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Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Fri Aug 31, 2018 9:32 am
by Viktor K
End of August 2018

This was a pretty chill month. I didn’t too much as far as going out or exploring or anything. But, then again, why would I? Mostly I enjoy nice hikes, rock-climbing, this sort of thing, but all the nearby wilderness is absolutely spoiled. As well, we’re in the middle of monsoon season and it has pretty much been raining everyday. Forecast is more rain for the next 7 days.

ERE graphs


I lost a little money this month. I had a couple recordings that helped stem the blood loss, but, still, no work means little pay. And spending never stops.


This chart is pretty much the same. There’s not much to say about it. I’m still earning in RMB and looking to send that out on a more regular basis starting with that next paycheck that’ll hit on September 15th or somewhere around there.


Alcohol: With me tracking my spending this month and having a lot of time to myself, I was able to really see how much alcohol I’ve been consuming. It’s hard to say if it is more or less than normal for me, but it’s too much for my personal tastes. One of the big things here is that the cheaper beers are the big bottle beers and they’re 600 ml each. So, when you actually calculate out the servings of alcohol per bottle, they come out to between1.44 servings and 1.72 servings of alcohol per bottle (by US 15 ml per serving). I normally buy two of these just on a relaxing night (not every night, but when I do buy them, I usually buy 2) which ends up adding up to a lot of alcohol per week.

My other cat. He was keen on meowing from 4AM-6AM when my girlfriend first left for the US. Thankfully that habit cooled off after a few days and me just dumping every toy he has on the floor every night before bed.

So, I want to cut that down. I don’t think this is going to be very difficult to do. I’ve got school coming up, which is typically a big inhibitor. As well, my girlfriend will be back in a couple days which means less time just sitting around in the apartment by myself bored out of my mind. Anyways, I’ll set a goal for this further down in this post.

This is not my cat. I’ve had him before, though. I’m babysitting this guy for about 3 weeks. Compared to my cats, he’s an angel. Not sure what I did wrong.

Exercise: Not really anything new to talk about here. I’m still hitting a lot of my goals and just constantly trying to perfect my form. Pull-ups are going great and I think I’m going to be adding weight (talk about a lot of infinitives) here in the next month, so that’s kind of exciting. Otherwise, its just the same old thing. I’m starting to hit some plateaus in squat and deadlift. But, after a couple internet searches, I can usually work out a couple form tweaks or assistance work that helps me clear those.

This is not fog. This is pollution. Shenzhen is one of the best cities for air quality in China. This sort of pollution is unusual in the summer but very common in the winter. Luckily, the girlfriend picked us up a couple masks in the US so we’ll have some reprieve from this poison for this last year here.

Diet: The diet was next level improvement this month. I got the crockpot running so much that I actually ended up breaking it and had to get a new one. That screwed up the diet a little bit. As well, if I don’t have my next batch of chili going the day of the last serving of the previous batch, then I usually end up getting some food from a restaurant the next day while the next batch is cooking, since it usually doesn’t finish up until the late evening and I’m just starving until then. So, if I can make sure that I start the next batch the day of the last serving of the previous batch, then that should help knock out a lot of the restaurant spending. The girlfriend will be able to help a lot here as well.

Summer-Fall are my favorite months for fruit here. One of the few things I’m going to miss moving back to the US. Passion fruit, mangosteens, and pomegranates are all pretty good right now.

Best thing about this new diet is that my friggin poops are finally where they should be. I was in heaven while I was in the US as far as my toilet-faring adventures went only to be brought right back to Earth ( specifically China, Earth) when I got back from my vacation. All the raving about the vegan buffet went right out the window after a couple weeks of that and some personal peeping at their kitchen revealed some gross food safety issues that I partly contribute to my terrible bowels. Cooking nearly everything at home this month has cleared everything up, thankfully.

Lots of fiber, lots of protein, lots of healthy fats. I swap out a vegetable or two batch to batch to hit different micronutrients and whatnot. These last about 3 or 4 meals at 800-1100 calories each meal. I can make bigger batches and probably will when the girlfriend gets back, but otherwise they stay in the fridge too long and I start to get tired of them.


Technical school: I guess its technically not a university, even though “university” is in the name. Its more of a trade-school, but whatever. I got my schedule earlier this month. I work 8AM-12PM except on Tuesdays where I only have the last two morning classes which are something like 10AM-12PM. So that’s pretty awesome, it’s basically the schedule I was hoping for and the only reason I agreed to the position. It should be pretty easy. As well, I start on September 10th and teach for 14 weeks. The length of the semester is normal, but the freshmen that I teach do military training for 3 weeks each semester (or maybe just the Spring semester), but this year they put that training at the very end of the semester. Which means I will be on winter vacation from December 21st to February 25th. That’s pretty friggin awesome and I’m super stoked about that.

I worked with substitutes this month for my 2 recordings since my girlfriend is gone. This shot is of the studio in my building complex that we usually record at. Unfortunately, we missed out on a ¥2100 recording later this month since my girlfriend wasn’t here and I couldn’t find a replacement. This recording lasted nearly all day and ended up paying more than ¥3000.

Web development: The easiest thing to do here would be to post the URL for my website since I’ve been posting updates there about 2/week, with a lot more posts in the last couple weeks than the first couple weeks. However, there’s little incentive to do that since the website isn’t really monetized in anyway at this point and it has links to my Facebook and LinkedIn and stuff and everyone here seems pretty personal information risk adverse so I think I’ll just hold off for now.

At the same time, posting some 3,000 words/post 2/week for the last month means I don’t have a lot of energy to go through what I’ve been working on, so I’ll just throw it down in bullet-form.

  • Finished SQL courses
  • Did some code challenges
  • Started making this ab workout generator web app (nearly finished)
Okay, well, that was a pretty short list. I will go in to a little detail about the ab workout generator. This has been a huge learning experience so far. I learned how to actually setup my database on my website and got to actually use SQL via PHP from my HTML document to do things like use a form to send exercises into the database and then pull all the exercises from the database and store them in JavaScript. It’s really been a lot of fun and I’ve been posting updates about that on my website about 2/week so I don’t have much energy to talk about too much of it here because that would be exhausting to talk about more than once. But, it’s almost done, I’m on the last part now which is where I need to actually write the JavaScript “algorithm” that takes the list of exercises filtered by muscle group, length of workout in minutes, and equipment or no equipment and then shoots out a random array that targets each chosen muscle group as equally as possible with no repeats unless necessary.

Recording number two was at one of the downtown studios that is a little cheaper for the company. ¥1200 for 2PM-6PM.

After that, it’s not 100% yet, but I’m probably going to use PHP to do a lot more on my website like setup a legit contact form and make some sort of custom CMS because right now I’m coding most of every page by hand and/or copying and pasting from previous pages which eats up a lot of time. After that, I’ll probably feel pretty good with regards to databases, PHP, and SQL and I’ll start looking at some of the front-end JS frameworks/libraries that I haven’t got to like React.


Expense tracking: I finally started tracking expenses again. I found an app that is just manual entry, which is what I need since I don’t have online banking (or, if I do, it’s in Chinese). It’s called Expense, and it’s working really well for me so I would recommend it to anyone else who is happy just typing in the numbers after each purchase. Here’s the damage from this month:


Several things to note here. First, rent won’t ever change so that’ll be static. This new apartment does cut our rent basically in half which is great and makes me feel like I actually belong on this forum for once.

Health was a couple one-offs. First, I went to some European dentist that was recommended to me over a year ago and, not only was I satisfied with the cleaning, but I was happy that I didn’t have any cavities since I think it’s been over a year or maybe even two since I’ve been to the dentist last. Second, I had a cyst removed off the shin. To be honest, this probably wasn’t necessary. I mean, I haven’t got the biopsy back yet but the doctor said it was a cyst, the surgeon said it was a cyst, and my own internet research said it was a cyst, but it could always be cancer, right? I’ll get the biopsy report back next week to confirm but this was likely a paranoia expense.

One-offs like this won’t (I hope) spring up too often.

Groceries are probably what they’ll be next month, too. I basically walk to this supermarket across the street, pick up a little bag of one of any of the 6 or 7 types of beans they have there, a little bag of brown rice (these bags are each about 250 grams and cost 2-5 yuan each), and then 3 or 4 vegetables with the intent of changing up the vegetables batch to batch. That’s basically my staple food. I throw that in the crockpot with some oil and seasonings. I also eat a lot of oatmeal, and a lot of fruit. I’ve been using MyFitnessPal again to keep an eye on my calories (for lifting) as well as my macros and micros and that’s been a huge help in eating healthy and cooking at home. Other things I buy in this category pretty much fall into the spices and/or cooking liquids category (vinegar, oil, soy sauce). As well I ordered some powdered milk from New Zealand which saves something like 75% versus buying from the store and I trust it a lot more.

The visa/passport stuff is just money that I had to pay to get my visa finalized, but the school is going to reimburse me for that so it doesn’t really count towards spending long-term and shouldn’t show up again.

Restaurants, however, are room for change. These pretty much all hit in the beginning of the month before I finally had enough with friggin diarrhea and constipation (have you ever had both at the same time? It’s a thing). As well, in the middle of the month, I broke my crockpot so I ended up having to hit the streets again and I only went for the A-rated restaurants nearby which meant spending a little more than normal per restaurant meal. So, the goal here for next month is to at least cut this in half. And then we’ll cut it in half again if needed in October.

Disaster. Especially for a wanna-be ERE-er.

Alcohol I talked about above. Half of this came in one night. It was the last couple nights that my buddy from college was going to be in China, presumably until ever, since he’s moving to the US after being here for something like 3 or 4 years. Bars are expensive. This month, I’m going to aim to cut this in 1/3 and then potentially look at further reducing it in October.

So that’s two financial goals out of the way, let’s look down for anything else here… And I don’t have to go far. Transportation was ¥50 to refill my metro/bus card which should last forever and the other ¥250 was just being lazy and taking taxis, as well as a couple late night taxis on the above mentioned nights out (buses and the metro stop running a little after 11:00PM). I want to cut this expense by 2/3 as well.

Shopping will probably be pretty static. This is things that I don’t necessarily need but that I buy. All of this this month was for my D&D game, which is all wrapped up now. Each week it cost something like ¥30 to reserve the room at the internet cafe that we played at and then I bought a couple things like dice and markers and stationary. From here on this will probably be things like clothes and, I don’t know, just whatever it is and I’m not going to worry about it unless some sort of crazy shopping habit takes over.

Ate this to-go food from a fish restaurant few times after the crockpot broke. This costs ¥50-¥100. Between here and sushi (the only nearby places with A ratings), I probably spent nearly ¥300 while waiting for the new crockpot to come in.

The rest of this isn’t too important. Utilities are just water and electricity. We take cold showers here and only run the water to rinse off. I think I mentioned this already, but our cold water costs twice as much here because its a business building or something, and the hot water is then 4x more than that already doubled price. So cold showers it is. Electricity is also double, but we spend less since the apartment is so small. And internet hasn’t been added yet but it isn’t too expensive either. And it shouldn’t be because its the slowest I’ve had since dial-up.

Home is things for the apartment like laundry sticks that you use to hang the clothes up on the drying racks, soap, stuff like that. And drinks is anytime that I go and get something stupid like a coffee or a bubble tea.

So next month’s financial goals are:
  • < ¥325 on restaurants
  • < ¥115 on alcohol
  • < ¥100 on transportation
That plus not spending ¥1915 on medical expenses and visa fees (to be reimbursed) should drop spending. Oh and just to note that I also still pay monthly life insurance. As well, student loan interest is constantly growing my debt. But those two things happen in USD so I’m not going to list them here.

When it isn’t polluted, it’s raining. It’s rained basically every day. This is the view from the 7th floor of the local hospital. That tree-covered mountain is a small hiking park. It’s not trashed like some of the trails here, but it’s only maybe 3 miles of trails. Oh, and by trails, I mean paved paths with stairs, like every other “trail” in this city.

Final thoughts

I guess to be thorough I should look at these goals from last month. I was obsessed with my lack of progress on these at the beginning of the month to the point that I set them as my desktop background and made sure to at least get through the August specific ones. Then, with writing on my own website, I sort of found my own voice and guide as to what I need to work on. Let’s take a look anyway at what I did do:
  • Finish Codecademy’s SQL: Table Transformation
  • Upload 10-15 more code challenges to my website by the end of August
  • Post 3-5 more articles to my website by the end of August
  • Make a web app for doing ab exercises (so close to finished we’re going to count it here)
Still to do:
  • Anything dealing with Upwork
  • Wordpress
  • Finish Codecademy's Introduction to jQuery
And no longer interested:
  • Finish Codecademy's SQL: Analyzing Business Metrics (SQL so easy)
  • Finish Level 1 of my game (waste of time and won’t ever be happy with the finished product)
If you can’t tell, I’m a little fatigued of being in China. However, I’m not fatigued at all with regards to having a ton of free time in which to pursue my career as a web developer. There’s so much to learn, and it just really isn’t that complicated. I mean, you pretty much take a course, do some practice problems to drill in what you learned, and then do a couple projects that use whatever you just learned, and you’re good to go.

This ab workout generator that I started a week or so ago had a number of things that I had never done before. I had never set up a database. I’d never used PHP to communicate with that database. I’d never stored form values in PHP variables before. I’d never used PHP to pass variables to JavaScript, etc. But I did it. It’s like no matter what the job is, it’s doable. There’s so much information on the internet with regards to programming and making websites and coding, that half of being a web developer, from what I’ve experienced so far, is just being able to find the right help article or StackOverflow question on Google.

So, there’s a lot of difficulties living here in China and there’s a lot that I don’t like about it. However, this next year is going to be so good for me. My schedule is ridiculous, with half-days, each class only once/week, and a 2 month winter vacation. I have so much time to improve myself. So, there’s definitely a trade-off, and I am absolutely looking forward to moving back to the US and working for a few years as a web developer, but I think I’m where I’m supposed to be right now and I can’t have any regrets about it.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Fri Aug 31, 2018 11:40 pm
by slowtraveler
And in an interesting turn of events, you decide to go back home. I wish the best man. Was that 2-3 years in total here? I can see why you'd want to leave.

I also had the sick of Asia vibe for a little while. It was either living in a place with too low hygeine or too slow. Living central in a small city with clean food makes it easier. I only miss more vegetables. Also had the need to explode but somehow stuck feeling. Too many times.

I'd head to South America next though, after some more Asia hopping, not back to Amurrica.

I'm happy you've gotten your health taken care of. It's worth it.

I have noticed a flat, feast progress, flat again pattern in your networth. I think web developer will be a good match for you. But $300 for 4 hours recording is sweet. Too bad those gigs seem rare.

One thing I've noticed is that over the last 15 years, Asian currencies have been appreciating relative to Western currencies as a long term trend. I hope things come out good for you in your last year here.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Sat Sep 01, 2018 2:21 am
by Viktor K
That was a typo. It was ¥1200 for 4 hours. We used to get paid per "page", now we get paid per hour at ¥300. It's about the same as teaching, a little better than the average. We've got two recordings scheduled for next week so that's another ¥2400. It helps, but, ultimately, full-time web developer is going to do a lot more for my net worth than teaching abroad. We are still considering Spain after a ~3 years in the US but that's a long ways away.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Sat Sep 01, 2018 8:29 pm
by 2Birds1Stone
The lack out outdoor activities would drive me a bit nuts. Where in the states are you going to be calling home?

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Mon Sep 03, 2018 8:24 am
by Viktor K
Yes, me too. Ideally I'd like to move back to something like Boulder, Colorado. I'm not sure if there's really anywhere else like it, though. Outdoors literally in your backyard. Ultimately, wherever I can find a job.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Fri Sep 14, 2018 3:53 pm
by RusticBohemian
Before moving to China, you mentioned not liking American culture, and preferring life in China/Asia. What did you think was the primary difference between the two. Have you changed that view?

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Tue Sep 18, 2018 2:09 am
by Viktor K
So, my view hasn't really changed between preferring life in China vs. USA. It's moreso that I perceive a much better earning potential for myself in the USA as well as I think the USA is a lot more convenient in a lot of ways.

I think the biggest thing going abroad has made me realize is that no where in the world is really going to be perfect. Before I came to China this second time, I was really looking forward to the low work hours more than anything else as well as how low the standards were for being a teacher. For example, for a lot of schools, your class doesn't matter, whether or not the students learn anything doesn't really matter. It's actually more important for you to just be a native speaker and a face for the school's parents to see because that increases the perception of the school amongst the locals. I think there is some sort of tangible benefit as well to staffing a foreign teacher, outside of just perception, but I'm not 100% what it is or if that's really a thing. It's just something I've kind of heard.

However, of course, that's kind of a double edged sword. For example, since your class literally doesn't matter, you're not going to see a lot of resources necessarily thrown your way with regards to disciplining the students, commanding respect in the classroom, or even just something simple like teaching materials. So that can kind of be rough, I think, for some people, since there's not a lot of benefit to any effort you put up. You'll probably get some compliments from your teaching assistants and your contact teachers, but that's about it.

More than anything, the culture of both countries isn't part of my consideration for staying in one versus the other anymore. For example, I'm not super stoked about many aspects of American culture that I'm going to have to contend with moving back to the USA. I think the US has a ridiculously violent culture / crime rate so that's really crummy since in China I feel really safe with regards to worrying about getting mugged or an argument escalating out of control or something like that. Violent crime is super low here. On the flip side, you have to worry about other things here. Food safety and access to healthy alternatives is a major issue for me and my girlfriend. Food labels, for example, don't even delineate between carbohydrates being either simple, sugar, complex, or fiber. That's a real pain. Again, on the flip side, the food labels all show a serving size as 100 grams or milliliters which makes it a lot easier to make healthy choices with regards to things like how much fat is in one drink versus another drink. Whereas in the US, you have to usually do some sort of math if you want to directly compare the sugar percentage of one drink versus another.

So, really, there's just a huge tradeoff between US and China and one is not arguably better than the other. Reasons that I want to leave mainly boil down to health and financial opportunity. I think if you want to be something like a businessman here then there's a lot of opportunity here because there's a lot of growth, it's a huge market, and there's a lot of cheap labor and goods. However, you've also got to worry about political risk if you want a business here. Regardless of which market (US vs. China) is better for business, I don't like to sell stuff. I don't want to start a business. I want to work for Joe the Boss for as much as I can earn/hour and have little skin in the game. That's why I want to move to the US because developers make a lot more money there than anywhere else in the world, and there's pretty high demand.

I also don't want to contend with pollution and food safety issues anymore. A huge aspect of my personality is just trying to be healthy. I like to eat right and stay in shape. Breathing in the equivalent of 1.5 cigarettes/day in air pollution in Shenzhen (which is one of the least polluted cities in China) does not play into my healthy lifestyle. As well, we have to cook everything from scratch. That by itself isn't a big deal, but we miss a lot of things like whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, sugar-free peanut butter, sugar-free tahini, stevia, and fresh salads. Whole grain isn't a thing here which means you have to pay a ridiculous amount if you want it, order it online, and hope that what they say it is is actually what it is. Even amongst the locals, there's a lot of distrust and dissatisfaction with the food industry here. As well, healthy alternatives that are everywhere in the US such as quinoa, chia seeds, flax, etc. are really overpriced and hard to find here. You can't eat salad without hoping that you really washed the vegetables well enough. And that just ruins eating a salad.

So, basically, there's a lot of inconveniences here that I don't feel are worth it anymore. It's not so much the culture. There's of course things that I don't like about the culture, but there's also things I don't like about the US culture. It's not really worth it to go into each issue I have with each country's culture because it is totally subjective. And, when it comes down to it, I don't get super stoked about most of the people I meet regardless of where they're from. I think, maybe, before, I might have thought that I would connect better with Chinese people, but really, #1 I don't speak the language well enough to make any real connections, and #2 with those that do speak English well enough for me to connect with, it's just as unlikely that I'm going to really connect with them even though they are Chinese. So, for me, I'm pretty picky about my people. I love my girlfriend to death, and she's pretty much like nobody else I've ever met. I'm not super hateful towards anyone, and I'm actually really comfortable in social environments and I get along perfectly fine in workplaces or nights out. It's just that, I don't really try too much anymore to make connections with most of the people I meet because most of them I don't want to be anything more than a "sort of" friend. I've got my girlfriend who really gets me, I've got my immediate family who really gets me, and that's pretty much enough for me. I feel like, if you're someone who needs to have more people around you and needs to have this huge network and be like a central cog in that wheel of people in your life, then a cultural preference may be more important.

For me, I just want to move to the US for the next 2-3 years, land a web developer job, stuff the salary in my pocket, and, likely, after that, bounce. Maybe to Canada for a few years to get citizenship so I don't have to worry about healthcare as much. Maybe do some more traveling moreso just to see the world than to really meet the locals and "find my place". So, ultimately, the decision to move back to the US, like most decisions in my life, is a much more cold, rational decision than it is an emotional, "feely" decision.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:20 am
by RusticBohemian
Thanks for laying that out. Interesting to hear about the ups and downsides.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Thu Sep 20, 2018 8:50 pm
by slowtraveler
I still love hearing about your journey. Best of luck with it all. I'm guessing the remote work opportunities don't line up with the working on site opportunities. Thailand is cheap and by many measures, has higher quality of life than the states.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Tue Oct 02, 2018 1:18 am
by Viktor K
End of September 2018


One month of school down. Man, teaching these college students is so much easier than the little ones. I taught college age and up when I was living in Vegas so I had an idea of what to expect. Basically, you teach higher level English, you can teach grammar and stuff instead of just random ass words. The students understand you so you can talk in English and not have to worry about leaning heavily on your Chinese or your teaching assistant. Also, the students are there to learn. They know that. And you know that.

It’s so much easier. As well, the schedule is awesome. I wake up at 7:00 AM, and I’m done at 12:00 PM. It’s a leisurely 10-15 minute bike ride home. On Tuesdays, I work on the East campus which is even closer to me. I walk 1 block to the campus. Then my classroom is about 100 meters further. Take the stairs to the 6th floor, and sit through only two classes instead of the normal 4 for the day. After that, the rest of Tuesday is free.

Again, the teaching is way better. It’s the basic warmer, presentation, practice, production, cooler ESL lesson that you learn in any TEFL course. Warm up with something easy and chill like a game, or some video, a simple speaking activity, or just watching your teacher (me) be his normal “I want to be here even less than you do,” joke cracking and awkward question asking self. Then I teach something. Then we practice it together. Then the students have to try. For example, I teach a new grammar rule. Then we read an example dialogue that uses that grammar rule. Then the students practice that dialogue together. Then the students write their own dialogue (here’s where they “try”), and practice it together. This is also known as presentation, controlled practice, and free practice. We wrap up the production with some common mistakes I noticed and how to fix them, then do something else that’s maybe fun but certainly easy so we can go home on a good note.

I only see my students once/week which means I only plan for 45 minutes of class each week, and then give that lesson 18 times. Students seem to appreciate the class, think I’m funny, and do what they’re told so I haven’t had to invest too much energy into classroom management. As well, at this age, if they don’t want to participate, it’s their grade, not mine. Aside from a few boys in one class that were playing some LOL knockoff on their phones, everyone’s been golden. I gave that class and each one after just a quick reminder that participation is 1% of the grade/class so if you’re on the phone playing games you may lose up to 30% of your grade over the semester and I’m not going to worry about it much more beyond that.

ERE graphs


Paychecks came in, recording money came in, and, unbeknownst to me, my old job couldn’t get my bonus paycheck from last semester to me since I changed my banking information. They reached out for my new information and deposited ¥3000 to my account.


Getting more RMBs than I can spend. Fortunately, with this new network of foreign teachers at the college, I’ve got a lot of ideas on how to send money back home and pay for my loans. Unfortunately, my loan servicer only accepts Visa and Mastercard, so that won’t work. I had this idea, suddenly, that I would have been better off leaving my bank card with my Mom or Dad and having them pull money out of the ATM for me and deposit it into my US account! But, too late for that.


Alcohol: Made my goal, and it felt a lot better. Especially the last week, when I only had money for 1 more bottle of beer. So I’m going to cut this even more.

Rescues: My girlfriend roped up another couple of stray puppies. These two had worms and skin diseases, but otherwise were free of the major puppy-killing viruses. I think she’s down ¥3000 or so for the month of treatment and recouping that via donations from the generous rescue/animal activist community here.

Exercise: Started weighted pull-ups. Feels awesome. And I’m progressing fast. On my last workout’s last set, I was only supposed to do 4 but managed to squeeze out 8. Once I get back up to around 20 in a row again, then I’m going to add more weight and start over once more. Right now I’m only wearing 10kg.

Diet: I feel great still with the diet. We (girlfriend and I) switch off cooking each batch of chili. Also go out for sushi maybe once or twice/week. One area that the diet took a hit was with the new college campus cash card that we get. You can’t pull the money off the card, and there’s no grocery store. There’s like a convenience store that has some things we need, but I don’t think they sell enough of what we need and we don’t need enough of what they have to spend it all in one month. So, I’ve had some milk teas and the like plus Chinese pizzas. Oh well, free calories are better than no calories. I just wish there were some healthier options.

Social life: I’m pretty much avoiding hanging out with my coworkers like the plague. It’s funny because my introvert-leaning girlfriend has hung out with our coworkers way more than I have the last month and I’m supposed to be the extravert. But, just because you’re an extravert, doesn’t mean you have to like people. And the opposite is true for the introvert. My girlfriend is a people pleaser to be sure, very caring and wants to be friendly and nice. So when we get asked to do something, I’m a flat “no thanks,” but that’s a lot harder for her. It’s funny, too, because I used to be such a little social butterfly.

Part of this is because I’ve become quite particular about my friends. As well, social capital here is like a new car purchase. It loses value fast, in my view. Most of your friends are expats like you and, so, they’re here one month and all the way around the world the next. I don’t see much value in developing ties. And I see even less value in forcing ties with people I wouldn’t normally want to befriend. Not that they’re bad people, I’m just very particular.

Rather than go out for the pool dates and social beers, I’ve got involved with some gaming groups again. Looks like every Saturday I’ll be catching a ride with a new Chinese friend all the way down to the southern tip of Shekou/Sea World (the big, rich, foreign-catering expat area in Shenzhen) for a game of D&D 5e. The first meeting is this Saturday, so we’ll see how it goes. They’ve been playing for a long time together, so the onus is more on me to enjoy myself (and, thus, commit) than it is on them.


We go to this studio instead of the closer one. It’s central Nanshan, so a bit further from us. It’s a bit cheaper for the company. Fortunately, we get our taxis expensed. Unfortunately, we have a long metro ride after since its rush hour once we finish the recording and taxis are hard to score.

Recordings: No recordings in the last couple weeks. I think both of our contacts are out in the countryside for a few weeks each. We do the recordings for the middle school exams, I think. These are the tests that middle schoolers have to take to get into high school. Or, at least, we do the practice tests for those tests. Or maybe an app. I don’t really know. Our colleagues handle more than that, though. They have to go out into the countryside a few times a year, hand over their phones and internet devices, and work on the tests. I don’t really know what they do out there but we haven’t heard from them in a while.

Web development: I was real productive at the start of this month, but not so towards the end. Ended up downloading an old game and burning lots of hours there. Partly, I’m not as desperate as before since I think I can get something in the US even with my current skill set. Part of that, as well, is that I’m not sure where to go next.

I added HTML5 Audio and optimized it for Mobile Safari on my ab workout app, preloaded images (which are me, demoing the exercises), and fleshed out the front-end with lots of JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. It looks and works like a legit app now with voice commands, pictures, and eye-pleasing design. So that’s essentially finished. I can only add more exercises to it, as well as tweak a couple things that I don’t like about the code.

I got a lot of PHP work done on my site, but I stopped short of making a CMS for myself. I think this is where I got derailed. I wanted to make my own CMS for the experience, but then realized I might be shooting myself in the foot by not just using and learning Wordpress. And I don’t really want to learn Wordpress. I talked about this a bunch in one of my posts this month on my site.

I do about 30 minutes of lesson planning each week for my classes that I see once/week for 45 minutes. My girlfriend got the short end of the stick since she sees her classes 3 times/week and her classes are 90 minutes long versus my 45 minutes. She has to plan 6x as much material as me.

Ultimately, I think I’m leaning towards not learning WordPress now, after talking myself in and out of it multiple times this month. Rather, I think a basic CMS is a good idea for a little more PHP practice and to make it easier to post my blog updates (right now it’s a lot of file copying, renaming, saving, editing, copying and pasting code, uploading, finding typos, repeating the whole process, finding another typo, repeat again). As well, taking some advice from my girlfriend’s father, I don’t see Wordpress in the job ads for the areas I want to work in. Rather, they’re all about React, Angular, Vue, and the like. So CMS and then some JS frameworks is the way to go for me, I think.


Expense tracking: Here’s the numbers, organized greatest to least.


Utilities spiked since we just got charged for our first couple months’ internet. Haven’t got the bill for September yet, but it’ll be interesting to see where our water and electricity ends up. Still not using hot water and still only turning on the shower head to rinse, not just letting it run.

Health spending was for the follow-up visit. Cyst was actually a benign fibrous histiocytoma. Also had to pay for some bandages.

Groceries are pretty much where I want them to be. However, I don’t distinguish between junk food and healthy food and I do buy a bag of Lay’s or some Oreos quite frequently. Mostly for the quick and dirty calories. For now, I’m just going to “try” to do that less. I might end up spending on some protein powder as well, but haven’t fully committed yet.

Shopping was high. The facemask my girlfriend brought back was too small, so I had to order a new one. Turns out you can just order them online here. Which should not have surprised me. But sometimes I’m stupid. I got one now and wear it no matter the AQI level. Sometimes it’s >100, most times it's around 50-100. Either way, my mask is on.

As well, we bought an indoor air purifier. When we first turned it on, it measured the AQI at 40 or 45 in our apartment, and then brought it down within the hour to 20. We are mostly sub-10 now. On bad pollution days, we have to crank it up sometimes to the higher settings because it can get up to 20-30 inside, but that’s pretty rare and the fan speed is still strong enough to drop it back down. I think the WHO recommended, 24 hour average maximum is under 30. So we’re doing a lot more for our lungs and I’m happy to spend money this month on this sort of one-off. We’ll have to get a new filter in about four months. So it’ll have some ongoing costs, but I think it’s acceptable.

I freaking love this thing, to be honest. Our home is like a haven from the outside world now. We’ve got clean air and clean food. We’ve got cats, too, but you can’t win them all.

I also bought a used TV. The girlfriend paid 100, I paid 200, total ¥300 for a 32 inch. I’ve got that hooked up to my computer now and we watch YouTube and TV shows on it. Way better than the tiny monitor I’ve had since leaving the old apartment! I don’t have a photo of it, but it’s way better for coding and studying, as well as getting distracted by computer games and TV shows.

The rest of the spending is what you see. I hit my goals. Kept alcohol under ⅓ of last month, and cut restaurants in half. As well, only spent money on my public bike app monthly fee. We did take taxis to our recording studio, but our friend (and “boss”) agreed to expense the taxi fees for us, no problem.

Goals for next month: Total discretionary <¥1000, restaurants <¥250, alcohol <¥60. Everything else static. I probably won’t earn as much next month since I’m not going to get any unexpected salary from old job deposits and I don’t know of any recordings (they’re never guaranteed). 75% to financial was awesome this month, but I’m expecting ¥6600 less in October (nearly $1000).

Final thoughts

A lot of push and pull in my mind this month. Nothing too crazy. I’m fortunate that my life isn’t too painful right now. I’m just trying to figure out where to go next on my web developer journey. As well, I know I’m going to miss this crazy work-life balance that I’ve got going on.

However! Work-life balance is nice to have, but you have to do something with the “life” half of it. So, for me, right now, studying web development is a good use of that. But just bumming it out over here in China as a teacher is not a long-term solution for me. I can’t do the things I want to do here. I can’t enjoy the hikes. I can’t enjoy the rock climbing. Travel is nice, but not sustainable. And, as I mentioned before, lots of negatives that outweigh the positives (surely, lots of this is subjective).

So, I think, after this year, I’m going to, for sure, have to abandon the teaching job, do the 40-50 hour work week for a few years, and then pull the plug on work. Retirement offers up some real work/life balance that no job can really compete with.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 7:50 am
by Viktor K
Heads up duly noted. I had a bit when I got back to the US the last go round but nothing too crazy. Just looking around suburbia thinking it seemed quite like a zombie apocalypse with nobody walking down the sidewalk. However, that was only after 6 months here. As well during vacation this summer it was a little strange just having to actually speak to people. One waitress made me really uncomfortable on my first night's dinner just with all the eye contact and actually wanting me to speak English back at her. There's something to appreciate about only having to give people simple statements like "good" and "okay" and "need bag" and "how much?"

Also, I struggled a bit with remembering to censor myself in public places like the grocery store checkout line. Talking about your butthole and dropping the f bomb with impunity is totally fine on the packed, Chinese metro since nobody is going to understand you. It's a bit more awkward when everyone around you understands English perfectly.

This time back will be more than 2 years living in China. If I miss it, I'm just going to remember the pollution and the lack of easy access to my hobbies. Assuming I am able to find a developer job quickly in a location I'm happy with, I think I'll have enough to appreciate being back in the States.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 2:33 pm
by daylen
You seem to have a lot of energy!

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Mon Oct 08, 2018 3:49 am
by Viktor K
@Gravy Train That's a pretty wild story. I've had my picture used in school advertising and things like this, but haven't received any offers like that, yet. But I'm also not surprised, I've heard similar stories from others, but not as much recently. Also, my friend that I mentioned who just moved back last month after 4 or 5 years here posted this article to his facebook ... e-nebraska

@daylen I'm surprised and curious how you got that from my journal. Especially because it's very, very true. Even moreso with my new sleep schedule where I consistently am getting 8-9 hours of sleep each night (except the occasional weekend night). My girlfriend frequently laments, "How do you have so much energy right now?????" as I try and "encourage" her to hurry up and get ready for the gym or run downstairs with me to the supermarket. And we usually keep the same sleeping hours :lol:

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Mon Oct 08, 2018 4:31 pm
by daylen
Nothing in particular, but it is clear from glancing over your journal that you do much more than me. I probably spend more time making up reasons why doing things is unnecessary.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 7:00 pm
by Viktor K
Sometimes, for sure. But I also look back at the last year and think about how I did nothing from about September '17 until around May this year. I was playing computer games most the day. I found online lesson plans specific to Shenzhen curriculum, so I'd download those each week. Then, I'd go to school, teach, play games during the break.

Incidentally, I took another personality test. A friend mentioned it to my girlfriend on a late cab night ride home so we started thinking about it again. I took this one on 16personalities. That test is a little shorter. I came up ESTJ this time, previously tested consistently as ENTJ. I identify with the results equally as I did as an ENTJ. And it seems a little less extreme of a personality, which is comforting given I've tried to change my thinking over the last few months, mid-summer especially I started thinking about this.

Anyway, one line stood out to me. This actually was under the "strategy" metric on my test.
They can slip into a pattern of endless fun and comfort-seeking, rolling their eyes at those who press themselves towards more intimidating goals.
I feel like something broke inside of me around spring this year. I started making myself sick. Every early morning (3AM) sleep time I'd be filled with self-loathing for all the time I spent that day gaming. And it grew more and more intense. I'm not sure if my personality has truly changed, or if the test is so short that results can be more easily skewed a little towards one category or the other if the difference isn't severe. But I feel like this line above can summarize nicely my Fall '17 to Spring '18.

It was still refreshing to read through the results. These tests always put my life and my choices in perspective. Usually, they help me be a bit more critical of myself, which is something I think I especially benefit from. The ESTJ description is also not as depressing as reading the ENTJ description. Although, I'm fearful to test again on a more in-depth questionnaire since my ENTJ may come more fully to the forefront :D.

Another reason I like this journal. I can only post so many "didn't make any progress this month" posts before I either disappear from the forum or spend the next 30 days cramming a year's worth of productivity to make up for it my next post.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 9:36 pm
by slowtraveler
Year over year, you are up 10k in USD. This is a year where a lot of time was spent training for a new job. You haven't been completely stable with your work so that has naturally prevented your financial progress from compounding.

I also admire your productivity. I often feel far lazier than you.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Wed Oct 17, 2018 6:35 pm
by Viktor K
Very true, I'm happy with the financial progress. It would have been nice to commit to self-learning web development earlier, but no use looking backwards. As for productivity, I think a lot of people probably feel that way. It's just two sides to the same coin, however, from my point of view. I'm productive but I'm also wound up tight. I can't really relate to others that don't get things done or make excuses for not doing things, even though a great number of people are that way. Just check Facebook for memes like that joke about "what I want to do today vs. what I did today" where they have a plan to do a lot of things but end up in front of the TV watching Netflix and drinking wine. I can't really relate to that sort of thing and 1) it would be nice to not fret as much about little things like chores and 2) I could be a lot more understanding in this regard e.g. with my girlfriend who is much more of a go-with-the-flow sort of personality.

I don't believe much in changing who you are, though. So, for me, I'm lucky to have such a productive drive. But I have to make sure I don't spend that energy filling Excel with spreadsheets of all my wildshaping Druid's different animal forms and instead use that energy for things that will actually move my life forward

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Fri Oct 19, 2018 12:19 am
by wolf
Hi Viktor K. Yesterday I saw a documentary about China's CCTV system I was shocked to see that the government is trying to observe, control, etc everything and everybody. Is CCTV so present as shown in the documentary?

China recently invented a "social score" for each citizen and try to improve the system behind it. With CCTV and BigData etc they are able to control people. Some rebellious journalist lost their good social score due to misbehavior and got discredited. Do you observe/recognize dome of this in public?

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Mon Oct 22, 2018 6:04 pm
by Viktor K
It's not as shocking to me, of course, as I've had nearly two years here now to come to understand the culture and political-social environment, as well I've got a Chinese major and that involved courses beyond just the language (history, literature, etc.). CCTV is everywhere for sure. I could see that bothering some, but I've never been too worried about government watching me, even in the US. It's actually quite helpful a lot of times with crime (I assume), but also with everyday things. For example, if you lose your dog while out on a walk, one of the first things you can do is consult the local buildings CCTV systems to see if they caught any glimpse of it. I've also heard (but can't confirm), that a lot of the cameras don't even work, but that could just be rumors.

As for the social system, I haven't seen any effects of it and probably never will. For one, it shouldn't hit in full until 2020 as far as I've heard. As well, I'm a foreigner so I don't have any rights here anyway as far as I know. A lot of the things like buying a house, opening a line of credit, etc. aren't things that I would try to do here anyway because of the normal, Chinese bureaucratic hurdles and the additional "you're-a-foreigner" difficulties and/or actual barriers. I don't think, for example, that foreigners can outright own a business in China without a Chinese partner.

Lastly, I'm in China right now, so I don't feel comfortable talking about this too much in any sort of opinion/critical way. Sorry for the somewhat canned response.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Wed Oct 31, 2018 8:01 am
by Viktor K
End of October 2018


October was a leisurely month for me. My schedule and lesson planning didn’t get any more difficult. In fact, it got a bit easier with just relying on the book more and more for my lesson plans versus trying to actually get creative. A video here, a song there, maybe a fun game, maybe not, and that’s all it really takes to make 45 minutes working out of the book tolerable.

I spent a lot of time out of the apartment playing D&D 5e or Pathfinder. And, subsequently, I also spent a lot of time making characters for the games I’m playing in or making adventures for the games I’m running.

I wasn’t as productive as I should have been with regards to studying web development. I’m working through React still on Codecademy. I finished the first series which is 3 parts. Now, I’m on the second series which is also 3 parts and handles more programming patterns and common methods. The goal is to finish this within the week and then start making some React apps.

I like this second part of the React tutorial a lot since its teaching the patterns. I think that is something that’s missing from most of the JavaScript and web development lessons that I’ve studied up until this point.

My buddy hit me up on LinkedIn earlier this month. He’s working for a traveling, rock climbing high school now and they’re in China for two months between October and December. They’re staying in Yangshuo which has world class rock climbing. My girlfriend and I plan on heading over there on the fast train later this month when we’ve got a 4 day vacation for Sports Day.

ERE graphs


Almost cut my net worth in half since starting this journal. Funny goal to have, but it is what it is. My debt, however, is only down 30% since starting this journal. That’s what I get for changing from a let loan forgiveness kick in 20 years later strategy to a pay as much as I can every couple months strategy. I can’t wait to secure some higher pay in the US and really start making a difference.


Goodbye RMBs and, quickly thereafter, goodbye USD. Down into the black hole of debt from where you’ll never return. I’m personifying my little bit of wealth as it flies forever away from me.


Alcohol: Went over the goal. I think the goal is still something to work towards. Especially towards the end of the month where I knowingly went over. Still, my alcohol consumption is down quite a bit since August so that feels good.

Rescues: The two strays were getting treated for skin diseases at a clinic. The vet didn’t want to give them vaccines until they finished treatment, which is a gutsy call given the number of sick dogs that cycle through there. Now they’ve got CDV and my girlfriend is running over there every day to give them as much love as possible.

Exercise: We get a bit side-tracked on this sometimes. We’re supposed to finish 3 weeks each month, plus 1 deload week. We’re closer to 3 weeks each month with no deload, and this month we’re still 3 days behind. To be fair, a lot of this has to do with our different schedules and interests. Some days I’m ready to go a little after 2 but my girlfriend is off to a clinic. Other days, she’s home and able but I’m off gaming.

Diet: Hit a lot of restaurants this month. Mostly sushi, but also the occasional street food for convenience. Just like above, our schedules make it a little more difficult to even do simple things like soak the beans, rinse the beans, cook the beans. As well, we’ve got a lousy crockpot to be honest and it takes way too long to cook things. Just for reference, at present we’ve been out of home-cooked food for 3 going on 4 days.

Funny story. The skeleton is played by one of my new local friends. After this character was killed, the party necromancer brought him back to life. He now follows us around, much like he did before, in undeath.

China: Still can’t wait to get out of China. Part of me would love to cut the contract in the winter vacation and try my luck finding a job. I don’t think I’ll be any more prepared for a job whether its July next year or January this year. A longer deadline just makes me feel more comfortable with sacrificing a couple days to play instead of grinding through courses and projects.

There’s also a lot to say with living a transient life moving from one place to the next. Moving to and leaving Las Vegas wasn’t so bad since we were with my mom and the furniture was all hers. But, over here, for example, we can’t really spend money on anything to make our lives a little more convenient without thinking how it’s a sunk cost when we move back.

The same goes for when we move back. Living on the outside looking in, the US seems like such a shit show. Part of me worries that we'll be the unlucky souls that fall victim to some violent mugging or mass shooting. Dying from a mass shooting is probably pretty unlikely, but you can’t argue with the US’s ridiculous murder rate per capita. Of course, this fear also has to do with a change in perspective. I’ve heard once of a psychological deal where you fear what you’re not used to and accept equally risky situations that you’re accustomed to. For example, if you live in Oklahoma you may think that California is crazy because of all the earthquakes, but then you never really think much about tornadoes.

Thus, there’s a good chance after a few years in the US that we’ll want to take our accumulations and move back abroad somewhere affordable again. Do some more traveling. So many things can complicate that and so many things about that complicate life. Having kids, raising the cats, and keeping in contact with family, for example, can all complicate moving abroad. Then, moving abroad makes things like buying furnishings and developing friendships more difficult. Ultimately, one day, I have a sort of mini-dream of getting old in a medium-sized home on a piece of property close enough to a city center and a grocery store with a good community of friends. I just don’t know where or when that dream will come to fruition.

Found out this river runs all the way from 2 blocks east of our apartment all the way down to the bay. And its paved the whole way. Makes for a nice bike ride.

Travel: I’ll be traveling the last couple months this year. First, we’ll head off to Yangshuo for a long weekend as I mentioned above. Second, we’ve got two months off for winter vacation this year. We’re thinking Thailand or Malaysia. Since both places are cheap, I’m hoping to squeeze all the vacation into my discretionary budget for the combined months of November, December, and January. That’s a budget of about ¥3000, or about $400 USD, but doesn’t include normal living expenses like food and transportation.


Recordings: Only 1 recording this month. Seems like it has cooled off. Even though everytime we go, they tell us they have a ton of papers to work through, we still don’t hear from them on any sort of regular basis. I assume there’s just a bunch of other stuff they have to do. As I mentioned, the business itself isn’t all about making recordings. It’s just one small department and even then I think it is just a project within that department, nothing more.

Babysat this cat again, not sure if that was in the last post or not. Also pictured here is our new cat tree. It’s a beast of a tree and the cats love it. As well it helps the bigger cat reach the top of the armoire, which only the black one could reach before. As an aside, the cats started waking us up around 5:30 AM for food. So, we changed their feeding schedule. They’re still getting used to it and thus are driving me absolutely insane. Especially the white one.

Web development: I ended up saying screw WordPress and CMSs altogether and diving into React. And my mind was blown in the first few exercises. I only got through 4 of the 6 total sections (two different lessons, 3 sections each), and only blogged about the first 3 so far. I should be able to finish the next two within the next few days, make posts about them, and then I’ll start trying to build something! It’s either going to be a remake of the ab workout, or something new and likely having to do with Pathfinder.

I ran into a little of trouble this month where the beginning of the month I was spending a lot of time getting back into Pathfinder (which is a mess of a system relative to 5E) and figuring out all the floating bonuses and minuses to everything. Then, at the end of the month, when I was ready to put my nose down and grind away, ExpressVPN went down. Codecademy doesn’t work without it, and my notes are all in Google Docs. That sort of took the wind right out of me.

If I can get a project finished before the end of November, then I want to look at something else like Angular or Vue or something similar. I’m looking at Austin, TX on Indeed right now for ideas of what to study next.



Expense tracking: Ultimately, once I saw I was going to go over my restaurants bill, I said hell with it and just aimed to stay under my overall discretionary budget of ¥1000. Total discretionary comes out to ¥993.04. Still, I’d be happy to have less eating out and more home-cooked meals. It’s just a pain. I’d say making 2-3 days of food takes a good 8 hours. Now, a lot of that time is just waiting for stuff to cook but I can’t go 8 hours without food. And if it takes time, and time gets away from you, then there’s still no daylight left when you’re done waiting for the beans to then start the rice. Meh. Somewhere we’re not being as efficient as we can here. I do love the sushi expenditure, but the 手抓并, 饺子, and 鸡排 I could do without most days. I’d much rather have some home-cooked chili instead.

Groceries included ¥300 worth of protein powder. That may end up lasting me two months, but for now I'm thinking it'll last about 6 weeks. Thus, it doesn't cost that much more to eat out versus cook at home, it's just the diet/health that really suffers.

I double paid on the internet bill on accident, so utilities will hopefully be a little less this month.

Shopping included a taxi from Shekou to bring back a used cat tree. The thing is massive and the cats love it. Other shopping was just things related to gaming like table reservations and such, as well as my monthly haircut which includes a nice face wash and head massage (¥47).

In total, I’d like to get the restaurant bill back down so that A) I won’t be accustomed to eating out when moving back to the US, B) it’ll mean my diet is healthier, and C) I can put some of that money towards other discretionary purchases like wardrobe and travel.

The picture up top is the west campus (courtesy of my student, who also added the life-like clouds), where I have to go most days. It’s less than a 10 minute bike ride from the apartment. And we’re talking on a public, Chinese bicycle which are small and not especially fast. On Tuesdays, though, I go to this campus which is less than a 5 minute walk. It’s literally on the other side of the block. It’s a bit more green than the west campus with lots more grass and trees.

Student loans: I sent roughly 5000 USD back this month and put it all towards my loans. That payment wiped out one and cut another by more than half. I think by the time I leave next year, I should have less than 20000 USD left to pay and, if I can get a good enough salary, I hope to pay the rest of my loans off before the end of 2019.

Life insurance: I pay $58 and get back about $30 in cash value each month. This month, though, is my policy date, so the cash value went up $180. I suppose that means this thing costs me something like $150/year now or less for $50,000 death benefit. As well, it feels good that it keeps ticking up while my IRA keeps going down.

Final thoughts

Getting out for gaming made a big difference in my mental well being this month. Feeling good. I’d say Happy Halloween, but I don’t celebrate it or really any other holiday for that matter. So happy last day of October, and I hope November works out well for you all!