Monday, February 8, 2016

"Name That Chip!": Chinese New Year Edition

This evening I hopped on my mountain bike to make a chip and liquid refreshment run. Almost everything was closed since it's the first day of the Chinese New Year, but the local 7-Eleven had their doors open. I found a few chip flavas that we had never consumed so I spent the big bucks in order for us to play another game of "Name That Chip!". Prior to watching Woodlawn (which I highly recommend), I introduced mi familia to three new chip flavas: lemon chicken, green tea, and bacon sausage. Megan was the first to figure out the Lay's lemon chicken flava. Chalk it up to her culinary expertise. The Lay's green tea chips were straight up nasty, but somehow Rose was eventually able to decipher the green tea nastiness. I like green tea, but my recent green tea exploration has been quite disappointing. The bacon sausage Pringles were a hit, and Rose was able to taste the crispy, salty, and delicious. I was really surprised to see this flava in the store and hope China will make more porklicious products. Go China. Despite the funkiness of the green tea chips, the lemon chicken and bacon sausage chips made this edition of "Name That Chip!" an enjoyable experience. Xin Nian Kuai le!

Lay's green tea chips are just wrong.
Bacon sausage Pringles make Josiah and me so happy.
China isn't afraid to try new chip flavas. Some are yum while others taste like scum.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Adoption Books I've Reviewed

Because I have three kiddos adopted from China (Tianjin, Henan Province, and Hubei Province), I've read and reviewed more than a dozen books about adoption. Most of these books are for children; however, parents who've adopted or those who have a heart for orphans could certainly benefit from reading the books. If that happens to be you, check out the links below.

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27

Monday, February 1, 2016

10 Cool Facts About Tianjin, China

Although I’m not a city person, I’m thankful to have lived in the metropolis of Tianjin for nearly 13 years. A lot people knock Tianjin for being crowded and polluted, but there are a lot of cool things about this city. Below are ten cool facts about the city I where I reside.

1. Did you know that ranks Tianjin as the 30th largest city in the world (when including the immediate suburbs)? Tianjin’s nine million people make it bigger than London, Bangkok, Toronto, Rome, and even my giant muscles. When I moved to Tianjin in 2003, it was ranked as the 20th largest city in the world.
2. The Tianjin Olympic Centre Stadium cost 230 million dollars to build and has a seating capacity of nearly 55,000 people. We rode our bikes to the stadium to watch some 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup matches and 2008 Olympic soccer preliminaries. We ride in style.

3. The Tianjin World Financial Center is over 1100 feet high (335+ meters) and has 79 floors. It’s taller than the Chrysler Building in New York which used to be the tallest building in the world (currently the third tallest in NY). That be one tall building.
4. Tianjin is constructing a building called the Goldin Finance 117. The building is expected to be nearly 2000 feet (610 meters) and 117 storeys. When it’s completed, it will be the fifth tallest building in the world. That be one crazy tall building!
5. The Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway is a high-speed rail between China’s capital and Tianjin. The 70+ mile rail (117 kilometers) has bullet trains going over 200 mph (330 km/h) and makes the Beijing-Tianjin trip only 30 minutes. That's faster than even me.
6. The Tianjin Radio and Television Tower cost 45 million dollars to build and is the eighth tallest tower in the world. It used to be the third tallest tower in the world and is ten meters higher than Beijing’s tower. Go Tianjin!
7.  The Tianjin Eye is the sixth tallest Ferris wheel in the world and holds the distinction to be the only Ferris Wheel constructed over a bridge. When it was completed in 2008, only three Ferris wheels were taller than it. This ain’t no 4-H Ferris wheel.
8. The St. Joseph Cathedral in the former French concession of Tianjin was built over one hundred years ago and holds mass every morning. There is even an English service every Sunday, and a Starbucks is right next to the historical relic. I like Starbucks, but why are they taking over the world?
9. Puyi, the last emperor of China, used to make downtown Tianjin his home. Several years ago I visited Puyi’s pad, the Garden of Serenity, where he lived in the late 1920s to early 1930s. It’s a beautiful home combining Spanish and Chinese architecture.
10. Olympic champion Eric Liddell was also a resident of Tianjin. His gold medal performance in the 400 meters at Paris can be seen in the Oscar-winning film, Chariots of Fire. Check out one of his homes at 38 Chongqing Dao.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

13 Ways How I Became More Asian in the Last 13+ Years

On our first date back in the summer of 2000, Megan and I talked about her life in China and a three-week trip I had just taken to Japan. Something I remember from our conversation on Indy's Canal Walk was how Megan said she was more Asian than me. This may seem odd considering she’s white and I’m half Japanese, but her statement was true and is still true in many ways. There are a number of things about me that don’t equate to the stereotypical Asian such as my beloved camo vest, a desire to go bass fishing whenever possible, and my prior ownership of a Chevy Camaro, S-10 Blazer, and Silverado. Because I’ve been living in East Asia since 2002, the Asian in me has grown quite a bit though. Below are 13 ways I became more Asian in the last 13+ years.

1.     I find the Asian squat to be a comfortable position, and I’m not afraid of using squatty potties.
2.     I eat more fish and shrimp, as in, I occasionally enjoy eating every part of the fish and shrimp.
3.     I prefer picking up my bowl of rice and drinking my soup. Having a beverage at my meals isn’t a requirement.
4.     I like eating fat - not a whole of plate of fat, but chunks of the stuff in certain Chinese dishes.
5.     I prefer using chopsticks at Asian restaurants in the States and now know the difference between Chinese, Japanese, and Korean chopsticks.
6.     I have a much stronger liking for spicy food – kimchi, Thai curries, Sichuan, and more!
7.     I’m very comfortable bowing to Koreans and Japanese people.
8.     I know a few words in several Asian languages; I’m not smart enough to be multilingual.
9.     I enjoy eating sunflower seeds like an American baseball player or an old Chinese man at the market.
10.  I watch Asian films that don’t star Godzilla or butt-kicking kung fu artists. I have matured some during my time overseas.
11.  I am the owner of various kinds of long underwear, and I will proudly walk around in an overnight train in just my long undies (I still keep the shirt and shoes on).
12.  I have a home and classroom that is decorated with various Asian items. My homes and classrooms in Indiana definitely had different decor.
13.  I sometimes wear clothes that are clearly from China, Indonesia, Japan, or Thailand, and from time to time I get mistaken for being (fill in the blank with whatever Asian group you want)

Perhaps I’m more Asian than I think. If you’ve become more Asian over time, I would enjoy hearing about it. Peace!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Please Don't Call Me Wicket

I’m looking forward to seeing The Force Awakens when it is released in China on January 9th. I saw all of the other movies in the Star Wars series at the theater and that includes a midnight showing of The Phantom Menace. I chewed on the hands of Star Wars action figures when I was a kid and had Star Wars Pez dispensers on my desk when I first started teaching. I even collected the Star Wars cup toppers given at Taco Bell. Although noteverything about Star Wars is commendable, I’m a fan of the series like so many of you.

When I was a fourth grader, Return of the Jedi was released. The movie was the ending I had hoped for; however, the movie also brings back many painful memories. In the movie there is a brave young Ewok who helps the Rebel Alliance defeat the Galactic Empire during the Battle of Endor. This warrior's name - Wicket. Unfortunately Wicket is also a super short and cute teddy bear which I wasn't into back in my elementary years. That didn't matter to my classmates. I soon find myself with a new nickname - Wicket.

I am quite excited about the latest Star Wars movie, and it is a massive relief knowing that Wicket is not in The Force Awakens. I was concerned that people would stop calling me Wick and start calling me Wicket again. As you can see in the picture below, we share quite the resemblance - we're short, cute, and warriors. If you sense the force telling you to call me Wicket, that would be the dark side. Beware of the dark side. You must learn control. Wars make not one great.

Friday, January 1, 2016

My Hobby of Writing Amazon Reviews

A little over six years ago I began writing book reviews on Amazon. I started writing reviews as a way to help me remember what I read and to help others know about the books I was reading. I enjoy writing reviews not only for these reasons, but because I like to write and improve my writing. I find it rewarding when people vote my reviews as helpful or provide me helpful feedback. The key word is helpful.

Today a good chunk of my Amazon reviews include product reviews. Because I’ve written a few reviews (over 400) and have received a few helpful votes, companies every day want to send me their merchandise (usually for free) in hopes that I’ll provide them a positive review. I don’t accept the overwhelming majority of the products because I’m a mature adult with responsibilities. Writing reviews is a little work, and there is only so much time.

A few reviews that people have enjoyed include my reviews about Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures and a Japanese eau de toilette. These reviews are by no means my most helpful reviews, but they’ve brought me great joy knowing that I’ve made a few people laugh. I have a few other reviews that I find comical that haven’t received as many or any helpful votes, but maybe I’m the only one laughing. I am often my biggest fan.

If you desire to have a good laugh, I highly recommend checking out this review on sugar free gummy bears. In my humble opinion, it is the king of all Amazon reviews. Even if you don’t like this kind of humor, you have to appreciate the reviewer’s skilled use of words. Brilliant. Another review that has made me crack up is this one concerning a unique and expensive watch. What are people thinking?!

Something I’ve learned as an Amazon reviewer is that not all reviews are equal and some can be biased. Can you believe it? Many authors receive reviews from their friends. Shocking. Some reviewers are afraid to be critical of a book or product because they think they'll receive unhelpful votes. This can make their Amazon ranking go down and when you get products from companies because your Amazon ranking is in the top 10,000, this hurts your chances to receive more products. Often my “least helpful” reviews are my most critical reviews.

When I started writing reviews on Amazon, I had no idea it would lead to free health supplements, kitchen gadgets, and iPhone and MacBook products. That certainly was never the goal. I simply wanted to write down my thoughts hoping they might also bless others. I definitely have liked some of the free stuff, but what matters most to me is that my reviews can help people better know whether they should invest time in a book or product. Hopefully I can make a few people laugh too.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Top Five Facebook Pictures of 2015

People like pictures, especially when they contain smiley people - smiley couples, smiley kids, smiley families, lots of smiles. One of my resolutions for 2016 is to work hard on my smile. Below are my most popular Facebook (via Instagram) pictures taken during 2015. Enjoy.

In the spring we went on a Beijing excursion, and Megan and I took a walk in the hutongs (alleyways).
Earlier this month Megan and I ate at a nearby Korean restaurant (part of Rose's Gotcha Day celebration).

The Wickershams at the TIS International Day 

Cow Appreciation Day (July 14) with Grandpa & Grandma Downs - Lafayette, Indiana
An 11th Anniversary selfie at Purdue University where I attended from 91 to 93

Reviewing Jerry Bridges' Who Am I? Identity in Christ

Who Am I? Identity in Christ is the third book I've read by Jerry Bridges. Other books I've read by this Navigators staff member include Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate and The Pursuit of Holiness. All three books I highly recommend. Who Am I? is roughly 100 pages and consists of an introduction and eight chapters. The chapter titles are:

1. I Am a Creature
2. I Am in Christ
3. I Am Justified
4. I Am an Adopted Son of God
5. I Am a New Creation
6. I Am a Saint
7. I Am a Servant of Jesus Christ
8. I Am Not Yet Perfect

Throughout his book, Jerry Bridges soundly answers the crucial question, Who Am I?,  by using Scripture and stories from his own life. Chapter 1 focuses on what it means to be created in the Father's image. In Chapter 2 we get an explanation of what it means to be in Christ, and in the last six chapters we learn about six aspects of our new identity in Christ.

New believers might be introduced to some theological terms they're unfamiliar with; however, the explanations are easy to understand. Mature believers will get a gospel-centered review of what it means to identify as a believer first and foremost. We are reminded that our identity should not lie in our job, the school we graduated from, or who our friends are, but in Christ alone. Endorsements are given by conservative evangelical theologians like J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, and yours truly. I suggest setting aside 2.5 hours and checking out the book. Just try not to stare at the creepy dude on the cover.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Top 15 Posts of 2015

Although I've been blogging for nearly 14 years, I'm a horrible blogger according to the blog experts. I don't blog on a regular basis, and I can go months without blogging. I post my blogs at times when there might be little traffic, and I unpredictably post at all times of the day. I blog about several topics that interest me instead of focusing on just one topic like quilting or manliness. I think my header and how my blog posts are displayed could be revamped; however, I don't want to invest the time to figure that out and make the changes. Despite all of my bad blogging habits, I'm more than fine with Wick I Am. This blog in many ways is a sort of an online journal and a way for my American and Japanese family and my international friends to get a glimpse into our lives in the Middle Kingdom. For those of you who don't know us, I hope the blog can bless you as well. Below are the top 15 posts of Wick I Am for 2015. Woo!

15. At One Time,,, I Never Wanted...
14. Happy Patrick of Ireland Day IV
13. Reviewing John Seyfarth's Human Resource Leadership For Effective Schools
12. Reviewing Ella K. Lindvall's The Bible in Pictures For Toddlers
11. Six Deep Questions My Sixth Graders Ask Every Year
10. The Beautiful Game: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
  9. Family Devos During Advent - The Wickersham Way
  8. My Amazing 4-Year-Old Foosball Player
  7. What If Your Daughters Weren't Soccer Players?
  6. The 2014-2015 Wickersham Christmas Break
  5. 12 Ways Tianjin Transpo Has Changed During My 12+ Years Here
  4. 12 Ways the Tianjin Food Scene Has Changed During My 12+ Years Here
  3. "Three Adoptions? You're So Good, Wick."
  2. The Story of the Wickersham Adoptions
  1. I'm So Thankful My Son Josiah Only Has One Hand

Wick's 2015 Highlights

The Father blessed me a great deal in 2015, and below is a little glimpse of those blessings. Here are past Wickersham highlights: 2010201120122013, & 2014.

January - I traveled to Nanjing International School with the TIS Kid's Read team and served as a judge at the competition. It's exciting to see middle schoolers get pumped about books.

February - After years of considering the Kairos course, I finally find the energy to give up some vacation time to participate in it. Definitely worth it.

March - Soccer, track and field, volleyball, and wrestling are all sports I've coached. Now you can add basketball to the list since I served as the assistant coach of the 7th grade boy's basketball team at TIS.

April - It was announced that I will serve as the TIS girl's high school varsity soccer coach in the spring. This will be my first high school team since 2003. Where does the time go?

May - Megan and I worked at an English Camp in nearby Jixian. It was great to get away from the city and teach English to youngsters.

June - I coached five weeks at the Indy Eleven Youth Soccer Camps, and Rose and Grace joined me for three of those weeks. I'm thankful to have daughters playing on some of the same fields I did as a kid.

July - I professionalized and renewed my Indiana educator's license so I'm good to teach U.S. history, geography, and sociology in the Hoosier state for at least another ten years.

August - We moved over a gate and to the ninth floor to occupy a beautiful two-story apartment, courtesy of LDi. It was the seventh apartment move in 12 years, but each apartment was an upgrade.

September - My in-laws and nephew from Indiana paid us a visit, and we celebrated Fred's 70th birthday in style at Pizza Bianca.

October - I presented a coaching workshop at the ISC Conference and reconnect with some old friends. It was wonderful that I didn't blow chunks and have the Hershey squirts like last year.

November - I started coaching the under-12 boy's volleyball team at TIS. All of my players are my students, and most of them were on my soccer squad.

December - We hosted a Christmas Eve gathering after singing Christmas carols in the neighborhood. We've done this for a few years now, and it felt extra special this year to be able to open our home.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Reviewing R.C. Sproul's The Truth of the Cross

Dr. Sproul has been instrumental in helping me live a cross-centered life. Aside from John Piper, no person has taught me more about the Son of Man. In Dr. Sproul's The Truth of the Cross, you get a 167 page survey of the atonement of the Author of our Faith. Below are how the ten chapters of the book are divided. The last chapter consists of nine thought-provoking questions.

1. The Necessity of an Atonement
2. The Just God
3. Debtors, Enemies, and Criminals
4. Ransomed from Above
5. The Saving Substitute
6. Made Like His Brethren
7. The Suffering Servant
8. The Blessing and the Curse
9. A Secure Faith
10. Questions and Answers

The Truth of the Cross is not fun reading, yet it was a book I wanted to read and is the type of reading we should all undertake. Although the topic is complex, Dr. Sproul explains the atonement in a way that many can understand. I'm thankful for Dr. Sproul and the impact he has made on me and on thousands of others. If you hold to an Arminian viewpoint, you may disagree with Dr. Sproul's take on various theological topics; however, I still strongly recommend The Truth of the Cross. Dr. Sproul provides solid Scripture references and logical arguments that everyone should consider - arguments that I wholeheartedly agree with and point me to the cross.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before it shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. Isaiah 53:7

Let's Play "Name That Chip!"

Although it's a little polluted here in the big city, it's a perfect time to play "Name That Chip!". Tonight we had some new friends over, and I was very impressed with one contestant's ability to name that chip. Although he had never tried any of the unique flavors you see below, it was evident that the young man had done some studying in the grocery aisles at the local Vanguard.

Living overseas can be challenging at times, but I'm thankful how we're able to combat the challenges of overseas life with the funky chips produced by Lay's. Doesn't Hot & Sour Fish Soup, Sour Plum & Melon, and Cheese Lobster chips sound exciting? Thanks, Lay's. You da best.

I didn't care for these chips; it's like bad sour cream.
These aren't bad. If you like mutton sticks, you should like these chips.
I'm into squid, but this combo is a bit too funky for me.