Where to start....
First off, let's start 6 weeks ago. I left Beijing, China on January 19th for Paris, France for the Lunar New Year holiday. The plan was to spend two weeks in Europe with H2 (my best friend) and my mom.
When I landed in Paris, there were 47 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, all in Wuhan, China. While in France, H2 and I kept a mild eye on the news (only because BBC was the only English language channel in our hotel) but we were obviously more focused on drinking as many cappuccinos as possible, Disneyland Paris and seeing SO MUCH amazing art.
When we left Paris on the train to Brussels five days later, there were almost 3,000 cases.
At this point, I was a little worried about going back to Beijing. We didn't know anything about the virus and I have crummy lungs (fun fact: I've had bronchitis five times in the last 10 years!). However, I again didn't think too much about it because I was heading to London to spend a week with my mom! There were now 6,000 cases, still mostly all in Wuhan.
Mom and I did every stereotypical tourist thing possible: cheap live theatre, visiting Stonehenge and doing the Harry Potter studio tour.
Just to make things even more surreal...
We were there at Westminster Abby during Brexit, entirely on accident, walking to our hotel from the theatre.
It is January 31st, there are now over 12,000 cases throughout China.
I was scheduled to fly back to Beijing but less than 48 hours before I was supposed to leave, my flight (and many others) was canceled. I was waiting for guidance from my school but they (again, like many others) were trying to figure out what to do about schools.
I made the decision (with help from my mom) to fly back to Washington state until there is a clear plan.
It is February 6, there are over 30,000 cases.
I'm home for less than a day, very jet lagged, trying to figure out how to live out of a carry-on suitcase that was packed with the intention of only being needed for two weeks...
..and I get a message from my principal: everyone not in China should go to Seoul, South Korea. So, February 12th, six days since getting to the US, I'm back on a plane to Seoul.
There are now 60,000 cases and cases are emerging in more and more countries. However, South Korea seemed to have everything under control.
My fellow teachers and I were taken to a leadership retreat place (I think, still not completely sure what is going on at this point) where we began teaching online and planning to try and have students arrive in person. About 100 or so of our students are from South Korea.
... and then Daegu's cases jump to hundreds in a day. With being able to travel internationally becoming questionable, realizing that we'd be online for the foreseeable future, I got permission to come back to the US, to my hometown.
It is now March 7th at this point and I've stopped counting the number of cases.
So now I'm in Washington again, the virus seems to have followed me here, I'm laying low, still living out of my carry-on suitcase and spending all my time teaching online and drawing on my new Wacom drawing display. I'm guessing I'll be here until the restrictions on foreigners entering China decreases but if I've learned anything during all this, its that life changes all the time and it changes quickly!
Stay safe and stay healthy everyone!
Yet another over-due post! I’ve been busy since last posting: visiting my close friends in Germany, came back to Beijing for “round two”, and met up with my mom in Tokyo.
If you know me well enough, you know that last summer (2018), I went to Europe for the first time, including to Munich to visit my Forever-Friend, Robert and my Brother-from-another-mother, Fabian. That first time, the trip was cut short because I got food poisoning in London the night before I was supposed to fly to Munich. Therefore, we made plans to do it right this year and I got to spend a whole week with the boys!
Needless to say, I already want to go back for a third time (come back this spring when I post about my up-and-coming Europe trip over Chinese New Year!).
By August, I was itching to come back to Beijing. I’ve built a good life here with a job I love, friends that I’ll keep in contact with for years to come and a healthy dose of nerdiness! I’m continuing with my D&D group that started up last year.
October marked the 70th anniversary of the PRC (People’s Republic of China) which correlated with Golden Week. Last year I stayed in Beijing for the national holiday but once was enough… the people flood to the big cities (mainly Beijing) and most of the expats flee the country to get away from the crowds!
This time, I finally did what I’ve been wanting to do as long as I remembered: I went to Tokyo, Japan! Mom met me there and we had a blast! Two days at Disney, the best ramen ever and we hit every tourist spot we could! For some reason... the Japanese seem to like the "Sweet Potato" flavoring in their Starbucks drinks. Unsurprisingly... I did not try it.
We got lucky, a typhoon hit just days after we left; me back to Beijing and mom back to the US.
As I’m sure any expats could tell you, year two in a different country is vastly different than the first year. I know how to get around the city more confidently, my Chinese is (slowly) improving… even though I’m sure I have a Beijing accent when I talk and I know more of the little things that I didn’t know last time.
Oh… and Starbucks has different holiday drinks depending on what country you are in. Last year’s drink in China left me disappointed, the Snowy Cheese Latte. But, this year’s drink is much better! I tried the Snowy Black Forest Mocha and it is awesome!
I know I keep saying that I’ll post more but here’s hoping I’m not lying this time! 再见!
Next weekend is the first weekend of June. This means that next weekend is The Farm Chicks show, an antique and crafts show in Spokane, Washington, that holds a special place in my heart! My family has been a part of the show since 2003 and I've been attending and helping at it since 2004, half my life ago.
If you've been following by blog for the last year, you probably know why this year is different.
You see... I live over 6,000 miles (9,600 km) away in Beijing, China. I can't go back to Spokane for a weekend, it would cost a ridiculous amount, I'd be useless at the show due to jet-lag induced exhaustion and I'm (unfortunately) unwilling to take time off of work just before the end of the school year.
Over the last year or so, I've learned that growing up is a process. The moving from home, financial independence, and cooking my own dinners: those changes were easy... mostly. The hard part of growing up and moving away has been missing experiences that have been with me for over a decade. Not playing and coaching fast-pitch softball with my dad has been one of these experiences. Missing out on Farm Chicks this year has been another.
Alright, new topic: Food! Really, this is more of a rant of how much I don't like Chinese breakfasts.
Most of the food: awesome; breakfast: not so much.
Last, and most entertaining topic: Fails! I went to Shanghai and Suzhou this last week on a spring trip with my students. For some reason, on the trip I found a gold mine of ridiculous signs! Please enjoy!
That's all for now! One more very busy month until I'm back home for (most of) the summer!
With Lunar New Year over, spring decided to come to Beijing... fast! One month ago, the temperature was averaging 8C (47F) and yesterday we had our highest temperature of 27C (81F).
With the stunning temperatures, comes the famous Chinese cherry blossoms that range from red to pinks to white. The school I work at has several different kinds and they are amazing!
Another perk of spring is that the air quality is getting MUCH better! I have an air purifier in my apartment (China has pretty much perfected them... with good reason) and I needed to replace the filter this week. In six months, my filter went from new to unusable. The picture of my new filter next to the old one says enough.
I also haven't used my inhaler or mask as much recently. What was once two puffs on my inhaler every day has become one, maybe two puffs twice a week... or when I'm running outside which is more common now since I can breath again.
Luckily the average air quality seems to be staying under 100 AQI. At the peak of winter, it was closer to 250 AQI average.
I've recently found time to dedicate time for art since adding to my responsibilities at work. It took way too long but I finished my second "Shanghai series" painting, made progress on my third in the same series and started my first painting in my "Hong Kong series". Hopefully now I'll be able to dedicate time weekly to them... instead of trying to find time monthly.
Aside from that, not much has changed. I signed my contract next week, confirming that I will be in Beijing for at least one more year. I'm making summer plans to be on the West Coast, East Coast and across the pond to Germany... but that'll be a future post, down the road.
To wrap it up, here are two random pictures:
The first is some amazing pho from this awesome Vietnamese place where the local nerds play Dungeons and Dragons.
The second is the jerseys for the campus soccer game... for the international students team... as designed by the local Chinese students... not sure what to say about it.
Oh, and did you know that Peppa Pig is kind of a big deal here. Why is that? I have no clue.
I've been told several times that I need to be writing down the unique things that happen to me while living in Beijing, but I'm not one for keeping a diary or journal... so you get my spastic posts here!
Here is a little taste of my life teaching at an international boarding school (it kinda feels like Hogwarts sometimes... we even have four houses that compete for points!).
However, most of my time is spent working and teaching at the school. I teach art to all levels (grades 7-12), digital art and multimedia. I'm usually very tired after my work week but that doesn't make me enjoy it any less. The students at an international school are generally more mature than my experience in America just because of the cultural differences.
Not to say American students are immature, it is just that I've found that the Chinese and Korean cultures (which make up the bulk of my students demographics) press for a high level of respect of teachers.
Many of my students bow to me in greeting and in saying goodbye. If there is a crowd, they generally make space for teachers to pass and even the students I don't know greet me when passing in the hallway.
That isn't to say that my students can't be silly or joke around with me! Just last week, several students who study in my classroom took sneaky selfies with my phone and when I found out... they asked for a group selfie!
Just in this group selfie, we have China, Thailand, Mongolia, Brazil, Nigeria and America represented!
Overall, my students in all my classes are really fantastic are uniquely their own individual! These teenagers are going to do some absolutely incredible things in the world and it is really an honor to have made an impact on their lives.
Once again, here is a long overdue post! Time gets crazy when living in China to where I get shocked that I've lived here for seven months and haven't posted since November so... whoops.
These last couple of weeks have been an insane blur of travel and emotions. If you follow me on Instagram (@HannahSouers), you have a good idea of what it has been like traveling between Shanghai, Beijing and back to my hometown in Washington State, but here are the details of the crazy adventures:
The first night in Shanghai, we walked along The Bund, which gives a great view along the water of the skyline.
See that building on the left... the really tall one? That is Shanghai Tower, the (second) tallest building in the world. I'll talk about that later in this post!
We started Saturday (day 2) in Shanghai by going to the Jade Buddha Temple. While it was stunning and beautiful... we couldn't find the Jade Buddha.
The last place we went to on Saturday was the Propaganda Poster Art Center... which in and of itself was an experience. Again, we weren't allowed to take pictures inside but we also survived going to it which is a plus.
The weekend after my "Shanghai Adventures", I flew the 6,000 miles to my hometown in Washington State to see one of the most important people in my life, H2, get married!
The flight was 12 hours long from Beijing to Seattle and I was only home for 48 hours but I have to say, it was completely worth it and I'm honored that H2 (We are both named "Hannah"... I'm H1 because I'm 7 months older) asked me to be her maid of honor!
The wedding was stunning and I'm proud to say I didn't cry... until it was time to say goodbye to H2. She's been my best friend for ages and the closest I will ever get to having a sister. I'm so happy for her and her awesome husband, John.
Picture credit to Ensign Photography who took the following two stunning pictures!
While I love living in Beijing and I don't regret making the move at all... leaving was hard.
I didn't get enough time to really be with my loved ones back home but thinking now, I don't think any amount of time is enough. The 6,000 mile difference just makes me appreciate the time I do get with them. I don't think I will ever take it for granted again and I feel so lucky that I was able to spend the time I did with them and was able to be there for H2's wedding.
Oh, one last thing: During the wedding, my parents and two of our family friends, Amy and Brian, stole my phone to take this blurry gem of a picture.
Stay tuned for the next post which will be about overcoming the little challenges that come with living in China!
It took me longer to get here to post than I expected (but in this case it's a good thing since I am loving Beijing!). Hopefully now that I'm more settled, these posts will become more common but until than, here is a rushed overview of my life here:
It took some time to adjust to the fact that I was moving to the other side of the world, but I had a 13 hour plane ride for it to settle in. I came here with two suitcases and a carry-on bag. I'm actually surprised that (for the most part) I brought everything I needed with me. Of course, I didn't anticipate that China apparently didn't believe in shredded cheese (except at the international store that takes 45 minutes to get to and sells it for a ridiculous price).
My school (which is amazing, by the way!) has someone help me find a place and within a week, I was moved into my awesome studio apartment! To make it feel more like home, I brought my cork-board map of the world which was awesome that I could add a pin for Beijing. The highlight of the wall is my "Barnum & Bailey" poster that my steller mom found for me! I now live a 15 minute walk (or 5 minute on a bike) from the school in Haidian District (north of The Forbidden City).
Half a block away from my apartment is this stunning running path that I've figured goes about 3-4 miles. Weirdly enough, if I need a steak knife (which I haven't needed one yet), I'd need to buy one from a guy along the river. As sketchy as that sounds, it is completely normal here since knives are impossible to find! The picture on the right is the entrance to my local grocery store where I can get pretty much anything I need for the day-to-day. I also live a couple blocks from a "Wu Mart" which is literally the Chinese version of Walmart!
Part of what made this transition so easy was that I immediately made friends with other expats! Now I've got friends from the east coast of America, Canada, Australia, England and The Philippines. This is Alexis, we literally see each other every day and occasionally drink wine that "Isn't terrible... but not good." since we have no idea what makes wine good or not. Our current Chinese wine is called "Tall Horse" and has an image of a giraffe on the bottle.
What is super cool is that I live a 30 minute walk from the Olympic National Park from the 2008 Olympics! I can see the Nest Stadium and everything from a walk!
This isn't even close to all of the stories I have but this post will get WAY too long if I tell them all. The image above is from when I walked through the Forbidden City. When I took the picture, I was literally standing at the center of Beijing City (there was a plaque and everything for it). I could tell you about how weird it is that people ask to get pictures with me because of my hair or how my students from Thailand and Nigeria asked me if I was related to Ed Sheeran. I could tell you a million other ridiculous stories but for those, please check out my Instagram @hannahsouers. I am the only person using the hashtag: #gingerinbeijing
It has been over a year since I've posted but that is changing! Speaking of change, my like has gone in a crazy (Amazing) direction, but let us start from a year ago and move forward:
To start, I got another tattoo! I've always loved Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa. It helps that I did a lot of research on it while studying art in college and learned (and fell in love with) printmaking while attending Gonzaga too.
The whole process took fourteen hours. I've been known to have a pretty high pain tolerance, so sat for two sessions of seven hours to complete this. I gotta say, I adore how it turned out!
The next big excitement is that my best friend since childhood is getting married this winter and I'll be the maid of honor! There are some fun challenges with getting to the wedding (expect a post in the not-so-distant future about that adventure) because of reasons that will soon be made clear to you. Here is a hint: she lives in Washington, USA... two weeks from today, I will not live there.
Regardless, I couldn't be happier, her gentleman is wonderful and we were all really just waiting for him to pop the question!
Side fun fact: my best friend is also named Hannah... I am not my own best friend!
We still aren't to the biggest change in my life (and this isn't either, even though it is pretty awesome!). Last August, I reconnected with an old friend from college while we were at a wedding in San Francisco (the wedding was between two OTHER friends from college) and decided on the spot to have an Europe adventure! It ended a couple weeks ago but consisted of fifteen days in Ireland, England and Germany.
I loved it even though I had bronchitis for literally the entire trip and had food poisoning on our last evening in London. I'll prepare my immune system for my future big adventures! Mostly the entire trip was documented on my Instagram (@hannahsouers) using the hashtag #thegingertour. Go check it out!
And onto the last/most recent/ most exciting part of my life right now: I'm moving to China! Seriously! I got offered a job to teach art at a private international high school in Beijing, China and OF COURSE I accepted the position! I leave two weeks from the day I make this post and I'm crazy excited!
With that, there will most likely be a little gap before I post again (most likely a month or two), but I plan to blog the whole experience here once I get settled into my new life over there! Follow the adventure here and/or on my Instagram! I'll have a hashtag I use (once I think up something entertaining that hasn't been used excessively) for posts to find them easily. Wish me luck!