Summer 19′ – Home, Waco, and MLB

Hey there!

Long time no see! I took a bit of a blog hiatus this spring and summer, because Taylor and I were busy and I was soaking up every second in America with our friends and family. The two of us were hopping all over the place this summer, so it’s a bit confusing to keep up with. Here’s a breakdown of what went down during our crazy summer vacation!

I started my time in South Carolina for a bachelorette party in Charleston. IMG_0049Untitled design-5

…and I spent a lot of quality time time with Maybelle! She’s living her best life with her grandma on the farm. ❤ Untitled design-4img_1238.jpg

Afterwards, I flew to Lancaster for 6 weeks. Thankfully, my parents let me invade their space for a majority of the summer. 🙂 IMG_0394.jpgUntitled design-3IMG_0308IMG_0946img_0177.jpg

I went to my best friend Katie’s beautiful wedding and watched her marry her soulmate, Jon. I was also reunited with my best college gals! This night was filled with loads of dancing and reminiscing, which is exactly what I didn’t know I needed. I left the wedding feeling so much joy for Katie and Jon, and thankful for sweet friendships that the Lord blessed me with years ago.  IMG_0269Untitled designIMG_0234

For a long weekend in July, I flew to Waco with Lindsey and Lacie for a girls trip to Magnolia! We chose the perfect time to visit, because it was the annual warehouse sale weekend. The sales were so good that Lacie and I had to buy an additional checked bag to get all our things home. Ha! If you want a separate post on Waco, let me know. DSC_6096.jpgUntitled design-2.jpgimg_0614.jpgIMG_0464

After the Waco trip, I flew back to Lancaster for the last half of my time there. During the time, I celebrated my dad’s birthday, my 27th birthday, welcomed my best friend Grace’s new baby boy into the world, and enjoyed my final days in my adolescent home. My parent are selling their beautiful home in a few weeks and building something much more manageable within a few minutes away. I’m excited for the change, but it’s always bitter sweet saying goodbye to a place you’ve known as home for so long. DSC_6118.jpgimg_0988.jpgimg_0406.jpgUntitled design-7IMG_0439

At the end of those 6 weeks in Lancaster, I flew back to South Carolina to meet Taylor and the China MLB team! They were playing in a few tournaments here in the States, and stopped at Taylor’s house for a team cookout! This was one of the coolest days of my life. It was surreal to have both of our worlds come together.DSC_6191_1DSC_6178.jpgIMG_1098DSC_6169DSC_6180

Taylor and I spent the next two weeks in South Carolina jumping between family and watching the China MLB team play in America!IMG_1185Untitled design-6

At the end of August, we parted ways again and I headed to Seattle for a cruise to Alaska and Taylor headed to LA for a mini vacation with the MLB staff. I will write a separate post about my Alaska trip! 🙂

At the very end of August, we flew back to China! 🙂

A Short Work Trip to Taiwan

Happy Sunday!

Taylor and I have been hanging out in Taiwan for the past couple weeks, and we just returned to Nanjing. We’re in the middle of figuring out some complicated Visa bits-and-pieces, so the two of us were flown to Taiwan for work purposes. This was our first time visiting Taiwan, and we had a great time.

Our flight out of Nanjing was super delayed, so we switched from a flight to Kaohsiung, to a flight to Taipei. Thankfully, it was only a short 2 hour flight. Once we arrived in the capital though, we had to take a 2 hour train ride south, to Kaohsiung, where we stayed for the next 10 days.1IMG_78482After breakfast each morning, Taylor got picked up at our hotel and headed to the school. While he was away, I would hang out at our hotel. I caught up on reading, worked on the blog, and watched TV. I’m not one to go out and about in a city I’ve never been to all by myself, so I didn’t do much.4IMG_78731During the evenings, we would eat dinner either around the hotel or downtown. Taiwan has some great night markets, which we spent one night exploring together.2We also found out that there was a Costco in Taiwan (PRAISE), so we had to go. The food menu was almost exactly the same as the American stores, so we ate dinner there for a little taste of home. We didn’t have our membership card on us, but I wish we did! I would’ve loved to stock up on snacks to take bake to China. 3IMG_7864We weren’t exactly tourists during our 10 day trip to Taiwan, but we’re thankful for the opportunity to see another country!IMG_7874I’m sure we’ll be back one day!

xoxo

10 Differences about China

Ever since we moved to Nanjing, I’ve been compiling a list of all the differences between China and America. Obviously, there are a ton of differences, big and small, so I thought I’d start with one post, and write another one later on if you enjoy it!

This post is based on an American living in Nanjing, China. 

1. Family: China is a very family-oriented country. Kids are the pride and joy here! Families are very close, and spend most holidays eating and being together. There aren’t a lot of single parent families here, and kids don’t experience a lack of parenting with both sets of grandparents usually living with them. Whenever parents go to work, most young kids are looked after by their grandparents. If they’re old enough to be in school, then the grandparents will take/pick them up. At night, you see a lot of families out walking or playing in the park together. Family is everything here.DSC_0523

2. Safety: I was surprised by this! I would never go walking the streets alone at night in America, but I can definitely do it here in Nanjing! Firstly, there are millions of people living in Nanjing, so you’re never really alone. Secondly, the laws are so strict that you can’t get away with anything. There are cameras everywhere so you get the impression that the government is always watching, which instills a fear of punishment and dishonor.DSC_0772

3. Transportation: Taylor and I didn’t grow up in huge cities, so we’re not accustomed to city transportation. There’s a great metro system here, because the traffic is madness (hello 8.3 million people). I was pleasantly surprised at how clean the subway stations were…like 10x cleaner than the ones in New York City!! I would never be able to keep up with traffic in China. It’s every man for himself and you have to watch out for pedestrians, bikers, and scooter drivers. Their depth perception is impeccable, and this crazy system works for them. Every taxi ride is an adventure in itself!IMG_4542.jpg

4. Homes: In America, a lot of people own houses. That’s the American dream right? However, in China, there are almost no houses. It’s very difficult to own property here resulting in very few homes or neighborhoods. So the majority of the population lives in an apartment, typically in a large complex of tall apartment buildings. In America, all the individual apartments are the same within one complex. In China, they are sold as a concrete shell that are then fully customized how the “owner” desires. They’re responsible for installing floors, walls, utilities, bathroom features, etc.Untitled designDSC_0146

5. Drying Clothes: Within our apartment, we have a washing machine, but no dryer. Most families wash their clothes in a washing machine (or hand wash), and then hang them up to dry. This is different, but not the worst. I do miss the quickness a dryer provides and the freshness. DSC_0269

6. Squatty Potties: One of the biggest differences in China, is the toilet situation. First off, you have to squat. Incase you don’t know what I’m talking about- there’s a “toilet” in the ground that you squat over. (It’s as awful as it sounds.) In America, the toilet is above the ground and you sit on it. Not all toilettes are squatty potties, but most of them are in public settings. As if squatting to use the bathroom wasn’t uncomfortable enough, you also have to bring your own toilet paper…yep, that’s right. I have to carry toilet paper around with me at all times. In larger establishments, they will have one or two western toilets and provide toilet paper.IMG_1283

7. Education: I think this is pretty well known, but the school systems here are intense! Most kids leave their homes when they enter middle school, and live at their school from Monday-Friday because they spend all day in class. Everyone wears the exact same uniform, and they are expected to succeed in their education. It is a very competitive environment, where you need to be within the top of your class in order to have the opportunity to attend a high ranking college.IMG_1653

8. Healthcare: In America, it’s more difficult to get your hands on someone else’s medical records than anything else. Thank you HIPPA! It’s clean, sanitary, and expensive. It’s the opposite in China. Depending on the hospital (western vs. eastern), doctors will smoke in their personal offices, depending on the issue you’re examined in front of other people, and sometimes you have to sift through other peoples files to find your own off a printer. However, it’s extremely cheap and efficient so you’re in and out of the hospital within minutes. You can read my full Chinese hospital experience at the hospital HERE.Untitled design

9. Tipping: When going out to eat in America, you typically have one server and you tip them based on your bill. In China, there isn’t one specific person who serves you and it’s not customary to tip. Nobody will check in with you unless you call them over. If you did that in America it would be considered offensive and rude. You can read about all the different food we eat HERE.IMG_1962.jpg

10. Age:  Everyone looks so young here, and it’s very difficult to guess someone’s age! If you ask someone in China how old they are, they will typically tell you the year they’re going towards. In America I would tell you that I’m 26. However, in China I would tell people I’m 27.DSC_0235-2

And that’s just 10 of the ways China differs from our typical American lifestyle! Again, this is just based on our life back in America verses where we’re living in China. I hope you enjoyed this post, and don’t forget to follow my blog and enter your email for notifications whenever I post something new. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see another post like this!

xoxo

Living in China Q&A

Good Morning!

A few weeks ago Taylor and I asked our friends and family via social media what questions they had about living in China as expats. Today, we’re excited to answer your questions and share a little bit of our journey! I hope you enjoy this little Q&A just as much as we do.

What are the seasons like in China and when do they take place? This answer is based off our home city of Nanjing, which is located in the southeast part of the country. Obviously, the weather varies depending where you’re located. It was extremely hot and humid between June and September. Although it was still warm in October, it wasn’t nearly as humid. There wasn’t much of a cool fall. Winter arrived in November and has just about ended now that it’s March. The seasons are pretty comparable to the Carolinas in America.2

How do you get around from place to place? Since we don’t have a car or scooter, we have a couple options based on where we’re going. For further destinations, we take the high speed trains/planes. For shorter distances, we can walk (we walk A LOT), bike on the city bikes, take the subway, or take a DiDi (Chinese Uber). Living in a massive city means that we don’t need a car of our own, which is surprisingly nice. It forces us to get up and move. Adventures on the Rocky Trail

How hard is it being away from your one and only amazing sister? All jokes aside, being away from family and friends is one of the toughest things about living abroad. Surprisingly, we see them/talk to them more now though! Isn’t that crazy?3

What do you eat? Thankfully, Nanjing is a massive city that has a ton of western restaurants we can eat at weekly! One of our goals this year is to start cooking meals in our apartment to save more money. However, we don’t have an oven, so I’m trying to get creative. 🙂 1

What type of Chinese food do you like? Authentic Chinese food can be scary, because it’s massively different than American Chinese. You can’t walk into a restaurant and find sweet and sour chicken with a side of fried rice (at least I haven’t). Typically, we stick with white rice and vegetables because it’s safe. We like to eat dumplings, sautéed cauliflower, spicy green beans, garlic crawfish, and pineapple rice! We stick with what we know. Surprisingly, Taylor is a lot more adventurous when it comes to trying new food.Untitled design-8

How do you afford all the traveling you do? We get asked this a lot, and there are a few ways we can afford traveling so often. First, living in China eliminates all the expenses we would typically have in America. The only bills we’re responsible for are my student loans and half of our phone bill. What a blessing this is!! Taylor’s employer covers everything else. Second, traveling is something we both love to do, therefore it’s a priority in our lives. We don’t buy a lot of fancy things and I like to think we live a somewhat minimalistic life. When we do travel, Taylor spends hours finding the best deals and doing a ton of research before we commit. Watch all my travel vlos at reallygreatsite.com

What is your favorite thing about China? Ashley: I know this is going to sound odd, but the freedom we have living in China is unmatched. When we were living in America, we worked our butts off and were drowning in expenses, family, and married life. Now, we’re able to save more money, spend quality time together, see our family more than ever, and we travel often. Taylor: My favorite thing is the ability to live in a culture where things are different. I also enjoy the trains, and being able to pay for everything through my phone. WeChat is huge here! created by dji camera

What is your least favorite thing about China? Ashley: My least favorite thing is the toilets. I don’t like having to squat out in public AND bring my own toilette paper. Taylor: Not being able to attend all the Clemson Tiger football games is brutal! It’s also really difficult to watch all the games because of the time difference. Some nights, I sleep on the couch and wake up at 3am for kickoff.2

What do you miss most about the US, outside of your family/friends/puppy? Ashley: I miss having a full kitchen, speaking the language, and getting my hair done. 🙂 Taylor: I miss being able to drive my own car!

How do you budget all your travels? Like I said above, traveling is a priority for us. We have a separate bank account that holds all our travel funds. We’ve been given random time off since living in China, so it helps to have something saved and ready to go.1

Do you miss being settled in one place? I definitely miss being settled. I like to tell myself that we live part-time between America and China. Living all over the place doesn’t fade Taylor in the slightest. LOL

How much of a culture shock was there when you first arrived? If you haven’t read my very first China blog post, you should go read it (linked here). I HATED being here and wanted to leave immediately. My anxiety was through the roof and I never ever want to experience a week like that ever again in my life. It just goes to prove that prayer is POWERFUL. My heart has steadied and I am enjoying our crazy life. There are so many big and small differences between western and eastern culture. I think I’m going to write a post about all the good and bad differences.IMG_1267.jpg

What’s your day-to-day like? Normally, Taylor works Wednesday through Sunday. He goes into the office around 10am and leaves by 5pm. Sometimes I’ll go in with him and read, blog, or workout. After he’s done, we usually eat dinner with friends and just hangout around the city. This all changes depending on games and holidays of course.

What’s been the hardest thing to get used to? Ashley: Being a minority is a lot harder than I expected. I can’t speak the language and I stick out like a sore thumb. I’m going to start seriously learning the language. I think this will help me feel more at home. Taylor: The language barrier is sometimes difficult. I’m used to being able to communicate with everyone whenever I want.Adventures on the Rocky Trail-2

I hope this little Q&A gave you a better idea of our lives here in China! If you want me to write another one of these in the future, comment down below! I had a blast writing this. ❤

Cambodia pt. 2 – Siem Reap

Hello!

I’m back with part 2 of our trip to Cambodia! Have you read about the first half? If not, I highly encourage you to read it before this one! Especially if you love the beach or need a little warmth in the dead of winter right now. 🙂

In my last post, I left off with us returning to Sihanoukville via the ferry. Once we got off the boat, we paired up with a European couple and took a Tuk Tuk to the local airport together. It took around 30 minutes, and the airport was extremely small. Since we were early for our flight (always aim to be early, not just on time), we sat around and chatted with our new friends. That’s the magic about backpacking! You never know who you’re going to meet along the way. Everyone has a unique story that’s led them to where they are, and it’s fascinating.IMG_7621IMG_7677We decided to take a flight to Siem Reap rather than a bus for several reasons. For starters, the flight was only $30 a person. A bus was $15 a person. Second, the flight was only 40 minutes. The bus was overnight and was estimated to take 10 hours. We really contemplated taking the bus because it was half the price AND there were bunks in the bus. However, we didn’t want to waste time. We needed to be up early the following morning, so we wanted a good nights rest as well. Untitled design-6I was pleasantly surprised by Siem Reap. This city in the northern part of Cambodia exists almost completely because of tourism. All the grand hotels and restaurants give the locals jobs and it’s truly thriving. I really thought Siem Reap was going to be a little dusty and empty city, but I was very wrong. It’s only growing! We checked into our hotel downtown, took hot showers, and headed straight to bed. The following day, we hired a driver to take us wherever we wanted for the whole day. He picked us up at our hotel at 6:30am and drove us straight to Angkor Wat. Siem Reap is famous for this massive temple and kingdom that was founded in the 12th century. What was once a Hindu temple, eventually transformed into a Buddhist temple.DSC_5605DSC_5629DSC_5632DSC_5674 We purchased tickets that gave us access to any of the sights we wanted for the whole day, which cost $37 each. The pass allowed us to enter any of the historical buildings we wanted for the whole day. We didn’t have a problem paying almost $40 a ticket, because they are doing an amazing job restoring these ancient temples. Angkor Wat sat untouched for years, so you’ll see a lot of natural destruction. Restoration first started in the 1860’s. 2DSC_5625DSC_5624DSC_56101DSC_5614I’d say we spent 4-5 hours walking through all the temples. I HIGHLY, HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend getting up as early as you possibly can. Tourists visit Siem Reap for the same reason – to see Angkor Wat. Even though we visited during February, it was still very hot and jam-packed with people. The combination of the two makes for an unpleasant experience. I’m sure it get’s even busier during the Summer months. IMG_76323DSC_5722DSC_5660DSC_5665DSC_5667We explored the temples of Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm (in that order). As you can see by the map below, Angkor Park is huge! You can truly spend all day here. map1_large.jpgDSC_57582DSC_5741DSC_5784DSC_5772Untitled design-7DSC_5763DSC_5764We called it quits shortly after noon because it was way too hot and there were way too many people around. We didn’t eat dinner the night before with all the traveling, so we were starving and exhausted. Learn from our mistake and stay fed and hydrated. We drove back into downtown Siem Reap and ate at the Paper Tiger. Taylor and I both ordered pasta and it was delicious! I’d highly recommend eating here. IMG_7649 Once we were done, we headed to a local school with Caring for Cambodia. Taylor was invited to speak about science and achieving goals. I’m so proud of Tay for sharing his educational experience and inspiring high school students who are about to make big decisions not only for themselves, but for their family! IMG_7662After an exhausting day exploring in the heat, we ate a quick dinner downtown and headed back to our hotel. We had another early morning, because we were flying back to Phnom Penh before flying back to Nanjing! IMG_7684IMG_7690Can I be honest with you? Here’s where I wanted to end the blog. The rest of our time in Phnom Penh was spent visiting the killing fields and S21 prison camp from the genocide that took place in the early 70’s. I didn’t want to write about it. I felt like it was depressing and I didn’t want to relive what we saw and learned. However, during our tour, they mentioned that if nobody talks about it, nobody will ever learn about the horrific loss Cambodia suffered. And if nobody hears, then we cannot learn from experience. Taylor encouraged me to briefly write about our experience.

Another honest confession. I never heard about the mass genocide in Cambodia, until now. I NEVER knew. The only mass genocide I knew about was the Holocaust. 3 We did the audio tour for both the killing fields and prison. From personal experience, while these tours were wonderful and full of information, I think this was way worse than visiting a concentration camp in Germany. (If you had a rough time with that, then this isn’t for you.) These tours are fantastic for learning and never forgetting, but they are not for everyone. I couldn’t complete the prison because my heart was aching and I couldn’t look at the photos. I listened to the full audio, but I physically couldn’t do it. IMG_7703IMG_7702.jpgThe only way I can end this post, is by encouraging you to learn. Although it’s painful to hear about the horror that occurred, millions of lives were effected and still are. Cambodia is still recovering. The only way we can prevent anything like this happening again, is by learning.

Chinese New Year 2019

Happy Year of the Pig! If you were born in the year 1983, 1995, or 2007 this is your year!!

Taylor and I are back in our second home and starting our new year by regrouping and relaxing. After a very busy few months traveling all over the states for the holidays, we’ve been taking a true “vacation” for ourselves.

Before jumping into our adventures within Beijing, I’m going to take it back a few weeks. I think this will make things easier to understand. Upon landing in China, we quickly realized that the whole country was shutting down for the New Year. To fight the 13 hour jet lag, we took a small trip to Shanghai with a couple friends who live in Nanjing too. We’ve been to Shanghai numerous times, because it’s only an hour (or 2 depending on the stops) train ride from Nanjing.  IMG_7046invite you to an anniversary party to celebrate their ten years of marriage!We spent a good portion of our time eating good food, walking around the People’s Square, and visiting the largest Starbucks in the world! I was in coffee HEAVEN! I didn’t know this was even located in Shanghai until a few months ago. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery was 2 stories high and was it’s very own coffee factory. They offer way more food and drink options at this location. I tried the butterscotch latte and it was the best latte I’ve ever had. I’m not sure if this was seasonal or available everywhere? It was new to me. 🙂5Processed with VSCO with g6 presetOf course it was packed with people, but you could spend hours here watching the coffee being made, looking at all the special merchandise, and even enjoy a pairing bar! This is something everyone needs to see when visiting Shanghai. I can’t wait to go back.IMG_7050IMG_7052Our friends are huge Disney lovers, so they hold season passes to the Disney Shanghai park. They showed us the beautiful Disney resort and took us to the Downtown Disney area. Taylor and I are excited to experience Disney Shanghai later in the year. We all grabbed dinner at the Cheesecake Factory before retiring back to our hotel for the night. Tay and I returned to Nanjing the next day.

Now remember when I said the whole country of China was shutting down for the Chinese New Year?? Well this created a small setback for us. Taylor wasn’t expected to return to work for several more weeks, and our city was becoming emptier and emptier. Instead of sitting in our apartment for days and days, we booked last-minute train tickets to Beijing! Bullet trains can take anywhere between 3-4 hours to reach Beijing from Nanjing, depending on how many stops it makes. IMG_7200The two of us love Beijing, and thought this was the perfect time to experience an authentic Chinese New Year! Whenever we travel to Beijing, we stay within the Sanlitun district because it’s the most western and a fantastic place to meet people our age who are also expats. There’s always something going on!3 We kicked off our second day by watching the Super Bowl at 7am at The Local. I’ve never seen so many Americans in one location within China before. It was so odd watching the Super Bowl this early and without all the dips and snacks, but it turned out to be really fun!2On Chinese New Year, we met up with friends who live in Beijing to visit some of the festivals. There were shows, food, and extravagant displays lining the parks and streets! By the way, it was freezing!!DSC_56044IMG_7233DSC_5644The whole day was spent exploring and immersing ourselves into a Chinese New Year celebration. DSC_5692DSC_56496DSC_5670I was really hoping to see a Chinese dragon show, but we couldn’t find one. Apparently it’s a southern China thing. However, they still had a bunch of performances that were super fun to watch. DSC_56537DSC_5657DSC_5698DSC_5703I loved seeing all the vibrant colors and different traditions China upholds every single year. They really know how to ring in a new year! 9DSC_56878After the celebration, we called it a day. We spent the next few days eating more great food and walking around Beijing together. It’s always nice to get away for a few days and experience something new!