Common Grounds Project | Jarrett Ulmer


i walked through the tunnel onto campus while the wind bit my face. the asain man i had helped get through the tunnel was a few steps behind me and i thought it was pretty funny that it was just me and an asain man outside walking toward the library. i mean, considering which friend i was about to talk to. i walked into the library and found jarrett in the computer lab to the right. i always seem to be the loudest person in there...even when i whisper. this is my third trip to the "jerry" and jarrett let me pick where we sat. i picked the yellow chairs because today my favorite color was yellow. we talked a little about what was new while i got my recorder ready.

jarrett is another one of my people i don't remember meeting. i'm sure it was through mutual friends but if i'm remembering correctly, i don't think he was my favorite at first. (don't tell him!) well all that behind, the more i got to know him, the more i loved him. he has a great sense of humor and a voice so deep its hard to understand sometimes. (that or i'm deaf...) he grew up in taiwan as an mk and i have always loved hearing about it because the world fascinates me. our friendship grew up the semester before he went overseas for an internship. the day we said goodbye to him was actually at my friends wedding and everything emotional was happening all at one time and me, being the ridiculous sap that i am, didn't hold it together at all. like, he walked out the door and i was openly blubbering. people kept coming up to me asking if i was alright. and so he went overseas and we talked to him and made him videos. he grew his hair out and we read his updates, (and i cried more because they were awesome updates okay?!) and we waited for him to come back. and you know what? i think he is the same person now, just a lot more grown up. and that is actually wonderful. today i left this common grounds so encouraged and happy. jarrett has such a heart for missions that is really is something to listen to. he tends to rub off on you with all that excitement and it made me homesick for that next step in life. i hope this interview encourages you as it did me and i hope you enjoy this peek into the life of my friend jarrett.

Me: Okay this silly question I’m going to ask you, I would like to state that I did not come up with this…jane came up with this…. alright are you ready for this? Would you rather, have a chihuahua barf in your mouth, or eat all of Barack Obama’s hair.

Jarrett: Probably eat Obama’s hair. He doesn’t have a lot of hair.

Me: Gagging noises. That’s super nasty.

Jarrett: But they both are! Dog barf in your mouth abbey?

Me: Okay but you don’t have to eat it; you can just spit it out!

Jarrett: Anyway. Nasty… great opening question.

Me: Thanks. Okay, who is your celebrity crush?

Jarrett: Hhmmm…I don’t really know if I have one…I guess if I had to pick one it would probably be either Hayden Panettiere or…Reese Witherspoon.

Me: Hhmm so you like the blonds huh?

Jarrett: (laughing) (talking about how old they are . . . )

Me: okay. If you could pick any movie universe to live in, what would it be? Like star wars or…hhmm what’s another one? The blue movie? I don’t remember what that was…

Jarrett: avatar? (Laughing)

Me: yea yea, whatever I don’t watch movies. Okay so any universe what would it be?

Jarrett: I guess as a kid I did like star wars a lot so, but only if I could be a Jedi though. Because like, if you’re not a Jedi than you’re just like a random person like I am now.

Me: And you’re probably weird looking . . .

Jarrett: Yea, if you’re a Jedi than you can jump super high, and like, move things with your hands…(we both demonstrate.) push people away if you don’t like them you can just, use the force to push and they just fly away! So yea, star wars I think.

Me: Hhmm I don’t know what I would pick…

Jarrett: The blue people obviously.

Me: Oh yea the blue people! (Laughing.) Um, okay, have you ever lost a bet?

Jarrett: Yea. (Laughing.) the last time the giants won the super bowl I made a bet before the playoffs started with Dylan Brightbill that the giants would not win the super bowl. Because they had to play the first round of the playoffs, the falcons at home…the falcons were like 12-4 or 13-3 and they hadn’t lost at home all year…and then the giants beat them…and then they had to play the packers and the 49ers so I’m like each week its going to get harder to beat people on the road. I’m like, there’s no way. So I told Dylan before and I didn’t think to make a bet the other way if they didn’t win that he would have to do something. But he was like alright, if the giants win the super bowl, he would get to buzz my hair.

Me: (laughing) and aren’t you so glad? Because now you wear your hair short!

Jarrett: Now I wear my hair short. So yea, that’s where that started.

Me: (talking about Dylan being a giant’s fan and a Philly’s fan. Smh) okay, so you grew up as a MK. So what are some highlights and some not so great things?

Jarrett: Um, well highlights definitely being able to grow up in a different culture and learn that and kind of having that be part of my culture…like, any kid that grows up over seas they call them third culture kids because you have your parents culture, the culture that you grow up in and then you have your own culture. So that’s really cool…but it also kind of sucks at the same time…because…like, I wouldn’t trade growing up over seas for anything, that’s like a part of who I am. It helped me learn different languages, I speak Chinese and I love it. It’s so great, but ….at the same time, you don’t really fit in 100% anywhere. Like in Taiwan I will never been seen as a Taiwanese person…I don’t really want to be . . . but its because I look different than people. But in America I don’t really fit in because…and I mean that was fin I never had any huge major…some MK’s have major dislike for one of the cultures they live in. some MK’s come back and they hate America. Like I love living in America, I love Liberty and what it has done for my life, but I do have an easy time adjusting to places. But at the same time I’m not fully American, I have an American passport (he says…) but at the same time there are things people expect me to know, I mean I know them now because I’ve lived here for four years. So yea, it’s a good thing and a bad thing. I love it, I want to move back over seas, and if I have kids, I want them to have that opportunity to do the same. I think it is really cool.

Me: So good! Um, what do you think is the weirdest thing about American culture? Don’t say chitlins. They’re delicious.

Jarrett: I mean I had the equivalent of chitlins when I was in china…but just cooked Chinese style instead of southern style…

Me: Were they crunchy?

Jarrett: No, it was in soup.

Me: Ooohhhh. That’s nasty. So they were more like intestines!  Okay sorry, what’s the weirdest part?

Jarrett: One of the weirdest things I had to get used to coming back was small talk. Okay especially places like Wal-Mart. Because in Taiwan like, if you’re checking out at the grocery store, nobody talks to you. Like, you don’t have conversations with the cashier. But you get to Wal-Mart here and they’re like, (southern accent) “how’s the weathers?” “How’s your day going?” and so yea, having like random conversations with people…its not weird its just different.

Me: Okay, so you said you want to move back, do you want to move to the same country that you grew up in or do you want to move somewhere else in Asia?

Jarrett: I would like to move back anywhere in Asia that I can speak Chinese in. for my sake (laughing) but also for work sake because just different things like, being able to move to a country where you already speak the language and culture, it helps out a lot. Especially going into the type if work I want to go in to. When my parents first moved to Taiwan they had to spend like, four years learning the language. Going to language classes every day…and so being able to skip that and just dive straight into work would be super beneficial…or course knowing that if I get married to somebody who doesn’t speak Chinese, they will have to go through that…but also just because that’s a culture that I love and grew up in. when I went to china for my internship last year, it’s the same type of culture, but being able to understand that and being able to connect with a person on a different level because you can speak the same language.  You just have a deeper connection immediately…especially as a foreigner…because they’re like, you’ve taken the time to learn my language and learn it well…while I’m like, I didn’t really have an option (laughing) because I grew up here. So yea, I want to move to that region. But I also just want to move wherever the Lord leads. And so I’m open to move somewhere else but in my heart, that’s where I want to go.

Me: Even if you moved somewhere where you had to learn another language, you already learned the hardest one so anything else will be a piece of cake!

Jarrett: I would love to learn another language!

Me: Okay, so when you get over there, what’s your work plan? I feel like missions have changed a lot from what it used to be.

Jarrett: I want to work with college students. Because again, college life is almost like a culture in and of itself.  And its different whatever country you go to but its still having that connection. Like when I was in china our job was to meet and hang out with Chinese college students and build relationships that way, the same as we would here, going out to grab a meal, going to the movies, we went and played basketball, we played soccer, we taught them how to play American football…so having that instant connection being both college students its like, I want to learn about American culture and I want to learn about Chinese culture… and so being able to do that now while I’m their age, and in the future being able to facilitate that for people coming in…I also want to involve sports. I love sports, it’s been a huge part of my life growing up, I started Tball when I was like, five. And sports are like a universal language by itself and it really transcends boundaries. I don’t speak a language but I can’t take a soccer ball with me anywhere. I went to the Philippines in high school, and I don’t speak Tagalog, I don’t speak any of the other…

Me: You would know what it’s actually called. Most people are like, “do you speak Filipino?”

Jarrett: (laughing) I mean there’s so many different dialects in the Philippines. But I mean I don’t speak the language but I could take a soccer ball to a bunch of kids in the slums and start playing and kids immediately flocked to us. They just love sports. So again, being able to connect with just another part of the person, it creates a deeper connection. So through all that you can share truth just naturally because you’re a part of their life. You can connect in so many different areas. It makes it easier. Easier for me to share and easier for them to receive.

Me: Do you still keep up with your friends that you just met in China? Like through facebook or whatever?

Jarrett: Yea! Facebook some, since its not technically aloud…

Me: Oh yea I forgot that!

Jarrett: Through email sometimes, I don’t keep up with them as much as want to recently because life’s been pretty busy…

Me: Last time we were talking, we talked about short-term missions and you mentioned the importance of living missionary. Can you reiterate?

Jarrett: I think in America we’ve skewed what it means a little bit. Its like a separate thing. People say, oh I’m going to go to Guatemala and I’m going to help build a church, or I’m going to help do a kids camp or do this or that, and then I’m going to come back. And its like, separated. Its like two separate parts of your life. This is my short-term missions life, and this is my real life in America back home. And its like that for people all across the world. But living missionally is something that we do as believers or as followers of Jesus; it should be something we do naturally. Because we deal with peoples lives. We should care for and love people as Jesus did and so it should happen every day as an overflow of the love he has for us. So our relationship with Jesus grows, our love for other people grows as well.

Me: That’s really good. I love that. Okay switching gears. (Laughing) okay if you had to pick a Disney princess to marry, which one would you pick? This is going to tell me a lot about you…

Jarrett: I mean they are all kind of adventurous in some sense…because I like that. I like to travel…I would say…I mean take it how you want it but I would probably pick Jazzman…(me laughing) not because she dresses like a skank, but because she’s adventurous but also because she doesn’t really do anything in defiance of anything. She just wants to see the world.  And she stoops down to marry this dude, and you know, dudes should always seek to marry up…(laughing) more power to Aladdin!

Me: I thought you would pick the Tangled girl because she’s blond! But she does turn brunette at the end so…okay, if you could travel back in time and video tape something to watch now, what would it be?

Jarrett: Gosh. As weird as this sounds, I would kind of like to have footage of the time Gabe cut my arm with a piece of glass…

Me: Wut.

Jarrett: I have this scar, (shows me) okay that’s the thing, nobody really knows what happened because my mom was a language school and my dad downstairs studying. I was like two, Gabe was five and we were up on the roof playing. And we were up there and there was a piece of glass, and one of the sides was jagged. And apparently we were playing like, peter pan. I was peter pan Gabe was captain hook and nobody really knows what happened, Gabe doesn’t remember but her cut my arm. So I would actually life the footage so we could see what actually happened.  I mean it’s a big mystery in my life I have a huge scar from but I don’t actually know what happened.

Me: Wow. Those are the things I just don’t want to happen to me as a mother. I just can’t handle blood!

Jarrett: So you need to find a guy that’s okay with blood?

Me: I would just be barfing and taking me kid to the hospital!  Gross…okay! Well that was good! So good! Do you have any words of wisdom?

Jarrett: Words of wisdom? I mean you’re pretty traveled in your life; you love to adventure so I would say keep on doing that. Its pretty cool though, its fun to see in the past couple months you started to do the blog again and posting your adventures. I love stuff like that, I life through peoples adventures when they go do things. So I have friends over seas right now, in India, Turkey, China, my cousins in Brazil right now, and so…it’s cool to see. So yea keep on doing that. I’m excited to see where the Lord takes you on adventures in the future.

 thanks so much for this jarrett! i left the library feeling so encouraged and inspired by your insight. the way you live life is beautiful so please never stop! i will miss these talks so much.

follow his twitter: taiwanbuckeye
follow his ig: jarrettulmer


  1. oh, this interview was so good. but that first question though... gag.

    1. hahah Marcia! I know, that question is horrible.

    2. I think I would go with Obama's hair too haha

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  3. This was so great! I love this. The first questions, I'd probably go with obama's hair too. Mix it up in some other food like porridge or chilli or something and you may not even know it's there!
    (Maybe I'm taking this too far) haha
    Wonderful interview :)

    x leah symonne x