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!

Heading home for a bit

So I get the absolute pleasure of going home to New Jersey, Ohio, and Kentucky for three weeks. I leave on September 25th and return on the 15th of October.

I PROMISE I will spend most of the 13 hour flight writing. I have not had a ton of luck recently using WordPress in China. It’s just been so SLOW. What I should do is seek out better WiFi, but it’s very hard.

Some content you can expect from the long hours writing during the flight is a guide to long haul flights (duh), including my preferred Asian airlines, inflight essentials, and what I listen to or watch. I also am excited to write about Shanghai and Xian and to have my amazing friend Kiley write about a crazy solo trip she went on: preview, it involves a yoga mat, hot soup, and a 19 hour train ride.

Expat life is hard and weird. You meet people that you fall in love with because you have only ever see them in this weird Beijing lighting. I’m nervous and excited to one day visit these friends of mine out in the ‘wild’ one day. Mainly in Utah. There is just something about Utah that drives people to China I guess!

I am excited to return home for a bit though. I worry that I’m a different person and I haven’t realized that yet. Maddie, a friend I worked with in Beijing who left the city in May, talked to me a little about her return home. The transition period, where you don’t have a routine yet but everyone around you does. That’s different that moving to a country/job where some one arrived two weeks before you and 100% understand both your jet lag and your discomfort.

In America I wonder if I’ll find that when I just return to visit. I’ll have no routine. Just free time to relax and vacation and go to a million doctors. This free time excites me, but almost limits me. I won’t have a car. I won’t have a bike ready to rent right outside my doorstep. I won’t have street food, I won’t have the ability to constantly stumble upon an underground children’s talent show, complete with an art exhibit, free booze, and a ball pit.

What will I have though? Chipotle. 24 hour Kroger’s. Pumpkin spice lattes! All the friends I have know for years. A nail appointment where I’ll see an old high school friend. A new lil baby to meet (don’t worry Corynne, Eloise is number one, Chipotle is just funnier).

I know this visit is just three weeks, but it’s three weeks where I live in a weird limbo. I’m still excited.

 

 

Side note, Why do ⅓ of the flight attendants in China insist on telling me to take out my headphones when we land. That’s not a thing. It’s never been a thing. Anywhere. Answers anyone???

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.

Vilnius, Lithuania

I went into this city completely blind. Johnny and I went on a week vacation with his family and I knew they had a lot of things planned. All that has done though is left me with an incredible thirst to visit again. The city we stayed in, Vilnius, is the capital of this small country. A small country that actually used to be huge. We had a walking tour of questionable quality, but it did make me curious to discover more about this country.

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We stayed at the beautiful Kempinski, right in the center of the city. I enjoyed my mornings sitting on a balcony, espresso in hand, waiting for the rest of the city to wake up. In Beijing when I get up at 6:30 in China I feel like a slacker, the sun rises early and so does everyone else. In Vilnius, the sun ALSO rises early but it takes until around seven am to see anyone. This allowed me to go on some amazing walks around the city by myself. I have spent so many summers seeking out the grungy side of Geneva, and the city center of Vilnius had that perfect mix of old and new town that it inspired me to look the artsy side here too.

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The artsy part of town usually starts with coffee and ends with a dive bar; of these things Vilnius has plenty. I didn’t look up anything before I arrived but one walk around the city and I already had several bars and coffee shops for me to head to. StrangeLove, TasteMap, and Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories, those are probably my top coffee shops and they definitely deserve their own post (oh here is it’s post, click!).

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There are quite a few interesting things about this city. For one, the building where their president is had no obvious security? Instead they had lights all over the building celebrating 100 years regained after World War I, tourists were taking photos with the installments in front of the building. It was also weirdly new looking, except for the very specific parts of exposed brick on every three buildings. These were supposed to bring character to the buildings and show that they are the REAL buildings that used to be there, just redone.

There is a lot of amazing history in Lithuania. KGB museums, holocaust museums, a palace museum that just opened new rooms. Another option is a free walking tour, a company I found online but wasn’t able to take a tour with was Vilnius with locals. They have a ghost tour, food tour, jewish history tour, and even more that seem really interesting. Next time I visit, and there will be a next time, I want to see everything I can here.

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Some things I found in this city that surprised me were a lot of gelato, tons of amber in many forms, and weird weird alcohols. We went to a cave bar with 80 beers all from Lithuania. The most exciting part of the city though was the coffee. Next week expect details about my favorite coffee shops here, along with a million photos of plants. Coffee and plants! my two passions!

What coffee shops have you been to recently? Any new ones?

Les Champions du Monde

I was lucky enough to be in Paris when France won the World Cup. It was pretty amazing.

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My boyfriend, his siblings, and I ran off the Paris metro into the streets filled with people shouting, climbing, celebrating. We walked to the louvre, saw fireworks explode, waved flags, and cheered for the two stars this country has now earned.

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Allez les bleus! I was able to bring out my terrible french on the subway to ask those watching the game what the score was. Being in Paris for a night was only a small part of our vacay to Lithuania (oh yeah, I went to lithuania btw, more on that later), but it ended up being one of the most memorable parts of the trip.

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