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 was up to this month
To be honest, it feels like nothing really happened this month! I should probably take notes throughout the month so I can remember what I actually did, because January was definitely one big blur.
I started the month out in Seattle, where I had a very uneventful New Year with my family. After the last two new years and how I celebrated Halloween and Thanksgiving, it was kind of nice to have a relaxing holiday for once.
After a final few days in Seattle, I hopped back on a plane to Beijing. I definitely wasn’t ready to head back, but when you have a real-person job abroad, you don’t exactly get a say over how many days you get off. This last month in Beijing was pretty great though. I went to salsa (FINALLY), searched for new apartments, and refused to work any overtime. Sounds like a good month, am I right?
Where I Went
I spent the first week of the month at home in Seattle, and then headed back to Beijing for the remainder of the month!
Aside from all the highlights of being home that I mentioned last month, here are some great things that happened in Beijing.
I stopped working so much
For those of you who have been reading my story the last few months, you know my work-life balance has been horrible. I was working 6-day weeks and overtime at my job as a college counselor, due to the busy admissions season. On top of that, I was also trying to manage this blog, as well as the freelance writing I do for Go Overseas.
I had 3 small panic attacks (which had never happened to me before), lost my sense of hunger for two weeks, and gained a bunch of weight due to sitting on my butt all day.
Thankfully, now that admissions season is over, I’ve refused to work overtime because it’s really not necessary. I only meet with 1-3 kids a day, and most of the essay editing has finished. Other than a big presentation I gave on US summer school programs, I’ve had a lot of free time at work, which I’ve used to write blog posts, do freelance writing, or get up to speed on the US democratic primaries.
I developed healthy habits
As I just mentioned, I was really not healthy this fall. Now that work has calmed down, I started cooking more meals with fresh vegetables from the small grocery store near my house. I also started doing 30 days of yoga with Adriene on youtube, and when the weather is nice, I go on runs to Peking University (the Harvard of China) where I explore the campus.
I got a little off track when I had a horrible cold, but I’m looking to keep these habits up for the rest of the year!
I got out more
Is it just me or are all my highlights very pathetic? But after months of not having a social life, it’s a big deal to finally start making friends and connections. This month I went out salsa dancing for the first time and attended a “singles night” which was kind of lame, but I ended up becoming friends with a few Chinese girls.
I also joined a women’s networking group in Beijing, where I attended the first bi-monthly dinner event. It was awesome to meet such a large group of strong, talented, and intelligent women from all over the world. At the dinner, a PhD student from Jamaica explained to us the situation of women in politics in her home country. It was such an interesting speech, and I couldn’t help but think the problems Jamaica faces ring true for women in government globally.
While I was there, I met a girl who runs a group for female writers in Beijing, so I’ll definitely be meeting up with them soon too. They even want to feature me on their blog!
I booked a trip to the Philippines
I kind of forgot the Chinese New Year holiday was coming up because I was so distracted by Christmas. By the time I realized I needed to book a ticket, everything was ridiculously expensive! Of course, the New Year is the time that everyone in China travels, so I couldn’t find anything even remotely affordable.
Since I work for an agency and not a school, I actually only get the seven government holidays off for the New Year, not the three weeks to a month school teachers get. I thought our limited breaks were kind of ridiculous since most of our students won’t be coming in anyway. Why not just give everyone some time off after the busy application season? It’s not like we’re doing anything!
The worst part is that when I say we get seven days off, I mean we get seven days off including weekends. That’s how holidays work in East Asia. You have to work on the weekends to make sure you literally only get seven days off, rather than the nine days you’d get in America if you took Monday-Friday off (plus two weekends on either side). Because of this, you have to use more vacation days if you want to go out of town. Ugh.
Since the tickets were so expensive, I had resigned myself to staying in Beijing, exploring the city and catching up on my blog. Then I discovered my boss had canceled students for a second week after the Chinese New Year! We still have to use our vacation days, but it’s less of a big deal if we leave. I’m not really sure what people are going to do in the office with no students but… that’s not my problem.
So when I found this out, I spent an entire day looking up the cheapest tickets possible. My only prerequisite was that I wanted to go somewhere outside China (including Hong Kong and Macau). I checked all the dates surrounding the New Year, and every country in Asia. I used Skyscanner, ITA Matrix, and Google Flights to try and find the best deals. It was crazy!
The cheapest tickets were to Moscow, and I was actually this close to booking the flight, but I was worried about the visa. I called the Russian embassy in China literally 200 times trying to get through and ask if I could apply for a visa in China without a Chinese residence permit because apparently, that’s an issue. They said that since I’m American, I would get the visa but it would be a $130 USD fee…. Yeah, nope.
SO the next cheapest option was…. Manila! I just visited the Philippines last summer (still working on all those posts…) but a small typhoon and crazy monsoon rain messed with my itinerary. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world though because I ended up visiting Siargao, which was amazing! This time I’ll be visiting Bohol and Siquijor for the next two and a half weeks.
Wow… that was long, but booking that trip basically made my month. And I only spent a little over $300 USD round trip!
Aside from the challenges I wrote about last month like feeling rushed and guilty while I was home, here are the other crappy things that happened.
I had the worst cold of my life
Beijing had this crazy cold flying around when I returned back to China. This cold was so bad I spent an entire day in bed and had to take two half-sick days. I actually thought I was going to die while meeting with students, and I’m sure nobody wanted to be locked in that office with me.
I got scammed out of $45 and then got arrested
This one deserves its own blog post, so I’m not going to spoil it here. But to give you a little teaser, basically, I was given 300 yuan in fake money, which I assumed must’ve come out of the ATM. Who else would give me a 100? It’s the highest currency! So I went to the bank to tell them they had given me fake money, but it turns out the money had come from somewhere else, and I’d gotten elaborately scammed by a taxi driver before I went home for Christmas (more on that later).
The bank had to take the money from me, and then we called the police to report it once I figured out where it had come from. This is the best part so I don’t want to spoil it, but I ended up getting hauled off in a police car due to a visa registration issue. My HR manager had to rescue me from the police station and explain to them an elaborate set of lies before they let me go.
Now everyone in my office jokes that I’m a fugitive, and every time I go to the bank or ATM they tell me not to get arrested.
My Most Popular Post
My most popular post this month was 20 Signs You’ve Been Living in China Too Long, where I basically make fun of myself for how “Chinese” I’ve become over the last three years. The next most popular was Adventures Around Asia Turns Four! Where you guessed it, I finally celebrated my four-year blogging anniversary!
My most popular Instagram this month was the afternoon sun shining on Dongqian lake in Ningbo. I took this photo two years ago when my fellow Chinese English teachers took me there for Christmas!
My next most popular Instagram was of the Yu Gardens in Shanghai during the summer. While this place is always packed with Chinese tourists, I love the traditional Chinese architecture.
A photo posted by Richelle (@adventuresaroundasia) on
A photo posted by Richelle (@adventuresaroundasia) on
Song of the Month
I heard this first song on a Snapchat video by Globe Trottica while she was swimming on a beach in Cambodia. I immediately messaged her “WHAT SONG IS THIS?” and now it’s one of my favorites
I’m also super obsessed with this song and I’ve been listening to it on repeat for the last week or so.
What I’m Reading
Solo Female Travel in Bangladesh– Teacake Travels
What a bada**! This post actually makes me want to go to Bangladesh. But while I’m a big proponent of solo travel, I might want to do Bangladesh with another person. Any takers?
What I Don’t Like About Living in Korea – Willful and Wild Hearted
I really appreciated this post about what Laura didn’t like about living in Korea, especially since many of these things exist in China too. While I knew there was some anti-foreigner sentiment in South Korea, I had no idea bars put up signs barring foreigners from entering! Also, while the pouty girlfriend thing exists in China, I was shocked by how childish the begging gets in Korea. Watch the video to see for yourself!
Regardless of the article, I still love Korea! I just think it’s interesting to see a well-rounded perspective of a place, especially from a person who lives there.
Why I Want to Help Other Women Who Fall Pregnant When Travelling in Asia – Huffington Post
This is another post written by Alice of Teacake Travels (superstar of the month award?), but I couldn’t help but include it. A while back, Alice wrote a post about her experience getting pregnant in Asia, and her issues finding a place to have an abortion. Here she explains more about her decision and why she decided to tell the public about her experience.
Why You should Choose the lifestyle you want over the person you want– Thought Catalogue
This post really reminded me of that post I wrote a while back about leaving my boyfriend to travel the world. I think of my “ghost self” and what my life would be like had I moved to Australia to be with him, and I can’t even imagine it! When you choose the lifestyle you want, the right person will come along. Just be true to yourself and don’t make too many compromises for love, otherwise, you’ll wake up one day and wonder where your life went. Also, small feminist rant here, but why is it usually the woman who needs to compromise for love? Screw that.
Coming up in February 2016
As I’m sure you know, I’m headed to the Philippines for most of February!!! I’m actually writing this post from the airport right now. I’ll be in the Philippines from the 4th– 22nd, so basically the whole month!
I’ll have a quick pit-stop in Manila and leave the next morning for Bohol, where I’ll spend some time on Alona Beach, as well as a more secluded hostel house in the jungle. I also plan on renting a motorbike to explore, doing some scuba diving, seeing the chocolate hills and fawning over the tarsier monkeys. Next, I’ll head to Siquijor, a slightly off-the-beaten-path island that still practices witchcraft! Everyone who’s been here recommends it, so I decided to lump it in with Bohol since it’s so close.
While I still haven’t been to Palawan and the beautiful beaches of El Nido, I really want to take my time and enjoy the places I visit. This fall was so crazy, I want to relax and enjoy the local culture and the areas I visit. Since I’m traveling solo, I don’t have to make any compromises, and I can get my relaxation, along with the adventure I’ve been craving since my last trip over the summer!
While those of you who follow me on Snapchat already know, SURPRISE: I found an apartment to move into! I’m keeping the details secret for now, but I’ll be sure to write all about it and share photos when I move in! Just to give you a hint: it’s in the Gulou Area, and I live on a hutong street. I’m so excited!
Finally (for the ladies), I finally was able to test out the Diva Cup, and I received some of those THINX period panties in the mail last week. I’ll be using them both while traveling in the Philippines (TMI), so I’ll be sure to let you know how they go.
Read Next: Get pumped for my trip to the Philippines by reading about my adventure in Siargao!