Choose Kindness – Be The Change

Choose Kindness – Be The Change

China isn’t the most popular country on the planet right now, thanks to 2019-nCoV, coronavirus, COVID 19 or the politically incorrect, Chinese Virus.  This isn’t the first time China has given the world a virus.  There was the Asian flu in 1956, SARS in 2002 and H7N9 in 2012.  Being one of the oldest cultures on the planet, many Chinese people still believe in TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine.  For many Chinese, especially the older generation, this is the first step in treatment when they feel unwell.  They will go to the local practitioner and will be treated with acupuncture, cupping, herbal remedies, etc.  These treatments are not effective for these viruses, thus allowing the infected individuals to return to the public, infect others and sometimes giving us a pandemic.   Although, this coronavirus may go down in history as the one that stopped the world.  When the virus first appeared, the world looked on, watching and waiting, not expecting the world to stop turning.

My massage/TCM guys

There is a lot of negativity toward China right now.  I see hundreds of posts saying China lied to the world…the numbers are fake…it (the virus) was created in a lab for bio-warfare…general hate messages about Communism and the government.  I get it.  I understand being angry at China. I understand the “buy American” sentiment in the USA and I support it…to a point.  China was my home for 4 years and yes, sometimes I got mad at China. Some things about China, I will not miss.  I don’t want to turn this into a political post or “I hate China” or anything negative in general because China isn’t all “bad”.  During the Han Dynasty, 202 BC-AD 220, China gave of us one of the 4 great inventions of the ancient world, paper/papermaking.  Along with paper, they also gave us the compass, gunpowder, and printing (woodblock and moveable type).   These 4 discoveries are considered to have had a major impact on the development of civilization around the world.  I don’t want to talk about what China has given the world.  I want to tell you what China gave me during the 4 years I called it home.

China gave me the chance to see, touch and walk on one of the “Seven Wonders of the New World”  The Great Wall of China…With a total length of 21,196.18 km (13,170.70 miles), equal to half the length of the Equator, the Great Wall of China is the longest feat of human engineering.  The 2,700 year-old structure is not a single long line but a series of many walls sometimes doubling and tripling itself.  I have visited 5 different sections of the Great Wall including LaoLongtou or Old Dragon’s Head where the wall ends in the Bohai Sea.  And, just for the record, it is not true that the Great Wall of China is visible from space.

March 29, 1974, some farmers in Xi’an, Shaanxi were digging a well and uncovered terracotta pottery.  This pottery was the funerary art of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China (210-209 BCE). This 8000+ army complete with horses, chariots, officials and acrobats was meant to protect and entertain the emperor in the afterlife.  To see this massive UNESCO Heritage Site was overwhelming.

Stove fueled by yak dung

Tibet, “Land of Snows”, “The Roof of the World” is still a controversial place when you speak to mainland Chinese.  Is it part of China or not?  The PRC (People’s Republic of China) claims Tibet is an integral part of China while the Tibetan Government-in-Exile maintains that Tibet is an independent state under lawful occupation.  What I know is Tibet is a magical place that I was fortunate to visit.  It was like the land where time stopped.  I was afforded the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the Dalai Lamas.  I learned about and experienced Buddhism first hand.  I rode a yak, ate yak meat, had yak cheese and butter.  When I camped on Mount Everest Base Camp, our tent was heated by burning yak dung.  China gave me a dream come true in Tibet.


Food…China introduced me to “real” Chinese food.  You can read more about Chinese food here, because Chinese food in China is nothing like what we have in the USA.  I have eaten many strange things in China and things that I know some of my friends frown upon.  Donkey meat for one.  One of the communities where I lived, was known for raising donkeys, not only for the meat but for making Ejiao which is important in TCM.  If you are going to immerse yourself in a culture, sometimes you have to overlook your personal feelings.  I had no problem eating donkey meat and if I tell the truth, I loved it.  I also view it very similarly to countries that raise cows for meat, milk and their hides for leather.  If you choose to be vegetarian or vegan, great, that’s your choice!  I just happen to be a meat-eater.  I also learned that the Chinese do not waste any part of the animal and most everything is consumed.  Much of this stemming from years when the country was suffering widespread famine with the most recent between the years 1942 and 1961 during which as many as 45 million people perished.  Ahhh, then there are the controversial markets.

Every big city and every rural village has its markets.  I have seen animals slaughtered and have purchased the meat.  I have seen all the bugs, snakes, starfish on skewers and sold as snacks.  Some I have even indulged in myself and most I didn’t care for.  These markets don’t only exist in China but all over Asia and SE Asia as I have visited many and have enjoyed more than a few meals at these markets.  If you know anything about me, you know I have an obsession with noodles, especially noodle dishes from Asian countries.  Thank you, China for introducing me to Lánzhōu Lā Mǐan.  Honestly, I mostly thought rice when I thought about China, but I learned that noodles are just as popular.  Actually, noodles are popular in the more northern areas of China while more rice is consumed in southern China.  Just for the record, I do not like chicken feet.  The other thing I learned about food is the Chinese have a way with vegetables that is amazing and I can’t talk about the food without mentioning dumplings.  I never met a dumpling I didn’t like.


During the 4 years I lived in China, it gave me some of the most amazing experiences of my life.  It is a beautiful country with a lot to offer.  Most of all, China has shown me the beauty of its people.  They are kind, they are generous, they are hard-working.  They are proud of their country.  What I want to say here is; we may not agree with their government, their traditions or their way of life, but as a whole, they are good people.  I will always consider the people that crossed my path during my time in China as friends, some as close as family.  Marlon, my student in Qingdao and his mom are near and dear to my heart.  My Chinese co-workers at my first job in Xiashan, the small rural village that made me decide I wanted to stay in China a bit longer.  Rabbin and his family in Changning, Hunan that treated me as part of their family.  Peter and his extended family in Dong’e that cared for me during my broken back journey.  The doctors and nurses that cared for me without prejudice…my “noodle guy”….my “littles”… my sweet Alice…my neighbors…all my students, some I got to know well and some just part of the overcrowded classrooms that I would only see once every two weeks.   China, thank you for putting each and every one of these souls in my life.


I’ve heard the phrase, “China is the country you love to hate and hate to love”.  During these times when China is the target of much hate, I am choosing to remember the things I love about China.  I will choose to buy American when I can.

downloadAfter all, I am an American born and raised, but I will not choose to hate an entire country that showed me kindness, love, and gave me joy.  There are things I did not agree with while in China but those things are not for me to try to change.  I can hope that the people of China will choose to make changes in their society.  That they and the rest of the world will come out of this stronger and more conscious of how the actions of a few can affect the many.  China, thank you for the 4 years of love you gave me.

Random Easter/Quarantine Thoughts

Random Easter/Quarantine Thoughts

2020 started like many other years…champagne toasts, noisemakers, and laughter.  One difference for me was I was home in Warren, Ohio for the first time in seven years.  My home was overflowing with family and friends, my heart was happy, and everyone seemed ready to put 2019 behind them and jump into the new decade with both feet.

I saw family and friends I hadn’t seen in a year and a half, I met new friends and I experienced the most amazing night of my life.  But…that three-letter word with big implications…but, I was ready to leave again.  Little did we know then, that today, Easter Sunday, we, as in most of the world, would be in quarantine following shelter-in-place rules.

That most amazing night

February 2, 2020, I left Warren, Ohio USA for Warsaw, Poland.  Packing a bag with only what I can carry and taking off on my own comes easily.  As a kid, I couldn’t wait to get my bag packed and head off to summer camp.  In 2014, I packed a bag, moved to Paris without knowing anyone and only basic language skills.  2015, repeat, except this time I moved to China with no language skills, little knowledge of the culture and knew no one.  2020, repeat and move to Poland and a language someone told me was as difficult as mandarin.  That I can’t say I agree with, but they did create a full language using the last five letters of the alphabet…ha-ha. That’s a joke!



After I had been in Poland a couple of weeks, during a conversation, one of my newfound friends commented to me that she knew I was “a loner”. Her comment took me back for a moment, had she touched on my secret?   “But”, there’s that word again, wouldn’t being a loner also make me an introvert?  Introvert, loner, extrovert, sociopath, psychopath, empath, narcissist…what/who am I? Don’t know, don’t care!  I am who I am and have no idea where I fall in the personality type spectrum.  If I had to choose one, Angela, I would agree, that I am a loner.  Although, I prefer to call myself a nomad.


I grew up in a small, somewhat isolated neighborhood and had 1 best friend a year younger than me.  Starting school, Barb was still my closest friend and I didn’t add many more.  I usually went home for lunch so I could watch Jeopardy with my dad. I preferred that to staying at school and playing.  I pretty much stayed this way right through high school.  I did go to football games, but rarely attended house parties or other social activities.  My brother, on the other hand, was the host of many house parties, so I guess I got my fill through him.  Although, nowadays, I think I would put him in the “loner” category with me.  I still require a lot of alone time, which is probably why quarantine isn’t a problem for me.  If you know me or follow my travels/blog, you may ask how I can be a loner and have friends all over the world.  I will answer this by saying, I think by travelling solo, you have the advantage to meet more people.  These people are often like-minded solo travellers…also loners.  How is this possible?  You can’t be anti-social,  a loner, and yet meet and click with hundreds of people around the globe.  Think about it.  When you travel as a family or even a couple, how often do you reach out to solo travellers?  I mean really connect!  We aren’t anti-social, I prefer socially selective.


The ability to be alone is an important part of the nomad lifestyle.  You meet people you may be with for 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week or even 1 month, but you have to accept the fact you most likely will never see most of these people ever again.  Sure there are promises to stay in touch or I’m going to come to visit you in your home country, but…you move on and meet the next person and the next person, you don’t forget those people for they have all left a mark on your soul.

I know this a totally random post, but a couple of things got me thinking this morning.  Yesterday, I was chatting on the phone with a friend back in the states, he asked me, “do you wish you were back here during this quarantine?”  and last night I was on a Zoom chat/trivia/drinking session with a group of girlfriends who often got together at the local watering hole and restaurant, Jacked Steakhouse, which is right below my condo in Warren.  At the end of the session, everyone was commenting on how great it will be to get together once this “situation” is over and “I can’t wait to see you” or “I can’t wait until we are all together again at Jacked”.  Both situations made me uncomfortable.  Uncomfortable because I had to tell the truth and I know the truth hurts.  I had to tell Bill, “no, I don’t wish I was back in the states during this time.”  I’m right where I want to be.  Life may not be as I thought it would be right now, but I’m happy right here in Warsaw.  I’m used to being alone and I like it.  I live alone when I am in Warren, so it’s not like I would shelter-in-place with other people.  Although, truth be told, its easier to follow the #stayhome movement in a city where you have no car and know few people vs downtown Warren where I most likely would sneak downstairs or down the street while attempting to keep social distancing…Then, I had to tell my girlfriends, sorry, I love you guys and when this is all over, I’ll join you via some long-distance video chat while you all get together at the bar, but I want to be right where I am.  It’s hard to convey these feelings to people you care about and enjoy their company.  I guess I have been training for this moment since I decided to to take on the nomad way of life.  It has made me a professional at social distancing. To those, I have met on my journey and I will never see again, I won’t forget you.  Family and friends, I had an amazing visit to Warren and loved each minute I spent with all of you…God willing, I’ll see you again.  For now, I can share my journey with you from where I am and know you are welcome to join me along the way.   Happy Easter!


Love in the Time of Coronavirus Part 3 – 2020 the Year That Changed the World

Love in the Time of Coronavirus Part 3 – 2020 the Year That Changed the World

By the time Easter arrives, I will have been in “lockdown” for a little over one month. Why? Coronavirus, known as COVID 19. I am living through this global crisis, now a pandemic, outside of my home country. Just over three months ago the world was welcoming a new year, a new decade. We knew little of what was taking place on the far side of the world.

It was on December 31, 2019, a city of 11 million people, Wuhan in Hubei Province China notified WHO (World Health Organization) of a strange pneumonia in their city. WHO, once an unknown acronym would soon become a household word. An unknown virus seemed to stem from Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. It was infecting people at an alarming rate. On January 7, 2020, it was announced a new virus named 2019-nCoV was identified as belonging to the coronavirus family, which includes SARS and the common cold. On January 11th, China announced its first death had occurred two days earlier. On January 13th, WHO reported a case in Thailand. The first case outside of China carried by a woman that has arrived from Wuhan. January 16th, Japan reported a confirmed case. January 17th the second death in China was reported and the US announced that 3 airports would start screening people arriving from Wuhan. Soon more countries had confirmed cases and on January 20th a Chinese expert confirmed human-to-human transmission. Because it was coming up on Lunar New Year in the Asian countries, there was widespread fear of a major outbreak as millions travelled to their hometowns in China. On January 23rd, Wuhan and it’s 11 million residents were placed on quarantine. All air and rail departures suspended. Beijing cancelled events for the Lunar New Year on January 25th. February 2nd, I boarded a flight to begin life in Poland.

For most of the world in February, life went on as normal and the coronavirus was still an Asian problem now affecting South Korea and Japan. That is until the end of the month as reports were coming out of the Middle East and Italy.


On March 11, 2020, WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. On March 11th, life in Poland ceased being normal for me. Poland closed all schools and announced borders would be shut down at midnight Saturday, March 14th. This meant that all air and rail traffic in and out of Poland would cease. The border could be crossed in a vehicle at certain checkpoints with medical checks and possible quarantines. I began to receive emails from the US Embassy in Warsaw. These emails updated me on travel restrictions of most countries in the world but more importantly on what was happening in Poland. The US Embassy was urging US citizens to return to the United States immediately, not just from Poland, but from all corners of the world or plan to shelter in place for an extended period of time. It also stated that US citizens living abroad could choose to stay. As I had a job and place of residence and was considered an American living abroad, I forwarded the emails to my brother and we discussed my situation. I decided to stay in Warsaw. A decision I don’t regret.


As I watched my home country from afar and was living by the shelter in place rules of a country where I was considered a foreigner, life was far from normal…here and there. In the USA I saw pictures of empty store shelves and heard of people fighting over toilet paper, not following social distancing guidelines, spring breakers still flocking to the beaches.

Here in Poland, I was working remotely. I witnessed well-stocked shelves, people queuing up at 1.5 meters outside the post office and groceries without being asked. I saw the police driving around the city and heard them make announcements regarding the stay at home orders. I heard from my students of police breaking up groups in city parks and sending them home, sometimes with a fine. I saw pictures on the internet of eerily vacant cities around the world. Around the globe, Easter services would be going virtual. It seemed that the more distant we had to become the more people were connecting through technology. I read something recently that stuck with me, “COVID 19’s legacy will be, not only alone together, but together alone”.

Yet, the reality of this didn’t hit home until after my last 2 blog posts. I said that this will affect everyone sooner or later and that everyone would know someone. April 1, 2020, my reality hit home and it hit right in the gut. My someone, someone that I used to love, lost his battle to the coronavirus. A virus unknown to the world until a couple of short months ago. A couple of short months that have changed the world. A couple of short months that have changed me. I was deeply saddened when I found out Tom had succumbed. My heart ached for me, for his family and our/his friends, but then I looked at the numbers around the world and my heart ached for everyone. I took a lot of time to think. To think about past differences and how when faced with a shared global threat those differences pale.

I never dreamed I would see Vatican Square in Rome…vacant, Times Square in the city that never sleeps…silent, or the traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris…empty. What I did see was YoYo Ma virtually offering a daily song on his cello, yoga instructors offering free online classes, museums giving virtual tours, adults taking time online to read books to children and friends getting together for virtual happy hours. I saw kindness, love, compassion and joy.

We don’t know when this will end, but we all have hope that it will. When it does, yes, the rules will change. There will be a new normal. I think we will see the revival of parks, the revival of family time, more voice control technology so we don’t have to “touch” things. We will appreciate the simple things in life and be more aware of our global community. As time passes, it is easy to forget. We forget the pain, we forget the horrors, we forget the isolation, we forget…Let’s not forget the kindness…the love…the compassion and the joy we did witness.

That love, compassion, kindness and joy came to me when I needed it most, thousands of miles away from family and friends…Love in the Time of Coronavirus – 2020 the year that changed the world!

Virtual trivia and drinking bubbly!

Love in the Time of Coronavirus Part 2 -Someone That I Used to Love

Love in the Time of Coronavirus Part 2 -Someone That I Used to Love

I woke up this morning, with a headache and was nauseous, not sure if I slept or was awake in a bad dream. When I wrote my last blog post just 5 short days ago, I said that sooner or later, everyone would know someone…

After a few minutes of being awake, I remember why my mouth is dry, eyes a little swollen and I have a headache and am nauseous.  Little did I know, my someone would be someone I that used to love.

Like I said in my last post when I first heard about this virus, I never dreamed it would affect my life.  I was moving to Poland to start a new adventure…I was enjoying the company of family and friends in my hometown…I had nothing to worry about except keeping my luggage under the allowable weight.

Slowly this mysterious virus leaked over the borders of China and started appearing elsewhere, but still, I didn’t know anyone.  Not even after spending 4 years in China meeting and making 100’s of friends and Wuhan, China being ground zero…I still didn’t have a someone.

February…I arrive in Poland and go about setting up life in a new country.  A month goes by…I have a job, I have a flat, I hear stories from South Korea, Japan and soon Italy, but I still don’t know “someone”.  March 11, 2020…I am at my job at a company in Warsaw teaching English.  I learn the CEO of the company, who lives in Belgium, has tested positive for the coronavirus, now being called COVID 19.  Now I have a connection, but still not my someone.  Next thing I know, schools in Poland are closed and Poland is closing its borders.  People all over the world are questioning these drastic measures even as China is still battling the disease.  As most of Europe is starting to shut their borders and order social distancing to flatten the curve, people in the USA are still going to bars and restaurants, spring break has begun, the weather up north is still unpredictable but “Opening Day” is on the minds of sports fans and many think the rest of the world is over-reacting to this “the flu kills more people than this made in China virus” called COVID 19.  Next thing I know, my home state begins to close the non-essential businesses, but people still aren’t staying home. Then I find out my hometown has its first case of coronavirus.  Wow, I find out I know this person.  Not that many weeks ago, if you would have told me I would know someone that has coronavirus, I wouldn’t have believed it.  This “someone” was an acquaintance and not someone I knew well and this someone recovered and went home.  COVID 19, although it was the common conversation topic, I pushed it to the back burner again.  Other than the stay-at-home orders, working from home and restaurants closed to dining in, my life was still not really affected.

Then, late last week after I posted “Love in the Time of Coronavirus”,  I got that text message, “Wendy, call me about “Someone”, he is in the hospital with coronavirus”.  I sat and stared at that message for I don’t know how long before making the call.  Is this real?  I made the call…it was real.  “Someone” had been taken by ambulance to the hospital.  In the hospital, fever, can’t breathe on his own, sedated, ventilator, the words kept running in circles in my head after I hung up the phone.  This was my someone, I knew him well, he was stubborn, he could fight this, he was sedated so the body could heal.  I shared the news with my family and a few close friends and went about day to day life which consisted of waking up, dressing, teaching English, eating, reading, all those things you do when you are on quarantine/stay at home orders.  You have a lot of time to think when you must shelter in place.  No matter the current situation between me and my someone, he was someone I used to love…did that love just go away? No!  I smiled as I reminisced about what used to be.  More than anything, I would never wish him any ill will and prayed for his recovery.

Several days went by and I received messages of no change and the body needs to heal.  Then, last night, the message that “someone” had taken a turn for the worse and his body was shutting down.  As of this writing, he is still with us, and I have been overwhelmed with a plethora of emotion.  Emotions that were more than I expected.  The thought of this outcome has been in the back of my mind but last night my emotions bubbled over, out of my control.  The good times all came pouring back.  The bad times I buried deep.  A reminder that in times like these, it’s the good memories that count.  It’s the fun times, the laughter, the trips, the meals, the friends we hung with, all the things that make me smile… that’s what I want to feel…that’s what I want to remember!  Because… He is, after all, someone I used to love!