Author: Amanda R

Square dancing, Chinese style – Guest Post by Daniel Otero

Square dancing, Chinese style – Guest Post by Daniel Otero

Chinese Square DancingWith the proliferation of Sino-Pop around the world came a new dance craze. It was a grand moment for a culture that used to keep everything private. Suddenly, people began doing things outdoors.

People started to gather around the plazas and town squares to listen to tunes, and from here it was developed into a form of square dancing.

A generation began to move and groove. These people wanted what they had missed: mambo, cha-cha, tango, and electronic-pop. They did it to a new vibe, you know, to those old-syrupy tunes from back in the days of Teresa Teng. Yes, when her hits began to scorch the charts and rhythms became a permanent part of the Chinese psyche with “Sweet Honey”.

And what did millions of Chinese began to do?

They formed clubs or associations and then took to parks across China to learn how to dance to a classical tune.

Chinese Square DancingChina began experimenting certain social changes with the Baby Boomers and Generation ‘X’, who began to radically transform the country. It manifested in music and body movement. And what began as a simplistic notion turned to something not seen since the dancing culture of the Han Dynasty.

The weekends came and went. But one thing became a symbol of the new China. It was to do a communal gathering every Friday, Saturday, or Sunday evening. And it formed into something special, catching with a fever like wildfire across the nation.

What you have today is something that now symbolizes and it is China. It’s certainly part of every city and town. The local gathering and to dance the night away for three or more hours.

It’s a way to admire people in their 40s, 50s, and as late as their 80s, sweating away their frustrations. Most of the middle and elder ages come together to have fun, associate, mingle with the neighbors, enjoy the local gossip, and, of course, dance! Dancing has become a staple to keep fit and young.

Most people who get out there to have fun are usually women. Men also gather as part of the action; however, the females outnumber the males 10 to 1 in the performance of the dance.

While moving in an almost perfect Ying and Yang circle once they get the momentum going.

Inside a culture that is most likely very shy, these people are out and about.

It has been my experience that whether in Shaoxing, Zhejiang, Nanjing, Jiangsu or Chengdu, Sichuan, you can see the older people grooving and having a good time!

Chinese Square DancingEven for a foreigner like me, I’ve risen a couple of occasions to dance the night away and learn something not often seen in America. A possible phenomena as old as time, and for me it’d be my greatest wish for it to catch on around the United States in a way to sweat away the calories and slim down our backsides.

What’s my biggest fear is the following…

This cultural and stylish phenomena can easily disappear in the next 40 years. Why? If the millennial generation doesn’t get away from their phones and shyness to swing around, they’ll lose something that has become quite unique with China and ingrained in its culture, the desires for the dance.

For now and while I’m in China, I’ll still head out during my weekends to have a gorgeous moment and square dance in a Chinese style.

 

Daniel Otero was born on the tough streets of Brooklyn, New York.  He’s a passionate teacher and freelance writer who loves his work and by the summer of 2018 his second book will be published, “The Artist of War”.

Hostel Review – Mountain Escape Yangshuo

Hostel Review – Mountain Escape Yangshuo

My family was recently invited to stay the night at Mountain Escape Yangshuo. The property was amazing and we would highly recommend staying here.

big tub mountain escape yangshuo
Z-Baby immediately claimed the huge bathtub as her personal swimming pool

Mountain Escape is a refurbished countryside house about 20 minutes by car outside of Yangshuo town. The family who owns it (Gary and Fiona) spared no expense in the renovations, but they were also careful to preserve as much of the original buildings as possible. “We want this place to be not just a hostel, but a museum,” Fiona told me. The original buildings are about 100 years old, and much of the furniture and decorations are refurbished antiques as well.

The hostel is rather new and we stayed on a Tuesday night, so we were the only guests. But even if the hostel was “full,” it only has 4 rooms, so it will never be crowded. The village is quiet and pitch black at night. You can actually see the stars out here, which is something you can’t do in Yangshuo town because of all the light pollution.

beautiful bedroom mountain escape yangshuo
The beds are super comfy

The hostel is built up on the hillside, and they built a deck even higher above the buildings. The view from the deck is stunning.

The hostel was designed with expats and foreign tourists in mind. All of the staff speak English, the beds are soft, and the food is fantastic! They even made sure the fish didn’t have any bones because they know that Westerners hate bones in their food. The food was so good I didn’t have a chance to take a picture before it was gone.

beautiful ruins mountain escape yangshuo
A Qing Dynasty-era house near the hostel

If you are looking to get away from the city, this is the place to be! I always recommend staying outside of Yangshuo in a countryside hostel or villa because Yangshuo is so loud and crowded. The real beauty, peace, and charm of coming to this area can’t be found in town. The hostel is only a 10-minute walk from Yulong River, but they also have bikes you can rent to explore the surrounding area. There are many other ancient houses in the area and breathtaking views. Even though we now live here and see the mountains every day, they never get old.

If you are coming to Yangshuo and are looking for a place to “get away from it all,” I would highly recommend Mountain Escape Yangshuo. You can learn more about them and book a room on their website. MountainEscapeYangshuo.com. 

 

Behind the Story – Empress Cixi

Behind the Story – Empress Cixi

If you have read any of my books, it’s pretty easy to see that China’s last empress, the Dowager Empress Cixi, is a recurring character. Who was Empress Cixi and why do I write about her?

Empress Cixi was born in 1835 to a poor and unimportant Manchu family, but she didn’t remain in obscurity for long. When she was only 16, she was among several young ladies selected as a consort for the Xianfeng Emperor, but only a 6th rank consort. It took her three years to climb to 5th rank, but the following year, in 1855, she gave birth to the emperor’s only son, the future Tongzhi Emperor, and was elevated to 2nd rank, second only to the empress, Cian.

When the Xianfeng Emperor died in 1861, he appointed 8 ministers to serve as joint regents until his son came of age (who was only six years old at the time). Most scholars agree that this was a poor decision (though making poor or even disastrous decisions was what he did best), but no one could have predicted what happened next.

Cixi, with the support of the emperor’s closest brother, Prince Gong, staged a coup. Together they outsmarted the ministers, had them executed or banished, and Cixi and Empress Cian were made co-Regents with Prince Gong as Prince-Regent.

Empress Cian had no interest in politics, but she was an excellent manager of the Inner Court of the Women, so Cixi effectively ruled China in the name of her son alone, with Prince Gong serving as an advisor and diplomat, until he came of age in 1873. Cixi again took over the regency when Tongzhi died in 1875. She stepped aside again in 1889 when her nephew and adopted son the Guangxu Emperor came of age, but after he attempted to have her killed in 1898, she once again stepped in to rule and placed him under house arrest until both of them died in 1908.

This is just a quick and dirty summary of her life, but suffice to say she was a brilliant and complicated woman. While she was villainized by many both during her life and after her death, Pearl S. Buck, who was alive and living in China during the last years of Cixi’s reign, said in her forward to her novel about Cixi, Imperial Woman, that those who hated Empress Cixi were “more articulate than those who loved her.” She also said that decades after Cixi died, she “came across villages in the in-lands of China where the people thought that she still lived and were frightened when they heard she was dead. ‘Who will care for us now?’ they cried.”

Jung Chang’s biography of Cixi, Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China, is an excellent resource if you want to learn more about this fascinating woman. I read it several times in the years leading up to my release of Threads of Silk.

In my own writings, Empress Cixi pops up again and again. In Threads of Silk, I use her name because I tried to portray her as authentically as possible. In Murder in the Forbidden City and in the upcoming The Emperor’s Seal, I don’t name her because I wanted more leeway in how she was portrayed, but who is to say which version is the real Cixi? I don’t think any writer can really pin down a woman as complicated and contrary as Cixi.

While she has often portrayed as the quintessential cruel “dragon lady,” she was also a woman who loved photography, Pekingese dogs, opened the first schools for girls, and tried to abolish foot binding. She ended the method of torture and execution known as the “death by a thousand cuts” and allowed women to be opera singers. When she died she was on the cusp of establishing a Parliament in an attempt to give the people more say in their government and preserve the Qing Dynasty.

While many people tried to blame her for the collapse of the Chinese Empire, she was the only person who held it together for decades. While she lived, there was no organized concerted effort to overthrow her. Instead, out of respect, rebels and revolutionaries waited until she died before trying something new.

She was not a perfect ruler or a perfect person, but she was not the evil monster who single-handedly led China to disaster that many people like to pretend she was.

She was flawed and fabulous. 

Threads of Silk Now Available As An Audiobook!

Threads of Silk Now Available As An Audiobook!

I’m excited to announce that Threads of Silk is now available as an audiobook! The book was narrated by Leanne Yau. You can download the book from Amazon here.

To celebrate, I’m giving away 5 copies to some lucky fans! Just enter your email address below!

 

 

This promotion is only available for US Audible members. You don’t have to be a current Audible member, but you will have to open a US Audible account.

You can also open a free 30-day trial account and get a copy of my book for FREE by going to http://www.audible.com/offers/30free?asin=B074F3SDW1

This feels like a big step as an author to have my book available in audio. I am very thankful to Leanne for taking this project on. It’s a really long book, over 100,000 words! I hope you enjoy it!

About Threads of Silk

When I was a child, I thought my destiny was to live and die on the banks of the Xiangjiang River as my family had done for generations. I never imagined that my life would lead me to the Forbidden City and the court of China’s last Empress.

Born in the middle of nowhere, Yaqian, a little embroidery girl from Hunan Province, finds her way to the imperial court, a place of intrigue, desire, and treachery. From the bed of an Emperor, the heart of a Prince, and the right side of an Empress, Yaqian weaves her way through the most turbulent decades of China’s history and witnesses the fall of the Qing Dynasty.

Guest Post – How To Travel On A Budget And Make Money While Traveling by Lysha Rohan

Guest Post – How To Travel On A Budget And Make Money While Traveling by Lysha Rohan

Before you decide to spend the rest of your life in one comfy place and do the same things every day, why not invest in travel? Whether it’s for a much-needed vacation or in pursuit of knowledge, traveling to foreign, exotic places is indeed fulfilling. But there’s a better way to improve your lifestyle while reaping the rewards of a great adventure — making money while traveling.

You’ve probably heard a lot about people quitting their regular jobs to find another source of income. Others have tried traveling while still earning money with a nine-to-five desk job. If you belong to the latter category and want to keep your regular job, yet still earn extra moolah while on a trip, here are some tips on how to travel on a budget and make money while traveling.

  1. Start a travel blog.

This is the common route for a lot of people whenever they think of making money from their travels. Although it doesn’t really guarantee an instant, stable flow of income, starting a travel blog can help boost your earning potential. For one, featuring sponsored content on your blog is usually where most of the profits come from. Once big organizations take notice of your content, they may actually start paying you to travel and blog for them.

You don’t even have to restrict yourself to a written blog or a vlog. You can do both! Plus, launching — and maintaining — your blog is a great way to build up your experience AND portfolio. If you’re dedicated to it, you will soon establish a good rep and solid footing as an online travel journalist.

  1. Sell your travel photos.

One of the many joys that come with traveling is taking photos of your adventures. To add to the previous point, photography also means big business for bloggers. You can post your photos on Instagram or any social networking site to promote your work, so you can eventually sell them as stock images and prints for big organizations.

Another freelance platform that you can consider selling your travel photos in Upwork. Turning your pictures into cash cows can be a great source of passive income while focusing on other matters. If you want to get another source of extra income, Upwork offers a variety of online opportunities such as video production, game development, virtual assistant work, and a lot more. With that, you can work anytime and anywhere while still having the money and time to travel.

  1. Find or make products you can sell on eBay.

Another option is selling retail travel items on eBay, provided that you’re credible enough to do so. eBay is usually the best place to sell exotic items you’ve purchased abroad. If you’re the artsy type, you can craft your own products based on your travels (e.g. the brush paintings you’ve seen in China) and sell them in online art stores such as Etsy.

  1. Rent out your space.

Say you’re traveling to the United States and leaving your flat in China behind for a few days or a week. Turn that into an opportunity to earn some money while traveling — rent out your space! You can sign up to be a host at AirBnB (though it comes with a registration fee), but you can get that investment back when somebody rents out your space. Be sure to take attractive photos your place, describe it accurately, and have someone to check on stuff while you’re gone, especially if it’s your first time to rent it out.

You can also check out other sites for listing your space, such as Craigslist and Apartments.com.

About the Author

Lysha works at Lalco Residency – Hotel Mumbai and she loves her job. Helping clients and monitoring the progress of business strategies along with her leadership skills makes her a perfect fit for hospitality services. You can catch up with Lysha at Lalco Residency in Mumbai.

Indie-pendence Blog Hop & Giveaway

Indie-pendence Blog Hop & Giveaway

Welcome to the Indie-pendence Blog Hop & Giveaway, hosted by Love Kissed Book Bargains!

For those of you new to my blog, I am Amanda Roberts. I am an American but I have been living in China since 2010. I write historical fiction and cookbooks. 

For the hop, I’m giving away a $20 Amazon Gift Card and 5 paperback copies of my new release, Murder in the Forbidden City

Winners will be chosen at random. Giveaway is open from 12pm EST on 7/14 until 11:59pm EST on 7/28.

The next stop on the hop is Leigh Anderson To enter to win her prize, please visit her blog here http://leighandersonromance.com/2017/07/indie-pendence-blog-hop-giveaway/.

Don’t forget to visit http://lovekissedbookbargains.com/2017/07/12/indie-pendence-blog-hop-giveaway/ to enter the Grand Prize Giveaway to win a FREE Kindle!

Click here to view this promotion.
Plan Ahead to Keep Travel Disasters at Bay – Guest Post by Jane Moore

Plan Ahead to Keep Travel Disasters at Bay – Guest Post by Jane Moore

There’s a reason people travel when they have time off. Taking a vacation is supposed to be relaxing and rejuvenating. It’s a chance to explore different places, take in the scenery, and even broaden your horizons. Just getting out of the house and office for a weekend can do wonders for your mood and mind.

That is unless you face a travel disaster. What if something happens to your home or even your pet while you’re traveling? And how relaxing will that trip be if you are stressed before you even get on a plane?

First, you don’t even need to consider these problems “disasters.” They are problems to be sure, but there are ways you can prepare for them.

Image Source: Pixabay

Flight Delays and Overbookings

What are your rights when it comes to overbooking and bumping? Here’s what you need to know and plan for to make your travel experience more relaxing.

As Money magazine explains, most airlines overbook their flights on purpose. That’s because there are some people that never show up for their flight. When everyone actually does show up, the airline has to bump (or remove) someone from that flight. But you do have the right to compensation if they cannot get you on a flight that arrives within one hour of your original arrival. That ranges from twice the cost to $1350.

What happens if a flight is delayed or canceled? You have fewer rights since these situations are often not the airline’s fault. You are entitled to a refund if the delay is severe. Check out this WIRED article for more information, such as dealing with lost luggage or big delays.

Damage or Theft Back Home

Having a nice, relaxing flight to your vacation destination can feel unimportant if you discover problems at home as soon as you arrive. You can feel powerless if your home is damaged or robbed when you’re so many miles away. As with flights, some planning and knowledge can help reduce your risk.

Home thefts occur more often when you’re out of town. No thief wants to catch you at home. Here are a few tips to help make your home less attractive to would-be criminals:

  • Make sure your door locks are strong and locked before leaving.
  • Do the same for all windows and sliding glass doors.
  • Set lights on a timer.
  • Put a temporary hold on your mail.
  • Hire someone to cut your grass, pick up any newspaper, or even shovel your driveway.
  • Consider hiring a house sitter.

Besides thefts, one big problem that can hit during travel is water damage. Leave one window open during a storm can really cause problems. USA Today recommends making sure your gutters, sump pump, and pipes are all maintained and clean.

When Pets Stay Home

Hopefully, your pet dog or cat won’t create any damage while you’re away! But that can happen when you leave a pet home while you travel. Pets get bored, and when they do, they can damage your property just so they have something to do.

PetPlus has a few tips for helping keep good care of your pets, including hiring a pet sitter, boarding your pet, or leaving your pet with a trusted friend until you get back. Just knowing there’s someone feeding and playing with your furry friends can take a lot off your mind.

You Can Handle This

Again, going on a vacation should be relaxing. By knowing your rights for air travel, taking precautions to keep your home safe, and taking care of pets staying behind, you can enjoy your vacation much more easily and avoid some common traveling disasters.

3 Defectors – Memoirs from North Korea

3 Defectors – Memoirs from North Korea

Even though my main focus is China, I’m also very interested in what is going on in North Korea. I know that for most Americans, North Korea isn’t really on their radar, but here in China, the “hermit kingdom” can’t be ignored. Even though I mostly review books on this site that specifically deal with China, almost all North Korean defectors pass through China. In fact, North Korea wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for China’s support. So here are reviews for three defector memoirs I have read in the past couple of months.

  1. A Thousand Miles to Freedom by Eunsun Kim.
    Kim’s story is of the type you expect to read. Her family suffered greatly during the great famine of the 1990s that left millions of North Koreans dead. After many of her family members died, Kim’s mother made the decision to flee to China with her two young daughters. It was a harrowing and terrifying journey that took them nine years to complete. The time they spent in the countryside when her mother is trafficked to marry a Chinese villager is especially poignant. Countless North Korean women are trafficked as “brides” into Northern China every year. Most of them will never escape or have the chance to tell their story.
    Of the three books in this post, this is the one I would recommend the most if you are interested in learning just a bit about North Korean defectors and the challenges they face in North Korea, China, and in South Korea.
  2. The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee.
    This is a different kind of defector story, one that didn’t happen because the author chose to leave or was forced to by starvation. Lee was born into an elite class of North Koreans, so even though she is the same age as Kim and lived through the great famine, she was never hungry. She was never homeless. She lived in Northern North Korea and barely even saw the death that surrounded her. She was extremely sheltered and protected.
    Her defection was an accident. When she was seventeen she simply wanted to slip across the Yalu River and enjoy a Ferris Bueller type day off in forbidden China. But she was never able to return.
    Her story is less harrowing than Kim’s, but it gives a different viewpoint, one of a person who didn’t suffer in North Korea and if given the choice between leaving and staying, she would have stayed in her home country.
  3. Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden (Story of Shin Dong-hyuk).
    If you have any interest in North Korea, this is the book you have probably heard of. When Shin’s story broke in the US in 2008, he became an instant celebrity, the poster child for North Korean horrors. His story was shocking, and still is despite controversy.
    I have mixed feelings about this book. I don’t really care about the supposed discrepancies between the 2012 version and the updated 2015 version, because even the least horrifying version of his story is shocking. My issues are with the way the story is told. Even though Shin spent his whole life in a maximum security camp and lived to tell the tale, this book is the shortest of the memoirs I’ve read (only 210 pages), and half of that is not Shin’s story. For every paragraph that talks about Shin’s life, Blane adds a paragraph of exposition about what was going in North Korea or other parts of the world at the time. I suppose he gives this information as context, but most of this context has scant little to do with Shin. While some context is important, it shouldn’t be equal to the story itself.
    I really don’t know why this memoir is the most popular when there are so many other better-written ones available.
    I wouldn’t go so far as to say “don’t read this book,” but if you only read one North Korean defector memoir, pick another one.

Of course there are many other defector memoirs out there to choose from. These are only the ones I have read lately. Next on my list is In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park. You can see a speech she gave in 2014 about her experience below.

Have you read any North Korean defector memoirs? Which would you recommend?

Two Great Contests

Two Great Contests

Hi everyone,

here are two great contests you might want to consider entering. These are fun ways to get to know some new authors and maybe win som great swag!

 

34 romance authors have come together to reward our loyal readers with some serious swag, signed books, and gifts.

Check out the FIVE packages we’ve assembled.

Then be sure to enter to win.

**Please note: this giveaway is for residents of the continental US. Shipping out of the country is insanely expensive. Oh, and the customs forms are zero fun too.**

Enter here: http://lovekissedbookbargains.com/2017/06/21/sun-sational-reader-rewards-giveaway/

Follow new authors on your favorite social media outlet to learn more about them and get notified of new releases!

Enter here: http://www.genrecrave.com/june-kindle-fire-giveaway/

There and Back Again – Going Full Circle

There and Back Again – Going Full Circle

I mentioned in a previous post that big changes were coming (as if bringing our daughter home only six months ago wasn’t a big enough change!). So today I can finally announce that…

We are moving to Yangshuo!

 

Our China journey began nearly seven years ago in Yangshuo in Guangxi province. We came to China with Buckland Education Group, which was headquartered in the tiny town. We loved Yangshuo and thought it was one of the most beautiful places in the world. Even though we have traveled extensively since then, our opinion on that front hasn’t changed much.

In April, my husband’s job at a game company came to an end, and instead of looking for another grinding office job, he decided to take a job working from home. It is a lot less money, but he is spending a lot more time with our daughter. In fact, he is transitioning to being her primary caregiver so I can focus more on my work.

Last year, I rage quit my job at the Shenzhen Daily (which I just now realized I haven’t written about on here, so I’ll share that story soon). I also decided to work from home instead of looking for another office job. I’ve been a full-time freelance editor since then, but I’m transitioning to full-time writer.

So since we both now work from home, it didn’t make financial sense to stay in Shenzhen, a city where just our rent is more than we were paying back in the US, not to mention the high cost of living for everything else.

This week we went back to Yangshuo and found an apartment. We found something that was twice the size of our current place with three (huge) bedrooms and all new decor and appliances for about a third of the price. It was so cheap, in fact, that we were able to prepay the rent for the whole year. Talk about eliminating stress!

My husband is so in love with the new apartment he couldn’t wait to share it with the world, so he took a video. Feel free to check it out if you want to know what you can rent in a small town in China for only US$365 a month, or about $4,400 a year.

 

But check out that view!

Of course, being Yangshuo, that was not the most beautiful view we saw all weekend. Check out this shot from a house in the countryside we looked at that our friend Cherith took.

It feels as though our life in China has come full-circle, and we are back to the beginning, but a lot has changed as well. Not every part of our China journey has been easy, but it has all been amazing, and our baby girl makes every hardship worth it. One of the things we are most excited about is raising our daughter(s) in the country, with good people, fresh air, and an easy life.

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