Things I miss from the States

While it is amazing how similar life in China can be to life in the United States, there are few key differences as well, which is definitely to be expected of course.  The following is a list of things that I dearly miss in no particular order.

  2. coffee shops, namely Starbucks (note they do have 1 in the entire Hunan Province, but it is 2 hours away)
  3. public libraries
  4. bookstores
  5. Twizzlers
  6. plain milk (all the milk here is flavored)
  7. kettle cooked chips, especially bbq chips
  8. toilets
  9. toilet paper and soap in public restrooms
  10. free wifi
  11. binding straightforward work contracts
  12. individualism
  13. tampons
  15. Mexican food
  16. Jed’s
  17. dryers
  18. soft mattresses (you can dribble a basketball on my mattress)
  19. unlimited access to the internet, including facebook, hulu, and youtube
  20. boneless chicken breasts (all the chicken in China has bones still in it)
  21. ground beef
  22. regulated traffic
  23. 8-5 work hours
  24. family
  25. evenly paved roads and sidewalks
  26. convenience and proximity to grocery stores and restaurants

These things I miss dearly!


Boston University

Boston UniversityWhile sitting in the only Starbucks in the Hunan Province in China this morning, I found myself thinking about Boston University.

I was accepted to Boston University’s College of Communication to study Journalism.

And I turned it down.

Why?  To travel around the world and teach English as a foreign  language.

While I am currently in China, which I hope to be the first of many countries in which I live, I sometimes find myself wondering what would have happened if I had gone to BU.  One of my dreams in life is to be a writer.  I often wish that I were a better writer.  To this end, I catch myself thinking that I just maybe should have gone to BU.  Learning to be a journalist certainly would have improved my writing skill.

Then I remember that I being a good writer is simply investing a piece of yourself in your writing and engaging your audience.  This I can do with or without journalistic training.  I don’t necessarily want to report news; I want to write a really powerful blog, a series of short shorts, and novels.  What better way to gain experience than to travel around the world and relate what I’m learning?

So while I am grateful that BU would have given me the chance to learn journalism and hone my writing ability in a very specific way, I am also glad that I choose  to travel the world and teach and write with my husband.  I  get the opportunity to live my dreams!

On fly bites, instant coffee, and great blogs

Today is a Saturday in Yueyang, Hunan, China.  However, I am sitting at a table in the gymnasium at work greeting the freshmen as they arrive.  Correction – the freshmen are staring at me because I am a foreigner, but most are too afraid to come talk to me.  So I am blogging and rereading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson once again.

Instant coffee Chinese styleEven though dragging myself to work and sitting here for 10 hours today makes for a 73 hour work week this week, it’s not too bad.  The English teacher who is the primary translator was gracious and helpful enough to bring instant coffee for me (just so you know, coffee is practically unheard of in China – a sad, sad thought for caffeine-addicted Americans like me).  When I was first introduced to instant coffee in China upon my very jet-lagged request for coffee, I scoffed at the thought.  I drink black coffee (real black coffee – no cream, no sugar) in the US.  I admit that I used to frequent the likes of Starbucks, Panera, and Grounds for Thought, along with the occasional trip to Caribou Coffee when I was around one.  My favorite breakfast is actually a double tall non-fat latte with a cranberry orange scone.  Or perhaps some raspberry swirl loaf if I am feeling adventurous.  Anyway, all this to say that I enjoy a good cup of coffee.  But after two weeks with no caffeine, instant coffee suddenly possesses a deliciousness that it previously lacked.  Never fear my friends – upon my return to any country with coffee shops, I will drink great coffee once more!  But for now, instant coffee makes life here bearable.

What isn’t so bearable are the flies.  While they are normally not a problem, quite possibly because my apartment is on the 6th floor of my building, they are certainly a nuisance today.  I have one fly bite on my neck and at least three on my arms.  I am constantly swatting them away.  Ugh.  Who knew that flies really bite anyway?

As for my blogging… well while I dream of being a professional writer, I know that my writing can be improved.  And what better way to improve blogging than to read other fantastic blogs?  In my quest to find said blogs, I have been checking out WordPress’s Freshly Pressed.  To my great delight, I found a blog that I quite enjoy the other day!  It is  The author is funny, insightful, and clever.  I hope to someday write as well as she does and captivate my audience.

On fried potatoes and Skippy peanut butter

Moving to China presented many new exciting and often challenging aspects to life – such as a 12 hour time difference, a culture that values the collective over the individual (not easy for an independent woman who values freedom and individuality to the extreme), more of a daily life than a convenient one (ie grocery shopping daily instead of weekly), etc.  One challenge that has sometimes been particularly overwhelming is the food.  Not only are we expected to eat everything with chopsticks (not a problem until you try to cut something), but we are inundated with Chinese food that is quite unfamiliar and extremely spicy due to our location in the Hunan province.

Thankfully, we live by ourselves in an apartment and have access to a Wal-mart so we can buy our own food.  The Wal-mart is quite Chinese and less American than one would assume…. but it does offer us a taste of home.  We buy many familiar fruits (apples, bananas, grapes, plums, watermelon) and vegetables (green beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes) to eat at home.  This food is such a comfort after a long day in a culture that is not only different, but completely opposite from mine in almost all respects.  My husband John makes the best fried potatoes with salt!  Eating this familiar and delicious food is a welcome relief – I can eat it without having to figure out how to eat it or having my stomach revolt at the thought of eating it (anyone care to try eel or tortoise shell? Yeah… didn’t think so…).  Fried potatoes was our first comfort food upon our arrival and got us through the first trying days.

Once we were feeling a bit more brave, we began to explore the Wal-mart a bit.  Much to our surprise, we found Skippy peanut butter!  In three fabulous flavors – creamy, crunchy, and creamy with chocolate!  We now can eat peanut butter sandwiches and apples with peanut butter, which is my personal favorite and a staple in everyday life now!  While in the States, I wasn’t the world’s biggest peanut butter fan…. but being surrounded by such a shockingly different culture has thrown many of my preferences out the window.  As long as the food is anything that I may recognize or be familiar with from the States, I welcome the relief from the strange Chinese food that is offered here.  Don’t get me wrong… the Chinese food is for the most part delicious.  It’s just nice to come home and eat something familiar.  🙂