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After the year that 2011 was, where I didn’t stay in any place longer than 4 months and I often didn’t know where I’d call home the next month or even the next week, 2012 has been a HUGE contrast. I haven’t left the US since I returned in early January this year. ‘Home’ has been well, home, in my parent’s house. And while I have done some domestic travel, only 1 trip has lasted more than a week. From 2011 to 2012–talk about polar opposites!
And you know what, life has still been good. Not that I don’t miss traveling, meeting new people, visiting old friends, staying in fun hostels, seeing amazing sites, and experiencing serendipitous encounters, but I’ve found a new passion and challenge in my wellness business. (More about that later.)
In 2011, I was in 12 countries across Europe and Asia, plus a smattering of countries in the Caribbean at the end of the year. It’s looking very likely the only country I’ll see in 2012 is <wait for it> the US! After 5 years as an expat this feels like heresy! But I’m already gearing up for 2013: Germany for a wedding in March, potentially Tunisia right after the wedding, and maybe China in February. So I’d like all my travel buddies to know, I’ll have international destinations back on my itinerary for 2013.
It’s the balances or contrasts in life that make us truly appreciate the good things.
As for this year, my life has been devoted to becoming a certified yoga instructor, importing 15000 boxes of Chinese tea, sharing the revolutionary benefits of the right nutritional supplements, and supporting my mom in her bid for AZ Corporation Commission. All of that has kept me engaged and focused enough that I honestly haven’t really noticed that I haven’t been overseas this year. Now that’s saying something for someone like me who has traveling and international culture in their blood.
If you’ve missed my blogging, please come check out my wellness blog: World Vitae. And if you’ve missed me on the international travel scene, I’d thank you to support me in my business by sharing BelightTea.com or WorldVitae.com/Orenda. That will help me be able to afford to travel again.
Wishing you awesomeness and joy wherever you are!
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While that’s a nice tagline, it should really say:
Corruption is working
Corruption is alive and well
When you have corrupt leaders in Africa who refuse to participate in the international capitalist system and instead hoard assets, engage in genocide and starve their peoples to death, this is not a failure of capitalism. This is corruption and a refusal of other nations to breach the sovereignty of said African nation.
Capitalism has raised millions of people in China and elsewhere in Asia and South America out of poverty. We’ve shown the failure of Communism. 50 years ago the Chinese kid would have looked the same as the African kid. While the current Chinese kid does not exemplify the ideal outcome, it is definitely a better outcome than his continuance in the situation on the left.
Capitalism certainly isn’t perfect, but then again nothing is. Everything must go through growing pains.
We need to think of the next stage as Compassionate Capitalism. This is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to solve problems of people, not of business, to work towards a better future for all and think of the triple bottom line (people, planet, profits-in that order).
If this picture inspires something in you, it is your responsibility as a world citizen to use the best tools at your disposal: you, your abilities, and entrepreneurship to take action and solve these types of global challenges. Grassroots level (i.e. with the entrepreneur) is the best place to start.
That being said, anyone of us could start the next Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which does tremendous work to increase access to healthcare and education around the world. Or choose your issue, maybe it is clean water (such as charity:water), maybe it is starvation, maybe it is corruption. The point is, what are YOU going to do about it.
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As I get ready to head on a new series adventures, starting with a month travel around Europe, I’ve realized I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in the planning and getting ready.
I’ve spent time researching trains, flights, buses, ferries, booking apartments on AirBnB, figuring out how the RailnFly card works in Frankfurt when flying China Eastern, comparing insurance, buying theater tickets, and contacting and coordinating with friends in multiple cities in different countries. And now I look back and realize that was a ton of time and so far I don’t have that much to show for it. Actually besides my long-haul flights, I only have 1 flight and no other transportation booked. I didn’t even have to book most of the hotels. And yet I’m wondering where all the time went. Did I get anything out of all that research? And then I think there must be a better way…
The other options is packaged tours, holiday deals, and organized trips. With these you decide which general area, research once to find the best option for what you’re looking for, pay for it and be done. Someone else does all the research, planning, bookings, and logistics and accommodation arrangements. All you do is pay, show up, and relax. There’s certainly something to be said for that. I mean its called vacation for a reason, right?
But then we get to the drawbacks of these types of trips: on the tourist trail, lots of other people, on the beaten path, a sense of this has been done before, no sense of exploration or discovery, no challenge, no thrill or anticipation or free-wheeling of what might happen next, little to no flexibility, rigid timetables, little local flavor. And then there’s the possibility of getting stuck with the wrong people–for anyone who’s traveled, you know how much having the wrong travel companions can ruin your enjoyment of a place. Or finding you chose the wrong destination but you already paid the money so you’re stuck there for your entire holiday.
I guess by now you can guess my preference… I’m totally in favor of the solo, independent travel. The freedom to choose my plan, the discovery, the sense of accomplishing something when I’ve found or done something, exploring and meeting new people, interacting with the local culture, choosing if or who to travel with, planning my schedule around catching up with my friends anywhere and everywhere. And all that time spent researching, it builds the anticipation and makes the experience so much richer when I get there. (Still would be nice to expedite some of it, though.)
Coming from someone who use to lead 2-3 week group trips of up to 16people, I would choose independent travel 10:1 over group (in most parts of the world), particularly if I have a competent travel companion. That being said, in some parts of the world, it is just not feasible. And, I’ll make an exception for cruises. :)
Here’s to my next adventure, all cross-coordinated to see friends, and my first time back in Europe in 7 years! Woot! Gonna be awesome!
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Once I decided on my plan for jumping from Asia to Europe and then back to Asia this summer, the next step is to figure out flights. Hangzhou or just Shanghai to Europe (Germany) is easy, but after that not so much.
Trying to find flights between such random places as Madrid to Bali, Indonesia can be a lot of work. I remember when I did my around the world trip in late-2007-early-2008, I spent hours trying to come up with reasonable flight connections, times and prices. There, too, I had some pretty random connections: Shanghai to Santiago, Chile; Miami to Cairo; Amman, Jordan to Zanzibar, Tanzania; East Africa to Shanghai. You can imagine there aren’t a lot of quick options on those routes. As I mentioned back when I was planning the around the world trip, I finally gave up and used an around the world specialist flight planner (Airtreks) to do my flights.
So now again trying to book some pretty random connections (Madrid to Bali, and later Delhi to Phoenix), I’m trying to figure out the best way. And the cheapest!
I checked the usual, Vayama, Expedia, etc, but so many of them don’t even accept non-US origination points. How is that useful? Then someone told me about cheap flights from JetAbroad and with a quick search, I found they were $400 cheaper than Vayama. That makes a big difference (but the flight is still painfully expensive). It seems JetAbroad has the advantage because they include quite a few Asia and Middle Eastern air carriers that don’t show up on some of the other booking engines. So if you’re traveling around or through Asia, that might be worth checking out.
Yay! Travel planning is fun! But I also find it to be a huuuuge time sink. In the end, just like everything else, it comes down to a trade off between time and money. Do you spend extra time hunting around for the best connections and prices? Do you pay someone to do the hunting for you? Or do you spend the extra money and book the first reasonable connection that comes up? I tend to fall into the first category. I enjoy the hunt and especially the success of finding something cheap(er).
What’s your style?
(Just for the record, I may end up using Star Alliance miles for Madrid-Bali flight.)
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While my last post summarized 2010 and only hinted at 2011, now I’m ready to start explaining what’s going on this year.
As you can see on my new health and herbs blog, the first 6 months of this year have been and will be (almost) entirely focused on studying Traditional Chinese Medicine. I’ve decided to stay and complete the semester here at Zhejiang Chinese Medicine University, which goes until the end of June.
Then I’m taking the month of July off from intense studying, though I’ll keep blogging and working online, to go to EUROPE!! It’ll be wonderful to see friends again (in Spain, Germany, UK, Netherlands, Luxembourg…). I haven’t been to Europe since the summer of 2004! Wow! 7 years! Crazy! I miss it.
Coincidentally in planning my trip for Europe, I came across a website offering cheap holidays, cheap beach holidays around Europe, to be specific. Maybe Jai, Ady, Helen, or Annie and I’ll hit up the beach while we’re there. Tenerife or Turkey, anyone? Helen had mentioned a Greek Islands cruise… How awesome would that be? I do have another friend who’ll be down in Majorca in July as well.
Anyway, after July, I’m headed to probably one of the most famous beaches anywhere in the world: Bali, Indonesia for about 2 months. But this is no longer holidaying; this is for studying Balinese traditional healing. Keep an eye out on World Vitae for more abouttraditional healing and alternative medicine.
Then I’m planning for October and November to be in India studying Ayurveda. I’m still looking for a more comprehensive and in-depth program there, to extend over 2-2.5 months for ~5-6 hours per day. Any ideas, shoot me an email or comment below.
And that’s as far ahead as I can think now.
Keep an eye out on my WorldVitae site for an ebook I’m writing on healthier living inspired by Chinese Medicine and perhaps a companion iPhone app.
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March: After returning to Shanghai after the Olympics, I decided I wanted to work for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. So I left italki and made Expo my mission. Success!
March-May: I took my first Traditional Chinese Medicine Class and a photography class at the Expat Learning Center.
March-November: I worked for Aden Services on the Expo project, first as hostess recruitment manager and later as Key Account Manager of Luxembourg Pavilion. As KAM of Luxembourg Pavilion, I had about 130 Chinese staff underneath me, which challenged my language skills, my management skills, and my cultural knowledge. I also had to manage the client relationship, including most notoriously, my first day as KAM when our security guards for the Pavilion went on strike. What a way to start! All ended well with a very successful Expo, Pavilion, and Aden team performance.
My colleagues at Aden were fabulous people, who knew how to work hard and still go out and have fun. They were some of the best, most diverse group of people I could imagine working with. And all of us were under 35 which added to the camaraderie.
May: The Expo Started!
June/July: Starting dating Adam, who I met as we worked together at Aden Services on Expo project.
August: In the middle of August I flew to Tokyo on an invitation from Sarah, a high school friend I hadn’t seen since. We had a whirlwind 3 day trip of the major shopping districts, parks, and restaurants of Tokyo. Good fun and great to catch up with her after all these years. Thanks, Sarah!
In late August, I convinced Adam to get on a plane for the first time in his adult life and go with me to Qinghai, including Xining, Qinghai Lake, and into Gansu to Xiahe to see Labrang Monastery, and ending in Lanzhou. It was a nice chance for us to spend time together and enjoy cooler weather, see rolling hills, some spectacular scenery, and China’s ethnic minorities.
At the very end of August, I managed to hop on a plane again to do Qingdao Beer Festival, my first and (probably) only trip. Considering I can’t stand beer, once was enough. But it was wonderful to have so many good friends around; we stayed in an old German castle style hotel near the water. We went to the beach and ate fabulous Korean BBQ.
October: In early October, I had to notify all the Aden staff of the termination of the employment contract: think Up In The Air. Not that this isn’t stressful enough in of itself, I had to do it all in Chinese. And I had to do it immediately before Luxembourg Pavilion Day, probably the most important day of Expo for our Pavilion. In the end, everything worked out. The staff did a fabulous job with Pavilion Day and we got to see the Grand Duke of Luxembourg.
Besides the stress that certainly weighed on me, the process put extreme pressure on my moral center, and added strain to my relationships with my colleagues, especially Adam. If I can point to one defining circumstance in my life as an employee, that is probably it, which was the final straw in committing me to entrepreneurship.
And then the Expo was over. In total I saw about 154′Pavilions,’ at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, and even that is probably only half. In November, after Expo finished, I went back to say goodbye and was sad there were so many restaurants I never got to try, so many bars I never drank at, more stuff I wished I bought or tried, Pavilions I never visited, and I had all the opportunity in the world. Strange how work always got in the way. But I truly cherish the many fond memories I have of visiting (and drinking in) Expo with different friends.
November: My contract with Aden Services ended. At midnight on the night my contract ended, I flew to Boracay, Philippines for 5days of sunshine, reflecting, and relaxing.
Throughout November I pondered what my next steps were, how I could follow my passion, and become ‘location independent’ and what that would mean for my career.
November 28th: After years, and weeks of intense preparation, I took the test of proficiency in Chinese language 汉语水平考试。
December: In early December, I jetted 0ff (well, took the train, actually) with 3 girl friends to Huangshan for my last trip of 2010.
After Huangshan trip, it was time to start moving toward the next phase of my life: following my passion.
December has been consumed with projects, gearing up to start my next business, and the usual holiday and going away parties (so sad Rachel & Helen are gone ). The projects I’m working on for December and January are: helping a TCM doctor to write a book about functional foods in English and helping build the web presence and generate PR for PureLiving China. Besides my continuing Shop My Shanghai. In the middle of the month I took another TCM course, this time focusing on medical massage (tuina).
I also completed another major step towards becoming location independent and following my passion: signed up for a longer TCM course and started my new blog about health and wellness: World Vitae.
2011: So what does 2011 bring? After those projects are completed in January, I will be in the US for 3weeks, before returning to China to move directly to Hangzhou to study TCM at Zhejiang University of TCM. If you’re interested in TCM, health, wellness, or Oriental Medicine, please follow my new blog.
Therefore, I’m now in my last 3.5weeks of living full-time in Shanghai. (tear) I’m looking for a small room I can stay in part-time on weekends in Shanghai, if you know of any cheap cheap cheap places. And I’m looking for a room to rent in Hangzhou.
You can imagine I’m quite busy,
so goodbye for now!
And goodbye 2010! You have been another fabulous year.
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Day 4, February 20
Days 4 and 5 were both pretty busy with specific Olympics events. Before I headed up to Vancouver, Mariska and I had bought Ice Dance (training) tickets for Saturday, February 20th, starting at 7am! Although 7am didn’t happen, Jaime and I did make it there by about 9:30am and with 3.5 hours of women’s figure skating (training) and ice dance, I think we saw a fair bit and had a good fill of ice skating. It was absolutely beautiful, particularly the couples, some with just incredible lifts and unbelievable poses. The Canadian couple had a good performance, though I wouldn’t have picked them to win gold (which they did in the end). Jaime and I enjoyed commenting on the outfits, synchronization, themes, and overall match to the music. What were the Germans thinking in their costumes? Russia & US, boring! China, ugly! Hungary, cool 80s theme! The folk dance couples were cute too.
Late afternoon Eddie and I decided to press our luck and head down to Canada Hockey Place to try to get tickets to the Latvia-Slovakia hockey game for less than $80. We succeeded! Had great seats for $75. We saw poor Latvia take a whoopin, but it was exciting to be in the crowd full of energy, cheers, and get great shots of the athletes and attend what would be my last Olympic event for this time around.
Day 5, February 21
My last day, and with a 5pm departure time, I wanted to see some of the National houses. The first we went to was Korea, which was meant to be a showcase of Korean heritage, high tech, and winter sports as Korea bids for the 2018 Winter Games (along with Munich, Germany and France). It was somewhat disappointing and didn’t have nearly the exhibits I expected, or even a very good showcase of the culture or bid location.
Next we went to the House which will be hosting the 2014 Olympics: Sochi.Ru or more familiarly, Russia. With the help of a friend, we avoided the 2 hour line and got in with Media passes. That was pretty awesome. The pictures of Sochi look stunning, and there was a good display of Russian culture, both positive and negative. Watch my video on flickr to see a Russian culture music troupe. That was the positive. The negative was the coldness and the attitudes of the Russian hosts. They were very unfriendly, only mildly helpful, and seemed to want to be rid of us as soon as possible. And we were wearing media passes! One would think they’d want to encourage people to come to the 2014 Games and thereby give a good impression of Russian hospitality, it didn’t work out that way. Particularly as ‘media people’ we have the power to influence others’ thoughts and perceptions, therefore they should want to influence us positively–but just disappointing.
Vancouver did a superior job at hospitality, in terms of its people, efficiency of public transportation, positive energy, parties etc. Even my mom’s friend commented, “Almost everyone I spoke with is going to go to the next olympics in Russia due to the fun and excitement they had in Vancouver.” My response, did any of them actually go to the Russia House (Sochi.ru)? If so, I think they may have a different perspective of what the Russian Olympics will be like.
Russia will have a big PR campaign ahead of it, but each host city always faces huge challenges and still manages to pull off a great, world-class event. Regardless where the Olympics are held, in my 2 experiences thus far (Beijing), they are fantastic! I hoping my next Olympics will be Rio de Janeiro in 2016!!
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Day 2: February 18
After all the excitement of Day 1, Day 2 was a little bit slower. In the afternoon there was a Canada Hockey game for which some Canada Hockey fans had organized a hockey Tweetup. Yes, its just what it sounds like, lots of people on twitter sit around a big screen watching hockey, drinking, cheering, and tweeting.
Next was probably the highlight of that day: Vancouver Victory Ceremony. The VVC is held at BC Place and includes the medals presentation and a concert.
First about the concert, throughout the Olympics each day was themed based on one of Canada’s provinces. This means that there were special activities or performances provided by that province. On the day we went to the Vancouver Victory Ceremony, it was Prince Edward Island Day. Therefore, the performers hailed from PEI; in this case, a boy band called Hedley.
The best part of the February 18th VVC, though, was the medals presentation. As an American, I was proud to hear the national anthem played twice for our gold medalists on that day. One gold medalist was speed skater Shani Davis, and the other–probably the most famous US winter athlete–snowboarder, Shaun White!!! It was also cool for me to see the medal presentation of the Women’s 500M short track race that’d I’d seen China win the day before.
After that the 4 of us went for a late dinner at the Revel Room, man! was it hard to find a place to sit down and eat that didn’t have a 45min wait at 9pm. Later we saw some of the anti-Olympics protesters on Hastings with the slogan, ‘Homes, not Games.’
Day 3, February 19
This was the first day that I didn’t have any scheduled events or official Olympics events to attend, but still managed to find fun stuff to do! Because my friends had media passes for the BC Media Center, they invited us in to join the Wine Tasting of BC wines. We tasted some absolutely fabulous ice wines, as well as official wines of the Olympics Games, namely the Sumac Ridge sparkling wine, which I subsequently bought. If you’re interested in learning more about the making of the wine and our wine tasting, watch our video on UStream.
Also in the BCMC was the Stanley Cup. I know some (Canadian) people would freak out at this comment and the below picture, but I was simply like, oooh what’s the shiny trophy with all the writing on it? I’m not from a hockey family, and not from a hockey part of the country, I don’t know what to tell ya.
For dinner, we joined friends in a pub, talking about the Olympics, taking pictures with Quatchi (the Olympic mascot), and met more awesome Canadians. Later that night, I met up with Jeff who I know from Shanghai to go to one of his friend’s houses overlooking what was Yaletown LiveCity. That night was the (unbeknownstly to me) famous DJ, Dead Mou5 performing. After that was a fireworks and water show. Over the lake they turned on the fountains and then projected Olympics images onto the flowing water–that was pretty cool.
Full Olympics pictures on Flickr. Day 4 and 5 coming up…
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Yesterday was my first day at the Olympics and it was amazing! The day started out with a photo walk around downtown taking pictures of the Olympic flame,
then down to Robson Square to see the Chinese gold and silver medal pairs figure skating champions do brief performances. Canada’s national youth skaters also performed, with as man as 10 of them on the ice as once! It was very awesome for me personally to see the Chinese team and to hear their introduction in Chinese as we all celebrate the Year of the Tiger (so they said).
Then we went to the British Columbia Media Center! And watch some snowboard half pipe on TV before getting some lunch at a pub in Gastown and watching hockey on TV.
Late afternoon I headed to the Pacific Coliseum as I was fortunate enough to wrangle a ticket to the Short Track Speed Skating. At Wednesday’s Short Track was Women’s 500M quarterfinal, semifinal, and final–yes we did get to see the final, including flower ceremony. In the end China won gold, and the home team, Canada silver! It was also Men’s 1000M and Men’s 5000M semifinal relay. In the relay 4 teams compete at once, each with 4 guys on the ice so you can imagine it was quite crowded. But due to a disqualification, the final will be even more crowded: 5 team, 4 guys each! What you learn when watching Short Track, is its not over till its over!
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I just finally read the Untemplater Manifesto (PDF download), which got me thinking about my own story and whether I fit the mold. Some would say by virtue of the fact that I live in China (and moved there by choice) that of course not; however, I think it’s more complicated than that.
Through the end of college, I was on the templater path. Through then everything was decided for me on the basis of the standard middle-class American lifestyle. Played sports: check. Participated in Girl Scouts: check. Attempted to learn a foreign language: check. Went to a good high school: check. Went to prom: check. Went to a top university: check. Did I make any of these decisions? Really? No, not really. Although I did get to choose which university I went to, and I have to say, I made the right choice.
Then came college graduation and the first real decision of my life. I’d been told, follow your passion. You have the world at your feet. You can do anything you want. Well they may say that and it may be true, but no one actually believes it. And no one will actually give you the unconditional love and support to really do that. Besides that, I had no idea what ‘my passion’ was. I did, however, know that I had absolutely no interest in continuing down the template path and becoming a corporate slave and living a boring life. I didn’t want to be average and I certainly didn’t want the average life of a just graduated young professional. The idea of working for someone else my whole life, 2 weeks of vacation max per year, dating, marriage, kids repelled me. I knew I would need out, sooner or later.
I chose sooner.
Within 3 months of graduation, I was on a one way plane to Shanghai, China with no further plan than 5 weeks of studying Chinese (on top of my 4 college semesters). I came out to China hoping, like so many, to strike it rich, but mostly I came to just not live a template N. American life.
For the first 2 years or so in China, I studied Chinese, taught English, worked in a hotel, started a business, worked as a tour leader, traveled a lot, and networked a ton. I was essentially the epitome of a young China-based job-hopping expat. It’s not necessarily something I’m proud of, but it was a path, albeit a curvy one, I needed to take.
You may look at this and think holy cow, talk about a road less traveled; however, I’m increasingly doubting that. Going out to China as a freshly minted college graduate, might seem unconventional, but even now it feels common. Every week I get emails from people, ‘I want to come out to China and do _____’ (fill in the blank, usually English teaching) or I meet people like me 3 years ago, ‘I’m in China writing a blog, studying Chinese, I’m not sure what I’ll do next. ‘ The more I look around, the more I think, I’m on the same path as everyone else, or maybe I was one of the leaders on that path and now more people are following this ‘unusual’ path making it seem more common and mundane.
Then about 2 years ago I decided it was time to get some startup experience to build my knowledge base and learn that arena, so I joined a small internet company. As time goes on, sometimes I look at my life and think, am I doing anything different than if I were in the States? Company job. Commuting. Friends evenings or weekends. Looks the same. Seems the same. But certainly doesn’t smell the same.
What is different? I speak Chinese 70% of my day. I’ve done random jobs including modeling (something I always wanted to do), English conversation courses, writing bar reviews, etc. I went to the Beijing Olympics. I’ve been to almost every country in East Asia. I’ve met people from all over the world. I’ve organized tech events. I’ve seen the inside of China and its not always pretty. But perhaps most importantly, I’ve explored my passions and interests.
Moving to China may be the new in thing to do, and certainly takes guts, stamina, and patience, and with more and more people (trying to) doing it, it’s becoming more conventional. However, the mere fact of getting away from the expectations of template American life, has allowed me to explore options, interests, passions, and what truly matters to me far beyond anything I would have been able to do in the US. While I may not have ‘struck it rich’ in China (yet), this experience to me is far more valuable. Whether or not my life to this point has been a cookie cutter, having had the space to grow and develop means that into the future it definitely doesn’t need to be and I have the power and the wherewithal to manage that.
Now the challenge for me is to put that into an actionable plan. But I know I’ll have the Untemplaters for inspiration along the way and I’ll keep in mind these lines from the Untemplater Manifesto:
You have to live one day at the time. You have to trust that as long as you bust your ass going after what you believe in, things will fall in place. The moment you start getting worried because you can’t see your future clearly is the moment where the claws of fear and boredom will get a hold of you again. In reality, no one can see the future clearly, but some think they can. Nobody knows what will happen, but the only difference is that untemplaters realize it, accept it, and make the best out of their time while believing in themselves and their vision.
Power to that! The Untemplater life awaits!
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The Year in Review: 2009
January started out with a New Year’s Day flight from Phoenix to San Francisco, which included watching the USC Rose Bowl game as soon as I got off the plane in San Fran. Then more game watching downtown with my awesome cousin Kelly and her friends. The next day I grabbed my passport from Alec who I hadn’t seen since 2006, many thanks to him for getting my Indian visa. That same day I caught my 1st transpacific flight of the year and headed back to Shanghai.
Back to work in Shanghai for a week, then birthday celebrations galore start. I’m not sure how its possible but I managed to have 3 celebrations during the week of my 25th bday: dinner on the 13th with a few girlfriends, then co-party night with Sian, Sherry, and Yi, and finally birthday brunch. Thanks for organizing that brunch, and every other one, Sherry! This is was also the first time in 2.5 years in China that I really got on a work permit.
From February, as everyone got back to Shanghai from CNY, we started having more tweetups, including Twestival, where I met a lot of the people I’d only ‘met’ online, including @IrisJumbe and @PDKay. At the SXSW Shanghai party at M1NT in late February I got to meet a lot more of my twitter friends, including those who don’t live in China and make better connections with them. To round out February, I changed the theme on my blog to center around life-streaming, (which I’m now coming to hate…)
In March we had our first !talk! Chatfest and finally launched the open beta of the teaching platform. Despite this, the !talk! situation was in somewhat of a flux, so after awhile I decided to work less hours there and spend more time on my multitude of other activities. Since November of the previous year I was already teaching English a few nights per week.
With the start of spring, I still didn’t feel that my health had completely recovered from all the illnesses of the winter, so I decided I needed to take drastic actions (haha). For Qing Ming festival, I booked myself a week at a cleanse resort in Thailand. It was a much needed flushing out of the system that kept me much healthier in the ensuing 8 months, especially compared to the previous 8. Besides meeting some like-minded people during the detox, I also met some other awesome people at the #BangkokTweetup, some of whom have become really helpful to me recently. This spring, I also got to connect with fellow Shanghai transplant Arizonan @Mark_E_Evans and another China-interested tweeter @lparsons, whose dream is to move to China–good luck to him.
By late April / early May, when the Dragon Boat festival rolled around, Jai, Allison and I headed to Seoul for a 4-day weekend. They say Seoul is a city with no soul, but I loved it and think that’s in large part due to our excellent tour guide, my long time friend, Irene. Check out the DMZ tour, really interesting, including a step into North Korea. Literally the day after I got back from Korea, I did my first set of factories tours in 2009. It’s amazing all the crap that gets produced in China!
In Late May, I spent a weekend in Hangzhou with Al & Jane, when they generously took me around to all their favorite sites and restaurants. Tea plantations, China’s Grand Canal, Pagodas, and spicy wings, the spiciest food imaginable. I was crying, literally.
As June rolled around I was just starting planning tech events for the Shanghai community and welcoming 妹妹 (little sister) for her summer in Shanghai. Eliana arrived on June 3 to spend 5 weeks with me and exactly the day after she arrived, we set off to see the ‘real’ China. The real manufacturing China, that is. This was my second factory tripping of 2009. It’s amazing all the crap that’s produced in China!
Around mid-June the Geeks on a Plane tour rolled through town to attend Shanghai Barcamp on June 14, and then celebrated the end of the trip with the Geeks and Glamour afterparty at M1NT. It was awesome to meet entrepreneurs, VCs, and other twitter friends from the States including @DanMartell.
Throughout June and early July, Eliana and I went revisiting or exploring new parts of Shanghai. And of course, we went to Beijing and saw the not-to-be-missed, Great Wall of China, Tiananmen, Forbidden City, and she went swimming in the Olympic Watercube. I also got to see to see Ian, Leslie, Jeremy, and Jenny, and join yet another Tweetup to meet twitter friends in Beijing. To check another place off my list, we took the train to the old walled city of Pingyao. At nearly the end of the trip, on the bus ride to the airport, my cosmetics case got stolen from my backpack A very sad day. In this case, Eliana was the rock–thank you girl, I love you!
Just around the 3 year anniversary of my life in China, the internet went on lockdown in China and ever since then Twitter, Facebook, Twitpic, and since even earlier Youtube have been inaccessible, seriously hindering multimedia communication with the outside world. Mid-July Eliana went home and I took my 2nd transpacific flight, this time to Vancouver.
On the bus from Vancouver to Seattle there was free wifi! And unrestricted access to twitter, facebook, youtube, which was like heaven until my laptop battery died and I realized my power cord didn’t work in N America… A busy 3 days in Seattle with my Dad and friends, Burt and Dawn: food festival, hiking Mt. Rainier, and the 4am launch of !talk! Marketplace for companies, but the weather was gorgeous, the food good and fresh, and the air clean and refreshing.
Next it was time to fly up to Alaska for my grandparents 60th Anniversary. We went ATV-ing near Denali National Park, watched the sunset at 11pm, pet huskies, took the Denail Express train to Whittier, cruised on the Diamond Princess, went to Glacier Bay National Park, sea-kayaked in Ketchikan, went Geocaching, and had a good week of family time.
For the first week in August, I reconnected with friends from China now living in Victoria and Vancouver, including Heike, Brook, Scales, KK, and Danielle, and made other new friends through them, include Mariska. The Pacific Northwest from Seattle, to Vancouver and the Island, all the way up to Alaska has truly spectacular natural beauty, clear blue skies, snow covered peaks, stunningly colored flowers, green trees and grass, fresh healthy foods, all enough to satisfy me with what often seems lacking in the grimy urban grey of Shanghai. Catching up with friends from China who are no longer living there really helped me to get perspective on life there and what is most important. Getting on my 3rd and last transpacific flight of the year to head back to Shanghai, I was feeling very refreshed and refocused with resolutions for my life in China.
Back in Shanghai, I jumped head first back into activities related to tech, work, events, and, from all my discussions with friends who formerly lived in China, recommitted myself to learning Chinese. I found a private tutor to work with 2 times per week, started reading Chinese magazines and newspapers, listening to ChinesePod again, decided to more actively seek out opportunities to practice Chinese including looking for new Chinese friends, and eventually more Chinese shows and movies. I am listening to countless podcasts on entrepreneurship, as well as lectures on world history and geopolitics to start brushing up my knowledge for the foreign service exam.
With my September trip to Hong Kong to see Coni, Brenda, Amjad, Daniel, Stanley, etc, and Stephanie (who I hadn’t seen in 5 years, since USC), I finally gave into pressure and got an iPhone. Podcasts, apps, Chinese dictionary with handwriting, plus GPRS allowing me to be chatting to someone through Skype while walking down Nanjing Road, I can’t believe I waited so long. iPhone convert, admitted.
By the time October holiday rolled around, my work permit was expiring, and still reeling from all the traveling I’d already done this year, with additional complications, I was compelled to spend China’s 60th Anniversary National Day in Shanghai, much to my chagrin. (Randomly, I just realized the CCP was founded the same year my grandparents got married). It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I got to reconnect with another friend who used to live in Shanghai and was back for a visit: Matthias. October and November were spent with friends who were in town visiting, including a week with that friend from Germany, Ian down from Beijing and his friend from USC, then in November Sean came back for a visit and the HSBC Golf Tournament, followed by Luke from Toronto (I met but hadn’t seen since 2006), who came to visit family and attend his sister’s wedding
In late October, USC opened their first office in Mainland China. Also in late-October, I went to yet another manufacturing town, this one specializing in textiles for the Keqiao Tradeshow and also saw the canal town of Shaoxing. A month later, Bryan, Vivianne, and I were off for a day trip to the Commodity City: Yiwu. It’s amazing all the crap that’s produced in China! Since getting back to SH in August, my Chinese slowly showed signs of improvement after months of stagnation, I signed up to an internet dating site (thinking about it now, am I that desperate?), and I continued to spread myself over many different involvements.
For Thanksgiving, I met mom in the Philippines for my last international trip of 2009, bringing the total to 50 countries in 25 years. Ten days in the Philippines renewed my health (after 2 brutal days of facing the Chinese hospital system just before the trip) and helped me to realize I was stretching myself in too many different directions. This feeling was further brought home by another conversation in early December that’s been forcing me to take stock of where I am, where I’m going, recognize my passions, and figure out what I want out of life. As 2009 draws to a close and I face yet another round of visa applications, I’m reading Think and Grow Rich (again) and Getting Things Done, and most importantly I’m reflecting on those issues and what they mean for me in 2010. The most influential and memorable book I finished in ’09 was The Go Giver–great book, go read it, especially if you do business or work in social!
Happy New Year!
Writing this made me realize there were a lot of photos from this year, I hadn’t yet put on Flickr, so if you didn’t click on any of the links above, go look at my photostream now, its been updated: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tofflerann/
Don’t forget, 2010 is the Shanghai Expo and among other reasons, a great opportunity to come visit me in Shanghai! I’d love to host you if you’re coming this way.
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“Harmonize” is a very popular euphemism in China, as are its derivatives, “harmonious.” Consider this introduction to the Expo which uses “harmonious” no less than 3 times in 1 paragraph:
And if you’re a party cadre or the family member of a revolutionary martyr, you get discounted entry to Century Park (in English, no less, because you know, revolutionary martyrs only read English):
Then, of course there are just the misspellings (which has since been corrected),
and of course the seemingly mistranslated:
I always love an Unimaginative Journey and a Goodwill tour of Narcissus Queens…
However, I will give this one credit for the (perhaps unintended) play on the popular health food market in the western US (Trader Joe’s):
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I hadn’t really thought about it…maybe I’m just that good at managing my time…or maybe I’m just not fully committed to anything… I didn’t even realize it until my friend said something to me about it at lunch today: I do a huge variety of stuff here and I’m still trying to do more. Here’s the list, I’m curious what you think…
(Nearly) Full-time job: italki
Part-time job: Talk English
Run my own business: Shop My Shanghai
My personal Blog (rarely): this one
New Tech Blog I’m starting with said friend: http://RedTe.ch
Study Chinese and prepare for HSK Exam (a priority)
Study for the Foreign Service Exam (target date: H1 2010)
Organize (mostly tech) events: Lunch2.0, BarCamp (soon to be more)
Create Content (besides above blogs) and connect with people online: Twitter & Flickr (@TofflerAnn), Youtube, Facebook, LinkedIn
And yet I still find time to look for and evaluate new projects and business opportunities, hang out with friends, date, exercise almost everyday, read actual books offline, listen to lots of podcasts, travel quite a lot, and whatever else. Am I crazy or is this actually all possible? I just figured this was normal Shanghai expat life, everyone trying to do everything (except for those who drink themselves into oblivion, obviously).
So when people ask me, what do you do?, hence the hesitation. Also, probably the same reason I’m not sure when the last day I didn’t do some kind of work was. Does checking and responding to emails count as work?
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