Day 329 and 330: Made in China

A cold front is finally making its way through St. Petersburg! I can breathe a sigh of foggy relief. See I love the sun and warm weather but I love the cold even more. Probably because I could live in sweat pants and sweaters for the rest of my life. Plus you appreciate the sun and the warmth so much more when you get it back after weeks of cold, dark, and depressing days (thank you Maine).

Knowing that I am moving to the tropical jungle very soon makes me crave cold weather like it is nobody’s business. Gimme those sweaters.

Sunday, November 25th 

After months of my family begging me to get cheap knock-off designer goods, I finally bit the bullet and made a day out of it at Peal City. I had never been to Pearl City before and was pleasantly surprised. It was just a big mall on Hong Mei Lu stuffed with hundreds of stores with small but fierce Chinese ladies taunting you with “Lady want purse? Lady want bag? Lady want shirt? Me give good price.”

329

Just breathing in their direction would result in loud and incessant commands for me to buy, buy, buy.

It was terrifying.

I resorted to smiling and keeping my gaze directed at the items instead of the bossy women. Boy, they are persistent. Armed with my bargaining team of Peter and Berri we found our way into one of many purse stores. A quick word between Berri and the shop guy and he whisked us down the hall and into another shop. Before we knew it, they opened the back wall and ushered us into a secret room. Then they opened another back wall into another secret room full of fake goods. Using Peter and Berri as my tough negotiators, I scored a Louis Vutton purse, Tori Burch purse, two Chanel wallets, and 3 watches all for under $200! We were psyched.

After almost 2 exhausting hours of shopping for family and friends, we decided to grab some dinner at the Hong Mei Lu Pedestrian street. Peter used to live down in this area and I really appreciate the accessibility of Western food, shopping, and people! Often I try to avoid the pedestrian street because it can be very expensive and full of obnoxious white people getting wasted on a weeknight. However, it is a nice place to go to on occasion if you are feeling homesick.

We had a wonderful soup and salad buffet at Bastiaan’s where I have had many coffee dates with fellow American ladies before. The food was delicious! I highly recommend it.

Monday, November 26th 

After such an exhausting weekend I was ready to get to my Starbucks and do some work. I was also craving a big hot latte on this cold day.

330

That night I forced Peter to watch Merlin which I found at our neighborhood DVD store. Merlin is one of my favorite childhood movies which is weird since the movie is a little bit risque (and extremely weird).

merlin

We used to watch this movie all the time at our North Carolina cabin. We kids were a little obsessed with magic at the time so it makes sense. The movie was just as weird as I remembered but I loved it. Peter fell asleep.

Oh well. At least one of us is still trying to keep the magic alive.

 

 

Day 327 and 328: A Not So American Thanksgiving

My oh my this weekend flew by so quickly! Carina came over so we celebrated her birthday all weekend by lounging at the pool, enjoying decadent food, and watching movies. We saw The Impossible on Saturday night and it kind of freaked me out. The movie is the terrifying true story of a family who survived the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. My stomach was in knots and I was pretty much crying the entire the movie. I feel so great now about moving to an island just south of Thailand… yup.

Now I am back at work this Monday morning so let’s get down to business with this 365 project.

Friday, November 23rd

As I walked down to our lobby the day after Thanksgiving, I encountered a wet and rainy day. Unprepared, I asked the front desk if I could use one of their umbrellas but they were out!

Our new doorman with kind, crinkly eyes started talking to me in Chinese then walked away. The front desk lady who speaks a little English told me with a incredulous laugh that he was getting me his own umbrella! The doorman came back with his beautiful red umbrella with a wooden handle and offered it to me.

I was shocked.

327

I was so touched by this simple act of kindness and overwhelmed with gratitude. While his umbrella kept me dry on this rainy day after Thanksgiving, my face was wet with tears of happiness. Even in China I am reminded of and grateful for the generosity of the human spirit.

It is universal.

Saturday, November 24th

The Thanksgiving festivities continued on Saturday with a grand feast shared with our American and Scottish friends. Peter and I spent the morning at our friends John and Berri’s house prepping mashed potatoes and a green bean casserole (the girls) and watching a movie (the boys).

It was a stressful morning involving me losing Peter’e iphone in the taxi and an even more stressful afternoon preparing the Thanksgiving meal at our friends house on an extremely empty stomach.

But it was all worth it.

DSC_1776edit

The dinner was delicious and the company was even better. We were surrounded by so many new friends who had accepted us into their families and homes with open arms. After only two months in Shanghai I had already found myself part of a crazy and dysfunctional family. It showed me the strength of Peter’s character with the friendships he had made and the strength of the expat community. We may be different but we are all in this together. 

I was also in it for the pumpkin soup.

DSC_1775edit

Yum.

After dinner we spent the evening chatting, drinking, and eating dessert. Barri and I took the two little girls on a walk around the neighborhood and messed around on the outdoor exercise equipment. There is nothing like playground ellipticals to work off a Thanksgiving meal.

015editMen

We then started an epic game of charades with the Americans vs. the Scots that lasted until the early hours of the morning. Unfortunately for our team, the charades cards were from a Scottish game which meant we had to act out people, places, and things that we had never heard of before. It definitely revealed how ignorant Americans are about world history! Whoops. And did you know that pickled cucumbers are called Gherkins in Scotland? Weird.

We definitely lost but learned and laughed a lot!

Kirsten and Peter Thanksgiving

It was definitely a not so American Thanksgiving to remember.

Happy Thanksgiving from China! 

Day 325 and 326: Fallen Leaves and Fried Bananas

Wednesday, November 21st 

Back in China it is finally looking like fall.. and it is almost December. But the leaves are falling and they are huge!

325

I take a Bounce! fitness class in the morning to write about for Spirit Magazine and have a blast jumping around like a maniac for 45 minutes. Bounce! is an aerobics class on a mini trampoline and is surprisingly low impact. My sore foot is happy. Once the article is published I will post it on the blog!

Thursday November 22nd

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is Thanksgiving in America but definitely not in China. People still bustle off to work all day while the Americans sit around missing their families, football, and the Macy’s parade. Most of all I miss my family and our Thanksgiving retreat in the mountains of North Carolina like last year.

326

Although we have a big Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday, we celebrate “Thanksgiving” dinner that night with all our friends at a Japanese buffet. There is no turkey but plenty of hibachi steak and saki to consume. I am grateful for friends in far away places and fried bananas.

I think American Thanksgiving should include fried bananas.

Day 323 and 324: My Last Day of Crossfit in Shanghai

Time is a flying! Christmas is coming up quickly so I am running around like a crazy person. However I am trying to slow down and enjoy this time here at home with my family during the best time of the year. I am grateful!

Now let’s get back to these China posts. It seems so long ago…

Monday, November 19th

It was Peter’s birthday (Happy Birthday baby!) but I had committed to a lunch date with some new friends. I met two nice American girls my age and had a blast connecting with them on many different levels. It was so nice to meet other unmarried American girls who are focused on travel, new experiences, and a career in Shanghai. I felt… normal!

Afterwards I went to Crossfit for my last WOD in Shanghai! My one month membership ended the next day :-(.

323

It was definitely a WOD to remember.

WOD

Run 500m

40 OH Squat- 20kg

40 Box Jump

40 Pull Up-jumping

40 Push Up-knees

40 Wall Ball- 6kg

40 Burpee

Run 500m

Holy crap this workout was tough. I finished in 28.59. Pushups were impossible for me so I stayed on my knees. However, I plowed through all 40 burpees on my toes. Weird. Overhead squats are still really movement for me which tells me that I need to improve my ankle flexibility (duh) and core strength!

I couldn’t believe it was my last day at Crossfit. I was so sad to leave. I love Iron Dragon Crossfit! I love the gym, the trainers, and the people who workout with me. They are all awesome, supportive, and like-minded fitness people who are seriously hard to find in Shanghai. Where else in China can you find people who actually enjoy pushing themselves to the limits?

As sad as it is to leave my Crossfit community behind, I am so grateful for everything that I learned. Crossfit has truly changed my life. It has changed the way I view exercise, my body, and people. We are capable of so much more than we think.

I will definitely take Crossfit with me wherever I go next in life.

Tuesday, November 20th

My Crossfit depression was slightly lifted the next day at netball practice. We have a fun group of girls and we are actually not too terrible! We have been working hard and have improved our game by leaps and bounds. I forgot how fun team sports can be. They are an OK substitution for Crossfit.

324

Although I may not be able to join another Crossfit box, there are other ways I can incorporate a little competition and fun into my workouts.

There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Day 321 and 322: A Spectacular Birthday Weekend

Wow, my ears are still slightly muffled from the Aerosmith concert last night. I will talk about that soon! But first I am looking forward to posting about Peter’s birthday weekend in Shanghai. We had a blast and have some great pictures to prove it! Enjoy.

Saturday, November 17th 

After celebrating Barri’s birthday on Thursday, we were excited to celebrate Peter’s birthday that weekend! Peter wouldn’t turn 25 until Monday the 19th so we had a jam-packed Saturday planned.

First up was Mr. Pancake House in Jing ‘An for brunch.

IMG_0395

At noon, the restaurant was completely packed so our group of 8 ended up waiting for more than an hour before being seated. But it was totally worth it. I mean check out these pancakes:

321

Yum! We also ordered some nutella crepes that were ridiculously amazing. The portions were so large that the plates barely fit on the table. Of course we stuffed ourselves to the brim with as many pancakes as we could muster. Peter was in pancake heaven.

IMG_0384

After the rest of our group went home, Peter and I decided to walk around and explore the area (and digest). My Crossfit gym is in the same area and I planned on attending open gym in a couple of hours. Fall weather had finally arrived so the air was brisk and chilly. We bundled ourselves in the cold while weaving through the neighborhood and discovering unique shops and restaurants.

IMG_0387IMG_0398

We also found some kittens! They were playing rambunctiously, rolling around, jumping on each other, and chasing each other around a shop. It was the cutest thing ever. We stopped and watched them for a while, laughing at their adorable antics.

IMG_0396IMG_0397

We also stumbled upon a familiar place… the Jade Buddha Temple! Remember when we visited during my last trip to Shanghai in March? We were shocked to discover that it was located on the same block as my Crossfit gym! I had no idea! Sometimes this city feels so big but is really very small.

IMG_0399

Then it was open gym time. Peter headed home while I walked just a few blocks over. I was excited to workout and get warm! To start, I worked on my back squat. There were a couple guys in the weight room doing crazy powerlifting and their presence made me really nervous and timid. My squat form sucks and I knew they would be judging. Ugh. But I managed 5 sets of 5 with 50kg or 110 lbs. Take that boys!

Strength

Back Squat

5, 5, 5, 5, 5 - 50kg

Then I chose a WOD written on the mirror from another day and got to work.

IMG_0400

WOD

15 K2E

20 Box Jump

25 OH Walking Lunge – 10kg

3RFT

My time was 12.40 and I used a big box for all the jumps! Also, the knees to elbows were so much easier than the first time I did them. Core is getting stronger!  However my quads were still crazy sore and my foot started aching during the box jumps. Boo. I worked up a great sweat though and was warm for the entire trip home.

There was little time to waste though because we had tickets to Shanghai Circus World!!! We only recently heard about this acrobatic show that plays every day in the Zhabei District. We easily took the metro to the Shanghai Circus World stop and barely made it on time to meet our friends.

The show was incredible! Think Cirque Soleil with a Chinese twist and shaky safety precautions. There were girls flipping around on bicycles, men juggling porcelain jars, acrobats catapulting people from giant seesaws onto platforms, and men running on a stories high rotating wheel without any safety harness while occasionally blindfolded! The craziest stunt was when they fit 8 roaring motorcyclists in a metal cage ball. How they did not crash into each other is beyond me.

The show was just phenomenal and I highly recommend it if you are visiting Shanghai!

Afterwards we went to City Bull bar on Hong Mei Lu Pedestrian Street for a big joint birthday party. There were nachos plates, too many shots, and some karaoke with people ripping open Peter’s snap button shirt again and again. Happy Birthday?

It was a long but fun day and I know Peter enjoyed it! Happy Birthday baby!

Sunday, November 18th 

It was a rough morning to say the least. To spare you from my ragged appearance, here is my leaf face.

IMG_0367

Much prettier don’t you think? I LOVE FALL!

I don’t remember what we did but I am sure it consisted of chugging water, watching movies, and a dumpling dinner down the street. We are so predictable.

Best Birthday Weekend ever.

Day 319 and 320: Bus Stop

It is really funny transitioning between China and Florida posts. They are so different! It’s hard to refocus and remember how it felt living in a foreign country. I will continue to do my best!

Thursday, November 15th 

My view at the bus stop is one of my favorites.

319

The traffic from people, cars, bicycles, motorbikes, and buses is extraordinary on Tian lin Lu. If I am not running down the street, chasing down the 89 Bus, I am standing at the bus stop, watching the world go by. I can see into a restaurant directly across the street. The kitchen is open to the street and customers and I can see the ladies chopping, laughing, and greasing their woks as steam streams from the window. Everyday the waitress looks at me curiously, wondering why a white lady would take a bus in this part of town. I stare right back as she attends to the people hunched over their bowls, slurping noodles, and spearing dumplings with their chopsticks. It makes me hungry.

Eventually the bus comes barreling down the street, stopping for only the briefest moment to allow me to step on the platform. Before I know it the doors are shut behind me and I am being catapult down the aisle and heavily into a seat. Although public transportation in China is accessible, I never said it was ordinary.

IMG_0329

In the early afternoon I headed to the gym for my own Crossfit workout during open gym. We had a birthday dinner for our friend Barri and I wanted to get in a good session.

My quads were still extremely sore so I decided to focus on my back and glutes. So of course I chose my favorite lift for strength.

Strength 

Deadlift 

5,5,5,5,5 - 75kg

Yep. Still my favorite lift. Only managed 75kg or 165 pounds but felt good. Then I made up my own WOD which turned out to be a doozy.

WOD

10 Push Up

15 Pull Up (kipping)

20 Sit Up

25 KB Swings - 12 kg

4RFT

My time was 18.28 but I kept stopping! I know it was because I was alone in the gym and didn’t have the push of competing next to my fellow Crossfit peeps. Thankfully one of my friends from class was also at open gym and occasionally cheered me on. Thanks Michael! This time I used the big boy bar for kipping pull ups which was mentally challenging. I was pretty high up in the air and was forced to complete more pull ups at a time. It was tough but I liked the challenge. I love pull ups now!

That night we ate and drank like crazy at Barri’s birthday and I was so glad that I was able to fit in a workout. Putting that fuel to good use!

Friday, November 16th 

Despite being a tad *ahem* hungover… I felt pretty good the next day. It was raining pretty heavily all day so I was glad to take the bus to meet Peter for lunch.

320

I made plans to go to the Pearl City market with Barri in the early evening and was annoyed that it was still raining heavily. We left her work around 4 and stopped by my apartment to drop off our bags. By the time we left it was 5pm, rush hour was in full swing and it was raining cats and dog. Since grabbing a cab would be impossible, we decided to take the bus to the market. I had only a raincoat on and was freezing in the chilly rain by the time we made it to the bus stop. Finally our bus arrived and it was packed to the brim with people. There was no way we were getting onboard!

We decided to try walking a bit more and actually ran into Peter on the street! I was so happy and relieved to see him that I almost started crying. The weather was doing me no favors and I wanted to just go home. We ended up scratching the market for the night so Peter and I went home and watched movies.

I felt much better.

Sometimes China is too difficult to manage. You need to just stay inside and hide.

Day 340: 10 Things I Love About America

Thursday, December 6th 

When I used to come home from college for the holidays or summer vacation my mom always planned a day of pampering for me. This included facials (to heal my skin from the brutal Maine weather), haircuts and highlights (it’s tough to stay blonde in Maine!), pedicures (needed when going from boots to sandals), and massages (to fix that study induced shoulder shrug).

Well coming home from China has been no different. Yesterday my mom scheduled a haircut and facial and I feel like a new person! I’m still scrubbing away the last of that China pollution. Too bad the Florida weather has been a little less than sunny.

340

But the air is clean and cool and everything is quiet. Now here’s a list of what I’m loving now in the United States.

10 Things I Love About America

1. I can hop in my car and drive whenever I want, wherever I want

2. No crowds!

3. Everybody is so polite!

4. No need to maneuver around spit on the streets

5. People actually wait in line. Say what?

6. It is easy to understand labels, ingredients, and signs in grocery stores

7. Nighttime is actually quiet and dark

8. I can breathe! Hello fresh air…

9. I can drink from the tap! (and it doesn’t taste like toilet water)

10. No censorship! I now have unlimited access to Youtube, Twitter, Hulu, Netflix, WordPress, and news articles from across the world!

I have to say that suddenly having all these luxuries in America makes me so incredibly grateful for what we have in this great country. Living in China makes me appreciate it so much more. But while it is nice and easy in America, I actually look forward to the challenge of living in South East Asia once again. It pushes me out of my comfort zone and makes me appreciate life!

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world. You impoverish yourself if you forget this errand.” – Woodrow Wilson

Well said. When living abroad, you definitely go beyond simply “making a living”. Everyday you meet unique challenges that change your perspective, engage your mind, and enrich your inner self.

By enriching your self, you enrich the world you live in.

Day 317 and 318: Bench Press PR and Beautiful Pollution

Tuesday, November 13th 

It was another strength day in Crossfit! I love those days.

We did 4 sets of 2 bench presses and honestly, I was nervous. My arms are definitely the weakest part of my body and I knew I had lost a lot of strength. However I wanted to keep up with Kitt, the strongest and fastest girl in our group.

317-2

After several warm-up rounds with a light weight we started loading weight on the bar. Eventually Kitt and I worked our way up to 50kg! That is about 110 pounds! Definitely a PR for me. I needed help from a spotter to make it all the way up so next time I will stay at 45kg. It felt so good to lift so much weight. It is still strange to lift so heavy for so few reps because I can’t feel the burn in my muscles, even though I lift to failure. I guess I’m more of a lighter weight/higher reps girl.

317

Then it was time for the WOD! Of course push ups were on the list. It always a good idea to do pushups after benching 110 pounds right??

WOD

15 BB Thrusters (25kg)

30 Push Ups (knees)

80m Farmers Walk (20kg kettlebells)

3RFT

I felt slow and sluggish and only managed a time of 15.44. The push ups were literally impossible for me to do on my toes so I did them on my knees. My quads were still sore from yesterday’s squats and were further killed with the barbell thrusters. Yeah, thrusters suck. They also made me realize I need to work on my clean form. It was a challenge to lift the 25kg barbell to my shoulders! But the Farmers Walk was fun because it’s all about grip strength. You know I love my grip strength.

Wednesday, November 14th

Wednesday it was nice to have a day off Crossfit so I could focus on getting some work done. It ended up being a beautiful day with a great sunset. Shanghai sunsets tend to glow because of all the haze.

318

Sometimes pollution is beautiful.

Day 315 and 316: Back at Crossfit

Omg I just drank water from the tap and didn’t die! Life in America is so… safe. Except when my mother takes me out for an unexpected 6 hour shopping marathon. Nobody is safe then. Especially my wallet.

Sunday, November 11th

Drinking an Americano at my favorite cafe in Shanghai. ET Cafe in Xuhui.

315

Monday, November 12th 

After a week of rest for my foot injury, it felt so good to be back at Crossfit. We started with a shoulder endurance test by holding a kettlebell over our heads for as long as possible. Using a 12kg kettlebell, I ended up holding it for 3:45 minutes and was the last (wo)man standing!! Apparently I love these little endurance tests and can easily push myself to win every time. It all comes down to mental strength and good form.

316

We then transitioned to the strength portion with 5 sets of 5 shoulder presses. I used a 30kg barbell which was tough, especially after holding a kettlebell over my head for almost 4 minutes. My deloids were wiped! I kind of liked it.

And then the WOD:

IMG_0313

WOD

Sandbag Run

9 Push Press (30kg)

12 Pull Up (kipping)

15 Sit Up

4RFT

The real WOD called for a sandbag run but instead I opted for 50 air squats to save my foot from extra aggravation. It was a good call except all those air squats killed my quads. I used 30kg (66 lbs.) for the push press which is a move to bring the barbell overhead with power from your hips. They are fun!

Best of all, I did all 48 pull ups as kipping pull ups! It took me much longer but I still completed the WOD in 19.19. Not too shabby for my first day back! I was so happy to be working out again and feeling that burn in my muscles.

It is the best feeling in the world.

Day 313 and 314: Chinese vs. American Parties

I am home!! It feels weird. The air is so humid, my bedroom is bigger than our apartment in China, and my ankles are swollen like no other. Weird.

I should probably get some sleep and get adjusted to the time change but I seem to be functioning well on 2 hours of sleep… so here are two photos of the day for you!

Friday, November 9th

Finally it is starting to look like fall with a few fallen leaves on the ground. It is still fairly warm outside so I take it as an anomaly. However, I welcome the crunching sound beneath my feet.

313

Saturday November 10th

On Saturday Peter’s work friend invited us and some other colleagues over to his home for a party. But this was not your typical American party with beer, football on television, and more beer. This was a full out Chinese party with the emphasis being people and food.

Lots of food.

314

Wade’s wife, mother, and sister were hard at work making a delicious homemade feast of only the very best Chinese dishes. There were mushrooms, beans, chicken feet, noodles, fish, shrimp, soup, and so much more.

In honor of Peter’s upcoming birthday they also made dumplings which are typically only made for the Chinese New Year. However, Peter loves dumplings so they made sure to make a lot just for him. We even helped them make them! You put a spoonful of homemade filling into a hand-rolled flour which you then pinch intricately to create a dumpling! It was fun to learn and they appreciated our effort.

We spent almost an hour eating which takes so long with chopsticks! The table was packed with people but everybody was chatting at full speed and enjoying every bite. I left the table stuffed to the brim.

After dinner we lounged in the the living room talking some more and munching on fresh fruit and Pocky. In the meantime, Wade served traditional Chinese tea. After a ritual of cleaning the cups and tea leaves with hot water, the tea is served in little cups. These tea cups are so small that you can finish the tea in one gulp. I am an American who loves giant mugs but watching the ritual of making the tea made me enjoy every last tiny sip.

We had such a fun time and I was really struck by the differences between American and Chinese customs. In China, every party is like Thanksgiving dinner. People gather to eat a lot and enjoy each other’s company in the presence of their family. I would really like to throw a Chinese style party in the United States and see what happens.

But do you think Americans can party without beer and football?

Good question.