Friday, November 28, 2014

Photo Friday: Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher
September 2009

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Life In China: Three Months In

I can't believe that I've been in China for three months now. Time sure flies! This has been a transition year for me. I graduated with my master's degree, separated from my husband of five years, and moved to China. I can honestly say there have been a lot of bumps along the way, but I'm finally settling in a really good place emotionally. 

My first month here was really occupied with figuring out how everything worked and adjusting to much different living conditions that I was accustomed to. China is very dirty compared to back home and of course there are the squat toilets and smog conditions to contend with. I've learned how to depend on others, which is very difficult for me, to complete even the simplest tasks like paying my electric bill or buying food. Of course I had doubts along the way and wondered why I left everything behind for this.  As I learned my way around and adjusted to my new normal things got a bit easier.

After the first month, I was fortunate enough to have a two week holiday. So of course I set off on a solo travel adventure and visited Shanghai, Nanjing, Qingdao and Beijing. It was an amazing trip that I had the opportunity to take all because of my decision to live in China and have the adventure of a lifetime. I experienced the kindness of strangers in each city who helped me along the way even when they spoke no English at all. I really had a chance to experience China that most tourists miss out on. There is a rich complexity to the culture and customs here that is often missed by those who travel only to the well known sites and dine in the international restaurants because they are comfortable there. I feel very blessed for the opportunity to experience this other side of China.  

Following my trip I experienced two bouts of illness, one from bad food and the other from a nasty cold. Normally I'm a tough person, but being so sick and weak that I'm stuck in bed for a few days is enough to let the self doubt creep in. I started questioning the direction of my life and felt really alone being in a foreign country away from close friends and family. 

Although when I started to question my decisions and wondered how I was going to survive again on my own, it dawned on me. I've already done it. I took this tiny little apartment and made it feel like home. I've made new friends and I've found ways to enjoy some of my favorite hobbies. I learned how to adapt my cooking to the products available to me so I can still enjoy some of my favorite dishes while sampling the new cuisine China has to offer. I've found new people to cook for, which brings me great joy. Most of all, I've fully regained my self confidence and independence. I never really lost either, but being in a marriage that isn't working can take a toll on your self esteem. 

I finally feel like I am in a place I want to be both physically and emotionally. Living in another country isn't always glory and adventure. Some days are good, some days are great but you also experience the bad and the awful. Everywhere you go there are advantages and disadvantages. Not to mention that going through a divorce isn't easy no matter who or where you are. That experience alone is enough to set me on an emotional roller-coaster. My life wouldn't be anymore perfect if I'd stayed where I was and my life here in China isn't perfect either. However I'm enjoying exactly where I am right now.  Two of my all time favorite movies are: Eat, Pray Love and Under The Tuscan Sun. I feel that my experience mimics each of these, which are actually based on real life stories. Perhaps one day I will publish my story, the Chinese edition.

I know I won't live in China forever, but I want to experience as much as possible while I'm here. And so far, I'm enjoying the ride.



Monday, November 24, 2014

Volo Bog

Before moving to China, I was intent on visiting as many of the local sites around the Chicago area that I could because of the uncertainty of when I would be back. There are so many places in Chicago and the surrounding areas to visit that I still haven't seen much of it after living in the suburbs for seven years. Over the summer I made every effort to check at least a few more off my list. One of those was almost in my own backyard, the Volo Bog. 

A bog is a natural water area where plants grow and wildlife lives. Just like the Auto Museum, I'd heard so much about the bog and I was eager to check it out.  The bog is set back slightly from the nearest highway. Although there is a little development around it, the bog remains a peaceful and quiet area to enjoy nature.  

There are two paths, one that circles a small water area and another longer path that crosses through the bog and into the surrounding wooded area. At several points during my walk I had to cross over paths with bridges that floated directly on the water. I'm glad I took the time to visit, my only regret is that I didn't visit sooner so I could have taken advantage of such a great nature hike so close to home.  

Do you have a nature area where you live that's great for hiking or spending the day outdoors?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Photo Friday: Shanghai

View of Pudong
Shanghai, China
October 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Volo Auto Museum

There are two places that Volo, Illinois is known for: the Volo Blog and the Volo Auto Museum. I lived in Volo for five years and finally made it to both over the summer before I moved to China. I'm not particularly interested in cars so I had no real urgency to visit, but I heard from so many people that it was interesting to see at least once.  So I made a point to check it out for myself.

Blues Brothers


Dick Tracy

The museum has a variety of vehicles on display that fill several warehouses. The collection includes cars from movies, celebrities, the military and antiques. Some of the cars from movies are original vehicles used during the filming, while others are reproductions that were used during the promotion of the movie because the originals were destroyed during production.  

Dukes of Hazzard

Knight Rider

Back To The Future


22 Jump Street

Also on display are vehicles owned by celebrities including Michael Jordan and Oprah. Finally, there are antique cars that are available for purchase.  Overall, it was fun walking around the museum for an afternoon checking out the cars I recognized from the movies I watched as a child.

Michael Jordan

Do you have any unique museums where you live?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Beijing Confucius Temple

Over the weekend I visited Beijing for the third time since my arrival in China.  I've been checking off sites in my guidebook so I can be sure to see everything I want to before I leave next summer. This time I chose to visit the Confucius Temple in Beijing, which is supposed to be the largest one in China outside Qufu. I was fortunate to have beautiful blue skies and the place practically to myself. I timed my visit just right as a large tour group was arriving just as I left.

Although I love history, I've never studied Chinese history. Now that I'm in China, this is my chance to read about it and experience it first hand. The more sites I visit, the more I appreciate the architecture and detail. It also helps to read up on the history before each visit. I've found that English translations are limited or nonexistent. So the knowledge I gain from reading on my own really enhances my appreciation and overall experience.    

 Which temple in Beijing is on your must see list?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Photo Friday: Tianjin

Dabei Monastery
Tianjin, China
        November 8, 2014