Living Abroad …..Why I Sometimes Get Mad at America

Living Abroad …..Why I Sometimes Get Mad at America

First, I love my country and I’m proud to be an American, most of the time.  That being said, “sometimes I get mad at America” and I’m not talking about the political climate.  Second, life abroad isn’t always sunshine and roses.  Sometimes, I get mad at China too…..remember when I couldn’t log on to Facebook or use google because my VPN was down or that time I was sick and only had a squatty potty or when my government controlled heat wasn’t working in December.  But this isn’t about why I sometimes get mad at China. I’ll save that for another time.

I have lived in a communist country and traveled much of this part of the world for the better part of nearly 4 years.  Every single day when I log on to to Facebook, watch a YouTube video, save a recipe on Pinterest, look something up on google, use google translate or like today as I write my blog that says, “sometimes I get mad at America, I am reminded of and thankful for my basic freedoms as an American.  Most of the people I know in China, do not have access to these sites and don’t even know what Pinterest is, let alone anyone dares say, “sometimes I get mad at China”.  So, why does this make me mad at America? I see us as a country abusing our freedoms.  Freedoms that our ancestors fought to give us.  I believe in our freedoms, but let’s take freedom of speech.  Freedom of speech has brought us “fake news”.  Fake news that many, myself included, have passed on as factual and thus snowballing. Yes, I know fake news isn’t just an American problem, but shouldn’t we be above this? Shouldn’t we use our freedom of speech in a more positive way? Just recently in China, an article came out saying China had shut down base camp at Mount Everest to tourists because of litter and abuse of the area.  Saddened, as I had spent one of my most amazing journeys at EBC, I reposted the article.  A few days later, I found out the article was “fake news”.  China had closed base camp to tourists, but not for the reasons stated in the original article.  The article also informed me that the government had shut down over 100,000 websites and deleted over 500,000 articles that were deemed fake.  Can you imagine this happening in the US?  No!  Yet, we continue to abuse our freedom of speech and it makes me angry. This is just one example of our lack of respect for our freedoms.

The “Ugly American”, unfortunately, I have witnessed this.  Americans abroad who don’t respect another culture, who think everyone in the world should speak English.  To quote Clifton Fadiman, “When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable.  It is designed to make its own people comfortable.”  What is so difficult about learning one simple word, a word of greeting in the land you are visiting?  Granted, my Chinese language skills leave much to be desired, but I try learning simple greetings and phrases.  I try to do this prior to traveling to any country on my journey. I have a phrase I “pinned”, it states, “I’m a survivalist, I can ask for coffee in six languages”.

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Then there is the ugly American who loudly exclaims, “Oh my god, we would never eat that in America”, or “why can’t you speak English, or “the health department would shut this place down”, or “they don’t even have proper toilets here”, etc.  I have witnessed them all. No, Americans abroad aren’t the only “ugly” tourists, I have witnessed Chinese tourists in Paris pushing and shoving, talking loudly, etc., but I’m not Chinese, I’m American and don’t like seeing Americans behaving badly.  It makes me angry when we as Americans disrespect another culture.  When foreigners come to our shores, we expect them to have some basic knowledge of English and respect our customs.  Let’s do the same when we visit theirs and let’s be more accepting of foreigners when they visit ours.

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My wardrobe

We as Americans are materialistic.  I get angry at myself when I think about how much “shit” I have in storage in the US.  Life abroad certainly teaches you to live simply or more simply than you would in America.  Which makes me mad at myself again, when I think about what I have acquired in 2 years in Dong’e.  I have more clothes than all the teachers at my kindergarten put together and they all fit in one wardrobe and a couple sets of drawers.  How do I know this?  I felt guilty when I had a group of my co-workers over and they went on and on about how much “stuff” I had.

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More of “My Stuff”

 

Even though I think I live simply compared to being in America, it is still not as simple as most in Dong’e.  Simple for me is a manual washing machine.  I fill it by a valve, turn it on and when the wash cycle is finished, I turn a knob to drain and repeat the process.  When I think my clothes have been washed and rinsed enough, I drain and then transfer the sopping clothes to the other side which is a spinner.  I spin the clothes in batches and then hang to dry as I have no dryer.  To me this is living simply, to others, it is a luxury.  I had a woman and her daughter staying with me when I first arrived. She was new in town, single mom, working for Peter.  He asked if she could stay with me until she found a place.  After all, I do have 3 bedrooms.   Until I showed her how to use my “washing machine”, she washed all of their clothes by hand and wrung them out by hand.  I guess you could say that is living simply.  In the states, I have a car to jump into whenever I want, here, I had a scooter, lately, I have had my 2 feet.  Although I will have my scooter back at some point, I have learned to manage without.  Not only do I get angry at America for being materialistic, but I also get angry at myself.  Living abroad and traveling you realize how much stuff you don’t need.

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My Washer
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Wash Section and Spin Section

I’m just going to touch on this next thing briefly….healthcare.  After a few experiences with healthcare in China, it makes me angry about healthcare in America.  We are overmedicated, overcharged for services, drug costs are outrageous, we have an opioid crisis, and insurance costs are inflated.  When I sprained my ankle here in China, I eventually went to the hospital where I had an MRI and x-rays, I saw 3 doctors and had a consultation with an orthopedic specialist….total bill without insurance…$75.  I’m not sure I could see one doctor in America for even an office visit without insurance for $75 let alone an MRI or x-ray.  After a few visits to the local hospital, including one extended stay, I question healthcare in America.  Enough said.

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Dr. Alex, My Back Surgeon

What has happened to random acts of kindness?  I just read a Facebook post from a friend who was unhappy, maybe even angry about the fact that it was “freezing outside” as she drove by a walker.  She was upset because she was afraid to pull over and offer a ride.  They would most likely be as afraid of her as she was of them. It bothered her that we, as a culture, as Americans, have lost trust in our fellow man.  It too makes me angry that we have so much violence and hate in America that random acts of kindness of this type just don’t happen because it isn’t safe.  Sure, people pay for the coffee of the car behind them in a drive-thru or donate to a “go fund me”….it’s safe and it makes you feel good, but when was the last time you had a face to face encounter with a complete stranger?  They are few and far between.  Living in a country that has strict gun laws, strict drug laws and a low incidence of violent crime, I have had several opportunities to experience random acts of kindness.  You can read about one here.

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My Aperol Spritz To Go

What got me started on this whole, “sometimes I get mad at America” idea was after I told the following story to a friend in Warren.  I was in Phuket.  Every day I walked, or my host family took me by motorcycle to Surin Beach.  I would spend my days getting a massage, walking the beach, stopping for lunch and a cocktail, sometimes taking the cocktail and sitting on the beach after lunch.  Then I would stroll to a bar/restaurant just off the beach and chat with the staff and enjoy happy hour until sunset.  The first evening as I was leaving to head back to the beach, the young lady behind the bar asked if I wanted to take a drink with me while I walked to the beach and enjoy it during sunset.  With uncertainty, I replied, “it’s okay to walk down the street with a drink?” She kind of looked at me funny and said, “of course.”  I explained to her that except for certain restricted areas, it isn’t allowed in the United States.  So began my nightly ritual…beach…bar…..drink to go…sunset.  The more I thought about it, it made me a little mad.  In Thailand, I can get a drink and walk down the street….in China, I can take a bottle of wine and sit by the lake….in Paris, I can take a bottle of wine to any park or sit with my friends on the steps of the Sacre Coeur and watch sunset while enjoying a glass of champagne.  In all of these situations and more I haven’t mentioned, I have never witnessed drunk and disorderly people, no fights and most everyone picks up after themselves.  I thought to myself, “wouldn’t it be nice, when I’m living in downtown Warren to sit in Courthouse Park on a warm summer evening or a crisp autumn night with friends and enjoy some adult beverages and a few laughs.  But no……there might be a drunken brawl. As I was telling her my random thoughts, she said I should write about it.

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Attending a Balinese Hindu Ceremony

So, there you have it, sometimes I do get mad at America.  I don’t intend this to come off as an angry post, because 99% of the time I’m just a happy go lucky American girl who happens to live in China for the moment. There’s nothing like getting off your plane after a year or more abroad and seeing the American flag and hearing the immigration officials say, “welcome home”.  I can’t change America or the world with my blog posts, but I can share my thoughts and experiences, good and bad.  I can share a smile with a stranger.  I can continue to learn to live more simply.  I can check my sources before passing on “fake news”.  I can worship in a Buddhist temple, attend a Hindu ceremony or visit a mosque because I have freedom of religion.  I can make my voice heard by exercising my right to vote, even from afar.  I can tell people in this part of the world that despite what they hear about mass shootings, police brutality, the opioid/drug crisis, etc., I really do live in one of the greatest countries in the world. I can tell them that I love my country and I am proud to be an American.  But most importantly, I can show them.  Another thing my father always told us, “actions speak louder than words”.

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Fear as a Solo Female Traveler?

Fear as a Solo Female Traveler?

From the time he found out he would be a father, my dad always said I was going to be a girl and he was happy to have a female as his firstborn.  Although, now don’t all you feminists get your panties in a wad, he raised me like a boy.  He taught me to play baseball, took me to work with him and showed me how to pound nails, cut 2 x 4’s and lay shingles.  He wanted me to be tough and fearless but made sure I understood how to be ladylike at the same time.  He often quoted FDR from his inaugural address saying, “the only thing you have to fear is fear itself”.  As a kid, I didn’t understand what this meant.  According to Miriam Webster, fear is an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by the anticipation or awareness of danger. The definition didn’t help me understand the quote.  E-notes tells me that “FDR used this phrase to motivate American society to remain hopeful instead of giving up. If we become too afraid, we then allow others to control us and we no longer have control of our own lives.  FDR wanted to inspire Americans to respond to a bad situation by doing something positive and not allowing their fears to keep them from reacting at all”.  I guess my dad wanted to motivate me to reach for my dreams and not to let fear of the unknown hold me back,  that I was strong enough to control my destiny.

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In August of this year, I will have spent most of the last 5 years living outside of the United States.  I spent just over 6 months living in Paris and the remainder of the time in various cities in China.  As you can imagine, I get asked a lot of questions, not just from strangers, but family and friends alike.  One of the questions, when people find out I am living/traveling solo, is, “don’t you get lonely?”  Well, I addressed that in my last blog, “The Highs and Lows of Solo Travel.  You can read it here.  The other question I get asked quite frequently is, “aren’t you afraid?”  Simply put, no, not really, but I think I need to expand on that “no”.  Insert a singing Doris Day here, I tend to have a “que sera sera” attitude, but there are some things I should worry about or fear.  Let’s start with safety, that falls under something to cause fear, right?

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With Teri in London
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In Paris

I have a dear friend, yes, you Teri, who worries about my safety.  She often reminds me that I am not always “careful”.  Maybe often is an understatement, every time I travel, she reminds me. She is right about that and tells me not to let my guard down.  Its become a sort of a joke between us. A joke I need to take seriously.

Living in Paris, I regularly walked home from the Seine back to Montmartre alone, late at night, often near midnight.  Of course, machine gun-toting police are often seen all over Paris and that made me feel safe.  Now, after living in China for so long, it does become easy to let your guard down.  From 2012 to 2017, the Chinese government reported an 81.3% drop in gun crimes from 311 to 58.  Of course, China has strict gun laws and it is illegal for a private citizen to own a gun.  But, according to government statistics, police also confiscated 146,000 guns in 2018.  This just means that I don’t really fear violent crime, not just gun crime, in China.  Besides living abroad, I frequently travel to other countries in this part of the world.  During my travels/living abroad, I can honestly say I only once remember having a feeling of real fear……Paris, New Year’s Eve, 2014.  My friend Patty and I decided to brave the crowds and go near the Arc de Triomphe and Trocadero with a view of the Tour Eiffel for midnight.  Pam decided to stay back at the hotel.  Midnight is drawing near, I had a phone in each hand and was snapping photos as the clock struck and the fireworks went off.  Patty let out a scream, my eyes started to burn, and the crowds were running in all directions.  I honestly can’t tell you if I dropped my phones or someone grabbed them, but I lost them both.  Patty took a direct hit in the face with tear gas that someone had set off in the crowd.  Fear of being trampled set in and I knew we had to get out in the open.  Guiding Patty, we managed to find a policeman who directed us to an ambulance that was on the scene.  Thankfully, she ended up with no permanent damage to her eyes and other than 2 lost phones everything turned out ok in the end.

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The picture I took at midnight just before the tear gas incident

 

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Security in Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other than that, there has been a couple of times I couldn’t locate my passport.  Talk about fear, that was major panic mode!!

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Of course, when arriving in a new country/city, I do try to make myself aware of my surroundings and usually inquire at my homestay or hotel as to whether there are any areas as a solo female I should avoid.  As far as crime, the worst thing that concerns me is petty crime, pickpockets, grab and run, etc.  Oh, and shady taxi drivers who constantly try to rip off foreigners.  To hopefully avoid petty theft, I usually wear little or no jewelry.  My bag is usually a crossbody which makes it more difficult for a grab and run.  Luckily in most countries on this side of the planet, especially China, paying with your cell phone is normal and therefore I don’t carry a lot of cash.  But there is more to safety than the crime.

Fear of injury…….In most Asian countries, traffic can be a nightmare.  Scooters, cars, bicycles all zooming around traffic circles and through intersections. Just crossing the street in Saigon you feel as if you are taking your life in your hands.  Basically, you just hold your arm out and walk, the traffic will slow down (a bit) and go around you.  It is also a good idea to look for locals crossing and walk with them.  Sidewalks or I should say lack of, can be a problem.  Many of the SE Asian countries, Thailand, Bali, Cambodia, etc. lack sidewalks.  I often like to walk from my homestays to places of interest versus renting a scooter because I can see more this way.  That being said, you often must walk on the road.  This can at first seem a daunting task, but I’ve gotten used to it.  Ahhh, scooters…..my greatest fear with scooters was in countries where they drive on “the wrong side” of the road.  No offense to my friends in those countries, but I am a bit worried about riding on “the wrong” side should I decide to rent one.  I guess I should have had a fear of parked cars when riding a scooter.  Sure enough, in my own town, Dong’e, where we drive on “the right side” of the road (most of the time), I was “hit” by a parked car door and that’s how “I Survived a Chinese Hospital” and a broken back.  It was the perfect storm.

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Taken while on the back of a motor scooter in Saigon.

 

Food safety…..never ever drink the water.  Bottled water is cheap and plentiful.  If buying from a street vendor or somewhere off the beaten path, check to make sure the seal hasn’t been broken.  Occasionally water bottles are refilled and resold.  If you buy a beverage in a can, wipe off the top or use a straw.  Cans are often left in areas where rodents and other animals walk on them, pee and poop on them…you get the idea.   Be wary of ice, most of the time I avoid it.  No one likes street food more than I do.  Be cautious, be observant.  Look for the vendor that has a good turnover, where the food hasn’t been sitting out.  I have been bitten by the food poisoning bug a few times, it’s not pleasant.  Food safety is a concern albeit, a small one.

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Street Food

 

 

Fear of becoming unwell…..In my bag, I usually have liquid bandage for small cuts, Advil and other first aid supplies.  Before leaving the US, I had any shots my doctor deemed necessary.  I also asked for an antibiotic to take with me, just in case.  Not knowing what other health items would be available, I brought antacids, anti-diarrheal, OTC cold medicine, Neosporin, etc.  Luckily, other than a couple colds a those few bouts with food poisoning, I haven’t experienced being unwell.

Fear of natural disasters…..My last trip to Bali was shortly after a major earthquake had killed hundreds on the neighboring island of Lombok.  While I was in Ubud, I experienced several days of tremors that woke me in the middle of the night because the bed was shaking so much.  Natural disasters, I have no control over, so nothing to fear, right?

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Fear of language barriers….fear of the food….fear of the religion……fear of cultural differences……I personally don’t consider these fears but more paranoia.  If a person has these fears/paranoia, most likely they won’t be traveling out of their comfort zone.  These are things I embrace as I live and travel abroad.  They are things I can’t wait to experience, that help me grow.

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I have discovered the world is full of kind and caring people.  Many are willing to help, comfort, assist and befriend a stranger.  I say again, no, for the most part, I am not afraid of being alone in foreign countries.  I will always have some concerns and a few worries but that is natural.  I try to carry myself with confidence, become aware of my surroundings and take precautions when necessary.  I have the smart traveler app and am enrolled in the STEP Program.  The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a free service that allows US Citizens living or traveling abroad to receive the latest security updates from the nearest Embassy or Consulate.  Plan ahead, be aware, take precautionary measures, research your location and ask the locals questions.  Also, I make sure someone, usually my brother, knows my itinerary right down to the details….flight times and airline, address and phone number where I am staying.  I check in periodically with a text and a selfie.  Being the social media whore, I am, I’m fairly certain if I dropped off Facebook for too long someone would become concerned about my safety.  Don’t let fear hold you back from exploring this amazing place we call Earth.

Confession…..my biggest fear…..my biggest fear is that I won’t have time to see and do everything on my travel bucket list.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.  Thanks, dad and mom, for raising an independent female who isn’t afraid to chase her dream and for giving me a brother who supports me in all of my craziness.

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Mom
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Dad

 

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Brother and Sister

The Highs and Lows of Solo Travel

The Highs and Lows of Solo Travel

My mother always told me my wanderlust began August 13, 1962.  I was born in Kimbrough Army Hospital, Fort Meade, Maryland on August 11, 1962.  As a result of a jeep accident that left my father in a coma for weeks in January of that year, not even knowing he was going to be a father, he received a medical discharge on August 13th.  My parents packed up their newborn, without a name, except “female Marvin” and took me on my first road trip of 350 miles to the place I would call home, Warren, Ohio.

Fast track to 2019…..I have now spent the better part of the last 5 years living abroad.  First, in Paris from August 2014 until February 2015 and when I decided I needed to continue my travels/living abroad, I moved to China in August 2015.  I haven’t looked back and I feel it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. That being said, most everyone, including myself, talks of all the great things about international travel and living….all the “highs”.  I’ve taken mad scooter rides through the back streets of Saigon; attended the Royal Funeral of the Queen Mum; climbed the Great Wall of China and stood where it ends at the Bohai Sea; slept on the rooftop of the world, Mount Everest Base Camp; dined at the Captain’s table on massive cruise ships; found a person from my hometown in a tiny village in rural China; ridden a camel in the Gobi Desert; and visited Angor Wat.  I’ve visited 34 countries of the world and if you count territories belonging to other countries, such as Puerto Rico, Aruba, and Tibet, that number jumps to 43.  I’ve experienced Christmas through the eyes of a child in a communist country.  I’ve prayed in Buddhist Temples and witnessed exhuming of a body for a Hindu cremation or Ngaben Ceremony in Bali.

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As “high” as you can get.  The rooftop of the world EBC. Photo by Jan

The “highs”…. I could go on and on because that’s what everyone wants to hear about, right? Or, maybe, if I’m honest, because that’s the story I want to tell.  But, what about the “lows”?  I know I sometimes go on and on with all the happy, happy, everything is great bullshit, but for me, that is my coping mechanism, because yes, sometimes there are “lows”.  In most instances, attitude really can improve a “low”. I’m not saying it can make it a “high”, far from it, but it can help you through that period.

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So, what are the lows of solo travel?  I was going to start with the biggest low of my journey, but I think I am going to start with the time I felt most alone.  I arrived in Beijing, a day before the other recruits in August of 2015.  The first thing I noticed was that I was given a private room.  All the other rooms in the dorm had 2 names on the doors.  I thought maybe many people came with friends or I was just the odd man out and luck of the draw I got the private room.  At this point, I wasn’t too concerned, but the next day everyone else starting arriving. Jane told me they figured since most everyone else was on their gap year between high school and university they thought since I was older, I wouldn’t want to share a room with one of the “kids”. Ok, I felt old and alone and I had to spend the next 2 weeks with these “kids”.  I kept to myself for a while, but that’s not really my style.  I don’t remember the circumstances, but somehow, we (a group of 6 or 8) ended up on a search for alcohol and snacks.  I’m sure you can imagine me on this quest.  For the rest of the time we were together, I spent most evenings in someone’s dorm room, laughing, drinking, singing and dancing.  It was another low when at the end of 2 weeks we all got our teaching assignments and had to say goodbye, most likely never seeing each other again.  It was amazing the bond that was formed in 2 short weeks.  I’m happy to say I do communicate with many of that original group.  But, I have never felt that alone as I did when I first arrived.  I learned that people will accept you for who you are no matter your age, looks, race, or religion.  You discover that those who pack up and move abroad without knowing anyone usually have a similar mindset as yourself.

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Those “kids” in Beijing

Other lows I have experienced traveling…. sometimes your heart hurts.  After spending 5 months with 2 lovely roommates in the tiny village of Xiashan, China and with the entire staff of an all Chinese primary school, you have to say goodbye.  You know all along this day would come, but your heart still hurts.  Deep down you know you will most likely never see these people again.

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Li Zi Han aka “fish lips”

What about Li Zi Han, aka “fish lips”, that little girl in grade one who made up to me on my first day in the classroom.  She wanted to be a dancer.  What has become of her and will she follow her dream?  What about the little girl who didn’t have crayons and I gave her a box?  When she finally got her own, she returned mine. Will she grow up to be a kind and caring young lady?

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One of my naughty boys

What about the naughty boys in grade two who always tried to see what they could get away with? Will they grow up to be doctors or lawyers?  What about the charming Frenchman I spent much time with during my last few weeks in Paris.  The one that showed me “his” Paris…..the Paris off the beaten path, the smoky cafes, the paper cups of wine while we walked the streets late at night as he walked me home.  I had to say goodbye to friends who were like family in Changning, Hunan.  All my friends, teachers and students at the kindergarten in Qingdao.

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My sweet Marlon

My sweet Marlon, yes, I still have contact, but it’s not the same.  My bestie in Qingdao, Erwin, oh how I miss him and our antics. Will I see him again now that he has moved to Norway?   Goodbyes, when you travel, are most often lows.  Yes, sometimes your heart hurts.  Having spent 2 years now in Dong’e, I am not looking forward to the goodbyes that await me at the end of this school year.

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My bestie in China, Erwin

 

 

 

Sometimes your heart hurts, but not because you are saying goodbye.  Those nights you are trying to fall asleep, but you know your best friend back home, home as in hometown, is struggling and you can’t be there to share a glass of wine, a good cry, a laugh, and a hug.  That night you are all alone in your apartment and have a little cry because you know your brother is receiving an award and you won’t be there.  You know he understands but he’s the closest family you have left and it gets you down.

 

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My brother before the award ceremony

 

 

Then there are the lows that you will look back on laugh.  That time in Changning I drank a little too much, imagine that.  That wasn’t the low, because it wasn’t the first time and certainly not the last.  The low is when you are sick for 3 days and only have a squatty potty.  I think I remember saying “I hate you China, why can’t you have normal toilets”?

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That time I drank too much and was sick for 3 days

Then there are the times you feel sorry for yourself lows.  The time I returned to Xiashan, my roommates were gone, most all my Chinese friends were home with their families for Chinese New Year and I got the flu.  The sneezing, sniffling, achy head, fever, I can’t breath kind of flu and there is no one to take care of you.  You can start to feel sorry for yourself.  Those times you are traveling with too much luggage because you are coming or going from the USA and you get to the train station and no elevator, no escalator or the escalator isn’t working so you must lug your suitcases up and down stairs.  China, why?  That time I agreed to go home with one of my Chinese co-workers to visit her family for several days in a February.  When we arrived in a very rural village, I learned I was staying in a home with no running water.  Her mother heated water from a pump outside over a gas fire and filled a washbasin each morning for us to bathe. Her bedroom had no heat and the toilet was a hole in the ground outside.  Really, I’m 50 something years old, I’m sleeping with no heat, now I’m going to have to find my way in the dark and go outside to pee in the middle of the night.  What did I get myself in to?  I will admit, after first feeling sorry for myself, it ended up being one of the most memorable experiences in China.

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How we bathed when I stayed with my friend at her home in the countryside

Since I see I am getting a bit long winded here, I will wrap it up with the biggest low of my journey…..my broken back.  You never think you will end up in a hospital, halfway around the world, 24+ hours travel time from your family and friends.  You can read about it here.  I had wonderful care. I survived and am on the road to normality.  If I am honest with you and myself, this was tough for me.  When I was finally able to reach my brother, between MRI’s, x-rays, doctors, etc., it was the middle of the night his time. I put on a brave front as I told him I was in the hospital, injured bad and would probably need surgery.  Trust me, it took everything I had not to bust out into tears.  Then he spoke with the doctor and other than my tests being sent to doctors in the USA for review and confirmation, it was agreed I would have back surgery the next day.  The doctor put Mark back on the phone, he asked me if I needed him and Lori to come to China.  Although it would have been nice, it would serve no purpose other than being there for emotional support for me.  It would also more than likely be 2 days before he would even arrive in Dong’e.  Holding back the tears I told him no.  The next hardest part for me was when I was wheeled into surgery and about to be put under and I realized I hadn’t talked to him to say I love you.  I wasn’t scared or worried, but somewhere in the back of your mind is always that “what if I don’t make it”.  Obviously I “made it”, but those few seconds before I went out, I was very sad.  I spent the next two weeks post-surgery confined to a hospital bed.  Then for about 6 weeks after I was home, it was a struggle.  I had plenty of help and caregivers, but it was easy to fall into “why me?”.  This is where attitude played an important role. Every day I looked for something good, some improvement anything to make me happy and to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  This period was the toughest for me emotionally since I have been abroad.

As I stated in the beginning, choosing to travel and live abroad has been one of the best most rewarding decisions I have made.  A life of travel isn’t always a bed of roses.  I think it is even more difficult as a solo traveler and a female.  Yes, I have felt alone.  Yes, I have had my heart hurt. Yes, I have felt sorry for myself. Yes, I have missed my friends and family in the states.  No, I wouldn’t change a thing.

“My confession is I fall in love with so many places I’m always half broken-hearted by goodbyes. And I don’t believe in non-attachment.  There’s no passion inside of that.  I believe in burning and longing.  And I believe we leave tiny pieces of ourselves in every placed we’ve loved.”  ~ Victoria Erickson

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