Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 2 - Suzhou and Shanghai at Night

Our second day in Asia started off with long bus ride to Suzhou, pronounced Sue Jo. Suzhou is the world capital of silk production. In China, Suzhou is considered a "town" of 6 million people! Our first stop was the Master of the Nets gardens with its 900 year old pine trees.


Our next stop was at the silk factory.  These are the silk worms munching on mulberry leaves. Each silkworm produces about one mile worth of silk in the form of the cocoon.  It takes 8 cocoons to make one thread of silk and 8,000 silk worms to make one silk blanket!


Aside from being known for silk, Suzhou is known for being the Venice of China.  So, after spending a bit of money in the silk factory store, we went on a boat ride on Suzhou's Grand Canal. The canal is a man made river almost 1,100 miles long.


The people who live in the houses on the canal are typically elderly.  The houses are hundreds of years old and most have not been adapted for indoor plumbing! They put their "honey pots" on their steps each day and they are taken away, cleaned and returned each evening.


After getting back to Shanghai, Darren and I set out to explore a bit.  We wandered down to The Peoples Park.


We saw this sign on the way into the park and I just couldnn't get over how much they LOVE American fast food in Shanghai! In this one building was Starbucks, KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds and Burger King!


It was getting dark as we started walking own Nanjing Road which is considered the high fashion shopping area like Rodeo Drive or 5th Avenue.  It looks more like Vegas though!


One of the stores had an Angry Birds stuffed animal display in it.


We then walked back to the Bund because we heard it was even prettier at night.  It did not disappoint.  It looked so nice without all that terrible fog!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 1 - Shanghai

Welcome to Asia!  After a 15 hour plane ride with NO movies (ours were broken) we have arrived! We stayed at the Bund Riverside Hotel which was a pretty nice with a great location but our first hotel room had no window! How crazy. I didn't even know they made hotel rooms without windows!  The hotel also kept playing Christmas music.  I've heard of Christmas in July but Christmas in May was new to me!

Our first stop was was a traditional market typical of where the people of Shanghai go to get their food daily.  It was a bit different from the local Kroger! Shanghai is an enormous city even by American standards with 23 million people.


Our next stop was the Bund where the river separates the new city from the old city.  Across the river you see the bottle opener building which is Shanghai's tallest building at 101 stories. The pink balls are the Oriental TV Tower and it was the first tall building on that side of the river completed in 1994. I cannot believe how much has been built on that side of the river in just 17 years!  I promise the city isn't all this grey, it is just the smog.


Our stop in the afternoon was the Yu Yuan Gardens. This was originally an individual's private garden.


My favorite part of the garden was the dragon/snake wall.  Back when the garden was built, in 1559, no one but the emperor could use the symbol of the dragon.  In order to skirt that law, they put a dragon head on a snake's body.


The gardens were a really calm and serene place.  We ended our night at an acrobat show.  Some of the acts were a little slow and we were in need of some sleep, but we had a great start to our Asian Adventure!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Goodbye Nashville

I had started this post before I left Nashville... I finally got around to finishing it!

A chronology of my time in Nashville and why it is such a special place to me.

Looking back, it doesn't seem like yesterday, but it doesn't seem like the almost 12 years it has been since I stepped foot on to Vanderbilt's campus as an 18 year old freshman.  I came to Nashville knowing no one but Dan Cypra. I was grateful to have that one person I knew, I could trust and in whom I could confide just steps away in the next dorm over. When I walked on campus, I had no idea that I would make Nashville my home for almost 12 years, almost 40% of my life.  I remember thinking, when I move back to Chicago... But Chicago never happened and Nashville won over my heart.

Beginning freshman year knowing practically no one, you soon meet lots of people.  Some of those people I can't remember the names or even the faces of today, but through a mutual friend from Homewood, I met Chad.  And living in my dorm was my "twin" Lauren.  You never know who when you meet someone if they will just pass through your life or be a permanent fixture in it.  While I don't talk to either of them as much as I'd like, we are still friends and can pick up instantly like no time has passed between visits.

Then sophomore year, I met Jenny and Josh.  I cannot even begin to recall the hours I spent with these two and Cypra's roommate Jim doing projects, homework and studying.  At least one of them was in about every Econ, Finance and Business class I took.  I also met Kyle in Accounting, aka Skippy, but I cannot remember why I called her that.  Inseparable would describe us until she graduated a year before me and moved to Hawaii.

Senior year brought about a relationship with Nick, but more importantly through Nick, I found great friendships with Laura and Bryan.   The relationship with Nick didn't last all that long, but our friendship remains as well as my friendships with Laura and Bryan.  After college Laura and I lived together on two separate occasions.  She was the only roommate I liked living with!  Ok, well I only had 2 roommates ever, so she wins the contest hands down! It was amazing we could work at the same place all day and then still enjoy hanging out together at night.  But then she moved to Philadelphia to be with the future husband.

After living with Laura, but before my condo was completed, I ended up at Josh & Lauren's wedding in Kansas City where I met Elizabeth.  She and I had quite a few mutual friends including Josh, Lauren, Jim and Cypra, but somehow, in four years of college, we had never really met.  It turned out she was moving to Nashville and was going to have quite a bit of extra space in her new house.  She volunteered to let me live with her for a month, which turned into two.  I became quickly attached to my two new roommates, Elizabeth and her up tight Peagle, Reggie.  I've never become such good friends with anyone so quickly.  I'm so grateful for meeting Elizabeth and don't think anyone in this world could replace her in my heart!

Not long before meeting Elizabeth I started a new job in public accounting where I met Jon.  He worked in the Knoxville office but for a long time we didn't have much interaction with each other aside from team meetings until we got scheduled on a large client in Georgia.  Once we started spending time together, we became fast friends and he even lived with me while he was waiting to close on his house in the Nashville area.  It was around this time that I met Emily.  Emily and Elizabeth had gone to high school together and she arrived in town about a month before Elizabeth moved to Dallas.  She, Jon and I had a weekly dinner party where dessert was ALWAYS expected! :)

Jon and I both left our jobs in public accounting and I started a new job at CHS meeting both Sarah and Jayna on my first day.  I quickly became friends with them both.  Jayna got me started on my family's genealogy and we both got Sarah started on scrapbooking and genealogy.  There was never a loss of things to talk about with these two girls around.  They made going to work fun!

I met most of my best and closest friends during my time in Nashville.  Memories of them and memories of Nashville are interwoven together.  I think that was the hardest part about leaving.  So many memories I have with so many people I love are from my time there.

To my friends and to Nashville... I will miss you all but we will see each other soon.  I'm sure of it!

Love,
Stephanie

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Getting Back At It!

Ok I've been MIA for almost 2 months now and so much has happened!!

May 4-28:  We went to Asia.  We spent 12 days in China, 5 days in Thailand and 3 days in Hong Kong. All different but amazing.  Way more on that to come in tons of blog posts later! 

May 21: While in Thailand, Darren proposed!  Yay we are now engaged! No idea of wedding date or plans yet.  Those details will be decided hopefully sooner as opposed to later.

June 2: After Asia, I pulled off my second 30th birthday surprise of 2011.  I showed up for lunch with Elizabeth on her birthday completely surprising her and getting to go to her party that night too.

June 3-8: From Atlanta, Darren and I met in Buffalo for Jay & Lisa's wedding.  While were up there, I couldn't miss out on taking Darren to Niagara falls for the first time.  We also made side trips to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

June 10-12: My last weekend in Nashville.  Sarah, Jon and I made a farewell trip to the Stage, I had my first of two going away parties and I got to see Sarah's husband, Brice, play downtown during CMA Fest with Mark Wills.

June 13: The movers came and took all my belongings away! I also got hit by a dumb kid in a parking lot which has made things more complicated! That night was also my ast hurrah and going away party at Cabana.

June 14: Drove to Indy.

June 15: Movers dropped both mine and Darren's loads and my mom surprised me to help move in!

June 20-26: Spent the week in Chicago working at Darren's dad's house.

June 27-July 1: Lots of unpacking was done.

June 28-30: Darren started orientation at Indiana.

July 1: Darren started work officially.

July 1-4: My parents spent the weekend with us.  Our first overnight guests!

July 2: Erin & TJ joined us for the night and Erin's parents came down for dinner.  Mom helped me throw my first dinner party at our new place.

July 4: Fireworks and the unpacking is ALMOST done!

Thankfully the busyness is almost over because starting on July 11, next Monday, I start my new, old job... Back to public accounting and back to Crowe.  Let the fun and games begin!

Hopefully soon my regular posting will resume.  I've missed writing these last couple months and glad to be back in the saddle again.