Monday, November 26, 2012

I Love SH... part 1

Now that the craziness of jet lag and Thanksgiving are behind me, I can finally dedicate some time to this little blog. This week, I'll present a little overview of my trip and show you lots of pictures of Shanghai.

For the first 3.5 days of my trip, I was a co-leader for a pre-conference site visit. My friend Rachel and I lead a group of study abroad advisors from colleges and universities across the US. We got to do lots of typical tourist activities, but also we got to help our Shanghai staff show off our study center there. I work with some amazing people who pour their hearts and souls into their work. Throughout the visit, I felt so happy and proud to work for my company.

For the first 4 nights of the trip, I stayed in this amazing hotel, the Moller Villa

My first day in Shanghai was a free day until dinner. I spent the day walking around the neighborhood and trying to orient myself. Of course, when I was feeling super overwhelmed, I found one familiar place.

The next day we spent touring the city, having a lecture with one of our professors in a traditional tea house, eating more food than I could have imagined, and ending the day with a boat ride along the river.

Market near the Tea House

Entrance to the Pearl Tower
View of the City from the Pearl Tower
View of Pudong from River Boat Ride... I <3 Shanghai.
Pearl Tower and on the right, the Shangri-La, my hotel
View of the Puxie side of the river
And one of the biggest surprises about being in China was seeing my last name all over the city. China was the last place I expected to see a Spanish last name! First, I saw it in the museum at the bottom of the Pearl Tower. Then, I saw it everywhere!

Most of the cabs in Shanghai are Volkswagen Santanas. 

And because you all know I love a good sign, here's the decal that was on the toilet in my hotel.

Now to me, this says don't weigh your luggage on your toilet. I mean, I know the technology in China is pretty advanced, but I didn't realize they had made a toilet that could weigh things... especially luggage. Apparently though in Chinese it says "Don't put heavy weight on the toilet seat cover" or something like that.

This is just the beginning of my million pictures from Shanghai! Tune in the rest of the week for more pictures of my exciting trip!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Silver Lining

So I think I've finally recovered from my jetlag and life is finally feeling like it's back to normal after my amazing trip to China. Of course I'll fill you in on my trip and show you all the pics I took, but that will have to wait for next week. This week, I'm busy enjoying being home, sleeping in my own bed next to LoLo, cuddling with Bronx, and seeing my family.

Right before I left for China, I wrote a post about my decision not to go to the Philippines and instead to come home right after the conference. It was a tough choice and I felt sad about it for a while (and still do when it's 40 degrees here in Maine and it's 80 in Manila!), but I know it was the right choice.

When I wrote the post, the wounds were fresh and I was feeling really disappointed that I wouldn't be going on the trip. I felt frustrated with myself for trusting my friend and for letting myself be let down. I wrote that I should have known not to trust anyone.

When my Aunt Marta read the post, she immediately wrote back to me on Facebook and said, "So happy you will be home for Thanksgiving with your family...who can ALWAYS trust, so on your leisurely flight aroung the world, you go on back to your blog, and put a big line thru the statement "I should have known not to trust anyone"."

And she was so right. I can always trust my family. They have been there for me through all of my mistakes, all of my triumphs, and through all of my tough choices. 

So this Thanksgiving, like the others before, I'm thankful for them. I'm thankful for being home with them to laugh and eat. I'm thankful to be home with my husband so we can cook our part of the Thanksgiving meal, a pastelon de yuca, together. 

And speaking of my husband, I'm thankful for his thoughtfulness and his creativity. 

When I got home on Monday after many, many hours of traveling (including about 9 hours at LoLo's mom's house before my flight to Portland), I walked up the stairs to find this: 

Along with a note that said to pour myself a cup of coffee in my zodiac sign mug (he had set the timer to brew the coffee right before I got home)

And to cut myself a slice of the cake he had made for me (which by the way is so tasty! It's banana cake with a layer of chocolate hazelnut spread (nutella basically) inside).

So to all of my friends reading this, Happy Thanksgiving. I'm thankful that things happen for a reason and that I will be sitting at a table with my family and my amazing husband tomorrow instead of all alone in a city that I don't know. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ni Hao

Ni hao from China!!

I'm just checking in to say hi and to let you all know I'm still alive. Google and all Google products were blocked here in China all week until today because as you may know, there was a transition of power here. I had hoped to blog a little while I was here, but when I couldn't even get to blogger, I decided it was a sign that I needed to just enjoy my time here and worry about writing about it later after I'd experienced it.

I'm having an amazing time and making some great new friends. Most of them are people who work for my company around the world. I've gotten to work with most of them in the past so it has been so much fun putting faces to names and getting to hang out with them. Two of these colleagues/friends have told me that I have been their sunshine this week and that they always see me smiling. I feel so happy to be here and to explore a culture so different from my own and to meet people who are so amazing and passionate and friendly.

I'll be back home Monday and will spend the week recovering from jet lag and my packed week. Next week though you can look forward to lots of pictures, lots of stories, and lots of Shanghai.

But in the meantime, go check out my hotel. It's pretty unbelievable.

See you next week!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Costly Mistakes

Good morning, friends. I write to you at 5:52am from Boston's Logan Airport. Because of this crazy Nor'easter, my flight that was scheduled for this morning from Portland (Maine) to LaGuardia was cancelled last night around 9pm. Around 10:30pm, I was finally rebooked on a flight from Boston to Detroit to Shanghai. The flight from Boston leaves at 7:05 am so I needed to be at the airport by 5am...which meant I had to leave my house around 2:45 so you can imagine how I'm feeling right now. I don't even dare take a picture for you.

Some of you may have read my tweet last night that I decided to cancel the Manila portion of my trip. I was really excited to visit Manila, but mostly to visit a friend from college who now lives there and is actually pretty famous there.

Back in August when I was booking my flights to China, I thought to myself, "If I'm going to be that far away from home, I might as well see as much as I can." So I contacted my friend who had been bugging me to go visit her and she was really excited to have me come and to host me. I booked my flight to Manila from Shanghai.

We exchanged emails about the trip and talked about how much fun it would be to see each other after almost 10 years. As the days drew closer to November, I started hearing from her less and less.

During October, I wrote to her several times and even stalked her on Twitter to try to get some details of my trip. She wrote back twice but never gave me any information about picking me up from the airport or where she lived so that I could take a cab there.

This past week, I have written to her at least 5 times (through email and Twitter), but barely heard a word. Then yesterday, I got an email from her saying that she was dealing with some things and she was really sorry.

But she never said "I'm still looking forward to you coming. Here's my address or I'll be at the airport for you."

At first, I thought I would just book a hotel and visit Manila alone. Then I ran the idea by LoLo and my mom and they were both really worried. Then I checked the American Embassy's website and saw a travel warning that said "Threat Against American Travelers". That was the last straw.

I called Delta and rebooked my flight to leave directly from Shanghai. A flood of relief came over me immediately.

Between being totally overwhelmed about a trip to a place completely foreign to me, I just wasn't feeling comfortable with being somewhere that I knew no one and knew nothing about. Now I could focus on the amazing conference that I would be attending and really get excited about it.

I cried last night because I felt like I should have seen it coming. I was so mad at myself.

I should have known not to trust anyone.

I'm seeing the silver lining though. I am going to Shanghai and I can just enjoy the conference instead of worrying about my plans afterwards. At the conference, I'm going to meet a bunch of people from all around the world who work for my company and who I have been working closely with.

And the best part: I'm going to be home for Thanksgiving with my family and with LoLo and with Bronx. And that's something I can be thankful matter the cost.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ain't Too Proud to Beg

Today I write to beg you to vote. If you have the right to vote, please use it. Please.

Today I will be voting with some of my favorite people in mind. Friends who just want to have their love recognized. Friends and students who just want to live and work without having to watch their backs constantly, despite the fact that they are wonderful, talented, educated, people without criminal records who would be nothing but an asset to our country.

Despite the fact that I am fiscally conservative, this election means more to me than just money. Somewhere on Facebook, one of my friends posted a quote that basically asked if fiscal policy was truly more important than fundamental rights of equality.

I live in Maine, one of the four states with gay marriage on the ballot. I am not afraid, in fact, I am proud to say that I will be voting for equality today. With all of the issues that we could be debating and arguing about, why are we spending time arguing about whether two people can love each other and have that love recognized by the government, hospitals, insurance companies, and other places that could give rights to married couples?

To me, this election is about more than just who wins or loses. It's about the lives that will change depending on the outcomes.

I think it's important that people understand the human element of this election. Lives will change. Maybe not yours, but maybe your neighbor's or your teacher's or your mechanic's or your student's or maybe someone you don't even know.

There are people in my life whose lives will change drastically depending on who wins this election. This is the first time that an election has a direct impact on someone I care deeply about. One of my close friends is affected every day by a policy that, should Obama be elected, could possibly be changed and her life would be a whole lot easier. If Romney is elected, she and her partner would most likely have to move to her partner's country of birth, possibly for the rest of their lives.

So I beg you: please vote. Vote for love. Vote for justice. Vote as if your life could change depending on who wins.

Monday, November 5, 2012

One Month Later

It's been a little over a month since LoLo packed up the cable boxes and returned them to Time Warner Cable and we haven't looked back.

Peace out, cable!
I'm not the type of girl who will preach that cable is the devil or that television is making us all dumber. We got rid of cable not for philosophical reasons, but for financial reasons. I just couldn't justify spending over $100 a month for television.

Since cancelling our cable, I've started watching a novela (soap opera) from Mexico on Hulu+. And don't tell LoLo I told you this, but he has actually gotten into it too. One night, we were lying in bed and I was watching on my iPad. I didn't want to bother LoLo so I put on my headphones. But then he said "Hey! Turn up the volume! Don't you think I want to know what happens?"

LoLo and I almost never agree on what to watch. It has been so much fun to finally get to watch something together and both enjoy it (even though one of us would never admit it!). It's also been really nice to hear Spanish. Since moving to Maine, as you can imagine, we don't hear much Spanish anymore.
Whoever would have thought that a novela would bring me and my husband closer? 
And now that I've made it a whole month, I've decided to write a letter along with the pink slip I'm giving cable. 
Dear Cable,
You're fired. I'm done with you. I don't have time for your foolishness. I'm too busy watching a very attractive Mexican man dress like a woman to try to win back the love of his life with my husband. Good riddance. Don't try to win me back. LoLo and I are on to you and your honey boo boos and Kardashians and monsters that live inside people. 

Lots of No love to you,
Erin (and LoLo) 

Also: I have no idea why the font is smaller below the picture. I have changed it a million times and it looks like it's the same size where I'm writing in blogger...oh well.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Blending In

This time next week, I will be headed to Shanghai, China to attend a conference that my company puts on each year in a different location. After the conference, I will be headed to Manila, The Philippines to visit a friend from college. I am really excited to be going both places, but at the same time, I'm a little nervous.
Shanghai, China via
Manila, Philippines via
I've only ever traveled to Latin America. I've been to Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, all multiple times. And here's why I'm really nervous: I've only ever gone places where I had no trouble blending in.

When I go to Mexico, people automatically assume I'm Mexican (from Mexico, not Mexican-American like I am). When I go to Puerto Rico, people assume I'm Puerto Rican. When I go to the Dominican Republic, people assume I'm Dominican. In general, my look is pretty adaptable. Wherever I go, people think I'm a different ethnicity.

No one's going to think I'm Chinese.

When I've traveled in the past, I've always spoken the native language and could get around without needing much help. People didn't try to scam me and people never treated me like a tourist. I'm so excited to go out and see a part of the world that I never imagined I'd see, but I'm scared to be so dependent on others.

You've probably noticed that's a theme for me. I'm very independent and like to do my own thing most times. But this time, that's not possible.

Travel for me is all about figuring out where I fit in the world. Seeing someone elses' daily life and culture helps me to understand my own. I know that going somewhere I am totally unfamiliar with where I definitely won't fit in will force me to learn even more about myself. I can't wait to share my experiences in Shanghai and Manila with you. I also can't wait to tell you about the challenges I face and the things I learn.