I was recently offered a Liebster Award by the writer of China Elevater Stories. It is an honour to be recognised in this way. I am still surprised every time someone I don’t know personally interacts with my stories. It is wonderful to me to find that my writing can interest or entertain others.
Liebster is a German word that basically means “favourite” – but can also be translated “sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, lovely, valued, endearing”. The Liebster Award is something that has done the rounds of the blogosphere for several years, and is a way for small blogs to honour one another and introduce their readers to other great small blogs.
Here’s how it works:
My “nomination” came with a list of 11 questions for me to answer.
I am also asked to share 11 random facts about myself.
Next I choose up to 11 other small blogs to bestow a Liebster upon,
and write a list of 11 questions for them to answer as their own Liebster acceptance.
So, here are the questions I’ve been asked, with my answers:
1) Have you ever regretted starting a blog?
No – quite the opposite! I started an email newsletter many years ago as a way of keeping in touch with friends in Australia about my life in China. Switching to a blog format was a way to simplify logistics, but also an opportunity to think about what I was writing – and why. I stopped writing “updates” and starting writing stories. I started trying to tell stories that friends would find interesting no matter where in the world they lived and no matter whether they had been to China before. I’ve found the writing process really fun, even therapeutic at times. I feel that it sometimes helps me see China through new eyes – looking for ways to show my China to others.
2) What was your dream job when you were little?
I daydreamed about being a singer, but I always wanted to be a teacher. I’ve done a lot of tutoring and teaching since then and discovered that while I can do it, I don’t want to spend my life in a classroom.
3) What has been the best experience in your life so far?
Wow, that’s a hard one to answer! I have had so many strange, interesting, and unique experiences it’s hard to choose one as “best”. Something that comes to mind, though is helping run 6 different retreats for TCKs in Cambodia and Thailand – it’s incredible to spend time with such amazing young people in such fun locations. I’m now up to 30 TCK retreats in Asia; each one is a wonderful, and unique, experience.
4) Have you ever regretted going abroad? Why?
Never! I’m so glad my life didn’t turn out the way I planned. I planned to be in China one year before finding a corporate job. Ten years later, I am SO glad that I stayed here instead! There are hard things about expat life, but for me, the benefits have far outweighed the costs, painful though they are at times.
5) If you could only take one small backpack with you for traveling, what would you take with you?
My tiny laptop, small zip-up Bible, iPod and headphones, a 4-colour pen, a bar of Dove soap, and a big water bottle. Then whatever clothes I could cram in ;)
6) What is the most beautiful place you have ever been to?
Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong in northern Sichuan province. I’ve been to many other very beautiful places, but nothing else so overwhelming and breathtaking.
7) Is there a moment that has changed your life forever? If so, which one?
Many, I’m sure. So often truly life-changing moments pass without herald, it’s only much later that we see their importance. The choice to stay in China – both when I stayed on after my study year in 2004, and when I decided not to leave in 2009. Each of those choices preceded a life I could never have imagined.
8) What has been the most touching moment in your life so far?
Hard to narrow down… but everything that comes to mind immediately relates to my work with youth. There is something incredibly moving about a teen letting me into their inner world, sharing their heart – their fears, their hurts, their dreams. Every single time is a great privilege.
9) What was your favourite book when you were little?
There were so many! What comes to mind is a three-in-one book by Frances Hodgson Burnett I had. I loved two of those books very much in primary school – “The Secret Garden” and “A Little Princess”. A few years ago I realised that both have TCK heroines, which I find amazing given that I now work with TCKs!
10) What is your favourite holiday?
I love travelling with my family – almost all my favourite trips were with them, from South Africa in 1997 to Guilin in 2012. Probably my all-time favourite trip was travelling with my parents in Yunnan and Sichuan provinces in October 2009. I designed an itinerary that included my favourite spot in China (Jinghong in Xishuangbanna) plus several places I’d wanted to visit for a long time – Dali, Lijiang, and Jiuzhaigou.
11) Which language do you dream in?
I dream in the contextually appropriate language. That’s almost always English, since most people in my dreams are English speakers. But it’s common in my dreams for me to switch to Mandarin to address a Mandarin speaker, or to be reading Chinese signs if the dream is taking place in China – while continuing to think/speak in English with other dream figures. On a recent trip to Cambodia I dreamed I was trying to speak my almost non-existent Khmer to a local, then switched to Mandarin where I could talk fluently – taking a while to realise she couldn’t understand me. I found it rather entertaining long after I awoke!
11 random facts about me
- I have studied 8 foreign languages, plus also picking up some Malay and Khmer outside a classroom…
- …but I’m only conversational in Mandarin.
- I sang my first vocal solo when I was 4 years old.
- For a few weeks in 2007 I worked 4 nights a week as a singer in a spa/club in Beijing.
- My first job was as a flute teacher.
- I have visited 14 countries on 5 continents (plus Macao and Hongkong).
- Those 14 do not include New Zealand or Indonesia, the closest neighbours of my native Australia!
- I lived in the US for two years as a teenager, attending Greenwich High School in Connecticut.
- I filled my first adult passport 18 months before it expired. (I wish Australian passports didn’t cost so much to replace!)
- When I was 11 I wrote a novel, then worked with a friend to create watercolours illustrations for it.
- I’m currently writing a book about TCKs.
My own Liebster nominees are all personal blogs by people who have an individual voice that resonates with me. Some of them I know in real life, others I know only through their writing. So here are my 6 nominees, in no particular order.
China Hope Live is written by Joel and Jessica, an American couple working as English teachers in Qingdao, a small city in northern China. I find I relate to a LOT of what they write – we have a similar take on many China topics. I may not know them personally, but I recognise the China they write about. Here are three of my favourite posts:
Healthiness and the Passive Aggressive Window Game
Bad China Days [or] How I will eventually LOSE IT and end up on the Chinese evening news
The Good Samaritan with Chinese characteristics (part 1 of 3)
The Trotter family are an American couple living in Cambodia with their four small children. Both Elizabeth and Jonathan write eloquently on different issues surrounding their life as expat missionaries in a third world country. Their writing is thought-provoking, encouraging, and challenging. While we’ve met only briefly in real life, reading their blog makes me feel like we are old friends. Three of my favourite posts:
Outlawed Grief, a Curse Disguised
I’m a What?!
Anorexia, Racism, and Defining Beauty
Ramblings of an Undercover TCK is the first personal-blog-written-by-a-stranger that I fell in love with. I especially love the dreamy quality of her childhood vignettes describing life spent growing up in the Solomon Islands. But whether she’s writing about something that happened decades ago, or wrangling her kids last week, there’s something about her style and sense of humour that makes all of it enjoyable to read. My favourite posts are always her stories of growing up on the islands, so here are three of many I love:
The Tide Rushes In
Where’s The Script is a deceptively simple. I know Chris in real life, from doing youth work together in Cambodia. His posts often have a sneak attack quality to them – easy to read, and drawing me in, then prompting me to reflect on something. I often have one pinned to re-read a few times. I especially appreciate what he’s written about working with TCKs and life from their perspective. Here are three favourite posts:
Trade Offs + Transitions
A note to a younger self
The truth about being single
Don’t Eat Trash is written by Jeremy, a kid from my hometown. Although he’s all grown up now, I still remember him as a teenager – hanging out at my house with the jazz band my sister sang for, and singing his heart out at open mic. I love Jeremy’s writing. Sometimes it’s a stream of consciousness with lots of questions and no resolution. Sometimes it’s a thought provoking discussion of a deep issue. Sometimes it is his fresh perspective on something mundane or familiar. Sometimes it’s simply a string of moments worth savouring. What Jeremy’s writing always is is interesting – worth reading and considering.
The reality and the lie of love
Weird Eyes is Karissa, an American girl who grew up in far west China, where most locals are culturally more Central Asian than Chinese. She now lives in the US with her husband and young son. I met Karissa about 7 years ago when she was a student in my youth group. There’s enough kindred spark that it’s strange to realise we only lived in the same place for 6 months. She writes about life – and Karissa knows how to Live, whether she’s travelling, studying, or cleaning up after a baby; I love her unique voice.
Dead watermelons, dead feelings
Garden of Eden – Vision
Here are my 11 questions for the nominees:
- What are 5 adjectives that describe you?
- What inspires you to write? Do you have a muse?
- What is your favourite post on your blog?
- What book do you think everyone should read at least once, and why?
- When it comes to media (TV/movies/music), what is your guilty pleasure?
- If you could snap your fingers and play any musical instrument flawlessly, which instrument would you choose?
- If you could snap your fingers and speak any language on earth fluently (and with a native accent), which language would you choose?
- What is the most amazing place you’ve visited?
- What is your “bucket list” of travel destinations?
- What is something you were told as a child/young person that has continued to encourage you?
- What is an achievement from your own life that you are particularly proud of? (Even if it’s something that seems small to others).