Whole30 – DONE!

As the month of January comes to a close, there are a lot of things that I have to be blessed about for the beginning of 2015.

Today is my last day of Whole30. I am really proud of myself for completing this month-long clean eating venture. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go thirty days with no dairy, no grain, no added sugar (natural or otherwise) no soy, and no cheat days! I knew it would be a big test of my self-control and will power, which I really believe I lacked. I know differently now, that if I set my mind to something that I want bad enough, I can do it, and do it well!

One of the most difficult things about doing Whole30 is the restrictions on my social life that were put in place. As such a social person, going out for dinner and drinks are some of my favorite things to do! Time after time I had to turn people down to go out, simply because it would be too difficult to explain my eating habits or find something that is whole30 compliant on the menu. However, I’m really happy about the fact that I can shift my priorities to things that are important to me. This month, my personal health was one of my top priorities – and I was able to hold that above my urge to go out with friends.

Something interesting that I learned while on whole30 is how easy it is to eat healthily in China. Initially, I believed the complete opposite, and really believed it would be really difficult to stay whole30 compliant living here, where there are no Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, etc! However, what Shanghai lacks in organic-over priced-whole30 compliant grocery stores, they make up for in fresh produce. Fresh fruit stores are a dime a dozen in this city, and any time I’ve forgotten to meal prep and am running around with a grumbling stomach, so long as I have 20RMB (3USD) in my wallet, I can get a healthy, raw, delicious meal. I love it so much! I buy my meat at Carrefour(French brand grocery store), by I really only visit the grocery store once a month, where I stock up on meat, most of which I freeze when I get home. Everything else I purchase at the wet market that is a 5 minute walk from my apartment door. If I bring 100RMB (15USD) to the market, I can get more vegetables than I could even carry home, plus two dozen eggs. My favorite vegetables are cauliflower (can make cauliflower hummus, cauliflower rice, and my favorite, roasted cauliflower), sweet potato (roasted, chips, baked, boiled), zucchini, bell peppers, and spinach! I really like eggplant, but haven’t really figured out the best way to eat it.

My one guilty pleasure is shopping off of kateandkimi.com. They are an online grocer that caters to expats, and has a lot of foreign brands. This is where I can get homemade nut butters (almond, cashew, peanuts aren’t whole30!), homemade almond milk, smoked salmon, spirulina & maca root powder, avocado oil, almond meal, and all sorts of other super food goodies that I would never be able to find in Shanghai.

I’m not very good at listening to my body, which is one of the goals people usually try for when the do whole30 – seeing how their body reacts to certain foods, or lack thereof. For me, if I feel differently one day, I just attribute that to the fact that it is a new day! I want to learn how to listen to my body, but for now I’m not very adept at it. However, I do feel better because during the last month I’ve not once felt uncomfortable from binge eating, felt gross and bloated from eating junk, or experienced feelings of disappointment over my eating choices. I’ve also slept more soundly, and I did see an increase in my energy. Tomorrow, when my whole 30 is officially over, I will weigh myself and take progress pictures, and I have a feeling those will be very exciting.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do tomorrow. I know what I’m not going to do – I’m not going to go out and buy candy bars and chips and breads and everything that I couldn’t have last month. My body doesn’t even crave them any more, and I don’t know how much I would enjoy them. Additionally, I don’t want to ruin all the progress I made in the last month. There is a whole30 reintroduction process that slowly, over time, works restricted foods back into your diet, which may be a good option for me. I think I’ll try to stay as close to paleo living as possible. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to do four rounds of whole30 this year, and I’m so proud that I’ve gotten one done already.

I’ll do my best to post pictures of the tangibles of my whole 30 (pictures, weights, meals, etc), and next post I will be able to tell you more about intermittent fasting!

I would challenge everyone reading this to pick one thing to challenge yourself with for the month of February. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish if you set your mind to it!

Stephen Covey says changing our habits can be a very difficult, painful process. “It’s a change that has to be motivated by a higher purpose, by the willingness to subordinate what you think you want now for what you want later.” I agree with him 100%, but can personally attest to the fact that getting closer and closer to whatever it is you want ‘later’, makes up for any pain you feel during the process.




2015, Welcome!

I’ve started the New Year off with a bang – I feel as though I’m really realigning myself in terms of my spiritual health, physical well being, and work aspirations. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to write a blog post, but if you have six hours to spare and are really bored, you can catch up with me and what’s going on in the main areas of my life! :)

Spiritual Health – My small group has been a vital piece of my faith journey thus far, and I know they will continue to support and explore with me. We’re starting a new series about prayer. Power in Prayer, focusing on adoration, petition, intercession and another one later in the month that I don’t quite know of yet. I think this will be really helpful in my communication with God, so I’m really excited for it! I also feel extremely blessed and energized, because I can feel my family beginning to come together and getting closer in spiritual ways that we hadn’t before.

Physical Well Being – This month kicks off my very first Whole30. Whole30 is virtually a stricter version of the paleo ‘diet’ (it’s a lifestyle change, not a diet!). The big things I’ll be excluding from my diet for these 30 days are all forms of grains, any added sugar (including honey and other natural sweeteners), and any type of soy. I’m also not allowed to weigh myself or take progress pictures during the month – I’m supposed to be focusing on ‘detoxing’ my body, and by the end of the 30 days I will, theoretically, see a big change in the foods my body wants and craves. I’m a little worried about it, because any cheating means you have to start your 30 days over! I have faith in myself, but at the same time I know that at times, my will power is virtually nonexistent! Regardless, I know it will be a good experience and I will learn a lot about myself during the process. You can read more about whole30 here. I’ll be keeping up with my goal to go to the gym 5/6 times a week as well! :)

Work Aspirations – I really love being an ELA teacher, and I don’t anticipate ceasing in teaching in the near future. However, I am also really interested in the life coaching program here at New Pathways. I have discovered that throughout my youth I have been conditioned and trained by the best life coaches I could ever ask for – my parents! Now I feel a burning desire to share everything I’ve learned with the youth I meet while at NPE. I am so happy with where I am right now, and I want to share the important lessons I’ve learned that have enabled me to get here.

One of the important lessons my parents taught me is to be proactive in getting what you want. Because of this, I scheduled a meeting with Danny, our company’s COO and the head of the life coaching program. I explained that I wanted to be involved with life coaching, and I outlined why I think I would be an asset to the team. To my pleasant surprise, he was totally and immediately on board! I was really excited, and this was a good experience for me, career wise – I set my sights on something, put a plan in action to achieve it, and saw results.

Danny assigned me to the First Annual New Pathway Youth Power Camp – a three day boarding camp led by mentors Peacemaker Myoung and myself. The three-day event was a resounding success, with students and mentors alike having a wonderful time and learning a lot. The focus of camp was on six key areas vital to youth leader development; Public Speaking, Promoting Self-Esteem, Dealing with Pressure, Becoming a Positive Role Model, Health and Fitness, and Preparing for the Future. Each of the modules was taught by either Danny Hwang, Peacemaker Myoung, or myself, the life coaches who were responsible for running the camp. Interspersed between modules were activities that exercised leadership skills, physical fitness, positive and courageous attitudes, and innovative thinking. Having the camp run concurrent with the first days of 2015 allowed us to take advantage of the abundance of opportunities the New Year offers in a way no other students were able to.

On our first day together, students and mentors were quick to grow comfortable with each other. The intimate group of just six students fostered a relaxed attitude of camaraderie and teamwork. The morning was spent with Danny, during an entertaining and thoroughly education lesson on public speaking, where we covered the 11 points of being a successful and powerful public speaker. We also did some awesome icebreakers that allowed us to get to know each other past our names. For lunch, we practiced healthy eating habits and allowed the kids to be involved by providing a build-your-own-sandwich bar and fresh fruit for dessert. The afternoon held modules Promoting Self Esteem, where we discussed the importance of recognizing your value, and Dealing With Pressure, where we identified different types of pressure and realized the vitality of having healthy and effective ways to deal with this pressure. After part two of our public speaking workshop, we headed over to the Shanghai Stadium where both kids and mentors went rock climbing. After few fears were overcome, comfort zones expanded, and appetites worked up, everyone headed over to dinner at a restaurant close to the hotel. Italian was the requested cuisine, as everyone wanted some warm pasta to replenish his or her carb supply. With the end of the day nearing, it was time to head back to XJH and wind down with a movie. We watched the first half of Cool Runnings, a hysterical movie about a Jamaican bobsled team, highlighting the importance of perseverance, determination, and especially teamwork. By the time the kids returned to the hotel at 22:00, everyone was exhausted and looking forward to our second busy day together.

Day two started bright and early – a 6:30 wake up call enabled us to be at the office for Danny’s Monster Workout starting at 7:10. 31 flights of stairs, 100 pushups, 50 squats and 100 sit-ups later, seemingly everyone (excluding SuperDanny) was sweaty and exhausted – but feeling exhilarated as well! After a shower and filling breakfast, we spent time getting to know each other with more icebreakers and teambuilding activities. The favorite was the ‘human knot’ wherein the group knots itself up and must work to untangle themselves without breaking their hand holds. Peacemaker led the morning’s lesson on Becoming a Positive Role Model, during which the kids identified the 5 points attributed to positive role models; courage, teamwork, joy, leadership and celebrating achievements. After a delicious lunch, we went right into our afternoon lessons. During Health and Fitness we learned about some inspirational athletes and discussed how to properly fuel

our bodies. We were able to practice what we’d just learned by making smoothies – an awesome and delicious way to get the fruits and vegetables our bodies need on the daily. The final lesson of the day was Preparing for the Future, which served to encourage the kids to be proactive in their future – starting now. This preparation is vital to building the future the students have dreamed for themselves. The kids were still tired from our morning monster workout, so in the afternoon we opted for an exercise that focused us on our mental and spiritual psyche: yoga and meditation. After another public speaking workshop, we stationed ourselves in the kitchen for wraps and oven-baked sandwiches. The rest of the evening was spent finishing Cool Runnings and singing in a camp-style gathering.

Saturday was our final day together and we started it similarly to the previous day – a power workout, filling breakfast, icebreakers & team builders, and the final part of our public speaking workshop. Lunch was make-your-own-pizza, and students got really creative when making their creations. After lunch, we had a quick review of the modules we covered over the previous two days and let the students work on their own in preparation for our graduation ceremony. The students wrote letters to themselves highlighting the most important concepts they learned at camp, identified a specific goal they made for themselves and outlined how they plan to achieve that goal. At 17:00, parents joined us for the graduation ceremony.

The graduation ceremony was the highlight of the camp, where each student was able to showcase what they had learned in front of their mentors, peers, and parents. Each student prepared a short speech sharing their overall experience at camp, the value they got out of it, and in many cases, thanking their parents for this wonderful opportunity. The students received their letters from Danny, and we ended the ceremony, and camp, with a song led by and with guitar accompaniment by Peacemaker. It was truly an amazing three days spent together, teaching, learning, encouraging and laughing. The values and skills taught during this camp session are of the upmost importance for students who want to become bright, aspiring young adults.

Hong Kong

My trip to Hong Kong was a really interesting experience – for more than one reason. First of all, although I’ve been traveling ‘independently’ for a while now, I’ve always had some sort of organization to meet me, host me, accommodate me, etc. When I came over in the beginning of the summer, my parents dropped me off at the airport before I left, and when I arrived, my fathers wonderful coworker and her family picked me up, hosted me, and I was able to use her apartment as a base, asking Liyan any questions I had. Over the summer, I had my whole study abroad program to assist me, friends, teachers a program director, etc. Finally, coming back over to Shanghai after my great vacation in September, my company picked me up and sent me to my hotel, where I stayed until I found an apartment. So you can see, although I’ve been traveling ‘solo’ for a while, I’ve always had a lot of help and haven’t had to be responsible for my own logistics. For my trip to Hong Kong, I was responsible for everything. I made my way to the Pudong airport at 8AM by way of metro, and arrived in HK where I asked for directions to the city that my hotel was in. I ended up losing my wallet, with a large sum of Hong Kong dollars that I had just pulled out, and also missing my flight home from Hong Kong to Shanghai at the end of my trip.

After I realized I had misplaced my wallet, I retraced all of my steps to no avail. Finally, arriving at my hotel, I called the bus service’s lost and found from the concierge desk, and after being on the phone for forty-five minutes we managed to track it down. After the hour-long trip back to the airport bus station, I felt so blessed when I got my wallet back and everything was still intact. I don’t think there is any chance this would have happened in Shanghai, but I believe that the Western attitude that prevails in many people who live in HK played a huge role in it being returned. It restored my faith inhumanity and although I felt guilty about my carelessness, it immediately eliminated the stress that had been afflicting me throughout the afternoon.

When I boarded the bus, the first thing I noticed was the beautiful, tropical flowers that grew along the side of the streets. The second thing I noticed was that everyone drove on the ‘wrong’ side of the street! Of course, this makes sense because Hong Kong was historically a British colony, but it was still funny to see and experience! On the bus ride into the city, I befriended the Taiwanese woman I was sitting next to, who recommended some great places to visit and best local foods to eat. Although I didn’t leave the city my hotel was located in, simply for the reason that I didn’t have anyone to guide, reference, or accompany me, I feel like I still got to experience a lot of Hong Kong culture. I ate a lot of street food that I’d never seen in Shanghai, and I wandered around the streets of Hong Kong, exploring the city. I walked past the site of the Umbrella Revolution, which was pretty cool even though the area was virtually deserted. Of course, the main reason I went to Hong Kong was to get my z visa, which I was able to do with no problem. I was also really appreciative of the holiday spirit that was present in Hong Kong. Again, most likely because of the Western influence on the area, it didn’t seem faked or stressed like it often does in Shanghai. In Shanghai, many staff members are forced to wear Santa hats – although I’m sure they have no idea who Santa even is! In Hong Kong, the city was bustling with holiday related activity and decorations – it cured a little of my holiday homesickness and did a good job of lifting my spirits.

On my way back to the airport, I budgeted an hour to get from Causeway Bay (where my hotel was) to the airport- which is about how long it took me to get to the airport when I was going back for my wallet. I arrived at the airport with roughly 40 minutes before my flight was scheduled to to take off – but when I went to the assigned area for check in, there was no one there to assist me! Turns out check in had been closed. I ran around and around, trying to convince someone to check me in, or at least rebook my flight, but in the end, I had to settle for a flight nine hours later, and on my own dime. I was frustrated and tired – wallowing in the self pity since “this never would have happened if I was traveling with my family”. However, after a long day in the airport, and a delayed flight, I arrivd back in Shanghai, and caught a cab home.

One interesting thing about returning to Shanghai after this trip, was that I felt like I was returning ‘home’ after my business trip. It was curious, since I had previously never really considered Shanghai home. I am sure this is a result of the many months I’ve felt in Shanghai, and it was a warming feeling. All in all, my trip to Hong Kong was great. I think I grew up very quickly in two days, learning a lot about myself as a responsible adult and what I need to do to really become one. I would like to go back to Hong Kong in the future for leisure, giving myself to explore the island and enjoy my time stress free.

Holidays in Shanghai


If you’re wondering if it’s possible to roast a turkey in toaster oven, IT IS! I have first hand experience in this area. I volunteered to host a thanksgiving potluck for my small group and was gifted a full sized turkey from one of our group members. I was faced with a conflict: here I had a 6 lbs turkey and a countertop toaster oven to cook it in. I knew that I was going to make mashed potatoes and green beans – common thanksgiving dishes that would be very low maintenance. The turkey issue was causing a lot of stress for me, and after a couple hours my google search history was filled with “is it possible to roast turkey in toaster oven”, “help! My turkey is too big for my oven!”, and “roasting turkey methods in small oven”.

Eventually, I settled on a means of cooking my turkey, by way of ‘spatchcocking’. I read about this on Martha Stewart’s website, and it seemed like a feasible solution for my dilemma. When you spatchcock a bird, you cut it’s spine out, flatten it out (breaking the chest bone) and roasting it that way. I settled on this because my turkey was way too tall for my oven, but when I finally cut the spine out (it took a lot of hard work because I don’t have poultry shears – I used a generic kitchen knife) and flattened it, it was way too wide for the toaster oven! My solution was to completely dissect the turkey, I cut it into thirds and baked it one part at a time. I seasoned it with olive oil, thyme and rosemary and oh my goodness, while it was in the oven it made the whole house smell delicious.

By the time everyone arrived, my turkey was finished, 10 potatoes had been boiled and mashed, and my green beans were sautéed. Everyone was so impressed, they were taking pictures and oohing and aahing over the ‘American thanksgiving food’. My small group members brought a wide variety of dishes – from homemade curry chicken, to store bought sushi. It was the most diverse Thanksgiving I’d ever experienced. Of course I was missing my family, but it was nice to be surrounded by my friends from my small group. We all ate our fill and had wonderful conversation.


The Christmas holiday has proven to be a lot more difficult to handle than Thanksgiving. This makes sense, since for the past twenty-one Christmas holidays, December has meant a break from school, carols and baking, and just time with my family in general. This year, there are no days off of work, as China doesn’t celebrate Christmas, and no mom, dad or Rachel to spend time with. I did my best to decorate the apartment, but on a limited budget, it’s hard to do a really good job. On the flip side, I feel so blessed to have grown close to people that I can celebrate with –my small group, and Nhi and her family. Kristina has come over from America for the holidays, and it’s been so nice to see her – after five or six years! Additionally, I’ve been spending a lot of time with Cookie and her family. They are so warm and welcoming, and truly make me feel like part of the family. Last week we celebrated Cookie’s mom’s birthday, and we all had a good time (also, I have to really practice my Chinese when I’m with them!).

The other observation I’ve made about my first holiday away from home and out of America, is that I’ve spent a lot more time thinking about the true meaning of Christmas. Of course, every year we attend a special Christmas Eve service, but this year I have been doing so much more. During my class with Eden, I told an abridged version of the Christmas story (written and illustrated by yours truly), and taught and dissected Hark, the Herald Angels, which I have decided this year is my favorite Christmas carol. It gave me such joy to be teaching and explaining the real meaning of Christmas, instead of just hearing it! I attended AGIF’s Christmas play and this evening I will attend the Christmas Eve service. Although Shanghai is trying to ‘Christmas-ify’ the entire city, the poor job that they have done has really allowed me to view the holidays in a non-commercial light that is seldom able to be experienced in America. I do have a few work obligations tomorrow, but I will enjoy the time that I have with the Arslains, and as is with every Christmas day, I will be sure to look back and reflect on all the blessings and presents I have received throughout the year, be they in the form of time with friends, opportunities to travel, job offers, diplomas, hugs, or prayers (just to name a few!)

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Long Time, No C

Wow, it sure has been a while. I was planning on trying to keep my blog posts frequent and short, but it seems life has prevented me from achieving that particular goal, at least over the last few weeks.


When I think about the content of my next blog post (which I do, frequently, throughout my various day-to-day activities, I always run in to the same problem, an odd paradox. As I get settled in to my life here, I feel like I am doing the exact same thing every week, work/’social’/gym/cooking, so what is there really to write about? However, at the same time, so many little things happen within each of those aspects of my life that I want to share, it seems the amount I will be writing grows exponentially as the days progress! So for this blog post, I will try to summarize the most interesting things that have been happening lately.



Teaching has been really great lately. Stressful, yes, but I’m still enjoying what I do. I have had another class added to my schedule, and SSAT cram course on Sunday afternoons. The SSAT is virtually the SAT, but for middle schoolers who are trying to get into American or international boarding/high schools, as opposed to high schoolers trying to get into university. Since I only took the SAT one time and received a mediocre score, it’s pretty funny that I am now teaching those concepts and test taking skills. I really have to prepare for that class so that I’m not stuck at the front of the classroom looking dumb in front of my students (which I would – when using words like ‘olfactory’, it’s testing me just as much as the kids).

The past two weeks I’ve also been substituting for a Life Coaching class. It’s really been so much fun, and really great preparation as I will be teaching three weeks of life coaching classes starting in the middle of December. We cover things like how to be proactive in our daily lives and how to stay positive and lead happy lives – which I think is really important for my students to focus on, as they have a lot of different forms of stress pressing on them all the time.

Lately I’ve been concerned about whether or not I am actually teaching/getting through to my students. We’re over halfway through the semester, and it’s pretty hard to really gauge how much you’ve really taught your kids. That’s why I was so pleased when the mother of one of my ELA 5 students stopped by the classroom after we had finished our lessons on Friday. She told me that her daughter had recently taken an English test at school and received the highest marks of her entire class. She told me that they were so pleased with their decision to enroll her daughter in classes at New Pathway and that she was so grateful for me. It really warmed my heart, and put a huge smile on my face. It seemed I was receiving tangible evidence of how my kids were improving in their classes – which is wonderful.

Finally, last update for work – next week I will be going to Hong Kong! I need to get my actual work visa, and that requires me to leave the country, get my visa, and then reenter. I leave very early Monday morning and return Wednesday afternoon. It’s just a short trip, but it should be fun and I hope to be able to see a little of the city while I’m there!



My social life really consists of two things, volunteering and church. My involvement with Sonflowers (after school program) is limited really to teaching, and I have been having limited success. The kids already have so much homework, it is often impossible to drag them away for even 5 to 10 minutes of English class. This is frustrating to them, because they spend so much of their time learning already that they don’t want to be bothered for additional classes, and is also frustrating for me because to make the one hour round trip trek twice a week, only to be yelled at and whined to, is never fun. I try to remind myself that people don’t volunteer because it’s easy, and I do my best to practice my patience with the kids.

The holiday season is a busy season for Eden ministries. I am continuing to teach my Tuesday morning classes, but in addition to that, we have a lot of jewelry sales that are happening now. Yesterday I spent the entire day at a winter bazaar hosted by Shanghai American School, and today I am spending the day at Rainbow Bridge International School, selling jewelry for teachers and parents. I will be away next week and unfortunately will miss my English class at Eden, but the next sale I’m doing is on the 10th of December. These events are always really fun, because the other vendors are really friendly, and of course we get to sell some awesome products for an awesome cause. For more information on Eden Ministry, and to do a little shopping (yes, they ship within the US!) you can visit their website at www.edeniministry.org.

Church has been a great constant in my life as I’ve gotten settled here. Not only do I look forward to attending the service every Saturday (the worship at AGIF is just amazing) but I have made some great friends in the small group/bible study I attend every Sunday evening. Since I’ve never had a group of people similar in age to talk to about my faith, it’s very refreshing while also comforting to spend a couple hours every Sunday with my small group. Going out to Pudong for church also gives me the opportunity to see my self-appointed Godmother (I should say fairy godmother) Nhi, who clothes me and feeds me and gives me a ridiculously comfortable bed to sleep in. J

As mentioned, the rest of my social life is relatively non-existent. I think this is a result of two things. For one, I am very busy, and therefore don’t have a ton of free time be out and about. The second reason I think stems from the fact that I am a “TCA” or, Third Culture Adult. I haven’t done too much research on this yet, but it was brought up briefly at last weeks small group. Third Culture Adults often struggle to form relationships while they are abroad. Often, the knowledge that people in Shanghai come and go very often (and perhaps even yourself) can act as a good reason not to grow close to people and develop relationships. Also, the stress of being away from your friends and family can hinder your ability and desire to form a new social life.


Gym & Cooking

I put these two together, because they go hand in hand, as they both fall under my new ‘healthy lifestyle’. The aforementioned lack of social life means that I have a lot of time to focus on myself, and I have been using this time to make sure I go to the gym at least five days a week if not six, and to indulge my hobby of cooking to include healthy meals. I haven’t gone out to eat (apart from social outings with coworkers once or twice) in the past month and a half, and I have been having an absolute ball trying out different recipes, even though a lot of the ingredients are either really hard to find here, or very expensive. I have been seeing some good, albeit slow, results – and actually not but thirty minutes ago I ran into one of my teachers from the summer and she commented on my weight loss, which is really motivating.

I have a fun Holiday Themed post coming up soon, and I will also upload some pictures later this week! :)



What Weekend?!

Life has been extremely busy lately, which is what I will blame the long intervals between blog posts for! Due to the schedule of my classes, the weekends are the busiest time of the week for me – typically a crazy whirlwind of metro rides, teaching, packed meals, and trips across the city. This is what a normal weekend looks like for me:

Saturday morning, rise and shine! Class starts at 9, which means I need to be at the office by 8:45, which means my alarm is usually set for 7:15. This gives me enough time to pack my bags and make a yummy and filling breakfast before hustling out the door. The morning commute to the office usually goes with no hiccups, and I arrive with enough time to collect myself and prepare the classroom for my first class. 9-12 on Saturday means I have my ELA 3 class – just three students now (up from one my first couple weeks!), and we have a lot of fun. They are all easy going and bright, so I can afford to do fun things with them in class. After class, I return to the teachers office to get ready for my next class and eat lunch. I always pack my lunch so that I don’t have to go out for food. My class from 1-4 is my ELA 4 class, 6th and 7th graders, eight boys and one girl. This class really drains me – they’re a lot of fun, but there is a ton of room for improvement in the behavior department. After class gets out, I decide what I need to take home (to grade, prepare, review) and what can stay at the office. I leave around 4:30PM and begin my trek to church. Since I’ve picked up an extra class on Sunday, I’ve been going to the Grace Extended service at 6PM on Saturday. The walk + metro ride + taxi ride it takes to get to AGIF puts me there right on time. After the service, I go over to Nhi’s (my unofficial godmother) for a relaxing night full of home cooking and a SUPER soft guest bed (have I ever mentioned the quality of the mattress at my apartment? Absolutely awful). I love spending time with her because it’s the closest thing I get to home over here.

Sunday morning I wake up around 6:30, dress in the work outfit I was carrying all day Saturday, and call a cab to take me from Nhi’s house in JinQiao to the nearest metro station, where I go directly to work. I enjoy my 9-12 ELA 5 class, they’re older and a little more mature – so class goes smoothly. After class, I have another break – but it’s always complicated for me to decide what to have for lunch. Since I don’t want to carry a lunch around with me for 30 hours, I usually don’t have my Sunday lunch with me when I leave the house Saturday. That means I can just wait it out, or I can go out and buy something. Since I’m usually (always) low on funds, I may get two hard-boiled eggs from Family Mart or just wait it out. Last week I subsisted on solely Halloween candy – so much processed sugar and I had a huge headache by the end of the day L. However, we do have a refrigerator at the office, so I don’t know why I haven’t thought to just bring my lunch on Saturday and keep it there until Sunday! I will try that tomorrow. From 1:30-3:30 I have two students in my SSAT cram class. The SSAT is just like the SAT, but students take it when they are applying for international middle schools or boarding schools in the United States (so intense!). I like my students and those two hours fly by. After class, I leave the office and head to the gym for an hour of workout(have been carrying my gym outfit and shoes with me all weekend), quick sauna sesh, and shower. From the gym I head to my small group bible study, which technically runs from 6:30-9:30 but I usually end up hanging out until 10:30 or later. By that time, I’m just so exhausted of working and running around and keeping everything together that I just want to relax and socialize. My small group offers me the perfect opportunity, and I don’t feel guilty about hanging out late because I have Monday off and can sleep in!

Finally, late Sunday evening, I return to my apartment. I semi-unpack everything, but mostly I just fall into bed, glad that the weekend is over.


P.S. I think there are going to be some pretty exciting things happening over here in the near future, so stay tuned! :)

Still making yummy, colorful breakfasts!

Still making yummy, colorful breakfasts!

This is one example of the delicious lunches I pack for work. :)

This is one example of the delicious lunches I pack for work. :)

Made my kids some halloween treats for class last week!

Made my kids some halloween treats for class last week!

Homemade pizza at Nhi's - yes!

Homemade pizza at Nhi’s – yes!

mmmmm... oats

mmmmm… oats

Getting my workout in at least 4 times a week!

Getting my workout in at least 4 times a week!

more oats of course!

more oats of course!

another packed lunch! (and snack)

another packed lunch! (and snack)


  1. The Metro

Athough my first few weeks in Shanghai were spent grumbling on about the fact that it takes me (minimum) thirty minutes to get anywhere, I’ve learned to use my (extensive) time on the subway productively. Wherever I go, I’m sure to have the book I’m reading at that time on me, and suddenly my thirty minute commutes turn into five engrossing pages and an almost missed stop. This isn’t even mentioning the fact that it costs me 6RMB ($1) to cross Shanghai, (remember, this city is the size of the state of Rhode Island!).

The Subway is the best place for people-watching. Chinese people all wear very interesting clothing! Meow

The Subway is the best place for people-watching. Chinese people all wear very interesting clothing! Meow

There is an awesome Metro app that makes metro travel very, very easy!

There is an awesome Metro app that makes metro travel very, very easy!


  1. Produce Markets

Yes, I have been trying to eat healthier since I moved overseas, and the produce markets you can find on virtually every corner make that quite easy. For a fraction of the price of produce in America, I can buy fresh vegetables, fruit, eggs, even tofu and shrimp. Although visitors may be wary of the cleanliness and sanitation of said markets, a five minute walk is much preferred over a twenty minute commute to Carrefour for residents.

  1. Thnks to the new blender I couldn't afford but got anyways, I was able to make this AWESOME lunch. Green Machine smoothie bowl: two frozen bananas, one cup spinach, splash of milk! Topped with blueberries, dragon fruit, and chopped walnuts.

    Thnks to the new blender I couldn’t afford but got anyways, I was able to make this AWESOME lunch. Green Machine smoothie bowl: two frozen bananas, one cup spinach, splash of milk! Topped with blueberries, dragon fruit, and chopped walnuts.


so much fresh, cheap produce!

so much fresh, cheap produce!

Fresh, delicious salad - YUM

Fresh, delicious salad – YUM

I have been making some awesome OATs for breakfast lately - so easy to dress up and make gorgeous!

I have been making some awesome OATs for breakfast lately – so easy to dress up and make gorgeous!



  1. Ohio State China Global Gateway

In a city where I have very few connections to my home life, the fact that the University I am now alumna of has an office located in Shanghai is amazing. Not only does the Global Gateway send out information on alumni events, such as game watch events (bloody marys and Ohio State football at 8AM Sunday morning – what could be better!?), but they also give me the opportunity to stay involved with OSU. This past Monday I was a representative for OSU at the Shixi High School university fair. It was quite an experience to see so many young, international students who, in most cases, had already heard of OSU and, in many cases, already were planning to apply! O-H!

O-H! Here I am with Ruth, representing OSU at the Shixi HS University fair.

O-H! Here I am with Ruth, representing OSU at the Shixi HS University fair.


  1. My AGIF Puxi Small Group

How lucky I am to have found a church that I feel so welcome at, and that has resources for me to further my faith outside of just church services. I was connected with a small group that usually meets just a few metro stops from my house, and that is filled with some really awesome people. Last Sunday I went to my first meeting. There were about nine of us, and we had some really great discussion – I was so comfortable immediately! It made me realize that I have always been lacking a friend group that has accepted let alone encouraged me to talk about my faith. Now I have that, and I already know I will be making some very close relationships with my new friends, while my relationship with God is strengthened!

Getting we-chats from my small group often make my day much brighter

Getting we-chats from my small group often make my day much brighter


  1. Baozi

Ok, so these carb and fat loaded buns of joy are not part of my clean eating plan, but that doesn’t mean I love them any less! They are the black sheep of my top 10 list, and even though I love them, I will only get one every two weeks or so. The baozi is a steamed bun with pork and vegetables inside of it, and the meat is g-r-e-asy. I think an accurate conversion for calories in to calories out would be one baozi (approx.. 4/5 bites) for every twenty minutes on the stair stepper(!!!). For that reason, I keep them as my special, occasional treat.


mmmm... baozi

mmmm… baozi

  1. Sprout Works

Although there are a ton of really yummy tasting foods that will add on two pants sizes, cause your cholesterol to skyrocket, and make you feel like an awful person for ingesting that into your body in general, (see number 5), Shanghai also has an amazing and expansive spread of restaurants to choose from. You could visit just one area and literally get whatever you wanted – Korean, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, American, Italian, you name it. Last week, I went to a restaurant that I sighted while I was in Xintiandi, named Sprout Works. Sprout Works is like a salad bar on steroids – and all of the food is so tasty. You start by deciding if you want to be ‘conservative’ and order half a salad (read: this ‘half salad’ fills up virtually the whole plate). I got the powerhouse salad, and went (again, ‘conservative’) with the smallest option for sides (two), and watched as my server piled soy sauce glazed sweet potoatoes and lentils with frisee duck onto my plate. Although there are further options (pesto salmon, lemon and basil chicken, soups, breads, etc), I exercised self control and stopped there. It was so tasty and for 60RMB, or $10, the take home box of leftovers was just an added perk.




  1. Second Chance Animal Aid

To be honest, I never would have expected an animal shelter-type organization in Shanghai. On the ten minute walk from the metro station to my apartment, I see on average three stray animals, and it’s pretty obvious that strays are just a thing here. However, the SCAA does provide hope and the prospect for potential forever homes to the few lucky animals that come to them. Plus, SCAA offer a great option for expats who are unsure about the amount of time they’ll be in Shanghai but who really want a cat! The SCAA doesn’t have a shelter by choice, which means that all the animals that come to them are placed in foster homes. It’s not difficult to apply to be a foster home, you really just need to have a love for animals and one Sunday every month free to attend Adoption Days (since there is no shelter, this is the main way animals are adopted). This past week, I was a ‘foster-foster mom’, watching a cute, fat, two year old tabby while her foster mom was out of town. Unfortunately, since I teach every Sunday, I can’t be a long-term foster mom, but with the holidays coming up, I won’t be surprised if I get a few more feline companions before the new year.


Cute Cleo! What a wonderful foster kitty!

Cute Cleo! What a wonderful foster kitty!



8. New Pathways

This seems like a kind of obvious one, but it wouldn’t be an accurate ‘top ten’ list if I didn’t throw my company in there. There are definitely some days and some classes that frustrate me, make me question my decision to teach, etc – but these are few and far between. For the most part, I love teaching and even more than that, I love the projects we are doing as a team here at NPE(can’t say too much about them yet!). Although I don’t really get to see people during the week, due to the different class schedule everyone has, I love Friday morning meetings because I get to catch up with the whole ELA team. Another thing that’s really cool is just how totally involved the ‘higher ups’ in the company are. The CEO of NPE can be seen walking around the office between classes, and the COO will take the time to thoroughly answer any question you have for him, at any point in time. It’s obvious they really care about their employees – which I learn to really value every time I go home and my roommate (who works for EF) can’t stop complaining about his day at work, coworkers, management, etc. To be frank, I quite like going into the office and coming up with lesson plans that I think the kids will enjoy. This weekend, I’m doing a fun activity (it involves candy!) to let them experience a little Halloween fun in class. Boo!


implementing an accelerated reader-type program at work

implementing an accelerated reader-type program at work

  1. Mopeds

Mopeds are a highly favored mode of transportation around here – when it comes to China, versatility is key. Mopeds can weave in and out of traffic, transport people, supplies, groceries or animals, and can and will be seen not only on the road but on sidewalks as well. For pedestrians, mopeds are probably not as popular, but I will ride a moped whenever the opportunity presents itself. Usually, this is when I am on my way somewhere and can’t get the whole way there by metro or foot. Church is a good example, I take the metro all the way to the jinqiao station, but the church itself would probably take an hour to walk to! Many people who have made ‘moped-taxiing’ their business know when the metro line stops short of popular destinations, and they wait outside the station. I could take a taxi, but for the same price, I can take a moped and get Shanghai’s dirty, polluted wind in my hair and my life endangered – and who wouldn’t want that!!!




  1. Facetime

Of course, Facetime is not specific to China, but it is one of my favorite things right now, and will probably continue to be until teleportation is invented. I spend a good amount of time facetiming people back home (mostly my parents and my friend Reece), and it’s the closest thing I get to solving my homesickness. I guess I wouldn’t say I’m homesick necessarily, but I do miss home every day. It’s not a crippling type of miss, it doesn’t impact my day to day actions or decisions, but it’s always there, in the back of my head – the desire to be hugging my parents or petting my dog. Every Friday morning I have a facetime session planned with Mom and Dad, and every meeting I actually make, is an awesome hour or two spent talking with my favorite parents. With my friends, it’s more sporadic – but what initially was meant to be a fifteen minute check in, easily turns into two hours of chatting and laughing.


How could you not miss this face!?

How could you not miss this face!?

Always love skype sessions with mommy and daddy

Always love skype sessions with mommy and daddy


October in Shanghai is proving to be one of my favorite months in the city thus far. There has not been a single day that the weather hasn’t been just perfect. It’s sunny, but windy, and it’s getting cooler – you can definitely feel that fall is coming along. It will be interesting to see how cool it gets when winter comes around!

Yesterday I had my first class at Sonflowers, and it was really fun. Very different from the classes that I teach at New Pathways. Most of the girls that I work with at Sonflowers are at such fundamental levels that our entire session was spent on introductions and likes and dislikes. The kids all seem to love being at Sonflowers, they all play and run around, shrieking and laughing, which means that I’ll have to make sure that me lessons are entertaining (and brief)! One of my older girls has a particularly low speaking level, and the ayi shared with me that she really hates English class. She was my last student and so I invited her over and took it very slowly, by the end of the lesson we were singing Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ and giggling. Class with them Mondays and Wednesdays will be a hoot! Plus, I anticipate a lot of improvement from the kids over the next few months, which will be really rewarding for all parties involved. :)

This morning I had New Hire Orientation at New Pathways (had to find a sub for my Eden class though) which taught me a lot more about the company than I ever knew, and it was all very impressive. The session ended with a scavenger hunt around the office to find out little fun facts about our co-workers. As our meeting had ended, I was just going to go back to my office and get ready for class this afternoon, but I saw Ed working on it and my competitiveness kicked in. I think we were the only two who actually tried, and if I got more answers correct with him I get to have lunch with Danny (the COO) and the HR team. That would actually be pretty cool, plus, I met basically everyone who works at the Xujiahui office in the process!

I have some REALLY exciting news – probably the best news I have had since coming to Shanghai. There is an organization here, SCAA (Second Chance Animal Aid) and through them, there is the opportunity to FOSTER CATS! I’ve already talked to it about it with my roommates, and they’re super cool with it. I’m so excited and I’ve turned in my application – next time I post, I may have a furry friend by my side. :D

I would love to thank everyone who has supported me with graduation gifts – although I’m not home, it really means a lot and it’s all going towards helping me pay off my student loans. Particular thank you to Grandma and Grandpa Kim who have always supported me in everything I do and continue to do so.

Last Friday morning my oats celebrated with me!

Last Friday morning my oats celebrated with me!



Selling Eden jewelry at the American Club Shanghai coffee last week!

Selling Eden jewelry at the American Club Shanghai coffee last week!

Doing a lot of grocery shopping and cooking on my health kick -*

Doing a lot of grocery shopping and cooking on my health kick -*

Last weekend I went to a concert with Cookie - it was tons of fun!

Last weekend I went to a concert with Cookie – it was tons of fun!

Pork and Asparagus :)

Pork and Asparagus :)



Now that I’ve been in Shanghai for a month, I’ve had some time to settle in to my new life and explore some different activities and organizations that I can get involved with, aside from work. I have found a church, some volunteer organizations and have started making some great friends. Although there are many differences between life in America and life in Shanghai, there are a lot of similarities as well, if you are able to look at the bigger picture. My life consists of the same basic activities; working, socializing, exploring, etc – but it’s the destinations, relationships and scenery along the way that has changed. This is a good thing, in my opinion, as I believe young people should explore outside of the world they know. Of course, this is for some people, and very few regard my personal opinion, but I do think it provides an innumerable amount of experiences that can help shape your young adult life.

For the last month I have been regularly attending Abundant Grace International Fellowship (AGIF), which is the church that my family went to when we were here many years ago and the same church that I tried to get involved with over the summer (the commute was just ridiculous so that didn’t work out). I really love AGIF services. I go on Sunday afternoons at 3PM, which is good timing as my Sunday class gets out at 12:30 and it is about an hour commute. I can take time to eat lunch and make my way over to Pudong. My favorite part about the AGIF services is the music worship. We seeing more contemporary songs, and I always feel really moved when the congregation is singing with the praise team on stage. I also enjoy going to church because it allows me a regular time for me to see Nhi, my pseudo-mom (good family friends, she is great friends with mom and her daughters are close with Rachel and I). They often take me out to dinner and I get to get out of Puxi for an afternoon, which is nice.

Being part of a church group often offers so much more than just a place to worship, and AGIF is no different. A couple weeks ago I went to a showing of the documentary, Nefarious, which sheds light on the major issue of human trafficking. After the movie, there were speakers who worked at or ran organizations around Shanghai that focused on helping those who had been affected by human trafficking. Kacie was the first lady who spoke, on behalf of Eden, which is a company that provides restoration houses all around Asia, giving women who have come out of red-light districts the opportunity to learn, work and pray in a safe environment. She explained that they were looking for a volunteer English teacher, and I felt my skin raise. It seemed that God had let me right to this place – not only had He led me to an organization that I could volunteer with, but the need was one that I could confidently fill. Shona was another speaker, who runs Sonflowers, which is an afterschool program that shelters kids after schools, provides a meal, helps with homework and allows a safe place to play. The kids who come to Sonflowers are those who are either living in the brothels that their parents run, or who have parents who are involved with the Chinese mafia. Their homes are not suitable places for young kids to be growing up, which is why Sonflowers is such a great organization. They were also looking for an English teacher, and since I don’t have a very busy schedule at the moment, I knew this was another great way I could not only help others, but also become closer to God. My classes at Eden are just once a week, for an hour on Tuesday mornings. The English levels of these girls vary greatly, but for the most part are very poor. I have only had one class with them so far, but I am excited about thinking of ways that I can encourage them to speak English during the week, even when I’m not around. Audio recordings to me, and listening to American music is part of the homework I’ve assigned for them this week. My classes at Sonflowers haven’t started yet, but I would hesitate even to call them classes. I have one on one sessions for ten minutes with each child (there are about ten of them) two days a week. We can’t take a lot of their time, because they often have upwards of two or three hours of homework a week. I’m really excited about these opportunities, as I think they’ll be rewarding for the organizations as well as myself.

Another way I am working with Eden is by selling jewelry at bazaars and events hosted and attended mostly by expatriates. The central job that the girls have when they get to Eden is making jewelry by hand, which is where a lot of revenue comes in for Eden. Many girls also have a hand in designing the jewelry as well, and believe me – it is all beautiful! On Wednesday I went to an event hosted by ACS – American Club Shanghai, and while it wasn’t a huge event, we sold a good amount of jewelry. Plus, I met some really cool people, both customers as well as other vendors! There is another event tomorrow, and although I usually have to teach on Saturdays, we are still seeing schedule changes due to the National Holiday, which is great, because Eden is down a volunteer for the event.

Of course, work is still central in my day-to-day life, and there are a lot of fun projects that we are getting into, aside from physically teaching classes. The ELA team is working on creating a completely new, in-house curriculum, which has proven to be challenging, fun and rewarding all at the same time. My coworker Adam and I are working on putting together an Academic Decathlon of sorts for NPE ELA students at the end of this term. We get to think of all different themes, challenges and prizes, which is loads of fun and hardly feels like work. I’ve recently taken on a new class on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, which means I’m up to four classes now.

Slowly but surely I see can see myself settling into my routine here. Growing comfortable with where you are is great, and once you’re comfortable you’re able to start doing things that make you uncomfortable, which is where the real fun starts.