A New Season

Three months ago, Leif and I made the long trek around the world back to the United States.

Three months ago, I generally stopped posting about our lives.

Why did I go silent? Mostly because I felt a little lost in my own fears of the unknown. I was afraid people would ask the dreaded, “What’s next?” or the horrible, “What’s your job now?” or the even worse, “Where are you living?” I was living in the blissful idea of if I can’t see you, you can’t see me. Turns out that really doesn’t do a whole lot beyond make you feel cut off from the world.

Well, it’s time to start talking about where we’re at now in our lives. Here we go.

What did you do this summer?

We left Beijing on July 1st, hitting Istanbul, Turkey on our way home.  It was an amazing week of relaxing and adventuring in one of my favorite cities in the world. Then, we were off on a whirlwind of USA travels. First to New York, then Maine, then New York, then Ohio (for my best friend’s wedding), then New York, then Seattle.

What was in Seattle?

Before moving to a New York nursing home, my grandmother lived in Seattle. For the last year, her house had been sitting dormant with her piles and piles of random stuff. My dad and uncle suggested that Leif and I fly out to pack up a U-Haul and help offset shipping costs (as all of the random stuff was coming to New York). THAT was an adventure. Just think about a 26 foot U-Haul making its way through Yellowstone National Park. Yeah. Whoa. Finally, though, we made it back to Geneva, New York.

What’s in Geneva, New York?

My family, for one. But other than that, not a whole lot. Once we arrived back from Seattle, we finally had a moment to breathe. During that breath, we decided it was time to start hitting the wanted ads. We needed to be employed (and stop living with family).

Unfortunately, over the last month, life went insane. As soon as school started, my siblings (almost all six of them) became fully immersed in their sports. That meant big sister, Grace, and big brother-in-law, Leif, had better be at their games since they’d missed so many holidays and birthdays.

And then Dad ended up in the ER, then stayed for the weekend, then went back to the ER, then had gallbladder removal surgery, then stayed for the week, then went back to the ER, then had surgery again.

Meanwhile, Leif and Grace (and Jonan) played Mum and Dad to the kiddos,  and kept searching for jobs.

How’d it feel to be unemployed and living at home?

The worst. And yet, I highly recommend it. It teaches you a lot about what you take for granted – like being employed and having a home you can call your own.

Get to the good stuff…what job did you find?

Okay, okay. Our original plan was to move to the area Leif would be going to school next year, so either Boston or NYC. However, we realized that it would be much easier (and cheaper) to stay out of a city until we need to move.

Leif applied to Fingerlakes Health and had an interview. Then, the fire was under my butt. The same day he had his interview I applied online to a position at Keuka College, a small private college, and five minutes later I was called in for an interview. My interview, two days later, went splendidly and I was hired on the spot. I am already two days into working as an Administrative Assistant for the Admissions department. A few days after his interview, Leif found out he was hired. He will be trained and then working in the hospital in Geneva, New York as a CNA.

We have a plan, finally.

What about where you’re living?

Believe it or not, and honestly I can’t believe it, we’re living in Geneva for the next ten months. We signed a lease on an apartment and we’re moving in this week. It’s a cute duplex with pretty hardwood floors. Loads of space and – get this – a dishwasher! WHAT! America you are treatin’ us right.

How long do you plan to be there?

Leif is currently applying to school for next fall, but if that doesn’t work out, then it will be the following year. So yes, this is just a transition period. A time to adapt to US living and learn how to be married and NOT be around each other 24/7. It’s going to be hard to adjust to not working together all the time. As usual, I never knew how great we had it until everything changed.

Okay, then what’s the long term plan?

Only God knows really. Leif is going to become a physician assistant, and do what he does best – love and help people.  And for me? I’m going to explore this wonderful world. I would love to study and take the FSOT for the State Department. I would also love to get my masters (Certainly one of the reasons I love my new job. Keuka has a great deal for employees on graduate school!) I’m excited to see what opportunities will arise and what direction they will send me.

It’s no China, Mongolia, or Jordan. But, it is a new home that we’re excited to explore together. And, don’t worry, I’ll keep you all updated on all our new adventures.

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Apple Pie For The Soul

Two weeks ago I hatched a plan for keeping ex-expat blues at bay. This plan I named “Operation: Ex-Expat“. I promised myself that I would take a step each week to fight my sadness over moving back to the States and embrace how life can still be an adventure.

Well, guys, I did it. I can check off a step on my operation. I took the harder route just to experience something new and different. I took the thing I am the absolute worst at and rolled with it.

I baked a pie.

Now, for most of you, that’s no big deal. But, if you know me, you know that I – A. Can’t cook/bake to save my life, B. Am the opposite of Susie-homemaker, and C. Actually hate the idea of being Susie-homemaker. However, with autumn saturating the air (and instagram), I found that I couldn’t escape pictures and posts about autumn activities – one of those activities being apple pie baking.

Naturally I started craving apple pie.

My first instinct, of course, was to go buy an apple pie. Shoot, I’m back in the US, I thought, Why not go to Wegman’s and buy an apple pie?  As I contemplated how much an apple pie would cost and how long it would take me to get to the store, the idea to actually create the pie began to formulate. So I committed.

And, guess what? I loved every minute of making that pie. I cheerily went about the kitchen rolling crust, peeling apples, and preheating the oven all with a glorious mess of flour in my wake.

In the end, my pie was nothing special. It tasted good, but it wasn’t great. It looked nice, but it wasn’t perfect. Nevertheless, I was proud of it. I was proud that I had done something I wouldn’t normally choose to do simply to experience something new. Something different. For me, my life overseas felt like baking a pie. It felt a little scary, a little like anything could happen, but I was excited to see where it would take me. I want to chase that feeling forever, because I know it makes me a stronger person – USA or anywhere else.

All that to say – apple pie is good for the soul.

7 Tips for Fighting Jet Lag

Jet lag. I say that word with deep loathing.

Jet lag has always been the bane of my travels. It’s probably because most of my traveling takes place between the United States and Asia. You can be sure that as soon as you cross the international date line you’re in for trouble. However,  I’m a big napper, so I’m always in trouble. Now, it’s possible that some of you are the kings and queens of jet lag; You are never conquered by its mighty grasp. You are the lucky few.

Last August when Leif and I returned to Beijing, we couldn’t stay awake to save our lives. We spent day after day planning to stay awake, but found our eyelids dropping. And, despite all our planning, we would give in to sleep – deep, blissful sleep.  After four days in a row of falling asleep at 3 pm and waking up at 9 pm, we said enough is enough. We knew we were skipping some very important steps in defeating jet lag.

In light of how crucial fighting jet lag can be, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned over my years of traveling. I hope it can help you during your next flight as well.

Seven Tips for Fighting Jet Lag:

1. Stay hydrated.

Every medical professional (or mother) ever will tell you to drink loads of water while traveling. I’m not as big a water drinker as I should be, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve certainly seen the wisdom of it. I also always feel a little sweaty and nasty after a long flight, so drinking loads of water is a must.  I so often think of jet lag as only a mental challenge, but it’s really a physical one as well. Your body needs to adjust to the new 24 hour clock you are giving it. Help it out.

2. Don’t nap.

This is the number one no-no. I’m already a big napper. I love curling up in an arm chair or anywhere really and shutting my eyes for a little while. Especially when I’m exhausted from jet lag, napping seems like such a great idea. It’s a lie! Don’t listen to that voice. Try and do as much as you can the first day you arrive at your destination. If you fill up that first day with activities (and make it through that day without a nap), you’ll find fighting jet lag a million times easier. It’s completely okay to turn in early that night, too. I find that (when I fight jet lag the right way) I’m an early to bed-early to rise kind of person, and I love it.

3.  Change the time.

This is my favorite tip, because I feel like I’m outsmarting jet lag. As soon as you sit down on your flight, take out your watch/phone/device and change it to your destination’s time zone. This way as you make your way across the world, your mind is already adjusting to the time where you will be. If you can, try and sleep when it’s “nighttime” and try and stay awake while it’s “daytime”.

4. Think ahead.

Now, if you are particularly awesome, you might consider adjusting as much as possible to the time difference before you even leave. (Clearly I’m not disciplined enough to have done this.) If you will be traveling east and want to adapt to the new time, you will have to wake up and go to bed earlier than normal. If you’re traveling west, you will want to wake up and go to bed later than usual. It’s much easier to say than to do, but hey, you’re awesome, right?

5. Use the sun to your advantage.

I’ve done some research on fighting jet lag and most of the experts talk about the importance of light. They say that light is the primary cue telling your body’s clock when to sleep and when to wake. So controlling jet lag is fundamentally about controlling light and darkness. If it’s nighttime where you’re headed, consider closing your shade and putting on an eye-mask instead of admiring all the beautiful clouds out of your window. When you land, however, don’t try and adjust too quickly to all the light if it’s daytime as that may exhaust you even more. Take it easy, grab some sunglasses, and stay awake!

6.  Avoid  overdoing caffeine.

When someone tells me that I’m going to need to stay awake when I’m actually dead on my feet, my first reaction is to find the nearest cup of coffee. However, when it comes to jet lag, this is not the best idea. Caffeine dehydrates and doesn’t allow you to sleep deeply when you do finally sleep. It is important to get deep sleep so your body can recover from the stress of your trip.

7. Sleep well the night before.

Sleep to prepare for your flight is just as important as sleep to recover from your flight. If you’re anything like me, you put off packing until the night before your flight and get around four hours of sleep if you’re lucky. This is also one of the reasons I’m the worst when it comes to jet lag. Be smarter than me, don’t procrastinate, and get a great night of sleep before you leave.

I hope you find these tips helpful for your next flight. Drink water, sleep well & be merry!