Stressful relaxation

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You know the eye of the storm? You’ve just been through a boatload of craziness and you get that break before the next bit hits – * bam! *

I feel like I’m there now. After everything I worked on to finish work and hand off everything, it’s a welcome break to have a vacation. Yet, I know the madness yet to come, so it’s hard to relax and not feel stressed about starting school, especially with all the prep work.

I’ve taken two diagnostic exams, signed up for a pre-course, read some material, entered the lottery for parking, paid my first rent installment to my roomie, and planned out all the other things I need to do. The list only gets longer, it seems.

Yet here I am in China with limited resources to get things done, plenty of family to see, and weeks stretching out ahead of me. I hope by the end of my trip I’ll feel well-rested and refreshed. I’m starting to learn to let go and sleep if I’m tired or sit without reading. It feels so odd to shut off and chill when there’s so much to do.

I hope there’s enough time to catch up once I’m stateside again and the pace really picks up. Until then, meditation practice and deep breaths are in order.

Blocked sites in China

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It’s been two years since I last visited China and I can’t quite remember what my technology needs were at that time. I think I just needed to blog and private message Panda and that was pretty much it. This time around I’m trying to use Instagram and Snapchat, which I have just learned are blocked. I should have known just about any American social media would be inaccessible.

I wasn’t even aware that Google is now banned and this whole time I thought my internet connection was just that slow and I couldn’t even load that page. But it turns out it just can’t be accessed without VPN. Thankfully, I have that set up to use as needed.

If you’re even planning a trip to China, I recommend preparing with VPN and doing a quick search of which sites are still banned at that time, so you’ll know why something isn’t loading.

Airplane windows

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I’ve been on 15 planes in the past two months or so and I’ve really noticed the window situation. Why do they make them so low that we need to hunch to look out? It’s rather uncomfortable and doesn’t make much sense.

It feels like they designed the exterior of the plane, framed out windows, then threw in seats that don’t align. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have larger windows, one per row of seats that extend higher than most people’s heads? More folks would be able to enjoy the view outside regardless of where they sit.

I suppose part of the issue is how they constantly change the spacing between seats in the ever-changing musical chairs of legroom. Still, the Herat and general size of the window could be extended to benefit more of us all, don’t you think?

Prospurly May 2016 review

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Gosh, I’ve been meaning to review this for quite some time, but I didn’t have the time to properly sit down and evaluate everything. Just like that, two weeks have flown by!

Prospurly is just under $45 per box (with code for 10% off your subscription – use my referral links from this post) and comes with artisan foods, bath & body items, home products, and other sustainably crafted items. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. They offer a referral program that earns you free boxes.

prospurly may 2016 box open with products showing prospurly may 2016 info card with product details

Skin Nutrition from nature with love pink grapefruit shea butter lotion – Mmm, what a nice light grapefruit scent! This is a very thick lotion that feels great and smells wonderful. This will be perfect for traveling with, so my hands don’t get dried out after hand washing.

Three Little Figs Citrus and Smoked Salt jam – Whoa, with orange slices, chiles, and smoked salt, this jam is all sorts of flavors. I’ll definitely want to try cooking meat with this to give it an extra boost of taste.

Skin Nutrition from nature with love organic matcha green tea under eye balm – What a unique eye product! I like being able to apply an eye balm like this, which helps me control how much gets on without using too much (which I tend to do with most other eye products).

Skin Nutrition from nature with love bug bite balm – This will be handy throughout the summer, helping with itchy skin situations. It’s so compact and easy to bring along anywhere.

Skin Nutrition from nature with love citronella campfire spray – Perfectly paired with the bug balm, this will hopefully help keep bugs away in the first place! Citronella is well-known for warding off mosquitoes. The addition of catnip essential oil is definitely different and pretty awesome!

Foxes & Ferns holistic bath tea in Rejuvenation & Relaxation – Both of these smell very nice and are definitely the type of thing you want to help you relax and enjoy a bath. I love the suggestion to throw these in the dryer for the next use, but also to freshen up the laundry.

Artisan Salt Co Alaea Hawaiian style sea salt – I enjoy these salts and have two from previous boxes. This is supposedly a special one made for Prospurly, but I definitely got the exact kind from Escape Monthly before… so it makes me wonder if they (and Yogi Surprise) are the same company. I’ve suspected it before, since they have similar styles in box presentation.

While I really like all the products, I do feel like it was very heavy on a single brand and I would have liked to see greater variety. Still, I like everything and can’t wait to use them all! What do you think of this month’s box?

[This post contains affiliate links. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I’d be ever so grateful. :) All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box and wanted to share what I got!]

How to get a 10-year visa to China

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Well, it’s been over 2 years since I last got a visa to China and mine expired 4 months ago, so I had to go back again. Luckily, since that time, there is a new agreement in place that allows me to apply for a 10 year visa! Thank goodness I will only have to deal with this process once a decade. Here are some lessons from this time, building from my previous experience.

First of all, if you are applying for a visa in the DMV (DC metro area), make sure you’re going to the visa office on Wisconsin. The visa office is not in the embassy! I recommend parking over on 35th or Whitehaven – if you go down beyond the first block you’ll get past metered parking and find free 2-hour spots. Be sure to go in the morning or you might find yourself wasting an extra hour waiting for them to get back from lunch and/or not even getting serviced once they run out of time in the afternoon. They shut the doors at 2:30 so no new people come in, but from what I hear they keep on working through the line that has built up until 4 or later.

metal seats in waiting area at dc's chinese visa officeThis time I am going during tourist season, so oh my gosh it was waaaaaaay worse than last time. 20-40 minutes in line?! Please. Think more like 3-4 hours! In light of that, bring a snack. I nearly fainted the first time I was there since I was there until nearly 2 without any food all day. They do have a remodeled area that was under construction last time I was there. There are a lot of seats, but even more people and typically most of them are taken.

By the way, yes, you need to give them your passport. Your original, physical passport. It’ll come back with a giant sticker on one page containing your visa! Even though they have your passport at hand, you still need to provide a printed copy of your passport photo page and most recent visa (if you ever had one before). I think a lot people don’t realize that.

I was super paranoid this time because last time was not easy, so I actually came over-prepared. I had copies of my passport, visa, driver’s license (front and back), email with travel details, invitation letter from my dad, his passport, his visa (proof he lives and works in China), and the application form. I ended up only needing my passport copy, visa copy, and 2 pages of the flight confirmation email (which was like 10 pages long), in addition to the application.

I read online that they only accept typed forms, so thank goodness I didn’t try to fill it out by hand. I actually prepared two versions – one for the L visa, for general tourists, and one for the Q2 visa, for visiting relatives. I ended up going with the L visa application and all they needed was the part of my itinerary showing my name, which matches my passport, and my departure dates.

While I had been worried that I had a Chinese address instead of a hotel for the place I’d be staying, that didn’t end up being an issue. That’s why I also had my dad’s info, to prove that he knew I was coming and had “invited” me to join him. Luckily, they didn’t seem to need any proof that I could stay at the Beijing address I gave.

Last Friday, we had a morning All Hands that ended around 10 and I headed out to apply for my visa. I arrived at 10:59 and got a ticket for the B numbers, which are for non-Chinese passport holders applying for a visa. A is for Chinese passport holders who are renewing their passport or processing other needs. C is for diplomats and other special folks, I believe. D is for those picking up something and gets you to the payment window. Windows are distributed by function too. Window 1 seems to be for travel agents and others with special scenarios. Window 2 is often vacant. Window 3-7 are for visa processing, with Window 5 being for diplomats. Window 8 & 9 are for Chinese citizens. Window 10 is for payment, and Window 11 is for pickup.

I sat for nearly 3 hours before getting called and for all that… my time at the window was around 2 minutes. I had managed to take a nap, do a lot of staring, and go move my car in that time. They seriously need to streamline this process. Add on the hour to get there and hour back and that was 5 hours just to submit my application. Thankfully, I was prepared and had everything I needed. There were no hiccups this time, no getting sent upstairs and having to spend money to fill out a form at a travel agency, no rejections at the window after a long wait. I was told I could come back on Wednesday to pick up my visa.

This past Friday, I was able to return. This time I came earlier, arriving before 10:30. As it was approaching 12:30, I started to get really nervous that I would not get in before the lunch break. The payment window closes 12:30-1:30 for lunch and it’s the only place you can pay before reclaiming your passport with your new visa. I was so relieved when I got called at 12:20, with time to spare! It was about a minute to pay (I wonder what all the other people did and why they were much slower) and then a brief wait for the person at the next window to come back and find my passport. Within 2 hours, I was happily on my way  back to the car!

I’m glad this won’t have to happen again for a long, long time.

Why you should give feedback to companies

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Are you the type of person who will write to a company or call them when you have a comment? Or are you like most and dismiss it as not worth your time and effort?

While mostly I’m thinking of standing up for yourself when something goes wrong, this can also apply to positive feedback. Companies won’t ever know if you don’t tell them explicitly. It’s amazing how many people never bother to share when something went awry. If that’s the case, the issue will likely persist.

On a personal level, you can benefit from reaching out to companies. For example, on our recent Europe trip, both Panda and Calavera’s suitcases were damaged (by different airlines). Panda wrote an email to them, was able to dig up an old receipt for a luggage purchase, and is being reimbursed $100. If Calavera doesn’t do the same, she won’t be compensated.

This works in all sorts of realms. When service was not good, I reach out to restaurants or airlines and they usually offer a free meal or airlines miles, as appropriate.

On the positive side, I once reached out to Yuzen because I was so in love with their service. Now I get to be a brand ambassador and receive boxes for free! Or another time, my excitement and eagerness in reaching out got me a free area rug.

Today I came home to find a box for Panda. It turned out to be a bunch of free jerky! Again, we never would have gotten it had he not reached out when we got a less than optimal product. See the opportunities that are out there? And this is not even factoring in how companies can take this feedback and learn from it. I sure hope they’re doing that!!

five assorted bags of epic jerky

Free snacks!!

five assorted bags of epic jerky and trail mix

Smokey wanted a piece too.

Summertime spottings

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The thing I’m going to miss most about NoVA is all the different creatures you can find in nature. On just a weekend stroll, we were able to find many animals!

momma duck at edge of pond with half a dozen ducklings

A momma duck with at least 6-7 babies.

green frog camouflaging in leaves by pond

A green frog camouflaging against the leaves.

frog or polliwog in water with head sticking out

A small frog and many polliwogs!

giant polyphemus moth on grass

A giant moth that I think is a polyphemus moth.

I love finding cool new life all around me!!

On My Mind, episode 12: winning

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It’s the first day of my last two weeks on the job and I’m not yet ready for the change, though I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been on a streak of good fortune, which has been nice.

It started when I got an email about potential roommates. I had wanted to split a 3-bedroom to save on costs, but wasn’t sure how to begin. I’d looked at some apartments and that was it. As luck would have it, one of the girls I met at admit weekend reached out to me – she and another girl had secured an apartment and needed a third roommate. The place is in DTLA just like I wanted and it looks fabulous. It’s a quick and easy drive down to campus. The rent cost is less then the $1400 max I was hoping for.

So there I was, with an opportunity in my lap. The other girl happens to live in DC, so we were able to meet up after work last Tuesday to chat and make sure we were a good fit. I’m pleased to say that everything went well and we’re going ahead with getting me added to the lease! How easy was that?

Then last week we had an internal testing event to try out the new app we’ll be rolling out. For our participation, we were entered in a drawing for one of three $150 Amazon gift cards. I was the very last name drawn, how exciting!! What a nice parting gift to get. :)

As if that wasn’t all good enough, I noticed a message in my Instagram account. I don’t check often, but it happened to catch my eye. I had won a contest for a free Lilee box, courtesy of Beauty Box 5 and others hosting a Sunset Shop Giveaway. Yippee! I don’t enter contests as much anymore, but I’m glad to see I can still win them from time to time. I’ve found that I usually have a 1-1.5% success rate.

And hey while I’m at it, I’d like to celebrate the fact that I opened a Capital One 360 Savings account and found out they have a pretty awesome interest rate of 0.75% APY. Certainly better than the other accounts I have open elsewhere. My mom says that Discover has a great one too, so when I see a good offer for new accounts, I’ll have to set one up.

Finally, it is the start of the end for me and in a way, that’s worth celebrating. I’ll miss my friends and aspects of working here, but I really look forward to learning new things, meeting people who are as excited about business as I am, and setting my career on the track I’ve wanted for some time now.

Treatsie May 2016 review

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This will be my last box from them. After being there from the start and seeing their changes in packaging along the way, it’s time for me to save money while in school.

Treatsie is $15 per box + $4.95 shipping and comes with artisan candy from 3-4 brands. That means about 6 or 7 different flavors of treats. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. They offer a referral link program to earn store credit. Use my referral link and code FRBUCO01 to get double the treats (a purported $40 value) in your first box!

treatsie may 2016 box contents treatsie may 2016 info card

Raley’s Confectionary Acid Drops hard candy: Well doesn’t that sound dangerous? I think it refers to the tartness of these sour candies, which are delightful. Just the type of thing that I like, sweet yet sour. This will last me a long time since one piece is enough for quite awhile. I totally want to try using these with a cotton candy machine – sour cotton candy? Hmm…

Izard Chocolate caramels: Love these! I’m a big fan of caramels and these are very good. I do like slightly more firm caramels, but if you like super soft gooey ones, try these. I probably should have stuck them in the fridge for the texture that I like.

Grey Ghost Bakery Chocolate Espresso cookies: I gave these to Panda to eat since I don’t like anything coffee-flavored, but I do like Grey Ghost cookies.

Grey Ghost Bakery Cinnamon Pecan cookies: These aren’t my favorite flavor from them, but it’s good with a nice cinnamon taste. It’s more dry than I tend to like, but still good. The sweetness is light at first and then kicks in after chewing a little bit. The chunks of pecan fall off easily.

Not a bad box to go out on, though I wish they had other cookie flavors that I enjoy more! What do you think of the treats from this box? To get Treatsie, sign up with my link and code FRBUCO01 to get double the treats in your first box!

[This post contains affiliate links. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I’d be ever so grateful. :) All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box and wanted to share what I got!]

Oceanside birds

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With my pending move back to the West coast, I’m looking forward to being near beaches and awesome seabirds again. :) Last time I was hanging out at the beach was in Ventura, almost exactly a year ago!

pelican trio flying by Oxnard from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

seagull flying over crashing tide slow-mo from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

seagull flying overhead past sun slow-mo from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

trying to scare seagulls from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

pelican and friend landing in ocean from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

pelican soaring off in distance from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

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