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!

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!

 

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

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. ❤

A Night in Hong Kong!

Last weekend, Taylor and I completed our second visa run to Hong Kong! I went into a lot more detail about what a “visa run” is and why we need to take them in the first Hong Kong post I wrote! You can read that HERE.

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The two of us headed to the Nanjing airport on Monday afternoon, and landed in Hong Kong around 5pm. We took a taxi immediately to our hotel, The Rosedale, and dropped off our luggage before heading to dinner. We were starving and craving Outback Steakhouse! The only time we can eat here is when we’re visiting Hong Kong. We would normally never eat at a chain restaurant while traveling, but when you live in China, you take any sliver of home you can get. ❤

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After a long day of traveling, we headed straight to bed and rested for an early morning of exploration! Taylor’s company only pays for a one night (two day) stay out of the country when we need to take our visa runs, so we squeeze everything we can into that time! We woke up bright and early, walked to Starbucks for coffee, then took the hotel bus downtown.

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We spent the entire day walking along the harbor, flying the drone, and shopping (Christmas is right around the corner)!

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When we were ready for lunch, we returned to White Beard’s Fish n Chips across the harbor. We ate here last time and loved it so much! Taylor ordered their lemon garlic fish and I got their fish bites!

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We always love traveling to Hong Kong, even if it’s just for one night. The weather is always perfect, there’s a huge western influence, and there’s so much beauty! We’ve only been twice now, but there’s still so much we want to see and do here! We can’t wait to return.

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On another note, WE RETURN TO AMERICA this week!! We’re both ecstatic, and can’t wait to see all our friends and family! Thank’s for reading! xoxo

Getting Lost on Purple Mountain

Hello!

I hope ya’ll had a great week!! In my last post, I talked about how we visited a local park in Nanjing on our Monday afternoon off. Well today’s post is all about what we did the very next day! If you didn’t know, our weekends are Monday’s and Tuesday’s rather than the typical Saturday’s and Sunday’s. We wanted to spend our Tuesday afternoon casually exploring Purple Mountain. This is a famous area in Nanjing because you can hike, walk through the botanical gardens, or see the Xiaoling tomb of the first Ming emperor. What was supposed to be a casual hike up and down the mountain with a little exploration in the middle, turned into an all day hike trying to get off the dang mountain. I started the day recording our “small” adventure, but called it quits on filming after we were lost and confused and everything turned into a hot mess.

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When hiking the mountain you have three options. You can take the stairs straight up, walk along a winding road, or get inside a cable car. We chose to take the stairs because we wanted to hike it. After huffing and puffing for 45 minutes all the way up, we sat and looked out at our city below to catch our breath.

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When we were done soaking in the foggy view, we began walking down off the mountain together. The map showed a path that connected the mountain to the botanical gardens and Mausoleum down below, so we set out to find it. After walking a mile straight downhill, we came to a gated dead end. We had to turn around and walk uphill another mile. This just kept happening. I’m not kidding when I say it took us HOURS to get up and down this mountain. The paths were not labeled correctly and the maps weren’t accurate. #china

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My muscles are still aching!! Once we finally made it down off the mountain, we took a taxi to the gardens and Mausoleum. Turns out, it was a lot further than we thought it would be.

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It’s believed that the emperor is buried somewhere in this amazing courtyard.

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The Purple Mountain park was closing at 6pm that day, so we only had about an hour to walk around and explore. Thankfully, this meant it wasn’t overcrowded. Truth be told, I don’t know if I could’ve explored any longer than that anyways because I was so exhausted. We drove straight to dinner afterwards because we were starving and ready for bed. I don’t think we’ll be hiking Purple Mountain again anytime soon. 🙂

Thank’s for reading! xoxo