Monday, October 31, 2011

Tuition Qualifications

I was listening to NPR this morning as I was completely stopped on a 65mph highway on my way to work, and I learned about a very curious case happening in Florida. Apparently, there are many students who are being charged out-of-state tuition, even at community colleges, despite the fact that they were born and raised in Florida. Why, you might ask? Because their parents are illegal immigrants.
I understand that the whole debate on illegal immigrants is touchy and steeped in controversy, however, this was shocking to me. As one who never lived in the US until college, I am astounded that these students were denied in-state status while I was granted in-state status after attending a state institution for a semester. Yes, I am a US citizen and there were many many questions that I had to answer and give proof of, but I was still given the rank of "in-state," and all the privileges afforded that label, not the least of which was lower (much lower) tuition rates.

I agree with what one of the guests on the radio show said. She said (paraphrase) that these students are US citizens, and in America, we do not rank our citizens. Regardless of their parent's immigration status, these students should be regarded on the same level as any other American citizen. These students have worked much harder and longer to get even to where they are (at least harder and longer than I have)--how can we inhibit them further when they are much a citizen as any other person born in Florida. Or Massachusetts. Or Oregon. Or any other state? Similar cases have occurred in California and Colorado.

Now these students are suing the state for a chance at their education. Hopefully this will be a matter quickly made right. To read more about it, here is the article and radio program. A local public media source has some information on the case here.

This article from Tampa Bay Online says surprisingly little about the case.

Interestingly, and did not have their own news story about the case.

What do you think?

Because I am loathe to post without a photo, here is one I took last year. Today is Halloween, and while I'm not a big Halloween celebrator, I do enjoy carving pumpkins. This year has gone by without the fun of gutting a pumpkin, though not without some degree of wistfulness. I thought about carving something this weekend, but really, after Halloween, the time has passed for pumpkin carving. Oh well. Now I have 365 days to plan for next year! To those of you celebrating it, Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


With the appearance of the sun's rays, Carolina's Class of 2011 turned their tassels and officially went from being undergraduate students to alumni. Now I've become an alumnus twice over and something about moving the bit of stringy fabric from the left to the right gives me this feeling of officiality. Yes. Now that the tassel is on the right, I'm actually graduated.

Thinking back to that day, I was in a rush. I didn't spend long dwelling on the fact that I was a graduate, because I went straight from the stadium and some picture taking to the emptying of my apartment. Quite the process. It's amazing how many things one accumulates over a year of living in an apartment. 

As I was packing and deciding what was worth keeping and what wasn't, I was extremely thankful for my roommate who was helping me move stuff around and go on trash runs. I was extremely thankful for her presence especially when the RA came through checking things and kept opening up doors and cabinets and finding things that were accidentally left. Though she had already finished moving out, she was willing to give me her time. What a blessing.

Having friends in your immediate vicinity for only a short period of time is common if you are a TCK (you can learn more about TCKs here). If you grew up in a transient environment, learning handle frequent moves and making friends quickly becomes a survival technique. Though my roots are confusing, I have to admit that I love having friends from all different places. The down-side is that they're everywhere, and getting together with them often involves a lengthy plane ride. It also means I have to be on top of my game in keeping touch long distance. Nonetheless, they are near and dear to me.

Being in a new place yet again means making new friends. Though I've done this before, now it involves so much initiative on my part. Before, friends were there for the making. Classes. Activities. Sports. Now, I have to go find them, and it takes so much longer.

Whether by proxy or through my own initative, I know that God will put people in my life. He has not promised a life of solitude but one where He is with me. I know that community will be provided.

As I was thinking about so many of my friends in different places, this photo I took a while back came to mind. In Shanghai, many of the trees lining the sidewalks are wrapped in these twinkle lights. Not just in the winter, but all through the year. It's actually very beautiful and enchanting. Any way, these lights reminded me of my friends. Some are closer than others, shining their light directly, but some are further away. Despite their distance, however, their light is no less bright. Perhaps a little out of focus, but just as strong. I truly value my friendships. No matter the time or distance, they are there. In the darkness, their light is all the more visible.

So, my friends, thank you. For being such an illuminating force in my life. For being God's strength and love shown to me through you. Maybe you don't even realize it, but it's true.

All this slightly sappy reflecting and talking about twinkle lights makes me want to put some up. I think I will. At the very least, it's a good reminder of how blessed I am with so many wonderful friends. Since all the Christmas decorations are already out in stores, I guess it won't be too hard to find some.

How do you go about making friends?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Overexposed, but you get the feel of what I'm describing.
Have you ever been adrift at sea/ocean/lake/relatively large body of water? Without an engine? Without a paddle? Without a compass? Sometimes I imagine myself in this little canoe. Sitting and looking at endless stretches of water. Without any comprehension of direction, or which way land is. Sounds like a pretty dire situation, doesn't it?

Once upon a time, when I went through what was for me an extreme and drastic transition, my mental image of myself was one of being swept down a rushing and raging river. The sheer power of which I was helpless against. Not only helpless, but threatened to be pulled under and completely lost. But I wasn't. Repeatedly, in that image, there was an anchor (like one from a massive cruise ship). I wrapped my body around the shank of the anchor, and the arms held me from being overpowered by the current. And the water rushed by.

Now that I think about it, anchors are made to sink under water, holding one's choice of flotation vessel from floating away. Probably not the best choice to hold on to it if one has certain needs, such as a constant and plentiful supply of oxygen. But this anchor in my mind's eye did not sink. Rather it was connected to something. In that river that was strong enough to cause even a heavy anchor to be pulled along, this anchor was connected to something stronger than that river.

Back to the first water image. Again I find myself in new territories, stripped of what had become familiar and comfortable. Instead of a violent river, the slow, subtle rock and ebb of water wears away at me. Sometimes, this is more dangerous because it's easy to become unaware of the degradation.
In the midst of this, two things have been resonating reminders, ones that I am thankfully unable to shut off. Steadfast Love and Joy in Suffering.

Gently bubbling water; gentle and
As I have been working my way through Psalms, "steadfast love" has appeared countless times. I don't know if it's a different translation or I simply never noticed it before or maybe through my need, those words became stark. Steadfast. Not going anywhere. Here to stay. In my raging, rushing river or lulling, numbing ocean, He is Unchanging. Not just unchanging and constant, but LOVE. Not a cold block of stone, but Love. Love that is brimming, living, abundant, lavish and complete. There for the happy and there for the brokenness. Steadfast. Love.

I heard a sermon a couple weeks back on James 1:2-8. Kicker. JOY in SUFFERING. Totally a counter-world concept. First, the world tells us that we should not suffer. Yet. Suffering exists because sin exists. And sin... well sin definitely exists in this world. Second. JOY in the smack-dab-middle of suffering. Now, suffering can look like all kinds of things. For this speaker, his particular example was an infestation of mold. Not exactly floods, disaster or genocide, however it is still suffering. But, no matter what you are suffering through, suffeJOYring.

I suppose what has been rolling through my mind from this is that the focus should not be on me and my suffering, but on Jesus and how the truth of what He has done (giving his perfect life for our sinful one) trumps everyyyything else. And the joy of this knowledge, this truth--it engulfs and overcomes suffering.

I realize these thoughts are still developing, but it's a start. Hopefully it brings to you encouragement as you face your rushing river or erosive lake.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

simply food.

Teaser: Dinner Salad a la Costco
Many of my simple pleasures revolve around food. I love food. I couldn't live without it. Clearly. But. Since I have had the blessing of living in China and traveling to many places, I have tasted foods to melt the very innards of my soul. I had easy access to the staples of deliciousness. It doesn't have to be fancy. It doesn't have to cost a fortune. I like a good balance of flavor and healthy-ness. I think some people think that the two are mutually exclusive. But I would disagree. Maybe it's just the foods I was brought up on, or maybe it's just the way my taste buds are wired. I like the taste of fresh. I like the way those green healthy things taste. And all the flavors that you can have pop out with just a bit of the right seasonings.

Simmering in brew.
Anyway. We could talk all day about the foods I like, but there are just some foods that are comfort foods. Unfortunately for me, many of the foods on those list are Asian, seeing as that's where I lived and when I sought comfort, I ate the foods readily available to me.

Many of these comfort foods are easy, simple things that you can often find on the side of the road. You may question the sanitary nature of these roadside tricycle booths, but I haven't been sick or died from it yet, so I'm all for them. Meat on a stick. Vegemables on a stick (yes, I know I spelled it with an 'm'-- extra "mmm" factor). Roasted sweet potato. PERFECT for a cold day when you're out and about and your hands are cold. On this extensive list is "茶叶蛋 (cha ye dan)" or, as some websites call them "marble eggs." Essentially, hardboiled eggs steeped in this broth of tea, soy sauce and some other seasonings. The result is kind of like a cross between Halloween spider webs and Easter eggs. Comfort food. For some reason I had a great desire for them, so our task this weekend was to procure the necessary ingredients and make them.
Finished product. yum.

They were actually pretty simple to make, and after I learned how to hardboil eggs in my rice cooker, it was a cinch. These are great to just keep and eat in the morning for breakfast or stick in a bowl of noodle soups! I'll keep playing with seasoning proportions and who knows, maybe I'll come up with my own cocktail of spices to make the ultimate Cha Ye Dan.

Oh and let me share another revelation of this weekend. I learned how to make the quintessial Asian milk tea. Like the kind in bubble tea (also on the comfort list). Super score in my book. Secret ingredient? Well, it wouldn't be a secret if I told you, would it? ;)

What's on your list of comfort food?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

roadtrip: Washington DC

Three guesses which one's mine.
Unless you have an indefinite amount of time to spend in this city, I advise that you plan ahead and get a good general idea of what you want to see. Having said that, leave room for spontaneity, and be flexible about time and what  you actually see and do. Oh. Also, stay with friends. Makes it so much more fun and unpredictable.

I only had a weekend to visit DC. Some might call that slightly crazy, seeing as it was a 6 and a half hour drive to get there, but I was going because there was an exhibit I particularly wanted to see. So I had that on my to-do list, along with things like renting bikes to roll through the city and some rooftop restaurants that afforded beautiful views of the city. On that list, I was only able to check off the exhibit. But, there were other great and wonderful experiences.

Arriving just past 10:30pm, the friend we were staying with decided to take us out to dinner in the city. Mediterranean and soooo good. My only regret was not pulling out my camera to document the meal. Guess that's what happens when you eat a couple hours late and you have a slightly incoherent and a tired brain. Having finished dinner at around midnight, our adventure had just begun. We strolled over to some of the monuments, snapped pictures, sat and rested, solved riddles and even allowed a spontaneous game of ninja to unfold in the middle of the WWII memorial. The night concluded only after returning and having a jam session and Youtube mini-marathon. Time: 5:30am.

Day 2. Slept in. Though there was list running through my brain, I decided to just let things go. Probably the easiest decision I had to make all weekend. Good choice, because I might have collapsed from exhaustion otherwise.

After calling around to get a recommendation for a lunch spot (everyone in the house had vacated around 8:30am to go pick apples; we weren't that crazy), we discovered Potbellies. Oh. My. Fluffy. Cloud. So. Delicious. I don't think I can ever look at another sub-sandwhich the same again. The Sicilian. About 5 different kinds of meats (sorry to my veg friends). Full of flavor, and spice. But, the spicy doesn't really reveal itself until after you've tasted all the other flavors. What? How does that even work? I don't know. But it was amazing. Oreo milkshake. Perfect consistency, and oh so smooth. Like silk and babies bottoms.

Coincidentally, there was a little art market happening right outside Potbellies (where we sat outside and enjoyed GORGEOUS weather and wonderful live music). So cute. Hence=stroll through.

From there, we got on the metro and headed into DC. We found the National Portrait Gallery and went to see the exhibit I wanted to see. Not horrible, but I can't say that I was overly impressed. Next: we decided to head toward the Mall and see other museums. We stopped at a statue of some war general and people watched for a bit, then headed on. While on our way to the National History Museum, we passed through the Sculpture Garden and hit the brakes. Beautiful fountain pool, and what a wonderful phenomenon! People were sitting on the edge with their feet in water! Perfect! Needless to say we sat and soaked our feet. Watched kidlets play. Saw a man propose. Observed photo shoots. Shweet. (No, we really did see a proposal happen)

Eventually got to the National History Museum. Kind of sped through this too because there were gobs and gobs of people. Plus, we were meeting a friend and his wife for dinner. So, rush to metro, figure out that there are two changes, take one train in the wrong direction, switch trains and finally get to location. Eat a scrumptious Chinese meal. Again, no photos because I was too intent on eating. Plus I didn't want to weird out these people I had really just met. Then, back to the house for Dinner Round 2. Burgers. Corn. Peppers. Avacado. etc. Also delish. But I ate less and just sat around talking until I was too tired and passed out. Time: 11:30pm.

To conclude this epic weekend, we left around 10:15am, in order to beat traffic. A beautiful drive, though I was pretty sleepy the majority of the drive. Kudos to my driver, who valiantly and courageously drove us all the way back and didn't complain once. So gallant and chivalrous.

And that, my friends, is the rundown of my weekend. I hope you had a great one too!