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My life is not an adventure, it’s a JOURNEY

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately. Time well needed and well spent. One of the things that I thought about is a phrase that so many people have said to me since I decided to temporarily leave the country. ” Wow, your life is an adventure” or ” You are going on an adventure!”  I honestly cringe when people say that to me. Now I know exactly why…….

“Living life in another country is no walk in the park.” 

When you are visiting another country it’s all fun and games. It’s exploring, relaxing,  and eating good food. It’s all about finding the beauty in a place with a limited amount of time to do it. It’s about making connections with yourself and what’s familiar and unfamiliar to you. Ahhh, now that’s the life! That’s the dream some people must imagine my life to be like. NOPE! Not exactly. It’s a little more intense…..

  • Like walking around hungry for hours because I can’t find a restuarant to eat at that I can actually understand what’s on the menu. Can I have SOME English, pictures, ANYTHING! I’m hungry!

  • Not having a good day? Too bad, the stares don’t stop, the sad attempts to have basic conversations in English don’t stop, the jaw dropping expressions don’t stop, the questions don’t stop!

  • Have banking needs? Good luck getting English assistance and don’t be in a rush to send money home, it’s going to take time. Lots of time.

  • When are my clothes gonna dry?? In southeast Asia, most people don’t have dryers in thier homes. I’m apart of the “most” group, so that means sometimes waiting countless hours and days for clothes to dry in the humidity and in the cold.

  • Mold has completly taken over my life! Moisture is such a big problem due to humidity and climate that you just have to surrender to the Gods!!

  • I don’t remember what life was like without google translate! I use it to talk to people in the stores, read my mail, read street signs, read posters on the street, and the list goes on! It has become a way of life.

  • Grocery shopping is like “Pick and Pray!” Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t.  When in doubt, leave without!

I must admit that the major struggle comes with the language barrier. I have found that even if you know the language there is still a barrier if you are not a native. Some things just simply can’t be translated. Everyone’s experience living abroad is different based on the country you live in and the individual situation.

“THE JOURNEY”

I view life in general as a journey. What I am doing by living abroad is apart of my destiny. It goes far beyond the “adventure” of it all. Sure, I expereince some adventures along the way but there is a method to my madness. An order in which things have happened and will happen. Each step is calculated, considered, and contoured to directly influence myself and others. I want to be responsible for conducting a life that I can be proud of. A life that will inspire those around me. Each day is different, each expereince is motivating, each cycle changes. It’s a series of ups and downs, ins and outs. Through the happy times, the sad times, and the devestating times I find strength. I’m choosing to live life on my own terms. To navigate the path that God has given me, as he leads and guides me along the way. I’m loving every minute of it! I couldn’t always say that, so I’m grateful I can today. This journey, with some adventures, is the best of life as I know it. I stand proud and accept the challenge!

 

What living abroad has taught me.

When I made the decision to live and teach abroad I was looking to fully emerge in the culture in which I was living, travel, and experience the world hands on! I had never set foot outside of the good ole USA and this was my opportunity to embrace all the world had to offer me. Naturally, I had some expectations and some fears of what this would actually be like. I knew what I wanted to get out of this but the reality of what it gave me was what I wasn’t prepared for. These lessons have helped redefine me as a person. They have increased my knowledge and built my character. Living abroad has taught me….

I AM THE SPOKESPERSON FOR AMERICA ESPECIALLY BLACK AMERICA

I have often heard celebrities say they are not role models. I respectively disagree with this statement. I believe you don’t chose to be a role model. If you are in a position for people to look up to you and value your actions and opinions, then you may be a role model for them. It’s a matter of personal view, not personal choice. When I moved to China I realized that people watched me. Not just Chinese and Asian people but everyone that wasn’t from America. They made judgments and reassurances about Americans based on MY behavior. They asked questions about being “Black in America” and wanted confirmation on their preconceived ideas. I understood very quickly that I had influence in the groups I entertained and with the people I befriended. I can say that this is true today as I am here in Japan. Now I don’t have all the answers, and I am not AMERICA. I am however a representation of that which I came from, whether I like it or not.

TO APPRECIATE THE COMFORTS OF HOME

First of all home sickness is real! Whew, it hits you at times when you least expect it. You’re fine one day and the next day you feel like you’re not going to make it! I have realized that many aspects of home sickness is simply just missing the comforts of home. Oh how I took for granted SO many things! Just being able to walk into a store and ask somebody for help with the things I need, or walking into a restaurant to order dinner from a menu. When you are used to a certain way of life, everything that is not ordinary challenges you. You quickly began to appreciate the comforts of the place you call home.

Dinner

TO VALUE CULTURE, ESPECIALLY MY OWN

I have always been obsessed with culture! I find it so intriguing how people all over the world do things so differently. I find it amazing what things different people value and traditions they keep. Culture is undeniably one of the most fascinating social behaviors on this planet! I value every experience of culture that I have and can learn while I am living abroad. As I learn about other cultures, I also take pride in appreciating my own.

THE PRIVILEGE OF KNOWING HOW TO SPEAK ENGLISH

You know, I never thought I would be as proud as I am now to be able to fluently speak English! When you see so many people around the world going through great lengths to learn this oh so complicated language, you realize how important it is. When I travel, I see how countries cater to the English language. People realize that although they are perfectly fine in their country speaking their native language, they understand the power that the English language gives them outside and within their country. Hats off to all those that seek to learn English and become fluent. Especially those that have taught themselves! English is one of the most difficult languages to learn. I definitely feel privileged.

HOW PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD VIEW AMERICANS

WOW! I had no idea! Some of the comments I have received and conversations I have been in about people’s views of Americans have been unbelievable! Here are just a few of the comments I have received:

“You Americans are so optimistic!”

“You’re from America, ahhh BANG, BANG!”

“We just sit around and wait for the next mass shooting to happen there!”

“I am so scared to go to America!”

“I’m surprised at how nice you are!”

Although some of these comments are not surprising, it is however surprising to hear them from people. I have learned so much about how people see Americans. Things I would have never known before.

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HOW TO LIVE IN THE MOMENT

I have experienced some breathtaking situations. Some moments that caused me to take a step back and really think about what is happening around me at that particular time. Sometimes I get lost behind my camera and I find myself putting it away and reminding myself to take in this moment! To breath that air, to capture that feeling, and to embrace that experience. I have especially found this with meeting people along this journey. It’s hard for me at times because I tend to have a hard time saying “goodbye” and understanding that I may only have the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful person I met for a very short time. This causes me to really take in each moment and cherish it. To not think about the past or the future, but to only consider the present.

HOW MUCH AMERICAN CULTURE, ESPECIALLY MUSIC CULTURE EFFECTS THE WORLD

American music is everywhere!! Everyone also expects you to want to hear American music. I have been in restaurants that have changed the music to HARD CORE rap, and OLD SCHOOL R&B when I walk in the door. Almost all stores I go in here in Japan are already playing American music. I have a friend who is from South Africa who tells me about how the American music culture affects the culture in her hometown. They refer to hairstyles by music celebrity names, like “I want isidabrats” (thick braids like Da Brat) and “I want Isisnoopy” (refers to cornrows like Snoop Dog). I have found in general that American culture is copied and highly sought after. Everyone is truly watching the U.S.A.!!

HOW TO LOVE MYSELF

I have watched so many people trying to be like someone else. These days, I’m just interested in learning how to make myself happy and doing what I am purposed to do. Traveling alone and living abroad alone has taught me to really love myself and enjoy my own company.

HOW TO SURVIVE

I can’t even begin to explain the survival of living in another country in which you don’t speak the language. Somehow, I have learned how to maneuver and get things done! I have found that there is always another way to do something. There is always a yes to that no! I’ve become clever with communicating and patient with processes. All in all I have learned to survive. I have learned that I am a survivor!

 

That bloody afternoon in April…….

It started like any other work day. Relax in the morning, and get ready for work around noon. I wasn’t due in to work until 2:00 most days. There were a four people from my intake group when I arrived in China who lived in the same building as I did. We formed a little group on the oh so popular in China WeChat messaging app to keep in touch.

The messages came in about 30 min before I was getting ready to leave. “Have you guys been downstairs?” “I’m not sure what happened but there is blood everywhere in the lobby” “What? blood? what happened?” “Uh, Oh” “I’m on my way down now!” “Oh my god there is more blood” “wow this is crazy!”

As you can imagine, I didn’t waste any time getting downstairs although I was afraid of what I was going to see! As I got off the elevator to the first floor there were bloody footprints, and I mean barefoot prints, from the opening of the elevator down the hall.  There were drops of blood on the floor and blood smeared on the walls. My heart began to race as I turned the corner to the main lobby. I wasn’t ready, there was a big pool of blood upon turning the corner. As I frantically scanned the lobby there was a big chair that was usually light green completely submerged in blood with a pool of blood around it! I could no longer hold it in “OH MY GOD WHAT HAPPENED??” I screamed looking to a guard who was watching the area and a ayi (cleaning lady) who was cleaning as  if it was just a  little vomit!  I got no answers, just looks that made me feel like I was crazy. I had never seen that much blood in my life! To this day I believe someone died.

Once I realized that I wasn’t going to get any answers I headed to work in sheer panic and disbelief. I never found out what happened, only that there was an altercation between two people and one was taken to the hospital. When I got home that evening most of the blood was gone. One large smear on the wall remained as a constant reminder of that  horrible afternoon in April.  As I moved out of the building in February I glanced at that wall for the final time wondering if it would always be there.  In my mind it would.

Ty

I lost my Beyonce status…… my first week in Japan

 

You heard me right, my stock has dropped and my status has declined! I can no longer tell people I am Beyoncé and pose for a photo opt! The paparazzi has disappeared and let me tell you I couldn’t be HAPPIER!!!! I have only seen two other people of color and nobody seems to care.  No stares, no pictures, no pointing, no laughing, NOTHING! I was actually surprised. I was told that it would be better here, but I should still expect it.  Well, so far so good!

My first week has gone very well. Japan really cannot be compared to China at all.  It is the polar opposite! However, I will share with you a few of the difference I have noticed in just one week!

  • It’s so quiet!!!!- I am almost afraid to speak in public. If you do speak, especially on public transportation, make sure you bring it down to about a whisper to avoid any unwanted looks. In China, people spoke loudly and aggressively.
  • No hawking and spitting!!- Now this made me wanna break down and do a dance bare foot in the streets!
  • It’s so clean and organized!-Streets are clean and bathrooms are spotless. If you are  going into someone’s home or a place where you will spend time, you must remove your shoes. Have indoor shoes ready.
  • No more squat toilets!- As a matter of fact the toilets are top of the line! They have remote controls for use of the bidet, they sing, talk, and warm when you sit on them!!
  • People actually line up and wait their turn!

Weekend exploration

I decided to explore a little bit of the city Saturday.  Very peaceful journey and it was very easy to get around the city. I must say that I have been very impressed with my sense of direction since I arrived here.  Usually, it is very bad. I ventured out of my comfort zone of riding the subway and I managed to take the bus to my destination.  I know I looked like a deer in headlights the whole ride there! LOL, I was so scared I was going to be lost and never arrive to my destination. I went to see the sixth tallest statue in the world! The Japanese Buddhist Bodhisattva Kannon.

The Trip

I did my research via google on how to get to my destination.  Thank goodness for no internet restrictions like I had in China. For those who don’t know, China monitors everything coming into the country and that includes the internet. Favorites such as You Tube, Google, and Facebook are blocked and cannot be accessed without a VPN. (Ty travel tip: it is good to purchase a VPN- Virtual Private Network, while traveling abroad no matter what country you are traveling to.) The directions were very clear, one bus from Sendai Station to the statue. The ride was expected to take about 40min. Great! What I didn’t anticipate was the different bus riding procedure. So, apparently the entire front half of the bus is reserved for handicapped and disable individuals. Where do I sit, in the front of the bus! I was so worried about not missing my stop that I didn’t even pay attention. Since everything was in Japanese except a quick flash of English that listed each stop, my focus was on that screen! No one said a word to me about it either. Once I realized it, I sat there proudly and said to myself “There is no way I’m moving now!” As I carefully watched all of my surroundings, we turned a corner and there was this huge statue directly in my face! Scared the day lights out of me. I nearly jumped out my handicapped seat! I have recently discovered that I have a slight fear, (ok well maybe a little more than slight) of things that are considerably larger than me! This was no exception. As I walked up to it I was in awe and a little taken back. The views of the city from inside were amazing!  Breathtaking! An elevator takes you up to the 12th floor for the views of the city. You can stop at three other floors to view the Buddha’s and pray.

During the ride back I realized another procedure that was different from China.  You have to get a ticket when you enter the bus.  You enter the back of the bus. I didn’t get a ticket so I just had to pay whatever the driver told me. In China, there is a lady that comes to your seat, asks where you are going and collects your fare.  Well at least I know next time!  Great trip, can’t wait for the next one!

Ty

“I’m gonna knock you out!” Street Brawling, China edition!

There is never a dull moment in China! People aren’t allowed to casually have guns.  Honestly, that made my transition there easier because it’s pretty safe. I never felt threatened in anyway. Except by the drivers!!!! Since people don’t carry guns, and I never even saw the police officers carrying guns, this makes street brawling more popular!! It’s very funny actually.

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Round one

One day, I got off the train and sat down to wait on a friend. All of a sudden a guy was running and yelling with a big brick in his hands! He ran over to another guy who had his back toward him walking away, took the brick and hit him over the head!!! It was obvious that they had been arguing or had a disagreement about something. The guy turned around and two people came to break it up. The guy that got hit ran away. The other guy was still visibly angry but he eventually walked away after a little more yelling.

 

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Some friends and I went out to dinner. It was pretty quiet that night. Everyone seemed to be relaxed and happy. All of a sudden two women began swinging at each other. They started grabbing at each other’s face! Then there was screaming and yelling. All of this in Chinese so I have no idea what was being said. Then came the blood! Nose bleeds, face scratches and blood everywhere! The ladies were eventually escorted out the back of the restaurant.

 

thY47VBZUGRound three

I was shopping in the electronic district one day. This place is always crowded, as everywhere in China is. One thing that is slightly inconvenient about walking on the sidewalks is that people are riding bicycles, motorbikes, pulling ricochets, driving cars, and all manners of foolishness on the same sidewalk! So you can imagine how this can turn into a serious problem rather quickly. On this day, a man was walking in front of me and going the opposite direction was a man on a motorbike. The man on the motorbike grazed the man that was walking. Why did he do that! This man was not having it! He pulled the guy off the motorbike and there was a huge altercation. Now, this didn’t turn into an actual brawl, but I felt it was significant enough to speak about here. People stopped, looked, and they argued for quite some time. It ended with them both walking away with a stern understanding that this behavior was not acceptable. Good for him for not taking the Okie doke!!

With the amount of aggression that is seen on a daily bases in China, I thought I would see more fights. I’m glad I’ve never seen anyone get seriously hurt.

Ty

The Paparazzi

“Can you take picture with me?”  This is a question I heard more times than I can count. After some time, this question became one that I would rather hear opposed to the sudden flashes, the awkward stares and the desperate attempts to “get the shot” just before I cover my face.  No, I am not a celebrity to anyone in the U.S.A.  but in China, I was a superstar!!!

Dealing with this new found status was easy at first but strange. I thought it was cute and funny. I welcomed the pictures. I immediately understood that in Asia, the black population was slim to none. Some Asians have never been out of their country and that has increased their  lack of seeing a variety of ethnicities. So to them, I was very unusual. Not only because I was black, but because I was a foreigner. So I embraced it! I posed for pictures, and  I laughed when I saw the embarrassment on the faces of those whom I caught “sneaking” that shot”.

As you can imagine, there were times when this became very annoying and inappropriate. There were many times that the staring was so intense I had to pull out a mirror and look myself! There were times I saw people walk past, turn around and come back to stand and stare directly in my face! Then there were times when I just wasn’t “at my best” and I didn’t want to take a picture nor did I want a picture taken of me! How did I deal with this? Well, some days not so gracefully, and others like a champ! I have taken pictures of them, told them “no!”, and covered my face just before the close of the shutter. I had become pretty good at this.

My lesson: This experience was very interesting. I totally feel I got a glimpse of what celebrities deal with. It has made me more aware of those around me and become more sensitive when I hear stories of celebrities and the paparazzi. I have gained more knowledge of the culture in China and Asia as a whole. I have become more patient with others. I have learned to be comfortable in my own skin and realize that I have to love me regardless. This is travel and travel is me!

 

 

 

Solo in Sanya!

Moving to China was my first time ever out of the country! It was a bit ambitious to MOVE to another country seeing that I had never set foot outside of the USA. It was a challenge that I welcomed and I was excited to face. So it was fitting for me to take my first trip (vacation) ALONE! After just a few months of adjusting to Shenzhen I decided to go to Sanya, China. I beach area where I could relax and have some down time.

Now this trip was going to be pretty low key. Not a lot of sightseeing and I really wasn’t interested in doing much but lying on the beach! Lol! So, I picked a fancy resort (The Renaissance) and I vowed to never leave the ocean waves! When I got there, it was simply breathtaking. It looked like someone dropped me off on a movie set. Almost too good to be true. People waited on me hand and foot. Greeted me with a shell necklace and carried my bags off into the sunset! I automatically felt pampered. Just what I needed. After checking into my room and a detailed explanation of the resort grounds, I decided to explore. The resort was amazingly beautiful and relaxing. The private beach was my favorite. I knew I would spend most of my time there.

   

I honestly didn’t have to leave the resort for anything! I went out to the city one afternoon to explore a little bit. The city was nice, a little underdeveloped, but I found many nice souvenirs for family and friends. I also got a chance to check out the beach in the city. Very nice! Four days and three nights of complete bliss, but it all ended with a huge curve ball……

One my way back to Shenzhen my flight was cancelled due to a typhoon in the area. The only problem was that the next flight was not until the next morning!!! So, they were going to put everyone up in a hotel, not a problem if I spoke Mandarin!!! I get on a bus not understanding anything that is going on and we were dropped off at this hotel. By this time, I am in a slight panic! I don’t understand anything anyone is saying and people are just getting keys, instructions, and filing off to their rooms. So I had to think quickly. I looked around a spotted this girl who seemed to be on the young side. I remembered someone telling me that most young people in China know English because it is taught in the schools. She looked to be in her 20’s. I walked up to her and asked her if she spoke English. When she said yes I almost did a cartwheel across the room!! I was so relieved. Let me tell you, from this moment on, I didn’t have to worry about one thing! This girl and her family took me under their wing like I was their own. They looked out for me in every way. I quickly felt like I was a family member.

They handled everything. They made sure I got a room, my flight was rebooked and that I ate dinner that night. They paid for my dinner, and took me grocery shopping with them. They woke me up the next morning to make sure I got on that bus back to the airport. WOW, is all I could say. I was completely humbled. How could I ever repay them?? I couldn’t. All I could do is promise to come see them in their home town of Yueyang, China. I kept my promise. I took a few friends along and we went to Yueyang! I can’t wait to share with you that trip!

Lesson: I find a lesson in everything. This time was the lesson of knowledge. The more knowledge you have the better off you are. When you know how and when to use it, it’s even better. Be quick to think, slow to anger, and slow to panic. Whatever you are facing you were built to handle. Believe in that!