Tag Archives: Shanghai

Year in Photos 2018

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. In some ways, I agree. When you snap a picture, you freeze a moment in time. You capture the essence of the experience so that when you look back at them days, months, years later, the details conjure up the feelings of that moment. As much as I love writing my stories, I also challenge myself to tell a story through the photos I take. The angle and framing of the shot, what you include and what you don’t, and the focal point all contribute to the story. To my story.

I love reflecting on the past year through photos (you can click here to see my year in photos from 2017,Β 2016,Β 2015, andΒ 2014). The process of looking back over the photos from the past year takes me on a reflective journey and I smile, remembering the memories once again. 2018 was full of family, friends, food, and travels- all of my favorite things. Without further delay, here’s my year in photos, in chronological order.

Traveling is My Life

Ever since I was little, I’ve dreamt of a life where I get to travel the world, seeing far off places and taking in new experiences. I honestly don’t know where this idea came from. I mean, I grew up in a smallish town in Texas and other than road trips (mostly in Texas), my family didn’t travel much. It’s crazy, but I didn’t go on my first plane ride until I was 16…and that was only to Tennessee! But for whatever reason, I felt this constant pull to just go.

After a couple of international trips in college (to England and Germany), I fulfilled a lifelong dream when I picked up and moved to Australia- Sydney to be exact- right after graduating from college. Australia has and will always hold a special place in my heart, and Sydney is such a beautiful, magical place that you can’t help but fall in love with it. I ended up moving back to Texas after my half-a-year adventure living abroad, where I gained a ton of life experience and independence. It was, after all, the first time I lived anywhere but my childhood home.

Teaching in a suburb of Houston was exciting and I had many positive experiences during my time there, yet I always felt like something was missing. It wasn’t a constant feeling, but it came often enough that after 6 years, I finally listened. That pull to just go was back. I answered it by applying to a little school nestled in the Shanghai Zoo, and knowing nothing whatsoever about China, I picked up and moved halfway across the world.

That was in 2010, and here I am in 2019 still living abroad, just in a different country now. While that first year in China was one of the hardest of my life (the culture shock I experienced was no joke), I wouldn’t trade it for anything. This life has afforded me so many opportunities to travel to places I wouldn’t have even imagined as a child, allowed me to meet some of the most interesting and influential people who’ve become my tribe, and stretched me beyond my comfort zone in more ways than I can count.

I tell anyone who will listen that traveling is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. By travel, I don’t mean take a cruise or go to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. I mean really travel. Experience how other people live, talk to locals, get lost, feel the heartbeat of a city, try new foods you’ve never seen before, and travel alone at least once in your life. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to 5 continents, live on 4, and experience 39 countries and counting. Take it from me, you owe it to yourself. I’ll say it until the day I die, life isn’t meant to be lived in one place.

 

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This is ‘2010 Jen’ showing off my fancy new bike in front of my little school in the zoo in Shanghai…man, those were some good times. But those bootleg jeans…yeah, no! πŸ˜›

A Year in Photos- 2015 #sol16 20 of 31

Last year, I wrote a post sharing my favorite photos from 2014. This was a really great way to reflect on my year, and to relive some of my favorite moments. So here goes 2015’s year in photos (in chronological order). I hope you enjoy! πŸ™‚

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All photos copyright of Jennifer Kesler. Please do not use without permission.

Less than a week to go!

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Today is my last Tuesday in China. Wow. The countdown is serious now. With less than a week until my departure, I’m starting to slightly freak out. I’m not ready to go. Not physically for sure. Haven’t yet mailed anything to Albania. Haven’t finished packing. Haven’t done my last minute shopping. Haven’t finished all my work at school. Haven’t sold all my stuff yet. Haven’t gone to the bank. Haven’t run the random errands I need to do. There’s never enough time, is there?

I’m also not emotionally ready to go. Haven’t spent enough time with my friends I’m going to miss dearly. Haven’t spent enough time with my students. Haven’t been to all the restaurants I want to visit one last time. Haven’t seen everything I want to see in Shangers. Haven’t had time to properly say goodbye and process what it’s going to be like to leave my life of five years behind and begin again.

But the thing about deadlines and scheduled flights is that even if you’re not ready, you have to go. The sand in my hourglass is pouring out faster than I’d like, and I just have to take it one day at a time. I’m trying to strike a balance between the have to’s and the want to’s. I know I’m going to leave things unfinished and I know I’m going to have regrets, but I’m going to do my best to soak it all in and surround myself with the people I love in my last few days.

Shangers has been good to me (most of the time), and I’m forever grateful for this experience. The people I’ve met, experience I’ve gained, and places I’ve traveled during my time here have helped shape who I am, so for better or worse, Shangers will always be in my heart.

I ❀ Shanghai!

Mistaken Identity- SOL #27

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At Michelle’s birthday dinner this past weekend, we started talking about horrible, funny, and weird flight experiences we’d had. It was then that I was reminded of a funny story that happened to me once…

Back in December 2010, I was headed home to surprise my family for Christmas. I had just spent my first few months in Shanghai, and was looking forward to a little family lovin’. At the airport check-in counter with my Chinese friend Julie, who accompanied me to the airport, I was a little taken aback by the customer service rep’s question.

“Can you see very good?” she asked.

“Ummm…well, I can with my glasses on,” I answered her in a curious-sounding voice.

“But you can see?” she queried.

Leaning over, I whispered to Julie, “Why does she need to know this? Is this some weird China thing?” Julie shook her head no.

“I can see OK, but not very well without my glasses. Is this a problem? I’m not driving the plane, so…I’m not sure what the deal is.”

Apparently that answer was sufficient, since she dropped the conversation and continued with normal check-in. Shaking my head as I left the counter, I chocked it up to a random, weird China experience, said goodbye to Julie, and made my way through immigration and security.

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After boarding the aircraft, I was approached by a middle-aged flight attendant. In a VERY loud voice, she shouted, “Ma’am, I brought you a book to read!” while handing me a large white book. Her loud voice was beginning to draw the attention of the other passengers.

“No, thank you, I brought my own,” I said, wondering why she was giving me, and only me, a book.

“Ma’am, it’s a Braille book for you to read!” she shouted.

“Why do I need a Braille book?” I questioned, my face flushing from all this attention I was getting.

“Because you’re blind!” she said matter-of-factly.

“I’m not blind!” I insisted.

“Yes, you are,” she argued.

“No, really, I’m not,” I again insisted, at this point completely flabbergasted as to why this was happening. I was pretty sure I was being punked.

The older Southern gentleman (AKA good ole boy) behind me bellowed, “I see what you’re doing…trying to get something for free by telling them you’re blind, huh?” as he chuckled and shook his head at me. I wanted to crawl under my seat.

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At our stopover in Tokyo, we all had to go through security and then get checked in again so they could issue us a boarding pass for the last leg of our trip. As I was waiting for the people in front of me to get their boarding passes, I leaned over the edge of the counter and happened to see my name written down on a piece of paper. Once it was my turn in line, I asked, “Why is my name written on that paper?”

“Because I have to escort you to the gate,” the attendant said.

“Ummm…why?”

“Because you’re blind.”

“I JUST READ MY NAME ON THAT PIECE OF PAPER! How could I possibly be blind?” I shouted.

“I don’t know, but I will help you to the gate,” he responded.

“No, you won’t. I do not need help.”

“But it says that I have to.”

“I don’t care. I am capable of going by myself.”

After a few more minutes of arguing, he let me go unattended. Seriously, I felt like I was in the twilight zone or something.

Luckily, the rest of the flight was good, and I was no longer accused of being blind, but looking back, that was some crazy trip! I still can’t figure out how I got flagged in the system, but I’m glad it’s never happened again.

Things I’ve Collected in my Travels- SOL#26

As a traveler, I collect lots of things. Most of these are memories, stories, new friends, and photographs. But I also collect art. Whenever I visit somewhere new, I’m on the hunt for something that calls out to me, begging me to bring it home and be a constant reminder of my time in that special place. Here are some of my favorite pieces that I’ve collected over the past few years.

Walking barefoot through the temples of Bagan, Myanmar, I came across this unique piece of art, a sand painting of monks. Instantly I was drawn to the texture and uniqueness of the piece, and the monks were definitely a part of the Myanmar culture that I would remember long after I returned home.

I found this gem in Seoul, South Korea, as I sifted through some antiques in a little shop in Insadong. Initially looking for an antique Buddha or teapot, the shop owner showed me this 100-year-old writer’s notebook. While I can’t read a word in it, it’s such a treasure to have a piece of someone’s writing.

This picture captures a few pieces. The umbrella lamp was a recent purchase from my second trip to Myanmar. I was drawn to the brightly-colored umbrellas on display in the little shop in town. Shaggers and I stopped in for a look, but kept moving. Later that night, we saw the shop again, only this time, the umbrellas were lit up, casting a lovely glow. I wanted one! But again, I resisted. I didn’t need more stuff, I told myself. At dinner, Shaggers said I should just go get it; that I would regret it if I didn’t. She was right. I dashed down the street and picked it up, happy I did.

After living in Shanghai for two years, I realized I didn’t have any art from China yet. Jody, a friend of mine from back home, was visiting. As we walked around Tianzifang, we came across an art gallery. The artist was there, and he talked with us about his artwork and his techniques. The paper-cut doll was so beautiful, I had to take it. I love that I have a contemporary piece of traditional Chinese artwork.

Last summer, Melissa M. and I traveled to Greece, a beautiful place that I can’t wait to return to, and while we were there, we took a trip to Santorini. If you haven’t yet been, I highly recommend it. Its picturesque views, traditional blue and white domes, and unbelievable natural beauty make it so memorable. As we meandered through the tight pathways cut into the side of the mountainous island, we happened into a shop with paintings of Santorini. This one, with the vibrant colors and the peaceful view, called my name. I love remembering our special time every time I see it on the wall.

Also last summer, I visited Rome. I was on my way to Greece from London, and I was blessed with an 18-hour stopover in Rome. Making the most of it, I spent the day roaming around the city. Walking along the river at dusk, I came across a man selling his water color paintings of everyday Roman life. This one, of a doorway, caught my eye. I’m not sure what I loved about it, but it made me happy, so I supported this local artist and bought it up right away!

My trip to Egypt was one of the most amazing trips I have ever taken. As you can imagine, we saw loads of hieroglyphics while we were there. I loved the ancient artwork, and took countless photos of walls full of stories told through pictures. What I was most drawn to, though, were the ankhs, or keys of life. There was just something about them that displayed beauty and symmetry and life. While in Abu Simbel, we visited a shop that sold handmade pieces made of stone. I didn’t have any intention of purchasing anything, but when I laid eyes on this ankh, I knew I had to add it to my collection. Not only was it an ankh, but it was handmade and it was a beautiful color. I absolutely love it!

These last two pieces are also from Myanmar. While I generally stick to purchasing one piece per country, I simply couldn’t resist picking up more than that in Myanmar! The watercolor painting of sunset at U Bein Bridge was a gem I found on my most recent trip to Myanmar. Shaggers and I headed out on the back of some motorbikes from Mandalay to the bridge to catch the sunset. Missing it by a few minutes, we decided that we’d walk the length of it anyway, since we were already there. On our way across the bridge, we passed by a shop selling paintings. My eyes were instantly drawn to this piece, and while I stopped to gaze at it for a bit, I moved on. Reaching the end, the sun had completely set, and we turned around to head back. Mentioning to Shaggers that I should have bought that picture, she said we should stop by on our way. Noticing that most of the shops we had passed earlier were already closed up, I thought my window of opportunity had closed. Nearing the end of the bridge, we found them putting everything away, ready to head home for the day. Luckily they let me look through the paintings until I found the one I had wanted. Now it is mine! Once I frame it, I’ll display it in my home.

The other piece, the wooden carving of a long neck lady, was picked up on my first trip to Myanmar in Inle Lake. Stopping into a shop on the lake, I was taken aback by the native people who adorn themselves with gold plates around their neck, stretching them more and more each year. They were simply beautiful. As I walked around, this carving stood out out to me, and I loved the profile.

I love that I am brought back back to my travels as I look around my apartment at the beautiful pieces I have (and will continue to) collected over the years. When I’m old and grey, I will be able to share my stories with others and recall these wonderful memories.

Celebrating in Style!- SOL #21

Earlier this month, we celebrated Amy’s birthday. Amy, pictured above, is one of those people that exudes happiness and love and fun. She’s the friend who’s always telling you how beautiful, smart, and amazing you are, and the fact that she is all of that and more makes her a fabulous friend to have! Her birthday theme this year was sexy, which is such an Amy thing to choose. No matter what, Amy thinks the world of her friends, and is always telling us how sexy (or nice or pretty or kind) we are. Amy is sexy, and her beauty showed through on her birthday. I mean, look at her! She’s gorgeous!

Her birthday was so much fun! We celebrated at Malabar, with nibbles, drinks, and laughs. Everyone who came was dressed to the nines, and we all exuded sexiness (despite whatever self-conscious thoughts we may have had when we we getting ready earlier that evening).

The amazingly beautiful and kind woman pictured above is none other than Donna Paxon, this one and only soul that oozes love and goodness. Despite having met her only a few months ago, we have become fast friends and kindred spirits. She holds such a dear place in my heart, and will forever be etched in my memories.

This beauty here is Melissa, the goofy, sweet, ever-loyal lady I’m lucky enough to call my friend. No matter what, she’s positive, uplifting, and sweet. Her heart is genuine and she’s always there to listen when I need a friend. She also makes a great travel buddy and puts up with my crap. I’m going to miss her more than she knows (and probably more than I even know right now) when she leaves this summer. While I’m extremely happy for her new adventures (new country, new job, and new BABY), I can’t help but feel a selfish twinge knowing that she won’t be right down the street or down the hall from me anymore.

Oh Nirada…such a silly lady! I love how we kid around with one another and give each other crap. She’s such a caring person and a really great teacher. Not to mention, she’s gorgeous! I’m glad we have become friends, and look forward to many more memories! πŸ˜‰

P.S. Love the photo bomb Mel! πŸ˜›

Such a sweet group shot! While we won’t all be in the same place next fall, I will certainly hold a special place in my heart for all of these ladies! πŸ˜‰

So yeah…this is what happens when you leave your phone unattended! Haha…I had such a laugh the next morning when I went through the pictures on my phone and found lots of funny gems like this one!

This has got to be my favorite picture of the three of us- by far! Linner, Michelle, and I have been together for the past 5 years, when we all moved to Shanghai for the first time. Since then, we have been there for one another and have all changed so much. Linner, the always loyal friend, is as beautiful inside as she is outside. She’s caring, giving, a great listener, and loves to finish my food when I can’t. She’s also my veggie counterpart and a sloth. πŸ˜‰ Michelle, the other half of Kes-Baugh, is my partner-in-crime, both at work and at play. She’s very generous, loves to pick on me, and is drop-dead gorgeous. I’m not really sure what I’ll do without her next year. The three of us unfortunately will be separated next year, but I know we’ll keep in touch and be in each others’ lives for years to come. I love you ladies!