Since I’ll be moving to Beijing for the next two years, I figured it would be fun to do monthly recap posts talking about the highlights and challenges of my time in China’s bustling capital (or wherever I may be that month). 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’ve Been up to This Month
This month has been a crazy-busy, whirlwind, emotional roller coaster of highs and lows. With the National Day Holiday, TBEX Asia (my very first travel blogging conference!!), the “taxi incident”, diving headfirst into admissions season working 10 hour days, and celebrating Halloween in China for the 3rd time, I haven’t even had time to breathe! I want to be a “good expat” and explore my adopted home, but with my admissions job, this blog, freelance writing, and developing friendships, I haven’t really had time to get out much. Hopefully things calm down after these next few months and I can take some time to explore China and relax for once in my life.
Where I’ve Been
At the beginning of this month I had a week off for the Chinese National Day. I spent my time exploring Beijing, hitting up a “Vintage Festival,” and photographing the 798 Art District. I snuck into cafes to work without buying coffee and I even babysat a cat!
After the festival I flew to Bangkok for TBEX Asia. Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) is the biggest baddest travel blogging conference around. Every year they have two conferences: one in Europe and one in North America, however it was always too expensive for me to fly all the way there from China! This year they added another TBEX in Asia, and I was FINALLY able to attend. I spent about five days in Bangkok, making it my third trip to Thailand. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay longer than a week because I had to get back to Beijing for work.
I absolutely loved TBEX Asia. I have to write a blog post on everything I learned, and my incredible experience (The secret life of a travel blogger? Are you guys interested?) At first I was intimidated by all the super famous travel bloggers in attendance. For example, I was scared shitless to talk to Alexandra from Alex in Wanderland. Finally I got the nerve to introduce myself and she ended up being extremely nice and even invited me to sit with her at lunch the next day! To me, these people are actual celebrities, but not one person acted like they were too cool to talk to me. Everyone was normal, open, and extremely nice.
Also, I was super surprised by how many people knew who I was. When people introduced themselves and told me they love to read my blog I was beyond flattered every time. Wait…. people have heard of me? Those “views” are actually human beings?! Who knew.
I also learned a lot about my perceived image and overall brand. Apparently I should really just be owning this China niche thing. I was the only China expat travel blogger in attendance. The only one! Not enough people are writing about China so I really need to take advantage of that.
I also realized that I am NOT cut out to be a professional freelance writer. Seeing other people’s passion for the process of writing made me realize that, while I love my blog, I don’t want to be a professional writer. I think my column on Go Overseas is enough for me on that front. What I really love is talking to people, relating to others, consulting, and leading tours. I spent a lot of time brainstorming at TBEX, so once admissions season is over I’ll be whipping out all the ideas I have stored up my sleeve!
Exploring Beijing During National Week
During National Week, a coworker and I went to the “Vintage Festival” in Beijing. There were food stalls representing different restaurants from all over the city and vintage stalls selling everything you could possibly imagine. Unfortunately I was too broke to buy anything but I did get to go roller skating to 80’s music!
Later that week I meet up with a friend I know from my study abroad program in Beijing four years ago! We had a nostalgic lunch at the “Tree Restaurant” from our old study abroad campus, and then headed over to the 798 Art District, where I spent the whole afternoon taking photos of people with sprouts on their heads. Look out for a photo essay because it’s coming soon!
The Amount of Support You Gave Me After My “Taxi Incident”
Honestly, I really almost didn’t publish that post. I was nervous about people telling me I’m dramatic and crazy for feeling unsafe when nothing really happened. I was anxious that all of my friends and family would encourage me to come home. I was worried about potential hate comments…. and I felt uncomfortable getting so personal.
Thankfully, the many kind comments I received from women all over the world made writing the post worth it. My article kind of blew up on Facebook with over 20 thousand Facebook views and counting. So many women have come forward sharing their experiences, and so many people have thanked me for opening up and clarifying a misconception about East Asia that I myself have been perpetuating for years.
Honestly, thank you all for being so incredibly supportive. You are all the best.
I HAVE MONEY!!
The day I left for Thailand I literally had 8 yuan ($1.25 USD) to my name. Some guys felt bad for me at the airport and even bought me some food because I couldn’t afford lunch! Thankfully I had about $150 USD in cash, so I used some of that to get through my first few days in Thailand. Then on the 15th it was pay day and they paid me my FULL salary (minus company loans) even though I only worked for 3 weeks in September.
I actually found it hilarious how many people at TBEX asked me if I had been paid yet. Everyone was so concerned about me after my last monthly recap! I honestly don’t know how people survive living paycheck to paycheck. Being broke is STRESSFUL.
This month was probably one of my best Chinese Halloweens yet! At work we threw a Halloween party for all of the students. We had apple bobbing, a costume contest and a Halloween piñata. Also, a coworker and I created a Halloween mystery game for the kids. We put a bunch of disgusting stuff in bags, telling them it was brains, dead men’s toes, hearts and so on while they touched it blindfolded.
We had to get creative with our ingredients (besides, Chinese kids eat half the “gross” stuff anyway), so we created some interesting concoctions like “we found this in the mall dumpster,” “plastic surgery leftovers,” and an aborted fetus. My coworker and I spent over an hour using tofu, sponges, sausage, jello fruit cups, rice, cooking oil, pistachio shells, and more to make the grossest feeling things we could imagine. The kids were shocked when they saw that our “aborted fetus” was really just a jello cup with fruit chunks in it! (That thing felt weird.)
I also designed a really fun costume for myself this year. I basically wore all the Chinese trends I’ve been dying to try for the last few years. I put “sprouts” in my hair, wore glasses without lenses, bought a misspelled sweatshirt with crochet arms on Taobao, a blue lace skirt, pantyhose and hot pink tennis shoes. I think I did an excellent job and my students were obsessed with my new cute look. A few of them tried to convince me to dress like a trendy Chinese girl all the time!
After the Halloween party a different coworker and I went out to the bar district (Sanlitun) to go bar hopping. He and his friends all dressed in homemade ghost busters costumes, and I felt a little left out. Thankfully one of them had built a “ghost trap” and the group let me throw it at random people’s feet all night while the others would pretend to shoot them with laser guns. We were a huge hit and a few people told me I made their night.
All in all, I’d say this years’ Halloween was pretty solid.
The Taxi Incident
I don’t think I really need to elaborate on this. Basically it sucked, and I suffered from minor PTSD for a few days after I returned back to Beijing.
Too Much Stress and Work
After TBEX I jumped back into work right at the start of admissions cram season. The Early Decision and Early Action deadline was November 1st, which meant that all of my students were cramming to finish their supplemental essays and perfect their common app essay masterpiece. I barely had any sleep at TBEX and immediately I had to work 10-11 hour days six days a week. I was so stressed out I stopped feeling hunger for two weeks (It only recently returned), and I drank way too much wine in the evenings to cope. Also, I had two very minor anxiety attacks for no good reason. NOT. HEALTHY.
After this month I’ve decided I need to take a step back and focus on the things that are really important. I think I’m going to have to be okay with only publishing one blog post a week, and I’m going to cut back on my social media, and maybe even hire a virtual assistant to help me. I still want to keep my personality on all my social media sites, but I think an assistant can help me curate content, share old posts on Twitter and deal with all the follow-unfollow crap that kills my soul.
Publishing that Taxi Post Was Really Difficult For Me
While writing the post about sexual harassment in China was very cathartic, the insane amount of attention I received afterwards was too much for me. I published the post in the evening and refused to look at my computer or phone until the next morning. When I woke up I had an insane amount of texts, Facebook notifications, private Facebook messages, and blog comments from concerned readers, family and friends.
While it’s great to have so much support, sometimes it can be too much too soon, and I was forced to constantly re-live my memories over and over again, while I spent hours reassuring everyone I was fine. Consequently, I didn’t feel so fine. I felt overwhelmed, upset and like I was going to have a meltdown all over again. That plus my crazy working schedule made for a very intense few weeks.
My First Hater.
In all these years of writing I’ve never actually gotten a hate comment. Well… I guess I’m finally famous enough now. I had to deal with a series of Facebook comments from a guy who just didn’t like anything I had to say in my Wuhan post. While I normally wouldn’t care, I was especially angry about this one.
This was a post about female safety BY a woman FOR other women. While I think it’s great if men are interested in the topic and want to help out, I was infuriated at this a-hole for lecturing ME on 1) Chinese safety (he’s never been to China) and 2) Female safety in general. Seriously?! Mansplaining much?
I tried to respond to his condescending comments, but eventually I was so angry with his constant nitpicking I had to just stop. I called him a “troll” and told him I didn’t have the time or energy to respond to his comments any longer. He told me I should just stick to my blog and never try to write professionally. It wasn’t until a few other people started defending me that he backed down.
While I wouldn’t necessary call them “hate comments” I would definitely classify him as a “hater.” Although his constant commenting did get my post a lot more publicity. Thanks, man.
My Most Popular Post
Well…. if it’s not clear already, my most popular post was definitely Abducted in Wuhan: Sexual Harassment in China. Not only has this post gotten an insane amount of views and comments, it also kind of blew up on Facebook with over 20,000 views on my blog Facebook page alone. It inspired amazing comments, women coming forward with similar stores, worried friends and family, and one major hater.
This month on Instagram I’ve been posting my old favorite photos from my trip to Tibet two years ago. It’s so fun to relive the memories and share all of this stunning photography that’s never seen the light of day!
It’s kind of funny that one of my favorite photos of myself is also my most popular photo of the month for Instagram. This photo here actually has a much deeper story to go along with it. A few months before I was set to leave for Tibet, a woman with terminal brain cancer reached out to me and asked me to leave her name in a sacred place. Hanging these prayer flags was my way of honoring her and her memory.
As I mentioned last month, I’m going to start featuring people who use the #AdventuresAroundAsia hashtag. Here’s my favorite from this month, taken by @WilsonsWanderings!
Song of the Month
I stumbled on this song while browsing Spotify and I’ve been obsessed for the last few weeks! I’m always jamming out to this song in my #PurpleOffice at work.
What I’m Watching
I’m so behind on reading other blogs this week, I decided to share a video instead. Right when I was feeling the most overwhelmed I’ve felt in a while, I watched this time management video by Marie Forleo (my idol.) All I’m going to say about this video is: Life. Changing.
Coming Up in November 2015
Spoiler Alert: I passed my dissertation and I’ll be heading to Ningbo for my graduation ceremony next week! Aside from graduation and judging a debate tournament for Chinese kids, I don’t have much going on for now. I’m just going to focus on time management, reducing stress, exercising more and getting my life in order…. You know, adult stuff.
Read Next: Take a look at what I was up to last month