My Own Piece of the Web

Colorado Geek has been so very kind to me.  Originally Ernie’s site, it was transformed into a place for us to blog during our year in China.  Our fantastic following here inspired my recently-published book, Awakening East.  Now I’ve launched my own website and would love to see you there!  It’s a little place where I’m blogging, listing upcoming events and posting photos. You can also buy the book there…a signed version direct from the stack sitting right here in my home office.

Take a peek!





Welcome to the World, Awakening East!

Just in time for holiday gift-giving, Awakening East is now on the shelves of local bookstores and available online.  We’re so grateful to all of you for helping encourage us along the way.  The book is receiving positive reviews from all corners….Those who love international travel or stories of family adventure.  Readers who enjoy memoirs, and those who have experience with adoption.   Will’s entire class of 7th graders has poured over it, as has Ernie’s 87-year-old grandmother.  A little something for everyone!

Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!

Buy Awakening East on Amazon



Hello ColoradoGeek followers!


It’s been far too long since we’ve updated you on the happenings of our clan.  We’ve been busy in our absence, and are back to tell you about our latest adventure.

We had such a wild ride in Asia, and shared all of it with you.  Well…NEARLY all of it.  Upon returning to the States, Johanna kept writing and writing and writing.  About her journey.  About the adoptions.  About the before and after of our year in Asia.  Until one day, she had a book.  That book fell into the hands of Marcinson Press, an independent publishing house, which will print it next month.  

Awakening East has a subtitle which describes the moving-the-children-back-to-China piece of our journey, but the book is about much more than that.  We hope it will be enjoyed by anyone who loves a good memoir or a story of family.  Anyone who loves international travel or just plain old wants to read about crazy adventures and where they can take you.  

The book is scheduled to be published on October 23, with pre-sales on Amazon starting a few weeks prior.  You can stay updated on the status of the book either on the publisher’s website or on the book’s Facebook page.  We aren’t too adept at Facebook yet, but if you’d LIKE us, we’d be mighty grateful.

Happy Trails,

Johanna / Ernie / Will / Eden


It has been a month since we landed in Hawaii and then proceeded to our beloved Elkhart Lake.  Whereas our life in Asia was comprised of daily confusion yet adventure, everything here seems familiar yet predictable.  Our time at the lake in Wisconsin has been filled with things we have lacked this year…cousins, late night adventures and loads of activities.  Yet we have already started to miss the things we left…friends, daily surprises, walking till our feet hurt.  We are embodying the word “transition” with each step.

Ernie and I are on the way back to Colorado.  A joyful road trip full of good conversations and much laughter.  Our nieces Mary and Frida compiled a list of questions for us in case we ran out of things to talk about.  Yesterday we got hung up on “Do you believe in ghosts?”  Today’s stumper was “When I turn 50, will you throw me a party?”  We have been able to listen to Van Halen and Huey Lewis instead of The Muppets.  Nobody has been asking for juice boxes or granola bars.  We haven’t heard any bickering about whose turn it is to sleep on the pullout couch in the hotel.  These few days of breathing space away from each other are symbolic.  The kids will be taking their first unaccompanied flight to Denver a few days from now.  And then life will return to where it was before we left.  Or at least a version of that.

As we speed across the fields of Nebraska, I have been thinking about the boxes at home that are holding the new bunk bed for Eden, fresh school uniforms and favorite snacks for our carpooling days just ahead.  Kindergarten and fifth grade are calling this year.  We suspect it will be both difficult and a breeze for the kids to adjust to school.  Their Mandarin Chinese is solid but the homework will be startling, as most days in China our non-school hours were spent climbing trees, skateboarding and traveling.

Ernie has started back at work and reported that within the first few days it was as if he had never left.  It was great fun to see his co-workers, and hit his old lunch spots.  On his plate are a pile of new responsibilities which will mark a challenging new beginning.

Someone once told me that the best part of achieving one of your dreams is that you can then come up with a NEW dream.  I hope to embrace that concept once the dust settles.  I have a few ideas big and small that I will finally have the room to explore now that both kids will be in school.  But one thing we have learned this year is that dreams can take many shapes and sizes.  Ours was bold and complicated, but I can’t wait to attack the little ones for awhile…tweaking the linen closet, taking up a new sport and planting a garden once again.

Cheers to all of you, wherever you are, with dreams big and small.  Thanks again for coming along with us this year!


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Wow.  We are here in Hawaii…and to begin to list the contrasts between our days here and our days in China just a few moments ago…well, it is a bit mind-blowing.  To begin with, what’s with all the English?  We are still getting used to clearly overhearing other people’s conversations.  Next, the food.  To drink the tap water, to not worry about what spice is in your mystery stir fry, to not have rice as a staple at every meal…all new.  Lastly, the people.  Excessive.  So many different outfits, so much jewelry, children with so many toys.  And many people are so…well…”well fed” is a good word.

In addition, just four days ago we were staying in a small apartment and our next door neighbors were a Chinese family of 10 and the chicken they planned to slaughter and eat for dinner.  We arrived here to find that the suite below us is occupied this week by a famous reality TV family also here on vacation.

Want more?  I keep inadvertently speaking Chinese to people.  The choices we have now…good god…I almost had a nervous breakdown in the cereal aisle of Safeway.  We went shopping for shoes today and the price we paid was a quarter of the cost we would have paid in Asia, but the shoes were made in Vietnam.  Nobody is staring at us.  I saw a listing of movies in the theater and didn’t know a single one.  We can use Google without worrying that we are being watched.  If fact, the use the internet is a breeze without needing a VPN.  I didn’t have to worry about bones being in the fish we ate for dinner tonight.  In fact, I don’t have to worry about the food at all.  But tipping at restaurants?  That’s a pain that I had forgotten about.

Change.  And then change back again.  It’s good and it’s hard and it’s part of the deal when you leave your comfy American life for a long time and live somewhere else.  We are letting it wash over us here in Oahu.  The jet lag we expected to encounter has been surprisingly absent.  We speculate that perhaps we crossed the international date line in just such a way that we avoided it completely.  Asia is almost the nearest point east to that line and Hawaii is almost the nearest point west…close to a full 24 hours apart.

More to come as we bump along this road to re-entry.  Aloha, America…and Happy Birthday.


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Our last few days in Kunming were full of goodbyes, purging our apartment of its belongings and trips to favorite places in town.  When it was all over, it was just the four of us standing in our empty foyer at 5:00 AM on departure day.  We were brought to the airport by Helen, Will’s tutor.  Our friendship with her will be lifelong, and we hope that one day she can travel to the USA so we can start to repay the kindness she showed us all year long.

China Eastern smacked us one more time with a three hour delay.  There is a reason this airline is not well-regarded.  But soon we were on the way.  Arriving in Shanghai was like entering a new country.  The city is modern, clean and cosmopolitan.  Easily the most Western city we had been in since last October’s visit to Hong Kong.

The next morning started fast, literally, as we took a ride on the Shanghai Maglev.  The Maglev train is a commercially operating magnetically levitated train operating on 30km of track from a station in central Pudong to the Pudong International Airport. Originally built as a demonstration of the technology, the train is still largely a ride for tourists and train enthusiasts.  We all went zipping along at 430km/h (267 mph).  It took 8 minutes to cover the 30km.  Impressions were as follows:

IMG_0911Ernie: Awesome! The ride was smooth, the train got up to speed very quickly and was amazingly quiet.
Johanna: Hmmmm….only 8 minutes from Point A to Point B…barely enough time to review my lists…
Will: Good. It was wild but scary. If we crashed, it would be bad.
Eden: Fun but creepy.

The train also provided perhaps the most humorous moment of the day.  I was struggling to remember the word for a dimple on a man’s chin.  It was a moment that demonstrated both the large population of English-speakers in Shanghai AND the fact that my English has rapidly declined…when a Chinese man across from us looked up and said, “It’s called a cleft chin, Miss.”

We were accompanied all day by Ronnie, a friend of a colleague of Ernie’s.  He knew Shanghai inside and out.  And told us his family history, which was incredible, and touched on China’s deep political history.  Both of his parents, as young adults, were individually sent to Yunnan Province, where we had just lived for the past year.  This came as part of the Down to the Countryside Movement implemented by Mao to essentially avoid an uprising.

They met, married and gave birth to Ronnie in Kunming, eventually returning to Shanghai after twenty years.  Incredible, but typical story for millions of Chinese.

Our day continued with a visit to the top of the tallest building in China, where we had lunch and took in the sights of Shanghai.  There had been rain and smog for two weeks, but as chance would have it, the skies cleared and we had blue skies after lunch and into the afternoon.  We strolled alone the Bund, a district along the water’s edge that was built by the British shortly after the Second Opium War.  To finish the day, Ernie and I visited  one more temple and Chinese garden…the kids preferring to stay in the comfort of the air conditioned minivan. 🙂

Our year in China complete, we returned to the hotel and toasted with dinner on the 30th floor of our hotel.  We laughed about how silly it felt that the year had come to a close…the time has gone both faster than the Maglev AND, at times, seemed to move at the pace of molasses falling from a jar.  There will be adjustments in our return, of course.  But after conquering Asia, we are certain that we can handle whatever comes next.

USA…here we come!

—Johanna and Ernie

Kunming Exit

The wind is at our backs now as we prepare to leave Kunming tomorrow (June 29 China Time). We are so very grateful that you have followed our journey. All the wonderful comments and encouragement have meant more than you can imagine.

Our plan is to blog a few more times as we transition back to life in the USA.  While our blog was at times more of a travel journal, the lasting part of our year is what we learned about China, Asia, ourselves and each other.  For that piece, I am chewing on compiling our stories and experiences from this year, and if that takes shape we will let you know here. In the meantime, you can find Ernie on Facebook and his blog, and Kids Yoga Speak is on PinterestFacebook, and

Safe and happy summer to all of you…


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The last image of the slideshow is what it looks like to be ready to go. . . (and yes, the internet connection is the last thing to get packed!)