8. Food. I came to China a bit of a picky eater. Give me some lasagna, a pile of veal and some house wine, a burrito or a cheesesteak (or two!), and I was a happy girl. However, in China, I always had the opportunity to try new foods, and I gamely did. Why not? Living, working, teaching in China, you’re there majorly for the experience. So I experienced China through all sorts of delectable goodies: malatong (spicy soup), duck tongue, and pigeon, to name a few of my favorites! Oh, and egg tarts. I can’t even explain my love for these. I currently live in a US city that has a “China town” of its own, but let’s face it, their xiao long baos aren’t really up to snuff like I enjoyed in Shanghai and on my day trips to Nanxiang.
7. Travel. Again, I mention the whole “kicking and screaming” ordeal of me coming to China (I’m a real peach) and truly I had no desire to go to China, and no desire to travel within Asia. However, within a few weeks of being in China, and meeting great friends who had done some extensive and impressive travel while during breaks from teaching in China, I too got “bitten by the travel bug” and really started to enjoy just what Asia has to offer. I never realized how different the culture in (and within) each country could be, and also how similar. My knowledge of Asia was generally limited to what I could remember from high school world history and I am so grateful that I could experience how Asia actually was.
6. Nongfu Springs Water. 1.70 RMB baby! Is water that cheap deadly? Possibly. Was it cheap and delicious on the hot humid days when I was the only idiot walking around outside? Definitely.
5. Metro stations/bus system/occasional taxis. Let me put it this way: I’m from New Jersey. I drive. Parkway, turnpike, dirt roads, small highways, yes I drive. However, after spending a year being dependent on public transportation, upon relocating to the US, I made my husband live in a city because now I’m a diva and I do not drive myself anywhere. And I will say this, the Shanghai metro system is BEAUTIFUL compared to some of what the US has to offer. Driving may have to occur again for me soon, whether I like it or not.
4. Family Mart. Okay, laugh away. I just love Family Mart. It was your one stop shopping if you needed something quick. And they were all over! (My husband and I would take pictures of Family Marts in random places to show their world takeover. Could I get a coffee from there like I can in the US from my beloved Wawa (never 7-11)? No. But they had everything from the cheap water, to snacks, to that baijo I make my friends try every time they come visit my new place.
3. Freedom. What’s the easiest way to explain this? I grew up in suburban New Jersey and now live in a major US city. And I’m female. I never once felt insecure about walking around late at night while living in China, something I do not feel in the US. Many young people go abroad to teach in China, and this is an excellent thing to realize. Yes, we’re scared of “the other’” but truly I could walk around at two in the morning in Shanghai without feeling nervous about something untoward happening. Now I live in “killadelphia” and taking my dog out for a walk at 10:00 PM by myself is out of the question.
2. Energy. There is just something so up and coming, so the world is your oyster, about living in China. There’s a general excitement to living in a place that, let’s face it, thirty years ago, people weren’t even allowed to travel to. The juxtaposition of old and new that you see in China is riveting, and many people who teach in China feel that it’s an exciting place to be where they can embrace the history and culture while taking their careers in ways they never could have imagine because the opportunities are boundless.
1. The people. Let’s face it, living, working, teaching in China, you’ve got to be at least a bit open-minded. While living in China, I met wonderful people who I would never have had the opportunity to spend time with otherwise. The expat community in China is just beautiful, it’s like that first week of college feeling where everyone is open to meeting new people and just enjoying themselves. That’s how China felt every day. You could meet ten different people and hear ten different stories. It’s a great place to make connections but also just realize what you may never have dreamed to do.
With all this being said, it’s clear that I miss China and would love to go back as soon as possible. So someone, anyone buy me a plane ticket back to the middle kingdom, PLEASE. Until then, you can find me at Pat’s King of Steaks, drowning my sorrows in a cheesesteak, “wiz wid.”