I have mixed feelings about January. It is so long. Why does it always feel so long? After the whirlwind of the holiday season, it can be nice to have a nice long month to recuperate or to firm up many newly formed good habits. I also like a month with four or five weekends. But on the flip side, with the wintry weather and long stretch before another vacation, the month can seem kinda endless.
Where We’ve Been
China: 31 Long Days (27 days Shenzhen, 2 days Guangzhou, 2 days Shanghai)
Back At It: In January, I stuck to my routine of going to the gym regularly, eating healthfully (mostly), going to Chinese class diligently, and sticking to our budget (mostly). I also read six books, got caught up on This Is Us, and Top Chef, and even followed the fashion trends at the various American awards shows (the website Go Fug Yourself is the best place to do this). We also followed the Australian Open closely and spent most weekend mornings watching American football live, thanks to time zones. It feels great to be so in the swing of things, so in the know. We rocked it.
Technology Hacks: To support a month of all the TV and websites and books, we figured out a few fun hacks that have been plaguing us for months. We finally got the AirDrop feature on one of our computers to work. This theoretically simple feature allows whatever is happening on the small screen to display on big one, wirelessly. This saves us lots of getting up to mess around with the manual connection. I also downloaded the Overdrive app onto my phone (the app I use to borrow ebooks from my hometown library), and now I have an audio book all queued up for especially long commutes or between podcast episodes. Finally, we successfully configured our TV set-up to be able to access live American TV remotely. This only works if the Internet is really cooperating, but that’s how we’ve been able to watch all the live sports and the latest season of Top Chef. It’s also how we’re planning to watch the Super Bowl live next week.
More At Home At Home: We’ve talked a lot about our six month theory, the one that helps us transition to life in a new country by being really kind to ourselves and knowing that feeling at home takes a solid six months. This month things have really started to click on the ‘home front.’ We’ve had lots of social activities and one weekend we had so many plans, we literally needed a weekend to recover from our weekend. This does mean more drinking and more late nights, and we are happy to oblige.
Drew’s Birthday: Drew rang in his birthday with a weekend of indulgence, from eating half a lamb with friends in a yurt at a Mongolian restaurant, to traditional Peking duck with more friends the next night. Of course, he capped it off with tacos and margaritas, because those things make him truly happy.
Bored: My life is pretty quiet. I may live in crazy China and it probably seems from the outside like we are constantly hopping from place to place. But in real life, it’s pretty quiet over here. We don’t have kids, we live in a place where we have very few commitments, every activity is self-imposed. It’s nice most of the time (we have lots of friends who would surely like to trade places for a few days), but it can also be boring. I think it’s maybe illegal for someone my age to say they’re bored, but there it is. January was a bit boring. I’m ready to pick up the pace in February.
Chinese New Year Newbies: Chinese New Year is just around the corner. We can already feel the city slowing down as schools dismiss for the long break, traffic is lighter and the subway is less crowded. But, holy hell. There are so many traditions around what to do and how to do it this time of year, our heads are spinning. The most stressful part is the red envelopes of cash. You give these out to people who work for you, are single, are in the service industry, etc. Knowing how much to give and to whom is complicated. We’re often reassured that, ‘You’re foreign and no one expects you to get it all right.’ But we also WANT to get it right, you know? We want to participate, even if it means taping up the banners to our door in the wrong order, or miscounting the number of single people in my office. We’re trying our best.
What We’re Loving Lately
Our New Couch: Our apartment came furnished. We got to pick most of the furnishings ourselves (from the IKEA website, everyone’s favorite furniture hub in this area), and we’ve been really happy with the décor. The two things we didn’t get to choose were the living room couch and this random ‘art installation’ piece that’s behind the couch. The art we can handle – the attempt to be New York-y is cute. But the couch was so bad. It was hard as a rock, with no squish and no give. I regularly went to bed early because the thought of hanging out on that couch for one more second made my back hurt. One day after six months of suffering, Drew suggested that we use some of the cash we have for moving expenses to just buy another couch. The next day he went to IKEA (I tell you, it’s really the only place to go), bought one and it was delivered and assembled the next day. Our landlord took the crap couch to some other unsuspecting property, and now I can happily lounge on the new couch all day long (the new one is pictured below).
Cozy Clothes: On our holiday trip back to the US, we picked up a few items that were languishing in my parents’ attic, namely all the cold-weather clothes that we don’t have much use for here. Our furry slippers, my ‘sherpa’ robe, and my favorite throw blanket circa 1999, are now all here, all for my daily lounging use. In a few months they’ll be put away while we sweat our way through the rest of the year, but for now, I’m loving curling up under blankets every night (and day, and weekend…all the time, let’s be real).
Coming Up in February
Chinese New Year is coming! Every year for over a week, this country is on the move, back to hometowns and off on holiday. It’s called the largest migration of humans on the planet. In our province alone, some 160 million people are expected to travel in and out of the train stations. We are off to Bali for 11 days, where we’ll go to the beach, hike, drink smoothies and whatever else one does in Bali. We’re leaving a few days early to avoid the crush of people.
We’re kicking off the month in Shanghai, where we are right now and where we’ll be for the rest of the week. Friends, work, the usual agenda when we’re in town. It’s a nice break from Shenzhen, and freezing our bums off here will make the south feel lovely and warm. And pretty soon, I’ll hopefully be situated on a hammock somewhere, frosty cocktail in hand.