From Beijing, to Orléans, with Love

Yeah. I moved out of Beijing, China in mid-July. I’m heading to Orléans (or as i have been calling it, old Orleans) in September. And I have so many feelings about it. Let’s use our questions words to talk about it:

Paris, a while ago.

Why am I moving? I was accepted into TAPIF, which is a program run by the French gov for placing English assistants in France. I’ve applied to this many times, been accepted and rejected before. This time both my boyfriend and I were accepted to the program and placed in a city together. I am definitely sad to leave China, I really loved all my time there. I spent 18 months teaching kindergarten to insanely cute children. Who wouldn’t miss that? Sometimes it just time to move on. I’m 25 and I really can’t keep eating all those noodles (or can I? Let me know…).

How am I going to France? I’m in the TAPIF program. You are placed as an English assistant in a classroom. The application opens in October, you write a french essay, have a language teacher write a rec, another teacher, submit transcripts, etc. I believe you have to have at least 3 years of higher education, a b2 level of french (sure..), some experience teaching, and I don’t think there is an age limit. The youngest I’ve seen applying is 21 years and the oldest I’ve seen is 30. I’ll probably do a TAPIF series because I have enjoyed reading about others experiences and found them helpful. If you want more info right now, just good TAPIF.

When am I moving? The end of September! I start working in October, but I arrive a week early so I can get my phone and bank and stuff set up.

What am I doing there? Teaching English! Mainly assisting middle schoolers in English. It’ll definitely be different for me because I’m used to being fully in charge of one classroom. Now I’ll be assisting in many classroom. Also, my students will be older, around 11-15 years old I believe. I will also be traveling, drinking wine, biking, re-learning French. Orléans is in the Loire valley so there are lots of vineyards but also lots of bike trails.

Paris, right after they won the World Cup in 2018 !

Who am I going with? My boyfriend, Johnny. He is better at french than me so he pretty much had to go, but he also wanted to go. TAPIF will place you and a sigfig together if you BOTH get accepted.

I’m going to miss China, and all the insane friends I made there. I feel very thankful for my time there and what I learned. Mainly, that I love iced americanos. Here’s some silly pictures because now I’m SAD!

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Seoul

a quick Hongdae weekend

A friend and I went on a trip to Seoul a few weeks ago with one of my work friends. It was perfect. Friday night partying, Saturday morning coffee then a full day of quirky shopping and cafe hopping. Then Sunday we jetted home, just catching the sunrise and cute robots at Incheon Terminal 2. 

train from airport to the city

The flight over was so easy. We had a row of three for the two of us, so the middle seat became the shared snack chair. When we landed we quickly went through immigration and then headed on to the metro. The Seoul metro is super easy to use. Before you leave the airport, go to the QS25 and get t-money cards. They even have the amount you need for your final distance taped on the counter. True heroes. 

I love that Seoul has layers, never a boring view

We stayed at Kimchee Hostel in Sincheon, right by hongdae station, and it was perfect for a quick trip (HI click me for discounts!). If i was going to stay in Seoul for longer than two nights I probably would have gotten a different hostel/airbnb. This place was two seconds away Hongdae, the collegey/party area in case you don’t know. We went out in search of a CHEESE PLATTER because Beijing severely lacks cheese platters. we found this amazing burrata plate and got a bottle of wine to go with it. After than we went to a pizza place and waited for some friends to join us. 

I think my favorite thing about Seoul is the energy. It truly is a 24 hour city, I have found people out early in the morning at markets and then people just heading out for the night at one am. 

We stayed out until four, I think? Which was leaving early from this place called Jake’s bar? Mike’s bar? Whatever the name, it was foreigner crazy. I mean, I felt like i was in America. This is a bad thing, it was just so interesting to find myself some place like that. There are definitely areas in Beijing where I can find tons of foreigners.

The next morning we woke up around nine and headed out for coffee. If you find yourself in Seoul with no plans, please just go on a cafe walk. I can’t tell you how many cafe’s we saw all over the place. Twelve? Twenty? Two Hundred? It’s a lot. Prepare yourself. Also, just do a photo walk! Hongdae is soooo interesting, you need to do a photo walk to force yourself to look at all the stuff around.

PHOTO WALK TIME

This beautiful church has a bar inside it
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Please please please go to a bbq place. Even if you are vegetarian, you can get mushrooms. It’s just so much fun. It’s also quite cheap, you can find these places everywhere all over hongdae, and of course all of Seoul. Go with friends and share a bunch of meats and garlic and lettuce. Honestly, its just a lot of lettuce and sauces when I go.

The morning we left.

China is weirdddd

This is true, China is weird. I love it, this post is just about how my six months in China have been filled with extremely surprising things.

  1. My walk from my home to the closest coffee shop is weird. I exit my door, pass by two old tour buses full of old men playing cards. These buses never move, they are there specifically for the card playing. I think walk through a parking lot and at some point the cars just start parking wherever they can. It doesn’t matter if its a spot. After that, I walk over a bridge, past a kindergarten that has never had kids there to my knowledge, and then a park. After that I see a brothel, a new paris themed BBQ restaurant, liquor store, chicken restaurant open until 2 am, and finally MAAN coffee. This is all within a 5-8 minute walk.
  2. I will see an incredibly fashionable man or women, completely decked out in the hottest clothes and also the the silliest off brands ever walking right next to each other no matter what neighborhood.
  3. I once saw a grandma try to make her granddaughter try and ride a bike with roller skates on. This is one of my favorite memories ever.
  4. You can meet someone once, get invited out with the and be on the craziest, wildest ride. I have friends who have gone out to a movie with new friends, ended drinking their weight in vodka for free, and fall asleep in bed with a pint glass of red wine in hand. Like, that movie Crazy Rich Asians… it rings true in Beijing just as it does in Singapore.
  5. In a store I have found spicy cheetos, chicken flavor cheetos, AND SEAWEED CHEETOS. Why! Why China, why!!
  6. You will see these men driving around these trucks of various items. I have seem various straw items, coconuts, watermelons, fruit, plants(small and large), and then my favorite, small pets such as turtles, hamsters and fish. These men just drive around and park in a high traffic area to sell.

 

Reverse Culture Shock?

Here is a lonnng ramble of my reverse culture shock thoughts when I was in America.

Why does no one take apple pay, I hate taking my wallet everywhere with me. It’s so easy to just have my phone with all my info. No debit cards, no swiping or inserting cards. Just simple. Even the tiniest hole in the wall takes wechat.

Why is everyone talking to me? I need people to leave me alone to my thoughts. Just people we are in the midwest it doesn’t mean we are FRIENDS. I don’t care what you think of the weather.  My lyft drivers are talking to me. I cannot DEAL. And I’m not an introverted person, I just want my space.

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The Soft Field

I can’t walk everywhere and there are almost no bike lanes???? No public transportation????????? We just expect everyone to have a car? That’s insanity. Driving is tiring. I can’t believe people do that as a job. 

I was in a car the other day, and the car next to me was playing their music loudly out their windows. And I just had to sit there and listen to it. I was shook. Also all the cars are staying in one lane, which I totally forgot was a thing. Motorcycles don’t just go around cars!

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Health. In China, do I eat noodles? Yes. I also eat mainly vegetables, fruit, soups, locally grown EVERYTHING, and I am incredibly active. I walk or bike to work everyday, I often go on walks after work too just so I can get out of the apartment. I walk or bike to dinner. This is the norm for most people there. In America, people sit in their car, sit at their desk, sit at home and watch tv. So much sitting. I worked at Starbucks before moving to China so I had around six to eight hours of time being on my feet. Not all people have the luxury of an active job!

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Now that I check the pollution everyday, I realize that America is a lot more polluted than we think! Currently Shanghai and Lexington Kentucky have the same AQI (AirQualityIndex), and yet everyone asks me about the pollution. We tend to think if we can’t see it then it’s not there.

There are going to be friends who understand that you’re a little bit of a different person now, and there are going to be people who don’t. I know I am a different person, I have a confidence and independence that I didn’t have before moving. I have different value, different tolerance for spicy foods, I understand why Chinese tourists take pictures of everything. My move to China has totally changed me for the better, and specifically being in a big city. There are more brunch places in this city than I have Sunday mornings. When moving back to America it would be hard to live somewhere that felt so small and boring.

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How I Handle FoMo From My Favorite Season In America

So it is September, which means this time last year I was hanging my head out a drive thru window, handing out three to four hundred pumpkin spice lattes a day.

Now though, I am celebrating the 80 degree weather because at least it’s not 100 degrees. I love fall, and September marks the start of fall. Pumpkins, Halloween, bonfires, changing leaves. I am so excited to see what fall in Beijing looks like, there are five zillion parks here so it’s probably gorgeousssss.

What I am not excited for is missing the silly material things that come when the seasons change. So here is my ridiculous, indulgent, silly list of things I will miss this fall.

  1. Hobby lobby. Okay I don’t actually ever buy any of the things from hobby lobby. Instead I just get a PSL from starbucks, head down the road to the nearest one, and then look at all the stuff. If you have been to a hobby lobby you will know what I mean. It reminds me of being in school when all your crafts from art class were orange themed, or on the weekends your parents would get pumpkins to carve, take you to an apple orchard, make apple cider on the stove top! How I am dealing without it: I started pinteresting. A lot.
  2. Marshall’s/Home Goods. Unlike hobby lobby, where I wouldn’t ever really buy that stuff, I would buy ALL the home decor from Home Goods and Marshall’s. And the candles! The candles guys! I cannot tel you how amazing they are. My friend Ema and I would go and just smell them for 30 minutes. This is kind of embarrassing to write down but it’s true! How I am dealing without it: I’m not. Please, someone tell me where to buy fall scented candles in Beijing. HELP A GIRL OUT!
  3. Bath and body works: Along with the candles from Marshall’s, I LOVE the candles from bath and body works. The thing is, here the scents aren’t just candles. THEY ARE BODY WASHES. Like, my home can smell like rosemary and thyme, my hair can smell like a pumpkin marshmallow, and my skin can smell like leaves! Actually, my skin can smell like a million things because I can use a shower gel, a lotion, and a body mist. I’m obsessed! This is also a place where I do a lot of window shopping before setting on two or three scents and purchasing those during those crazy BUY THREE GET THREE FREE sales. You know the ones, don’t act innocent!
  4. Starbucks fall drinks: yes I know starbucks didn’t invent pumpkins or spices and I know the latte doesn’t taste like pumpkins: but guys, what I want is the ability to customize my perfect fall drink. I want a double tall soy kids temp psl, 1 pump pumpkin spice and 1 pump white mocha, white pumpkin spice topping steamed in the milk and I cannot get that anywhere! I know it’s ridiculous. How am I dealing without it: the cinnamon and nutmeg shakers at the condiment bar of other coffee shops. Give it all to me!
  5. Trader Joe’s pumpkin things. I used to walk to Trader Joe’s. They just had the best pumpkin things ever.
  6. No ABC family oops I mean freeform, 31 days of Halloween marathon. Instead I have to use Netflix and HBO, which is fine but it lacks community. What am I going to do when it’s Christmas and I can’t watch holiday movies on hallmark??

Let me say some thing I do like about the fall here in China!

  1. Seasonal vegetables: the vegetables here in China are amazing. I love them, the other day I made a dish with pumpkin, kale, and garlic. I know I am so excited for all the squash dishes, pumpkin dishes, and BRUSSELS SPROUTS. Like hell yes. These dishes are amazing, and the vegetables here are magic.
  2. The beautiful parks and lakes are changing colors. This happens everywhere, yes but we have to accept that in China the parks are prettier. There are beautiful lakes and pagodas, the symmetry of it all has inspired me the whole time I’ve lived here.
  3. THE PERFECT TEMP. It is the perfect temperature. Finally, no long do I live in 100 degree weather, now we have 70’s and 60’s with a cool wind. Soon it will fall even further and I will wear sweaters! I’m so excited. Also Chinese people, from my experience, don’t crank up the heat so high that you need to wear short sleeves under your coat for when you walk inside. Thankkkkk goodness.

So there we go, some pros and cons to my autumn love in China. It is not too early for this because I woke up this morning and it was 64 degrees ! That is a fall temperature! I am going to go a lil’ fall haul when I go to America and post that up here later! Are you guys missing anything while living abroad?

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I’m not done with Lithuania,

Lithuania is on my list on countries that I would 100% visit again. I am specifically taken with Vilnius. Vegan restaurants, independent coffee shops, arts series, bar streets. Things that exist everywhere, but they exist in a very perfect way in Vilnius.

 

 

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Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories

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Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories

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Totem Pole!

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Inside Johnny’s Great Grandpa’s house

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Grungy bar table

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Rose Hip

Rose Hip was a vegan restaurant right by Stranglove (see the coffee post!) and it was delish. Johnny’s brother Andrew ordered a jackfruit burger which looked amazing, and ordered a gin and tonic. The kitchen seemed to close a little early, but it still was wonderful to sit and hang there for a bit.

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Green Green Green

 

The best part of Vilnius, to me, was how much it reminded me of the grungy side of Geneva. So here are some of my favorite works of art.

 

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Wall art

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Lantau Island Getaway

In the middle of September, the last summer month, we went on a small beach vacation to Lantau Island! This is the island that the Hong Kong airport is on, so we were about thirty minutes away from the city of Hong Kong. I loved staying on this island though, and I highly suggest you take the time to check it out if you go to Hong Kong!

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We arrived around eight at night into the Hong Kong airport. We had two options of transportation to our hostel, bus 35A or a taxi. While the bus was definitely cheaper it was also inconvenient, not leaving until eleven at night and then taking a little over thirty minutes to arrive at the hostel. We chose the taxi which ended up being 100HKD, not bad at all, that’s around 15 USD. The taxi was around 20 minutes even though we were told it could be an hour drive. Very easy!

If you’re going to catch a taxi out of the Hong Kong airport you’ll find the area easily. Make sure to pay attention to the color of taxi you get into, they go to the different areas. We took a blue taxi to the island.

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Then we arrived at our hostel, which was right across the street from the beach. The town was basically just a street across from the beach, not a touristy area it seemed. We checked into The Cove Hostel (if you want to stay with them, we really enjoyed it and you can use this code on booking.com!) and basically went out to find a drink, which luckily was right next door!

The Gallery was run by quite a few British expats so it was welcoming to johnny and me. We feel pretty comfortable in mandarin environments but not Cantonese. We had some beers and then went out to the beach and was met by a herd of cows?! Apparently there are these cows just… around? They seem to have their own routine so we didn’t bother them much.

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The next day we woke up early (too early) in search of a coffee shop. We did not find one, it could be because we were awake at eight and we only saw five people on our two hour walk. I guess what they say about Island time is true.

 

We did find some insanely huge spiders. Don’t worry, I will not include pictures even though I took many. From a distance. The spiders were mainly in the parts of the island That’s didn’t have a ton of foot traffic. In the hostel and on the beach we didn’t seem many bugs, only dragonflies and butterflies.

After our walk we returned to small Tong Fuk Village and had brunch at a small place that looked like it could have just been someone kitchen and porch, they just love hosting so much they never stop! I had some sort of soup and johnny had the western breakfast which was very British, as you could imagine.

After that meal we went to the beach. Took out towels, books, relaxed, and waited for the forcasted thunderstorm. That never came! Thank goodness. After time on the beach and in the ocean, we packed up and headed to the room because the sun was intense! I still think our skin is recovering from the exposure. Beijing is sunny… but not THAT sunny.

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Around three thirty we headed back to the Gallery and settled in for a few hours. Since it was the only place near by to eat and we weren’t about to walk around at night with those giant spiders around (I have an irrational fear I know) we stayed for a light lunch and dinner.

It was a good choice.

Amazing hummus with fresh pita bread, huge burgers, roasted chicken, an extensive menu all written on chalkboard walls near the porch. We stayed there for a while, created our own crosswords, chatted with people in English.

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After our stint at the Gallery, we went to the beach for a nice walk. The beach was beautiful, we climbed on top of rocks and watched ghost crabs battle it out for food, mates, and digging spots. The sound of the waves against the shore was the only sound we could hear. The seclusion of this part of the island felt perfect. Every hour or so when we saw a bus drive by jammed with tourists headed to see the Giant Buddha, I felt so thankful for our small beach.

If you are heading to Lantau Island, not only do I recommend Tong Fuk as a great area, but also The Cove Hostel. I had no trouble booking them or finding their location. If you go, I suggest you order a rooftop cookout. You have to notify them in advance but how amazing does that sound? Send me pictures when you do!