BUT first, Ryan’s parents came up for the weekend and we spent Valentines Day / our one year anniversary (O_O) with them. Maybe this is embarrassing to admit given my age, but I actually have never ‘met the parents’ before. Luckily, Ry’s parents were pretty chill even if they seemed slightly underwhelmed by our ‘big V-day plans’ (aka staying in to avoid crowds …).
Soon after Ry’s parents left, I had my knee surgery. The doctor was supposed to repair the tear in my meniscus. The chance of a full recovery was about 60%. After surgery, she told me she instead removed all the torn parts of my meniscus. This would offer the chance of a full recovery. A bit confusing, but I’ll take it! My doctor was Dr. Deborah Faryniarz. I definitely recommend (although hopefully unnecessarily so — surgery sucks!)
After surgery I felt GREAT. Man, surgical pain medication is effective. Right after my surgery, I was walking around, wolfing down Chipotle, kicking my mom’s butt in scrabble …. then the heavy duty stuff wore off and I was essentially bed-ridden for a week. And, in crazy pain. Slowly I have weaned myself off of oxycodone, but recovery is moving at a glacier-like pace (although everyone says I am on-track).
I suppose there have been many silver-linings to this unexpected surgical hiccup:
I really really appreciate the use of my legs. My days of extreme exercise are over
I have great friends. Special shout out to Arif who is letting me stay with him while I do Dev Bootcamp
I have had more time to write (short stories and maybe a new novel!) as well as query agents with Sandwatcher
Ryan and I have had more time to iron out our single point of tension in the relationship. I think we are moving in a direction I am more comfortable with, but I suppose time will tell.
One more exciting bit of news to report: Beginning Sunday, I will be in Boston for Startup Lockdown — a 5 day / 5 person / 5 startup hackathon at HBS. The opportunity landed really unexpectedly in my lap (thanks Andrea!), but I jumped at the chance to participate. It is going to be intense (and right before DBC too), but I know I’ll learn a lot. My team has our kickoff tonight, so will definitely have more to report next time I check-in.
Well, I’ve left Japan, BUT not without a little drama.
Turns out Osaka has more than one airport (take note!). So, waking up at 5 am (four hours before your flight) and following the subway signs to “Osaka Airport” is NOT a sure-fire way to end up at the right place. Which, is what happened to me.
At 7am (2 hours before my 9am flight), I discover that Osaka has two airports and I am at the wrong one. Oops. Also, I learn that, while there is a bus that drives between the airports, the ride takes about an hour. Double Oops. Oh! And guess who has just run out of all her yen and if she goes to exchange for more will miss the bus that has just pulled out in front of wrong-airport and will have to wait 30 minutes for the next one? Yeah ….
And this is where my faith in humanity is restored! Not only did a very nice attendant at ITM make sure I found the right bus, but, upon learning I had no money to pay for my ticket, a very nice couple comped me the few dollars I needed.
I arrive at the right airport this time one hour before my flight takes off. I find the Air China counter and, guess what? My flight has been MOVED UP 15 minutes. Great. Oh, and it is final boarding call.
And once more, humanity rocks! The woman at the Air China counter grabs me, takes me through the crew security line, runs me to the right tram, and I board the flight just before the gate closes!
Whew — what a way to leave Japan!
So now I am in Shanghai. After one week here, my thoughts are as follows:
OMG the food! Street food all day, everywhere! And it is awesome (and SO cheap — like <$1). See this guide that roughly describes what I am eating every day: LINK HERE
The history is incredible. There are tons of museums here, but so far the Shanghai Museum in People’s Square is my favorite. The museum is filled with different forms of Chinese art (pottery, porcelain, jade, statues, seals, calligraphy, etc.). Many of the items on display are literally thousands of years old. The museum is massive and incredible. A must-see!
Mass transit is awesome here. The subway systems are vast and inexpensive (albeit a bit crowded). Shanghai is huge, but the city is very accessible
Fitness is actually really huge in the city (not something I experienced while in Japan). I am doing Crossfit on an outdoor track (see next list for why on a track) and there are constantly people around playing soccer or ultimate frisbee, dancing to traditional Chinese songs (in impressive unison), performing tai-chi, ballroom dancing, etc. There are so many parks and places to exercise that it is pretty much a constant no matter where I’ve been. I love seeing so much activity!
As you’ve probably heard, much of the internet is blocked here. I am talking Google (and Google products such as Gmail and Google Maps), Facebook, most blogging websites, etc. Bring your VPN (/ more than one VPN option). The Chinese government is not relenting on blocking these sites and is constantly updating its firewall. My normal VPN could not break through. As of today, ExpressVPN works — go crazy!
The Chinese government really is king here. My crossfit gym found a notice on its front door 2 weeks ago saying that the government wanted their land for a new construction project and they had one week to move. Ouch. Par for the course I hear. BUT, before you start raging on how totally unfair this is, I do hear the government generously compensates owners when land is seized (hey! have you ever heard of eminent domain in the US?). It just sucks if you are a renter and don’t get a ton of notice (the government moves FAST on these projects).
Drivers are INSANE here. I have never seen such poor adherence to traffic lights, signals, signs, etc. Oh, and I include pedestrians in that. Everyone pretty much just does what they want. The green lights even have countdowns to yellow on them and I’ve still yet to see a red light actually stop traffic. Be careful out there!
You really stick out as a white foreigner here. I actually think I saw fewer white people in my time in Japan, but I think the Japanese are more exposed to Western culture and english than the Chinese are (or at least it is painted more favorably). Those I have met here in Shanghai who are expats or have spent any time outside of China are totally friendly to me, but from those who appear never to have left the country, I don’t feel as welcomed. Now I have only been here a week and haven’t wandered into every non-touristy / less-commercial neighborhood in this very large city, but the places I have wandered, I will say that the stares weren’t exceptionally friendly.
And that’s it for my first week! Will check in soon with more adventures!
Shoot muffins! I had thought I had published the above a while back, but looks like I merely saved the draft and moved on with my life. Whoops. So this will be a bit of a double post!
October 28 – November 10: China Rage
China continues to prove itself a wild and challenging place. Fortunately I have a friend who lives here in Shanghai who I’ve had a chance to hang out with. Ganesh and his girlfriend, Gabby, have invited me to join them for a bit more upscale Shanghai dining. Spending time with them has given me a chance to see more of Shanghai at night, explore the Bund, and eat some amazing food. They’ve also explained to me that my frustrations (what they dub “China Rage”) are normal feelings foreigners have when they spend any significant time living in places throughout China. Apparently discomfort with the chaotic lifestyle of the locals is normal, whew!
I’ve also been able to take a few day trips outside the city. Not as easy as day trips around Japan, but possible. Hangzhou and Suzhou are great (water towns! — think: Chinese Venice).
And I have found a new box in the city that has really tough (read: awesome) crossfit classes.
Maybe my most exciting update is re: my book (tentative title: Sandwatcher). I will probably finish my first draft THIS WEEK (I’ve said “tomorrow” for the last few days, so I’ll refrain from saying that again here, but I do really think tomorrow is the day!). I have a ton of revisions I’ll need to make to get a second draft ready for review by others. But, I’m feeling good about the core of the work and am excited to keep plowing ahead!
Now I am off to Singapore (!!!) for a few days for a b-school interview. Looking forward to warm weather, western-ish food, and more english speakers 😉 Ramen at Bugis anyone?
Well, my time in Japan is just about over. I have very much enjoyed my time here and will definitely be back (hey! I haven’t even been to Tokyo yet!). The Japanese people are kind, respectful, helpful, and generous. I am so glad I decided to come here.
My last week was not too eventful. I took a few day trips to see more shrines around Osaka and Himeji Castle just outside. I visited my first ever cat cafe (pay ~$8 to spend a full hour in a room with 20 cats — I was admittedly a little scared), explored some incredible used and new bookstores throughout the city, did my first handstand (ever!), and competed in my first ever crossfit competition (where I was dead last, but it’s the journey not the destination!).
Oh! And I also found a Denny’s (!!!) near Nagai Park:
Well, I am off to Shanghai. I am a little nervous about acclimating to a new place, learn a new public transit system, and find my way in a new foreign city (again!), but I am excited too.
Goals for China:
+ Explore outside of Shanghai
+ Kick butt on whatever business school interviews I get (so far Kellogg and Booth)
+ Keep doing Crossfit (new box!)
+ Finish (!!!) the complete first draft of my book
Not too much has been going on. Still writing a lot (I broke 70,000 words today! Now keeping an updated word count tracker on my twitter – Follow Me!).
Some comings and goings
Joel and I got in our first motorbike accident. We were driving to a pool party one night and we got lost. Ended up on a not-so-paved road and turned too quickly. Thankfully we weren’t going too fast and only got a bit scraped and bruised:
Admittedly I am now very nervous riding on the back of Joel’s bike. I don’t think motorbiking is for me. Maybe this is the old lady in me talking, but we were very lucky we weren’t more seriously hurt (also, after the crash, even though our lights were broken, the mirror had fallen off, and it was night, we tried to bike in the dark. Those 5 minutes were possibly the scariest of my life).
We never did make it to that pool party, but we went to another one for the fourth of July:
It was so nice to swim in a pool — I cannot express how glorious it was!
Later that day our trainer from the Wild Health class, Evy, asked if we wanted to join her for a “Hash run” in the afternoon. We really didn’t know what to expect. Boy were we in for a treat! Apparently Hash runs happen all over Asia (and maybe elsewhere?). Hash runs are these really intricate, long, and tricksy natural obstacle courses that trail throughout various scenic parts of an area you’re in (we were 20 minutes outside of Ubud). The trail is marked by bits of colored paper thrown on the ground (sometimes “colored” means brown which is the same color as the dirt and horribly difficult to see). The paths wind and climb and slope. They go over rivers and through rice patties and construction sites (?) and main roads and basically all over. The path is meant to be hard to follow and was supposed to take about 2 hours to finish (it took us first timers about 2.5 hours). It was muddy and filled with adventure! Would definitely recommend:
Only downside was a friend of mine was planning to stay with us that night, but had only told me that morning he was going to be in town. He got to the restaurant right in front of our place an hour after we’d left. I’d told him we’d likely be a few hours, but the drive+run+drive lasted even longer than I had expected. He ended up finding another place to stay and I missed him 🙁
Joel, Joel, Joel
Aside from when Joel sometimes critiques my often anti-social tendencies (ahhh! I have a hard time spending lots of money for parties at which most of the people want to talk about yoga and crystal healing or other stuff like that) when I wouldn’t particularly call him social either (:P), he has been an exceptional travel buddy. I’ve had a lot of fun exploring with him and it has been nice to have someone so like-minded and cool as a partner-in-crime while we’ve made our way in Bali.
Last May he applied on a whim for a PhD position at a university in Scotland he thought he’d have a low chance of getting (I even told him at the time he was going to get it for sure! Joel is amazing and awesome). Surprise surprise, he just found out he got in!
I am super pumped for him, but it means he’ll need to go to Scotland in September / October and thus we’ll need to part ways (sad face 🙁 ). I’ll miss him, but I am excited for him and also still excited to travel solo.
His decision to shorten his own adventuring inspired me to spend a bit more time thinking through how I’d like the rest of my trip to go.
As of now my confirmed schedule is thus (confirmed as in plane tickets are purchased!):
+ Bali, Indonesia until Aug 2
+ Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia until Aug 15
+ Orlando, FL, USA until Sep 8 (Bar Mitzvah I am required to attend + I need to get a visa to China)
+ Osaka, Japan until Oct 21 (So excited for this!)
Thinking I may do China (Shanghai) for a month after, then Thailand (make my way south as it gets colder and colder).
Also, I just confirmed I will be doing New Years in London with a friend. This has made me very strongly consider scrapping going back to Asia in early 2016 and instead do a swing around eastern Europe …. more thinking on this will be happening soon 🙂
This week we head off to Singapore (where Stef will be meeting us) and then will bring him back to Bali. We’ve done like zero planning so hopefully we can wing it and still have a great time! Will share more when we are back.
Put down the deposit on our new house (yay!) and headed back to Hubud (where I logged into Paypal without my VPN on and created a whole whirlwind of Paypal drama). One of our new friends, ½ of a digital nomadic couple, Tess, tapped me on the shoulder in the afternoon and asked if I wanted to go to an improv class with her that evening. Yes, Tess, why yes I do.
Improv was a bit of a walk away, but we definitely got to see a new part of Ubud (a more high-end touristy part, but whatever). We ended up walking down this somewhat sketch alley that led to a row of houses. One of the gated houses had a footpath leading to a massive villa, which we just wandered into and sat (we just assumed it was where improv was as neither of us had been before). Thankfully we were correct.
— No pictures, because I didn’t want to seem like a noob in front of Tess …
Improv was fun, but also over 2 hours (that’s a lot “Yes and”). Apparently it happens every week. I will probably go back but likely not every week.
Half the group wanted to go to dinner after, but we all know how I feel about dinner. Instead I walked home, bought some, what turned out to be, some pretty bad frozen yogurt, and happened to run into Joel at a restaurant near home (really need to start writing down names of places ).
He was almost done, but we split a raw beet cake dessert (actually it was pretty good — next time pictures!).
May 29: Lock the doors
Woke up early to go to Wild Health again, this time with Joel. Sadly I caught Koming before and my room at Adi House is booked starting Sunday. Which means I will need to find another place to stay until 6/7 when we can move into Gilles’ place. Koming said he would find me a place. I am going to put all my eggs in his basket. Will keep y’all posted on how that goes.
Wild Health was HARD today. Circuit training with sprints up and down the soccer field between each set (even Joel said it was hard). Sadly, if a sprinter returned back to the circuit training area before the last runner, they had to pickup the last exercise and keep doing it until everyone was finished. In other words, everyone in that class should thank me for helping them build even more muscles!
Here are my legs covered in leaves and sweat:
After showering, I walked back to Hubud where, like a good little hobbit, I had second breakfast (this time raw pumpkin cheesecake, don’t ask). The view by the café is pretty amazing though:
Then I had a pretty productive day. Finished tweaking some short stories and sent three out to some friends ( not as easy as it sounds — getting feedback on creative work is so hard amiright?)
In the evening, Hubud was hosting a happy hour at a restaurant just on the opposite side of monkey forest. Of course I took more pictures (On the left: I promise they didn’t look afraid of me until I took the picture. On the right: Yeah I just couldn’t resist taking a picture of *whatever* these guys were up to)
The Happy Hour was fun, but I actually have a really hard time in big groups of strangers. I felt pretty drained and really strained to make interesting conversation. Three highlights of the night:
Frankie: A graphic designer originally from the UK, but has spent most of her adult life in Australia. She started a company in Oz that helps students studying graphic design connect and network with industry so they don’t have as much trouble finding work when they graduate. Frankie had just finished a road trip through New Zealand (they hitchhiked the whole way!). Her whole adventure is on film (see below). One night on the roadtrip Frankie and her friend squatted at an abandoned hotel. The squatter who lived there (and let them have a room) “offered” to visit them that night … I am glad Frankie is still with us …The Design Kids – 2015 NZ Roadtrip from The Design Kids on Vimeo.
Caroline: A life coach who just seems awesome. Her teaching is all about NOT making you amazing, but showing you how you are ALREADY amazing (all about confidence boosting). She is planning a 4 week (once a week) workshop / support circle thing. I am not usually one to go for this type of thing, but she did make it seem pretty compelling (I mean if she didn’t it wouldn’t be her job right?). She is giving a talk at the Onion Collective on June 8th. I’ll check it out with Frankie before deciding whether or not to commit to something paid.
Shae: My future roommate (with Joel)! We ended up talking for over an hour about some pretty personal things. I am really glad he is living with Joel and meand I think will really balance us out. Shae is a web developer and a total yogi. Website here: livesource.co.nz
Came home pretty immediately after and just passed out.
I took an Iyengar class (level 1 of course) which started soon after I arrived. The class was mostly focused on posture and stretching (I did things with my back I had no idea I could do!). The room was incredibly peaceful. We looked out to a small, green, swampy area:
Fifteen minutes into class it began to rain pretty hard which only added to the ambience. We were so zenned out that, at an hour in, when a mouse ran across the room and out the door, no one even seemed phased (yeah … normally that would have probably at least made me jump a little).
After class the instructor offered to drive me back home when she saw I was walking in the rain. She (whose name I don’t know! Ah! I’m horrible!) moved to Ubud from Japan 15 years ago and teaches yoga on the weekends. She was incredible.
Unfortunately I was so focused on our conversation, I kind of lost track of where we were and when she asked if we were close to my place, I felt bad for being lost, lied and said we were, and smiled as I waved her goodbye from a street corner in a part of town I had never been before. It took me another 40 minutes of walking to find my way home …
But, I made it in time for lunch with Joel and Shae! We went to a vegetarian place, Warung Sopa? (Godammit Sydney, just write the names of the restaurants down!). I dropped off some laundry and then returned back to Adi House for some “work.” Okay, so I didn’t work (I read and slept), but it’s Saturday so I think I can be forgiven this once.
At 5p, Joel and I left to meet Shae at the Green School for a movie. After an hour in a taxi (the Green School is only 30 minutes away, but all of us were lost), we made it just in time for the film.
The Green School is actually amazing. It is a private pre-K through High School near Ubud where most ex-pat parents in the area seem to send their kids. The school uses all recycled material, all the buildings are made out of bamboo, and is powered by solar energy. The students play a part in designing their own curriculum and much of the education has a sustainability bent. One interesting note though: I met the husband of a Green School teacher at Friday’s Wild Health class and he seemed to indicate that his wife’s experience was mixed …. Hmmmmmm (maybe more to be investigated here?) —- anyway, for now I am impressed:
The film we watched was a screening of a new documentary called Planetary. Film’s official description:
PLANETARY is a provocative and breathtaking wakeup call – a cross continental, cinematic journey, that explores our cosmic origins and our future as a species. It asks us to rethink who we really are, to reconsider our relationship with ourselves, each other and the world around us – to remember that we are PLANETARY
The movie’s strategy was all about pulling on your emotional heartstrings. Right after it finished Joel and I both commented to each other that we wished there had been more data (like even one piece of data) or interviews with the actual scientists running some of the peer-reviewed experiments pointing to environmental catastrophe (versus, ya know, only “Zen Priests” and “Meditation Instructors”). We both believe there is obviously a major environmental problem, but we just aren’t as affected by emotional content alone.
Of course, pretty immediately, we realized we were basically the only people in the room that felt this way and, at the very least, I felt like an asshole. Particularly when we shared our view openly with Shae and his friend Lisa (who I had also done improv with and who remembered me). I think we officially marked ourselves as not one of the good guys (:(), but we pushed through the awkward conversation and made it to Ubud-general-small-talk. Win?
Lisa’s friend / boyfriend (unclear) Nick told us about a pool party / open mic night at the Onion Collective that evening and we said we’d probably go, but on the cab ride home, Joel and I realized, we’d waited too long to have ribs. So we went to Naughty Nuri’s instead for some expensive (but good) ribs, fries, and margaritas (clean eating?):
Shout out to Kate for the recommendation!
I do think, having spent now a few weeks (gosh maybe over a month) without having had a sip of alcohol, that one margarita got to me a little #Joel&Sydneyrealtalk. And then I pretty much immediately passed out at home.
Things on my mind:
+ Moving tomorrow (to Banana Homestay) – need to remember to give Adi House a good review on trip advisor
+ I’ve finally been convinced to just get a local sim card (it would appear Joel’s patience is running a bit thin with me being entirely unreachable without wifi) — thank goodness I brought an old phone that I’ve already unlocked
+ Joel keeps telling me about all this cool stuff around Ubud / Bali happening – I need to start figuring out what I want to do and start contributing ideas