I almost drowned in Taiwan.

It was a rainy day in Taiwan and I was chilling in a hot spring. Cool rain splashed down onto my face like angel kisses as my body lay reclined in a warm pool of water. I felt like a precious baby in the womb.

Next to this hot spring ran a river. It wasn’t a big river, but people liked to swim in it. A rope ran parallel from the riverbank to a pole fixed in middle of the river’s stream. Another rope was tied to another pole a little ways downstream. The idea was to walk into the water while holding the first rope, let go, then let the river’s current carry you downstream where you would grab hold of the second rope and pull yourself back to shore.

I watched as a couple people got into the river and floated from the top to the bottom rope. It seemed fun, so I decided to give it a try.

The water was colder than I expected but I was surprised to find that the river was actually pretty shallow – barely waist-deep. I walked out holding onto the rope, tucked my knees up against my chest, then let go, giving myself up to the river gods.

The current was strong because of the rain and my butt kept hitting rocks because the river was so shallow, but it was decently fun; like going on a waterslide while having your butt hit over and over again.

As the ride was coming to a close, I stuck my hand out to grab hold of the second rope, which hovered about six inches above the water. Unfortunately, I have the hand-eye coordination of a newborn baby’s tongue, so when I tried to grab the rope to stop myself, I missed completely and the current continued dragging me downstream.

I’d been counting on that rope to get me out of the river, but since I missed it, my only option was to swim out. I turned my body and began swimming toward the bank, but the current was too strong and wouldn’t let me out. I’d always considered myself a good swimmer, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get any closer to shore. I just kept bobbing downstream, my legs and arms bumping and scraping against rocks on the riverbed.

At this point, I wondered two things.

First, I wondered whether I was drowning. I decided that maybe I was, cuz I’d never experienced this helpless feeling while swimming before, and that’s probably what drowning feels like.

Second, I wondered whether I was going to die. I’ve always thought that I would have an earlier premonition about when I was going to die, like I would wake up knowing that today was the day. Since I hadn’t had any inkling earlier that day, I figured that, no, I was not going to die.

After deciding I was drowning but not dying, I debated whether I should call for help. Since I knew I wasn’t going to die, I figured there was no reason to be overly dramatic. On the other hand, how was I going to get out of this river on my own?

While I was debating all this in my head, I bumped into a small island of rocks close to shore that stopped my progression downstream. I got hold of a big rock, then pulled myself to my feet. I walked ashore, a little tired and scraped, but not drowned or dead (I was right!).

I walked back up to the hot springs and sat down. I watched the river and wondered whether anyone else would try floating down and what would happen in they missed the bottom rope.

Sure enough, another man walked into the river holding onto the first rope, let go, then floated down and missed when he reached out to grab the second rope. I perked up. Would he almost drown like I had? What would he do to get out of the current?

I was amazed to see his solution: he stood up and walked to the shore.

The whole time, the water had barely been waist-deep. I should have realized because my body kept hitting rocks on the river’s shallow bottom. But I’d forgotten and hadn’t realized how simple the solution had been the whole time.

So I almost drowned in Taiwan. Cuz I’m an idiot.

The Handsomest Prince

I wrote this story. I hope it inspires you.

Once upon a time, there was a prince who was handsomest in all the world. Everybody liked to look at him, but the person who liked to look at him most was himself. Whenever he felt sad, he looked at himself in the mirror and was instantly happy for days.

One day while travelling through his kingdom, he met a girl crying.

“Why are you crying?” asked the Handsomest Prince.

“I’m crying because I’m sad,” said the girl who was staring sadly at the ground.

“Well, why don’t you look in the mirror? That always makes me happy.” The Handsomest Prince smiled handsomely.

“But that’s why I’m crying,” said the girl. “I’m crying because I looked in a mirror and saw that I am so ugly!”

“Oh,” said the Handsomest Prince, surprised. “I’m not sure what ‘ugly’ is. Is it common?”

“Yes it is. Many people are sad because they are so ugly. Don’t you already know?” And here the girl looked up and saw with whom she had been speaking. “Oh my!” A smiled spread across her face. “I didn’t realize I was talking to you, Handsomest Prince! My day is so much better!”

“Hmmmm,” thought the Handsomest Prince. “I think I have an idea to help everyone in my kingdom.”

So the Handsomest Prince left to find the hideously ugly witch who lived on the high mountain.

“Witch,” said the Handsomest Prince bravely. “I need you to cast a spell on every mirror in the kingdom so that whenever someone looks in the mirror, instead of seeing their own face, they will see mine. It is the only way for everyone to be happy.”

“OK,” said the witch. “But for the spell to work, you need to give me a kiss.”

The witch was very ugly, but the Handsomest Prince wanted his people to be happy, so he leaned in to kiss the witch’s gross, warty, dry lips. But the instant before his lips touched hers, she turned into a beautiful princess and then they made out.

The spell worked! And from that day forward, whenever anyone looked in a mirror, they saw the Handsomest Prince’s face and everyone was happy and they all lived happily ever after especially the Handsomest Prince.

The End

Moral: Always be the handsomest. The End

TICKED OFF

But honestly though, going to Loch Ness was really cool. The loch was beautiful and it was a close jaunt from Inverness (the city where I was staying). Very cool, you should go.

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I had one setback, though. To get to Loch Ness, I had walked along the highway on the east side of the River Ness, which doesn’t have much sidewalk. I had to squeeze against the side of the road and jump fences for 8 miles to get there. I was happy when I finally got to Loch Ness but was not looking forward to taking the same route back.

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Fortunately, when it was time to go back to Inverness, I found a footpath that ran alongside the river. I didn’t know if it would lead all the way back to Inverness and I couldn’t find it on a map, but I decided to follow as long as it would lead me.

Following this path was a lot nicer than hopping fences and walking on the highway. It went through a quiet forest, past small cozy houses, past big fancy houses, through some kind of abandoned graveyard, then back into the forest.

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Eventually though, the path became thinner and the forest became thicker. Wearing shorts, sandals, and a T-shirt, my entire body was rubbing against grass, leaves, and branches.

I’d been walking a couple hours, so I stopped to take a break. I sat down to drink some water when I noticed a small dot on my left leg. It was about the size of a lentil and had four tiny legs (kinda of like a spider), but I couldn’t see the head.

I quickly recognized that the thing sticking out of my leg was a TICK, and after inspecting my leg more closely, I realized that there wasn’t just one tick in my leg but two, three, four, five, SIX, SEVEN, EIGHT!!! My only experience with ticks was pulling a blood-filled one off my friend’s dog and reading about Lyme disease in Boy Scouts. So I did the most logical thing: I panicked.

I quickly opened my backpack and found my bug spray (I’d had bug spray the whole time, why hadn’t I sprayed myself?!!) and covered my legs. Then, remembering terrible stories about people finding ticks in their nether regions, I ripped all my clothes off and drenched every inch of my naked body with bug spray.

Since this was my first time having a tick (TICKS) on me, I wanted to get back to my hostel as soon as possible so I could get my tweezers and pull them all out. I was only halfway back to Inverness, but I knew I could get back in less than an hour if I ran. I pulled my clothes back on and ran toward where I thought the highway was; I WAS NOT going back into the forest.

I ran through another field, lots of tall grass, some bushes, over a fence, past some houses and was soon back on the highway. I ran until I was back at my hostel. I was so tired and hungry, but I went straight to the bathroom with my tweezers and started pulling ticks out. One, two, three, four … I lost count after ten. After pulling out every tick I could see, I jumped into the shower — where I noticed yet more ticks sticking out of my leg. I spent at least a half hour pulling ticks out of my leg and cleaning my leg with soap and water.

Visiting Loch Ness is cool, but if you’re gonna walk there, take the path on the west side of the river and don’t wear shorts and sandals in the forest unless you want to get naked naked in ticks.

P.S. No, I didn’t get an STD from the ticks (Scottish Tick Disease).

Get to Loch Ness in 6 easy steps

Most people want to go to Loch Ness and pay their respects to the Loch Ness Monster aka our underwater ally, but also most people haven’t been to Loch Ness, probably because they lack the knowledge of which amulets, rune spells, and passknocks will help get you there. Luckily for all of us, I went to Loch Ness last July and I can tell you how to get there.

If you want to go to Loch Ness, follow my advice. I’m an avid traveller and Nessie fan.

Step 1: Get to Scotland. According to basic geography, Scotland is the country where Loch Ness is. Starting from your country of origin, you can board the closest airplane, bus, boat, scuba driver, narwhal, drawgon (it’s a drawing of a dragon that comes to life and can fly), flying pony, or spacetime jumper and ride it until you get to Scotland.

Step 2: Fit in with the locals. As with any journey, you need to fit in with the local inhabitants if you’re gonna make it very far. Your first option is to dress like a commoner: in Scotland, the men dress like women and the women dress like men. If you’re unsure whether an outfit in feminine or masculine, try a unisex outfit like this:

ladydress

Another option is to wear invisibility garb, which will make you undetectable to everyone but high-level wizards.

invisibilitygarb

A final option is to dress as a wizard, but only do this if you’re prepared to duel regularly.

floralladydress

Step 3: Travel to Inverness. There are several settlements surrounding Loch Ness, the largest and most accessible is called Inverness. Once you reach Scotland and are wearing appropriate clothing, head to this city. Inverness is 8 miles from the loch itself, but you won’t find a bus or train that’ll take you closer.

Even though Inverness is the largest city in northern Scotland, it’s still pretty small, so if you stay there (which you probably will) be sure to book a hotel or hostel ahead of time. You can also pitch a tent next to the river if you want, but be aware of river trolls and kelpies.

inverness

Step 4: Follow the river. To get to Loch Ness from Inverness, follow the River Ness south. You can follow the river by taking a local bus, renting a bike, walking, hitchhiking, running, or riding a forest stallion. Be aware that the preferred currency of the region is nebula amulets, but basically any other amulet will work. Except sparkle amulets. And fart gems.

If you decide to walk to Loch Ness, there’s a safe footpath on the west side of the river, as opposed to the Path of Rage and Gore on the east side. If you encounter a vampire tree on your way, use passknock combination 3R-5R-1L.

IMPORTANT: Loch Ness is 23 miles long and THERE ARE NO bridges that cross the loch or river once you’re out of Inverness, which is good cuz that means there are less trolls, BUT it also means you need to know which part of the loch you want to see before you head out. Are you planning to siege Urduhart Castle? Better take the west side of the river. Looking for the lost graveyard? Better take the east side. Are you taking a boat tour of the loch? Better find out where the boat docks before you leave.

Step 5: Enjoy the scenery. The landscape of Scotland is among the most Scottish in the world. Enjoy the land’s natural beauty, whether you’re sitting on a bus, a forest stallion, or your own two feet.

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Step 6: Chill at Loch Ness. If you’ve followed all the steps correctly, you’ll arrive at Loch Ness.

Actually being at Loch Ness is pretty weird though. When I got there, people were just, like, water skiing and having picnics and doing other lake stuff, kinda like it was just a normal lake and there wasn’t a giant monster that lived there. Idiots.

I maintained a respectful distance from the lake’s edge and cast a protective spell over the lake and its local inhabitants and all those who seek for the peaceful existence of our underwater ally.

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lochness2

Yo yo yo yo, Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

In my hometown, there’s a church that my family calls “the fish church” because there’s a big metal fish on top of it. Some churches put crosses on top of their buildings, others put angels; this one has a fish. (Maybe fish are God’s favorite animal? idk.)

Even though my family is Mormon, the fish church is an important landmark to me because it’s where my mom went to church when she was younger. I wouldn’t describe either of my mom’s parents as super religious, but they were good Americans who made sure their only child had a Christian baptism.

Mom says that on the day of her baptism into the fish church (whatever religion it was), she prayed beforehand and asked God that she would be baptized the way he wanted her to be baptized.

Obviously super introspective and super spiritual (but still super young), Mom went to the fish church when possible and read the Bible.

It wasn’t until she was a teenager that she found the Mormon church and started going to church there. After several years of attending, she decided that she’d found the baptism God wanted her to receive and was baptized a Mormon, along with her mom.

I’m very grateful for my mom’s example of faith and searching. Because of her, I know the importance of prayer and finding a personal connection to God. Because of her, I know that God listens to and answers prayer. Because of her, I know that I can read and study to find answers to my own questions instead of wandering in doubt and hopelessness.

She was just a little kid and teenager when she made the most important decisions in her life, but it turns out that these decisions have not only blessed the rest of her life, but have also blessed the entire lives of me and all my brothers and sisters (there are 7 of us — oh boy!).

When I see the fish church, I think of my mom’s faith and how it started at a young age. I think of baptism and searching. I think of love and family. I think of my own spiritual journey. And I think of fish.

Love you, Mom! Happy Mother’s Day!

   also can i borrow/have $200?   

MOTHER_BOY2

Sorry I couldn’t crop out my ugly brothers without it looking weird. :\

I didn’t die in Europe

A year ago, I landed in Europe for a three-week backpacking trip. I didn’t plan to take many pictures, I didn’t plan to blog about it, I didn’t plan to become a full-time traveller — I didn’t even plan to have a good time. I just had one goal: survive.

I’d bought the plane tickets in the middle of the night during my last semester of college without thinking. I tried to refund them afterward, regretting my decision. I would be travelling alone and therefore would probably be mugged/raped/killed.

Unable to refund the tickets and putting a good face on for all my friends at home, I forced myself to get on the plane. Equipped with a new jacket, waterproof boots (at least I THOUGHT they were waterproof), and a backpack with only two outfits, I landed in Europe hoping to survive.

The next three weeks were the craziest, coolest, funnest, most empowering three weeks I’d ever had. I slept on stranger’s couches, tried new food, visited old friends, learned new things about myself, did things I never thought I’d do, saw things I’d always wanted to see, and discovered things I didn’t even know existed. They literally changed me and set a new course for my life.

I’m so grateful to everyone who made last year’s trip possible. Whether it was giving me a tip about new food to try, hooking me up with a couch to crash on, or giving me a ride somewhere, I am so grateful.

I’m also grateful to have so many new friends from all over the world following me now. Your travel tips and friendship make me feel so much safer and more confident as I travel.

I’m grateful to have the opportunity, money, and connections to make travel my current lifestyle. I’m so flipping blessed it’s crazy.

 

Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, Russia

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London Temple in Surrey, England

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Oslofjord in Oslo, Norway

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A Roman arch in Verona, Italy

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Feldkirch, Austria

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Walensee, Switzerland

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Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

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A vine-covered house in Howth, Ireland

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This was originally a post on my Instagram, but I thought I’d post it here so it’d be easier to find later.

Christmas presents

There was a point growing up when I realized that I wouldn’t always be excited to get presents for Christmas. And that made me nervous. Christmas was my favorite holiday, the best time of the year. Without that excitement, Christmas would become just like any other holiday.

If you asked me why I liked Christmas so much back then, I would have replied with a faithful/dutiful, “Because Jesus.” I’d gone to church my whole life and I knew what I was supposed to say, but the real reason I loved Christmas was because of PRESENTS (duh).

I’m not sure why I got excited for presents. I can’t remember ever getting anything really great as a kid (sorry, parents). But I think it was the excitement of having a surprise waiting in a package, a surprise that had been chosen just for me, something that my parents thought I would like or that I had asked them for (I never believed in Santa Claus – sorry, kids).

That excitement to get those special Christmas gifts started creeping in during mid-November, then steadily built after Thanksgiving when we started watching Christmas movies and eating massive amounts of junk food, and culminated the night before Christmas,  keeping me awake until morning when it was finally time to open those presents.

The rush of excitement to open Christmas presents was the best, most important part of Christmas!

But what would happen when I grew up and became old like my parents? Us kids never got them anything for Christmas. Did they even get excited for Christmas? Maybe they did, but I was sure any excitement they felt couldn’t compare to the euphoric, sleep-depriving excitement I felt.

Sure enough, now that I’m older, Christmas has changed. I still get excited for Christmas every year, but it’s for different reasons than before (and some of the same reasons too).

I’m excited to have neighbors and friends supplying me with a bottomless pile of holiday cookies and candy.

I’m excited to open presents even if it’s just empty boxes (tearing wrapping paper off of stuff is really satisfying).

I’m excited to see Christmas lights because, honestly, I like shiny things.

I’m excited to surprise family and friends with presents that I’ve picked out just for them.

I’m excited to hear Christmas carols because even though they have different words, they all sing about the same thing.

And I’m excited to refocus on Jesus Christ. Even though I didn’t understand what I was saying when I was younger, I really believe it now.

Christmas isn’t a time to just tell the story of a baby born in a stable. It’s the time to tell the story of a man who lived a very humble life: born in a dirty stable, raised as a poor carpenter, spending his whole life with the sick and poor whom he taught and healed, then being rejected and killed by those same people whom he taught and healed, and willingly doing it all because of love.

When he died, he did it for each of us, to help each individual. He died to give me gifts he’s chosen and prepared just for me: healing, hope, and love.

Now, because I understand the true meaning of Christmas, I can be excited everyday, not just during Christmastime.

Merry Christmas everyone!!! Yayayayayay!

Picture vomit: Taiwan

These are some pics I took of some places I went during my last week in Taiwan. 😉
Sun Moon Lake Wen Wu Temple
After being in the big city for two weeks, it was nice to bust out and get into nature. We (my fellow white American teachers and I) were able to visit rural areas, including this temple on a secluded lake in the foothills of Taiwan. The grounds are pritt, the temple is made from granite and jade with super cool carvings, and there’s a stairway with 365 steps leading down to the lake (one step for every day of the year). You gotta check it out.
View of the lake from the temple.

Steps leading down to Sun Moon Lake.
Took the liberty of taking a shot with my birthday stair.
Alishan
The word “shan” in Mandarin Chinese means “mountain,” so Alishan just means Ali Mountain. This mountain is part of the mountain range that creates the spine of Taiwan. It’s a real popular place for peeps to come and watch the sunrise. Just be sure to bring a jacket or sweater so you’re warm enough. Also, bring running shoes so you can appreciate the scenery on a jaunty little morning run.
View from up top.
The forest.
The beach!
I got my fingers in this pic for artistic purposes.
Honestly, I don’t love Ocean (because sharks and fish), but when it’s hot and humid outside and you haven’t been swimming in three weeks, it feels pretty good to put on some jaunty European swim trunks and dip in water for a bit. We took our tour bus down to Kenting, which is a party destination on the southern coast of Taiwan. We swam in the evening and partied all night. It was trick.
#jaunty
#nightlife
Crowds block traffic because #nightlife.
So these were my some neat places places in Taiwan. I appreciated them.

Saucy pants

Okay people, so I thought I’d try the thing where I try to teach y’all how to make food again, but this time, I decided to do something that I legitly know how to cook.

Tomato sauce is something that I eat sometimes. It can go on pasta, lasagna, or homemade pizza (but I’d use less warter in the sauce if I made a pizza).

I learned how to make my own sauce when I was in the Russia. We always bought tomato paste, so I learned by ear how to mix the right amount of water and spices to make the perfect sauce. And this sauce is perfect. You start with a tiny can of tomato paste and end up with a whole ton of suited-to-you tomato sauce. Look at you, fancy pants.

Turn this …

 

… into food.

 

Ingredients

6 oz. can of tomato paste
1 cup water
A fistful of onion (about 1/4 of a large-ish onion)
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 Tablespoon basil
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teapsoon pepper

Step 1: The onion

Onions are the basis of taste in so much food. They’re a staple to basically any stove-top recipe. A lot of the flavor in soup, sauce, and stir fry recipes is dependent on the onion. If you’re cooking something and it’s lacking that flavorful boom chicka chicka, chances are you’re missing your onion (or garlic, but that comes later).

Start by peeling your onion. Onions are like ogres: they have layers. The top layer (or two) is papery — you don’t want that. Peel it off and throw it away. The layer beneath that is rubbery. You don’t want that either; throw it away. The layers beneath that should be crisp and easy to cut through: that’s what you want. (This may be “duh” to some of you, but having lived exclusively with guys for the past four years, I know that things like this aren’t always intuitive.) Cut a quarter out of your onion and chop it into baby pieces (like, a quarter the size of a french fry or smaller). Throw it into a pan greased with cooking spray, oil, or butter. Heat it to a quarter or half heat. Cook until the onion pieces start to become transparent. You don’t want them to turn brown or crispy-looking.

I used red onions, butt it doesn’t matter.

Step 2: The sauce

While that’s cooking (you can do this step while the onions are cooking if you keep your eyes on them), y’all need to mizz your water with your tomato paste. Dump the insides of your can of tomato paste into a big-ish bowl (like, a big cereal bowl, nothin’ huge, though). Once you did this, dump that 1 cup of warter on top. Mix with a fork (or hand) and you’ll get a saucy mizzture.
It looks like tomato poop lol.
Tomato diarrhea!

Step 3: Get the Spice Girls

Next, you’re gonna want to flavor your sauce. You can just pour the seasonings into the bowl with your tomato-paste-now-tomato-sauce.

1 1/2 teaspoons of Garlic Powder: Like onions, garlic powder is a necessary part of ANYTHING tasting good. Life would be so bland without it. I hear tell it’s more flavorful than actual garlic but doesn’t make your breath smell abhorrent. Wow. If you cook something, but it’s lacking something, throw some extra garlic powder in to fix it.

1/2 tablespoon of Basil: A delicate herb, it’ll make the sauce taste fresh.

1 1/2 teaspoons of Oregano: Given my extensive knowledge of Italian cooking, I can say that oregano is THE Italian spice. Your tomato sauce won’t taste like tomato sauce without it. Likewise, if you ever has a pizza that needs a pick-me-up, sprinkle some oregano on it.

1 teaspoon of Salt: Not too much, but just the right amount with make all the other flavors come out (#everysundayschoollessonever).

1/4 teaspoon of Pepper: Packs a punch that your sauce will be boring without.

Mixzz all the seasonings with your tomato sauce and stick your finger in it to see if it tastes how you want. #magic

Step 4: Mixzz

Pour your bowl of seasoned sauce into the pan of now-cooked onions and heat until the sauce is warm. Then put it on pasta and eat it.

You turned a tiny can of tomato paste into a panful of tomato sauce. That’s a big deal, saucy pants.

So this is a super easy recipe that’ll save you all the monies in the world and allow you to make a sauce that really speaks to you. Obviously, you can add anything to it that you want (like cooked ground beef or veggies). Is this great or what?