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The Maldives: Sun Island Resort

February 12, 2016

The Maldives is a country made up of over of thousands of islands, and it is famous around the world for honeymooners. Just because I'm single, I didn't want to let that stop me from visiting this paradise, so I booked a trip at Sun Island Resort located in the South Ari Atoll on Nalaguraidhoo island with two of my closest friends. I was a bit nervous that every other group at our resort would just be couples, but once I arrived, I didn't feel weird at all. As expected, there were honeymooners, but there were also just regular couples as well as many families.

Since our base was Shanghai, we didn't have to travel as far as we would have had to if we arranged this trip from the States. Even though we were already in Asia, we did still spend a full day traveling to the island. Rachael, Scott, and I joked with each other about how in order to get to our island, we had to take tons of different types of transportation including: a taxi, a tram and a bus in the airport, two regular planes and a sea plane, another bus, and finally a boat. It was an exhausting day of travel, but once we saw Sun Island Resort, it put smiles on our faces.  The welcome drink we got also didn't hurt!

Upon arrival, we were each given a card so that if we wanted to buy anything, we could simply show our cards and pay at the end. It was really handy and also nice not to have fumbled with cash. The prices were all listed in USD, and at the end we were allowed to split up our bill on three separate credit cards so we could all pay the different amounts we owed.

I had never stayed at a resort before, and truthfully I was scared that I would feel trapped with other tourists and wouldn't like it. I was also concerned that maybe the people at the resort would be pretentious, but it wasn't the case at all! Sun Island is the largest resort in the Maldives, but because it is the biggest, everything felt spread out and less crowded. In fact, most of the time there were just a few others on the beach by our water bungalows! When Scott and I went snorkeling, we were usually the only ones in the water. I couldn't believe it because I had traveled to beaches in Asia before and they were packed with other tourists. The water was crystal clear in the Maldives and there were some excellent areas for snorkeling, so I figured that there would be way more people. Luckily, I was wrong and I think going to the Maldives spoiled me for life because I don't know if I'll ever be able to enjoy a beach or swimming in the ocean as much as I did there!

To get to the ocean, all we had to do was walk down the flight of stairs attached to our private bungalow and hop right in! I thought we would have to be taken to specific spots to find good snorkeling areas, but Scott and I were able to see coral, schools of tropical fish, sea urchin, and sea snakes right in our "backyard."

We opted for half-board and got breakfast and dinner every day. It was a short walk from our bungalows, and it was buffet-style. We were glad to have so many options and LOVED the fresh fruit. Rachael and I also indulged on the cheeses since cheese is expensive and harder to come by in China. For breakfast they had two staff members making fresh pancakes, omelets, as well as bacon and sausage. At night, someone prepared pasta or stir fry just the way you wanted it. The staff there was really friendly and always tried to engage in personal conversations with us. They thought it was hilarious that we were living in China and even spoke in Chinese to us. I also got asked if I had a husband and then when I said no, they asked me why not, ha ha.

Since we decided not to include lunch as part of our package, we usually went to the cafe by the beach. One day we went to the organic restaurant called Zero and ate lunch in a tree house!

Besides the beach by our bungalows, we also went to the main beach by the cafe and also spent a few days relaxing and reading by the pool. Rachael and Scott are both big readers, and for the first time in a long time, I was able to concentrate on reading again. I finished Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and started Pretty Girls, one of Rachael's recommendations.

We rented bikes to help us get around on the island, which saved us a lot of time. In our free time (let's face it though, our whole trip was "free time") we rode our bikes around the island, lounged on our deck, relaxed cafes, went on evening strolls, watched the shark feeding, and enjoyed the sunset.

The staff at Sun Island Resort really took care of us and even arranged transport to and from the island. As with many resorts, excursions can also be arranged upon request. For example, Rachael has her diving certification, so she went diving twice and even saw some sharks!

All three of us were thoroughly pleased with our time on the island and know that we had a memorable trip. Of course, we hope to be able to go back one day in the future, too.

How do you feel about resorts? Is the Maldives on your bucket list?

How I Lost 15 Pounds in China

February 10, 2016
Let me just preface this by saying that I don't weigh anywhere near the amount I would actually like to weigh and that I have struggled with weight pretty much my whole life. I do not have a good metabolism and staying at a "normal" weight has always been a challenge. With that being said, I have been able to lose fifteen pounds since moving to China in August. While I still have a long way to go, fifteen pounds is at least a start. Below is a list/reflection of why I think I lost some weight so far. 

* I live on the 5th floor of my apartment building. By the third floor, I'm always winded, and at that point usually Scott says something along the lines of, "We had better have calves of steel by the end of this year." Walking up and down five flights of stairs multiple times each day really adds up and forces me to get in exercise that I might not normally get. Also, I'm forgetful, so there have been many times in which I'll be outside of our building ready to meet a friend and realize that I don't have my sunglasses and/or camera and then I'll have walk back up to get them.

* Desserts don't tempt me as much. In the States, I would look forward to going out to eat just to get dessert at the end of the meal. In China, throughout the week I just eat at local restaurants by the school I work at. Those restaurants don't even serve any dessert, so I'm not able to order any, which is a good thing!

* I walk more than I did in the States on a day to day basis. Since I don't own a car motorized scooter, walking it is! I seriously don't mind unless it's super polluted that day. 

* Okay, I'm not saying this is a healthy way to lose weight, but the way many foreigners (myself included) have lost weight is through getting food poisoning. Scott and I have discovered that there are certain places we simply cannot eat at because getting sick is a guarantee. For me, I have to avoid this Muslim noodle shop by my school, but we never know when a meal or snack will not sit well with us.

* For lunch, we have to eat with our students and are given a free meal. While I do like that the meal costs me nothing, sometimes the food we are given does not taste the best, so I won't eat everything on my plate. 

* Since I'm on a schedule for my job, I have a routine for when I eat each meal. I'm usually pretty hungry when I finish working at 5, so I'll typically grab dinner at around 5:30. Eating an earlier dinner also seems to help out because I've found that eating later makes me gain.

* Grocery shopping is a bit annoying because we can only buy what we can carry. Even if we take a taxi, we are dropped off at the main gate and still have to carry our groceries across campus and for me, up five flights of stairs. When I go grocery shopping, I tend to just buy breakfast food and for that reason, I don't have a lot of snacks just sitting around in my apartment. The lack of readily available snack foods saves me because I don't mindlessly eat while watching Netflix which I've done in the past from time to time.

* The drinking culture is big in Shanghai, but I usually am good at limiting what I drink. Yes, sometimes I'll have a long night out, but those nights are pretty rare for me. Calories in my favorite drinks can add up quickly, and I'd rather just have food!

* This also isn't necessarily a positive one, but Chinese people have commented on my weight and appearance by saying I'm fat, and it got to me. Because of this, sometimes I'll reconsider whether or not I need to have the other half of a sandwich, etc. I know this is stupid, but their comments make me feel guilty so I'll eat less. 

While I don't have the perfect eating habits, I think I'm really improving. Chinese food tends to be quite oily, so that is also hard to get around. It's a little discouraging for me sometimes because Scott has lost almost 40 pounds and we do almost everything together/live a very similar lifestyle, but it is A LOT harder for me to lose weight. I've asked him what he thinks I'm doing wrong and he said nothing and that it's just harder for girls in general. Anyway, I have been able to lose some weight, so I'm going to try to focus on the positive and just keep working at it.

How have you struggled to stay healthy? What are some of your best tips?