The Random Writings of Rachel: November 2014

Thanksgiving Abroad

Of all the distinctively American holidays, the one I deem most worthy of "bringing with me" when I leave the country is Thanksgiving. This year, we decided to invite 5 of our coworkers and their spouses and children (13 guests) over for a Thanksgiving meal on the Saturday before the holiday, since work this Thursday wouldn't give me the time I needed to cook.

This is what I consider the #1 rule of celebrating Thanksgiving abroad: Don't get your heart set on a turkey. In my experience, turkeys can be hard to find, extremely expensive, and, besides that, you may not have an oven. Don't stress. Thanksgiving doesn't require a turkey, it just requires food.

Also, do not be dismayed if you can't find Thankgiving-themed decorations or even craft stores to buy supplies for making your own decorations anywhere. Remember, the food is more important that decor, especially for this holiday. I did make an effort with what we had, I wrote "Happy Thanksgiving!" and "Lord, we thank you." on signs in Chinese and taped them to the wall. So, basically our house was less decorated than the average dorm room, but remember, I'm of the theory that the food is what matters.


Angel was in charge of cleaning and setting up the room and running (hey, literally running since we don't drive, get it?) to Walmart several times for last minute-ingredients. Side note: "Milk Beverage is not the same thing as 100% Milk. Milk Beverage tastes weirdly like very sweet kool-aid and I wouldn't recommend adding it to mashed potatoes.) I made the food and made little food labels for the dishes, too. I've always scorned fancy food labels, because, why do we need to be told that mashed potatoes are mashed potatoes? And I'm right--we, those who have grown up eating mashed potatoes our whole lives, don't need to be told that, but people eating mashed potatoes for the first time don't know what they're eating until they're told. Nearly everything we served was a completely new dish for our guests, so I made labels.



It's always fun to me to see how others respond to trying out some very typical American food for the first time ever. At this particular meal, the deviled eggs were universally disliked (except by Angel, who ate about 10 of them). The mashed potatoes and fruit salad and rolls were huge hits (the rolls were normal dinner rolls I bought from the Walmart bakery, but I think many of our guests hadn't had them before). One gentleman got himself a solid 3 servings of chili, which I consider a vote of approval. The baked beans were pretty well liked as well, they ate nearly all we had. Even if the cheesy buffalo chicken dip wasn't the favorite of our guests, it was a solid favorite with Angel and I, and was the one thing that there were no leftovers of by the end of the evening...because between the two of us, we finished every last amazing bite.




We loved hosting our first Thanksgiving here. I know it looks very small, but considering the fact that I'm working with a two-burner stove, no oven, and a mini-fridge, I think it was the perfect size. I'm so thankful that after less than 3 months of working at our school, we've already built friendships with these coworkers who have welcomed us into their world so heartily. Yesterday, conversations in this home were taking place in a heavy mix of Chinese and English. Several of our guests spoke no English at all--but we are so thankful that we are able to communicate with them to invite them over and hopefully make them feel welcomed and give them a taste of what American Thanksgiving is about--food, hospitality, and praising God for all things.

Also, you can't out-give our friends, so don't even try. You will lose any and all gift wars. Hostess gifts are taken very seriously in China, and every guest showed up bearing food for us at the dinner. We ended up with a total of: 20 lbs. of mandarin oranges, 3 dragonfruits, 9 apples, a huge bag of grapes, a bag of dates. a box of tea, 6 bottled drinks, and a bottle of wine. And we are only two people! I now feel the need to have a fruit party and invite people over to help me eat lots of fruit! Who's in?

Big News! Read All About It!

But before we get to the news, a quick story: Angel and I found out a couple days in advance that we had a surprise 3 days off of work from Wednesday-Friday. That was, of course, good news (as much as we love our jobs!) and we decided to quickly plan a mini-vacation somewhere. We ended up choosing the easiest somewhere available to us, and headed over to Hong Kong! The trip involved a really sketchy hostel, me bragging to Angel that I knew who Chow Yun Fat was, and a selfie with a giant panda.

 Angel said "Close your eyes!" right before snapping the photo. Apparently, I listened.

 I impressed Angel by telling him that Chow Yun Fat was in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. What I didn't tell him was that the name was most familiar to me due to my long standing history as a fan of Pirates of the Caribbean because that doesn't seem to sound as cool.

 Angel is very law-abiding.

 A real panda!

Now, I promise that this story has something to do with my announcement, and that's because, if you want to hear all the details (the tragedies! The triumphs!) of our spontaneous trip to Hong Kong, you're going to have to head over to my brand-new blog:


It's in soft-launch stage right now as I work on pulling things together and lining up content, but I've really never been the type to keep a secret and say, "I have such exciting news that I can't tell you yet!!!" so I decided to just tell all of you now.

Here's what you really need to know:

1. The Random Writings isn't going anywhere. I've been wanting to branch into writing articles that include actual useful information instead of the humorous vignettes and random topics that this blog is well-known and loved for, and I decided it would be a better idea to focus my actual information posts into an appropriate niche blog and keep The Random Writings random.

2. I came up with the idea of The Vacation Plan as a site where useful travel information meets adventure meets humor meets real life. My goal is to create a catalog of the tales of real vacations--to satisfy our human curiosity about the lives of others, but to include links, directions, and all sorts of information to help others planning trips to the same location.

3. I need guest posts!!! Obviously, I do not travel all over the world, and I have no desire to. However, I do want The Vacation Plan to be filled up with information on destinations everywhere from Bali to Berlin to small towns in Oklahoma (sorry, Oklahoma, names of any of your small towns are escaping me). Vacations need not be long, expensive, or elaborate to apply. I'm just as interested in the tales of weekend trips to the next town over as I am in elaborate multi-country itineraries. Email me or mention in the comments that you're interested in contributing a guest post and I'll send you the details!

I'm shooting for a full launch of the site at the beginning of the new year (because is there really any better time?). In the meantime...you may not have noticed, but I haven't actually started a blog in a really long time. I don't exactly remember all that goes into it, and I feel like technology and expectations have changed a lot in the last three years! I welcome any and all help, advice, critiques, and especially guest posts as I get this new blog off the ground. If you're interested in getting involved in this project, any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you all so much, I'm excited about my new venture into a different sort of blogging.

If you want to come along for the ride, and read about our travels in detail (including next week's trip to Hong Kong Disneyland!) be sure to follow on Bloglovin'.

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?

Wardrobe Favorites





I haven't done a good old-fashioned outfit post in a long time, so we snapped these while waiting on the sidewalk for our bus to work the other day. My hair looks a little different because I straightened it, but I was in a hurry, so it didn't end up completely straight.

This outfit is basically a collection of some of the favorite pieces of my wardrobe:

Dress - I am not an online shopper, but this is the first dress that convinced me to step out of my comfort zone and take the risk of buying something online without being able to try it on. Somehow, even before I started blogging, I stumbled across the Shabby Apple brand and fell in love with this dress. I haven't often taken photos of it, but it's been a go-to dress when I want to feel very fabulous on many occasions since.

Shoes - My Christmas present from last year. They were love at first sight in a mall in Texas--if I hadn't bought them, I know they'd still haunt my dreams to this day. Funny, I'm asking for shoes again this Christmas...

Hair flower - You may have noticed that I'm fond of sticking flowers and bows in my hair. This be-feathered clip has been my favorite since I spied it at craft show on the day after Thanksgiving in 2012. The jewel tones are just my style!

Watch - My Dad bought me this watch as a "Congratulations, all your tests are done!" when I finished the ACT and SAT tests in winter 2007. It's the only watch I've had since then (I wore it in my high school senior pictures). In recent years I hadn't worn it much, but since starting my job as a teacher, I wear it every day. I need to keep good track of time to know where we're at in the lesson and when I need to start wrapping up, in order to not be interrupted mid-sentence by the school bell!

Fairy Lake Botanical Garden

What I've found most difficult about our move is that it's a little challenging to figure out how to get to new places in our city. In the USA, Angel and I navigated by GPS. I'd look up an address online, plug it in when we left the house, and we'd go forth with confidence, even in states we'd never been to previously. Here, we don't have a GPS (my research indicates that it's illegal for foreigners to have a GPS in China and I like to be legal). I can still look up addresses online, but they aren't always that helpful in figuring out which buses and subways to take where and what stops to get off at.

All that to say...I'm really glad that I'm decently good at Mandarin because I don't know how else I'd have the confidence to travel around the city. (Can you tell I've never really traveled in countries where none of the language I speak are used?

Last week, we took a subway and a bus to Fairy Lake Botanical Garden in the LuoHu District of ShenZhen.

It's gigantic. And beautiful. We didn't really know what to expect, or how to find out way around once we got inside the gardens, but we alternated between "following the crowd" (Angel's preferred navigation strategy) and "reading the map" (mine, but it requires looking up the meanings of characters).

This Botanical Gardens has a 20 RMB entry fee ($3.30), and inside are quite a variety of attractions, including temples and hiking trails, but most interesting to us was the lake and the variety of themed gardens. The garden I really wanted to see was the "Petrified Forest", made up of pieces of petrified tree trunks that were dug up in archeological digs, mostly in northwest China, and brought to this garden to be displayed.

Petrified Forest, Fairy Lake Botanical Garden, ShenZhen
Fairy Lake Botanical Garden, ShenZhen, China

Petrified Forest, Fairy Lake Botanical Garden, ShenZhen

Part of the petrified forest. It was the area we had the highest expectations for in visiting the garden, and we enjoyed it the most! The petrified tree trunks looked pretty surreal. There was a Paleontological Museum next door, but it was closed, otherwise I would have liked to see what they had.

Fairy Lake Botanical Garden, ShenZhen

You can see the lake behind me. Air quality (due to pollution) wasn't too great the day we went, which is why the background looks a bit hazy.

Fairy Lake Botanical Garden, ShenZhen

Angel's best discovery: A bubblegum-flavored popsicle.



 I've long been a fan of the look of road signs bearing languages other than English.

Fairy Lake Botanical Garden, ShenZhen

One themed garden was full of statues of all the animals from the China calendar. Angel decided the rooster was his favorite.

Fairy Lake Botanical Garden, ShenZhen

Another themed garden had busts of famous Chinese botanists and scientists who had played a big role in discovering and naming plant species in this country. I was very intrigued by this garden, it was educational!

Do you have any good strategies for finding your way around a new city when you don't have a GPS?

What is Fun?

In a moment of airport-inspired boredom I splurged and bought the book that seemingly everyone had already read: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. One question the author asked herself in the book intrigued me so much that I've since gone around asking it to all sorts of people. The question is this:

To you--what is fun? What do you like to do for the sheer pleasure of it? What would you choose to do in your spare time if there were no such thing as practical matters or other people's desires to take into consideration?

My family added one more consideration: Are there things you like to do for fun with people, and different things you like to do for fun when you're alone?

 Exploring Oahu--for me, this was bliss since I had a partner-in-crime to accompany me, but it isn't the sort of thing I'd do on my own for the fun of it.

My answer came pretty quickly--what I do by myself for the pure fun of it is write. (I'm being Captain Obvious here) I can stay home all day and write whatever comes to mind and consider it a highly amusing day, even if no one else ever sees or appreciates whatever it is that I happened to write.

When I am with other people, however, what I find most fun is to go out to new places, to explore and go on adventures. I don't actually like exploring all that much when I'm alone--I can go to new places alone, but when I'm by myself I'm too focused on trying to memorize what my surroundings look like so that I don't get lost and figuring out where to go next to truly have fun. When I'm with others, though, I don't feel like I have to be responsible for every decision that has to be made so I can relax and enjoy the adventure.

Asking my family this question was quite interesting, as the most social among them declared, "Basically nothing that I do on my own is actually fun", while the homebodies said, "Pretty much nothing that forces me to be around other people is fun." I guess I'm somewhere in the middle between those two extremes, as I have fun both with people and without, just in different ways.

Some who I've asked have mentioned really specific activities in which they love to do, purely for the fun of it: making jigsaw puzzles or boogie boarding. Others had more of general categories: exploring nature or going to the beach. And some couldn't think of any answer to the question at all!

What about you? What do you do for the fun of it? And is there a difference between what is fun to do on your own, and what is most fun to do with other people?

LongCheng Square, ShenZhen

Angel and I are slightly mystified about the purpose behind this gigantic public square, complete with dragon statue, amphitheater, fountains, and gardens. We imagine it was built for some sort of specific use, but no one has been able to tell us. A neighbor told us that it was the biggest public square in South China. Even google searches have only led me to information about the nearby metro stop, not the square itself, but it's an awesome place to hang out in its own, mysterious way, so I thought it deserved a blog post.

LongCheng Square, ShenZhen, China

LongCheng Square, ShenZhen, China

LongCheng Square, ShenZhen, China

LongCheng, the sub-district of ShenZhen where this square is located, means Dragon City, and aptly, LongCheng Square boasts an impressive quantity of dragons.

On weekends and evenings, this square is a happening place. People fly kites, salesmen with racks of clothing try very very hard to convince you to pay to dress up in a costume and have your picture taken, martial arts are practiced and performed, street food is sold....one time we saw a man with a bunch of aquariums full of goldfish on the back of his motorcycle.

It was decorated beautifully for October 1st, National Day, with lanterns and red and yellow flowers to reflect the flag, so I took some photos of the square all prettified for the holiday:

LongCheng Square, ShenZhen, China

LongCheng Square, ShenZhen, China

LongCheng Square, ShenZhen, China

LongCheng Square, ShenZhen, China

 The flowers are just for the holiday, they are not normally so numerous.

Also, I don't know what this feature of the square is supposed to be but I needed to take this picture with it:

LongCheng Square, ShenZhen, China

We're enjoying the little features of our new neighborhood, including the gigantic public squares. Because we're brand new here, Angel and I regularly decide to just start walking down a road we've never been down before, just to find out what's around every corner. If we never explored, then we'd never know, and how sad would that be?

{For Bloggers} Have You Heard of Tsu?

I'm no expert on social media strategy--if I were, I would have been more successful at growing a blog audience, right? Yet social media is a part of all of our lives, especially so if we are bloggers.

Just since mid-October, I've been hearing more and more about a relatively recent start-up in the world of social media, and this is one site that I actually think has the potential to be pretty cool.

Tsu: Profitable Social Media for Bloggers

Tsu.

The premise behind this site seems similar in many ways to the ubiquitous Facebook. You create a profile, and can post status update, photos, and share links. However, there's a major difference--on Tsu, you do not "sign away" the rights to any of the content that you create on the site. You remain the owner of your own content. In addition, their profit model means that individual profiles receive a share of the profits that their content brings in.

You know how most websites show ads alongside content? Tsu does this, too, only they've developed a model where each user earns a portion of the ad profits that their content brings to the site. Like Adsense, which I know many in the blogging world are familiar with, you have to reach $100 before payout, but if your content is attracting interactions from your friends and followers, the cents will continue to add up.

I thought that this site seems tailor-made for bloggers, who, on the whole, really like the idea of getting paid for the awesome content we create on a regular basis.

I don't think the site has really taken off yet, as there still seem to be relatively few people using it, but I think the idea has a lot of potential, and there's great benefit to signing up early for Tsu: they have designed the site so that you can only sign up through another person's profile, and the person who they signed up through will earn a percentage of what those who sign up through them will earn.

I hope I explained that as clearly as possible. Money matters are not my area of expertise, but I think the gist of it is, if you think this site sounds interesting, you should sign up through my profile and start getting all social and making the both of us some money!

What do you think about the role social media plays in the lives of bloggers?
On the other hand, what's your opinion of blogging/social media-ing for profit?