Reflection on 2017

I was inspired by one of my favorite bloggers & my recent injuries to stop and take a moment to reflect on 2017. This was a year full of life changing moments that I know will continue to shape us in 2018.

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January

The year started off with a ton of fun. I had a fun weekend in Shanghai with my (at the time) fiance riding Mobikes around the city and drinking milk teas. I went to the annual EF conference in Wuzhen with my coworkers and won the Best New Teacher award. My favorite part of January was experiencing my ever Chinese New Year with Harry’s family. It was the first time many of them met me, the infamous foreigner who would soon be a part of their family. I was greeted with so much love, kindness, food (so much food), and even red envelopes.

 

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February

February was all about preparing for our wedding registration. We needed certificates. We needed photos. And of course we needed a nice dress. Besides wedding prep, Harry and I had a very romantic Valentine’s Day date in Shanghai where Harry took me out to eat Western food (what I always craved) and then took me to see La La Land which I LOVED. We were lucky we caught it because it had such a limited release in China. I still listen to the soundtrack every time I need to feel inspired.

 

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March

We got married! On March 7th, Harry and I became officially married at the courthouse in his home province. His mother and cousin were our witnesses. There wasn’t any big party (that would come later), just us deciding we’re in this for the long haul. As soon as the ceremony was over, we hit the ground running on preparing all the documentation for Harry’s green card.

Other special memories this month were celebrating my friend Warren’s birthday in Shanghai, meeting more of my husband’s friends, and making ice cream sandwiches with one of my more difficult classes. I had been struggling with this particular group since I started teaching and this was a turning point for our class.

 

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April

April was filled with lots of traveling. My husband and I took a trip to South Korea at the start of the month. We couldn’t have picked a better time to go. The bitter winter weather was finally ending and the cherry blossoms were already starting to bloom. It was absolutely perfect. The street food, the clothes, the cosmetics, the BBQ, the FRIED CHICKEN!? I had a blast and can’t wait to go back.

Next I took a trip to Guangzhou alone to visit the U.S. Embassy and to turn in our petition for Harry’s green card. The embassy portion of the trip went smoothly (praise the Lord!) but the rest of my trip did not go as smoothly. I hope one day I can go back to Guangzhou with Harry and explore more. I really liked the vibe of the city. It felt so different from where I was living.

April was also when I shot my first ever paid video. It was also my first video ever made in a foreign country. A very exciting moment creatively.

 

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May 

May was so busy because we were preparing to leave China and had so much to do to get ready for America. At the start of the month, Harry and I went to Suzhou and met up with his college friends. I took a really fun trip to Anji with my friends to celebrate Apple’s birthday. Mike & Kelly came to visit China! I got food poisoning and thought I was going to die in a Chinese hospital. Finally, I said goodbye to so many amazing coworkers, students, and friends. During all of this, we were also packing up our apartment and mailing boxes to America.

After I said goodbye to Jiaxing, we went back up to Harry’s hometown and held a wedding ceremony. We had over 200 guests that came and celebrated with us. I got to wear a lovely red dress (the traditional wedding dress color in China) that I had picked out with Harry’s mom earlier that month. After lots of red envelopes, hugs, dinners, and fireworks, Harry and I set off on a mini honeymoon to Japan.

 

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June

June meant returning back to where it all began. Harry and I took a trip back to the city we met, Okayama, only this time we were married! It was so surreal and beautiful to be back there as husband and wife. I had the opportunity to visit my former Junior High School students who were now in their final year. They were so surprised and excited to see me and meet Harry. After Okayama, we traveled to Kyoto and met up with John & Sierra. We also got to see Tom and Mac! In Kyoto, Harry and I said a tearful but hopeful goodbye knowing we wouldn’t see each other again until he had his green card. Then I traveled to Tokyo and stayed with our friend Ray, met up with old friends, and had a ton of fun sightseeing and enjoying the country I use to call home.

By mid-June, I was back in America, united with my family! Harry had his green card interview in Guangzhou which he passed with flying colors. We knew we would be reunited again soon.

 

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July

After a few weeks readjusting to life in America, it was time to get to work on making a home for us here. I found us an apartment in Austin and started my search for a job. I was having a lot of trouble finding work but I kept myself occupied catching up on American films I’d missed and by hanging out with my niece and nephew.

 

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August

August was a huge month because Harry arrived in America!!! I had so much fun introducing him to all my favorite Texas/American things like P.Terry’s and Whataburger. Right after his arrival, the hurricane hit Texas. Austin hardly received any damage but it was crazy to see the mob mentality in action as stores everywhere started to run out of water, gas, and bread.

Other highlights were visiting the Magnolia Market in Waco and seeing Joe & Jen.

 

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September

By September, I hadn’t found a solid gig so I started working three part-time jobs. I was teaching film to elementary school students through Austin Film Society. I was teaching students at a daycare. And  I was making mini-documentaries for an upcoming website aimed at inspiring young adults.

Harry and I took our first trip in America! We went to Santa Cruz to celebrate Kay & Austin’s wedding. Then we drove down the smokey coast and hung out in LA for a few days.

My birthday is September 16 and in 2017 I turned the big 3-0. I had a nice celebration with my family and Harry eating pizza and cake in countryside.

Other highlights were volunteering at Fantastic Fest. I had so much fun despite the controversy surrounding this year’s festival. I hope I can volunteer again next year.

 

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October

In October, Harry and I traveled up to Dallas to go to the Texas State Fair with our friends Mike & Kelly. Unbeknownst to us, we picked the busiest weekend to go. I had no idea there was a rivalry between UT and OU.

I also got to see my friend Nick when he came into town. He edited the film Coming to My Senses which screened at the Austin Film Fest. The film is about Aaron Baker, a man who spent 15 years fighting for his ability to walk after a terrible motocross accident. I had the privilege of meeting Aaron and his wife who are every bit as lovely and inspiring as they are on film.

Other highlights were shooting another mini-doc and helping Harry adjust to life in America.

 

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November

By November, Harry and I began looking for work in LA. I landed a producing job with an animation studio so off we went to sunny California!  spent my first week in LA with Kay & Austin which was a lot of fun. They are simply the best hosts. We came back to Austin for Thanksgiving and to shoot a video I had already scheduled. Then it was right back to LA.

 

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December

December was spent getting readjusted to the LA lifestyle again, making new friends, reuniting with old ones, and working! I spent many late nights at work only to come home to more work (i.e. editing). I spent my weekends editing while Harry studied for the GMAT.  I did have a few moments of fun though. Going to 29 rooms with Lari and friends. Hot Pot night with Brian and his wife. Experiencing my first Escape Room with Debbie and my coworkers at State.Then the 22nd finally came and we flew back to Austin for Christmas with the family.

Two days before New Years, I was in a terrible accident. I walked into a shop and just as I walked in, a car came plowing through the front of the store. Thank baby Jesus I was just to the right of the car or I wouldn’t be here writing this today. I was injured though and spent the last two days of 2017 in the hospital. Not at all how I thought the year would end!

 

 

Even though the accident was terrible and we’re still dealing with the aftermath, it has made me so thankful for the moments I have been given. I plan to take this “second chance” use it as motivation to work harder in 2018.

Thanks for taking the time to reflect back with me. I really recommend taking the time and doing the same. What are your favorite memories of 2017?

♥︎K

 

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A Week In Tokyo – Day 2

Welcome to Day 2 of my Week In Tokyo series. If you want to visit go back to see Day 1, see the links at the bottom of the post.

DAY 2 | ASAKUSA + UENO

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Asakusa Shrine | Sensoji 

Start your day at Asakusa Shrine and beat the crowds. This is one of the most beautiful Shinto shrines in the city. The entrance is marked by the Kaminarimon Gate and a huge red chochin lantern. In front of the shrine is an area of market stalls with food and souvenirs. The whole area is charming for tourists and locals.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Tokyo for New Year’s Eve, Asakusa Shrine is filled with thousands and thousands of people counting down to the big moment. It’s wonderful and exciting but also terrible if you hate crowds.

Shrine Hours:  Typically 06:00-15:00 (Temple Grounds always open)

Google Maps

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Sky Tree

Sky Tree is another great place to see a beautiful view of the city. In addition, there is a large shopping mall, an aquarium, restaurants, and more all in one centralized location. Be sure to grab your day tickets for the tower before heading into the mall. Day tickets do not have a specific time window so you may have to wait. Or save yourself time by purchasing tickets in advance. Having opened in 2012, Sky Tree is still relatively new so there will likely be a crowd to go up the tower.

Hours: 11:00 – 20:00

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Ueno Park

Ueno Park is one of my favorite places to drink a cup of coffee and people watch. Grab a cup of coffee at the Starbucks and grab a seat by the fountain or under the tree and relax. If you happen to be visiting during sakura season, you’ll find Ueno filled with friends enjoying food and drinking under the beautiful pink blossoms.

Hours: 05:00-23:00

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Visit a Museum or the Zoo 

After you’ve enjoyed a coffee break, you can visit one of the many wonderful museums in Ueno Park like the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Nature and Science, or the Ueno Zoological Gardens. Most have entrance fees under 800 yen (about $8!) which is a bargain.

Hours: For most 08:00-17:00

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Ameyoko Shopping street

After you’ve become more cultured, take a break and do some shopping. Ameyoko shopping street is once of my favorite places to walk around. You can find everything from sneakers to perfume to spices along the road and alleyways. My favorite purchase I made here was my Japanese sukajan bomber jacket.

Hours: Varies per store

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Izakayas

All that shopping probably made you hungry. Luckily, Ueno is filled with many izakayas for you to choose from. This place transforms into a lively bar scene when the sun goes down. Izakayas serve Japanese bar food mostly in small dishes meant to be shared over drinks. I LOVE izakaya food. When I went to Japan in December, this was our first stop. Order a “nama biiru” (draft beer), any of yakitori (skewers), karage (fried chicken), edamame, a grilled fish, and potato salad. That will get you started in the right direction. There are izakayas all over Tokyo and I recommend visiting as many as you can. Tokyo Cheapo made a great beginner’s guide to izakayas that I recommend reading if it’s your first trip.

Hours: Typically last order around 23:00

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If you liked this post and want to see more recommendations in Tokyo, check out the links below.  Be sure to follow the blog if you’d like to receive guides for Days 3-7. Thanks!

Day 1  | Day 2

♥︎K

I FINALLY FINISHED SOMETHING

Do you ever start a project and your lazy, self-doubting personality gets in the way of  you finishing it? Yeah, that was me.

I spent WAY too long wondering whether people would make fun of me for making a vlog. But guess what? I DID IT ANYWAY!

Hallelujah! It feels so good to finally finish something. I had a lot of fun making this. It’s a much better use of my time than Netflix (shh, Netflix, I still love you). And you know what? From just ONE VIDEO, I’ve learned so much about vlogging and YouTube.

So here it is. I’m so happy to share this with everyone. My first ever vlog/travel guide taken during my travels to Hong Kong.

I hope 2017 will bring more vlogging and videos. I think 2017 is going to be a big year for me and it’d be great to have it recorded.

I’ll be heading to Japan in 3 days for Christmas. I can’t wait to see all the beautiful illuminations and to spend time in one of my favorite cities on earth, Tokyo.

Have a great day y’all.

♥︎K