2018, notes

profile for journalism class that I thought could also be featured here. just for fun

Standing on the second floor of an orphanage in Gaoming City, China, Sarah Li Xiang West, 18, resembled more the matrons of the orphanage than her own family.

This wasn’t the floor she’d lived on for 11 months and the name had even changed since 17 years ago, but Sarah and her family could still pick out remembrances from when she was adopted. From the bus-station that she was found at to the woman who handed her to her new family for the first time, these weren’t just landscapes or people, they were testaments to her story.

Although there were teary eyes from family members, Sarah explained that she was taking it all in as a souvenir of her “finding location,” the place where her life began 18 years ago, but not a place of loss or sadness.

Only a few weeks since having graduated from Fayetteville High School, and Sarah was for the first time revisiting a place that had been only a memory to her, but also a huge part of her identity. Amidst the tour of her past, she was also preparing for the uncertainty and change of a move across borders to discover more about not only herself and Christ, but also her birth mother.

•••

At 11 months old, she was plopped up on a red velvet couch —a monumental seat at the White Swan Hotel, where many other children had been cradled and admired for the first time by their new families. Posed for her first family photo, Sarah was graduating from her orphanage in Gaoming City, China.

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Sarah West, 11 months, in one of her first family photos at the White Swan Hotel. Although her actual birth date is June 2, 2000, May 9 is commemorated as her “Gotcha Day,” the date when she was adopted into her new family. Photo courtesy of West family.

She was found at a bus stop, and, after being rescued, Sarah grew up among 70 other orphaned children on the fourth floor of Gaoming Social Welfare Services during her first months of life.

“I never knew my birth family, if I had any siblings, if I was an accidental birth, or if they were just like, ‘oh it’s a girl and we need a boy’-type-thing,” Sarah said.

All that was left in the box that she was found in was a red envelope typically gifted during Chinese New Year. Inside the envelope, where one would normally find Chinese coins, was written characters, which translated to “this child was born June 2.”

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Sarah’s mom, Kim West, shows off her baby book of memories from their first week together. The page shows the mother and daughter posed in front of the orphanage, the bus station where Sarah was found, and the red envelope that revealed her real birth date. For most adopted children, a confirmed date of birth is rare, Kim said.

At the time of her adoption, her future parents had just resigned from their positions at Procter & Gamble. Kim and Rick West were in their hotel room May 9, 2000 when they got the call that they were matched with Sarah.

“We said, ‘oh welcome to our family little one. We love you, your dad doesn’t have a job and neither does your mom and we’re moving to a place called Arkansas that I’ve never been to, but trust me it all works out,” Kim said.

Growing up in North West Arkansas, Sarah said she’s never felt like she was a minority. She’d gone through the same school systems through elementary to high school, and, after all those years of being with familiar faces, people got to know her story and never needed explanations of her family tree.

Although her parents attempted to keep her in touch with her Asian culture, Sarah grew into the life that she had in Fayetteville, Ark. without any pressure to conform to the expectations of Asian families.

“One time, Sarah said to me, ‘mom, you need to understand I’m not a super Asian,’ and I asked what she meant by that, and she said that super Asians gets grades like a 101 or are overachievers, and I said, ‘oh so you’re just a run-of-the-mill-Asian?’”

Her mother knew that Sarah had the skill set and self-motivation to succeed in school and in life, and any added pressure or expectation was unnecessary.

•••

The 2017 school year hit, and starting her senior year meant college applications and decisions had pending due dates. Sarah noticed she lacked the enthusiasm for college that most of her peers had.

Sitting at the Thanksgiving dinner table, Kim had proposed a question to her kids, “what’s something you learned last year, and what’s something you want to learn this year?” When it got to Sarah, she leaned back, crossed her arms and said, “I learned that I don’t want to go to college.”

Despite having been accepted with scholarships to universities like Belmont, John Brown, and the University of Arkansas, she didn’t know what she was supposed to do, but she knew it wasn’t college, at least not yet.

A Facebook page for the incoming freshmen at Belmont University gave Sarah some clarity, when one of its members introduced herself and how she spent the last year abroad with the World Race. Sarah began looking into this as an alternate option to her freshman year.

The World Race is an organization for young adults who set out to do Christian mission work abroad. There are a wide range of destinations offered in different programs during nine or 11-month missions.

“I felt called by God to do this,” Sarah said.

When she posed the idea to her parents, there wasn’t a negative reaction from the two. Since they had raised their children with hopes of them being happy and proud of their futures, it was never a thought to veto Sarah’s desire to defer her college enrollment and seek this plan.

“I did look at her and I said, ‘are you serious? Is this really what you want to do?’ and she said ‘I really am,’ and I said, ‘okay, well let’s look into it. what do you know about it?’ and she’d already done some homework and started to pursue it.”

After getting approval from her parents, Sarah raised the money herself and began preparing.

A mentor and friend to Sarah, Harper Whaley, was a sophomore at Shiloh Christian School when she made her decision to take a gap year and travel with the World Race after graduation.

Whaley explained that while on the World Race, it is not only important to disciple the community and create outreach programs for the local teenagers, but also being hands-on with the schools is very effective for growing their mission work. At the age of 19, Harper was teaching math to Cambodian second graders.

“It’s funny because I don’t have a degree in elementary education or anything… I hadn’t even been to college, yet I was a teaching math,” Whaley said.

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Sarah and her father, Rick West, meeting for the first time. The family stayed in Gaoming City for about a week before having to split up in order to get the correct paperwork for Sarah’s naturalization into the States. Photo courtesy of West family.

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Sarah, 18, hugging her dad before her departure. Her parents attended the last preparation conference with her in Atlanta, Ge, where she made her goodbyes. Photo courtesy of West family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah departed for her journey September 12 and will travel to four countries within her nine-month schedule. She began in Swaziland and will move to Nepal, India and Guatemala after, and she plans to return to the U.S. in June and start school at JBU in the fall of 2019.

She records her travels and mission work on a journal-style blog. Her weekly entries keep her family and other followers up-to-date on the progress of her journey and whatever revelations may come.

One of those discoveries was the pain she felt when saying goodbye to her parents. Although she’d spent the summer preparing for this and hard goodbyes were expected, she continued to pray to God that he would use this pain in some way to help her in these next months.

“Of course she’s had lots of tears since she’s left and the pain of separation of family and all to do [the World Race],” Kim said. “We face-timed with her our first night without her home, and she said to me, ‘you know Mom, I think I’m feeling the same pain that my mom must’ve felt from being separated from me.”

One of Sarah’s newly found purposes on this trip is to seek answer to how her current pain echoes the what her mom experienced 18 years ago.

•••

 

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Dressed in pink, Sarah (left) is lined up with fellow adoptees before meeting their new families. “They would put lots of layers on the babies for photos before showing them to the future parents, in order to make the babies look fatter and healthier,” Kim said. Photo courtesy of West family.

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Sarah recreates her “red couch” photo during their visit to China in June. The meeting location for adopting families changed to a different hotel, but the couch remains at the White Swan. Photo courtesy of West family.

Since their trip to China and her decision to be apart of the World Race, her mother also realized something special about Sarah’s story. “Sarah’s birthday is June 2, and her nine-month mission, the World Race, ends on June 2. She is on a nine-month journey the exact same days, weeks, and months that her mother was pregnant with her from conception to end,” Kim said. “So, it’s like a parallel growth. I get chills thinking about it.”

•••

So have I mentioned I’m a journalism student? I honestly can’t remember, but in case not, now you know.

My professor assigned us to seek out an interesting person in the community of our college town to write a profile feature story about, and I chose Sarah West.

Final edits have not been made by my professor, but he did edit it prior to me posting this so I don’t feel like it totally sucks.

Hopefully, you all like the story and can ignore the fact that I totally just posted this for its convenience and to make up for my lack of presence on here. Do the two go hand-in-hand? yes.

GB

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2018, notes

i’m the queen of france

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hey there good lookin’

You may be saying to yourself, “wow! it has been some time! does she own a calendar? watch? any outlet for time and organization? who is she?” and you would be correct, my friends. It has been some time.

These last eight weeks I’ve been manifesting in the French Riviera: laying on the beach, drinking very cheap rosé and eating expensive ravioli that I simply do not have the funds for (hence the cheap wine: it’s called balance). This lifestyle has been so hard to become accustomed to (she makes jokes too!).

On a real note, I’ve been studying abroad in Cannes, France for the past two months, and between classes, beach trips, weekend excursions, and being on island time pretty much all the time, I’d like to believe that I’ve grown a lot as a person. These experiences, people, conversations and occasional late night crêpe runs have vastly changed my perspective on a lot. Here’s where I cut myself off because I’m not trying to be the basic girl who goes to study abroad for one summer and thinks that she’s suddenly Ghandi. I know I’m not an intellectual now.

All in all, I’m thankful for this experience.

Now that you know a bit about my hiatus, thanks for still stickin’ around,

RR

GB

 

 

 

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2018, notes

slowest reader award

About a year ago after finishing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s honest yet loving novel, “Americanah,” I was on a mission to find a like-minded author whose work could illustrate a part of America that I was keen on better understanding: immigration. I found said-detail in Imbolo Mbue’s “Behold The Dreamers,” which takes place in early the 2000s and New York City.

A disclaimer that I find necessary to add, before I state my opinion and summary of the book, is that with this novel I found a problem that too often I put it down, sometimes for weeks or months at a time. Although I was heavily interested in the story, I neglected to afford the time for it. Alas, a year has gone by, and today I finished it. I felt like that was important to admit. Now you’re up to speed.

The story takes you through the perspective of its two main characters, Jende and Neni, husband and wife, as they live through a chain of events. By doing so with each chapter, it creates a personal voice for the two. They are not just names that help keep the story organized, but rather they are people whom readers can recognize just by flow of verbiage. (I know that I may seem ramble-y when talking about this aspect of the novel, but throughout my reading career I’ve grown a specific liking to authors that use this device to their advantage. Emma Straub does a great job at personalizing her characters with this system, and Adichie used it as well in “Americanah.”)

Aside from an analysis on the quality of writing and character building, I also enjoyed it for its honest telling of a reality that many suffer as immigrants in our country. There is the classic representation of America being a symbol for freedom and opportunity, while also present is the harsh truth that the grass may just seem greener on the other side.

I cannot put to words the highlights of the story without doing it an injustice, plus it took me a scattered year of corner folding to finally complete it. All that I can say is my own opinion, which is that it truly enlightened me on a part of America I’ve never been involved with or even fully aware of its realities. It awakened the same spirit that was brought about from “Americanah.” And while I feel naïve and ignorant for my previous neglect of America’s insufficient immigration system, I also feel empowered to do what I can with this information and opportunity. With that being said, I trust that you’ll read it yourself, and maybe you’ll find a new understanding for the Dreamers as well.

Thanks for reading,

RR

GB

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2018, notes

what’s it like dating yourself in 2018? — a piece on self love.

Good evening friends!

Valentine’s day was yesterday, and I wanted to make a little spiel on self-love in the simplest ways. Here are some things that I think we all appreciate but don’t actually give credit to for making us happy.

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You want to go see that new movie with someone special? it’s called an over-sized sweatshirt and your four best friends. Lady Bird was so much better with your girls anyways.IMG_1493

Waking up and wanting to go get a bagel with someone so you go get that bagel, come home, get back in bed and turn on New Girl.

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Everyday is an anniversary– that leopard print coat you wanted? it’s yours. Most online stores don’t even up-charge for gift wrapping, and that means you buy all those things you’ve saved on your wish list, ship ’em as a gift, and happy anniversary to you. “oh I shouldn’t have!”

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Concerts are so much better when you’re not trying to vibe with the music while feeling conflicted as to whether or not nodding your head looks like you don’t know every word of each song. Now, you can get your freak on and whip out all your middle school dance moves because chances are you’re wearing comfortable sneakers and didn’t even do your hair for the night.

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Going to sleep at a reasonable hour not wondering where your goodnight text is because your dad already texted you two hours ago.

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You feel empowered to never be tethered to someone because it’s 2018 and Oprah’s Golden Globe’s speech is still the background on your phone.

Sorry if this was stupid or cheesy, but I think that self-love is pretty underrated, and being aware that you shouldn’t define yourself by your relationship status needs to be the goal of 2018.

Let’s celebrate ourselves!

–RR

GB

 

 

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notes

cheers to friday and pizza rolls

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side note: my 9:40 am class was canceled, work was pushed back an hour, and I’m ignoring all my other responsibilities to lay in bed with pizza rolls and That 70’s Show. That’s all you need to know, you may proceed.

Remember that time I featured a little doodle made by my adolescent sister? Ya well, I got lucky again and had her sketch another one, which ended up being an absolute master piece that made me lose my ish. She’s amazing. It hurts. Ok.

On another note, I finally got around to watching the beautiful film, Lady Bird.

You laugh. You cry. You experience every emotion on such relatable terms with the protagonist, who makes you feel like pink hair is for everyone and the early 2000’s need to make a comeback (if it hasn’t already? I can’t keep up.)

I could write an entire post trying to elaborate on its grandeur and authenticity, but I don’t think my words would do her/it/Greta Gerwig justice– so just take my word for it and go see it. You will not regret it, I promise.

–RR

GB

It would also be pretty cool, if you checked out my little sister’s art account on instagram @emily_rae_art!

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Three Really Cool Things!

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My friend introduced me to this band, CLUBZ. The two creators’ aim was to revive the Hispanic music industry with 80’s and 90’s vibes, and I’m pretty much all about it. It’s pretty contagious.

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Really trying to come up with reasons I do not need this tee, but I have yet to find one convincing enough.

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Remember my blog post about the french and how awesome they are? Ya well my dream of being one is kinda coming true this summer! I’m studying abroad for eight whole weeks in the south of France! so many baguettes, so many mispronunciations, but so much fun.

–RR

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my abandoned book collection

Today’s post comes to you from a very honest and intentional place in me.

I want to address the books I’ve purchased, began reading, and left to collect dust on my bookshelf. These books are all written by fine authors, and some are books I still have full intent on reading, and for whatever reason regretfully I have yet to do so.

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  • Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee
  • The Nest By Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
  • All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  • Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
  • How To Ruin Everything: Essays by George Watsky
  • The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
  • Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell

This past summer, when I blogged about the books I wanted to read before school started again, I actually read majority of the books on my list. I figured by calling myself out on ditching the present thought of each book, I will reintroduce myself to them and maybe actually finish some this time.

All of these books were recommended to me from trusted opinions, and I had high intentions of finishing each, but as you know life gets in the way and after months go by my interest is gone.

So there you have it. My abandoned collection of books and stories that I still hope to one day rekindle my fascination for. Crossing my fingers that I’ll pick up one of these again and read it in full. If I do, it will probably end up being reviewing it on here, so I guess you’ll be a witness to my success or failure either way.

As always, thanks for reading!

RR

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