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I’ve noticed that the more I travel and the busier I become, the more impossible it becomes to keep up with my travels in real-time. Well, never fear monthly recap posts are here!
What I Was Up to This Month
I stayed in Beijing for all of November, which to be honest, was kind of ‘blah’. I had a few pleasant highs, and a few not-so-pleasant lows, but the challenges and highlights of the month weren’t nearly as dramatic as October.
So what really went down this month? Well, I wrote a post about the election and got harassed on Facebook by Trump supporters. Then I spilled a cup of coffee on my laptop and spent 6.5 hours in the Apple Store. My boss also told me I’m not allowed to go home for Christmas…. so that’s great.
Where I Went
And by literally nowhere I mean I stayed in Beijing the whole month, going from the office to my apartment and back. Although I did get to do a little bit of Hutong exploring!
1. Awesome Hutong Tours
One of the biggest highlights of the month was embarking on two incredible tours right in my backyard. The first tour was with Context Tours, a company that does small group and private tours for the intellectually curious traveler. These tours have a 6-person maximum and are all led by Ph.D. and MA level scholar guides.
For my tour, I decided to embark on a Hutong Walks tour in Beijing, and despite living in the hutongs for almost a year, I was constantly learning new things! My guide was great, and he actually used to work as a study abroad residence director in Beijing. When I told him I studied abroad with the Alliance for Global Education, we discovered that he’s actually really close friends with my old residence director. Small world!
Next up was a really fun food tour through Lost Plate. I actually first saw this tour on Evo Terra’s Snapchat, when he was invited to test out their food tour in Chengdu. The owner of Lost Plate actually found me through Evo’s Snapchat too, when Evo gave me a shoutout at TBEX!
Overall the tour was really great. With unlimited beer and a tuk-tuk rides between each destination, the only thing that could make the tour better was the incredible food we had at each spot. From Chinese duck burritos to alcoholic tapioca pudding, everything we ate was delicious. (I’m just making these names up, but that’s basically what they were.)
Look out for some posts in the next few weeks detailing these two tours, along with the food tour I took last month too. What can I say? I like cool day tours.
2. Awesome Dinner Parties
For some reason, my apartment decided to host a few epic dinner parties this month. First up was a roommate hotpot party the week before Thanksgiving. We bought a ton of ingredients and stuffed our faces with delicious spicy food until our stomachs were about to burst.
The weirdest part? Earlier that week I’d been contacted by a guy I used to row crew with in high school. We weren’t ever super close, but we rowed for the same boathouse and saw each other around a lot. Out of the blue, he contacted me saying he was in Beijing for a presentation, so I invited him and his business partner to my hotpot party. Turns out his business partner went to high school with my brother and actually knows him too. SUPER small world.
The hotpot party ended up being a huge success, and my guests got along great with all my roommates. We stayed up until about 1am playing a stupid trivia card game my roommate found at Good Will while drinking Chinese beer and whiskey. All in all, it was a great night!
The next weekend my roommate threw a Thanksgiving potluck in our apartment for her architecture coworkers. All of my roommate’s guests brought way too much amazing homemade food, so we had leftovers for DAYS, and I successfully made mulled wine for the first time. All I can say is that this potluck inspired me to step up my cooking game.
3. I have a new computer!
While the way I ended up with a new computer isn’t necessarily a happy story… at least I have a beautiful new Macbook Air to play with!
For the last few years I’ve been working on a giant Macbook Pro, that feels like a brick in my bag. While the computer was great, it was horrible for traveling, so I always knew I’d have to get a lighter machine if I were to travel full-time. Travel bloggers and backpackers alike would laugh and stare in shock when I pulled it out of my bag. “You travel with THAT?!”
Now my new computer has inspired me to start working in cafes (I went to the cat cafe in my neighborhood twice), and I have no problem carrying it around to get work done anywhere!
1. So… Trump Won
I think we’re all sick and tired of talking politics, so I won’t bore you with more sad political nonsense. But what I will say is that I’ve been very disappointed by the election as well as a lot of Trump’s decisions since. I’ve been trying to stay positive, but with the state of my liberal Facebook newsfeed, that’s pretty hard to do. Now whenever I need an escape I read a book or watch a movie- I just can’t handle my Facebook anymore!
About a week after the election, I wrote a post detailing my thoughts and emotions about Trump’s victory. While a lot has happened since I wrote it, I think the majority of what I’ve said is still really relevant and I suggest you all check it out.
While many democrats, republicans, and independents thanked me for writing such an open, honest, and understanding post, I somehow was discovered by the angry Trump bigot squad. I was attacked on my blog Facebook page, with people spamming political memes, calling me names, telling me to go kill myself etc.
It was a bit annoying but I didn’t worry too much about it because these people were all complete idiots, and I’m pretty sure none of them even read what I wrote. I guess that’s what I get for combining “liberal”, “millennial”, and “Trump” in the same title.
2. I broke my old computer on Thanksgiving
This Thanksgiving I wasn’t feeling very well (probably from working too much), and I decided to take a sick day. Midway through the afternoon I was sipping coffee and working on my laptop… until I knocked my coffee over and it went EVERYWHERE.
I immediately picked up my computer and held it upside down. I then cleaned all the coffee off my laptop before I even bothered with the desk. Only a small amount went into the keyboard, so I assumed my computer would be just fine. But to be safe I took off all the keys on my computer and cleaned the inside with a wet wipe. Only a teeny tiny dribble of coffee came out as I set to work on my computer upside down.
I then went on an Apple support chat, who told me I should visit the Apple Store to get my computer checked. There were no available appointments at any of Beijing’s 5 Apple Stores for the next few days, so I decided to go in without an appointment. It took me 45 minutes in stop and start traffic to get there (seriously, Beijing’s traffic is insane) and when I finally arrived, I was told that I needed to wait at least 3 days after the spill before they could open my computer. Seriously??
So I waited three days with my computer open upside down over a fan. I thought it was ridiculous considering the small amount of coffee that got onto my laptop, and to be honest, my biggest worry was whether or not they’d help me put all the keys back on. When Sunday arrived I headed to the Apple Store right when they opened to get a ticket (there were no appointments for a solid week). After waiting an hour and a half, I was finally able to see a genius.
Well… my computer was fried- NOT from the keyboard, but from the BOTTOM. Apparently, a little bit of liquid snuck into the underside of my computer and destroyed everything.
Long story short, I bought a new computer and spent hours in the Apple Store transferring data since I hadn’t done a backup in a few months and I wasn’t sure how much my Crashplan had saved. Overall I spent 6.5 hours in the Apple Store with no food or water and I thought I was going to die.
Thankfully I was able to get all of my photos off my old computer, but unfortunately, I don’t have the disk to install Lightroom with me in China. Since all of my edited photos are stored on Lightroom (hopefully) or were lost by the liquid damage, I just have my old unedited originals left and I don’t have the ability to edit any of my new photos for a while. Hopefully, my parents can find the Lightroom disk when they get home next week and help me out so I can have beautifully edited photos for all of you!
3. My job is still a giant pain
Do any of you have a younger sibling? My brother used to do this thing where he’d run out in front of me and then stop suddenly so I’d walk into him. He’d do it over, and over, and over again until I’d scream and hit him… and then I’d get in trouble!
Well… my job is kind of like that.
The college counseling department of my company had a big meeting earlier this month where we aired our grievances. My boss explained why they had yet to hire another Western counselor (while my coworker and I rolled our eyes), and came up with two solutions to get us through the short term until admissions season is over.
(Want to know what I was so mad about? …Just look at October.)
Firstly, I was allowed to teach classes to all of our students (four classes in total) so we wouldn’t have any one-on-one meetings for two whole weeks, saving me 1-4 hours of meetings a day. Secondly, we were to hire a part-time essay editor to take a portion of the admissions essays off of all of our plates. The first compromise happened… the second one didn’t.
I even personally found a part-time essay editor and put him in touch with the company. This guy is a professional blogger and writer, and we all okayed his sample editing… then my company blew him off and never responded to any of his emails, even though they said they’d be in touch and promised me they’d get in contact with him multiple times.
On top of that, they told me I couldn’t go home for Christmas. Why? I still don’t even know. They said my coworker is going home for Christmas and we both can’t be gone at the same time… even though he’ll be teaching classes next month so we won’t have any student meetings. When I pointed this out, they said we were supposed to use this time to edit essays. When I mentioned I can edit essays from anywhere, my boss changed the subject.
Like I said, complete BS. It’s not like I don’t have 20 vacation days just sitting there unused, with 4 additional days I’ve saved from overtime…
So our “compromise” was that I’d get to go home for the holidays a few days after Christmas, and in doing that they’d let me go home for 2 weeks.
I don’t know what the hell my company is doing, but they’re making it very hard for me to stick out my contract. The only reason I haven’t quit yet is A) I don’t want to screw over my students in the middle of admissions season, B) I’m almost done paying off my student loans, C) I want my free flight home that I earned through working there for over a year and D) I still have 20 free vacation days.
To be honest, none of this would be a big deal if my company was just honest with me. I feel like every other word out of my manager and boss’ mouths are either lies or complete bullshit. Don’t say you’re going to hire someone and waste everyone’s time. Don’t make up crap about why I can’t go home. Just be straight with me and I’ll respect you.
This is why I need to work for myself.
My Most Popular Post
My most popular post was definitely my Trump post which blew up on Facebook… but I also got a lot of love for my Holiday Gift Guide for girls who travel, and my tale of hiking Huashan, the most dangerous hike in the world! You know… that time I strapped myself into a harness and climbed a metal ladder down the side of a cliff onto a wooden plank nailed into the side of the cliff wall.
The first most popular photo was one of my last shots of hiking Hua Shan before I headed down to the cable car. I think one of the reasons why this photo was so popular is because of the photo caption, talking about my feelings in this most recent election.
The US election yesterday was one of the bigger disappointments of my adult life. While I’m still pretty upset about the outcome, I was most afraid of what the election might do to my female, minority, Muslim and LGBT friends back in America. Thankfully I was so pleasantly surprised to see the outpouring of support from my friends towards those communities. I see people making career changes, volunteering and standing up for our values. No matter who is president of the US, love trumps hate every time.
This second photo was taken near Hong Kong’s Stanley Market. I loved how the couple really added to this view. They look so cute together!
Song of the Month
I’m really enjoying Halcyon Birds by Broken Back, which is such a fun upbeat song! Also, the music video is pretty cool too- maybe underwater dancing will become a new trend?
What I’m Reading
Guess who FINALLY finished Game of Thrones. Seriously. I finished! In the last month, I read not one but two books! (I guess that’s what happens when you’re not reading epically long novels in a 5-volume set as one file on your Kindle).
Eligible by Kurtis Sittenfeld
First I read Eligible, which was a fun beach read that didn’t make me feel too guilty since it’s based on Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice. I thought it was extremely clever how the author managed to make such a dated concept fit in the modern age.
The Bennets are country club republicans in Cincinnati Ohio who hit financial trouble after Mr. Bennet’s heart attack. Unfortunately, the family doesn’t have any medical insurance… oh, and Mrs. Bennet is a shopaholic. Liz and Jane swoop in from NYC to help out, which is when they meet Chip Bingley, a doctor famous for his stint on the Bachelor-esque show “Eligible”.
If you love Jane Austen you’ll get a kick out of this.
How Not to Travel the World by Lauren Juliff
The next book I read was Lauren Juliff’s memoir novel How Not to Travel the World. I’ve been getting around to reading this book for over a year now, and I’m really glad I did. Lauren starts the book as she begins her first round the world trip. With everyone doubting her, Lauren was determined to prove them wrong, despite the fact that she suffers from debilitating anxiety and had never eaten rice or eggs before.
I literally almost died when she described herself in China attempting to eat noodles with one chopstick in each hand! I would’ve given anything to witness that in real life.
The Best Blog Posts
Leaving is Easy, Fighting is Harder– Adventurous Kate
I’m not the only travel blogger that wrote about the election this month. While I’m not living in the US right now, I really relate to Kate’s words on fighting for your country and your values when it might be easier to run away. I will admit that a few days after the election I was ready to shrug off my USA affiliation altogether. Screw you guys! I haven’t lived in the US in how long??
Well, I still care about my country and what goes on back home, and I’m still extremely passionate about politics and social issues. Living abroad (and my degree in international affairs) has taught me that what happens back in the US affects the entire world whether we like it or not.
No Aunt Marge, I Still Don’t Know What I’m Doing With My Life– Heart My Backpack
I think we all feel a little insecure about our careers at some point, and to be honest, I hate telling people I’m a college counselor in China. It doesn’t sound like a real job, and it’s not the career track I want to be on- which is why I always bring up building my website into a business the first chance I get.
Well, Silvia works in a grocery store in Norway, and at 28 years old, she’s really feeling the pressure to settle down and find a career. No matter what age or life path we’re on, I think we can all identify with Silvia’s words about wanting to be impressive, and feeling lost and confused.
Learning to Love Myself– The Sweetest Way
“When you’re making poor choices, choices that defy what you know in your heart to be right, you never will know self-love.”
Wow, this was a post I really needed to read. In this post, Leah talks about listening to your heart and doing what’s best for you. Stop self-medicating with alcohol when you need to process your emotions. Don’t keep traveling when your body tells you to slow down. You may not control what happens to you, but you can control how you react.
What’s Happening in December 2016?
Next week Chris from Aussie on the Road will be paying me a visit in Beijing, which should be a nice breath of fresh air. I have a lot of fun activities planned for his visit, but I can’t tell you since they’re a surprise!
Then at the very end of December, I’ll be heading back to Seattle to celebrate the Holidays. I’ve already told my mom I want to do a fake Christmas with Thanksgiving food. I’m really, really excited for this much-needed break, from both work and China. I just really want to sleep in, work on my blog, eat Western food and see my family.
This month will also be the final month of admissions season (thank god). I don’t know if I can handle editing any more essays!
How was your November? Let me know below!
8 comments on “This Beijing Life: Month 15”
Loved this blog post! Makes me want to visit the hutongs for sure. Can’t wait to see you later this month!! PS: we are surviving the election results by not reading too many FB articles and staying away from all the 24hr news channels…?
Can’t wait to see you too! I’m counting down the days until my vacation
Yay! Can’t wait for next week!
Feels like forever ago that I first booked the flight. It’s hard to believe that I’ll be touching down in like five days!
Hurry up already! hahaha
Ah, so much I want to say. First of all, wasn’t the Lost Plate tour great?! I did it too and really loved it. Now I really want to do the Context hutong tour. I remember hearing all about the company at last year’s TBEX and the tours seem up my alley. Also, I feel you on the laptop thing. I’ve been traveling with my enormous laptop for two years now, and it is almost embarrassingly big and heavy and such a pain to lug around on the Beijing subway every day! It also happens to be on its last leg, so I’ve been contemplating buying the same computer you bought (which would be my first Mac). How do you like your new computer?
You should definitely go on the Context tour (or one of them- there are a bunch of awesome looking ones), I can even introduce you if you want! As for the computer, I love it! While there’s less space for my photos etc., I love how light it is. It has the SD card reader and two USB slots, which is super convenient. I definitely don’t mind throwing it in my bag to go work in a cafe, and it’s SO FAST.
Sounds like a rough month. Somehow I think the majority of the planet suffered post-election blues. My great realization: enough pinning hope on the president for change, there is a lot that I can do on an individual level, and it’s much more rewarding (and not in the little hands of some ego-manic with twitter issues). Love those noodles. Don’t let any company BS you around, life’s too short!
Thanks so much Adam- that’s what I’ve been working on too. I’ve just been focusing on making a difference in my own way, donating to important causes etc.