Our Belongings That Are Still in China

As a mini update on life for the Stevens family, I thought I’d write about something we always get asked. As many of you know, we came home for Christmas vacation in December of 2019 (WHAT?!) and we’ve been here ever since. The virus pushed our return week back by a week, then another week, another month, we had a baby, and we’re still not back. If you’re interested, here’s the breakdown of our current situation.

If you didn’t know, you need a visa to enter China. Unfortunately, our visas expired in September, keeping us in America even longer. China isn’t currently letting dependents into the country (meaning Joanne and I), but Taylor has been working on getting another visa for himself through his work. The process has been long and slow, so we’re still waiting. Taylor will hopefully get everything sorted out with the company and return soon.

Our apartment complex from above, in Nanjing

As you can imagine, neither of us were anticipating such a long stay in America! We packed our bags for one month and ended up staying for over a year. When I came home, I was pregnant and it was winter, meaning I had nothing to wear once spring hit and certainly nothing to wear once I was postpartum. We had a life in China. We had an apartment in China (we technically still do). Because of this, so many of our belongings are still…you guessed it…in China. Whenever people realize that all our belongings are still there, we get one of three responses. The first is always, “what do you have there?” The second is, you don’t need any of that stuff because you’ve been living without it for so long.” The third is, what do you miss the most?” I’ll answer all of them here for you.

Our apartment is to the left, along the river.

What is still there: Everything! HAHA. We have all our clothes, shoes, books, souvenirs, luggage, makeup, xbox, hair straighteners, medicine, contacts, bibles, cameras, jewelry, blankets, and MORE. Anything you’d live with in your home is in our home in China. Sometimes, I forget what’s still there, but then when I’m looking for something specific and I can’t find it, I realize that it’s in another country. Sigh.

We don’t need any of it because we’ve lived without it for so long: This is one of my biggest pet peeves. It literally makes me cringe when I hear these words. I can’t stand when we get this comment for several reasons. One, most people who make this comment (or all) have never been in a situation like this, so they couldn’t possibly understand. Two, how would you feel if some of your most precious belongings were just sitting in an apartment that you couldn’t get to? Three, it’s just insensitive. I understand that it’s probably true, I can in fact live without these items, but it still hurts. We have a lot of valuables there.

What do we miss the most: When I asked Taylor, he said he misses his xbox, a specific pair of shoes, and our scooter. (Do you think our scooter is still in the parking garage or has it been stolen???) We also have a fantastic wine collection from our travels that we’d both like back. I really miss my bible the most. I miss all the other items too, but if I could go back and repack my bag, I would bring my bible home. Taylor gave me that bible for my birthday in 2019, so it’s really special. Taylor has several bibles here in America, so he’s not missing the one he took to China.

Scooting through our apartment complex.

Thankfully, we emptied the refrigerator and took out the trash before we left HAHA 🙂 But in all seriousness, we have some great people in China who are keeping an eye on our things and we hope to get them back soon. The worst case scenario is that we have everything shipped back to America.

I hope we can be reunited with our belongings in 2021!

I Can’t Believe We’re Still Here

Hi, Everyone!

The other day I was thinking about how much I missed writing on this blog. I haven’t written much recently (and for good reasons). I just had a baby (beautiful baby girl!) and Taylor and I have been “stuck” in American ever since Christmas. The two of us have been joking about how long we’ve been here. We came home in December with one suitcase between the two of us because we thought we’d be returning in 4 weeks. It’s been 7 months! For those of you wondering, Taylor can’t return to China because they aren’t allowing any foreigners to enter the country. So we wait. With all the chaos happening in my life, I finally feel like I finally have a grip on things and have time to sit and write.

Recently, Taylor and I have been reminding each other how EXTREMELY BLESSED we are. We came home when I was 20 weeks pregnant and we’ve gotten to experience the most luxurious maternity leave ever. Taylor was here before Joanne was born, here to help me recover from a tough post-labor, and we’ve gotten to spend 2 amazing months together loving on little Joanne as a family. This virus has been horrible for so many, but can I just say how much of a blessing it’s been to us? We will always thank God for choosing his timing. Seriously, we’re in awe.2I went back to work this month and Taylor is still doing what he can remotely. Add taking care of a newborn on top of this (as if we didn’t have enough on our hands), we decided to buy a 1984 Yellowstone Camino to renovate! We found her on Facebook Marketplace and fell in love after touring her in person. The camper was in fantastic shape and we’ve enjoyed having something to work on together. Some of my best memories as a child are from camping trips with my family, so I’m thrilled to continue the tradition with Joanne! IMG_5650IMG_5642Although the camper was in good shape, it was outdated. IMG_5605IMG_56091Currently, we’re about halfway through with the renovations, and I’m so excited to share the before and after pictures with you once everything is done! Here’s a little sneak peak…IMG_6124It’s going to look so incredible when it’s finished! We’re planning on taking the camper up to PA to visit family in the beginning of August, so it needs to be at a good stopping place, if not completely finished by then. Life is never dull around here! 🙂 Stay tuned for more camper renovation updates!!IMG_6179Talk to you soon! ❤

Visiting the Yellow Mountain

Happy November 1st from China! I can’t believe Halloween is over and we’re entering the Thanksgiving and Christmas season already. Taylor and I have a lot of exciting trips coming up during the next few weeks, so be on the lookout for those posts! In the meantime, here’s a short post about our trip to the Yellow Mountain a few weekends ago. 🙂

Taylor and I had been itching to take a small trip somewhere new in China, and we thought it was the perfect time to visit the popular Yellow Mountain. We’d heard great things from other expects and Nanjing locals who’d visited in the past, and they said we’d really enjoy it. With the temperatures dropping and the changing leaves, we thought it would be the perfect time to head to the mountains for a weekend together! Facetune_21-10-2019-15-19-43

We took a train to Huangshan (3 hours) and then caught a bus (45 minutes) to the bottom of Huangshan Mountain (yellow mountain). Our total trip took about 4 hours, and it was simple to get there. Once we got off the bus, we grabbed some water and waited for our hotel shuttle. We stayed at the Huangshan Mountain Resort and Spa, and it was perfect! It was situated in the mountains and near the park we’d be visiting the following morning. This was the beautiful view from our hotel balcony! We could even see the stars at night, which I’ve never actually seen in China before. IMG_1846.jpgUntitled design

After visiting the Purple Mountain last year (why are all the mountains named after colors?), I assumed the Yellow Mountain would be comparable in layout and difficulty. I was VERY wrong. While the Purple Mountain is pretty flat and easy to get from one point to the next, the Yellow Mountain is literally one hike after the other. If you’re a big hiker, you’d love something like this! We took the sky car 10 minutes up the mountain, where we were met by A LOT of people and A LOT of stairs.IMG_1850.jpgIMG_1852 We found out the hard way that there are not flat surfaces on the Yellow Mountain, rather a bunch of staircases. The views were incredible from the top though! You could see nothing but mountains. I’m so happy we got to see it on a clear day!DSC_6476DSC_6492DSC_6494DSC_6487

I wanted to add the photo below because it really puts things into perspective. There are people who live on the mountain and their only job is carry the food from one point to the other… and some of those stair cases are STEEP. I was tired just carrying myself, I couldn’t imagine carrying food for the restaurants and hotels. If you ever find yourself complaining about your job, just remember this. DSC_6483

When Taylor and I were looking at the map, I told him the only thing I didn’t want to do was climb the highest peak in the park. I just didn’t have the energy to climb that amount of stairs and it looked terrifying. Long story short, we got our location on the map wrong and ended up climbing the highest peak unintentionally. The staircase path was extremely narrow and there were so many people that we couldn’t turn back once we realized we were going up the mountain instead of around it…DSC_6516DSC_6537.jpg*smiling through the painDSC_6529DSC_6532

This was one of the scariest and most high intensity hikes I’ve ever done in my life. Thankfully, the view made it worth it at the top. Also, aren’t these photos beautiful? Thank you Taylor for taking the camera because I couldn’t breathe and take photos at the same time. Ha! 🙂DSC_6508DSC_6554

There was a hotel at the top of one of the peaks and I’m still trying to figure out how guests are supposed to get to it…DSC_6550-2

We sat at the top of the peak for about 30 minutes, because neither of us wanted to move another inch. While we were up there, we decided to call it a day and head back down the other side. Neither of us had the energy to climb anymore stairs, and we were getting hungry. Thankfully, the decent down was 10x easier than the climb up. DSC_6513DSC_6559

We picked a great time to visit the Yellow Mountain because the weather was cool, the sky was clear, and there weren’t as many people as there could’ve been. Don’t get me wrong, there were a ton of people there, but it could’ve been so much worse during a peak travel time. Taylor and I would like to visit the Yellow Mountain again, because while we were there all day, we didn’t even see half of it! At the end of the day, my apple watch said I’d climbed 100 sets of stairs, and I couldn’t imagine seeing even more in one day.

We packed up and headed home the next morning, and we were really impressed with our weekend getaway to the mountains! 🙂

 

A Little Bit of Nothing

Hello there!

It’s been awhile seen I’ve sat down and written anything on the blog. I last wrote about our short trip to Xi’an, but that was weeks ago! I haven’t written anything since then because nothings been happening over here on our side of the world! We have a busy month up ahead, so I thought I’d throw together an update on the little bit of nothingness going on right now.IMG_8957IMG_9167.jpgIt was a struggle trying to come up with a list of things we’ve been doing, because we haven’t been doing anything fun or unique! Here’s 3 random things that have happened since we got back from Xi’an:

1. Taylor traveled to a neighboring city to work at a baseball tournament. There wasn’t much to do in the city he was in, so I stayed behind in Nanjing for a few days by myself. I met up with him at the end of his trip. Untitled design-2IMG_9069.JPG1

2. While Taylor was away, I planned a surprise birthday party for him! He turns 25 this month, but we’ll be traveling so we celebrated early. All our China friends met at KTV (karaoke) and we had a blast celebrating Taylor! ❤ IMG_9147img_9127.jpg

3. I started working again! I’m freelancing for a company that I’ve worked with in the past. I’m so thankful to have something of my own to do!2As I said, we haven’t been doing much over here! We’ve been working hard and preparing for a busy summer. Other than that, we’re alive and well. 🙂 We leave for Phoenix next week, where Taylor will be working with extended spring training for two weeks. While we’re in the states during that time, I’m flying to Chicago for 3 days to meet up with family! At the end of two weeks in the states, we’ll fly back to China together for one month. Then, I’ll fly back to the states at the end of June for the summer. I’ll be bouncing around between PA and SC! IMG_9180Our upcoming plans are a bit confusing, but I’m excited to be in the states for the summer! Stay tuned for some photos of our upcoming trips. 🙂

Thank’s for following along!

 

Terra-cotta Soldiers in Xi’an

Good Morning,

We FINALLY went to see the terra-cotta soldiers in Xi’an! This has been on our bucket list since we moved to China, and we finally made it happen last week.Untitled designIMG_8716IMG_8717Like most of our trips these days, we booked it on a whim. We rode the bullet train from Nanjing to Xi’an on Tuesday morning at 9am, and arrived in Xi’an at 2:30pm. We had the option to fly for the same price (faster too), but we wanted to see the scenery along the way. Also, I was over the whole airport and airplane thing at the moment. I feel like we’re constantly on planes, and I just wanted to take a relaxing ride.DSC_5665DSC_5659Once we arrived in Xi’an, we took the subway to our hotel. We stayed at a brand new Holiday Inn Express and had no complaints. It was located downtown within the city wall and only cost $60 for one night!IMG_8720 After dropping our bags off in our room, we immediately walked to the city wall. The wall was huge, so we rented a tandem bike to get around the whole thing. This was so much easier than trying to walk only a portion of it. It also created a ton of fun memories! Taylor and I laughed the whole way around that wall. 🙂 DSC_5666IMG_8724DSC_5668DSC_5664IMG_8782Untitled design-2IMG_8768IMG_8835IMG_8799IMG_8828-2img_8845.jpgAfter completing the full loop of the wall, we walked to the Muslim market. There’s a pretty big Muslim community in Xi’an, so you have to see the market if you’re visiting the area. We stopped for snacks along the way. 2IMG_8865.jpg3For dinner that night, we ate at an Italian restaurant called Isola del Nord, which was a short walk from our hotel. It was very difficult to find, but worth it! The food was a great way to end our day. IMG_8875

The next day, we were up bright and early to see the terra-cotta soldiers! The soldiers are actually located an hour outside the city and there are a couple ways to get there. You can take the public bus or a Didi (chinese uber). We opted for the bus, which was the cheapest ($2 per person).Untitled design-3This was one of the most fascinating things we’ve seen and learned about in China. The exhibit has 3 major pits that display the terra-cotta figures. What’s even crazier, is that they weren’t discovered until the 70’s!! Pit 1, the largest, was discovered in March 1974. Pit 2 was found the following month, and pit 3 wasn’t found until that June! They were discovered by some farmers who were trying to dig a well for water. While they were digging, they found a few pottery pieces, which lead to the finding of the terra-cotta army. I don’t know about you, but I would love to know what was going through those farmer’s minds on that day. Obviously, they lost their land. :/ DSC_56782DSC_5679The soldiers were created by Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, who was preparing an army for his after-life. He never recorded anything about his hidden army, because he wanted it to be left undisturbed. (This seemed like a whole lot of preparations for an after-life to me.) What’s fascinating, was that each soldier was hand-crafted differently. There are no two alike. DSC_5691DSC_5675IMG_8918To this day, they’re still uncovering pieces and putting soldiers back together. Uncovering something of this magnitude takes a lot of caution and time. While there are large working areas set up, it’s rare to actually see someone working in the pits. I assume they work at night when the site is closed. I can’t imagine how creepy that would be! Legend says that if you listen closely, you can hear the soldiers talking to one another. 😉 DSC_5740DSC_5742IMG_8921DSC_5736DSC_5718DSC_57131IMG_8915Once we were done walking through all the exhibits, we took the bus to the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda back in Xi’an. DSC_5754.jpgThis is a Buddhist pagoda that was built in the year 652 during the Tang Dynasty. Instead of entering the pagoda, we just walked through the park surrounding it. It was a beautiful day! DSC_5751.jpgBefore heading to our train, we grabbed coffee at a Starbucks Reserve and walked around the Muslim market one more time. IMG_8931Untitled designIMG_8939.jpgInstead of paying for a hotel another night and then taking the bullet train back to Nanjing, we booked tickets on an overnight slow train. Taylor has been begging me to do this since we arrived in China, and I finally caved. I will say, I was pleasantly surprised with our soft-sleeper experience. Here’s a little general knowledge about overnight trains in China:

There are 3 classes: Hard, Soft, and Deluxe.

Hard: 6 bunks per room, no door, squatty potty bathroom, and the cheapest.

Soft: 4 bunks per room, a locked door, seating area outside, western toilet, extra sinks, pillow, slippers, bedding. (this is the one we selected) – see photo below.

Deluxe: 2 beds per room, a locked door, seating, western toilet, private, pillow, slippers, bedding, and most expensive.

IMG_8946IMG_8947We started off in separate rooms because we purchased tickets so late, but ended up in a room together after I got sick and someone kindly offered to switch with us. Although it’s nothing glamorous, we were more than comfortable for the whole journey. The total trip took us 12 hours. We left the station at 7pm and arrived in Nanjing at 7am. Taking this train made Taylor super happy. 🙂 IMG_8950We arrived back in Nanjing well rested with a full day ahead of us! I see more sleeper-trains in our future. 🙂

Would you stay on an overnight train?

xoxo

Oahu, Hawaii – Days 3 & 4

Welcome back!

Did you read about our first two days in Hawaii? You should! 🙂 Just click the link HERE. Taylor and I had a blast driving around Oaha the first two days together, but we had an even better time on the 3rd and 4th day!

We started our 3rd day the same way we started every other day…in the car. On this day, we were heading to the North Shore! On our way North, we stopped at the Aloha Stadium and walked around their flea market. The market is held every Sunday, Wednesday, and Saturday, and I truly believe it’s the best market for all gifts and souvenirs. You’ll also find the prices way better than anywhere in the city. If you can make it out, I’d highly recommend it. It’s $1 per person.IMG_8056They also offer tours of the stadium now! This was perfect for Tay and I. A little football and a little shopping. 🙂 IMG_8060.jpg2Once we were done, we finished the beautiful drive to the North Shore. The nice thing about Hawaii, is that it’s very easy to drive all over the island! Our stomachs were grumbling at this point, so we stopped for brunch at Cafe Haleiwa. This was such a sweet, locally owned place. I ordered their huevos rancheros with a cold brew latte and Taylor had their french toast! Both were amazing. IMG_8071.jpg1IMG_8074After stuffing our stomachs, Taylor told me that he wanted to stop at Turtle Beach. After complaining about how I didn’t want to stop because there wouldn’t be any actual turtles, I was proven very wrong. There were so many sea turtles floating in the ocean and it was really special to see them! I couldn’t get any good photos, but you can see the shadow of some in the picture above. Pictures would never do it justice anyway. You just have to be there. I switched over to metal straws last year to help save our sea turtles, so this was such a special moment. I’m glad he made me get out of the car. ❤ IMG_8073We continued our drive along the coast, and found a beach to rest on. The North Shore is famous for it’s massive waves, so we sat and watched the incredibly talented surfers. The waves were actually so big that nobody could even touch the water unless they were professional surfers. Not that I minded anyway, I wouldn’t dream of getting into waves that size. For some reason I didn’t capture any pictures of the big waves. I guess I was too mesmerized. LOLIMG_8072.jpgIMG_8109.jpgFor lunch, Taylor ordered a BBQ chicken platter from Winna Chicken and I ordered the garlic shrimp from Giovannis. (*peep the new hawaiian shirt 😉 ) IMG_8112.jpgNot to be dramatic or anything, but this was the best shrimp I’ve ever had in my life. ever. I’m still dreaming about it. I discovered all the amazing reviews of this place online and it not disappointed. We took our lunch and sat in the park overlooking the water. IMG_8113IMG_8117IMG_8119For a sweet treat, we split a Hawaiian ice. When in Hawaii right?! Untitled designWe were having the best time together!IMG_81101After stuffing our bellies with delicious food, we drove back to the apartment and showered off before watching the sunset on Ala Moana beach. A sunset in Hawaii is one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see in life. The colors are stunning and everything is perfect. IMG_8136IMG_8125Travel the World in Style-2IMG_8142.jpg

The next day was sadly our last day in Hawaii. To start the day, we woke up early and drove to Diamond Head. I completed this hike on my last trip to Hawaii and enjoyed it so much that I knew Taylor would love it too! It was a much nicer day this time around. IMG_8155IMG_8156Untitled design-3IMG_8151 Unfortunately, parking was full by the time we got there (around 9:30am) so we had to park a half mile away. Just keep this in mind if you plan on driving. I wouldn’t recommend going anytime later than 10am. When we were on the way off the mountain, there was a line of people trying to get up and it was extremely crowded.IMG_8168We chose to eat lunch at Waikiki Brewing Company after our hike. We ordered some nachos and the bratwurst sandwich. This was a really cool place and the service was awesome!IMG_8172.jpgUntitled design-4The rest of our day was spent shopping downtown and packing our bags for our return to China. 😦 IMG_8192This view didn’t make leaving any easier. Tay said he loved his first trip to Hawaii, and we’re already planning our next visit! Although we were only visiting for a few days, we had a blast driving around the coast and enjoying each other’s company. Trips like this are always my favorite.

Thank’s for reading!

xoxo