& geeky stick boy
Hi, This Is Me Again: Lei, Sharon, Henglei, Mrs. Baumgartner, Whatever...," by Lei (Spring, 2001)

I am sending you my second story. After I sent out my first story, I start to receive your responses now and then, it has greatly encouraged me to continue my writing. Actually, Jody has put my story on his website:, under "My wife comes to the US.". It also includes picture site I put online. I think this one will go to the same site, too. Jody said it would be Chapter two.

Well, last month we took some short trip within Florida. We went to Plant City about 2 hours driving away from where we live to attend the Strawberry Festival of Florida. It was held in huge open air. The first section has various rides, games and fast food. The second section was full of stalls that sell souvenir and hand made crafts. The third is the one I had most fun. We listened to Indian music performed by three American Indian young men who used their special flutes (like Pai Xiao in China) and watched the bell man playing bell instrument consist of different size of bells (like Bian Zhong in China). Watching pig race is something I never did before, I doubted how pigs can squeeze their way to the end when I first saw the narrow track, then there came out those small cute pigs as big as watermelon. I should say they are pretty fast. After that we feed some animals. Another thing I can not imagine is that in a remote town in South Florida, I watched Chinese Acrobats so closely for the first time. There are about 1000 people at present. They were astonished by the seemingly impossible actions done by those young boys and girls, so did I. One thing I can not understand is why I did not see the Lion Show very often in China, but it seems the most popular and symbol Chinese Acrobatics in America.

Another trip is to Jacksonville, northeast coast of Florida. This probably is the real type of American travel: Get into a car and drive six hours to the destination. Jody went to attend a conference of political science. In a small classroom at North Florida University, with about twelve peanel, he presented his paper: teaching politics in China. (By the way, when I told the owner of the Chinese restaurant that my husband taught politics in China, he wouldn't believe it. He said it's impossible). The panel were fairly interested in the rare experience and different cultural. That day happened to be a national golf tournament held in the city. Many golf fans streamed into the city which made it difficulty to find a hotel near beach.

From the hotel to the North Florida University, we have to drive across the St.Johns River. Left to us is the center of the City, the modern skyscrapers, the white elegant bridge and the peaceful river combines into a clean and harmonious picture. Speaking about the scenes that impressed me here, I have to spend some more time. Another breathtaking view is on the way back from Tampa Airport, when we drove across Tampa Bay at sunset. The faint sun hanging above the horizon splashed the golden to all the items before us, the lined palm tree, the faraway houses, the bay itself like a piece of golden silk. I said to Jody this only appears on the postcard. Also on the way to Jacksonville, I was amazed by the vast grass land stretching out without explored along the highway. The land is rich and fresh, I think if it were in China, this kind of land probably would be developed to feed a large population, plus China has such a long history, Any arable land could be used by ancestor already. American have too much free land, the South Florida University and North Florida University gave me the impression that someone just circled a huge piece of land and build a university. By the way, they are not enclosed, either inside or outside, you have access to any book or computer you want. In above aspects, Americans are lucky. It's important for people to have more free space.

After the meeting, it's still early, we decided to drive to a very old city nearby-St.Augustine. We drove on the road along the beach and I was very happy to look at the exquisite big houses we passed by. I bet you have to be very rich to buy that kind of house. We stopped at the beach parking lot and walk along the trail that leads to the sea. After I got to the top of the wood bridge across the jungles, Atlantic Ocean suddenly exposed in front of me It's so breathtaking, your heart will stop for it. That's the time you will be touched by the beauty of nature and you will realize how small and inconsiderable you are. There are few tourists. We changed into to swimming suit and found a shallow area, did body surfing ( waiting for big waves to come and swim with it.) For a girl who lived so far away from sea before, any activity related to sea are new and exciting. (It takes me 30 minutes to ride bicycle to the nearest beach of the Gulf of Mexico from my home. I can spend afternoon watching people sailing, riding water motor, fishing, playing volleyball, chasing birds or enjoying sunshine. ). It was a little bit cold, the water is very salty and waves are more powerful than I expected, but it's exciting.

We waited till we dried and head for St.Augustine. St. Augustine was founded in 1565 by Spain settlement. After that, French, British and Indian all seek the way to control it. It was until 1821 that the United States acquired the possession of the city. St. Augustine survived to stand in five centuries of American History despite of difficulty colonial experience, wars, destructive storms, starvation and epidemic. But now the city has been well restored and preserved and becomes the winter haven for tourist.

It's around noon time when we arrived there. We had lunch at Chinese Buffet (You can see Chinese restaurants are everywhere. It's a family business. They also run a mini golf court where we played that night. They are from Shanghai and the family has more than 20 members in that city. They really picked up a beautiful city to start their business). Then we found a motel to stay overnight which was painted pink. Jody couldn't wait to take a picture of it because he said I could only see the hotel with this color in Florida.

We took a short nap and late of the day we started to see the places of interest: Mission of Nombre De Dios (said to be the site of the original landing of Don Pedro, Spanish Captain and the first Catholic Mass in the New World ); Castillo De San Marcos ( an ancient city wall built in 1672, I regarded it as the symbol of the ancient city); City Gates (made of big stone, from where you could be lead to a ghost tour at night following a black, ancient restored dressed guide. Jody and I saw several groups that night). Early evening, we strolled on the St. George Street. The architecture is Spanish style. It is a shopping street with various pretty crafts and many tourist. When it gets really dark, we went to see the St. Augustine Lighthouse, it's already closed, but we happened to see someone's wedding party under the lighthouse. There is a mini-golf court not far away. We stopped and played a game. But it took us twice amount of time than it should because just before us are two large group of young people, about 12 of them, so for each hole we have to wait till they finish first. Anyway, when we were back at the hotel, it's about 11:30 at night, we had a full day from Jacksonville to St.Augustine.

Well, what else happened to us besides the trips. Jody had been to Ohio and Texas to take job interviews. We did not know any result yet. If he gets the job in either of these two places means we have to move again. Jody's mum flew down to Florida to see us. She is very nice and considerate. We get along very well with each other. We went to the tourist site of Tarpon Spring- Sponge Dock. It is said that most of the genuine (not artificial) sponge (Hai Mian in Chinese) came from this area. That's why many Greeks in this city moved from Mediterranean to find a new site for sponge salvage business. But not surprisingly, after I bough a kind of sponge for bath, I found it was made in China. I said to Jody I was made in China, too.

Last Thursday, I took a written test on driving after I read the book twice and be sure I can answer the question at behind. It's easy and I got 39 out of 40 questions correct, so I have a learner license now which means I can drive as long as Jody sits next to me. Jody is a strict but efficient teacher. I was fairly nervous and made a big mistake the morning I got the license. Jody instructed me to make a left turn, but I misunderstood him and tried to make U turn in the middle of the intersection. Of course, the road is too narrow for me to do that, so I was stuck in the middle and the traffic has stopped for me for a second. But believe it or not, I have been driving since then and doing just fine.

Now I doubt whether I should say something about the recent collision between American Spy Plane and Chinese Fighter since the letter turns out so long. Put it in short, I watch news at noon and also read related news on Chinese web site. It's interesting to have access to the information from two different sides and noticed the difference.

Jody and I watched Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon last night (we bought this DVD for Jody's friend when we were in China). So here is the conversation after the movie was over.

Jody: Maybe it's the cultural difference between Chinese Movie and American Movie. I didn't get the end each time I watch Chinese movie. (He watched Hua Yang Nian Hua before-by Zhang Manyu and Liang Chaowei and was very puzzled by the love affairs in the movie. So Jody said this time that he would be pissed off if there was no progress between Li Mubai and Yu Xiulian).

Lei: You are not satisfied with the ending: Zhang Ziyi jumped down the Wudang Mountain instead going back to Xinjiang with her lover Xiao Long.

Jody: Yes. At least someone should be satisfied. But Li Mubai was dead, Xiu Lian became a widow, Yu Jiaolong jumped off the mountain, her boyfriend Xiao Long has to be back alone. No one is happy. If you watch with an 8 year-old boy, what would you explain to him?

Lei: Interpret Movie (Details are skipped)

Jody: Well, (seems to be a bit more satisfied). Hey, do you want me to jump to that house, maybe I should have a stop in that tree first. (He is talking about Qing gong, I forgot to tell you during the movie he keeps on reverse to watch those fascinating kongfu shows again).

Anyway, both of us think it's a very beautiful and enjoyable movie.

I will end this story by telling you our future plan. Jody and I will drive to Chicago to attend Political Conference next week, but before that we probably will visit some of our friends who live nearby. After that we will go to see his university in Ohio and his farther in North Carolina. So it will be a long trip and I will write to you more after we are back, Ok?