Bibliophile v.2017

  1. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows, Book 1)
  2. One Doctor: Close Calls, Cold Cases, and the Mysteries of Medicine by Brandon Reilly, M.D.
  3. The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks (audiobook)
  4. A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab (audiobook)
  5. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (audiobook, read by Ari Fliakos)**
  6. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows, Book 2)
  7. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  8. Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard
  9. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  10. Enchantment by Orson Scott Card**
  11. Very Good, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse (Jeeves Series, Book 3; audiobook, read by Jonathan Cecil) **
  12. Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth (Carve the Mark series, Book 1)
  13. The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
  14. King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard
  15. Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility by Hillary Manton Lodge
  16. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  17. Sourdough by Robin Sloane

I can’t believe I never published this last year! There were a few noteworthy books that need mentioning. In the list above, a ** marks my favorites of the year, only a couple of which I will mention below.

Favorite book: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

This was definitely the most memorable book I read in 2017. It was quirky and light, and full of mystery and puzzles, lovable characters, and an interesting setting. It makes for great summer reading, as does Sloane’s next standalone novel, Sourdough.

Favorite series: Very Good, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse

I found this series quickly after returning from England earlier in the year, and have loved every second of these hilarious audiobooks. The premise: a 20-something wealthy bachelor living in early 20th century England is constantly being rescued from his buffoonery by his butler, Jeeves. If you also choose to listen instead of read, I recommend the ones read by Jonathan Cecil. (Here’s a link to one.)

Favorite author: Orson Scott Card

I absolutely adore Ender’s Game and am in fact currently working on the rest of the series in 2018. But in 2017, I read a fantasy novel called Enchantment and began to realize Card’s gift and versatility in writing. Nothing like Ender’s Game but still entirely captivating.

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Disappointment vs. Peace

This photo was taken after facing two big losses in the same weekend. In this moment, both intense disappointment and peace beyond understanding coexisted inside of me, but it took that low place for God to make me realize 2 things: 1) that I love God more than I love my greatest dreams, and 2) that it is possible to rejoice in trials—a first for me. This too shall pass, and I’d rather have Jesus than anything else. And that’s why I can smile.

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I composed this a month ago. Even since then, fresh disappointments have touched me, and it has been difficult to maintain peace when all I want to do is be frustrated. After all, who wants their hopes continually crushed?

God promises that we shall lack no good thing, but sometimes those good things look differently than we imagined. If I truly desire Christ above all else, then it will be a daily act to lay down all other desires at his feet. Some days are bound to be filled with more struggle than with easy joy, like today. Sometimes it’s even easier to despair. But even if hoping is sometimes more difficult, what better choice is there than choosing to believe the promises of a good God?

Dad Appreciation Post

A while ago a Facebook memory popped up on my feed, and my heart just melted:

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Someone made a comment, “The love shines through…what a wonderful picture.”

In a moment, I was moved to such great appreciation for my father and the role he plays in my life and the lives of our entire family. He spent today–his birthday!–serving us. He spent the day weed-whacking some of my brother’s property, maintaining our own, and even made a rare trip into town to replace our broken washing machine and help my mom get a little caught up on work.

He’s told me in the past that because of a mostly absent father in his own life, he wanted to be the total opposite in the lives of his own kids and grandkids. I think it’s pretty apparent by this photo that he has more than succeeded in that regard! And although he will modestly say that he has made his share of mistakes, I just have to say that I couldn’t be more blessed to have a dad like him. He’s shown up to all the games and all the dance comps, he’s given me the confidence and the support to get through college and beyond, and he’s been everything a dad (and grandpa!) should be.

I love you, Dad. Happy birthday.

Adventure: Southern-est Tip of Canada

Where: Windsor, Ontario, on the Detroit-Canadian border, and Point Pelee National Park

When: Late July 2016

Where to Stay:

Since ours was just a day trip, I can’t recommend any places to stay, but I know that there were a few places–hotels, motels, what have you–that you could look into within that general area. And if you’re looking for somewhere long term, maybe take a look near Point Pelee. I don’t know if any of them were for rent, but there was a strip of adorable beach houses just outside the park that would be dreamy to stay in during the summer.

Where to Eat:

Most of the restaurants in the Walkerville area are a little pricey, but check out The Walkerville Tavern for a budget-friendly place. It’s a small sports bar that makes you wonder how great their food will be when you first walk in. However, we had vegetarian and shellfish-averse dietary needs, and they had something for everyone that also tasted awesome. Highly recommend, and the waitress/bartender was amazing and deserved the best service tip.

What to Do:

You’d think the town right across the border would be a cool little tourist town for Americans to explore. You’d be wrong. In the height of summer, Windsor seemed like an empty town with very little to see just over the border. It’s cool to see the Canadian flags everywhere, but where are the Canadian people? Turns out: it’s a college town. And now I get why there’s not a whole lot going on. We arrived Saturday mid-morning to a farmers market just closing down and another small street festival setting up. We found the local tourism building, thankfully, and were pleased to find out there was a small national park, Point Pelee, about an hour away.

Point Pelee was delightful. It is small, but sits on Lake Erie and is home to the most southern point of Canada. It has a lot of opportunity for learning about rare Canadian wildlife, birdwatching, and taking fun beach pictures. It’s primarily marshland and small lakes in which you can take a canoe tour, and also part beach. Additionally, you can stand on the 42nd parallel:

The selfie stick game is strong.

Enjoy Lake Erie, but swimming is highly discouraged since tides can shift quickly and pull you out. But mostly remember to snap a photo on the point.

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If you do decide to stay for a bit in Windsor, I’d suggest downtown Walkerville and the Caesar’s hotel and casino. There still weren’t a ton of people around when dinner rolled around, but those places were more lively than the rest. However, I commend the local bookstore for throwing a Harry Potter launch party for the release of the Cursed Child script. I couldn’t attend myself, but I passed a couple on the street who were heading there in full Hogwarts garb. It was obviously gonna be lit.

 

The sunset that night was amazing. After dinner, we parked ourselves by the riverside. It rained a little, it sunned a little, it breezed a little. This really captures the essence of the evening:

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And I’ll leave you with that.

U.S. to U.K.: Tips for Studying at the University of Essex

There’s a lot that you take away from studying abroad, but everyone will tell you that. You will make your own experience, but here are a few practical things to note when you’re studying at the University of Essex. I come to you as a graduating senior from Chico State University, California, who studied there for the autumn 2016 term through a Direct Exchange program. Here’s what I learned:

  1. This is not a typical centuries-old university. While some part of me expected to arrive at something akin to Hogwarts, the University of Essex is actually comparatively new in the U.K. university system. The buildings are more modern and the campus is located in a quieter, country setting. (I found campus and the surrounding community remarkably similar to Chico in terms of the pace and general atmosphere.) Adjust your expectations accordingly.
  2. The Essex Abroad office will not do everything for you. They will do the best they can, but often that means that you’ll be in the dark about things that other local students take for granted, like how to take exams or how to enroll in a different class, for example. Pay attention to your emails, and don’t delete any of them. Ask for help. Take initiative. Be an independent adult. You’ll be confused a lot, but that’s ok–it’s just part of the experience, so just go with it.
  3. The system is designed to separate professors from the grading system. What I mean by that is if you are a study abroad student, especially one who is only there for the autumn term, your professors will probably not be able to answer questions about how your grades will be received at home, how you should submit an assignment that is due after you’ve returned home, how autumn finals will work, etc. Many professors do not even write their own final exams. Once again, keep checking your emails, go and visit your department office, and ask questions. It’ll get figured out, so don’t stress overmuch.
  4. The cohesiveness of their technology is on point. No system is perfect, but I was really impressed by how easy it was to print, check out books from the library, submit assignments online, and take class attendance electronically. Remember this: ListenAgain is the greatest thing that will ever happen to you, especially if you travel in lieu of attending that Friday lecture. Use it.
  5. Go to class as often as you can. With the above being said, don’t use ListenAgain as an excuse to sleep in all the time. Learn the material while you have the time, because your final is worth the majority of your grade and the more you know ahead of time, the better.
  6. Be realistic about the kind of housing accommodation you need. The Towers accommodate 10-14 people on each floor, is the best for your budget, and is also very social. The Meadows and South Courts accommodate less people per flat, will be a bit pricier, and will be a little quieter. I should have gone with the latter instead of the former, if I’m being honest. I know myself, and the extra cost might have been worth the sleep and peace of mind I would’ve received in return. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my flat mates, and we were incredibly fortunate to have all gotten along as well as we did. But just be honest with yourself about how you envision your home life, and make your choice accordingly.
  7. Girl, bring those fleece-lined tights. Best. Purchase. Ever. That being said, it’s actually drier and a tad warmer in Colchester than most parts of the country. Even this California girl didn’t freeze nearly as much as she thought she would, and in the autumn, blue skies and beautiful weather were quite common. Still, bring the tights.
  8. Speaking of packing: pack waaaaaaay less than you think you need. You will always end up buying clothes and souvenirs there anyway, so you might as well save yourself some trouble on the way over and pack light. Color coordinate your clothes, and bring versatile pieces. Scale down your toiletries, because you can always buy more. Be real with yourself about what you really need–because believe it or not, you can get away without a LOT. Be prepared to leave some things behind, too. I made it here with one suitcase and a carry-on that was good for weekend trips. I packed an extra empty duffle bag for souvenirs for the trip back. It was perfect for my needs for staying a single semester. 
  9. Travel, but not too much. Don’t forget to make friends here, and invest the time in them. Your flat will probably be full of international students, which is awesome, and they make excellent travel buddies! Go places with them. But don’t forget to make British friends too! When you are friends with the locals, you feel like a local.
  10. The whole grading system will be confusing. In fact, their entire educational setup completely threw me for a loop, even though I’d researched it beforehand. Giulia, another international student from Arizona who was also here for the fall semester, gives a really detailed account of these differences in her blog here. (Thank you Giulia!) Know how your study abroad program does its grades before you get here. And don’t get upset when you get a 60 on an essay–that’s actually pretty ok…I think.
  11. Campus life will be different, but be sure to get involved. Follow all the Facebook pages you can, and be sure to check https://www.essexstudent.com/colchester/ to keep up with “what’s on.” (This website is actually really important if you want to keep up on the social events! I should have checked it more often, because I missed out on a few things I really would have liked to attend. It’s not all advertised on their Facebook like I expected.) Join a society or two–do something familiar and do something new. Giulia also outlines the different aspects of American vs. U.K. campus life in her blog post, so now you have 2 reasons to check out her post. Bottom line: get involved, even if you can come up with a million reasons not to.
  12. Explore the campus and the town. London is great–really, it became my favorite city–, but don’t neglect your own uni town! There’s lots of places to discover on and off campus in Colchester. There’s a park on campus if you need somewhere peaceful to walk, or there are night clubs on and off campus if you’re looking for more activity. Wivenhoe is a quiet, idyllic English town nearby, and there are plenty of shops, restaurants, and historic sites to explore in Colchester town, including Colchester Castle and the surrounding grounds. Don’t miss out on the place you’re calling home for the next few months!

Apologies if some of these things sound generic. However, they aren’t cliche without reason–they’re quite important! You only have one shot at this experience. Be responsible and represent your university well, and have fun and take charge of your experience. You’ll be surprised what you learn about yourself if you decide to have just enough courage to take the leap.

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Reflections on a Quarter-Century

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Recently I found the section of my Facebook profile called “Places You’ve Visited,” and briefly browsed it. As I scrolled, each name brought back little flutters of memories, and strong impressions and feelings. The wonderful people I’ve met, the opportunities I’ve been offered…just thinking about it nearly puts me in tears.

I’ve spent the better part of 3 years being “purposefully on-the-go.” When I was about 20-21, the adventurous part of me kicked in and I decided that I wanted to go places. Up until then, I’d been perfectly content staying in my hometown. Even knowing all this, I was struck by the sheer amount of travel I’ve accomplished in such a short time. Within even 8 months, I’ve touched down in more states and countries than I ever imagined I would.

Just after this realization, I was struck even more forcefully by the humility of blessing. God has granted me this period of time to accumulate more experiences than so many ever do in a lifetime, and I am overwhelmed. Why me? What did I do to deserve such a joy? It is more than I could have expected or wished for.

In reality, these past 3 years or so have also been some of the hardest. Behind the smiles and filtered Instagram posts have been some of the most trying personal struggles I’ve experienced yet. Often during these struggles I’ve asked God “why me?” in a very different sense. I have pouted my fair share, reflected on the seemingly hopeless state of the world, and squeezed out all the meaning that I can about the question of human suffering.

Suffering and joy are two sides of the same coin of life, and this is the first time I’ve been truly cognizant of it in my own. It’s so interesting, being in one body but knowing the absolute highs and lows. One wonders how it is possible to ride such a roller coaster and still come out on the other end alive.

But God has been good. Though I have often angrily wondered why I find myself in the lows, I believe I have come out the other end of this ride trusting more fully in my Savior. I praise him for bringing me through deserts and valleys. I praise him for the views from the mountaintops, too. He alone is worthy. 

Last year’s birthday was much different than this year’s. Last year’s was full of trials and frustrations, this year’s is full of gratitude despite them. Last year I was looking to Europe; now I’m looking for a home. Last year I was ready for road trips, and this year I am ready to settle down. I think much of my purposeful travel is over, for now at least. I’ll probably move a time or two before my schooling is complete, but I’m ready to put down some roots. 25, I’m ready for you.

Bibliophile v. 2016

Time for the yearly book list. This year I guess I read a lot more sci-fi and fantasy than I intended, but my favorite books didn’t fit that category. I also found a new interest in medical stories (see 16), and I have a few of those on my “To Read” list for the upcoming year. And now, without further ado…

** = High recommendation

X  = I’m filled with regret and you shouldn’t waste your time like I did.

  1. The Selection by Kiera Cass X
  2. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  3. The Elite by Kiera Cass X
  4. The One by Kiera Cass X
  5. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
  6. East of Eden by John Steinbeck**
  7. Mother Daughter Me: A Memoir by Katie Hafner
  8. Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
  9. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
  10. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  11. Living Sacrifice by Dr. Helen Rosaveare**
  12. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  13. The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
  14. United As One by Pittacas Lore
  15. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
  16. Internal Medicine: A Doctor’s Stories by Terrence Holt
  17. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  18. The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card (audiobook)
  19. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (audiobook)
  20. A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
  21. Sherlock Holmes: 3 Tales of Intrigue by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (audiobook)
  22. The Gate Thief by Orson Scott Card (audiobook)
  23. Blythewood by Carol Goodman
  24. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  25. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  26. The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

 

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Fantastic book, recommended to me by a friend (thanks, Aaron!). Full of Cain and Abel parallels, richly developed characters, and a vivid setting. The plot is complex, so don’t put it down for too long!

Living Sacrifice by Helen Rosaveare

One of many books written by a missionary doctor called to Africa. The way she recounts her experiences written around this theme are absolutely astounding. I definitely gained some perspective shift. Drop everything and read it.

Series of the year: Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I was captivated by this classic series in the recent months. I have to say, in my imagination, the characters take quite a different appearance in the novels than the movies or TV series, and I like it.