Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Six Most Popular Posts in 2016

Last year I blogged about my 15 most popular posts from 2015. This year I'll only be sharing my 6 most popular posts from 2016 since I posted far less this year than in past years. You could say it was kind of a busy year for the Wickershams. Although I blogged less this year, "Wick I Am" received quite a bit more traffic in 2016 compared to past years. I would like to think it's because my writing has captivated millions of readers, but I'm thinking it has more to do with the big move. That's okay. If the blog has blessed you in even the tiniest of ways, I'm happy. Happy New Year!

6. 13 Ways How I Became More Asian in the Last 13+ Years
5. Reviewing Eric Liddell's The Disciplines of Christian Life
4. My Hobby of Writing Amazon Reviews
3. 10 Cool Facts About Tianjin, China
2. "Name That Chip!": Spring Edition
1. Moving From Tianjin to Evansville

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Wick's 2016 Highlights

2016 was a year of major changes. Some of the changes were challenging, but they were also good. Read below. Here are past Wickersham highlights: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, & 2015.

January - I preach my last sermon at Tianjin International Fellowship: Psalm 8. Praise, worship, and bring glory to God.

February - After a 13 year break, I return to coaching a high school girl's soccer team. Go Lady Eagles!

March - We visit Grace Noel's orphanage in Hubei Province and meet her foster mother. It's hard to believe it has been ten years.

April - We accidentally leave Rosalie's $3600 French horn in a taxi, but it's returned to us a few days later. We're thankful for the police and our Chinese friends. Why are French horns so crazy expensive?!

May - I accept a new position as a 6th-9th grade assistant principal at Evansville Christian School (ECS). God is good.

June - We leave Tianjin and move to Newburgh, Indiana. I start driving a 1997 Plymouth minivan.

July - We drive to Florida and attend a family wedding. It's great to catch up with those we haven't seen in a long time.

August - Rosalie tries a new sport, cross country, Grace Noel makes the 5th-6th grade soccer team at ECS, and Josiah Lee joins Newburgh Youth Soccer as a Red Shark.

September - Megan and I speak about our Tianjin lives to a group of Chinese at St. Paul's Lutheran Church. It's good for us to be able to connect with Chinese in the Evansville community.

October - The University of Southern Indiana (USI) hires Megan as an ESL instructor. Go Screaming Eagles!

November - I start coaching soccer players at the Metro Sports Center and decide to start playing on a team. The knees aren't the same, but I can still kick a ball.

December - Megan gets hired as an ESL instructor at Vincennes University. We owe a few people a debt of gratitude.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Reviewing Kevin DeYoung's The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is a 32-page booklet by Kevin DeYoung, pastor of a reformed church in Michigan. It was published by The Gospel Coalition almost six years ago, and I believe it's one of 14 booklets produced by this broadly reformed network of churches that champions the gospel. I've read a couple of Pastor DeYoung's books, and once again I did not come away disappointed. The Holy Spirit has just three chapters:

1. The Holy Spirit in All the Bible
2. Who is the Holy Spirit?
3. The Work of the Holy Spirit

The second chapter consists of three sections (see below) and is very short like the first chapter.
1. A person
2. God
3. Distinct from the Father and Son

The third chapter is the bulk of the book and is organized in the following fashion:
1. The Holy Spirit Convicts
2. The Holy Spirit Converts
3. The Holy Spirit Applies
4. The Holy Spirit Glorifies
5. The Holy Spirit Sanctifies
6. The Holy Spirit Equips
7. The Holy Spirit Promises

The book concludes with 21 endnotes and a description of The Gospel Coalition. If you're wanting a better understanding of this often forgotten member of the Trinity, check out Kevin DeYoung's The Holy Spirit. The book is filled with Scripture and Scripture references, and it can help us better understand the person and powerful work of the Helper that Jesus promised His followers.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. John 14:26

Reviewing Paul Washer's Ten Indictments Against the Modern Church

Paul Washer's 55-page booklet, Ten Indictments Against the Modern Church, is a free Kindle download I picked up four years ago. It's actually a sermon he preached at a conference in Atlanta nearly a decade ago. Although I found the book to be a good read, I could see many Christians being offended by Washer's direct charges against the American church. Paul Washer was a missionary in Peru for ten years, and today he preaches passionately against false gospels. After a brief introduction, the Ten Indictments Against the Modern Church is organized in the following chapters:

1. A Denial of the Sufficiency of Scripture
2. An Ignorance of God
3. A Failure to Address Man's Malady
4. An Ignorance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
5. An Unbiblical Gospel Invitation
6. An Ignorance Regarding the Nature of the Church
7. A Lack of Compassionate Church Discipline
8. A Silence on Separation
9. A Replacement of the Scriptures Regarding the Family
10. Pastors Malnourished in the Word of God

The book concludes with a brief mention of Chapel Library Resources and 45 endnotes. The Ten Indictments Against the Modern Church will take maybe a little over an hour to read, and it's not for those who are looking for a positive message and a pat on the back. However, if you are seeking something with lots of Scripture and much to ponder, I recommend checking out the book.

Reviewing Trace Wilson's Uniquely Me

Since Josiah Lee was born with one hand, Megan saw the importance of purchasing Trace Wilson's Uniquely Me. Last year Uniquely Me was written by Trace Wilson, a marketing student who was born with only a left hand (Josiah Lee has a right hand). The story consists of 24 pages and is geared towards those who are four to eight years old. Words are found on just over half of the pages, and the book contains very colorful pictures from illustrator Ana Sebastian. The children in the story are different from one another although if you're looking for a book that contains kids from every ethnic group, you'll need to go elsewhere.

As far as the story itself, it is not the same as Different is Awesome, another children's book with a person who was born with only one hand. I like both books for different reasons. Something I like about Uniquely Me is how it's a story of a young child where Different is Awesome is focused on someone who appears to be in high school or college. Uniquely Me's story concerns a little boy who one day notices his friends have two hands. This starts him on a special journey to figure out why he wasn't born with two hands. Four wild animals help him come to understand that we are all uniquely made.

We're thankful for Trace Wilson and those who supported him in writing Uniquely Me. Uniquely Me is a great book for families with children with limb differences and would be a wonderful addition to any children's library. We're thankful Josiah Lee is growing up during a time and in a culture where he can be taught that there was no mistake in how he was created.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Three Resources That Have Impacted Me & Many Others

Although I wrote less Amazon reviews and blog posts this year, I did have the privilege to write for a few publications that produce a significant amount of exceptional content. These sites include ASCD, ChinaSource, and Master Teaching.

ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) is a nonprofit organization that supports the global community of educators dedicated to excellence in learning, teaching, and leading. It comprises of 125,000 superintendents, principals, teachers, and education advocates from 140 countries.

Do you want a window into Christianity in China and the key issues that impact the Church? Then you want to check out ChinaSource. It is a reliable resource connecting Christians with important information for working with and contributing to the Chinese church and community.

Nurturing the development of education in Asia is Master Teaching, sponsored by LEAPAsia. Their purpose is "to begin a crescendo of praise for Yahweh starting with what the authors write and growing into classrooms around the world."

I'm thankful for the work these organizations are doing and encourage you to spend time at their sites. If you would like to receive ASCD's free e-newsletter twice a month, click here. You can also provide financial support to the publications and projects of ChinaSource and LEAPAsia.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ten Things I'm Thankful for in 2016

Although the Thanksgiving holiday is over, being thankful shouldn't be. Below are ten things I'm thankful for this year. What are you thankful for?

1. I have extremely fulfilling jobs at Evansville Christian School and the Metro Sports CenterNearly 8 million Americans are unemployed.

2. I have a beautiful rental home in the small town of NewburghOver 500,000 Americans are homeless.

3. I have new friends in our Southern Indiana community. Loneliness can be a serious health issue.

4. I have a wonderful family that supports and loves me despite my countless flaws. There are approximately 150 million orphans in the world.

5. I have good insurance to help pay for crowns, physicals, and shots. Nearly 30 million nonelderly Americans lack insurance.

6. I have a healthy body which enables me to lift weights and play indoor soccer. Every year diarrhea kills 760,000 children under the age of five.

7. I have unrestricted Internet access that allows me to stay connected with family and friends around the world. 1/3 of Internet users worldwide face heavy Internet censorship.

8. I have a fantastic education that provides me unique speaking, writing, training, and employment opportunities. 32 million American adults are considered functionally illiterate (1 in 7).

9. I have serious sin issues that show me my many weaknesses and how much I need Jesus. Less than half of all American adults think the Bible contains everything a person needs to live a meaningful life.

10. I have the love of the Father Almighty who graciously gives me purpose and everlasting life. Do you know His love?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Reviewing C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1898, Clive Staples (C.S.) Lewis wrote more than 30 books, several of which are classics of children's fantasy literature and Christian apologetics. You'll find C.S. Lewis on the lists of greatest 20th-century writers, and rarely will you not find Mere Christianity at or near the top of the most influential Christian book lists. I read the theological classic as part of a book study soon after moving to China back in 2003. Mere Christianity is less than 200 pages and is divided into four books:

1. Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe (five chapters focused on the law of human nature)
2. What Christians Believe (1942 - five chapters that include rival conceptions of God)
3. Christian Behaviour (1943 - twelve chapters covering topics such as marriage, forgiveness, hope, and faith)
4. Beyond Personality: Or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity (1944 - eleven chapters comprising of time, the cost of following Christ, and more)

The books were originally given as a series of BBC radio broadcasts during World War II in which C.S. Lewis provides much-needed answers to complex questions for both believers and nonbelievers. If you have any interest in learning about the fundamentals of the Christian worldview, it is explained in a sensible and logical manner in Mere Christianity. Some, such as the late Chuck Colson, have stated the book was instrumental in helping them know Christ. If you have an interest in apologetics or you consider yourself to be an intelligent skeptic, I recommend checking out Lewis' Mere Christianity. It is a significant piece of work that has impacted many.

For a more in-depth look at Mere Christianity, check out this outline provided by the C.S. Lewis Society of California.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Reviewing Eric Liddell's The Disciplines of the Christian Life

Nearly seven years ago I read an outstanding biography of Eric Liddell, the Olympic gold medalist whose life story inspired the 1981 "Best Picture," Chariots of Fire. I found Liddell's story to be of great interest since he served in my former home of Tianjin, China during the first half of the 20th century. When christianaudio made The Disciplines of the Christian Life available for free four years ago, I quickly downloaded it. I started listening to the book this year as part of my morning devotions, and it took no time to complete it.

Eric Liddell wrote The Disciplines of the Christian Life to help Christians grow in Christ through daily Bible study and prayer. Below you'll find the foundational topics showing that Liddell starts with discipleship. He gives a Bible reading plan with a recommended reading for each day of the year with the readings organized into 12 chapters for each month of the year. Knowledge is not just given, but practical ways to live to God's glory. The Disciplines of the Christian Life is simple and straightforward but should stir up some emotion. Prior to hearing Liddell's thoughts, Herbert S. Long provides us information concerning how the book came about.

A Word by Herbert S. Long 15:30
Preface 30:56

Part Two: A Year of Discipleship:

  1. January: God the Nature of God 8:40
  2. February: The Life of Jesus 5:55
  3. March: The Life of Jesus Continued: The Cross 10:40
  4. April: God's Moral Law - The Law and Sin 9:56 
  5. May: The Character of Jesus - Jesus Our Example 7:56
  6. June: The Kingdom of God - The Kingdom of Heaven 9:15
  7. July: God is Love 9:40
  8. August: The Life of Paul - The Act of the Apostles 5:54
  9. September: The Epistle to the Romans - Paul's Gospel - The Face of Christ, A Face for the World 11:25
  10. October: The Holy Spirit 10:12
  11. November: Victory, Victory Over Temptation 9:07
  12. December: The Fellowship, The Church 8:17

Part Three: The Disciple and the Church 2:21

  • Baptism - The Symbol 4:00 
  • The Communion of the Lord's Supper 11:58
  • The Three Great Festivals of the Church - Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving 6:29

If you're wanting to hear from a servant of strong convictions who ran for Jesus, I recommend The Disciplines of the Christian Life. The paperback is only 160 pages should you choose to read it.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8

Reviewing Jonathan Edwards' Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God

275 years ago Jonathan Edwards preached what many consider to be the greatest sermon ever preached by a sinning saint. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God was preached to a Connecticut congregation during the summer of 1741, and it uses somber language that is often not found in today's sermons. Words like devouring flames, pit of Hell, sentence of condemnation, vessels of wrath, extreme torments, angry God, and infinite misery are used. I'm guessing these words aren't amongst your favorite, but Jesus used them and the Spirit guided Jonathan Edwards to preach them calmly so that lives were transformed.

Jonathan Edwards starts the sermon with four points regarding the suffering to which the Israelites faced. Then Edwards states ten points showing how only God's sovereign joy keeps people from perishing. The third and final part of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God uses Scripture to prove his points and plead with those listening to trust in the only One who can save them.

It's a shame that many are afraid to discuss what Jesus saves us from and are critical of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. I'm thankful that Jonathan Edwards, a former president of Princeton University, boldly preached what truly is a message of love and hope. The detailed descriptions of man's sinful state and the misery of Hell helped bring spiritual awakening to the lost. If you desire to better understand what it means to be a true follower and know His forgiveness, I recommend reading this important piece of the Great Awakening. If you're interested in reading more classic sermons by Jonathan Edwards and other great theologians, click here.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Moving From Tianjin to Evansville

In a few weeks, our lives will radically change. The Wickershams will be leaving the Middle Kingdom and moving to Southern Indiana. I've accepted a great position as the middle school assistant principal at Evansville Christian School. We are sad that we're having to say goodbye to the TIS community, but we know this is only temporary for those who believe.

Why the move? We feel led to be closer to our Hoosier family members and desire for our children to better understand where their parents once lived. We're unsure when we'll come back to the country I've called home for 13 years (19 for Megan), but we are confident we have not seen the last of China. China is a part of us, and we have eternity to make some trips back.

Below are three ways you can lift us up during this time of transition.

1. We're lookin' to rent an affordable home near where I'll work.
2. We want to find a gospel-centered church where we can connect with people.
3. Pray that Megan and the kiddos make a friend or two and feel a sense of community.

Xie xie.

Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established Proverbs 16:3

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"Name That Chip!": Spring Edition

In the latest edition of "Name That Chip!", we tried three unique flavas: Cucumber, Lime, and Finger Licking Braised Pork. I've seen these flavors for some time, but I never really had the urge to try them. Below is what world famous food critics Rose and Grace thought about the chips.

Cucumber: They are sort of plain. I personally don’t like them.
Lime: They taste kind of like a lemon, but salty and good.
Finger Licking Braised Pork: They are very salty and personally my favorite between the three chips.

Cucumber: I thought they were okay. They are definitely better than the yogurt flavored chips we had back in December. Three stars.
Lime: These chips were just okay too. They were limey so I didn't like them too much. Two stars.
Finger Licking Braised Pork: They were delicious!!!!! I give them 5 stars. They taste like any other kind of meat flavor. Delicious!!!!!

So there you have it. It sounds like fruit and veggie flavored chips can't compete with meat flavored chips. I have to agree.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Reviewing dc Talk and VOMs' Jesus Freaks

Jesus Freaks is a book that I've recommended to my sixth graders for many years. The nearly 400-page book was published in 1999 and was reprinted two years ago. A second volume was published in 2002. Although Jesus Freaks has a low readability and is targeted to American teenagers, new adult believers might want to consider using the Gold Medallion-nominated book as a devotional. Perhaps some will consider the topic of persecuted Christians as an odd choice for a devotional; however, I believe reading the historical accounts of those who have been martyred can be powerfully encouraging.

Jesus Freaks starts with introductions from the members of dc Talk, a super popular Christian band in the 90s. An introduction from the former director of the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) is also provided. Approximately 150 personal testimonies and moving quotes were taken from VOM archives and dozens of profiles of martyred figures are presented. Reading these summaries of Christian persecutions can show us how easy we often have it and stir us to unashamedly live out our faith. We need more books that tell young people how hard life can be, but that we have a life-giving Savior that provides all our needs.

40 pages of Jesus Freaks is dedicated to explaining where persecution is taking place today - restricted nations as wells as hostile areas. Each country has a brief prayer request and another four pages explain what we can do. The thick paperback ends with endnotes, a list of resources about martyrs, alphabetical and chronological indexes, and information about dc Talk and VOM. If you're looking for a book for teens that contains gripping stories of truth with Scripture sprinkled throughout (several versions are quoted), I recommend Jesus Freaks. 

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Matthew 5:11

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Igniter Media Easter Videos

This week I have been teaching about what happened 2,000 years - Passion Week. Tomorrow we will not have school since it's Good Friday so today I'll show a few Easter videos from Igniter Media. I highly recommend taking a few minutes and checking out the videos below. He is good.

And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here but has risen. Remember how he told you, when he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise." Luke 24:5-7

An Easter Message: Facebook Style

Doubt Has Long Been Part of Easter

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Happy Patrick of Ireland Day V

Today is March 17th so that means it's St. Patrick's Day. Like most Americans, I grew up not ever knowing who St. Patrick was and why we celebrate the Feast of St. Patrick. I just made sure I always wore something green on March 17th so I wouldn't get pinched. Odd. If you're interested in learning about this great man of God, click one of the links below or watch the short video. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Patrick: Missionary to Ireland by George Grant (Ligonier Ministries)

Patrick of Ireland by Reid Monaghan

Remember St. Patrick by David Mathis (desiringGod)

St. Patrick Knew All About Human Trafficking by Clint Humfrey (National Post)

The Life and Mission of St. Patrick by the Crossway Staff

Who Was St. Patrick? by Kevin DeYoung (The Gospel Coalition)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Reviewing The Early Reader's Bible

The Early Reader's Bible was a Bible we bought for Rose for her 6th birthday. Zondervan advertises the Bible for those who are 4-8 or in preschool up to third grade; however, I wouldn't recommend the Bible for seven or eight-year-olds who have strong reading skills.

Here are some of the many great features of the Bible:
  • The 525 page Bible isn't big (6 x 7 inches or 16 x 18 centimeters) so little ones won't have trouble carrying it. 
  • The pictures are colorful and are found throughout the book.
  • The pictures of the crucifixion and people complaining or crying are age-appropriate. 
  • The title of the 64 stories are big and bold and are based on standard American public school word lists. 
  • A list of the stories, 250 basic words, and 230 new words are found in the back of the book.
  • No more than five new words are used in any story, and usually, a smaller number is used. Words as simple as bread and paper and less common names such as Jairus and Onesimus are found on the new word list. 
  • Each story ends with a "something to ask" section and a "something to do" section. Questions include: 
    1. How did God make the bad water become good water?
    2. Who did the shepherds see?
    3. How can you show Jesus that you love Him?
    4. What can you do for a friend when he hurts?
What do I not like?

Despite the criticisms, I still think this Bible can help children know the Son of Man. I recommend having your child add some color (don't forget the freckles) to a few of the people and adding a NIrV Bible verse each time a story is read.

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

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

Ten 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 of 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 stories. 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 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 not everything 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 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.