Wednesday, April 22, 2009

...With 7 out of 10 toenails still intact...

Right now, I'm waiting to hear back from my editor at the Salt Lake Trib, to see if they still want an personal essay-type thing. I'm really hoping they do; it'd bring so much more attention to the cause than the website I have up...which is still pretty ghetto. Before writing the article, I didn't really see how amazing this charity is -- Halfthesky.org. Their focus is not about adoption and not about just providing a place for orphans, but to make sure every child in their care knows that they are loved, and that they are unique, creative individuals who have so much potential in life.

This Saturday, Molly and I, and some of the other teachers are going to go to the bike trail, set up a place to try to get more attention to our cause. lol. I hope it works. I'm bring
ing my guitar, and possibly a hula-hoop...I talked to my language exchange, and she said that most likely we wouldn't need a permit to do it. And the best defense she said was just to admit we can't speak Chinese, because most police officers can't speak English, and so they'd probably let us off easy.

To prepare for the marathon, and the intense stairs in it, I've been tr
ying to run up mountain trails maybe once or twice a week. I'm trying to keep myself motivated, and now, with the head of the school's approval to take the necessary leave hours to comply with the Chinese government's requirement to survey the wall two days before the race, and buying the plane ticket and hostel...I'm becoming really, really, really excited. ^_^It worries me that I still haven't ran more than 16 miles without stopping. And now I only have three weeks until the race. This week will be the last week I try to do a very long run (I'm hoping to hit 18-19 miles), then I'll start to taper off to give my legs enough rest for the race. In all honesty, all I want to do is finish before the 8 hour cut off. If I finish in 6-7 hours, I'll be estatic. The fastest woman on the course was at 4 hours, 15 minutes...which goes to show how tough this course really is, even for an elite runner. My goal was to hit 20 miles before the race...but I'd be ok with 18. All I know is I'd die without those lifesaving gel packs that my parents sent me.

My body hasn't changed much from the running, and I feel a little disappointed in myself that I didn't become 100 percent dedicated to training. And for a while, I was even feeling a little bit annoyed that even my short runs now take at least an hour, while the long runs take upwards of three hours. But even though I weigh almost the heaviest I ever have weighed, I feel healthier than I ever have. Even if my weight isn't where it should be, I'm finally ok with my thick, sturdy, Okinawan arms and legs. ^_^ I've finally come to terms that I'll never have the long, lean arms/legs I always admired. Now, I'm happy with the muscles I can actually see in my tree trunk legs. ^_^

Erin was nice enough to take some photos for me on my favorite road to run. It goes up the mountain, in the rural areas. The view from the road is amazing, and it's right next to the river/mountain range. Whenever I get tired of running on the bike path (where I do my long runs so I can actually measure my distance in kilometers), where it's relatively flat, I come out to this trail, and get invigorated again. Even though it's uphill, it doesn't feel like it because it's so beautiful.

I started Tae Kwon Do a couple of weeks ago, and I love it. I don't quite understand the technique yet, but it's an AMAZING workout. It's on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and on Fridays, I still have my Tai Chi class, where I'm almost to the end of the kata. All in all, it's been a good few months.

It's Parent/Teacher Open House this week. So, hopefully, tomorrow, it won't be rainy outside so I can actually show the parents what I usually do for gym in Afternoon Kindergarten. If not, we always resort to playing board games because there is no indoor gym in the new school. Oh well. I hope it'll go well.

So below is what I sent to my editor. I plan on contacting her tomorrow if I don't hear back from her soon. I'm very open to advice. lol. Heaven knows I need all I can get. ^_^

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Heart pounding.

Feet soaked.

Wiping the rain out of my eyes, I keep running. It’s the rainy season here, but I need to keep moving. My tired legs take me over a long, steel bridge that leads into a pathway between wet, moss-covered stone walls and large, leafy tropical plants. The rain continues to pour down on me as the water in the river increases, intensifying the roar of sound as it moves swiftly by.

I have to keep going. Stopping isn’t an option anymore.

A month after graduating from the University of Utah in May 2008, I boarded a plane to Taiwan. My fresh diploma in hand, I wanted to put it to good use and explore the world beyond my shell. Teaching English in Taiwan seemed to be the ticket to all these things. Thrust into deep waters, thrown into a world where I didn’t know the language, the culture, or the people around me, I was forced to go beyond my comfort zone. And it was liberating.

Now, 10 months later, and as a head teacher for the Kindergarten classes at the English cram school I work for, I have come to appreciate where I have come from and where I am now, to figure out what I will be doing in the future. My life is barely recognizable to me as I try to remind myself where I had been just three years earlier, and where I never want to be again.

Just three years earlier, I had dropped out of college for the third time. Until that point in my life, I never had the drive or motivation to succeed. Comfort, for me, bred apathy. There was nothing to push me beyond my comfort level, and I was ok with that. I had a fear of success equal to – if not stronger than – my fear of failure.

Taiwan was a lifesaver. I have discovered teaching young children has given me a chance to relive my youth. I no longer fear making a fool of myself just so I can see a kid smile. I'll dance funny to songs they know; I'll act like a monkey and pretend to eat lice out of their hair; I'll even wear fake, pipe-cleaner moustaches all day while employing a high pitched accented voice. And it’s ok.

Teaching and exploring the tropical climate of Taiwan elevated this experience for me. Equipped with my bike and my running shoes. I have become much more active than I have ever been. It's so easy to bike to a hiking trail and be able to immediately be surrounded by rainforests.

Being in this area of the world, I have been lucky enough not only to be able to explore many beautiful places Taiwan has to offer, but also to travel to Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan. I did some research on marathons in Asia and discovered China has one on the Great Wall on May 16th.

Two of my older sisters have ran the Salt Lake Marathon, and most recently, this past April, my oldest sister ran the National Marathon in Washington D.C. I have never been a runner. Anything over three miles, I would be patting myself on my back and congratulating myself on a job well done. But now, three miles means I still have 23.2 more miles to go.

Unlike so much in my life, deciding to run a marathon couldn’t be a rash decision. I couldn’t wake up one day and just choose to run one. Well, run one without having to be carried away on a stretcher, that is. It would take more dedication and perseverance than anything I have ever done before.

I casually mentioned the Great Wall Marathon to another English Teacher at my school who, it turns out, just completed a half-marathon. While I was semi-non-committal to the marathon, Molly was gung-ho. When she suggested to use this opportunity not only to better ourselves, but to give back to the community, I committed.

After hours of researching various local charities centered on what we were working on in our lives – helping children and becoming strong, independent women – we chose the Half the Sky Foundation.

According to their website, 95 percent of all healthy children in China’s institutionalized child welfare system are girls, due to the government policy of only one child per family and the traditional preference for boys. The foundation takes its name from an old Chinese saying, “women hold up half the sky.”

The children in these programs are orphans, some with disabilities, others healthy, but most will never be adopted. The focus for this foundation is not the newest facilities or the most high-tech toys; but the loving, family-like environment that so many institutionalized children miss out on. They have programs dedicated to infant nurturing to preparation for higher education.

It was so easy for me to forget how easy I have it in life, striving for self-actualization when all these children want is their basic needs met, and something as simple as a loving embrace.

So why a marathon? A few hours of discomfort on my part won’t change anything, won’t give me any idea of what some of these children have to go through on a daily basis. But maybe it’s a start.

And so I run. Even during the rainy season when my motivation is at its lowest, I pick up my running shoes and head for the door, reminding myself why it’s no longer an option not to. I have to run.

For more information, please visit our website at runningthegreatwall.com.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I scream, you scream, we all scream for Spring Scream

Spring Scream is a yearly concert series held in Kenting, the beach resort in Taiwan. Over the course of three days (April 3-5), a TON of bands (some well known, some not-so-much) play on several stages. Bands/artists from Korea, Australia, France, and other places came this year. We made it to one of the days over the weekend, and it was well worth the trip. ^_^ The music stopped at 3am, but we decided to stay awake to watch the sun rise.

This is just a bunch of video clips from the concert. I promise to put more pictures/comments soon ^_^
video