Taking a look back at how my year started and comparing it to my life now is almost a complete 180. In all honesty, the start of 2015 was very rough for me. Happily, it ended well and my life here in China is better than I imagined it would be. Looking back, I know that I made the right choice to come to China and teach even if I had some doubts initially. 2015 was a year that brought about the right kind of changes for me. I feel like I'm finally out of the "rut" I felt stuck in for so long!
January and February: Like I said, these were pretty dark months for me. I was constantly stressed because of my job and had very little free time. Also, I got a fairly large ankle tattoo and the end of December, and my ankle took about three weeks to not be swollen and puffy anymore! It wasn't infected, but it took a longer than expected amount of time to heal. During those three weeks I couldn't really move around well, so I didn't do much of anything. It seemed like as soon as my ankle got better that I started getting severe lower back pain and a shooting pain down my leg. I dealt with this problem until August of 2015, but it got so bad that I was walking with a limp and was in tears from the pain at the end of each day.
The main positive in my life at this time was that I started becoming even better friends with one of the teachers that worked at my school. Since we had both moved down to South Carolina from the North and were both licensed first year teachers, we had a lot in common. We became pretty close, and I don't know what I would have done without her to confide in! She is one of those people that you could talk to for hours (and trust me, we did!) and was a great listener and just a stand up lady!
The other amazing event going on at this time, was that my niece Sophia was born in early January and I became an aunt!! I was lucky enough to be able to make the drive to North Carolina and see her when she was still a newborn.
March: The weather started getting better, and I promised myself that I would go out and try to enjoy life more. I did make it to Savannah's St. Patrick's Day festival, which is the 2nd largest celebration in the United States. It had been on my bucket list for a long time, and I got to experience that with two of my really close guy friends.
I also took a ghost tour in Savannah, and even though Savannah was 45 minutes from where I was living, I tried to go there as much as possible. I also made it to Charleston one weekend and had a lot of fun with my Chinese co-teacher.
The bad news was that I did get bronchitis from one of my 1st graders. I had a severe case and it took weeks for me to fully recover...Bad luck!
April and May: During April, I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I had already made it through most of the school year and was counting down the days until the end of the year. We also got a week off for spring break, so I went out and explored Bluffton for a bit.
April is also my birthday month, and I had a wonderful day out in Charleston with my bestie and his aunt. We went to Boone Hall, Kaminsky's Bakery, and to see the famous Angel Oak Tree.
In May, it was warm enough to go to the beach, so I went three times this month! It was just what I needed to relax!
June: I made the best decision I could have possibly made for myself and quit my current job in order to teach in China. I have not looked back except for the times I have reoccurring nightmares about my old job and wake up in a cold sweat. (Sadly I am not joking!) I decided to move out of South Carolina ASAP and move back to Georgia with Everett and Jared for the summer. The hassle of moving was worth it. We went into Savannah a lot, went on walks, went swimming at Ev's aunt's place, watched Gran Hotel on Netflix, and just spent hours chatting and having tons of fun.
I also visited my sister Denise in North Carolina for a week and got to see Sophia again. We mostly just relaxed and hung out, but we did go out and pick blueberries and made a day trip to Emerald Isle.
Right after my trip with Denise, my parents visited me in Savannah! I hadn't seen them all year, so it was nice to catch up with them. Plus, I got to be their tour guide in Savannah. I was surprised at how much I learned about the city from my trips into town and of course from my best friend who was born and raised there. My parents were impressed with the city even though we didn't get to everything I had planned for them.
July: I drove back to Ohio for my first time in a year and stayed with my parents for a few days before I met Rachael at the Cleveland Airport so that we could fly to NYC together! We had an eventful few days in the city and even attended the BlogHer Conference. Right after New York City, we flew to Iceland and went on the most amazing road trip with Rachael's co-worker Nate and his friend, Jeff.
Sadly, Jeff and Nate had to leave after our road trip, but Rachael and I spent a full two weeks in Iceland. I felt it was a good amount of time to explore. We got to go to the Blue Lagoon, went inside a volcano, I went inside a glacier while Rachael went scuba diving, we chilled and tried out quirky cafes and restaurants in Reykjavik, went on hikes, took a day trip to Snaefellsness Peninsula, and went horseback riding through lava fields.
August: Right after Iceland, Rachael and I flew into Boston and spent a few days there. We did a Lexington and Concord historical tour and spent a day in Salem where I got an "interesting" psychic reading. The tour we took to Salem was with a guide named Bob, and he was seriously one of the BEST tour guides I have ever had! Rachael and I even felt a bit emotional when our day in Salem was over and we told him goodbye. Both of us highly recommend taking this tour, as Bob was born and raised in Boston and is a gifted storyteller.
After Boston, I drove back to Georgia and spent a short amount of time with Everett and Jared in Savannah as a last hurrah. On one of my last nights out in Savannah, we went to The Shrimp Factory, walked around town, and stopped at Krispy Kreme.
I packed up all of my belongings, drove back to Ohio, and spent a few days at my parents' house so that I could do everything that I had to do before leaving for China. I flew into China to start the next chapter of my life. I met up with my close friend Scott, completed orientation, got my classroom ready, tried to adjust to living in Shanghai, and celebrated the start of the year at the annual banquet my school holds. I also found out that I would be teaching 1st grade again, which was my first choice!
September and October: We got to meet our students and start teaching! It's ridiculous how much I LOVE my class this year. I've been enjoying getting to know my students and am truly grateful for the class that I have!
There was a holiday in September, so Scott and I made the most of it and visited a water town called Zhujiajiao just outside of Shanghai.
Then, we went to Yangshuo and Guilin for our October break. Yangshuo was exceptionally pleasant, and we got to go bike riding through the Chinese countryside. We also had so much fun taking a bamboo raft down the scenic Yulong River.
For the first time in a long time, I even celebrated Halloween and actually wore a proper costume! There was a celebration at school and then some of the teachers hosted a Halloween party that I went to.
November and December: I stayed pretty busy during these two months and managed to go on two trips! The first one was to Xi'an to see the Terracotta Warriors with my friends Scott, Lauren, and Chris.
Over Christmas, Scott and I went to Harbin so that we could check out its annual Snow and Ice Festival! The cold was worth braving in order to get a chance to see these incredible snow and ice sculptures like the one below.
In these two months, I also went to Zotter's Chocolate Museum with Rachael and Taylor, visited Jing'an temple, tried my first ever gel manicures, went to two Christmas markets, and had a fabulous time at our school's annual Christmas banquet.
Although my year got off to a rocky start, I made it through the tough times, and it has been smooth sailing for me ever since June! I look forward to 2016 and everything that lies ahead.
Happy 2016! What was one of your best moments in 2015?