Where We’ve Been
Hong Kong: 2 days
China: Shanghai 8 days, Shenzhen 20 days
A surprising and delightful Thanksgiving: Last month we bemoaned the fact that Thanksgiving was approaching and we had no plans in sight. Initially, we thought we’d just cook a few items ourselves, at home. We even bought the essential ingredients (canned pumpkin) while we were in Hong Kong. Two days before Thanksgiving we were having dinner with friends in Shanghai, and we got to talking about the approaching holiday. They didn’t have any plans, and they invited us over. On the big day we all cooked up roast chicken and (many, not all) of the requisite side dishes. Drew even tracked down an amazing pumpkin pie at an American-owned bakery in Shanghai. They typically do pre-orders for the holiday but happened to have one cancelled order. It was a delight.
Friends out East: This month brought not one, but TWO, friends from afield to our area. The first, one of our besties from London, was in Hong Kong for a work trip. We knew about this visit well in advance and planned 24 hours at the end of her stay to meet her in HK and enjoy some of the city’s finest. We ate well, stayed up late at a hotel bar, went up to Victoria Peak (our first time up in almost 8 years) and indulged in foot massages. The second visitor was a colleague of mine from the States, in Shanghai for work. We’ve known each other going on 15 years, and I flew up a day early to overlap with her. We had dinner at one of my favorite places and I got all caught up on office gossip.
Update Website? Check!: We’ve been planning a small site update for some time. Our site has had a very London look about it for a few years. We took the photos in the rain, for goodness sake! As things tend to happen here in China, it took us a while to find a photographer who understood what we were trying to do and also spoke English. When we found Teo we were thrilled. We chose a fantastic afternoon and wandered around Shenzhen’s busiest and most remote areas, snapping photos that capture our more updated East meets West vibe. These are some of my favorites from the day.
We’ve also been working behind the scenes on a new e-book, one that goes through the steps of taking the dream of expat life and making it a reality. You can sign up to receive it (free!) by email, here. (Oh, don’t worry, we don’t deal in spam over here, wouldn’t know how actually, so your email address is safe.)
Whole 30: I’ll be honest. Doing a Whole 30 in China was horrible. Nearly impossible. Whole 30 normally results in a meat-heavy diet, and here, we’re not only limited in the variety of products available, but the quality isn’t always amazing, so we don’t regularly buy fish (for example) and meat is super expensive. Plus the normal tactics that people employ during a Whole 30 (using almond milk, well-marked ingredient lists, an abundance of produce) flat out don’t work. All this to say, we both definitely had to take liberties with the strict Whole 30 rules from time to time, and we were so happy when it was over. Never doing that again here. Yuck.
VPN/TV/Internet Issues: Nothing major happened in this category of annoyance in November, but the internet was a pain in the neck. I’m currently writing this on one computer that has a broken VPN, while I use another computer to see my work email because of a Gmail issue. Our VPN of choice, ExpressVPN, usually works like a charm, especially on mobile devices, but even that has been acting up. It’s a daily struggle to get online and stay there, and we base our activities on our connectivity level (if it’s strong, we’ll keep working, if it slows down, time to quit for the day). I’m all for *you do you, China* but sometimes the Chinese way is not the Julie way. Plus I really want to stream Christmas movies and I have to wait for just the right time to watch them when the internet is at its fastest.
What We’re Loving Lately
Where Should We Begin? podcast: Back in May, This American Life teased a new podcast, real-life therapy sessions between a world-renowned therapist and her clients (all couples). Um, yes, please. I subscribed to the podcast immediately and waited and waited for it to begin. Months passed. I eventually deleted it from my feed, only to hear it discussed on another podcast. Apparently, it finally started in October. I’ve had lots of fun catching up and I’ve learned so much.
The Michalaks YouTube channel: Not everyone shares my love of YouTube and that’s okay. One of my sisters, in particular, rolls her eyes so hard when I begin a sentence with, ‘I saw this thing on YouTube…’ Anyway, for all you YouTube haters out there, I encourage you to check out this one channel. It might change your mind about YouTube forever. It’s a weekly vlog (that’s video blog…) by a family in Bath, England who just happen to be professionals in video and photography and are cute and charming and all the things. You’ll love them, I promise. Side note: we’re thinking of beginning a weekly vlog…thoughts? Is our life actually that interesting? Still thinking on it.
Coming Up in December
The first part of December will be spent here in Shenzhen. We have three blissful weeks ahead of us in town, and we’re looking forward to it. We’ll probably go over to Hong Kong for an afternoon of Christmas shopping, but that’s it.
When the holidays come around, we’re off to the US to visit with our nearest and dearest. The first part of the holiday will be spent with my family in Indiana, and we’ll be spending the second half in Nashville, Tennessee. You’ll remember from last year that we love Nashville and this year we’ve convinced Drew’s family to move their holiday celebrations there. We’re renting a house, going to an NFL game, and introducing his family to one of our favorite places.
We’ll be back in China on New Year’s Eve and we’ll ring in 2018 probably at our apartment, probably with bubbly, probably doing our best to stay awake until midnight. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, big hugs.