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Scott's Top 10 Travel Accessories

April 21, 2016
If you've even read one post on here this year, then I have probably mentioned my close friend Scott. Funny story on how we met... We both were pursuing Education degrees at Ohio State, and we were placed in the same art methods class. We kept getting put into the same groups (destiny,) but here is the kicker... For our huge, culminating project at the end of the year, we had to develop a lesson and come up with a craft, while teaching about other cultures. There were five countries to choose from, and I was the only one that picked China as my first choice. Scott picked Mexico, but too many others had already chosen that, so he got placed into "China" with me. Fast forward five years, and we both moved to Shanghai, China together to teach! Looking back, perhaps it was a bit of foreshadowing on what was to come?

At any rate, I've been telling Scott that he was welcome to post on my blog for about three years now. While we were traveling together, I asked him if he could write one about the best travel accessories because he is always so organized and tidy wherever we are! He might have a cushy travel eye mask, whereas there I am, a few feet away, using a black sock to cover my eyes in order to block out the light. Scott knows how to travel in style and seems to have all of these extra accessories that make life on the road a bit easier, so he's here to share them with you today. Enjoy the read; I know I did!

Scott’s 10 Travel Necessities…I Mean, Accessories

Hello! Scott at the wheel. I’ve now had the opportunity to travel with my phenomenal bff and travel partner Lisa all over the world and have come to discover some important accessories that are really and truly travel necessities. At least, if you want to travel in both style and grace, that is.

1) A good, sturdy, stylish backpack

Ok, I’m not talking about one of those gigantic, back-breaking book bags that turn their wearer into some sort of horrific turtle. I’m talking about a quality backpack that is big enough to be usable yet portable enough that it can slide beneath the seat in front of you on a plane. I find that the more pockets the better and if you can find one with an inside pocket you’ve struck gold! Good luck getting to that sucker, money thieves. I’ve traveled everywhere with my backpack and its been absolutely one of the best investments I’ve made.

2) A hanging toiletries bag - matching preferred but not necessary.

You may be laughing and rolling your eyes, but seriously, having a toiletries bag that can hang is so much better than any toiletries bag siting on the counter in who knows what! I love my rolled up bag since I can fit all of the things I need (including my glasses with their big ol’ case) and stick it into my backpack for use. Then, if I need it, I can hang it on anything available: airplane doors, train sleeper bunks, my worthwhile backpack. Everywhere. If you have a toiletries bag that matches #1, you’ve earned a gold traveler star.

3) Lush Shampoo Bar

I’m obsessed with Lush products and this shampoo bar is the best thing. You don’t have to deal with the hassle of liquids, sizes, and all that jazz. The solid bar lasts my balding head and me about 4 months each (so probably 3 months on a normal head of hair) and is so much easier to travel with. Love it! Choose “Montalbano” for a lovely, citrusy morning pick-me-up and grab the tin for easy transport.

4) A universal adapter

This little adapter is sure to be one of my traveling best friends. I’ve read wonderful reviews about this universal adapter and its ease of use and I can’t wait to try it out this summer. I’m including it on this list even though I haven’t used it yet except in China because how could it not be incredible? I know I’m going to regret saying that, but honestly, how much easier will it be to travel with only one adapter and not have to worry about voltz, hz, juice, and whatever else is electric sounding that none of us understand? Can’t wait to update everyone on this little guy.

5) Multi-port Power Station

Let’s just say it. This travel accessory is a bit on the bulkier side, but I will tell you that it more than makes up for its size with its usefulness! This power station has been worth every penny. It only needs one cord, converts all voltages for you, and has ports for days! On this sucker are 6, 3 prong ports as well as 2 usb ports for charging things that require a usb cable. You can also store any and all cables inside of it in the convenient pocket. It’s such a remarkable tool that I could devote paragraphs talking about it. Lisa and I have been able to charge both our phones, cameras, and computers at.the.same.time. all while using only one outlet. How crazy is that??? Get it. Enough said.

6) A good eye mask.

Not all eye masks are created equal. I’m going to sound a bit like Ina Garten a la “Barefoot Contessa” when I say this, but you need to make sure that the eye mask you have is a good eye mask. Let me explain. You don’t want a mask that holds your head in a vice-like grip and you don’t want a mask that puts so much pressure on your eyes that they are being shoved back into your skull. It simply needs to block out all forms of light comfortably (and with style). This eye mask by Earth Therapeutics is fabulous. It’s adjustable, light, and best of all actually is raised in the eye area so that there is nothing sitting on your eye. You can even blink without touching the mask - or at least I could. I think Lisa and her long-ass eyelashes may have grazed the edge, but still, it’s amazing.

7) A memory foam, packable, and “connectable” neck pillow

I used to scoff at those people with these neck pillows on the plane. “Ha” I would say, “Why bring that big ol’ thing and take up valuable clothing space.” Well, let’s just that I’ve learned otherwise. I bought the “Evolution Pillow” by Cabeau and my life was forever changed. First of all, it compresses to the teeny tiniest of sizes but then through some voodoo magic expands to about 6 or 7 inches tall! It’s wizardry. Second, it’s memory foam. What else could be better? Third, it’s connectable, meaning I can put the two sides together via handy little snap and have a firm, immovable pillow that have given me so many zzzzzzzs on the plane that I’ve lost count. Pair this with the eye mask and you’re sure to have a wonderful flight - unless you’re Lisa and your gripping the seat for fear of your life the whole with every little bump hahaha Sorry, Lisa.

8) An e-reader

Be it an iPad, Kindle, or Nook. Having an e-reader with a plethora of books at your fingertips staves off boredom and saves space when packing. Before trips, I always load up with some books and store them on my iPad to read later. I know people who even skip paying for the books and just download them from their local, stateside library for free! How easy is that?

9) Travel Journal

We’re nearing the end of the list, folks, but this travel accessory should definitely be near the top. I started journaling about a year ago and it’s become such a therapeutic device that not only lets me record trips and fun things that have happened but also vents frustrations in a healthy way (like that time with that crazy cab woman in Thailand who REFUSED to turn around). As always, go for quality. This journal is from Barnes and Noble and is sturdy, small, college ruled, and perfect. I couldn’t travel without it and you won’t be able to either once you get one for yourself! Trust me.

10) An awesome travel companion

I’m talking about Lisa, of course! Having had Lisa as a bff for all of our travels all over the world has been the best experience ever. You need a travel companion who gets your brand of crazy, someone who can make you laugh whenever you may be down, someone who listens to you when you just need to talk, advises against questionable life choices, someone who is there as a financial advisor and math wizard with money, and someone who is just all-around amazing, fabulous, marvelous, (insert every other adjective meaning the best thing ever!). Hard to find, right? Well I found one in Lisa! She’s really the best “accessory that’s a necessity” ever and I can’t wait for more of our travels together. Be sure to get a Lisa for your next vacation. You won’t regret it ;)

So that’s it. Scott’s Top 10 travel necessities, I mean accessories! What would your top 10 travel necessities be?


Well folks, I hope you liked Scott's guest post. I can personally vouch for #5--it's AMAZING and everything we have is always fully charged without having to take turns with outlets. Also, how sweet is he for #10? I'm just glad he puts up with me! If you're interested in more of Scott's adventures abroad, follow him on Instagram!

The Four Seasons Pudong + Birthday Weekend Recap

April 18, 2016
My work day at Friday was pretty great. So many of my students made me birthday cards and did really sweet things. Two kids even spent their own money on a gift for me, even after I told them to please not do that. After work, I bolted to the main street by the campus where I live to try to find a taxi. Sometimes I will find one within a minute, and at other times I'll be stuck there for more than a half an hour. Unluckily for me, Friday was one of those days where I was waiting for 40 minutes, so that was kind of annoying. Once I got in a cab, I started heading toward the Fabric Market for the third weekend in a row so that I could pick up my clothes I had made and just be done with it. When I got to the shop, I tried on my clothes and was pleased with them...except...I had them make me a romper, right? Well, I went to try it on and there was no zipper on the side, so it just had a head hole and two leg holes, so there was no way to wear it!! I couldn't believe the tailor made it like that, but it is kind of funny because what were they thinking? The woman that measured me told me that they would add a zipper for me and send it to my school this week. I probably would not go back to that shop--too much hassle and there are so many other shops that can do a better job. Hopefully the romper gets sent here with no issues. The last time I had a dress sent here, it got lost for 4 days.

After the Fabric Market, I took the metro and decided to stop in Xujiahui to grab dinner since it was on the way home. From there, I tried to get another taxi and after waiting more than a half an hour again, I got frustrated, hopped back on the metro, and got off at the stop closest to where I live. I didn't really want to take the metro because the closest stop to my school is about a 15 minute walk away and walking home was not ideal because I was tired and was wearing uncomfy shoes, but I didn't have much of a choice. On the way home, a man said hello and then tried to grab my i-Phone out of my hand. When I moved my hand away, his hand landed on my boob and so he basically groped me while trying to possibly swipe my phone! Needless to say, I was in a pretty bad mood, but Scott let me vent to him and made me some tea, and then everything was okay again. That sort of thing never happened to me before here, and I hope it doesn't happen again.

On Saturday morning, I wrote a lesson plan for a friend, and then packed for my upcoming Staycation. One day I was pinning some images, and this beautiful infinity pool in Shanghai with an incredible view of the city skyline came up. I found out that it was from the Four Seasons hotel in Pudong, and so Scott and I booked a room there. Although I have traveled a bit, I rarely do any luxury traveling, so staying at a place as nice as the Four Seasons was a real treat for me! As soon as we arrived, we immediately helped from our taxi and directed towards the front desk. We were warmly greeted and then went upstairs to our room. We did upgrade and pay a bit more so that we could have a view of the Shanghai skyline and access to the pool and spa area. Let me tell you, it was worth it!! What we saw outside of our window was so incredible and made us really appreciate being able to live in Shanghai. We stared out our window many times during our stay and just watched the hustle and bustle of big city life. The best part of it was at dusk when the Pearl Tower was all lit up with different colors.

Within a few minutes after we got to our rooms, there was a knock at our door and someone brought us a plate of rambutan and some welcome notes. We spent a few more minutes posing for pictures, chatting, and checking out our rooms. We loved that there was a large shower, bathtub, and a comfy tempurpedic mattress!

We were also invited to go have tea and snacks in the Executive Lounge, which we decided to take advantage of, as we were both a bit hungry. After we had a few tasty treats, we headed out and walked around Pudong for a bit. It was really Scott's first time out and about in Pudong. In case you don't know, Shanghai is separated into two parts by Huangpu River. We live over on the Puxi side, so the Pudong side is a bit of a journey for us. We were mesmerized by the tall skyscrapers such as the Jin Mao Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Center, and the tallest building in China which is the Shanghai Tower.

After walking around, we decided to grab a bite to eat a quick-serve restaurant called Sproutworks. Sproutworks has a large selection of vegetarian and organic entrees and sides, although there are a few meat dishes, too. A little while later, there was another knock at the door, and we received a chocolate cake since it was my birthday! Scott's birthday is also in a few days, so we sang happy birthday to ourselves and ate the cake. The icing had flecks of gold in it, and there were layers upon layers of oozing chocolate in the middle.

The last thing we did was to go upstairs to the 36th floor so that we could finally check out the pool area. The view did not disappoint and we spent some time swimming in the infinity pool before heading over to the hot tub. The hot tub was probably the nicest one I'd ever been in! It had four lounge chairs to lie on and showers that shot out water to massage our necks. Of course, the best part was the city skyline in the background.

Sunday was my actual birthday, and we started it off with our breakfast at the hotel and another pool and hot tub experience. Next, we went up the Jin Mao Tower (120 RMB) so that we could go to the observation deck and get a bird's eye view of the city. I hadn't been up in an observatory in Shanghai since 2007, so I was excited to go back up a second time. It wasn't too cloudy or polluted, so the conditions were ideal.

We decided to get some lunch at Pizza Express. It sounds like a fast food restaurant, but it's actually a decent sit down place that has a pretty good set menu. Scott and I usually split an appetizer, get two drinks, two main courses, and a dessert for 300 RMB, or about $48. Scott was a gentleman and treated me for my birthday. Then, we basically went shopping all day at the Super Brand Mall. We did go out to the French Concession to check out this antiques market, but it was a bust and we quickly returned to the Super Brand Mall to try to find birthday gifts for each other. We had fun browsing, but we quickly realized that we already have everything we want. Instead of going all out for each other like we did for Christmas, we just bought each other little gifts from InnisFree. Scott got me some hair oil and a facial mist, and I got him some sheet masks and a face wash.

We then went to La Crêperie for my birthday dinner! Everyone seemed to like the restaurant a lot, so that was a relief! Scott and I headed back, and we were extremely exhausted in a good way. All in all, Saturday and Sunday were wonderful and I couldn't have asked for better company!

What have you done for your last birthday, or what are your plans for your next birthday?

What's Currently Awesome

April 14, 2016
I'm taking a moment to stop and appreciate what's awesome in my life right now because I've been inspired by Rachael and Anne's Awesome Link Up. Here it goes...

1) All of the parents of the students I teach want me to continue teaching their children again next year, and I guess a few of them are even writing a letter to my principal to request me. I'm really flattered that they feel so strongly. Of course, I take that as a huge compliment! As I've repeatedly mentioned, I LOVE my class of first graders this year, so it's nice to know that the feeling is mutual. I don't really know what will happen or if I'll be asked to go to second grade by my principal, but regardless of what happens, I have had such an amazing time this year getting to know each and every one of my students.

2) I'm grateful that I get to go out and explore China! Last weekend, I visited Longhua Pagoda and Temple, and this weekend I'll be going to a famous antique market. I've also been taking biweekly cultural classes. Next, we might ask our instructor to teach us about Chinese medicine. It's just the best that I can spend my weekends going to well-known places around Shanghai because there's hardly anything I like more than exploring and learning about other cultures.

3) I've gotten a three day weekend in April and will be getting one more in May and another three day break in June. I mean, who doesn't love a three day weekend? Your weekend is extended, and as an added bonus, the next weekend is only four days away.  For the last three day weekend, Rachael, Steven, Scott, and I had lunch in Xintiandi and then spent the day admiring the Stone Gates (Shikumen,) which used to be the typical type of architecture in Shanghai. The area is very clean and well maintained, it's for pedestrians only, and there are plenty of restaurants with outdoor seating.

4) I feel like the study abroad program I did fourteen years ago is STILL shaping my life! A friend I made while studying in France is working in another city in China, so I'm going to fly out to see him at the end of April. I know I'm going to have a blast, but I'm also slightly nervous because we seriously haven't seen each other for fourteen years! Crazy, right?!

5) Birthday Celebrations are happening soon! It's my birthday this Sunday, and the thought of organizing a big dinner or having elaborate plans freaked me out, and I just didn't want to deal with it. I debated on whether or not to even do anything, but I did decide to do a low key dinner with about ten people at La Crêperie in Jing'an. It should be a chill evening. Scott's birthday is right after mine, so we will be going out for sushi and drinks for his day, and another girl we are friends with is having a big bash on Saturday night. I go out about once in a blue moon these days, but I think I'm overdue for a night out on the town. 

6) My upcoming Staycation is going to rock. I was on Pinterest and found an image of a beautiful infinity pool with a view at The Four Seasons in Pudong. Scott and I had been wanting to go there, so ended up booking a room downtown for this Saturday! Hopefully our room will have a good view of Shanghai's skyline. It will be nice to stay downtown for once because I don't go out to Pudong that often, as it is at the opposite end of Shanghai.

7) I found out that my summer vacation is going to be even longer than what I thought it was going to be. This was excellent news because it means that I'll have more time in Ohio, and I'll be able to squeeze in a few more visits with friends.

8) It's officially spring in Shanghai. The flowers are in bloom and I've been able to go outside without a coat multiple times now. If I do require a jacket, just a light one is needed. Others have told me that the arrival of spring means that the air quality will be better since less fossil fuels will be burning to heat homes. It has already been better these days in comparison to December and January.

9) Two people asked me if I could be their mentor next year for teaching programs that they will be completing! Nothing is set in stone, but it's nice that they trust me enough to let me be their mentor.

10) Over my vacation in Koh Tao, I mentioned that I got a Thai massage and it really messed up my back. I don't know how Scott even dealt with me because I could hardly walk for a few days and was in excruciating pain for awhile. I'm relieved to report that my back pain is totally gone again. I don't know what it is about China, but it's like a miracle because I'm cured of the pain when I'm here! I mean, my bed is new and pretty firm, but in the States I would sleep directly on the floor and that seemed to make no difference. (??) It's so nice to be pain-free again!

What's going well for you in your life?

**Linking up with The Rachael Way and Love the Here and Now

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

April 12, 2016
Around this time last year, I wanted to take a day trip from where I was living in South Carolina. Frankly, most of my day trips last year involved me driving into Georgia so that I could go into Savannah with my best friend, Ev. Although I have a love for Savannah that will never die, I wanted to change it up a bit and spend some time exploring South Carolina for a change. Since I visited Boone Plantation for my birthday and enjoyed every second of it, I decided to go to another plantation because at that point in my life I didn't think I would be in South Carolina for much longer, and it turned out that I wasn't.

If you're in the Charleston area and want to get out of the city, a trip to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is worth considering, as it is about 25 minutes away from the historic district by car. According to the official website, the gardens were founded in 1676, which is pretty incredible if you think about it.

I got there in the early afternoon and noticed right away that the parking grounds were full of cars already. The good news is that many people were leaving as I was arriving, so I didn't have to wait in a long line and the crowds were starting to thin out.

General admission to the gardens is $15 for each adult. There are additional fees for anything else you might want to add on, such as a plantation house tour, nature train, boat ride, a tour of the slave cabins, and/or the swamp garden. There is also the option to pay $47 for an all inclusive pass, which I thought was a bit too pricey for the amount of time I had. When I went, I did want to take the field boat tour, but I was informed that they were already sold out. It was slightly disappointing, but as I said, I didn't get there very early, so it was my own fault. I decided to only pay $15 for the basics, but the grounds are vast, so I felt like there was plenty to see.

Magnolia Gardens are special because they are considered Romantic Gardens. Romantic Gardens originated in Europe during the Industrial Revolution. The purpose of a Romantic Garden is to lose yourself in its beauty and forget about your stressful job or the trials and tribulations of everyday life. I visited the garden at a time in my life when I was working a less than stellar job, so the gardens served their purpose and provided me with a nice escape. Although by the entrance and cafe there were many people, once I started meandering along the paths, I came across fewer and fewer people and could appreciate the moment a bit more. Since everything is so spread out, it didn't seem as crowded as I thought it would be when I saw all those parked cars upon my arrival.

The gardens were aesthetically pleasing, but they were a bit different from other gardens I'd visited since at Magnolia, the gardens weren't heavily manicured. Looking back though the pictures from my day, I'd say that the parts of the gardens really captured the essence of the Low Country--think hanging moss and marshes. Of course, the Low Country does have its alligators and I did spot a couple of them partially submerged in pond water. It was simultaneously cool and terrifying since I do have a what I like to call a justifiable fear of alligators.

I would suggest if it's possible that you try and visit the gardens during the height of the azalea season. When I was there, they weren't in bloom, but there is supposed to be an impressive collection of them. Even though there were no azaleas to see, I did manage to see a bunch of other flowers like hydrangeas and of course some magnolias.

Some parts of the gardens were otherworldly, at least to me.

After a bite to eat at the Peacock Cafe, I decided to call it a day and head back home. My trip to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens was a day well-spent, but I'm glad I didn't shell out the cash for all of those extras I mentioned. I was busy enough strolling the grounds and taking in the sights.

What do you think of Magnolia Plantation and Gardens?

Weekly Wrap Up: Calligraphy and Longhua Temple

April 11, 2016
So, it's that time again where I wrap up what I've done all weekend. On Friday after school, I ran some errands with Lauren like going to the bank and picking up breakfast food. On the way to the bank, she started to tease me because she knows I like milk and there is an entire shop that sells nothing but milk and ice cream. We thought that was pretty funny, but it didn't stop us from each getting a Magnum bar for our walk home!

On Friday evening, Scott and I headed to our next Chinese cultural lesson. This time, we asked our instructor Rita to teach us calligraphy. She showed us how to use the brush and we practiced with some easy characters first like numbers and 山, which means mountain. After that, we started with harder characters. Rita said she thought it would be a good idea to try harder characters because they look more beautiful, and she got us a fresh sheet of paper so that we could try to make the characters for five Chinese Confucian principals: Benevolence, Justice, Manners, Wisdom, and Credit. Calligraphy was fun, and I was able to leave with a great souvenir. I'm probably going to hang up what I painted in my bedroom since my walls are pretty bare.

On Saturday, I convinced Scott to take a trip out to Longhua Temple with me. Last week, I was reading my Lonely Planet Shanghai and saw that Longhua Temple was the closest major temple to where we live and that the best time to go is during the fair. It's supposed to be a time when wishes come true and when the peach blossoms are in bloom. The fair just happened to be this Saturday, so off we went! Outside the entrance to the temple is a pagoda, which made for a lovely photo when paired with the flowers below it.

To get in, we had to pay an entrance fee of 10 RMB, or $1.60.

The temple was decorated with red lanterns, and statues of lions had red bows around their necks. I'm not sure if it's always like that or if those were decorations for the fair. There were many older women hanging around chatting, eating, and folding paper decorations, too. After a bit of people watching and seeing the main part of the temple, Scott and I decided to take a look at the rooms on the side. To our surprise, one of the rooms was full of statues of golden arhats, or Buddhist saints.

The temple is the oldest and largest temple in Shanghai. It was first built in the year 242, but over the years many of the original buildings were damaged in war. At any rate, it is pretty amazing that Buddhists have been coming to this spot for so long.

We discovered that there was also a restaurant serving up a tasty-smelling mushroom noodle soup. We weren't planning on eating there, but the soup smelled so good and we were starving and it was only 15 RMB ($2.40) for a big bowl.

After the temple, we took a taxi to the Fabric Market so that we could get what we had ordered last week. Scott looked dapper in the suits he had made and highly recommends shop 233 for men's clothes. I picked up a navy blue spring jacket from shop 253, and love it!! It's really flattering and fits me perfectly. I went down to shop 126 where I got the rest of my stuff made, and only two of my blouses were done, so I have to go back to pick up my shorts, romper, and dress. It's kind of annoying because the Fabric Market closes at 6, so going on a school night is not ideal. At least we get out early on Fridays, so I'm going to try to go then. The blouses were just okay. I'm not in love with them like how I am with my spring jacket.

Scott and I took the subway to Xujiahui and stopped at Starbucks. It was so crowded in there that it was impossible to find a seat, so we headed out. We went to Wagas so that we could get take out for dinner later. I got an avocado chicken sandwich and a piece of cheesecake. We got in a taxi and headed back to near where we lived, but went to the foot massage place again. All the people that work there do such a good job besides one man...He is the WORST, but I don't want to hurt his feelings and say,"No, I just would rather have anyone but you." He's so nice and is the only one that speaks some English. Scott said he didn't mind him that much and would take one for the team since I had to have him twice already, but halfway through, he admitted that the other ladies in the shop were much better. Our plan next time is to peek in the shop and see who is working first and whether or not he already has a client so that neither of us get stuck with him. During our massages, we sat right by the door, and we felt entertained because we could both people watch. You never know what you'll see in China. A random lady walked by holding a guinea pig. She saw me looking at her, and then came right up to the shop window and pressed her guinea pig up against the glass and started kissing it. I was dying...

Scott insisted that his dinner was not enough food for him and that he also wanted a snack, so we walked over to the wet market and each bought some dumplings. I need to do this more often because they're delicious and so cheap!

We went back to Scott's place, had our dinner, and planned our entire two week trip to Andalucia, Spain. Here's what we are thinking we will do!

Day 1: Arrive in Tarifa from Morocco. Explore Tarifa for a few hours. Take bus to Vejer de la Frontera.

Day 2: Jerez de la Frontera

Day 3: Arcoz de la Frontera

Day 4 & 5: Ronda

Day 6 & 7: Malaga

Day 8, 9, 10: Granada

Day 11 & 12: Cordoba

Day 13, 14, 15: Sevilla

In the beginning of our trip, we'll be a little rushed, but we wanted to go to three white villages, so it's going to have to be like that. We also booked a beautiful Air Bnb for next month when we will spend a night in Hangzhou!

After our planning, we decided to watch the movie Regression. Some parts were creepy, but it has also been awhile since I saw anything even remotely scary.

Sunday was a chill day for me. I just stayed in and binge watched episodes of Scandal and cleaned my apartment. Oh, and I updated my About Me section on my blog, finally. It no longer says that I'm living in Savannah, yay!

What was the best thing you did all weekend?

Weekly Wrap Up

How To Avoid People

April 6, 2016
So, Rachael and I live on a campus where more than a hundred foreign teachers work. Like us, a large percentage of these teachers live on campus. The chance of running into someone we know on our way out to do anything is very high. I can be social when I want to be, but there are some moments in which I just don't want to talk to anyone. In typical introvert fashion, I'd much rather have a real conversation with someone than to try to force small talk with people I barely know. I started to feel bad about my anti-social tendencies and asked Rachael and my close friend Scott if they ever felt how I did because they are both extroverts to the max. The two of them are truly two of the most outgoing people I've ever met. To my surprise, Rachael told me that she has avoided people a few times, and Scott told me that he wants to be better at avoiding people because he often gets sucked into conversations he doesn't want to have. We are not terrible people, but sometimes it just gets to be too much, and I'm sure many people here feel the same.

I told Scott that one of my great talents in life is avoiding people and that it's a true art form to be mastered. Last week I started training him, and he passed his first mission which was to walk from the main gate of our campus all the way back to our apartments without stopping to talk to anyone. I almost fell in a hole trying to stay off the main path back to our place, but it was worth it so Scott could pass his first test, ha ha ha.

At any rate, here are my best tips! This is not to be taken 100% seriously, but I'm guessing you've gathered that by now. However, I'm not going to lie; I have done most of these!

1) Duck into a store/hiding spot when you see people you don't want to talk to coming your way. Lauren and I did it when we saw two people from school on a Sunday night. It's not that we didn't like those people--we actually did!! It was more that we were feeling sick, had no makeup on, and we just wanted to get our errands done, so we didn't want to chit chat. Here's how it went down...Lauren: "They're coming!! Shall we go into that fruit store?" Me: "I thought you'd never ask!" 

2) Keep your pace when passing someone if you're already in view. You can be polite with a smile and a wave, but if you slow down, that signals you want to stop and talk, so keep on going at your normal speed.

3) Get a bike. I don't have a bike yet, and didn't think I wanted one, but I feel like if I had one I could just keep pedaling and pass up people left and right. Hmmm...A bike is sounding better and better!

4) Take the path less traveled. Scott showed me a shortcut to get to our apartments, but I think we like it for different reasons. Scott's reason would be because it's shorter, and if you're this far into my post, I think you can guess what my reason would be. Since it's not paved, people on bikes do not go that way, so there's less of a chance of running into someone. It's also rather dark at night, hence why I tripped and almost fell into a small hole. 

5) Shush your loud friends or lower your voice if you're being loud. Me: "Scott, you are ruining your first lesson being that loud. You will draw people in with your laughter!" 

6) Cross the street or take an alternate route. No one is going to want to cross our busy street just to talk to me, so this one has worked!! Escape while you can! This is not to be confused with #4, take the path less traveled, although you might end up on such a path when going another way. "Cross the street or take an alternate route" is for when you are already spotted, but "Take the path less traveled" means you go a way you know others don't go on as often in order to avoid being seen in the first place. 

7) Do not make eye contact. Scott will say he doesn't want to talk to someone, and then look right at them, which acknowledging that he saw them! If you don't want to talk to people, pretend they're like a solar eclipse and don't stare directly at them. 

8) Put your headphones** in and wear shades. That's right--dull or pretend to dull those senses so that way it looks like you "wouldn't hear" someone calling you. When I want to say hi to someone, I won't bother if I think they won't hear me. Also, I don't even have headphones here...I'm failing Scott as his Avoidance Instructor.  **You can substitute the headphones for ear muffs in the winter if you want.

9) Do not engage. I know this sounds simple, but my pupil will not want to talk to someone and then HE will initiate conversation. Of course, others will respond and converse like normal people. They aren't me, after all! 

10) If you're going to play with fire and walk without your ears being covered up, then you're going to have to keep an ear to the ground. You'll want to listen carefully to everything, so that way you'll be able to know where in what direction the distant chatter is coming from and like number 6 suggests, go a different way. Number 1 may also work to your advantage here.

11) Act busy. If you're in Starbucks and don't want to converse, pull out your phone, start typing on your laptop, or stick your nose in a book. Unfortunately, these ideas are only semi-effective. 

12) Change your pace. I saved this one for last because if you've read this far, I assume you've read my other tips and now have some knowledge on how to avoid others. I know what you're thinking, and it isn't, "Wow, Lisa has gone off the deep end and needs professional help for her social anxiety asap." Instead, it must be, "But Lisa, you told us already in #2 to keep a steady pace, and now you're telling us to change it? Say what?" Well, my friends, you should consider changing your pace when you see others from far away but they haven't seen you yet. This tip is also for when you hear footsteps/various other sounds. Changing your pace is especially useful when stairs are involved. If I hear someone behind me walking up the stairs at a faster rate then I'm going, I know I need get a move on!

Sadly, I am not perfect at the art of avoidance, and you won't be either. Sometimes the inevitable happens, and you are sucked in and forced by social norms to interact appropriately. If this happens to you, do not panic. Bite the bullet, make some conversation, and know that this too shall pass. My top suggestion in this situation is: Do NOT mention future plans if you do not like the person you are talking to. Is it just me or are people that you just find "blah" skilled at inviting themselves places with you? Another suggestion would be to act like you're in a hurry...You're not necessarily lying because you are in a hurry...to get away from them! ;) Even though this goes against everything I've just written, I do have to say that sometimes when I'm trapped in a conversation with others an amazing thing happens...I realize that I don't mind it so much and actually start to have fun. Imagine that!

Are you a fan of small talk or do just prefer to socialize with people you already know?

Weekly Wrap Up: Fabric Market, Jing'An, and Getting Pampered

April 4, 2016
I decided to start my weekend early and invited my squad (Rachael, Steven, and Scott) to get massages at a branch of Bamboo 7 on Thursday night. We didn't have a whole lot of time before our appointments, so we grabbed a quick dinner at Subway and then made it to the massage parlor. Now it looks like I just eat at Subway all the time in China since I said I got it last weekend, but last weekend was the first time I'd ever gotten it here, I swear! The place we booked at had a package which was 338 RMB (around $54 USD) to get a one hour foot massage and then a one hour back massage with oil. Naturally, this is what we wanted to do. When we got the foot massages, they gave us all pale yellow, silk  outfits to change into. It was pretty embarrassing because it was one size fits all and the pants were skin tight on me. Of course, they looked like a sack on Steven, which was not encouraging, but I got over it and the good news was that they didn't burst open at the seams. The foot massage part was fun because that's when we were all talkative. So were our masseurs. It was obvious that they were talking about us the entire time...Oh to be able to understand Chinese! They even brought out some reflexology sticks at started massaging us with those. Scott and I go to a foot massage place near where we live and we love it, but it was nice to treat ourselves and to go to a place that was clean, had a bathroom, and had more frills, such as the tea and fruit plate we were given.

After our foot massage, we were brought into another room that had four massage tables with a "diaper, " or "nappy" as our Irish friend Steven called it. It was awkward wearing those, but also hilarious.

On Friday after work, I had to take a trip to the bank and then I just stayed in because I had a long to-do list. I feel quite accomplished because I got most if it done! I ended up booking my flight back "home" to Ohio so that I can visit my family this summer. Then, I purchased a one-way ticket back to China. Because I had accrued so many points through Chase Sapphire Preferred, I only had to pay $150 out of pocket! Most importantly, I was finally able to figure out my taxes. I had a complicated situation this year because I worked half of the year in the States and then half of the year in China, but Form 1116 was the one I needed to apply for a tax credit so that I would not be charged doubly. It all worked out, and I'll be getting a refund, yay!

On Saturday, Scott and I took a trip out to the South Bund Fabric Market to get some clothes tailor-made. I ended up getting a blue trench coat for spring, two short sleeved blouses with bows, two pairs of shorts, a romper, and a copy of a dress that I already own in another color. I got most of my clothes made from Michael and Tina in shop 126 on the bottom floor. I ended up spending entirely too much, but Scott tried to console me saying, "You NEED that stuff." It's true because it's not like China is full of clothes for women like myself who are six feet tall. Rompers in the States do not really fit me because of my long torso, so I'll be happy to finally own one. It is kind of the best feeling to be able to "design" my own clothes by picking the fabric, color, and customizing the style to suit my taste. Scott got a couple of suits, and we will both be going back next week to pick up our purchases!

Right outside of the Fabric Market, we stopped and got some freshly squeezed juice. There was a variety of different fruit that we could choose from, and I opted for a cup of strawberry pineapple juice.

Our next stop was Dagu Lu. Scott and I went to Masala Desi for some Indian food. It was raining, and we almost went home after our meal, but we decided to go check out a little park at the end of the street, and I'm so glad we did! It was tiny, but so beautiful with a pond full of lily pads and a tree lined pathway.

We decided to check out some more parks, including Yanzhong Park. There is a section in there called "Taste Park" with some trees that produce edible fruit! No fruit was ready at this point in the year, but do people really just pull the fruit off of the trees and eat it in the park? I don't know!! Maybe I'll have to go back to check it out.

When Scott and I go to Jing'An we usually go with specific plans in mind and don't really wander around the streets, but on Saturday we just went wherever we thought looked interesting. We found several streets that were to-die-for cute near the Lyceum Theater. They were full of boutiques, small restaurants, and cafes. The restaurants were so small that many could only fit a few tables resulting in a cozy and intimate atmosphere. We stopped at a coffee shop and had some caffeinated beverages and split an order of bread pudding.

We did head home after that, but I realized that I do need to just go and "get lost" more often because it's the best way to discover new places!

Later that evening, I headed over to Scott's and we watched Les Revenants. Season 2 is not as easy to follow as the first season, but we think we have more an idea of what's happening now. There's so much going on, so we keep having to remind each other of the characters' various stories.

On Sunday, I had a chill morning and then met Rachael in Jing'An near where I was with Scott on Saturday. She recommended an adorable place called Helen Nail Spa on Julu Lu because we both wanted to get a facial. We got our own, private room that was connected to a bathroom. After that, we got pedicures and Rachael played Justin Bieber's new song at least five times for me, ha ha!

For dinner that night, we met our friend Nate at Sichuan Citizen for some tasty Chinese food. They had really good mapo doufu (spicy tofu.)

It feels weird to be wrapping up my weekend now because we actually have Monday off here in China for tomb sweeping day, so I do have today free. This is one of the first times I chose to stay behind and not travel during a three-day weekend, but it was seriously so nice to be in Shanghai!

Weekly Wrap Up