Another year filled with travels, laughters, and this year in particular, many momentous occasions. The year flew by in a blur, and I struggled to remember what all had happened each month until I flipped through thousands of photos. I spent the year feeling very discouraged, as if my life is circling in place, not advancing forward. Yet, upon reflection, all of the angst had propelled me to make some bold decisions and prepped for major changes in the coming year. Here’s a look at the year:
I met my Peace Corps girls in Thailand and rang in the New Year in Koh Samet. We then ventured to Cambodia to witness that famous Angkor Wat sunrise. Had our Peace Corps memories recalled by the liveliness of Siem Reap. We started the year with jokes of marriage, but with little idea that it would be our last trip as four single ladies!
For Chinese New Year, my sister and I went back to St. Louis with our partners, and the whole fam flew down to Mexico City. It was the first time for all six of us to travel together. The journey was surprisingly drama-free. Our beautiful 3 bedroom apartment in Condessa ensured we all had the space while spending time together. I also met up with a friend from grad school who’s serving in the Foreign Service during this trip. Love the global meet-ups!
I began taking French classes at the Alliance Française. It’s been my plan to polish up my French since leaving Cameroon back in 2010. For one reason or another, it never quite happened. Mostly because I didn’t have the opportunity to speak it on a daily basis. Perhaps I thought my relationship with a French man is finally worth investing the time. I’ve craved being in a learning environment so much that sacrificing 6 hours every Saturday has been worthwhile. I’ve also met some great friends that are outside of my normal expat-circle, which has been a refreshing change.
I wrapped up my special project with Apple’s supplier responsibility team. Corporate politics made the switch more difficult than initially imagined, fortunately my manager was supportive in my career development. I switched to a new role within my own finance team, and began delving deep into Tableau, a data visualization tool. Meanwhile, my sister joined me in Shanghai, and at Apple. Been quite nice to have her close by, and also have a default lunch partner every day.
Xav and I spent a weekend in Hangzhou at a gorgeous boutique hotel, converted from an old family home. We were in a remote part of the city, where we participated in a trail run. It was fascinating to see towns that are on its way to follow the “China Dream”. New houses were built at rapid speed, yet still factories in small alleyways. The dichotomy between new and old was disorienting. Good to get out of Shanghai, or at least our expat bubble, often for these “real world” perspectives. It was also in May that we began our 1,000 Days countdown to financial freedom.
Life was on a holding pattern. We hosted a lot of brunches, and had picnics when weather permitted. We celebrated birthdays and tried out new restaurants around town. Comfortable expat living at its best, but deep within, I needed a challenge. The hope of switching to the Supplier Responsibility group was dwindling given major internal shuffles. I began to give up hope, and at the same time my work with Tableau sparked interest in coding. I began to explore options in this much-needed skill.
Xav and I went to his hometown in France. After over 2 years of dating, I finally met the fam. We surprised his mother with the visit, and it was quite precious! Those French classes were put in good use as I spent 10 days speaking entirely in French to the whole clan! Meeting the family really is a significant step in the relationship. I connect dots of who Xav is with his past and his family. Furthermore, Les Vosges region of France is fabulous in the summer. I quickly had visions of summering there in our future.
Post France, our discussion around marriage began to turn serious. Meanwhile, my desire for change in the professional life reached new height. Many conversations were had on possible options to take. I distinctly remember an afternoon spent at a café, where we had notebook and laptop out, brainstorming through different scenarios and timeline. Quite literally, project managing our lives. In Mid-August, I spent a week in Singapore for work. I was grateful for the opportunity to discover a new place, but rather than feeling invigorated by new encounters and discussions, the trip left me feeling more certain that corporate life isn’t for me.
Xav and I took a weekend trip to Suzhou for a little getaway for my birthday. Apparently Suzhou is the wedding dress capital of the world, so we went to take a look! It was very much an “only-in-China” moment. The wedding dress mall was 4 buildings worth of 5-floor shopping mall, and every. single. shop. was selling wedding dresses or wedding-related outfits. Choices paralysis to the maximum. On the professional side, I began researching coding camps as a potential next move.
We journeyed to Myanmar during the October holiday. It was the trip I needed so much to regain perspective. The 10-day trip was rushed in a place like Myanmar, where public transportation isn’t very developed. But it’s also why I love traveling in these places. The rawness of humanity is not hidden behind excessive consumerism. I wanted to have more time in each of the places to get to know families, hear stories, and understand the culture deeply. I yearn for slow travel, rather than hopping from place to place collecting photos, and check-ins, which is merely a different form of consumerism.
Upon my return, I began to think seriously about moving on from corporate life. All the while, our custom rings from Etsy store in Canada was delivered by hand from our good friend. Xav proposed, and the wedding planning shenanigan began!
Very eventful month. Wedding planning in full force. Despite our attempt to keep it simple with just brunch with Shanghai friends, there were many details that consumed our time. Meanwhile, my sister and I were also planning a double wedding reception in Taiwan for our parents.
Months ago, before all the wedding plans were a reality, Xav and I had signed up to run the Hakka half marathon, because I’ve wanted to visit these UNESCO heritage round buildings (the original Apple Park) for a long time! The stress was a real test of our relationship! Career-wise – I pulled the trigger, applied, and was accepted for a full-stack coding camp by Le Wagon in Shanghai. Oh, and on top of it all, Xav and I each completed the 30-day Minimalist Game challenge, and got rid of a combined +900 items from our household!
Wedding extravaganza. Before the festivities began, I gave notice to my boss for end of Feb departure. The decision is final, and I felt a great sense of freedom. With that decision behind us, I was able to enjoy the fun. And what fun! The first weekend, my friends surprised me with a unicorn-themed bachelorette party completed with bachelorette jeopardy & comedy club visit in our accessories!
The party was then followed by a brunch that Xav and I hosted in Shanghai for our friends. Flew to Taiwan and had the double happiness banquet on weekend #2, then played ultimate tour guide taking families around Taiwan. Upon returning to Shanghai, we hosted a Christmas brunch. It’s only now, on the final day of the year, that I am able to reflect and fully appreciate all the events that had taken place.
2018 will be a year filled with changes. There will be sink or swim moves involving a great deal of unknown. I aim to prioritise relationships and will make efforts to attend reunions and weddings that I otherwise would have to skip. Extended time will be spent with our families around the world, because no on on their death bed ever said they wish they spent more time at the office instead. Happy New Years! Hope 2018 is filled with lots of health and happiness!
Books read: 15
Kilometers Ran: 362
Races completed: 3 half marathons