31.3.11

Marathon on the Brain

16 days, 19 hrs, 7 minutes and 12 seconds.

That's how long it is (when I last looked) till the London Marathon and I run 26.2 miles.

I guess I was hoping I'd feel more ready than I do or feel fitter or something by this point.  The fact is I feel the same I did 9 months ago when I started training but running a mile or two doesn't kill me the way it used to. 

I was hoping also that I would have lost a few pounds by now.  The whole reason why I wanted to do the marathon was to lose weight.  Hasn't happened....weirdest thing on the planet.  Think its because of stress or something.  I even mentioned to the doctor on a recent visit this problem and she said that sure sounded unusual.

Marathon's are not something that I do which explains the serious butterflies.  I'm the girl who never got picked for teams in gym class.  This marathon is one of thee major sporting events in the world and I'm in it.   I guess its starting to hit me.  I'm doing a M-A-RA-TH-ON. 

Have the post race massage booked, the carb replacement granola bars picked out and know what outfit I'll be wearing.  The only thing left is cutting down the exercise gradually and not doing anything stupid to myself before race day. 

I would really love to do some good in the process and raise money for charity.  I'm donating all proceeds from my shop to my charity till the 1st April.  If you just want to donate without getting a print...even small amounts DO help.

Hope you are all well.

Christine
xoxo

22.3.11

Expat Life: Elaine in China

Elaine is an old school friend who happened to do the same thing that I did after graduation, moving to a foreign country.  I thought I moved a long way away, but Elaine moved to China and then Hong Kong where she is currently teaching.  I asked her similar questions to my previous interviewee and these were her responses.

1) So what brought you to Hong Kong?

Well I moved from Dongguan, China to Hong Kong. So for me it was an upgrade. I had moved to China in 2008 for work, but I have always had a keen interest in China since I was 16. Reading various books and asking my Taiwanese Aunt to help me learn some Mandarin, of which she begrudgingly did not. Then in college I studied Chinese history in Beijing for a Spring break. It was fantastic and I longed to go back. I did return to teach English in a University for a spring. I wanted to stay longer, but grad school called my name. After an intense year of working on my masters in education I was attempting to get a job in the land of the North west and it was not happening. I had a goal before I graduated with my Ma to have a job so since none of the school districts were biting I decided to expand my horizons and looked to international teaching. I’m so glad I did, because it has opened up endless possibilities. So work brought me to China and work brought me to Hong Kong, but ultimately there is a desire to be in Asia, living here with the Asians. I feel lonely without them…the millions and billions of them.



2) How has living abroad changed you?

Hmmmm changed me….well I have learned more of how to be alone. I have learned how to stand up for myself, yell at people when I’m being cheated, walk away from bad situations, feel completely helpless and vulnerable more so than living in the US, where you know how to get around and how to communicate with people. Overall living abroad has made me a tougher person. I’d say I’ve developed a thicker skin.

3) What has been the best thing about living in Hong Kong? The worst?

Best thing about Hong Kong is living on the 50th floor. I love being up high and overlooking the mountains and the water. I can see the sunset everyday over the water. I can watch the hawks flying past my window. I can see lightening outside my window. Worst thing is probably the pollution and well I don’t like being a single unit, but that is where I am in life. I think living internationally would be much better if I had a life partner. Oh another best thing is having my own vespa and driving through the intense, crazy traffic and then being out on some open country roads that twist and turn along the ocean.

4) How has the language adjustment been for you? Is the language in China (where you used to be) to Hong Kong any different? Have you started having dreams in the language?

Well Hong Kong people speak Cantonese. Where I was living in China Mandarin was the main language. I had learned enough Mandarin to survive in China. But Cantonese has 9 tones verses Mandarin’s 4 tones. I’m partial to Mandarin and think it sounds much prettier.

5) What's the food been like? Have you had any weird dishes that you care to share.

Well I love American food. Nothing like a good wholesome meal of mashed potatoes, fresh garden salad, corn on the cob, and lemon chicken and rice. (To me that is American food.) I love Chinese food, but I don’t really care for Cantonese food. I can’t really get into cooked lettuce and macaroni and fish soup. Just not my style. But mainland has some amazing Chinese food. I miss my favorite restaurant in Dongguan. Yum, yum.


6) What would you recommend to those who are looking to move to a foreign country?

I would say do it. Get out of your own country and live some place else. There’s so much more to life than the status quo. I think people are too afraid of leaving what they know, but sometimes you just have to break out of it. I think people know in their hearts if they feel like there is something more they are supposed to be doing in life. I would highly recommend having a job… hehehe. Do it, but have a job lined up for yourself before you go.


7) You have had quite an opportunity to travel since living in Asia. (Please list all the countries you've visited). How has traveling inspired you?

Wow well living in Asia really opens doors for traveling. Sometimes I am trepidatious to travel as a single woman and try to think through what would be the safest way to travel. My first big trip by myself in S.E. Asia was on an Italian cruise that stopped in the Philippines, Borneo, Brunei, Singapore, Ho Chi Min (Saigon), and Da Nang, Vietnam, and Hainan Island. It was a great way to travel safely and in style and see so many places in Asia in a much more economical way than if I was to have flown to each place and stayed in hotels. On this cruise I was the token American and surrounded by Aussies, Europeans, and Russians. I loved meeting people and hearing there stories and enjoying their company.

My second Chinese New Year I traveled to India with 5 other teachers. We toured New Dehli, Jiapur, Udiapur, Pushkar, and Agra. India was completely and utterly amazing. There was a part of me that fell in love with India, but I doubt that I could ever live there. Mostly because it is a male dominated society. Woman are not treated with respect. You are looked upon as an object of sexual lust. I actually started to cover my head, because I received so much unwanted male attention. India is not a place a single woman should travel alone to, but must be accompanied by a man or a group. My favorite city that I saw was Jaipur…the colours, the shopping, the scenery is completely exotic. It was the first place that I was awaken at 5 am by the Mullahs calling people to prayer. Jaipur is in Rajistan which is next to Pakistan. I didn’t realize how Islam had so much power over India. I had thought they were mostly Hindus and Buddhists.

During my October break for school I traveled to Cambodia. I had longed to go to Cambodia and see Angor Wat, one of the world’s largest ancient ruins. Siem Reap is a wonderful place to visit. I fell in love with the people and the city. The people are extremely poor and are recovering from a terrible holocaust.

This past Christmas I traveled to Bali and the Philippines. I was not as impressed with Bali as tour guide books and other people have talked it up. It was dirty, dark and rather boring. I had been hoping for exotic beach life, but the beaches were dirty and gross so I didn’t even hang out on the beach. My friend and I rented a car and drove all over the island that was probably the best part of the trip—road tripping Bali. The Philippines were amazing. I absolutely loved these Islands. I visited Pandan Island, which is a tropical island oasis..palm trees, white sand beaches, amazing coral reef surrounding the island, hammocks waiting for people to lay in them. If someone was going to Bali hoping to find nice beaches you will be disappointed. I would highly recommend the Philippines over Bali and it is much cheaper and economical in the Philippines.

My next trip planned is Israel for Easter. We were going to also go to Egypt, but because of the recent revolution there I think we will pass.
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Traveling has inspired me. I feel much the richer, because of what I have seen and experienced. I think traveling is important to living. Humans are about change, as a Hebrew mystic might say, it’s about becoming. Becoming what exactly? Hmmm well I hope it is our goal to become better and not to lead toward entropic tendencies. Traveling has filled my heart with more imaginations and wonder. To see how other people live. To see the smiles and faces of people around the world. To smell, smells that are quite honestly not always pleasant, but it is the reality of life. To hear sounds that can quiet your soul or fill you with a sense of dread. To eat a taste of peace and contentment. To be filled with a quest for more zest in your life. There is a famous English poem…not too famous by Matthew Arnold, about a Gypsy who is a scholar, who travels through life learning. I think those who like to learn and like to travel are gypsy scholars.


8) What's next for you?

What’s next in my life???? I’m not sure, but I’m going to live every moment to the fullest. I have been blessed and I am blessed by God and very grateful for where I am. I currently plan on staying in Asia until I feel called to move somewhere else. There are parts of me that misses my homeland, but I don’t think I’m supposed to be in America at this time of my life.


9)  How are the Chinese and Americans similiar?

- Chinese people are very family oriented. I really value their sense of family. In one household you have grandparents, parents and grandchildren living together. I really like this since of unity and fidelity. There are reasons for this in their society…Confucius roots have a strong identity in family. Also spiritually Chinese believe it is filial duty to offer sacrifices to your ancestors; therefore it is important to have children so you will have someone to offer sacrifices to you and take care of you even after you die. Where I was living in China I was surrounded by more babies than ever before and usually the grandparents are the ones raising the grandchildren as the parents are out in the work force making money.

- In China like in America woman are treated with more respect and dignity. Or shall I say given more of an opportunity verses other countries or cultures in the world. I greatly value a society that respects woman. This is my opinion and communism has helped to even out the gender divide; whereas during the days of the dynasty woman didn’t have much value.

-Chinese greatly value money. In fact they worship money much like American capitalists. Making money is the goal of almost every Chinese person. Chinese New Year is a time of traditional sayings about becoming rich in the new year.

-Chinese people love America and Americans. American culture is greatly valued and respected by the Chinese. Many university students try to learn as much as they can about American culture often memorizing quotes from America’s great leaders like Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.

-Education is greatly valued by the Chinese. Even though most of the Chinese don’t have an education beyond 8th grade, education is seen as the door to improving your status.

10) If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God to say when you reach the pearly gates?

I do believe in heaven and I do believe there is a Creator of Heaven and Earth and I believe that in my mind, heart and spirit that I walk in His Kingdom. His Kingdom is a Kingdom of peace, mercy and justice. His Kingdom is one of walking in the spirit and not the flesh. I am a pilgrim on this earth eagerly waiting for when I will be called home. When God calls my spirit to Him I want to hear him say welcome home my precious daughter enter your inheritance.

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All pictures are from the blog:  Elaine Teaching in China and can be credited to Elaine Ray.



P.S.  Apparently this is my 500th post on this little blog. Wow, this week I'm hitting lots of milestones. ;)

21.3.11

Ten Years



10 yrs ago on 21 March 2001 I moved to London from America.
10 yrs of being with James.
10 yrs of the toughest and most incredible experiences of my life.

16.3.11

Spring Flowers








I've been feeling a overwhelmed and burnt out recently with everything.    The last two days I've completely ignored the huge pile of dishes in the kitchen and the bathroom that has seen better days, the endless job applications and just grabbed my digital camera and an old film SLR and just went outside looking at spring and started taking pictures.

I love these small opportunities to reconnect to something much more grand than myself and the photography that helps me communicate what I see.

Would love to view your images of spring.  Please share a link in the comment section.

Christine
xoxo

14.3.11

Expat life: Bobbi in France

Living abroad is one of those really strange experiences that you could call almost baptism by fire.  I've been here in London nearly 10 years this month and its been probably the most painful/joyous experiences of my life.

I've often wondered what life is like for other expats in different countries.  Although I think there's things that tie all expats together, I know its always a unique experience for each person.

So, I'd like to introduce you to Bobbi.   She's Canadian and packed up and sold everything (including her life as a practicing Psychiatrist) to move to Semur en Auxois....out in the middle of the French countryside.  Her blog 'Finding me in France' is a hilarious and often inspirational account of her time trying to find bliss in a foreign place. 

She's been very gracious to give little ole' me an interview (which I hope is the first in the series of many on here).  I know that you will enjoy her answers (and her blog) as much as I have:


1) So why did you decide to leave your job and move to France? 

Of course I get asked this a lot and I wish I had a profoundly clever answer. All I can say is that my stressful, high speed, all consuming job-focused, striving life simply didn’t fit me anymore. I knew it was a case of now or never. If I didn’t make a change I’d be stuck in the fast lane. I knew that all I needed to do to have a completely different life was to let go of my attachment to material things. I decided to quit while on vacation in France and when I returned I was determined to have a life in Europe no matter what. I don’t know why I did it really other than it just felt like the right thing to do.



2) How has living abroad changed you? 

I’m not sure yet. The big thing I notice so far is that I’m much slower. No rushing around like a maniac day in and day out. I actually have time to do things that I didn’t even know I wanted to do like writing. Sometimes I’m a bit too slow, full days of bedhead and sweatpants! I also think it’s helped me be more culturally aware and to be open to new experiences and life in general.



3) You used to be a practicing psychiatrist. Do you have any advice for those of us still searching for our bliss? 

I think bliss is everywhere. The trick is being able to find it wherever you look. I don’t think people have to turn their lives upside down like I have to find happiness. I would advise that people stop every now and then and actually look at their lives, reflect a little on whether they are really doing all they can to be happy and peaceful. I think, now more than ever, we get so caught up in things that don’t really matter which creates a lot of difficulty. For me it was a matter of recognizing that I was too busy to be present in my own life and that’s not a recipe for bliss.






4) You've written about the joys and challenges of learning a foreign language. Have you started having dreams in French? 

Mon Dieu, non!! I’m lucky to be able to ask where the toilet is let alone craft a full dream. It’s a daily battle I’m afraid!


5) What would you say to anyone looking to leave everything and move to a foreign country? 

Plan, plan and plan again!! I would say to be realistic about it. It’s an amazing thing to do but it is really challenging. Do your research beforehand. Know what will be required from an immigration perspective. Try your best to let go of any expectations that things will be done in a way that you are used to and, if possible, learn as much of the language as you can before arriving! It’s easy to romanticize such a transition and it requires a lot of patience. But it’s well worth it just to know that you were able to let go of everything for once, to have a true adventure. So far it’s been the experience of a lifetime for me.



6) Your blog is very well written and hilarious. Where did you learn how to write so well? Do you think you may write a book one day about your experiences? 

Why merci Madame!! I always say I’d only ever written prescriptions before the blog. What started as a way to keep a diary for myself of the Big French Adventure and to keep in touch with friends and family has turned into some sort of monster hobby. All I can say is that I sat at a computer one day and out it all came. Now it feels like I’ve been doing it all my life. Of course the humor is in my blood. Newfies are the funniest people on the planet. As for a book we’ll see but it’s definitely something I would love to do.







7) What's next for you? or are you happy just embracing the uncertainty of the moment? 

I couldn’t even guess what’s next. I know that I have a place to live until September, that there’s food in the fridge today and beyond that who knows? For now I’m just rolling with it, something new for me the compulsive planner. 


8) What's been the best thing about living in France? the hardest? 

There are so many great things about France but food and wine top the list as does the general pace of life. As for the hardest thing, definitely acquiring the language followed closely by banking! 










9) If heaven exists what would you like God to say to you when you reach the pearly gates?

“Bar’s open, what’ll you have?”



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ALL PICTURES are from Finding me in France and can be credited to Neil McCulloch, Bobbi's husband.

11.3.11

Friday Inspiration: Healing Thoughts






Thought I should devote this weeks inspiration post to Japan. May they all be in our prayers.

7.3.11

Tourist Weekend


1- Buckingham Palace gates, 2/3- Birds in St. James' Park, 4- Westminster Abbey, 5/6- Inside the House of Parliament, 
7-9- Greenwich


So this weekend, we spent playing tourists in town.  My cousin and his wife came to visit (sorry no pics of them) and as you can see we hit some of the main tourist spots like Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.  James gave them a tour of the Houses of Parliament.  I got some pictures this time of the areas where you could take photos.  We were lucky to get to see inside the House of Commons and the House of Lords.  The House of Commons looked exactly like it does on the 'tele', the House of Lords is gorgeous and very very posh.  Its where the queens seat is where she gives her opening of parliament speech.  It was an incredibly tiring day on Friday, but we ended it with a great Asian meal at Wagamama's which was a great end to the day.  On Saturday, we were very lazy most of the day and met up with my cousin later and showed them bits of Greenwich.  It was nice for them to see something outside of the city centre.  Life is very different outside central London in this country.

Sunday....James was ill so I went all by myself for the long run.  I ran for 5 hrs 20 and thought that that was about 20 miles....come to find out after we mapped it online...it was 20.7!  So I'm further along in my run than I thought.  Next week is our final long run, we are adding an extra mile and a half which means that we'll only have 4 or 5 miles of 'unknown' on the marathon.  We're where we should be for mileage although speed wise, I'm pretty slow.  I'm trying to focus on my accomplishment and not worry if I don't finish in an uber fast time.

So...now its your turn, tell me about your weekend!! 

4.3.11

Friday Inspiration + etc.



“And one by one the nights between our separated cities are joined to the night that unites us.”  
~Pablo Neruda






via inconnu 

Ida


Brian Ferry




I'm doing this post at like 2 a.m. as my stomach is playing hopscotch.  Its been an emotional week which kinda culminated in a 'angry' run last night where James and I ran as fast as we could both shouting out things we were currently pissed off about.  I'd highly recommend it as a great stress reliever and great training for running races.  We knocked off almost 5 minutes our usual time.

In other news....I'm meeting up with a cousin today and showing them round the city.  Hopefully will get some pictures for you.  Besides my 365 project (sorry I've been so bad sharing here....check my flickr in the sidebar).....I haven't really been inspired to take many pictures the last fortnight.

So....again I post inspiration from others which is what usually sustains me when my creativity dwindles.  The above posts are photos that have stuck out in my mind recently.

I've also got a few things for you.  In my side-bar....you'll notice a 'Free Download' section.  I've put a couple pictures that you can download and print for your personal use (no altering or commercial use pretty please).  I'll be adding to it when the mood takes me.  I'm working on a free PDF for this section too....my guide to London.  I can't tell you how many people want an insiders guide to visiting this city.  So watch that space for some goodness being sent your way.
Also, there's a link in the same section entitled 'Reader Blogroll'.  If you click on the page and add your blog via the ever famous 'Linky tools'.....I will keep the page up so others can find you too.  I shall often try to peruse your blogs on this page and if I find some pictures that inspire me..they may turn up in my weekly 'inspiration' posts (proper accreditation/links of course).

Finally.....I'm slowly working on trying to interview people who inspire me.  No ones answering my calls as of yet (except one)...but I'll work on it.

Here's to a fantastic weekend.

Christine
xoxoox