university / week 1

Monday morning, September 9th I woke up early and picked out an appropriate first day of university outfit. I packed my new navy bag with my Chinese books and a fresh brown paper notebook for notes (and doodling obviously...).
I jumped on the 120 bus and put in my earbuds and turned on something that made me feel alive and jittery. Or maybe the jittery feeling was because I was starting something new.
40 minute bus rides in the early morning have become really nice. I love having some time before school starts to just think and dream and watch and feel. And to be by myself and to know exactly where I'm going. It feels good, and I love the feeling of independence. 
I got to Suzhou university and went to the 5th floor of one of the buildings and found my classroom and walked in. I surprisingly am in the same class as one of my friends from school last year, and that makes me happy.
Class starts and we speak, speak, speak, and listen, listen, listen. Being here three years has given me somewhat of a head start in the class but I'm also learning things that I don't know and that I definitely need to know. So let's just say my first week of learning Chinese hasn't been too hard, and has been pretty much just fun... and I love learning a new language.
After class I met up with a friend from church and we went out for Coco and to get to know each other and personally, the meeting new people from all around the world part is definitely the best part about this experience for me so far. I'm a people person, so being around tons of people everyday? Yeah, it kind of gets me going.

Add Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday doing a lot of the same things and you have a really good first week of university.
And that's just how university / week 1 should be.
First day of uni picture. By Becca Jones.

Early, foggy mornings on the bus.

Clean and clear skies and the city that I love.

Walking into the campus.

I spend lots of time on the bus nowadays! The 120 is a second home of sorts. ;)

Thank the Lord I have gorgeous views the whole way there.

Blackboards, chalk and homework assignments.

x, a


Colorado missin'

Driving over the mountains and down into Denver, Colorado. I miss that day. I miss my big brothers. I miss my sister. 
 I miss days spent swimming in the river. Laying on the rocks and sand, tanning my legs and face and chatting with friends whom I hadn't seen in a whole year.
Driving up to Glenwood and sitting at Bluebird Cafe or Starbucks (sometimes both) for hours and every once in a while getting a refill of iced coffee. 50 something cense is hard to beat ;)
Walking over to Target to say hey to a new friend and maybe just maybe to buy a new shirt.
 Eating pizza with all my siblings (except Andrew who stayed in China!) and watching the sunset.
 Sleeping on the porch in our little garage/house made summer home. Watching the sky and the million and one stars in it until we fell asleep.
 Listening to good music and taking blurry selfies with seat belts over shoulders and all.
 Eating frozen yogurt and wearing sweaters in the evening. And that lovely Colorado weather.

I miss it all, yes but I like the thought that instead of waiting a whole year and going back for another summer there, I'm going back in December and I'll finally get to see it in the snow again. And this time, (if my guess is right) I won't be leaving CO. At least for a while. 

I'm moving back.
x, a


up so high

Those times when I'm flying I think about how the world is below me. Every state in America and every big city and small town... and beyond that, foreign countries and mysterious oceans. I stare out the window and think about how somebody might be looking up at the airplane that's taking me to another place... and how airplanes always appear to be going so much faster when you're on the ground looking up at them ;)
 Whenever I fly I think about how chaotic some of the streets below me are. The ground, yellow lines on the roads with cars and bicycles weaving in and out of back streets and crossing those lines to get to where they need to be. And all the while I'm just floating over them higher than any mountain on earth. I listen to this song and there's a part where it says "as the dead moon rises and the freeways sigh, let the trains watch over the tides and the mist, spinning circles in our skies tonight". I ask the one who loves us to watch over the trains and cars and bikes beneath my seat... thousands of feet below me. Or maybe the sea. The ocean filled with life. Boats and ships gliding over waves, leaving trails of unsettled water. Then the song says "let Your love be strong and I don't care what goes down, let Your love be strong enough to weather through the thunder clouds"... and those words are perfect for airplane rides and perfect for making you feel all fluttery inside. Because come on, flying is so exhilarating and to think that He is watching over you, up so high in the sky and the rest of the entire world living out their lives below is beautiful.
Flying is like removing yourself from the world for a period of time. Up so high, you can't do anything but keep yourself busy while sitting silently in your seat. You have to wait until the plane lands to move on towards your destination and until then you're stuck at 30,000 ft. trusting a pilot to get you there. No wonder I feel like hugging the pilot when I'm walking off the plane at our gate. How often though do you get the chance to leave the surface of the earth for a while? How often do you get the chance to be above the clouds rather than underneath them? And looking at the ground rather than walking on it...? Like it or not, it's a pretty amazing privilege and I can't help but feel blessed when I get to fly. But don't get me wrong, I can so see how it can get boring and tiring (especially when it's an 11 hour ride and you have jet lag waiting for you on the other end) having to fly so much. 
For me it's just enough. I'm not tired of it at all but it's not new to me anymore. I still love it though (even if it does freak me out a bit) and I'm happy that it's a small part of my life.

Next plane ride for me: Malaysia in December! Then on to Europe before flying home to Colorado just in time for Christmas with my family. SUPER excited.
Until then I've got a lot to accomplish here in Suzhou.

x, a


the significant // the insignificant

These are some of the beautiful things that I've been experiencing lately. Significant and insignificant.
And something to come ;)
Small, round mirrors in buses and me and my cheeky sister snapping a picture in one of them.

Night time in College Town.

Dreaming of December and getting back to Colorado. 

Coffee in the morning sun while I chat with friends who are still awake on the other side of the world.

Getting ready for my day. It almost looks like there's snow inside of my (dirty) mirror. 

Curtains that let in the light and tall apartment buildings for a view.

Taxis which I swear never slow down.

And the city at night.

And knowing that we booked tickets to Rome in December.
And knowing that I'm blessed.

x, a


The best summer (I'm pretty dang sure) part 1: Bellevue WA.

Hey, I'm back!
I flew into PVG airport (Shanghai) on Monday night... stepped out of the airport into 90+ degree weather and haven't stepped out of it. 
You'll hear more about Suzhou soon but for the next few posts I'll be talking about my vacation. My absolutely blissful vacation... that I had to come back from. 

We flew into California at the beginning of June and spent two weeks there. I wrote my last couple of posts there and since I don't have many pictures from my time there I'll go ahead and start with Washington. After the first two weeks in CA. I flew to Colorado and spent a week there but I still didn't have my phone working then. I got my iPhone working in WA and that's when I started taking a million and one pictures. SO, the pictures are all taken and edited with my iPhone which is actually pretty cool ;)

Bellevue is so gorgeous. The whole time I was there the weather was so nice. When it rained it was beautiful and we would walk in it with no umbrellas and pretend like we were Washingtonians. Surprisingly it hardly rained at all though. We stayed at this cozy, spacious house right on the water and everyday we'd walk down the hill and swim. We even swam at night sometimes. The house was so nice and the whole place was pretty much like a resort. And we got to spend a week there :)
Seeing my cousins again was amazing as well. One of my only girl cousins was getting married which was why we were there and spending time with her was sooo fun. The other ones are all boys and all 6 of them are probably some of the coolest guys I know ;)

Alyssa's wedding day came and three hundred or more people squeezed into the church. No air conditioning and big windows that let in almost every inch of the afternoon sun. It didn't matter though. Everybody there was so happy and seeing my gorgeous cousin as a bride was perfect. She and Matt had asked me if I would sing at the ceremony and of course I said yes, so I was really nervous for the actual wedding day. I sang two songs and my Dad played the guitar for me. It ended up going so smoothly and I was so happy that I'd done it. I faced Alyssa and sang to her and Matt. I felt blessed to be a part of their wedding and I don't think I stopped smiling much that day.

The next few days went by quickly like vacations do and we finally got brown and our hair finally got light. Looking back the days seem to blend together... but if I take the time to remember each one clearly I can see how good of a time I had. It was so good. 
L to R: Bethy, me and Alyssa at the nail salon getting our nails done :)
Living on the water.


Night swimming!
My favorite 3 year old Maggie in the world.
At the wedding with my Daddy :)

...And more swimming.
x, a


this morning

I live in the prettiest kitchen. Or rather, I spend so much time in the prettiest kitchen.
This morning in particular I ate my breakfast and drank my coffee in matching blue and white striped dishes.
I ate at the wooden table with my back to the window.
White flowers in a mason jar stood on the table near my arm.
I ate by myself and the quiet was perfect after so much stimulation and company.
And somehow coconut oil, a good nights sleep and a peaceful morning made my sunburn fade. I'm loving this American sun... but maybe just a little too much ;)

Only one more day here in California and I know just how much I'll miss it. 
Can't wait for Colorado though!
Picture taken by me on Beth's iTouch.
x, a



More than a week has already gone by. California has been so perfect. I'm just going to share a bit about what I've been doing and how good life has been.

Picture this.
Everyday I wake up and turn over to the California sun. I get out of bed when I want to and walk down the creaky stairs of this house that I get to call home for a while.
I sit down in the bright kitchen. Bright because the sun followed me down the stairs.
I look around for someone (most likely a cousin) who might have a cup of coffee and then I take the french press from them and fill my little, green mug. The one that I've used every Summer I've come back here for a visit. 
My backyard has a pool in it and a hot tub on the side. Throughout the day people go in and out of the pool and find spots on the hot concrete to lay down and gain back their brown skin. There is this one palm tree next to the pool that I constantly want to take a picture of. Last night as I sat in the hot tub while the sun went down, it stretched out against the blue sky and the moon stood still next to it. 
Clean, sweet smelling clothes (man this California air), dinners with the whole family, bike rides to Starbucks a block away with boy cousins, late night talks with big sisters whom I haven't seen in 8 months and this gorgeous house to live in and even lots of new friends... it all keeps me smiling.
I know the reason why I'm having such a good vacation too. It's because God loves to bless his kids and since I'm one of them, I'm blessed. Not that he doesn't give me bad days too and not that it's easy to feel close to Him daily (surely you know what I mean) but he's given me so much and he's made me feel so loved. 
Picture taken on Becca's camera. It was a rainy day but everything turned out perfectly. We were only missing one sibling. Andrew, we miss you!
Taken by Becca.
So yeah, I've been here 11 days and so far my theme word is bliss ;)

I'll try to be back soon with another blog post.
x, a



 In just two days I'm off to America. I can't really wrap my mind around the fact that it's been a whole year since I've been there. It seems like yesterday that I was counting down the days until I'd see everybody there again. Sometimes time just goes by too fast. But at the same time, I like how fast it goes by because it makes the distance and the goodbyes not so hard. 
I'll be posting when I can but I'm not sure how often that will be.
I'll be on instagram (when I get there and get it on my iPhone), facebook and tumblr if any of you care to keep up with me though! ;)

I'm really going to miss Suzhou this Summer. It's been so beautiful around here and the longer I live here the easier it is to call it home. 

Summer ponytails. It gets so hot and humid here so I have my hair up for the majority of the day... which is okay with me ;)
 I hope you all have an amazing Summer and that you feel blessed to call wherever you live home. 

Suzhou, I'll be back in not too long ;)
x, a

p.s. this is where I'm headed! Pasadena CA. :D


songs and pictures and missing people

Let Your Love Be Strong.
Blue Velvet.
Why Not?

These songs remind me of them.
Mainly because they're songs that I listened to over and over again in the days right after they died. Malachi and Kellie are never far from my thoughts and the longer they are gone the weirder life seems without them. I guess I've gotten used to the reality of not having two of my best friends around but still, everyday it feels like something is missing and often my mind goes back to that day when they left. I just need to keep writing "their song" and hopefully it'll be my best one yet. Because for them it has to be.
Overall the hurting gets better and everyday it's easier to just remember the happy times we all spent together and how they are in a perfect place now but still, I don't think the pain will ever fully go away. How could it disappear when everyday you wake up and they are still gone?
God is so faithful. He never leaves even though life often gets hard. I've been reading Psalms lately and every verse is so good. One in particular is Psalms 3 though so if you want to be encouraged, read it ;)

Oh and one more week and I'll be flying to California! I can't wait for everything that's to come and I'm ready for a break :)
L to R: Me, Kenzie and Kellie last Summer which was the last Summer we spent together.

x, a


the people

The people here are so beautiful. Same as any other country I suppose but when you live somewhere for a long period of time they become part of you. You can understand them without speaking their language perfectly and you can love them because He made them. And they're not any different in His eyes.
I like it how the buses here are a common mode of transportation for everybody... not just the poor, the homeless and the lower class people. When I get on a bus anywhere in my city, I'll be squashed between business men, young women in high heels, cute college guys and little street sweepers returning home after a long day in the sun. So I feel perfectly welcome ;)
Like all countries though, any type of person can bug you. When someone starts snapping pictures of you with their big camera from the back of the bus or when someone spits (wayyy too loudly) right in front of you, it makes you want to... uh, yeah just leave. At least for a few days.
But you get over those things (or just get used to them if you can) and accustom yourself to the beautiful parts of leaving with another race and in another country completely different from your own. 
It's pretty great guys. And the experiences I've had are like none other.
And in case you were wondering what I think, Asian (this means all of Asia ;)) guys are hot. 

x, a

p.s. I redid the blog a bit! I'm diggin' the faded blues and blacks with accents of brighter colors thrown in. And it's good to freshen things up every now and then ;)