Living in China as a foreigner, particularly in a small town, was special in many ways but one that stands out is my students. I was teaching grades 7 and 8 in the only middle school in town and instead of having to deal with burgeoning rowdy teenagers I had the sweetest and most caring students ever. Admittedly, being the only foreigner living in China they knew and consequentially my celebrity status in town motivated them to want to pay attention to me in class. Yet, not only were they always happy to see me when I stepped into their classroom but also some of them went the extra length of wanting to meet me outside class.Continue reading “Living in China as a foreigner part 3: My Students”
In my post about living in China as a foreigner part 2 I recalled a series of instances in which the kindness of strangers saved the day when I lived in a small town in China but if I’m honest my first encounter with the kindness of strangers in China was actually even before arriving in small town China.
You see, when I got the job in China I had a friend living in Guangzhou so I decided to arrive a week early and spend it with her before I moved on to Yangshuo (where I would spend a week attending “orientation” with the company that had hired me before moving on to the small town where I had been posted). My friend lived immensely far from the airport and couldn’t pick me up so she sent me a detailed plan on how to take a bus from the airport to a point in town where she would meet me. It was complete with photographs of what I should see on my way, where I should get off, phonetic transcript of what the bus driver might ask me and how to respond to it! Following the steps was super easy and I was soon on the bus ticking off the photos of the places we drove past. Then suddenly I knew something was wrong, I had ticked of the final picture before the stop were I was supposed to get of and meet her but I couldn’t see the bus stop. Had we driven past without me noticing? But the bus hadn’t stopped…
I was about to panic when the man sitting next to me -who had obviously been”reading” over my shoulder- asked to look at my paper and tried speaking to me. However, I spoke no mandarin and he spoke no English. Even so, he managed to tell me to calm down. The bus soon stopped and he got up, spoke with the driver and beckoned me to follow him. I saw them unload my suitcase from the bus but I had no idea where we were! Next thing I know the man grabbed my suitcase, beckoned me to follow and started running. I’m not sure why but I trusted him (not that I had any choice). We run for 3 blocks and then there was my friend waiting for me. What a relief! Turns out the road the bus normally took was closed so it had taken a detour. The passenger sitting next to me had gotten of at the wrong stop just to take me where I had to go. If thats not a brilliant example of how the kindness of strangers can change everything then nothing is.
Moving to a small town in China where I was the sole foreigner wasn’t all about being a celebrity , it was also about that incredibly alluring thing all travelers encounter on the road: the kindness of strangers.Continue reading “Living in China as a foreigner Part 2: the kindness of strangers”
My first year living in china was spent in a small town in the mountains in the south western tip of Shaanxi Province. When you live in a small Chinese town you get to experience China in a unique way and by small town I mean somewhere so small Chinese people from other areas had never heard of it. And more importantly so small I was the sole foreigner in the town. Continue reading “Living in China as a foreigner Part 1: being a celebrity”
Chinese people avoid the sun like the plague. For them the beauty standard ideal is to be as pale as possible thus getting a tan is obviously something to be avoided at all costs. This is valid for both men and women – perhaps a bit more for women but during my years living in China I saw plenty of men using parasols. Why is pale skin considered prettier? Well, I’ll let Wikipedia explain the historical reasons for it and leave it at that because if I start on the connotations derived from this…. well, it would be one very long post.
Anyway, back when I was living in Xian – China I missed the sea terribly so on one of my holidays I decided to go to Hainan and spend a week in Sanya (Hainan is China’s southernmost province and it happens to be a tropical island). Knowing that the Chinese abhor being under the sun did not prepare me for what I experienced there. Continue reading “A Chinese style beach holiday”
Being partly south american I thought I knew a lot about corn. That there were tons of ways of eating it, that there were many types of corn, not just the big yellow ones we buy at the supermarket. but what I didn’t know was that you can also drink it. All that changed when I arrived in China and was treated to a glass of corn juice on my birthday.
In 2012 I spent six months backpacking through South-east Asia, with nothing more than what fit in my 30lt backpack. Yes, I had mastered the art of traveling light and I loved it. I seriously had everything I needed and couldn’t imagine carrying more stuff. Inwardly I scoffed at all the other backpackers with their huge and irksome 60lts or more backpacks.
But when a month after returning home from my south-east asian adventure I had to pack to move to China for a year I was suddenly so distraught I overpacked. Continue reading “Packing tales of an anxious traveler”
There’s so much to be said about China, I lived in China for 10 months in 2013 and next February I’m going back for more. What is it that makes me go back? Why don’t I try someplace new? Well, for starters China is huge (the third largest country in the world) and although I travelled a lot during those months no way did I cover it all.
And then there is the food… Continue reading “The Middle Kingdom: cuisine”