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Smiling Over Happiness Boutique

October 27, 2015
Packing for a year in China was quite a feat. Even on the morning of my flight, I was still trying to decide what would be worth it to take with me and what I would have to part with. Sadly, with my bags already being 20 pounds overweight, I had to take my jewelry collection out. Only a few pieces made the cut, and I mostly brought only simple, lightweight pieces over to China. I figured that I would only take what I would get the most wear out of, so almost everything I chose had to be versatile. After about two weeks of sifting through my limited jewelry collection here, I already knew that something was missing. I had no dangle earrings or fun statement necklaces to jazz up my outfits. When a representative from Happiness Boutique asked me if I would like to review one of their necklaces, I was pleased because I learned that their shop has quite the selection of statement necklaces to choose from.

I knew I wanted something bold to make my plain teaching outfits a bit more fashionable, and eventually I chose the Sparkling Lotus Petal Necklace in blue. Since I'm living in Asia, the lotus flower just seemed appropriate!  
Image via Happiness Boutique
Truthfully, I thought it might take a few months for my necklace to arrive in China. Goodness knows the package my dad sent me on August 21st did not arrive until after October 21st, so I was expecting a long wait. I was pretty surprised when the security guard working at my school brought a parcel from Happiness Boutique into my classroom for me just a few weeks after I placed my order. What I appreciate about Happiness Boutique is that they will ship to China (or anywhere in the world!) in the first place, as many places do not. The best part about the shipping is that it's free. Now that I know that packages will get to me from this boutique, I would consider ordering some more jewelry or even clothes from the shop. 

Overall, I'm loving my new necklace. I wore it to school today, and even my friend Scott told me he liked it. That means something because Scott will be the first to admit when he doesn't like something about one of my outfits. I received some other positive feedback as well--some girls in my class told me that it was a "princess necklace." My sole critique is that a gem was missing from one of the petals of the lotus flower. It is only noticeable if you look closely, and I highly doubt anyone else would ever point it out.

Happiness Boutique also offers a reward program. After earning 200 points, you can receive a postcard from Berlin, where the company is based! Gotta love the quirky and cute touches this company provides. Of course, more points can earn you free jewelry, which is fine by me.

Have you ever heard of Happiness Boutique? If you've looked at their site, what's your favorite item?

**I received this item for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are still my own.

Weekending in Asia

October 22, 2015
Yes, I'm 100% doing a weekend recap post four days after these events occurred. Part of it is because the internet is not reliable here, but I'm kind of on my own time anyway.

On the day I left for Shanghai, I decided to kill some time and browse my Facebook feed at the airport. I noticed that on Girl vs. Globe, Taylor had written about how she would be moving to Shanghai. I mentioned to her that I would be interested in meeting up, and Rachael also wanted to come. We planned it, and eventually the three of us ended up having brunch together at Egg. While I like the other teachers at my school, I have to say that it was very nice to get out of that "bubble" for a change. I think I need to try harder to have a sliver of a life outside of school. The food was good, we got to talk about blogging, chatted about the pros and cons of living in Shanghai, and we even made plans for our next meet up, which I am looking forward to very much!

Next, Rachael and I went over to the Fabric Market. I didn't bring a winter coat with me, and my Chinese co-teacher warned me that the weather in Shanghai changes suddenly and can turn cold in the span of a week. I thought that since we have now been paid that I would head over to get the coat made sooner rather than later. The Fabric Market is large building full of individual shops. The tailors there specialize in custom-made suits, cashmere coats, general winter coats, and dresses. Luckily, a teacher who had lived in Shanghai previously had some recommendations of good shops to go to. It can be a bit daunting not knowing where to go, as many tailors are vying for your business and are not shy about trying to get you to go into their shop. I searched some designs I liked ahead of time and saved the pictures to my phone. I added the shop owner on We Chat and then sent her the picture so that she could make it in the style I wanted. Next, I looked through swatches of fabric and decided on the color I liked. I wanted something in a deep purple, but they didn't have the exact color I was looking for, so I settled on a dark burgundy. After that, she measured me and I paid a deposit. I really hope that I like the overall look since I'll be wearing it all winter! At least it should fit me properly since she measured me. Rachael wanted to get a dress made, and we were told that a certain jersey shop was good. They had a lot of different patterns to choose from, so we both decided to get fitted for a dress. A girl that works at my school got over 50 dresses from them, so they have to be somewhat decent! We only paid about $32 U.S. for each dress, so the price is quite reasonable. It helped that we said we worked with the girl who got over 50 dresses because the price went down for us. If I'm happy with my stuff, I think I might need a shopping intervention. I can see myself dropping some major cash for clothes.

Outside the Fabric Market, some ladies were selling jewelry, and a bunch of statement necklaces caught my eye. Rachael and I both made purchases. I'm wearing it in the picture below--what do you think? After our shopping spree, we took a motorized tuk-tuk to the Shanghai International Beer Festival. I kind of had reverse culture shock due to the large number of ex-pats at the event. It was fun at first, but eventually I just got kind of bored after being there for more than three hours. My friend Scott and I contemplated going out afterwards, but we knew we had a busy day full of sightseeing ahead of us the following day, so we decided against it.

On Sunday, we got up early and went to The Propaganda Museum. I'm not big on museums, but I highly recommend spending about an hour at this one! It was only 20 RMB to get in, and this museum has original propaganda posters from when Mao was in office. The posters depicted many significant historical events. Many of the posters were destroyed when Mao died, so this museum is a good showcase of what was preserved. Even if you're not that into history, the posters are pieces of art in themselves. There is also a small section that has a collection of "Shanghai Lady" posters from the 1920's.

Scott and I decided to walk around the French Concession and stop at The Avocado Lady, a shop that has some harder to find items that expats go crazy for. Rachael introduced me to Strictly Cookies which are sold there, and they are some of the best cookies I have ever tasted!! Then since Scott and I were starving, we walked into this cafe. We noticed that there seemed to be a ton of kids everywhere we turned. We looked at the menu, and we realized that the restaurant was FOR families and kids and that we were the only two kid-free people there. We felt weird, so we ran away and ate at a nearby cafe and then went to Tian Zi Fang in The French Concession. As always, it was a wonderful time! We passed by a toilet restaurant...The seats are all made out of Western style toilets, which is funny because sometimes Western toilets (aka toilets that aren't squatters) are hard to come by in China. Other cool stops included a popsicle stand, a place where you can get personalized paper cut outs of yourself framed, drinks for sale in blood bags and baby bottles, and streets decorated with hanging parasols.

We ended our weekend with a meal at a local Chinese restaurant near where we live. Our go-to meal is broccoli covered in this amazing garlic sauce, spicy tofu with rice, and sweet and sour pork.

What are your plans for the upcoming weekend?

My Job in China

October 21, 2015
Being a teacher at my current job is going well! I love my students this year and am beyond pleased with my class. I am having fun getting to know my students and truly enjoy teaching first grade again. Ever since I told people that I was moving to China, it seems as if I got (and still get) asked many job-related questions, so I thought it might be fun to do a little Q & A on here. 

"Are the kids you teach all Chinese?"
Actually, the students are supposed to have an international passport to be able to attend our school. This includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, as I have quite a few students from Hong Kong. My co-teacher told me that Chinese citizens are usually not allowed to have dual citizenship.

"How many hours a week do you work?"
Officially, I work forty and a half hours per week. We have a forty hour work week and then have to stay over on Monday afternoon for a staff meeting, so that's where that extra half-hour comes into play. Sometimes I will work over, but it's pretty rare. I also tutor a 3rd grade student an extra three hours per week. 

"How much do you get paid?"
I'm not going to say exactly how much I make, but I will say that the starting salary for a teacher at our school is $2,500 a month. Of course, teachers with experience, teaching licenses, and Masters degrees make more than that. We are also eligible for a raise if we stay for another year at our school. 

"What are the requirements for teaching English in China?"
At my school, you have to hold a Bachelor's degree in something. The recruiters try to get as many certified teachers as possible, but sometimes there is a shortage, so not everyone working at our school is licensed. You also have to be able to pass the Chinese health inspection. They check to make sure you are healthy and even draw your blood to check for contagious diseases. 

"Are all of your students English language learners?"
Many of them are, but I have some students whose native language is English and they also know Mandarin. I have a few students (from Korea, Japan, and Germany) who neither speak Chinese nor English as their native language. 

"What's it like working with a co-teacher?" 
My co-teacher is very supportive and easy to work with. We get along well with each other, but I heard this is not always the case. It can be an uphill battle if you don't like your co-teacher, as you are with them the entire work week! Thank goodness I got someone laid-back and thoughtful. 

"What is something that shocked you about the students?"
Almost all of my students have an ayi which is a housekeeper/nanny in this case. (It can also mean a janitor.) What really got me is that some of my students don't even live with their parents. Some live with their ayis in Shanghai and then go to see their parents on the weekends and over the holiday breaks. Many parents have demanding, high-profile jobs, so they will be away for long periods at a time working in other countries on business trips. Sometimes this can have an impact on the students. 

"Do you have any funny, work-related stories to share?"
Yes. Just last week, there was a swimming competition that five of my students were signed up to participate in. We had to walk our whole class to a different part of campus to the building that housed the swimming pool. While I was walking there, two of our parent volunteers were waiting for us, but they were snapping tons of pictures of the students and me. Once we arrived in the building, my co-teacher gave the students plastic coverings that had to be worn over their shoes so that dirt wouldn't get around the pool area. Then, she told me to take the girls through the locker room and out to the main swimming pool. Between the locker area and the pool was another small pool with about 8 inches of water in it. I guess it's to get dirt off of people's feet before entering the main pool?? I have no idea, but all of my students were wondering how to get across because they were wearing their shoes with the coverings. The parent volunteers decided to take off their shoes and carry the girls across, which my students thought was hilarious. I had to carry a couple over, too. Then, the two moms went out to the swimming pool area so that they could watch their sons and wish them good luck before the race. My students didn't know what to do and I felt kind of awkward being in the locker room with them, but I just told them to change into their swimsuits and turned around. I told them if they needed help to just ask, but thank goodness they were good with getting changed on their own. They did need help putting on their swimming caps. No one with long hair can enter our school's pool without a cap. The kicker is that no one was in the locker room to help the boys cross, so they all waded with their shoes and socks on through that water! I asked my co-teacher about it later, and she said that a worker there did not give our class permission to use the other door to enter the pool. Say what? For some reason my class was the only class that had to wade through water, so the worker must have changed his mind and let the other kids through. The boys' socks were so wet that they had to wear their back-up socks in the classroom with no shoes for the rest of the day. What made it even more funny was that some of those boys had to give map presentations, so they had to stand up in front of everyone with no shoes on, and in some cases, they were completely barefoot. At least we all had a good laugh about it.

"Do you get a monthly housing allowance?"
The good news is that the school provides us with some rather nice apartments. They are clean, newly remodeled, and close to where we work. We also do not have to pay any bills for the utilities if we do not go over our month allowance. The bad news is that there is no option to get a housing stipend if you don't want to live on campus with the other teachers. This is why very few teachers live off-campus. 

Is there anything I didn't cover that you're wondering about? Just ask in the comments.

Being Basic

October 19, 2015
I get a kick out of all the Basic Bitch YouTube videos and other funny articles describing "basic" behavior.  I think it's hilarious because I find that there is some truth to it! I'm allowed to think that because I believe I'm kind of basic myself or at least have a lot in common with a full-on basic bitch.  Honestly, I think I'm too weird to be a total BB. Of course, I could be 100% basic because isn't a sign of a basic bitch to not think they are one?

Scott and I had this "enlightening" conversation about it.

Me: "You're the epitome of basic."
Him: "Yeah, I am. I'll admit it. I love Starbucks and fall."
Me: "I like Starbucks, but not all the time."
Scott: "You're an EBB for that comment."
Me: "What on earth is an EBB?"
Scott: "Emo basic bitch."
Me: "I am NOT emo. Please."
Scott: "You're not emo. You're an Emo basic bitch because you kind of want to be a BB, but you think it's stupid, too.  You hover around being a BB. You love fro-yo but don't think it compares to ice cream. You like to be healthy sometimes, but why bother all the time?"
Me: "I wear yoga pants, but only as pajamas. I do have a Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake mug, but it was a gift."
Scott: "Of course you do."

Whatever % BB I am, the tendencies are there, and I don't think that's a bad thing! I just do what I like and think it's funny if that happens to fall into the BB category. So, here I am in all of my basic glory.

* I went to Sip and Paint and have wanted to go to Sip and Paint for years! Rachael arranged it for a group of girls at our school, and all of us painted pictures of coffee mugs. It was really fun, and my painting is now adding some color to my kitchen.

* I'm really upset that I'm missing out on fall this year. It's the only time that I miss Ohio because it's lovely there. It has finally started to cool off a little in Shanghai, but I've been warned that it just jumps from summer to winter and that there's not really an autumn.

* Brunch is where it's at! I've always been a fan...I love that I can sleep in late and then still get breakfast food if I want it. 

* Stopping at Starbucks every now and again puts me in a good mood, although I have to say that I don't have loyalty to just Starbucks because I also like Dunkin' Donuts and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

* I love a good girls' day out! Recently, Rachael invited me to this event in Shanghai called Glamour Lab. We went in questioning whether or not it would be worth it and when we couldn't find it right away, we almost gave up and skipped it altogether. We're so glad we stuck around. It was an event that was hosted in a house and each room had representatives from different companies there to pamper you in some way. The event lasted for a total of three hours, but we got there a little late. When we walked in, there was a dessert bar set up with various treats including macarons. Rachael and I decided to get blowouts and our hair styled first since the line wasn't very long. Then, we put our name down for eyelash extensions, which did have a wait time. I had never gotten eyelash extensions before and was quite hesitant about it, but since here in Shanghai it costs about $100 US to get 30 lashes on each eye, I figured it was the right time to try since it wouldn't cost anything extra.  Plus, after talking to the woman who arranged the event, I was sold. She told me that she tried out everything herself first before contacting anyone. The girl that applied our lashes was very professional and knew what she was doing. If anyone from Shanghai is reading this, she works at a place called Esthecil in Pudong. I've read that people who are untrained can apply them wrong, which causes the glue to clump and makes your natural lashes fall out. All you do is lie still, close your eyes, and she attaches the lashes you pick to your real lashes. I was told that they usually last about two months, but that they will pretty much all fall out by the third month. My natural lashes aren't the greatest, so when I looked in the mirror after she had finished, I was pleasantly surprised to see the result. What a difference just a few eyelashes can make! Even though it's expensive, I would probably get them again. This may sound superficial, but they just made me feel a lot prettier and that was a good feeling. I've had them for several weeks now, and they are in tact. 

I also stopped by the reflexology room and got a 20 minute massage. The girl that was there was telling me how the center is only based on Eastern medicine and a doctor there will analyze you and come up with a personalized wellness plan. In Eastern medicine, they also focus on preventing future illness and ailments, so they might incorporate treatments accordingly. I have to admit that I'm a bit skeptic, but I have been wanting to try acupuncture for awhile so I would go for that.

The last thing I had enough time for was to get my nails done with Little Ondine polish. It's a water-based polish that isn't as bad for your nails as regular polish is. They had a big selection of colors and the polish dried VERY quickly. For me that is a major plus, as I often do not paint my nails at times because I don't want them to get smudged. The polish doesn't really smell AND it just peels right off. You don't even have to use nail polish remover. Even though it does chip maybe slightly faster than regular nail polish, the pros outweigh the cons and touch ups throughout the week aren't a big deal since this polish dries so fast.

* I've seen every episode of Sex and the City and even went on a tour over the summer with Rachael in NYC.

* One of my favorite dresses in my wardrobe is from Forever 21.

* I really want a pair of Tory Burch flats. 

* The Bachelor and Bachelorette are kind of addicting. 

* Some shows I like on Netflix are "basic" like How I Met Your Mother and New Girl, but these aren't my favorite shows ever.

* I do like cupcakes a lot...but slices of cake are equal in my eyes.

* I have the latest i-Phone model, but this is the only time in my whole life that I ever have. I had to get a new phone for China.

* Shanghai Disneyland opens this year, and I'm already planning out when to go.

* I call other people basic. (See above conversation with Scott.)

* I own a Northface jacket and UGG's, but to be fair, I did not bring my UGG's to China.

* Instagram is my favorite form of social media.

* I abbreviate a lot of words in day-to-day conversation.

What about you? Are you a BB or not?

The French Concession

October 14, 2015
One place that I like to frequent in Shanghai is the French Concession. It is just a short taxi ride away from where I'm living, and it's an interesting mix of Eastern and Western cultures. This is an area that I'd like to explore further, but for now, check out a few of my favorite places which are bolded below.

Although I had visited the French Concession many years ago, I recently went to a section of the French Concession called Tian Zi Fang. This is an artsy area that is popular with expats like myself. There are many restaurants, bars, and shops selling arts and crafts. It's a great place to go souvenir shopping or to pick up something eclectic. There are hand painted fans, boutiques full of clothes and accessories, a store where they make candy, as well as tea shops. This list really only scratches the surface.

One night after school, Scott, Tara, and I decided to return to Tian Zi Fang, and we popped into a tea shop and do some tea tasting. We sampled some jasmine tea and two types of oolong. I left with one of the kinds of oolong because it had a delicious, sweet aftertaste due to it being flavored with licorice. On top of that, it was also recommended by the man who prepared our tea for us. I asked him which type of tea was best for teachers and he said that one was good for the throat. Since I am prone to vocal problems, I need all the help I can get. Tara and I also splurged on some adorable mugs...With all the tea I drink here, I considered it a worthwhile investment, even if we did get a little ripped off on them.

While meandering through the French Concession another time, a group of friends and I tried this restaurant called Kommune, which is also located in Tian Zi Fang. Apparently it has been open for 15 years, but what I liked about it right away was its breakfast menu. I ordered the avocado and tomato smash which is described as "two eggs on sourdough toast surrounded by freshly cut tomato and avocado basil with sundried tomato pesto, onion, and feta cheese." Are you drooling yet? Another trip back to Kommune is in order ASAP.

The French Concession is also where I go to get my hair done. Rachael introduced me to Franck Provost on Anfu Lu. Truthfully, I think is pretty expensive, but I will pay it because her (and now my!) hairdresser is awesome and has a lot of experience working with "foreigners' hair." Our hairdresser trained in France for three years and when I went in for highlights a few days ago, he used the comb method to apply the dye. He told me that this is "the new way" and that it's "better than foils" because it makes it look more natural. He said that when my hair grows out the roots won't be as obvious as they are when it is done with just foils. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with how well it turned out and gosh it's nice not to have roots anymore! Our hairdresser also told me that he might do Gwen Stefani's hair soon because she is coming to Shanghai for a private event. I about fainted and told him to take lots of pictures. 

If you're looking for a good laugh and fancy a cup of coffee or tea, then head to Teddy Bear Family. The whole restaurant/cafe is teddy bear themed and there are hundreds of teddy bears on display and also for sale. All of the decor fits in with the theme, and even the chairs are shaped like teddy bears. Apparently you can take a class here and make your own bear!

Last but not least, Rachael suggested going to Maya for a Mexican brunch one morning. After paying a flat rate, you can have either unlimited sangria or margaritas! A group of us stayed for a few hours, and it was a relaxing way to unwind on one our days off. The food was tasty and there is even a pool under the restaurant that Rachael says we can pay to swim in. We will have to do that once the weather is nicer.

What is one of your favorite areas by where you live?

Regional Gifts to Buy in Savannah

October 12, 2015
It's safe to say that my love of Savannah is not hidden here on my blog. Although I'm no longer in the Low Country of Georgia, living just outside of Savannah for about a year solidified my stance on the city--I was head over heels for just about anything having to do with Savannah. One of my favorite pastimes was to stroll the streets and go in and out of Savannah's unique shops. I've compiled a list of some of my favorite finds that just scream "Savannah" or "Low Country." Eventually, I'd like to own everything on this list!

Bird Girl Statue- This statue by Sylvia Shaw Judson grew famous after appearing on the cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The original statue was in Bonaventure Cemetery, but due to the popularity of this best-selling novel and subsequent release of the motion picture, the statue had to be taken out in order to be kept safe. If you want to see the original, do not fear, as it in on loan at the Telfair Museum of Art and can still be seen in person. There are thousands upon thousands of replicas of this statue that range from just a few inches in size to some larger versions that are almost forty inches tall. Choose the one you want for an instant reminder of the prettiest city in Georgia, arguably.

Okay, so this one is a little broken on the arm, but you get the idea.
A cookbook from Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room- Mrs. Wilkes opened in 1943 and has become a Savannah staple. Many locals rave about it, as you likely will if you ever try the food! The cookbook contains many recipes from Sema Wilkes, the original owner. Of course it is for sale in the shop, but if you can't make it there, it is also available at Barnes & Noble.

A jar of Byrd's Cookies- Byrd's Famous Cookies opened in 1924 and has been delighting residents of Savannah with its selection of cookies ever since. There are three locations in Savannah, with one of them being right at City Market. There are samples offered at the City Market location so that you can find your favorite flavor before purchasing a jar of these delectable treats. I recommend the key lime coolers.

Girl Scout Related Items- Seeing as how the founder of the Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low, was born and raised in Savannah, it's only fitting to take back some type of souvenir related to the Girl Scouts. After touring the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, stop at the gift shop and have a look around.

A unique piece of artwork from the SCAD store- SCAD, or Savannah College of Art and Design has a store open to the public that features work produced by SCAD students and alumni. Help support a college student by buying some of their artwork! At the SCAD store, you are sure to find something that is one-of-a-kind. I personally visited the store and found some of the items to be overpriced, while other stuff was more reasonable. The store has home decor items, paintings, cards and stationery, jewelry, totes, and other accessories. 

Palmetto Roses- Locals are usually weaving roses out of palmetto fronds near the fountain at Forsyth Park or along River Street. Be careful, though, because some of these peddlers might not actually be licensed by the city, so use your best judgement. These roses can also be found all over Charleston. They are supposed to symbolize everlasting love. 

A painting from The Village Craftsmen- This is a co-op of various artisans that pay for a space in the gallery to sell their work. You might find paintings or photographs of Savannah, scarves, crafts, pottery, or metal work--it all depends on who has paid to rent a space in the gallery. 

A tutti frutti t-shirt from Leopold's- Just a generic "Savannah" t-shirt can be kind of boring and kitschy, but the tutti frutti shirt from Leopold's is what I deem wearable! While I saw some cute red ones on sale in the shop and contemplated buying one, unfortunately, I cannot find the shirt anywhere for sale online. If you want to see the shirt, then I guess you'll have to stop by Leopold's in person. While you're there, you might as well try tutti frutti since they say it was invented there.

Honey from Savannah Bee Company- You can't get more local than this! There are many different types of honey for sale. Not sure about which one to buy? The knowledgeable staff will fill you in and let you sample the various kinds at their honey bar. If you don't like the taste of honey, there are plenty of bath and body products made with honey or beeswax for you to try.

Sweets from Savannah's Candy Kitchen- The pralines here are quite famous, but stop in one of the shops in historic Savannah to see an assortment of Southern treats. Besides just the Southern delicacies, Savannah's Candy Kitchen has candied apples, gourmet popcorn, taffy, and baked goods. If you're not sure, try a free sample at the door (usually it's praline.)

Would you buy any of these souvenirs? What is a typical or famous souvenir where you live?