Fabien’s contract in China and with his company was scheduled to end on July 31st. I was freaking out a little thinking that we’d both return to the US without jobs to one of the worst economies in the country. And not to mention the fact that Fabien is a foreigner and even with his excellent experience, that still makes him a challenging candidate. That being said, once we did return to the US Fabien would only have 3 months to find a job before he would be forced to return to France. So, needless to say, we were totally thrilled when we were in the Philippines and he received an email from a Director at his company stating he would like to speak with him about a permanent transfer to the US. From hearing that, I exhaled a little. Our excitement was short-lived when he finally connected with the Director and was told the company would like him to stay in China for 6 months and then transfer to the US. This was deflating because we already began to make plans and had our mind set on being in Michigan for summer camping, Michigan games, the marathon, etc. Plus, we are both mentally done with China. The days following that information were like a rollercoaster. And this was all going on while Fabien’s parents and 4 friends were here and I was playing tour guide. Then, while we were in Macau Fabien’s mom received a phone call from him. On the way back from his farewell lunch he received a call that they would settle for 2 months in China with the transfer happening in October. Big exhale. We’ll take it. If you’re familiar with the Detroit economy and the US Immigration system, you will know that this is truly a miracle.

Even though Fabien has another 2 months to endure, we both decided that I should return home. I’m really, really, really sad that I am leaving him behind, but I am really, really, really excited to get home. I am done with China. Done with hearing people burp, spit, fart and slurp their noodles. Done with the heat. Done with the pollution. Done with the sidewalks being tore up everywhere I go. Done with trying to speak chinese. Done with trying to embrace the culture. Done using squatty potties. Done with everything smelling like a toilet and cigarettes. Done with having to look both ways, ten times when crossing the street. Done with the metro. Done with people staring at me all the time. D-O-N-E. Done. So, I began pricing flights to go home for the 2nd week of August with a brief stop in France to visit Fabien’s family. After a full spreadsheet and checking and rechecking, the cheapest flight I found was leaving Friday, August 6th and by the grace of God, it was a direct 15 hour flight from Hong Kong, so unfortunately, there would be no France for me. But, as I post this, I’m happy to announce that I am home. Home, sweet home.

This also means that my occupation as a blogger will be ending soon. But, before I retire, I plan to write a no holds barred expose on China and, of course, a reflection piece. Stay tuned for 2 more Stacie in Asia blogs, directly from Stacie in North America.

My Night at the Brothel

Fabien went to Japan this week with a couple friends, so I’ve been left to fend for myself. My friend, Julia, had some vacation time to burn, so it worked out well that both our boyfriends were out of town and we were women in need of some relaxation. I suggested we finally head to the all night spa that she had told me about months ago. And so we boarded the train Wednesday evening and within an hour and a half we were being greeted by 10 singing women spa employees. Weird.

They immediately whisk you to the female locker room and give you a key tag with a number that services are charged to. The attendant screamed as us to take a shower and threw a towel down. Strange. So we did as we were told and when I got out of the shower, I couldn’t find Julia. Another attendant said something I didn’t understand and motioned for me to follow her. Hell bent on not being kidnapped and sold into sex slavery I decided to find Julia instead. Once I did, we were given pajamas and cleared to enter the spa area. I was just grateful they make everyone shower up before coming in with God knows what on their body.

It reminded me of being in a casino except there was no gambling and everyone was in pajamas. Low overhead lamps, neon lights, curricular booths, women dressed scantly clad and lots of people smoking. The cool points were that there were leather recliners with your own personal TV screens everywhere, free buffets and so many activities to occupy your time. Sauna, steam room, 5 pools, hot tubs, pool and ping pong tables, bars, restaurants and kids area (yes, there were tons of kids there). For our first activity, we decided on a 2 hour aroma therapy massage. After we ordered it up, the hostess asked us if we’d like to choose our girls. Bizarre. Um, I’ll just take one that is free of any sort of STD, thanks. The massage itself was actually one of the best I’ve had and my masseuse was nothing but professional. However, it sounded like the guy in the next room had the best “massage” of his life. Creepy. After that, we were ready for bed, which would be in one of the big leather chairs. Surprisingly I slept really well with the exception of someone’s kid crying several times throughout the night and people having loud conversations on their cell phones. This just reinforced the fact that there is no common courtesy in China.

The next morning Julia and I had one of the most amazing cups of coffee I’ve ever had, fresh fruit and foot massages, all while we watched a movie. This time my masseuse raped my foot with his hands. Basically, it just hurt and I asked him to stop several times. He responded by telling me we was trying to work out the pain and that I should relax. No means no and after I protested further, he eased up. Then I got a foot scraping, which sounds scary but I can assure you that my feet are as soft as the day I was born.

I’m positive there were some sketchy things going on but overall, the place was pretty awesome, clean and, for the most part, classy. For about a hundred dollars I got a few hours worth of massages, ate great food, drank, had a relaxing night and another authentic experience.

Ode to My Man

There is someone very special in my life, who I’m missing a lot these days. When he first came into my life, I wasn’t sold on the idea of a relationship with him. He was a lot of work, messy and required a lot of attention. All of these things considered, we fell totally in love and have been through so much together. He was there when I moved into my house and eased my fears of a single girl living alone. He helped me train for the marathon last year giving me “that look” whenever I didn’t feel like running. Soon after, I’d find myself following him out the door and behind him for the rest of our run. Everyday, when I came home, it was like he hadn’t seen me in months. After he stopped screaming with excitement, he’d shower me with kisses. Our relationship is not perfect. Sometimes his endless energy and neurotic behavior gets on my nerves. There are days I want to just relax on the couch and he just doesn’t seem to understand. Other times I want to do things without him and it just about breaks his heart.

His name is Bear and he’s a German Shepherd who I’ve had for a little over 4 years. Let me play proud mother for a moment. There are a few words you can’t say when he is present because he will explode with excitement. Squirrel, vacation (meaning camping), mama, school, walk and the most impactful…ball. To say he loves to play ball is an understatement. If you’ve been to my house, he most definitely has tried to sucker you into a throw or two (or a thousand) by nicely placing the sometimes spit soaked tennis ball on your lap. I have never once seen him refuse a game of fetch. He also loves walks and runs. Everyday when he sees you go for the leash, he screams and jumps with excitement. Another thing he throughly enjoys is going to Doggie Daycare (aka school). Go ahead and call me pretentious, but it’s the perfect way to get his energy out, keep him socialized with other dogs and not feel guilty because he’s home all day in his crate. He even has a girlfriend, another German Shepherd, named Abbey. They play soccer together but I’m told that she’s the one who wears the pants in the relationship. I’m proud because I raised him to respect women and do what it takes to make them happy. Which leads me to the next reason that he’s so awesome. He listens to me, does what I say and knows that I’m the boss. I don’t even need to say anything, I just need to give a look and it’s understood that I’m not happy about what he’s doing. So, he usually just goes and punishes himself. If I give him the silent treatment coupled with not looking at him, he’s efforts to earn my forgiveness are relentless. I always know when he’s done something bad because I’ll come in the house and he’s nowhere to be found. Usually, he’s upstairs hiding under the bed. Yes people, my German Shepherd can be a sissy. And this was never more the case since I got roommates. With 2 other girls, came 2 additional cats (I already had one). You would’ve thought Bear would be at the top of the food chain. Nope, at the bottom. It’s not unusual to see him hauling ass down the hallway followed by a cat or two who are irritated with him because he’s woken them up, tried to eat their food or simply existed. I made him look in the mirror once and then told him “You’re a German Shepherd and you don’t have to take this.” He’s a lover, not a fighter.

Now that I’ve made all the non-animal people sick or simply stop reading, I’ll wrap it up. Since I’ve been in China, my roommates and best friends, Lara and Liz, have become his surrogate mothers. I am so incredibly grateful for them and for my mom who have been taking good care of him. I love Bear and miss him more than I could even begin to express. For the first few months in China I would find myself sad and then realize it was because I missed him. I know he’s just a dog but he has also been a strong constant in the happiest years of my life. He ALWAYS wants to be with me and there is NEVER any question about his feelings. He is the perfect example of unconditional love.

Happy 5th Birthday Beary!