Expect the Unexpected – Around the World in Less than One Month

Hello Everyone!

Do I still have any readers? If not, its completely my fault. A friend recently gave me some advice on blogging. He said something along the lines of, “Really, the only means of writing a successful blog is any form of consistency – people don’t want to feel abandoned by a blogger they’ve given a chance.” This not only made me feel really bad for abandoning you, my few but powerful readers, but also inspired me to do a better job of posting more frequently. Don’t give up on me just yet; I have much more to say.

Today, all I really have to say is WATCH YOUR BACK! (I’ll explain.)

Backstory: I am super fortunate, and was able to fly back to the US of A to spend Christmas and New Years 2012 with my family and friends. (Sidebar: Kentucky, you are beautiful, so beautiful. You really don’t know what you have until it is gone, or you’ve moved to China.) I arrived home on Christmas Eve, where I was ambushed straight-off-the-plane with a family brunch. I just wish I were more awake to enjoy it! I then spent the following 3 weeks catching up with friends, drinking good coffee, eating good sandwiches, and marveling about how Lexington, the town perpetually 10 years in the past, continues to change its shape. Let me tell you, it was good to be home. It was good to sleep in my own bed,  be surrounded by people I love, and speak lazily and comfortably in my own language. But this wonderful little break did not come easily.

Two days before my flight from Shanghai was leaving back to America, I became a victim of Shanghai’s most notorious criminals: pickpockets. Walking home from a late night indulgence-of-weakness trip to McDonald’s, I had my wallet stolen right out of my purse. I didn’t see anyone,  I didn’t hear anyone, I didn’t feel anything. I simply looked into my suddenly unzipped purse and noticed how big and spacey it was without that huge hunk o’ wallet hoggin’ up the whole thing. Confusion ensued, and then anger, and then sadness.

-Chinese Lessons!-

很 — hěn — very, really

麻烦 — máfan — problematic, troublesome, troubling

很 + 麻烦 = super freaking annoying, or the more grammatically correct “very problematic.”

Chinese is just _the_ coolest language.

So I bet we can all agree losing a wallet is 很麻烦。Credit cards need to be cancelled, driver’s licenses need to be replaced, you really liked that Fossil brand wallet that cost you $75 at Macy’s…its annoying. Now picture this scenario: you were carrying your passport IN the wallet two days before an international flight. Oh yeah! Good one! That is exactly what happened.

I had been carrying my passport because I recently moved from the dorms at my university to the only very slightly more expensive apartment complex across the street from campus, and had had to register the new address, with my passport, at the local police station, only a few hours before the pickpocketing event. 很麻烦. So now I was faced with a harrowing situation: how was I going to get home?

These pickpocket people are true pros. They don’t really come out of the shadows; in fact, they are the shadows, lurking at any possible corner, noticing how you momentarily forgot to watch your belongings like they were your own flesh and blood. They are stealthy and swift, impossibly quiet, and blend in with every other McDonald’s patron participating in a late night Big Mac. Its easy to believe we are invincible, that the stuff we read about online and in the papers is exactly that: stuff we read about. But take it from me, you are not different, or 8 feet tall, or bullet proof. Watch your back, and seriously, watch your belongings. There is a silver lining: no one was hurt. No one even noticed – a curse and a blessing, but the blessing definitely means more in the scheme of things.

Now, I am well versed in all things bureaucracy – especially after this most recent debacle. How was I going to get home? After a few frantic emails and phone calls home, it was time to get my head in the game. I was going to get out of there, or I would be spending Christmas with vinegar soaked dumplings and a language barrier. Which, in retrospect, could have been pretty cool, but I was hell bent on seeing my beautiful family and enjoying a Christmas brunch home-cooked by my awesome, awesome father. These things are important after 5 months of unexpected events. The first step was to make an emergency passport, and then an emergency visa. I’ll spare you the boring details (trust me…they are boring) but after a few days of repeated trips to the American Consulate in Shanghai and the Entry / Exit Bureau, a few arguments with a few Chinese bureaucrats, some tears, and some massive help and concern from across the world (a big thank you to my own family and the Brennans!), I had a new passport and was ready to head back to the states.

Luckily, my story ends well. I am now back in China preparing for a 3-week trip to the south of the continent, and have a new visa being processed. I made it home, I enjoyed my time, and I made it back safely. However, much trouble could have been avoided if not for the pickpocket and my failure to keep a sharp eye. If I have learned anything from this, its this: Life is so more fun when you aren’t sitting around in offices for days unsure of your next move. Keep it simple, watch your stuff, acknowledge your existence as an ordinary human being who sometimes gets targeted.

As I promised to you in the beginning, you may be expecting more posts from me – and soon! I took some great pictures and silly videos of Chinese New Year, which was today, that I plan on sharing as well as different musings that cross my mind every so often. To those of you who have remained loyal to this goofy blog, I thank you for your patience and support. To those who may have stumbled upon my site with no intention of ever coming back, thank you for your time.

Namaste,

Hallie

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