Sunday, 20 September 2009


en route to the gym

Things I miss about China:

· Moments where I’d think ‘wow, I’m LIVING in China’
· Backstreet barbeques, ‘our’ restaurant, the wonton shop
· My students (some of them!)
· The markets selling delicious fruit and vegetables and snacks
· Despite the language barrier and occasional shoddy taxi drivers, the relative ease of getting around
· The people watching
· The continual sense of discovery
· The satisfaction when I managed to say something in Mandarin and someone actually understood me
· Getting free entry, free drinks and free snacks in nightclubs (we were like an added attraction)
· Going to places I never thought I’d visit

what the local park looks like at the moment
Things I don’t:

· Being at the internet mercy of the Great Firewall of China
· Feeling like I was permanently on display from the moment I left my apartment
· Having ‘Hello’ screamed at me repeatedly by random strangers
· Shoddy taxi drivers
· Finding it almost impossible to purchase clothes not covered in spangles or cartoon characters
· Only being able to get decent coffee at McDonalds
· Having to go to Beijing to get English books
· The spitting – well, until I started doing in myself

a sneaky snap of one of my classes


  1. This is a strange confession but i thonk i'd appreciate the freedom to spit as necessary. I had bad asthma and pneumonia as a child and was always encouraged to clear my nose, throat and chest by expectorating. It's a tricky habit to get out of. I try to be discreet but fully appreciate that it disgusts most people in the West.

  2. Why is the blackboard behind the students?
    P.S.: I really like the new layout of your blog. How do you do that? let me know, email me.

  3. This list is almost identical to what I would write if I made one about Korea -- guess the only difference would be that kimchi would make an appearance! At first, I really loved the being stared at. It gave me this elevated feeling of self importance until my school put my face as advertisement on some buses. Then I was everywhere. A mini celebrity who -- for awhile -- would have to cover her face to even buy toilet paper since all my adoring fans (mothers and 5-year-olds) could spot me from a mile away.

    Damn. Asia. I think I will always miss that place.

  4. China has a way of staying with you ... for a long long time!

  5. So what's not to like about spangles?!

  6. I can see why you would have mixed feelings. In spite of enjoying so much that is different, the difference in itself seems to have made you uncomfortable, and never quite at ease.
    I like your new blog format, too!

  7. I thought it was going to be about Brighton!

    Spitting - did you really start to spit?

    The classroom - what an interesting scene . . . especially the racks of folders/books/ files.

    About the layout - I would like, respectfully, to dissent. While I find it very attractive in theory . . . in practice I think it deflects the eye from the text and the photos.

    Mind, the new header is fun - and in keeping with the new image. (Except the old one was very atmospheric and beautiful.)

  8. I have to admit I don't miss China at all....:)

  9. naldo and 3c - yes, I did start to spit. Almost everyone in my city did, partly from habit as most people there were first or second generation rural migrants, but also because of the pollution. Got too much into the habit, as then made the mistake of doing it after a coughing fit when I was walking around downtown Beijing - the look I got from two Chinese men walking past -absolute disbelieving horror!

  10. rob - the blackboard behind the students normally had a display on it, perhaps to do with an important event or something they were learning. However, it's blank in this photo as it was almost exam time, so they were cleaned to try and stop cheating.

    Tina and Janie - what I found unsettling (and I can see why most foreigners tend to gravitate to beijing or shanghai if they've lived in China for a bit) is that there was never a minute when I was out of my apartment when people weren't staring, pointing, laughing, shouting... It got seriously wearing - sometimes I just wanted to eat at a restaurant on my street, go my local shops or the gym without being the centre of attention. This might sound big headed, but I now understand why celebrities can 'snap' towards a fan because it can just be relentess and so wearing. I loved being able to wander around somewhere like Beijing or Xian where foreigners were less of a big deal. I'm obviously not cut out to be famous!

  11. ladyfi - yes, I'm finding that out - and seeing why people go for a year and end up staying for life despite the frustrations!

    louciao - if i'd've known that, I'd've bought you a spangled cartoon top with some chinglish!

    3c - it's fine, I like to know people are telling me their real opinions, otherwise there's not much point having a comments section!

    Braja - when were you there?

    jonyangorg - thanks! I haven't really been away on here, but wasn't contributing to memes and forums for a while owing to net restrictions in china.