2020

January

Ah, January 2020. When things still felt sort of normal and we were relatively unconcerned about coronavirus. We felt hopeful, even. We were finally starting to sort of get into a rhythm with our new school and city and were looking forward to an awesome trip to Japan, somewhere we had wanted to visit for years. We ate warm bowls of ramen, indulged in otaku culture in Osaka, and saw fabulous Shinto temples in Kyoto.

February

Sh*t got real in February. The virus was spreading quickly. China was going into lockdown. Our school advised those of us who were out of the country to stay out and prepare to teach online for two weeks. Like many of our colleagues, we made the move to Thailand since we couldn’t really afford two more weeks of Japan. We were pretty happy about this….at first. Two weeks of teaching from the beach while things calm down? That won’t be so bad!

Two weeks became a month. What was really going on? When could we get back? How long is this going to last? Our visa for Thailand was only good for 30 days…where were we going to go? Things were already getting bad in both Japan and Korea. It seemed like it was only a matter of time before the virus would reach us.

That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy some of that time. We split our time between Krabi and Chiang Mai, both of which exceeded our expectations.

March

We spent most of March in Cambodia – Siem Reap specifically. We had friends who worked at the same school who were also there, so that made the experience feel a little less insane…at least we had others who were going through the same thing. We also LOVED everything about Siem Reap. Amazing restaurants, amazing people, and Angkor Wat was a dream. I definitely plan to go back when the world is normal again.

Towards the end of March, we suddenly got a message from our school saying “COME BACK NOW”, just two days after a message saying “DON’T COME BACK” and at the same time as the American embassy said to get back to the U.S. A lot of mixed messages with very little explanation or transparency. In the end, we couldn’t get a ticket back the U.S. as many countries were closing their borders, so we took the chance on China and got in just days before they closed the border to all foreigners.

April

April was strange. We spent 15 days in a tiny quarantine hotel, half of which was supposed to be our “spring break”. When we finally made it home, it was nice to be in our own apartment for the first time in over three months. Living out of a backpack had definitely taken its toll. Life was seemingly more or less back to some sort of normal in Chongqing, save for the ultra anti-foreigner attitude and people in masks everywhere. Still, we were ready for some kind of normality.

May

May suuuuuuuuucked. The whole school got an email on a Monday evening telling us we would be informed by email the next day whether we had jobs for the next year or not. Enrollment was down and they were planning to cut 50% of stuff. We got the email the next day that we were both being laid off. It was terrible. After everything we had gone through, it felt like a slap in the face. Neither of us had ever lost a job before…and what a time to be suddenly unemployed. All travel between China and the rest of the world was shut down. Where were we supposed to go? What were we supposed to do? Looking back, I realized I should have been way less trusting of the school and demanded more transparency. You live and you learn, eh? Anyway, it was pretty rough being laid off towards the end of the school year, just a couple days before my birthday.

June

June was a lot of negotiating our termination contract and severance, while also trying to enjoy the last bit of time with our friends in Chongqing. We did a lot of touristy things around the city. We had decided not to bother with another school in China. So many of them were laying off teachers in droves. There were opportunities in Chinese schools, but I was sick of being at the mercy of schools in China. Very few of them were being honest with their staff. Yes, the U.S. was faring worse with the pandemic, but at least we wouldn’t be deported. The only issue remaining was a complete lack of flights, but our residence permits were good through August, so we knew we had a little time at least.

July

Wine club taste test!

We made it home! We got to my sister’s house in Kansas City and I dyed my hair turquoise, because why the hell not!

August

Takeout tacos. Yoga. Art. Repeat.

September

We celebrated our 12th dating anniversary with a little outdoor date in downtown KC (since we had to spend our wedding anniversary in quarantine). Switched to purple hair. Got my yoga instructor license and mastered headstands (woohoo!)

October

Happy Halloween! Celebrated all month with crafts, treats, art, and costumes. Even with social distancing, it’s so much easier to feel the Halloween spirit in America. October is such a magical month.

November

YAY NEW PRESIDENT! Also, we moved to my mom’s, I started grad school, and the rigamarole of international job hunting began. Quite a busy month after such a relaxing summer! At least we get to hang out with this kitty.

December

Christmas at home for the first time in six years! It’s a little sad that there are a lot of people we still can’t see because of the pandemic, but it is nice to have a traditional Christmas for a change after so many years in places that don’t celebrate. I am grateful for this time to get back in touch with my roots a little and enjoy all of the hygge vibes.

2020 has certainly been a strange year of ups and downs. It certainly did not turn out how I expected it to, but it has taught me to be grateful for the little things and to get comfortable living in the present (and with uncertainty). I’m grateful for the lessons, experiences, and relationships that have gotten me through it. Here’s to hoping for a brighter 2021 and new adventures on the horizon!

Scenes from an Endless Quarantine

Life keeps moving and COVID-19 keeps raging. My days lately have been spent job hunting, interviewing, and writing research essays for the M.Ed program I started last month. I’m working towards finding a bit more balance; towards holding space for all the hobbies I managed to cultivate during the summer months. It’s a process.

I felt an urge to write today, though perhaps my pictures have more to say than my words do for now.

These are strange and quiet times, but they are also enlightening. For my part, I’ve been grateful for this time of introspection, reflection, rediscovery of old passions, personal development, family, and the remarkable amount of connection I’ve been able to maintain with people near and far. Also, cute pets!

American Fall

There’s a lot that’s hard about right now. It’s hard putting our lives completely on pause and having to rely so much on others. That being said, one thing I am so grateful for is the chance to be back home for fall. This is my favorite time of year in America and the first time I have gotten to be here in autumn in six years. In spite of the pandemic, it has been so nice to enjoy long walks outside among the vibrant trees, indoor festivities with family, and the Halloween spirit. We even got to see snow for the first time since we were in Ukraine two years ago!

It can be easy to dwell on all the things I wish I was doing instead right now. 2020 is a year I think most of us would rather just forget. But I’m trying to remind myself that among the chaos are little moments of beauty that are worth remembering.

Where to even begin…

It’s been almost a year since I’ve written anything….probably because I’ve been grappling with the nightmare that is COVID-19 for about as much time. Having just stepped out of Turkey, which – although a lovely place- was in the grips of economic downturn and political turmoil, we had hoped China would be an era of stability for us. Turns out we were really, really wrong.

Four months in, at the peak of culture shock and just before a much-anticipated Chinese New Year break, the news of a deadly epidemic was spreading like wildfire. Reluctantly, we went on our scheduled vacation to Japan…just days before we were to return, our school and the American embassy sent out a warning not to come back. What was supposed to be two weeks turned into to three months of e-learning, running out one visa and then another (we stayed in Thailand for about a month and a half and in Cambodia for a month). We were dealing with a school that was giving as little information as possible; one day, they would say “don’t come back to China” and the next they would say “buy a ticket and come back now!” When we did eventually go back, we endured a horrific quarantine, replete with anti-foreigner sentiment, being separated from my husband without being informed in advance, and not being fed or given water consistently for the first several days. The whole experience ruined China for me, frankly, which has been hard to deal with after falling in love with being an expat in Turkey.

To add insult to injury, just two weeks after we finally made it back home to Chongqing, my husband and I were laid off for the following school year, along with several other staff members due to declining enrollment.

I didn’t love the school or Chongqing, but it still felt like a punch to the gut. We really only had two choices: take another job in China, or go back to the U.S. to figure things out and be with our families. In the end, we chose the latter. Neither of us could really take much more of China or its schools.

And now here we are in America…which really can’t seem to get its shit together in this pandemic. We had initially toyed with the idea of teaching here, but seeing how political schools have become in all this -using teachers and students as sacrificial lambs for the economy- we just decided to take a year off and live off of our savings. It isn’t ideal, but we are lucky to have that option.

We’ve been back home in Kansas for about four months now, and it’s been pretty boring for the most part. But boring hasn’t been all bad after over a year of frequent turmoil.

All I can hope is that next year will be better.

2019

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January

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February

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March

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April

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May

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June

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July

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August

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September

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October

 

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November

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December

2019 has been a strange year.  A year of change, transition, ups, and downs.  A year I’m ready to let go, but a year to remember nonetheless.  I am hoping 2020 is a little more settled, a little more cheerful, but no less adventurous.  Happy New Year.

Another American Summer

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Kansas sunsets really are the prettiest.

Greetings from China!

Yes, we are here and settling in, but before I talk about that, I feel compelled to talk about our hectic, brief summer in the U.S.

We knew this summer would be unpredictable.  International moves always are.  I’ve learned by now that the visa process is usually one big question mark until it isn’t.  It makes it difficult to plan much because everything has to revolve around the visa timeline and (of course!) you can’t make appointments.

Amidst the chaos of moving from Turkey to the U.S. and then packing again for China, 5 weeks of rapid couchsurfing around Kansas, and going to Chicago for our visas, we did manage to enjoy ourselves a bit.

Indulge me as I go through the highlight reel:

img_20190801_134339Hanging out with my grandma’s adorable cats!

img_20190801_134316Eating my grandma’s peanut butter pie!

img_20190710_150803Enjoying a beautiful Chicago summer with my partner in crime while we waited for our visas to be processed

img_20190711_130659Trying aerial yoga for the first time (loved it!)

 

img_20190723_155126Childhood treats

img_20190726_115942Reminiscing

img_20190727_192935_1Drinking wine in the Flint Hills

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Drinking more wine…this time from the wine box we sealed at our wedding.  As it was our 5th wedding anniversary, we got to open this bottle and replace it with another (to be opened on our 10th.)

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Saying goodbye (for now) to the U.S. and hello (or nihao, rather) to a new adventure.

 

So there you have it.  A very brief recap of an all-too-brief summer.  More to come on China soon!

Görüşürüz, Türkiye.

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As I type this, I am sitting in my grandmother’s air conditioned house on a hot Kansas afternoon, trying to find the right words.  To be honest, I still haven’t processed it all yet.  Leaving Turkey felt like stepping through a portal from one universe to another.  There is a piece of me that still thinks it will all be there waiting for me exactly as I left it, even though my head knows I won’t be going back for quite some time.

I didn’t sleep the night before I left.  The day was filled with tearful goodbyes to students, colleagues, and dear friends, followed by an epic Turkish party at night.  We were packing until the very last second.  I wouldn’t have left any other way.

I am so tremendously thankful for the memories, the people, and the life-changing experiences.

Her şey için teşekkürler, Türkiye.  Sizi özleyeceğim.

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2018

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January

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February

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March

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April

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May

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June

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July

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August

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September

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October

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November

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December

As 2018 comes to an end, it feels good to look back on all of the beautiful things I have experienced this year.  2018 has been difficult, but transformative.  Big changes lie ahead!

 

American Summer

20180628_155526Greetings from the U.S. of A.  This is my third summer back in the motherland, and for once, I was able to celebrate the 4th of July in all of its smoky, sparkling, fiery glory.  The first leg of our whirlwind journey took place at my grandma’s house in the country, complete with family, sweltering heat, a DIY frisbee golf course, and way too much food.

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My husband and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary in the nearby town of Yoder, a tiny but thriving Amish community.  My dad and stepmom surprised us by renting out a chicken-coop-turned-Airbnb for the night and I think it might be the cutest place we’ve ever stayed.

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I visited my sister in Kansas City, where I tried some amazing coffee shops, hung out at a great arcade bar, read books by the pool, and watched some old childhood favorites on Netflix.

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I discovered a board game cafe in Wichita, tried my hand at some marketing for my mom’s boutique in Manhattan, relaxed at my grandpa’s lake house, and circled back to the beginning to pack it all up and say goodbye.

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It was all really great, but something hit me this summer:  I feel more like an outsider in my own culture than I ever have.  Perhaps it’s just the stress of the last year or a symptom of the ever-rising political tension.  As great as it is to be home with friends and family, I’m realizing more and more each year that it feels less like home.  I guess reverse culture shock rears its head at every expat now and again.

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Until next time, America!

Tail End

IMG_3452.jpgHello, world.  It’s been a while.

I guess I decided not to write this summer.  It wasn’t so much a conscious decision as it was the fact that I was too busy living in the moment and  didn’t feel the itch until just now.

Summer is coming to a close.  I’ve got a lot to say, but for now, I’ll just say that I’m back.