Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Color Run: Shanghai Edition

It isn't every day that I participate in something in China that I could also participate in back home in the States. Now, I'm not saying that I ever have any Western experiences in China, because I do. But honestly, apart from hanging out with friends or going shopping, I don't spend a lot of my spare time participating in things that I would in the U.S., for example The Color Run. 

Over the weekend, I did this colorful 5K with a few friends from work. It was an amazing time, as expected, and it was cool to compare this to the time I did The Color Run in Toledo, Ohio. 

Thankfully, it was pretty much the exact same thing. I won't lie, at one point I was worried I had paid to go for a walk but eventually learned that wasn't true. Phew!

If you've never walked or ran a 5K with a rainbow of cornstarch being blasted at you, then you haven't lived. 

Okay, I'm being dramatic but it really is a ton of fun. It isn't meant to really be a race. You're welcome to run but most just walk it and play at each checkpoint, ensuring they get the most color possible on their souvenir T-shirts. 

Things I preferred in Shanghai:
//The color was sparkly! I'm pretty sure that's a new edition this year and that its at all locations. 
//They had a foam checkpoint. Instead of having color thrown on you at this point, you got to run (walk) through a bunch bubbles! Takes me back to Welcome Weekend at my university. 
//We got a fun bag with more promotional goodies than the one three years ago.
//I got a medal this time!!!

//They had photo opportunities everywhere with cute displays to get in!

**I realize some of these changes may have nothing to do with it being in Shanghai but are instead examples of how this run has grown over the last few years. 

Things I preferred in Toledo:
//The run back home went through a scenic route downtown. They didn't need to set up cute displays to take photos at because Toledo has plenty of picture-worthy murals to stop at along the way. In Shanghai, it was through what will probably one day be a park, but for now it just looks like it's under construction. 
//The big festival at the end was so much better. Everyone had so much energy, throwing their color packets and rocking out to the music. It was a great atmosphere. 
//I didn't have to be in a taxi for an hour just to get there. #bigcitystruggles and I didn't have to walk a half mile just to get to the 5K starting line. 
//I didn't have to go to packet pickup in Toledo. Everything was shipped to my house. This time I had to travel an hour just to get my packet. 
//This one I may be mistaken on but I really thought we got more color in Toledo. In Shanghai, the finish line was super anticlimactic. I was a bit underwhelmed when there was nothing there to really mark the ending. The only indicator we had made it was an archway that said Finish Line. Maybe I just expected too much because it was a major let down. 

Honestly, both were amazing. I really enjoy doing The Color Run and would recommend it to anyone anywhere. 

Have you ever participated in The Happiest 5K in the World anywhere else? Have you done a color run with a different company? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Returning Home, to Shanghai that is!

Returning to Shanghai worried me a little bit. I remember being on my flight thinking, "What have I done?" Now, this was a pretty big deal considering I never had that moment last year. It never hit me that I was moving abroad. But this time, I knew what I was getting into, and I knew I had to be mad in order to commit to another year. 

Everything about this second year has been the exact opposite of last year, well not exactly everything. Aside from the moment I considered entering panic mode on the flight, I'm extremely comfortable with this year thus far. 

Moving back here was easy. My apartment was exactly as I had left it, a truly amazing thing to come home to. The pollution has been low for the past month, a huge factor in my discontent last year. I can afford life right now, whereas last year I was trying to save and pay off debt until January. I'm comfortable with my job, when this time last year I was completely clueless. I've already begun my Chinese lessons again which are and always have been the highlight of my week. And so many of my friends are still here that I missed over the summer.

While it was great to be home and certainly wasn't a long enough trip, I'm happy I made the decision to come back.  It just feels like home, as crazy as that sounds. Summer was simply a beautiful vacation, and now I'm back to my crazy, exciting, frustrating temporary home. I'm looking forward to the rest of this year and can't wait to find out what China has in store for me this time. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Meeting the Friendliest People in the World: Group Tour Part Two

Part two of my trip was around Ireland, probably one of the top two countries I’ve ever wanted to visit and, let me tell you, it didn’t let me down. From having the friendliest people in the world to the seemingly never-ending beautiful green scenery to presence of live music around nearly every corner, my expectations were more than exceeded. For this tour, we started and ended in Dublin enjoying some lovely Guinness both times (one of my personal all time favorite drinks), so that was a major selling point as well.

Taking the ferry over was a beautiful sight, though it was a bit rainy. If you experience motion sickness at all, or think you might, it would be a good idea to bring some medicine just in case.

Our nightly stops were in Dublin, Cork, and Galway (2 nights) before heading to Northern Ireland and back to Dublin. Here’s a quick review of each place we stopped and the places we visited in between. If you were planning a tour around Ireland, I’d definitely recommend stopping at these places!

//Temple Bar
The Temple Bar District is a definite point of interest in Dublin for anyone who’s looking for a drink, food, or sheer entertainment. It’s a lively area pretty much all the time and is usually insanely busy on the weekends. Both weekends that I visited, there were large concerts happening so I lucked out. I was able to find seats in bars and enjoy myself, and then head back to the hotel before the concerts were over and the large masses of people flooded Temple Bar. There are plenty of places to go in this area if you’re looking for a night out!

//The Guinness Storehouse
Be sure to enjoy some Guinness, even if you’re not a huge fan, this is where you’ll find the best pint. Here you can experience how Guinness was intended. It’s even better in Ireland than it is anywhere else and at the Guinness Storehouse, you can actually learn and get certified on how to pour the perfect pint. Believe me, it makes a huge difference. Trying pours done by a couple different people helped me realize how much the taste of this stout can be affected by the pour. So don’t let some other place that didn’t pour it properly ruin your opinion of this fantastic drink. If nothing else, head up to the bar on the top level to enjoy a 360 degree view of Dublin.

//Trinity College
This is Ireland’s oldest University and is beautiful to walk around. A great deal of famous people attended school there, so it’s fun to walk around and just imagine attending school with them. On campus, there is the Library of Trinity College which houses many ancient books, including the Book of Kells. It really is a great stop while in Dublin.

//The Merry Ploughboy
If you go to The Merry Ploughboy, you can enjoy a nice meal with traditional entertainment. It is a super fun evening filled with laughter, dancing, and music. It’s truly a great show and really helps to remind you that you’re in Ireland!

//Kilkenny Castle
While we were in Kilkenny, everyone took a bike tour around the city. I heard plenty of people say they enjoyed it but I actually opted out so I could save a little money and just explore on my own. One of the places I visited during my explorations was the Kilkenny Castle. It was incredibly beautiful. Check it out!

//Jameson Distillery
The Jameson Distillery was something I’ve had on my bucket list for a while. My two favorite drinks are Guinness and Jameson so I’m sure you can imagine my excitement in Ireland. We had a personal tour guide through the distillery who gave a lot of insight into the process of distilling Irish whiskey and what makes it the best! It was also a great opportunity to learn a little history as well. I’d definitely recommend this tour.

//Wander, eat, drink, and listen to live music.
We didn’t do any major sight seeing in Cork. We just went out for dinner, a drink, and watched a football match. Cork is really easy to get around and is super cute. For dinner we ate at a place called Clancy’s, which was delicious. A bit of advice: some bars in Cork are 21 and up so bring your ID if you don’t look much older than that just in case! Also, drink Murphy’s instead of Guinness or else they’ll easily be able to tell you’re not from Cork. In Dublin and a lot of areas in Ireland, they will drink Guinness as their stout of choice, but in Cork they drink Murphy’s. Keep that in mind!

//Blarney Castle and Blarney Stone
Be sure to visit the Blarney Castle. I’d get there early in the morning if you have any intensions of kissing the Blarney Stone. You lay down and have to arch you back and hang upside down a little bit to kiss it, but there is someone there to guide you so don’t worry! They disinfect it after every kiss as well, but I would still go in the morning before everyone has put their lips on it for the day! It’s said that kissing the Blarney Stone will give a person the gift of gab, as if I needed help talking anymore than I already do. Haha.

Clare County
//Cliffs of Moher
These cliffs are absolutely amazing to see, a truly breath-taking experience. These also appeared in a bit of Harry Potter so that’s a super fun fact for all you HP fans out there! I’d also recommend wearing comfy shoes, or maybe even hiking boots. It can get a little muddy up there. Be prepared for the wind and cross and fences at your own risk! I saw a dog running around near the edge of the cliffs and nearly had a heart attack because I feared he would fall to his death. Just be careful if you go near the edge at all!

//Great place to purchase Claddagh rings
There are several nice shops in Galway were you can purchase a Claddagh ring. These rings are traditional worn with the heart facing you if you are taken, and the heart facing away from you if you are single. They come in a few different designs and are a nice souvenir to purchase.

//Visit the Aran Islands
Be sure to rent a bike to tour the island. It might be really exhausting but it’s worth it. If you’re really not feeling up to biking, then I recommend getting a small group together to split a horse drawn carriage. You can ride your bike up and take pictures hanging off some cliffs and be really cool. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my phone to take pictures, which I will get into in the next bullet. The Aran Islands are also known for their sweaters, which symbolize their Irish clan heritage based on the stitching, so make sure you head to the Aran Sweater Market and purchase some sweaters!

//Seriously the friendliest people in the world
So here’s a story. We had two nights in Galway and the first night was intended to be a big party night for most people on the tour. I had one drink too many and ended up losing my purse and jacket. I couldn’t remember where I took them off at and since we had spent part of the night walking around outside, my things literally could have been anywhere in the city. I hopped in a cab with a friend and searched for hours, stopping in all the places we remembered going to. Unfortunately, we had no luck finding anything so we went to the police station and made a report. At the station they told me that someone would probably turn it in because Galway is filled with kind-hearted people, and several times the day before I had seen signs and heard people talking about how Galway is known for being the friendliest city in the world. These things gave me hope but I was still worried. The following day we went to the Aran Islands, which is why I couldn’t take any pictures that entire day. I was still worried about my phone and my credit cards being in the wrong hands and how I was going to replace everything before going back to China for another year. When we returned from the islands, I grabbed a couple friends and went out searching while it was still daylight. We still had no luck so we walked back to the hotel. When we got there, we had several messages from different people saying my things had been found. A nice man found my purse outside and sent me a Facebook message, as well as my friend Chris who I had been travelling with. He wanted to make sure I got my things so he even contacted someone else and told us that he had dropped it off at the police station. I’m still sort of amazed by this man. He even messaged me to say that he hopes this didn’t ruin my vacation and that I’d be willing to return to Galway someday. If anything, his actions reassured me that Galway is an amazing city filled with amazing people and that anyone would be lucky to visit.

After touring the island (not including North Ireland, here’s that post), my favorite cities were probably Dublin and Galway, but honestly I loved all of them. I could see myself living pretty much anywhere in Ireland and I would go back to each of these places in a heartbeat. What an amazing country!
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