holiday recap….

Soooo, guess what I found on my computer….an unpublished blog post about my Christmas travels…how appropriate to resurrect them a bit after Qingming Jie! (Happy Easter, y’all!)—

For Christmas holiday, JUMP! luckily granted all of us two weeks of leave with an option of working remotely in the several days before as well. Being that we are an international organization, most everyone took advantage of this time to return home to their families for at least a chunk of this time; I, however, took advantage of the time to travel on my own to several places after my family’s plans to come visit were foiled!

First, I took a 19 hour train from Beijing to Guangzhou, the capital city of China’s southernmost province, Guangdong (formerly called Canton, thus Cantonese). There, I was welcomed by my fellow fellows who are teachers in the city. After the days of working remotely in a sleepy 24-hour café, Will and Rammie treated me to tours of their favorite part of the city – a section not filled with my favorite Cantonese foods, but rather an area of heavy African diaspora where we gorged on the most delicious Mediterranean cuisine. In the huge port city of Guangzhou, its history as a strategic business center is hugely evident as one goes toward the harbor: as you wander, buildings exhibit more and more the artistic flair of East meets West. There, Will and I wandered into historically protected, but crumbling buildings, snacked on dried figs to the bemusement of shop keepers (they should be used in soup, not snacking, according to them), and sipped on porridge just like mom makes. I loved Guangzhou really – familiar Cantonese, a chance to still use Mandarin sometimes, winding Banyan trees reaching down to scratch my head.

I took my leave from Will and Rammie’s futon to head down to Hong Kong as destination number two! I arrived late in the evening at my hostel, but didn’t let that stop me from grabbing BBQ pork for dinner! While I still had to work remotely during the days, I made Hong Kong a key destination because my cousin, who I haven’t seen in many many years, got married this past summer, but was coming home to Hong Kong with his wife to throw a second reception for family members who couldn’t make it to Sonoma, California for the nuptials. I got dressed up at my hostel and headed to the hotel at 5pm that evening, hmmm, this is quite early for a reception dinner I thought, only to arrive and find out dinner wasn’t until 8pm and I was expected to smile for photos for three hours prior…thanks for the heads up. I was flattered to be representing my father’s side of the family at the celebration, but also highly aware of the potential to become hangry…hence gladly accepting a bite of dessert before dinner. One of the opportunities of coming to China and traveling to Hong Kong so often has been the chance to reconnect with my Aunt and Uncle there, parents of my newlywed cousin (his little brother got married too!); so so glad I could be a part of the momentous day! Otherwise, my first work-free visit to my favorite place held the usual Cantonese cuisine indulgences, wandering amongst mid-levels, spending time with my Aunt, Uncle, and other distant relatives, and making new friends and good conversation. Hong Kong captured my heart yet again…more on that one later.

After a rainy Christmas, I was supposed to close out my holiday travels with a weeklong trip across Indonesia before flying to Kuala Lumpur for work. Flight was booked, appropriate belongings packed, friends arranged, but alas, I did not go to Indonesia. Due to an injury sustained by my friend thus counting her out, I decided against traversing Java and booked myself a spontaneous trip to Chaing Mai, Thailand instead. Rock climbing was the works, but alas, I only attended a film screening of Valley Uprising – a documentary about the rise of rock climbing in Yosemite Valley (highly recommended, even if you’re not into climbing). My friend came with me to the screening and asked very poignantly after the film, “Sam, how big is a mile?!” – oh silly Europeans and their exclusive use of the metric system… Otherwise, Chiang Mai was several lovely days of sunshine, New Years fireworks, PiA reunions, and mountain motorcycling. Thailand may have taken a hold on my heart too…

Looking back, what an amazing Christmas and New Year holiday…I miss it already.



With the holiday season, my first away from home, having flashed before my eyes, I reflected a lot on what my time here in Asia has meant to me.

I think most pertinent is the idea of “home.”

Growing up in the same house for the last 15 years has greatly shaped my idea of home and roots it very much in a place with its own distinctive culture, speech, aromas, sounds, and sights. Practicing nomadism, while trying to live a real life, for the last 7 months in Asia challenged me more than most things I’ve taken on in my short life. Some days, mere thoughts of “home” brought me to tears while sitting at my laptop at work — unexplainable tears. However, that is not to say that I haven’t found a new “home” in China (hurrah finally have an apartment in Beijing) nor that I have abandoned my home in North Carolina. My definition of “home,” rather, has changed. I see it now as truly a space where the heart is – my family, my friends, my  passions, my hobbies, my work.

I may be living in the antipodes of the United States, but I almost feel closer to home and those I love in many ways. Of course, I miss cuddling my puppies, hearing the bells toll alongside AC/DC rifts or “Jump On It” when my Heels take center stage, smelling my mother’s cooking waft through the house, digging my fingertips into the scratchy carpet of the floor as I tumbled across it, and many other distinct “home” sensations, but in many ways, I remember those sensations more vividly than when I got to experience them regularly; I more vividly feel the emotions I associate with each sensory event.

I’ve learned a lot here on this alien continent, in this foreign place, but most importantly, I’ve really learned that “home” isn’t just a place, it’s all the feelings and people associated with a place, or places I hold most dear to me. Now, I find home in the bowl of porridge (just like mom makes), my friends here in China (who can listen to my crisis is real time, but don’t worry US friends, you usually get my messages as soon as you wake up!), the smell of my clothes after riding a motorcycle (looking at you, dad and Eric), a really solid and protective hug (friends, you know who you huggers are).

“Life takes you to unexpected places. Love brings you home.”
-Melissa McClone

These “home” emotions make me think of some of the ones I value the most – love and support. I prioritize the things I get to say to my family during our weekly Skype calls; I think I even talk to my parents more often now than I did when I was at UNC. Yes, it’s frustrating that I can’t just Facetime my darling parents anytime, Eric doesn’t always check his WeChats immediately, or that I’ve given my contact information to my parents about a billion different times – but I’ve learned to sit with patience with them. I’ve learned that they care enough to let me go on my adventures and still keep up with me breaking down the technological challenges to do so.

Mei, my best friend here in China, and I have discussed several times, most recently after her trip home this Christmas, the idea of having support from home and how that affects us as young adults living abroad. Like myself, she grew up in the same place most of her life and is very close to her family – we both commonly refer to “home” as the place where we grew up. We both feel very supported by our families in our pursuit of the unfamiliar, adventure, and lifelong learning and attribute our success abroad to that immense familial (and friendly) support. That is not to say that we don’t miss our families and our families don’t miss us, but they understand and love us enough to allow and support our decision to leave home, at times they even encourage us to push further.

These thoughts about “home” come at a quite a turning point for me – holidays have passed, 2015 has begun, it has been exactly 7 months since I landed in Asia, I am back in the first hotel and school at which I facilitated a program, I must decide whether or not I will stay in PiA/Asia/China/JUMP! in the next week, I am at the final close of my last month of travel. What’s next? I’m not really sure, honestly. I’ll elaborate in another post to come, but all I can do for sure now is to reflect on the things I have already done and come to learn from my experiences. For now, the biggest point of reflection has been this idea of “home.”

ps, post/photos about my holiday adventures to come soon!



The above means “the foreigners have arrived.” This phrase summed up my recent adventure to Inner Mongolia for the week-long National Holiday with four friends (FRIENDS, not translator or tour guide clients…thanks, Inner Mongolia ren).


First, apologies for the delay in posts; Stewart and Charlotte, I know you two have been keeping up with this thing!

Second, WOAH. It’s been four months in Asia already!


I could take awhile to explain what’s been going on in the two months since posting, but I’ll explain in photos instead!


Joe & Kyle go to China: Hangzhou episode


Hangzhou Roommate adventures! wechat exchanges: check date offers: check amused taxi drivers: check drunken mooncakes: yes


LeiFeng Pagoda, Hangzhou


Host family for the month of July


Sam & Mei take on the pet stores of Hong Kong, part II


street markets in HK, love them!


nom nom nom, BBQ pork and rice in HK


Kris’ Mecca in HK


A series of selfies in which Collin and I became best friends with the Chairman


Beihai Park, Beijing


Will hits Beijing


PURPLE CRISPY RICE DUMPLINGS. seriously y’all, I’ve been to this place at least 4 times in just one month.




YuanMingYuan – former summer palace, Beijing


Mid-Autumn Festival moon with my new Beijing friend, Corinne…who loves framing her face in photos


site inspection to a section of Wild Great Wall


JUMP!ing in Beijing




pointed toes ftw.


“uhhhh, guys (co-facilitators/hikers), how dangerous is a pack of mountain goats??”


Desert selfie in Inner Mongolia




Our desert oasis campsite in Engbei, Inner Mongolia


moon. sunset. desert beauty.


[camel]POO FIRE.


new friends right before nearly missing our train! #brohot


new friends right before nearly missing our train! #brohot



So, there are some snapshots from the last two months of non-posting. I’m working on getting all my photos onto a better gallery display platform…that’ll be up later hopefully.

I’ve been frolicking from Hangzhou to Hong Kong to Dongguan to Beijing to Inner Mongolia to Beijing for the last 5 weeks and I couldn’t be more satisfied with the time I’ve spent in each place with new and old friends. It’s difficult to say exactly what’s been going on, but I hope these photos are a bit of a help and I promise I’ll be better at posting more regularly in the future…sorry mom and dad! However, for now, I’ll share some big news then a boardstorm (stream of consciousness-type activity) to try to get out what’s been up for the last two months.


BIG NEWS: moving to Beijing. After much debate, the J! China office will make a return to Beijing which means I’ll be on the lookout for my own little hutong apartment starting very soon!



PiA. 3 month report/4 months. staying in China. moving to Beijing. “home.” “roots.” ethnicity. nationality. pride. American. Tiananmen on National Day. Chinese. translator. friend. tour guide. sand. poo. desert disneyland. privilege. planning ahead. experiences. contingency plans. one of the guys. girl next door. nuhanzi. transience. teamwork. framing. storming styles. family. friends. skype. FOMO.


That’s all for now y’all!

Peace. Love. SingingtheAmericanNationalAntheminarestaurant.


only child syndrome

My little brother and best friend.

Eric: little brother. best friend. most effective socialization exercise so far.

I can’t say I’ve ever not shared anything. Eric and I are a mere 16 months apart. I have never lived on my own. I have more cousins than some people have extended family. My friends call me “mom.”

Disclaimer: I’m not a parent (very far from it)

This concept of a nation of only children is fascinating. China has a one-child policy which has produced a generation, or two, of “Little Emperors” (and “Empresses”). These children are all around my age give or take several years, so you’d think I could relate, but it’s very interesting because I can’t. I never lacked for a family who loved me, but I never had the attention that these kids get: two sets of grandparents, a pair of parents, and maybe a couple aunts and uncles here and there–all focused on one child.

Infants never ever touch the ground, or any surface for that matter besides someone’s loving arms. Toddlers are never disciplined, only given candy and cakes. Adolescents are given the bus seat while grandma holds on for dear life around the curve of a busy intersection. Teens flaunt luxury brand backpacks, smart phones, and whine when their new Nike basketball shoes get dirt on them. Young adults and my yuppie peers spend more time looking at themselves on their iPhone than conversing with the person across the table from them (there are incredible selfie and editing apps popular here). 

This growing population of self-absorbed consumers surrounds me at cafes, on campus, in the street, at stores, shopping malls…everywhere (Hangzhou is a city of 8 million and home to one of the top universities in China). I can’t help but pity that almost none of them have had the joy of arguing with a sibling, building a blanket fort with your little brother, or letting your little sister paint your nails (or paint your brother’s toes as was a common sleepover prank at our house). I have seen it up close and personal that parents, and grandparents, will dote on these children holding their hands everywhere (literally and metaphorically) and sparing no expense for the hint of a smile. In return, many of these children of course love their parents and the spotlight (don’t you dare try to take a sliver of that away, trust me), but many times I have seen temper tantrums, whining, rudeness, disrespect, and physical retaliation from children which are often met by more coddling, gifts, and “oh it’s fine that’s so cute” expressions by the parents in an effort to quell their (not so) little one.

Now, many parents in the US do these things too; we are not exempt–I have seen all of these behaviors back at home too, but the difference is that China has only child syndrome on a much much larger scale. Thus, all of this makes me think, what are the repercussions of such a unique situation? How is this different or similar to my experience in the States or the general sentiment there? Will a two-child policy be implemented, when, how, will it be effective (The Guardian article on such)?

From my observations, and discussions with friends here in China (Chinese and non-Chinese), I feel that many are socially stunted. They seem socially awkward and unable to handle new situations, new people, or even sharing–and interesting concept in the seeming collectivist nature of China. This self-absorbed consumer is driving the middle-class obsession with luxury and Western goods–also an interesting discussion for another time. Their experience in the Chinese family is very different from my own (very large and loud Chinese family), yet both our parents will stop at nothing to see us succeed (whatever that means): my parents sacrificed and risked so much to simply come to America, before I even existed as imagination; Chinese parents here do the same, but if they have the means, they throw money into the issue rather than themselves (possibly a SES similarity to Americans as well). For the country as whole, this bottleneck of the population in numbers may have grave consequences for the collective social safety net once our parents’ generations are no longer able to work and the markedly smaller worker force must support accordingly–similar situation as the US will be facing with the retirement of baby boomers. A vast majority will be incredibly intelligent and privileged, but now what? They lack the social skill to be leaders, to form communities, to communicate and collaborate effectively–what are the implications here for the future leaders of the world’s next super power?


peace. love. more lighthearted posts to come.




soup dumplings on soup dumplings.

Howdy friends!

I can’t believe I’ve been in Asia for 3 weeks…WHAT. Well, to celebrate, I decided to skip town. Well, not entirely true. A fellow fellow of mine was coming to Hangzhou during his family tour before he started his post in Beijing doing microfinance consulting–all the fellows have such neat posts!!–and then he was headed to Shanghai to continue the family visits…so I decided to tag along! First though, we hung around Hangzhou for the night and I finally got down to see the famous West Lake as we walked a good portion of it after dinner. The lights and willows along the shore, faint outlines of the mountains surrounding, and ebbs of the water were the perfect end to a busy week for both of us.

West Lake (photos don’t do it justice)

Now, let’s jutxtapose that again with the city that I found myself in the next night…Shanghai, China. After my first train ride (300km/hr so cool!) and wandering several excruciatingly long blocks of the city to find our hotel, we found some other PiAers!

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Laundry day outside the hostel, Shanghai

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Nanjing Road Shopping District, Shanghai

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Princeton in Asia…IN ASIA.

These kiddos are Summer of Service interns who will be teaching in Jishou (they’re currently on a 24 hour train ride to get there); they were all gathering in Shanghai before their big adventure started! Exploring with them meant just walking around semi-aimlessly while joking of the stores we couldn’t even afford back in the states, much less here (while the standards of living can be lower here in China, Western goods and large cities are outrageously more expensive than back at home). We even wandered into a garden/park downtown which purposefully raised stray cats…I couldn’t tell if the Chinese speakers in our group were serious or not about it being a Cat Park though. Later, our SOS friends had to go back to their hostel, but Kai and I continued on to The Bund and French Concession.

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A few of the old financial and embassy buildings along the Bund–I loved the clock tower one!

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Pudong area across the river, The Bund, Shanghai

The Bund is a walkway along the river flanked on either side by the Pudong area of high rises and facades of former foreign embassy and banking buildings; I especially pondered the sight when Kai pointed out that all the former embassies were topped with Chinese flags (earlier, he pointed out the Sino-Soviet Friendship Building…I definitely picked the right adventure buddy). It was incredibly crowded, but all the more enjoyable for us–people watching galore. Afterwards, we had drinks in the French Concession area at a tapas bar to wind down the evening of walking–Kai even reached his goal of learning how to say “old fashioned” in Mandarin…my whiskey ginger was an easier order.

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The French Concession Area, Shanghai

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I got lost in downtown Hangzhou upon getting back from Shanghai. not pictured: skyscrapers across the block 

After the train ride home I dodged a sketchy cab driver trying to dupe me–a definite highlight. These moments of “oh goodness, I really am here in China” haven’t particularly settled in yet though they come in small waves. Lots of times, they come when I can’t communicate (another post for another time) or when I’m in the middle of a HUGE city without a single non-Asian in sight or when I see hints of traditional architecture nestled beside skyscrapers. A lot of my musings aloud have been met with “yepp, welcome to China!” Welcome to China indeed.


peace. love. #shanghaiselfie.


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All smiles at the Bund! 🙂


16 days in Asia.

It’s been dizzying.

Immediately after landing, I met my JUMP! China team, dined, and dined some more. Then, facilitator training filled my weekend; headed to Kuala Lumpur for the week on program; Bangkok the weekend after between programs; Hong Kong the first part of that week for program; and finally, back to Hangzhou. It’s been a crazy few days for the girl who had never been abroad before…I haven’t spent more than 3 consecutive nights in any one bed…woof.

I have however…eaten street food in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Hangzhou, and Bangkok–and not gotten sick. In Kuala Lumpur, I saw mosques and temples nestled in a bustling metropolis. In Bangkok, I walked the canals of a floating market, tasted homemade fresh sweets, got my first massage, and ate mangosteens until my fingertips were purple. In Hong Kong, well, I just ate and smiled so big at my food, I think I scared my co-workers. In Hangzhou, I grooved along to one of the bigger alternative rock bands in China; I communicated with taxi drivers, pharmacists, and Wal-Mart cashiers via pictionary, charades, Google translate, and broken Mandarin/Cantonese/English all while fielding their puzzled looks as to why this Chinese-looking girl does not in fact speak Chinese–thank goodness to the handful of friends I have made here who do speak Chinese…many of whom are not Chinese themselves.

All along the bumpy road, I could not be more grateful for this opportunity to work with JUMP! and meet some wonderful people all along the way. Upon starting my time here, I learned that many of my co-workers are transitioning out of their positions, many to move back to the US–at this time, several have already left. I miss them dearly and cannot say enough good things about their kind and thoughtful souls. I can clearly see what this organization is all about when I see them in their element–facilitating to youth trying to challenge who they are, what they believe in, who they surround themselves with, and what they see in their futures. In facilitating these programs for youth, I find myself questioning the very same things about myself and my being; luckily, many of my co-facilitators do the same and many have pushed me to think about why I stand as who I am. I never thought I’d be sitting poolside in Kuala Lumpur discussing Buddhism, cultural relativism, and individualism while watching a woman in a hijab splash her child in a floatation ring. Or amongst a crowd of the “cool Chinese kids” in a club listening to (post-) rock music and talking with a friend about the complexities of public religion in the US. Clearly passionate about their work and wielding a curiosity about the world around them, those heading back home, wherever that may be, have left big shoes for nOObs like me to fill. Clearly passionate about their work, these friends are offering guidance even after they board their final plane out of Asia.

For those of you reading this back at home, thanks for keeping up; sorry this took so long to get up and running! I’m sending hugs and kisses your way!!


peace. love. naps.



cue Europe–

because it’s the Final Countdown! Okay, please excuse my lame joke and inherited love of classic rock…thanks dad.

From APPLES Alternative Fall Break experiences (shoutout to all my AFB babies!), I learned that reflections should occur before, during, and after any activity. Well, my next year of service will be quite an activity, so here goes: I’m so nervous that I want to vomit. I am also severely procrastinating re-packing my bags.

At precisely 5:10 pm tomorrow, June 4th, I will take off (hah, PiA office, I’m working on my punmanship) on a new adventure. Asia has always held some alluring quality about it, but never been on my radar, persay–my college major focused on Latin America. Some of you, my close friends, will know that I loathed my “History of Pop Music in Southeast Asia” class and many of you give me a hard time about my “whitewashed Asian” self. So why the hell Asia?!! Why can’t you stay…on this continent?! Well Mom and Dad, after my stint at UNC, I think that makes Asia the perfect place to explore, lose myself, challenge my values, and seek a culture not wholly not unlike my own maybe sort of microculture (ALL the double negatives, but really, kind of appropriate). There’s something to be learned here/there: when studying a spectrum of cultures, especially ones different from my own, I gain a wider perspective to critique my culture–is the Western idea of individualism really better than a more Eastern collective self? I’ll never have the True answer for you, sorry, but that among other questions are raised once the critical eye is turned inward (hey fellow anth majors!). Generally, I am so very nervous about arriving in China with virtually no language skills (they’re all going to think I’m an idiot) or contacts…but I could not be more pleased with this placement. For a girl who grew up in a small town hoping to take a midnight train going anywhere, I picked one hell of a metaphorical train.

Luckily, I have 151 other fellows joining me in this crazy adventure…though I think I’m the first to embark (goodskill fellows!!)!!! Princeton in Asia (PiA) has been a fantabulous organization and I have to give a big thanks to them and Shannon and Erin Murphy for giving me my first sip of PiA kool aid. I really like that its mission is rooted in the ideas of service and fellowship–both things that I happen to love! After orientation, I’m confident that I have a dependable, funny, and accepting network of friends and directors to lean on in times of need and laughter. To The JUMP! Foundation–thanks for taking a gamble on me; I’ll be happy to learn and contribute as much as I humanly can. Additionally, I have all of you friends and teachers who are still reading (I wish I could hug you all!)! I will make some more friends soon (via English, broken Chinese, or hand gestures), but none can replace all of you who have stood by with kind words, Monday night dinners, cookies, toilet paper gifts, roof chills, or specially made cheesecake dip to my liking. Last but not least, my family–extended and especially immediate. Those of you who know my parents or see them (ever), please give them a great big hug for me; hell, let’s hug Eric too. I may be “like a little bird that flies away at any chance” (sorry mom), but I could never get anywhere without a perch from which to take off or a soft nest to land in should I fall; being so far from my parents and best friend will be the biggest challenge and boundary pusher of them all.

Well, guess I should get to that re-packing business.


peace. love. deodorant is a hard find in Asia?



p.s., Please everyone, do keep in touch. Many social media sites, including this one and facebook, are often blocked, but I should be able to check them periodically as I travel. The best way to reach me, however, is via e-mail: (it’s also in the “about” section”) and feel free to shoot me a message and we can exchange more in-depth contact information if you wish!