My 10 Favorite Excuses for Not Going to the Gym

Rainy weather can be pretty depressing. And wet. But…

You have an umbrella, don’t you? You’re not a witch so you won’t melt if a droplet falls on your head, right? I hope so…

My goal is to go to the gym 5 times a week: Monday – Friday during my lunch break. I began this routine in Prague when my gym was a 10-minute walk from my office. Now I live in China and I work from home which makes me lazy and full of excuses.

Here are my favorite ones:

1. I have WAY too much work

This is one of my most popular excuses because it’s the easiest to justify. I can’t just walk away from my unread emails and intimidatingly long To-Do list to go to the gym, right? WRONG!

Taking a break, especially one involving physical activity helps clear your head and work more productively. Plus you can always stay later to finish the work!

2. My head hurts.

That sucks but how bad is a headache? Will taking a walk in the fresh air help it go away? You can probably still take it easy and try the elliptical or stationary bike. Or you can just do some stretching, yoga or even meditate.

If it’s a bad headache, exercise can make it worse – but it can also decrease pain due to the release of endorphins. Just walk on over to the gym and see what happens.

3. But it’s raining outside… 

Rainy weather can be pretty depressing. And wet. But…

You have an umbrella, don’t you?
You’re not a witch so you won’t melt if a droplet falls on your head, right?

Just make sure to keep your sneakers clean or you might not be let into the gym!

4. Ouch! I’m sore from going to the gym yesterday :'(

Good! You’re doing something right!

Do your legs hurt? Skip the treadmill and lift some weights or do some sit-ups.
Do your arms hurt? Hit the treadmill.

Does your ENTIRE body hurt? Really? Well, then you’re probably doing something wrong… and you should stretch more before and after exercising.

5. There are too many men at my gym O.O

Most women don’t enjoy being ogled by sweaty men. And I happen to be one of those girls. Luckily I live in China where men (and women) are generally more interested in starting at their phones… or poking each other’s six-packs. So at most, they will glance at you and then leave you alone.

6. Ugh, there’s no air-conditioning!

It’s ALWAYS either too hot or too cold

When it was 40°C (and felt like 50°C) the gym was almost unbearable with no air-conditioning. But it was still possible to do a little of everything: run a kilometer, lift some weights, do some stretching.

Unfortunately, it’s a myth that sweating more helps you lose more weight – but there are health benefits.

7. My knees, hips and/or back hurt. I can’t do it…

I’m only 24 but I have deformed kneecaps, gout arthritis and lots of other fun problems. Sometimes I start running and my knees hurt immediately.

On good days I’ll continue running until the pain stops. On bad days I’ll get off the treadmill and do something else. There is ALWAYS something else you can do at the gym.

8. My hair looks great! I don’t want to mess it up.

I just washed my hair and I don’t want to have to wash it again. Yes, this is really one of the excuses I use. Go to the gym – if you’re really too lazy to wash your hair again, don’t do cardio and just lift weights or do something that won’t make you sweat as much.

But seriously, how long does it take to wash your hair?

9. My hair is gross… I’m too embarrassed to be seen!

Yup, another ridiculous excuse I like to use. First of all, gyms are NOT runways. You’re expected to look gross at the gym. Just put a hat on or something. Or go wash it…

10. But my sports bra is in the wash… *wobble*

It’s either my sports bra, my favorite running pants or my sneakers. Wearing the wrong clothes CAN make it harder to do certain exercises. You can fix this from the start – buy two or three sets of everything.

If you need to wear something uncomfortable, just focus on exercises where it doesn’t matter. Just don’t ever run in the wrong shoes or without socks – you will 100% regret it and it can even injure you.

What are YOUR favorite/most convincing excuses???

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To Japan (Guest Post)

On Sunday, March 01, I stood next to my husband as we waited for the bus. It was early and his eyes were still squinting at everything as he wasn’t fully awake yet. I squeezed his hand in the cold, feeling the warmth. My stomach felt like it was in my throat with nervous energy. The bus for the airport pulled up and I shoved my way through the crowd of people squeezing through the doors…

Today, I will travel to Japan after dreaming about it for years! I won’t have time to write about it until a few weeks later, so let me share a blog post written by a dear friend about her journey to Japan a few years ago.

On Sunday, March 1st, I stood next to my husband as we waited for the bus. It was early and his eyes were still squinting at everything as he wasn’t fully awake yet. I squeezed his hand in the cold, feeling the warmth. My stomach felt like it was in my throat with nervous energy. The bus for the airport pulled up and I shoved my way through the crowd of people squeezing through the doors. I grabbed a support pole and turned in time to see him standing alone outside as the bus pulled away. I stared out the window on the way to the airport and took deep breaths as I forced myself to hold back the tears.

By Rachel Kitai (Guest Blogger)

Please find the original post, as well as more pictures, here: https://guyandgalphotoblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/15/to-japan/

Rachel Kitai is a traveler and an artist, check out her art here: http://rachelkitai.com/

The Prague airport is one of the easiest and relaxed airports I have ever been through; it’s also one of the smallest. With my carry-on bag and purse I was through security in less than 5 minutes. No taking off my shoes. No pat-downs. No mean glances or rude comments. I made my through the airport, grabbing a pastry on my way to the gate on the other side of the small airport.

About 2 hours later, I was in Amsterdam. With only a 3-hour layover, I focused completely on getting to my gate. My stomach was churning with the thought of missing my flight or being delayed in any way. I followed sign after sign, walking quickly pulling my bright pink bag behind me. After 20 minutes of walking, I got to a series of windows/booths. I took out my passport and waited in line for my turn.

When I got to the front of the line, the passport agent squinted at my passport and I handed him my biometric card which shows that I have gone through the mess that is getting a visa to work in live in the Czech Republic. He stared at both for a long while before saying, “You know this is about to expire, right?” Before I could respond and explain that I know and that I’m a good citizen of the world with plans to follow all the rules and renew it when I got back from my trip, he had stamped my passport and handed it back to me, calling the next person in line and ushering me on my way.

Still doing my best to follow the signs to my gate, I turned left and followed the crowd down a flight of stairs and through a hallway to a very huge crowd waiting in a series of lines. After 30 minutes, I finally made my way to the front of the line, only to be told that I had been waiting in line with people trying to exit the airport. I had apparently followed the wrong signs. Shoving my way through the crowd, down the hallway, and up the flight of stairs, I saw my error. With all of the construction in that one area the hallway I was supposed to walk down was partially obstructed. Sighing in relief, I continued my way down and through the airport.

I eventually made my way to the gate which had it’s own set of security and metal detectors. I waited in line with a large number of Asian people. It’s safe to say I was the tallest person in line. 30 minutes later, we were allowed to go through the security for this gate which felt like a miniature version of the one I went through earlier that day. The security for this gate was significantly more strict than the security in the Prague airport. I had to take off my belt and shoes. In addition, I had to take every single electronic device and cord out of my bags and into it’s own bin.

After another 30 minutes of waiting, they were finally boarding. Knowing that this was a 10 hour flight, I had chosen an aisle seat ahead of time so that I could get out and stretch my legs with ease. I didn’t want to constantly ask my seat-mates to move simply because I develop spontaneous restless leg syndrome on planes. Unfortunately, this notion did not deter the two women sitting next to me in the middle and window seats. Clearly a mother and daughter duo, I had no success at falling asleep or even making it through a full movie as they were asking to get out every 1-2 hours.

I don’t remember all that I watched or did on the plane for those 10 hours but I do remember watching You’re Not You with Hillary Swank and Emmy Rossum. I remember this primarily because of how much I was crying. If you don’t know, the movie is about a successful pianist that develops ALS and the dysfunctional college student that ends up taking care of her. Super emotional. I mean, me. Well, the movie did have its moments but my reactions were merely exacerbated by how I was feeling being separated from my husband. In a nutshell, it was a salt-waterfall down my face for a solid 2 hours.

At one point, I was fed. The airline gave each person two options: A Western option and an Eastern option. Before I tell you which option I chose, I actually re-read a lot of my blog posts recently and I noticed one thing in particular: I force myself to try new foods quite often. More often than not, the meal is only okay and I don’t eat half of it because I don’t like a particular spice or sauce but despite this, I try it and then I continue to try new things. I asked the flight attendant to describe the dishes to me and I foolishly chose the Eastern dish. In the moment, I was proud of myself as the Asian flight attendant raised his eyebrows and nodded in surprise. I thought that he thought, “Wow, the white girl is trying the Eastern dish. Impressive.” Smiling, he handed me the Eastern dish, which I only ate 1/2 of. Now, I say I foolishly chose the Eastern option not because it was bad or unpleasant but because I am a notoriously picky eater and I was on a 10 hour flight without many other food options, if any at all.

At 12:35pm on Monday, March 1st, I landed in Fukuoka, Japan. Before exiting the plane, everyone was handed a small document and I was clueless. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with that document or where I was supposed to go. I had done research before traveling but I didn’t see anything about having to fill out any special document or have any information prepared. Plus, as I only had a 3.5 hour layover before going to Osaka, my stomach was in my throat again.

I followed the massive amount of people and waited in line and then did my best to fill out the document which was confusing and unclear. In fact, I ended up grabbing extra copies and filling it out three different times. When it was my turn to talk with the customs/documents people, I clearly screwed something up. The agent did not speak English well or at all and she was very adamant about having the address where I was staying. I kept on saying that I was staying with my sister in Osaka and I didn’t know her address or what hotel we were staying in. I wrote down half of her address in Hiroshima from what I remembered but it was probably wrong and not all there and not in Japanese. She asked for my sister’s phone number and I nearly threw up my hands in despair. How was I supposed to know any of this information! Two agents ended up coming over and saying very softly that it was okay this time but I needed to be prepared next time. After a firm finger wagging, Japan became the second country after the Czech Republic to get my fingerprints. That’s right the good ol’ US of A doesn’t even have my fingerprints. With that and a photograph, I was given a 90 day tourist visa.

I walked down a hallway, and then down an escalator to another section where I had to wait in line for something that I didn’t know anything about or understand. I grabbed a form and started to fill it out as I slowly made my way to the front. The customs agent looked at my form and my bag and my face before he spoke words that were so soft and low it was as if he was whispering in a movie theater located inside of a testing center inside of a library. After asking him to repeat himself three times with no success I decided to nod my head which satisfied him and then he gave me my passport and bag and let me go.

After this, I had to take a bus completely around the entirety of the airport. I had entered in the international terminal and I needed to go to the domestic terminal so that I could fly to Osaka and that required a 20 minute bus ride around the entirety of the airport. I hoped and I prayed that I was on the right bus going to the right place and I guess I was because I got there. I entered the domestic terminal, found my check-in area and waited in a long line so that I could send my bag through an x-ray machine again. Apparently, the airplane was SO small, that they had to check my bag. It was just way too big to fit in the overhead section of plane.

After this, I made my way upstairs so I could go through security. This security looked like it was from the 1970s. It was both bulky and really small. All of the baskets were way too small. I had to put every single item into it’s own bin and even then, they were all too small., I had to scan my ticket at an electronic point and I apparently scanned the wrong bar code because it flashed red and someone had to come to help me. After going through security, I made my way to what I thought was my gate which looked like saloon doors in front of a large hallway next to a bunch of shops. I bought a sandwich from one of those shops and sat down to wait. After 30 minutes or so, I made friends with a German and we went to the saloon doors to ask if we were supposed to do something. Apparently, we were just supposed to know that we had to walk up and scan our ticket to go through the saloon doors and through a hallway and down some stairs to enter a shuttle to take us to our plane.

One hour and 20 minutes later I was in Osaka, Japan.

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Why Snails Make Great Pets – GALs

Snail owners have a lot of fun picking out names for their snails, and yes, thousands are named after SpongeBob’s Gary. The best part of choosing a name is deciding on the snail’s gender. Although gender assigning is frowned upon in today’s society, snails really don’t mind as they are hermaphrodites and have both male and female reproductive organs…

In many areas of the world, snails live in abundance and are sometimes considered a pest. It is not uncommon for people to stomp on them, think they are gross or overlook them completely. Among select groups of people, however, snails are beloved pets, best friends and even family members.

Why are snails awesome?

I could spend days explaining this and it’s not all objective, so let me summarize some scientific facts for you. Snails have much longer lifespans than the average house pet, under special conditions they can live up to 25 years! There are around 35,000 species of land snails alone: some only grow up to a centimeter while the largest snail ever recorded was 40 cm long and weighed 0.9 kilos!

Snail owners have a lot of fun picking out names for their snails, and yes, thousands are named after SpongeBob’s Gary. The best part of choosing a name is deciding on the snail’s gender. Although gender assigning is frowned upon in today’s society, snails really don’t mind as they are hermaphrodites and have both male and female reproductive organs.

Everyone knows that snails are slimy, but why? The mucus they produce keeps them hydrated and allows them to hibernate in unfavorable climates and during colder months. It also has countless beneficial properties which are why some salons will offer to let snails race on your face.

Slow and steady wins the race is every snail’s motto. A common garden snail can reach the maximum speed of 1.3 cm per second. Snails are known for being one of the slowest creatures on Earth. But when in a hurry, they can take advantage of slime trails left by others. Traveling across a pre-slimed path gives them a turbo boost on their strenuous journey to a tastier patch of lawn. Because even snails think the grass is greener on the other side.

There’s no need to sing lullabies to snail babies: they are completely deaf but they can see, smell and feel. They are sensitive to bright sunlight as they are nocturnal and prefer to bury themselves underground during the day – unless it’s raining. They can also smell food from meters away!

Snails are shameless fatties and one of their favorite hobbies is eating. Calcium is vital in a snail’s diet and they can also eat fruits, berries, vegetables, all sorts of plants and even meat. Omnivores by nature, most snails will eat worms, small insects and even newborn rat or mice babies (pinkies). Veganism is not popular among snails, but cannibalism sure is among certain breeds.

Like ants, snails are strong and can lift up to 10 times their own body weight! They are tough and can heal a broken shell and survive great falls. Snail mothers are also very admirable, laying thousands of eggs a year. But even Superman has a weakness and a snail’s kryptonite is salt.

Why get a pet snail?

Now you know that snails are cool. But you may still be wondering why so many people dedicate hours of their time pampering snails, buying expensive food, decorations for their tanks and taking millions of photos of their slime-babies?

There is no single answer to this question, so I decided to get the scoop by surveying members of a popular Facebook group for snail enthusiasts, Achatina Snailcorner:

Kim Jonkmans, founder of Snailcorner:

“I have kept snails since I was able to walk but a few years ago I met someone who had some big Achatina fulica (Giant African Land Snail). In the months after, I became really sick and almost died. While I was in intensive care, I promised myself that if I survived this, I will put all my time into what I love most: snails.

I want to make a difference and I’ve started doing imports from Africa to create my own breeding groups to produce snails with strong genes. I work with scientists from the natural biodiversity center researching African land snails and I also do behavioral research on species from around the world. I think it was good to become so sick… it made my dreams come true.”

Krissie Cope:

“I suffer from depression and I find that owning many snails really helps by giving me something to love and care for. Caring for over 80 snails brings me lots of joy and happiness: making their tanks nice, giving them a wide variety of foods and getting them regular snuggles.”

Trepan Nashun:

“They are gentle peaceful creatures with each other. They have beautiful and kind mating rituals: kissing and dancing. Their biology is weird and fascinating – retractable eyestalks! They are devoted vegetarians, most of them, and a great way to put those peels and scraps to good use. Capaeas clean their shells like cats! Snails enjoy baths and showers.”

Luca Gulyás:

“I got my first snails because I wanted a pet that was easy to take care of and a bit unusual. Now I keep getting more and more snails because I love them and they come in so many species and variants that I cannot simply stop collecting them!”

Isaac Roosa:

“I love being a snail daddy because as far as pets go they are easy to take care of and fun to watch. They’re usually seen as gross but if you get up close to them they’re really cute.”

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Some Words About Sheida Nasseri (Guest Post)

I did like ten steps backward…
1. Getting rid of my car
2. Getting rid of my own flat into sharing a flat
3. Getting rid of my stable salary into doing onside jobs …

But gaining, therefore…
1. More knowledge
2. The chance to travel and work in Bangkok for 6 months
3. Getting to know wonderful people and feel younger and party as much as possible 😀

Hi – I am Sheida. I am a Persian girl, grown up in Germany, in Düsseldorf. My parents moved to Germany when I was three years old, for some political reasons, but I cannot remember anything about this anymore. All I know is, that my parents told me that I didn’t want to go to Germany or even learn the German language. As a result, I totally cannot speak Farsi 😉 well, I still understand it but speaking – please don’t ask for it.

 By Sheida Nasseri (Guest Blogger)

Please find the original post, with all the photos, here: http://butterflies-needtofly.blogspot.co.at/2016/02/simply-some-words-about-me.html

I thought I would introduce myself to you, so that you know who I am and what I am doing. I am 33 years old who lives and work apparently in Prague, Czech Republic. How do you introduce yourself to people you don’t know and probably won’t ever get to know? Well, I would say I am someone who loves the small things in life and though is striving for bigger dreams. I am not married, nor in a official relationship which probably would worry a lot of women in my age, but not me ;-). I love my life, although I thought I should start enjoying it more and start to do more of what I love, instead of dreaming it. That’s mainly the reason why I start writing this blog.

Getting back to my story, I grew up in Düsseldorf, a city in North Rhine-Westphalia. I had pretty a normal life I would say, with all the teenage drama – didn’t every teenager think they had the worst time ever in their life? – some romances and so on, with one big difference. I knew from the very beginning, that I don’t want to stay forever in one place. I wanted to travel. Even when I did the usual vacation with my parents to Turkey, Spain, Italy and so on, I always wanted to go further away, I knew there is more to just that normal life. I wanted to see what’s on the other side of the world, experience adventures.  And I did. I was lucky enough experiencing how it is to live for half a year in Australia and in Bangkok, I visited much more places, like Cambodia, Egypt and many spots within Europe.

I did so many wonderful experiences, but somehow I had to finance my travels and I guess that I didn’t go always the easiest way. Got lost in between and had a big break from traveling. Well, after school I went to Australia – there was a lot of persuasion skills necessary to get my father convinced that it was the right thing for me to do. After Australia, I did an apprenticeship as a real estate agent, then I worked for three years in a company which didn’t challenge me at all and at one point I noticed that life is going to fast by, without anything special to happen. I needed to change that, so I got the crazy idea of getting back to school and study. And I did. In the Netherlands, I studied International Business and Management Studies in the English language.

I did like ten steps backward…

1. Getting rid of my car
2. Getting rid of my own flat into sharing a flat
3. Getting rid of my stable salary into doing onside jobs …

But gaining, therefore…

1. More knowledge
2. The chance to travel and work in Bangkok for 6 months
3. Getting to know wonderful people and feel younger and party as much as possible 😀

I did get the chance to work at great companies such as AirBerlin, Daimler (Mercedes Benz) and Hewlett Packard. Never staying longer than one year at one place. I would not want to give that back, although I have to admit it was really exhausting. Pushing me absolutely to my limits. I think that might be still the reason why I am at this point where I am. Living and enjoying my life and trying to get most out of it as possible.

There are still so many things to discover and experience and I would love to take you with me on this wonderful journey. So I’ll better stop the jibber-jabber and start blogging 😉

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Finding Happiness in the Simple Things

Honest, rambly, longest post ever time. I have been quite unhappy in my daily life lately and I’ve been trying to find happiness in simple things, as cliche as it sounds. I have found that being unhappy can be a complicated and controversial topic to discuss with others. But it’s such an important to share your feelings and have a venting outlet can keep you from blowing up unexpectedly… because trust me, I’ve been there.

Honest, rambly, longest post ever time. I have been quite unhappy in my daily life lately and I’ve been trying to find happiness in simple things, as cliche as it sounds. I have found that being unhappy can be a complicated and controversial topic to discuss with others. But it’s such an important to share your feelings and have a venting outlet can keep you from blowing up unexpectedly… because trust me, I’ve been there.

People seem very surprised whenever I let it slip that I am unhappy because I have a pretty awesome life. When you have access to clean drinking water, have a roof over your head and never having the worry of going hungry plus on top of all that you manage your finances well enough to afford frequent travel, people assume that you must be happy. Somehow it feels like being happy is an obligation and you might even feel guilty if you admit that no, you’re not happy.

Personally, I feel the need to specify that I’m unhappy about *insert one of many reasons here* to avoid shocked looks and references to my most recent trip. I happen to be one of those people who only post happy things on Facebook. I don’t really see how sharing my unhappiness publicly would make me any happier, I’d rather discuss something like that one-on-one. I also keep so much unhappiness inside that when I let some out, a flood of complains threatens to swallow me up completely, drowning relationships and taking over my life completely.

Now that you understand a little about the reasons I struggle talking about my unhappiness, maybe you’ll be able to read this without having the automatic responses that shut me up and make me regret ever saying anything in the first place. Yes, I know that everything will be okay. I know that I am incredibly fortunate to have what I do. I also know that I could work harder to have a more optimistic outlook on my life. But the truth is, you haven’t walked in my shoes…

Walking, or more specifically, taking the metro to work, is the core of my unhappiness here in Shanghai. Let me paint the picture for you. In an overpopulated city of 25 million people (New York only has 9 by the way) the metro can get crowded. When you live in the outskirts, the people crowding you are mostly farmers. Not only do they have lots of bulky baggage, but they aren’t the best at basic etiquette. I manage to exert a lot of patience with these hard-working people and almost always forgive them for acting the way they do.

I get much more frustrated with the rich, educated, iPhone X wielders who shove, push, run ahead as if they are on fire and cut in front of me on the metro every day. Now I’m not talking an accidental push with an immediate apology. Imagine men and women in expensive suits sticking out their elbows and charging into an already packed metro, showing people who are yelling out in pain without a drop of consideration or a second of hesitation.

This happens to me twice a day, Monday to Friday and always ruins my morning and afternoon without fail. Even the 15-minute walk before and after being on the metro isn’t always enough to calm me down. On a mediocre day, walking is one of the simple things that does bring me happiness and alleviates many negative emotions.

There are other rude behaviors on the metro that irk me, although being physically injured (I’ve been elbowed in the head four times this year without apology) tops them all. Yelling into cellphones (or at each other – not in an angry way), playing games or listening to music on the loudest volume possible (headphones cost $1), men shamelessly clipping or grooming overgrown nails and spitting on the platform or into the gap every time the door opens (there’s always a loud horrible vomit-inducing gargle before every spit) are a few other things that make me unhappy no matter how much I try to ignore them.

Another thing that happens on the metro, and anywhere in public really, is the pointing. Although most advertisements feature foreigners and most schools have foreign teachers, we are still a bit of a curiosity here in China. I’m not saying I’ve never noticed someone who looks different… we all have. I’ve even watched people out of the corner of my eye because I was curious. But I have never pointed, said: “look, a foreigner” or giggled directly at someone who looked, dressed or acted differently. This, also, happens to me every day that I venture outside. It is also the reason why I sometimes prefer to stay at home for an entire day or even weekend. Being outside is emotionally straining and being angry exhausts me.

The angriest I ever got in China was during a visit to the zoo where a mother poked her child, who was looking at animals, pointed to me even though I was looking right at her, and had her kid look at me instead of the lion. I had to lose my shit internally because I didn’t want to scare the innocent child, but I still wish I could have given the mother a piece of my not-so-innocent mind. Almost every expat I know has at least one similar experience, however, some manage to laugh at it instead of letting it eat away at them like I do. I’m very jealous of those people and if I were more like them, I wouldn’t be so unhappy. And yes, I’ve tried to be like them but I can’t turn my tears into laughter no matter how hard I try.

As always, when I discuss or write about these things that turn me into a bitter person that I don’t recognize, I feel bad. China is a fascinating place with so much history, culture and some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. I’ve had strangers help me without me asking and go WAY out of their way to make sure I was happy, healthy and safe.

It’s a cultural thing that once you’re on the metro, you only worry about yourself and getting to where you need to go. I honestly believe that this will change with time. We can’t forget that China was cut off from the rest of the world not too long ago. There are so many ways that China is ahead of the West that goes beyond technology, including the impeccable timeliness of their public transportation and some of the fastest delivery services in the world despite the insane amount of people using the services.

Also, doctors and nurses are amazing at what they do – don’t fear the gigantic needles that they use for a blood test. I’m a huge cry-baby and I’ve never had such fast or painless blood tests anywhere outside of China. My boss jokes that it’s because they do so many blood tests/operations/*insert medical procedure here* in China on a daily basis, practice makes perfect, right? Another plus is the direct nature of Chinese people is extremely refreshing and often better than fake politeness that’s popular in the West.

I’d also like to point out that expats living in China usually fall into one of the extreme sides of loving it here and never want to return home or hating it. You know what category I am in, but most of my friends and colleagues have never been happier. It seems to be 50/50 since you either come to China for a year (if you last that long) or you’ve been here for years without planning to leave. It all depends on your attitude, needs, where you live, whether you take the metro, your level of patience, where you lived before, what you want in life, the list goes on and on and on.

There are more reasons why I am unhappy in my daily life, including living in an apartment that is tiny even though I know I’ll soon be moving into my own house. Again, #firstworldproblems. Somehow, knowing that something will happen soon can make it even harder to deal with a present situation that is not ideal. But maybe that’s just me… I feel so vulnerable to judgment right now, but hey, that’s honestly for you.

Some of the simple things that bring me happiness, for example, my walk to and from the metro, are sometimes ruined by factors that I can’t control. Like the pollution that hurts my eyes and throat that can only be prevented by an ill-fitting mask that makes my face sweat and break out. Or the constant stream of trash littering the path even though I clear some of it up every day without making a dent. Then there are the people who stop to stare at me… Sometimes it’s the e-bike drivers that offer me a ride to the metro, that make grunting noises (or clap) at me to get my attention, oblivious to the fact that they are being rude. Do I have a right to be mad?

I recently visited a Chinese farm and even there I found things to complain about. I do know that I complain too much, by the way, no need to rub it in my face. But I also found some long-yearned happiness there. It was among the unique upcycled garden creations that inspired me. In meeting the owner of the farm, a smart and beautiful lady who is a vegetarian and owns an architectural company. There was so much happiness (and oxytocin) from petting adorable dogs and feeding sheep, geese and chickens. It was a great plus knowing that they would never end up on anyone’s plate.

Finally, I saw the most amusing zen frogs, doing yoga, in a beautiful greenhouse filled with exotic plants – Chinese farms are very different from the European farms that I’m used it. I mentioned to my husband that I want a statue like it one day and he surprised me by ordering a set on my favorite Chinese website, Taobao, that delivered them less than 48 hours later.

I’ve bought many things for our cramped apartment to make it feel homier over the last two years. But these frogs, something that I didn’t even pick out myself, have made me happier than any of the countless items I’ve purchased. Which, as a hoarding shopaholic with an OCD for having one of each color/style of anything that I consider cute or cool (especially when it’s dirt cheap) is an obscene amount of stuff even for my standards.

They are now sitting on the living room table and every time I look at them I feel happy. They make me feel happy despite being pushed on the metro, or not already living the life that’s almost in reach but not quite. Even despite hearing the neighbors coughing up mucus every hour through the thin walls that have zero insulation and let in the biting cold of winter, the unbearable heat of summer and the unexpected pollution that is now worse in Shanghai than in Beijing…

*looks at frogs to calm down after each ranting sentence*

Maybe, if I focus on these cute little frogs (named Mufrogsa, Frogalicious and Frogward) for my remaining 81 days here, I’ll manage to stay happy. I was so close to given up on anything other than traveling making me happy. But if I can find happiness in a set of $15 wooden frog statues sitting in peaceful yoga poses (I don’t even do yoga FYI) then anyone can manage to find happiness in something unexpected. I promise you that there is one specific yet random, very simple thing, that they can bring unconditional happiness into your life.

I don’t normally share personal thoughts like this, especially when I know that many people will judge and criticize me or will try to fix my problems by giving me advice that I’ve heard before. One of my friends unknowingly motivated me to write this. She is beautiful, ambitious, smart, kind and is in a disgustingly cute marriage. Basically, she is perfect and has it all. Yet, she shares posts about her insecurities, some of which I can’t relate to and others that describe my exact problems better than I ever could. It makes me feel like I’m not alone after all.

So basically, that’s what I’m hoping that this long, rambling post will achieve. If there’s at least one person out there who has felt misunderstood, unable to complain or unsatisfied with life when nothing major is wrong with it, then I didn’t just waste an hour writing this. If my problems really are unique to me, at least I got all of this off my chest and I’m hoping that if nothing else, my zen frogs put a smile on your face even if you couldn’t get past the first paragraph of my incessant babbling.

 

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The Skyscanner Guide for Travel Addicts

Skyscanner has become one of the most popular websites for booking flights around the world. For the past five years, it has been my go-to whenever I’m planning (or just dreaming) of a new travel adventure. During this time I have learned a lot of great tricks and tips that I would love to share with you!

Skyscanner has become one of the most popular websites for booking flights around the world. For the past five years, it has been my go-to whenever I’m planning (or just dreaming) of a new travel adventure. During this time I have learned a lot of great tricks and tips that I would love to share with you!

I’m sure you’re sick of hearing how it’s cheaper to book flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. You can also get a VPN and pretend you’re in the location you are trying to get to (don’t forget to search prices in that currency). Then there’s that formula for getting the cheapest price by buying the ticket exactly six weeks before the trip. But that’s not always possible, so here are some useful tips.

If you’re looking to book on the spot, make sure you don’t start your search at 19:55. Every hour, airlines refresh their offers. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the price will change, but it’s a pain to F5 your entire search. Despite knowing this, I always end up swearing and refreshing anyway… so try to be smarter than me.

Sometimes you have zero flexibility with when and where you need to go. If this happens far in advance, you should take advantage of Skyscanner’s notifications. All you need to do is search the day and place you want to go, and set an email alert for any price changes. This can easily be canceled at any point in time and it doesn’t let Skyscanner spam your email.

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Flexibility makes things a lot more interesting. If your dates are set but your destination is up in the air, you can just search “everywhere”. This will show you a list of countries/cities starting with the cheapest price. If your destination is set but you are looking for the cheapest time to go, you just need to select “cheapest month”. Best of all, you can select both “everywhere” AND “cheapest month”!

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There are easy and cheap ways to squeeze more out of your trip. For example, we knew we wanted to go to the Philippines for Chinese New Year 2018. Just to see what would happen, I searched a one-way flight from Manila to “everywhere” and found that it costs less than $100 to fly between Manila and Bali.

Most people would just search multi-city flights from Shanghai – Manila, Manila – Bali and then Bali – Manila. But that would be skipping a step! When you search multi-city, you can’t select “whole month” which lets you see the cheapest days to fly on. So open up Skyscanner in three tabs in your browser and search for each flight separately. Record the cheapest days to fly and input those into one multi-city search.*

*Disclaimer: this might still cost more than booking a three-in-one flighta. However, while you’re booking one flight, one of the other might sell out or change. There are just so many variables to consider based on what’s best for you.

Finally, there’s a magical inspiration map that Skyscanner keeps hidden away. I didn’t notice it until a few months ago. In the top right of the flight search is the word “map”. Click on it for your world to change. You can see for yourself below, but the map allows you to chose a departure city and departure month and it shows you the prices to fly to major destinations as well as lots of green and red dots.

Green shows direct flights while the red dots have layovers from your chosen departure city. Hover/click on any dot and you’ll get more information about the price and cheapest times to fly there. I don’t know about you, but I could spend an hour pretend trip planning on that inspiration map.

Why do you love Skyscanner? Share in the comments below!

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Celebrating One Year of Marriage in China

I remember waking up this time last year in a panic. Our wedding was going to be small & casual but my favorite white dress had a neon stain. I didn’t mind it until 5 hours before the ceremony, at which point I had no time to find a new one because my friend needed several hours to turn me into a blushing bride.

The groom was already assigned with picking up the mystery cake that he ordered and a bouquet of roses but I had to add one more major task to his list. I had recently done lots of dress shopping in H&M… so although I had never actually tried it on, I knew just the dress that would fit perfectly and would look great for the wedding (I hoped.)

Since describing a dress to a man would get me nowhere (especially when he can’t differentiate between the many different shades of white), I had to find the exact model number and send him a photo. He was absolutely terrified. As I went over to my friends house to get all dolled up, Isaac went dress shopping for the very first time.

It took hours but somehow, my friend performed a miracle on my face and hair. Nothing, not even a surge in Uber prices, could have dampened my spirit as we rushed to the municipal hall of Prague 6. We met up with my soon-to-be-husband at the nearby pub where we would cerebrate after the ceremony. Nervously, he handed me the dress he bought and I ran to the bathroom to try it on. It was perfect!

I felt like a million bucks in my $15 dress and that’s when it finally hit me that I was getting married. I may have felt differently if we hadn’t decided to get married just two months earlier. We were already engaged for four months but originally we had planned on getting married a year or two later. But when we made the spontaneous decision to move to China, everything had changed!

The ceremony was not what we expected. We thought we’d walk into a hall, sign a paper and be done with it. Since we’ll have a proper wedding with our families in a few years, we didn’t mind a quick unofficial wedding. As soon as we came in, they sat us down and had us pick out music and told us that we’d be walking down the aisle together. They took our rings, sat our guests down and instructed us to walk slowly as soon as the music started.

I wobbled down the aisle on jelly legs as our friends smiled at us. The minister was a friendly man with a twinkle in his eye and the ceremony itself was quick but sweet. The minister told us a moving anecdote that was translated accurately by the Czech to English and then went straight to business. I almost fell over from nerves when we said “yes” and then it was all laughs as we signed the paper’s to Maroon 5’s This Love.

Next it was time to celebrate at a pour-your-own-beer pub where we had our first dance on top of a table. It was definitely a non-traditional wedding. It only got better when the staff brought out the cake that Isaac had kept so secret. It was snail-themed because of our pet snails! We ate and laughed while Isaac showed us the emails he exchanged with the cake shop. They went something like…

Isaac: Hello, could you make a snail cake for our wedding?
Cake shop: Yes, we can make anything. Can you send us a photo?
Isaac: Here is a photo of our snail. *photo of our giant African land snail on top a mini skateboard*
Cake shop: Uhhhhh, we could make a cartoon version of a snail. Is that okay?
Isaac: Perfect! Please make it without a skateboard.
Cake shop: *facepalm*

It was a great day full of fun, laughter and enough beers to make it hard for a stumbling Isaac to carry me across the threshold. The guests were a great mix of people: one of my oldest childhood friends (who was dressed better than the jean-wearing groom), one of my best friends who I met in Middle School, Isaac’s adult students who we met up with every month, his best friend/metal festival buddy and our core group of friends who we spent practically every weekend with.

Last but not least, the person who made the wedding such a hit was my newest friend. I had only met two weeks before the wedding but it felt like we had known each other forever. She was also the one who dolled me up and took all the beautiful wedding photos! It was an amazing day that I will never forget <3

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How We Killed Our Drone & Drone Shopping in China

“Dronies” are the new “selfies” now that HD video drones become incredibly cheap, portable and accessible to anyone who wants one. China is a very difficult place to shop for drones because they sell all the popular Western brands, dozens of knockoffs and their own drones that have no English reviews on the internet.

We bought our first drone two months ago. After doing lots of research, we chose to buy an UpAir One Plus drone from Taobao. UpAir drones are considered top choices for their price and a genuine One Plus drone costs $100 less in China than it does in the US. We decided to buy it on Taobao instead of JD because it was cheaper, but at the risk of no warranty.

The drone arrived and was as awesome as advertised. It took me two flights to gain confidence and to manage a steady flight – any twitch or sudden turn looks horrible on camera. We even flew the drone 300 meters high on a very windy day and it was impressively steady and returned back safely once the connection to the remote was lost.

Then we got cocky… seeing as we are foreigners, we can get away with anything in China. So we decided to fly the drone off of our favorite rooftop. This place is covered in wires and scary machines that make weird noises. Not the ideal place to fly a device that depends on satellite signals.

First we played it safe. We flew the drone up about 100 meters and landed it back down again. Then we flew it up almost 600 meters! It was so high up that we couldn’t even see it. We kept going up until the connection broke and the drone came back safely, as always. Confidence booming, we decided to fly it over the side of the building to take a “dronie” of us next to the large supermarket sign.

I was nervous, knowing this was a bad idea, but I let my husband fly it over the edge of the building anyway. The street under us was busy with cars, ebikes, pedestrians with little children… we took a quick video and that’s when I made the worst decision ever. I decided to fly the drone along the sign and then turn and fly back towards us to make a really cool video.

The drone flew along the sign just fine, still receiving over 10 satellites. I turned the drone and let it hover while I turned on video. In the blink of an eye, the drone was falling. The motors just stopped. It landed 15 meters below in the middle of the busy intersection, we couldn’t see it but we heard honks and yells. We ran as fast as we could to see who we landed on.

We expected to be greeted by a gruesome car-crash, police officers waiting to arrest us and angry people who we injured, or worse… Instead, the drone lay in pieces, no camera in sight, and no one could care less that we almost caused a deadly accident by doing something incredibly stupid. That’s China for you!

Two guys did come over to see why two foreigners were running around a busy rode picking up trash. Using hand gestures, we explained that the drone fell, broke apart and that we can’t find the camera. They helped us look around, but I was the one who found the camera about 30 meters from the crash site under a parked e-bike. It was quite the fall.

We rushed home and discovered that all of the videos but the one that was filming during the fall were safe. We sent photos of the broken drone to the seller who asked us to send back the drone so they can check for damages and fix it. We didn’t send the drone back until two months later (today). We’re hoping to get it fixed for less than $100 (the drone cost about $270).

Since we are planning a lot of cool trips soon, we also ordered two more small drones. My husband got himself the Elphie (as in selfie elf because it’s small) and I got a brandless micro drone. Both claim to have a 720P camera and cost $80 together!

From now on, we’ll have strict flying rules that we recommend you follow too. Don’t fly our drones off of buildings, above roads and over cars or people!Once we get our UpAir back, we will only fly it in large open natural areas, preferably above water. We are excited to get it back to see if it can really fly 1 kilometer high, like some owners claim.

We won’t get the UpAir back for about a month but our new drones should arrive in the next few drones. The small ones will only go fly up to 100 meters (Elphie) and 50 meters (my “other” brand micro drone), but even 10 meters is high enough for a “dronie” right?

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Crafting in China

You may have noticed that I’m behind on posts and I’m very sorry! One thing that China is exceptionally great for is crafting – and that’s what I’ve been busy doing. Materials are cheap, high quality and in cities like Shanghai, there are plenty of opportunities to sell the goods you make.

A few months ago I ordered cute mini cacti on JD as decorations. To my surprise, they arrived as DIY needle felting sets… I had zero experience with crafting but I began to stab that wool and my world changed forever. 6 months later and I spend my days needle felting, regular felting, making dream catchers, earrings and experimenting with resin.

It all started as a fun pass time but everyone kept saying I should set up an Etsy store. Selling things online is the last thing I would ever want to do, but the idea of having a stand a craft fair was exciting! In just five days, I’ll be doing just that – selling my crafts at a three day fair that is expecting to attract 6,000 visitors a day.

Shanghai has frequent block parties and artsy events that you can visit and join. I was really worried about a stand-fee, but sometimes they don’t even exist! For this particular fair, I just had to put down a 500 RMB deposit that I will get back at the end.

I spent a lot of this time was spent searching for the best and cheapest materials online. I found dream catcher hoops for under 1 RMB each, earring hooks for 0.01 RMB (and they don’t even make my ears green) and all sorts of beads & pendants ranging from 0.05 RMB to 1.5 RMB.

It was quite chaotic when I spent about 300 RMB on Taobao to order dozens of ribbons, hoops, felt and earring making materials because it was such a low cost for an insane amount of stuff. It took long hours and many days to get everything made, organized, plan how to present everything and print signs. But it’s all coming together and it’s been one huge adventure!

This weekend I will have 400 pairs of earrings, 15 large dream catchers, 10 small dream catchers, 8 felt Totoros, 6 felt fat cats and whatever else I can make in the next few days. My husband is chipping in with crocheted octopuses and coin purses. He spends about 8 RMB on high quality balls of wool that can make up to a dozen of adorable critters.

Long story short – Taobao and JD are full of DIY packages for beginners and all sorts of wholesale materials for unlimited crafting! If you’ve ever considered trying a new craft, do it in China. It’s cheap, fun and you won’t regret it, I promise. Now wish me luck and feel free to share your crafting stories in the comments below!

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Wasting Plastic: China & Recycling

China is ahead of the Western world in many ways but is still trying to catch up in others. Wasting plastic in combination with not recycling may be the most baffling thing about the country that is so desperately trying to improve it’s pollution situation. While China has taken many effective steps to reduce pollution, it could do so much more.

Like most people educated in west, I had “reduce”, “re-use”, “recycle” drilled into my head from an early age. When I lived with my parents, I would get scolded by my father for not taking the paper labels off plastic bottles when I recycled them. He would even scrub every glass , carton and plastic container religiously before recycling.

We were also big on re-using and up-cycling. Our kitchen counter was overflowing with bags that we could use again and again until they fell apart. My impressive collection of pens, pencils and markers was stored in cut and spruced up milk cartons and plastic containers. My father was as obsessed with buying expensive office supplies as he was with keeping anything that could be re-used. China could learn a lot from him…

Chinese stores are obsessed with plastic bags. When you buy fruit or vegetables, for example, you have to beg them not to put each one in a separate bag. If you ask for the price sticker to be stuck directly on an eggplant, they will look at you like you’re crazy. Just the other day, my husband came home frustrated for having to argue with vendors. Isaac managed to save five bags on one shopping trip. What if every single Chinese shopper did that? BILLIONS of bags could be saved DAILY.

Online shopping, which I am addicted to because of my newly discovered crafting obsession, is always bittersweet. Everything is in an individual bag, in a larger bag, covered generously in bubble wrap, sometimes wrapped in cardboard and finally taped shut in a box. Even items that are unbreakable. Every delivery results in a huge pile of stuff that could be recycled but won’t, just because we’re in China.

Fortunately, we live in a small village and a lot of people here are very poor. Some make extra money by collecting cardboard and selling it for pennies. We leave all our re-usable items, cardboard and glass next to the trash and everything disappears immediately. So I guess hope isn’t lost completely, but China could really step it up!

*The photo is from Isaac’s classroom. He’s trying to teach 26, six year old children about recycling!

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