Maria Holland

Posts Tagged ‘travel’

The Best Airport in the World!

In Uncategorized on January 7, 2011 at 11:14 pm

If you have to be stuck in an airport for 8 hours, make it the Incheon International Airport.  I’ve done it, and it was wonderful.  To pass the time, Rick and Kim and I:

  • walked to Caribou Coffee and bought drinks and snacks for breakfast

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  • impersonated Intense Cart Lady

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  • made art at the Korean Cultural Exhibition

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  • took a family photo

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  • made more art at a different Korean Cultural Exhibition

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  • watched a performance of traditional Korean music

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  • dressed up in traditional Korean clothing

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  • reenacted our favorite scenes from the movie Elf

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  • played Catan

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  • ate a delicious lunch of bibimbap and bulgogi

But eventually the fun came to an end and we had to get on the plane to go home.

The trans-Pacific flight was only 10 hours, which was ridiculously short when compared to 13 hours.  (On the flight over, it was hard to imagine a time before we were on the plane.)

The LAX airport sucks.  Every time I pass through I feel bad for those people who first experience America at the LA airport. 

But time passed and then it was really time to go home.  Miraculously, we arrived in Tulsa early – I know, right?!  My backpack survived, too, which was equally as unexpected.  Some friends picked me up at the airport – they made a lovely welcome party! 

I was at home for 15 minutes, just enough time to change, and then some other friends picked me up and we headed out to Caravan (the country dance club in town).  I was on the dance floor by 10:30 (having landed at 9:30).  I smelled like 40 hours worth of airplane, but Caravan reeks of smoke anyway so I’m pretty sure no one noticed.

It was probably the best return to country I’ve ever had – dancing with my friends! 

Adventuring Towards Phnom Penh!

In Uncategorized on December 29, 2010 at 11:37 pm

I had to wake up at 4 to be at the airport in time.  We got there nice and early because of the new screening system – the line was long but I moved through quickly and was not groped.  Victory!

The plane to LA was very full.  Apparently Wisconsin is playing TCU in the Rose Bowl (which, apparently, is in California.  Who knew??) so the plane was a sea of red.  I slept the entire time, which was 4 hours but felt like 40.

I hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan (well, fleece jacket).  It is my personal opinion that any dreams you have when landing at LAX are immediately killed by the oppressive grayness of the place.  I exited the gray building and walked through the gray drizzle into another gray building, where I got my next boarding passes and found my travel buddies! 

The travel team is 7 people, and we converged on LAX from 4 different airports on 5 different flights.  It was a miracle, but we all hooked up according to plan!  Besides me, we have:

  • Kim, a freshman ME poo girl
  • Rick, a sophomore EE
  • Michelle, our graduate student mentor
  • Garret, Michelle’s husband and a EE grad student
  • David, a pastor in Tulsa who is our contact with the new project site
  • John, a pastor in Tulsa who is traveling with our group on his own sort of assessment trip

[Side story: I texted everyone “Hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan” upon landing.  Michelle, who is old and was traveling with the other oldsters, told me that she was totally confused by this.  Kim, who is young and hip, responded correctly with the next line of the song – as did three other friends.  Even my dad replied with “Welcome to the land of fame excess, am I gonna fit in?” although I’m pretty sure he had to Google it.]

I got some food in the airport – breakfast, because LA insisted that it was still morning.  It was definitely afternoon where I had come from, but it was the middle of the night where I was headed so I just ate what they gave me.

The trans-Pacific flight was really empty – I had the emergency exit row to myself, so I basically had enough room to grow crops.  I am generally a huge critic of in-flight movies; you watch them because they’re there, not because they’re good.  But they actually had really good selection on this flight!  I think I watched 5 movies on the way over there – The Social Network, Wall Street Where Money Never Sleeps, Despicable Me, The Switch, and Step Up 3.  Okay, the last two were airplane-quality movies but Despicable Me was amazing! 

I slept the last two hours before we landed in Seoul.  We had a really short connection, so we literally ran through the airport and on to our next flight.  That one was much more crowded.  It was also the longest leg that I’ve ever flown within Asia – over 5 hours! 

We landed in Phnom Penh around 11 p.m. local time.  It was really humid there, which was a shock after seeing snow on the ground in Seoul!  I was really impressed with the airport – it was bright and pretty and easy to navigate with good [English] signage. 

Cambodia issues visas on invitation, so we filled out forms, handed over our passports, and then waited in line to pay and pick up our passports with visas.  There were about 8 workers sitting behind the visa desk, so it went pretty quickly.  John said that there would only be one guy working in the US, and I responded that in China there would be 8 guys but only one would be working.  What a pleasant welcome to Cambodia! 

Mades, our Cambodian contact, guide, and translator, met us at the airport and drove us to our hotel.  My first impressions so far:

  • It’s very clean – there is trash on the road but it’s all in very neat piles so I think it’s waiting to be picked up. 
  • The street food looks so tempting.  Why can’t I eat it?!?
  • Approximately 1/3 of the signs are in Chinese, but most of those are in English as well. 
  • Cambodians are quite dark skinned.  I love that they appear to be embracing that, as opposed to the irrational efforts that Chinese and Americans sometimes make to change the natural and logical color of their skin. 

What Was On My Mind (IV)

In Uncategorized on September 4, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Goodbyes and my return home, captured in facebook statuses:


Maria Holland is done with finals, including the one where I had to talk about my favorite holiday for three minutes. I am now done . . . with kindergarten.
July 13 at 11:11pm

Maria Holland wants to play Apples to Apples more than you could possibly know. I will be home in 7 days, by the way . . .
July 15 at 1:31am

Maria Holland still 5 days before I leave, but maybe tomorrow’s goodbyes will be even harder :-/
July 15 at 11:50pm

Maria Holland i’m ready, i’m ready, i’m ready (said like Spongebob). Three days left, just packing and last-minute adventures remain! But yeah, I’m ready to go home.
July 17 at 4:31pm

Maria Holland for so long, I was going home in 七月份 (sometime in July). Then it became more specific – 20号 (the 20th). Last week it was 下星期二 (next Tuesday). But now we’re down to 后天 (day after tomorrow). It’s crazy!!
July 18 11:23 am

Maria Holland is in that period where I don’t remember clearly the great things about home and I don’t notice the annoying parts of life in China anymore. All I can think about is the friends I’m leaving here . . .
19 July 3:28 am

Maria Holland is, according to my calendar and plane ticket, heading home in 6 hours. Don’t ask me, because I don’t quite believe it.
July 19 at 10:47pm

Maria Holland The good news: I’m in the land of free internet (and it’s amazing how fast facebook is when you don’t have to pass through a proxy).
The bad news: This land is called Hong Kong and I’m stuck here for the near future. Cathay Pacific FAIL
July 20 at 12:00pm

Maria Holland is going to be optimistic, even after the fiasco of last night. I’m adventuring towards home (Hong Kong is, after all, one step closer than Xiamen) and may – or may not – arrive tomorrow at 6 p.m.
July 20 at 4:27pm

Maria Holland Well, so much for that plan. In addition to everything else, Cathay Pacific has lost my baggage so no other airline will accept me. If this keeps up, my return is going to be a birthday present for my father (or, even worse, a wedding present for Rachel!). If there is a hell, it is surely managed by Cathay Pacific.
July 20 at 11:08pm

Maria Holland will get home at midnight IF this typhoon warning turns out to be nothing and we get off the ground within the next hour. We’ll see . . .
July 21 at 3:02am

Maria Holland is home! It took 48 hours and one suitcase didn’t make it, but in a way I’m surprised it even went that well. Cathay Pacific made me miss my flight, took 3 hours to find me a hotel, lost my luggage, made handwritten tags for it once they refound them, and made up a flight number that didn’t exist. Considering the lightning storm and typhoon as well, it is quite remarkable that I made it at all!
July 22 at 2:07am

Maria Holland is home, and the last bag made it tonight as well. Unfortunately, it was apparently mauled by a bear and run over by a plane en route to me, but it’s about what I’ve come to expect from Cathay.
July 22 at 11:31pm

Maria Holland three days ago I had to be in my room, plugged into a lan, and signed into a proxy to access facebook. now I am writing this from my blackberry . . . crazy!
July 23 at 11:52pm via Facebook for BlackBerry

Maria Holland everything is just as I remembered it. Minnesota summers are gorgeous, my mom’s cooking is the best, Americans are really polite, and I can’t park. Only differences: my bed feels soft by comparison, and Rachel Middlebrook is married!
July 25 at 1:32pm

Maria Holland would like to thank goodwill for allowing me to put off my return to American prices for one more day. Three dresses for $7 (40 kuai) each!
July 26 at 12:53pm

Maria Holland successfully stayed up the entire day, but the only emotion I feel is tired. Even 14 hours of sleep can only do so much, apparently. Better luck tomorrow . . .
July 26 at 10:19pm

Maria Holland don’t have to lock my computer while I’m at home; every time my parents try to use it they end up asking me how to “get rid of the Chinese”.
July 28 at 12:04pm

Maria Holland realized today that the last 12 months of my life have been the best 12 months of my life. This is a challenge that I hope the next 12 months will be able to rise to!
August 5 at 10:47pm

Maria Holland is finally back at TU. There’s a huge building outside my apartment that wasn’t there before, I can’t walk from KEP to ACAC, and I’ve only seen one familiar face (and she is a freshman!). At least QT and Blue Bell are just as I remembered!
August 18 at 8:57pm

Maria Holland was afraid my year in China hurt me as an engineer but it turns out that’s not the case. I was the first to figure out the design problem Tiptop gave us!! All because I have no qualms about peeing in public (or at least talking about it). Squatty potties and split-bottom pants FTW!
August 24 at 1:21am

What Was On My Mind (II)

In Uncategorized on September 4, 2010 at 4:56 pm

The middle of the year, captured in facebook statuses:


Maria Holland My parents are in route to China RIGHT NOW. Are they ready for China, and is China ready for them??
January 12 at 10:45pm

Maria Holland Parents, meet China. China, parents. (I hope they get along!!!) Yes, this means my parents have arrived in Xiamen safely!
January 13 at 11:12pm

Maria Holland had an amazing few days in Xiamen with my parents. It was almost too perfect, and now I’m hoping that the rest of China can live up to it! Next stop is Guangzhou, then we’re riding the world’s fastest train to Wuhan.
January 17 at 9:46pm

Maria Holland had the best day since leaving Xiamen today – looking at pandas all morning, and finding an amazing donut shop after lunch!
January 23 at 3:19pm

Maria Holland has mixed feelings about the first two days in Beijing. Peking roast duck, Forbidden City, Mass, and sanlunche ride home were amazing; the lack of readable maps, decent hotels, and Matteo Ricci’s tomb is really frustrating me. Oh, and I finally found a Chinese breviary, as well as a Chinese-English Catholic Encyclopedia!!!!!!
January 31 at 6:00pm

Maria Holland climbed the Great Wall today – and then slid down on my butt. Pretty much the best way to experience ChangCheng (and probably the fastest). Also, I think approximately 1/4 of all Chinese people have a picture of me now.
February 1 at 9:05pm

Maria Holland Um . . . . well, the good news is that I have a train ticket home from Beijing to Xiamen. The bad news is that they were out of sleepers so I have a seat. Oh, and it turns out it’s a 31 HOUR TRIP
February 2 at 8:35pm

Maria Holland got in a fight with China today and lost. We’re currently not speaking, at least not if I can help it. I plan to drug myself heavily before my 31-hour train trip tomorrow. I can’t wait to get back to Xiamen with it’s 70+ degree weather and beaches and Coco milk tea!
February 4 at 9:03pm

Maria Holland has had the 3 worst days in China. Hopefully today will be better – a working toilet, a massage, and my first real meal in 2 days would go a long way in this direction.
February 7 at 8:34am

Maria Holland got my toes in the water, ass in the sand, not a worry in the world and a good book in my hand. It’s 75 and sunny in Xiamen, and I happen to live 3 minutes from a beach. Score!
February 10 at 11:12am

Maria Holland still hasn’t figured out how to say Lent in Chinese . . . but I know how to say Easter!
February 17 at 9:33pm

Maria Holland seriously, Chinese Mulan – no happy ending? I put up with the random foreigner, the sandstorm that came out of nowhere, the lack of memorable songs, and your insistence on speaking Chinese the whole time . . . but how can you end it with the lovers parting ways? This is crap. Good thing the fruit here is good, or I would leave this country.
February 20 at 10:53pm

Maria Holland just figured out that the 天上母后 can be sung to the same tune as the Regina Caeli with only slight squishing of syllables. Is it Easter yet???
February 26 at 12:48am

Maria Holland spent the night in a Chinese hospital . . . don’t worry about me, I was just keeping Lester company, but the poor guy has pancreatitis so please pray for him!
February 28 at 9:58am

Maria Holland 刚刚开学 . . . Classes started today, which means vacation is over. I try not to let school interfere with my education, though, so I’m still really looking forward to the semester!
March 1 at 1:58pm

March 4 at 7:06pm

Maria Holland might miss books more than bread, guacamole, ice cream, and tortillas combined. Why do Chinese libraries hate me?
March 10 at 11:50pm

Maria Holland is wondering if you know how to say ‘doorknob’ in another language – without looking it up! Please respond, I’m doing a small survey.
March 12 at 11:58pm

Maria Holland is translating the legend of Paul Bunyan into Chinese. Thus far, I have learned: giant (巨人), lumberjack (伐木人), Grand Canyon (大峡谷), axe (斧), buttons (纽扣), and footprints (足迹). Good thing I already knew how to say Mississippi River!
March 17 at 4:39pm

Maria Holland won’t be takin’ no calls cuz I’ll be dancin’
March 19 at 10:58am

Maria Holland in previewing tomorrow’s Chinese lesson, I came across this sentence: 美国人是非常小气的 (Americans are extremely stingy). Awesome . . .
March 21 at 11:43pm

Maria Holland was really amused to read this comment from an overseas Chinese on an article about the ongoing Google-China battle: "All Chinese, I urge you to boycott Google, and join my facebook "Chinese boycott Google" group." Um . . . great idea, except your government blocked facebook a few years ago for also refusing to self-censor. Irony FAIL.
March 23 at 11:42pm

Maria Holland is pretty sure she has the best parents ever. The package from home included Girl Scout cookies, jelly beans, chocolate bunnies, Cadbury eggs, Hershey’s kisses, lemonade powder, Jello mix, and another bag of marshmallows!!!! Dear Easter: I am eagerly awaiting your arrival :)
March 25 at 1:45pm

Maria Holland baked 7 cakes and a batch of cookies today. Isn’t a full kitchen a wonderful thing? Now if only it were mine . . .
March 26 at 8:51pm

Maria Holland will be celebrating my birthday for a total of 42 hours, from birthday vigil on Chinese time to the end of the day in the Central US. It’s going great so far!
March 28 at 3:18am

Maria Holland My birthday presents included flowers, Belgian chocolate, Kazah and Swedish money, a book titled "Anonymous Rex/Casual Rex", a Slovenian PowerPoint presentation prominently featuring 茄子 (eggplant), a bunch of Dutch music including Bisje Komt Zo (which is apparently about drugs, not buses), and a traditional Chinese bra. Best birthday ever? Possibly.
March 29 at 9:46pm

Maria Holland Ate too many jelly beans and am on a crazy sugar high . . . considering playing the Regina Caeli on loop and singing at the top of my voice while eating chocolate bunnies. That should do the trick . . .
April 4 at 12:13am

Maria Holland Are you wearing pants? Correct answer is No! Are you saying Alleluia? Correct answer is Yes!
April 4 at 11:43pm

Maria Holland had the best Monday today – at least since coming to China, but possibly ever. Tomorrow I leave for an impromptu trip to Guangzhou and a weekend in Hong Kong! Going to class is for squares . . .
April 5 at 10:12pm

Maria Holland is in Guangzhou with friends from OKLAHOMA and their new Chinese son. My hotel room has a shower door and a bed with non-negligible padding – basically the lap of luxury. AND it’s still Easter! Basically, life is good.
April 6 at 11:10pm

Maria Holland must have gotten on the wrong train and ended up in Mumbai, as I’m staying the night in an Indian-run slum. But it’s okay: there’s free internet in Hong Kong (I’m on facebook without a proxy!), there’s a TGIF Friday’s around the corner, and it JUST HAPPENS to be Friday.
April 9 at 5:30pm

Maria Holland had a perfect day in Hong Kong today. I see a TU friend tomorrow (!) and then it’s back home to Xiamen :)
April 10 at 11:52pm

Maria Holland is anyone interested in going to see Mika in concert in Hong Kong on June 16th??
April 13 at 10:29pm

Maria Holland may have figured out how to say "soup Nazi" (and any other words with structure "XX Nazi") in Chinese. So yes, in answer to your question, studying for the HSK is going swimmingly.
April 16 at 1:29am

Maria Holland has a ticket to Changchun, Jilin for May 20th!! Can’t wait to return to the land of my "Chinese childhood"!
April 16 at 3:25pm

Maria Holland is 考试-ing her 汉语水平. It’s HSK time!
April 17 at 11:28pm

Maria Holland countdown in China is at 3 months !?!
April 19 at 11:56pm

Maria Holland F.M.L. Another weekend in China, another adventure – but adventures involving hospitals are significantly less fun than adventures that don’t.
April 22 at 10:21pm

Maria Holland is going to be singing the Misa de Angelis at the installation of the new bishop of the Diocese of Xiamen in two weeks! I guess this kind of makes up for the gynecologist appointment yesterday . . . I forgive you, China.
April 24 at 8:20pm

Maria Holland has been in China for 8 months now. Depending on your age, this may or may not seem like an incredibly long period of time to you. I’m 22, and it’s pretty much ginormous.
April 26 at 11:06pm

Maria Holland is in love with Sheldon Cooper. Also, mangos.
April 30 at 10:37pm

Maria Holland thinks that Chinese national holidays are about as much fun as bamboo shoots shoved into various body parts. Nevertheless, I had a really good day. I even managed to be part of a winning team based on the other side of the world!
May 1 at 11:02pm

Maria Holland had an amazing three day weekend but is infinitely more tired than when classes ended on Friday.
May 4 at 1:01am

Maria Holland is in the EXACT SAME COUNTRY as The Dear Leader RIGHT NOW. How could I be so lucky!?!
May 4 at 9:15pm

Maria Holland A year ago, I knew less than 100 Chinese characters. Tonight, I have the Chinese version of "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace" stuck in my head.
May 7 at 1:34am

Maria Holland The school year at TU is now over and I am officially . . . still a senior. It’s what I do best.
May 7 at 9:57pm

Maria Holland can’t even say how overjoyed I was to have the opportunity to sing in the choir at the installation of Xiamen’s very first local bishop, Cai Binrui (and how pleased I was to hear that he has a papal mandate as well!)
May 8 at 2:52pm

Maria Holland is fabulous. Tomorrow, please be 跟 today 一样 wonderful, 谢谢. I’m singing at Bishop Cai’s first Mass in the morning, but then how to follow that up??
May 9 at 1:27am

What Was On My Mind (I)

In Uncategorized on September 4, 2010 at 4:54 pm

The first part of the year, captured in facebook statuses:


Maria Holland is off to China!
August 24, 2009 at 6:17pm

Maria Holland made it to Hong Kong! Not really sure what happened to Tuesday though . . .
August 26, 2009 at 7:46am

Maria Holland is in Xiamen! Despite the best efforts of the Chinese to thwart me, I have a place a to sleep, cell phone, bank account, and have registered for classes. Take that!
August 28, 2009 at 1:43pm

Maria Holland is enjoying a BEAUTIFUL day in Xiamen (as in, my glasses did not fog up when I walked out of my air-conditioned room)!
August 29, 2009 at 12:04pm

Maria Holland had a great day yesterday – got vindicated on the issue of registration, got my money back from the university, rode the bus successfully, found my church, went to Mass in Chinese, and went DANCING!!!
August 30, 2009 at 2:34pm

Maria Holland couldn’t have just walked out of a dance at her university in China and bought a chocolate crunch Magnum bar for about 70 cents. It’s just not possible . . . yet it most certainly happened. My life is awesome!
September 2, 2009 at 10:42pm

Maria Holland realized I haven’t seen, much less used, a fork and knife in 10 days. Weird . . . but at the same time, not.
September 5, 2009 at 12:05am

Maria Holland found French bread at the local bakery!!!!! I think I’m going to make it here . . .
September 10, 2009 at 12:22pm

Maria Holland saw a commercial for a board game store on a bus today. Unfortunately, it was in Chinese, but I WILL FIND IT. So help me, Klaus Teuber.
September 12, 2009 at 5:45pm

Maria Holland broke a mercury thermometer in my room this morning. The guard’s response? "没关系!" (no worries!)
September 17, 2009 at 12:51pm

Maria Holland met a guy from Oklahoma – OU, to be specific – last night at a beach party in Xiamen, China. Incidentally, we met at the exact time that they were beating us in football, apparently.
September 20, 2009 at 1:34pm

Maria Holland learned the Sign of the Cross in Chinese today! 因父,及子,及圣神之名,阿门.
September 21, 2009 at 10:37pm

Maria Holland has Chinese study buddies for both Catholic and Engineering vocabulary. This is basically everything I was hoping for.
September 23, 2009 at 12:50am

Maria Holland is hesitant to declare victory over China, as this has often led to smiting.
September 25, 2009 at 9:53pm

Maria Holland is in Taiwan. At least the typhoon that’s heading our way won’t catch me with my pants down . . . BECAUSE I’M NOT WEARING PANTS!!!
September 30, 2009 at 11:18pm

Maria Holland has eaten Dunkin’ Donuts, a BLT, Coldstone, and fajitas in Taiwan. BUT I also climbed an entire mountain, bathed nude in hot springs, and am eating snake tonight. 
October 2, 2009 at 6:46pm

Maria Holland experienced her first earthquake last night, and is still trying to make plans for southern taiwan around the typhoon(s). Thanks, Taiwan :)
October 4, 2009 at 9:52pm

Maria Holland is leaving Taibei. Destination: rain. Pretty much . . .
October 5, 2009 at 8:25am

Maria Holland has checked most everything off the list of natural disasters here in Taiwan: Typhoon, check. Earthquake, check. Rockslides, check. Still looking for a flood before I leave tomorrow . . .
October 9, 2009 at 11:46pm

Maria Holland had a wonderful time in Taiwan and is now back home in Xiamen. Yes, I said home. Isn’t that weird?
October 14, 2009 at 1:39pm

Maria Holland watched a beautiful sunset in Xiamen this afternoon, is going to a event on Sunday, and has 3 dancing events coming up in as many days. 祝你周末快乐! (Happy Weekend!)
October 23, 2009 at 9:46pm

Maria Holland participated in’s International Climate Day of Action in China! Also, I’m on track to go dancing every night this weekend. Seriously, my life is wonderful.
October 25, 2009 at 2:35am

Maria Holland has been in China for two months today, which means it has been two months since I last saw anyone I knew two months ago . . . The weather is beautiful, wish you were here (hint hint)
October 27, 2009 at 12:10am

Maria Holland found out that my XiaDa student ID gets me 1 kuai off at Coco, my favorite milk tea place. It does NOT, however, allow me to check out books from the school library, and that is just not okay.
October 27, 2009 at 11:15pm

Maria Holland is studying dance in China. I’m learning a little bit of Chinese, too, but that’s just coincidental.
October 28, 2009 at 11:40pm

Maria Holland it just figures. The one time you go out in your pajamas to buy a bottle of gin, you see everyone you know.
October 31, 2009 at 5:16pm

Maria Holland is sick – after the most expensive dinner yet in China (67 yuan!) at a famous vegetarian restaurant. Seriously??!?
November 1, 2009 at 7:18am

Maria Holland 拉肚子. There is no such thing as TMI in China, so I don’t care if you all know how my digestive system is doing: not well.
November 3, 2009 at 6:41pm

Maria Holland realizes that there are too many things I haven’t done yet, and too many sunsets I haven’t seen. I can’t waste the day wishing it would slow down; I’ve been given this one world and I won’t worry it away. Every now and then, I lose sight of the good life . . . but then love comes in ♥
November 5, 2009 at 9:13pm

Maria Holland is taking "adventuring towards" to a whole new level. Tomorrow morning we are *probably* going to be adventuring towards Ningde, which is *either* 4 or 12 hours away. Tell you all about it on Sunday evening!
November 6, 2009 at 10:35pm

Maria Holland I think Fujian is the biggest province in the world. You can ride buses for hours and hours and hours and travel only tiny parts of it. In fact, that’s exactly what I did this weekend.
November 9, 2009 at 12:31am

Maria Holland finally remembers what butter tastes like, but adjectives are failing me.
November 10, 2009 at 1:10pm

Maria Holland had one of those moments where I realized, "Holy crap, I live in China!" – and then smiled. It’s a good day here in Xiamen.
November 19, 2009 at 1:57pm

Maria Holland played Catan tonight!!!! Learned a lot of Chinese words in the process (wheat, chance, robber, trade) and even laughed ’til I cried.
November 20, 2009 at 9:59pm

Maria Holland spent $10 tonight and enjoyed dinner (all-you-can-eat) and a movie (2012), with a lesson in reading Chinese subtitles at no extra charge.
November 23, 2009 at 12:47am

Maria Holland celebrating my second Thanksgiving in China. Last year left quite a precedent to live up to, but I’m doing my best!
November 25, 2009 at 11:25pm

Maria Holland got up really early the day after Thanksgiving . . . to run. Sometimes China is not so fun. Tomorrow is the sack-hop race, which is sure to be even more intense. Remember, Maria, you’re doing it for the t-shirt!
November 27, 2009 at 4:44pm

Maria Holland is slightly bummed that I have 6 weeks of class left instead of one like everyone at TU, but on the other hand, I’m a lot more free to skip class. Thus, I’m leave for 5 days in Shanghai on Thursday, and the following week will be spent traveling through Fujian and Jiangxi.
November 30, 2009 at 9:38pm

Maria Holland is headed to Shanghai tomorrow for my deacon’s ordination! Please pray for him and all clergy throughout the world!
December 2, 2009 at 2:41pm

Maria Holland found out today that one of my priests may or may not be set to be ordained a BISHOP early next year!
December 8, 2009 at 10:10pm

Maria Holland is taking the midnight train going aaaaanyyywhere! . . . I mean, we’re hoping to end up at Wuyishan but this is China, so who really knows?
December 15, 2009 at 2:51pm

Maria Holland had a really wonderful trip to Wuyishan. Highlight was probably the singing of national anthems by citizens of four nations on the bus ride. Now I’m back home in Xiamen for the holidays – but really, is 15 C the best I can get around here? Tropical island fail.
December 19, 2009 at 11:23am

Maria Holland is BAKING! Half of the ingredients are Chinese and my oven has a capacity of approximately 4 cookies, but . . . still, I’m BAKING! This is a big deal.
December 21, 2009 at 10:57pm

Maria Holland is on one of those emotional highs – dancing, Christmas movies, baking and sharing cookies, having friends, and finding an oven in China!
December 23, 2009 at 9:51pm

Maria Holland had the strangest Christmas Eve EVER – namely because of baking 100+ cookies 4 at a time, visiting McDonald’s, and eating barbecue on the side of the street at 2 a.m. But I really do believe that if each holiday in China isn’t the strangest you’ve had, you’re doing something wrong. Therefore, I must be doing something VERY right.
December 25, 2009 at 2:25am

Maria Holland is so Two-Thousand-and-Ten, you’re so Two-Thousand-and- . . . then? Happy New Year, everyone – it’s a great one so far!!
January 1 at 12:41am

Adventuring Towards Home – Eventually

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2010 at 2:47 pm

I slept about six hours before I had to get up.  Breakfast was included in the room, thankfully, so I devoured three or four croissants with bacon before catching the shuttle to the airport.  The staff at the hotel were so nice that it seemed things were finally looking up . . .

But then I got to the airport and went to check in for my 12:30 United flight to LAX.  The woman behind the counter rifled through my papers, entered some things into her computer, and told me that they couldn’t locate my baggage and therefore United was unable to accept me on their flight. 

Of course.  That would happen right about now.  So I went over to the Cathay counter and basically parked there for the next four hours as they bungled their way through their jobs.  Between trips to the counter, I listened to music to keep my soul from exploding in a ball of hatred.  There was one song in particular, Summercat by Billie the Vision & the Dancers, which Carlos played for me on the beach my last night in Xiamen.  It’s about leaving on a plane, but one line seemed especially fitting:

And the man next to me said “Everything is gonna be alright”.
I said “Nothing is gonna be alright, but thank you anyway”.

They eventually located my luggage and got me on a 4:15 Cathay flight to Los Angeles.  I was happy to have a tentative plan for getting home, but I wasn’t all that hopeful.  During those four hours of waiting I had noticed some ominous signs mentioning a incoming typhoon and standby measures, and it just seemed like weathering a typhoon in the Hong Kong airport would be a fitting way for this trip to continue. 

Luckily, the typhoon only delayed us two hours.  Eventually, we took off and headed across the airport, me wedged securely into my middle seat for the 13-hour journey.  As I crammed my luggage into my scant legroom, I thought fondly of the hard sleeper berths I had traveled all over China in.  Is flying really the best way to travel??  But they had a pretty good selection of movies and power outlets in each seatback (the entire reason I wanted to fly Cathay, honestly), and I figured that this would be the best part of this entire cursed journey. 

They say that mothers forget the pain of childbirth; otherwise they wouldn’t be willing to do it again.  I think I’m that way with international travel.  Thirteen hours is a LONG TIME but I always seem to forget that when planning trips and buying tickets.  “Eleven hours,” I think, “is not bad.  I’ve done 15 before!”  Yeah, and probably hated it!  Without fail, this is what I do on these transpacific hauls:

  1. Sit down and think deep thoughts of leaving and going and home
  2. Scan the movie selection, identify 5 I wouldn’t mind watching
  3. Realize that watching 5 movies would basically bring me to home, and delight in how short the length of 5 movies is
  4. Watch one movie
  5. Pull out computer and do stuff until I fall asleep with my hands still on the keyboard
  6. Wake up feeling refreshed, certain that we’re almost to America
  7. Look at clock and realize two and a half hours has passed.
  8. Despair.
  9. Repeat.

The only slight variation in this routine was the time I spent eating the bag of lychee I had brought with me from Xiamen.  Funny that this fruit was completely unknown to me a few months ago, but when I opened the bag the smell immediately brought me back to the beach. 

Somehow the time passed and we arrived in Los Angeles, either 20 hours or 2 hours late, depending on which standard you’re going by.  I borrowed the phone of the guy next to me and called my parents to tell them that I had arrived in the U.S.!

My bags somehow made it (really a miracle, considering the baggage tags were written in red permanent marker) and they had carts available for free, so getting through customs was unexpectedly smooth and easy.  I rechecked my bags and then a helpful baggage guy told me the flight I was looking for was with Alaska Air, so I set off for Terminal 3. 

I made good time and confidently swiped my passport at the self-check-in terminals, ready to be home already.  But my passport wasn’t recognized . . . and the Alaska Air people told me that they didn’t have a flight AS5367 . . . or any direct flights to Minneapolis, for that matter.  After a few minutes of extreme panic (“Then where are my bags headed??”), they figured out what had happened.  The flight number had been made up, but I was booked on a direct flight to Minneapolis leaving at 6:30 . . . from Terminal 5. 

By now, it was 5:30 and I had major retracing to do, across the enormous LAX airport to Terminal 5.  When I finally got there, they told me I was too late to check in, but must have seen either hopelessness or rage on my face and let me through anyway.  Luckily (about the only stroke of luck in this entire journey), my gate was the third one after the security check; even with that I was the last passenger to board, walking directly onto the plane without having to wait in line. 

My computer wouldn’t turn on for some reason, so I just slept the whole way back.  (I later found out that the backlight had died so I just couldn’t see the screen at all.  I am not sure whether to be annoyed that my computer broke, grateful that it waited until after I got out of Hong Kong, or just amused at this one last addition to this utter fiasco of a journey.)

My parents were waiting for me at baggage claim with a sign.


Only one suitcase didn’t make it; again considering the luggage tags scrawled with red permanent marker the fact that the other two did make it is a small miracle.  The missing suitcase was the one that held ALL of my clothes, but it was okay.  My parents and I got in the car and drove back to Coon Rapids where my room is full of the clothes I didn’t take to China.  I won’t be going naked anytime soon! 

I showered in a bathtub surrounded by sliding glass doors, went to the bathroom on a toilet with a dry seat, and then went to sleep in my ridiculously soft bed.  (Honestly, it was ridiculous.  I started laughing once I sat down, because it felt the way I imagine clouds do.  I guess all it takes to make a 20-year-old mattress feel good is a year of sleeping on what passes for a mattress in China!)

Adventuring Towards Home – I Mean, Hong Kong

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2010 at 10:18 am

Monday was busy in a good fun way, but Tuesday was just busy – not in a good way. Among other things, I had to return my router (which of course couldn’t be returned here and had to instead be taken all the way over there) and send things at the post office (actually the shed behind the post office, as the post office has been completely gutted for an unnecessary redecoration).

I had to finish packing the things I wanted to take home and find others to adopt the rest of my things. I left several bags of clothes for the few friends who are kind of same size as me, and bequeathed my TU SERV-ICED-AY08 sweatshirt to Carlos. I like the idea of leaving my clothes with friends; not only does it mean less waste, but here in China where everyone’s wardrobes are so small, I really feel like I’m leaving behind something that will remind people of me.

I held an auction of sorts for everything else, showing my possessions off like Vanna White and begging Jelle, Bo, or XuLei to take them off my hands. Some vicious rock-paper-scissors battles erupted over my alarm clock and the Buddhist scroll, but I was just happy to have everything gone.

Jelle, XuLei, and I had lunch at Caiqingjie (site of my first meal in Xiamen and now site of my last). I ordered the most typical meal: 地三鲜, 干煸土豆丝, 铁板牛肉.

Once I finished packing, my guy friends helped me out by checking my bags. One by one, they lifted each suitcase and estimated the weight. It was a little odd, witnessing this weightlifting exhibition, but it really helped me out! Pun and YongZhi helped me take the bags downstairs, where a friend from church was waiting with her car and driver to take me to the airport. XuLei and LiXiang accompanied me in the car, but they couldn’t go in to the international departures area so we said goodbye in the main lobby of the airport.

This is approximately where things started going wrong. Apparently I had read Cathay’s baggage rules incorrectly so instead of paying $25 to check my third bag, I had to pay $25 for the one bag that was a few kilos over 23kg and another $100 to check the third bag. We moved some things around and begged and pleaded to get out of the $25, but it was still significantly more expensive than I was planning.

I went through security without problems, but it quickly became apparent that our plane was not going to take off on time.  There was a lightning storm in the place our plane was coming from; even an hour and a half after our scheduled departure, the plane hadn’t even taken off to get to us yet.  We got free drinks, though, which obviously made everything okay, right?

I had the longest layover of the trip there (3 hours), so it was really the only connection I wasn’t at all worried about missing.  But isn’t it ironic . . . On top of the 2+ hour delay, we had a last-minute gate change and had to wait for the ground staff to catch up with us.  To make a long, painful story short, I stood in the aisle of our parked airplane watching the time tick by on my watch as I missed my connection to LAX by about 10 minutes. 

It turns out the only thing that is less exciting to look forward to than a 13-hour transpacific flight is an indefinite layover followed by a 13-hour transpacific flight.  We had arrived shortly after midnight, a whole bunch of us now with no way to get to Sydney, Johannesburg, Vienna, Paris, Buenos Aires, and Los Angeles.  The personnel in the Hong Kong airport were completely incompetent as they tried to get all of us alternate itineraries to our destinations.  They had no idea I was heading to Minneapolis, so if I hadn’t said something I would have ended up stranded only one airport closer to my final destination than I currently was.  An employee came over to me after about an hour of waiting and I was expecting to see a series of flights to get me home . . . but instead he asked to see my current itinerary, which I had already given to another employee.  Like I said, completely incompetent.

After another hour, they brought me a new itinerary – but it required a 9-hour layover in Los Angeles at night and I unequivocally told them that was unacceptable.  They tried again, got me a flight to LA and another to MSP four hours later, and finally agreed to take me to a hotel.

We walked across the entire airport to the airport hotel, where I waited for another hour before the Cathay employee told us that they were full.  No room at that inn, so we walked back across the entire airport to take a taxi to the local Marriot.  “It’s a very nice new hotel,” the man told us, as if that made any difference at all at 3 o’clock in the morning when we should have been halfway across the Pacific. 

My room was nice, but when I started up my computer to call my parents back home I discovered that internet was not included.  This was the last straw for me, and I just went limp on my bed and started sobbing.  I had finally reconciled to the fact that I had to leave Xiamen, but that was only okay because I was going home; now I was in neither place and no hotel, no matter how nice, could fix that.  In the scheme of things, Hong Kong is ridiculously close to Xiamen – a 10-hour bus ride away, to be specific – just close enough to be depressing that I had only made it this far.  I hadn’t slept the 36 hours before leaving Xiamen (trying to make the most of my time there) and now I was up to 48 hours without more than a nap on the flight over.  I was no longer on the mainland where I could use my cellphone to contact friends, not in the US yet where I could borrow a cell phone to call home, and without internet I couldn’t even tell my parents that I was delayed.  I had paid an obscene amount of money to fly Cathay (formerly my ideal airline) and to arrive home in the morning, but now that expenditure just seemed like a total waste.  And on top of that I had to pay $20 to use the internet. 

It was just too much.  I didn’t even try to hold it in, just sobbed out loud in my empty hotel room.  I had cried a few times during this year in China, but this was only the second time that I burst into tears this way: these-events-are-too-much-for-me-and-my-mom-isn’t-here-to-make-it-all-better-so-my-only-recourse-is-to-weep-like-a-small-child sort of meltdown.  I finally got the internet working and called my parents, probably scaring them as I still wasn’t able to stop crying.  I told them I wasn’t going to be home until dinnertime on Wednesday (missing two meals!  No wonder I was crying!) and they told me to go to sleep. 

So I did.  The bed was really nice, but I still cried myself to sleep. 

I Have Come Back, But Have Not Yet Gone Back

In Uncategorized on July 9, 2010 at 10:33 pm

This morning looked brighter, but it was a gray, drizzly brightness.  We returned to West Lake anyway (this time finally getting the buses right!), where we found a nice sheltered tea shop to take pictures from.

We waited for the fountain show to start – it was nice, but would have been beautiful if there had been some blue background to contrast with the white spouts of water.


But again, the pagodas were nice.

Matt - 1951

We got back to the hotel in time to check out, then sat on their comfy couches (way better than our beds were!) and availed ourselves of their wireless internet as we traded pictures.  We got to see the outcome of The Decision only a few hours after it happened – which was good, because I couldn’t handle the suspense anymore.  Just kidding, everyone!  I may have gone bat-crazy over the World Cup but I’m still me!! 

I guess it’s a little strange that I was even aware a person named LeBron James existed, that he played basketball in Cleveland, and that he was deciding which city to go to next, but that’s a testament to China’s (okay, 哲明’s) NBA-fever and my diligent reading of even the sports articles in the Onion.  Back at TU, I have friends who follow professional football and baseball, and college football and basketball – plus even a single soccer fan – so I am often involuntarily updated on the goings-on in these sports.  No one I know in America, though, cares about professional basketball, so I am completely clueless.  They’re crazy about it here, so I’m finally getting involuntarily educated on the NBA.  Did you know that the Lakers used to be in Minnesota?  Or that Oklahoma has a basketball team?  I didn’t, but now I do.  (Although I still can’t remember if the OK team is the Thunder of the Lightning, because I have a tendency to confuse 闪 and 雷.  But still, this is progress!) 

For lunch, we walked over to the Subway shop that we had discovered last night in our desperate wandering.  It seemed like the perfect meal to eat for lunch and carry to the airport for dinner – and mine was.  I had a fabulous Italian BMT and a warm chocolate cookie that tasted just like the subs I remember.

Matt wasn’t so lucky.  He opted for the meatball marinara sandwich, which I ordered for him.  I was a little confused with the worker triple-checked that he didn’t want any sauces on his sub, but thought it was just the Chinese tendency to use mayonnaise in places where mayonnaise has no business being used.  But then he opened his sandwhich to see three tired pieces of white cheese and five lonely meatballs, and we realized something had gone wrong. 

I went back up to the counter with the sandwich, pointed to the picture, and asked what had happened to the marinara.  As luck would have it, they knew every sandwich-related word in English except marinara, even though it was on the menu.  The pointed to sauces randomly, saying their names in Chinese, until I heard something that sounded kind of familiar.  So they squirted the “tomato sauce” on the bread, completely drenching it in plain ketchup.  I wiped that off with a napkin and tried again, this time getting a squiggle of clear jelly-like sauce with flecks of hot pepper in it. 

You should have seen this sandwich; it was pretty much the saddest-looking thing ever.  Finally, one of the employees said, “I know, I know!”.  He went into the back, rummaged around for a few minutes, and brought out a small container of marinara sauce!  They were going to dump it on the sandwich but somehow I managed the impossible and got them to make us a new one.  For free.  (Note: This does not happen in China, where the customer is not always right.  It’s more like the customer is barely tolerated.  Once, a restaurant gave us the wrong dishes and made us pay for both what we ordered and what they brought us!

Apparently the sandwich tasted like curry.  Still, it was probably better than mayonnaise, right?

We took the BRT to the train station, where I tried to put Matt on a train back to Shanghai.  We were there before 3, but somehow there were no tickets available before 9 that night!  A guy approached us offering bus tickets, so we went with him until he handed us a ticket with the price (54 kuai) clearly printed on it and demanded 100 kuai.  I yelled at him and turned him down on principle, and ended up getting Matt on a slightly longer ride for only 65 kuai. 

I was really surprised by all of this.  Except for the Spring Migration around the Chinese New Year, I’ve never seen tickets sold out.  I always get on the next train or bus, so I never worry about buying tickets early.  But the Expo is like a cancer – while the damage is centered in Shanghai, it affects the surrounding area as well.  I purposefully chose to meet Matt in Hangzhou and Suzhou because I didn’t want to go anywhere near Shanghai during this 6-month period – but apparently Hangzhou and Suzhou weren’t far enough. 

I had a long wait for my shuttle to the airport, but had no problems on the flight home.  It was good to be home – getting to sleep in my own hard bed instead of a strange hard bed.  But the warm fuzzy feeling disappeared kind of quickly as the giant kamikaze cicadas starting ramming into my balcony door and screaming as they lay helpless on their backs.  They absolutely terrify me; even in death the dozen or so carcasses make me unable to enter my balcony.  Ah yes, I am home. 

It’s weird, though, because it’s my last time returning to this home, returning to Xiamen.  The next time I return somewhere, it will be the United States.  I’ll return to my parents’ home in Minnesota, and a few weeks later I’ll return to TU.  But for 11 more days, this is home. 

As I wrote on my QQ profile: 回来了,还没回去.  I have come back, but have not yet gone back.

Ode To A Little Container of Garlic Sauce

In Uncategorized on July 8, 2010 at 9:23 pm

We woke up and were on the road by 10, catching a bus to Hangzhou.  I think I picked the wrong bus station in Hangzhou, because we had a half-hour taxi ride upon our arrival.  But at least there was no problem with the hotel this time . . .

We had lunch at a Sichuan place that looked nice – but unfortunately, wasn’t.  I forgot that the only thing you can tell from how a Chinese restaurant looks is how expensive it will be; the quality of the food and service are totally unrelated.  The servers got our order wrong, ignored my repeated requests for tea and rice, and tried to charge us for things we didn’t order. 

It was rainy, but the main (only?) thing you go to Hangzhou to see is West Lake so we headed there anyway.  I could tell the lake was pretty, but on a day like this it really didn’t have much on Xiamen.  Except pagodas, I guess; those were a nice touch.


We walked across the lake on the Su Causeway, which was a stretch of land so wide that it was possible to forget we were walking across a lake.  It’s a pretty big lake, and it was a long walk. 


The tree cover overhead is thick and weeping willows kind of block the view of the water, so the main sight was the colorful umbrellas of our fellow walkers.


Once we reached the other side of the lake, we found a bus stop to take us back to our hotel.  Matt noticed that one of the guys waiting with us was wearing an XMU baseball cap, so I started up a conversation with him.  I’m pretty sure the last thing he expected to see in Hangzhou was a foreign woman claiming to be classmates, but that’s why life in China is so exciting.  The bus took like an hour to come, so we had lots of time to chat; he just graduated in Biology and was headed to graduate school.  We commiserated about Xiamen’s weather and discussed sites to see in Hangzhou.  We’re pretty much besties.

We got lost on the way home.  I am not sure why we had so much difficulty navigating main streets on this trip! 

Back at the hotel, tired and wet, we decided to order in for dinner.  A quick internet search, a simple phone call, and 40 minutes later, Papa John’s was at the door!  Please don’t judge me for eating from American pizza chains twice in as many days; I had a moment of weakness and Matt only encouraged it.

With that said, the pizza was amazing.  It tasted exactly like home (as much as I can remember from a year ago) and even came with the little container of garlic sauce.  Oh, little container of garlic sauce – I will be home soon!

Suzhou, As Seen Through A Window

In Uncategorized on July 8, 2010 at 4:27 pm

We began our tour of Suzhou with the North Temple Pagoda for Repaying Kindness. 


We climbed up to the top for a stunning view of smoggy Suzhou.

Matt - 1772

There actually was cool stuff to see at the top, but most of it was written on the pagoda.  Despite many signs “strictly forbidding” the painting or carving of messages, the top floor of the pagoda was covered in wishes and messages. 


These were fairly typical: “The Zhou Peng family was here!” and “I wish my parents health, all the best, and a life of peace”.  You really get a feeling for how filial the Chinese are from these messages!

I was in an artistic mood, so I took most of my pictures framed by windows.  I like how they look . . .


From the pagoda, we walked down the kitschy street outside the Suzhou museum towards the largest of the city’s many gardens, the Humble Administrator’s Garden.  It was beautiful, and there were lots of windows.




It was hot (although I told Matt it wasn’t nearly as bad as Xiamen would be) so when we discovered an air-conditioned visitors’ center at the end, we went in to check it out.  They had a video about the garden, which we watched.  It was a great video – completely unintelligible even to me, but still very cool.  (And by ‘cool’, I am obviously referring to the air conditioning.)

We went back to our hotel, grabbing Lanzhou pulled noodles on the way to eat lunch in our room.  We unanimously agreed to take an afternoon nap, sleeping for a couple of hours before going back out in the evening. 

The Lonely Planet failed us here again.  I really shouldn’t be that surprised; Emei Shan was basically one big epic LP fail and their maps are clinically proven to suck.  Every time I take it out to plan a trip I remember how stupid it is that you have to haul the entire brick-sized China book every time you go to a city covered in a few pages.  On my last trip to Jilin, I just tore out the map I wanted and left The Brick at home.  Also, what’s with recommending Ajisen Noodles in every city in China?  It’s like mentioning Chipotle in every American metropolis; it’s not a local specialty of anywhere, especially since the food is freaking Japanese.  They just miss so many little details, like the area code for Hangzhou in every single phone number they list for the city.  Oops. 

End rant.  Let’s just say I don’t think I’ll ever buy another Lonely Planet.  But, you have to start somewhere and, having already spent the $30+ on The Brick, I usually start there.  So we headed for the port for a 35-kuai, 80-minute boat tour of Suzhou’s canals, only to end up with 120-kuai tickets for a 60-minute tour.  It was nice, but it was a 350% increase from the price we had expected!

Matt - 1885 

We dined at Pizza Hut, sharing a dinner for two that included all of Pizza Hut’s usual specialties – you know, a meat pizza, thai curry wraps, beef croquettes, pancetta, and tiramisu.  Pizza Hut in China is an experience, for sure.

We both wanted to stay up to watch the semifinal between Spain and Germany at 2:30.  It began with some excitement when a fan ran onto the field, but the late hour and all conspired against us.  Matt fell asleep at halftime while I struggled through the rest of the game.  I did notice, in the quiet hotel room, that I understand quite a bit of the commentary – on soccer, in Chinese.  (Well, a lot more than the garden video we watched this morning, for sure!)  Anyway, my perseverance ended up being worth it, because not only did Spain not allow four German goals as seems to be popular this year, but they WON!  I celebrated by sending a delirious congratulatory text to Carlos and immediately falling asleep.