Vacation Home

My trip home could truly be described as a whirlwind of activities, people and places. How I managed to fit so much in such a short period of time, I’m not sure, but I know I wouldn’t have been able to see everyone I did and do everything I wanted without the help and support of my amazing parents! It’s so evident how much time and effort they put into making my trip home perfect, for which I am so grateful.

I arrived in ATL to a wonderful welcoming committee made up of Mom, Rachel and Lauren. Dad was traveling, but it was great to be reunited with some of my favorite ladies! When dad joined us the next day, we were able to enjoy some family activities. Among these included a fun photo shoot in an attempt to replace our last family portrait with amore current one, an tough mudder that lived up to it’s name in every aspect, and lots of time spent cooking, eating, shopping, and generally enjoying each other’s company. I was happy to be able to workout at Lauren’s box, Crossfit Breaking Boundaries a couple times that week, to offset some of the less-wholesome foods I guiltlessly enjoyed while home. This was made even more exciting because I had new workout shoes – crossfit nanos that the family bought for me! How blessed I am to have such a generous support system.

Three words that come to mind when thinking of living in Shanghai are: pollution, busyness, and dirty (and I mean that in the most endearing way). I realized I need the complete opposite of this while vacationing in the states, so Rachel and Lauren and I planned an incredibly short vacation to the one place that would satisfy this desire: Florida. The bright blue skies, clean white sand, and incredibly relaxed vibe of the beaches on 30a were exactly what I needed. Although we were only able to stay for roughly 36 hours, we were able to enjoy the beautiful beach and some nice margaritas in celebration of Cinco de Mayo. The five-hour car ride also gave us some valuable time to catch up (mostly lauren and I… Rachel was preoccupied… with sleep).

Suddenly, my time in Atlanta had come to a close and I had to leave my gorgeous house and adorable dog. Now it was off to Ohio, where I would (finally) enjoy my graduation commencement ceremony with my family and spend some time with my best friends. We left Thursday morning and arrived that evening, upon being reunited with my friends there was a lot of jumping, hugging and tears (we are quite the dramatic group). As it usually is when seeing best friends after a long time apart, we effortlessly fell back into the routine and relationships of when we were all in school together. It felt great to be able to revert to college-girl mode, if only for a couple days. Sunday came and we enjoyed a pleasant brunch in the Short North for Mother’s Day, and then it was off to graduation. The weather wasn’t too harsh and it was awesome to walk in the Shoe with my peers (and there were a lot of them… 2015 boasted Ohio State’s largest graduating class in the history of the school!). Since I had technically already graduated and received my diploma, it wasn’t a hard decision to dip out after a wonderful commencement speech by Archie Griffin. The family had lives starting the next day in Atlanta, and the sooner we started that long drive the better. Before we officially departed, we got to spend an invaluable albeit short time visiting with some of the Ohio family. We enjoyed a delicious dinner at Annette’s house while we caught up with her and Wendy. It’s unfortunate we weren’t able to see the rest of the family, but as Annette said when I mentioned how short our visits usually are, “I’ll take what I can get!”. The family dropped me off at the hotel I’d be staying in by the Cincinnati airport before my flight left the next morning, and it was pretty hard for me to say goodbye to my parents and sister. I felt so happy to be able to spend time with them but I also felt that it was so unfair that my time with them was short. Of course I know this is silly – I have been blessed with a wonderful opportunity and I do love being in Shanghai, but having to leave my family will never be something I want to do.

As by now I would consider myself relatively experienced independent traveler, I had no trouble getting from my hotel, to the airport, to SFO. The flight was easy and I was so glad to arrive in sunny California. Grandma found me right away and we briefly caught up while waiting for my checked bags. She and Grandpa and I went to My Tofu House for lunch –where we had amazing soondubu(lol at that spelling) and seafood pancake. We arrived at Aunt Soo’s beautiful palace of a house, and having a couple hours before any of the family arrived, Grandma and I decided to walk off our huge lunch. We were looking for the best way to get to San Francisco Crossfit –one of the original 50 crossfit boxes that was conveniently located just a mile from Aunt Soo’s home! The walk through Presidio was breath-taking, filled with gorgeous lush greenery that I had been missing in China and enjoying the duration of my time home (it’s funny the little things you notice and appreciate after being without for so long). We found the box and came home to Mila and Niya, who are absolutely as cute as ever. That evening we had another delicious Korean meal cooked by Grandma, and the wonderful company of all my cousins, Aunt Soo and Aunt Jinee, Uncle Scott and of course the Grandparents. The next day I woke quite early to get a quick workout in at SFCF and I got to spend the rest of the day exploring beautiful San Francisco with Aunt Soo and the Grandparents. The next morning was nothing but an early departure to SFO to catch a direct flight to PVG.

Now back in Shanghai, there is a lot of evidence of my trip to America – new clothes, a fresh tan, and lots of pictures. However, when I think of my trip, the evens that I hold closest to my heart are not the shopping trips, tanning or photo ops. Instead, I reminisce on the evening spent outside by the fire pit, eating Dad’s famous hamburgers (that he altered to fit Whole30 – that support system, I’m telling you!) comparing bruises after the tough mudder. I think about watching the mommy and daddy wren beginning to build their nest on Annette’s porch while Oliver and Mac run around the huge backyard in the warm sunshine. I recall my conversations with Kade and Callan and remember my surprise at how much they have evolved and matured even since seeing them just months ago. One of my favorite parts of the trip was sitting around the dinner table with Aunt Soo, Aunt Jinee and Grandma, just talking. During this time, Jinee commented that I exhibited personality traits that reminded her of mom! As the child who has been a ‘mini-me’ of Dad for her whole life (which, don’t get me wrong – I love) this made me really happy. I love being told that I am my parents child!

Although I am half way around the world, I am comforted by the fact that I have family and friends all around the world who love and care for me. I know that no matter where I am, no matter what endeavor I happen to be taking on, I will be supported! What else could a girl really ask for?

My Trip Home!

It’s been quite a while (a few months!) since my last post, and for the few of you who read this blog, I apologize! I have had extremely limited success when it comes to blogging/journaling/documenting my experiences over long periods of time. I remember once when I was in primary school, I went to California for a science camp and I kept a journal for the whole two week trip! Mom and Dad were so happy to be able to read about my adventures, but I think two weeks is about my cap for consistent, quality writing. 😛

Life has been going along smoothly – I have been working as usual and have really been getting back into Crossfit. There is an awesome gym that is not far from my office that I spend a couple of hours at M-F. I finished my second Whole 30 in March, and at the end of the month my gym launched it’s first ever Paleo Challenge, that I helped put together! Everyone in the challenge has a partner, and we are all working to encourage each other to eat clean, and train hard. The winners of the challenge will be based on three factors, % body fat lost, # lbs lost, and overall lifestyle score. The scoresheet we have each week awards us for things like drinking 64 oz water each day, not eating after 9PM, making it to a crossfit class, eating paleo for the whole day, etc. It’s been a lot of fun, and there are some added challenges because the Chinese members of our gym had never heard of Paleo before the challenge. To be honest, working out and cooking are two of my biggest passions right now. I spend a lot of my time either at the gym or in the kitchen! When I’m not there, I’m either at work or teaching English classes at Eden.

It seems that when I’m not at the gym the days really drag by. I’m just so excited for my trip home that nothing happening in my daily life is very exciting! I can’t believe it’s been more than nine months since I’ve seen my family, or even been in the states. It’s frustrating to think about the incredibly short amount of time I’ll have at home, but I never stop being grateful that I get the opportunity to come home(and thanks for those miles, dad!). It’s funny the simple things that I’m excited for. Besides seeing my family in Atlanta, I can’t wait to go to american grocery stores, where I can read all of the ingredients and nutritional labels and understand all the sales that are happening! I can’t wait to use an actual car to get around – not the subway, not a cab, not a moped! I definitely can’t wait to treat myself to some delicious food. I can’t wait to go hiking and just spend time in general with Mom, Dad and Rachel. My only fear is that I’m never going to want to leave!

I know my time in Ohio will be short but sweet. It will be so good to revisit the place I called home for the past three years and see some of my closest friends. I can’t wait to finally experience graduation and commencement. We will be able to hear from Archie Griffin and I will be able to revisit The Shoe, walking with the thousands of peers who also have the wonderful honor of becoming an alumna of The Ohio State University!

I’m particularly excited about the short time I will spend with mom’s side of the family in California before I head back to Shanghai! I love San Jose and San Francisco and it will be wonderful to spend time catching up with the family, and hopefully some hikes with the grandparents will happen. My cousins are growing up so quickly and I want to soak up all the time with them as I can! I’m also hoping I’ll be able to sneak away for an early morning WOD at Crossfit San Francisco – it’s one of the original 50 crossfit boxes, opened and owned by Kelly Starrett, author of The Supple Leopard, which focuses on mobility and being the healthiest, most efficient athlete you can be!

The countdown continues. 11 days until I am on my way home! Can’t wait to see you all!

Lots of love from China,

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 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

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