Air Pollution

Fashion Rule: Always match your mask to your shirt. Or was it your belt to your shoes? I can't seem to remember at the moment.

ShenZhen isn't one of the worst cities in China for air pollution, but we've certainly experienced elevated pollution levels since moving here. We check this map and this site regularly for daily reports of pollution levels where we live. Red is bad, purple and brown are even worse. If you're curious at all about the situation of air pollution in China and around the world, I encourage you to check out those sites and explore to look at the parts of China that have a much bigger problem with pollution than ShenZhen.

We check pollution levels in order to determine our plans for the day. Angel avoids going out for a run when we're in the "red." As we understand it, on days when the pollution is especially bad, it's a good idea to stay indoors and not participate in outdoor aerobic activities that cause you to breathe at a higher rate.

When we have to go outside on days with comparatively high levels of pollution, we wear masks. Before we moved to China, I researched and decided that Vogmasks would be best for what we were wanting to get out of a mask, so we purchased those. We have the microfiber version, not the organic cotton version, because microfiber is best for filtering out the industrial pollutants that concern us the most.

When we first arrived in ShenZhen, the rainy season was in full swing, and pollution levels were comparatively low. Now, it no longer rains constantly, and pollution levels have been consistently high. We've been here such a short time, and have not experienced any negative health effects, but pollution of this sort means long-term exposure to citizens. I will say that living in a city of 10 million has caused me to become much more proactive about reducing my own personal contribution to consumption and waste than I ever was before.

Have you ever had to deal with elevated pollution levels? What are your strategies?

Never Before Seen Photos of a Bear!

Bear at the Playground

Bear At the Playground

Bear Riding a Bike

I really love photo series. Maybe they're considered overdone or overpopular these days, but to me, they're just plain fun. Maybe my love for them explains why, in my day, I've started two different series: One a series of photos featuring a bear costume, and the other an annual tradition of dressing up in our wedding clothes for a snapshot!

For those who haven't been around that long, The Bear and photos of him started up when Angel bought a bear costume on eBay without telling me. He loved wearing it and it seemed to make sense to get the most use out of it that we could. The sad ending to this story is that his head was too big so we had to leave him behind in America. We did hear, however, that Angel's little brother wore the costume for a youth group Halloween party, so we're glad to know it's still getting used!

The anniversary tradition began when I convinced Angel to dress up with me in our wedding clothes on our 1st anniversary and go out to Logan's for dinner and pretend we just got married. We balanced the camera on the bookshelf in our dining room for a quick shot before we left for the restaurant, and each year since we've gotten dressed up again. The 2nd anniversary, my brother took a picture of us in our backyard, the 3rd year, my sister did, and this year, we were back to balancing the camera and utilizing the self-timer feature again (Look for the latest photo in the series, and the first one in China, in about two weeks!). This tradition has worked well for us so far--I love dressing up again, my wedding dress is very simple and portable, and Angel needs to keep his suit in case of rare fancy occasions, anyways!

Do you have any photo traditions that you've started in your family? What's the coolest photo series you've ever come across online? I'd love your suggestions for new ones to enjoy!

My Christmas Wish List


If I were in America right now, I'd be planning on some Black Friday Christmas shopping (yes, I'm one of the people who loves it) and I'd also be making a couple guiding suggestions for Angel's shopping--which would not take place on Black Friday, because he does not feel similarly to me on this subject. Here is what would be on my list of gentle suggestions:

Disney's Frozen nail polish. Actually, I have no idea if this even exists--I haven't even seen Frozen but I've seen enough pictures to make me think that the sparkly blueish color associated with the movie would make an awesome nail polish. It exists in my mind, but I've yet to see the exact color I see in my mind inside a bottle.

White Ballet Flats. Miles upon miles of walking down Chinese sidewalks are apparently all it took to cause these $10 wedding shoes which I bought in Malaysia and have worn regularly since before we got married to begin a quick descent into decay. They have the best ballet flats ever, and never gave me blisters or rubbed my skin raw. I'm not sure if I'll ever find a perfect replacement, but I'd like to.

A Chocolate Orange and A Big Box of Red, Green, and White Nerds and Chewy Sweet Tarts. Christmas candy traditions that might not exist here but I can still dream about their goodness.

A Dress. No good reason. Dresses are just awesome. I don't have anything particular in mind.

We won't be buying any "big stuff" this year, because of the need to be able to live out of a suitcase, so that's a first for me (If my white flats do fall apart any further, though, I will have to take corrective action). I enjoy presents, and I especially enjoy clothes and shopping, but ever since our move I feel no motivation to buy stuff that we'll only get to have for a short time since we don't know if we'll be living in this apartment next year. I never thought I'd be the kind of gal to say, ahh, I don't need anything, I'll shop again sometime next year...but weirdly, that's pretty much how I feel these days. Since our move, Angel has bought one pair of dress pants for work and I've bought one pair of shorts and one pair of leggings (since he is naturally over-prepared on casual, comfy clothes and I am naturally over-prepared on fancy, non-sports-appropriate clothing, we were both filling holes in our closet!).

How do you do Christmas when it doesn't make sense to buy more stuff? We're considering going out to watch The Hobbit as our gift to each other! I can also guarantee we'll be buying some snacks (like cashews for him and dark chocolate for me) that are a little outside of the everyday budget!

5 Things I Miss (And 5 I Don't)

 {Welcome to #ChinaLife with me and The Rachel Way}

5 Things I Miss About my Life in America:

1. Riding my bike down endless deserted country roads when the sun was shining in the spring and summer

2. Nachos al Carbon at the restaurant El Arriero in Grand Rapids

3. My sewing machine and other appliances--like my oven and blender and air popper

4. Tuesday night dates--going swing-dancing downtown with my cousins and sisters.

5. Having a big enough space of my own that I could invite as many guests to stay as my little heart desired.

5 Things I Don't Miss About my Life in America:

1. Winter and Fall - say what you like about Fall, but it's already snowing in Michigan, and there's more than a month left of Fall. I rest my case.

2.  Doing the housework and yardwork that an 1800 sq. foot house on several acres requires.

3. Driving.

4.  Angel's work schedule--leaving at 6 a.m. and not getting home till after 8 p.m., rarely spending weekends or actual holidays together.

5. People who said "Oh, you speak Chinese? Ching chong. What did I say?" No one ever says that to me here, although they test my knowledge constantly, in much more realistic ways.


Missing my family causes real heartache, but I don't really associate missing family with our move a few months ago. I feel more like I've been missing family members my entire life. For me, missing family funerals and weddings and births and birthdays is more normal than actually attending them, and I happen to know I'll be missing them for the rest of my life, no matter where I live. It's the nature of my far-flung family. Angel must have known what he was getting himself into when my parents and siblings only showed up at our wedding in the form of a PowerPoint slideshow.

How do you be a "good" daughter/in-law/niece/cousin/granddaughter/great-granddaughter when you can't do any of the stuff normal people do? I can't host the family Thanksgiving dinner. I can't call my sister at will just to chat and see how she's doing, I have to wait till we're both signed in on Skype at the same time, and then I'm at the mercy of the internet connection. I can't go to my nephew's first birthday party. I can't bring a meal over when new babies are born. I can't go on the family vacation to a cabin up North and show up in the group photos. I can't even send gifts for every possible occasion unless I intend to spend a lot more on international shipping fees than on actual gifts. I can't stop by with flowers for my grandma on Mother's Day.

I love the life I have. I love it. With everything that's in me I know that this is a worthwhile way to live. I've been doing the missing-my-family thing forever and I'll keep doing it. Maintaining those relationships from so far away isn't easy, and I'm not even sure I know the best way to do it. All I've got for now is writing this blog, posting photos on Facebook, and sending out periodic newsletters to make sure even the least internet-savvy know what we're up to, hoping that others also put in the effort to update us on their lives, but being content if they don't, knowing that not everyone is into pictures and words the way we are. We simply trust that everyone's going to keep on loving us as they always have, even though we  were the ones who committed the ultimate betrayal and left. Maybe that's why I've always thought Mark 10:29-30 ranks way up there as one of the most comforting verses of all time. I'm glad I look forward to a day when there won't be any of these tears, ever, ever again.

To end on a more flippant note, I also miss being able to afford to buy cheddar cheese. On the bright side, cheese isn't really all that healthy anyways, so it's not too much of a loss, right?

A Serious Discussion of the Awesomeness of Theme Parks

I've recently come to the conclusion that I am a theme park fan. I know theme parks are a bit of a controversial topic. Many think that the money spent on visiting theme parks would be much better spent visiting sites of historical significance instead.

I understand this logic, I do. I do know that theme parks are completely fake, composed of ridiculous rides and the types of shows that would probably make those knowledgeable about the art of the theater cringe...but still, I really do enjoy them. I think this might be influenced by the fact that 1) I'm not a germaphobe. 2) Crowds of people don't scare me. 3) I've never gotten motion sickness. 4) My husband's excessive love for gaudy flashing lights has rubbed off on me.

I would say my amusement park style could be described as the open-the-park/close-the-park, go on off-off-days so that lines are very short, spend as little money and time on food/eating as possible, run from one ride to the next, see all the shows, try to "do" the entire park as efficiently as possible, and fall into bed happy and sore at the end of one long, long day.

I'm not into souvenirs or any of the paid extras like caricatures at parks. To me, wasting time and money shopping or eating or sitting to have a picture drawn is just silly when you could be riding another ride!

My favorite types of rides are generally, any type of ride that involves water (log rides, water slides, riverboat rides, paddleboats, Pirates of the Caribbean). The rides I refuse to go on are the rides that go straight up and down or roller coasters that are excessively rough. Coincidentally, those are all Angel's favorite rides. I used to be a roller coaster fanatic, but these days, the Disney coasters are more my style than the Millenium Force, which I rode when it first opened and was the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world at the time.

This is possibly a complete list of amusement parks I've been to in a lifetime:

Six Flags Great America (1994?)
Busch Gardens, FL (1998)
Silver Dollar City (1999)
SeaWorld Ohio (2000) Closed.
Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom (2001) 
Cosmo's World Theme Park, KL, Malaysia (2006, 2007)
A Water/Theme Park in Malaysia, the name of which now escapes me. Family, help! (2007)
Beech Bend Park, Bowling Green, KY (2011)
Cedar Point, Ohio (2000, 2011)
Nickelodeon Universe, Mall of America (2012)
Lost World of Tambun, Ipoh, Malaysia (2013)
DisneyWorld (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios) (2014)
Michigan's Adventure, MI (1999, 2012, 2013, 2014)
Window of the World, ShenZhen, China (2014)

Best park in Angel's opinion: Beech Bend. He was extremely impressed with the perks and the offerings considering how inexpensive this park was (free parking, free sunscreen, and free soda were what impressed him the most). He thought the rides were better at Cedar Point, but at Cedar Point, everything is expensive. It should be noted that Angel, being a California kid, has also been to Disneyland in California and Knott's Berry Farm, two parks I haven't been to.

Best park in my opinion: DisneyWorld. Predictable, I know, but the whole entire thing is pure awesomeness for someone like me.

Planned Park Trip:

Hong Kong Disneyland, for our upcoming anniversary in December.

Any Disney fans interested in the tale of the trip? I have a feeling it will be pretty great.

Parks I'd like to visit someday:

This list is largely influenced by the proximity of these parks to where we are or will be at different points in our lives. I don't tend to look too much at parks in parts of the world that I'm not likely to ever be in.

Chimelong Paradise, GuangZhou
ShangHai Disneyland
Tokyo DisneySea
Six Flags over Texas
Legoland Malaysia

What about you? Are you on the side of loving theme parks, or detesting them with ever fiber of your being? (I've known both types!)
When you're in the parks, what's your style?
What parks of the ones I've been to have you been to? Which ones are on your list for someday? What is the best amusement park that you've ever been to?