Lonna’s Lines: The Minority Report (Issue 1: “My Immigrant Story” or “What We Could Watch out for from Islamist Immigrants”)

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Jennifer Thalasinos is comforted by her pastor, Kathleen Dowell of Shiloh Messianic Congregation

Today the world’s news focused on new U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration restrictions concerning 7 highly volatile, Islamist countries.  Money poured in from liberal sources like George Soros and CAIR (Committee for American-Islamic Relations, a group with ties to terrorist organizations like Hamas) to fund many of the people who protested at airports and government offices across America and across the world.

The “Los Angeles Times” covered anti-Trump protests at LAX airport in a completely biased manner and even asked readers to submit their “Immigrant Story.”

Well, here is my Minority Report immigration story.  Let me clarify that not all Muslims are Islamists, a term that indicates an embracement of the extreme, violent, jihadist beliefs of Islam and Sharia Law. My Muslim Turkish mother-in-law, for example, would sooner give a stranger tea and homemade soup than assemble bomb parts, and she longs for world peace. Continue reading

Lonna’s Lines, Strange News from around the World (Issue 5, “The Problem with Pentecostals: Prosperity”)

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Most Americans know about TV preachers and that they get money from their viewers.  Many of these TV preachers are  Pentecostals, an often-emotional and loud group of “Christians” whose movement to promote Spiritual gifts, miracles, healing, and especially “speaking in tongues,” was started in Los Angeles, California at the beginning of the 20th Century.

There are many types of Pentecostals.  I have encountered several of these groups, churches, and conferences–and have mixed feelings about them.  Some Pentecostals are humble, kind, and helpful to their fellow human beings.  They believe that God is God and can do whatever miracles He desires through His Spirit.  Others are proud, entitled, promoting the “Prosperity Gospel” view that a real Christian, blessed by God, will have lots and lots of money (and probably not share it with homeless people).  They believe a good Christian gives “tithes” and “gifts” to support “the ministry.”  In conferences, they often take more than one noisy “offering” from the less affluent people there.

The problem with Prosperity Gospel adherents is that their leaders are very, very rich–and proud of it.  Many are found on T.V. shows, running entire TV broadcast businesses and publishing houses.  Some call themselves Dollar, fly in private jets (and sometimes die in them), live in huge mansions on large estates, brag about their yearly income, wear expensive clothes and hair designs, vacation in exotic places, and continue to extract money from their followers with the promise that they, too, will be rich.

Pentecostals draw more on some Old Testament examples of wealthy Jewish leaders than the New Testament teaching of Jesus and his followers, who often marked money as an evil snare and rich people as oppressors of the poor.  Wealth also led to the fall of Old Testament heroes–and the tragic end of their families and personal empires.  Job was the oldest Old Testament rich man who suffered much because of his riches.   Gideon was a hero, mentioned in the book of Judges, who saved Israel from a huge enemy army.  However, he asked for all the gold earrings (and other gold ornaments) from that army, built a giant gold statue near his hometown, got lots of wives and children, and turned Israel back to Idol worshipping.  He also lost all but one of his 70 sons, and his inheritance plunged into nothingness.

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Now for my story.  As you know from my previous issues, I taught English overseas for more than 5 years.  I went alone, with no credit card, backup plan, or help from home (I had no American family to help me).  I lived in the economies where I taught (Russia, Turkey, China).  Sometimes I was paid well; sometimes I wasn’t paid at all.  When I came back to America after this hard duty, I felt like a soldier who had suited up every day to battle language barriers, cultural differences, and dangerous surroundings.  I was attacked by men in all 3 countries (thankfully, I took Self-Defense classes, so I was not raped or killed).  I returned worn out, tired of trying to get around in Taxis driven by people who didn’t understand me, toxic air, acidic water, and nauseating food.  My Armenian/Turkish husband helped for part of my overseas journey, but he could not get a work permit, and his family was poor (better than my entire lack of family). Continue reading

Lonna’s Lines: Strange News from around the World (Issue 3, “Homeless in America”)

All of us face challenges.  In America, our challenges are usually not as difficult as people who face civil war in South Sudan, where children walk miles each day just to find a safe place to sleep.  Yet many people think life is easy for Americans. I say, not true. Which do you think was more difficult for this American (Lonna Lisa Williams) to do:

1. Leave my California home in October, 2010 for Russia to teach English because I could not find a job in my own country even though my grandfather graduated from Yale University, was a professor at UNC, and handed the torch of education to my teacher mother and to me. Endure a long winter where I wore chains on my boots to run across the ice that coated every surface.  Teach English to 13-year-olds only to end up speaking and reading in Russian because no one really wanted to speak English and hated America. Even though my grandmother was Russian, I learned their alphabet and simple words as a child, and I look Russia, most people avoided me because I was the “Amerikanka.” Discover that Vodka is easier to get than good tea, Russian food is bland and full of potatoes, and everyone shares alcohol and violence in the 3rd-class wagons of the Russian train from Samara to Moscow. Endure the 17-hour journey with 50 bunks to a wagon, accidentally stepping on a sleeping Russian woman who screamed when I descended from my top bunk. Cry on the trash bin in the back of the wagon. Kiss a Russian stranger between the wagons, in that blessed cold, dark connector, as snow fields slipped past and a full moon shone on frozen rivers. We, Russian and American, kissed without words, like lovers from a war movie who will never meet again, showing how tragedy is really, really Russian and American.

2. Escape Russia in April, 2011 (when snow still brushed the train tracks and no leaves adorned black trees) to fly to Istanbul (abounding with flowers and spicy food); learn a new language; adapt to another culture; teach English again; marry a Turk; cover the 2013 Freedom Protests; get attacked by pepper-spraying police; lose a job for being a Christian (but walk around the corner to get a better one at another private language school); get threatened with death for being a Christian; teach at a Turkish university; and leave for China just before Turkish police showed up to arrest me for a photo I’d published.  Later I wrote 2 journalistic-style Kindle books about Turkey which have not had much recognition. Continue reading

Christmas Lights in China

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My daughter Jessica was born in September, so by her first Christmas she was old enough for me to carry around and look at Christmas lights.  Her small blue eyes widened at the amazing colors and brightness.  Now she is 22 and lives in California.  I am teaching English in China.  This is my 5th Christmas away from home.  I went out last night to a colorful, cobblestoned street by the river in my Chinese city near Shanghai and was amazed at how the lights lit up like a fairly-land.  I thought, “Jessica could see this.” Continue reading

Autumn in China

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESGinkoa Biloba leaves blanketed the courtyard outside the high school classes where I teach English near Shanghai, China.  This colorful display cheered my students and me.  Later we went to Starbucks to celebrate a strange kind of Thanksgiving with a student’s birthday cake and flavored coffee.  Half of the students paid attention to my speech about Thanksgiving, and the other half played with their mobile phones.  Such is life in China.  If you like my blogs, please check out my books.

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Unexpected China

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China always surprises me.  I find the most unexpected things in the country where I’ve been teaching English for the past 9 months.  My life often feels surreal, like I’ve wondered into another universe.  When I was walking by the Songhua River in Jilin Province (northeast), I spotted these giant fake flowers that were left over from the Dragon Festival.  They were near the entrance to the dragon boats.  See more photos and enjoy the serendipity of China with me.

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Freedom Is Fleeting in Turkey

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I lived and taught English in Turkey for 2.5 years.  I fell in love with that beautiful country and even married a Turkish man.  When the Gezi Park freedom protests began a year ago today, I covered them first-hand, writing articles, taking photos, and uploading videos.  I even got attacked by the Turkish police, and my Turkish husband was tortured by them.  We left Turkey days before police showed up at our old apartment near Istanbul to arrest me for a photo I’d published.

Of all the photos I took in Turkey, this one defined a turning point.  I was in Antalya, watching some high school students march with the Turkish flag even though their Islamist Prime Minister had forbidden any parades.  I stopped being just an American English teacher and became part of the Turkish people when I witnessed how much they want freedom.

Read my tribute to the Gezi Park protest anniversary here:

http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/world/a-year-after-turkey-s-gezi-park-protests-freedom-elusive/article/385149

Inside my Apartment in China

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In Russia I lived with a Russian family. For six long, cold months I stayed in a bedroom on the eighth floor of a 12-storey apartment building in Samara, near the frozen Volga River. It was crowded with three kids and three adults, yet surprisingly lonely. I took long walks through the snowy landscapes, alone. When my Russian boss wouldn’t pay me, I flew across the Black Sea to Turkey and lived for 2.5 years, mostly near Istanbul where I had an old apartment in Kocaeli. With increasing political problems in Turkey and danger to me as a part-time journalist, I took a job in China. My new company provided a free, all-utilities-pad, elegant apartment in the northeast. Wood floors, comfy furniture, modern appliances, and even a roof to walk out onto were some of its amenities.

 
Since China was having problems with the Turk-like people of its northwest Xinjiang province, my Turkish husband felt pressured to return to Istanbul. My young adult children are in California. Although my spacious apartment seems empty at times, I add homey touches and wait for someone to visit. I’m proud to have earned my People’s Republic of China Foreign Expert license and such a nice apartment. When my contract ends in June, I plan to return to California, at least for the summer. I’m trying to find a teaching job in America. If I don’t, I may come back to China next September. When you see these photos, you’ll understand why such an offer can be tempting.  See more photos of my Chinese apartment on Digital Journal.

 

Walk with Me in Turkey

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My “Walk with Me in Turkey” eBook came out today after 1.5 years of working on it.  I started by doing photo essays for “Digital Journal” of places I visited and photographed in Turkey (thanks so much to Editor David Silverberg).  One of my photo essays, “Faces of Turkey” even won an award.  Thanks to my friend and editor Jeremy Gotwals of Holon Publishing, who helped design the eBook’s cover using one of my photos, my book is now available in Kindle format.  If you don’t have a Kindle reader, you can download a free one for your computer, smart phone, or tablet.  For only $2.99 you can see the beautiful, historic places of Turkey, read about their culture and food, and enjoy my adventure stories!  What a lot of work (sigh).  Hope I find some readers 🙂

Here’s the official book summary:

Walk with me through ancient temples, churches, castles, mosques, and palaces of Turkey where I spent 2.5 years teaching English and exploring that beautiful country.  I learned the language and culture and even married into a Turkish family.  Stand with me at the spot where key battles defended the land from invaders and where Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, was buried.  See archeology opportunities with Greek and Roman columns and tunnels directly at your feet.  Tour Istanbul, a city built on 7 hills and divided by a waterway that separates Europe from Asia.  Get caught in the rain by the Black Sea, feast on shish kabob in Kocaeli, dance the horon at a Turkish wedding, explore Kar Tepe’s mountain forest, and swim in the Mediterranean Sea.  With my vivid photos and stories, you’ll feel as though you walked in Turkey with me.

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Since it costs so much to print so many color photos, my book will probably remain in electronic format (with links to other Internet sites for more information).  Let me know if you enjoy it!  Find it here.

Family

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Our social group meets at a restaurant

Here I am, teaching English in northeast China, far away from my children in California.  I miss Jessica (21) and Jonathan (18).  I wish I could be with them.  There’s an old saying, “If you can’t be with the ones you love, love the ones you’re with.”

So here are some photos of my “family” in China.

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My high school students and I pose together

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Me (in the red hat) with Filipinos, Indians, and Chinese members of a local church

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See more photos of northeast China here.