Much Needed R&R

I don’t have any major event today, so I eat, play, chat, sleep, watch TV, eat, read, walk, sleep… It is also a perfect time to reflect and summarize the past month and my whirlwind activities.

  • Week of June 18th. Projects summary and transition; Farewell at the team meeting; David’s birthday celebration; Wrapping up and organizing files; Last visit of the Tyson’s office; Shopping; Meetup with a few old friends.
  • June 25th. After a few conference calls at work in the morning, boarded a plane to start my vacation.
  • June 26th. Arrived at Copenhagen, Denmark in the morning. Took train to Roskilde for a nice short visit.
  • June 27th. Checked out the aquarium Den Blå Planet; Boarded Star Breeze in the afternoon and our ‘Baltic Delight’ cruise began! (I will only list the various ports for now so that this post would not get too long. Stay tuned for more detailed posts on these wonderful places around the Baltic Sea.)
  • June 28th. Bornholm, Denmark
  • June 29th. Gdańsk, Poland
  • June 30th. Klaipeda, Lithuania
  • July 1st. At Sea
  • July 2nd. Tallin, Estonia
  • July 3rd. St. Petersburg, Russia
  • July 4th. St. Petersburg. Russia
  • July 5th. Helsinki, Finland
  • July 6th. Aland, Finland
  • July 7th. Arrived at Stockholm, Sweden; All day traveling back to US
  • July 8th. Picked up documents from a friend’s home; Did chores around the house
  • July 9th. My last day with EY; Returned firm assets and checked out at the DC office
  • July 10th. Noon-time flight to Beijing – further messed up my jet lag from Europe
  • July 11th. Arrived at Beijing, dinner out with my mom and sister’s family
  • July 12th. Picked up train tickets; Activated a cell phone – can’t survive without one since they use it for everything here – pay at stores and restaurants, take Metro, rent bicycle, order take-out, get a taxi etc. I feel so out-dated but I am catching up!
  • July 13th. 4.5 hours on a high-speed train to Shanghai; 48 hours of college reunion craziness began
  • July 14th. Ate too much, drank too much, talked too loud, laughed too hard, slept too little. Enjoyed every minute with my friends from decades ago
  • July 15th. Reunion ended in total exhaustion. Met Charles Yang for dinner, who once interned in our New York office for 8 months. He also brought me to visit the largest Starbucks in the world.
  • July 16th. Train back to Beijing, in time for my sister’s birthday celebration.
  • July 17th. Accompanied my mother to the US embassy for her visa interview. Big crowd, long line, and heavy rain! Can’t say I enjoyed it but the result was good!

So you see, I just got a chance today for my much needed rest and relaxation. I exchanged messages with a few friends, went to grocery shopping with my mother, and also visited the nearby community library. It is a good break before the hustle and bustle starts again tomorrow.

 

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A New Journey

Life, like a book, proceeds in chapters. Now I am about to start a new one.

I decided to take a one-year break from work to explore new places and experiences. It was a hard decision to depart from a prestigious firm, an awesome team, and wonderful colleagues. But I believe now is a good time to do it – to minimize the potential future regrets.

The next month or two will be quite exhausting yet exhilarating at the same time. I will start by cruising around the Baltic Sea, immediately followed by a college reunion in Shanghai and then family visit in Beijing. I will also squeeze in a trip to Hong Kong before returning to US. Then a road trip to New England to visit my boyfriend’s family, and another road trip starting at Crater Lake National Park and ending at Glacier National Park.

In December we will go to explore Southeast Asia – Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore. Also in the consideration is a trip to South America and Antarctica in Jan/Feb, but that requires much research and planning still.

Taking time off also enables me to spend more time with family and friends. This upcoming trip back to China is longer than usual and provides good opportunities to do so. My mom is planning to visit me in US in the fall and it would be great to spend quality time together.

When I am not traveling or travel-planning, I want to read all the books piled up on my shelves and floors, and write about my trips and family stories. I need to organize the tens of thousands of photos in my computer. I will develop a routine for exercising, meditating, learning, volunteering, etc.

I wish I had time now to write more about the decision process, the sad and heart-warming farewells, and the exciting plans. But I need to depart soon. More to come…

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A Good 2017, A Better 2018

Books 2017

The year 2018 had a very cold beginning here in US. Now that I stopped shivering I can write my obligated annual “good-better” summarizing/planning post. My 2017 was good, although I didn’t quite accomplish the goals I set out at the beginning of the year:

  • Read 50 books, 20 of which from shelves at home. Partially Done. I did finish 50 books and here are the book reports: Q1Q2Q3Q4. Amazingly, the average length of this year (2017)’s books is 341 pages, compared to (2016)’s 343, and (2015)’s 342. As a statistician, I can’t help marveling at these numbers. There had to be something significant going on other than coincidence. Only 16 of the 50 books were from shelves at home, so this part of the goal wasn’t reached. I am not going to lose sleep over it though. 🙂
  • Visit 3 new countries. Done. I visited South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • Swim 80 times (average 1.5 times a week); yoga at home everyday. Not done. I only swam 37 times, average 0.7 times a week. I didn’t count how many days I did yoga at home, but I suspect it was less than every other day. On average I walked 4,953 steps a day, slightly short of last year’s 5,080 and a lot fewer than the previous year’s 7,000. Seems I missed the marks of my exercise goals quite a bit!
  • Publish 40 blog posts. Not done – only published a shameful 7 posts, not even half of last year’s not-so-good 18.
  • Lose 5 pounds. Not done – my weight throughout the year moved up and down within a six-pound range. At least I weighed one pound less on December 31st than on January 1st, so I consider it losing 1 pound.

All in all, my 2017 wasn’t very productive in reaching goals. However, it was a great year in traveling – I actually was in four continents! 🙂 Here is this year’s travelogue:

  • January. London, United Kingdom (work)
  • May. Seoul, Busan, South Korea; Beijing, China
  • July. Mystic, CT; New England
  • October. Sydney, Cairns, Melbourne, Uluru, Australia; Queenstown, New Zealand
  • October. New York City, NY (work)

Australia-New-Zealand-Trip-locationsI haven’t got a chance to write about the 19-day Australia/New Zealand adventure – one of the best trips of my life! It involved 12 flights, 8 hotels, 4 time zones, and temperatures anywhere from 50 to 100 degrees. I ended up being poorer financially but much richer in experiences and memories, not to mention the thousands of photos I brought back with me!

Now here are my goals for 2018:

  • Read 50 books – at least 5 in Chinese, at most 25 in audio format
  • Visit 5 new countries
  • Swim 50 times; yoga at home everyday (except this past week :))
  • Publish 30 blog posts; write at least 3 full-length travel articles in Chinese
  • Learn to cook 3 new dishes
  • Lose 5 pounds

I am looking forward to a better year ahead – more explorations and adventures. I can’t wait to start.

Twenty Years in US

IMG_7296On this day twenty years ago, I came to the United States. My point of entry was Anchorage, Alaska. I still remember stepping off the plane, exhausted after an eight-hour flight from Shanghai (and a short flight from Beijing before that), yet excited from seeing the gorgeous snow mountains from the air, and the rows of private jets on the ground. As I stood in line at passport control, it suddenly struck me: I am in a different country and I will be on my own. My family and friends and everything I am familiar with are now thousands of miles away…

There was not much time to be sentimental. I boarded another plane and flew six more hours to JFK. As it approached, I watched the beautiful night view of New York City with all those bright lights and elegant bridges, and felt like I was in a dream. When the wheels touched the ground and passengers applauded, tears rolled down my face. At that moment, so many feelings went through my mind that it felt blank. A new chapter began.

So that was the first trip by air in my life. And it lasted over 20 hours. I was a rookie traveler then and thought even the churning baggage carousel was impressive. Today, I am quite experienced. I have been to 33 countries and 64 airports around the world. Still, that same excitement when the plane touches down in a brand new place never left me.

IMG_7298Many things have changed in twenty years. For example, I came here holding a Chinese passport with a US visa. Today, I have a US passport with a Chinese visa. Between the two countries, no matter which direction I fly now, I consider it ‘going home’.

BTW, here is a post that I published around the 18th anniversary. 🙂 Can’t believe it has been two years since then! Time flies. I wonder what I will be writing about five years from now, or ten, or another twenty…

Five Days in South Korea (Busan, Seoul)

Early this month we had a wonderful visit to South Korea, including 1.5 days in Busan and 3 days in Seoul. Hopefully our itinerary below would help people plan their trip to this great and interesting country. I found this site to be quite helpful when I did my planning.

Our day started at 3am US EDT. Due to delay we almost missed our connecting flight at San Francisco. Luckily we made it to the gate 4 minutes before it closed. We arrived at Incheon International Airport around 3pm the next afternoon. Then we got our Korail pass and boarded a KTX train to Busan. Because it was a holiday week the seats were sold out, but we managed to sit for 2.5 hours out of the 3.5-hour ride. Not bad. We arrived at Busan around 8pm – 28 hours after we left home. I promised myself never to make such crazy arrangements ever again.

Day 1. Busan Aquarium, Food Alley, Geumgang Park (with cable car). We made an attempt to go to the famous Beomeosa Temple but were too exhausted to walk the required distance.

Day 2. Jagalchi Fish Market, Gamcheon Culture Village. Afternoon train to Seoul.

Day 3. Half-day DMZ Tour.  Deoksugung Palace (changing guards).

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Day 4. Lotte World Aquarium, Lotte World Tower, Coex Aquarium, Namsan Tower.

Day 5. Changdeokgung Palace, Myongdong Shopping District.

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Except the DMZ Tour, all the other places are accessible via subway/bus. A must-have is a Cash-bee card. It can be used to pay for subway, bus, taxi, train, or even in convenient stores, and it is good in both Busan and Seoul. That said, we walked on average 15,000 steps a day even with the great public transportation!

The next day we departed Seoul heading to Beijing, China… To be continued.

 

A Good 2016, A Better 2017

books-2016

My year 2016 has been quite busy and productive, although I didn’t accomplish all the goals I set out at the beginning of the year:

  • Read 50 books. Done. I finished 50 books and here are the book reports: Q1; Q2; Q3; Q4. Interestingly, the average length of this year (2016)’s books is 343 pages, almost the same as last year (2015)’s 342. In both years the longest book I read was by Stephen King.
  • Visit 5 new countries. Done. I actually visited 8 new countries: Netherlands, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia.
  • Swim 80 times (average 1.5 times a week). Partially done. I swam 50 times, average once a week. But I started doing Hot Yoga this year and attended classes in a studio 7 times. On average I walked 5,080 steps a day, falling short of last year’s 7,000.
  • Publish 50 blog posts (on Saturdays). Not done – only posted 18 posts, even fewer than last year’s 28.
  • Lose 5 pounds. Not done – my weight at the end of the year was the same as the beginning of the year. At least I didn’t gain pounds.

Seems only the travel and reading goals were accomplished, same as last year. It is a clear indication of where my passion is. 🙂 Here is this year’s travelogue:

  • January. New York City, NY (work); Cruise on Windsurf, Caribbean
  • April. Charlottesville, VA
  • May. San Antonio, TX; Carlsbad, NM
  • July. Amsterdam; Belgrade; Montenegro; Dubrovnik; Frankfurt. Trip Brief
  • October. New York City, NY (work)
  • November. Mystic, CT; New England

Now here are my goals for 2017, not much different from 2016:

  • Read 50 books, 20 of which from shelves at home
  • Visit 3 new countries
  • Swim 80 times (average 1.5 times a week); yoga at home everyday
  • Publish 40 blog posts
  • Lose 5 pounds

I am looking forward to a better year ahead – closer to God, healthier, happier, wiser…

Trip Brief – Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia

It has been a week since I returned from a wonderful 12-day trip in Europe:

Amsterdam, Netherlands -> Belgrade, Serbia -> Montenegro -> Dubrovnik, Croatia -> Frankfurt, Germany

The trip included five flight segments from four airlines, train, bus, ferry, and lots of walking (average 15,000 steps a day). It was a nice combination of city and nature. As usual, there are too many pictures to go through and too much fun to put into words – highlights for now and details in the future.

Amsterdam:

Belgrade:

(Reception at the Royal Palace – our small tour group with Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia)

Montenegro (Kotor, Lovcen National Park, Sveti Stefan):

Dubrovnik (climbed the city walls):

Frankfurt:

In addition to enjoying the breath-taking views, we also appreciated Van Gogh’s masterpieces, drank Rakija and local beers, tasted wines, ate lots of meat (in Serbia) and fish (in Montenegro and Croatia), met wonderful people everywhere, and added precious moments to our memories… More details to come.