Disclaimer: "The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps."
How we’ve kept in contact since college.  Happy National Siblings Day. Love ya to pieces

How we’ve kept in contact since college. Happy National Siblings Day. Love ya to pieces

1 week ago
20 year old abandoned amusement parks become the perfect photography spot for wedding advertisements. #Peacecorps #China

20 year old abandoned amusement parks become the perfect photography spot for wedding advertisements. #Peacecorps #China

1 week ago
ocam10 asked: I heard that they make you get painful shots in the butt every few months. Is that true? What is it about?


You do get a few shots during your service, but none were in the butt. It’s just your normal shots to prevent you from getting sick.  Not too bad!

1 week ago
Beauty queen at the exotic fish market

Beauty queen at the exotic fish market

2 weeks ago
I get clingy. My best friend is in Taiwan.

I get clingy. My best friend is in Taiwan.

1 month ago



Photo submitted by Keith May


Story and Song by Keith May

The week before Peace Corps staging, my father passed away. 

We were close and I had been expecting him to be one of the people most closely following my Peace Corps experience and broadcasting it to everyone he knew (and he knew EVERYONE).

"Keith ate pig brain!"

"Keith sent me pictures from a Chinese car show!" 

I could imagine him saying while he would fumble the name of my site,

"Yeah he is living in Gingerman, Gayjoe."

I wasn’t sure how his passing would influence my experience.  I just knew that he would not want it to have a negative impact. Despite this, I was really worried that my days in Peace Corps would involve frequent and random sessions of weeping. 

 As a 41-year old, married man who chose not to have children, I would never have guessed that my students would play a part in helping me deal with the loss of my father, both encouraging and inspiring me, while helping me understand myself better.

This semester I spent considerable time in-class/off-campus/online with my students. I fully embraced the “Say ‘Yes’ to every invitation you receive” philosophy.  As a result, I was surprised at how much time I spent laughing and enjoying myself in their company.   We share many similarities:

  • We are far from home
  • We are meeting new people and forging new friendships
  • We are doing an incredible amount of learning
  • We miss people we love

In my office, there is a homemade board game created by previous volunteers, called “The Conversation Game,” which acts as a good icebreaker when students come to the office for the first time.  It is like Candyland, but with conversation starting questions like, “What country do you want to travel to?” and ”Who do you most admire?” One of the questions on the board is:

“How often do you say, ‘I love you’ to your parents?”

When students land on this question the response is always the same.


But then they are quick to follow up that answer by saying that they show their love through their actions (being helpful, studying hard, making their parents proud).

When my first semester came to an end, I started reflecting on the four months I had been at the University. The students had obviously been doing the same thing as I started receiving heartfelt emails and messages.  The most surprising thing is the amount of times I received a note with the words,

“I love you.”

I know that even typing this must have been emotionally risky to them. Knowing this, gives it additional weight to me.  At first, I would respond with a heartfelt, “That is SO sweet!!”   What I started to realize, though, is that we have unconsciously filled roles that we needed each other to play.  On occasion, my students will tell me that I am like a father to them.  It is a role that I chose not play in American life, but it is a role that my father played well. To say that I enjoy being their teacher and school “father” is an understatement.  When I admit to them that I have been calling them my “daughters” for months, they are pretty tickled.

After a week of getting “I love you” messages, I changed my response to,

"I love you too."

"Honest" is the first song I have written in China.  It was written and recorded two days before IST. Whether you choose to make connections with fellow teachers, students or others in your community, I think there is a wealth of people here who care about you.


Love in Chengdu”: Photo by Katie Fassbinder


Poem by Mira Brown

The sun beats down in a glorious outpouring

Sandals smack on the cobbled sidewalk

A cotton dress sways at my knees

Every step brings me closer.

Dodging motorcycles and scooters,

We cross the intersection

Maybe a roundabout is not

The best place to cross

But I don’t care

I’m so close I can smell it

Salty, inviting.

Waves of turquoise and jade crash,

Froth bubbles on the sandy strip

As we walk along,

Searching for a spot to sit.

We stop at two beach chairs and

An umbrella made of palm fronds.

A woman approaches to collect money for the chairs

A negotiation begins.

“Hold that thought!”

I throw down my bag and kick off my shoes

Down the slope I run, sand flying

Running like a dog set loose from a leash.

My feet enter the cool, sea water

I dive under an approaching wave

Invigoration and nostalgia flow over me

Through my hair, over my skin, in my pores

Hands stretch to the sky as I break the watery embrace.

My heart’s smile spreading on my lips,

A laugh bursting at the sky.

A culmination of months’ anticipation.

Reunited at last with an old friend,

The sea.


 ”Ocean Lover”: Photo by Jason McFarland


Qing’ai De

Poem by Sydni Phelps

I have taken


you have

given me

Now I am

under the covers


clawing for you

You were good to me

you were good

to me you were

good to me


Somebody’s Favorite”: Photo by Sydni Phelps

1,000 Hands

(for Eva)

Poem by Tye Rabens

Today was the first snow.

The night before the first snow is always

ominous, cold and dark

clouds, the sky a human

uncertainty about what

will come next. Then everything made beautiful

and delicate by little particles

of white.

            Snow flecking your dark waves

of hair and forest

—green coat, woolen & sound.

On the bus I tell you about Sundays

in my childhood, Dad and I

pleading: “We don’t want

to go to church!” You snort

as you

laugh at me, and I feel

something like honesty. The temple

door opens finally and easily

and Dashi isn’t here but one

                                    disciple is sweeping snow.

He leads us past two geese

(They’re smart, he whispers, they can open

the door and also guard it)

to the worship hall. We take

the shoes off our frozen feet

and I turn away to let you pray

in Tibetan phrases you’ve memorized

and sometimes understand, I turn away

to look at the timeless, Technicolor murals

on the walls. I make up stories

for the minor monks.

                                    We light candles

with a stick of wax that looks

like a cigarette. I listen

as you explain the meaning

                                                of each statue:

Guanyin cries when bad things happen

and her tears turn into flowers and

her disciples transform into 21

different animals, all to help us

cope with hardship. She has 1,000 hands

because 2 are not enough to help everyone.”

I don’t know what to say, except

damn, I’m into you, girl (inappropriate, but

true). Instead I ask

questions. You like to teach

me things you care about.

“I think Bodhisattvas appear when

we’re not expecting it, as beggars

or prostitutes, teaching us

things without

our realizing.” We help Disciple make lunch.

As we eat I finally get him

to laugh at stories about chopsticks.

We can make each other better, but

you have more to risk.

                                    We climb

the hill behind the temple, your left arm

looped around my right,

and at the top there is a stupa

ringed once by wooden poles

where prayer flags dance helplessly

in the chilly, snow-less air.

Your melancholy silhouettes without

expectation on the ancient wrinkles

of the mountain range behind us. 

Your eyes are chestnut, oval, & crest

—fallen as you try to find

the prayer you wrote last year. “I didn’t expect him

to be here, but I’d hoped

Master could help me know

what to do next.” “Do you want me

to leave?” You want to

dance in the wrinkles of the mountains

among the swirling prayers, released

by a fierce wind, something new

and free. You hesitate.

“No. Don’t leave. Dashi isn’t here.”

We could make each other better, but

you have more to risk.

                                    We wait

for cappuccinos back in town, jackets off,

contemplative and thawing.

“Either I was secreted away

to another town to keep from being

aborted, or I was

adopted,” You say as our small cups

arrive, and before I kiss you like yesterday

on the second floor in that squeaky booth

under soft, saffron lights

that made your face glow

and me change my mind.

You want me to write the lyrics

to You Are My Sunshine

and I do so in red pen. Your fiancée

won’t know until next week. We won’t

know until after that. We could

Guanyin has 1,000 hands because 2

Today was the first snow.

1 month ago
#Peacecorps #China #Leshan

#Peacecorps #China #Leshan

1 month ago
Tacos happened tonight. Carnitas, corn&black bean salsa, homemade tortillas.

Tacos happened tonight. Carnitas, corn&black bean salsa, homemade tortillas.

1 month ago
Leshan Grand Buddha.  Aka, my neighbor. #Peacecorps #China

Leshan Grand Buddha. Aka, my neighbor. #Peacecorps #China

1 month ago
Belated Christmas card from an anonymous Redditor. His/her sibling is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.  The world contains lovely people. #peacecorps #pcweek2014

Belated Christmas card from an anonymous Redditor. His/her sibling is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. The world contains lovely people. #peacecorps #pcweek2014

1 month ago
Pals from U.S. and Italy

Pals from U.S. and Italy

1 month ago

Perfecting the art of zooming


The view from our hostel in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan.

Oh wait, what’s on the bridge?imageZoomed in from the balcony

Featuring: Kayla B., Francesca G., and Yienfanh P.

1 month ago

Far away love affair

It wasn’t one of those ‘love at first sight moments.’  I knew _______ was there, since we arrived in China.  But I always knew it couldn’t happen.  I had a focus, I was driven, my goal wasn’t to be exposed to more foreign things, but to integrate with the Chinese culture.  For the last 6 months, anytime someone would say, “oh, what about ________?”  I’d reject the idea so adamantly that it wasn’t to be mentioned again.  I thought I was okay without it, but at the end of the day, it’s long a long lost magnetic bond, just waiting to be reunited.

It was beginning of February, when we were on our 15 hour bus ride from Dali to Xishuangbanna.  It had been bumpy, we had been grumpy, and worst of all, we were only about 4 hours in.  Out of no where, Kayla brought up the conversation of ______.  I was livid!  HOW DARE YOU, I thought in my head.  I thought she respected me more than that.  Time after time, I’ve told her, I’ve no plans for ________ during my time in China, so don’t even think about it.  But she brought up _______ because she said, “everyone deserves happiness in their lives.”  So I gave in, who could say no?

Have you ever had a moment in life where you felt freed?  Felt like you were floating in the clouds? Felt like you were larger than life?  It was that moment, when I finally stopped resisting.  People said it was inevitable, that sooner or later, I’d realize being without _______ in China would only make my time worse.  

At that moment, when I gave into it, it was like the sun shone between the smoggy clouds.  Ever since then, I couldn’t get enough of _______.  Day after day, I’d crave more.  I’ve always been one to hate neglect, so I had to make sure that feeling never surfaced.  I know what you’re thinking, “this chick sounds like a psycho.”  But when it’s love, you never want it to stop.

This love affair began maybe 2 weeks ago, and since then, it’s been a little nutty and a little sweet.  Hell, it’s even made me want to throw up a few times.  It’s as if I got myself tangled in a pot of melted caramel, and I can’t get free.  It’s been on my mind since I’ve finally let love in, and life hasn’t been the same since.

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine,
You make me happy,
When the China’s skies are grey (always).
You never know, dear, how much I love you

So please, don’t take my snickers away.

Happy Valentine’s Day, snicker’s bar.

You were the best decision I’ve made so far in China (shows a lot).

Here’s to 1.5 more years of good, chocolaty love.

1 month ago
You can have all of my love

You can have all of my love

2 months ago
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