The Uncarved Blog

blame Canada…
August 16, 2008, 10:13 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

We are on our way to Beijing. We left Seattle at 6:00 this morning, aboard the tiniest, most rickety little plane Air Canada has to offer. Seriously. We actually had to walk out on the tarmac to board the plane, because it was too little to be connected to the terminal with one of those tube walkway thingies. The right propellor was about six feet from Ben’s seat throughout the flight, and it sounded like it was at risk of sputtering out and dying any moment. I have to say, it made me a little nervous. But we arrived safely, with no propellor sputtering to speak of.

I also have to say that the Vancouver airport customs area is one of the most confusing places I have ever been. We had to ask three different people where we were supposed to go before we were able to stumble out of there and back into the light of day. But we made it, and are now enjoying some Starbucks coffee and breakfast sandwiches, and trying to entertain ourselves for the five hours before our flight takes off.

Here’s a conversation from this morning:

Ben: I’ll just use my card to get us some coffee.

Me: Why don’t you just use cash?

Ben: Because they don’t accept dollars here. We’re in Canada.

Me: (embarrassed) oh, yeah.

Ben: What kind of coffee do you want?

Me: Ummm…I’ll have an Americano. (pause) Wait! Do they have Americanos in Canada?

Ben: (laughs) They might not.


(By the way, it turns out they do serve Americanos in Canada–Starbucks is Starbucks, no matter where you go.)


First Stop: Seattle
August 12, 2008, 7:14 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Well, we left Kansas last Thursday, but we haven’t quite made it out of the U.S. yet. We’ve spent the past several days visiting Ben’s parents in Seattle. We’ve had a fun time so far, and we’ve done so many things in the past several days, it would be difficult to list them all here. Some of the highlights include a couple of visits to Pike Place Market, a walk around the Olympic Sculpture Park, and eating fish (and dodging seagulls) at the best fish stand in Seattle. Here are some random shots of our adventures:

One of the highlights of eating at Ivar’s on the pier is that you experience some very close encounters with seagulls–encounters that I find somewhat less than pleasant, since I’m afraid of birds. I took a couple short videos of the (many) gulls down on the pier, and their relentless quest for more fish and chips, but unfortunately I’m having problems posting them. D’oh! I’ll work on it, and see if I can remedy the situation.

We also visited Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe, down by the pier, today. Ben took some great videos while there, which he posted on his blog. You should check them out. His description and videos depict this place much more vividly than I could.

some recent goodbyes
August 8, 2008, 12:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Goodbye, apartment.


Goodbye, friends.

Goodbye, cats.

Goodbye, family.

We’re in Seattle now, arrived late last night. Our journey has begun.

no place like home
August 2, 2008, 11:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s really true that there is no place like home. Whether it’s a dumpy little house in a bad neighborhood (been there), or a spacious place in the suburbs (been there, too), it’s good to have a place to call your home. No matter where, or what, your home is, there is something comforting about having that place to return to, and knowing you can rest, relax, and…well…be at home in it.

Unfortunately, we still have no idea where our home will be once we get to China. I received an initially somewhat distressing email today from my contact person at Nankai University. I had written her to ask a couple of questions, basically about Ben living in the dorms with me, and about how much it would cost for him to live there too. I also asked about the difficulty of us moving in on August 17. She suggested there would be some kind of “visa problem” if we came to Tianjin before September 1, and that we would not be able to move in to the foreign student dorms if we came at that time. She also suggested that this “visa problem” would prohibit me from being able to register with the school.

I was pretty distressed and confused after reading this email. What she was saying sounded much more severe than anything I had expected, and thanks to the very little information she actually provided in the email, it wasn’t very well-explained or informative, either. So I felt a bit panicked. And I began trying to find out if we could change our travel plans. And I started frantically emailing my brother for help and advice. It was a messy 30 minutes there, to say the least.

However, I was able to catch up with my brother on IM, and after chatting with him a bit, I don’t think an actual “visa problem” will exist. If I have a visa (which I will on Monday) then that’s all there is to it: I can legally be in the country as a student. She may be referring to the fact that we will need to register with the Public Security Bureau very quickly after arrival, and that they aren’t expecting my arrival as a student until the beginning of September. And there is still the possibility that we won’t be allowed to move into the dorms on August 17, which is when we plan to arrive.

So, we are in the process of doing a bit more research (through Ben’s employer) into the possibility of not living on campus, but rather getting an apartment near campus. Meanwhile, my brother is going over to the school on Monday to find out some additional information.

And in the meantime, we are waiting to find out something about the place we will soon call home.

August 2, 2008, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

As some of you know, my brother, Sam, has been living in China for nearly a decade now–I don’t think I’ve mentioned that on this blog before. Anyway, over the years he has honed some pretty proficient Chinese language skills–enough to have recently completed an MA in Applied Linguistics at a Chinese University. He also recently participated in a kind of Chinese language contest for foreigners, and made it to the finals, which were in Beijing. And were televised. 

Here is a link to my brother’s televised singing performance on Chinese TV. Check out Sam, the Chinese TV star! He’s kind of a big deal. (You might have to pause the clip and wait for it to load before viewing it.)

(Sorry I’m just posting the link, instead of embedding the clip. I was having some difficulties figuring out how to do it from the Chinese site.)

(In case you’re wondering, he didn’t win. But isn’t he great?)

excused absence?
August 1, 2008, 5:39 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

As a teacher, I almost never allow “excused absences.” Frankly, I don’t really even know what that means. Either you’re present or you’re absent. You are always absent for a reason, and sometimes I might even consider it a good one, but it’s still an absence. But, if I were the kind of person who considered “excused” to be a valid category of “absences,” I think my reasons for being absent from my blog would qualify.

First, there has been the whole moving fiasco. We have officially moved out of our apartment, and are staying with my parents in Topeka until next Thursday. Moving day (Sunday) was perhaps the worst moving experience I have ever had. When we reserved the U-haul truck, they would let us rent it for only half a day–actually, only 3 1/2 hours, because they consider a move from Lawrence to Topeka to be an “in-town move,” and because everyone in town was moving at the same time, so there was a shortage of trucks. Whatever. But when we went to pick up the truck, there was a super-long line, almost out the door of the place. We actually stood in line for 25 minutes, i.e., until 20 minutes after we were supposed to get the truck. So that left us 3 hours and 10 minutes to pack everything up, drive to Topeka, unpack everything, and drive the truck back. We were feeling some pressure to get things moving, to say the least.

Well, we did a great job of packing up the truck. My sister Megs and our friend Elliott helped out, and we fit everything in, if just barely, in just under an hour. And then we took off for Topeka . . . or at least to the end of the block, at which point the truck died and refused to re-start. To make a long story short, the U-haul place brought another truck over to where we were, and we basically ended up haphazardly transferring all our very carefully packed stuff from one truck to the other truck. In the middle of the street. In 96 degree heat. With cars honking at us the whole time. Because we couldn’t plan as carefully on the second packing, there were a number of things we just had to decide to leave behind. And I ended up with some mild heat stroke, and had to pull the U-haul over to the side of the turnpike, to throw up.

At least, after all of that, U-haul relented on the 3 1/2 hour time limit. Jeez.

The other factor contributing to my absence is that my laptop is broken. That’s another long story, which essentially boils down to: I spilled beer on the keyboard, and now it’s in the shop so the keyboard can be replaced. I’m writing this entry from my stepdad’s office computer, surrounded by piles of invoices and various other scattered office supplies. Frankly, it’s a mess in here, and I’d rather just not be on-line than have to write in here. Did I mention my sister is also staying with my parents for the time being, so her clothes and assorted belongings are scattered all over the floor in here? It’s all a bit overcrowded, and bit too much to handle, and I’ve been finding myself escaping into my bedroom with my cats as much as possible. Thus, no blog entries in the past week.

Nevertheless, there is good news to report. I got my admission letter from Nankai on Wednesday, and I immediately shipped off my visa application. If all goes well, I will get my visa by tomorrow or Monday. We are in the process of contacting the school to figure out our living situation in Tianjin, too, so that should be figured out soon.

Everything is coming together behind the scenes. And the countdown is on: only 6 days till we leave Kansas!

it’s cosmic!
July 25, 2008, 11:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
Yesterday was a fun, packing-free day (for me at least; poor Ben stayed at home and packed stuff while I was out having good times without him). I went shopping and for lunch, and then more shopping with my friends Shannon and Jamie. (Since I already can’t fit everything I want to take with me to China in my two suitcases, I couldn’t buy anything. But windowshopping is still fun, and hanging out with cool people was really the point of it all.) Later, Ben and I went out for dinner with Shannon. Then we did some free cosmic bowling at the Jaybowl on campus with a bunch of people from Ben’s department.

Here are some shots from cosmic bowling. I wasn’t as dilligent as Shannon at taking photos while we were out shopping, so I don’t have many from  that part of the day. But I thought the bowling pictures turned out kind of cool, thanks to the weirdo lighting.

Shannon rocks the phat lanes

Shannon rocks the phat lanes

Waiting to bowl

Waiting to bowl




Elliot Struts

Elliot Struts