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Loving Lately 002

It's time for Part 2 of my Loving Lately series, where I share all the things that have been bringing me joy recently! I started it in order to focus more on the positives while on lockdown, and I'm ready with the next installment. I count how long I've been on lockdown from the 27th of January because that's the week we started getting messages from teachers about being more careful and whatnot, so at the time of writing this, it's been 107 days/15 weeks and 2 days! What!?

To do assignments, I've been listening to a whole range of things. K-drama OSTs (I would recommend One Spring Night, Hotel Del Luna, and Descendants of The Sun!), Dua Lipa's new album Future Nostalgia, and Taeyeon's album Purpose have been what I've been rotating when working on biochemistry assignments. When doing actual studying, I've been loving the YouTube lofi radio that is live 24/7 because it isn't distracting so I'm able to learn new info well, and it's good background noise. A song definitely worth mentioning is the Savage remix by Megan Thee Stallion and Beyonce. No words can describe just how hyped I get when listening to it!

I also want to give a shout-out to Elevation Worship for dropping one of my favourite worship albums ever! Graves to Gardens is full of inspiring and beautiful songs that are super motivating! If you're looking for new worship music, anything by Elevation Worship is worth a listen.

Since being on lockdown, I've been on YouTube way more than I normally would have been. A channel I've been l o v i n g is Ashley Choi's. Ashley is a K-pop star whose group actually just disbanded after 7 years (I'll miss you Ladies' Code!), and since her group disbanded, she started an 'adulting' series on her channel to document her moving into her first apartment, buying furniture, cooking for herself - all things that other people have some experience with but it's stuff she's just started doing for the first time. I've been subscribed since she first started her channel and watching her move onto this new phase in life has been so interesting!

It's no surprise that I've been reading a whole lot recently. A blog post I loved is Michelle's Simple Self-Care Rituals for Introverts. She gives great tips on how introverts (like me!) can look after themselves during this time and it's definitely worth a read, whether you're introverted or not.

A blogger who gets me so excited for a new post is Becca! She's got everything on her blog - my favorites have been her posts on baking even though I literally don't have an oven! (I think I like living vicariously through the photos haha!) Her Instagram has always been one of my favourites too, so if you're not following her I definitely recommend that you do!

I've also been heavily more and more into the studygram community on Instagram! My current 'theme' is a checkerboard where I alternate between a travel/lifestyle shot and a study shot, and I think it looks pretty good! Talking to new people who study a whole range of things has been so much fun and also amazing for my productivity and motivation. Here are some accounts I started following to get me started: a.medstudents.journey, bana_vu, janicestudies, and hara.studies. (If anyone wants a blog post on being a "studygrammer", leave me a comment below!)

TEA //
It's no big surprise that I love tea - I could literally drink the stuff forever - but one of my favourites recently has been chrysanthemum tea. I bought a tiny bottle online with what must be over 500 individual chrysanthemum flowers and I've been drinking a few cups every week but have yet to reach even half of the bottle! Chrysanthemum tea has so many benefits, such as boosting the immune system, increasing metabolism, helps with inflammation, and the reason I started using it which is that it cools down your internal body temperature.

The weather has been getting extremely hot recently, and you may be wondering how it cools you down if you're drinking it hot! In traditional Chinese medicine, certain foods when they're digested will heat you up from the inside (for example ginger or dates), while others cool you down (like green tea or mung beans). It's important to have a balance between these, so I like to just drink some chrysanthemum tea during the week so I'm not boiling in this heat too much! To brew a cup, I just boil some water and pop two or three flowers in there, let it sit for 5 minutes, and I drink away! The taste is light and it smells very fragrant, and I sometimes add a few leaves of green tea for a bit of a different flavour. Such a must have!

I hope you liked this post! The things I've been enjoying lately seriously make staying indoors just a little bit more bearable.

If you missed the previous edition, you can check it out here!

What have you been enjoying lately?

The 4 Steps To Becoming A Morning Person

Being a medical student means having to be up earlier than you were probably used to before, and on top of that, a job in the medical field anyway means you'll be awake and working when the rest of the world is still sound asleep.

I've always been right down the middle of being an early bird and a night owl - I'll wake up early if I need to and I'll also be able to be up till the wee hours of the morning granted I had enough sleep the night before. But coming to uni made me more of a night owl than an early bird, and this past semester I had to start training myself to wake up early again (and stay awake on top of that!).

I have 4 practical tips for you to help you also become a morning person if you find it hard to get up in the morning. They're all things I do myself and started getting back into doing once the new semester started back in February, and now we're on lockdown, I thought some other students would find it useful - or just anyone really! I have a similar post about healthy and productive morning habits to start your day and I think this post and that one go hand in hand, so check it out after this one!

Side note: I wrote this just before the whole world went into a frenzy, so some things have had to be tweaked and some bits completely omitted.

And yes, it really is that simple. Post over!

Seriously,  sleeping early is the best way to make sure you're asleep for a good amount of time, and ready to take the day on come morning. 7 to 8 hours is recommended, so no matter what time I sleep at night, if there's no class in the morning (we're doing online classes for now, so our would-be regular schedule is a bit jumbled) I set my alarm to make sure I get at least 7 hours. I'm definitely taking advantage of the online classes in this way because it means I can sleep early and wake up early without feeling like a zombie all day.

There's also something to be said about the quality of sleep too. Nancy wrote a great blog post about ways to sleep better, and it's one I recommend everyone to read because she gives amazing tips like working out and aromatherapy. Final point on sleep: there's no such thing as "making up for lost sleep". You can't sleep more the next day to make up for the 4 hours you slept last night, which is why it's important to consistently keep a good sleep schedule and not fall into a sleep deficit.

This is a great hack I've been using since secondary school and I contribute 50% of my "morning person-ness" to it! I always set my alarm half an hour before the time I actually need to be up. When the alarm rings, I switch it off and spend some time laying there waking up. I use this time to think about what I need to do that morning, try to recall any dreams, and check the weather - the bright light from my phone helps in waking me up! By the time all that's done, it's time to get up and get my morning routine underway. I'm not one of those amazing people who can turn off my alarm and hop out of bed ready to take on the day, so if I have to use a hack like this early in the morning, then I definitely will!

We all know that quote "Know your why", and if you're going to be waking up early in the morning, having that motivation for waking up is gonna be what's actually going to get you out of your bed and it can literally be anything. Over the years, my motivation has been: going to get something really tasty for breakfast (yes, it counts), wanting to go on a run, wanting to see the sunrise, getting a head start on blog post writing, and now it's getting a head start on studying or if I just bought a new tea I'm excited to drink, that alone is motivation enough to get my bum out of bed! So, make sure you have a reason for getting up early and you're good to go!

I'm a big advocate of reducing decision fatigue and it's best to get on top of it early in the morning. But what is decision fatigue? Let's say you're up and now have to think about what to wear and then scour through your belongings for what to pack in your bag for the day. Are you gonna eat breakfast? Now you need to think about what to eat, then think about either buying lunch today or taking something from home with you. All of these things will tire out your "decision muscle" and later on in the day, you'll be making poor choices because you're all "decision-ed" out from everything you had to do earlier in the day. And I am by no means perfect - in my life, it manifests as me deciding to spend a whole lot longer on social media when I should be doing something else with my time instead, or not thinking properly about what to eat so I go with the unhealthy option instead.

To combat decision fatigue, make sure everything is prepped the night before - your clothes are laid out, breakfast is meal-pepped, desk is clean,  - whatever can be prepared the night before should be so you can just focus on getting ready to go in the morning. Now that we're all on lockdown, I have to make sure I leave my desk clean the night before, and that I have my to-list ready and waiting for me to get stuck in - check out this post on how I use time blocking to make sure I know what I'm doing as soon as I wake up!

So that's what I've been doing since September when med school started and my broken sleep schedule from summer needed a gentle nudge in the right direction. Once we go back to a normal class schedule, I'll be trying to wake up at 4am because a few classmates say waking up that early changed their whole lives, and I'd like to get more studying done when it's still quiet and peaceful.

What was your favourite tip?

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So What's It Like Being Black In China?

What better way to start off a new month than with what could be a slightly controversial post! This post has been in my drafts for weeks now, and I've been nervous about writing it out to the fullest extent that I could, mainly because the internet is heavily censored here. Every time I would draft a little bit, I'd get nervous about uploading and think "nah, not now", but I think it's time! Whatever I write will still give you guys an idea of what it's like to be a black woman in China today.

When I read Tanya Weeke's post about this exact same topic I decided that yes, I should make my own post and upload it anyway. This isn't going to be a discussion about what's happening to Africans in Guangdong; there are plenty of news sources online and videos on YouTube recounting what's going on, including my own Instagram post on the subject. Instead, this is going to be me telling you guys about my day-to-day life as a black woman living in China - all the ups, downs, and everything in between!

Now, I should say that this is my experience in China. If you're black and you've been here before, your experience might be different depending on a lot of factors. If you're black and you plan on coming here one day, your experience here could be totally different from mine. 

So let's start off light, and that's with all the staring. I mainly lived in predominantly white areas in the UK, so I know what it's like to be stared at in a whole number of ways. But the staring in China is on an entirely different level because here, it's not just one or two people on the road or in the shops - it's everyone! People driving their cars craning their necks out the window (sometimes while still driving!) to stare as I walk past, entire metro carriages stopping whatever they're doing to stare as I enter, everyone in the shop going quiet and staring if I walk in - and the list could just go on and on. Side note - if you have your hair in braids or an afro, be ready to swat hands away because people here are shameless and will absolutely shove their hands in your hair if you're not looking!

I honestly don't mind if it's kids doing the pointing or staring, simply because they're kids and a lot of them don't know any better, but if it's anyone above teen age I have a problem with it, and usually stare right back until they feel embarrassed. The crazy thing though is that a lot of older people here don't feel embarrassed at all and will just keep on shamelessly staring anyway! In the UK once eye contact has been made people usually look away, but that's something that doesn't happen here haha!

Going hand in hand with the staring is the pointing, whispering, and my personal enemy - photos. People here really think we don't notice them "slyly" whipping out their phones and taking a photo, but we 100% always do! In fact, I think I've developed a 6th sense for it now that it's happened so frequently!

The thing I mostly hate about photos is that 99% of the time, people don't ask and they just decide to take one themselves. However, there are some occasions where people will come up to me and kindly ask for a photo. Sometimes parents ask me to take a photo with their child as it's usually their first time seeing a black person either ever in their life or not through a screen, so I sometimes agree and we take a few selfies together. It's honestly crazy how that small action honestly ends up making someone's day!

On top of being pointed at, stared at, whispered about, and having my photo taken, there's also the never ending questions strangers come up and ask out of the blue. They range from a simple "Where are you from" or "What are you doing in China" (not said maliciously by the way! People are just curious as to whether you're studying or working!) to something as deep as "So does your country have the same resources as China?" I've even had a Didi driver ask me how many wives a man can have in my country, which was honestly just the strangest thing I've ever been asked. If they see you can hold down a conversation in Chinese, they get very excited and questions become more and more so be warned!

I will admit, I do love it when kids come up and say hi because they want to practise their English or because they just haven't seen a black person before!

And that's another point - whether you're black from America, the UK, Canada, the Caribbean, or anywhere else in the world that isn't Africa - if you look physically black, you're African point blank and the period. When people ask, I've just stopped saying I came from the UK and just say I'm Zambian instead, because they just don't believe me! 

All of these things happen relative to how many foreigners are in the area. Since I don't live in one of the big cities like Shanghai or Beijing, a lot of people in my city aren't used to seeing foreigners at all. And if I go to an area that isn't around a university campus or the main town, then all I'll be hearing is "外国人, 外国人" (wàiguó rén = foreigner) as I go past.

A lot of people wonder if Chinese people are racist and how racism is handled over here, and I've only had one nasty experience in my one and a half years of living in China. I went to the bank to receive some money - a bank I always went to and they had always been nice to me before but on this particular day, the teller took one look at my passport (as a foreign student, you need to take your passport and school ID everywhere, otherwise you can't get anything done!) asked if I was African, and said I'm not welcome to the bank anymore and no amount of arguing could get her to change her mind. It was a huge pain in my behind because I had to travel all over the city looking for a new bank to sign up with, but the fact that in China you can discriminate against someone just because of where they come from - and legally it's okay - is a massive problem that needs to be addressed - just look at what's happening in Guangdong!

A lot of people are rude, just like anywhere else in the world - people refusing to sit next to you on the bus, or crossing the road when you go past etc - but I have also met a lot of lovely people here who wouldn't do anything like that! You do have a lot of thoughts that go through your head when someone isn't particularly nice, a lot of it being "are they rude because they're in a bad mood today, or are they just racist", but if you let those thoughts take over every time something happens, you'll have a pretty miserable stay in China!

Before I came here, I thought making Chinese friends would be easy, especially as I was living on campus, but I've found it much harder! To this day, I only have one person and a lovely family I can call my friends and they're all pretty great! In my experience though, a lot of the Chinese people on campus befriend the white students or other Asians. It might just be my introvert nature of not wanting to approach people first though!

Any strange experiences? Of course! A strange experience I had came last summer when I was with my other foreign friends. We went hiking up a mountain near our uni and once we got to the summit, we took in the view and started taking pictures. I noticed a guy come and sit on the bench right next to us and start staring at us intently. I ignored him at first, because everyone stares so it's not a big deal. But when we started exploring the shops at the top (shops on a mountain, only in China!) I noticed him again - it's that 6th sense! - following us in and out or waiting outside for us to come out. When I told my friends what was going on, we decided that we should leave because none of us had been followed before and even though he was young and didn't look like he could do anything, you can never be too careful.

As we were heading down, he was following really close behind us, my friend turned around to ask him if he was lost or something, and this guy said he was looking for a bus stop! On a mountain! We sped up, but every time we spend up he decided to too. We took a pause at some benches and he started up a conversation with us, but blatantly lying about where he was from and whatnot. He followed us all the way to the entrance and thankfully we managed to slink away in a crowd but turning around I could see he was looking for where we went! So weird, especially because if we were any other race I doubt that would have even happened!

It wouldn't really be a proper analysis without me telling you guys about my experience with other foreigners here in China. Coming from the UK, I'm used to being around a lot of other minorities, but the difference there is that we all have one thing in common, which is that we all grew up in the UK. In China though, all foreign people come from different backgrounds and all have different upbrinings; we don't have anything in common other than we're all now living in China.

That being said, I've had people straight up to my face tell me they didn't think black people were clean or that they're surprised black people don't behave in the way we're expected to. It's been a shock for people to learn that not all black people are the same, and that their thoughts are destructive and rude. I've also seen that if I make friends with someone from a different ethnicity, other people from that group are now more accepting to smile at me if we pass each other in the halls or say hi to me if we're in a queue. I'm guessing because they've seen now that whatever stereotypes they had were so far left, and if someone from their country thinks I'm okay, then it's fine for them to be open now too!

So that's been my experience of living in China! September 2020 will mark 2 years of living here, and I cannot believe it's been that long this quick! It's not been so bad living here. A lot of people are just curious and want to find out about you, so if you're an extrovert and love talking to people and can even converse in Chinese, I have no doubt you'll be able to make a lot of friends and have a pretty good time. 

Other than that one bank experience (and the strange guy on the mountain), my time here has been really good! I'm used to the staring and can even zone it out now if I want to, but with the photos I just don't think I'll ever get used to that! I'm really excited to see how the rest of my life here will play out!

What's been your experience living abroad? Do tell me below!

Related post: Experiencing Cultural Shock In China