Tag Archives: China

My Happy Place- SOL #3

 

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When things are tough and it’s hard to keep going, it’s good to have a happy place, a place where you can find peace. For me, that’s my apartment. I love my little haven, away from the noise, away from the pollution, away from the stuff that brings me down. At home, it’s just the way I like it.

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My apartment is comfortable. It’s large enough to not feel cramped, but small enough to be cozy and warm. I finally have a couch that’s comfy and large enough to seat many people (game nights!). I have space to display my artifacts that I collect on my travels without it looking cluttered. When I look at these sculptures, paintings, and creative pieces, I’m reminded that I lead a very blessed life. I get to do what I’ve always wanted to do- travel the world!

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My kitchen, although small, is just right for me. I have everything I need to cook and have even made enough food to serve over 20 people in my tiny kitchen. It’s (nearly) always clean, thanks to my wonderful ayi who comes 4 days a week to keep me organized. I told you I had a blessed life! I love my tea station, where I have a wide variety of tea to choose from. A cuppa tea in the evening is all I need to chill. Well, that and a good book or an episode of Scandal (my recent obsession- thanks Michelle!).

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Having an extra bedroom means room for guests, a desk to do my work (although I tend to work on the couch lately), and more closet space (I have way too many clothes!). I love having a second bedroom, as it helps me not to feel cramped.

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I love having fresh flowers and plants in my house- it brings life and a touch of green. Plants make me smile, and I’m proud to say that I have kept almost all of my plants alive since moving in last August. This is a huge accomplishment for me! 🙂

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Lastly, I love my bedroom! It’s such a comforting place, where I am surrounded by plants, artwork, and pictures I love. I love my window seat and view of Shanghai. I love my comfortable bed- thank you IKEA mattress pad! I love my art wall. I love that I go to bed and wake up each day looking at my OLW from last year- Balance (thanks Andrew for the art!). It’s a daily reminder to live a balanced life. I certainly need that reminder more lately.

I love that when I’ve had a tough day, when the world has beaten me down, I can come home and be surrounded by things I love that make me happy.

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A Year in Photos

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a post from one of my friends, Jee Young, where she reflected on 2014 through photos. It was such a unique way to show the past year, and I just had to give it a try! Now that I’m back in Shanghai with my laptop that has all my pictures, I can. I’ve sifted through the photos I’ve taken over the past year, and have narrowed it down to my favorites. These pictures make me smile, show an interesting perspective, or carry a certain memory. Here’s my year in photos…

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Running Sucks

I’ve recently started running (two weeks ago to be exact.) I hate running. I procrastinate getting started. I don’t really like it when I’m doing it. I can’t run very fast. But, I’ve decided to try it out in an effort to find balance, be more active, and lead a healthier lifestyle.

Last Saturday I ran my first 5K race in Hangzhou, China. I’m not quite sure what possessed me to sign up, but I’m pretty sure it was just because my friends were doing it. Even though it was rainy, race day was more exciting than my normal running days. There was a buzz in the air as the runners gathered at the starting line, eager to get going. I started in the back of the pack, near the “Over 30 minutes” sign. Prior to the race, my average 5K running time (taken from the 3 times I’d ran that far) was about 45 minutes. So, yeah, I’d most definitely take longer than 30 minutes to finish.

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And we’re off! At the announcer’s whistle, we all started running. At first, I was a little slow as I trailed behind about a hundred people, but shortly into the race, it began to thin out and I took off. The excitement and competitiveness of running kicked in and I was running faster and farther (without stopping) than I ever had before! Before I knew it, I had run to the 1K marker. I had never ran that far without stopping to walk, so I was pretty surprised with myself. Unfortunately, I soon got winded and slowed down, walking a minute or so, before willing myself to run again. Thus began my run/walk throughout the race. I wanted to keep running, but I couldn’t. I hear running is all mental. I’m still working on willing myself to keep going, even when my body tells me to stop. It’s a work in progress.

Around the halfway mark, it began raining pretty heavily. My glasses were wet and fogging up with the humidity. Taking them off, I ran the rest of the way semi-blind. During this stretch of the race, I really hated running. I wanted to give up. There weren’t any runners near me. I could see a few ahead, and there were some behind, but the competitiveness that came with being in the pack of runners at the start was fading, and so was my stamina and energy. But, I kept going.

I came to a part of the route that doubled-back on itself, meaning that we were to run across a bridge, turn around , and come back the way we came. Running across the bridge, I was back in the pack. Runners were coming toward me on the opposite side, offering smiles, waves, high-fives, and encouragement. There I was, this slow runner who was trailing behind, and I was getting cheered on by these complete strangers (and 2 of my friends I passed along the way 🙂 ). How did they know I needed that to keep going? Could they tell I was ready to throw in the towel? However they knew, it worked. Those smiles, thumbs-up, and words of encouragement pushed me to run even more. I still ran/walked, but I did it with more determination and grit.

Running the final kilometer was difficult, but stationed along the way were volunteers, pointing the way, saying “You’re almost there!” and “You can do it!” Again, just what I needed. As I came to the last curve in the route, I could see the finish line in sight. Droves of people who’d finished the race already were standing there, cheering, clapping, and smiling at ME as I ran to the finish line! Seriously! I was the only runner at that time crossing the finish line, and here they were cheering me on, encouraging me to finish what I started. I was overwhelmed with compassion and love. This was what they called a runner’s high. At that moment, I didn’t hate running.

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I wasn’t the fastest runner that day. A lot of people older than me beat me to the finish line. I didn’t get a medal or a trophy. But, I did finish. I set out to do something difficult for me, and I didn’t give up. And you know what? That’s pretty darn special to me. Oh, and my official time was 42:08, so I beat my own record. 🙂

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Running sucks, but I’m going to keep at it. I just signed up for another race next month.

 

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Shanghai Supermarket Sightings- SOL #23


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Shopping in a Shanghai supermarket can be similar to the US in many ways. There’s a produce section, meat department, refrigerated and frozen sections, and dry goods located in the middle of the store. But, there’s also many differences. Here are a few things you may find when  grocery shopping in Shanghai…

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Who doesn’t need a flattened, dried out pig face?!? Haha…I’m not quite sure if people eat this like a piece of jerky or if they cut it up and mix it into soups or other food. What do you think?

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Rice in bulk, sold by the kilogram. We all know rice is a staple in China. In addition to being able to purchase it in large bags, you can buy whatever amount you need.

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Jellied candies as far as the eye can see! In the middle of the store, you can buy loads of bulk candy by weight. Of course there are chocolates (Dove and Snickers are popular), but there are also jello-covered candies in a variety of shapes and sizes.

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Oil galore! Assorted varieties and sizes of oil, taking up 2 aisles, are in abundance. If you know anything about Chinese food, you know they use a lot of oil!

How about fresh meat? It doesn’t get much fresher than this…
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In the US, we have fresh meat in our grocery stores, but the difference is that the meat is wrapped in plastic, not left out in the open air. The kicker is that people sometimes use their bare hands to pick up their fresh meat or fish. When I see things like this, it makes me happy that I’m a vegetarian. 🙂

What kinds of unusual things do you see at your supermarket?

Springtime in Shanghai- SOL #22

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Spring has arrived in Shanghai! With the sun beating down from a clear, blue sky, a slight breeze in the air, we donned our sunnies and light jackets, and began our walk. Stopping off at a park to converse with the locals selling their wares, I bought some hand-painted postcards from a young lady. I was her first customer! Eggs, toast, and potatoes mixed with good conversation and a few laughs provided us with a burst of energy! What started out as a plan to walk to Element Fresh and brunch with my friend Ann turned into an afternoon of wandering, exploring, and enjoying the beauty happening around the city. Take a trip with us through our neighborhood in Shanghai.

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The crosswalk in the middle of the road is a bit weird, but once you get used to it, you hardly notice the bikes, scooters, and cars whizzing by you!

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Buds blooming, bursting with excitement at the change of weather, anxious to make their debut, greet us as we meander.

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A stop at the “big flower” for an obligatory selfie. The perfectly-manicured lawns, with their beautiful pansy beds provide a beautiful backdrop for us.

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Pansies! 🙂

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An empty park in Shanghai on a sunny day! A rare find indeed! We enjoyed the weeping willow trees, which to us, seem very “Asian.”

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We found what looks like tulips growing on trees…they were beautiful and sweet-smelling!

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Even shoes need a little sunshine.

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Sherpa’s guys have a tough job! This one’s taking an afternoon nap in the sun, most likely waiting for his next delivery call.

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Yep, that’s a goat. On the sidewalk in Shanghai. Nothing really surprises me here anymore. 🙂

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The construction site of our new campus. While we couldn’t get in, we peeked through a partially open gate. Things were happening above ground! Yay!

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And what day of walking around Shangers would be complete without a little window shopping? Here’s a look at some of the local fashion. I’m not gonna lie, I really love the baboon sweatshirt and the dog shirt. Took some self-restraint not to try them on. 🙂

P.S. I’m so happy that I was able to walk over 8 miles yesterday with little back pain! 🙂

Friday Morning in Shanghai- SOL #7

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6:00AM- Alarm goes off…snooze
6:09AM- Alarm goes off…snooze
6:18AM- Alarm goes off…snooze
6:27AM- Alarm goes off…OK, OK, I’m up!
6:28AM- With one eye open, I check my email on my iPhone…nothing too important. Time to get out of bed!
6:32AM- Stumble into the bathroom, wiping the sleep out of my eyes as I try not to curse the morning. Why is it so early?
6:33AM- Go pee…you know everybody does it!
6:34AM- Wash my hands and face and brush my teeth
6:37AM- Start boiling a pot of water for my edamame snack and throw some assorted veggies in the oven to roast for lunch
6:39AM- What am I going to wear? Quickly deciding on an outfit, I throw on a couple pairs of tights, my jean skirt, and a sweater.
6:43AM- Put the edamame on to boil. Wash and cut the apples, oranges, and strawberries for today’s smoothie.
6:45AM- Throw the fruit and coconut water into the blender….whirrrrrrrr…perfection.
6:48AM- Check on the edamame and veggies….not ready yet.
6:50AM- Makeup time…a little powder, blush, mascara, and chapstick. Good to go. 🙂
6:53AM- Log onto my VPN to read and comment on a few of my fellow slicers’ posts.
6:57AM- Whoops! Edamame and veggies are done…quickly pull the veggies out and drain my snack. Back to commenting.
7:20AM- Eeeek! I gotta go! Frantically, I pack my lunch and bag for work.
7:27AM- Noticing my droopy flowers, I jot down a quick note to ayi- ‘Please water the plants today! Thx!’
7:28AM- Throw on my shoes and I’m out the door
7:29AM- Descend 7 floors in the elevator, walk out my building, and head to the gate
7:35AM- My favorite motorcycle taxi driver waves a hello, and I hop onto his bike. By now, he knows my routine…waiting for me each morning, anxious to give me a lift to school.
IMG_5197 7:36AM- And, we’re off! Meandering through the streets, dodging pedestrians, cars, other motorbikes, and bicycles, we make our way down Hong Mei Lu. Hang a left on Huaguang Lu, past the five year old boy peeing on the street, dodging the car that pulled out in front of us, past the shops selling egg pancakes, steaming baozi, and meat on a stick, avoiding the street cleaner and his high pressure sprayer.
IMG_52087:38AM- Right on Hongzhong Lu, traffic slows down, people mill about, greeting one another, making their early morning purchases. Running the red light, we turn left on Yan’an Lu, under the elevated highway. Only a few more turns left.
7:40AM- Swerving around a motorbike, horn blaring, we turn right down a one-way street. Going against the flow of traffic, passing fruit stands, an Avon store, and loads of random little shops selling all manner of household goods, we cruise.
7:41AM- Almost there! Left onto Hong Qiao Lu. This time we have a green light, but that doesn’t stop us from nearly taking out a few pedestrians in the crosswalk.
7:42AM- Pulling into the zoo gates, we ride past the guard station. Today we are met with resistance. The guard, yelling in Chinese, tells us we can’t enter. My pengyou (friend) yells back. Angry looks and words exchanged, we’re at an impasse. “Ke yi!” (It’s OK!) I shout, anxious to get going. For now, we are allowed to go.
7:43AM- With a smile, a wave, and a “Zaoshang hao,” my school guards greet me in their usual way. After paying my 10RMB fare and a quick goodbye to my driver, I run in.
7:44AM- Clock in for the day (it’s a China thing). Whew! I made it. One minute to spare! Now to start my day. 🙂

Ayi makes me smile- SOL #3

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Ah…Monday…I love coming home on Mondays. I came home today to find my apartment, which had been in a pretty disastrous state after the weekend, clean and orderly and perfect again. All of this because of my lovely ayi. She really does bring a smile to my face.

What do you have to do that you really hate doing? I bet it’s got something to do with chores around the house. Washing the dishes? Scrubbing the tiles in the shower? Laundry perhaps? I’m right there with ya!

Having an ayi, which means cleaning lady or nanny, is a luxury that I can afford, and one that I take full advantage of, while living in China. I love knowing that on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, my apartment will be cleaned from top to bottom. I love that I don’t have to do the dishes or the laundry, make my bed, mop the floors, or clean the toilet. It’s not that I’m incapable of cleaning my own apartment, it’s just that I enjoy not having to do it. My mom says that I can never move back to the states because I’m so spoiled by my ayi. I think she’s right. 😉

Here are a few pictures of my apartment today. Thank you ayi! 🙂

My living room

My living room

Dining table looking into the living room

Dining table looking into the living room

My kitchen

My kitchen

My Bathroom...I love my tub!

My Bathroom…I love my tub!

Guest room

Guest room

My bedroom...view #1

My bedroom…view #1

My bedroom...view #2

My bedroom…view #2

The view outside my bedroom window

The view outside my bedroom window

What made you smile today? 🙂

I’ve Learned- SOL #28

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On my ride home from work today, I was reading The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom and came across a really interesting section of the text that I decided to use as a mentor text. In the section on pages 62-63, when the author is describing the things Eddie learned while at war, he begins each sentence with “He learned…”. I thought I could write a slice about what I’ve learned while living in Shanghai. Here goes.

I’ve learned to tune out the incessant honking. I’ve learned that, contrary to what I previously believed, the sky is not always blue. I’ve learned enough Chinese to make people think I know more than I do. I’ve learned that bikes, even when locked up, can and will disappear. I’ve learned that life with an ayi is pretty rad, and I plan on having one as long as possible. I’ve learned to let things go more. I’ve learned there is more than one right way to do things. I’ve learned that the struggle, even when it seems so impossibly difficult that you want to give up, is worth it. I’ve learned to use chopsticks with ease. I’ve learned that fortune cookies aren’t really a Chinese thing. Oh, and neither is General Tsao’s chicken.

I’ve learned that I don’t need a car, and that I don’t actually miss it all that much. I’ve learned to deal with crazy taxi drivers. I’ve learned that a green flashing man at a crosswalk doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe to cross. I’ve learned that brunch is an essential part of my weekend. I’ve learned how to appreciate life more. I’ve learned that friends, especially when you live halfway around the world, can and do become your family. I’ve learned how to survive in a city of 24 million people. I’ve learned to be a vegetarian. I’ve learned to be more tolerant of others. I’ve learned that we pay way too much for DVDs in America. I’ve learned the world isn’t as big as it seems. I’ve learned about the Chinese culture, but I realize I want to know more. I’ve learned that stinky tofu is one of the worst smells to ever assault my nose. I’ve learned the art of bargaining. I’ve learned that Shanghai can be both the best and worst city to live in, even in the span of one day. I’ve learned, as one year turned to two and two years turns to three, that I will forever be different because of this experience.

New Bike- SOL #27

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As mentioned in another slice, I bought a custom-made bicycle a few weeks ago. I was finally able to pick it up, and I love it! I love that there’s not another one just like it in Shanghai. I love that it’s “me”– bright, colorful, and fun! I love that it’s very lightweight and easy to ride. I love that I will be able to exercise again in a fun way, because, let’s face it, if I’m not having fun doing it, I’m not going to exercise.

Riding home on my new bike filled my heart with joy. Maneuvering between the other bikes, scooters, cars, and pedestrians got my adrenalin pumping. Listening to my music and pedaling to the beat, I was able to drown out everything else and enjoy the ride. The feeling of sweat on my skin was a pleasant reminder that I need to do this more often. The high I felt when I returned home from my ride got me through the night. I’m so excited to have a bike again, and I hope that I can keep this one for a long time!

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Mmmm….Mercato- SOL #26

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Tonight was girl’s night at one of my favorite restaurants in Shanghai, Mercato. Mercato is situated on the Bund and since we were seated near a window, we had a perfect view of the city skyline all lit up at night. We decided to go to Mercato since they won Restaurant Week, and had extended their tasting menu deal through this week. This meant we had an insane amount of food for the low price of 248 RMB ($40) per person. Considering that each main is normally about 200 RMB, this was a great deal! I thought I’d tell today’s slice of life through pictures so that you could see all the yummy foods we ate.

IMG_2783Melissa and I got to the Bund early to walk around and take a few pictures. Here’s my favorite one. I asked a local Chinese lady to take our picture. Of the three she took, this is the best one. I’m serious…even with the random Chinese guy and me not looking at the camera!

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I love the beautiful wall of flowers on the Bund!

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Our view of the Bund from our table. How pretty is that skyline?

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Course One- Kingfish Carpaccio, Crushed Olives, and Dill; Housemade Ricotta with Strawberry, Olive Oil, and Grilled Bread (my absolute favorite!); Warm Seafood Salad with Avocado, Lemon, and Parsley

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A close up of my favorite dish on the menu- Ricotta and Strawberry!!

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Course Two- Kale and Pecorino Pizza; Not pictured- Rigatoni and Meatballs with Smoked Chili-Tomato Ragu

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Course Three- Wood-Oven Roasted Whole 7 Star Seabass; Veal Milanese, Arugula and Citrus Dressing; Porcini-Crusted Salmon with Warm Leek Vinaigrette and Herbs (The salmon was my favorite! I couldn’t get over the head on the seabass. I generally don’t eat things with eyes staring at me.)

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Course Four- Autumn Apple Crisp with Cinnamon Honey Gelato; Bittersweet Chocolate Bundino with Salted Carmel Powder (Both were equally amazing!)

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A picture of all the girls at the end of the night. Funny how color-coordinated we all were. 🙂

I’d say tonight was a success! If you are ever in Shanghai, you have got to try Mercato. You will not be disappointed!