Our China adventure published. A dream realized.

Cross that off the bucket list-publish book.  When we moved to Shanghai in 2013, I started a blog to stay in touch with family and record our adventures.  It grew into a daily rhythm to capture the craziness that was our daily life in China.  Soon, people from around the world started reaching out to me for advice:  Where can I get dog food?  Should I bring my own mattress or buy one there? Where should I live if I have kids?  Is the pollution really bad?  Why yes, it is.  Now you know.  The lungs don’t lie.  Buy a mask and wear it.

When my transfer details were finally worked out and I accepted the offer, I immediately went online and looked for blogs or books to get a feel for what our new normal would feel like.  I would be a female executive navigating through the Chinese business world while Thom adjusted to being a trailing spouse.  I was disappointed to only find guide books primarily aimed at tourists.  I was going to become a local expat and needed a source of truth to turn to that would help guide me through all the unexpected challenges from walking down the street without getting run over (truly a challenge daily!) to opening a bank account and being surprised they still used an abacus to conduct transactions.  WTF.

We relied on our Chinese tutor, Fiona, to guide us through many obstacles and just explored through fearless curiosity daily in our quest to not live in the typical expat bubble and instead venture out into the real China.  Daily we learned and as our confidence grew, Thom took off on a bike to explore and take beautiful photos and I jumped on the bullet train to commute to Beijing and Nanjing for work on a regular basis.

As a result, our blog posts and photos chronicled a journey that few folks get to take.  Those that are lucky enough to live in China can use our lessons learned to adjust quickly and with less pain than we went through at times.  Not that we didn’t love living there because we did.  We would walk down the Bund, climb the Great Wall (4x) and pinch ourselves.  “We live in China!”  It never got old and we miss our life and the people there.  The pollution, not so much.

Pulling these stories all together after we returned home to Seattle was Thom’s year-long journey.  Who knew it was so hard to edit a book?  I swear every time we thought we had all the spacing, spelling and template formatting just the way we wanted it, we found more opportunities to improve and had to change it.  FINALLY, we hit the button and made my frustrated inner writer very, very happy when Seattle to Shanghai and Back Again:  Our Year as Expats in China became a reality.

Will anyone read it?  Maybe.  My mom will.  The aunt of a guy I met at a friend’s party who just moved to Shanghai to work for Intel will.  Who knows, maybe other people?  Making money and world publishing dominance was never the impetus for writing this book.  Sharing our adventures, recounting our tales so our granddaughter, Mia, will know that her GiGi and NaiNai were crazy world travelers while she was just being born as well as helping other expats adjust to life in China were the main objectives so we are happy.  Back in Seattle, we are always looking for the next adventure.  A vacation to Ireland is coming up soon and then possible work travel to India and Europe.  Would we move abroad again?  You never know.  Life is short.

 

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Our Ayi, Pink, and our Chinese tutor, Fiona

 

Excercise in the Park-2
My new friend and I exercising in the park.
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Sweet Potato Lady

Seattle to Shanghai and Back Again: Our Year as Expats in China”  is available here-looks best in color versions vs. Kindle b/w due to photos:

Softcover book: http://www.blurb.com/b/7250489-seattle-to-shanghai-and-back-again

eBook: http://www.blurb.com/ebooks/588686

Amazon Kindle: Seattle to Shanghai and Back Again: Our Year as Expats in China

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC46Dht4h7e7Tebgx6Ri9tMA

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/seattletoshanghai/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/seattletoshanghaiandbackagain/

Other blogs on WordPress: https://alleyesonshanghai.com/2016/03/24/seattle-to-shanghai-and-back-again/

 

Oh the places we’ll go….

Yesterday, an awesome person I hired four years ago sent me a picture of herself in that happy moment along with some kind words-she has gone on to quite a career since that time.  It made my day.  That got me all nostalgic and reminiscing about everything Thom and I have experienced since then and how it has shaped who I have become.  Fearless I am after all that we have faced from Seattle to Shanghai and back again!

Patti & I hanging on for dear life in the boat in Beijing
Patti & I hanging on for dear life in the boat in Beijing

After living apart for a year so I could join a great company when the opportunity presented itself,  the family finally joined me here with James going off to Seattle U. and us selling the house we designed in Coeur d’Alene where the kids spent the majority of their childhood years.  I still miss that hot tub with a view of the mountains and fireplace in the master–we built a great house. Damn!

Great sadness came when my Dad passed over Labor Day and I still miss him so much.  I’m happy that Mom is doing so well living in South Bend and still looking good and playing bridge at 90.  They live long in my family! Grandma Hannah made it all the way to 99 still living by herself.

Four generations of Hoyt women
Four generations of Hoyt women

Soon after, I had the great privilege of opening my store and introducing the Black Keys and One Republic at my store concerts-what fun that was to dance backstage.  Since then, I’ve seen One Republic play in Shanghai and Orlando and they still rock it.  Big perk of my job is seeing great talent over the years at many concerts–Lady Gaga, John Legend, Bon Jovi, Maroon 5, Katy Perry, Allen Stone and the list goes on…and on…such talent to enjoy!  I have no musical gifts so I appreciate those who are able to entertain us all.

Allen Stone and I hanging out at his private concert for my company.  Cool dude!
Allen Stone and I hanging out at his private concert for my company. Cool dude!

 

 

While we enjoyed Seattle, we embraced our NYC adventure with great enthusiasm.  Oh what fun we had while there for the brief six month assignment!  Times Square every day for work and LOTS of Broadway plays with weekly trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Christmas in the city took my breath away and the kids came to share it all.  I still get to go back occasionally for business and always fill up on the carbs I love so much-$1 bagels and $1 pizza are my guilty pleasures.   We still visit the Madison Square Park dog park every time we go to NYC-Izaak spent many happy hours there playing with the other urban pooches.  I hope some day to live there again-you never know.

Izaak's favorite place in NYC-Madison Square Dog Park
Izaak’s favorite place in NYC-Madison Square Dog Park

Then, of course, China was the best experience ever.  I still stay in touch with my China team and wish I could be there to support them.  At times, it seems like a dream that we lived there but I remember the little details so well–our smiling doorman, the fruit lady on the corner, the dancing groups on every corner every evening, our dvd store with the best looking dog in Shanghai hanging out front always.  Our jaunts to Vietnam and Hong Kong were so fun and always filled with quirky wonderful moments.  My best friend, Patti and her husband got to visit as well as James spending his holidays there.  Thom is working on our book that will combine our blog posts and his amazing pictures.  Goal is to have ready by end of the year and I encourage (nag!) him daily to finish so we can share with family & friends.  We’ll publish on Amazon to help other expats going to China.

Golden retriever that was the house dog at our DVD store in Shanghai
Golden retriever that was the house dog at our DVD store in Shanghai

Now, we are back to Seattle as we are meant to be, supporting James while he goes to law school and being in Boise often to see Hannah and Mike and watch our granddaughter, Mia, grow up.  As I gaze upon Elliott Bay from our lower Queen Anne home, I am realistic that this is just a temporary stop in our worldwide adventure and that’s okay.  I am appreciative and loving it for now.   In a few weeks, we will take off to explore Amsterdam.  FUN!  Our dream one day is to live in 12 different countries in 12 months…don’t know when that will happen but as I look back on the incredible journey the last four years, I know anything is possible if you allow yourself to take risks and I’m all over that!  Here’s to the next four years (raising my glass of vino)–may they be filled with great appreciation for all that life can offer.  Carpe Diem all!

My Love Affair with Lower Queen Anne

Today Thom and I walked the pups, Thor and Izaak, under the Space Needle and past the Seattle Center Fountain, then I went on a quick grocery run, ambled over to Palm Sunday services at First Methodist and that was all before noon and all in Lower Queen Anne, the wonderful place I call home now.  Yep, I’m definitely in love.

Thor loves walking around Seattle Center every day
Thor loves walking around Seattle Center every day

When we moved back to Seattle from Shanghai, we considered living closer to my work across the Great Divide-Lake Washington-so that I could reduce my one hour (at least) commute in clusterf*#k Seattle traffic. Giving up the rental car after our 30 days upon repatriating was an easy decision after the infamous $410 traffic ticket I got after accidentally crossing a solid white line while merging into lanes. I vowed then to stop the commuting madness and either live closer to work or take the Connector work bus and leave the liability to someone else. Even thinking about NOT living in an urban environment was crazy. What was I thinking??? Thank God we realized we are city people now and forever and chose to live in our old neighborhood, Lower Queen Anne, hereafter referred to as LQA to lessen my word count.

Even better than our last spot, the condo we were lucky enough to get is right in the heart of the LQA action and Seattle Center is truly our backyard, being only one block away. The dogs are so happy going on their multiple walks around Key Arena with Izaak able to stalk squirrels aplenty. Fascinating study in animal memory behavior because, while Izaak always remembers exactly where he has seen squirrels on past walks, he seemingly can’t recall the millions of “NO’s” we yell at him when he eats the trash in the bathroom. This bad behavior has caused us to now keep the trash can in the shower when not in use to keep it safe, which didn’t work well when I forgot it was there, turned it on and ended up with a very watery trashy mess. IZAAK!!! NO!!!!

But back to LQA, as I sit on my red Ikea loveseat hauled all the way back from Shanghai, instead of gazing upon the Huangpu River which I do miss greatly, I gaze down the Avenue at the busy Starbucks, which opens at the ungodly hour of 5:30 a.m. and the Mediterranean Inn above it. A few weeks ago we had company over and while Skyping with baby Mia, I glanced over at the Inn and saw a pole extend slowly out of one of the hotel windows, at least 16 feet or so long with duct tape holding several pieces together and a small bale of hay hooked on the end. WTF????  Where do you even buy straw in LQA?   The pole dangled over to the rooftop adjacent to the Inn and shook, dropping the load into the alleyway and missing the rooftop. WHY???

Two more times it came poking out, both times dropping it’s straw load but these times, dropping it’s load onto the roof. Curious, we ran across the street to examine the alleyway only to see straw bundled with cord and nothing more. We’ll never know who, what, when or why this mysterious prank happened but it was fun to watch it unfold. Think you could see something like this in suburbia? I don’t think so and so, for us, the adventure continues in urban Seattle after our wonderful journey in Shanghai, China.

Walking by the water and seeing the sea lions play is so fun!
Walking by the water and seeing the sea lions play is so fun!

So, with five months into my new job and settling down a little, I’ll start writing again, we’ll enjoy going to the Uptown Cinema and seeing cool, happening documentaries and shop for vinyl records at Pike Place Market, a long walk but close enough. I’ll cherish the charming used book store, clothing boutique, nail parlors galore and Mud Bay Pet Shop, where Izaak can get free treats from the doting team members–all within blocks of our hip, urban nest that I hope to get to enjoy for a long, long time.  LQA, I’m loving you.

But where are the dancing ladies?

Walking with my Thor enjoying the mild weather
Walking with my Thor enjoying the mild weather

Where are the dancing ladies/couples and the families with their tents camping out for a day in the park???  Seattleites, take a cue from the Chinese who know how to have fun in their parks and get to socializing.  Wake up and smell the coffee (preferably Stumptown) and realize that life is short so stop and enjoy this fine, fine weather, aka Global Warming.  Whatever, it’s warm and sunny in February in Seattle.

Enjoying El Nino to the max, Thom and I spent the weekend wandering about and walking around town, usually with the puppies.  Yet, I couldn’t help but compare the park culture here and Shanghai as we traversed downtown Seattle.  In February in Shanghai, if the sun came out with temps way above average, every park would be filled with families socializing, flying kites, dancing, drawing calligraphy on the sidewalks, and celebrating the good fortune of being able to be outside during the winter instead of being shut inside their typically small homes with no heat.  Here, while you do see folks out and about, it’s definitely more of a “get to where I’m going” vibe as people move through the parks  with purpose on their way to something vs. just being in the park with friends & family to enjoy being together.  While we have the dogs as the main reason to walk around, we are also guilty of moving with purpose as well.  On a typical weekend in Shanghai, we would go to Fuxing or Century Park just to soak up the culture, always seeing interesting people enjoying the outdoors.  I miss it.  Lots.   Don’t miss the foul pollution though.   Wearing masks are no fun and neither is chronic bronchitis.

So, we enjoyed the sermon today from Rev. Moe-so relevant with social media references to “liking” comments on Facebook and tying in the scripture with a movie quote from one of my fav movies, You’ve Got Mail–encouraging parishioners to ” Go to the mattress” from The Godfather to parallel Jesus telling the disciples not to give up in their religious journey.  Funny.  After meeting Cowboy, the dog who enjoys church services with his owner, we ran home to get the pups and take them to the dog park near our home.  Izaak used to go there all the time but Thor is new to the dog park culture and doesn’t quite get it, though he made a friend and started to learn to chase the tennis ball he couldn’t quite fit in his mouth.

Puppy cuddles during nap time
Puppy cuddles during nap time

After all that fresh air and sunshine (sorry friends in the Midwest/Northwest enduring snowpocalypse), it was nap time.  Izaak threw his long arm over tiny Thor and they spooned together like the Brothers from a Different Mother that they are.  Cuteness x2..seriously.  It’s just like having kids–you take them to the park and run them ragged to wear them out so they will give you some rest when you get home.  Only difference–you can throw them some bones to chew on to get added peace and quiet.  Dog park fun:

At the end of the day, Lord I pray for more wonderful weekends like this to enjoy life as good as it gets.  Thank you, God!

Gorgeous weekend capped off by a spectacular sunset
Gorgeous weekend capped off by a spectacular sunset

Day Nine-Finally Friday!

Cheers to Friday!  Unlike most others at the office today, I didn’t sport a Seattle Seahawks outfit.  No, I wasn’t staging a protest or taking an anti-football stand.  I just don’t feel comfortable wearing a football jersey to the office.  I’m not judging others-more football power to them all but it’s just not my style.  I’ll wear my skirt and pearls, thank you very much, and still root for the Seahawks!

Cheers to Friday!
Cheers to Friday!

So besides the gorgeous grey and white pearl necklace that I got for practically nothing at the Pearl Shop at the AP Market in Shanghai (seriously $15 or less for real pearls!), I was also so happy to wear my custom made shirt that has a seriously flattering neckline that makes even me look good-MIRACLE SHIRT!  When it works, duplicate it!  My favorite Michael Kors shirt wasn’t getting any younger so before it died, I took it to the South Bund Fabric Market in Shanghai while we lived there and had them duplicate it, custom made to my size, and picked the colors/fabric and altered a few other items to really make it one of a kind.  The result was the most comfortable and good looking shirt that I own, all for $20 US.  BARGAIN!  I just wish I had more made while I was there.  I got one shirt in black and one in green.  My friend, Patti, loved mine so much that she went while she was there with us and got one too.

Paired with my comfy stripe knit skirt, tights and my classic Frye boots, it was the perfect Friday outfit–work and then dinner out at a local Thai place to celebrate a new challenge given to me at work today.  Busy times ahead but, for now, I’m ready for the Seahawks to win on Saturday and, yes, I’ll be wearing my football jersey which I find totally appropriate for a weekend ensemble.  Pictures to come–have to decide what scarf matches my Seahawks shirt!

Day Six Fashion Challenge-Classy Yet Sassy

So, what do you wear when you have to catch the 6:40 a.m. shuttle for a “what the Hell were they thinking when they scheduled it this early” morning meeting?  Well, first, you take time the night before to plan out your outfit so you don’t look like a fashion “don’t”.  Seriously, I have been lazy and not done this in the past and ended up looking not so good and that’s being too nice.  I also learned the hard way to do that all important bathroom mirror check when I get to work to avoid wearing my dress backwards (yes, for an important meeting)and, yes, that really happened.  Now I am a little more aware and try to always take a moment to check for major faux pas before facing the boss.  I have caught myself sporting only one earring, holes in tights, etc. and managed a quick wardrobe tweak to fix quickly before I embarrass myself AGAIN.  Live and learn!

Banana Republic both classy and sassy
Banana Republic both classy and sassy

But this morning I had prepped the night before and purposely picked my new Banana Republic black sweater (50% off!) that was light but warm with a cutout back detail that was highlighted by the white shirt underneath.  Now, this was no ordinary boring white shirt.  This was my custom made, fits like a glove, French cuff cotton shirt that I designed in Shanghai, adding print details to the collar and underside of the cuffs.  I love it and only wish I had bought a few more while I lived in Shanghai.

Add in the dragon cuff links that I bargained hard to get for less than $10 at the South Bund Fabric Mart in Shanghai and the bold turquoise Banana Republic necklace that always garners major compliments (bought last year on sale) and I was feeling good despite the early call.

Classy black pants from Nordstrom’s and my comfy Dansko studded heels made this a great outfit for a very long work day.  Now, off to plan my outfit for Day 7 so I look decent despite another early call.  Good night!

Thor’s Incredible Improbable Journey

From his very humble beginnings in China as the runt of the litter, riddled with illness and unwanted by everyone including his mama, by all measures, Thor should not have even lived let alone be now enjoying life in Seattle.  Rescued by a kind expat who found him in the Shanghai stable where she rode horses, he was given a second chance at life.  However, she almost immediately faced a life crisis of her own when she had to leave China quickly due to personal issues.  She reached out via our apartment complex’s Shimao Riviera Facebook group that Thom belonged to and improbably we became foster parents to a Chinese rescue dog in July 2014.

Teeny tiny Thor barely weighed a pound when we got walks between James' legs
Teeny tiny Thor barely weighed a pound when we got him. Here, he explores walking between the legs of the giant, otherwise known as my son James.

Thom quickly started taking Thor to the vet to do whatever it took to nurse the little one pounder back to health.  I had been in the U.S. on business and came home to meet the little ball of fur that would steal our hearts despite all the odds against him.  Sequestered inside for the first few months as he got his shots, we were finally able to take him outside at about four months old.  Teaching him to climb stairs was vastly amusing and the look on his fuzzy face when he met his first cat, who promptly hissed at him, was priceless.  Of course when we found out that we were repatriating to the U.S. in October, we knew Thor had to come too.  Though we feared what a transatlantic flight experience would be like with a puppy, we prayed heavily and, miraculously, he silently sat underneath the seat and was perfect the whole trip to the point we were poking him to see if he was still alive he was so quiet.  Amazing!

What a face!
What a face!

Not that Thor is always perfect.  Last week, as we transitioned from our temporary apartment to our new digs in Seattle, he went through a “I’ll piss on Thom”  rampage every day as his teeny tiny bladder needs what feels like constant attention vs. his older brother, Izaak, who only needs walked a couple times a day.  Thor’s more of a “walk me every two hours or I’ll piss on you” type of dog.  Thom especially hopes his bladder grows stronger quickly as he ages but, in the meantime, water is regulated and walks are frequent.  He is just getting old enough to be fixed so, on Valentine’s Day as is our custom on this romantic day with our dogs, we will take him to the vet to be changed forever.  Maybe that will help?  Here’s hoping!

Cuddle buddies!
Cuddle buddies!

Thor’s brother, Izaak, our eight year old Vizsla who stayed with our daughter while we were living in China, has become his new chew toy and constant partner in crime.  Izaak has taught Thor to raid our trash cans.  They also just love to chew on toilet paper right off the roll-yum, yum.  Thor can only dream of getting big enough to eat off the kitchen counters and drink out of the toilets like Izaak can do if left unmonitored.   They love chasing each other, lapping the apartment.  Our neighbor below us doesn’t find it nearly as fun and pounds on his ceiling (with a broom??)  to show his displeasure.   Too bad grumpy person–dogs just LOVE to have fun and while Thor at four pounds doesn’t sound like the thundering herd, Izaak topping out at 50+ pounds probably does sounds like a small pony galloping around.   So sorry!  Thor has also become the consummate sock stealer and only needs a second left alone to take off and hide under the couch to chew on his ill gotten goods.  Our pet sitter, Madeline, found out the hard way as she must have left the dynamic duo alone for a few minutes, in which time Thor stole her socks while Izaak collapsed on our bed/pillows for a quick nap-check out this tag team of devious dogs below.  P.S.  Izaak chose Thom’s pillow to park his ass and I got doggy drool on my pillow.  Ahhhh, being a pet owner is fun.

Thor guards his stolen sock booty while Thor naps on our memory foam pillows
Thor guards his stolen sock booty while Izaak naps on our memory foam pillows