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Seeking Sunshine (and Reassurance) in Sanya

January 23, 2017
One good way to figure out places to go to in China is to ask my co-workers about some of their past trips. A few people mentioned going to Sanya, recommending it as a cheap getaway from Shanghai. Sanya has been dubbed "the Hawaii of China," and is quite popular among Chinese and Russian tourists. After my spinal fusion surgery, I wanted to ease back into traveling, so I knew going to Sanya was a good pick. Warmer weather is good for the hardware in my back--cold places can make it really painful.  (Thank goodness I went to Harbin last year. With the freezing temps, there's no way I could've handled that this year!)  I also figured that if I had issues with my back that we'd be at a resort, so I could just lie by the pool and read while the others went to the beach. Thankfully it did not come to that, and I could keep up pretty well. Definitely not like a normal person, but not too slow.

I went with my friends Rachael, Steven, and Kelcey. When I went to go meet Kelcey, I was walking down the stairs of my apartment and started to have a panic attack. Can you blame me? The last time I tried to travel in China, I ended up being flown back on a stretcher and needing major back surgery. I thought of walking back upstairs and not even going. I didn't know if I'd be able to handle it, and my back was doing better, so what if I couldn't make it through the long flight? What if sitting for so long messed something up? What if I injured myself on the trip? Luckily, I talked myself out of canceling my trip, and then Kelcey reassured me saying that I was with good people who would all be willing to help me.

The flight to Sanya was nerve-wracking at first, especially because I am not a good flier anyway. It's about a three and a half hour flight from Shanghai to Sanya, and I didn't know if I could bear sitting for that long. Everything ended up being okay. My friends helped me with my carry on, it was a pretty smooth flight, and I just made sure to get up as much as I could. Once I arrived in Sanya, I just felt a million times better. I accomplished something in that I got over part of my fear! I was able to go to a new place without a major incident!

We went directly to the Cactus Resort which was located right by Yalong Bay. Yalong Bay is considered to be one of Hainan Island's nicest beaches, and there was a complimentary shuttle provided by our resort that could take us directly there.

All of us were pretty much on the same page with staying at the Cactus Resort. The rooms were a bit run down, but we didn't pay that much, so we kind of got what we paid for. It wasn't a horrible place by any means, but all of us would have rather paid more and gotten a better place. If you do go to Sanya, I recommend staying at one of the two Pullmans on the island. Another group of our co-workers also happened to have booked a trip to Sanya at the same time as us, and they were quite pleased with the Pullman Sanya Oceanview. We left for a day trip one day to visit them, and had to agree that we wished we would've stayed there, too.

The weather was a bit rainy on our first day, but it cleared up and we had some really nice weather for the rest of our trip. It warmed up and stayed in the low 80's for our last few days, so we got two sunny beach days in. The beach was really clean, and the water was surprisingly warm. The first day, I struggled getting into the water, but I tried to go in by myself and probably shouldn't have done that. The waves were knocking me around and at one point I was flopping around by the sand struggling to get up and some Chinese tourists were taking pictures of me, so that was lovely. The next day, Steven offered to go in with me, and it was totally fine. The water wasn't as choppy, and I think just having Steven standing there gave me the moral support I needed to calm down and go into the water independently.

It was just nice to be out of Shanghai and to get a break from life in a big city. The semi-tropical environment really didn't hurt, either. There were plenty of flowers and palm trees and other sorts of greenery--it was just a lush place in general. We took in the blue skies and marveled at how the air was breathable, a real luxury for us considering that there's an airpocalypse in Shanghai fairly often every winter.

We had a relaxing trip, enjoyed each other's company, went out to eat at different restaurants on the island, and had some down time to watch movies, too. We had a mini-photo shoot by the I Love Sanya sign, which was pretty fun. Kelcey called it "very edgy," but I don't know about that, ha ha.

On Christmas Eve, we joined the other girls at their hotel for a buffet dinner. It was 500 RMB for all you could eat/drink (including booze), and entertainment was provided. There was a stage and we got to watch various singers and dancers perform. A raffle (or as they say here "a lucky draw") was going on as well, but none of us were lucky enough to win anything.

The main reason why I guess I'm even writing about this trip is because it was pivotal for me. It gave me more confidence because I saw that I COULD travel again, even though now it's not the same as before. My friends all thought I did really well, but they agreed that I should probably choose my future destinations carefully and told me I should probably try to keep traveling with friends. They all carried my bags at one point and also helped me put my sandals on since I'm not supposed to bend.

Sanya ended up being a very important trip in my life. After struggling with being able to walk for so long, I really thought I would maybe have to give up traveling altogether, which was terrifying for me, as it has always been a huge part of who I am. This trip made me see that I AM capable, so onwards and upwards!

Have you ever taken a trip that changed the way you think about yourself?

Being Appreciative

January 16, 2017
Some of my lowest moments in life were hit this year due to challenges I've been facing with my health. Recently, I've been doing a bit better. I'm about 7.5 months into my very long recovery from my back surgery and am finally feeling a bit triumphant seeing how I was able to travel for the first time since before my operation. I started thinking about how grateful I was that I could go somewhere again, and then I thought in an effort to stay positive that it might be nice to compile a whole list of what I'm grateful for. So what am I thankful for lately?

* The ability to travel- After this was taken away from me, travel is something that I will never take for granted ever again. I was very leery to get on a plane and go somewhere new because of what happened to me the last time I traveled. I had an intense (but not unfounded) fear that maybe I couldn't handle the trip I had planned, but I just spent three and a half days wonderful days in Sanya, China for the Christmas holiday! The way I travel now must be done differently to accommodate my needs, and I had friends helping me the whole time. Just to be able to leave Shanghai again was a major accomplishment in itself. Travel means a great deal to me and is a major reason why I decided to live and work in Shanghai, so to have that back was the best Christmas present I could've asked for.

* That my surgery was successful- I joined a spinal fusion support group on Facebook, and it was eye-opening for me. I haven't been able to talk to others who have gotten my surgery, so being a part of this group is a helpful reminder that I am not alone. Even though I went through my own personal hell for some time, I recognize that I am one of the lucky ones!  I feel so awful for some of the people in that group because many of them are still in a lot of pain and some of them had surgeries that failed. I couldn't even imagine going through all the trauma and expense of a major surgery only to be in worse pain. One woman is paralyzed and says she will be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. 

* Friends and acquaintances who help me- People have still been so kind to me. Even the small things have added up to make a huge difference, like a co-worker offering her chair to me so I could sit down at a meeting. The girl who lives across from me offered to lift my water because she knows I can't. My friends who went to Sanya with me had to help me carry my backpack and suitcase. I really don't like asking for help, so when people offer it's a big relief!

* Getting asked back- Not all the teachers at my school will get asked to stay for another year. I was worried that maybe because of my bad health that the school wouldn't want me, but they do. My boss even mentioned to me how she really hoped I could stay at the school for a third year.

* Receiving very warm Christmas wishes from my students' parents- Some of my students' parents personally messaged me on We Chat or students gave me a card or gift. I care a lot about my class, so it's nice to know that the feeling is mutual.

* Still getting invited to events- Gosh, if I were some of my friends, I would have probably given up with the invites. I have turned down SO many invitations this year that I'm genuinely surprised people still ask me to anything at all. I'm so glad that I'm still getting asked to stuff because on the rare occasion, I do go! I want to go to a lot more events than I capable of attending. I'm getting there, though. Hopefully next semester will be better than this one!

* For time off- I have about three and a half weeks off of work coming up here soon. There aren't many jobs out there that offer a paid vacation for that amount of time, so I will be making the most of it!

* Getting better- Even though sometimes it is hard to notice my day-to-day progress, I do have to be cognizant of how far I've come. As my friend Lauren said, "Remember when you first tried to walk? You were really unstable, and look at you now. You have to keep in mind that you're still healing." I'll readily admit that I'm impatient, so when I'm having some frustrating moments, I need to remember that I'm still on the road to recovery. Recently, I started walking to the cafeteria again with my students, so that was a big milestone for me.

* Being able to pay off debt- I still owe my dad quite a bit of money for my surgery, but in the past few months I paid off $6,000 worth of debt! That's pretty impressive for someone who couldn't even walk in May. Thank God I can work full time again. Trust me, I am fully aware that there are those who cannot work at all, so I know I'm fortunate.

* Having people that still read my blog- I haven't been posting regularly, but it's nice to know that a few of you keep checking back. Thanks! <3

* Good books- I just read And the Mountains Echoed, and it was nothing short of amazing. I love all of Khaled Hosseini's work. He is such a brilliant storyteller, and every time I open one of his books I get sucked in for a few days. He knows how to make his audience care about the characters, that's for sure. Also, reading is a hobby that doesn't hurt my back, so there's that too!

* Funny and gifted students- My students are so adorable and being around them just puts me in a good mood! (Most of the time, ha ha.) They're always telling me jokes, stories, or just being silly in general. I got their MAP results back, and it confirmed what I've always thought. I'm working with some of the best and the brightest kids out there. I consider myself lucky to be their teacher.

* Coziness- Fuzzy socks, fleeces, duvets, hot soup, and warm drinks are pretty much the best on these cold winter days.

* The food scene in Shanghai- I love the mix of restaurants and types of foods that are available here!  There are lots of big cities in China, but not all of them have such a wide range of restaurants. I can have Mexican one day, Chinese food the next, then some French food, or maybe Spanish, Italian, Thai, or Japanese food. It's all possible here!

What are some positive things going on in your life right now?