July 2012

In this entry, I’d like to share what I’ve learned from my internships so that you as readers can seek out valuable challenges to jump into during your college years and how to leverage the most growth out of those experiences. First, I’ll begin with concepts from a book called “The three signs of a Miserable Job” by Patrick Lencioni. Then, I’ll tell you about all the super cool stuff I’ve done outside of work! After all, work-life balance is important.

Three signs of a miserable job, and in my opinion, any miserable situation are: Irrelevance, Immeasurement, and Anonymity.

We’ll start with Irrelevance. Everyone needs to know that their job matters, to someone. Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, an employee simply will not find lasting fulfillment. Even the most cynical employees or students need to know that their work matters to someone, even if it’s just the boss or professor. If you’re in an organization on campus or outside of campus, know your purpose! If you’re like me, you’ll strive for the highest expression of that purpose without fearing failure!

Moving on to Immeasurement. You need to be able to gauge your progress and level of contribution. You cannot be fulfilled in your work if your success depends on the opinions or whims of another person, no matter how benevolent that person may be. Without tangible means of assessing success or failure, motivation eventually deteriorates as people see themselves as unable to control their own fate. Learn how to advocate yourself as a team member now in a college setting so that by the time you have a full time job, you’re not constantly seeking the approval of others. Build your skill sets so much, that you can evaluate your own success and failure! Yes, teamwork and supervision is extremely necessary, but constantly seeking approval of others is not necessary, find a healthy balance.

Lastly, Anonymity can contribute to an unfulfilling situation. People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known. All human beings need to be understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority. People who see themselves as invisible, generic or anonymous cannot love their jobs, no matter what they are doing. Again, this same concept can be applied to your college employment, classes, project group, clubs, etc.

Here are some of the cool things I’ve experienced outside of work: Yoga, Boeing Aerospace Leadership Chapter Events – meeting Boeing executives, Co-ed Softball, Gay Pride Parade, Art-Festival in Laguna Beach, Angels Baseball Games, Lake Havasu, Aquarium, IMAX movies, Beaches / Sunsets / Running, U.S. Open – Surfing, San Diego – Intervention, Night Life – dancing, Rock Harbor Church / Community Groups, Restaurants/shopping, REACH (Boeing Social Organization – Happy Hrs, etc..), Mars Hill Church / Community Groups, Blue Angels, White Water Rafting, Sounders Soccer Games, Whale Watching – San Juan Islands, ERAU Alumni Events, Pike Place Market, July 4th on top of Microsoft Building – roof-top fundraiser party, Cabin Trip – Leavenworth. And the fun continues….

Thanks for reading!

June 2012

Prepare for your future! It’s crucial to use college as a time to build the necessary skills and experiences needed to perform exceptionally well throughout your future. The cool part is, if you constantly push yourself to remain actively involved academically, socially, and recreationally, you will build these skills without knowing it. In my opinion, these fundamental skills consist of: time management, financial management, goal setting-course correction, effective note taking, memory skills, effective test taking, and social-health awareness. Some students may not understand how these skills can actually transfer into real successes in the professional work environment, and I’d like to share with you how they do. There are obviously numerous other skills that could be discussed; however I chose these 7 because I believe it’s these 7 that draw the need for other skills to emerge and flourish. Although this is just my opinion, I feel these 7 skills are most important because throughout your entire life, they will differ per person and deserve your personalized attention.

  1. Social & Health Awareness: In my opinion, these skills are the most important! The benefits are endless and extremely rewarding. Physical activity gives you a natural boost of energy, increases oxygen to the front part of the brain which makes you more productive, and decreases pent up muscle tension due to stress. Social activity distracts you from the stress of the moment, helps you get out of your rut, forces a positive broader perspective about stress, immediately improves your mood, and allows you to bounce back quicker from distress. Of course, all of these benefits depend on finding the physical activities and social activities that best fit your body and personality. Typically, your professors won’t teach you how to do this, so you have to take the initiative for yourself! Once you find the right social and physical activities, it will diffuse built up tension, alleviate existing conflicts, build rapport, and help you bond with others. Having friends will teach you a positive way to deal with stressful things, a new sense of shared purpose and direction, and to take yourself lightly and have fun!
  2. Time Management: This is important because time it’s a constant resource constrained by our environment! You cannot make more, so you must respect it. Respecting time is partially about being accountable to others but also about being accountable to yourself. At the end of the day, regardless of your profession or age, how you spend your time will eventually determine who you are, how you feel, and what you’re able to accomplish. The ability to concentrate and to use your time well is everything if you want to succeed in business–or almost anywhere else for that matter. Work with an advisor to discuss how you can leverage your time in a healthy and effective way. If you do this all throughout college, you won’t be sorry! These facts will hold true even after graduation and your time management skills will transfer over to your life after college.
  3. Financial Management: This is important because your financial situation is always in flux. Taking responsibility for how much money you have, how much you can potentially access, and how you spend money is extremely important. Everyone has a different financial situation but again, ultimately, college is a time for taking ownership of your life and practicing a new form of responsibility. Money, although a great resource, is increased or decreased by multiple factors and at times that differ for everyone. Talk with advisors to understand the reality of your financial situation and personalize your spending habits to your own financial portfolio, not someone else’s! These facts will hold true even after graduation and your financial management skills will transfer over to your life after college.
  4. Goal Setting & Course Correction: This is important because if you don’t set your own goals, whose goals are you living your life for? Yes, you can obviously base your goals off other people’s accomplishments and beliefs; but if you don’t take the time to consciously set goals, you will shuffle along life and wonder how you got to be where you are. In absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia. Sound harsh? Good. Where I see students most often struggling with this skill is thinking that their goal has to be the best, as in, better than everyone else’s and the best choice for them. That thought is almost constructive in that it has to be the best choice for you, but even then, students stress if it was the right choice. The truth is, while goal setting is important, you’re human and you’re ever evolving. If your true strengths and your heart is telling you something, do not fear course correction; that is, do not be afraid carefully modify your goals. These facts will hold true even after graduation and your goal setting & course correction skills will transfer over to your life after college.
  5. Effective Note Taking: Believe it or not, in the professional world, you will need to take detailed notes all day! Team ideas are constantly changing and progressing, you need to know how to capture this. Also, if you have multiple projects at your job, you will need to learn how to effectively note take for each projects chosen development process and special cases. Most students think that note taking is only used to help you remember things. Although this is true, and in college helps you study, in the professional world, studying is replaces with actions such as communication and idea sharing. Therefore to leverage your note taking the most, use them to teach others; thus, study in teams and practice conveying ideas to your peers with differing learning and communication styles. If you take notes and keep them to yourself, it’s only a memory tool and you’re cheating yourself. If you are hesitant about “teaching,” think of working with others as “discussing” and adjust your notes throughout the conversation as needed. This is what will take regular note taking to “effective” note taking.
  6. Memory Skills: Let’s be honest, you’re not always going to have a legal pad or laptop next to you for note taking, idea developing, and documenting your experiences. This is where your memory skills will come in handy! There are numerous ways to build and personalize your memory skills. Talk with an advisor and study in groups to find others with your learning style to harness your natural memory strengths. Once you discover and harness your natural memory skills, build new ones and continue to improve your ability to absorb, comprehend, and remember what you experience. If you do this all throughout college, you won’t be sorry!
  7. Effective Test Taking: Just because you graduate college doesn’t mean you’re done being tested! Spending time to become a good test-taker in college develops skills that transfer into your professional life. For example, being prepared, arriving early to take a moment to relax, listening attentively, watching for details, planning how you’ll use the allotted time, maintaining a positive attitude, relying on your first impressions, planning to finish early to have time for review, and analyzing your performance. These skills will directly transfer over to your ability to effectively host meeting and present data in an effective manner.

September 15, 2008

I love the first day of class. First, there is the excitement of school supply shopping, printing off new schedules that you quickly misplaced after registering and spending the evening before picking out that envious outfit. After that, there is placing the decal on the window of your not always reliable car from high school graduation and planning your mid-morning attack on the negative five parking spots intended to accommodate the growing student population. And then you encounter the plastered smiles and inevitable questioning on the first day. “How are you?” “When did you get that tattoo?” “When did you two start dating?” But, “How was your summer vacation” is always the go-to question from your best friends, sorority sisters, lab partners, and people you didn’t even remember from freshman year. No one really listens. They just wait their turn to outdo your vacation.

Since most people already know my summer of mini-vacations from China to Canada, I won’t reiterate. Besides, I beat anyone on summer vacation fun. But, the question I got most was, “Weren’t you supposed to graduate.”

Sure, I was supposed to, but what fun is that? I was off climbing the Great Wall. I was off climbing the Grand Canyon. I was off climbing back up the GPA ladder. I admit it. I am around for one more semester to salvage my freshman year grades. Between Alpha Xi Delta, cheerleading and all my after-hour festivities, I bombed. I had no trajectory, no realization of the outside world. I found a responsibility freshman year that I did not know how to handle.

But, I found my responsibility midway through my junior year. I found a career goal. I found a life goal. I found a new way to enjoy college. While all this is dandy, don’t get me wrong. Academics should always come first. However, I had a killer time in college, one I am paying for right now. But, let me give you a few tips for having loads of fun, while still keeping that GPA afloat.

So, let me welcome you to College. No parents. No curfew. So many opportunities. At 22 years old, I am not fully qualified for Social Security or have the right to give you a “back in my day” snooze fest, though walking through the Oozeball pit to the church parking lot every day does technically count as walking uphill both ways to school. I just want to lend some advice I have acquired during my four (ok, four and a half) years at Riddle. I am sure you have heard the collegiate spiel from Admissions, Records and Registration, Financial Aid and even Safety (it scared me my first time girls, so don’t worry). But, my freshman year no one stopped to tell me other important tidbits of information. I had lived in Port Orange for two years before I came to Riddle, so I knew the best restaurants, hair salons and locals-only beaches. But, I didn’t really know the campus that well.

So here are my Freshman 15 Do’s and Don’ts of Riddle because everyone has to gain it and it might as well be advice than extra poundage.

  1. Do learn Riddle’s jargon. Whether you are a pilot, engineer, or part of my minute Communications department, a few more acronyms can’t hurt. Though the University is called Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, no one wants to say all that in one sentence. Chances are your audience won’t know what you just said anyway. But, in shorting the name, don’t call it Embry. We get confused with Emory. Instead, refer to the University as Riddle. As for when you are away from Riddle, International Speedway Boulevard is simply ISB. Try to avoid it at all costs. Ponce refers to Ponce Inlet. As a local I don’t want to tell you about the white sand and lowly populated jetty. As a fellow classmate, this is the cleanest you will get of Daytona-area beaches.
  2. Don’t wear uncomfortable shoes the day you need to get something done on campus. Once you have become acquainted with Riddle acronyms, it is time for another Riddle pastime. Following the Christmas tornado, offices were moved all over campus and to odd places. Even the veteran Riddlers need maps to find the ever-changing offices. But, then even when you do find the offices, chances are you have stumbled into the wrong office and the one you want is across campus. When you do find the right office, there are always thousands of signatures, first born children and blood samples needed just to drop a class. This is a phenomenon known to fellow Riddle students as the Riddle Runaround. While the staff does not do this intentionally, just expect it. Be courteous though I know you want to call home and cry or throw your expensive textbooks.
  3. Do buy your books online. Speaking of textbooks, they don’t have to always be expensive. I usually have to buy multiple books for one class and understand how quickly $500 disappears. Instead, look on sites like Campus Books which can save you a lot of money. That extra money could go towards tuition, housing or all those “necessary” Mocha Cappucinos before Math class.
  4. Don’t go to class in your beachwear or sleepwear. I know it is so tough to go to an 11:00 a.m. class when you went to bed at 4:00 a.m., but PJs or bikinis are not classroom wear.
  5. Don’t forget your umbrella. We go to an open air campus and Florida weather is fickle. Heck it was Christmas day and we had a tornado. Typically, it rains at about 2 p.m. everyday until mid-winter. If you can’t tell if it is winter yet, refer to a calendar.
  6. Do get to know your faculty. They are your lifeline to the industry, so make a good impression. Turn in assignments on time. Show up prepared. Don’t sleep in class. It is a really REALLY expensive nap. This is college and if you want to be treated like the adult you think you are, act that way. Professors expect adults. When you are done impressing the professors this semester, use Rate My Professors to help pick out classes for spring.
  7. Do expand your eating, not your waistline. Speaking of Freshman 15, go off campus. I know the lights of Chik-Fil-A call you like bugs, but don’t eat that day in and day out. Same goes for the all-you-can-eat buffet. It may be called that, but doctors don’t recommend it. There are healthy choices for students in the cafeteria, but they are not ready-to-eat and I understand the rush to get to class. So instead, take your time, make a salad or order a wrap. Your waistline will thank you.
  8. Do get involved. The experiences I had as a cheerleader, a sister in Alpha Xi Delta, sweetheart of Sigma Chi and on study abroad have filled my scrapbook and my resume. Whether you enjoy skydiving, Anime, flag-football, German or Greek life, join others who share your same likes. Head out to the Activities Fair. Scroll through the clubs at Clubs and Organizations. You won’t regret it.
  9. Don’t miss free food at the Athletics BBQ. We have amazing sports so go support them. A list of activities can be found on embryriddlesports.com. The games usually have great giveaways while playing great rivalries. If for nothing else, pick up a free t-shirt.
  10. Don’t do over 35 mph on A1A and watch the speed trap on Richard Petty. Despite popular belief, Riddle students are not God’s gift to Daytona Beach and the police are more than happy to pull over a green or yellow decal. Remember that tuition is already steep. You don’t want to explain a ticket to your loan company.
  11. Do visit Florida’s many attractions. Ponce Inlet is 15 minutes east. Miami is 4 hours south. Orlando is an hour west. Jacksonville is an hour north. No matter which direction you go, there is something to do. Fill up your car with friends. I will give a few reviews on places to go later in my journal.
  12. Do buy a year-round pass for the beaches. If you don’t have the gas money to get to Orlando or Miami, take the ISB Bridge to our beaches. This pass allows you to park on the beach and visit the local state parks for a full year. It saves you money and from dragging all your beach stuff. I choose to drive the beach because I am lazy. Take full advantage of the World’s Most Famous Beach.
  13. Do sign up for study abroad. As a freshman, you likely won’t get an internship, so instead of going home to your parents for the summer or spending your time developing skin cancer on Daytona’s beaches, head to Italy, Japan or France. I went to China this summer for five weeks and it was the best excuse for me to not graduate. If nothing else, it half price tuition. Get more information on Study Abroad .
  14. Don’t go out during BikeWeek, Biketoberfest, or Race Weeks. Spring Break may only be a week for us, but for Daytona it lasts a little over four weeks during March. During this time, use Beville and not ISB.
  15. Don’t put questionable photos on Facebook. It is not the place to paste photos of you gallivanting during that weekend’s festivities. Remember those security checks we will all get in our field of work? All of those photos will make us wish we had forgotten.

On a final note, DO have fun. Don’t let upper classmen tell you there is nothing to do here. Embry-Riddle has so much to offer. Daytona Beach has so much to offer. Take all the opportunities with all the responsibility.

“Rank Ranking” System

If China was a scratch and sniff sticker, it would smell like rotten fish, sour perspiration and brief whiffs of roses and fresh bread. There is no other way to explain in more complex adjectives the smell of China. Basically, it smelled. It didn’t always smell badly, but it always packed a powerful scent. And unlike taste, sight and sound, smell is not an easy sense to disband.

My roommate, a fellow China study abroad participant, told me I was being too negative about my Chinese experience in my past blogs. I meant to be sarcastic, but I guess that didn’t get emphasized. So, as a disclaimer, by no means am I putting down the country. The people were always welcoming and the scenery was beautiful, but there are some smells in the country that are foreign to Americans. It is just my goal to prepare future visitors for an unbiased smell of the country.

So, this is going to be a pretty blunt entry. I figured I would give the worst cases first and end with the best. To provide a neutral description of the country’s odor, I created a ranking system to rank worst to best smells of China. Shall we call it the “rank ranking” system? 10 represents the most offensive smells, 5 represents a neither appealing nor appalling scent and 1 represents the most pleasing aroma. After all, there is no reason to Febreeze the entire country.

Rank Ranking #10

The only bad thing about climbing a 6900 foot mountain and ingesting two liters of lukewarm water along the way: finding a bathroom. Not just any bathroom. A Western bathroom. Sure, there were plenty of “natural” places along the way, some occupied and overly well-lit. But, after watching numerous other adventurers’ adventure off into the commonly known, I opted to hold it until we reached base camp. After six hours of this bladder control, we finally reached the bottom and I was directed to a freestanding 20 x 10 concrete building, with little holes for windows. The local “squat pot” appeared to have been around since the mountain was a hill. With urgency in my steps, I shoved toilet paper in my bag and up my nose. However, I forgot that smell can also be tasted. {A little side note to future China travelers: Toilet paper is a luxury and should be bought in bulk before embarking. Wet naps work the best, but camping rolls also played a large role towards the end of the trip. See Rank Ranking #6.} Upon entering the room, I was hit with reasons against resting in this room. There is no need to get explicit with the smell description, but it had not been cleaned since the Cultural Revolution and the Xi An heat and humidity had crept in among the door-less stalls. Get my drift?

Having been in China for three weeks at this point, I had perfected the squat pot technique. Basically, set your footing, squat, wish you were a guy and hope you don’t topple over. But, as I looked around and wondered how certain smears had made it to the ceiling, my body ached for me to leave. I had gotten my britches to my knees when I started to topple. I stepped backwards to catch my balance and immediately realized my mistake. The hole may not have been deep, but its 45 degree trough-like slope opening to the outside swallowed my foot. As I tried to grab my senses from either vomiting or crying, I cursed having changed into flip flops after the mountain climb. I hastily ran outside, amidst screams of terror from the men’s side. My current roommate was simply experiencing the male equivalent of what I was hobbling away from. Now downwind of the building, I removed my shoes in one swift kick and in the same motion smeared my remaining Purell on my little piggies. I feared a good douse of Febreeze and some bleach would not resuscitate my flip flops, so I left them. Now barefoot and staggering to the bus, I figured I had held it for six hours. What would another two hours hurt?

Rank Ranking # 9

When I was packing, I kept worrying that I had left something. Shirts. Check. Disposable Flip Flops. Check. My Pharmacy. Check. It wasn’t until I quadruple checked my luggage hours before my flight that I realized I had forgotten to pack jeans. However, upon arrival, I learned that if I was about two decades younger, my forgotten pants wouldn’t matter: Children in China do not wear pants. Well, they do wear a type of pants, just crotch-less and for everyone to notice. But, NO ONE else noticed. I felt terrible thinking I was staring at these half naked little children. I grabbed my professor, hoping that this wasn’t the latest toddler trend.

“Why no pants,” I asked, gesturing to the bouncing two-year-old. I could see I had perplexed my professor. “But, they are wearing pants,” she replied, cocking her head so slightly to give me the “are you okay” non-verbal cue. She then caught my drift as I caught a whiff of something not so pleasant. The same child I had been watching had squatted in the middle of the sidewalk and was relieving himself of his midmorning bottle. My eyes grew large as my professor giggled. The child’s parents turned towards me and I blushed hoping I wasn’t creating another international incident. According to professor, diapers have only recently been introduced to China, starting in the 1980s. As with any new Western inventions, diapers are expensive, so parents continue the old fashion way of potty training. The only difference: no potty. Our Chinese textbook explained that parents whistle like trickling water, which encourages children as young as 4 months to start going potty. It is not a bad idea for saving money, but just be careful of the little puddle outside your doorstep. It didn’t rain last night.

Rank Ranking # 8

I am blessed to be 5’2, a traditionally average height for Chinese people. However, with the introduction of McDonald’s and other Western foods, not only the Chinese waistline grew, but also their height. On my first day on a Beijing subway, my short stature blessed me directly into the unshaven armpit of the woman next to me. She was my language partner, but I learned more than her name and where she was from that day. I learned Chinese, especially the older generation, do not typically wear deodorant, nor do they shave their armpits or legs. I smiled, not wanting to show my utter shock or utter my condolences. I wiggled my nose like Samantha on Bewitched and looked down at the floor. This was a hairy situation where no comment was safe.

Rank Ranking # 7

Smoking is widely popular in China and allowed in hotel rooms and restaurants. Besides being terrible for people’s health, it also creates a terrible residual smell. Our first hotel in Beijing, though recently built, allowed all hotel patrons to smoke in their rooms. Because of air conditioning restrictions, these patrons would leave their hotel room doors open, ventilating the hallway with their cancer stick smoke. Restaurants and bars, like Propaganda, would also smoke out patrons like a beekeeper to his hive. But, surprisingly, public transportation restricted lighting up. They had signs in English and Chinese saying “No Smoking.” Perhaps the cabbies should have allowed smoking in their cabs. It was the one and only time I felt the utter urge for one.

Rank Ranking # 6

Fish. It is a staple of Chinese culinary tradition. And it is not just any fish, but fresh fish. Nearly every restaurant boasts fish tanks, complete with live catches of all varieties. Once we reached Qinhuangdao, the stench of fish had dulled to our noses. However, the floor to ceiling fish tank in our hotel revitalized the smell. This same hotel also ran out of toilet paper for four days, quickly diminishing our provisions saved for other squat pot occasions. The second floor restaurant brought in so many options that they even had Styrofoam boxes filled with frozen or sometimes live crustacean catches. One morning while gathering for class in the lobby and wiping away my sleep, I noticed something red scampering across the floor. Was Ariel’s little friend Sebastian attempting to escape? I nudged Nikki who giggled. Our giggling attracted Sebastian’s captors, who picked him up by his tail and tossed him back, closing the lid to prevent further escape. I kind of felt guilty eating little lobsters the following night, knowing that I may be eating Sebastian. He may not have smelled great, but he sure tasted fabulous.

Rank Ranking # 5

Vendor food was bittersweet for me, but the smell was also bitter and sweet. Because of the lower sanitary conditions and lack of adequate trash removal, food and rubbish usually cook next to each other. As the cooks cooked the meats, it smelled like a backyard BBQ for Fourth of July. However, with the sun beaming on the proteins, it cooked the rotten trash situated next to the grill. Smoke rising from simmering steak cuts added a smoky flavor to the meats, but the taste of the day old fish in the trash can also infused. I guess there was no need for artificial flavoring.

Rank Ranking # 4

One of my favorite sites in Beijing was the Summer Palace. Situated on 2.9 square kilometers of land and water, it was recognized by UNESCO as an “outstanding expression of the creative art of Chinese landscape garden design, incorporating the works of humankind and nature in a harmonious whole.” The main focal point and the best view of the entire Palace is from the Tower of the Buddhist Incense. Rested on the peak overlooking Kunming Lake, the Tower of the Buddhist Incense houses an image of Amita Buddha. Imposing at 41 meters high, the shrine provided a place for the royal family to worship and burn incense. Unlike the smoke in the hotel, incense releases a flavored smoke used in many religious ceremonies and for medicinal purposes. The burning incense trend later reappeared along the hike up Hua-Shan when we ran into little shrines. The smell of cinnamon, jasmine and sandalwood would waft down the hill, announcing the temple before we even reached it. I never have been a big fan of Bath and Body Works, but this country knows how to work manufactured aromas.

Rank Ranking # 3

According to a popular song by Outkast “roses really smell like poo.” Well, if this is true, then Qinhuangdao has some smelly roses. During a stroll through the Dong Bei Da Xue campus, I took time out of my Chinese classes to stop and smell the roses. While cliché and often ignored, it really relaxed me. Brilliant colors of reds, whites and yellows like the Chinese flag dominated the garden landscape. Bees buzzed around and pollinated to keep the roses flourishing. The smell wafted in and out of our classroom building, allowing me a longer rose appreciation moment. I am sure grateful the gardens did not smell like the Xi An outhouse.

Rank Ranking # 2

In Qinhuangdao, the hotel offered an American-style breakfast. Looking forward to being rid of chow mien, fried rice and hot Tang, I actually got up before class and ventured to the café. But, an American style breakfast I did not find. Placed before us were fried eggs, instant coffee and SPAM. Instead of returning to World War II era rationing, we found a local bakery aptly located next to the Happy Café, a true American-style restaurant. Aromas of freshly baked breads and cookies mixed with ice creams of foreign flavors like green tea, pea, green bean and corn, and filled the crowded, uneven sidewalks of Qinhuangdao. In rows of Plexiglas display cases were sourdough, cakes and sweet pastries. From that point, the bakery became a staple of our breakfast. It was something we recognized and even if we did not, we could assume it was good. In addition to a breakfast haven, we used the bakery for our birthday shopping. When one of the guys on our trip turned twenty-two, we bought a birthday cake. It was so hardened by chocolate and excessively sweet, it could only be eaten in petite pieces. But, after blowing out candles and starting to eat, it reminded us of the home we would soon see. Just a little piece of chocolaty home.

Rank Ranking # 1

I was beginning to grow homesick by the end of the trip, so it is no surprise Qinhuangdao was my favorite stop. A beachside village with sweet people and salty air. Being from Florida for the last six years, it felt a bit like home. After being landlocked for three weeks, I just wanted to see the beach. I ran across the tan, gritty sand and tip-toed into the Pacific Ocean. The beach smelt crisply of salt and fish. The air carried whiffs of tanning lotions on the visiting Russians. Their skin was near transparent or tomato red and they were the only people wearing bathing suits on the beach. Though atypical everywhere else, most Chinese will go to the beach fully dressed and wade in the water up to their knees. A fair complexion is prized so tanning is shunned. But I soaked in the sun. And the smell. Nothing is better than the smell of home.

The smells were as diverse as the people who produced the smells. From the squat pot fiasco to the intoxicating smell of the Pacific Ocean, I tremendously looked forward to my “normal” aromas from the East Coast. Now back in the United States, I actually miss the smells. But, it sure was nice to get a new pair of flip flops.