Simply Sather

WHAT I LEARNED IN SHANGHAI

It was such an adventure for us to travel to/from Shanghai.

We visited because Mister (my hubby) was invited by a non-profit organization to speak about ozone pollution in China. Though he’s been doing this work for 28 years, this was the first time he was invited to travel abroad to share his expertise and I was ecstatic he invited me to join him.

In a follow up post, I’ll write about how our trip to Shanghai spoke to parts of my soul, but this first post is dedicated to the things I learned from visiting this very large, I mean very large city.

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the view from our hotel on the 18th floor

CHINA IS A DEVELOPING COUNTRY

We were picked up from the bustling international airport in Shanghai and had a driver in a Rolls-Royce waiting for us. Even though I’d looked at the hotel’s website and wasn’t sure about what we might be experiencing, my hopes peaked when we were collected in this swanky ride.

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The Everbrite Hotel + Convention Center

And then deflated quite a bit when we arrived at our hotel an hour later.

Despite our ideas of what Shanghai might be like – thank you Crazy Rich Asians – we learned that China is in fact a developing country. I don’t completely understand how the list is determined, but it has to do with the economic status of that country. You can read more about it here.

We would not have believed this had an organizer of the event not verified this with us. He is credible too as he’s from Beijing, where they organization is headquartered and where he’s lived his whole life.

It makes sense though. New only comes when it’s necessary. It seems that maintaining and updating to keep up with trends is not a Chinese thing – at least not out of the downtown areas of Shanghai.

Other than the incredibly stunning international airport, efficient subway system and the Starbucks and fancy mall near our hotel, we did not get the impression that it was of importance for them to have the newest, shiniest, trendiest anything throughout the city.

Our experience with the Chinese money – the “renminbi” or the “yuan” – is that they are not interested in anything other than their money or their credit cards.

There was no interest in American money. They have no place for it in their everyday living.

We had such a frustrating experience with the hotel not having many English-speaking hotel attendants (though the website tauted that there would be plenty). Them not accepting Mister’s travel/business American credit card later in the week after accepting on our first night in the hotel led us on an adventure through back alleys to find a currency exchange machine that was connected to our bank.

CHRISTIANITY TRULY IS HIDDEN

Other than the hint of a Bible and a couple of crosses at a performing arts district in the mall near our hotel, we saw NO signs of Christianity. And only a few Buddhist Temples and just a few more statues of Buddha were more prevalent.

At the last-minute we decided it would be best to take my Bible on my phone and use the app in our room or on the plane while traveling to/from China. The absence of Bibles, people praying and meeting places were clearly absent.

ENGLISH IS NOT SPOKEN IN VERY MANY PLACES

In the area where we stayed all week – about 9 subway stops and an exchange station from the major shopping district (Nanjing Road) – we encountered very few English speakers and many unwilling to even try.

We were outnumbered and my translation apps only worked on Wi-Fi. And since it would have required my purchasing a PVN for the time we were there to have access to private, secure data, we opted to refrain.

This meant we had to rely on any hints of English, animated gesturing and a lot of aggressive pointing to make our point.

Fortunately every sign, subway stop and even many of the stores there are clearly marked in English. This meant that the two of us – no Mandarin speaking folks – were able to navigate the Nanjing Road. 

That was a huge part of the adventure.

It’s not completely fair to say that many do not speak English in the city of Shanghai because it is such a tourist filled city that we weren’t sure how many folks were from China or other Asian countries – though there were a lot of people.

I was disappointed in the shopping experience because we wanted to bring back more articles of clothing, toys or even a Starbucks Travel Series Mug with the Chinese characters, but alas – they were all in English.

We left with many hotel toothbrushes, chopsticks and a few goodies for our young adult children.

BLACK FOLKS ARE SUPER RARE

While in the city of Shanghai, I saw four other black folks all week; and I left our hotel everyday. This is not counting the other half-dozen or so that we saw at the airport on either side of our travels, but the point is, for the amount of folks visiting and living in Shanghai, people looking like me are rare.

So very rare so that at one point on the Bund – which I’ll share about in the second post about Shanghai – a man walking with his friends, hand signaled to us that he wanted to take a photo of me.

This was after he bumped into his friends from walking and staring over his shoulder in the opposite direction. He yelled out at me (not exactly catcalls) and then made some sort of sign language I did not understand. He wanted a photo, so I spun Mister around and we smiled for the camera.

Maybe it’s the responsibility I felt in that moment to positively represent all black folks or something, but my assumption was that whoever he was, I was a sight he had not experienced in person and he was momentarily captivated, shocked or amused.

The language barrier makes it impossible for me to know for sure, but I’m going to assume the best and hope we left them with the most positive impression.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS PERSONAL SPACE

I’d read about this before we left, but until we hopped on and off the elevator throughout the week, I did not believe it was true.

Example: There were three of us on an elevator we’d seen hold up to 15. On one of our last nights, the two us and a stranger on her phone were riding on the elevator, fairly spread out when two young ladies hopped on in deep conversation – turns out, about what they would be eating later that evening. One of the two women was so close to me that I just leaned into her leaning into me and read over her shoulder without budging – she did not even look up at me; not even bothered.

There’s no such thing as waiting “fairly” in line (first come, first served means nothing here). People waiting patiently and somewhat quietly, but in a quick minute I went from being 10th in line but would turn my neck to find myself in the 13th or even 16th position. And you know what, those in their 60s and older were the worst offenders.

When out on a night river cruise seeing the lights on the Bund River, we were constantly nudged, shoved, pushed and really the problem was our own. It’s just not what we’re used to. The queue situation is very different in China and working to refuse to take it personally is a part of surviving with a good attitude.

BREAKFAST INCLUDES CORN, PEAS AND CARROTS

And rice.

Rice with every meal. Which I guess I anticipated but when it got to breakfast and I was looking for something I could pour some syrup over, maybe quite possibly even a slice of bacon but there was no such thing. Plenty of white rice (not even fried, can I get an amen?) forced to submit to our international experience.

I lost a few pounds while walking all over tarnation but it was mostly because we could not drink the tap water (didn’t even brush our teeth with it) and because the food was not what we expected. At one point, we were having an authentic Chinese meal and we were giddy.

We looked at one another and said, “we’re having Chinese food, in China!”.

Y’all, maybe it was this trip, but the food did not wow us this time.

PUBLIC RESTROOMS ARE…MINIMALISTIC

I’d heard and read about the public toilets – known as “squatting pans” – before we got there but expected them to be far worse than the ones we found in the Nanjing Shopping District.

We had to walk a long way to find one and when we got there, I was halfway prepared. I had flushable wipes (though they were to be discarded in the nearby wastebasket) check! But, I’d forgotten to pack hand soap + paper towels to dry my hands. So I rinsed them, then air dried them and then used hand sanitizer too.

There are restroom attendants for both women and men. Most likely to keep the wastebaskets empty and the rooms clean. They saved themselves a lot of time however since there was no paper included in the experience.

I’m not going to talk about what would happen if you needed a longer, ahem, stay for different kind of business. That is something I will my body not to participate in while in public here in the states, I certainly could not even begin to wrap my brain around the logistics of doing that while hovering over a hole in the ground.

Too much? I just want you to be prepared…

A win? These particular potties – which I needed to visit twice in our 11.1 mile walk – were FREE!

TEXANS COULD (ALMOST) SQUEEZE INTO SHANGHAI

In 2017, the population of Texas and Shanghai were listed as 28.3 and 24.18 million people, respectively.

Take a moment to think about that. Our entire state could almost fit it’s people into the city of Shanghai. It blows my mind. It felt like Shanghai had a lot of people in it while still feeling huge.

The subway entrances/exits were always bustling, the amount of mopeds, buses, bikes and cars were daunting at times. People everywhere all of the time. Moving, going, busy.

Older people – in their 60s, 70s and 80s seemed to be employable or willing to work and humble about what they were “qualified” to do. We saw very few homeless and weren’t convinced they weren’t simply taking a nap between meeting a friend or another shift at their job.

It’s a bustling city with so many, many people and deemed very safe. I never felt in danger.

We were so amazed by all of the construction and high-rise buildings. All of those people have to live somewhere, right?

SMILING IS SHOW STOPPING

On our one free day of touring the city, I began to make it my personal mission to smile at and get people to smile. Of the hundreds of folks I made eye contact with that day (over 11.1 miles and 26, 084 steps) I can proudly say that I got just over a dozen folks to return my eye contact and my smile. It seemed amusing to them and was heart warming to me.

We quickly adapted to the culture around us and while talking to one another we whispered and talked and smiled, but when we looked out on the world around us, there was far less comfortability.

SMARTPHONES ARE SERIOUS BUSINESS IN SHANGHAI

I don’t know if it was my foreign travel eyes or not having my own cellular data while traveling in China, but the use of smartphones was at a level I do not think I’ve ever seen here in the states.

Maybe we trade our cell phone obsession (at this level) in for obsessing over things like celebrity, paparazzi and fame, but I was so shocked at how seriously they were tied to their cell phones.

Please hear my heart – it’s simply an observation, one that I’m convicted to be checking myself for as we return to our routine and rhythm here in the states. I’m not trying to judge them or their culture, but it was something that took me aback from the moment we lined up in customs in preparation for stepping out of the airport into the city.

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biking while operating one’s smartphone – it’s a thing
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everytime, everywhere

There were so many other thingsI learned while traveling to China. My mind was constantly, actively alert to the environment around me. I did not take very many photos and apologize for the quality of the photos I did take. I no longer have my fancy-pants camera I once did and my iPhone was on its last leg and not updated before we left.

The benefit? I was able to be very in the moment and do recall our experiences very vividly.

Though there were a lot of differences and tons of culture shock for us, we would be interested in a future visit to China. With experience under our belts, we would do a little more work to manage our expectations and more clearly communicate questions and hopes in advance.

Since it was a work trip, I really feel we got a more authentic feel for the city than if we’d only gone to the touristy spots and places where English was more readily spoken – the more modernized places.

Stay tuned for the next post, “Ways Shanghai Spoke to My Soul”, coming soon.

And thank you for joining us on our trip overseas.

Simply Sather

THE FIRST HALF

It’s been quiet over here because well, I’ve been busy.

Busy wrapping up from some fun events in early October, busy preparing for our week-long trip to Shanghai (we leave super soon) and especially busy updating the Simply Sather website.

FUN EVENTS IN EARLY OCTOBER

We had to back out of some of the things we’d originally said yes to – thank you grace-filled friends – but were still able to participate in some pretty fantastic events.

Pancakes + PJs

It was so much fun to partner up with the other three women in the first photo to bless a bunch of other women with amazing food, conversations about relationship tending and cover them with prayer.

This couple is a dynamic duo in the kitchen. They work well together and are fun to watch as they’ve found their niche serving others as a team. Their talents are widespread. We’re super pumped to show you some of their other gems and how we’ll be using them to help others tend to their souls.

The husbands jumped on the line and made personalized omelets for each guest. Our hostess is in on the fun too.

I so look forward to facilitating soul care retreats with this set up in the near future. Fort Worth friends, keep your eyes peeled; I’m starting with y’all.

Drag Racing

We adore these fairly new friends. For bringing us into their world and showing us something they love but especially for spending the day with us and sharing more of their story and hearts with us. And while drag racing was completely cool (my favorite was the very loud Top Fuel), it was likely our last time doing something like that.

The treasure for being with them helped us to think about “what our thing is”. Like really, what’s us?!?

We’re still talking about that. What would we like to get more into and invite others to do with us with passion and enthusiasm, allowing folks to delve into a world or experience they’ve never tried before?
Maybe taking a cooking class together or learning about wines, but for now travel seems to still be our “thing”.

We’re glad we went and are especially grateful we went with people who know car/drag racing.

Jodi Picoult + The Adolphus

Mister drove me to The Adolphus Hotel in downtown Dallas for my time with Jodi Picoult. I write that like she and I would be spending personal time together, which didn’t happen, but I was very excited about doing this.

To make it worth his while, we ate at the hotel’s very lovely City Hall Bistro breakfast/brunch place. Their potatoes are the jam (I crack me up!). We sipped mimosas and talked about the decor and some other important married folk stuff – communication is key friends. It was a good date day.

And well, it was also good for him to see the place I’m most excited to return to – The French Room. While I was with my friend Jodi, he took a peek in this lovely place to see why I started begging him back in August to consider it for celebrating our one year anniversary in February 2019. He was also able to sit in their lovely lobby – yes, the restaurant has its own waiting area (think huge, lush living room) and read (meaning check his fantasy football team stats) while waiting for me. He wasn’t alone, there were other men doing the same thing in other parts of the hotel.

Seeing Jodi speak was a treat. First, I learned that I’ve been pronouncing her name incorrectly. I believe it’s French or at least it sounds French. (pronounced: Pee-Co)

Second, Mrs. Picoult does her homework. Her new book, Spark of Light, came with my admission ticket and was signed. It’s about a stand-off at an abortion clinic and it sounds pretty intense. Jodi shared her about her writing process, how she gathers research and real life stories (hello Twitter) and that what she’s learned affects her need to use her voice to educate and affect change.

Spark of Light is her 25th book. Her next book will be something far less intense, according to her. She also gave us a chuckle when she mentioned she’d be slowing down and only writing a book every other year, rather than one a year like she did the first twenty years/books.

I’m thinking about reading every single book she’s written in the order she wrote them during my reading challenge next year. Anyone interested in joining me for that?

Finally, Picoult shared some very practical advice for those writing a book, so well – maybe someday.

Outstanding in the Field

Back to the place where Mister proposed on this day (12 October) last year.

A Georgia peach, being proposed to under a peach tree with a peach sapphire engagement ring. The place is beautiful and we so enjoy the experience of eating from sustainable farms with fresh ingredients and in such a lovely, picturesque place.

You get to sip new wines, eat delicious combinations of food and meet very interesting people.

We take our own plates and have started to mark the dates and locations of the places where we get to experience Out in the Field hoping and dreaming to enjoy it in the Pacific Northwest and France someday.

PREPARING FOR SHANGHAI

In an effort to get excited and be prepared for traveling to China next week, it has come down to taking a lot of expectations off of my plate. We have been so focused on getting our travel visas (permission to enter a country) that we weren’t absolutely sure we’d be going until those were delivered earlier this week.

Such a great reminder that God is the only one in complete control.

We’ve done our research and are excited and grateful for the opportunity and have come to following conclusions in preparation for our trip.

We will pack light

We will carry our luggage on the flight and plan to leave our computers at home. There will be plenty of oils, hand sanitizer, tissue (for toilet paper – public restrooms) but otherwise, we be traveling lightly.

I will be packing denim, black + white clothing to be able to switch and accessorize without taking a lot of clothing. We will be leaving room in our luggage for small gifts and goodies, I also want to bring back some of their money. The yuan will be added to my collection of monies from Iraq, Europe, Mexico + Bahamas.

We will be offline

I wanted to share the experience as we were living it but with all of the security measures in China, it became clear it’d be stressful for me to try to navigate laws and regulations I don’t understand. So, I have opted to go social media free the entire time we’re in the country and share when we return.

This means a lot of reading during down times (the flights are 15 hours one way – direct, but still 15 hours) and plenty of time to journal, dream and reflect. I have plans to do the dreaming + vision activity I have people complete on soul care retreats for myself as well as put into practice several soul tending steps to really sit still and hear from God. It will also be a wonderful time for me to simply write.

We will be respectful

Rather than take our “brick + mortar” Bibles, we will take the Bible I have on my phone to use while there. We’ve gotten a lot of advice and realize that it’s respectful to their country’s leadership to refrain from carrying our Bibles.

Mister’s primary focus while there is to share about air quality so we want to focus on that, not distract from the purpose of even taking this trip.

It feels a little wrong to be doing that, but wisdom wins. It’s a five-day trip, we don’t want to do anything that will unnecessarily turn it into a longer one.

UPDATES ON THE SIMPLY SATHER WEBSITE

If you haven’t already, take a little look-see around the website. It’s gotten a facelift and it isn’t even complete yet.

The biggest section I’m working on (and will continue to work on when we return) will be the “Coaching, Courses + Retreats” page. While I’ll continue to blog a couple of times each week – when I’m not traveling out of the country! – more of my energy and focus will go into sharing content to help you tend to your soul in each of these three ways.

It’s been a bit of a headache for me – it’s not my strength! But, I’m incredibly grateful for a young, patient, web developer who is taking what’s in my head and making it appear for our eyes.

I know I lost a couple of subscribers to the shenanigans last week when you were sent multiple emails with gibberish in the text. Again, I’m so very sorry – you can read my apology and receive a free resource here (in case you missed it).

Thank you for your patience and your prayers.

I have so many things I long to share with you in this space – tips for single women about dating, encouragement for women who are divorced and overwhelmed and for widows who are wondering if/when it’ll get any better. Since I can’t be with each of you at your local Starbucks or on your couch sharing my experiences to help you walk through your own, I am working to put it all here for you.

It’s a bit terrifying, but it’s also very exciting. So, please be patient with me, it’s coming. And someday, the delivery may be fancier, but for now – the focus is on making it easy for you to access at your convenience. This is so you can tend to your soul in the method that works best for you (whether with coaching, courses or planned retreats).

READING CHALLENGE

In the meantime, please cheer me on as I move toward completing my 1st ever reading challenge.

I am one book away from reading 65 books in 365 days (started 01 November 2017, to finish 31 October 2018). I’m quite certain that I’ll complete surpass my goal on the 15 hour flights to/from China, but believe I’ve been hesitant to finish because I’m unsure of what I’ll be doing next.

Sure, I could just read for fun, but something about me? I like a bit of a road map, some sort of navigation system. And since there is so little I can control in life, this is one of those things that I choose to direct myself.

I’m leaning towards reading only “recommended” books or books that refer to people being in different seasons of their lives or books that literally take place in various seasons. Maybe I’ll nail it down overseas, but if you have any book challenges that you participate in or want a reading partner to participate in with you, then leave your suggestions in the comments below. Always, I mean I’m always up for a good book talk.

For those of you who enjoy Instagram as much as I do, you can witness me nerding out over on my @readwithregina feed. Here I share all things books – what I’m currently reading, video reviews on my IGTV Channel (kind of like YouTube) and places where I step more deeply into my enjoyment books.

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I told you the first half of October has been busy – and this ain’t even all the things.

I wanted to share the highlights with you and hope you understand why it’s been a bit quiet over here.

Hoping the first half of your October has led you to great experiences and encouraged you to continue to make time to tend to your soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simply Sather

I’M SO VERY SORRY

This is my face after hours and hours of glitches on the website here yesterday.

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I’M SO VERY SORRY.

Thank you so much to those of you who reached out to me about these glitches (and the emails in your in box). My web administrator and myself have been working diligently to get things back in order and up to snuff.

As the nature of my business moves toward online courses and coaching – things you can access right from the comfort of your living room – I needed the website to reflect those offerings.

And that meant changing the look of Simply Sather.

I’m so very sorry for the mess in your email in boxes yesterday. We still don’t know how it happened, but are aware of the inconvenience and are working to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

I hope you will continue subscribing as more soul tending resources and tips are on the way.

A NEW LOGO

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I’m so very excited to share this with y’all.

It’s been several weeks in the making. And while it may just seem like another logo – I’d like to share a few special things about it.

1| It’s MY handwriting! 

My creative support is genius. She saw the fonts I provided and after I mentioned that I often get compliments on my handwriting, she somehow turned my first attempt at a writing sample into my new logo.

2| The colors are significant.

I rushed (what we called it back then) a sorority in 1992 and like all of them – they have colors. The colors in my sorority are black + gold, which have locked themselves in my subconscious over the years. So much so that I have coffee mugs, furniture and wall hangings in these colors.

3 | The heart is my signature stamp.

I’m not sure how she did it, but I wanted a doodle heart, less structured…not perfect.

It represents a heart rock I found while vacationing in Washington State this past summer. We were walking back from the beach to our car – the same path we’d taken to get to the beach – when I almost stepped on it. Not sure how I missed it, I bent to grab it and almost cried.

A weathered rock. Smooth, but cracked.

This heart had been through something.

I asked my husband if I could take it. Not sure why, I wasn’t sure something so beautiful wasn’t worth more or belonged to someone else. I guess I needed verbal confirmation outside of myself.

It represented me. My heart.

And in that moment, we both knew that it would become the symbol of the soul tending support I work to offer.

A THANK YOU GIFT FOR YOU

Thank you for sticking around.

There is so much content in my heart. Once the format is set up (the website) and I learn how to navigate it with less time spent on the “behind-the-scenes”, there will be more here for you.

More designed to help you tend to your soul.

In fact, as a thank you gift for your patience and for sticking with me here in this space, I’d like to offer this FREE resource I created to help me make + take the margin in my life to tend to my own soul. Enjoy!

And again, thank you.