Walking 10,000 Steps Everyday for a Year

I can’t believe I forgot to write this post. Way back in March of 2016 I wrote about walking 10,000 steps everyday for six-months and how I was really going for a year. I wrote about the hardships, getting my steps in while I was sick and how I had to make a lot of changes to ensure I got 10,000 steps everyday.

My goal was to walk for 365 days a year. Did I do it?

Hell yeah I did! I didn’t just do it, I killed it. This was my steps on the last day of my challenge:

I ended up with almost 30,000 steps after only getting 4 hours sleep. I finished this challenge with a bang!

After the six-month mark things got a lot easier. Why? Because of badminton. My coach didn’t have his gym yet but I started training which meant I played badminton three times a week. On those days I didn’t need to worry about my steps because playing badminton would ensure I got them. Then, on my other days I tended to be busier (doing all the things I couldn’t do on the badminton days) that they steps came naturally.

In fact, I began almost forgetting about it. One night, with less than 30 days to go, I got into bed, turned off the light and snuggled down. Then I jolted up realizing I hadn’t felt my bracelet “buzz” that day telling me I was successful. I checked my app and saw I was less than 200 steps short with only TWO MINUTES before midnight.

Look at the time and the steps. Less than two minutes to do 122 steps!

I jumped up and ran around my house as fast as I could to get to 10,000 in under 2 minutes. Of course I got it and went back to bed but I was too wired to fall asleep.

The most annoying part of it was the last month. I was taking a month-long intensive Chinese class in Yangshuo. Class all morning long, break and nap at lunch and then study all afternoon, meeting with a language partner for an hour of chatting then dinner and finish up some homework before going to bed early.

Not a lot of walking time in there. So after dinner I would have to head out every night for a walk. Now, luckily Yangshuo was a beautiful place and there was a gorgeous walking path right by the school, but temps were a hot and steamy 35+ degrees (95+F) and I would need to walk for as long as it took me. I began to hate those walks just because I had other things to do, people I wanted to talk with, homework I had to finish, and instead I had to walk and get all hot and sweaty.

Although isn’t that the time you need to get up and take a walk? Wasn’t that exactly the purpose of this challenge? To force me to get off my butt everyday even when I didn’t want to? But at the time I found it very frustrating and it was my least favorite part of the year challenge. But as it was the last part of the challenge there was no way I was gonna quit and waste 11-months of hard work.

So, after 365 days I figured why stop? I wouldn’t force myself to walk 10,000 steps if I didn’t want to, but at that point I was playing badminton almost everyday and 10,000 steps was a no brainer.

So I kept going. 365 days turned to 375…385….395. And with the 400 day mark so close I could taste it we had the biggest Typhoon in Xiamen we’ve had in decades. The hurricane hit at night so the day before I actually ended up getting 10,000 steps because of all the running around getting ready for it to hit.

At night my friends and I huddled together listening to the rattling windows and getting ready to run downstairs if we felt the building getting weaker. We stayed up together through the night, only getting a snatch of sleep as the dawn came and the storm blew past us.

In the morning we walked around, assessing the damage and looking for something to eat. The roads were impassable with fallen trees and debris and everyone was without power.

It was an exhausting, overwhelming day. At night I checked and I had only walked 6,000 steps. I would need to go out and struggle over all those trees in the evening dark to get my steps in. With so little sleep after such an uncomfortable day I said forget it.

So on day 398 I quit.

On day 398 I quit.

But I didn’t quit being active. I didn’t stop keeping track of my steps and thanks to my very active lifestyle I’ve been averaging almost 15,000 steps a day for months.

In the 880 days (two and a half years) I have had my xiaomi pedometer bracelet I walked at least 10,000 steps 750 of those days. But I walk a lot more as my daily average is 14,650 over that two and a half year time period.

I’ve recently even leveled up in my bracelet buying the “Mi band 2” which also has a heart rate monitor. I’m not slowing down at all when it comes to walking and taking a lot of steps everyday.

I’m glad I did this challenge. It was tough, and it was tiring (I just really wanted a day to stay home in my pajamas) but it helped to change my mindset and in that time, my life totally changed. Not sure if it is because they xiaomi or not, but it certainly didn’t hurt!

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Summer Holiday Time Again

A few blog posts ago I was talking about the semester beginning, and now here I am talking about the ending. For the past month I have been free, with more than 2 months left in my holiday. (Usually my holiday is 2 months but this summer it’s freakishly long.)

So what am I going to do with a quarter of the year off? Play badminton of course! You know me, badminton, badminton badminton. I had several competitions in the 3 weeks since school ended and I played almost everyday cause, ya know, badminton.

But, it’s a very long holiday and I’m gonna take a month long trip…back to the motherland.

Yep, I’m going to Trumpland (that’s what we have to call it now, right?) and I have no idea what’s happened in my absence.

It’s actually kinda funny because my job means I’m a representative of America and “The West.” I teach English, I teach culture, and there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t get asked *something* about America.

A few weeks ago a student asked me for notebook advice. It’s well known, even in my badminton crowd, that I’m a writer and it stands to reason that I would know good quality notebook brands. I suggested Moleskine, my favorite, and when my student was looking online he found another brand that seemed good. He asked me for my opinion and said, “I heard it’s very popular in America. Is it?”

“Nope.” I answered quickly. “Never heard of it. It can’t be popular in America,” because I’m a lady that knows notebooks.

And then I stopped myself.

Because for all I know it could be popular in America. I mean, it’s been three years since I’ve last stood on American soil and who knows what the trends are. If my friends don’t link to some Buzzfeed article on Facebook about it, then I don’t know it exists. For all I know, all the hipster elites could be using this new German notebook and it could be the most popular thing since the Cronut. (Although if that were true then surely there would be a Buzzfeed article about it.)

So I’m going back to check out a country, and a language, that I’m growing further and further away from to get a refresher course in all thing ‘Murica. (I’m also looking forward to seeing stars again as it has been an embarrassingly long time since they have been part of my life due to light, and other, pollution.)

I hope Target is as awesome as I remember.

In other news, there have been a few interviews featuring me around the web that I’m not sure I mentioned previously even though they came out awhile ago. Please check them out!

One is at Travis Lee’s blog. (He recently wrote a book I’ll be reviewing soon too.)

The other is at Expat Focus.

Also, I’m a part of yet another blog (because who needs free time?) The blog is called WWAM Bam! and is about Western Women dating Asian Men. As you know I talk about dating on this blog from time to time, and several of us bloggers banded together to make a blog dedicated solely to all things in multicultural love.

They featured me as WWAM’er of the month last week. So please check that out too. (This post about 25 stunning photos of Western Women marring Asian Men went slightly viral on wechat a few weeks ago.)

 

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When You’re Really, Truly, “The Foreigner”

Let’s talk about speaking Chinese. These days about 70% of my life is lived totally in Chinese with people that can’t speak English. (Take my classes out of the equation and you get closer to 90%.)

I am not a natural language learner. In fact, I would say I was below average. I have no natural feel or ear for a foreign language and honestly, no inclination to learn one. The only reason I put so much time and effort into learning Chinese is because of my natural drive to be independent. I don’t want to rely on others to call the dentist, or help me find my bus. I wanna do it myself.

And now that I’m fluent I can make friends with people I like because of personality or common traits. I don’t need to only make friends with English speakers. So now, with badminton and a new group of friends and dating, I speak very little English socially. If someone even has a hint of English, I’ll fall back and put the burden of understanding on them. But for most of my day that isn’t an option.

But I had a realization the other day.

Remember that show in the 90’s with Balki, the foreigner who comes to NY to live with his unwitting cousin? Or Gloria on Modern Family? Or even Ricky way back on I Love Lucy?

Maybe I’m dating myself with this reference.

Those shows were always about a foreigner and the hilarious mistakes they make with English and cultural understanding. I loved all those shows.

But guess what? Now I’m on the other side, and I find them less funny.

I’m Bakli. I’m Gloria. I’m Ricky (“Luuuuuuuucy, I’m home!”)  And I no longer find jokes about their English funny because the same exact things happen to me and it’s not cool.

My coach loves to laugh at my poor Chinese and make fun of me for using wrong words. Or friends will make some pop culture reference (from their childhood) with no explanation and expect me to get it, making me feel stupid when I have to admit I have no idea what they are talking about.

In some ways, it’s a compliment. When a foreigner speaks Chinese, most Chinese people are bowled away. They clap their hands, gasp with surprise and make you feel so damn smart. And when your Chinese is low, but usable, people really seem to go out of their way to help you communicate.

But something happens when you become more fluent. If you are fluent but not at a native speaker level, you suddenly get criticized for everything. When you say hello to the store owner, they are amazed, but once you start up a conversation and write your own order, suddenly they sit there telling you you don’t write the characters in the correct stroke order.

And once you have long term friends, who expect you to just know everything, when you make a mistake, or can’t understand anything, they totally mock you for being dumb.

I really wonder how I come off to these people. Am I like Melanie Trump who everyone mocks her accent and her poor grammar? *Shudder*

And whatever. One one level, I’m okay with this language frustration. I live in another country, I can’t expect everyone to cater to my wishes and style. I also like they expect me to know everything. They give me way more credit about the language and culture than I deserve which means, on some level, they must think I’m smart.

But watch out when the shoe is on the other foot.

Like my one friend who recently started taking a two-hour beginners English class once a week. They are basically sounding out letters and saying sentences like “Nice to meet you.” After two hours he says his head is spinning and he feels really tired. Yet doesn’t think anything of me who has to speak for hours on end when we hang out.

Or my other friend, who has a higher level and likes speaking English. We went out with another friend who only speaks Chinese. So my friend was speaking English, but I was only speaking Chinese so the third friend could understand. After awhile my friend gave up speaking English and we all spoke Chinese. “God, speaking English is so exhausting,” he said in Chinese after talking English for less than an hour.

“I KNOW IT IS!!” I screamed out in Chinese. “IT’S EXHAUSTING.” And yet all they do is laugh at silly ol’ Becky.

 

I don’t need an award for best Chinese speaker. I’m not, I know that. I also know that I’m lazy and not really willing to put in more time right now to study more and improve. All I want is a little credit. Instead of a mocking me or laughing at me, I’d just like a little “Let’s say it a little slower so Becky can get it the first time.” Just a little understanding, kay?

 

Guuurllll, I feel ya

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: China, Learning Chinese, Traveling | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Thousand Character Chinese Classic

Like I do at the end of every year, I have my students in speaking class become teachers. Their final exam is to “teach class” for 15 minutes. (Not a presentation, but actually teach.)

This is always super fun. Students freak out when I assign it to them, but then they quickly realize class is much more fun and silly and it’s a great note to end the school year on.

Students tend to also prepare prizes to encourage each other to participate and speak more, usually chocolate or some little snack. But in one class, they made an appropriate prize.

Two students worked together to teach both Chinese and English calligraphy and they had all of us “students” try it out. (When they teach I am a student.) We wrote both fancy styles of Chinese characters and English based on what they showed us.

After we all finished the “teachers” collected our papers and gave prizes to the top three. And they chose me! (I’m full aware I didn’t deserve it, but they tend to give me prizes in hopes of a higher grade.)

Instead of a lollipop or some chocolate they handed me a scroll with lot’s of Chinese characters on it.

“What’s this?” I asked opening it up and looking intrigued.

“It’s a thousand character essay,” one student told me. “It has 1000 characters each written one time.”

A part of the 1000 character classic.

“And it’s one story?” I asked.

“Yep,” the students told me. Intrigued I was still looking at it on my walk home when I ran into three other students.

“Do you guys know what this is?”

“It’s the thousand word essay,” one of them said. “It’s 1000 different characters written one time to make one story.”

“And what’s the story?” I asked. My students looked at each other.

“It’s 1000 words to make one story,” another one said.

“I know…” I said. “But what’s the story?” One looked closer at the paper and the other just kinda shrugged. “It’s kinda deep,” said one.

“Philosophy,” said the other. “But I’m not really sure.”

“So you’ve never read it?” I was under the impression it was a important thing in Chinese literature so I thought they would know a lot about it.

“Each character represents a word or a phrase, and it’s old. So it’s a little hard to understand.”

“How old is it?” I asked.

“Maybe 100 years,” one student said.

“Noooo,” disagreed another. “500 years old.”

So basically my students were no help. When I got home, I fired up the Google machine. It seems that this piece of writing is much older than 500 years even, more like 1500 years old. One of the origin stories of this writing is it was made at the request of Emperor Wudi to teach his sons calligraphy.

Since it’s been used for hundreds of years, and used especially to practice calligraphy, you can find many different styles throughout many different historical eras.

But it didn’t stop there. It was allegedly used to teach children writing, calligraphy and Chinese for basically the next 1000+ years as it was a good and easy resource. It’s separated into 4 character couplets which makes it easy to memorize and allegedly has a tune (ala the alphabet song) to help children remember all the words (although my students didn’t seem to know it. So maybe it’s not a teaching tool in the modern age.)

It was also used as a numbering tool, since back in the day everyone knew the entire essay by heart, if you mentioned a line, you would know that was line number 45 or whatever, so things could be categorized by it.

What Wikipedia, and other several websites don’t tell you is the content of the essay. I did find an English translation and it says it is a text about life, human nature, the way of the world and so on.

Still, accumulated wisdom stands; why read Homer, Virgil, or Ovid? Must we reinvent ourselves and relearn constantly, the hard way, the lessons of long ago? The wisdom and relavency of much of the Thousand Character Essay and of ancient China is startling in its clarity today, most clearly in its emphasis on the value of time and on the development of personal character, on doing what we now call “the right thing”. And they are a rewarding introduction to the legends of early China and the Chinese view of the cosmos and life…

Of course some of the content is superstitious, perhaps oppressive, or undemocratic, or gender biased by today’s standards, but that is why a teacher is needed, to provide the historical understanding of the past, of its areas of darkness and ignorance, and place it in a constructive and progressive present context.

-From Nathan Sturman’s essay

To get a little idea of the content, this is his translation of the first line.

The sky was black and earth yellow; space and time vast, limitless.

So you can see that it is indeed quite deep in it’s meaning and understanding.

I didn’t read it all, but I did very quickly find an “ignorant” and “gender biased” part of the essay:

Girls admire the chaste and pure; boys, the talented and good.

Wellll….ya know, it was a long time ago. But still…. sigh.

So while I’m not going to model my modern woman’s life around this essay, I think it’s a very cool part of China’s literary heritage and if you are interested in traditional Chinese thoughts, or calligraphy, a cool resource. Glad a copy of it ended up in my hands.

Categories: China, Chinese Culture, Learning Chinese, Teaching English | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Parsley & Coriander — Italians in China

So I just finished reading the newly released English translation of Parsley & Coriander written by Antonella Moretti and wanted to recommend it to you, my dear readers.

While fictional, the story will ring true with many expats in China as Antonella drew from her real life experience of quitting her job, and uprooting her life to follow her husband who was sent to China for work.

The book focuses on a group of Italian women, almost all of whom came to China due to their husbands job, and all of whom live a very privileged life, with money, drivers, aiyi’s and a whole lot of free time on their hands. The story revolves around several of these women and how they deal with their extra time and living in a foreign country.

Now, I’m not gonna lie. Most of Antonella’s characters are the worst kind of expats to someone like me. They have disdain for China, mock anyone who tries to leave the expat bubble and treat having Chinese food at a local place like a expedition to mars…something wholly new and unbelievable.

The thing is that while I hate these kinds of expats, I am painfully aware they actually exist, and in many ways I felt like I was getting a secret look into the lives of these types of women, and found they were not as all vain and shallow as I thought. Well, not all of them anyway.  Antonella drew from her own life and her own experiences and writes very convincingly. I would have no problem believing that the “fictional” characters are just her real life friends and acquaintances with new names. (Though in an interview at the Speaking of China blog, she swears they aren’t.)

This is not a book for someone who wants to get to know China better, or Chinese culture. This is 100% from the point of view of expat wives (called “trailing wives”) who suddenly find themselves living in another culture with basically no purpose and trying to fill their time and have a meaningful life. And that’s what I like about it. It gives a fresh take on the “foreigner in China” story. (No English teachers here bumbling their way around China.)

Instead it follows proper, almost prudish, mostly middle-aged women as they go about trying to figure out their place in this new world while trying to maintain their European sensitivities. My one critisism on the book is that the book focuses on the lives of several women and while each chapter is clearly marked over who’s story is being told, I found myself getting mixed up with the names and who was who at time. Parsley and Coriander gave me, someone who’s been here for awhile, a glimpse into this life of expats I’ve only seen from afar. And I found it fascinating!

If you would like to check out this book, and I recommend that you do, you can buy it on Amazon in both paper format or for your Kindle. Enjoy!

Categories: China, Traveling | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

You Know You’ve Been in China A Long Time When…..

Three years ago I wrote a post called 10 Signs You’ve Lived in China a Long Time. It was a post about all the culture differences I’ve grown accustomed to over the years.

At this point I’m so used to China I’m not really sure what I do differently anymore. I mean, it’s been almost 8 years and I would do things differently even if I lived in America. So I can’t really separate myself, and my habits, from Chinese culture. Maybe it’s just “getting older” habits.

But, lately I’ve come across a few things that made me realize just how damn long I’ve been here.

You know you’ve been in China a long time when……

You have medicine that expired 4 years ago.

I have no idea how this even happened. I have one tiny shoebox with all my medicine and I barely have any. A package of cold medicine, some Imodium, iron pills. Yet, I went through the box and cleaned it up the other day and found over 50% of it had expired. Then I found this little gem. Unbelievable that I have been here for so long that I can have such old medicine.

You have a Windows XP install disk

I’m not even a PC person anymore (I switched to Mac’s five years ago) yet I found a XP installation disk from 3 computers ago. It was the computer I brought with me to China and I’ve been unassumingly lugging this installation disc around with me since then. 16 year old technology anyone?

Your babies have babies

This one is the one that makes me feel oldest. My babies, my precious students that I taught for four years, have moved on and began their adult life. I remember when the first one got married and how excited I was for them. But now with 60 of my babies, and dozens of other students I keep in regular touch with, marriage and newborns is just the norm these days.

I was cleaning up my computer the other day when I looked through a folder called “future blog posts.” It was just kinda a catch-all for pictures of blog ideas. I haven’t look at it or used it for years apparently and I found all these pictures from 4-5 years ago that I totally forgot I had.

Look at this picture….

So cute, right? Well two are moms and 4 are married. (One I lost touch with so maybe she’s married with a kid, but I don’t know. So we’ll say no.) One of their classmates, not in this picture, went to America to have her baby so now her kid and I are countrymen.

Hella weird for me. They were just cute little students yesterday. How could they be married with kids today?!

Your lessons accidentally change

At this point, I have honed and perfected my speaking class lesson plans to a point I don’t need to change them, I just do the same ones year after year. One of the most popular lessons is a trivia game where I have prepared cards and I use the same cards I made around six, seven years ago.

Only time has moved on and some of my questions have changed and gotten more complex. Like “How many Star Wars Movies are there?” On the original card I wrote 6. But now, new ones are being made and is Rouge One an official one? I mean, it is, but it’s not the main story, ya know? So I allow the answer to be 7 or 8. And with more Star Wars movies coming, it will continue to change.

It’s weird to have so many reminders that time is passing because in many ways, China still feel fresh and new to me. Yet, with old medicine and new babies I’m forced to realize I’ve been here a long, long time.

 

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Tutoring Kids in China

I’ve always taught college kids because I don’t like to teach basics. You need to understand English fluently for me to want to teach you which pretty much rules out any child.

Until Lion. My friend moved away from Xiamen about a year ago and asked me if I wanted to teach a kid. “He’s fluent, though his grammar is sometimes wrong. He’s also a shy kid.” The price was right and he would be coming to my house so I wouldn’t have to travel anywhere. I figured I could try it out one or two classes, make some quick money and drop him.

This week is our one year anniversary and I think he’s the coolest kid ever.

He’s only 10 but he started learning English when he was about five so he’s basically as fluent as any shy 10-year-old kid.

And I don’t treat him like a baby, speaking slowly and using simple words. I treat him like normal, speaking in a normal voice and assume much of what I say passes over his head. But you know what they say about assuming…

The day Trump was elected president we had class. He’s aware of general world situations (knows Obama was president before), but isn’t aware of specifics. I told him about Trump.

“He’s very sensitive and he gets mad whenever anyone is critical of him. He hates when people make fun of his tiny hands so there are a lot of jokes about that,” I said. “Hillary got more votes but because of the special government rules he became president. A lot of people really hate him, including me.”

I then showed him the “Trump says China,” video and we laughed, and then started to play. We usually draw and that day I got some special scratch paper where you scratch away the black to reveal the colors underneath. Unprompted, this is what he drew:

“Look at his tiny hands!” he said proudly. “Trump is gonna be so angry with me.”

Also please note that he is saying “I like China” while bombing it, has a TV show (although I didn’t tell the kid that Trump was a reality TV star so that was awesome). And he has no pants.

“Why does he have no pants?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Cause he’s stupid,” he giggled.

Also, the top says “Four years go he is not president, ever people hate him.” (He was 9 at the time, give his grammar a break.)

He came up with all that, by himself, after listening to me talk for maybe four minutes. How could I not love this kid?!

For awhile I had a leaky air conditioner and the tub of water underneath became a regular part of our games. The scarf he is wearing on his head is his “Young Pioneers” scarf, which he has to wear at school to shows his loyalty to the Communist Party. Most kids wear them.

He’s also hilarious. His birthday fell on a school day and the next day I saw him.

“Did your teachers give you a present?” I asked.

“No,” he said. Then excitedly he said, “Oh wait! They did!”

“Oh yeah? What did you get? Cookies? A little cake?”

“Homework,” he replied dryly.

And if he wasn’t awesome enough, he fully cemented his place in my heart one day when he sat down and started drawing a big, round base.

“Is that…..the death star?” I asked.

He had just seen Rouge One and without knowing it, picked up on my love for all things Star Wars.

He didn’t know Luke Skywalker, but he drew Darth Vadar and lightsabers, and the Death Star all by himself. I drew Luke’s body, but he drew his head.

He’s a total little nerd in a real stereotypical way. He already read Harry Potter (in Chinese) and now is into wizards. (He calls Jedi’s “wizards.”)

Also, one time I threw an apple at him because he wanted one and I was a few steps away. Instead of reaching out his arms, he shied away, the apple hit him on his back and fell to the ground. Total nerd move! I might be a bit of a jock now, but my childhood nerdy self totally gets where he’s coming from.

Like all good nerds, he’s also imaginative and the pile of mahjong pieces I have is now called “the mahjong factory” and “workers” are called out to build all manner of things each week. Not just the mahjong tiles but he wants a specific thing to use and he walks around my house looking for something to fit his idea, like paperclips, books, medicine bottles. Anything in my house is subject to his building designs.

This was a battlefield with two castles and the pens are missiles. The Queen of 7’s was my queen while he had a wizard on his side. The pieces in the middle are boats, because that’s a river between them ‘natch.

We never speak Chinese and even when he mutters to himself he speaks English (like if he quietly counts out pieces to himself he uses English.) He once even explained how to play chess, using all English.

A few weeks after Rouge One he saw The Force Awakens and came to my house bearing the Lego toys and he talked about Han Solo and Rey all without me telling him the English names. They were behind a fruit shield while the “enemy” was in a mahjong fort. Don’t worry, the Star Wars guys won.

I really like this kid, but there is one thing I’m worried about. I see the pressure he is under. Mine isn’t the only class he goes to, but he has weekend English class in a training school, piano class and others, and I’m afraid he is taking too much of the pressure on himself. He loves getting praised about how smart he is, but can’t handle looking stupid. He always cheats in games to make sure he wins.

 

He also has a tendency to find things in my house that I don’t want him to. Bye bye expensive imported gummi bears I forgot to hide before class! What didn’t get played with got eaten pretty quickly.

I’m also worried about him growing up. Right now he spends all weekends “doing homework” and as a shy kid he doesn’t seem to mind not having friends. But what about when he gets older?

The Chinese education system isn’t kind to creativity and play and as he gets older the pressure will grow and he might not be content just playing. I’m a little scared to witness his fall from “playful imaginative boy” to “Robotic recitation drone,” as so many students do in the Chinese system.

Until I’ll keep playing with him, trying to act as an antidote to the rigidity of the public school system. (And I’m also waiting for him to be old enough to read Lord of the Rings.)

Happy class-versary Lion!

 

Categories: China, Teaching English | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Is Xiamen the Most Bike-Friendly City in the World?

Recently Xiamen has been getting a lot of attention from the world because of a new bike path. Not just a bike path but the world’s longest elevated bike path. It’s almost 5 miles long and built like a little bike highway with exits and entrances along the path, all hovering over the street (and the cars) below.

They also have guards stationed throughout making sure no wayward walker ends up on the path (you gotta have a bike). But that’s not a problem because hundreds of bikes are available along the path as well, available for rent for a teeny tiny price.

Have bike apps become a thing in America? Because here in China they have recently just blown up.

I think most of you are familiar with a city bike share program. You get a card, add a deposit and you can check out a bike from any bike stand for usually 1 or 2 rmb per hour (less than .20) with each additional hour going up in price. That’s to ensure you don’t bring a bike home with you.

But in today’s modern world, that seems like ancient technology. You need a card, you need to find a bike stand (on your own) and you need to go to a recharging station to add money to the card.

Bikes just waiting on the street to be used. No need to bring it back to a specific area.

Today it’s all about apps, and bike share apps have been making riding a bike cool again. There are three major apps in Xiamen; hello bike, ofo and mobike. All bikes from these companies are clearly marked with a QR code. You download the app, pay the deposit (ranging from $20-50 depending on the company) and you can check out any bike you come across. No card, no bike stands, no hassle. (Unless you are a foreigner. Most of these apps require a chinese ID. I’ve heard OFO allows passports though.)

Some of the bikes come equipped with GPS trackers on every bike. So you can use the app, locate the nearest bike and grab it. Some don’t have GPS trackers but they have decided to blanket the city with so many bikes you don’t need to walk far to find one. Each bike is usually less than 1rmb per hour and doesn’t go up in price.

Each bike has a QR code. These bikes have a GPS tracker so you can find a bike on your app.

Some you scan the code and it unlocks the bike for you. When you lock the bike, the meter stops. With one company you enter the bikes number and it sends you the code for the lock. Then, they trust that you sign out of the app when you lock the bike up. The lock code doesn’t change though, and this has led to people scratching out the number (so others can’t enter it into the app) and then just using the bike whenever they want.

Yeah, people are dicks.

But this hasn’t stopped these bike apps from blowing up. They are investors wet dreams and they are raking in the cash. One, OFO, just received a billion dollar valuation. Not bad. Many Chinese tech companies like Tencent, Xiaomi and didi are all getting in on the game.

This is a great thing for congested, clogged China. Getting people out of cars and onto bikes is a smart move. And somehow these apps have made riding a bike cool again so you’ll see plenty of young people out on dates with dresses and high heels riding them, or groups of friends riding them. It’s very cool.

These girls just did a little shopping and instead of getting a taxi or uber home, they rode a bike. Pretty cool.

But there is an obvious problem, and one that is growing. With no specific drop-off point, these bikes end up everywhere. Just everywhere. In the bushes, in puddles, in giant heaps in dirt lots. And outside high traffic areas, like a mall or something, they can pile up into a huge mess on the sidewalk.

Shanghai is having the biggest problem. The police have recently seized 4,000 illegally parked bikes. While not as drastic, Xiamen is having problems too and the government recently released a statement saying bikes must be parked at specific parking locations (basically a part of the sidewalk with spray-painted borders).

I ran across this bike in a tiny little village street up a hill away from any major sidewalk or pedestrian area. Unless the people that live there use this bike, it will never be used again.

But that’s basically impossible to police, so people are still leaving them wherever. In fact, a few times I’ve seen the police using the bikes, so obviously they are fans. And it’s kinda cool they are all over the place because it means you can find one with very little searching in all parts of the city. But, the companies don’t really take good care of them. They are making enough money to just resupply any empty street. Maintenance isn’t worth it.

So, between the new elevated bike path, the rental bikes and Xiamens previous bike paths, including the 20+ mile bike path along the ocean, I think Xiamen is a serious contender for World’s friendliest bike city. It’s definitely another reason I love living in the place so much.

Xiamen elevated bike path!

 

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Medical Tourism– a Review of Bumrungrad Hospital

(This post got a little away from me but I wanted to be thorough for people going there. If you read my blog cause you’re interested in China, feel free to skip this one.)

In my last post I kinda hinted that I was in Bangkok for a special reason other than traveling. And that during my trip I couldn’t walk.

That’s because I went to Bangkok to go to the hospital. Chinese hospitals aren’t the best and you only go of you need something solved. (There is no such thing as a doctors office in China. If you feel sick, have a cold, blurry vision, broken arm, gunshot wound, you go to the hospital and see whichever doctor is available.)

As a result, preventative care isn’t really a thing here. Pap smears, cholesterol tests, skin care check, eye exams, aren’t done unless you are having a problem. Even then it’s sometimes a problem.

“Does this mole look cancerous to you?” my friend asked the dermatologist at the best hospital in Xiamen. He just shrugged in response.

“Dunno. Do you want it removed? We can do that.”

“But does it need to be removed?”

“If you want it removed fine, we can do that.”

“I want to know if it needs to be removed. Does it look okay?”

“It’s your call,” said the doctor.

Sigh……

And I’ve been in China for almost 8 years now. I go to the dentist on my own but trying to get the other basic tests are just too annoying. So I skip it.

Bangkok is a city famous for cheap, really good hospital care and the most famous of them all is Bumrungrad. They have a full body check that is incredibly comprehensive and cheap as dirt. Since I’m 40, I figured now was the best time to fill up on pad thai, thai iced tea and get a series of medical tests.

So what did it measure? Pretty much everything a person in their 40’s requires: deep panel of blood tests including CBC, cholesterol, all kinds of cancer markers, liver functions, hepatitis among others, urine examination, stool sample examination, EKG, full torso ultrasound, mammogram and boob ultrasound for the ladies (exercise stress test for the gentleman), pap smear and pelvic exam and an eye exam (more than just if you can see clearly). If your over 65 you get bone density and other tests that I don’t quite need yet. Check out their web page for the entire list.

The whole process takes about 4 hours, but it’s as painless as could be (besides not peeing for awhile). Everything is located on one floor, and clearly marked. You check in, then pay, then follow the nurses orders at each station, going from section A, to B, to C.

The first part is blood tests, height, weight, blood pressure quick eye check (the real one comes later) in little rooms that are very classically “doctors offices” but a nurse takes care of everything. You’re out within minutes.

The next part you need to change clothes. They have a really nice locker room, with big booths for changing your clothes. It’s a shirt/pants combo that is more like a spa outfit than a hospital gown. They give you a locker and a key, but you are free to take your phone with you. Also, they give ladies a free shawl to keep warm with and they let you keep it after!

I carried it around with me and used it a lot during my trip.

At this point they give you bottles of water, which you should drink, but be careful. You have to do the ultrasound with a full bladder, but first you have to do the X-Ray, EKG and mammogram/breast ultrasound so ladies, drink carefully. I’d say I did the torso ultrasound about an hour or so into my visit. I was bursting by that point. If you mess up and pee earlier you just have to sit there and drink and wait till your bladder is full again.

The X-Ray/EKG/mammogram and Ultrasound rooms are all in the same hallways. They call your name, you go in, get taken care of by a technician and then released. You don’t necessarily get to meet the doctors, but they are in rooms next to you looking at your tests. I was “lucky” enough to meet two doctor because my results were so wacky. One was because of the mammogram. I had another one and the doctor called me into her room and showed me the results (the second was was clear, no worries).

Actually everyone was very nice. The nurses, technicians and doctors were all very friendly and also very careful. Like, that ultrasound goo. First off, the goo was warmed (nice touch) and they have copious amounts of towels to carefully wipe it off you. I had an ultrasound in China and they just threw a packet of tissues at me when they were done. Here, they are much more careful and considerate.

I should also mention everyone was super careful. There is a bit of a “conveyor belt” feeling to it all, since everyone in this are is doing the same thing as you, but every single nurse and technician checked my bracelet before giving me a test, and had me check their paperwork to be certain. I also don’t know what process they use for calling patients but they never forgot about me, and there wasn’t much wait time between tests.

You wait in a hallway and they call you into various rooms to get tested. Most people just sit and play on their phones while they’re waiting.

After those tests are done you get dressed again and move onto section C. But first you pass through a little buffet setup and maintained by Marriot. It’s nothing fancy but after starving yourself the night before (you can’t eat anything 12 hours before) it’s a welcomed sight.

The little food bar area. Simple, but a nice break halfway through.

It’s also cool because they keep their clients in mind. There are a lot of middle eastern customers (as obvious by the hijabs, burkas and taqiyah worn by many of the people, including doctors and nurses) so the little snack bar had hummus and pita! I live in China! Do you know how RARE hummus and pita are?! They also had banana bread!

I had two plates of this size, a bowl of granola and a bowl of yogurt before I was called to continue. But I eat fast and I basically shoved it all down quick. (That’s an egg sandwich you see, not the pita.)

I think I managed to shove down 4 pieces of it before I was called to the next tests. (Suggestion. If you want to sit and eat leisurely for awhile, don’t give your paperwork to the next nursing station until after you eat. I gave it before I ate and I had maybe 15 minutes before I was called. Not enough time to eat a lot.)

Next up is meeting a doctor. He/she looks over all your tests that are finished and discusses it with you. This is where you can ask questions, but be warned, it’s not a specialist, so they can’t get too deep into anything. If there is something terribly wrong, the doctor would recommend a specialist and the nurses outside would hook you up with an appointment.

But the blood tests are done in-house and were finished by this time so she could review them. She also looked through all my x-rays and ultrasounds and pointed things out to me. It was very helpful.

Then I got up on a table and did the normal doctor stuff, looking at eyes, ears, throat, feeling glands, that sort of thing. Even though I had given my urine sample just minutes before the results popped up on my file and she explained them before I moved on. Incredibly quick results.

Next was the pap smear and the doctor was hilarious. She had this very soft, lilting accent that was hard for me to understand but also totally hilarious. “Takeoffyourpantsandputyourfeetonthestttttiiirrruuuppppps,” she said so quickly and smoothly she had to say it twice just for me to understand. “verryyyyy gooooooood,” she would say totally calmly and peacefully and she was checking my hoo-haw. Several times I looked at the nurse and she just gave me a “don’t worry, no one understand her,” look. It was quite funny.

Then I had the eye test, which measures cornea pressure, colorblindness, eye levels and what-not. I don’t have cataracts or any eye damage, and that was that. I checked out and they told me I could pick up my compete test results two days later.

Almost. I had two more things to conquer: an added-on skin care check and the dreaded poop test.

I tried once already to give the stool sample, but the poop slipped down into the toilet. The toilet has a bit of a ledge and they tell you to poop on the ledge part, scoop a piece out–they give you a small spoon with the sample cup–and then flush. But my poop fell into the water and they can’t use that.

I was all apologetic and embarassed but they were super nice and said I could turn it in at anytime. Even the next day. I imagine a lot of people skip this part of the test entirely.

But lo and behold, with the almost everything done and the pressure off, I felt the deep rumble and before I left for lunch I was able to deposit my poop sample. Ta–dah!

The hospital looks more like a fancy hotel. They even have a koi pond!

After lunch I had the skin care check in another area of the hospital (I paid for it when I paid for the health care check as it was one of the add-on options.) The check was good and thorough and she found one mole that needed to be removed and a few that I should keep my eye on. I also have these bumps on my head, cysts really, and one had been getting bigger and uglier so she looked at it. She said it was infected and I should get it removed.

She called up to the plastic surgery office and got me an appointment. I ended up waiting quite awhile but it was nice they squeezed me in.

The doc examined me and laid out the game plan. As I was leaving Thailand in just 4 days he would give me the stitches that dissolve so I wouldn’t have to deal with going to a doctor in China.

Also, he would put a waterproof bandage on my foot and use some waterproofing spray on the head stitches so I could take a shower starting the next day. Talk about technology! I thought for sure I wouldn’t be able to shower for 5 or more days.

The small surgeries were carried out quickly and professionally. Besides the doctor I had two nurses and an aid who stayed in the room to help.They used numbing medicine and it didn’t hurt exactly…but they are literally cutting into you and you can still kinda feel the tugging and the pulling. It was a bit traumatic.

I’m not grossed out by cysts and stuff, but he showed me the thing he pulled out of my head as soon as I sat up and it was just a bit too much too soon. I had to lay back down again because I felt dizzy. They kept monitoring my blood pressure but it was a psychological problem, not a physical one. They brought me juice and water and stayed with me as I lay down, the nurses cleaning the blood out of my hair with wet wipes.

Compared to Chinese hospitals there was very few people in all the waiting rooms.

Two days later I went back and got my results in this really awesome, very comprehensive folder. The first part lays out all the test results in layman’s terms and gives you direct suggestion. For instance I have high cholesterol but it’s because my good cholesterol is high. My bad one is normal range so the print-out says I don’t need to worry. It breaks down everything like that.  At the end it gives suggestions on what you should do to improve your health specifically based on your results.

The place was spic-and-span and everything was modern and professional.

The second part is just a sheet of all the tests with the medical abbreviations you can show another doctor. The third part has printouts, like of your heart rate and hand written notes from the doctors. They also give you a CD with all your x-rays and ultrasounds to take with you. It’s incredibly comprehensive.

If you’re still reading this very long post I assume you are going there yourself and wanted an idea of what it is like. Totally don’t worry at all. I know I have a very low bar, coming from China and all, but I’ve spent my share of time in hospitals in America and this is much nicer than even them. If you’re thinking about it, I give it two thumbs up.

I think in my future life plan, I’ll go back every three years to get this same check-up again. After all, it’s in Bangkok and do I really need an excuse to go back?

And if I ever need any serious medical treatment, like a big surgery or something, I would think about going back, even if it cost a little more out of pocket, just because the service and techniques are so much more superior to China. (They accept a lot of insurances, just not mine which is from the Chinese government.)

If you want to find out more, check out their website. Everything is listed, as well as the prices, and there is no secret fees or anything. I paid exactly what they said I would. Everyone speaks fluent English so you don’t need to worry.

Good luck!

 

 

 

 

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Where in the World was Becky? (Yes, past tense. I’m back now)

I hate when people do “sorry I haven’t blogged for awhile” posts because they quickly become outdated. Someone who reads this blog even a few months from today won’t even notice the break in days unless they specifically look at the date.

That being said….sorry for the thin content here! Blame badminton. I’m not the kind of person that just talks about doing something, I do it. So I’ve been busy with badminton training pretty much everyday. the little time I find to write I’ve been writing on my badminton blog. Please go check that out as I’m updating that very regularly.

I didn’t write much about my classes this past semester and that’s fine. It’s my 15th semester teaching in China, and while I have a little something to say (in a later blog post) basically most of what I have to say has been said already. With almost 8 years under my belt, teaching is officially the longest job I’ve ever had. Scary!

This was my favorite semester since I came to Xiamen, but look at the joy on my face during my last class of the semester. As much as I love my job, and I do, I love holiday time more.

I’ve said many times that I love Xiamen in winter, but I have to go somewhere to feed the wanderlust beats in me.

So this year I went to Shanghai (hence the Shanghai Disney post.) I stayed an entire week just to squeeze in seeing everyone. I don’t know why but more and more friends seem to be moving there these days and Shanghai is still one of my all-time most favorite places to go. I literally stepped off the train and went to a burger joint to meet a friend. I didn’t even put down my stuff but carried it with me. The whole week was whirlwind like that but so, so, so much fun.

My friend Armani (his english name) was the first and last person I saw during my week in Shanghai. In between was filled with tons of amazing dinners, hangouts and KTV sessions.

The most exciting reunion was me and Harbin jacket! As Xiamen was in the 70’s and Bangkok, my next destination, was in the 80’s the last thing I wanted to carry with me was a heavy winter coat. But Shanghai was in the 30’s and cold, so I needed one. Luckily my friend Rebecca who now lives in Shanghai still had the precious Harbin jacket, my traveling companion last year. It was such a sweet reunion as girl and jacket were reunited for a week.

Together agaiiinnnnnn

Then I went to Bangkok! I went for a specific reason (to be talked about in a later blog post) but somehow I ended up with several friends living there I could visit. My one friend Gabby even let me stay with her in her amazing place. 17th floor suite.

Check out this amazing view over the city!

I couldn’t walk much during my short visit (wait till the next post for the details), but I could eat! Gabby is a chef and Bangkok is a food lovers paradise. So I had the best guide and we basically just ate our way around the city.

Gabby is a chef at Scarlet, one of Bangkok’s best restaurants (rated 56 out of almost 10,000 restaurants). Dinner here was a real treat (I got steak tartar) especially as I got visits from the chef herself to see how my food was! If you go to Bangkok you MUST go!

 

We even managed to fit in healthy food, like kale smoothies and granola. But I mostly ate street food like pad thai and other local dishes. And thai milk tea, so much thai milk tea….

Then I came back in time for Spring Festival (Chinese New Years) and I took a little trip to Chaozhou, China, my coaches hometown. I wrote about it at my badminton blog.

My coach and I in a rare moment of not playing badminton or drinking tea. You can read about my trip at my badminton blog.

Now I’m back with a few weeks left of holiday before my 16th (!!!) semester starts. I’ll be doing badminton training every night of course, but now I have a bit of a pause from my busy life and can hopefully catch up on some past blog posts! I haven’t been skipping posts because I have nothing to say, quite the opposite. I’m so busy doing new and exciting things these days I don’t have much time to catch up on my blog, but I will do my best to remedy that.

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