About Heather


BS Communication

**Class Year:** Senior
**Major:** BS Communication, International Relations Minor
**Hometown:** Port Orange, Florida
**Career Goals:** To be a diplomat or travel journalist

December 2008

For the past few weeks, I have sat watching the numbers peeled away from the graduation countdown in the UC. I have also found myself avoiding the UC on days when I am feeling nervous about entering the work force during a recession. Or on days when I remember that I am moving back out on my own, this time without monetary help from the parents. Or when I realize that I still haven’t mailed graduation announcements. But, today, I looked and felt a little sentimental. While I have enough countdowns in my life, this is more a count back.

27 days left ‘til graduation

26 left to find a dress

25 people left to invite

24 invitations yet to be addressed

23x I have sat and reflected

How 22 years has already gone by

How I waited 21 for my best b-day

Or how at 20 I fell in love for the first time

At 19 when I figured out what I wanted to be

Or 18 when I thought everything in life came free

Except for those 17 ball gowns on which I overspent

For the 16 Greek formals which I attended

The gas for 15 miles to school each day

My 14 gallon tank, thank God, Daddy would pay!

Now, 13 applications into jobs out of state

I’ll send out 12 more and then just wait

11 possibilities for my graduate degree

I’ll cross my 10 fingers and hope for a guarantee

Just 9 more papers left to write this Fall

Just a few more 8 a.m. wakeup calls

7 years ago I moved to Daytona’s shores

After living in 6 other states before

I spent 5 weeks China learning tai chi

And 4 years as a sister in Alpha Xi

3 years as sweetheart to the best Fraternity

Went 2x to the ER for broken bones

All for 1 B.S. in Communications degree

And $0 taken out in student loans

It’s 3 a.m. and I have to get up at 8:00. If my math is correct, that will be 2 China Green Teas from Starbucks and 1 Prop’s chicken and rice to keep me awake. After all, the days are ticking away and I don’t want to miss a thing.

November 13, 2008

It is November now and most regions of the country have watched the leaves fall and are now watching the snow. However, this is Florida and I wore my first long sleeve shirt of the season last week. While Florida may not have seasons besides Hot, Really Hot, Afternoon Showers followed by Intense Humidity and Hurricane Season, I have found a more diverse option. For four and a half years, I have been a sister of a sorority and for a Floridian Greek, there are also four seasons: Recruitment, Pledging, Formal and Initiation.

While I like the other seasons because they are pertinent to our chapter’s survival, I am thrilled that right now is formal season. That means everyone will be scrambling to find their old prom gowns, borrow dresses from other sisters or rummage through the sale rack at Dillard’s. I found mine on the $10 rack with a broken zipper and thanked goodness that I actually passed sewing in Home Ec. Formal is kind of a hybrid between being VIP at a club and a high school dance. Think prom minus the stuffy up-dos and goofy dates. Or minus parents taking posed pictures by the fireplace mantle.

Skipping out of Daytona a few weeks ago, a couple of my sisters and I joined the Sigma Chi fraternity for their annual White Rose formal. The formal was held at Ginn Resorts in Orlando, a five-star resort with villa-style homes and a water park for resort guests. We rented out the three bed roomed, fully furnished homes and one of the large ballrooms for the actual dinner. Dinner was an assortment of steak, salmon, veggies and a dark chocolate mousse torte. Then the room erupted in karaoke, revelries and, of course, dancing. Clad in my newly sewn dress (which was a little tight following dinner) and a Σ Χ sweetheart tiara, I managed to put a stiletto hole in the bottom of the crinoline while dancing. Heck, at least the dress was just $10. I can’t say the same for our hotel bill the next day.

The following weekend was my last sorority formal. The sorority alumni were in town and the formal was held at the site of my first sorority semi-formal in 2005. Talk about bringing home the bittersweet memories. The food held no candle to Ginn Resort, but on the tables were our party favors, picture frames with personal pictures. For the evening, I had borrowed my dress from a sister, one worn to the Sigma Chi formal a week earlier. Following my misadventures dancing in my own dress the past weekend, I opted out of ruining someone else’s more expensive gown. Instead, I walked around looking at a half decade of photos with sisters past, present and those to be initiated this upcoming week. After my walk down memory lane, my group left to take a walk in our gowns down Beach Street. We figured Daytona could use a classing up for the evening and spent the remaining evening at a local hotspot, joined by other alumni in for University Alumni Weekend.

During the evening we talked about our initial contacts with the sorority and what our first impressions had been. We had heard the stereotypes, like “Don’t you pay for your friends?” “Did you join just to be popular?” “Aren’t there nightly pillow fights?” While I have yet to partake in a pillow fight in my four years as a sorority sister, I know I have paid a lot of money for social activities and philanthropies with friends and become a fixture on my campus. Then again, being a part of the elite female society alone makes you known on campus with or without the sorority’s help. It was because of that elite female society that I joined. Bluntly, I needed some estrogen in my inner circle. So, I guess those stereotypes are basically correct. But, stereotypes aside, there is something more I love about being Greek. No, we don’t always get along. We are a group of girls after all. But, we do share a secret bond.

This week in our final season, Initiation, and we will have new sisters at the end of it who will be a part of that secret bond. It will be their job to hopefully keep up the seasons and I can sit back and remember my seasoned times. And while it won’t snow outside or stay below 100 degrees during the summer, I can still hope for a pillow fight season.

October 20, 2008

Sometimes I have a hard time coming up with topics. I have looked at the other bloggers’ entries to get ideas, but I never want to write about my week. Unlike them, I am boring. I get up, eat breakfast, go to a couple hours of class, come home, run, eat dinner and do homework. But, my boring life did inspire this entry. Since I spend most of my time on campus, I thought about doing a different type of campus entry. Now, I don’t want to talk about my classes because they bore even my teachers. I don’t think anyone is interested in what the cafeteria is serving and I certainly don’t want to talk about the ever-discussed guy-to-girl ratio. Instead, I thought about how I make my monotonous days interesting. I can’t say I am a rebel because I turn in all my homework and have relatively minimal absences. I stay up late studying and wake up early to be to class on time. But, there are times I stray from protocol. And those are the days I am writing about. They are my Nine Guilty Pleasures on Campus:

  1. Skipping Class- You are probably thinking, “Wow, I skipped classes in tenth grade. She is just starting now?” Yes, I am. This is college, not high school and I probably should’ve skipped class back then. But, I am making up for lost time. Hence why I said I have a pretty decent attendance record, not a perfect one. There are some days I find myself sitting in the UC only to realize I had missed a class. No, it doesn’t happen very often, nor should it, but when it does I don’t beat myself up over it. After all, what will I most likely remember? The days spent with friends or the days spent in class?
  2. Chicken and Rice from Props: Even while writing this, I was craving the meal I would pick if I was ending a death row sentence. I will make the inconvenient walk between the UC and Props behind the COA, just to get a to-go box of a moist chicken breast and steaming rice. I pour on some BBQ and by the time I get back to the UC, the chicken has already absorbed the BBQ. Just cut and stir and you have yourself the best meal on campus.
  3. Watching shuttles take off: While I do not stop mid-step to watch a Cessna 172 depart (like my fellow classmates), I will go outside for the shuttle launches. True, it is better from Kennedy Space Center, but when they launch between classes, I get a great view. The sky lights up as the shuttle leaves behind a wake of fire streaks, clouds of exhaust and audible roaring. Your heart slightly flutters and you know that you are one in a few who actually knows that SRB does not just stand for Student Representative Board. This is how you truly know you go to Riddle.
  4. Library at Lunchtime: How many people do you know who actually go to the library? At ours, everyone congregates on the first floor in the main study room, which is only full during finals week. A few wander into the upper floors, but most wander up for the same reason I do: a quiet nap area. I admit it. I love to take grandma naps during the day. I stay up late and get up early, so about lunchtime, I am ready to collapse. Luckily, there are plenty of spaces available. Just get there early to grab the prime couch positions. And please remember not to snore. This is a library after all.
  5. Sipping on Starbucks: Everyone has a comfort food. Mine just happens to be a beverage. After China, I fell in love with black tea and my daily dose of caffeine. But, like the daughter of an English woman, I know tea should come in a teacup, be served with milk, not cream, and additions should not be stirred with a spoon but rather folded into the tea. Unfortunately, a cardboard cup, fake creamer and a wooden stick for stirring is the best I get. But, I make due because etiquette should be left for afternoon tea time, not before my 8 a.m. class.
  6. Free coffee in the SGA office: With all those black teas, Starbucks can get expensive and there are only so many combinations of espresso and sugar left on the menu. To qualm my caffeine boredom, I take advantage of the newly acquired coffee machine in the SGA with additional choices ranging from hot chocolate to cappuccino. Best thing, the coffee is FREE and there is no waiting in the 20 minute Starbucks line if you are late for class and need a quick boost. Fake creamer included.
  7. Parking in blue spots after hours: Lets face it, the faculty has prime parking space realty and student parking is basically in the next county. That is why, after hours, I love sneaking past the rental cops and parking in the faculty’s spots. No, it is not illegal, but if it ever did land me in prison, I already know what my last meal would be.
  8. Checking Facebook: Like I said, classes can get boring. However, I really try to schedule my classes that are held in computer-equipped classrooms. There is nothing better during drab lectures than “taking notes” on the monitor while chatting with your classmate about not taking notes. As a communications major, I am predisposed to hourly check the news. News that also includes checking the Facebook “stalker feed” to see who dumped whom, where your best friend is hanging out tonight and if anyone has posted pictures from the political rally yet. Someone has to keep up with the campus news right?
  9. Free movies on the lawn during the school days: Since I do spend so much time on campus, it is really convenient when I can mix class work with date night. Every Thursday, Touch-N-Go offers different new releases without the price of a movie ticket. Bring some popcorn or chicken and rice from Props and crash on a blanket on the West Lawn. It is free, so if the movie or the date is terrible, don’t feel bad about getting up to join the pickup football game instead.

With graduation coming up, I plan on capitalizing on all the free stuff on campus, foods that are worth their price, shuttle launches that light up my day and friends who make my day worthwhile. Sometimes it is just the little details that make college so memorable.

October 14, 2008

In my first blog, I told the new freshman to get out of the dorms and visit Central Florida. For those of you that will come down for a visit, it is important to not only have a tour of campus, but also to visit what Central Florida has to offer. While some will say there is absolutely nothing to do in Daytona Beach, it is just because they have done it already and eventually the sound of racecars, motorcycles and spring breakers does become redundant. I am from Port Orange, about 10 minutes outside of Daytona Beach so I can understand. However, I like to visit a few of the lesser known and well-known attractions. But first, the traditional Daytona attractions.

    1. DAYTONA’S NASCAR Raceway: Car racing is what made Daytona Beach famous. After shifting from to the World’s Most Famous Beach to the raceway in 1959, Daytona has managed to remain the epicenter of automobile racing. However, unless you come down during a scheduled race, it will be difficult to truly get the racing experience that so many Riddle students get throughout the year. Luckily, Daytona USA can fill that NASCAR desire year round. In the compound connected to the raceway, you can learn to change tires like the pit crews, simulate driving in a race and try to walk up the racetrack’s 31 degree embankment. When I went, I couldn’t change the tire, finished last in my race and managed to fall up the raceway, quickly learning the word road rash. But, it sure beat sitting in the Grandstands in 100 degree weather next to Bubba and Billy who have not showered since Jeff Gordon was last liked in Daytona (hint: never).
    2. Driving on Daytona Beach: To continue your racing adventure, do like past racers and take advantage of an activity unique to Daytona’s coast. Though you will have to drive a sluggish 10 mph, it sure beats lugging around your beach necessities. I love lazy beach days, especially those where I literally drive to my spot, open my trunk and worship the sun for the next few hours. You just can’t get a lazier beach day.
    3. The Museum of Arts and Sciences: Hidden on Nova road, about three minutes from campus, is a little bit of refinement in Daytona at the Museum of Arts and Sciences. The museum houses many permanent cultural exhibits which include African, Cuban and Chinese art. It also has a section devoted to everything Americana and Coca-Cola and an upcoming Barbie exhibit. Take a walk in the 2.5 acre sculpture garden or stroll through the Florida History exhibit. Enjoy the 13-foot tall giant ground sloth fossil or sit back in the planetarium for a presentation of the stars set to the Beatles. It is $10.95 for Riddle students, but it is a small price to pay to beat the heat.
    4. Ocean Walk: Whether you want to see the latest movie, eat at Bubba Gump’s or see a concert at the Bandshell, Ocean Walk is all-inclusive. One of the most popular hot spots, it is located about 10 minutes from campus. Park in the parking garage across the street and take the walk-over to a dining and viewing treat.
    5. Ponce DeLeon Inlet Lighthouse: This is my favorite activity in Volusia County. Drive about 20 minutes down A1A from Ocean Walk to where you can drive no more. It costs $5 to check out the 121-year-old lighthouse, but it is worth the 175-foot climb. After getting your exercise, head over to the Lighthouse Landing Restaurant and Raw Bar for some shark or gator and a walk on the dock to check out the fisherman’s latest catch.

If you have time to leave Daytona, head down to Orlando for these next attractions:

    1. Orlando Theme Parks: Deemed the “Happiest Place on Earth”, Disney seems to be the main attraction for every holiday to Florida. By the looks of post-Disney travelers in the Orlando airport, it also seems to be the happiest most exhausting adventure. Every parent, weighed down with Mickey souvenirs, has bags under their eyes while they are trying to reign in their Mouse-eared children. While my first trip to Disney World wasn’t after I won the Super Bowl, I was equally excited to be those little kids again. I bought a princess crown, gathered autographs from the characters and snuggled with Goofy at Breakfast with the Characters. But, there are so many more places to visit. My personal favorite is “Eating/Drinking around the World” at Epcot. Get a group of friends together and bounce between each represented country, stopping to enjoy the native food or beverage of choice, served by a native of the represented country. Brush up on your linguistic skills and walk through the eleven cultural pavilions, which include Japan, Norway and Mexico. So, whether you eat couscous in Morocco, drink tea in England or slurp up spaghetti in Italy, be sure to come thirsty or “Hungary.” After you fill you bellies, take a roller coaster ride in Universal, learn to growl at Animal Kingdom or get crowned at Disney World. You wouldn’t want to be the only person in the Orlando airport without Mickey Mouse ears, would you?
    2. City Walk: Once you enter big person land again, head to Universal City Walk for some grown up transitions. The area has everything from an IMAX theater to watch the latest Batman movie to dancing to reggae at the tribute to Bob Marley. If you don’t yet feel like growing up, you can play in paint alongside the Blue Man group or play alongside kids in the in-ground fountains.
    3. Cirque Du Soleil: Though tickets start at $52, the updated circus entertainment is well worth the price. No matter what seats you get, it is a front row, high-flying adventure of the five senses. Watch tight rope walkers skip along thin pieces of metal or ten-year-old Chinese acrobats do back flips off each other while keeping their Yo-Yos spinning. After the show, hop over next door to House of Blues to catch bands like All-American Rejects, Panic! At the Disco, MayDay Parade, and Rise Against. There are few seats, but there is no bad view of the stage.
    4. Mall at Millenia: Yes, I am a girl and I like to shop, especially at the Mall at Millenia. I claim it to be the “Second Happiest Place on Earth” (just following the Mall at America). Located at Exit78 just off of I-4, the Mall at Millenia is uniquely, yet easily, set up. When you walk into the mall, to the right is the affordable stores like Abercrombie and Express. To the left are the stores that have security guards on detail, like Gucci and Louis Vuitton. In the middle is a large food court with Cheesecake Factory and the Blue Martini. So, whether you want to actually buy something at Forever 21, Hollister or Zara or just dream in Burberry, Tiffany’s or Jimmy Choo, go for the shopping or go for the drooling. It sure beats the Daytona Mall.
    5. Mystery Theater: I love CSI: Vegas and Miami and always find myself guessing the killer well before Gil Grissom or Horatio Caine utter their accusations. If you are like me, Murder Watch Mystery Dinner Theater offers plays to get you involved first hand into the murder solving. They offer many different show topics and always include audience participation.

Finally, if Orlando is too touristy, take about an hour drive from Daytona to the next three places:

    1. St. Augustine: About an hour and half outside of Daytona, along A1A, is the oldest continuously occupied European-established city, St. Augustine. Located on a port and protected by the Fort Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine is now a historical and shopping hub. It is also home to Riddle’s greatest rival, Flagler College. In spite of the university, St. Augustine is beautiful whether you want to walk the cobble stone streets in search of shopping or spirits. I strongly suggest a visit to the fort, taking a ghost tour of the town or eating at my favorite restaurant, Columbia, for their plantains. Don’t forget your cameras either. You never know what might appear in the photographs later.
    2. Air Force Space & Missile Museum: Ok, so we go to an aviation school so what better place to visit than Cape Canaveral, home to many shuttle launches. The museum, located in nearby Kennedy Space Center, houses numerous historical space devices such as the one used to launch Alan Shepard and Virgil “Gus” Grissom into space. Take a drive around their Rocket Garden, home to the largest collection of rockets, missiles and other space related hardware. The Mercury Redstone and Jupiter C rockets are in permanent display and one of only two complete German V-2 engines lies in the Exhibit Hall. Go to see where aviation has been and where it is headed.
    3. Blue Springs: What is more Floridian than swimming with manatees? Ok, maybe hurricanes, flamingos and octogenarians are a bit more Floridian, but Blue Springs is non-destructive. The name alone tries to do the clear, blue water justice, but experiencing the 72 degree water is the only way to fully appreciate it. Go during a hot summer day to cool off or on a Florida-winter day to scuba dive. Whenever you come, the water temperature does not change.

If you have done it all during your trip or just want to plan some more trips for your next visit, here are some additional websites for other activities.

http://www.touristflorida.com/other.html – a good website for some more attractions.

http://www.daytonabeach.com/whattosee.cfm – can find special events for when you are here or just more ideas

Just remember, there are lots of things to do in Daytona Beach or the surrounding areas. You just have to know how to find them. And now you do.

September 23, 2008

I realize my first blog was kind of a throw in your face, so I figured I would back track a bit and let you know who that person was telling you what to do. I am Heather Owen, a nearly-graduated senior in the Communications Department with a specialty in International Relations. Following my December graduation, I plan on applying to the State Department to begin work towards becoming a U.S. diplomat.

Wait…did I say Communications? Do they even have that at Riddle? News flash: Riddle isn’t just airplanes. I have been in the program for four and a half years.

I am always asked “why Embry-Riddle for the Communications Department?” Well, I have always loved to write. I love giving speeches. Oh, and I kind of enjoy airplanes. However, though I knew I liked these topics, I didn’t quite know what I “wanted to be when I grew up.” I quickly found the Communications Department had plenty to offer. Along with the typical public relations/marketing/journalism curriculum of any other collegiate communications department, Riddle offers an aviation specialty, a niche with many openings, yet few applicants.

Even though I graduate in seventy-six days (not like I am counting), I am not nervous. Graduates from the program have gone into broadcast journalism, aviation-related journalism, public relations, and even law school. None of which is my career path, but the diversity of our program is what makes me a strong post-graduate applicant.

A diploma from the “Harvard of the Sky” alone will open doors, but it has been the experiences I have had that will get my name on the corner office door. Internships and co-ops are the best and easiest way to gain first-hand knowledge. In addition to Career Services, I found my internships thanks to help within my department. The student-to-faculty ratio in the Communications Department is very small, so I quickly got to know all of my professors. As it turned out, I have had that handful of professors for all four years. It was these same instructors who were instrumental in finding me internships and helping me find my career path.

Because I was still on the fence about careers up until my senior year, I took two internships to better acquaint myself with the communications career field. For my first internship, I spent my 2006 summer working for WESH 2 News, located in Daytona Beach. I was on the call with the reporters, riding shotgun in the news van on the way to fires, robberies and homicides. I sat in on court cases, interviewed city officials and visited such fine institutions such as the Volusia County Jail to interview fine, law-abiding residents. I admit the fast-paced dramatics, and getting to “know all the dirt” truly interested me. However, I wasn’t ready to acquire the stigma of a TV news reporter. My second internship this past spring had me working in the Embry-Riddle Athletics Department with the Sports Information Department. I had been in the Athletics Department for four years as a cheerleader, so I was very appreciative to work with those who also supported the Eagles. As a sports marketing intern, I updated statistics, wrote biographies on the players and taped important games. I enjoyed the press passes to games, setting up early morning track meets, and cheering on the Eagles, but I had one big issue. Although I have been a cheerleader for eleven years, I just don’t like sports. I don’t understand them, like to watch them or even care to talk about them. Despite striking out on potential future careers, I learned a lot from the two internships. I found the positives and negatives about the communications field so when I do land a job, I will know what to look for.

So now my senior year. I was set to graduate with a prominent degree, had two internships, had participated in a few activities here and there and gained a few future job insights. However, I wasn’t content with the content of my resume. So, in an utterly rash move which I thoroughly rejoiced about later, I decided to do study abroad and push off graduation. I spent five weeks of my summer in China, speaking Chinese, learning about Chinese culture and just enjoying a culture shock. I continued my education with another three weeks in Prescott studying Chinese.

From the moment I got back to Daytona, I had a path. I want to travel the world. I want to speak foreign languages. I want to play a part in international relations. I want to know the scoop. Oh, and I want a press pass to a non-sport activity (just one of my job insights). Diplomacy is my answer and the State Department will receive my newly minted resume in December. Along with the study abroad on my resume, I also added that I am a sister in the Theta Omicron chapter of Alpha Xi Delta, sweetheart to the Eta Iota chapter of Sigma Chi, cheered for three and a half years at Riddle and am now a devoted student. I am conversant in German and I like to think my English is decent too. Better than a list of do’s and don’ts from a lowly Communications major, huh?

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.

From the Southwest to the Northeast

I have had a splendid summer of vacations. I have walked the Great Wall in four different regions of China. I have eaten cow tripe, scorpions and one unlucky starfish. I have hiked the Grand Canyon in the rain and watched shooting stars in the Arizona desert. But, the trip up North…I just didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to show pictures. I didn’t want to relive it. I didn’t ever want to go on another family vacation.

To say we fought during the trip would be an understatement. We started battling from the moment we got on the airplane until the moment we left Dad in Prince Edward Island. We squabbled about everything from who was driving or navigating to whether we should avoid overheating the tires by pumping the breaks or riding them down Mount Washington.

These battles are not unusual, just unusual in intensity. Since I can remember, our family trips have always revolved around my historian father’s penchant for battlefields, battleships and family vacation battle-readiness. Early in the trip, we all armed ourselves, ready for combat with each other. It was gloves off with individuals versus individuals, pairs against pairs or my favorite, three against one. My father disarmed his hearing aides so he didn’t have to hear the one-sided backseat skirmishes with my 187 lb. brother versus my 114 lb. frame. My mother had a romance novel, a healthy dose of sleeping pills, and a good pair of ear plugs to ignore my father’s driving inabilities that left those of us in the back gripping onto our seatbelts. My brother took captive of our recently-acquired Garmin, the only mechanism capable of giving my father a stress aneurism. In an early battle for directional supremacy, he tactically drove us in literal circles until we were too dizzy to steady our own internal compasses. I just put a pillow between Jordan and myself and cranked up my Ipod.

In addition to four strong-willed personalities clashing, it also seemed I was the only one not excited about the trip. Perhaps it was the perpetual jet-lag from this summer or that I hadn’t had any alone time since I left for China. Perhaps I was just in a bad mood. Two weeks with my family in Canada just didn’t seem as exciting next to my individual trips to China and California. But, my family was relishing the opportunity to get out of Daytona and see the Northern lights and sights. For them, it was less about the vacation and more about experiencing something historical. Mom couldn’t wait to drive up Mount Washington and visit Prince Edward Island. For her, it was returning to her family history. Dad couldn’t wait to see Boston’s USS Constitution or walk me through the sight of the Boston Massacre. For him, it was re-introducing his family to history. Even my sarcastic, teenage mutant brother was excited about our Canadian adventures. He couldn’t wait to have his first legal drink in Canada. For him, it was about living history.

While still in Prescott, I couldn’t wait for the free vacation, though I was starting to miss my own bed. Along with my other travel ailments this summer, I had caught the travel bug. It could only be cured with another passport stamp before I had to go back to school and a real-world job. A small jaunt to visit Anne of Green Gables, my favorite childhood book, also was added to my “can’t miss/can’t wait” list. However, once en route to Boston, I just wanted the trip to be history.

But, eventually I did talk about the trip. I did show family friends the pictures and I just bought tickets for our next family vacation this upcoming summer to Africa. So, why the big turn around? Hindsight.

If hindsight is 50/50 than I had fun 50% of the time and the other half was spent defending my backseat territory. I can’t say the trip wasn’t miserable, but I can’t say I didn’t have fun. I can say that now looking back, this trip wasn’t as bad as our family felt it was. I can say it was a learning experience. We had to relearn about each other. I had been gone for two months. My brother loves to lock himself in his room and both my parents work. We had become less of a family and more like strangers. Though we had a battle during the day or evening, we called truces every so often. It was during those truces when the true fun happened.

After living in smog-filled China and dry-heat Arizona, waking up on Day Two to a fog covered lake just melted away my reservations about a family trip. I woke up at 6 a.m. to watch the sunrise (of course I didn’t mean to, but I was still jet-lagged), which was complemented by the bacon and egg smell of a traditional American breakfast that I had craved so much while in China. Later during the day, I became the only one to lock herself in her room accidentally when I broke the door handle. After breaking open the nailed shut windows that would make a fire-code cry, I sat on the peaked roof just long enough to readjust to a non-hectic life. And of course, get help down.

After my readjustment, the days just flowed from there. We drove up Mount Washington on Day Three, fulfilling one of Mom’s must-dos. The road was narrow, the car’s breaks overheated, and the air was frigid and thin, but I touched a cloud. Although we could only see to our outstretched hands, I watched my mother smile and join me over a cup of hot chocolate. In the summertime, remember? Her smile faded on the way home as Jordan snatched the Garmin again. He typed in shortest distance home because he was growing antsy and cruising for a bruising from me. Not too far from home, the Garmin suddenly sent us down Rabbit Road, a thickly mud-caked path past civilization and into backwoods territory. With encouragement from the boys in back, Dad revved the rented Grand Marquis’ engine and drove the car through the sludge. Mud flew into the opened windows as the squeals of joy erupted. With each pit growing larger and multiplying and our anxiety about pushing the beast out of the mud growing, my father turned the car around 200 ft. from the exit. Amidst groans of disappointment from the boys and my mother’s sigh of relief, we traveled back down Rabbit Road with the only visible locals shaking their heads. We got back onto the main road, mud dripping from our axle, and followed Garmin’s new directions. Along the new road, we passed the Rabbit Road exit. It may have been seemingly shorter, but heck we were driving a beast and none of us wanted to push up the unforeseen hill.

Next, on Day Five, came ghost hunting with long lost cousins at a hidden burial site across from our family’s lake house in Maine. We took our canoes and man-powered across in the pouring rain. After an hour we hadn’t spotted any spooks, but we sure collected rain water in our boats and rain gear. Already wet, we jumped into the warm lake water and lounged on the floating dock until well after dark. It continued to rain even after we had dried off and started to drink our homemade hot chocolate. Again hot chocolate in the summertime!

On Day Seven, we visited Boston and climbed aboard the USS Constitution, saw where the colonists dumped tea off a boat and shunned Fenway Park, where the Boston Red Sucks Sox play their version of baseball. But it was my walk with my father along the Freedom Trail that made my day. Dad and I had always bonded over history, but none more than my seventh grade history project on the Boston Massacre. After all these years, I still remember the victims’ names, order of their deaths, what happened and why they died. Although slightly morbid, it was a chance for me to talk with my father and test his historic knowledge. Picking up where we left off, he and I walked through rows of tombstones, looking at where John Hancock, Samuel Adams and Ben Franklin were buried. We took pictures of the joint burial plot of the Massacre victims. We even took a picture together on the spot where they were killed. Standing in Boston outside of the Old State House, it was my chance to again bond with my father.

Mom cried on Day Ten when we visited Campobello Island. In the early 1940s, my maternal grandparents escaped from war-torn England to this tiny island off of New Brunswick, Canada. My grandfather became the pastor of a little Baptist church on the island and my pregnant grandmother gave birth to the first of three Canadian born children, my mother not included. Mima and Papa died a few years back and my mother, the baby of the family, still misses them and craves the opportunity to walk in their footsteps whenever possible. Armed with a photograph and a basic location, we scouted out the church and parsonage where her family lived and worked. Along with the help of some locals, we found the church and even ran into a woman who was married by my grandfather. I don’t think this coincidence was on my mother’s “can’t miss” list, but walking with her through her parent’s footsteps sure made mine.

As the days continued and reached an end, I started to notice my family was on to something. Or at least on something. I took my brother to a local eatery for some Canadian cuisine and his first legal drink. I watched the Anne of Green Gables play with my mother and walked the cemeteries of Boston with my historian father. All of them had their own “can’t wait to see” items, and I couldn’t wait to be involved. Sure, we had plenty of fights, most of which were caused by the Garmin. But they became battles I was happy to lose. Or at least destined to lose because I was always outnumbered.

Whether it was looking for ghost in the woods with my cousins or walking slate-colored beaches in Maine listening to the waves crashing along with my brother’s commentary. Or walking downtown Prince Edward Island with Mom or morbidly scouting out historically-relevant spots with Dad. Throw in a few political epicenters and of course the ever-present Starbucks and it was an experience. Not an always enjoyable one, but nonetheless an experience. And just like history, it will never be forgotten.

Conclusion to my Blog

This was a summer to never been forgotten. I have written seven journal entries over ten weeks of travel: five weeks in ancient China, three weeks in arid Arizona and two weeks on the beautiful Northeast Coast. That is three countries and eight states with two new passport stamps. I lived in fifteen different beds of all sizes and comfort, but only spent four days in my own bed. I had seven different cases of medical ailments and a $705 phone bill from China. But, I have had experiences and memories that are priceless.

Made it in China

As a new current student at Prescott enrolled in the Chinese Language Institute and living with two of my China travel mates (both write the blogs for Prescott), I can say my travel to China not only touched me physically, but mentally and emotionally.

I didn’t contract any of the weird diseases I had hyped myself up for. I didn’t end up in prison. I didn’t see any public executions or religious persecution while amongst the commoners. Nobody quoted old Mao sayings or wore grey and black Mao suits. Instead, my perceptions were severely altered. I contracted food poisoning from tasting the unique foods with no regrets. I nearly ended up in prison while enjoying a Wonder of the World. I heard deathly loud noises and smelled heavenly aromas. And the only people quoting Mao were those of us on the trip.

In the month since I left China, I have realized the magnitude of senses I encountered. But, with this China blog coming to an end, I wanted to wait until I was out of the country and had some time to grasp my last sense. From the close physical proximity of the Chinese people on my airplane going to China to the closeness I felt to the Chinese people as I returned to the States, touch is one of my most cherished senses.

A Throwback to Romance

On the last week in Qinhuangdao, our group was asked to speak to a group of British students about American culture and our university. Some students spoke about airplanes. Others spoke about religion. Nikki and I spoke about dating. Though we know enough about American dating, we felt like we were comparing a 1950s sock hop to the 1970s Woodstock when we researched dating with our Chinese language partners. When we brought up dating at the dinner table, the girls giggled and the guys blushed. They talked about how they planned on marrying the first boyfriend or girlfriend they dated. They would only hold hands and maybe kiss if they had been “going steady” for more than a year. Uh, what?

But, just because they do not show public displays of affection does not mean they do not closely interact with others. Asian cultures generally have a smaller “personal bubble.” I attribute it to being tightly packed in small places. Upon introduction, my language partners would stand toe-to-toe with me and speak nearly nose-to-nose. Others would stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the subway and during walk and talks. But, the most stunning aspect didn’t revolve around dating. Although the Chinese women are cautious to hold hands with the opposite gender, they will hold hands with the same gender. Nikki and I had noticed this at our first campus in Beijing, but it wasn’t until Xi An when I had female language partners that I really understood. My partners, right after meeting me, grabbed my arm and proceeded to lead me, by either arm or hand, across the campus for the remainder of the day. Nikki and I only grabbed each other’s hand on the trip if the other was going to get run over by a taxi. My personal bubble slowly became popped throughout the trip and I am glad. It was time to let some air out.


Chinese are impatient. I don’t mean they tap their foot if you take too long in the line. They will literally shove you out of the way to get into line quicker. The cars do not yield for pedestrians and lines are only for foreigners. With 2.6 billion inhabitants, physical space is a lucrative and expensive commodity. On a particularly cheery afternoon on the four-hour train ride from Qinhuangdao to Beijing in the lower class seating, I came down with my final freaky illness. I had a black tongue, severely upset stomach, a high fever, and had recently broken into head-to-toe hives. Subsequently, I spent much of the afternoon in the ill-kept train bathrooms. During stops in towns, about every twenty minutes, the train attendants would lock the bathroom doors. Because the train had no facilities to hold the waste underneath the car, unlike an airplane, the waste simply dropped while we were riding. To prevent it from piling up at the train stops (though it didn’t stop the smell), the attendants would lock the doors until we had pulled away from the station. However, after numerous trips to the bathroom, the attendants knew to open the bathrooms as soon as the car pulled away because I would be back, bent over and careful not to lose my footing. However, on one occasion of visiting the restroom, I was abruptly charged in on. I had been in the bathroom for less than a minute but planned on staying there for another twenty when a young man from the class car above mine began banging on the door to the bathroom. In his increasing fury, he actually dislodged the door and told me to get out. I am sure this is not common practice, but I was so alarmed I decided to take Pepto-Bismol (the reason my tongue had turned black) and hope for the best. After all, I had outstayed my welcome in the train car bathroom and we were coming up on another stop.

Tenacious V.

I love shopping, especially at discount prices. I play the retail game. After working in popular clothing stores, I know everything is marked up a 100% and then slowly lowered so the consumer feels they are getting a great deal. But, in China, you set your own price. As my Chinese improved, so did my perceived discounts. Our ability to bargain actually became a bragging topic on long bus rides.

I never had much to brag about. I am terrible at bargaining, especially when I feel like I am insulting the person by continuously offering a ridiculously low price. But, bargain, bargain, bargain. The vendors may look sad and desperate, but they are sly. They know the value of the dollar to yuan and will even translate the price. They speak multiple languages so trying to argue with them in another one will only leave you flabbergasted. Our group of seven spoke eleven different languages ranging from Icelandic to Hawaiian. For those of us who spoke European languages, attempting to mislead the vendors about our nationality only made it worse for us. The Euro is even stronger than the dollar and the vendors’ French and German were better than mine.

They also will stop at nothing to make a sale. While walking the Great Wall, I heard different languages and numerous dialects, none of which resembled our American. Then, out of nowhere came “Lookie, Lookie, Lookie, very cheap price, American lookie”. And thus started my vendor experiences. This section of the wall was steep, but the vendors had adapted. Their tables were makeshift and the vendors could paint, assemble and tinker at 45 degree angles. Impressive, yes. Expensive, well no, if we hadn’t bought everything we saw that day.

After taking a few days to recoup our financial losses, we ventured to Wangfujing, one of the most famous streets in Beijing. On this day, I ate starfish, scorpion and cow tripe. My luck with food had been bittersweet, so I tried my hand at shopping. Thanks to recent class work on shopping, I had slowly become decent at bargaining in Chinese. Prices just seemed to melt away, but so did my money. I still had presents to buy, so I decided to be frugal. I spotted a black camera that would be a perfect gift for my photographer uncle. The camera was a film loader and had to be rewound by a hand crank. The vendor spotted my interest and the battle began. “duo shao qian, (how much does it cost)?” I asked. “Wu kuài, (500 yuan)”, she said. “Oh, tai gui le, (too much),” I said. “Very old,” she said in English, “Too low, very old.” I shook my head and started to walk away when she reached for me. Well, it wasn’t just a touch. I was accosted. She grabbed my arm, after refusing my offer of 100 yuan and continued to explain that is was very old and a collectible. I looked around, seeing multitudes of broken, “old” cameras and wanted to try my new-found talent elsewhere. But, she wouldn’t let go. As she pulled harder, my smile quickly faded and I started to resort back to English. I told her that I could get a working one for cheaper, but she tugged harder. April, one of my travel partners, and Chinese herself, stepped in to help out my Chinese vocabulary. But, the woman would not relent. A few choice American words escaped my mouth as I was yanked by the vendor and April, now gripping my right arm. Our boys also stepped in as the woman’s partner helped her hold onto my left arm. My right side, with the help of two boys and April pulled harder, releasing me from the vendors’ grips. I never did buy a camera. I may have wanted a camera that day, but I wished instead someone had been snapping a camera.

“Plastic Money”

Following our adventures with vendors at the Great Wall, we headed to the Ming Tombs. It had been 90 degrees and 110% humidity during our climb and nothing had changed. Our excitement that morning had led to sore muscles, blistered feet and some amazing purchases, experiences and photos. Although utterly exhausted and needing to beat the afternoon showers, we craved more. The bus was cramped and smelled like dirty socks. My stomach was curdling from the under-cooked chicken feet I consumed in between stops, but we were all in high spirits and singing Disney songs.

As we pulled up to the entrance, I noticed a man dressed in tattered military uniform, Mao hat and smiling enthusiastically at the approaching bus. He tottered over as we pulled up, banging on the windows and saying something in Chinese. He helped the ladies off the bus, offering his hand and a crooked smile. As I got off he grabbed my hand and pointed to my shirt. A little uncomfortable and still unsure of Chinese culture, I accepted his hand and walked towards the entrance. He followed me, professing something, but I was still confused. However, through the language barrier, I realized he wasn’t admiring my shirt. He wanted my nearly empty bottle of water. I assumed he wanted something to drink, so I handed it to him. He gestured for me to finish it and I complied. When I was done, I handed him the bottle. Americans are used to the term “plastic money” referring to credit cards. However, in China, Visa is still accepted but there are other and more widely recognized and discarded types: plastic bottles.

China has a built-in recycling program. These discarded bottles are returned for a meager profit, earning the collector a “free” income. For many professional trash collectors, this is their only source of income. Shanghai recently introduced a machine to recycle bottles and spit out 0.10 yuan pieces approximately 3 cents. This project intends to reduce waste collectors and improve environmental awareness, but it is producing an unofficial workforce in a country with a large class divide.

Because we were told not to drink the water, we bought large cases of bottled water to keep in our rooms. This meant we went through a lot of bottles during the day. I would save them and pass them out when we would go to main tourist sites, earning me the mocking nickname “Humanitarian Heather” by my group. I had collected nearly 30 bottles one morning during our morning class and transported them with me on our field trip to Tiananmen Square. I spotted a woman who seemed to be digging in the trash and as I handed them to her, I felt myself being tugged from another direction. I looked up to see a man run from another trash bin and start stealing the bottles from my hand. I grabbed a few out, much to his dismay, and handed them to the old woman before he took off with the bag. I shook it off, but realized this may have been his only way of eating for the day.

I continued to people-watch, partially for fear of being accosted again. I saw people reduced to pick pocketing. Children begging next to their grandparents. Elderly pulling half-eaten popsicles out of the garbage to savor the lost flavor of childhood. I realized my bottles could help reduce waste in the environment, but they could also help reduce pain in a person’s environment.


Massage night

The dollar goes far in China and it took us directly to the local massage parlor in Beijing following our trek on the Great Wall. The first back massages Nikki, Brett and I had had been pretty successful, relieving the tension of living with sixteen very different individuals and adjusting to a new culture. The following week before we left Beijing, we decided to go again. The sketchy, two-story parlor, located hidden behind a guard and an elevator ride, beckoned our bemoaned bodies to be rubbed. Because we didn’t want to be separated, we picked a foot massage, which traditionally stays below the belt.

After greeting the door guard, he motioned for us to get on the elevator destined for the second floor. As the doors opened, we were warmly greeted seemingly by the whole staff. “Well, this is a nice start,” I said, fondly remembering our back massages. The owner spoke English and led us to a room. She handed us pajama like outfits and told us to change and lay down on the beds. She turned on the Chinese television and brought us water. Our attendants entered next, bringing in wooden bowls of hot water. They placed our feet in the bowls and started massaging our feet. Then they started up our legs. Then to our waists. Suddenly, the massage left tradition.

The three of us started flashing concerned glances and uncomfortable grunts. Nikki’s attendant was seated behind her and had Nikki’s arms twisted around her own back. A 6’3 Brett was pulled backwards over his 5 foot massage therapist’s knees and having his back cracked. My 5’4 Chinese attendant with crooked teeth giggled, pulling my toes and fingers out of socket, like he knew our howls of pain were enjoyable. All the while they spoke Chinese and we cried in English.

For an hour and a half, our attendants twisted and prodded our bodies in ways unnatural to the Western world. Now, Nikki and I have been cheerleaders for a decade, but the contortions slowly became more painful and awkward. As I was laying there having my body manipulated into the Olympic rings, I was quickly searching for “rape” in my phrasebook. The phrasebook, considered our Bible during the trip, failed to produce the correct phrases for moments such as this. Universally understood pain howls seemed to only urge on our attendants and the intensity quickly escaladed with the finale. Our attendants left, bringing back warmed towels and two plastic mats. Nikki and my attendants laid out the mats on our backs and placed the warm towels on top of the mats. They were hot, and I was thankful for the mat. However, Brett didn’t have a mat. His attendant reared back, slapping the hot towel upon his pale, bare back. He let out a shrill schoolgirl scream much to the amusement of our attendants. Then, it was done. We thanked the attendants, paid and hobbled to the elevator. We walked the three blocks back to the hotel crooked and leaning on each other. Crawling into plywood-hard beds was our happy ending.


Great Wall Barricade

I had to wait to write about my most amazing touch experience until I was well out of the country. I fully plan on visiting again and didn’t want my future visa revoked for my antics.

The Great Wall was built to keep out outsiders and did a decent job of keeping out most. But, it was no match for determined American college students. During one of our last days in China, we went to a slowly decaying section of the Great Wall outside of Qinhuangdao. Thus far we had remained on the other side of a Chinese prison fence, so we figured this was our last chance to jump one. There was no sign posted, but the lack of accessibility insinuated our restriction. Slowly we snaked our way around the barricade, gripping onto thousand-year-old, crumbing rock over a 40 foot drop. Once we climbed around the walled off area, we ran. I mean we hauled it up a sheer face of moldering and unstable rock for about 100 yards. We all quickly grabbed the photo opportunity to be the only one photographed on the wall and then, rather loudly, kept ascending. Then, panting and trying to catch our footing, the ten of us future jailbirds caught a glimpse from the top. Overlooking the valley, we saw a sight most people, unless tempting the law, would never see. A brown and green patchwork quilted the countryside. Dirt roads dotted the landscape, separating farmland and pastures from rural housing. A setting sun brightened portions and shadowed others. Our uninhibited view lasted just long enough to snap a photo.

On the way down I noticed I had something wedged in my shoe. A few pieces of the wall, probably dislodged from my sneaker’s insole, had gotten caught in my shoe. At least that is what would have been my alibi at customs when they asked why I had pieces of rock.

no passing

Advice Acquired:

Although I ignored the “advice” not to trespass on the Great Wall, I acquired my own advice during the trip. All of these, though self-explanatory and seemingly common sense, failed me when I most needed them. Hopefully, your common sense will guide you better than mine.

  • Eat at the vendors with the most people in line.
  • Don’t drink the water or eat the fresh fruit no matter how appetizing they look after a long trek up a mountain.
  • If a Chinese restaurant doesn’t have Chinese characters, it means no Chinese people go there and you shouldn’t either.
  • When you cross the street, don’t look both ways. It will only scare you.
  • When driving in a taxi, be sure to enunciate your location. Then close your eyes and hold on tight.
  • Don’t leave home without a phrasebook. You never know when you will need to say “Easy Tiger” (mai dian lai, in case you needed to know).
  • Bring toilet paper and baby wipes. Then pack extra.
  • Don’t wear flip flops in outhouses.
  • White wine in China is “lighter fluid” in the United States.
  • Argue with EVERYONE about the price. But, argue in Chinese for better results.
  • Remember the old adage “If everyone was jumping off a bridge, would you do it?” Shake your head yes and jump.
  • Learn enough Chinese to read the signs. Forget enough Chinese when you get caught climbing the Great Wall. After all, you only live once.

Reality Check

Nikki and I arrived back to the United States via San Francisco on June 16. I was so happy to hear English again; I almost hugged the customs guard. He, seemingly not amused by my relief to hear English, asked me what I was carrying. “Well”, I thought “I have those new strands of pearls in my new fake Gucci bag, a high fever, two Chinese paintings, a stomach virus, Hi-Chews, and hives from taking too many anti-biotics.” But, I really brought home more than that: memories.

The hardest memory was all of us sitting in Nikki and my room the night before former strangers turned new friends started filing out of Beijing back to the reality we left. Some back to graduate, one from high school. Some to start college. Some to finish college. Others to find jobs. Most scattered to the far reaches of the world. We have all these amazing future trips planned to Iceland, Vietnam and Egypt, some which will happen and others which will not.

But, the trip that did happen was to China. One that none of us will ever forget and I did it all.

I came. I tasted. I saw. I heard. I smelled. But most of all, I was touched.

Arid Arizona and Combusting California

The dashboard temperature gauge said 110 degrees. I took a picture. Ten minutes later it said 114 degrees. I took another picture and sent it to my family. Three minutes later it said 118. I prayed the car wouldn’t overheat. I didn’t want to push.

Thus began my extremely hot trip to Arizona and weekend getaway to California. I have never lived in the land of overheating cars, cactus and coyotes. I have only twice visited the land of plastic surgery, Disneyland and the Governator. But, here I was unpacking for a three-week study trip to Prescott, Arizona, the redheaded stepchild of Embry-Riddle (according to my Daytona classmates).

My friends from Daytona laughed. They all asked, “Why would you transfer to Prescott?” It has all the sand, but no beach. It has all the heat, but no way of cooling off. Simple. After six years in Daytona, four at ERAU, I wanted out. Away from my comfort zone. Away from being deemed a “local.” Away from the beach and into the desert. I wanted my hair not to flatten when I left the house. I wanted to visit the Grand Canyon. I wanted to see a cactus outside of the Wal-Mart Lawn and Garden section.

There was so much I wanted out of my trip, but mostly I just wanted to keep China alive. I missed China from the moment I dragged my jetlagged behind off the airplane back into muggy Orlando. I had a feeling I would be homesick once I left my newly adopted country, so while still in China, I made arrangements to continue my Chinese courses at the Language Institute at Prescott.

My new roommates, Kui and Brett, both from the China trip, greeted me at Phoenix. Kui met me at the baggage claim while Brett drove the car around the circle, to prevent the ever present overheating. Brett, staying true to his strongly musically influenced California-self, pulled up, bumping some outrageous rap music.  “Oh gosh,” I thought. “I hope this is not going to be the soundtrack of this trip.” Then I got to thinking. What was the soundtrack going to be?

China had such a wide variety of music from Aladdin to Backstreet Boys to Micheal Buble. So in honor of Brett and his beloved state’s music scene, I have dedicated songs to our highs and lows of the three weeks out West. So, sync your Ipods and join me on my whirlwind Western withdrawal.

“Leaving on a Jet Plane” by John Denver

As I said, I wasn’t ready to come back to Daytona when I arrived in mid-June. I felt something missing. My visa was expired and I couldn’t afford another bout of vaccinations or a plane ticket. Next best thing: Prescott, Arizona.

I recuperated for four days in Daytona and hopped an airplane back West. In those four days, I had just enough time to have my clothes washed, print out my boarding pass and have my records transferred to Prescott. I boarded that airplane with no intention of looking back, at least for three weeks.

After Brett finally turned down the music, I settled into the backseat of the Mustang. It felt good to be with my friends again. People who understood how China had changed me. People who could appreciate my inside jokes and incessant talk about Beijing. People who were also recuperating from our still present jet-lag. I was getting just what I needed.

Then there it was. As the Mustang sped down the Arizona highway doing 75mph (the speed limit), I saw my first live cactus. I was finally getting what I wanted.

A Chorus of Coyotes

I could see the stars. I mean I could actually see the stars. They twinkled in little fireballs above Brett and me as we laid on the campus track. We watched as a few stars glittered across the black abyss, only to disappear forever. I couldn’t even see a blue sky while in China and now I was watching stars streak across a sky.

But, it was the soundtrack, seemingly purring in unison, which really added something special.  Cicadas sang their lullabies to the hunting desert lizards. Wind whistled to the passing tumble weeds. But it was the howl in the distance that sent me running from the track. The guttural cries of coyotes echoed against Thumb Butte Mountain down into the Valley, sending shivers and concern down my spine. Just in the first day I found reason number one to leave Daytona. And of course the immediate track vicinity.

“Little Red Rodeo” by Collin Raye

It is no surprise that I have only been to a few handfuls of rodeos in my life. I always wanted a horse, but was never one for mucking stalls. Nor was I ever one for sequined riding vests or manure-caked riding boots. I wanted Ralph Lauren and boat shoes.

However, I found myself lacing up my boat shoes and spending a school night amongst the cowboys and cowgirls of Prescott . Located about 10 minutes from school, this is the world’s oldest rodeo and home to Prescott’s Frontier Days. Since 1888, this corral has seen its share of cowboys, bull riders and the ever present rodeo royalty. After studying Chinese all day, I wasn’t really in the mood to investigate the rodeo’s claim to fame. Thankfully, I didn’t have to. Upon entering the corral, a man dressed in 1880’s-period clothing struck up a conversation with me. The self-proclaimed “gentleman” with his gimp (thanks to a recent fall during the last rodeo), grabbed my elbow and proceeded to lead me to his “high school sweetheart’s” concession stand. He offered me a beer, but if my mother taught me anything, it was never take a drink from a stranger. Especially at 5,368 feet above sea level.

And if living above my typical sea level taught me anything, I had learned altitude decreases your tolerance. Tolerance for the sun. Tolerance for alcohol. Tolerance for lung capacity. I became a burnt, one-beer, fish out of water. Even walking to class I felt like I had been smoking a pack a day since kindergarten. Sure, my hair stayed styled and my makeup stayed painted, but I had consumed so many bottles of water and Curel lotion by the end of the day, my pours were recycling what I had put in. The heat simply suffocated.

Declining the drink, I obliged his historical, but not all together histrionic, ramblings. He talked about the evening’s festivities and how the rodeo had seen a lot. After his talk and later viewing of the festivities from the safety of our VIP seating, I had seen my share of bull riding, bucking broncs and barrel racing that evening. It was a night of worldly proportions and we had a worldly amount of Chinese homework. After all, I figured only we spoke Chinese in the whole arena.

“Dui Mian De Nu Hai Kan Guo Lai” by Richie Ren

Speaking of Chinese, I did actually attend class. Although I was thrown into Chinese in China and forced to learn the language or not eat, this institute was ten times the intensity level. To help us relax during class, Zhan Lao Shi, the professor from my China trip, picked this lovesick song as our class song for the summer. She said it was very common in China and a choice song for karaoke. Think of it as China’s version of “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey.

After the end of week one, seven Starbuck’s coffees down, three textbooks scribbled in and a few tears later, I was rethinking my love for the Chinese language. I know I already speak the most difficult language, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to learn the second hardest. Sure, about 2 billion people speak the language. Sure, it is widely spoken in Asian business transactions. Sure, I had already put seven weeks in it. And by goodness, I was surely going to complete it. Just not all at once.

When I came home from China, I knew probably five characters. When I left Arizona, I knew about 100. Out of nearly 5000 Chinese characters, I feel like I accomplished a little bit when I came home in July. I just can’t stop believing eventually speaking Chinese is obtainable.

“California” by Phantom Planet

If you have ever met a Californian, you know they are proud of their state. If you are from California, you know you got it good. My lone male roommate, Brett, is our lone Californian. After living five weeks with us in China and two in Prescott with three girls, he needed some testosterone. After living for seven weeks with him, the girls needed a break. The Fourth of July weekend granted our wish.

It was hard to pick just one song for our ride to California. As one of the only states to have millions of songs written about it, I chose the song I had most recently heard at a concert and that guaranteed not to blow out our ears. The night before, while responsibly checking our Facebook and setting our status to “California here we come,” we all sent each other Bumper Stickers proclaiming our impending trip to the Golden State. Brett and I snuck out of language lab early, forced the girls to pack hastily and packed into Kui’s 1997 silver Blazer. Leaving our reversed Riddle Ratio in Arizona, we started our four hour road trip.

Road trips. They always start off excitedly for the first few minutes, blaring music to the tune of summer anticipation. But, once you start driving, everyone settles in for the long haul. We had all settled in with Kui at the wheel, Ashley navigating and Brett and I studying in the back. We had everything necessary for the weekend. Bathing suits for the California sun. Water for the radiator should it over heat. Goldfish and crackers for munchies. We were pretty well set.

However, we forgot our rain gear. While driving switchback mountain terrain on the outskirts of Prescott, we had a storm. Driving those roads is bad enough typically, but with the sideways rain and my penchant for car sickness, the excitement was intensified. Even at 30 mph, coming around blind corners into headlights and not being able to see in front made me wish I was riding shotgun. Seeing the drop offs made my heart only drop farther than those on our left side. But, the interesting part was watching the temperature in the desert plummet from 116 to 86 in about 10 minutes. After the storm, the temperature returned to its peak just as quickly.

Once we were out of treacherous terrain and back on straight roads, it was just that. Straight. Desert. Roads. We would pass through towns begging you not to blink as you passed through. We would be the only motorists, as well as only people, we saw for multiple miles. I hoped this would not be the time our car would overheat. There was just no where to walk to for help. We finally drove into California directly into the hottest place I have ever been, Blythe. When we stopped, it was 105 degrees at 1:30 p.m. When we left the store, it was 108 degrees at 1:38 p.m. Continuing up the valley, we saw the California wind turbines. I completely support and applaud alternative energy users, especially those who use renewable energy sources. My only question:  Why pay for turbines when the state could just pop a few of Hollywood’s finest?  There would sure be plenty of air rushing out to power one of these mechanisms. Just consider any of the celebutantes’ heads as untapped resources. It sure hasn’t been tapped by them.

“Roller Coaster” by Bewitched

The whirlwind days in California were like a rollercoaster. So, it only seemed logical to start the weekend off with a little rollercoaster action.  Although it was Six Flags and Fourth of July, because of the fires throughout Southern California, all firework shows had been banned. That didn’t stop us from spending the whole day sweating in the California sun and throwing our bodies around on steel looptie loops.

I’ve been to Six Flags on every coast, but I have never ridden a roller coaster that actually intimidated me.  Enter X. With fire cannons, 70’s rock music and an unusual seating construction, we literally faced the ground as we plummeted down off the first drop, only to be flipped back over to take another drop inverted. During the final turn, I felt the California heat intensify, but because we were backwards I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. A moment later, I watched the fire cannon blow incendiaries over passengers in the seats in front of me. I teased my redheaded riding mate that she had caught some fire in her hair. At least we got some form of fireworks on the ride.

We continued our fireworks quest into the next day directly to LA’s Chinatown. Kui, Brett and I saw familiar sights and heard a familiar language. We bought our favored Hi-Chew candy at the local convenience store. I picked up the paper lanterns I had forgotten in China. We had even re-practiced our Chinese and looked forward to ordering our lunch in Chinese. Unfortunately, we found the only Korean-run restaurant in the district. Nice try.

Next we tried to go to Huntington Beach, but the parking lots were full. Everyone in California was soaking up the rays so we grabbed some Taco Bell and retired back to Brett’s house. The rays are just the same in a private backyard pool as they are on a crowded, public beach.

“Collide” by Howie Day

The weekend was over. Brett had his renewed testosterone. We girls had new tans and new friends. So, back into the car we piled. A quick stop at Starbucks quickly put me asleep. I was happily dreaming in Chinese characters, when I heard English expletives from the front seat shortly before my head was slammed into the window I had been using for a pillow. The car twisted, threatening to flip over. The tires screeched as they slid on unforgiving pavement. I fussed with my seat belt, hoping to click it before we bit it. A few panicky seconds later, Brett regained control. Still half dreaming and a bit dazed, I saw a state trooper speed up the road in front of us. He had formerly been seated on the side of the road, but clocked the van in front of us speeding. In his infinite wisdom, he decided to drive out directly into on coming traffic, aka our Blazer, which by the way has the highest flip over rate. Great.

Suddenly, the trooper slowed down and pulled along side of us. He motioned to us something about “up ahead,” but we accepted this as an apology and quickly conversed about our near-collision experience. We watched the trooper flip on his lights and pull the van over up ahead. Suddenly, he jumped out of his car and into direct traffic again, aka our Blazer. Was this guy looking to die? He motioned again, this time to pull over. Thinking he is going to apologize, we waited as he wrote the family in front a ticket and they headed off on their merry way. He then walked up to the passenger window, asked for license and registration and told us we are getting a ticket for speeding. For speeding? You almost killed us. He looked at us stoically as we said “yes sir, no sir” and thanked him for the ticket and apologized for speeding. But, there was no apology from him. Just a quick signing of $300 dollars away and a set court date in a city two hours away from school. How convenient. Glad we could conveniently move out of your way so you could be Wonder Trooper, and pull over two cars at once. You want a gold star sticker?

 “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”

Back in Prescott, I placed a major decision, not on a gold star sticker, but on a shooting star. After two days in Prescott, I had my pen ready to sign the transfer paperwork. The first section was completed and I had placed the paperwork in my backpack throughout my three weeks. I was getting what I wanted from Prescott. I just needed an answer.

Since China, I had become a spontaneous opportunist. So much had been placed before me as legitimate decisions and I had jumped on all. I had never lived away from my parents or gone away to college.  Now, I had gone to China as a spur in the moment. I planned to move to Arizona on a whim while in China. I nearly transferred during my second day in Prescott. If they offered the classes I needed for this fall (as well as my obscure Communications degree) I would be writing this blog to you from one of Prescott’s three Starbucks. But, I am not.

Port Orange is my home and ERAU Daytona Beach is my college. I have so many ties to Greek life, athletics, the Communications department, my family and friends. These are the people who showed me there is always a time for change. However, this was not the time for this type of change.

During my last weekend in Prescott, I sat on a friend’s back porch and watched my first shooting star. I wished for the wisdom on what to do. My cell phone lit up. HOME was calling. I didn’t answer the phone, but I answered another type of call back home.  Though I came here to get what I thought I wanted, I was just leaving what I really needed.  I miss my times spent in Prescott and the people I spent it with, but that is just one more superb memory. One day I might call Prescott home, but for now, I am going home to NASCAR, bikers, rednecks and the World’s Most Famous Beach.

P.S. I want to thank the Prescott faculty and staff for being so helpful in my initial arrival and for being understanding and patient in my indecision to transfer. It was just not the right time, but they really pulled for my transfer. I appreciate that.

“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.