My 4-Year Mongolia Anniversary

Timehop reminded me that four years ago today, I was flying from Chicago to Seoul to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.  I spent three weeks in the Asian country (south of Russia, north of China), and that trip remains one of my absolute favorite traveling memories, in large part because of how it came to be.

In the fall of 2010, Samaritan’s Purse Children’s Heart Project sent 14-year-old Sarangoo and her mother, Byamba, to Peoria, IL for heart surgery.  They stayed with a couple from my church, and the rest of our congregation poured food, entertainment, and love into their lives.  Except me.  I was recently returned home after college and five months in Senegal.  Bored with the familiar and feeling very single amongst married or dating friends, I was depressed.  And in my depression I couldn’t be bothered to help someone else.

Luckily for me, there was another depressed person in the mix.  Gany was Sarangoo’s translator, and their host family sent out an email that essentially read: “Gany is bored!  Will someone take her out for something fun?”  That sounded exactly like me, so I volunteered.  We went out to eat at Culver’s, took pictures of the Holocaust Memorial at the mall, and played the piano at my parent’s house.  Almost immediately, I knew I had found a kindred spirit.  Continue reading

Apps I Can’t Live Without

We live in a beautiful age of constant entertainment and distractions.  I am, of course, talking about smart phones, and the apps that give me immense joy.

    1. Candy+crushCandy Crush.
      What is this, 2012?  MIGHT AS WELL BE, because I can’t stop playing this addicting game (and its counterpart, the even better Candy Crush Soda).  Getting to level 350 has been a tough road.  There have been levels that were so fun I accidentally passed on the first try.  And there were other, hellish levels that kept me stuck for a month.  No matter how hard I try, I just can’t quit Candy Crush.
    2. facebook-icon-appFacebook.
      As much as I love Instagram and Snapchat, Facebook remains my go-to social connection app.  It’s the easiest way to share thoughts and pictures with every circle of friends and acquaintances, however emotionally close or distant.  While other apps establish a niche in pictures or quotes, Facebook says, “I’ll take it all.  Don’t click too many extra buttons!”  It’s the catchall of social media, and I am nothing if not lazy.
    3. com.nexonm.dominations.adk-logoDomiNations.
      Okay, so this is a little quick to be throwing around “Apps I Can’t Live Without.”  I’ve only had DomiNations for a week, but it has been an extremely obsessed week.  This app is a better version of Clash of Clans.  You get to choose a historical nation and actual historical landmarks (I’ve got a Babylonian Hanging Gardens decorating my Chinese civilization).  And instead of meaninglessly advancing through levels, you march through time, from the Stone Age to the Space Age.  It is helplessly addicting, and I highly recommend everyone waste their time on it.
    4. unnamedBuzzFeed.
      Easily my most used app when bored.  The staff at BuzzFeed is excellent about keeping a steady stream of news articles, quizzes, videos, and photo compilations uploaded.  There are times that I check their feed after five minutes only to be delighted by new content.  They are witty, socially on the nose, and unapologetically feminist.  Three of my favorite things.
    5. 095_timehop-1170x563Timehop.
      What is the point of the Internet if not to keep your treasured memories stored for all of eternity?  Timehop saves you the tortured minutes of scrolling through old photo albums or Twitter feeds.  Instead, every day the app brings memories to you!  Honestly, I’m only slightly ashamed to admit that most days, before I even get out of bed, I check to see the new day’s Timehop info.  What did I do one year ago?  Or six?  I’ll never need to use my brain again, thanks to this app.
    6. spotify-app-icon-01Spotify.
      Having your own music is fine, I guess.  But I like accessing all music all the time all the places.  Spotify allows me to listen to any artist that I want (except Taylor Swift, curse her beautiful genius brain!) and create playlists that make roadtrips infinitely more bearable.  One friend handwaved Spotify away, insisting that Pandora was all he needed.  I insisted that they serve two very different purposes:  Pandora introduces you to artists you might never have heard, and Spotify allows you to explore their discography and listen to everything they’ve ever made.
    7. unnamedgbGoodbudget.
      I love being careful with money, so obviously a budget app is right up my alley.  I like Goodbudget because I can create virtual envelopes for various needs:  “Groceries,” “Gas,” “Restaurants.”  It keeps me honest throughout the week, and reminds me that, oh hey, I went to Chick-fil-a twice already this week, so maybe I should stop spending money there for a while.  I can always use that kind of accountability.

Which apps are your favorite?  Leave a comment and let me know!