SINGAPORE

Day 17:
We had to wake up at 4am to catch our 6:55am plane to Singapore. We were on Scoot Airlines which turns out to be a Singapore airline and pretty nice minus the fact that it’s kind of like Allegiant. You have to pay for every little thing. We were on a huge plane {3 on each side with four in the middle section going back about 65 rows}. Michael and I got stuck in the middle section in the middle two seats so that was unfortunate, but then no one came for the aisle seat next to Michael! So we got to spread out a bit and he let me sleep on his lap the whole time. He’s the best. When we landed we got a taxi to Janna’s apartment with no problems. {My cousin and her family lived in Singapore at the time, now they are moving to Seoul!} Her apartment is so nice and so big!! I’m was having major apartment envy…especially since at the time we were still homeless haha. But we hung out and talked and then went to lunch near her place. Then we got back and Cole {Janna’s son} and Michael took a nap haha. After they got up Michael and I headed over to the biggest Ferris wheel in the world. It was cool to see the city that way. It’s right next to the Marina Sands Bay Hotel and mall It’s the two tall towers with a cruise ship looking thing resting on top.

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At the base of the ferris wheel I found a fish spa. It was something on my must-do list while on the trip. Basically you stick your feet in a fish tank and these special fish immediately start biting your feet! We did fifteen minutes with the smaller fish and fifteen minutes with the bigger fish. Apparently they eat the dead skin on your feet and legs and also give you better circulation. It was definitely an adventure. Michael and I were both scared to put our feet in at first, but it was fun.

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on to the big fish…

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After that we went to the mall owned by the hotel to eat dinner in the food court. It was a pretty different type of food court. It’s all owned by one company, but they have all these different station with about 20 types of cuisine available. We ate Thai. Then we took a walk through the mall and the bay outside to get back to the subway. It was a gorgeous night.

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Day 18:

We got up and lounged around until 11am to hang out with Janna and Cole. We then headed to Arab Street to go see a mosque. Unfortunately we got there at 12:30 and apparently it closes from 12-2pm for lunch or something so that stunk.

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But we found a little place on the corner that had IBM rootbeer and water and took a refreshing break. Who would of thought that in all of Asia you can find rootbeer on Arab street in Singapore?? Then we found this cute cafe to get a snack. After that we roamed the streets and did some shopping. Among all the crazy trinket and fabric store I actually found this cute boutique that had all these amazing skirts that were past the knee!! I got one. I’m pretty excited about it. It ended up being part of my first day to work outfit 🙂 haha Michael was laughing when I brought that up after we purchased it….apparently I haven’t grown up that much because I was planning my first day of work outfit like I did for every first day of school…or maybe it’s because I’m working in retail and stuff like that matters. One or the other haha. Anyway after that we headed to Orchard Road which is kind of like 5th avenue in NYC but not as nice and it has tons of malls with the expensive brands inside rather than individual shops. So we got lunch. It was kind of sketchy Indian food, but we dealt. We actually did some furniture shopping on orchard road because we were kind of tired of all the luxury brands ha. We saw some pretty cool furniture, so that was kind of fun! We then headed to Gardens by the Bay which is right next to the Marina Bay Sands hotel to meet up with Janna, Cole, and Phil. It was a beautiful park, and Cole had a blast at the toddler playground area. He kept yelling “Park! Park! Park!” And then when we got there he was running all around and jumping on anything he could. He’s pretty cute!

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Then we headed back to their apartment. Michael and I stopped at Holland Village to eat dinner. We decided to get breakfast for dinner…unfortunately it was not as good as we were hoping. I ordered French toast and it was literally one piece of normal bread, and michael got a waffle and his was a waffle that was 3x6in. Janna and Phil said that food can be really pricy in Singapore with tiny portions, and that’s exactly what happened to us. Anyway that night we stayed in to watch Cole (really just watch Netflix while he slept) so Phil could take Janna out to a nice dinner for her birthday, which was the next day. 

Day 19:

So getting up for church was rough. We probably got two hours of collective sleep the previous night. After Phil and Janna got home the previous night Cole decided he wasn’t going to sleep for the rest of the night. He has the loudest cry. But we got up for 9am church to go to Janna and Phil’s expat ward. It took about 40 minutes to get there. There ward was so nice though! Smaller but very friendly and welcoming. Everyone was talking to us wanting to to know if we were moving in. After church we headed back to the apartment, and Michael and I made lunch for Janna and Phil. Then Michael and I took a much needed nap haha. Then Janna made a really good dinner. She’s a good cook. We ended up talking with Janna and Phil until 11:30pm or something. They are fun to talk to. Then we packed up and tried to get some sleep. 

Our Singapore trip was to figure out if we would want to live there someday. We have come to the conclusion since that it’s probably not for us, but we loved visiting!

Next up…PHUKET, THAILAND!

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HONG KONG

Until we arrived, I felt like I had been in the dark about how beautiful Hong Kong is! I had no idea! Honestly the first thing I thought when we landed and saw the luscious green mountains and beautiful water was “This reminds me of Hawaii!” So let’s back up a bit…

Day 14:

We woke up at 4:50am Tuesday morning to make our 8:20am flight. Thankfully, despite being completely exhausted every night, we would wake up totally ready for each new day. The airport experience was great though. Short lines and people who spoke English well. We waited for our plane by rocking out to TSwift’s new song “Shake It Off”. We scored exit row seats this time so that was wonderful and made the flight go by fast. The taxi ride to Kowloon from the airport was so fun. We loved getting to see the city that way when we first got there. It was so interesting to see the huge shipping dock with tons of cargo ships and crates. Thankfully we got to the Hong Kong Temple in the knick of time to check in to the patron housing (housing across the street from the LDS temple for people who have traveled far to see the temple), quickly jump into some church clothes, and run back over for the 1pm session. We barely made it, but I’m so glad we did! The people in the temple were so kind. The celestial room was beautiful! Really unique with cultural touches. We also got to be the witness couple, so that was a different experience since we were listening to the session on the headphones. We were told a few interesting facts about the Hong Kong Temple that I have to share! They are able to do endowment sessions in 11 different languages (like play the movie in those languages not just with headphones). They also have sacrament meeting available every day here except Monday because of peoples’ crazy work schedules, so the temple president got special permission to open the temple two Sundays a month. There are six senior couples serving in the temple right now. They all live in the same building 30 minutes away. They have to take the subway, a bus, and a taxi to get here.

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After the temple we headed over to the Sik Sik Yeun Wong Tai Sin Temple. It is a Taosit temple. It was really pretty and pretty different than a buddhist temple. There are tons of people walking around with a handful of burning incense bowing and chanting at different statues of different things/ people they worship.

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Next we headed to Tsim Sha Tsui East Promenade. This is the area of Kowloon where you can look across the water and see the skyline of Hong Kong Island. I really enjoyed spending time by the water.

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Then we headed to the Former Marine Police Headquarter or now known as 1881 Heritage. It’s the buildings were the marine police and fire stations and some other forces used to be headquartered at from the 1880’s to 1996. In the 1940s the Japanese took over the buildings during their invasion as well. In the early 2000s the buildings were restored and opened up as a hotel and super high end retail stores. It was fun to walk around and check out the history of different relics they had set up.

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We had an hour wait to take the Star Ferry boat from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. We took this route first because apparently that’s the best route to take your first time and there is a light show that starts at 8pm with the buildings. So we headed over to another indoor mall to sit down to wait. We actually ended up finding a Shopping Care Office. Michael was so stoked about this and thinks we should have these in all malls in America. It was a lounge with free hot chocolate and coffee and magazines with sports playing on the tv. There are also free lockers for you store anything there until 9pm each day. The lounge is for anyone who just needs a break from shopping or wants to hang out there while waiting for people to shop. So naturally we waited there while waiting for the ferry. Also one of the workers there was so excited to have us Americans sit in his lounge. It was pretty cute. A little bit  later we finally got to ride the ferry back and forth. It really is a pretty view and we enjoyed the ride. (About 15 min each way)

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After the ferry we headed to the Temple Street Night Market. It was fun, and we haggled on some gifts for some family. At this point we were pretty spent for the day so we grabbed some chicken nuggets at McDonald’s really fast and grabbed a taxi back to the patron housing. We had the cutest taxi driver. He was so kind to us and was great at English! Michael told him he was really nice and he said something to the effect of “Hong Kong have to be nice so the people keep coming back because if not there is nothing for me to eat.” Meaning if tourists don’t come then he has no one to drive around and no money to pay for his food. Hahaha

Day 15:

We went to a mall near the temple to find breakfast. The only thing serving breakfast and open at the time was McDonalds so we got some pancakes. Anyway after breakfast we checked out of patron housing and heads to our next hotel. We got checked in to the fanciest Best Western I’ve ever seen. The walls were completely covered in an inch by an inch gold rhinestones with chandeliers everywhere! Our room was also the smallest we have been in yet haha. So we got showered and them fell asleep for a few hours since we were so exhausted. We then walked to Man Mo Temple, another Buddhist temple and found super yummy French toast for lunch. The spiral things hanging from the ceiling are burning incense coiling up to the top so they burn forever. As you can see, it was pretty smoky in the temple.

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Next we headed up to Victoria Peak. It’s on the top of a mountain and is a look out point to see the city and surrounding islands. It was super windy up there but really pretty. We then took “Hong Kong’s oldest thrill ride down the mountain” aka the tram. It rides up the side of the mountain on a fairly steep incline.

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When we got down we walked through Hong Kong park. It is a completely man made park but you forget you are in a big city among all the waterfalls, ponds, greenery, and flowers. There’s also a butterfly conservatory and a bird aviary in the park, but those were closed before we got there.

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Then we went to the HSBC headquarters because when it completed it was the most expensive building ever built. But once again, by the time we arrived they weren’t letting people up anymore who didn’t work there. But we did get to look up through the building to see the view of all the floors because the unique set up of the building. The ground floor is open to the outside, and there was a massive glass atrium you could see up into from the ground floor. So after that, we hung out at the hotel for a bit to wait out a thunder storm and then headed out to an amazing mall! It’s called the IFC mall and it is just really cool. We got a number to wait for a restaurant we heard was really good and then walked around while we waited. We ended up finding this rooftop lounge that looked out across the skyline on the water. It was beautiful! We also saw every expensive store known to man because every mall in Hong Kong is high end for some reason. We enjoyed some delicious sushi and then headed back to the hotel.

Day 16:

The next morning we got up really early to move to our next hotel and get to the Big Buddha before it opened. We checked in at our hotel, but they wouldn’t let us in our room yet since it was so early. So we left our bags with the concierge and headed to Tian Tan buddha. This buddha is up in the mountains on the same island as the airport and Disneyland. To get to the buddha you have to take an hour bus ride from the closest subway station or a 20 minute tram. We went with the tram and it was a beautiful ride. The buddha is ten stories high from the base it sits on to the top of his head. So there might have been a few {read: so many} stairs to climb haha. It was really awesome to see though.

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^^our monk friends who were visiting the buddha for the first time as well. someone had lent them a cell phone for the day to take pictures. you should have seen how excited she was when she thought she had taken the best camera phone picture ever.

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Then we headed back down the mountains to go to Disneyland!!! Disneyland Hong Kong is like a mini version of different parts of Disneyland and Disney World. We were able to do almost all the rides from 12pm-9pm, so that should tell you something. It was funny because this Disneyland had tons of Asian food. I feel like you don’t usually see dim sum and bento boxes being a popular item at the restaurants in Disney. We had ton of fun overall and Michael has been to a Disney park now!!! So after the firework show we headed back to the hotel and finally got the key to our room. Too bad this was the nicest hotel room we had stayed in yet and we were only going to spend 5 hours in it.

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Hong Kong is a place I would love to return to one day.

Next up…SINGAPORE!

Michael the Editor’s Notes: She forgot to mention how ridiculous hot and humid this place was! We were dripping with sweat from the time we stepped off the plane. Especially our last day here. Disneyland was so hot we had to buy some many waters and cold treats to keep us cool and hydrated. Deanna also forgot to mention that she dragged me all over Disneyland all day long. She was very concerned that my first time at Disney had to be perfect. So much so that we didn’t eat dinner until 9pm or so, and then we did a half mile sprint around the park so that I wouldn’t miss the firework show from the front of the castle. I wanted to die after that run, but she was right, the firework show in front of the castle was worth it 🙂 She also forgot to mention the lack of understanding of what a line means. One of our hotels had a shuttle that took you between the subway station and hotel. The hotel had to hire someone to stand at the shuttle pick up near the subway so that he could keep people in line and not cut! In the 15 minutes we were in line we saw him have to be “the enforcer” more than once.

SHANGHAI

Day 11
Saturday we had to get up bright and early to make our 7:30am flight to Shanghai. Everything went pretty smoothly as far as the flight and bags, but it was the most uncomfortable airplane experience we’ve had so far. We got put in front of the exit row so we couldn’t recline but the row in front of us could. Our seat cushions and the actual seats we curved forward too. It was pretty bad. Michael’s knees were pushed up against the seat in front of him so bad that he used pillows to cushion each knee. Thanks goodness the flight was only two hours, right?! Anyway a very nice white man saved us from getting ripped off by a private taxi company. He told us to stay away from them and get a taxi at the curb. Then another man made sure the taxi understood where we were trying to go. Everyone has been very nice so far! Shanghai is way different than Beijing. Still smoggy but not as bad. This city is all tall buildings and whatnot. And it isn’t as dirty here. The view from our hotel room is ridiculously awesome. We have the perfect view of The Bund. {The view from the hotel at night.}
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We decided to not waste any time and to just go out and explore. So from the time we left our hotel room to the time we got to the lobby it had started raining. {Of course} So we run back up to get our rain coats. We only have one umbrella though so I held the umbrella with the backpack in front of me so it wouldn’t get wet. Unfortunately, by the time we came back down with our jackets a torrential downpour started. {I was in white jeans, mind you} But we just decided to get out there and brave it! It was pretty crazy and we both got splashed big time by two cars. Michael was worse than me though because his rain jacket is apparently only for mild rain storms haha and his pants got drenched since he didn’t have an umbrella. So in trying to find restaurants we only found Subway and a bunch of dessert places….so we ate lunch at Subway and took some pics of The Bund since we were right up against the river. Fortunately by the time we finished eating it had stopped raining.
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Then we took a taxi to the Shanghai Museum and saw the 112,000 relics that have been found of ancient Chinese people. That was fun and interesting. There was quite the line to get in. Some of the stuff was super old, like 3800 BC.
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Then we walked out the other entrance into People’s Square. It’s a really nice area surrounded by trees and government offices with business buildings on the outer ring.
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Then we walked to Nanjing Road. It’s a major shopping street in Shanghai. On the way we got stopped by some people asking if I could take their picture. One of them was a local and the other two were visiting from Xian. They wanted to know all about us and then wanted us to hang out with them for the rest of the day haha. We said no but they told us where we could go buy fake name brand stuff at a market on one side of Nanjing Road and real stuff on the other side of the road. So we checked out the market they told us about. So apparently there is no difference between this market and canal street in New York haha. We walked in and right away got whisked off to a secret place where they hide all the bags with the logos on them. We got handed off to like three people and had to go up an elevator. We went up the elevator with other people being taken somewhere else so when got off the elevator we went one way down the hall but when the elevator door closed and the people in there couldn’t see us anymore we went the other way down the hall haha. Then we went into this locked room where they had all the bags. So I’ve been obsessing over Celine bags lately. They actually had legit quality ones that I was pretty impressed with. They also had ones that weren’t great quality, so you could pay cheaper for them. So anyway I ask how much for the nice quality one (solid camel color) and the woman says the equivalent to $475 in American dollars and I started laughing at her. Anyway long story short she really wanted like $200 for it and I was like no way so we are trying to leave and the door is locked. Awesome. Then the woman caves to $75, and I still didn’t want a fake for that much plus it wasn’t my ideal color. Finally I’m just like no I want to leave. So she has this temper tantrum and throws the bag against the wall. Michael and I are starting to feel uncomfortable haha. Then she calls someone to tell them we are coming back downstairs and she is complaining about us in Chinese. It was awkward. Anyway another long story short only one place had the kind I was looking for and they wouldn’t come down to our price at all. So at the end of the night we got Michael a new wallet and a new belt. I got a new wallet. We were tired of haggling so we headed to dinner. We randomly found the most amazing Japanese place because let’s be real Chinese Chinese food is not nearly as good as American Chinese food haha. On our way to the restaurant we also met a fellow BYU alum! Anyway we had a great dinner looking out to the lights of Nanjing road. We were exhausted by this point so we walked down the street to hail a taxi. On the way we found a bunch of old women and men on the street dancing so Michael jumped in and I recorded it haha. Who knows what these women were doing at 9pm on the dark side walk doing what looked like a Zumba class, but they were enjoying themselves!  We learned that Shanghai would be much more livable than Beijing. 
Day 12
We tried for an hour on Saturday to try to find church here, but the “find a meetinghouse” link of LDS.org wasn’t working for us unfortunately. So we slept in and ended up leaving the hotel around 11am. By that time we were starving but they don’t eat normal breakfast here so it was hard to find something that sounded good for that time of day. We ended up at a place in the middle of Nanjing road. We shared a fruit plate and got ice cream waffles haha. Sounds super healthy, right? It was the only thing on the menu that was partially breakfast food. Then we took a taxi over to the other side of The Bund. It was crazy over there, kind of like Times Square craziness. There were quite a few buildings that you could pay to go and look out on the city, but they were all pretty expensive so we opted out. So we decided just to walk around and take pictures from the ground.
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Unfortunately I started to not feel so great…it was super hot outside and the crowds were ridiculous so we decided to go back to the hotel. We stayed there and took a nap for a while. We then got up and went back to Nanjing Road to walk around. They have M&M World here so I was really excited to get some American candy, but all the signs on the m&m columns were in Chinese so I didn’t know what I was getting so I just decided to get nothing. We ended up getting dinner at a different Japanese place for dinner. It was also very good. After dinner we did some window shopping. In case you were wondering Zara, GAP, H&M, and Forever 21 have the same prices in China haha. Then we went to Haagen Das for some dessert. Haagen Das is the equivalent to Baskin Robbins in Korea. They are everywhereeeee. Haagen Dazs is a different experience in Shanghai though. Most of them are very large shops with sit down service, and they have a whole menu of specialty things. Still expensive like America though. We just split a two scoop though haha. We got Belgian chocolate and macadamia nut. They were both divine. 🙂 Michael says I have an ice cream addiction haha.
Day 13
Monday, we woke up and walked over to a cafe that also had special waffles. Apparently that’s the only semi breakfast thing they have in this country. So Michael got a fruit one, and I got the chocolate banana one. Mine might have been more of a dessert waffle….I’ve discovered that dessert waffles are not for me in the morning. Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious but doesn’t sit well later on. So after breakfast we went to YuYuan Garden. Okay, one of the most confusing places to find. Our taxi driver didn’t drop us off directly in front of it, which we did not realize until we got out of the car. We literally asked probably 15 people how to get there and got ten different answers. But we finally found it!! And I’m glad we did because it was really pretty! I guess this rich man went broke making it for his dying parents. So a few years after he finished it, it all went to pot because he didn’t have the money for the up keep. Then it got destroyed when Shanghai was invaded by some people. Anyway about ten years after that a group of wealthy individuals got together to restore it and made it a national monument. It is filled with ponds full of fish, mini caves, lots of greenery, and little buildings. It is a maze to get around there. The whole thing is also blocked in by a tall cement wall that has dragons snaked on the top.
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After that we window shopped around YuYuan market. The buildings are really cool over the shops. (He just loves when I make him take pictures; hence the faces/poses below.)
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After that we headed over to Xintiandi Lanes. It is an old part of the city that they restored with pricy shops and restaurants on the bottom floors. There is also a large expensive mall on one side of the neighborhood. We had fun walking around and eating at a German restaurant.
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After that we headed back to the hotel for a little R&R before dinner. We decided to get dinner at the executive lounge restaurant that night. Big mistake. Hotel food is cheap in Asia but the service was awful… like really awful. It took 30 minutes to take our order, then 45 min for my meal to come out and an additional 20 minutes for Michael’s to come out. And the worst part was the place wasn’t even busy! So we may or may not have gone out for some McDonald’s sundaes after dinner.  Shanghai is a really cool city, but there aren’t as many cool cultural and historical things to see when compared with Beijing. But it was awesome to see the comparison between the two! It may not be a touristy location, but it seemed like a great place to live. I only wish I spoke the language!
Next up…HONG KONG!

BEIJING

Sorry for the delay in blog posts! Bear with me. Starting work and moving into a new city is proving to be quite a bit of work. Here is the next one from our trip!
Day 8:
We started our journey from one country to the next with a flight from Seoul to Beijing. We quickly spotted our driver after we got our bags. Beijing was the one place that we decided to hire a tour company to plan our hotels, some meals, activities, and transportation. It was so great because we didn’t have to worry about a thing! We had a private driver and English speaking tour guide to ourselves for three days. Unfortunately our translator/tour guide did not speak great English. We really had to concentrate to understand her. The driver and the tour guide got us all checked into our room and left us with plans to meet the next morning. We were really hungry so I decided we should walk to the nearest McDonald’s. We had been up since 5am and we were exhausted, so I was just thinking let’s run to McDonald’s for something fast and easy. Well it ended up being the worst idea ever. First of all the streets are crazy here. The cars don’t really follow any laws (as far as we can tell) and there are electric bikes everywhere (choosing when to act like a car and when to be a pedestrian). It was slightly terrifying, and by slightly I mean absolutely. Thankfully, Michael was really good at knowing when to run and when to stop. So we finally get to McDonald’s, and we order by pointing to the menu. No one spoke English, so when we go to pay none of our credit cards or debit cards worked on their machine. Unfortunately we hadn’t found the time to get some Chinese currency yet, so we had no way to pay. We communicate through hand motions to find out that there is a ATM down the street. Well we get to the bank with the ATM and tried taking money out five times. The machines kept denying us, so we went inside to ask why it wouldn’t work but again no one spoke English. {Seeing a pattern?} A sweet lady working there tried helping us two more times and nothing. Thankfully we found one a little farther down the street that worked. So we go back to McDonald’s, get our food, and sit down. Michael ordered a hamburger. To his surprise, it was a bun, two patties, and a raw piece of bacon. He only ordered a one patty burger with no bacon and it was supposed to come with all the toppings. He goes back to ask what’s up with his burger and they point to this tiny sign that says “we have no veggies right now”. So Michael took off the bacon and took one bite and almost threw up. He gave up trying to eat there so we walked back to the hotel and got him some noodles at a restaurant nearby. The rest of the day we hung out at the hotel to rest up for the next day. I hadn’t been feeling great either so we were happy that the tour guide planned to give us the first day to rest. 
Day 9:
We woke up rejuvenated and enjoyed the complimentary hotel buffet breakfast. It was all Chinese food, so we had fried rice, egg rolls, egg yolk buns, and watermelon. Our tour guide came to pick us up at 8am. We first headed to People’s Square and Tienanmen Square. It is huge. In the square is also the building of Chairman Mao’s tomb. We didn’t go in to see it though because there is a two hour wait in line and you only see the tomb for one minute before they push you out. Nuts.
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From Tienanmen Square we entered the Forbidden City. It was breathtaking. Michael and I had no idea how large it was until we got there. Can you believe that in the whole place there are 8,700 rooms?! There is a different place for the emperor to sleep, the empress to sleep, and twelve buildings for all the concubines. The architecture and scale of the building is amazing. It’s so hard to imagine that in 1400’s they could build something like that in 14 years! Also, we learned that we are superstars in Beijing. We were actually stopped by people wanting to take a picture with us around 20 times. {Our tour guide denied around 10 more people who asked her for permission so that we weren’t constantly being bombarded.} And probably an additional 50 times we caught people taking pictures of us like being the paparazzi was their job. It was so weird because no one blinked an eye in Seoul that we are white, but in Beijing we got stared at like circus animals. It was pretty weird, and we were so awkward about it haha.
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Anyway we then headed to lunch at a famous restaurant in town. The food was great but the service was awful.
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After that we went to Qianhai and Houhai Lake to take a trip on a rickshaw. We really enjoyed that, but again, the roads are crazy here and we were on a narrow road so it was kind of scary. The driver intentionally crashed into something on my side once and it scared me to death.
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After that we got to go inside a Chinese family’s real home. The house has been in their family for five generations. The design of the houses is so interesting. There is a stone wall surrounding the home. You enter directly into a hallway that opens up to a courtyard that has grapes and squash growing on the lattice roof above you. There are four separate rooms facing the courtyard. One bedroom, one sitting room, one kitchen/dining area, and one office. The dad works at home and paints on silk. We bought one from him. It is very pretty and perfect for our around the world wall.
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Then we went to the Silk Factory. Also not what we were expecting at all. It is in an office building with many floors. They take you to the second floor and teach you how silk things are made from the birth of the silk worm to the final product. It is fascinating, and you should look it up if you are interested. But below are some of the pictures of the process. Anyway they had a professional shop set up with quilts, duvet covers, and all sorts of clothing and accessories made from silk. Unfortunately everything was extremely expensive, so we didn’t buy anything. I really wanted a silk pajama set, but it was about $200! We thought it would be more of a real factory set up with “market-haggle” prices so that was a little disappointing.
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Next we headed to the Temple of Heaven. This was also really beautiful and it was interesting to learn about how they used to worship when they had emperors. The emperors would go there three times a year to pray for good harvest, good rainfall, and thanksgiving for the god of heaven. It is kind of sad how religious the Chinese culture used to be so long ago and now they think religion is silly. Our tour guide said that now the Chinese people only worship the “god of money”.
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Our tour guide made us have a little photo shoot.
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Meet some of our fans in Beijing.
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Below are some pictures of a covered walk way that was built for the ancient emperors to bring the offerings to the Temple of Heaven. This way the offering would be dry in case of rain. Now men play Chinese chess all day long under the walk way.
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The Red Theatre for a Kung Fu Show was next up on the list. It was really good and we are really glad we went. They did some pretty impressive stuff like doing front handstands on their heads, balancing their whole body with their bare stomach on a spear, and showed off their kung fu skills.
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Day 10:
Friday was amazing!!! We met up with our tour guide at 8am again. We drove to the Great Wall; it takes about two hours. Luckily we fell asleep for most of it. So I kind of just thought we would drive up to the beginning of the wall and start walking. Yeah, not really how it works haha. So you pull up to the ticket office and then you take a bus to the base of the mountain. You can either take a ski lift, tram car, or walk up the mountain to get to the wall. Our tour guide was worried about time so we opted for the ski lift. After we took the breathtaking ride up to the top we started our climb on the wall. It is breathtaking. Something about climbing those steps and being on the mountain… I’ll never forget it. Did you know that it took about 5 million people to build the wall and about 1 million died trying. There are people buried about every two feet under the wall…kinda creepy. There were parts of the wall that were pretty hard to climb but we really loved it. Then we got to take a slide down!! It is kind of like the alpine slide in park city. We had tons of fun. The video Michael took of us is hilarious.
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We got lunch at a place near the ticket office. Our tour guide ordered for us. It was so much food and pretty good. After that we had another two hour drive to the pearl market. On the way we stopped at the copper pottery factory. That was really interesting to learn about. Then we got to the pearl factory. Michael spoiled me with a beautiful strand of pearls.
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Then we headed to the Summer Palace. This was really interesting because the lake it surrounds is completely man-made and the hill that the Buddhist temple there sits on is also man-made. The dirt from making the lake made the hill for the temple. People were crazy hard workers back in the day haha. The longest painted corridor is also on this land. It is remarkable. The paintings are all unique, every three steps on the inside and outside. We also got to take a dragon boat across the water! It was super pretty. This is also a marble “boat” docked on the water there that is apparently really a house. But that too is also really pretty.
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After the palace we had an hour drive to the Olympic Park. We got to see the bird nest and the water cube. And like always, tons of people wanted to take pictures with us.
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Other Random Funny Things About Beijing:
-most toilets outside of our hotel are extremely gross with no toilet paper and hole in the floor toilets
-lots of little kids wear crotch-less pants here with no diaper (I even saw a newborn baby with crotch-less pants and no diaper!!)
-parents tell their little kids to squat and go to the bathroom where ever they please (so watch your step!)
-men (no matter what they are wearing) walk around with their shirts pulled up half way over their stomach because of the heat
Beijing is so much different than Michael and I expected! It was our favorite place for tourist attractions by far. There is so much history and culture in Beijing; it’s absolutely astounding. I guess we were thinking a more developed city with a lot of tall buildings and really pretty landscapes. There is a downtown with a couple skyscrapers, but most of the city isn’t that way, and almost all of the tourist things are in a dirty part of town that is pretty under developed. People smoke a lot here, even in buildings, and the smog is unreal. I’ve never experienced anything like it. They never see the sun or a blue sky in Beijing. The sky just looks a dusty brown color, kind of like it’s overcast. Check out those pictures again! The fuzziness and weird sky color aren’t because of my camera. Also, the majority of the population seems to live in what would be considered poverty by American standards. It was very enlightening being here. I am so grateful for the experience to travel and see the world. You learn so much more than you ever could in a classroom.

SEOULmates

Day 1 & 2
Let’s start from the beginning. The plane ride over to this side of the world took forever and a half as expected. We had to check-in our bags and go through security a total of three times. Fun stuff, let me tell you. We flew from SLC to LAX to SFO to ICN. Our first flight was on Wednesday, August 13 at 7:30 am, and we landed in Seoul August 14 at 6:30 pm. It was a long {two} days to say the least, but getting to explore the city where my husband devoted two years of his life to the Lord made the hassle worth it.
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Day 3
The next day we got up early to make a session at the Seoul LDS Temple. The temple is in an odd location. You go through a few back alleys to get there, but the grounds are beautiful regardless of how small they are. As soon as we walked in the doors we ran into Michael’s first mission president, President Lee, since he is now the Temple President. Michael was also excited to see President Lee’s wife, a bishop and wife of a ward he served in, and a kid from BYU that Michael knows from a Korean class they took together. We had such a nice time in the temple. The people were all so friendly and sweet. After the temple we ate some Korean BBQ and headed to Gwanghwamun.
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Gwanghwamun is the largest intersection in Seoul–there are six lanes going each way with an extremely large median separating the lanes going each way. The Pope was in Korea at the time, so there were Police buses and swarms of policemen lining each street the Pope would be visiting days before he would actually be there. {All the men in the neon vests are police.} So unfortunately, we did not get to see the 12 lanes in action. On the median there are two big statues of Korean heroes; we went across the street to learn more about these men in the museum dedicated to them.
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Then we went to Jogyesa,  Buddhist temple. Also right in the middle of a couple of alleys. It was small but the buildings were gorgeous. There were quite a few people there praying. I have a lot of respect for those people that come so often to their temple to worship and pray.We also met a very sweet lady that explained the symbolism of the Buddha statues. It was so interesting!
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After that we headed back to the hotel and Michael and I found a restaurant nearby to go to for dinner. We got shaba shaba. It was good but pretty weird looking stuff haha. Everything goes in one pot on the table at different time intervals.
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Day 4
We started out the day by heading out to a area Michael served in that consists mostly of college campuses. The first one is a Catholic university and reminded me of a mixture of UCLA’s heavily wooded campus and East Coast-style buildings.
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Then we went to Dongdaemun to shop! I haggled a lady for a top priced at $25 for $17 at one mall! The malls here are pretty strange. All the shops are tiny, and they don’t have doors to walk into the individual stores. We also went to markets that had stall after stall specializing in one specific thing (i.e. buttons, patches, lace, sequins, hats, etc.) 
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Then we went to Changgyeonggung, one of the king’s old palaces. The Secret Garden part was really pretty. We did an hour and a half walking tour through it. The life of an emperor is pretty rad, I must admit. 
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After that we went to Seoul tower….such a crazy adventure. We took a taxi up to the base of the tower to take a tram. The wait for the tram was two hours long. So I told Michael to walk inside and ask if that was the right line. It was. So then the guy at the info desk was like actually I’ll just cut the line for you and buy your tickets. (WHAT?!?! BIGGEST BLESSING EVER!) So then we only had to get in the next line for 30 minutes to get on the tram. The tram takes you up to the first part of the tower. It’s the huge platform area with tons of eating, a band playing, and lots of room to hang out and enjoy the view. But if you go up higher on an elevator to the observatory deck you can eat dinner at a Korean buffet. So we did that because it was my in-laws’ 41st anniversary that day and our 2nd anniversary the next day! The food was pretty good but the view was unbelievable! Seoul is so big it’s hard to compare it with anything else. The city just keeps going and going. We arrived at just the right time because it was light out and then we watched the sun set and all the city lights turn on. After dinner we had to wait another 40 minutes to get back down the elevator to the main platform. When we got down to the tram there was a huge line for that. So I cut when no one was paying attention haha. So we only had a fifteen minute wait instead of an hour wait…no judging. Anyway the wait time for everything was crazy but the view up there was spectacular so it was all worth it.
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Day 5
Sunday we woke up and headed to church. We went to the ward of Michael’s last area. He was a treated like a movie star by the members. They were SO excited to see him. This is the ward of the mission president for the first half of his mission too; he was sooo happy to see Michael. This ward does Relief Society/Priesthood, Sunday School, then Sacrament Meeting. Right before sacrament meeting a man asked Michael and my father-in-law to bear their testimonies! They were so nervous but Michael did great for his and translating his dad’s. After church there was a baptism! A ward member also showed me a bulletin board with pictures of people getting baptized with the missionary who baptized them. There were about 8 pictures on the board and Michael and his investigators were 3 of the pictures! So cute they still had them up!
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We had to leave right after the baptism so we could get to our lunch appointment with a family from a different ward. The meal was so nice and the family was amazing. The mom made so much good food. It was really interesting to see how and where a normal family lives.  The mom spoke English very well and is a crack up, so it was really fun talking to her.
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After dinner we headed back to the hotel, but we stopped at the Yoido Full Gospel Church first. It was a huge church that can seat 50,000 to worship at one time. It was really interesting to go inside because they have sermons going on costantly throughout Sunday. When we went in a Christian rock group was performing, and the gospel choir was getting ready to sing.
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Later that night we went out with a member that Michael was close to on the mission. Jungsue is so awesome. He’s 38 and his daughter is 7. (His wife wasn’t able to make it.)  He picked us up in his BMW and without warning us drove us to a different part of the city. He brought us to the Grand Hyatt in Seoul to have ice cream at the restaurant that looks over the city {we weren’t dressed appropriately for this it was slightly embarrassing haha}. So we got treated to a brownie/berry/ice cream dessert while looking over the city lights on our anniversary! It was beautiful. 
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Day 6
So we woke up and went to Bongeunsa, another Buddhist temple. This one was on a larger piece of land with tons of rooms to worship in. It was really pretty and cool to look out at the Buddhist temple with the city-scape behind it. You definitely get a feeling of the old Seoul and the new Seoul. Check out the 150 foot Buddha on the temple grounds. 
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We met up with Michael’s first mission president and his wife for lunch. They took us out to a buffet called Ashley. It’s supposed to be American food but it’s really Korean food with an American spin on it haha. It was so fun to visit with them though. They are so sweet. Kind of cool, so before and now after their time as mission president and wife they run a daycare at their house {small by American standards} with 80 KIDS {!!} from ages 1-6. It’s Monday through Friday and kids are there anywhere from 8am-10pm depending on when their parents work. Apparently it is a really popular daycare! And by just sitting with them for lunch you can see why, they are so friendly and happy. Their smiles are just the cutest! Michael also ran into an old investigator when we were at the restaurant. It’s a small world sometimes. 🙂
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After lunch we went to Insadong to do some souvenir shopping. Michael’s parents bought quite a few things, but we didn’t buy anything. Then we dropped Michael’s parents off at the hotel and we headed to Namdaemun to do some more shopping. I finally found my Korean hairbands I love! I was super excited, so I bought 40 of them haha. Thank goodness they are cheap! I also bought Evan some superhero socks for Christmas. 🙂 After that shopping we went to Shindang to eat dinner at on Dukboki Street. Then we headed back to the hotel to say goodbye to Michael’s parents since they were leaving at 5am the next morning for Hong Kong without us!
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Day 7
We got up and headed to Gangnam. {Yes, like the place in the song.} Michael may or may not have filmed me doing the dance and whatnot haha. We explored the Samsung building for a bit since everyone is obsessed and super loyal to the brand in Korea. Did you know Samsung makes cars for the people of Korea? Super crazy. After that we did some shopping because Gangnam is supposed to be equivalent to Manhattan or Los Angeles in Korea.
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Then Michael’s friend, who brought us to the Hyatt a couple nights previous, picked us up and we went to get lunch with him and his daughter. They are so nice and fun to hang out with. We hope he ends up going to school in NYC so we can hang out all the time! After lunch he let us use his phone to call Christian Andersen, my little brother Evan’s best friend from Texas, who is serving in Seoul right now. Christian was available in an hour so the guy drove us all the way out to Christian’s area!! So nice of him! We ate ice cream with Michael’s friend, his daughter, Christian, and his companion at Baskin Robbins {because they are everywhere here}. Christian sounds like a great missionary. He is doing well with the language and is district leader now!
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After that we headed back to Dongdaemun to do a little more shopping there.  With help from Christian, we found the right area to look for the place Michael remembers getting ties as a missionary. We got him some nice professional ties since I made him throw out all of his sparkly rhinestone mission ties haha. I also bought the cutest Little Mermaid socks for myself ha.
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After we were done shopping we headed to a bath house. It was an interesting experience, but I think I will stick to my American spas. It was bad timing that I wasn’t feeling too great when we got to the bath house, so we didn’t stay for long. On the way back to the hotel we picked up some food, and then went back to pack for China!
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Overall Seoul was not what I expected at all, but I had the best time visiting the places where Michael served in as a missionary. It was also really fun to see how easily his Korean came to him when he was surrounded by native speakers. I loved seeing how much the people of Korea meant to him, and how much the members loved him. It was such a fun time to go back with him four years later when things are so much different now than he imagined they would be. I’ll forever be grateful for the time and sacrifice he gave on his two year mission.
Next up: BEIJING

Playing Catch-Up

Hi friends! It’s been awhile, my apologies. Over the past three weeks we have had a lot of good times here in The City. Here is a quick catch up through a few pictures. I’ll let the pictures do the talking since they’re each worth a thousand words, right?

Matilda//Aliyah’s first Broadway show

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Thai Food & 16 Handles//High Line

with some of my favorite ladies I went to high school with in New Jersey–it was so great seeing you three!

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Statue of Liberty//Ellis Island

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Long Island//Fourth of July

with the best 2nd family I could ever ask for–I love y’all! Thanks for taking us for the day 🙂

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Empire State Building//Max Brenner Chocolate by the Bald Man

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Coney Island//Brooklyn Bridge

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Wish us luck with the next ten days! So much to do in so little time.

xoxo

The City Life

Well the past few days have been anything but dull. Let me tell you. These are the top three things I have come to a conclusion on in the past six days:

**I’m SO glad that kids don’t come out of the womb at the age of 14 years old.

**I couldn’t be more grateful for this wonderful city that I feel so comfortable in.

**I have the most sensitive feet in the world.

Let me explain…

1. For those of you who don’t know I am in NYC for the next 5 weeks chaperoning my 14 year old niece while she attends the American Ballet Theater Summer Intensive. She is quite the ballerina. I am so proud of her for getting into this camp and leaving her family for 5 weeks to follow her dreams and passions. But, becoming a “motherly” figure over her in the past six days has been a little nerve-racking! She has never been to the city and bless her heart she lacks a sense of direction. I finally understand why parents put a leash on their kids here! I also am finally understanding why my mom would get nervous when she was in the city with me or let me go alone. She would always get mad at me for being oblivious to my surroundings, and now I finally get it. When we are younger we just tend to be more naive to what is going on around us. Maybe that is a blessing at that age because you have all the time in the world to worry about all the little things later on…but for now I’m finally starting to feel that maternal worry and it’s the worst! I am excited to someday have my own baby that I can hold close to me and make them hold my hand for at least the first 6 years of their life. 🙂 On another note, I have a new appreciation for all you nannies out there!

2. Sometimes you just feel a connection with a place. That’s New York for me. {Although, I will say, the more I grow up the more I realize I can be happy anywhere if I am with the people I love.} From the first time I came here I fell in love. There is just something about the diversity, fast-paced lifestyle, and access to just about anything you could want. Many people give Michael and I a weird look when we say we are moving to the city. They honestly can’t believe it. It’s a little funny to me because you would think when you tell someone where you are moving they would try to come up with at least one nice thing to say to you about the place, congratulate you, etc. But no, we have actually gotten more of the opposite reaction. We have literally gotten remarks such as “Why would you want to move there?” “I really don’t think you know what you are doing.” “It’s so scary there!” “It smells there.” Michael and I let it roll off our shoulders because we know we love it and that’s all that matters! But for all you haters let me just tell you a story that will restore all your faith in humanity, especially the humanity that lives in this city. On our second day here we made the trek to Central Park. I decided to try to get there the fastest way possible, which includes subway + bus. Well we get to the Central Park Zoo and I pull out my wallet, except there was no wallet in my purse. Yep, I left my wallet on the bus. Awesome. I grab my phone and try to get a hold of the MTA Transit service. They didn’t answer, so I call Michael panicking because it gets better, my battery on my phone was about to give out any moment. Thankfully I tried calling the MTA one more time and they answered. I gave them all the information I had about the whereabouts of my wallet and he said he would make an announcement to all the buses and I should call back in an hour to see if anyone reported it back. There was nothing to do but wait. After 45 minutes I couldn’t wait any longer. I called the man back and guess what? They had it. He told me to go back to the place where I got off the bus in an hour and a half and my wallet would be waiting for me. After I got off the phone I really couldn’t believe it. I sent up quite a few prayers and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for the rest of the day. In a time when everyone expects people to be bad and have the wrong motives I got my wallet back without any problems or anything missing. It’s a miracle, and I love this place. And that’s that.

3. Every time I return to the city I  am reminded that a) I’m not active enough when I live other places and b) my feet are oh so sensitive! Those little half socks save my life even though they may not be very fashionable. Sometimes you have to make compromises. I love walking around the city. While Niece is in ballet class I get to do fun things like shop to furnish our new apartment, go apartment hunting, and go on personal shopping trips. I also love walking around the city people watching and checking out what’s going on in the individual neighborhoods. BUT my feet hate me for it. I got my first blister today. It covers the entire top of my pinkie toe. I feel like such a wimp. Niece dances for SEVEN hours a day {with at least an hour of that on pointe} and while her feet may hurt she has no blisters, cuts, or blood to show for it! It’s actually pretty amazing. She has the best dancer feet I’ve ever seen! When I was dancing the first half of my foot was always taped up. I envy her tough feet. Maybe after living here for a year or so I will build up an immunity from walking so much.

DSC02724Our eventful day in Central Park {That’s niece in the cute bow}

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Isn’t it gorgeous here?

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And during the day while Niece is in school I do the important things like visits to the J.Crew Sample Sale and Magnolia Bakery.

Next post I promise to add more about our adventures! Until next time. xoxo