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 Yes the coconut man from my apartment is gone, but he has been replaced by the watermelon man.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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June Photo Dump (so sorry it is late!)

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Happy July! How has this happened? May was fast, June was the slowest month in the world. I honestly have no idea where the year is going though, considering I’m posting this two weeks into JULY. June felt pretty wild, I took two trips, explored many new places in Beijing, and I started working with some friends on a graphic design project.

July has already been wonderful, as I spent a little over a week of it in Lithuania! I went with Johnny and his family. They are from Lithuania, his grandpa was there until he was eight years old, then they left because of WWII and the soviet take over.

Some June highlights have to be my trip to Hong Kong where I was able to see friends who used to live in the same STATE as me but I never saw them, and by chance we were in Hong Kong at the same time. I love how small the world is sometimes. I also went on a solo trip to Seoul. I know that means I doubled up on cities but it just feels like a place I need to visit forty times.

I also camped right outside the Great Wall and then hiked eight miles of it. I’m going to include a few of those photos here, but to get the full scoop I’m making a whole other post so you can do it on your own!

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We discovered a coffee shop and roaster near our house, Metal Hands. This is located near Wangjing Soho. So in a fifteen minute bike ride we can enjoy amazing coffee and breakfast from some talented baristas. We purchased a two pound bag of espresso for Johnny’s mom. They sell smaller bags of their coffee and huge ones of their espresso. I think in China it’s not yet a common thing for people to make their own espresso drinks at home so the big bags of coffee are probably used for other stores to serve the espresso.

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One of the most exciting things that happened in June was the discovery of a new grocery market! This place is amazing. It has a lot of western staple foods, like salsa, romaine lettuce, fruit loops and CHEESE, and some other non-staple foods like coconut milk and chia seeds. Also the CHEAPEST nuts. It’s amazing. I might give you guys a post about the different grocery shopping options I have here? Yes?

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HONG KONG

 

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A very quick trip to Hong Kong, expect mostly photos and small tidbits. Our flight left Beijing at seven am on Saturday and touched down around eleven. We then had the AWESOME experiences of realizing Didi, which is china’s version of UBER, didn’t work the same here. I was told we could use wechat everywhere but guess what: ya can’t.

After checking into the hostel we went out on the street. I honestly felt so overwhelmed by Hong Kong. When researching things, there were so many comments about different areas and if you are or aren’t on the island, if you are going to a beach or a bar, I just was overwhelmed. So we wung it. or winged it. Whichever is correct, that’s what we did. I knew there were cool streets, things to look at, things to eat and figured we would just find them!

I actually was lucky enough to have friends in town for the one night we were in Hong Kong. We learned about the relationship between Hong Kong and China, the political climate, and if they can tell when people come form China, whether from Shezngen, Beijing, or somewhere deep in the Yunnan province. We went to an afternoon tea, which was awesome. There we had egg tarts, pineapple bread, and lemon tea. When you go to Hong Kong and have lemon tea, be sure to squish the lemons at the bottom of the glass and then mix all the lemon juice around your drink. Super refreshing in the insanely humid city.

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We walked through the streets for a while until I declared it way too humid for the outside world. Then we went to the Golden Computer store and Sim City and looked at millions of wires, cords, laptops, computers, dvds, and cameras. I almost bought this film camera but decided against it until I could figure out how to get film developed in Beijing.

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Over all, my Hong Kong trip showed me that I really do value nature and water, two things I thought I wouldn’t miss while living in a city. It did however make me realize that even though Beijing is one of the most populated cities in the world, it doesn’t feel that way. Hong Kong felt PACKED. Walking down the street, going to the metro, it was a struggle. Maybe its just down to the fact that the street sizes were different? Not sure.

Johnny and I also have come to rely on pictures on menu’s when traveling. This usually works out great, and we can use the little bits of Mandarin that we know to communicate further. In Hong Kong, every speaks Cantonese. So we were back to square one. For dinner we went to this place that had huge lines so we knew it would be good. We waited, we had sidewalk drinks, we waited more. When we finally sat down, it became clear to us that it was some sort of build your own noodle dish… with no pictures. neither of us had brought our phones and we ended up just guessing on what to put in our dish. It was delicious, but also kind of scary! I would recommend this adventure brought on by silly choices, 10/10 would do again.

Now it’s summer here in Beijing! June has become a bit more humid no where near Seoul or Hong Kong though. I’m appreciating the dry heat and the abundance of watermelons. Enjoy this picture of my dinner while I write this:

 

What I planned to do in Paris but didn’t

So last October, my boyfriend and I celebrated our four year anniversary. To celebrate we were going to go to Paris in January for a five day vacation. We had been before so this was a chance to go and see not just the typical touristy things. I found airbnbs, I had friends in the city, I looked up things to do! He even found flights ROUND TRIP FROM CINCINNATI TO PARIS FOR LIKE THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS.

But we didn’t go. Instead we (obviously) moved to China. Which is great and fun in it’s own right, but I have so much stuff just written down on my laptop for Paris! So here we go, my list of places in Paris I looked up, but didn’t get to see.

And this is great because now you guys can sound off in the comments on what you love to do in Paris and I can come back to this list when I finally go!

 

Paris foods

soul kitchen:  English speaking cafe for when you need wifi and to feel confident with your words.

Address: 33 Rue Lamarck, 75018 Paris, France

hardware societe: Amazing brunch restaurant. Like many wonderful places, it has a nice Australian spin on it.

Address: 10 Rue Lamarck, 75018 Paris, France

Le treize: Great for beer, or so I have heard. I walked by this once when it was closed and saw a lot of plants.

Address: 13 Rue Dussoubs, 75002 Paris, France

boneshaker: This place has doughnuts!

Address: 77 Rue d’Aboukir, 75002 Paris, France

cerwood terrasse: I’ve been told its a good place for a snack or a coffee. When it’s time to rest your feet, head here for people watching. OR just sit at any cafe, get a noisette and pull out a note book.

Address: 8 Rue Jean-Baptiste Dumay, 75020 Paris, France

the hood paris: A place to chill, feel like you can spend a long time here. I also heard they may have open mic nights?

Address: 80 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, 75011 Paris, France

le 2 au coin: Is this a florist or a cafe? If a place makes me ask that question, I want to stay there foreverrrr. Also vegetarian friendly.

Address: 7 rue Notre Dame de Bonne Nouvelle, 75002 Paris, France

lockwood cafe:

Address: 73 Rue d’Aboukir, 75002 Paris, France

The thing about making ‘guides’ for Paris.. it’s like everywhere is going to be good or interesting. For those who are not adventurous enough to try random restaurants, I hope this list will help you find things you like!

Tianjin

Tianjin is only 30-40 minutes by train from Beijing, but it felt like a different world. Once we figured out the train tickets were so cheap, it instantly became something on my list on places to go. We picked a long weekend, but unfortunately we planned a little too late because ALL THE HOSTELS WE WANTED WERE BOOKED. All of them. So my number one tip here is to tell you that you gotta BOOK EARLY.

If you are heading there check out Cloud Bay hostel or ZEAKO hostel. Cloud Bay has amazing reviews on booking.com, which is where I have booked all my hostels in Asia so far. We stayed at Hotel Nikko, incredibly convenient  because it was located right near the subway stop that goes to the train station we needed.

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Tianjin is small, we walked or biked everywhere. By the river you can find a few cafe’s and shops. There are also some massive malls, like three or four on each corner street. We enjoyed walking around the five great avenues area the most. You can stay on the main streets or tuck into the small alleys. I usually walk slowly just incase I am trespassing instead of traveling, but you can find the best places here. I found a cafe that served coffee from the Yunnan province, which even though I am in china, I hadn’t had coffee grown here yet!

So in the Five Great Avenues there are some really wonderful restaurants and cafe’s, and I am sure there are even more than I found. I had ramen both days I was there. Once at this Japanese lunch place where the women outside wore kimonos, and another time for dinner at ZEAKO’s, which showed the the movie Pulp Fiction on the wall. Some some slightly different stylings. Johnny and I felt like while we were walking around we found tons of places we would want to go again. I couldn’t look up these places, it’s like every place is a hole in the wall? How is that possible? I don’t know but it is.

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Even though I wanted to stay in a hostel, the hotel we stayed at had a BATHTUB, a GIANT SHOWER, ROBES, a TV that WORKED, and free breakfast. Which was the biggest treat ever. I love hotel breakfasts, I would take my laptop, a newspaper, my phone, a book, whatever I could to make it normal for e to sit there for as long as possible. It feels fancy and professional. So my kid like excitement over it completely negates that professionalism probably.

One thing that is on everyones Tianjin list is the library. Well let me tell you, it is hard to get to. Tianjin is a fun little city, and an HOUR outside it, there is a cool library. I would not recommend going for an hour driving or a three hour bus ride to it. It’s a library, most of the books are fake, and I think you have to pay to get in too.

May Photo Dump

Didn’t I just do an April Photo dump? I know it was mainly about Seoul, but still. I’m actually leaving for Seoul AGAIN in less than five days. Time Flies.IMG_3349.jpg

May started with a weekend trip to Tianjin. Wandering streets that were vaguely European and staying in an expensive hotel, Tianjin became a city I want to visit again solely for feeling luxe.

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Giant malls are still everywhere I go in China, but here they seemed to be even more of a date night or night life spot than the ones I have frequented in Beijing. Clothing store with dirt cheap tshirts, the same design on twenty different colors, and sizes that intimidate me enough to just stick to H&M for now.

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My apartment is on the bottom floor, and the windows are basically pointing toward other walls. My friends however, have a great view that reminds me that we live in a city. Maybe my bedroom in on the bottom floor, but it’s the bottom floor of a 25 floor building. While driving at night from one location to another I can’t help to do anything but look at the lights, the characters, the signs for things I can’t understand and feel happy.

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The Beijing summer is starting, which means I want to be outside all the time in the warmth of the sun, but not the smog. I have started running outside when I have a mask on and there is a low pollution count. The park near my home is amazing, and I’m so thankful I have seen Beijing grow from a dirty cold winter landscape to a blossomed, lush, green landscape. I can’t wait to return to the big tourist spots now that everything is GREEN.

May was the only month I didn’t take a trip in. I have trips planned until NOVEMBER. Places in Asia, eastern Europe, a trip back home for a bit. So I hope I’ll be able to keep up with everything. As much as I love just travel blogging, I hope to just regular blog. Like maybe I’ll write about how the Beijing water ruined my hair and how I saved. Maybe something about how I had to adjust my cooking style in China and that I FINALLY can eat spicy food.

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Making Dumplings and Friends

So it was a normal Friday night, except I live in China and my landlord, his wife, and daughter came over to teach us how to cook dumplings, or as they are called here, jiao zi.

This magical thing happens when you move somewhere that operates in a language you don’t know: You figure out that people are really similar all over the world. For example, most dads are going to be proud of their five year old daughters. Most moms are going to tell you about a recipe their grandma told them, and most kids will draw a picture and give it to you. So, these people who we have only met once when they fixed our bathroom came over to show us that even though their english was broken, they were willing to go the extra mile to make us feel welcome.

Our landlord has owned our apartment for years and used to live their himself. I don’t understand the way china does real estate. He said his English name is Michael because he liked Michael Jackson/Jordan. He, his wife Harriet and daughter Carol came over to help us make a traditional meal. We bought flour, and they brought every thing else.

When they showed up they had gifts which made my heart feel like it could spill over. Two drawings from Carol, a hair catcher for our bathroom drain (something I tried to order online but just couldn’t figure out), and a silk fan from The Forbidden City. All these things, and they were helping us make dinner?! Amazing.

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First, they showed us how to make the dough which was just flour and water. You get a bowl of flour and add water little by little while gently kneading it. After you get a dough, let it rest for thirty minutes. While it was resting we talked about places to visit in the city, how Harriet and Michael had met, and how amazing Carol is at five years old. They honestly seemed so curious as to how comfortable we were in the apartment, did we like china, what were the differences from America. I mean we were curious too! They told us about how the streets and bus stops were named and we live right off of Safe World bus stop, so that is comforting.

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After the dough came the filling which they had prepared. Harriet and Carol were busting out these jiao zi, it was amazing. Johnny and I struggled to keep up with their pace but eventually I made some nice looking ones. They were very kind, it made me feel comfortable with making mistakes. Our living room floor is covered with flour, but it didn’t matter to me.

After a while the jiao zi were made, and it was time to boil them and eat! We set out plates, vinegar, and bowls. The delicious jiao zi were gone in seconds, but Harriet kept making more for us to keep in our freezer. She said we can freeze them and keep them for month, or we can cook them the next morning. This meal is typically a family event where everyone takes part in making the food. You could tell which ones Johnny and I made, but that didn’t mean they were any less delicious.

I feel so much more comfortable in my own kitchen now after seeing someone else use it effectively. I have looked up recipes for sweet potato pancakes, how to make street food at home, and now know how to make my own fresh noodles. Like how cool is it to know I can just MAKE noodles? This is 100% a night I won’t forget, when where we were shown incredible kindness in our Chinese home. It makes me feel even better about out choice to come here.

Hey when I come back to the states, jiao zi party anyone?