Monday, October 1, 2012

Where to begin?

Where to begin? I've been in Shanghai about a month and a half. It's been a crazy ride adjusting to life here. Let me state for the record China is NOTHING like South Korea. I live in Shanghai so I can't even speak for the REAL China. Since I got settled in my apartment, got into the groove at work, obtained reliable wifi , and explored my neighborhood Shanghai isn't half bad.
Now mind you my first two weeks here I was plotting ways to get back to Korea. Now that the dust has settled, I'm starting to enjoy Shanghai more. I enjoy the low cost living of China thats for sure. You can eat  a decent meal for under $4  and get a maid to clean your house for a few hrs a week for the same price. Can't beat that!  I haven't seen a Coke for less than $0.75 since the early 90's. I must admit  even though I was trying not to compare the two but  Korea left me with expectations of China that were sadly deflated my first week. Shanghai is truly where East meets West. Lets paint a picture shall we? I live in a very metropolitan area.  We'll say the equivalent of Manhattan. Porsche and Mazzarati dealerships 2 blocks from my building, and the side streets are littered with makeshift food carts,crates of turtles, bunnies, goldfish and ducks being sold for dinner, and an old man in a Speedo bathing out of a public sink on the street. I know it sounds unbelievable but this is China!
Shanghai being such an international hub for business, banking, engineering, it has become a stomping ground for a myriad of foreigners. Few of which are American. I can count the number of Americans I've met on one hand.  An every few are in the field of Education, because in Korea you were either a teacher or military. There are a number of professional growth opportunities for educated , well traveled expats here,which is a plus. I look forward to exploring the possibilities next summer.

Ok let's get SERIOUS for a moment: Those who know me, know I am a lover of ICE COLD BEVERAGES! There is NO cold drinking water to be had anywhere! It is believed to be bad for your digestion so you have a choice of warm or hot water from purified water dispensers. YUCK!  " Yes I would like more than 4 ice cubes in  my soft drink please!" At work theres a small fridge where I stock my cold water bottles. ICY COLD BEVERAGES are a MUST! And let me not even get started on the suspect ass lunch at work! Everyday is a GAMBLE!

The extreme pushing in public, utter rudeness, and lack of order and logic, I'm used to, having lived in Korea. China's lack of universal wifi is devastating.  China is KING when it comes to bootlegging. They can reverse engineer anything from an IPhone to an Egg. No seriously there are fake eggs here. Gucci, Prada, Berkin, Nike, Kraft, Nestle,YouTube ( also known as Youku here) Apple, Tyson. Nothing is SACRED! Let's not even talk about DVDs. I just bought the complete seasons of the Office, Modern Family, Fringe and Drop Dead Diva for under $20. You can get AMAZING bootlegs of current movies the day they premier sometimes the day before. You can get a DVD, drinks and dinner for 2 for under $10.
The over abundance of oil in the food is ridiculous. I can cook my meal, grease my scalp and moisturize my whole body from the amount of oil in one dish. EPIC FAIL! I absolutely LOVED Korean food. The same sentiments can not  be shared for Chinese cuisine. I can't get down with braised turtle legs, sea cucumbers, unidentifiable objects in some of their soups, chicken feet or duck tongue jerkied snack bags. China is not for the weak stomached!
However the food is not all bad! Some of the street noodles, random tomato flavored snacks,dumplings,   small Chinese Muslim restaurants and little iced tea stands have won my heart. I promise its not all bad. I just wanted to share some of the sheer ridiculousness of my first month. Just a bit more of an adjustment than Korea. Honestly there are some twilight zone-esque that go down here but Shanghai has its charms . I love wandering down some side street and stumbling upon a cute snack shop, a fabulous hidden shopping center, a chance to haggle on the street on everything from flowers to electronics, or just an opportunity to catch something ridiculous on film.
Over the next few weeks I will be taking you on a visual tour through Shanghai! Hold on to your lunch and beware of foul smells. I cant wait to share Shanghai with you. Until next time...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Shanghai Snapshots

Here are a few moments captured from my first weekend in Shanghai. Honestly I slept most of it. This jet lag is no joke. But here are a few digital memories. Jet lag is the ultimate Chinese diet.
however when I can actually stay awake to eat dinner, my electric kettle and various Chinese Ramen have been my best friend. And let's not forget about the cool yet refreshing Lime flavored Lays! I've fallen in love with bubble tea! I can't believe that Shanghai isn't wired for wifi like Korea! WTH! I was soo devastated :( I'm headed back to the hotel with brick hard beds, and no WiFi. #epicsadness Until next time...

Friday, August 17, 2012

In Transition...

Dear Friends, Fam, and Fellow Expats,

I'm here in Shanghai safe and sound. I'm not ignoring you. The past week has been super crazy. From a pile of bricks Chinese bed in a fake HolidayInn, warm water in the COLD water cooler, outrageous Chinese myths about health, strange Chinese android phones, green pea popsicles, adjusting to the time change, trying to understand Chinglish, weird greasy foods, trying not to get mad every time I hear the Chinese expression which means "that" sounds exactly like the word "n#$$a"and scouring Shanghai for an apartment, I haven't had time to blog. I've experienced an abundance of Chinese ridiculousness that I cannot wait to share with you. The jury is still out on China. Give me a few weeks to let it sink in. I promise to write as soon as I've settled in.
Until next time...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

And the countdown begins ...

August 11th is here, and in the blink of an eye my departure date will be here too. It's my last weekend on this side of the pond!
Its crazy to believe a couple months ago China wasn't even a thought and now here I am on the precipice of a new journey. I have to say I'm really excited about the direction my life is headed in. I am truly happy. If I've learned anything so far in my 30 years it's to seize every chance to be and live extraordinarily, embrace every opportunity and never rule out the unexpected happiness that can come out of  serendipitous moments!
I'm beyond excited and a little sad at the same time.It's been great having my family so close. No more having my Little sister bust in my apartment, eat up all my snacks, jump in bed with me at 8 am and say "Sissy, Whatchu doin?" , waiting 13 hrs to talk to my bestie to tell her the latest news, or my mom calling me multiple times a day " how are you today sweetpea?". The time difference is always a drag when you want to talk to friends and fam.
I'm going to miss speaking English everyday, but I look forward to mastering Mandarin. In the mean time better dust of my charades skills. I'm going to crave Chik-fil-A and sweet tea but I'm interested in trying seahorse soup, tempura starfish, various noodle dishes and authentic crab rangoon.
Everyday this week I've woken up and thought "Ahh I'm moving to Asia...AGAIN!!!" so excited I could almost pee. The most stressful thing about moving is PACKING! I'm two piles of S@&T away from being a hoarder! I'm a cancer and I'm sensitive about my S@&T! EVERYTHING has sentimental value and all of my clothes are "my favorite" clearly or I wouldn't have bought them. So it's been painful to sell, give away, and flat out throw things out. But it's all growing pains. I realize I could keep things in storage but I did that last time around and I wound up not needing half the stuff I stored. When you move overseas you realize how much less you need and yet how much more you do ,and how much more fulfilled you are.

I went back through my blog last night and read posts about preparing for Korea, it made me laugh and a little sad. It's crazy how life changes. I cracked up as I read about my expectations of Korea and my butchering of Hangul. I reflect on all that I've experienced since October 2009 and I smile.

It's amazing how your road map in life detours and leads you down an unforeseen roads. I'm excited to see where this road will take me.
In the words of my good friend Jon
Map out your future - but do it in pencil. The road ahead is as long as you make it. Make it worth the trip.
~Jon Bon Jovi

I look at how different this experience is from 3 years ago. I'm an veteran expat and a bit wiser.
With 48 hours and counting to my departure I dive back into my bags to consolidate more crap. Until next time...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

It's my Drink in a Bag baaaby!!!

So in preparation for my journey and amidst packing and deciding what I could donate, I thought about what I could do to make a little extra dinero before jumping the pond.
I thought long and hard about it! I'm way to vain to sell my hair, it's too late to get a part time job @ Target and I don't have a enough rhythm to climb the golden pole and "drop it like its hot!". Alas I was left with few options. Then I came upon the idea to have a Rummage Sale. A little Saturday afternoon make shift thrift store to get rid of everything before moving out on Monday. Why come to my apartment when you could just as easily hit up the Goodwill? What can I offer that the Goodwill can't?
I thought back to my university days and how I hustled up money with "rent parties". Cheap strong drinks for mere dollars, but how would would i get people in the door? Long gone are my early 20's with an abundance of wildly carefree friends,with parents' money to spend. My friends are married with mortgages. So I pondered what would entice a 20 something college student to come to my apartment and drink copious amounts of alcohol and buy my s*%t!
I had almost given up hope of an idea, when as I was skimming through my Thailand adventure pics when it hit me. Eurerka!!! A drink in a bag! Just then my rendition of " It's my d$&k in a Box" began playing in my head.
And then my brainchild was born " It's My Drink In A Bag baaaaby!".
Because nothing says Asia like a good ole fashioned drink in a bag!
So I designed a fun label, got a couple of ziplock bags, a few reinforcement labels, some colorful straws and VOILA! Drink in a bag central! Add a a cup of ice, the cocktail of your choice and there you have a portable party! Now don't go getting carried away people,this is an INSIDE beverage ONLY! The U.S. has silly container laws.
But I've posted a few pics so you can check out my masterpiece. "Rum"mage Sale 2012 should be an event to remember. Don't you just love how my boring rummage sale turned into an event? :) "Rum"mage Sale 2012 will be complete with the selling of all my random stuff,rum infused cupcakes ( complete w/ a Chinese fortunes)rum punch in a bag, and rum jello shots.
And thanks to Square card reader : no cash! No problem! I will be accepting Debit and all major credit cards! Strong drinks and irresponsible shopping go hand in hand. What's not to LOVE?
With flyers posted about Midtown, I'm hoping to get a pretty good turn out.
So whenever you're in need of jazzing up a party or raising extra funds to support your Wanderlust "Drink in a Bag" is a sure fire way to make it happen.
So to my readers and fellow expats eat, drink responsibly,and be merry!
Until next time...

Monday, July 23, 2012

For Real!

What now? It's a matter of paper work, selling all of my stuff (once again),  thinking, do I keep this birdcage lamp I bought in Korea? Can a girl have too many pairs of chopsticks? What am I going to take in my two bags this time? And where the hell am I going to put my obscene amount of art supplies?
So as G would say "S&%T is REAL"
I'm under the 30 day mark. I move out of my apartment on Monday, I've given notice to my job, I've sent away for my Visa, posted my car on Craigslist, and I'm about to purchase my airline ticket on Friday. S&%T is most definitely REAL!
I just decided this in what... June? "yeah let's move to CHINA!" and now here I am preparing to head back to Asia. To Communist, eat fried seahorses for fun,mass produce everything sun, no Facebook accessing China.
Not freaking out a bit, not one bit. O_o
A wave of realization hit me this morning on my commute to work" Holy fuck I'm moving to China in 20 days" it's a little surreal. It's different this time around. I'm not running from something or should I say someone.  I have a partner in crime, a fellow serial expat to join me on what looks to be a enlightening, fun-filled and possibly somewhat bizarre experience.
 I am embracing my 30's (Ahhhh  I can't believe I just turned 30!) and I'm creating the life I always wanted for myself. Simple as that.
I don't know what 30 is supposed to look or feel like. I still feel like some spirited 20 something year old, ready to conquer the world. I'm guess 30 is 20 but with a few more dollars in your pocket and hopefully not repeating some of the same mistakes. So I'm hoping that 30 year old me experiences even more this time around and has a blast doing it!
I looked into what to expect from Shanghai. I've only even been to Hong Kong, and that's nothing like mainland China.
I've heard Shanghai is extremely modern somewhere along the lines of being the NYC of the Far East. Overwrought with taxis, a complex metro system, AMAZING knock offs, strange ethnic eats and socially accepted public defecating. Come to think of it's just like New York City. There are foreign marts, IKEA and even Wal-Mart! I must say I'm curious to see how Shanghai measures up to Seoul. Well for that matter I'd like to see how China fares in comparison to South Korea.
Because even though I became very jaded by my Hanguk love as my 2 year stint came to a close, I will forever cherish the countless memories and ridiculous musings that will always be Korea for me. From Ddokbokki to K-Pop and Hangukinim outlandishness, Korea will always have a fond place in my heart.
But from fellow expat blogs and random expat You Tube videos of everyday Shanghainese life, it looks like absolute Chinese shenanigans.  I look forward to documenting utter ridiculousness, creating new memories, and exploring China. If a local explains something as " Ancient Chinese Secret..." I'm going to absolutely lose it!  :)

And just when you think you're all alone, life surprises you. I recently found out that a few of my friends will also be finding themselves in Shanghai in the coming months. A few from the states and a couple throwbacks from Korea. So I have to say I'm pumped to have a small community to call my own in Shanghai. It was unexpected, but serendipitous twists of fate have brought us all together once again to experience something wonderful.
Which even more solidifies that this was the right choice.
So in a few days time I'll have my ticket and all that will be left to do is pack. I will repeat this to myself as I delve into the abyss that is my closet, " You can ONLY take 2 suitcases, You need to pack wisely, You can ONLY take 2 suitcases don't get carried away!"
I promise to ONLY pack the necessities, but I don't know if I can leave my sketch books, colored pencils, or my Korean birdcage lamp behind. :) Don't judge me.

So in memoriam of my dearly departed 20's but anxiously looking forward to what my 30's and Shanghai have in store, I leave you with Youth by Foxes. Turn up the volume and jam out. Pull out the guns if you're feelin' funky! Until next time ...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Corporate Exodous

It's been almost a year a since my last post. I thought that my pilgrimage back to the states to live meant the end of my Serendipitous Adventurer spirit, but I should have known that it was only a matter of time.
So I came back stateside last October with apsirations and idealistic notions of the "American Dream" like so many other young people my age. Everyone around me was getting married, buying a house, having their 2nd and 3rd child and pursuing careers. And there I was some lonely expat with a million and five AMAZING experiences, bags full of foreign trinkets,only 3 pages left in my passport, and new global sensibility,trying to repatriate myself into a country that no longer felt like home.
Three days on American soil I had an interview. Two weeks in,I had a corporate job, and in less than a month back in the states I had a fab midtown apartment, a corporate wardrobe and a cute little VW Beetle. To the naked eye I made the transition seamlessly.
It was a whirlwind of change.
Trying to shrug off Asian social norms and re-acclimate myself to the world I'd left behind two years prior was a great deal harder than I had expected. I found myself starting most of my sentences with " When I was in Korea..." and trust me I didn't want to be that annoying girl who talks about living abroad ALL the damn time, but that was all I had known. I wasn't up on Pop Culture , I was WAY behind on TV shows, and let's not even get started on music. My first few months back were rough socially. I felt awkward and out of place. Like some dark skinned Asian in a country of strangers. Which is almost laughable if I hadn't been so sad. I willingly gave up my Korean life for the American life I thought I wanted. Which ended up making me feel even more lost and misplaced. The old saying holds true, the grass isn't always greener.
Note to Self : next time I'm missing family, friends, black hair care products, and delicious American food just come back for an extended visit!
After a few months I'd made a few friends but all in all I still felt something was missing. I'd go on Facebook and browse through my travel albums, sigh at the fact that my life was just well for a lack of a better word...ordinary.
I went to to my 9-5 office gig, wrote curriculum, trained teachers, wrote reports, and did a little domestic traveling. I wasn't complaining because , there were people in America out of work, barely able to support themselves and there I was sitting in my office discontented with my 9-5. I hungered for something more, something extraordinary. As I settled into a routine , battled the 45 min daily commute, and put on my very best " I'm an adult, and I care about what you're saying" face, I started resenting coming back stateside.
I started questioning why I ever left Asia in the first place. I started reevaluating my job and my life. And with 30 creeping up on me I knew I needed to do something. I refused to become a lemming. "yes I'm on the verge of 30! That doesn't make me irresponsible because I enjoy living in different countries every couple of years!" Im probably part gypsy but have you ever heard the quote " All who wander are not lost!" Even Dr. Seuss encourages us step outside our comfort zone in Oh The Places You Will Go!
I was tired of trying to conform to what is expected of me because honestly it just made me unhappy.
Im not meant to fit inside some box. I take my steel toed boot and say "Ahh... fuck your box!!!" as it crushes beneath my bedazzled knee high Doc Materns.
I was over making excuses for my awesomeness. I know that sounds pompous but seriously there is a truly awesome individual inside each of us, it's just some choose to embrace it while others just make excuses for it. So I starting weighing the pros and of going back overseas. It seems as soon as I owned changing my life, the opportunity presented itself.
Fast forward month or so and here we are.
I know this post will resonate with my fellow expats but also with those of you out there wanting a change in their lives. Don't wait around for the right moment because it may never come. I'm no life coach but if you want to change your life or step out of the expexcted norm, just do it.Don't doubt yourself. Don't wait for validation from others. Be fearless,take hold of the life you imagined for yourself and begin living you happiness.
No more monkey suits or putting on a "serious adult " face complete with "I'm thinking" hand gestures. No more drab colors, no more desk warming 9-5, or feeling creatively stifled in the workplace. So onward to the Corporate Exodus. I feel like Jerry McGuire, with my colored pencils and messenger bag in hand "who's comin' with me?" I'm just not cut out for the corporate world. * Kanye shrug*
With that said, in four weeks time I will be embarking on a new journey. Walking through the red door once more in search of something amazing.