Tag Archives: China

Letter C #AtoZChallenge

Continuing my A to Z theme of a memoir encyclopedia, here are my Letter C entries.

Carebears

When I was a kid, I never had Barbies. I was much too tomboyish for that. But I did have a vast collection of Carebears. Once word spread that I was into the colorful plush bears with designs on their bellies, everyone gave me one for birthdays and Christmases. I had at least one of every Carebear, and even a few repeats. I had three of the pink ones with the rainbow on their belly…like anyone needs three of the same Carebear! What’s weird is that I don’t remember actually playing with them. I think I may have slept with them, but they mostly lived on my wooden shelf, lined up and on display. When I got too old to have stuffed animals all over my room, my mom put them all in a large trashbag and stored them in the garage. Somehow, in the process of cleaning out the garage, they were thrown out. I remember being so sad when I found that out. I wish I still had them so I could show my niece and nephew.

Central Baptist Church

I attended Central Baptist from birth through college. Since it used to be only a block away, we walked to church. I spent loads of time there, and not just on Sundays. I went to Wednesday night church, Vacation Bible School (VBS), Disciple Now, and many other church functions. I made some really close friends there, too. My favorite memories are when we got to come down to the front during the Sunday morning message, or “big church” as my parents called it) for children’s church. I also really loved the youth group. Our youth paster, Tim Skaggs, was a really cool guy who had a knack for engaging pre-teens and teens, his messages a perfect mix of humor and driving home the message. I attended many years of church summer camp, where I learned to spread my wings. Later, as a college student, I worked part time in the Mother’s Day Out program, which I really enjoyed. Central really meant a lot to me.

China (and Change)

China will always hold a special place in my heart. When I began my international teaching career in Shanghai in 2010, I thought I would be there for two years, fulfill my contract, and go back home with a few more stamps in my passport and some interesting stories to tell my friends. Little did I know that I would stay there for five years and become hooked on the international teacher expat life.

When I first moved to China, everything was a culture shock. Nothing felt familiar and I was forever comparing it to life back in Texas. I swear I must have been a broken record. “In my old school…” “This doesn’t taste/look/smell like it does in Texas.” Well, of course it doesn’t. I was in China. I was inundated with newness in everything. New foods. New ways of shopping (How do you bargain?). New smells (There’s nothing that compares to China smell.) New ways of getting around. New language (Now that part was tricky!). New ways of doing things.

That first year was rough. Unbeknownst to me, I was thought to be the one teacher who might pull ‘a runner.’ Lots of tears were shed, some from homesickness, but most from frustration. I learned a lot that year about China, but also about myself. I grew and began to morph into a slightly different version of myself, one that had a thicker skin, could laugh when I found myself in precarious situations, and one that was more of a risk-taker. My food repertoire exploded in China. Being in Shanghai, a international city with cuisine varieties from all over the world, I tried many different types of food for the first time. I’ve since become more adventurous with food and love to try new things.

Christmas

Christmas is my second favorite holiday. I love the traditions, family time, decorations, and food. Growing up, Andrew and I couldn’t wait to wake up and rush out to the living room to discover what Santa had left for us. Santa always left our presents unwrapped, a pile for each of us on either side of the tree. Our stockings were always filled with oranges and chocolates, and sometimes some socks. I secretly wished our stockings had been filled with all kinds of different small trinkets like Santa left my best friend Nicole. That’s probably why I now fill the stockings with things like that.

After seeing our loot from Santa, we’d bound into mom and dad’s room, jumping on their bed and waking them up, practically pulling them out of bed to come and see what Santa brought us. They were always as surprised as we were. The rest of the morning consisted of playing with our Santa gifts, mom starting on Christmas lunch, and me calling Nicole to ask what she got. We’d then make plans to hang out later that day. Smells of lunch made my tummy grumble, and just when I couldn’t take it anymore, mom would put breakfast on the table.

Mamaw and Grandaddy always came over around noon for Christmas lunch, and the rule was that no one could open presents until we’d had lunch, which was absolute torture for us. We’d beg to no avail. The answer was always the same, “No, we open presents after lunch.” I’m not sure who started this tradition, but I sure didn’t like it as a kid. We still have the same tradition now, only waiting to open presents until after lunch doesn’t bother me anymore. I’m almost always the last to open gifts nowadays. I prefer to watch my niece and nephew open their gifts, their eyes lighting up with excitement. Christmas through a child’s eyes is magic.

Cookie Cake

My guilty pleasure is cookie cake. Great American Cookie Co. cookie cake to be exact. I detest the ones with the colored icing. My favorite is the chocolate chip cookie cake with chocolate icing, and maybe a little bit of white icing, but not too much. Whenever I’m home for the summer, I hint, not so subtlety, for my mom to get me a cookie cake for my birthday, which they missed celebrating with me since it’s in May. My mom doesn’t believe in belated birthday celebrations, so I don’t get the cookie cake. My contribution for the past few years at our Kesler family reunion has been a large cookie cake. I pretend it’s because the kids love cookie cake, which they do, but in reality, I get it for me. I feel guilty if I buy myself a birthday cake, but a reunion cake for everyone is no problem.

Cooking

One of my favorite pastimes is cooking. I love cooking for other people, but I cook for myself, too. I think what intrigues me is that I can put a lot of different ingredients together and end up with a new creation. Cooking brings people together. Nothing says love than getting a group of people together and sharing a meal. I am really looking forward to cooking this summer with my family and to my new place having a good kitchen. My current kitchen situation is pathetic. I have a tiny refrigerator, a sink, about 2 feet of counter space, and a hot plate, which makes it really difficult to do anything. I’m pretty tired of going out or ordering in at this point!

Cousins

It’s true what they say. Your cousins are your first friends, and for me, that was most true with my cousin Katy, who is three days older than me. Growing up the same age meant that we had loads in common, and while we didn’t live in the same town, our parents got together often enough and we spent time together at holidays, that we were each other’s best friends when we were younger. I wasn’t as close to Katy’s older siblings, Kevin and Kenna, growing up, the age gap a little too big (10 and 7 years older), but as we’ve become adults, I have really enjoyed getting to know them, and have spent time with them and their families.

My cousin Candice, seven years my junior, and I became really close when she was in high school and I was in college/out in the real world. I remember taking a trip with her to Chicago over Spring Break during my first year of teaching. It was both our first times to visit, and coming from Texas, we were not prepared for the snowy weather. I remember traipsing all over the city visiting museums and other sites with her. One of the memories from that trip that sticks out most was when we got lost in search of a comedy club where we were going to see an improv show. Even though I was the older (and presumably wiser) one, I was naive and would go up to shady strangers to ask for assistance. Candice scolded me on more than one occasion after I talked to unsavory men on the street. One of my tips eventually paid off and we made it to the club, where we laughed our heads off. I vaguely remember that one of us was called up on stage to be a part of the show, but for the life of me, I can’t remember if it was Candice or me.

Candice’s younger brother, Nathan, and I weren’t very close growing up, mainly due to the fact that I am 11 years older than him, but I have started to get to know him as an adult, and he’s a really cool guy. I love how goal-oriented and hard-working he is.

I have two younger cousins from my mom’s side, Laura and Matthew. Laura is a freshman at A&M and Matthew is still in high school. For most of their lives, they lived in Tennessee, so we didn’t see each other often. I’ve visited them a few times since they moved back to Texas, and I am proud of them. They are both very smart and talented. I’d love to spend more time getting to know them.

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A Year in Photos- 2015 #sol16 20 of 31

Last year, I wrote a post sharing my favorite photos from 2014. This was a really great way to reflect on my year, and to relive some of my favorite moments. So here goes 2015’s year in photos (in chronological order). I hope you enjoy! πŸ™‚

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All photos copyright of Jennifer Kesler. Please do not use without permission.

Mistaken Identity- SOL #27

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At Michelle’s birthday dinner this past weekend, we started talking about horrible, funny, and weird flight experiences we’d had. It was then that I was reminded of a funny story that happened to me once…

Back in December 2010, I was headed home to surprise my family for Christmas. I had just spent my first few months in Shanghai, and was looking forward to a little family lovin’. At the airport check-in counter with my Chinese friend Julie, who accompanied me to the airport, I was a little taken aback by the customer service rep’s question.

“Can you see very good?” she asked.

“Ummm…well, I can with my glasses on,” I answered her in a curious-sounding voice.

“But you can see?” she queried.

Leaning over, I whispered to Julie, “Why does she need to know this? Is this some weird China thing?” Julie shook her head no.

“I can see OK, but not very well without my glasses. Is this a problem? I’m not driving the plane, so…I’m not sure what the deal is.”

Apparently that answer was sufficient, since she dropped the conversation and continued with normal check-in. Shaking my head as I left the counter, I chocked it up to a random, weird China experience, said goodbye to Julie, and made my way through immigration and security.

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After boarding the aircraft, I was approached by a middle-aged flight attendant. In a VERY loud voice, she shouted, “Ma’am, I brought you a book to read!” while handing me a large white book. Her loud voice was beginning to draw the attention of the other passengers.

“No, thank you, I brought my own,” I said, wondering why she was giving me, and only me, a book.

“Ma’am, it’s a Braille book for you to read!” she shouted.

“Why do I need a Braille book?” I questioned, my face flushing from all this attention I was getting.

“Because you’re blind!” she said matter-of-factly.

“I’m not blind!” I insisted.

“Yes, you are,” she argued.

“No, really, I’m not,” I again insisted, at this point completely flabbergasted as to why this was happening. I was pretty sure I was being punked.

The older Southern gentleman (AKA good ole boy) behind me bellowed, “I see what you’re doing…trying to get something for free by telling them you’re blind, huh?” as he chuckled and shook his head at me. I wanted to crawl under my seat.

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At our stopover in Tokyo, we all had to go through security and then get checked in again so they could issue us a boarding pass for the last leg of our trip. As I was waiting for the people in front of me to get their boarding passes, I leaned over the edge of the counter and happened to see my name written down on a piece of paper. Once it was my turn in line, I asked, “Why is my name written on that paper?”

“Because I have to escort you to the gate,” the attendant said.

“Ummm…why?”

“Because you’re blind.”

“I JUST READ MY NAME ON THAT PIECE OF PAPER! How could I possibly be blind?” I shouted.

“I don’t know, but I will help you to the gate,” he responded.

“No, you won’t. I do not need help.”

“But it says that I have to.”

“I don’t care. I am capable of going by myself.”

After a few more minutes of arguing, he let me go unattended. Seriously, I felt like I was in the twilight zone or something.

Luckily, the rest of the flight was good, and I was no longer accused of being blind, but looking back, that was some crazy trip! I still can’t figure out how I got flagged in the system, but I’m glad it’s never happened again.

Things I’ve Collected in my Travels- SOL#26

As a traveler, I collect lots of things. Most of these are memories, stories, new friends, and photographs. But I also collect art. Whenever I visit somewhere new, I’m on the hunt for something that calls out to me, begging me to bring it home and be a constant reminder of my time in that special place. Here are some of my favorite pieces that I’ve collected over the past few years.

Walking barefoot through the temples of Bagan, Myanmar, I came across this unique piece of art, a sand painting of monks. Instantly I was drawn to the texture and uniqueness of the piece, and the monks were definitely a part of the Myanmar culture that I would remember long after I returned home.

I found this gem in Seoul, South Korea, as I sifted through some antiques in a little shop in Insadong. Initially looking for an antique Buddha or teapot, the shop owner showed me this 100-year-old writer’s notebook. While I can’t read a word in it, it’s such a treasure to have a piece of someone’s writing.

This picture captures a few pieces. The umbrella lamp was a recent purchase from my second trip to Myanmar. I was drawn to the brightly-colored umbrellas on display in the little shop in town. Shaggers and I stopped in for a look, but kept moving. Later that night, we saw the shop again, only this time, the umbrellas were lit up, casting a lovely glow. I wanted one! But again, I resisted. I didn’t need more stuff, I told myself. At dinner, Shaggers said I should just go get it; that I would regret it if I didn’t. She was right. I dashed down the street and picked it up, happy I did.

After living in Shanghai for two years, I realized I didn’t have any art from China yet. Jody, a friend of mine from back home, was visiting. As we walked around Tianzifang, we came across an art gallery. The artist was there, and he talked with us about his artwork and his techniques. The paper-cut doll was so beautiful, I had to take it. I love that I have a contemporary piece of traditional Chinese artwork.

Last summer, Melissa M. and I traveled to Greece, a beautiful place that I can’t wait to return to, and while we were there, we took a trip to Santorini. If you haven’t yet been, I highly recommend it. Its picturesque views, traditional blue and white domes, and unbelievable natural beauty make it so memorable. As we meandered through the tight pathways cut into the side of the mountainous island, we happened into a shop with paintings of Santorini. This one, with the vibrant colors and the peaceful view, called my name. I love remembering our special time every time I see it on the wall.

Also last summer, I visited Rome. I was on my way to Greece from London, and I was blessed with an 18-hour stopover in Rome. Making the most of it, I spent the day roaming around the city. Walking along the river at dusk, I came across a man selling his water color paintings of everyday Roman life. This one, of a doorway, caught my eye. I’m not sure what I loved about it, but it made me happy, so I supported this local artist and bought it up right away!

My trip to Egypt was one of the most amazing trips I have ever taken. As you can imagine, we saw loads of hieroglyphics while we were there. I loved the ancient artwork, and took countless photos of walls full of stories told through pictures. What I was most drawn to, though, were the ankhs, or keys of life. There was just something about them that displayed beauty and symmetry and life. While in Abu Simbel, we visited a shop that sold handmade pieces made of stone. I didn’t have any intention of purchasing anything, but when I laid eyes on this ankh, I knew I had to add it to my collection. Not only was it an ankh, but it was handmade and it was a beautiful color. I absolutely love it!

These last two pieces are also from Myanmar. While I generally stick to purchasing one piece per country, I simply couldn’t resist picking up more than that in Myanmar! The watercolor painting of sunset at U Bein Bridge was a gem I found on my most recent trip to Myanmar. Shaggers and I headed out on the back of some motorbikes from Mandalay to the bridge to catch the sunset. Missing it by a few minutes, we decided that we’d walk the length of it anyway, since we were already there. On our way across the bridge, we passed by a shop selling paintings. My eyes were instantly drawn to this piece, and while I stopped to gaze at it for a bit, I moved on. Reaching the end, the sun had completely set, and we turned around to head back. Mentioning to Shaggers that I should have bought that picture, she said we should stop by on our way. Noticing that most of the shops we had passed earlier were already closed up, I thought my window of opportunity had closed. Nearing the end of the bridge, we found them putting everything away, ready to head home for the day. Luckily they let me look through the paintings until I found the one I had wanted. Now it is mine! Once I frame it, I’ll display it in my home.

The other piece, the wooden carving of a long neck lady, was picked up on my first trip to Myanmar in Inle Lake. Stopping into a shop on the lake, I was taken aback by the native people who adorn themselves with gold plates around their neck, stretching them more and more each year. They were simply beautiful. As I walked around, this carving stood out out to me, and I loved the profile.

I love that I am brought back back to my travels as I look around my apartment at the beautiful pieces I have (and will continue to) collected over the years. When I’m old and grey, I will be able to share my stories with others and recall these wonderful memories.

The World Through My Eyes… SOL#25

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The United States is family, friends, good food, and home.

England is not sure the first time, but oh so much better the second.

Germany is meeting people in awkward places and my first taste of independence.

Fiji is adventure and pristine, so-beautiful-you-think-they’re-photoshopped beaches.

Australia is where my heart is happiest, oh and hot accents that make me weak in the knees.

China is weird smells, craziness, ‘The Bridge,’ and my second home.

Hong Kong is civilized China and home to my favorites Shaggers and Jeezy.

The Philippines is beautiful people and juicy mangoes.

Malaysia is lime juice and getting lost.

Vietnam is “beep! beep!” and night markets.

South Korea is my favorite salad, used bookstore love, and meeting my SOL friend.

Macau is long immigration lines, casinos, and Portuguese architecture.

Cambodia is explorations, biting fish, and begging children.

Thailand is tuk tuks, sketchy trains, and golden roofs.

Japan is confusion and sushi and where did my friends go?

Egypt is camel-exchange proposals, koshari, and the call to prayer.

Nepal is roaming cows, do-anything-to-help-you people, rice fields, and peace.

Italy is the kindness of strangers, gelato, and cobblestone streets.

Greece is baklava and feta, blue and white domes, and restful relaxation.

Scotland is rain and beautiful buildings and more rain.

Ireland is old castles, lush green, and Dirty Dancing.

Myanmar is long boats, temples, daily tea leaf salads, and love.

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Celebrating in Style!- SOL #21

Earlier this month, we celebrated Amy’s birthday. Amy, pictured above, is one of those people that exudes happiness and love and fun. She’s the friend who’s always telling you how beautiful, smart, and amazing you are, and the fact that she is all of that and more makes her a fabulous friend to have! Her birthday theme this year was sexy, which is such an Amy thing to choose. No matter what, Amy thinks the world of her friends, and is always telling us how sexy (or nice or pretty or kind) we are. Amy is sexy, and her beauty showed through on her birthday. I mean, look at her! She’s gorgeous!

Her birthday was so much fun! We celebrated at Malabar, with nibbles, drinks, and laughs. Everyone who came was dressed to the nines, and we all exuded sexiness (despite whatever self-conscious thoughts we may have had when we we getting ready earlier that evening).

The amazingly beautiful and kind woman pictured above is none other than Donna Paxon, this one and only soul that oozes love and goodness. Despite having met her only a few months ago, we have become fast friends and kindred spirits. She holds such a dear place in my heart, and will forever be etched in my memories.

This beauty here is Melissa, the goofy, sweet, ever-loyal lady I’m lucky enough to call my friend. No matter what, she’s positive, uplifting, and sweet. Her heart is genuine and she’s always there to listen when I need a friend. She also makes a great travel buddy and puts up with my crap. I’m going to miss her more than she knows (and probably more than I even know right now) when she leaves this summer. While I’m extremely happy for her new adventures (new country, new job, and new BABY), I can’t help but feel a selfish twinge knowing that she won’t be right down the street or down the hall from me anymore.

Oh Nirada…such a silly lady! I love how we kid around with one another and give each other crap. She’s such a caring person and a really great teacher. Not to mention, she’s gorgeous! I’m glad we have become friends, and look forward to many more memories! πŸ˜‰

P.S. Love the photo bomb Mel! πŸ˜›

Such a sweet group shot! While we won’t all be in the same place next fall, I will certainly hold a special place in my heart for all of these ladies! πŸ˜‰

So yeah…this is what happens when you leave your phone unattended! Haha…I had such a laugh the next morning when I went through the pictures on my phone and found lots of funny gems like this one!

This has got to be my favorite picture of the three of us- by far! Linner, Michelle, and I have been together for the past 5 years, when we all moved to Shanghai for the first time. Since then, we have been there for one another and have all changed so much. Linner, the always loyal friend, is as beautiful inside as she is outside. She’s caring, giving, a great listener, and loves to finish my food when I can’t. She’s also my veggie counterpart and a sloth. πŸ˜‰ Michelle, the other half of Kes-Baugh, is my partner-in-crime, both at work and at play. She’s very generous, loves to pick on me, and is drop-dead gorgeous. I’m not really sure what I’ll do without her next year. The three of us unfortunately will be separated next year, but I know we’ll keep in touch and be in each others’ lives for years to come. I love you ladies!

Broken Chinese + Charades- SOL #17

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Ring, ring, ring…”Ni hao,” I said as I answered the phone that’s connected to the front door of my apartment building. I had just ordered dinner, and although it seemed too soon for my food to be here, I was hopeful.

A frantic voice on the other end began shouting something in Chinese, desperate to get me to understand what he was saying.

“Sherpa’s ma?” I questioned, wondering if this was my food delivery guy.

More shouting, without confirmation that my food was here.

Thinking that maybe this guy just needed in the building, I pushed the key to let him in. About a minute later, there was a knock at my door.Β Opening it, I found a security guard yelling in Chinese about something, but I had no clue what he was trying to say.

“Shenme?” I asked, like even if he told me what was going on, I’d actually understand.

At this point, the Chinese was accompanied by charades. I got that he was talking about a bicycle or e-bike by the handlebar gestures.

“Yes, I have a bike,” I said as I nodded, wondering if he was trying to tell me that my bike needed to be moved or that it had been stolen.

Then, he began making the “crazy” gesture, you know the one, where you spin your finger around and around near your ear. Alternating between charades for a bike and crazy, I was so confused. My bike is crazy? You think a crazy person stole my bike? I’m crazy for having a bike?

Realizing he wouldn’t leave, I put on shoes and a coat and followed him downstairs. Once outside, I pointed to my bike, letting him know it was, in fact, still there. And nope, it didn’t look crazy to me. Another security guard joined the party, pointing in the opposite direction, yelling something I couldn’t understand. I continued pointing to my bike saying, “Wo de.” Mine.

Then I heard it. The annoying sound of a bike alarm blaring, over and over. Ohhhh…they thought the bike alarm incessantly going off was mine. The crazy gesture must have had something to do with the sound (or was it that they were going crazy because of it? :)).

Realizing that he called me outside for nothing, I was waved off with a “Dui bu qi.” Sorry.

“Mei guanxi.” No worries. It happens.

And this is why I really should learn more Chinese.