How Chocolate Motivated My Change:

I know what you are thinking. Chocolate changed me? You might think, “yeah maybe changed the scale number.” But let me forewarn you, you are wrong my friend.

This is not a post about a new great chocolate diet that will get you everything you want out of life. This is not a post about having the answers to life because you gorge yourself with chocolate every afternoon. With all the sugars and ingredients, chocolate is definitely not the healthiest choice for a snack. If you’re going to eat it, at least eat dark chocolate, because according to WebMD (which I value as a trusted site in my personal opinion), dark chocolate has antioxidants in it as well as lowers your blood pressure.
Although, this is also not a post about which kind of chocolate to eat and why.

This is a post about giving my kudos to the Dove Chocolate company.

Because Dove prints inspirational quotes and sweet pick me ups on the inside of their wrappers, they have been my number one choice of a chocolate snack at the store; next to Peanut M&M’s and Snickers.

Years ago, when I would listen to the negative voice inside my head telling me I wasn’t good enough or smart enough to do something, naturally, I would turn to chocolate, as many young women do. Only whenever I opened up my chocolate to eat and think about my failures, I would get distracted by reading the wrappers. “Break the mold.” It would tell me.
These wrappers demanded me to “Forgive the past.” because I could have the power to “Change the world and make a difference today.”

I felt uplifted. I knew it was just a computer printing these silly sentences onto a wrapper for a great sales tactic. But what a great sales tactic it is!!! I don’t care if someone working at their computer desk who hates their life, gets paid to come up with these sayings or if Buddha himself said it, because in the end, it saved people like me. It let me know that it’s always too soon to give up. It’s always a bad idea to quit your progress, to lose your confidence and belief in yourself.

So after eating my piece of chocolate, my nuerons would start to fire at each other up in my noggin. I started realizing what I am worth. Maybe I can do more, I thought to myself. I never knew what my passion in life was, and that’s when I realized it was writing. I didn’t know what I was interested in learning, so that’s when I spent more time at the library and paying close attention to what catches my attention.

My temper fell. I sobered up. I made a blog. I started writing a book. I got rid of almost everything reminding me of my old life. I spent more time with my family. And whenever I heard the words “can’t, won’t, don’t, stop” – I simply shut them out. I learned how to remind myself, the way all the Dove Chocolate wrappers had before, that I was good enough. I was smart enough. I do have the power to be anything and do anything I want in this lifetime.

 

I am not suggesting you go out to your nearby drug store and by all the bags of Dove Chocolate to get your confidence back up. It is still something that must be kept in moderation, as anything great. However, take my story as a stepping stool. Recognize the negative thoughts in your thoughts, take a deep breath, and politely remind those thoughts that you are the bigger person. You got yourself to where you are now, and you can give yourself all of that credit. Don’t let petty thoughts or comments from anyone else bring you down, because you hold no obligation to them.

So never forget how great you are. It is never too late to start kicking

Seven Days To Go

I have never believed that people can fully change in a span of five months. However, I do believe that with the right experiences and opportunities, one can greatly improve the path he/she is on to be the best person they know they can be.
I am definitely still on the road to becoming exactly who I want to be. I know there are some views that I have changed, some I gained, and some that I will always stick by. Living in China has opened my mind up greater than I have expected and has shown me a new life I thought I’d never live.

My first seven days I remember thinking, “What in the hell am I doing here? I can’t teach. I can’t feel my toes, and I keep forgetting to not flush the damn toilet paper in the toilet.” I was pretty nervous to talk to anyone. I didn’t care to get ready or look nice because I felt too cold to do anything. I slept at any given moment because I was even too cold to be active. I had a [short-lived] fear that I would be a rucluse while teaching.

And then within my first two weeks, I met Ya Wei. We instantly became close and exchanged many emails all day long. We enjoyed talking whenever we could, sharing our different cultures, telling stories, and swapping pictures. I never would have thought I liked all the things about him that I do. That is someone who has completely taken me by surprise.

Wang Meng and Dong Mei. They are probably the absolute closest friends to me. I have never met two more honest people in my life and I am forever grateful to call them a friend. I never would have thought the majority of my time would be spent on campus with them, laughing, learning, and talking about life. While Dong Mei have each other to watch basketball games, Wang Meng gives me lady lessons, which I will definitely continue to use while back in America. I have no insecurities around them, no second thoughts, and absolutely no doubts. I believe that is when you know you have a true friend.

I have been at Mayflora long enough to get to know many people on my school’s campus. We joke together, we play sports together, and cheer each other on during sporting events. We help each other out, feed each other, and do favors for the other; not because we feel obligated, but because that’s just what friends do, and we’re happy to do it. And in fact, it’s never made me feel happier.

I now love practicing my Chinese on any given stranger in the city or on campus. I love flirting in Chinese and bargaining while shopping. I love the street food. I have really come to ignore all the staring, and now, find some fun in playing around with it. The field at night has become my unannounced territory as I put my ear buds in for a couple hours of dancing. My students are my everything. My memory has gotten better (thank you healthy food!) and I feel the culture has significantly helped me to “be what the moment requires” – a quote from Robert Greene in his book The 48 Laws of Power.
I never fully understood what it meant, until today.

Being what the moment requires is more than just forcing emotion and nodding your head in agreeance. It’s truly deciding to make the conscious effort to be what is necessary in any givent moment. You would never jump and run in a skirt and heels. You would never use profanities in front of anyone that doesn’t actually know you on “that kind of level.” And I certainly hope that you would not ever be the loudest one, unless given a valid reason to do so. That last one I am still working on.
Because of Wang Meng, we agreed I could be 70% lady like and the rest, I can get sweaty, play sports, have a beer with the guys, practice kung fu, be loud, be crazy, be wild – but not when I should be a lady. And it really shows me just how inappropriate and unattractive it can be if I am not in “the place” where it is permitted. It’s a conscious choice on my part to put his advice in action. I don’t need to be all those things or show I am all of those things all the time. Only when required.

I have learned more things than I thought possible. I have learned to love kids more than lot of other things. I have become more of a woman. I have bathed in sophistication. Fought with a Kung Fu Master. I became tolerant of using my right hand. I can be completely confident in my words and actions and refuse to apologize for any of my honesties. I played with little kids. I’ve played in soccer games, got more into NBA, and learned exactly how to throw a punch. My flexibility has significantly increase. I have seen glamoous sights right down to the fece-infested streets. I’ve given and taken meaningful gifts. I’ve made solid bonds. I’ve been inspired and inspired in return.

So for these last seven days, now that I know this city so well and truly love these people I surround myself with on a daily basis, it becomes harder to pack my luggage. To go back to America and literally count down the days until I step foot in Bengbu again. And not just Bengbu, for that matter, but all over China. All over the world.
With seven days to go, I remain grateful. I remain honored. I remain in love with the city that opened its arms to seven strange, ignorant Americans.
It’s something that can never be topped.

Shanghai, you’ll always have my attention.

I firmly believe that when something happens twice to you in the same place, it will more or less be likely to happen everytime you are in that place.

Mindles, Kanz, and I packed our bags and took off on the bullet train this afternoon and headed east. As we arrived in Shanghai tonight around 6:30, we had one (maybe two, depending on Mindles’ health level) objective on our minds: FOOD.
Not just food, but dinner from Amatto Gelato’s, near People’s Square, which is supposed to be a fofteen minute walk from our hostel.

Needless to say, we did not get our anticipated dinner tonight. Mindles also didn’t get to the Americanized hospital visit she was dreading and consciously putting off.
We ate Mcdonald’s. By the way, have you ever tried their iced Mocha? If not, you should.

Now, let me back up a hot minute. Our first time to Shanghai, I was in charge of booking our hostel.
I’m always in charge of that kind of stuff, because next to our Head Teacher, who I am enjoying calling “Massa” (as in, “yes Massa” and bowing my head), I am the most responsible.
Except that I am terrible with directions in foreign countries. I can barely give directions to people in America. However, I act confident enough that people don’t question me.
Anyway, I wrote down the directions word for word from the Internet, but confused the street name of the hostel location or the actual Subway line station exit. Oops.…..
That day, at the end of March, in the bright Sunlight of the early morning Spring, we were sitting ducks on the corner of HeMi Road. Our hostel was literally a minute and a half walk away, but we had no clue. We thought we were completely lost. A kind-hearted lady who had a husband with English as his second language, was extremely helpful to us. After 20 minutes of talking with him over the phone and her translating, etc, we were advised to crank our heads 60 degrees opposite of our current eye fixation and walk straight until you run into the hostel doors.
Boy, did we feel dumb.

No different than tonight. Except a little. Like every great second mistake, it only got a little more dramatic.
This time, there was no early morning sunlight to make it easy on us. Or a Chinese woman with an English speaking husband.

Tonight, it was dark by the time we got off the Subway and headed out.for the city streets. We asked which dorection South was and had it pointed out by two gentleman. I suppose I should have been more specific in the beginning, but what can I do about it now? And so the adevnture begins……
We stopped at hospital on the road I thought we were supposed to be on until we ran into the Suzhou Road street sign that would appoint us South. But that sign never showed up. After the hospital receptionist could barely understand poor, lifeless Mindles, we continued walking West down Xinzha Road. We asked three strangers and a worker at a local Chinese fast food joint, all of which suggested we continue forthward.
So, we did as we were told.

“Well, this has definitely been.more than five minutes.” I point out a-matter-of-factly.
The girls insisted we keep walking, because eventually it would just show up, right? Wrong again.

We thought maybe luck struck us as we were crossing the highway.underpass, when a Chinese woman offered us help and a small, light-hearted conversation in which was a one way street, because we could not understand a thing she was saying. We pointed out the address and did not let her forget for more than 2 minutes at a time that, “this is where we need to go. Suzhou Road, Suzhou Road. You know where this is, right?”
She just kept pointing West.

We stopped at a construction site and she asked three security guards. I instantly thought, “Oh my God. This is how it happens. The sex trade. Kidnappings. Big foreign cities. This is how it all ends. Ohhhhh balls…….
Lucky for us, we must have not been their type. Hahahahaha that was just a jokey….

Back to seriousness! The guards reassured us we were going the right way and in two roads, we would see the sign for ours. Phew!
Only, 8 roads later, we went back to questioning this small lady with a large mission on hand.
I called my friend Dong Mei, no answer. I called my friend Seth, yessss, I can always count on him! He definitely went out of his way to translate our hostel in Chinese to better offer help in talking to this woman over the phone.

“Well, she said she does not know you want to go to a hotel. She is taking you to get a massage. She is a massage therapist.” He informs me.
I stand still against a tree and gently beat my head three times into the tough bark. “She is WHAT?”
I instantly pass the phone to Kenz and go up to our helpful, small friend. Her and I exchange words in Chinglish, telling her the last thing we have on our agenda is a massage and possible prostitution emslavement. Not that a massage wasn’t tempting, I just did not want any free give outs at 7:30 at night when I am sweaty, hungry, and having to pee out all the water I had drank three hours prior. I knew what she wanted.
“Not today!” I kindly reminded her, channeling my best Dane Cook impression.

So we stopped because the lady had my paper and decided, Hey! Cops will know where to go. With a crowd growing around us, Mindles took a picture and instantly got yelled at by the police officer.
“What’s that for?” She asked.
“Mindy….. You can’t take pictures of the officers. Now is not the time for pictures.”

This lady would not leave us alone, as much as I even told her in Chinese to please do. She was the kitten begging for the bowl of milk. (hey mom, how was that anaolgy?) Mindles wanted to keep on the journey West and “just see” where it would take us. I figured we had nothing to lose, but now, I just though, to hell with it. I’m hauling down a taxi.

The worry sunk in when Seth translated what we wanted over the phone to two taxi drivers who had no idea where our hostel was located. So much for getting promoted in that field… Was this a scam? Are we getting Punk’d? Oh wait, none of us are famous…. Dream. Crushed. I thought.

After 40 minutes of walking West we see a taxi just pulling over to let out a girl. Yes! This was our third chance. If all is right and true in the world then “Third time’s the charm” will be on our side. Although the lady driver also had no clue where our desired location was, she did not drive off and leave us with the lady even she knew was feeding everyone we tried to ask for help complete BS. So, she used her witts and called up the taxi HQ head hancho who spoke English. Kenz could feel my patience giving out, so she stepped in and talked to the voice on the other end.
Alas there is good in the world! The Saint of a lady behind the wheel was given clear direction and she took us to our direction with the company of nice Chinese radio.

So getting lost twice, trying to find hostels in Shanghai? Probably not the last time. Solution? Google maps. And more Chinese lessons. 

Sometimes

 

Sometimes, you just can’t let other people affect the decisions you want to make in life. Sometimes you have to remember that living your dreams, no matter how wild and crazy they are, does not mean you have to lose friendships. And people you surround yourself can either accept it or pretend you will always be there. Nobody ever said moving, exploring, or adventuring throughout one’s lifetime meant you had to become a stranger. I don’t want to spend my whole life living in the same city and doing the same thing for the rest of my life. I can do that when I have kids.

Sometimes, you have to live by yourself and move to different countries and get yourself in trouble and danger. You must always be aware and learn how to take care of yourself because sometimes, you won’t always have someone there to protect you. Sometimes though, you must be smarter than the average person and not invite the danger or trouble into your life. You must always remember to forgive someone if they are unable to protect you. It’s not their job in the first place. Sometimes, you just can’t rely on other people, and it would be selfish to hold grudges if and/or when they can’t come through.

Sometimes people can beg and plead with you to please be a certain way, but you must never change for them. You must only change when you if/when you want to and if/when you are ready. Sometimes people will give you life changing opportunities in the selfish hope that you will get your head out of the clouds and get a more stable life for yourself, but what is it worth if you are the adventurous type? What can they do if no matter how much they try, you will leave when you have an urge, have jobs at ungodly hours [and places for that matter], and be around some people who they just don’t like. Given that you remain a certain way, despite the ways you were raised and the choices you have made as you grew up, you must always hold respect for whoever you are around. Don’t ever think you are above someone because of the independence you may hold or the ways that you have set in stone. It’s never wise to battle with people who are like-minded as you are. That would be like slapping yourself in the face under a spotlight. Sometimes, you just have to swallow some pride, find a common ground, and roll with it.

Sometimes, after a long travel, you will come back to realize you just aren’t the same person. You have new hobbies and interests and are wondering who around you has the same thirst for something new. Sometimes people won’t accept it. Sometimes, they will make fun of the way you have become, because to them, it’s unrecognizable. Sometimes they won’t believe there is a change within you, but it’s not your duty to defend yourself, because in reality, you don’t have to answer to anybody if you choose not to. All you can be is who you are, regardless of how alike or different from the people you surround yourself with, there is a bond that should it be broken, was never a strong bond to start with. Sometimes these realities come and other times they don’t. Long travels are always a good way of defining the relationships you hold with others.
Sometimes people will just chuckle and shake their heads at you in complete ravelment as you say the things you say and do the things you do, and maybe sometimes you won’t be able to give them a reason for saying and doing it, but the important part is that you trust yourself. Because as long as you trust yourself, nothing in this world can stop you.

So be a fantast if you want. Be a realist. Be whatever you want to be. Do what makes you happy. Make the choices you make for yourself and nobody else. If you decide something, go in it with your full heart! Don’t look back. Keep moving forward and do whatever you have to, to accomplish the dreams you have. Nobody will ever look down upon who works hard to get what they want. Stick to your personality, don’t back down to other people. Don’t let yourself get intimidated. Don’t change for the moment or the people around you. BE YOURSELF.
Because sometimes, without dreams, we wouldn’t be where we are today; in this exact moment.

Long Bridge Park

Today, the group and I decided to have a China Family trip outing. Lately, our vacations have been separate and we sparingly do things together, such as eating our Friday night traditional meals at the book bar, having our movie nights, or game nights. We have felt like we’re becoming somewhat of a broken family. So a little bonding time was in the perfect place today! We have long been neglecting the trip to what we call the Long Bridge Park, just on the outskirts of Bengbu.

After you go across the bridge that takes up the majority of the scenery, you come to a giant surrounding of rocks and purposely place stones. Five feet into the water, is a small island of an asortment of trees, you just can’t help but stare at. Pine trees, rose bushes, a flower garden, forest trees, palm trees…. these were obviously not naturally grown together. Although, beautiful. You could hear the birds singing somewhere from deep inside the 30 foot found island. If only there were stones connecting the two places together, instead of a wire, we could have explored it. However, this stone river-bend beach, became our playground.

 

We spent a fair amount of time with our heads down, glued to searching for the perfect skipping stones. Mindy had never skipped stones before, so it was a perfect time to teach! Out of the many “firsts” we have all equally had in China, this was a good American thing to teach her in a foreign country. As we were looking, I was also collecting some interesting rocks. When the others asked why, I explained to them that every beach I go to, I like to gather some sand and something specifically memorable from the beach. Usually rocks, maybe a shell. If there is no beach, I just gather rocks. I asked them to keep their eyes peeled for anything extra interesting. The more we kept looking, I can hear here from behind me saying, “What is this? It’s a……. oh my gosh, ew!” She screamed and just as I looked over and asked what it was she yelled, “I am holding a bone!” “Mindy don’t! Throw it to me!” I yelled. But, it was too late. She tossed it into the water and pulled out her hand sanitizer faster than an athlete grabbing for their water.  “You’re fired!” I said to her, as I often did, whenever she dropped an eating utensil outside on our way to meals. “Hey, at least I tossed it close. It’s floating back towards us!” She optimistically pointed out. This put a smile on my face 🙂 I immediately went as close to the water as I could and debated on how I was going to retrieve this bone. This freaky piece of something that I wanted in my Bengbu rock collection. Maybe I was twisted, but it was a memorable piece after all.

“Hey Kenz…. whatcha doin over there?” I asked suggestively. “Sitting here. Why? What are you going to ask me?” “You know me all too well. Wanna help me get a bone out of the water?” “Actually, yes. This could be fun! Here Mindy, take some pictures!” as she handed Mindy my camera. Within seconds, her hands were around my ankles and I was leaning over two different rocks, stretching my body as far as I could into the water, without actually touching it. Hard, when you are only five feet tall and have about one foot to actually work with. I struggled, I grunted, and I urged Kenz to please just “push me just a little further….” and eventually..

VICTORY WAS OURS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It was too great of a success and experience to continue skipping rocks. We had moved past that moment, ready for a new an exciting event to take place. Which moved us over to the unusually placed formation of rocks. All different shapes and sizes, but yet, placed in a perfect circle. I would guess about 50 feet in diameter, give or take a foot.

Not that I would assume these rocks were man-made, but how was it that each rock seemed to invite us in with absolute comfort? Almost every rock we sat on, could have been moved into a house and used as a chair, in my opinion. But then again, I am a little more pagan than everyone else around me. Suddenly, we weren’t 20-something year old’s. We were young again, our imaginations flowing around. Playing on rocks, laughing, and joking. Bonding. We pretended the rocks underneath us were horses, whales, chairs, and mountain tops. We believed the stone grounded “beach” was full of lava and you couldn’t touch it. But Matt was touching it.

He went over to Sarah’s rock and urged her, “Hey, get off my rock!” “This is my rock!” She protested, “Get your own rock. You are not coming on my rock. No waaay!” Although, the battle had just begun. And because Matt never lets us forget he has lost more weight than all of us combined, that leaves him with more energy for the mission to take over rocks.

And when he did take over Sarah’s rock, he declared one rule for the lava filled ground. “We should all climb these rocks. All the way around the circle and make it back here. You can’t touch the ground. If you do touch the ground, then you’re out. No restarts and no cheating.” This was easily one of the funner things we have ever done in Bengbu, together.



Admittedly, some of the rocks were a struggle. I pushed myself to move in ways I didn’t think my body would let me move and continuously thanked my mom for putting me in gymnastics when I was younger; giving me the flexibility needed to bend, stretch, and leap across these rocks. Also, choosing that day to wear my Vibram toe shoes was one of my smarter choices, versus wearing my Toms like I usually choose. I managed to keep up at a close distance with Matt, with Sarah motivating me to move faster as she stayed close with me. Felicia touched the ground, making her be out. And Mindy…. well… Mindy got stuck on a rock. For the better half of the one o’clock hour.

We managed to declare the winners of the new game we had made. Matt in first place, myself in second, and Sarah in a dangerously close third place. Along with a little planking and perching, this afternoon was a perfect afternoon.

You Are What You Make It.

Standing inside Carrefour and waiting for Mindy to
finish checking out, I  find an
unusual
state of calmness.

With the Sounds of cash registers Beeping
& people chattering a language I don’t fully
understand,
I find my World coming to a s t a n d s t i l l.

Every single thing comes to a pause
& my view becomes s l o w m o t i o n .
I hear every word as it comes.
I define which beep belongs to which machine.

I feel invisible. I feel synchronized. I feel elapsed in time.
Like I don’t know if I am dreaming or not.

Am I high?
Sometimes, I just wanna be.
Sometimes it would make more sense if I were.
So for now, I’ll just take this moment.
THIS “HIGH LIFE” HIT.

“You can’t dance.”


“I’m sorry. The leaders just think it’s too much of a risk to have you on the stage with how bad your sickness is. You may be getting better, but anything can make it act up again. Especially the back bend. They said they would prefer to not have you be in the performance, but you can still watch.”

News hits like a whiplash. Why did I have to get this illness NOW? Instead of in three weeks when I would be on a plane back to America where I could take care of the issue there? Today will be the third day of teaching I have missed. I couldn’t finish dress rehearsal yesterday because I thought a blackout was on its way, and now I have been told that I cannot get on that stage….. an entertainer’s biggest worry.

I feel like it’s not only a let down to myself, but to everyone else. We have put so much time and effort into the performance. We have spent everyday for weeks getting the tones, pronunciation, and actions just right, so we could do a perfect job for the school. Although you can’t control when you are and are not sick, it seems to me that people still seem somewhat disappointed in the fact that I am.

I do too many twirls and my head swells up to the size of a parade balloon. I back bend and feel like I will fall backwards in an unconscious state, and yet I am still fighting to be in a show.

I wonder if, just like any other entertainer, do they think that dancing and performing is the one exception to life that can’t be missed. We can miss work, meetings, dates, and family events due to an illness, but God forbid do we miss our own show. Is it a selfish act, I wonder? Or purely a common thought? I feel as though even if I were to break my hand, I would say, “the show must go on.”

Parts of my sickness, I can’t help but laugh. I know this must be a universally felt thinking error, also. Correct me if I am wrong. But, I feel I must not be the only one who, when completely healthy and strong, wish for just a day off. “I would love if I just got to sleep in today. If I just got to relax. Read my book. Take a nice long walk and sip on my tea.”

Well…. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.

You will not only get your wish, but you may get it in a form on the opposite end of the spectrum of which you asked. For me, I did think that. I thought, “Wow, just one day. That might be kinda nice. To be alone in my room with the sound of the outside. To read my book along the lake all morning long..”
I have gotten 36 pages in my new book before I passed back out, due to my medicine. I don’t get to go on a nice long walk, because my body is just too weak. I do sleep a lot though. I have been for the last three days. In and out of consciousness. Dreaming has been a great time for me.

So I am aware I’m not at my peak. I know my body doesn’t have enough energy and that I move slow.

And yet… I am still fighting to dance.