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Characters in the Trees is the spiritual adventure of a young woman who goes to teach English for a year in China. A born writer who loves and works in all genres, she exposes her Chinese undergraduates to Creative Writing for the first time in their lives, with the hope that they will see themselves as individuals who each have unique beauty to share with the world. Through teaching she falls deeply in love with the culture and the people of Shandong Province.
In January of 2013 she travels for two months between semesters with her boyfriend through South East Asia. The two of them work together, fall apart, but ultimately leave China changed forever.
An Excerpt from Characters in the Trees:
"Sunlight ripples onto the timber branches up ahead; the clouds bend, and we exit the jungle. The leaf strewn, bamboo burnt trails we’ve sewn into our feet give way to a wide open space: tall grass and trees spaced four and five feet apart. The contrast is welcome: the pressure in my chest relents: a valve creaks open, as though the lip of a petal in the wind.
We come out above the tree line, a hundred feet above a village we see on stilts nestled into the crests and crevices of hills surrounding
another Lao river. Sunlight rains down on thatched roofs, and I feel the intimacy of the colors before me—the brown of little houses, water and green—as they caress one another. No longer is
existence the combination of green earth, water and air, but square huts and windows shaped like half-moons.
Laughter echoes somewhere in the distance but I don’t really hear it. Owen’s pace intensifies, as does Sam’s and I let myself fall behind. I don’t want this to end, any of it. I don’t want to say goodbye to Owen, or to Laos. There is something here in this small mountain lined country, in this pain part mended by the determination of different tribes, different threads of people working together.
We walk a narrow path, parallel to the river that is all sun and the reflection of the thatched huts. I look down and remember the petroglyphs from [our] Caribbean [vacation], I try to see all that is real that cannot be seen, try to feel it in my chest, but the feeling is of the moment, fleeting. It’ll be gone, like earth from the sole of a shoe."