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May and June Recap

July 10, 2017
The last month before school ended was pretty eventful for me. There were birthday brunches, going away parties for non-returning teachers, and plenty of opportunities to socialize. My first year in Shanghai, I was more into exploring the city and just having a few close friends. I was wary of the atmosphere at our school because it can get pretty gossipy, so I tried to stay closed off and just stick to those I knew. Plus, I came to Shanghai with my close friend Scott who was so entertaining that I just simply preferred his company to others.

By the end of the year this year, I decided to go out a lot more. I feel like in the last few months, I was able to become better friends with so many more people. Besides that, I got to know other teachers who are actually really cool. I'm relieved that I ended the year with a strong finish because at the beginning of the year, I was not very social. Not on purpose, but because I needed to heal from my surgery. 

Here is a recap of how I spent my the last 1.5 months of my second year in Shanghai...

*I moved from living on my school's campus to going to off-campus housing in a more residential area. I was worried about the whole moving process, but my friend's Chinese wife graciously offered to organize for movers to meet me. Thank goodness she arranged that for me just because I wouldn't have known how/been able to communicate that in Chinese. I ended up paying over $100 to move, but it was worth it to not have to do it myself. It's not like I could have lifted my couch, anyway. I didn't have the movers take all of my stuff because I was staying on campus for the last week of school. Long story short, I ended up leaving more behind than I needed to and caused myself to make four trips from campus to my new apartment in a taxi with a suitcase full of what I'd left behind. It seemed my friends did the same thing to themselves, so at least I was able to commiserate with them and split a taxi. It was pretty miserable going out in very hot and sticky weather trying to lift heavy suitcases with a bad back. At least that's over with and now I can just enjoy my new place. I'm SO much happier here! I feel more like an adult and can get food directly delivered to my door. 

* I got to try out a new themed bar that opened up in Shanghai called Wonderland. I'm sure you can guess what the theme entails based on the name of the bar. There's a bar area inside as well as comfy couches and a table all set up for tea. Additionally, there is outside seating, but Tara and I didn't want to sit there because we preferred to admire the decor inside. The back of the bar has a mural with the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, Tweedle Dee, mushrooms, teacups, etc. At the bar, the lights are surrounded by decorated hats, and you have the option to have alcohol served to you in a teapot, which you can then pour into tea cups. I'm a sucker for themed bars, and this one had a fun atmosphere. I will be back!

* My co-teacher took me to Suzhou. We had fun, but we both agreed that we would never leave Shanghai again during a Chinese National Holiday unless we were leaving China altogether. Suzhou was madness and was so packed with people that we couldn't actually do anything we intended to do! We spent an hour driving around before we could even find a parking space. The only place we saw parking was at a hotel, so we went back there to park the car, but that meant we had to eat there, too. Luckily, the restaurant was rather nice and there was even live music. Since we wasted so much time getting to Suzhou because of the traffic and then trying to find a parking spot, after we ate, we only had time to walk around for a little bit. I got to see some Suzhou silk shops, stalls full of snacks and local specialties, souvenir shops selling fans and tea, etc. 

Like I said, we still enjoyed ourselves because we made the most of it, but I would like to go back to Suzhou in the fall on just a regular weekend so that I can experience the museum (a 2 hour wait when we went) and the gardens (so full of tourists that it didn't look pleasant). At any rate, it was so nice of my co-teacher to offer to take me to Suzhou just because I said I hadn't been before.

*At the last minute, I decided to go to a concert. The artist Benjamin Francis Leftwich was coming to Shanghai, and a bunch of teachers from my school were planning on seeing him live. I never bought a ticket beforehand because I had never heard of this artist, but then one of my friends couldn't go, so I decided to just buy her ticket, go, and check him out. I wasn't expecting much, but I ended up loving the music. He's such a cool, down-to-earth guy who spent awhile after the show engaging with his fans, and his voice...amazing! My last concert before this one was years ago (Lady Gaga), so it was nice to be out listening to live music again!

* I finally got to try Liquid Laundry's brunch, and it was just as great as everyone said! I opted for the Artichoke-Spinach-Dill Benedict and wasn't disappointed. Of course I had to save room for a cinnamon roll for dessert...to-die-for good. A group of us also tried another place for our friend's birthday brunch called Kafer. It was so posh in there that even though we were wearing dresses we felt underdressed. Some people were there getting their wedding photos, so you can imagine how nice it was. It was 400 RMB for a free flow and all-you-can-eat brunch. Yeah, it seems like a lot of money, but we had prosecco, mimosas, tons of cold dishes, cheese (harder to come by in Shanghai), and desserts. There was also a menu of entrees and we were allowed to order anything we wanted from the menu as well! Last but not least, there's a good view of the Bund and Huangpu River from the restaurant. I liked it so much that I would take someone visiting Shanghai there for one of their meals.

Tara and I also made it out to try Goose Island Brewhouse. They had more than 10 different kinds of beer on tap and a menu with typical bar food like nachos, wings, cheese fries, etc. With how many different restaurants I've gotten to try over the past few years, I still feel like I've barely scratched the surface of all the ones I'd love to try in Shanghai.

I also had a chance to visit one of my favorite coffeeshops in Shanghai--Lanna Coffee. They import their coffee beans from Yunnan Province! It would be my favorite place, but sometimes it gets too crowded, as it is a popular spot. Look at how cute it is on the inside, though! Luckily, when I went the last time, I was able to snag a seat.

I also was sure to set aside plenty of time for manicures, pedicures, and massages, as those seem to no longer be a treat, but more like part of my spoiled lifestyle here in Shanghai. Hey, when it's affordable, why not? Also, those massages helped me to destress a lot because I was feeling tons of anxiety about my upcoming surgery. For massages, I mostly went to Dragonfly, which caters to foreigners. While I will go to the small massage places on the street for a foot massage, I appreciate the cleanliness of Dragonfly and don't mind to pay a bit more for that.

What was last month like for you? 

If I Could Go Home...

July 6, 2017
This is one expat girl who has been away from home without visiting for too long! I haven't been back once since I left for China in 2015. The experiences I've gone through have made me want to go return even more. Tomorrow I have an appointment with my doctor, and if he clears me to fly, I am buying the first ticket outta here. Okay, so not really. I'm going to have to do a lot of price comparisons because I have to buy a Business Class ticket. Totally wish I could get a free upgrade for medical reasons, but that's not going to happen. Anyway, I am hoping (that's the understatement of the year) that the doctor will tell me I'm healing nicely from my surgery and that he wishes me a great trip back to the States. Fingers crossed!

Lately, I've been imagining what I might do once I get home. While I do love Shanghai for many reasons, there are just some things about home that I miss--that's only natural, right? Plus, right now all of my friends are home or out traveling and I'm all alone. A week has passed and I haven't even spoken once. If I could get to Ohio and finish recovering in the company of my parents, it'd be much more ideal. Here's what I'd do if only I could...

If I could go home, I'd breathe in the fresh air. It's true that the air in Shanghai is generally better in the summer than in other seasons, but even as I write this post, the AQI is at a 78 here and 42 in Columbus, Ohio. My parents' house is in a village an hour away from Columbus, so I imagine that the air there would be even better. At home, looking up the AQI is just not something I do or think about.

I'd spend lots of time seeing my family and friends. That's just a given. I miss my best friend Everett so much! It will be a relief to see my parents after all of my health trauma, too. 

I'd go out and enjoy nature. There are so many perks to living in a huge city, but I do miss seeing (and being in) wide open spaces and fields. It would also be nice to take a walk in the woods.

I'd drive around. It'd be lovely to just go where I want immediately without having to wait for a taxi or for the bus. I just miss driving a bit. The relaxed kind of driving with the windows down accompanied with good music. 

Speaking of music, I cannot wait to listen to the radio! In Columbus, my favorite station is CD 102.5, and I simply miss the spontaneity of not knowing which songs will be played next. Of course, the radio is a great way to discover new artists, too. I feel so out of the loop when it comes to music. Where I lived last year, I listened to Spotify from time to time, but the internet was so slow that it wouldn't always work. I've mostly just been listening to the music on my computer over and over. While I love Mumford and Sons, Adele, and Shakira, I think I've had my fill of them for awhile. 

I'd enjoy being away from the crowds. The other day, my Chinese co-teacher's dad was asking me if Shanghai was what I expected it and how I found the city. I told him one thing that shocked me was the sheer number of people. I can't even remember the last time I walked on a street and did not see another person. Or went to a shop and was the only customer. You get the idea. Obviously, I knew that Shanghai had a huge population before coming here, but as my friend Scott always said,"My life in China is just waiting in line."

I'd shop for clothes and shoes! I can get shirts and dresses at H&M and Old Navy in Shanghai, but pants won't fit me here. Stores carry only up to a size 12, and there are no options for longer lengths. I can also go to the Fabric Market to get clothes made, but I've had some mixed results. It will be so nice to just be able to go into stores and be able to find stuff in my size! Like, I get why I can't in China, but it's just embarrassing to have to be wearing the same faded pants over and over to work when you know they've seen their better days. As for shoes, some shops carry up to a size 10, but of course I wear a size 11 and so I haven't had much luck in that department. I cannot wait to go into DSW and pick out new shoes--I'm in desperate need of them!

One word: Target. I haven't gone to Target in two years because in China they just have Wal-Mart and Carrefour. I seriously can't wait! I might look for some decor for my new apartment, clothes, shoes, and I'll have to stock up on all of my favorite brands and toiletries that I can't get in China.

I'd try Stitch Fix. I've been waiting to try it, but of course you need an American address.

I'd go to a drive in movie. I do like going to the movies, but with it hurting after sitting for an extended period of time, I prefer to just watch movies at home. At a drive in, I'd be able to recline my seat a lot and get out and stand by my car. Also, drive-in theaters are an American classic, and I used to work at one for a few summers, so factor that nostalgia into the equation.

I would try to join in a swap for bloggers. I've seen a few swaps going on, and even though the hosts say they are open internationally, it's just too hard for me to do it in China. Letters from my parents take about 1.5-2 months to get here. A package my dad sent took 3 months, and he even air mailed it. I just quit ordering stuff after I spent $100 on clothes and they never arrived. If you know of any swaps in late July-mid August, do let me know!

I'd go to my favorite restaurants. Regarding food, in Shanghai I'm pretty spoiled and can find almost everything that I want. Heck, they even opened a Taco Bell here last year, although I haven't gone there yet. What I do miss are the hole in the wall local places and of course diners. There are a few chain restaurants I miss, too. People make fun of me for this one all the time, but I miss eating at Bob Evans! Such an Ohio thing, I know. I miss their breakfast being served all day and their banana bread. I also wouldn't mind some guac and chips from Chipotle right now...just saying.

I'd drink some Ohio wine. There are actually quite a few wineries in Ohio, and I'd love to revisit a few of my favorites like Silver Moon Winery.

I'd drink a free refill. Such an American thing, but I will be taking advantage of a second cup of coffee or another lemonade.

A stop at the library would be on my list. I have missed going into libraries and checking out all the books I want to read for free! I download books here on my Kindle, but of course I have to pay. Spending $13.99 here and $7.99 there can really start to add up.

I'd try all the Starbucks drinks I've been missing out on. In Shanghai, it seems like there is a Starbucks around every corner, but the special drinks here are not the same as they are in the States and cater to the local tastes. While I do like some of the specialty drinks here in China, I want to at least try one Unicorn Frap (Can I even do that? Or was that a promotion that's over?) and a pink drink.

I'd go grocery shopping. Besides missing food at restaurants, I miss certain brands from the States. I know it's kind of silly and I shouldn't be eating this crap anyway, but oh my gosh...I'm dying for a bowl of Reese's Puffs or Lucky Charms!

I'd revisit all of my favorite places like Amish Country, Columbus, Cleveland, and maybe even Hocking Hills.

I'd go online without needing a VPN! So freeing and so much less of a hassle. Do you know how many times my VPN has disconnected just while trying to type this post? At least five.

I'd use soft, fluffy towels that have been dried in a dryer. Just thinking about that now seems so luxurious. Our apartments aren't furnished with dryers, and I typically hang my clothes up to dry anyway, but I do miss having a dryer just for the towels!

If I could (health permitting and not right away), I'd take a road trip. Rachael and I have been talking about going to Nashville.

I'd drink some tap water. It will be nice to be at home and not have to worry about ordering water and figure out who will lift it for me, etc.

Last but not least, I'd enjoy having softer hair! I don't know what kinds of chemicals are in the water here in Shanghai, but my hair has suffered. My parents have a water softener, so my hair is going to be quite different if I'm able to go home.

While I do love Shanghai for many reasons, sometimes there's nothing better than the comforts of home! What do you miss from home or from a place you've visited?

Little Victories

July 5, 2017
In an attempt to stay positive during a difficult time in my life, I wanted to write a post sharing some of my recent successes. These aren't major accomplishments, but just small ones that help me feel better about life.

* I paid off one of my student loans. I'd been trying to pay that one off...oh, ever since I graduated in 2013, so to be able to get rid of one loan feels amazing. I still have a lot of work to do if I want to be debt-free, but I'm not going to be too hard on myself about this one because surgery is expensive and my health comes first. 

* I quit wearing my back brace. I swear my back brace became like another body part to me, and I felt I couldn't exist without it. I wore it for much longer than I should have. I thought I was protecting myself, but then I found out that wearing it for too long will can weaken your muscles. One day I just went cold-turkey and never looked back. I still have it around in case I need to go on a long flight, but it will be reserved for emergencies only. This is a victory for me because not needing my brace at all made me realize I'm doing much better than I thought I was!

* I lost all the weight I put on from my surgery. After my back surgery, I gained 30 pounds because I didn't walk for months. When I could eventually walk, it was only minimally. It was SO discouraging that I had gained so much weight from being kept at a (literal) standstill. I gained it so quickly, but it took me about a year to get rid of it. At least I finally did, though! Of course, I want to keep working on this area because I could definitely stand to lose more weight, but at least now I'm where I was beforehand so I don't feel like I've regressed any. 

* My co-teacher and I got best teaching class for all the subjects we teach. My school has random checks to see how the students behave, whether or not they did their homework, etc. Our homeroom class got all four of the awards in: Chinese, math, English, and science. I haven't heard of any other set of teachers getting all four of the awards, so I'm glad that my co-teacher and I make such a strong team. Of course, I also have to give credit to my fabulous students. 

* I was someone's mentor for the first time. A friend of mine was going for her international teaching license and asked me to be her mentor. There was a lot of paperwork involved, but it's all done now and she passed her courses! (It sounds bad to say she only "passed her courses", but she's British and her courses were done through a British university.  Let's just say there were plenty that didn't pass!)

* In June, I made the most of my time in Shanghai and started going out a lot more. I went out with my friends, went to some parties, went to a concert, and was able to do a little exploring. It made me feel like my old self! I am hoping that this is an indication of what next year will be like. My first year in Shanghai was like a 9 or a 10 out of 10 (until I broke my back!), but this year was probably like a 2 until here recently. I think next year is going to be so much better! When you FEEL better, that already solves part of the problem, now doesn't it? 

* My Instagram account has shown growth. I know I don't have "a lot" of followers, and I'm still considered to have a very small following, but now I have over 1,500 followers which feels like I hit an important milestone. 

* My teaching license is renewed for two more years. I was SO worried about that because I didn't want my hard work to go down the drain if it expired! Since I am overseas, I will eventually have to take an online course in order to renew it again. I'm not happy about that, but I have to do what I have to do to stay licensed. 

* I didn't miss any days of school with the students. Well, technically I missed the first field trip with them, but I even offered to go. My principal saw I could barely walk and already found a replacement for me. I really had my doubts about my health at the beginning of the year. It's a miracle I didn't miss any days with the kids, honestly.

* I moved to a new apartment. I almost didn't do this, but once I found out I had to have another surgery, I knew that there was no way I could walk up five flights of stairs to even get to my room! Anyway, I love my new place, and it was totally the right call! One of my pals is on my floor, and since we're neighbors we've started to look out for each other. 

* My class (students' parents) requested me for a third year. I really do love my students, so I'm flattered that the parents would ask to keep me again. I truly consider that a high honor! 

Even though these are all little achievements, they add up to something big, don't they? What have you done that you're proud of lately? 

Reviewing Accommodation in Morocco

June 13, 2017
I was lucky enough to be able to travel throughout Morocco this past January and February, so I wanted to share some (hopefully) useful information about potential accommodation should you decide to want to visit Morocco one day. The following is mostly a list of riads, or traditional Moroccan homes with a garden or courtyard in the center, that my travel buddy Rachael and I both personally stayed in.

Marrakech-Riad Caesar

The location of this riad is excellent because it's within the medina and walking right to the middle of the market from here only takes a few minutes. It's still far enough back on a side street so that it's quiet, which I welcomed after experiencing a few days out in Marrakech.

As soon as we arrived, we were greeted with Moroccan mint tea right by the pool. That area is just delightful and a nice place to relax before officially checking in. We found out from our guide that a sultan formerly owned this old mansion. Although the staff didn't seem to know much English, they smiled at us a lot. We were shown our room shortly after arriving and realized soon enough that we were the only other guests staying there.

The internet was fast and strong enough to use in our room. At first our room was really chilly, but between the heater and plenty of blankets, we warmed up soon enough. The bathroom remained cold, but it didn't bother us too much since it's not like we were spending loads of time in there.

To be honest, the breakfast could have been better. We were served our choice of coffee/tea and about six different types of bread, but nothing else. It wasn't a huge deal, but compared to the other riads we stayed in, the breakfast here was lacking.

The small issue we had was that we were awoken to a woman screaming very early in the morning on our second day there. We were very confused by this since we were the only guests, so we didn't know what to make of it. We informed our guide and he found out that the woman working got into a fight with her boyfriend and that's what the yelling was about. That made us feel a little uncomfortable, but since we were checking out shortly after it didn't affect our stay too much.

If I ever go back to Marrakech, I would stay here again for most of the time but then splurge on a really nice riad like Riad Yasmine just for a night.

Casablanca- Club Val D'Anfa Hotel

This is the sole hotel on the list. Truthfully, I'm glad that for the majority of the trip the tour company we went through arranged riads for us. Hotels are just fine, but staying in riads made me feel like I was getting more of a Moroccan experience. Additionally, all of the riads we stayed in were smaller than this hotel so we just felt like we got more individualized service and attention. However, like I said, I didn't mind staying in a hotel for part of the time. The inside of this one was decorated with Moroccan paintings and Berber rugs, so the place had a nice vibe. The staff was friendly and told us that they were going to give us a free room upgrade so that we could be facing the sea. We really preferred this since we didn't have to be by the noisy street. We were mostly just wanting to have an early, quiet night since we had flown in from Qatar earlier that day, so the room upgrade really worked in our favor. The room was comfortable and clean and wifi was available.

I will say that the breakfast there was exceptional! It was buffet-style and it was hard not to over-indulge. They had crepes, many different types of cheeses, omelets, pastries, fresh fruit, and coffee. The staff in charge of the breakfast was very attentive and kept the buffet running smoothly. There are also two restaurants on site, but we didn't have time to try either of them.

When we were there it was much too cold to go swimming, but the pool area did look like it would be a nice place to lounge by in warmer weather. The hotel is also within walking distance to the beach.

Essaouira-La Maison du Sud

I'll start with the positives first. The location is perfect and centrally located in the medina of Essaouira, so it was ideal in that respect.

We had to go up a lot of steps to get to our rooms, which I was nervous about since my back is the worst, but someone from the front desk offered to assist us with our bags so that was really helpful. It's not uncommon for riads to not have elevators, so the extra assistance was appreciated.

The wifi didn't work in our room at all, so if we wanted to connect to the internet, we had to go downstairs and sit in the dining or lounge area by the reception. I didn't mind so much because sometimes it's nice to take a break from social media, but if this is something that bothers you, it's good to know about it going in. The area by reception had ample seating and was rather spacious, so if you do have to do work there will likely be a table available.

I liked the decor and interior of the building, but it was rather dark in there. Again, this wasn't something that really bothered me--it's more of an observation because I know that some people prefer bright, sunny spaces.

Our room was big with a double bed downstairs and then a small upstairs section with another bed. One drawback to the room was that it was extremely humid. Even with the space heater and tons of blankets, I had a chill the whole night. The other negative is the bathroom--it smelled pretty horrendous. Most of the time I'm a pretty laid-back person, but I do have to say that it was awful enough for both me and Rachael to comment on it. I looked up reviews online and others have also mentioned it. We did see some flies in the bathroom, but if we closed the door they were at least confined to that area instead of being around us. From reading others' reviews, I don't believe that every room is like this, so you might want to ask to switch rooms or just check out other rooms before settling in.

Another plus was the breakfast the next day. Apparently I care a lot about what kind of breakfast a place has and can totally be won over with food. We were given an assortment of different types of bread with butter, jam, and honey, a hard boiled egg, Moroccan pancakes, yogurt, juice, and tea or coffee.

Overall, I would maybe stay there again, but I would try to get a different room...or just avoid the bathroom as much as possible. If the only room that was available was the one I stayed in before, I think I'd have to pass.

Merzouga-Riad Nezha

This riad looks like a kasbah, and it was quite cozy. In fact, Rachael and I had spent the past few nights being very cold, and when we first arrived we thought that we were going to have yet another cold night. Luckily, our room did warm up after awhile. The staff members on duty also offered us extra blankets, but we didn't end up needing them. Speaking of the staff members, they were so kind, outgoing, and spent some time chatting with us. We even exchanged our Instagram details with one of the workers and we still follow each other. Since you're out in the desert, there isn't a whole lot to do in the area, so we were grateful for the company.

Also, the vegetarian tagine there was hearty and delicious. After a few bites, Rachael exclaimed, "This is the best tagine I've had so far in all of Morocco!"--which was exactly what I was thinking! We told the workers there that and they laughed at us, but we still never found vegetarian tagine that topped that one.

If you're interested in booking excursions to the desert, they can be organized through the riad.

This riad completely has my vote, mainly because the staff treats you like a friend or family member. Also, I still dream about that tagine.

Ouarzazat-Riad Bochedour

This place was the busiest of all the places we stayed at. We were escorted into a room with a bunch of other tourists and filled out our check-in information while having some welcome tea.

Our room was on the top of the building, so the door to our room opened to the outside instead of to the inside of a building, which did not help with the room temperature. In case you haven't guessed, yes, we were very cold to the point where we thought our heater wasn't working at all. The shower was at least warm, though.

The building looked well-maintained and clean. In fact, it was one of the cleanest places I stayed at in Morocco and the staff was always hard at work taking care of the place.

The breakfast the next day was buffet-style, and there was still plenty of everything when we had our meal. The food was simple, but tasty.

The riad is located on the outskirts of town, but this didn't affect us, as we were only there for a night. We had a busy day of sightseeing, had our dinner, and then were ready to go back to our room and unwind.

Really, the ONLY negative was that the room was much too cold for our liking, but we just weren't comfortable there because of it. I would not stay here again in the winter, but I would give it another chance in warmer weather.

Chefchaouen-Casa Hassan

We stayed here for one night in Chefchaouen because the place where we were supposed to stay was fully booked. It was Rachael's least favorite place, and it is at the bottom of my list, too. The rooms are small and just look a bit run-down. The wall in the bathroom was made of these colored pieces of glass that were translucent so that I could see into another guest's bathroom which was kinda creepy if you were both in the bathroom at the same time. I guess the management there was semi-aware of the problem because several of the pieces of glass were covered with some paper.

The way the rooms are all arranged in the shape of a square with open-air in between. At first we thought that was cool, but the next morning we couldn't say we felt the same. The riad was packed with Chinese tourists and they all got up very early for breakfast. Let's just say that sound travels and we were unable to go back to sleep after they woke us up. When we went down for breakfast, there was nothing left at the buffet really. We had to ask for plates and utensils because they were all gone. There was still about an hour left for breakfast, but we kind of just had the leftovers from the Chinese group.

I think I can speak for the both of us and say that we would both prefer not to stay there again. We really preferred Dar Echaouen instead!

Chefchaouen-Dar Echchaouen

This place was so much better than Casa Hassan. Our room was quieter, cleaner, bigger, and we had a patio to ourselves where we had lunch overlooking the city. Oh...and the views of the city are just wonderful!

When I said "room" earlier, let me clarify and say that we really got a whole suite with a living room. Since we had to go up a lot of steps to get to our room, it was pretty peaceful up there since we were away from the other guests.

There were flowers all around the outside area leading down to the pool. The pool itself looked amazing with plenty of seats surrounding it. What a pity it was too cold for us to swim because it seriously looked so nice!

As this was one of my favorite places, I'd be very likely to return for a second visit should I ever find myself back in Chefchaouen.

Fes-Riad El Yacout

One of the best parts about Fes was staying at this riad. I would give it 5/5 stars--it's simply gorgeous and I felt like I was walking through a palace at times. The mosaics and lavish decor really add to the experience. The stained glass doors of our room added a colorful touch. The staff was very accommodating, and they were always asking us if we needed anything. They were extremely professional and polite at all times.

The courtyard where breakfast is served is equally as beautiful as the rooms. The bathroom was large and had a separate room for the toilet. The water pressure was strong and there was a big tub. The couch area with the small table was just perfect for the times we ordered room service. I could just rave on and on about this place. If you're an Instagram lover like me, you'd find plenty of photo opportunities here.

This place really is a treasure, and it's inside the medina. If we would have stayed longer, we would have liked to have gone to the spa and tried the cooking class.

The pictures below don't do it justice!

Which one of these appeals to you the most?

Trying to Stay Strong

June 1, 2017
So, I was trying to figure out what I would do this summer in this post. Basically, I have very little choice in the matter at this point and have to stay in Shanghai again. It's hard for me to find the words to express this, so I'll just be blunt about it. I need another surgery. I do not have health insurance in the States, so I have to stay here and have it done over the summer. I'm trying VERY, VERY hard to stay positive about this, but I'd be lying if I were saying this is going to be easy for me. I'm still trying to recover from PTSD from what happened to me last summer. Of course needing another surgery was very difficult news to swallow and the absolute last thing I wanted to hear. This will be a challenge for me to get through this mentally.

Let me explain a little bit more. This surgery has nothing to do with my back. It's on my uterus, actually and it's considered a "moderate" surgery. I just keep telling myself that if I could get through last year's surgery, then I can get through anything. I'm going to go ahead and write out some positives so that way I can feel better about this whole thing.

*This summer a few of my friends will be around for part of the summer, so I won't be completely alone here.

* Like I mentioned, compared to the huge ordeal my back surgery was, this surgery is going to be a lot less invasive.

* I am going to move to a bigger apartment here soon, so I'll be all set up in my new place for the summer. In my new place there is an elevator, unlike where I'm living now. I heard that it is hard to walk up stairs while recovering from the surgery I'm getting, so thank goodness I won't have to worry about that.

* At my new apartment, I can get food delivered directly to my door. I'll be restricted as to what I can carry, so now that I know I can order those groceries, I'm relieved.

* I'll have a really relaxing time since I won't be able to do a whole lot during my recovery. I always say I want more time to read, and now I'll have it.

* I can get this surgery done over the summer so I won't have to miss any days with my class and will be ready to teach next year. That's another huge relief. I didn't want to miss any days with my current students mainly because last year I had to miss two months with them.

* This surgery is something that I really need to have done, so once it's over with, I feel like my quality of life will be better.

* I can go to a private hospital this time. Last time, I was in a Chinese public hospital, so not that many people spoke English. At this private hospital, it's just a lot cleaner, I can communicate more easily, and I'm hoping the actual rooms will be better.

* If I have no complications, I only need to stay there for three days which is really nothing compared to the 55 days I spent in the hospital last summer.

* This surgery should be covered by my health insurance. I will have to pay about $8,000 (USD) up front, but I should eventually get it all back.

* One of my wonderful friends has already agreed to sign for me while I go under. I am relieved to know that this is taken care of because last year for my back surgery it posed a huge problem.

* My bosses were very understanding. I felt nervous to tell them that I had another health issue, but one of my bosses said, "You can't help these things. Let's face it together." I don't have to agonize about losing my job or anything like that, which is less for me to worry about.

Yes, I won't be able to go home and see my family for the second summer in a row, but I know they understand and I'll just have to find a way to make up for lost time later. Since I'm a teacher, I really do get a lot of vacation time, so I'll be able to go home next summer or possibly for Chinese New Year.

At this point, I'm just anticipating the surgery anxiously, and want to get it done already so that I can start with the recovery process, which is about two months. Again, that's no time at all compared to my back surgery which took a year and I still have restrictions.

Has there been a time in your life that really challenged you? How did you find the inspiration and strength to stay positive through something difficult?