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!

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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MERRY DRINKER

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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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!

July&August Photo Dump

So these two months went by so quickly, I’m overwhelmed. It seemed like yesterday I was dying in the summer heat of Beijing but just yesterday I had to grab a jacket? Autumn is coming, and I am ready for it!

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Before we move on, let’s reflect on the lovely times I have had in July and August. I was in three different countries, Lithuania, France, and China (duh). I was able to go on vacation with Johnny’s fam to Lithuania. Fun fact, there is a totem pole in the middle of the forest erected in honor of his great-grandfather, did ya know? So we found that. We also spent a lovely two nights at a spa in the middle of no where right next to…. a death metal festival. Let me tell you we some some interesting outfits.

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We also went on a vacation with my family, we hit up the tourist attractions in Beijing, then Xi’an to see the Terra-cotta Warriors, and finally super-western Shanghai. It was really amazing to show my family our home in Beijing and to explore more of China together. I will say that I’m getting stressed in a really silly way. The longer we stay in China, the more places I have added to my list of where I want to go. I could write, like, 100 cities on my radar blog posts. Chengdu, Xi’an AGAIN, Laos, Thailand, Japan (this one should be coming, Feb 2019), SO MANY.

 

So far, these past six months in Beijing have been amazing. I think I love it here, even though some times I hate it here.

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Do you live in Asia? If you do, where should I visit! I need to see as much as I can see!

My Two Favorite Coffee Shops Of Vilnius

Let me tell you, I had no idea this little town would have so much amazing coffee. I was pleasantly surprised. Johnny’s mom google “has third wave coffee hit lithuania yet” and the next thing I know, we have at least ten coffee shops to try and only a few days to hit them. Vilnuis Coffee Tour 2018, we’re getting tshirts.

So a few things that helps this town be the best place for a coffee tour is it’s walkability. It feels like quite a small town, even though apparently a million people live there. We usually started our morning with a walk to a cafe, sometimes a two minute walk and the furthest was a twenty minute walk.

Since, as I said earlier, there are so many great coffee shops I just want to tell you about the BEST ones, to me.

My number one has to be Crooked Nose and Coffee Stories

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This cafe has particular hours so make sure to check those before you walk to it.

When you walk in, you might notice the barren menu. When I asked about a menu the barista explained that they invite their customers to smell the coffee beans they have roasted for the day. After choosing the one that smells the best to them, they then walk the customers through the different processes of brewing coffee. Chemex, aeropress, pour over with a steel filter or pour over with a bro filter. The bro filter is linen. The way they designed it, they said it almost works like wood. I was confused, but I believed them.

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The only milk they use is oat milk by Oatly and they only serve it with a coffee that will be enhanced by the milk, not covered up. After working at starbucks for years, having a passion for coffee and constantly having to put exceptional quality aside for the quantity of drinks we have to make, I felt so comforted by this place. We tried two coffees, both made with the bro filter. I have always preferred a french press because I dislike the paper texture and taste that a pour over would leave me with, but this filter creates a smooth and bright cup of coffee. The baristas were so helpful, I walked in knowing nothing about their coffee shop and now here I am, acting like an expert.

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This is probably the best coffee experience I have ever had. I will say that they do not do expresso. Instead they just focus on brewed coffee. They do sell their beans to several other locations in the city for espresso beans.

 

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Strangelove

Located extremely close to the city center, Strangelove was the first cafe we went to. It felt like the cafe I would go to with my girlfriends, not only is there amazing coffee but also a balcony and outside seating area. The balcony looks over a beautiful park, perfect for summer nights. The outside area was decorated with lights and giant drawings of cascara plants, coffee beans being roasted, and the cafe itself.

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I tried several drinks from this cafe: latte, americano, and a rose espresso. The rose espresso was the star drink, especially for a hot summer. It was an iced shot of espresso topped with a rose flavored soda water. They also had fruit smoothie, flavors like lingonberry and mint, and a nicely stocked bar for cocktails. I had a nice amaretto sour while sitting in a bean bag chair outside with my boyfriend’s family. There were more cafes around, basically ones on every corner, but if you are heading to Vilnius I really recommend these two.

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When everything went wrong in an airport, I took great photos.

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Hello everyone. I am sorry for my absence but here I am again. I have returned from a trip to Hong Kong and in two weeks (!!) I will return to the ol’ USA for a little while. I’m not fully leaving Asia yet though! It’s just a vacation.

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I’ve just been extremely busy, so all these vacations have given me a chance to write and look at photos and organize my thoughts about my trips.

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My most recent one was a near disaster. I won’t tell you about that yet, instead I’ll tell you that in my panicky moments at the Beijing Airport I still found time to take some photos. I like them a lot, so I hope you do too!

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Beijing in the Summer: the Good and the Bad

I arrived in Beijing at the tail end of February. Actually, because of the 16 hour flight and changing time zones, I felt like there were 26 days that month. It was cold, the air was dry, all the lakes were half frozen and trees were just silhouettes. The city seemed pretty lively, but nothing like I thought CHINA would be. I mean you hear China, and you think tons of people. You see videos of packed subways, markets and tourist attractions. Beijing is actually the second most populated city in the world, only to Shanghai.

I didn’t see millions of people though. Even in the forbidden palace, I didn’t see more than a few hundred. It was wild. The subways were clear. Now that it’s summer there are definitely more people around here. Not enough to get my attention though.

So summer. It started around May, after we have three weeks of spring, and there are positives and negatives.

THE GOOD

  1. Everything is GREEN. I love it. There are huge trees, growing out of their cement holdings. The bushes are overflowing, the spring pollen has gone so I’m not constantly sneezing.
  2. Watermelons. Yes the coconut man from my apartment is gone, but he has been replaced by the watermelon man. This is a man with a giant truck full of watermelons. He comes around, sells some giant watermelons, and then goes on his merry way only to return tomorrow with more watermelons.
  3. Air conditioning. Unlike Europe, there is air con in China! or at least in most places in Beijing. China has a heating season and a non heating season. If it gets warm before heating season is over, doesn’t matter. They keep the heat on until it’s official. This year it wasn’t an issue, they actually extended heating season which is pretty rare. Most places you go will have air conditioning so you’ll be able to feel relived from the 100 degree weather, even most of the buses have air conditioning.
  4. The dry heat. For the beginning of summer, the heat here is a dry heat. Which I love. Stay tuned for the reverse of this.
  5. The buildings that you thought were abandon buildings, are just shops that open in the summer! Yay! Near our house there was a weird old shack and now it sells steamed buns and soup.

 

The Bad (or, like, the weird.).

  1. Air quality. The summer mugginess combined with 150+ air quality index makes you skin, face, hair, everything feel gross. Not to mention your lungs. Bleh.
  2. Tummies. I don’t quite understand this, but it seems like the men here don’t like to take their shirt off all the way. Instead, they just roll the shirt up to their chest and show off their tummy to cool down. Maybe we still need to free the man’s nipple here in China? In Beijing they do call them the ‘bejing belly’ and no, I haven’t joined in.
  3. Rain. Four months into my time in Beijing and it had only rained ONCE. Until we hit June and July. These are wettest months of the year and Beijing does not seem to have an amazing system for draining the rain. Recently the roads were flooded within minutes because of the amount of the rain and lack of of proper draining systems.
  4. Humidity. When it’s hot and humid… ugh. I have no other words. 100 degrees with 30% humidity, great. 100 degree heat with 80% humidity, horrid.
  5. There are are a lot more kids out, which isn’t so bad, but then the kids have holes in their pants.. and no diapers… because here they just think a kid should go and then let it fall out of their pant holes. I’m serious, I’ve seen parents hold their kids over a trash can so it can go to the bathroom out of the hole in it’s pants.
  6. People always seem to have a suitcase with them. Where are you going? Where are you coming from?? This isn’t bad, just weird and answerless.

If you live in China, I really want to hear more about your experiences here with the different seasons. I’m excited to experience the turn into winter and see what changes that brings. I still feel so incredibly grateful for this experience, learning a new language and a new culture makes me excited to continue exploring.