Featured Posts Slider

Image Slider

40 Before 40

November 30, 2016
I'm too old to make a 30 Before 30 list, so here's my 40 Before 40 one, even though just typing out the numbers 4-0 is a bit scary to me now! I do have plenty of time to work on these goals, although who knows if I'll even still be blogging by the time 40 hits. Anyway, here goes nothin'...

1) Take a course to keep my teaching license valid. 
2) Pay off my entire surgery. So far, I've paid off $2,000, but still have a long way to go. 
3) Ride in a hot air balloon. Sorry if this one is cliche and on everyone's list, but it just sounds FUN.
4) Dye my hair pink. I've been interested in changing it to a really wild color, but couldn't because of my jobs...Maybe I'll figure out a way. 
5) Take a language course in Italy. This is something I've always wanted to do just as a hobby. I know some conversational Italian, but would love to improve.
6) Go on an epic road trip. I've been on some great ones in the past, but I want to drive around in the Western part of the USA.
7) Get a phoenix tattoo. I was going to get this over my scar where I had my surgery as a way to cover up the ugly mess it left behind. I'm not sure it's such a good idea now. Because I had complications with my wound healing, there's an indentation and now I'm not sure I want a tattoo there. I'd also have to find someone who has plenty of experience working with scars, so I probably would have to wait to get this done in the States instead of in China. I opted for a phoenix because I couldn't walk for weeks, and eventually I was able to "rise again." These mythological birds symbolize strength and healing. Also, I watched a lot of Harry Potter in the hospital.
8) Get my own dog. This is something I've yearned for as long as I can remember! I want a dachshund or a mini poodle.
9) Learn to drive stick shift. It just makes sense since I travel a lot.
10) Get more fit. The other day I stood on the scale and saw the fattest number of my life, so yeah...I don't want this trend to continue.
11) Attend another blogger meet up. I haven't heard about anything in Shanghai, so this might have to wait.
12) Read 100 new books. I'm back on a reading kick again, and it's a cheap hobby so of course I want to get lost in more books!
13) Join a club. I actually really like clubs...I just need to find one that matches my interests.
14) Take a DNA genealogy test. You know the ones that cost about $100 from Ancestry.com? I'm so interested to know more about my heritage!
15) See a burlesque show. I found out that there will be one in Shanghai next weekend! Is it cheating to add this to my list, knowing that I might get to go soon? ;)
16) Get good at making a signature dish and cocktail. I'm not the best cook, but I am capable of perfecting a dish or two. At get togethers, I want people to ask me, "Lisa, did you make your ______?"
17) Take a cruise to Antarctica. It's so expensive, but truly would be a once in a lifetime experience.
18) Get a nice family portrait taken. My immediate family hasn't been all in the same spot for years. When we do get reunited, I think it would be nice to have a recent professional picture of all of us together.
19) Go to a black tie event. I've never worn an evening gown in my life. The most dressed up I've ever been was when I was a bridesmaid my sisters' and friends' weddings.
20) Watch a roller derby match.
21) Take a flower arranging course.
22) Visit Central America.
23) Host a Christmas party.
24) Go on a cruise.
25) Eat at 3 restaurants with a Michelin star or stars. I just found out that one of the cheapest restaurants in the world with two Michelin stars is right here in Shanghai! It's called Canton 8, and I want to go with my co-teacher!
26) Go on a hike more than 5 miles long. I've done this before, but it's been awhile.
27) Camp in a national park. I've never been camping in the US and have always wanted to!
28) Raise money for charity.
29) See the Northern Lights.
30) Try surfing. This one is going to be really hard for me, but a close friend of mine started a few years back and now she's really good! She has offered to teach me. (I hope she has a lot of patience).
31) Go zip-lining. While I can't do anything too adventurous this year since my back is healing, I hope that I can try this eventually.
32) Contribute regularly to a retirement fund.
33) Visit New England in the fall.
34) Complete my bucket list for China.
35) Go vegan for a summer.
36) Get a chemical peel.
37) Get my teeth professionally whitened.
38) Start swimming on a regular basis.
39) Refurbish a piece of furniture.
40) Go a week without technology (tv, phone, computer, i-Pad, etc).

There you have it! Some of these will be easier than others, that's for sure.

Do you have a signature dish? Any suggestions or tips as to what I can use as mine? What's on your 40 Before 40 list?

Traveling Confessions and Mishaps

November 28, 2016
My time spent traveling has almost always been an incredible experience overall, but there were some moments when events don't go as planned. Today I'll be keeping it real by sharing a bunch of instances that I'll never forget, as well as a few confessions.

* I've been to more countries than states, which tells me I need to get out there and explore my own country soon.

* I'm an anxious flier and have only ever fallen asleep on plane once in my whole life. That was when I took some prescription strength sleeping pills while flying from Indonesia to San Francisco. Best flight of my life because I don't remember any of it!

* Speaking of sleeping pills, when I flew to Greece, I took some Tylenol PM in hopes that I'd fall asleep like I did on my flight from Indonesia that I just mentioned. It wasn't working, so I took a few more. I never fell asleep, but felt extremely out of it. In fact, I felt so loopy that I left my passport on the plane by accident after I disembarked. I was at customs having a panic attack, and feared I wouldn't be allowed to enter if my passport didn't turn up. They had to sweep the plane for me, and the lady working at customs was NOT happy. Thank goodness it was found, and trust me, I have not taken one Tylenol PM since then and always obsessively check for my passport now.

* After a trip, you know how you tend to get stuck with some extra foreign currency you might not use again? Previously, I put some of those coins in my class's treasure box, and my students loved them!

* Even though it's insanely expensive, I hope to go on a cruise to Antarctica one day. This might be an impractical dream, but it's still a dream nonetheless.

* I know solo travel is all the rage, but I think I prefer to have a travel buddy come along with me, especially after what happened to me in Urumqi. Personally, I think traveling in groups of 2 or 4 is ideal because sometimes with three people one person might get left out. I have done some solo travel and had a good time, but I 100% prefer to travel with just one other person or a few other people.

* I've had McDonald's in the States, the UK, Canada, Italy, Korea, China, and India. Mind you, I did live in four of those countries! Of course I make an effort to try the local food, but sometimes when I'm hungry, it's just nice to know what I'm going to get and the price range of the food.

* About 10 years ago, a couple of friends and I got stuck in Menaggio without meaning to. We took a day trip from Milan to go to Lake Como, and later decided to take a ferry across the lake and explore Menaggio. Once we got off of the ferry, we thought we were being really responsible by purchasing our return ticket then and there. It was only the late afternoon, so we wanted to spend a few hours there and then return to Bellagio in the early evening. When we asked when the last returning ferry was for that day, the ticket seller pointed at the ferry that had just departed for Bellagio, and said,"That one." We had a hotel room in Milan to stay in that night, so we thought about just staying out all night to save on money rather than booking another place, but we eventually decided to get another hotel room in Menaggio because of our mistake. Whoops!

* I've missed a flight before. A friend and I were flying from Manila to Caticlan to try to get to Boracay. We asked at the front desk at our hotel how early we should get to the airport, and they said to leave two hours before our flight, even for a domestic flight. By the time we got to the airport, we were still an hour and a half early, but before we could enter the airport, all passengers had to wait in this long line so that our bags could be x-rayed. Because we were traveling around Christmastime, it was SUPER busy, and we were about to miss our check in time for our flight. We went to the front of the line and explained the situation, and the security guards let us through. When we arrived at the check-in counter, we were told we had made it just in time, but then the worker took our tickets and wandered around with them for 10 minutes or so saying he had to check something. After he took off with our tickets and came back, he said that we had missed the check in time by 5 minutes. We pointed out that we were there in time, and that he left with our tickets, which caused us to be late. However, they overbooked the plane, and his suggestions weren't very helpful. He told us that we could fly stand-by, but that we would likely never get a later flight, as there were tons of others ahead of us in line. Instead, my travel companion and I just booked a flight from the competitor and only had to wait a few hours in the airport. We were really lucky that there were still seats left on other flights!

Sunset at the White Sand Beach in Boracay, totally worth it once we got there!
* Now I'm going to tell you about one of my scariest times traveling. It was when I was taking a boat back from Koh Phi Phi to Phuket. The ferry my friend and I took to Koh Phi Phi was so nice, clean, and huge with a food stand. It looked sturdy, and our boat ride over was very relaxing. On the way back, we had a small, rickety looking boat. It was okay at first, but then the water got really choppy. Waves came up so high that water was coming in through the windows of the boat. People around us started putting on their life preservers, and several adults started to cry. My friend Ashley and I were really nervous about the possibility of the boat sinking, but in the end we were fine besides the fact that we were a little shaken up.

* This next one is rather funny! A friend came and visited me in Italy, and we decided to take a trip to Vieste, a prime beach spot on the Eastern coast. Not only was it raining all day, but when we tried to buy our return ticket, no one would sell us one. They kept telling me a word I didn't understand, but once I looked it up, everything was clear. The bus drivers had gone on strike! Again, I was stuck in a town (ironically with the same friend I got stuck in Menaggio with). We tried hitchhiking, but when we saw who pulled over for us, we decided we valued our lives more than chancing it. I couldn't get ahold of my boyfriend at the time, and no one could come and get me. We decided we were just going to stay up all night again, so we went to a grocery store and got supplies, and then sat on a bench eating mozzarella di bufala laughing at our luck. Eventually, the guy I'd been dating came through for us and drove in terrible weather conditions to come get the two of us. I'm rather glad he did because the it was starting to rain harder.

It's true that some of my mishaps were annoying, but I can't deny that they have all turned out to be adventures, most of which are funny to reminisce about these days. Part of the reason why I love traveling so much is because of the unknown and all of the possibilities!

What are some obstacles you're faced while traveling?

A Tour of my Apartment

November 22, 2016
Today I'll be showing you my living space as an expat in China! The school I'm employed at has provided me with a furnished apartment. I'm aware it could look a lot cuter if I invested more money in decorating it, but I know that me being in China is just temporary, so I don't want to shell out more cash on making my place look better. I'd rather save the money for traveling or put it towards my debt. Next year, I'll need to decide if I should keep my place or move somewhere else, so I'm going to list out what I like/dislike about where I currently live.


It takes me just a few minutes to walk into school. A couple years ago I had to spend three hours of driving time commuting to and from work, so I love having more time to myself at the end of a long work day. Each morning I don't have to rush around, either. 

It's just plain convenient. Besides the time it saves me each day, the proximity to the school comes in handy because there have been a few times where I've forgotten something I needed that day. I was easily able to walk home and grab it during one of my breaks. If I lived farther away, this would be impossible. I also live close enough to pop by on the weekend if I have some extra work to do, but of course I usually try to bring work home to avoid this! Sometimes we have meetings or half-days, so I'm able to just go home for awhile and then go back to school. 

Other teachers and my friends live near me. This makes it easy to meet up, split taxis, and have get togethers. Since other people are around me, I do feel rather safe, too.

Speaking of safety, there are guards at the gate, so not just anyone is let in. There are also cameras everywhere. This makes me feel a lot more secure, not that I typically ever feel completely unsafe in a city like Shanghai.

My place heats up/cools off pretty nicely. Personally, I find it difficult to be cold all the time. It makes me never want to leave my bed! It can get nice and toasty in my place in a short period of time.

I have a balcony that doesn't face other buildings that are used for housing. I need to make better use of this and have a friend or two over for brunch when the weather is nice.

The apartment is furnished, which is ideal for expats. My place came with three chairs, a desk, a small table, a tv stand, a bed, and two little dressers. A refrigerator, hot plate, tv, washing machine, some bedding, and a water dispenser were also all included. I was given a couch from a teacher who left, and even though I'm not much of a host, it just makes me like my apartment so much more! Since I have to lie down a lot for my recovery, at least I'm not just confined to my bedroom. 

I'm on the top floor, so I don't have to hear anyone above me. Luckily, the guy below me is never there, so I don't have to worry about being loud. Even though I'm sure I'm not, it's just great not even having to have that cross my mind!

The apartment is newly remodeled. The appliances are all new and the walls are covered with fresh coats of paint. Nothing looks dingy, and there's not evidence that tons of other teachers have lived here before me.

The street by me is full of cheap restaurants within walking distance, so if I want to save money, I can just go to any one of them and fill on up. There's also a Starbucks, a Wal-Mart, a few pizza places, and a McDonald's close by. 

It's single housing! I do like living alone, although having roommates can be fun, too (as long as I have the right ones).  

The best part of living where I do is that everything is free! Not having to pay rent makes it worth it for me to teach in China. 


While there are tons of cheap restaurants nearby, I, along with many others, have gotten sick from a few of them. I think that's just par for the course, but it's never comforting to have to worry a lot about getting food poisoning. Besides the few places I already mentioned, there aren't any foreign food places within walking distance, but in many areas of Shanghai there are.

I mentioned earlier that I liked having other teachers by me. Well, this also happens to be a con because there are just so many other foreign teachers here, and sometimes I feel like I can't get away from them! That sounds terrible, but I know there are many others who feel the same way I do. 

I live in the older part of the city. While it's still busy, there's nothing super special about this area. I have to ride in cab for 20 minutes to get to some of the more desirable places. To get to the Bund, it can take an hour if traffic is bad. 

When I go home, I can still hear the students. A lot. This didn't bother me so much last year because I spent way less time in my apartment than I do this year. Every morning, I get woken up by loud screaming, and after school there are usually kids on the basketball courts by my apartment, so I hear them there, too. I work with kids all day, and when I go home I just want it to be quiet. Sorry if that makes me sound terrible, but it's true. 

I'd like for there to be more of a separation in my work/private life. Since I live on my school's campus, I feel like I can never "get away."  Just as I was typing this at home, I heard some bells ring for the students. 

We cannot order groceries directly to our rooms. This is probably the worst thing about living here, at least for me! I can't carry anything heavy because of my back, so I really, really wish that the drivers could just come to my room and deliver the groceries.

If I do decide to stay here next year, my options are to either stay where I am or to apply for some off-campus housing, but that type of housing will also be full of other teachers. Now, the off-campus housing IS nicer, but there will be a bit of a commute. It's not far, but I'd have to be up way earlier in order to catch the bus to get to work on time. A lot of people who live there just ride their bikes or scooters to work, but I don't have that choice. I want to feel like I have my own life away from work, and this year I do not have that, but part of that is because of my health, which will hopefully be even less of a concern in the future. The campus I'm at does not offer any kind of housing stipend, which I wish was not the case! There is the possibility to switch campuses to get the stipend, but I don't know if I'd be allowed, and I heard the stipend is not nearly enough to pay rent and bills. 

What do you think sounds like the best choice? What are some pros and cons about where you live? 

Why I'm Glad I Traveled When I Was Younger

November 17, 2016
The fact of the matter is that the way I travel now is never going to be the same as it was before because of my back surgery. I'm just not physically able to handle long flights anymore, and I have to be more careful when I'm traveling and will likely need additional rest. Yes, it's sad that this is pretty much the end of an era in my life, but I know that I'm still very, very lucky to still be able to travel at all. Also, when I look back and remember all of my past trips, I'm certain that I've had some incredible once-in-a-lifetime trips. I really think that if you're a young person who's interested in traveling and you have to means to do so, that you should take a leap of faith and do it! Of course, I could just be biased based on my own positive experiences, but here's a bit on how it worked out for me.

 * Traveling when I was younger allowed me to make friends from all over the world, so it inspired me as I planned some of my future trips! Because I became friends with people from other Asian countries, it piqued my interest in their cultures, and my friends from those countries invited me over to visit them.  There's nothing better than being shown the ropes by a local. At other times, my friends and I were able to meet up in a random place that was neither of our home countries. Being able to do that gave me the feeling that anything was possible, and I'm still in contact with some of these friends even though more than a decade has passed. I am hoping to go back to Japan this year, and I am going to try to get in touch with some of my friends I made so long ago. Even if it's just for a coffee or a meal, it's always wonderful to see a familiar face in a foreign land. I consider it a great advantage to have friends all over the world, and I know that these friendships have withstood the test of time.

* I just had more stamina than I do now. There are various trips I took when I was younger that I couldn't/wouldn't want to do now. As I've written about before, my travel-style has changed. I'm not saying that one is "better" than the other, but how I travel now is, of course, more suitable to my lifestyle. When I was younger, I took a lot of whirlwind trips in short periods of time, and I'm really glad that I did. Now there are lots of young teachers whom I work with that take loads of weekend trips and fly to other parts of China or to other countries close by for a two or three day weekend. I totally get why they'd want to, but I can't help but feel relieved to know that I've already fulfilled a large portion of my bucket list for Asia. So, instead of feeling like I'm missing out by not visiting say...Hong Kong sometime in the near future, I just remember the time I went there already. Now I'd like to focus on slower travel, mostly. I still will be taking some shorter trips because of the way our breaks fall, but it's nowhere near the amount I traveled before, which I'm 100% fine with.  There was a time for me to live a more fast-paced lifestyle, and it was fun while it lasted. 

* As a student or younger traveler, I was eligible for discounts.  I tried to take advantage of this as much as I could and saved thousands of dollars on train tickets by using Eurail passes.  I got many discounts at popular tourist attractions when I was a college student and showed relevant ID. Additionally, I booked some trips through STA Travel and got money off of flights for being a full-time student/under the age of 26.

* It was easier to find friends to travel with. Nowadays, the majority of my friends in their 30's are "settled down." I'm truly happy for them, if that's what they want, just like I know that they're happy for me even though our lives are completely different. Those friends that I used to call up for an adventure or plan a trip with? Well, most of them aren't able to come along anymore. Luckily, I've been able to make a few new travel buddies, and go figure--most of them are younger than me.

* I didn't have any health problems to worry about.  Again, that was a luxury while it lasted. I don't know if I'm ever going to be able to sit in economy on a long, international flight. Maybe I'm just drawing false conclusions because I'm still recovering from my spinal fusion, but right now it's impossible. I was planning on just buying a business class seat so I could lie down while flying to either Hawaii or Morocco with Rachael. However, after searching for hours and pricing some of the tickets, I realized that there's no way I can afford to go to either place right now. The cheapest round trip business class ticket I could find to Morocco was $2,500. The tour was another couple thousand, and then we were planning on traveling in Spain afterward. Maybe if I were richer and didn't have debt I'm trying to pay off this would be a viable option, but that's not the case. I am probably going to go somewhere within Asia, and I'm thinking Myanmar and/or Japan. I can afford a business class ticket to Myanmar, and the flight back from Japan is short enough for me to sit in economy class. It's not my dream trip like Morocco would have been, but I'm not going to whine that I'm going to Japan and Myanmar, either! The trip within Asia will still be amazing. Also, I can still go to Morocco, but because of how expensive it will be for me to fly there, I am going to have to wait and go when I have more time off so that way I can visit parts of Europe, too. I just have to be logical and strategic in my planning, and hopefully I'll get there one day.

* Traveling shaped my personality and taught me more than I have learned in traditional education. It taught me tolerance, empathy, and even helped me learn more about my own culture. While traveling, I've had to become creative with my problem-solving, as I was put in situations I would have never been in back at home. I am positive it has made me a better person. While it's true that travel will continue to educate people regardless of their age, I'm glad I learned some important life lessons sooner rather than later. 

* Nothing in life is a guarantee. No one knows what might happen tomorrow, so when I think about my past, I'm pleased with what I've done and with where I've been able to go. This guy I knew about ten years ago (when we were both in our 20's) told me that he always wanted to travel like I did, but that he would wait until he was retired and then live it up.  Not to be morbid, but not everyone gets to privilege of making it to that point!  

* I had a "home-base" to go to, where my family and friends would be there when I got back. As I'm getting older, I have less of a home-base. People, including my family members, have moved away. Since I'm not going back there as much, my ties aren't as strong. My next point goes along with the whole home-base thing. When I was younger and started to travel, my parents looked out for me. They sent me care packages once in awhile and took care of my taxes (until I graduated college) and handled my mail. I was talking to an older teacher at my school, and he mentioned he has no "home-base" at all. His parents moved from his hometown, and he's just been away from home so long that he would just be visiting individuals if he went back to the States and not everyone all at once. When I was younger, I think I needed the support of a home-base, but now that I've been doing this for awhile, I think I'll be okay no matter what.

I'm a proponent of traveling at any age, but I have to say that my most major travel-related regrets are trips I didn't end up getting to take. Whether or not you're going to travel is a personal decision, and I know I've made the right ones in my life. 

Have you been able to travel in your 20's? Have you had any hardships that have made it harder for you to travel?

Free Things to do in Savannah

November 14, 2016

1) Sprawl out and relax in Forsyth Park- This park has got to be one of the most iconic spots in Savannah. I suggest going there during the day, and of course stopping by the fountain is a must-do. Afterwards, pick a spot in the grass to have a picnic, read, or lay out with some friends.

2) Attend one of the many free festivals- To have some fun that won't cost you a dime, head over to Visit Savannah's site and check the box for free events in the search options. This will help you figure out if anything worthwhile is going on around the time you'll be visiting Savannah. Personally, I had a great time on River Street for the 4th of July and enjoyed the fireworks display. I also had a wonderful day out with my friends Ev and Jared watching the St. Patrick's Day parade and admiring the greening of the fountains all over the city. There are so many other smaller celebrations and events to attend, so you may want to get in on the action.

3) Spend a day at Savannah Botanical Gardens- The gardens are close to Savannah's Historic District, and there's free admission for individuals and small groups of nine people or less. In addition to the gardens, there is a historic home as well as nature trails.

4) Browse the shops on Broughton Street and River Street- I promise this will keep you entertained even if you have no spending money. You can always keep your eyes peeled for something you may want to purchase next time, right? Broughton Street has boutique shopping as well as some well-known chains like Banana Republic and Kate Spade NY. One of my favorite shops to check out is the beautiful Paris Market. They have accessories, bath and body products, a children's section, and the entire downstairs is full of home decor items. You can get candles and furniture, and there's a cafe, too. I know that I stay entertained in there picking out items for my future dream house. Another store on Broughton that you might also get a kick out of is Planet Fun, which is a toy shop. Before you dismiss it for selling toys, know that it is a retro toy store and has tons of favorites from the past like Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Sailor Moon, My Little Ponies, etc. My friends and I had quite a bit of fun in there pointing out toys we used to play with when we were younger. Some of my other personal Broughton St. faves are Civvies, a new and recycled clothing shop, and Savannah Bee Company, which has various kinds of honey and bath and body items made from beeswax.

If you're looking for more touristy items, River Street is where you should go. There are so many gift shops that sell souvenirs such as: Southern cookbooks, post cards, sauces, handmade soaps, t-shirts, and so on. Check out Simply Savannah and True Grits as well as River Street Market Place, an outdoor market full of all sorts of goodies. Also, don't forget to go into some of Savannah's sweet shops like Savannah's Candy Kitchen and sample pralines and glazed pecans.

5) Spend some time visiting Savannah's squares- With twenty-two squares to choose from, you can certainly take your pick. Ellis Square is one of my favorites because there's always a lot of action going on there due in part to the water fountains, which are a source of entertainment for children.  Ellis Square has more seating available than some of the other squares, too. If you want to people-watch, Ellis Square is probably one of your best bets. Chippewa Square is not to be missed for it's beauty, central location, and you may even recognize it from the movie Forrest Gump. If you're looking for something more low-key or want to know more about Savannah's squares, head over to Savannah.com where you can read about each one individually. Be sure to have your camera ready, as these lush squares make for some lovely pictures.

6) Stop by City Market- This is a rather small but happening area of Savannah. There is usually some type of live music going on, and there are various shops and galleries to visit. I suggest going into Byrd's Famous Cookies and sampling some key lime cooler cookies. Stopping in All Things Georgia is also recommended if you have a bit of extra time--I'm still craving their spicy jam which I first tried as a free sample years ago.

7) Have a beach day on Tybee Island- Tybee Island is the closest beach to Savannah, and yes, there are public beaches on the island. I went in the off-season in late December and still had a great time putting my toes in the sand with some friends.

8) Stroll along Jones Street for beautiful architecture- This historic street is home to some gorgeous homes, and in my opinion, this is one of the most picturesque streets in Savannah. I'm not the only one that thinks so, considering this street as been pictured in several films such as Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Something to Talk About, starring Julia Roberts. You'll also find the famous Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room on this street.

9) Walk around in some of Savannah's famous cemeteries- By far, the two most famous are Colonial Park Cemetery, right in the Historic District, as well Bonaventure Cemetery, which is a short drive away. Colonial Park Cemetery started in 1750 and became the final resting place for many, including those who died from Yellow Fever, in addition to those who fought to their deaths in duels, which used to be a customary practice.

Bonaventure Cemetery, a place that has been described by many as "hauntingly beautiful," is worth a visit. You can drive through the cemetery or go on foot, or even take a free tour provided by the Bonaventure Historical Society. Although the well-known Bird Girl statue has been removed to be put on display in the Telfair Museum, the famous Little Gracie statue is still there. Some of the Victorian grave markers and various statues might just mesmerize you.

10) Watch sunset on River Street with the Talmadge Bridge in the background. 

11) Go on a self-guided ghost tour. Savannah has been called one of the most haunted cities in the USA, so why not explore Savannah's darker side by visiting a few spooky places? 432 Abercorn is rather terrifying and is still abandoned! Read over this list for more ideas of other scary spots you could visit.

12) Admire Savannah's collection of historic churches. The impressive Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is a sight to behold. You are also able to tour the inside for free, but donations are appreciated. Personally, I love going around Christmastime because the decorations are exquisite. Another interesting church is the First African Baptist Church--runaway slaves hid there during the Civil War.

Which one looks the most appealing to you? What do you like to do for free in your town?

Reasons to be Happy

November 11, 2016
I'm keeping my fingers crossed here, but I thiiiiink my life is starting to get good again! I was totally in a slump earlier this year because of my surgery. Another reason for feeling down in the dumps was that my work is harder than I thought it would be when I was expecting to have another easy year. I also had some friends leave Shanghai, and I'm left with no gay BFF. This is rather strange for me, as I've had a gay sidekick as a significant part of my life for about 14 years, so it just feels weird and empty without a close gay friend. Of course I'm still in touch with several of these guys via Facebook and We Chat, but it's not the same. So, I was coping with those issues, and just had to turn down so many invites due to my health. Now I'm getting stronger, and as I've mentioned before, my life is becoming a little more normal. With that normalcy, I am regaining the freedom to once again do what I love!! So, here are a few reasons as to why I've just had an awesome weekend along with a few events I'm looking forward to.

* I'm co-hosting a Thanksgiving get-together with Rachael and another gal at my school. Rachael is one of the best hosts and organizers and loves having people over, so our event is sure to be fun. We talked about it, and we don't want some big get together because it's too hard to organize and can get stressful. We thought about maybe going out to eat, but I've heard from others that it can totally be hit or miss. Like a delightful meal OR the restaurant runs out of turkey and pie. (Not pie!!!) We invited 15 people, but a few can't make it, so we'll probably have just over 10 people. The best part of it all is that we're going to order in the food from City Shop, which is supposed to be delicious. We've asked people to bring their own plates, drinks, and utensils, so there won't even be any clean up.  Since Rachael's place is near where we all live, it's convenient and we can come and go as we please, and I won't be out late on a school night. Also, my good British friend Lauren hasn't ever experienced an American Thanksgiving, so I'm excited to share part of my culture with her! I also got invited to another Thanksgiving get together, so I'll have two lush meals with good company that week.

* A group of us are going to Sanya for Christmas! Sanya has been called "the Hawaii of China," so we are going to a place where it will be warm, but not too hot. The average temperature around the time we're going is in the 70's, but I'm hoping it's going to be a little warmer. We are going to relax, swim (ideally), have nice meals, read, and just enjoy each other's company on Christmas. I have high anxiety about traveling again, since the last time I traveled I ended up getting flown back to Shanghai on a stretcher, unable to walk. I'm going with a great group who will help me get through my fears. I know that once I take another trip and have a positive experience, that it will build my confidence back up as far as traveling is concerned.

* Morocco MIGHT work out for me for our Chinese New Year break! I would get to use up the deposit I put down on it already, Rachael's all about going, and the tour company has openings when we want to go. Since it's a private tour, I can go at my own pace if I feel tired or if my back starts to hurt. My only worry is the flight over there because sitting for extended periods of time can really damage my back, so I'm going to have to call the airline and see if they are able to do anything for me once I show them my doctor's note. This trip wouldn't be until January, so by then, I think I'd be even stronger. Now I can walk pretty fast, but I'm going to start walking more around Shanghai so that I can build up my stamina.

* I just had a great spa day with Rachael at Dragonfly. We got a 95 minute deep cleansing facial in our own private room. It sure was relaxing, so now I just hope that it helps my skin.

* This article on where to find all of the pumpkin flavored goodies in Shanghai made my day! I've already tried Gracie's pumpkin spice flavored ice cream at Al's Diner, and I'm still thinking about it. My next mission is to go out and get a pumpkin spice latte. Truthfully, I didn't think there would be so many options in Shanghai, but once again I'm reminded about how I live in such an international city.

* I will be going with a few friends to see the Nutcracker in December! I saw it once in Columbus, but I know that it will put me in the holiday spirit, so I'm up for seeing it again. Just being able to make plans in general is something that I'm over the moon about. Before, I just couldn't commit to stuff because I was worried about whether or not my back could handle it.

* A friend I hadn't been able to hang out with in awhile saw me this past weekend and told me it looked like I'd lost a few pounds. This was very encouraging to hear! I just want the extra weight I put on when I couldn't walk for all those months to come off. I'm walking a lot more now, so I think that has made a difference.

* Others have been commenting on my progress after my surgery and have been saying that I'm walking a lot faster now. Physically, I have felt way better lately, but it makes me feel better mentally that others have also noticed!

I'm so happy to think that my bad streak of luck is over! Even little things to look forward to can make such a drastic difference in the overall scheme of things.

What has made you happy lately?