I haven't really had much time to blog lately, so I thought an update should be in order.
Shanghai Disney- For my birthday, two of my friends and I visited Shanghai Disney. The theme park opened last spring when I was in the hospital. I'd been wanting to go so badly but had to wait until my back healed more. It was hard watching everyone go and having to always say, "I'm not ready to go yet." Happily, I FINALLY got a chance to visit a few weeks ago! The best part of it was that I could ride almost all of the rides besides Tron and one of the water rides. We started out by riding Soaring over the Horizon--you're just lifted up and "flown" to different landmarks all over the world. We also walked by the castle, went to the Alice in Wonderland maze, and rode Jet Packs. Another cool ride we tried was Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue--you get to shoot at Z's along the way, and your score is displayed on a screen in front of you, so you're competing with whoever you ride the ride with. The highlight for me was going on Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure. The ride was thrilling, it was one of the longer rides, and it used new technology to make you feel like you were part of all of the excitement. We had dinner at The Cheesecake Factory afterwards--their chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake is TOO delicious. We ended our day at the theme park by doing a little shopping. I don't typically buy lots of trinkets, so I didn't think I'd leave with anything, but they had a section full of Shanghai Minnie stuff! Minnie Mouse is dressed like an old fashioned, classy Shanghai lady and I couldn't resist, so I left with a Shanghai Minnie notebook and a Shanghai Minnie/Mickey mug set. A fun-filled day at the theme park was just what I needed. I went to the park thinking I'd just like to go once, but I didn't get to ride everything that I wanted, so I will surely be going back. I heard the Tarzan show was good, and I didn't get to see any shows, so that's more motivation to want to return.
Hair straightening- As a birthday gift to myself, I finally bit the bullet and paid to get my hair straightened. I'd been wanting to do it for almost two years now, but it's roughly $200 to do so. I just felt bad about spending that much cash on my hair when I was already getting treatments and regular highlights. I got my hair done in January and with my new style, I don't need to keep going to the salon to get highlights or my roots done. Since I was saving money there, I decided to try out the hair straightening. Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with it. It's supposed to last for a year. While my hair isn't completely frizz-free, it's looking A LOT better. It has been rather humid here lately, so I got it done just in time because Shanghai summers are sticky. The only negative aspect of it is that now the tips of my hair are pretty dry, but mostly I'm happy with my decision.
Birthday Celebrations- On my actual birthday, I had to work, but I arranged a dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe Shanghai to celebrate. My food was good and of course so was the company. I kind of like birthday dinners because you have complete control over the guest list, ha ha!
Sometimes as an expat, you don't get too many gifts since you aren't around your family and many of your closest friends. I have to say, I got spoiled this year on my birthday! Rachael and our friend Keri gave me a coupon for a free brunch and manicure. Another friend got me a scarf, and my friend Lauren got me a whole bunch of goodies that were so thoughtful and meaningful to our friendship. Every single gift she gave me was something we had in common or something we joked or talked about before. The coolest thing was this clear lipstick with a flower inside that changes color when you apply it! She even gave me a purple blanket shaped like a mermaid's tail. I also ended up getting a bottle of Chanel Noir perfume, a bottle of Burberry weekend perfume, a small plant, two bottles of wine, and a pack of three L'Occitane lip balms. Can you tell "gifts" is one of my love languages?
Craft'd class- There's a place in Shanghai that offers all sorts of crafts for expats. Rachael saw that they were offering a class where you could make your own beauty products, so our friend Keri and I joined her. I chose to make body lotion bars and eye gel. The body lotion bars smell scrumptious and really do wonders for dry skin. It was a fun way to spend an evening!
Xintiandi- I had two appointments in this area of Shanghai, but afterwards, I decided to walk around and do a bit of exploring. Xintiandi is really one of my favorite places in all of Shanghai! There are lots of open air cafes, beautiful architecture, shopping, all kinds of restaurants, and it's always bustling. I couldn't resist stopping at Spread the Bagel, which is one of my favorite places for a quick meal in the area.
Friends' Birthdays- Besides my own birthday, I went and celebrated another friend's b-day at a Mexican bar. It was a lot of fun! This weekend, I went to a friend's birthday brunch which included good conversation, cinnamon rolls, and mimosas. Can't complain about that!
My open class is finished. Open class consisted of about seven of my peers watching me teach and evaluating me. Then they had to write comments about me on Quip where everyone could see them. That gave me an incredible amount of anxiety, and I'm really glad it's over with. The good news is that some people that signed up for my class forgot to come so there were less people watching me than what I initially thought. I don't think I ever want to do another open class for teachers. It went well and I got all positive feedback, and my students behaved themselves and learned from my lesson, but I got way too in my head and stressed beforehand. Next year, I'm going to ask them to please pick someone else. I feel like there are plenty of others who don't mind that sort of thing, but I do!!
We went on a field trip to Shanghai Sculpture Park. The kids loved it because they got to play all day. It wasn't a very educational field trip, but I was happy to see my students have so much fun. One of my students said to me, "At home I have so many rules. At school there are so many rules. On this field trip I finally felt free!" So many of my students told me that it was the best field trip they had ever gone on.
It's that time of year again when teachers are requesting their co-teachers for next year. We don't get to decide ourselves, so my co-teacher and I are worried about who we will be with. We just want to stay together again but don't know if that will happen for us because we worked together for two years in a row. I say if it ain't broke, don't fix it... I guess it's pointless to think about it too much because I put my request in, but ultimately it's out of my hands.
My co-teacher and I couldn't stop coughing for about three weeks. I just felt crappy all around. The coughing got so bad that I was up for hours at night before I could finally fall asleep. We knew that we had the same thing because we had similar symptoms and got it at about the same time. My co-teacher said she would go to the doctors to get checked this weekend and let me know what "we" have, which I found quite funny. What I did not find so amusing was that we both have acute bronchitis. I thought I was being a baby or that it was just allergies, so now I know I at least had a legitimate excuse for feeling so miserable.
Last Thursday, I had to go into the hospital where I had my back surgery last May. My school prepared a red flag that I was supposed to give the surgeon and his team who operated on me. A red flag is a "very Chinese" kind of honor that can be hung up in their wing. Basically, they're getting recognition for their good work. My surgeon did give me an excellent surgery, but I didn't personally like him too much because he fat shamed me at least three times. The other three doctors that worked with me were SO nice and patient. I know that they have a huge workload, but one of them even gave me his personal number so that I could message him with any questions. They really did help me a lot. When I walked into the orthopedic building, I ran into one of my doctors in the elevator. I think he was happy to see me, and oddly enough, the feeling was mutual. When I walked to the spinal unit, I saw two more of my doctors. As weird as it sounds, it was kind of nice to be reunited with them--I guess I spent so much damn time there that we became friendly. Even my surgeon seemed happy to see me. He called me his American friend in Chinese, and when I presented the red flag to him he wanted to get a picture with his personal cell phone. He didn't even call me fat that day, so I was pretty pleased. Seriously though, he really did a good job on my surgery, so I am glad I went to him. God forbid anything happens again with my spine again...but if it does I would go back to him. I gave him a hand-written thank you card, too. The doctors thanked me for stopping by and delivering that, so it was pleasant to have that kind of closure.
Speaking of closure, my one year anniversary of my trip to Urumqi just came up. That's when I woke up one day and couldn't walk because of my back issues and had to get flown back to Shanghai on a stretcher to have my operation. I thought the one year mark would never come. The recovery was a long and painful process, and I still have to be very careful, but I'm just thankful to get most of my independence back! I hope I can put this chapter of my life behind me and just move forward, even though I'm not ever going to be back to what I was.
Have you ever been to a Disney park outside of the USA?