Category Archives: Expat Life

Returning Home, to Shanghai that is!

Returning to Shanghai worried me a little bit. I remember being on my flight thinking, “What have I done?” Now, this was a pretty big deal considering I never had that moment last year. It never hit me that I was moving abroad. But this time, I knew what I was getting into, and I knew I had to be mad in order to commit to another year.

Everything about this second year has been the exact opposite of last year, well not exactly everything. Aside from the moment I considered entering panic mode on the flight, I’m extremely comfortable with this year thus far.
Moving back here was easy. My apartment was exactly as I had left it, a truly amazing thing to come home to. The pollution has been low for the past month, a huge factor in my discontent last year. I can afford life right now, whereas last year I was trying to save and pay off debt until January. I’m comfortable with my job, when this time last year I was completely clueless. I’ve already begun my Chinese lessons again which are and always have been the highlight of my week. And so many of my friends are still here that I missed over the summer.
While it was great to be home and certainly wasn’t a long enough trip, I’m happy I made the decision to come back.  It just feels like home, as crazy as that sounds. Summer was simply a beautiful vacation, and now I’m back to my crazy, exciting, frustrating temporary home. I’m looking forward to the rest of this year and can’t wait to find out what China has in store for me this time.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

It’s been an interesting seven months in Shanghai. Since moving here, I’ve experienced many things, some exactly the same as home and other things so far different that they are hard to even comprehend. From awe to excitement to frustration, I can hardly put into words how I feel about my experience here. Regardless of what I’ve gained professionally or personally, it’s difficult to say if the benefit of staying another year would outweigh that of coming home and beginning my life.

And that’s the phrase that gets me: beginning my life. What does that even mean? Do I feel like I haven’t begun my life? Before coming to China I thought moving here would mean experiencing life and all it has to offer, stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something different. Now, I’m not so sure. 

Oftentimes I find myself debating what’s most important. Do I travel as much as I can to get it out of the way before I come home and focus on a career? Or do I say, “Adios,” to China after one year since I don’t intend on pursuing teaching for the rest of my life? I’m caught between making a smart professional decision that would make me happy and a fun travel opportunity where I’m not satisfied with work but I get to see the world while I’m young.

These thoughts cause me to question my priorities, “What’s most important to me?” I have two nephews and a niece that I miss dearly and, professionally, this isn’t getting me anywhere. On the other hand, if I stay I probably won’t be happy with my day to day work, but I’ll be more than stable financially and be able to continue traveling and learning the language. I’m not sure what I want more.

A year ago, I would have said the latter, hands down — obviously, that’s how I ended up here. After seven months, it’s not such an easy decision. Life here can be downright frustrating and often affects my health and sanity. However, when I think about leaving, I’m sad to see certain things go, particularly learning Chinese, the ease of travel, and the relationships I’ve built with my insanely outrageous students — even though they drive me absolutely crazy. 

So what do I do? What matters most to me? What am I going to be most upset about missing in the future? Will I be sad that I missed my nephews and niece growing up, or will I be more upset that I didn’t travel as much as I could when it was convenient? Or will I end up taking international travel for granted because it’s so easy to do here? Would I appreciate it more if I felt like I really had to work for it and that it wasn’t something I could just do on a weekend if I felt like it? Will I find life back home boring, or will it be more fulfilling to have a job I enjoy and seeing the family I miss being around? Would going back to the States be a bad financial decision? So many questions!

Ugh. I wish I could say that I am even a little closer to making a decision than I was four months ago but I’m not. I see the good and bad of both sides and I can’t decide which I prefer. For now, I guess I’ll just continue wasting all of my money on luxuries and Chinese lessons. We shall see what happens!


A Starry Night in Shanghai

You know all those lines like “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,” or any of the other quotes about appreciating something more when you haven’t seen it in a while? In a way, stars in the night sky are that for me.
My dad worked third shift for quite a bit of my childhood and I remember standing outside at night with him before he’d go to work and looking at the stars. He would point out constellations to me that he knew and it became, well, a part of me. It is part of the reason I planned to major in astronomy whilst in college. It sparked something in me.
For a long time I never wanted to live in a big city. I knew that would mean losing the beautiful nighttime scenery I’d come to love. For some reason, it did not occur to me that moving to Shanghai would mean I’d hardly ever get a glimpse of the night sky.
It is a rarity, but on occasion the sky is clear enough to get a good look at the stars. Tonight was one of those nights. As I stood there pointing out constellations to my friends, just as my dad had done for me many moons ago, I began to think about the things we take for granted. Most apparent at the time was the beauty of the night sky and sharing that with a loved one. The sight of these celestial objects stops me in my tracks and I get lost in it. I could lay for hours and look up at the stars without ever for a moment getting bored, tired, or even slightly less mesmerized. 
So I moved to Shanghai and had to say goodbye to these little beauties. I forgot how much I missed them until I was reminded once again tonight. Out of sight, out of mind… right? 
As unfortunate as that is, it got me thinking about all the things in my life that I really do miss about home and what I’ve taken for granted. I sort of moved to China on a whim. I quit my job and applied for a new job in a field I knew nothing about on the other side of the world in just a couple short weeks. It was a big decision but I didn’t think twice. I didn’t think about how it would hit me missing certain things or how many things I’d realize I’m grateful for because I don’t have them anymore, some materialistic, some not.
Some things I just miss, other things I took for granted. For example:
-My niece and nephews.
-The therapeutic effect of driving my car.
-Tap water that is okay to drink.
-Dryers, clothes are just not the same.
-Family holiday traditions
-helping my sister-in-law decorate the Christmas tree.
-cooking/eating breakfast pizza.
-decorating after a giant Thanksgiving feast.
-Black Friday shopping.
-etc.
-Quality, high-speed internet.
-Decently reliable cell phone service.
-Gym memberships that don’t cost an arm and a leg (staying fit is crazy expensive here so I’ve taken up pilates at home, gotta do what ya gotta do).
-Seeing your friends’ and family members’ reactions when they open a gift.
-and really just basic things like being around the people you’ve cared about for so long. Not being able to see those faces whenever you please is kind of sad.
Despite not being able to do or experience a lot of these things currently, I’ve realized how grateful I am for every moment I’ve had babysitting my nephews/niece, arguing with my brothers, picking on my mom, or laughing about ridiculous nonsensical things with my dad. Things that seemed like normal occurrences now strike me as extraordinary memories. It really is the little things. Don’t forget to appreciate them.
And to think the stars told me all this. They have always been the one place I’ve felt like my mind has worked best, helping me find clarity my whole life.
What helps you clear your mind and organize your thoughts? 

What are you appreciating this holiday season?

post signature


My Story: How I Ended Up Teaching in China

Here’s my story about how I learned the importance of stepping out of my comfort zone and realized how rewarding it is to live life without fear dictating my every move.
Where it all began:
Oftentimes the people I meet don’t believe me when I explain how different I am from the person I was in high school. I was always a happy, quirky, outgoing people-person, that hasn’t changed; however, I was one of the most nervous people you’d ever meet. I was terrified of stepping out of my comfort zone.
To paint you a picture, I’ll share some of my most embarrassing moments. 
I was the girl who threw up on the bus on the first day of 6th grade because I was so nervous about starting middle school. Then, I refused to ride the bus for another week because I was so worried about what people must have thought of me.
I love to sing, constantly. When I auditioned for a show in 8th grade, my voice literally dropped an octave because of my nerves. It was the first time I had to audition in front of my classmates. What did I think was going to happen if I got the part?
My freshman year of high school, I nearly cried when I had to give my first presentation in class. I was shaking so badly and nearly got sick, again. FLASHBACKS! 
My senior year of high school, I had a call back for a part in our senior musical. What did I do? I cried until they let me not sing in front of the others. Again, what did I think would happen if I got the part? Ugh.
Towards the end of my freshman year of college, the executive board of my favorite student org asked me if I would apply for a position with them and take on some extra responsibility. I told them no because I was too afraid. I was afraid that if I had the extra responsibility, I would screw something up. I hated the idea of possibly being the one at fault so much that I was content just taking orders from people and helping them turn their own ideas into successful events.
The summer after my freshman year of college, I decided to work at an amusement park in Ohio. For the first week or two, I refused to spiel because I was too nervous speaking in front of people – even though I was fully aware that nobody listens to the ride host’s instructions anyway.
I’m hoping by now you see how much I let my nerves run my life and really keep me from doing a lot of things I would have had a great time being a part of.
The turning point was that summer at the amusement park. It was a rough transition too. My Team Leader and Assistant Team Leader decided I would be a good candidate for their “third in charge,” that in their absence I’d be the person responsible for running breaks, dealing with problems, supervising, etc. I was mortified when they asked me. They told me I could say no but I accepted, not understanding why they picked me. I went back to my apartment AND CRIED. I called my mom sobbing and talking about quitting. I was that scared. She was able to talk me down and encourage me to just try it. If I didn’t like it, that’s all I had to tell them but at least I would have tried. 
Getting comfortable being in charge that summer was definitely a struggle for me but soon I fell in love with being the person people went to for guidance, training, and guest problems. I enjoyed owning the fact that I actually do know what I’m talking about sometimes. It was an insane confidence boost for me. I think that was huge because I was never confident about ANYTHING. I’m still very modest but I don’t think poorly about myself. I realize now how much I abused myself emotionally back then. I never appreciated myself and definitely didn’t feel like I had anything to contribute to the world. I just went with the flow and was content with that.
After that summer, I decided I wanted to apply for a leadership position for the following year so I would be able to be in charge of my own crew. I also decided to take on extra responsibility in student orgs and get more involved on campus. When the time came to apply for executive positions for on campus organizations, I couldn’t have been more excited.  
That was the year that I really tried my hand at leadership. It was then that I confirmed my love of stepping out of my comfort zone. After that, I decided to leave the country for the first time and spent my summer living in France studying French. There I learned independence, something I didn’t realize I was lacking. I went through one of the hardest times of my life on the other side of the world without knowing anyone and came out stronger because of it.
This led up to my senior year of college where I felt like I was on top of the world. I was high on life and felt comfortable with the person I was becoming. This year I took on even more responsibilities as President of my favorite campus org, got a campus radio show, became comfortable running meetings, and discovered some things I really enjoy doing. I became more in tune with myself and was more confident than ever. 
My first job out of college was interesting. It certainly wouldn’t have been most people’s first choice but I learned a lot and was forced out of my comfort zone even more. I became more comfortable talking with total strangers, training, getting up in front of a group and teaching them something, and ultimately why it’s so important to LIVE YOUR OWN DREAMS instead of someone else’s.
When I quit that job, I knew I needed to do something I was passionate about. The two things I love most are planning events and traveling. After a friend of mine had spent the previous year teaching in Shanghai and having the time of her life, I decided to message her about it. This was something I had been considering for a while. After getting some information from her, I decided I wanted to take the leap and go for it. Originally I thought I’d go back to France and do the same thing there, but then decided to expand my comfort zone. I already lived in France once, and while I’d love to live there again, I thought it would be a great experience to go somewhere totally different. 

So here I am, living in Shanghai and taking on life from the driver’s seat. You have full control over your life. It’s our experiences that shape us so don’t be afraid to experience something new, different, or challenging. You might learn something about yourself you never knew. And who knows? It just might change your entire life. 


My Attempt to Master Christmas in China

It’s no secret that Christmas is my favorite time of year and will undoubtedly be the hardest time to be away from home. This will be the first Christmas I’ve ever been away and it saddens me to think that it will be over a year until I get to celebrate with my family again.
Even though I’m miles from home and shouldn’t expect any snow this season, the holiday is still on my mind daily, mostly thanks to the Christmas songs that I can’t get out of my head. I’m not complaining though! While it will be hard to be away, I’m going to celebrate the best that I can instead of letting it depress me.
I started listening to Christmas music this week (the week of Thanksgiving) to coincide with when I’d start listening back home. I’ve stocked up on Christmas movies and bought some decorations for my apartment. My desk at work is decked out and I will be decorating the classroom this weekend. 

More pictures to come!
To solve the lack of snow problem, I’ve booked a flight to Japan and will be skiing for a couple days while I’m there. I can’t wait! I’m afraid I won’t want to leave. That trip will be December 23-27…over Christmas!!!!
My friends and I are also planning a pre-Christmas Christmas party. It will be nice to celebrate with people I’ve grown to love over the last few months. 
Between traveling, celebrating, skiing, and all the festive decorations, movies, and music, I think I will hold up all right. Despite my efforts, it won’t be quite the same as being home. Enjoy this time with your friends and family and don’t take these shared experiences for granted.

Happy Holidays!

McDonald’s and Giving In

I’ve been on a fitness kick lately, and by lately I mean this past week – but I intend to keep it going! Truth is, it makes me far more positive and has quite the impact on my sanity so why stop?
While I have been much better lately about remembering to work out and drink more water, I am also drinking far more soda and still not eating right. I eat my veggies but hardly any fruit or protein. Dieting is kind of rough when you don’t know where to buy groceries you trust or what ingredients are in the things you order. I clearly have trust issues.
For a while I managed to stay away from fast-food, one in particular: McDonald’s. We have one very near to campus and to make matters worse, they deliver. Everyone told me to try it and said that it tastes the same as in the States. I knew that if that was really the case, I didn’t want to try it and risk desiring it all the time. And so I didn’t try it, well not until about two months later when I finally caved. 
Let me tell you, it does taste pretty much the same. The downside to delivery is that it’s usually cold (don’t ask me how, it’s literally a 10 second bike ride from campus). It’s also cheap and easy -hello, definition of fast-food. Probably needless to say but I had it today. I have it probably once every week or two, and depending on the week I might even have it twice. I don’t care much for McDonald’s; however, it’s like a little slice of home and it’s nice to have sometimes. 
Aside from McDonald’s, I’ve given in to eating sweets. I’m not big on sweets and rarely eat them so this is a surprise to me. I don’t know why but I’ve been craving chocolate, mostly just Snickers. If I had to analyze why (and let’s be real here, it’s me so I have to), I’d assume that it’s probably a comfort thing. Familiar brands are nice to come across, which is why I drink Coke with my dinner, drink Jameson or Guinness when I go out, and shop at places like Forever 21, Old Navy, and IKEA. Don’t get me started on grocery shopping…
These brands offer a certain degree of security to expats and allow us to feel right at home even though we’re in an entirely different country. From someone with a marketing degree who didn’t care much for her major, I truly do appreciate global brands, both from a business standpoint and a first-hand, real-life experience standpoint. It’s fascinating the effect brands have on people. And even though I know it’s all a bunch of manipulative nonsense, I still can’t help but be affected by it just like any average consumer. I feel like I could talk about this for a while so I’ll stop before I ramble too much.
Until next time!

Update: Month 2 – Strap In

Just over two months in and I don’t really know what to think. Don’t get me wrong, Shanghai is a lot of fun, I’ve met a ton of awesome people, and my students are adorable, albeit a little crazy, but adorable nonetheless. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to shake this slump I’ve been in for the past three weeks. I was warned prior to moving here that this would happen, and I knowingly accepted it because honestly the highs will outweigh the lows, of that I am sure. I’m just bothered because I don’t feel like I’ve made it to the next lift hill yet (roller coaster reference, #workedatCedarPoint). Seeing as how I’m getting impatient, I’m going to do the only thing I know that usually makes me feel a million times better – write.
For starters, I feel like I’ve been here for an eternity even though it’s hardly been over two months. A side note: Never measure months by saying approximately four weeks. A month is much longer than that. You don’t realize but it’s true. By those standards, 2 months would be approximately 56 days; however, I have actually been here for 77 days (OMG, really?). There’s a big difference there. While the previous statement is somewhat inaccurate considering it’s a little closer to two and a half months that I’ve been here (almost), There’s still over a week that is unaccounted for, which makes it feel like the weeks are dragging on… Not to mention the fact that I have only been teaching for two months and have another full eight left to go… I don’t even want to begin crunching those numbers.
The first month went by rather quickly, but the second month passed very slowly. In my “expert” opinion, I think it has a lot to do with work. When I started, I was very stressed out just trying to grasp the whole concept of teaching second graders, following a curriculum, managing a classroom, etc. It was a lot to take in all at once. While this was difficult to get used to at first, I’ve now developed my own routine, I get my grading done in a timely manner, and lesson planning just comes kind of naturally now – most of the time I feel like I don’t have to prepare much. Yes, I have materials and lessons planned but I don’t spend two hours reviewing my lesson plans prior to my classes just to make sure I’m comfortable. Now I can just review quickly in the morning, make sure I have all the necessary materials, and spend the rest of my free time grading papers or preparing an art project. I used to take home work all the time and now I never have to. 
After exactly one month, everything changed entirely. It was like a complete 180 and work was suddenly easy. I thrive off of stress so naturally, this led to me taking on more tutoring (we can tutor students for extra cash once we have completed our office hours). Aside from the 40 hours I spend in the classroom, I’ve added another 9 for tutoring because, well, I’m bored. I also take Chinese lessons twice a week and still socialize nightly; yet, I still have more free time than I’ve ever had in my life. So much that I’ve actually started watching TV to pass time. Depending on how well you know me, you may know that I haven’t really watched TV in pretty much five years. Watching so much now makes me question what I’m doing with my life (Disclaimer: I understand that it’s totally normal to watch TV and I am in no way shape or form implying that people who watch TV don’t know what they are doing with their lives. I’m simply informing all my lovely readers of the fact that this is a total lifestyle change for me and it’s hard to wrap my head around it. I don’t understand the concept of “free time” or “relaxation” which is why this is such a struggle for me).

I don’t want this post to be all negative things but I’m really hoping that this will make me feel a bit better and help get me out of this slump I’m in. I also am working on adding some more excitement into my life here. I was supposed to go paragliding last weekend but they cancelled due to weather. *le sigh* Oh well. I’m sure things will pick up soon enough and I cannot wait to start traveling more. Only three months until our insanely long break! Can I get a “WHAT WHAT?!”

One Month Later..

I’ve been here for a little over a month and, to be honest, every day has its ups and downs. I don’t feel like I’ve really experienced any culture shock (surprisingly); however, working with kids makes any day a rollercoaster.
Which reminds me, for everyone back home who doesn’t know, I’m teaching 2nd grade English, Science, Social Studies, and Art. My students are great but they have far too much energy. For someone who’s never taught before, I’m still learning classroom management. It’s way different than teaching college-age or running meetings on campus. Definitely an adjustment for me!
Living in Shanghai is interesting, or China rather. There’s good, bad, and ugly but you’ll have that anywhere. You just have to learn to appreciate the good and not worry so much about the rest.
MY FAVORITE THINGS
Meeting new people: This one’s a given. I love people and everyone I’ve met here has been awesome. Very glad to have had to the opportunity to meet these guys!
How cheap the food is: So food is crazy cheap if you’re eating Chinese food. I can get a meal right outside of campus for less than $1.60 USD. Insanity.
Tutoring: To put it simply, it’s really good money. And easy.
-Learning the language: I’m a language lover so it’s no surprise that I’m really eager to learn Chinese. I’ve started taking lessons but I still have so much to learn. It’s much harder than French when it comes to pronunciation but it seems that grammatically it may be easier. We’ll see as I learn more!
-Teaching my Art class: This one worried me at first. Everyone told me they were surprised a first year teacher was given this extra responsibility but it has turned out to be a blessing in my opinion. See, my busiest day of the week is Wednesday. Currently I work nonstop until 7:40 pm (between class, tutoring, more tutoring, and Chinese lessons) and then it’s time to eat. After that though, I can wind down by preparing the art project for my Thursday class. It’s a great way to end my most stressful day. 
-My newly found love for tea (HOT TEA): As silly as it sounds, if someone had told me two years ago that I’d one day love hot tea, I would have laughed. I didn’t even like cold tea back then and I hated all hot beverages. NO WAY. But, here I am drinking this wonderful hot tea as I type this!
-The diversity: Shanghai is made up of so many different communities. It’s crazy how many different areas you’ll see just by taking a cab to one of your favorite places.
-Fireworks: Since I’ve been here, I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard fireworks. I’ve not actually seen any though which is kind of funny. I hear them and wonder “What holiday is it now?”
-The cab rides: Sounds like a weird thing to enjoy but I love it. If I’m feeling courageous enough, I’ll attempt to use what little Chinese I know. It’s fun because you don’t really need to feel linguistically insecure. Odds are you’ll never see this driver again.

The kids: In general, Chinese children are adorable and I can’t help but say “Ni hao” every time I pass one. They might sort of try to communicate or just hide behind their parents. Either way, it’s so cute! I think their parents enjoy it too. Usually they try and encourage them to speak back (which is great because those kids are still better at Chinese than me).
MY NOT SO FAVORITE THINGS

American food is so pricey: I can’t be upset about this because it makes perfect sense but it is kind of a bummer. Five days a week I eat super cheap near campus and it’s always Chinese food. I usually splurge on the weekends for what ever protein I’m craving at some expensive restaurant where I trust the quality of meat. 

-Lousy internet: You begin to accept that the internet is terrible everywhere and that it really is a luxury to have fully functional internet all the time (ahem, USA) but it still sucks when you’re trying to do work and suddenly nothing works or when you’re trying to video chat a friend of family member and can hardly understand a word or make out their face.
-The cab rides: Yes, my favorite and my least favorite. Sometimes the cab rides are awful. Sometimes they’re rude, terrifying, or just do things that make you wonder if they realize there’s another person in the car. Some like to take advantage of foreigners and overcharge them. Things to be aware of…
Feeling like I can’t trust the meat: I make a bigger deal about this than other people but I’m always worried where the meat has come from and if it’s really safe for me to eat. Or is it actually chicken? Most likely not. It just makes me uncomfortable and I can’t forget about it long enough to eat a meal. Usually I don’t include meat in my dinners unless I know it’s a reputable place and I’m not going to get sick or regret it.
-How things can change over night: Sometimes rules change abruptly and you just have to go with it. No need to get upset. Things won’t end well then. You just have to deal with whatever changes are thrown at you, be flexible, and understand that it’s just the way that it goes.
-Random smells: To be fair, I think this problem happens in most big cities but that doesn’t make it any easier for me to breathe. Just saying.
-The lack of sunshine: Which really isn’t a lack of sunshine but rather its inability to break through the smog. Some days, like today, there are blue skies and sunlight. It doesn’t happen often and you notice it immediately when it does. Hallelujah!
-Children and their split pants: Kids (little ones) wear these pants that have cuts in them so they can pee anywhere without having to pull down their pants. Interesting right? Some parents actually hold their children over a trash can and let them pee (right next to my friend Chris’s face -hahaha). I’m not entirely sure but I think that is almost illegal in the States….
Spitting: Honestly, I haven’t seen this one too much. I’ve heard of it happening a lot and the first time I witnessed it was last week. They don’t just spit, they clear their throat and hock up as much as they can get out. I almost freaked out when I saw that. It’s the only time it’s happened around me but it was definitely shocking, not to mention disturbing.
-Not being able to drink tap water: I drink so much tap water at home it’s insane, but here I can’t. The water is treated; however, the pipes are the problem. It’s unsafe to drink the water here so I always have to buy water. The school provides us with a water machine though and extra water when we need it (we still have to pay of course).
So there you have it, my top 10 favorite and least favorite things. To be perfectly honest, it was way harder to come up with the negatives and I have plenty more positives I didn’t get to mention. I really do enjoy being here but of course I miss everyone back home (and the food). I think I’m adjusting pretty well, and no worries (MOM), I’m not starving! We have vacation starting on Thursday so hopefully I’ll be posting again shortly after I take another trip to IKEA!

Until next time,

First Impressions of Shanghai

Without venturing out too much (between getting back from the airport, jet lag, and just being clueless still), here are my first impressions of Shanghai:

  • The traffic is kind of crazy, and it wasn’t even busy when I arrived. People abruptly switch lanes and will get literally six inches away from hitting a pedestrian, and it doesn’t seem to phase anyone! That will probably be one of the hardest things for me to get used to considering I’ve actually been hit by a car before and still have pretty bad anxiety about it. It really just seems like a free-for-all so there’s a lot of honking that goes on. It’s almost as if they honk to say “I’m about to get in your way, so get out of mine!” Hahaha.
  • From a visual standpoint, there is a lot of pollution (obviously) but all of the buildings look pretty cool. Just imagine your regular old big city, except all the signs are in a different language. The airport is nice and almost has a futuristic feel; the exit from the airport is elevated and actually feels like it since the area surrounding is fairly open. I felt like I was in The Jetsons for a minute!
  • Everyone I’ve talked to has been very nice. I have heard that Americans are treated very well in Shanghai so maybe that has something to do with it. It seems like people are eager to use their English skills as well, but that won’t stop me from trying to learn Chinese!
  • It’s humid, very. I’m kind of a baby when it comes to heat though, so maybe I’m not the best person to talk to about this. On the bright side, it gets dark around 6:30 pm which really helps with the heat.
  • And as I just said, it gets dark so early! The sun rises early too, like 5 am. I think I’ll need to adjust my sleep schedule accordingly (or just make sure I have light blocking curtains). When I left dinner last night, it was around 7:30 pm and it was dark, like midnight dark. Every still walks around like it’s nothing! The streets are well lit though, which is nice.
  • My dinner was good but a friend of mine from China told me I probably went to a Chinese restaurant for foreigners. They didn’t speak any English but for the most part it was similar to what we’d eat in the States. The noodles were a little different and the beer we had reminded me of any light beer back in the USA. Chinese food is really cheap too!
  • My hotel room is super nice! Actually, the entire hotel is really nice. The only thing that’s different is that there’s a giant window in my bathroom that looks out to my bed, and vice versa. I don’t have a roommate so it’s not a big deal, but it’s the same in the double rooms! What?! Ha.

So far, I like it. I’ve never lived in a big city so this will be a cool experience, especially because it’s in a different country! Stay tuned for more Shanghai stories 🙂

Journey to China: Leg One and Forgetting my Passport

The day that I had been waiting for all summer was finally here. I was up late packing the night before and finishing some last minute things until about 1 a.m., determined to get in a quick three hour nap before waking up to drive to the airport.

Everything was taken care of except one small thing: making copies of all my important documents. Easy right? I made copies of everything, including my passport, separated everything in two neat piles, one that would stay at home with my mom and one that would go with me, then packed all my copies away in a folder and put my mom’s copies on the kitchen table. Eager to sleep, I went to bed thinking everything was prepared for the following morning.
After arriving at the airport the next morning, my mother and I walked in and waited in line to check my baggage. We noticed I’d need my passport to check in (le duh) so I looked in the designated passport slot of my purse – it wasn’t there. You can imagine how panicked I felt.
My mom, knowing how organized I am, figured it was somewhere else in my purse and insisted I keep looking. It took me all of five seconds to be 100% sure I left it in the scanner when I was making copies. I’m not sure if it was the tone of my voice or the look on my face that convinced her I didn’t need to look any harder, but almost instantly she said “Okay, I’ll be right back.”
At this point, I was horrified. I sat in front of the baggage check area and awaited the return of my mother. I tried to ask an employee but they weren’t very helpful or even sympathetic. I’m sure they deal with this nonsense every day and are numb to it, but really? I was freaking out as I returned to my lonely seat at the entrance of the airport. Surprisingly, the employee found me and told me she had printed off my tags and would hold them, but was going to throw them out as soon as 7:24 hit if my passport had not arrived. I thanked her and waited for my mom who, at this time, was doing 110 mph on the highway to try and make it back in time and calling everyone in my family to meet her half way.
She got in touch with my father and they joined forces to get me my passport. Unfortunately, we were still 11 minutes too late and therefore, I couldn’t get on my flight. I was disappointed but knew it wasn’t the end of the world. I’d just have to pay a steep change fee and move on. Luckily, the new lady I was working with was super awesome and told me they weren’t going to hold it against me since I forgot my passport and had been there for two hours already. They decided to waive any charges I normally would have had to pay! How awesome is that? My new flights were scheduled for the next day at the exact same times. Phew.
This worked out for the better I think. I was already arriving more than 24 hours earlier than everyone else so I had wiggle room at the school in Shanghai. Also, I was going to have to pay for a hotel room since I was arriving early. Missing my flight actually saved me money!!! I got to spend a day relaxing (for the first time in weeks) and went to a Toledo Mud Hens game with my brothers and my mom. I’d say it was a win (and the Mud Hens won too).

 

Currently, I’m sitting at my gate in Chicago’s airport waiting for my flight to Shanghai to start boarding. I’m getting really excited because there are a lot of people from China all around me. I don’t know much Chinese but just listening to them is getting me very excited to start learning the language!!! Next stop, Shanghai!