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
Wow I can’t believe November is over already! As I said last month, I wanted November to be all about finding balance. I wanted to stop being such an anti-social workaholic and start enjoying my life in Beijing.
It took me a month to really get things under control, but I’m finally starting to feel better about my workload. I hired an awesome virtual assistant to help me with a few things, I started finding time to get blog stuff done at my day job, I realized the world won’t explode if I take a few days to respond to an email, and I started saying “no” a lot more to potential blog partnerships I know will just become a giant time suck.
This month I also went back to Ningbo for my Master’s graduation! I’m officially a master which is an amazing feeling, and I had such a great time seeing all my old friends again.
Where I’ve Been
Unfortunately for me, I spent most of this month working, although I did manage to take a weekend trip down to Ningbo for my graduation! I also spent much more time exploring other parts of Beijing on the weekend, like the Gulou hutong area and the Sanlitun business and bar district. I started going out to dinner and to bars, forcing myself to be social even when I knew I had too much work to do. Honestly, it was the best thing I could’ve done for my health and sanity.
Heading back to Ningbo for graduation was definitely the highlight of my month. It was so nice to see all my old friends again, and take a weekend break from work and responsibilities. I hit up some of my favorite old restaurants, spent a night drinking and dancing until 4am in the Laowaitan bar district, and even went out salsa dancing with my old crew.
The graduation itself was also pretty fun. Most of the foreign students didn’t have family in attendance, so we took a ton of photos with each other. The ceremony itself was also pretty lame compared to my grand ceremony at GW where Kerry Washington spoke on the National Lawn in front of the Lincoln Memorial. That said, I am pretty proud of myself for earning a Master’s; not everyone has one of those!
While I didn’t go on any weekend trips for Thanksgiving this year, I did have a pretty fun two-day affair with my office and foreign co-workers. After work Thursday night, my co-workers and I headed across the street to a $30 unlimited buffet. These things are usually pretty overpriced in my opinion, but we did fill up on enough sashimi, sake and wine to make the price worth it. Since we were one of the last groups to arrive, they just put a few bottles of wine on our table for us to enjoy (probably so we wouldn’t drunkenly knock any of the glasses over trying to get refills.)
After a lovely dinner, we all headed back to my co-worker’s apartment to drink more. While it was fun, the next morning was horrible. I actually think I was still drunk when I arrived at work the next morning, and I even took a quick nap behind my office door. Thankfully everyone was busy cooking for our office lunch so no one seemed to notice.
Around lunch time I started to feel a bit better, and was able to participate in our giant company potluck. I had no idea how many employees we actually have in our Beijing office because we’re all spread out! I would say we had at least 50 people at the lunch, including a few visiting colleagues from Shanghai. While we didn’t have any turkey or stuffing, I did grab a huge plate of homemade mac and cheese as well as a tiny slice of pumpkin pie!
Wow I sound like a five-year-old, but honestly this was a highlight of my month. Honestly, making friends as an adult is hard, especially if you don’t have time for hobbies.
A few weeks ago it snowed in Beijing, so I decided to go for a walk around Peking University (the Harvard of China) because I live nearby and I was too excited about the snow to stay inside. While I was wandering, I was able to make two separate friends who are both students there. One of them even likes to go salsa dancing, so I think I’ll recruit him to go with me and split the $10 USD cab ride home.
Last week one of my co-workers who lives in my building moved across town to Sanlitun, the business/bar/shopping area. It’s almost a solid hour by subway to get to his place, so I honestly thought him moving would be the worst thing for my social life. However, now that he’s there I’ve really started getting out a lot more. He and his new roommates threw a housewarming party, where I met tons of other expats who are living in Beijing long-term. This is great for me, because honestly I’m tired of making all new friends all the time. I added a few new people on WeChat, so hopefully I’ll have more people to hang out with in the next few months.
This month has also completely solidified my decision to move to the Gulou area and commute to work. All the cool (adult) kids live in the Gulou or Sanlitun area, and I would honestly love to live in a cute Chinese neighborhood! Joella from Paper Crane Stories lived in the Lama Temple area near Gulou and loved it.
It got super cold in Beijing real fast. It was like I blinked and Beijing transformed into Antarctica. Honestly, there were days this month that were 16 degrees F (-9 C.) It was so cold that my phone would shut off the second I even took it out of my pocket. This made it really difficult to explore because I constantly felt like my face was going to freeze off. That said, the snow was actually really fun and I’ve gotten used to the oppressive cold now, so it really doesn’t bother me as much if I’m dressed appropriately.
There were a few days this month with insane pollution. Just to give you a frame of reference, most cities in the US are far under a 50 AQI, which is considered “good.” I usually start wearing a mask around 150-200 AQI. 200 AQI is considered “heavily polluted” with masks recommended, while anything over 300 is considered hazardous with “masks necessary.”
Right now the pollution is at 335 AQI and the government has issued a RED ALERT. They’ve closed all public schools, factories and many major roads to try and clear up the pollution. While this is pretty bad, last week the pollution was OVER SIX HUNDRED for a day. Honestly, it was like the apocalypse descended on China. I ordered a few air purifiers which haven’t come yet, and I’m currently ordering a most intense set of masks.
Getting My Life in Order
It took me pretty much the whole month of November to figure out how to manage my work-life balance to make sure I don’t have any of those anxiety attacks ever again. I started requesting days off when I needed them (no more getting pressured into working 6-day weeks) and I started giving myself permission to have a life outside of work and my blog. It was a hard month getting my crap together, but honestly I’m so much happier and more fulfilled now!
I’ve realized that while I like this job compared to other jobs I’ve had in the past, I’m really just not suited for a full-time office position and that’s okay. I just need to make sure I put my happiness and health as the first priority, and work on paying off these student loans so I can do what I really want to do.
Other Fun Stuff
Here’s some other fun stuff that happened this month
- I judged a debate tournament for work, which was actually pretty fun! It was about whether or not animal testing should be banned, a topic which I know waaaay too much about now.
I got new pages in my passport! I completely ran out of pages thanks to my yearly 2+ China visas along with all those SE Asia visas. The process was surprisingly painless, and only took me an hour. The US is discontinuing the additional pages at the end of this month, so if you want to grab a few more pages (24-48 to be exact) be sure to get them before then! Just keep in mind that you can only do this abroad at an embassy or consulate.
My sink exploded. Literally the handle of my sink blew off and sprayed water EVERYWHERE. It was actually a disaster and happened at 6:50 AM right as I was heading to the debate tournament. Thankfully the kind man who works downstairs took care of everything while I ran off to the tournament, and he was able to get the water shut off and get a cleaner in to mop up all of the water I couldn’t get with multiple towels. Also, it only took them a few days to send someone to fix my sink. While this should probably be a “challenge” I kind of like my new sink and it didn’t completely ruin my “wooden” floors so in all honesty it’s kind of funny in retrospect.
My Most Popular Post
By far my most popular post was The Global Period Taboo, where I talked about why we need to stop viewing women’s periods as a source of shame, and start talking about them as a normal part of life for half the world’s population. I’ve realized that most people tend to like my personal, political and feminist pieces more so than my actual travel writing.
As someone who majored in International Affairs and studied in Washington DC, I get pretty passionate about a lot of issues, and I’d love to really start addressing some more serious topics. The next one I’m going to write about is China’s HIV problem, which is definitely need-to-know info for anyone living or traveling in China.
Also, I think we’ve all decided that I’m going to purchase a menstrual cup and period panties and do a little experiment with them on the road and let you know how suitable they are for travel.
This month I’ve still been sharing some of my favorite photos from my trip to Tibet on Instagram! These two snapshots had the most likes of the month.
Be sure to use the #AdventuresAroundAsia hashtag on your best Asia travel shots for a chance to be featured in a blog post I’m putting together showcasing my favorite Instagramers using this hashtag!
Songs of the Month
For the past few weeks I’ve been mildly obsessed with kizomba music, specifically these two songs. I’ve actually had a really hard time not dancing at my desk while listening to them. Rather than link to Spotify, I thought it might be fun to show you a little kizomba dancing along with the songs. For the first video, skip ahead to 1:00 for the actual song.
Also, both these songs are on Spotify if you want to add them to your playlist!
Coming Up in December 2015
I’m going home for Christmas! Finally after a year and a half I’ll finally be heading home to Seattle for two weeks. This trip is too short and it’s been far too long, but I’m still really excited. Firstly, it’ll be great to finally see my family and whatever friends are home (and my cat.) I also can’t wait to A) stuff my face with any non-Chinese food B) Load up a suitcase with food and toiletries from the US and C) finally take a vacation from working 2 jobs!!
In case anyone is looking at traveling to or from Asia anytime soon, be sure to check out Delta’s website. I found a round trip direct flight from Beijing to Seattle for a little over $500 USD!! I was shocked, not to mention the times are really good so I can take the subway to and from the airport in Beijing, saving me money on a $30 USD cab fare. I also get two checked bags, so I can fill one up with stuff from the US to bring back to China. Whoo!!
I’m on Snapchat!
I didn’t really get the point of Snapchat until recently, but now it’s my favorite social media platform. I’ve been kind of annoyed with all the other social media platforms lately (except Pinterest, I love Pinterest) and Snapchat just seems like the only real, non-curated platform left. I love showing little snapshots of my life that I wouldn’t think to write a blog post about. I make Darth Vader jokes with my pollution mask, try on XL Chinese clothes that are two sizes two small for me, and drool over all the Chinese food. If you like Snapchat and want to follow along, you can find me at Adventures_Asia