Friday, March 6, 2009

Taiwan Super Idol--The Adventure Begins

The past few weeks I have been focusing most of my time and efforts on my performances for Taiwan's hit TV show-- Super Idol. I guess I've subconsciously, or maybe just purposefully, been delaying announcing that I auditioned for the show until I saw how the earlier rounds went. But now that my first episode has already aired last weekend showing me enter the national top 46, there's not much point trying to hide it any longer.

Just before Chinese New Year, a friend of mine invited me to watch the live filming of Super Idol's Season 2 finale. As I sat there in the live studio audience watching the contestants compete, I felt that familiar rush of excitement and knew that I wanted a chance to stand on that stage and perform for Taiwan.

People keep asking me "Do you really think that an American guy has a chance at winning Taiwan's Super Idol?" It's a good question. I've competed in a similar competition in Mainland China, and as a foreigner I was subject to certain restrictions. I was informed by the TV producers and knew from the beginner of the show that foreigners would not be allowed in the top ten, and subsequently I was cut from the competition the week before the top ten was announced. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw that the winner and runner-up from Season 2 of Super Idol were both from Malaysia. Apparently talent is more important than nationality in Taiwan's Super Idol.

But winning Super Idol is not what I want to be thinking about right now--I just want to focus on giving my best performance possible this week! You can watch my performance from last week on youtube at

Last week before going on stage for this performance I seriously thought my Idol journey was over before it ever really began. I was feeling completely calm before the show started but I was second to last to sing so I had to sit and wait for a few hours before actually going on stage. The longer I sat and heard the judges rip each contestant apart, the more nervous I became. Half-way through the show I suddenly realize--I can't remember the lyrics to my song!!! aaaghh!! I started freaking out. No matter how hard I tried, I could not remember the lyrics. I just kept thinking--I am about to go on stage to sing in front of all of Taiwan and I can't remember a single lyric beyond the first line. I have worked so hard for my dream and come so far, this is my last chance to make it happen and now I am going to throw it away before I ever really had a shot. How can I ever live this down? What will I tell all my family and friends? My whole life I'll have to look back on this pinnacle moment when I lost my dream in one fell swoop. I'm better than this-- I can't let it end this way. I'm not ready to say goodbye to my dream.

So Super Idol has been somewhat of an emotional roller coaster so far...haha (no really though, that's not even the half of it). But as you can see from the youtube clip, I remembered the lyrics just in time before going on stage and I managed to keep my cool for the performance. That experience has helped me remember to stay focused on why I auditioned for Super Idol and why I do what I do. I sing because I love to sing. When I get too caught up in the competition, wanting to sound good to the judges and the audience, that's when the nerves really kick in. I may not be the best singer in the world but I LOVE to sing--it's part of who I am. I feel like I have something to share and express, and I want to share it with Taiwan.

Who knows, maybe an American boy really can be Taiwan's next Super Idol : )

Thursday, February 19, 2009

American Idol Season 8--top 36

Ok, so I have a new obsession--American Idol Season 8. I have always been a fan of AI and this new season has definitely not been a disappointment thus far. Season 8 will also be the first season that I'm able to watch every episode from the beginning thanks to the nifty new website I've found which catalogs links for each episode--thank you Yidio!

This new season of AI has also been especially inspirational and interesting for me since I'm watching it at the same time as I'm competing myself in Taiwan's own version of the show "Super Idol". This coming Saturday I'll be competing in front of the live studio audience and judges for a spot in the national top 36, so I'll keep you posted on that.

Danny Gokey is definitely my favorite contestant that we've seen sompete so far in the top 36. His performance of "Hero" this week was amazing. To be bold enough to pick a song like that and to pull it off with such finesse and emotion while keeping your own style is truly incredible. He even brought tears to my eyes with his last words about the song: "I just picture people coming out of rough situations. I picture people rising above and knowing there's a future ahead of them no matter how bad the stuff can be in their life". Cara summed it up when she said "Danny you are the hero. You give us hope".

I love it when a performer can give hope to somebody through their performance. That is the power of music, the power of art and communication. That is the power of the human soul. And that is one of the main reasons why I love to perform.

I thought it was classic when the final spot last night for the top 12 came down to Danny and Tatiane. Haha...seriously, for a second there I really thought that Tatiane was gonna make it to the top 12 and I was gonna laugh so hard--but only because I knew Danny would still make it to the top 12 in the wild card round later on. But I'm glad Danny made it safely through to the top 12. I don't think we could deal with another upset like last episode when Danny's best friend Jamar didn't make the top 36. I'm mean, seriously?! He was probably my favorite contestant up to that point and all his Hollywood performances we're amazing.

I wonder who your favorite contestants are so far this season. If you've not started watching yet, you might have to. You're missing out on some pretty incredible singers. I'll keep you updated on my thoughts throughout the season, and I'll let you know how Taiwan Super Idol goes.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

25 Things

My sister Brooke and brother Rob are two of the only people I can think of who are less likely than I am to actually write a chain thing like this on facebook. So spurred by their surprising examples, I give you 25 snapshots of my world (as posted on my facebook profile):

1. I’ve visited six continents (don’t know if I’ll make it to Antarctica any time soon) and lived on four. I’ve traveled to over 20 countries but still never been to Mexico and just barely went to Canada for the first time last year.
2. There was a time in my childhood at about 4 or 5 years old when I watched “The Wizard of Oz” everyday—literally—for months on end, and then I would make my little sister act out scenes from the movie with me. My family has made fun of me for this ever since. I guess it paid off though since my little sister Becca is now destined to be Elphaba on Broadway someday.
3. One of the things I’m most ashamed of in my life was when I was 10-years old playing with my brothers and sisters in our back yard in England when a ferocious stray pit-bull came charging at us out of nowhere. In a moment of panic and fear we all ran. Seeing the dog running behind me I sprinted inside and, without thinking of my brothers and sisters, slammed the door behind me and locked it (it was a weird double door that could only stay shut by locking it). The others ran to the side door and were fine but I’ve always felt so ashamed for that split second decision in a moment of perceived danger. I’ve always hoped ever since that I will never again show such lack of character.
4. I never used to pee in pools until my older brother told me he did and I’ve never thought twice about doing it since. Get used to it—all guys pee in the pool.
5. I’ve fasted for 7-days in a row twice in my life at Spa Samui in Thailand. I lost 30 lbs the first time (and I only gained 15 lbs back when I started eating). And yes, I did two cholemas (colonics) a day as part of the cleansing fast.
6. I’ve done a 10-day silent meditation (no speaking, no writing, no reading, no music, no NOTHING) waking up at 4 a.m. every morning and meditating pretty much all day until getting ready for bed at 9 p.m.
7. I’ve sang in front of over 100 million people on live national Chinese TV
8. Neal A. Maxwell was my favorite General Authority and I loved President Gordon B. Hinckley. Since both of their passing I’ve had very little desire to listen to any other General Authorities.
9. I’ve worked as a life guard, swimming instructor, Telemarketer doing surveys in Chinese, women’s shoes store salesman, janitor cleaning the girls dorms in Deseret Towers at BYU (cleaning girls bathrooms is something I would never wish on any guy), MTC Chinese Teacher, Accounting 200 and 210 TA and in-class lecturer, caretaker once-a-week for a disabled elderly man, finance intern for Otis Elevator in Tianjin China, model, English tutor, TV actor, singer. I’ve had quite a few random jobs over the years. I even sold ties door to door one summer at BYU. I bought 400 silk ties in China for 69 cents each and sold them for $15 each or 10 for $100 : )
10. “The Artist Way” by Julia Cameron continues to change my life everyday.
11. I still plan on being the most famous American in Chinese history.
12. The Perfect Pitch and Relative Pitch Super Courses by David Lucas Burge have changed my life. I’m amazed with the things I hear in music now and without looking I can name any key played on the piano or guitar.
13. My mom, dad, brothers, and sisters really are my best friends. I would rather spend time with them than any one else. I feel so blessed with my family. I don’t think any one could ever hope for a better father, a better mother, better sisters, or better brothers. I love you all!!
14. I can eat the same thing everyday for months on end without getting sick of it. Sushi rolls and Chinese dumplings have been my most recent fad—luckily they are cheap here.
15. I want to run a marathon, do a triathlon, and do the iron man.
16. Some day I’m going to spend a few months in South America and learn fluent Spanish
17. For the first time in my life, just these past few months I’m starting to really feel comfortable with who I am just being me.
18. I used to hate running and now I really look forward to my 40 minute run five times a week. Those forty minutes feel like freedom and they are a meditation in their own right.
19. I want to sign a celebrity endorsement contract for a name-brand underwear line someday when I’m famous (this has been a goal of mine for a while and did not just start recently with Beckham’s new Armani campaign : )
20. I never used to believe in past lives but I’m not so sure any more. If I have had past lives, then I am pretty sure I was a Buddhist monk in one of them. I am positive that my first Vipassana meditation course last June was not my first time learning Vipassana. It feels so natural and somehow so familiar.
21. I’ve always known I will be a millionaire someday. I used to be determined to make it happen, but it’s become less and less important to me now. I still believe it will happen, but it will come naturally—effortlessly : )
22. My greatest desire in life, I’ve come to realize, is Peace.
23. I’ve had my Chinese fortune told, my hand’s analyzed, done hypnotherapy, received a patriarchal blessing, had my eyes read, and done various energy therapies—all have been very intriguing and insightful in helping me form an understanding of who I am and my purpose in life.
24. I still reminisce about my childhood days with my brothers and sisters riding bikes around the house, eating watermelon, our mom reading us stories, making bows and arrows and shooting them from the trees. I often wish those days never had to end.
25. I don’t think I’ve ever managed to not cry hearing Beth’s dying words to Jo in Little Women: “I was never like the rest of you, making plans about the great things I’d do. Never saw myself as anything much. I’m not a great writer like you”. Jo: “Beth, I’m not a great writer” Beth: “but you will be. Oh Jo, I’ve missed you so. Why does everyone want to go away? I love being home. But I don’t like being left behind—now I am the one going ahead. I am not afraid. I can be brave like you. But I know I shall be homesick for you, even in heaven.”
I don’t know why my life path has led me so far away from home when so often there is no place I’d rather be. Sometimes I feel I’ve done a disservice to my family, especially my mom and younger siblings, by placing such physical distance between us. But I believe in following my heart and I know I am where I’m supposed to be. I hope my family always knows and feels how much I love them and how much I wish I could spend more time with them

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Adventures in Meditation—Continued

Vipassana—Seeing Things As They Really Are

By day 4 my hay fever and cold had mercifully subsided and I was feeling more into the swing of things. Day 4 was also significant in that it is the day we learned the actual Vipassana meditation technique—body awareness. To fully learn the technique properly you have to take the 10-day course, but in a nutshell you learn to focus all your attention on the sensations in your body and scan your body from head to toe and toe to head. Every cell in our body experiences some sensation every second, we have just never been aware enough to feel or notice most of the sensations. I remember the first time doing Vipassana (“seeing things as they really are”) that day and tears coming to my eyes as I scanned my body and reached my hands. I felt such life and energy in my hands and thought “I’ve had these hands my whole life and have never really felt or realized their power until now.”

Vipassana also helps you experience first-hand the universal law of impermanence. Every sensation in our body shares the same characteristic—impermanence. Sensations arise and then pass away, arise and pass away. This is always the case. Pleasant sensations or painful sensations, they are all the same. By learning this through our own experience we develop “equanimity”, meaning a balanced mind. When we have equanimity we don’t crave pleasant sensations or hope they always stay when they arise, and we don’t feel aversion to unpleasant sensations and hope they go away as soon as they arise. We realize that all sensations are the same—impermanent—and so we learn to observe objectively without craving or aversion.

Sittings of Strong Determination—Meditation by Fire

To help us develop equanimity, starting on day 4 three of the one-hour meditation sessions each day are designated as “sittings of strong determination”. We are instructed to strongly determine in our mind that we will not move our legs, hands, and arms or open our eyes for the entire hour. I literally almost choked on the intrepid fear that jumped in my throat at that announcement. You’ll recall my stark inability to sit still on day 1, and although my hay fever and cold had improved by day 4, my ability to sit still in meditation had not. But, almost in a split second of foolhardy courage, as that first one-hour meditation began, I determined in my mind that I would not move. That split-second decision may have been one of the most important of my life.

Words literally cannot describe the ordeal and physical turmoil I went through in that hour. Nor can they encompass the shear fear and mental struggle of one hour. How long can an hour be? Is it possible that hours can actually be different lengths in our lives? All I know is that was definitely the longest and most arduous hour of my 26 years. The only mental image that comes close to describing what I felt is a soldier being tortured in a prisoner of war camp, except my pain was self-enforced. My legs felt like burning bricks, and my knees throbbed with so much pressure I was positive if I opened my eyes they would be three times their normal size. I just knew they were going to explode. Our teacher says that everything is impermanent, but I was positive this pain was not going away. In fact my biggest fear was that the pain and damage from such a foolish experiment would be more long reaching than just this one hour—was this even healthy? Could I be doing permanent damage to my body through such foolishness? Oh the mind games your devilish little mind can play in such times. But the words resounded in my head “The heavens may move, the earth may move, but my legs WILL NOT MOVE”. I had already strongly determined in my mind. I had come to Vipassana seeking peace and even if I had to walk through hell fire I was not going to turn away from my purpose. So I sat there forcibly shaking in pain, fear, and determination to not move no matter what…second after second, minute after minute after minute.

The mind games you play in such times really are endless. Every little sensation is torment. Your nose starts to itch, but you can’t scratch it. How long can an itch continue before going away?—a minute, five minutes, ten minutes? How long can you go just observing an itch without scratching? A bead of perspiration forms on your forehead and slowly starts to inch its way down your face, taunting you with its itchy crawl knowing you are powerless to stop it. In vain you wish that drop of sweat would just quickly fall and be done with it, but instead 5 more droplets of sweat form on your forehead and start their own slow descent. “Wait, what’s that on my back and arm?” you think. “It’s a spider. It’s just your own sweat. No it’s not I know it’s a spider” the mental banter drones on. “Just observe. Well what if it bites me? Then that is impermanent too, the bite will eventually get better—just observe. Well what if it is a fatal, poisonous-spider bite? Then you will die and that is impermanent too—Just observe!”

In spite of my belief to the contrary, the hour did eventually end. I opened my eyes, but could still not move my legs—frozen, or was they burned—etched into my meditation mat. After a few minutes I was able to pry my legs open with my hands and mentally will myself to stand and stumble, literally, out of the meditation hall. I wanted to cry, but all I could do was stifle back laughter, a kind of crazy, traumatized laughter. I felt like I had witnessed a car crash, or was in a car crash. Maybe I was the car crash. Post-Meditation Traumatic Stress Disorder—maybe that should be added to Psychology textbooks.

But the important thing was that I did it. I had faced pain beyond my imagination and stared my own fear in the face—and remained still. Still. Maybe that’s what peace is, or at least the beginning of peace.

Well, peace was not exactly what I felt when the next hour of strong determination rolled around. “You mean I have to do this three times a day, every day, for the next 6 days?!!” That’s what I was thinking, kind of more along the lines of fear and disbelief. The amount of courage it took to walk back into that meditation hall knowing exactly what I was going to face. Removing my sandals and stepping barefoot into the hall, I felt like the countless others throughout history who have knowingly and willingly walked to their death. The fear had definitely returned, but there was a big difference this time. Somehow the fear was a lot more manageable. This was fear of the known. The first time I had no idea how long an hour was, I did not know if my determination would be enough. But now I knew. This was not an academic or mental knowledge; I knew from my own experience. That is wisdom. That is liberation.

I could write and want to write so much more about that first Vipassana course. But right now I am sitting in my Taipei apartment with bags packed and a bus to catch to those same remote mountains in central Taiwan, and another Vipassana course awaits. The adventures in meditation continue.

I’m excited to tell you all how this next chapter goes on my quest to enlightenment when I return February 6th.

Until then…

Lots of Love,

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Adventures in Meditation

On Monday I begin my second 10-day Vipassana meditation course here in Taiwan. So before I take the plunge again I wanted to review my first experience with Vipassana.

The official Vipassana website ( explains, "Vipassana means seeing things as they really are. It is the process of self-purification by self-observation". Meditation has interested me for a while and really wanted to give it a try. I wanted more peace in my life and to feel calm and comfortable with myself. I was also curious to know what it was like to not talk for 10-days--no talking, no reading, no writing, no nothing. I think that's what sealed the deal for me in deciding to give Vipassana a try. I'm an extremist and believe that new experiences add spice to life.

The 10-day Vipassana course was probably the hardest thing I've ever done--which is significant coming from someone who has served a 2-year mission. I love how the website says "Vipassana is not a holiday, rest cure, or escape from everyday life"...haha, they weren't kidding. Ironically, it wasn't even the no-talking part that was difficult (and believe me, I am a TALKER). The silence was actually quite soothing and relaxing. It's hard to succinctly express why it was such an arduous and significant experience for me. Maybe you'll understand a little better if I share a few of the more impressionable memories of the 10-days.

Rocky Beginnings

I arrived at the Vipassana center located high up in the remote mountains of central Taiwan on a blistering June afternoon. I unloaded my baggage at the foot of my hard-wood plank bed in the male "dormitory" which looked a lot more like a low-budget scout camp barrack to me. The bedroom, with no air-conditioning or fans, was even more sweltering than outside. I stood there sweating watching a spider weave his web next to my "bed", reminding me that in addition to silence we had vowed not to kill any being for the 10-day duration--including mosquitoes and spiders. Luckily I didn't know then the variety of spiders I would co-exist with for the next 10-days (the likes of which I swear could rival any spider you saw in the movie "Arachnophobia") or the number of mosquitoes that would swarm around me taking jabs at their helpless prey as I tried to blow them off my skin.

The mountain landscape in full bloom also decided to test my determination, and upon arrival I started to sneeze incessantly with hay fever. Combined with the cold I had already started developing, my nose and mouth started to compete for my attention as I spent the next 2 or so days splitting my time between blowing my nose and sneezing.

I felt like the walking dead the entire first day beginning when I woke up at the scheduled 4 a.m. with the rest of the meditaters and stumbled into the meditation hall. Everyday we started meditating at 4:30 a.m. and pretty much meditated all day with breaks for breakfast and lunch (no dinner) and 10 minute breaks to stretch and walk every hour or two. The schedule is challenging enough under normal conditions, but with my hay fever and cold those first two to three days, I was sure it would do me in.

To make matters worse, the first three days of meditation are aimed at focusing all of your attention on the breath coming in and out of your nose--um, kind of difficult when there is nothing coming out of my nose besides...well you get the picture. I'm sure I was a vision of absolute misery sitting there eyes closed, cross-legged in the meditation hall, wads of Kleenex in my pockets and hands trying to manage my nose as I attempting to meditate.

That first day was a debacle in more ways than one. The meditation hall also has rules. You are to sit in meditation position on your mat and remain as still as possible. However, you are permitted to move your legs if they become too painful. But out of respect to the teacher, you are never allowed to have your legs outstretched towards the front of the room where the teacher sits--even if the teacher is not present. Keep in mind that prior to those 10-days I had never even attempted to meditate for any length of time longer than 10 or 15 minutes, so that first 2-hour sitting at 4:30 a.m. felt like the longest experience of my life and not just because I had to wipe my nose every 15 seconds. Within the first 10 minutes my legs started cramping; that's when I knew I was really in for it. And so I commenced a not-so-graceful dance of trying to move my legs around one at a time every few minutes in different creative ways to lessen the pain but also being careful not to have them fully-outstretched in the direction of the teacher's seat. Moving my legs one at a time started becoming less effective after the first hour as the pain intensified, so I relinquished and unfolding both of my legs placing each to one side in front of me. In my mind I thought I was being very careful to follow the rules since neither of my legs was facing directly forward, not realizing that this coincidently left me sitting spread eagle in the meditation hall.

Not much time passed before I received a tap on the shoulder, and my eyes flew open to see the male supervise standing over me. He motioned for me to adjust my position to something more appropriate for meditation and whispered that he wanted to see me in his office during breakfast. "Oh man, that's just great!" my mind shouted--probably at my legs, it was their fault after all. Our first meditation session, and I've already been called into the principals office. I can't even meditate correctly without getting in trouble.

The supervisor didn't really rebuke me as much as express the teacher's concern for me and my ability to complete the 10-day course after observing my extreme difficulty at sitting still and the obvious hay fever problems I was having. I'm sure part of the concern stemmed from my being the only non-Taiwanese participant in the course and one of only 3 people under 30 (almost everyone was in their 40's, 50's, or 60's.) I'm sure they were thinking "What is this young little punk American kid doing here? Thinking he can lounge around, spread eagle in meditation!" If only they knew how hard I was trying. But I was there because I wanted to be there and I knew that I would make it through the 10-days.

To be continued... : )

Ok, it's late here in Taiwan and I need to go to bed so I can play piano in Church tomorrow, so I'll continue the story tomorrow.
Until then....

Lots of love,

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Synchronistic Beginnings

Let me begin by saying that I believe strongly in synchronicity-- meaning fortuitous events, things, or people that just "show up" in your life by seeming coincidence, but are really part of some greater design. As I start to see synchronicity more and more for what it is and recognize it in my life, I live more consistently in gratitude and awe for the Universe.

We can sometimes look back in our lives and pin-point the very moment that changed the path of our life's journey. The day I met Melanie was one of those moments.

No more than two weeks after arriving in Shanghai on my quest to be the first American Chinese Pop Star, I was walking to the internet cafe on a sunny July afternoon when I saw a white lady walking her dog. In any other Chinese city this might have been enough to grab your attention, but in Shanghai with a million foreigners this was not uncommon in the slightest. So I was surprised when I had the sudden urge to go talk to her. I fought the urge telling myself I was in a hurry and didn't want to make a stuttering fool of myself talking to some random lady when I had nothing really to say. I felt the prompting again, and once again I shot it down. Not until the third time did I relinquish. However by then she had already passed me, so I did a 180 turn, went up to her and said the first thing I could think of: "Do you know where the Boona Cafe is?" (I had already been to the Boona cafe a number of times and knew exactly where it was. I just needed something to say--yes, I can be that pathetic).

She was really nice and I picked up on her American accent right away, so we struck up a conversation and introduced ourselves. Melanie had been living in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan for the past 20 years doing PR and she was enthralled by the idea of my coming to China to be a pop star (which I of course had mentioned within the first 30 seconds --I told you, I'm shameless). She gave me her card and we set a time to meet the next week (at Boona cafe of course) and chat over a drink.

As soon as we sat down, ordered our carrot juice, and started talking, I knew that Melanie and I were going to be good friends. Maybe it's more accurate to say that we have always been friends. There was just a vibe about her that I resonated with. We chatted excitedly about...well, everything--our beliefs, thoughts, health regimes, goals, careers. I knew then, and we have definitely proved since, that the two of us can talk for hours without tiring.

In many ways, meeting Melanie that day 2.5 years ago marked the beginning of a new era in my spiritual journey and personal discovery. A small yet significant example are the two experiences she shared with me that first time talking over a glass of carrot juice-- The 7-day cleansing fast at Spa Samui in Thailand and the 10-day silent meditation at the Vipassana center in Taiwan. I told her that I wanted to do the cleansing fast right away and I eventually wanted to do the meditation course--like maybe in 10 or so years. Within one month of meeting Melanie I was on the beaches of Samui experiencing how 7 days of hunger really feels, and now next week I will be doing my second 10-day silent meditation course at the Vipassana center here in Taiwan (more on both of those in later posts). I still joke with Melanie about how many converts she has, but I was definitely the fastest : )

Melanie has been a true friend in every sense of the word. She has been my confidante, adviser, and even unofficial publicist through all my adventures in Asia. The countless lunches we spent chatting together are some of my dearest memories in Shanghai. Her generosity, sincerity, wisdom, and love continue to teach me volumes.

The picture above is of Melanie (right), Beth (middle) and me eating chocolate cake on my 26th birthday. That's the other great thing about friendship--it grows. Through Melanie I also met one of her best friend's, Beth (who, as you might recall from my first post, did my hand analysis). I feel blessed to have met two of my best friends who are also examples and spiritual mentors to me. Thank you Universe.

What kind of sychronicities have you seen in your life lately? What kind of friends do you wish you had? I bet the Universe is waiting and ready to introduce you.

Lots of love,

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Yes We Can!

Yesterday, I watched President Barack Obama's Inauguration live along with countless millions throughout America and the world. Sitting alone in my Taipei apartment in front of my laptop at 1 a.m. watching Barack Obama take the Presidential oath on LIVE is a memory that I'm sure will be with me for years to come. I felt privileged to witness History in the making. I had a perma-grin the entire time and couldn't keep myself from clapping and cheering at intervals along with the rest of the crowd. I laughed at the random people with their eyes open during the prayer (no names--Michelle and Sasha! haha) Of course I had to keep my eyes open, I was watching on the internet--what was their excuse?? : ) And I was proud to be an American as I stood alone in my bedroom in Taiwan, hand over my heart, singing the Star Spangled Banner along with the President, First Lady, Marine Corps Singers and millions of Americans.

I love what President Obama symbolizes to me and the rest of the world. I love that the Audacity of Hope shines through even in seemingly dark times. I love that the American Dream still lives on and that it is becoming the world dream. You can be whoever and whatever you want to be.

It's so refreshing to see a true leader who advocates peace and love-- and means it. I'm so happy to see America slowly begin to win back the trust and respect of our neighbors throughout the world. I've spent 4.5 of the past 8 years outside of America in China, Australia, and South America and I've heard all the complaints about American government and moral hypocrisy. So it makes me so happy now to hear all my Taiwanese friends and other foreigners from around the world in Taipei express their excitement for America. I've always loved America, but it feels good to see the global community share in that love again.

The picture above is of Barack and Michelle Obama last night at the Youth Ball which I also watched online at Live. It's so cool to see so many Americans my age taking an active role in shaping the future of our nation. I loved hearing Obama speak to them--I wish I was as collected a speaker as he is. And watching Barack and Michelle slow dance was one of the cutest things ever. I've loved Michelle ever since seeing her bust a move on the Ellen Degeneres show : )

It's hard to describe all that I feel about this moment in history, but the words joy, gratitude, and hope come to mind. More and more, Barack Obama is becoming a personal hero to me, and I think that many of you probably feel the same way. It's nice to have somebody to look up to and admire. I believe we all have something unique to offer to the world and it's inspiring to watch somebody answer their personal call and take their place in history. In doing so they give us permission and an invitation to do the same.

Just wanted to share this moment in history with you.