding it; I felt like I should have at least read it once. I was pleasantly surprised and I must say that I quite enjoyed it. It was a quick read filled with lots of nuggets of Truth.
Another quick book that I had to pace myself through was Bono on Bono: Conversations with Michka Assayas. I really appreciated the sections on Bono's childhood and memories of his late mother. He also spoke very eloquently about his worldview and role of religion in his life today. The only thing that could have been better would have been actually being present at the interviews that pieced together this book.
Leap of Faith: Memoirs of An Unexpected Life, by Queen Noor (of Jordan) had been on my mental "to-read list" since the Petra exhibit came to Calvin two years ago. (Wow, that was almost two years ago?!? It totally doesn't feel like that long ago...) I distinctly remember picking it up in the gift shop and looking through all the inserted pictures. Her story is so fascinating, totally the real life version of Prince Charming picking a commoner for a bride. Most of her account focused on the various conflicts in the Middle East and her husband's efforts to make peace. I was thankful for my classes in Middle Eastern history because her stories made sense to me--it was a good feeling to have significant background information on the topic.
I think my crowning accomplishment was completing the unabridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. I had read the abridged version in 8th grade and probably at least once every subsequent summer in high school, but the unabridged version added so much depth to the plot. The only frustrating thing was that the ending wasn't quite the climax that I remembered (probably because I had a fairly good idea of what was coming), but it was still totally worth the read.
A complete change of pace was Anne Lamott's Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. I read one of her novels this summer and I think I appreciated her more personal thoughts in these short essays. She is a great storyteller and I hope to read more of her books in the future.
I was a bit shocked to find two of Elie Wiesel's novels in Shanghai and figured that I should read them, seeing how I'd only read his well-known book, Night, to date. I taught that book for student teaching; I've also visited Buchenwald, the camp that he was liberated from, which makes his journey that much more real to me. Dawn and the Accident both contain Zionist/Pro-Israel ideas, but also deal with post-Holocaust issues and the paralysis that came for prisoners upon receiving their freedom. While I'm not his biggest fan, it was good to read some of fiction from Wiesel.
Madeleine L'Engle's A Ring of Endless Light is on the opposite end of the religion spectrum from Wiesel. I didn't realize it was actually part of a series about the same family (I guess I should have done my homework, but this was another surprising find in-country), which makes me want to find the other stories at some point. The combination of dolphins, death and teenagers would be strange except for L'Engle's ability to tie them all together in a challenging, yet uplifting story about relationships and redemption.
And finally, I just finished The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai, by John Tayman over Christmas break. I found it hard to read that the lepers on the Hawaiian islands were forced to go to Molokai even into the 20th century. It's stories like these that we like to overlook in American history, but therefore give us all the more reason to educate ourselves about our collective past, bad and good, as a nation.
My bedside table contains the following books that I am currently reading :
U2 by U2; Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh; Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond; A Gdward Life: Savoring the Supremacy of Gd in All of Life, by John Piper; also a smattering of Relevant, Paste, Time and Newsweek magazines. Happiness! I am so thankful that I have free time in which to read now. Not having enough time to read in college (I was barely staying on top of my course readings) was one of my biggest laments about the last four years, so I am glad to not have any excuse now.
A few more thoughts: The Kennedys have a nice post up that explains why communicating via Internet from China has been complicated since Christmas. Also see some pics of my visit and the joy of rice pizza, Catan and macaroons all in one evening. Visit their site here. Karri's posts from Saturday and Sunday give a good glimpse into what we were up to this weekend. And Lindsey has, as always, a funny report about the state of things at our school.
On a more serious note: On New Year's Day, I found out by email that my great uncle has lung cancer. He has been most generous to my family over the years, giving me my beloved Saturn, Sabine, and also the first car that I ever drove. He is in his mid-eighties and until now, has been living by himself in Trenton, New Jersey. A veteran, he flew in the Pacific Theater during World War II. He just completed a round of radiation treatment, but because the cancer has already travelled to his brain, he is not expected to live more than a year. My parents were able to jump in and help--my mom flew out at the beginning of the month to help him complete his treatment and to start tying up loose ends and my dad went out last week. Together they packed up his apartment and filled a storage unit (to be sorted out later), terminated his lease, and are currently driving across the US. They hope to get him into the same assisted living/nursing home as my grandparents when they arrive in Colorado. Please be thinking about the following things:
- For patience for everyone--they will travel 1800+ miles over the next few days.
- For safety on the road--the winter weather has been particularly nasty in the Midwest recently.
- For reduced stress levels for my parents--this was something that came about quite quickly and they had little preparation for the trauma of wrapping my uncle's life in NJ.
- For comfort for my uncle--this is a time of massive change for him.
- For the transition to the nursing home--that all the necessary paperwork would be processed quickly and that he would get adequate care.
- For my sense of helplessness--that I would find a meaningful way to be supportive of my family from the other side of the world.
On a more cheerful note, Chinese New Year, better know as Spring Festival here, is fast approaching, which means another two week break from school. I must say our breaks are quite evenly spread out.
Here's what's on the docket: Feb. 10th--fly Shanghai to Shenzhen (south mainland China), then a boat ride from Shenzhen to Macau, then another flight from Macau to Bangkok. Over the next week and half, we will travel from Bangkok to southern Thailand, then on to Malaysia and Singapore. Feb. 22--fly Singapore to Shenzhen, then Shenzhen back to Shanghai. Highlights WILL include sleeping on the beach, probably getting too much sun, being warm, riding an elephant, snorkeling, and bamboo rafting, plus visiting two countries I've never been to.
It's just too good...
Call this number if you need to "cry for help"
Peace and Love,