Tag Archives: #slice2013

What It’s Really Like

SOLS button 2013

I’ve been living abroad for nearly three years now. Being an expat is a unique experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But the life of an expat isn’t perfect either. Shocking, I know! Here’s a little bit about what it’s really like to be an expat.

You need to find a balance between your life abroad and your life back in your home country. The hardest part for me is finding time for my relationships. Being a people person means that I am blessed to have many friendships and family relationships both here in China and back in the US. Finding the balance between developing new friendships with the people you meet as an expat while still maintaining your friendships back home isn’t an easy feat. Not only is the time change a barrier (being 13 hours ahead is difficult when it comes to finding common phone times), it’s just plain easier to talk to people face-to-face. The friends you make in your new country are physically there, making it easier to converse with and develop a deeper relationship. Let’s face it, typing lengthy emails, updating your Facebook status, responding to wall posts, Skyping, and making phone calls is harder. It’s not that your relationships back home aren’t worth the effort. They are. But there’s only so much you can do. While they, too, try to make the relationship work, it’s different. Where you have loads of people to worry about keeping up with, they only have you. The guilt associated with not contacting a friend or family member back home is enough to make you feel like an awful friend. Sometimes you feel like you can’t do anything right, and you retreat, putting more and more distance between you and your friends without even realizing it.

When you talk to your friends or family back home, they don’t always know what’s really going on in your life. To be fair, you talk to people back home less frequently than you did when you lived there, and sometimes only sporadically. Therefore, you wind up giving them the highlights, those fun, amazing parts of living abroad– your most recent vacation, that funny story about the time that you were misunderstood when speaking Chinese and ended up in a totally random part of town, the new things you’re learning about the culture, or the exciting project you’re working on at school. You neglect to tell them the parts of your life that are less than perfect– those times when you get caught in the rain with no umbrella, no money, and a phone with a dead battery in a country where you don’t speak the language well, the parts of work that aren’t so fun, the fact that you still don’t have your flight booked for the summer, or the awful sinus infection you had last week– because they don’t want to hear that. You don’t want your only interactions with them that week/month/semester to be complaints, and let’s face it, you’re not “supposed” to have problems. I mean, come on, you’re living the dream, right?!? Everyone is envious of your life where you get to travel to exotic and remote places on a regular basis, immerse yourself in an entirely different culture, and constantly experience new and exciting things. Who wants to hear you complaining about it?

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell people back home what’s really going on because they don’t understand. They don’t experience your day-to-day life, so when you tell them a story, you wind up having to tell them the back story, explain who this person is, what this is, what that means, etc. It takes so long to tell them what’s happening, that you end up just giving them the big picture, leaving out the little details. But then, do your friends really know what’s going on in your life if you’re leaving things out?

Then there’s the fact that most of your friends back home don’t “get” you anymore. You’re the one who has moved away, leaving behind the known to chase the unknown. The one who is different. The one who has changed. And try as you might, you can’t explain it. You, yourself, don’t really understand all the changes you’ve undergone as a result of living abroad. How is someone else supposed to understand? Inevitably, some of your relationships change. Sometimes you don’t even know why, but you don’t relate to your friends like you once did. It doesn’t mean that anyone did anything wrong; it’s just that you’re not in the same place that you once were, and that is ok. It’s tough when that happens, and oftentimes you want to hold onto the past, clinging to the memories you once had. When do you let go?

Moving to China was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’ve learned more about myself and become more independent, flexible, and open-minded. I’ve been given career opportunities that I could only dream about in the States. Living abroad is the greatest experience I’ve ever had in my life, but not everything is perfect all the time. That’s life.

Today I…

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Today I…

Today I jumped right back into my routine.
Today I answered loads of emails.
Today I caught up with coworkers after our week off.
Today I was jet-lagged and tired.
Today I led three grade level meetings and an after school PD.
Today I made homemade potato soup for dinner.
Today I talked to my dad.
Today I gave advice.
Today I chatted with an eight year old about her birthday party.
Today I collaborated.
Today I shared pictures and stories from my vacation.
Today I recommended books to colleagues.
Today I received a wedding invite to a dear friend’s wedding I unfortunately don’t get to attend.
Today I shared hugs with friends and kids.
Today I played tag with an adorable three year old.
Today I Skyped.
Today I took a two hour nap after school.
Today I watched a little TV.
Today I was able to blog again, and I realized just how much I’ve missed it.
Today I smiled.

What did you do today?

She Remembers- SOL #31

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She Remembers

She remembers caring for him,
pretending he was her baby.
She remembers him following her around
like a shadow, a copy cat.
She remembers him pestering,
annoying,
bothering,
tattling,
fighting.
She remembers being enemies,
destined to never be friends.
She remembers joining forces,
combining efforts,
making peace–
if just for a moment.
She remembers laughing,
hugging,
playing,
talking.
She remembers waking up and
realizing he’d grown up,
matured,
become a man.
She remembers his wedding,
crying tears of joy and pride.
She remembers him becoming
a daddy.
She remembers being proud
of her little brother.
Loving him despite the differences,
Loving him because of them.

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Cairo- SOL #30

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Today begins my Spring Break, but more importantly, my trip to Cairo, Egypt! I can’t tell you how excited I am about this trip! I’ve always wanted to see the pyramids, so when the opportunity to see this amazing wonder came about, I bought my ticket straight away. Well, the time has finally arrived. Today’s slice is a list of all the things I’m looking forward to on this trip.

  • Standing in awe of the pyramids, particularly the Great Sphinx of Giza.
  • Riding a camel…I know, I know, so cliche, but hey, I’m only in Egypt once, right?
  • Shopping at the old bazaars and street markets. I’m really looking forward to finding a piece of Egyptian art and some beautiful tapestries to bring back home.
  • Taking a boat trip down the Nile.
  • Going horseback riding at sunset near the pyramids. Is this really my life?
  • Visiting the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities to see the mummies and catch a glimpse of King Tut and his artifacts.
  • Marveling at the world’s largest temple (over 70 acres!), the Temple of Karnack in Luxor, the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes.
  • Traveling to Aswan on the overnight sleeper train (a first!) and taking a felucca ride around the surrounding islands.
  • Exploring the Valley of the Kings, located on the West bank of the Nile and known to contain 63 tombs and chambers, as well as the Valley of the Queens, a similar place except for housing the wives of pharaohs.
  • Trying some typical Egyptian food. I’m not sure what to expect, but I’m looking forward to tasting new dishes!
  • Being in the sun! The winter has lingered a little too long in Shanghai, and I’m looking forward to feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin and not having to wear my heavy coat. Oh, and a tan would be nice, too!
  • The two 10+ hour plane rides. This past month has been so busy that I’m looking forward to many uninterrupted hours of reading!
  • Lastly, I’m looking forward to making new memories and writing in my writer’s notebook.

Where I’m From…-SOL #29

For months, I’ve been working on my version of “Where I’m From”. I hadn’t been able to get it quite right, and I’m not sure I have even now, but I’m finally willing to share it. Any feedback would be appreciated.

Where I’m From

I’m from the country,
shellin’ peas on the front porch swing,
listening to Mamaw and Grandaddy spin stories,
the smell of warm banana puddin’ wafting out of the kitchen.
I’m from pecan trees big enough to climb,
whose branches held the promise of adventure.

I’m from stayin’ out ’til dark,
and bedtime stories with one Poky Little Puppy.
I’m from cousins who are best friends
and grandmas who are secret keepers.
From yes ma’ams and no sirs,
from spankings and “Go to your room!”

I’m from playhouses and slumber parties,
passing notes and whispering secrets.
From Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow,
Punky Brewster and Bill Nye.
I’m from Trapper Keepers and spelling bees,
from school cafeterias that smelled like PB & J.

I’m from pick-up trucks caked with mud,
Aggie bonfires and cross-town rivalries.
From Carebears and My Little Ponies,
from first kisses and broken hearts.
I am from those moments–
growing up in a small town–
destined to see the world.

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!

I Miss Them- SOL #25

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Today would have been my grandparent’s sixty-third wedding anniversary; March 25, 1950 was the day my Mamaw and Grandaddy said “I do.” They were both incredible people who loved one another until the very end. Mamaw passed away on August 2, 2009, and Grandaddy just over a year later, on August 7, 2010. I miss them dearly, and think of them often. In honor of my grandparents and their love for one another, I’d like to share a tribute to them both.

img081Mamaw and Grandaddy in their younger days. How cute were they?

Mamaw

img086Mamaw and me on January 30, 1985, the day my little brother was born.

My first best friend and the best secret-keeper around,
she loved me more than anyone ever could.
Her contagious laugh and loving smile
caused everyone to turn their heads
whenever she entered a room.
Raised in the country, she knew just how to
sew and quilt, cook from scratch, tend to a garden,
milk a cow, drive a tractor, and build a fort.
I can remember attending the annual Chili Day with her
eating chili and crackers, sweet tea, and chocolate sheet cake,
bidding on the auction items with her by my side,
caught up in the excitement of the auctioneer’s fast-paced voice.
Mamaw was the best cook in the whole world–
everyone said so.
She could make a ‘nanner puddin’
better than anything you ever tasted!
Andrew and I, the official taste testers,
eagerly awaited that first bite,
warm from the oven.
It was always just right.
With a listening ear and a heart of gold,
Mamaw made everything ok.

Grandaddy

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This picture embodies our relationship– always teasing one another!

Grandaddy could build anything with his hands,
from a barn to a playhouse,
a fence to a chicken coop,
you name it, he could build it.
Frugal, even to the very end,
he wouldn’t wear a new pair of pants
until his old ones were worn out.
From school-bus bananas
and peas and cornbread
to Nilla Wafers and Tootsie Rolls.
Riding around in his old Dodge pickup,
his hand on my knee,
finding that tickle spot that drove me crazy!
He could make a friend wherever he went,
and he always had a story to tell,
even if you didn’t have time to listen to it.
Loyal as the day is long,
you could count on him no matter what.

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Grandaddy and me just after Mamaw passed away. He was such a loving man.

Rainy Days- SOL #24

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What is it about the rain that makes me so sleepy? So lazy? The gray, gloomy skies coupled with the soft sound of the rain just outside my window lulls me into a trance. I want to be productive, to get all the things done that I’ve been putting off, but something about the rain makes me want to stay in my pajamas, read a book, order in, and watch a movie. I can’t be the only one that feels this way, right? I’ll try my hand at some poetry. That’s productive-ish.

Rain

gray-blue skies
no sun in sight
damp, dark, dreary
then I hear
sprinkles against my window
the soft pitter patter
forming background noise
begging me to stay indoors
where it’s warm and dry
I can always go out tomorrow