That Time I Got Fleas in Shanghai

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Life was good.  I had just scored my dream job of being an interpreter at a prestigious advertising agency, and I was finally making money after my horrible student experience at Shanghai International Studies University.   I was on top of the world.

The first thing I did with my paycheck was put down a deposit and pay three months rent for my  “new” apartment in Shanghai.  After living in the dorms for six months, I was elated.  I could finally have a place to call my own and move back to city center Shanghai. read more

Life in Los Angeles is Killing Me

Los Angeles Sprawl

Los Angeles Sprawl

My alarm buzzed at 6:00AM, waking me out of my deep slumber. I fumbled in the darkness of the early morning to shut the alarm off and begin yet another 12+ hour day of work and commuting.

Originally, I didn’t want a car. I wanted to just get by with a bike, a ride form my boyfriend every now and then, and the trains—yet it was impossible. The distance from my boyfriend’s house to the train station was 20 minutes away by car, which is almost 90 minutes away by bike. Thus I was forced to lease a car, which costs me a ridiculous amount of money every month. An asset I honestly don’t want, but is impossible to live without in the United States. read more

You’re not Western Enough: How I Got Kicked Out of My First Shanghai Apartment

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“Mary, I published a book about teaching foreigners in China and I wrote almost an entire chapter about you.”

My Chinese teacher from Tsinghua University suddenly e-mailed me with the news, and I was completely caught off guard.

Me? …..In a book?

Impatient, I opened up the attached word file and scanned through the chapters hurriedly.

When I turned to the chapter about me, I realized that she retold one of the bleaker moments during my stay in Shanghai about…

My First Roommate:  The Leftover Woman read more

How I Learned to Speak Mandarin in 6 Months

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This isn’t a post about how great I am at languages. I’m not like some jerk on the internet claiming to achieve fluency in three months.

This is a post about the blood, sweat and tears I spent to learn Chinese.

I never thought I would learn how to speak Chinese: The tones, the characters, and the proverbs were frustrating.  The task of learning Mandarin was daunting and overwhelming–and honestly, there were many moments I thought I was just not meant to learn this language.

Yet somehow, I did it.  I learned Chinese in less than a year. read more

Is Living in Big City America Worth it?

photo credit: Pranav Bhatt via photopin cc

photo credit: Pranav Bhatt via photopin cc

Why Big City L.A. Sucks… Traffic

I apologize, I haven’t updated in almost a month. Aside from my terrible job and daily four hour commute (yes, you read that correctly, four hours), I have been busy with my favorite hobby:

Traveling.

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When I was younger, all I could think about was how to get out of the United States rather than travel in it. The arches of Moab are nothing compared to the Great Wall of China, I sighed. The Grand Canyon simply pales in comparison to the intellectual beauty of Paris’ Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysses. read more

Afternoon Tea in Shanghai

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It was one of those perfect Sunday mornings. I woke up naturally from a deep, full slumber to those rare, precious rays of sunshine pouring through my tiny one bedroom apartment in Shanghai. I heard my neighbor, a Shanghainese Ayi, conversing boisterously in Shanghainese with fellow friends on the balcony. The bike peddler downstairs made the rounds  for scrap metal, his stereo box continually repeating the words “computers, TVs, radios..” into the early morning.

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I pulled myself out of bed to the coffee maker where I brewed a fresh pot of coffee, fried up some eggs and looked out the window to my city-sprawl view of the Jing’an district. read more

Dating a Chinese Man (and the unwanted presents that come with it)

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“How are things with you and your Shanghai man?” I ask J on the phone as I slurp some coffee and munch on toast.”I hear you have dinner with his family every weekend?  Seems like things are getting serious.”

“Mary, I’m going to have a breakdown,” J sighs heavily on the phone. “His mom did something that REALLY bothered me these last few weekends.”

“Oh no,” I set my coffee on the table and leaned in, almost as if J were really sitting across from me.  “Did she say something about you being a foreigner?  Or maybe about your family?” read more

Biking Around Ayutthaya and Feasting in Bangkok

Thailand.  A backpackers haven.  The heart of Southeast Asia.  The land of smiles.  A country that all travelers know they must check off ‘the list.’

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I first became interested in Thailand in much the same way everyone else does:  The food.

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I mean seriously, when a country has food THIS good you can’t help but wonder about the rest of it.  There has to be something unique and special about a country that makes some of the best spicy soup, mind blowing curry, and fragrant dishes to grace not only all of Asia–but the entire world. read more

Fitting Back into the USA

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Letting Go

I know.  It’s been ages since I’ve updated.

I’ve opened up wordpress and stared into a blank page for minutes at a time, trying to compose my thoughts into something that flows and make sense.  I tried multiple times to post something that is profound, moving, touching, and somehow manages to convey all of my distraught feelings for leaving behind a life full of love and comfort in Shanghai.  I tried to sum up the overpowering emotions of saying farewell to China and the wonderful life I lived there for three years–but every time I tried to type something, it just didn’t feel right.  It felt forced, sappy, or empty. read more