Neon Canyon

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Location: Las Vegas, Nevada; Grand Canyon National Park and Payson, Arizona

We never thought Las Vegas would be our cup of tea. We’re not night owls, and we don’t gamble. We hardly live that Hunter S. Thompson lifestyle (anymore). Why on earth would we want to go to this pseudo-oasis in the desert?

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It seemed ostentatious and gaudy, like everything was dripping with excessive tasteless ornamentation. But when you get that French Revolution aesthetic underneath bright lights, the place looked fake. You can see the makeup on the Elvis impersonator, the grease on the used car salesman. The neon sign flickers and fades out.

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My cousin Tony was getting married, and we didn’t know what to expect for the nuptials. We heard we were supposed to dress casually and that the King would be involved somehow, but we weren’t sure how. They were married at the historic Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel and had a cocktail reception atop the Mandalay Bay Resort overlooking the city. It was one of the most fun and unique weddings we had ever been to.

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Down South

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Location: Tallahassee, Florida and Savannah, Georgia, U.S.A.

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This post will be bite-sized compared to what you are used to. In case you thought we had dropped off the map, we are so sorry! It has been a time of transition and figuring out our next steps.

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I finish up my Master’s degree in less than 2 months (I know, I can’t believe it either!) and we will be leaving the South to start our next big adventure in June. Our time here has been very bittersweet.

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After we decided to move, we realized we had barely explored the area that we’ve been living in. Since we haven’t had time for long-distance travel, we’ve been satiating the travel bug by taking a lot of weekend excursions to new places in North Carolina and surrounding states. Most notably: I went to Tallahassee to see my beautiful friend Jen get married and had a delightful day trip to Savannah with some girlfriends.

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Our First Chinese Wedding

Location: Jian’ou, Fujian Province, Chinaedit00

We visited China recently to attend the  wedding of one of our closest friends (formerly translator and life-saver). Davi and his blushing bride Cherry graciously invited us back to spend a week with their family and friends to celebrate with them. Naturally, we accepted their invitation!

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We packed our bags with our finest dress clothes and stuffed our suitcases with gifts for the happy couple. We weren’t sure precisely which day the wedding would be on, but we booked our trip for a few weeks. We quickly realized that we knew absolutely nothing about attending a Chinese wedding. We didn’t know if there was a ceremony, what activities to expect or what to wear. As a result, we ended up embarrassing ourselves quite frequently.

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Thus we bring you this post about one of the most fascinating weeks of our lives. Here are some things we learned and some things that happened to us. Perhaps they will help you out if you ever find yourself in the unlikely position we were in.

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Back to China

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Location: Jian’ou, Fujian Province, China

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China is a country where everything changes and nothing ever really changes. Where the old meets the new and the future mingles intimately with the past. It’s been more than 2 years since we left China, but the country welcomed us back with open arms.

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William Gibson once said something to the effect of: the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. As a corollary to that, China is where the future is happening in real time. You can go there and watch a government and its people leapfrog over half a century of entrenched infrastructural decisions and come up with something that addresses their needs in a more innovative way.

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With a quick overnight stay in Fuzhou, we took the newly constructed fast train back to Jian’ou for the wedding of our dear friend and translator (more on the Chinese wedding experience in our next post). Now Davi is an English teacher himself with an apartment, car, and a beautiful new wife who we were meeting for the very first time.

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From the Recipe Book: Chai Sugar and Spice Buns

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I realized that I hadn’t made anything for you guys in a while, so I thought I would share one of my favorite holiday recipes. I firmly believe it’s going to be your new breakfast tradition.
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For five fateful months after we returned from living in Asia, I worked at a bread bakery.I want to start off by saying that have an enormous amount of respect for bread bakers! They literally work 24 hours a day and are some of the most dedicated individuals I have ever known. I made some amazing friends at that bakery. If you see a bread baker today, you should thank them for the deliciousness they bring into the world. No, I did not bake bread. I was in charge of mise-en-place and small pastries. Sadly, I couldn’t really hack it as a professional (too stressful). I’ll stick to home baking, thanks!
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Anyways, rolling out those huge batches of cinnamon rolls was the one task that I especially couldn’t stand. We had a standard for our cinnamon rolls. Many people believe, they are the best in town- enormous doughy messes oozing with butter and caramelized cinnamon sugar. My boss and I had extremely different icing philosophies (I heard the phrase “this isn’t Cinnabon!” shouted a lot). They were the bane of my existence. I had nightmares about those cinnamon rolls, okay? Honestly, I haven’t been able to make a cinnamon roll since I stopped working there.

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But V, you might be asking yourself, what do we do about festive mornings when we are all hungover and require a sweet treat?
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Vatican City- The Holy See

Location: Vatican City, Italy

edit00Our day started off on a terrible foot: V’s sprained one, to be precise. We woke up insanely early for vacation (at 5:30am) anticipating that we’d spend the full day out and about. Since the poor girl was broken, we had to give her some additional prep time.

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After we wrapped her ankle, we popped downstairs for a delicious breakfast. Espresso and elegant little pastries abounded. Our doorman hailed a taxi, and we were on our way to meet our tour guide outside the one of the smallest city-states in the world (0.17 square miles). We got some more coffee to fuel up for our hours of walking at Caffe Vaticano- an expensive but cute little cafe- across the street from the front gate.
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A private guide is the way to go for the Vatican if you value your time. People start lining up really early to get from Rome through the doors to this other city, and if you come with an authorized guide, they usher you through quickly. And there’s the added benefit of seeing a bunch of classical, 15th century art with someone who’s an expert in classical, 15th century art. Getting the right guide is really important because many popular companies will do anything to rip you off for a high TripAdvisor rating. I highly recommend our guide, Marta . She was incredibly kind, knowledgeable and she made the whole experience feel intimate.

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Under the Tuscan Sun

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Location: Montalpuciano, Montalcino, and Pienza, Tuscany, Italy

Before I can tell you this story, I have to admit to something rather embarrassing.

The day before our weekend in Tuscany, I sprained my ankle in a completely mundane and un-fascinating way. At least, I assume it was unremarkable–I am not even sure how it happened (other than wearing the wrong shoes to traipse across Rome). But I do know that it swelled up like a giant purple balloon. Real talk: this is the completely not glamorous side of adventuring.

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I was so bummed about my useless ankle that I nearly cancelled our Tuscan adventure. How could I enjoy my fancy wine and Pecorino cheese and views of the countryside if I couldn’t walk? I was looking forward to climbing atop buildings and running through fields of olive trees.  I was absolutely certain my sour mood and painful limp would ruin everything.

But I am so glad I didn’t cancel.

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It turns out that, rather than prescribing medications, Italian doctors will send their patients to Tuscany. They’ll take thermal baths to relax for a week or two and be as good as new. Tuscany is literally just as good as–if not better than–medicine. The landscapes are unparalleled, the pace of life relaxed. It’s one of those places where depictions in films and books are 100% spot-on.

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And I got a concentrated dose.

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