A few months ago, when life felt very uncertain, I took some time to reflect on all the things in my life that were saving my life. They ranged from my weekly family Skype call to my favorite travel dress.

Since then, life has changed dramatically.

I figured out a new role to play at work, we spent two months sorting out visas and now we’re in China. While the setting has changed, it turns out that no matter where I go in the world, there I am. My over-active imagination is still the beast it always is, and I still need to make the time to consciously practice gratitude and notice the little things that really are saving my life these days.

1.) The Daily podcast: One of the perks of living abroad is having less access to US news. The constant swirl of news and information in the US is easy to get used to but is oh so liberating to be free from. These days I look at the news when I feel like it, avoiding that sense of over saturation. It’s helpful for my sanity. One connection to the US news cycle that I have kept is my daily listen to the (very short) podcast called The Daily, produced by the New York Times. I like that the podcast covers a variety of news stories, not just those making the biggest daily headlines. The reporters on the show are experts that have covered their topic for usually many years. Informative AND interesting. And it’s a show I think people from any political persuasion would enjoy.

2.) Noodle Soups: I just love noodles in soup. Always have, always will. And in China it’s a staple food so I can eat noodles in soup every day. If I want a big bowl of delicious hand-pulled noodles with braised beef in broth, I just head downstairs and hit the corner noodle joint. Within minutes, I can be enjoying a bowl for less than $3. Jackpot!

Saving my life

3.) Google Translate: This year, the Chinese government decided to let Google Translate through the Great Firewall. I use this tool literally every day. If you download the version available in the US app store, it has a great feature where you literally hold your phone up to a foreign word (like you’re going to take a photo of it) and it translates before your eyes. Now, the translations are occasionally strange and don’t help, but they can be a life saver with menus. The version available for download in China doesn’t have that feature but you can type in anything to be translated to a huge variety of languages.

4.) Breaking Bad: This summer’s binge watch of choice is Breaking Bad on Netflix. It’s about time I got on the bandwagon. We just finished season 3 and it’s so, so good (no spoilers, but Season 3, Episode 12 was insane). Nothing like witnessing the life of a brutal drug kingpin to appreciate my much more manageable problems.
(Bonus points for having amazing online resources where you can read hilarious recaps of each episode after watching.)

saving my life

5.) Filtered Water Cooler: Oh, the infamous office water cooler. In this region where drinking tap water is a big no-no, water coolers are everywhere. It took us a while to figure out how to get a water cooler in our apartment, but when we did figure it out, it felt like we unlocked a secret universe of cheap drinking water. It’s about $3 for nearly 20 liters. We have a guy who delivers water – we shoot him a note on WeChat and we’re guaranteed a new jug in under an hour.

6.) Air Conditioning: Because I just walked in from a sweltering and humid mid-afternoon walk and I’m literally drowning in sweat. I’ve never been more happy for air conditioning than right this second.

What’s been saving your life lately? Share your thoughts below!

  • July 1, 2017

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while but have never commented. I’m current living in Xi’an for a month and couldn’t agree with you more about #3, 5, and 6! I’ve never appreciated drinking water and a/c so much in my life! And I’m not sure how I’d ever eat out without the magical Google Translate photo option. It’s so interesting to read your observations of China – enjoy your time here!

    • July 3, 2017

      Thanks! Those things have been a lifesaver. How is life in Xi’an? I’ve heard great things about the city, and especially its food!