Almost Three Months in Rochester

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It has been a while since I have last written. The first month was difficult for me but it has gotten better. Chris and I keep joking that you can drop me off in the middle of any city worldwide and I’ll be fine but put me in another environment and it’s a catastrophe. So far, I’ve been job hunting and meeting people. I’ve been having a lot of luck meeting people but not so much luck on the job hunting side. I’m keeping my fingers crossed though.

In the meantime, I put together a “Things I Love So Far” list and a “Things I’m Still Adjusting To” list to paint a better picture of our experiences here.

Things I love So Far:

  1. The storms here are incredible. I love a good storm with lots of thunder, lightning and rain. One of my all-time favorite things to do is to curl up on the couch during a storm to read a good book.
  2. The sky is beautiful. When the clouds finally part, they open up to a vibrant, deep blue sky that goes on forever. Because it is pretty flat here and we are surrounded by farm land, there are hardly any obstacles blocking the view of where the sky meets the land.
  3. People have been very welcoming. As I said before, the first month was rough but once we were finally able to go out and meet people, we came across some fabulous individuals. The people can really make or break a place but Rochester seems to luck out in the people department.

Things I’m Still Adjusting To:

  1. I believe the worst drivers in the United States were all gathered together and then dropped off in Rochester, Minnesota. By no means do I think I am the best driver, however, the things I have seen in the three months we have been here are startling. For example, today, I almost was jackknifed when I was going through a green light because some guy decided he just was going to go through the intersection despite the red light. (Thank goodness nothing happened.) I’ve also seen cars driving in the wrong direction off a highway ramp TWICE now. I still can’t figure out how this has happened. Many of the cars are missing bumpers or have huge dents in their bodies. I’m so paranoid when I drive now because every day I see or experience some terrible driver cause or almost cause an accident.
  2. The domination of a major employer over a town. I’m still trying to figure this one out. I’m used to being in an area with a wide range of employers and job opportunities that I don’t know how to react when the options are basically whittled down to one. Obviously, the employer is one of the best in the world and holds an incredible amount of possibilities but breaking into the organization does not seem very easy. As someone who craves options, I’m still trying to get used to this reality.
  3. Good Mexican food does not exist here. Chris and I have tried about six of the eight Mexican restaurants here. Enough said.
  4. The fear of the approaching winter. Every single person has told me we are so lucky we came after winter. I can’t decide if people are trying to scare me or trying to prepare me. From what I have heard, winter begins in September and ends in April and it is an unrelenting eight months of freezing temperatures and falling snow.

That’s it for now! I’m off to enjoy the beautiful weather outside.

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So, we moved to Rochester, Minnesota.

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So, we moved to Rochester, Minnesota.

It’s not quite the same as Hong Kong. In fact, I would have to say it is almost the exact opposite of where we were living less than one year ago.  I had guessed that Chris and I would probably not stay in the Washington, D.C. metro area (where we are from) because the biomedical engineering jobs just aren’t there but I would have never thought we would have moved to the Midwest. In fact, I actually had my eye on Boston or the West coast. (I still have never been to the West coast!)

So, that’s how we have landed in Rochester, Minnesota.

I’m really happy for Chris. This is an excellent opportunity for him and we are both really lucky to be in this position. Nonetheless, it is quite the adjustment. How so, you may ask. Well, for one, it’s really quiet and there’s not much to do around here. One of the many things I just love about cities is that you can just go outside for a walk and experience tons of fascinating sights.  (In one of our old apartments in Hong Kong, it was about a five minute walk to the breathtaking, always bustling Victoria Harbor. I never got tired of staring out into the turquoise water as it lapped the passing freight boats, cruise ships or ferries.) Chris and I take Stanley for a walk every Saturday and Sunday and we are both already bored of the sprawling, open farmlands. It just gets a bit old after a while, you know? I need more to look at while I’m walking. I suppose I’m not yet at that point where I appreciate the tranquility of open pastures. We do, however, have at least double the space we had in Hong Kong for half the price.  That’s a huge selling point for Chris. (I’m pretty much fine in a space the size of a closet but Chris enjoys being able to move around a bit more. I find that the bigger the place, the more things I have to clean up.)

Anyways, I’m still trying to adjust to life here. It’s slower, quieter, and there’s less going on so I’m predicting that it will take a few months for me to become acclimated.

One last thing, here’s a picture I took a few minutes away from our new place. Pretty, isn’t it?

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Melbourne, Australia

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After taking a brief (or, rather, not so brief) hiatus from blogging, I have decided to get back to it.  After our Taiwan trip, I was still working on my six-month contract for a company in Hong Kong. Chris still didn’t have any luck finding any biomedical engineering jobs in the area so we thought long and hard and decided to move back to the U.S. after my contract ended. It wasn’t too difficult a choice because we had also planned to get married in November and my contract ended in September.

Before we made the big leap back to the U.S. we hopped on one last flight to visit Chris’ best friend out in Australia. His best friend, Carlo, had also decided to pursue a master’s degree outside of the U.S. and had landed in Melbourne, Australia. Chris and I spent a little over a week touring around the city and taking a road trip down the Gold Coast.

While Melbourne was a fun city, one of the things I couldn’t get used to was the price of everything. We had previously been warned but it was still quite a shock when we had to hand over the cash for an eight dollar coffee or twenty dollar breakfast dish. (It made me really appreciate how cheap food and other items are throughout Southeast Asia!)

P1030085                       The expensive coffee looks good though, doesn’t it?

I was also surprised how cold it was even though we did go towards the end of Australia’s winter. I had been so used to Hong Kong’s humidity that I had to immediately go out a buy a sweater. Don’t worry, I am a bargain shopper and found some basement that was selling clothes at seventy percent off. I bought a cute, and almost more importantly, warm sweater that I basically wore the entire trip.

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Downtown Melbourne

P1030106 P1030115Out at St. Kilda beachP1030118St. Kilda P1030129More St. KildaP1030132Exploring more of St. KildaP1030142The Shrine of Remembrance

P1030143Inside the Royal Botanic Gardens in MelbourneP1030158 GraffitiP1030160Getting coffee on a little street that looks like Paris! P1030182Starting the trip along the Gold CoastP1030200The Twelve ApostlesP1030203 P1030209 P1030248IMG_2531Last night in Australia

Taipei, Taiwan

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Finally, after over a year and a half in Hong Kong, Chris and I crossed the China Sea and landed in Taiwan. Because we only had the weekend free, we decided to stay in Taipei and explore the city. I have to say that I agree with all the reviews that I had read stating that Taiwan is the most underrated country in Asia.

Unfortunately, our flight was delayed Friday night so we made it to our hotel about one am in the morning. However, lucky for us, we found what every exhausted traveler needs for a fun filled weekend: asparagus juice.

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We tried to get up as early as we could on Saturday morning which, of course, equated to starting our day at around 11a.m. I dragged Chris around the city to see the sites to get as much as a cultural and historical feel as we could.

P1020898 P1020900 P1020904Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall in the backgroundP1020910 P1020911

My attempt at a photo of the two of usP1020913 In the middle of watching the changing of the guard at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, someone yelled the name Chris a couple times and we turned around to see one of Chris’ former classmates from PolyU in Hong Kong. What a small world!

P1020935It’s a doggie in the window! P1020937 Streets in Taipei P1020952Another cute little streetP1020950The original Din Tai Fung! P1020955AmazingP1020956So incredibly good!P1020957 Taipei 101 in the distanceP1020960Later on, we explored some other areas and headed to Taipei 101, now the third tallest building in the world.P1020963View from the top

P1020969P1020978 P1020977 Later on, we headed over to a bar where the world’s best bartender worked and it was absolutely amazing!

P1020982To end our busy day, we made our way to the Raohe Street night market. I don’t know if I have ever mentioned this before but I’m obsessed with night markets. I literally dragged Chris to all of the night markets during our seven country backpack trip last year. Of course I wouldn’t miss visiting the night markets in Taiwan!

P1020987 P1020989I’m obviously excitedP1020990Raohe Street Night MarketP1020992Fried ChickenP1020994Nationals in Taiwan? P1020995Delicious crabP1020997

Taking a breakP1030001

Stinky tofuP1030002

We ended our trip by visiting the trendy area of Ximending which has tons of great food and shopping. P1030014While we had an excellent time in Taipei, it was so nice to come back to Hong Kong to see this little face:P1020790

 

 

Hong Kong: Cheung Chau

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Hong Kong has over 200 islands and we have only been to a few of them so, a few weekends ago, Chris and I grabbed Stanley and took a ferry over to Cheung Chau. Chueng Chau is a small, touristy island that can easily be explored within an hour or two. I love the islands in Hong Kong because they remind me of Southeast Asia with their narrow, winding streets and rows of street vendors and restaurants.

I had read that in order to take dogs on the ferries, we had to make sure Stanley was wearing a muzzle. He wore it there but then I lost it literally the second we arrived. It’s a good thing they didn’t seem to notice he wasn’t wearing one on the way back.

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We went during the evening just as the sun was setting so we had phenomenal views.

P1020812 P1020817 P1020823 P1020831The view from Cheung Chau. P1020833The Pak Tai Temple which was built in 1783.

P1020835A view of the water

P1020836The beach!

P1020844Stanley and Chris exploring the beach.

We ended our evening by making our way to the strip of seafood restaurants lining the waterfront and had a delicious meal of shrimp, crab, and vegetables. Then we hopped back on the ferry and made it back to Hong Kong Island with a tired, little puppy.

Hong Kong: Puppy, Sea Urchin, and Birthdays

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The last three months have gone by in a blur and I feel as though I have barely had time to do anything! For some reason, 10-12 hour work days seem to dominate what or how much I can do in a day. Strange, right? Anyway, here are some of the highlights from March, April, and May:

We adopted a puppy. Everyone said we were crazy, and perhaps we are, but we both fell in love with this adorable little mutt from the Hong Kong SPCA. His name is Stanley and he’s named after the place in Hong Kong where we got him. He looks like he is a big dog but as of six months, he weighs about 18 pounds.

P1020711 P1020718Stanley at 3 months
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Stanley at 5 months with big, goofy ears.

We took a group trip with my former classmates out to Sai Kung (an area in the New Territories) and had a sea urchin feast! In order to get to Sai Kung from our apartment in Wan Chai, we had to take the MTR out to Hang Hau and took the 101M minibus to the Sai Kung Pier. The restaurant was on another island so we had to take a small boat to get there.

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At the Sai Kung Public Pier
P1020739On the boat to the restaurant
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My first time eating sea urchin.
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Group photoP1020756
The two of us.
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The view from the restaurant.P1020764

We celebrated my 27th birthday in Hong Kong. I dragged Chris hiking during the day and then we went with friends to celebrate. I can’t believe I’m getting so close to 30. I think I may just stay at 27 for a few years.

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Dragon’s Back hike on Hong Kong Island. Too bad it was so cloudy.
977933_10100402985735260_223152820_oOut for the birthday with friends!

Hong Kong: March

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It has officially been three weeks in my new job.  I didn’t fully believe everyone I spoke to when they stressed that people in Hong Kong work crazy hours.  I’m not quite sure why I didn’t believe them but I just didn’t see how people could work from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. every day without getting burned out.  Ah, my mistake for not listening to people. I see it clearly now.

 

Things are going pretty well for us. We moved into a new apartment in the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong Island.  During the first few weeks, I kept waking up to shouting, slurring, drunken people stumbling home from the bars but I don’t notice it now. Besides that, our new place is great. We have more room than our previous apartment that was somewhat similar to a walk-in closet.

 

We also took some time out to take engagement photos around Hong Kong. I thought I would put just a few on here.

Suzanne (39 of 136)Suzanne (59 of 136)Suzanne (84 of 136)   Suzanne (100 of 136)

Hong Kong: Chinese New Year

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It’s hard to believe that we have been in Hong Kong for over one year now! We have finished with our master’s degrees and we are now on the job hunt. However, it was recently the Chinese New Year so we took some time from applying to jobs to go check out one of the lunar fairs in Victoria Park. While most expats decide to travel around the region during this time, we decided to act like a local and get into the spirit of the new year. (Plus, we are broke, newly GRADUATED master’s students so flying to the Philippines to spend a week on a white sanded beach wasn’t exactly in the budget.) This year is the year of the snake!

I actually think it was worse than New Year’s Eve in LKF with the amount of people all in one place at one time. (I think I’ve mentioned this before but LKF is an area in Hong Kong filled with bars and clubs and an outrageous amount of people out drinking in the streets.  It’s unlike anything I have ever encountered before and it happens every weekend.) The crowd in Victoria Park was acting in unison and it was virtually impossible to escape the continuously flowing and never waning sea of people. Personally, I like to stop and look at the different stalls in a fair but I was overruled in this instance.

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Here’s a view of the crowd. Of course, I had to stick my arm all the way up to catch a shot. IMG_2182

Lucky for Chris, he’s much taller than other people so he had no problem looking around.  I, on the other hand, just saw a the back of a bunch of people’s heads.

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Some stuffed animals and disrobed bananas for saleIMG_2185

Some views of the beautiful flowers for sale in the flower markets for the Chinese New Year. As you might be able to tell, I don’t have the most artistic eye for photographs but you get the point. IMG_2186 IMG_2187 IMG_2189 IMG_2190 IMG_2191

Last, but not least, here’s a picture of us all dressed up with all the festive Chinese New Year decorations in the background. Ignore the large lantern blocking Chris’ face. I suppose all pictures can’t be perfect.

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Macau

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We tried to be good hosts to Carlo who was visiting us, but we were a bit limited with free time due to the fact that we were still in school.  However, we did manage to take the ferry over to Macau.

Macau is similar to Hong Kong because it is a special administrative region of China. Instead of being run by the British as Hong Kong was, Macau was a Portuguese colony.  It used to be known as Asia’s Las Vegas but it surpassed Las Vegas’ profits a few years ago. Chris and I had been to Macau twice before.  The first time we went, we jumped off the ferry, passed through immigration, and then jumped back on the ferry to go back to Hong Kong in order to activate Chris’ student visa.  The second time, we came over to Macau while my parents were visiting.

The first place we went with Carlo was the historic center of Macau, which also happens to be my favorite area.  Once you step on the narrow, cobblestone pathways, it’s as if you are transported out of Asia and onto a side street in Europe.  The historic center has a great deal of history including old Portuguese churches built in the 14th and 15th centuries.

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Chris and Carlo in the historic part of Macau

P1020620One of the many beautiful buildings

P1020623A peak into St. Dominic’s church

P1020633View of St. Paul’s ruins

P1020634And a closer shot

P1020639Pretty sky

P1020661Pink Building!

After touring around a bit with the thousands of other visitors who decided that day would make the perfect time to go to Macau, we jumped into a cab to head to the islands of Taipa and Coloane (which are now connected with the help of a landfill). The shiny, new extravagant casinos and hotels are mainly over on this side of Macau, including the Venetian, the Galaxy, the Hard Rock Hotel, and the Four Seasons.

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View of the Venetian all decorated for winter

Although I have never been to Vegas, I have heard that the atmosphere in Macau is nothing like it.  Instead of a huge party taking place within the casinos, the people in Macau come for business and that business is to make money.  Instead of seeing players at tables drinking liquor, they are sipping on cups of tea, milk, and water. It’s also incredibly quiet for the amount of people in one place at one time. It’s captivating just to walk around to see people’s interactions and the intensity of each game, let alone the amount of money that gamblers bet on a single round.

Once our quick little day trip to Macau was finished, we took a free shuttle bus back to the Macau ferry. (If you ever go to Macau, go to any of the huge hotels/casinos and take these buses instead of wasting money on cab fares!) While the ride over had literally been smooth sailing, the ride back was the second worst boat ride I have ever taken in my life. (The first time was this past summer when we took a ferry from Koh Phi Phi Island to Krabi, Thailand. I thought we would never back it back to dry land and that we were going to die out there in the angry, frothing ocean. I have never felt so small and helpless as the ferry boat was being bounced up and down and in between the storm churned waves. Not to mention that the whole time this was happening, Chris had food poisoning and I was experiencing the worst sea sickness of my life.) Thankfully, after an hour and at least three people vomiting in their seats, we made it back to Hong Kong!

Hong Kong: Stanley

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Stanley is a beautiful, little beach town on the southern end of Hong Kong Island.  (To help put it into perspective, Chris and I live in an area called Sai Ying Pun on the northern part of Hong Kong Island.)

Chris and I had only been to Stanley once before we went again with Carlo.  Our first trip to Stanley wasn’t exactly planned.  Although I’m normally such an organizer, making sure I have everything laid out, for some reason I happened to skip all of the planning details when we moved to Hong Kong.  In fact, I never even looked at a tourist book before we came here. I’m not quite sure what I was thinking. So, on our third day in Hong Kong last January, we found ourselves standing on a street corner in a non-English speaking area in Kowloon needing a place that had internet so we could start apartment hunting. We jumped in a cab and the only name of an area that came to my mind was Stanley. So, about half an hour and an expensive (for Hong Kong) cab ride later, we arrived in Stanley.  Oops!  Chris was giving me the look as to say “Where the heck are you taking us?” all throughout the cab ride. I just ignored it and pretended that I had meant to go to the furthest possible place from our cold, tiny box of a hotel room. (Sometimes it gets hard acting as though my missteps in travel are actually planned.)

We had such a great time in Stanley that we knew we wanted to go back with Carlo, our friend from home.  The three of us went on a sunny, warm Sunday in December.  It was right before Christmas so we were also able to do some great bargain shopping at Stanley Market, a strip of little stalls selling a wide range of assortments. While I enjoyed the shopping, perhaps a bit too much, I know Chris and Carlo also enjoyed sitting at one of the numerous outdoor cafes sipping on beers overlooking the ocean.

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View of the water and an old, historic building that had originally been in Central but relocated to StanleyP1020510 P1020512 P1020514

In front of the Stanley Pier

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Some oceanfront restaurants P1020521

Stanley MarketP1020537 P1020525

A junkboat sailing in the distanceP1020566