I’M HOME! China Recap 2016

I am home!! I am in my country, in my extremely comfortable bed, being cuddled by my adorable two cats. I had such an amazing, life changing experience in China. However, I am so thankful to be home!! 

I don’t even know where to start. So I have decided to just do a little recap of what I have been doing for the past few days. Here’s a little taste of what I experienced! Thanks for all of the prayers and support!

Tuesday, July 12th
Meet at TNU at 4:30am!
Fly Nashville, Tennessee to Detroit, Michigan
(four hour layover)
Fly Detroit, Michigan to Beijing, China
Wednesday, July 13th 
Fly Beijing to Kunming, China
Arrive in Kunming late & head to our first host house
Thursday, July 14th
Wake up  & jump a train to Chuxiong
Our first Chinese lunch (fried rice w/ spicy beef, I loved it!)
Check into our dorms at Chuxiong Normal University
Go over lesson plans
Friday, July 15th
English camp! (We rotated groups between teaching and work crews. This was the day I got to lead activities! It was my favorite part of camp.)
Saturday, July 16th 
Paint school rooms all day!
Explore downtown with Anna & Sam
Sunday, July 17th
Paint school rooms
House church (what an amazing experience)
Chuxiong Museum
Hot Pot
Yi Village- dancing and shopping!!
Monday, July 18th
Teach English camps
Get deathly ill by noon
SLEEP and SICKY nonstop
Tuesday, July 19th
(English camps for those not dying)
Lay in bed pondering death
Take the train to Dali
Dinner at Muslim restaurant
Walk around the lake
Check into our (beautiful) hotel. (This was totally the cleanest room & we were on the 18th floor so the view was killer!)
Wednesday, July 20th
Dance school: teach English songs and games
Make jiaozi w/ kids
Chinese Walmart
Meeting at an English school about field trip
Go to a high school for practical conversations & tour of school
Thursday, July 21st
Meet the kids early at English school
Natural hot springs and lunch
Ferry to “Thousand Year Old Island”
Field day games
Dinner w/ entire chickens!!! Feet, heads, brains, everything!!!!
Talent show and dance (I taught the kids a classic EFY line dance. They went CRAZY!!!)
Check into hotel with the all wooden roof
Friday, July 22nd
Spend the morning with our kids & hike up the local mountains there
Pack up and ferry back at 1:30
Bus back to Dali & check back into hotel
Group game night & chocolate chip cookies!!
Saturday, July 23rd
Buddhist temple (built 1550) and hike up the mountains
Old town Dali
Pizza at Sleepy Fish (owned by Australians)
Over night train to Kunming
Sunday, July 24th
International Fellowship of Kunming (church service)
Day of much needed rest
Dairy Queen blizzards!
Monday, July 25th
Fly into Kunming early
Monorail and walking suitcase
Check into hostel
Tiananmen square and political monuments
Downtown Beijing
Chinese market
Wander home via subway station
Tuesday, July 26th
Bus to Great Wall of China
Hike Great Wall and slide down
Subway for lunch
Exploring the Summer Palace and gardens
Got lost in Beijing (very exciting)
Acrobat Show (which we missed almost al of, due to the being lost thing)
Subway back to the hostel!!
//shirt: Forever21 //shorts: Ann Taylor
Wednesday, July 27th (my first day that had more than 24 hours in it!)
Final fried rice lunch!!
Check out of hostel
Take bus to airport & final goodbyes to China!
Fly Beijing, China to Detroit, Michigan (only delayed two hours & a two hour layover) 
Fly Detroit, Michigan to Nashville, Tennessee (fifteen minutes early, praises!!)
Get home and run to my darling husband who brought roses, chocolates, and an order of my Mexican takeout, extra ques0. (Seriously, he is so perfect and attractive.)
* small update.  I’ve had about two hours of sleep in the past two days? But the two days were both Wednesday because of the international date line… I think. I don’t even understand how I took off Wednesday at like five and landed in America at like six or something the same day. (That would require sleep, which I’ve not partaken in.) so basically… Please be forgiving of my spelling and grammatical  errors!! 

Succulent Sprouts

Succulents and babies.  Two of the best things in the entire world! So it’s no surprise when you combine them you get the cutest little sprouts ever. I have a little baby succulent and I love it so much! I literally check in it at least two times a day. It all started when I read everything on Pinterest about succulents for my first attempt. A few articles mentioned that you could take a section off of a living on and let it dry out and sprout its own roots. I decided to try it! First I choose a plant to take it from. 

Next they all said to let the bud dry out. So I just put it in one of my planters in the dirt. I did not water it for the first five days. However nothing was happening. So I started saturating it in water every morning. Pretty soon it looked like this (maybe a month?)  

I don’t know if it is just good luck or what, but it is really growing!! I moved it to another planter where it had lots of sun and space to grow. When I got back from Florida I was amazed- the baby buds had completely taken root!! The original clipping had withered and died. I am so excited!! 

I will keep you updated on the progress of this little guy. I started a new little clipping and I am going to track it’s progress more closely so I can have better instructions! Three cheers for baby plants!(: 

T.A.G. China Mission Statement 2016

“As the China team we will have fun. We will show compassion to the people we serve and to each other when things get hard. We will make time for D.E.G. and self care. We will use a flexible attitude in order for our teamwork to make the dream work. We will be servant leaders as we immerse ourselves in the culture. We will create open communication in order to complete our fun sandwich.”

Before school let out for the summer the team gathered together to write a mission statement. Everyone was asked to contribute three elements that we felt were the most important to remember through out the trip so we can function as a successful team. (I chose respect the culture, open communication, and understanding.) Then everyone combined the ideas and divided them into categories. From there we wrote our statement. I love how it turned out. I also really appreciate that people pointed out that we wanted it to be a fun, positive experience- no matter what we end up doing. We decided to call it our fun sandwich.
The culture surrounding the group we are going to be staying and working with is very flexible. There are literally no concrete plans. So as a team, we have to be willing to just go and serve wherever they need is that day. I know this will be challenging for me, but a great lesson! I think learning a “flexible attitude” will be one of the greatest trials and blessings I will receive from this trip!
Also, T minus 40 hours until I am on my way to China!!!! 

Countdown to China

It feels like I’ve only been home from Florida for a few hours and I am already about to head off across the world! My flight leaves for China Tuesday morning at 6am!

I will be with a group from Trevecca of about thirteen students and two faculty members through a program called Trevecca Across the Globe. (T.A.G.) We will be working with a Trevecca grad who is a part of a program that teaches English to elementary – high school aged kids. They also have an outreach program towards university students. It is going to be so exciting! We will be there for two and a half jam packed weeks. We start by flying from Nashville to Detroit. From there, Detroit to Beijing. We spend 24 hours in Beijing before we take a much smaller plane to where we are staying in the Yunnan Province!
I am starting to get a little nervous. Today I started packing for the trip, which turned out to be a lot harder than expected. I just have no idea what I will be comfortable wearing there between weather, respecting the culture, and trying to look presentable for our classes we will be teaching. We have a list of the amount we can pack, it’s just not super descriptive. I also am nervous about the food. I have such a weak stomach, I am going to have to be very cautious that I don’t eat anything that will prevent me from being up and ready to go! (I appreciate any prayers as I travel that I won’t become ill!)
The thing I am most excited for is definitely working with kids. I bought a few cute little “gifts” I can hand out. Last year I met a recruiter for a Chinese exchange program. We got to talking and he suggested doing so. I think it will be so fun! I love working with children and I feel this will be very rewarding. I also can’t wait to tell  my Sunday school class (Michael & I teach the 4-6 year olds at church) all about the kids I meet! I think that will be really cool for them. We also put aside some money so I can bring them all back a little gift!
Any advice on avoiding stomach sickness? Any specific ways to get through my 14 hour flight from Detroit to Beijing and/or how to avoid jet lag? I would love to hear it!!
** Picture: South of the Clouds

Fourth of July 2016

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!! Okay, it’s a day late. But still! Our Independence Day was so perfect. We slept in and made an epic breakfast. Cinnamon pancakes and candied apples on top with bacon and eggs. Then we packed up the yeti, lathered ourselves in sunscreen, and headed down to Jacksonville Beach! 
Traffic was horrible. There was literally no where to park and drunk bicyclist were weaving in and out of the road. It was starting to get a little disheartening. But then we found THE BEST parking spot of all time. We were trying to make a turn in a small lot. When we finally turned around we were directly facing a beach house on the ocean front. It had a For Rent sign in the front yard with the landlord’s phone number. I decided to dial the number. I called and I told her we were visiting and asked if we could park in her driveway… She said yes! It was so perfect haha. Literally it was a two minute walk into the beach. Plus it was completely free. Seriously so on point. 

We spent the next four or five hours on the beach. The boys rented a boogie board and bought a skim board. It was so fun!! I was terrible at both, but it was still entertaining to try. The hard part about the boogie board was that when I stayed in the middle I could barely paddle my arms. Oh well! I loved being on the beach with one of our favorite couples ever. Soph and I were so happy that the boys had such a blast together. Topher also pulled out his GOPro… We loved it!! I definitely see one in our future. 

After we had our fill of the sun and the sand we went down to the board walk and shopped a little. I found more of my favorite lotion- Sun Bum: Cool Down. It is the best lotion ever. (I love that it doesn’t make me feel greasy and it smells delicious.) Then we had Mexican food at Campeche Bay Cantina. It was different from what I am used to, but still super delicious. It also wasn’t too pricey for being on the beach. 

Finally, we headed to the beach for the firework show. I love fireworks so much! It is so incresible to me. The show was so beautiful and Sophie took some AMAZING photos of Michael and I. The night ended with sparklers and tons of laughter. It was a perfect night! 

//Sunglasses: Kate Spade //Bikini: Victoria’s Secret // Sophie’s Swim Suit: Arie // Sophie’s Sunglasses: Ray Ban

// Shirt: PINK // Shorts: PINK // Michael’s Shirt: Khols // Michael’s Shorts: Levi // Michael’s Sunglasses: Fossil 

** Sophie Davison Photography ** 

Avondale & Riverside 

Swimming, shopping, eating, jet skiing, laughing… Literally who wouldn’t be having fun?! Jacksonville has been sooo perfect. Seriously! It’s been the best. 
Friday afternoon we were at JAX beach and then we enjoyed the evening at one of Michael and I’s favorite shopping center. St. John’s Town Center is full of anything you could want. They have a huge list of great stores, including some of our favorites: Lush, Lucky Brand, Sephora, Tiffany & co, Victoria’s Secret, Sperry, and so many more. There are over 100 upscale stores. 
There also are several different restaurants. You can choose between P.F. Changs, Maggiano’s Little Italy, J. Alexander’s, and a couple of others. We opted for the Cheesecake Factory because I was hard core craving some fried macaroni and cheese. It’s terrible for me, so I usually try to avoid the temptation… But not on vacation! Between eating and shopping, that pretty much wrapped up our Friday. 

Saturday was jam packed. We started with a jet ski rental. (More on that later) Then continued on to shopping and eating in Avondale. It’s a rejuvenating part of Jacksonville and super cute. The boutique shopping options were not the greatest for my style. HOWEVER, we did find a toy store, The Green Alligator, and Le Macaron!! You know I love Macarons. We got six to share between the two of us. I choose vanilla, lemon, and strawberry kiwi. Michael got pistachio (of course), vanilla, and espresso. A fun thing was that the bakery was a part of the same chain as the Le Macaron we went to (several times) while in Puerto Rico on our honeymoon! 

Next we walked around Riverside, another neighborhood shopping district in Jacksonville. Riverside really wasn’t as cute as Avondale. However, we did find the most epic comic book shop. (Including arcade games and graffitied ceiling tiles.) my husband absolutely rocked the crap out of Galaga. He topped their high score, then topped his own high score after that! It was so fun.

The evening ended with the group going to the Friendship Fountain and then to this weird riverside shopping center for dinner. It was called The Jacksonville Landing. We didn’t explode too far, but from what we saw I definitely would not recommend. The bathrooms were filthy, the stores looked touristy, and the most awful concert was going on. There were three men on stage. Two yelling out the same words repeatedly, while the third waved a flag. I have no idea what was going on, but a crowed of maybe a hundred people had gathered around. 
We chose to eat at the American Grill. Mainly because they had riverfront seating on the second story. We asked to be seated far as humanly possible from the concert. It was still loud, but worth it for the breeze and view. Our meal was good and had generous portions. The place itself wasn’t very clean. When we were taken back to our table to be seated it hadn’t been cleared. There was food and trash everywhere and a broken chair, but we got over it! The hosted was obviously embarrassed. Lastly, we headed home for an epic game night and some serious laughter. 
My last post left off at JAX Beach. Enjoy some super cute shots of the afternoon up to Saturday night! Much thanks to Sophie for capturing it!(: 

// Swimsuit: Victoria Sectet // Sunglasses: Kate Spade // Michael’s Swim Trunks: Tilly’s // Beach Towel: TJ Maxx

// Tank Top: Hollister // Shorts: Hollister // Beach Bag: Lands End 

// Romper: Victoria’s Secret // Michael’s Shirt: J. Crew // Michael’s Shorts: Levi // Michael’s Shoes: Sperry 

//Shirt: Forever 21 // Shorts: J. Crew // Sandals: Steve Madden // Michael’s Shirt: J. Crew // Michael’s Shorts: Levi // Michael’s Shoes: Sperry 

Jacksonville, Florida 

Ah we made it! We drove the 600 miles from Nashville to Jacksonville. We started Thursday morning 4:38am. Only 8 minutes behind schedule so YAYY!!! When we got in we explored our AirBNB then headed to the grocery store to stock up on snacks and breakfast foods! Michael and I also got stuff to make sandwiches. We hauled them home and unloaded then set off to get dinner! We found this little Mexican restaurant. It was pretty good food, not my favorite, but by no means bad. 
We unanimously decided to spend our first evening at the house just playing games, baking cookies, and hanging out. It was a crazy fun night! We all crashed pretty early so we could be ready for today!! 

This morning we slept in and then Sophie made biscuits and gravy! She’s so awesome. We showered up and headed down to Jacksonville Beach. Along the way we stopped at Bold Bean Coffee. It was super cute and trendy. Michael and Sophie grabbed coffee and we were on our way! Currently we are laying in the sun on the beach. Try not to be too jealous!! 

Photo Cred: Sophie 💕