Tag Archives: Living in China

Life in East Asia ~ Q&A

23 Oct
Dragon Hill Falls, in Henan, China

Hey guys!

So I was wondering if any of you have questions about what it is like living in China or traveling around Asia?

I’ve been traveling throughout Eastern Asia for about 8 years at this point, picking up in my travels Taiwan (Taipei), South Korea, Japan, Mainland China, and Thailand (Bangkok). South Korea and Japan are key staples of my holiday travels – I simply never get over falling in love with the atmosphere of both countries unique as they are. I’ve probably been to South Korea a couple dozen times at this point, always breath-taking.

I finally got up the courage to officially move to China 6 years ago now, spending the first 3 years in central China (Henan – the most populated province!) and the most recent 3 years in far northern China (Jilin – home of Ice and Snow).

It’s been quite the experience – I’m not just an occasional traveler here, this is my home for the time being. I don’t live in the big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, so I’ve had to adapt quite a bit more. It meant learning to get by without help in a language I didn’t speak – opening bank accounts, traveling on my own, setting up phone plans, arranging online shopping, cooking with Chinese ingredients. ūüėā I even learned how to travel on my own to the more out-of-the-way places without a guide!

It’s been the adventure of a lifetime, and at this point I feel like I’m doing pretty well! So if anyone reading this is coming to China to live or for a visit, or is really just curious – ask me some questions! What do you want to know?

Random Fun Facts:

  1. Did you know that Chinese Brown Sugar has 2x the amount of molasses as American Brown Sugar? If the recipe calls for Brown Sugar, you should cut it with white sugar to balance it out.
  2. Did you know that many traditional Chinese dishes (e.g. Orange Chicken) call for Rock Sugar — the kind we usually eat as candy in the US?
  3. Did you know that there aren’t mailboxes in China? Or Mailmen?. . . they ship letters the same as packages. It is mailed at the China Post and you’ll get a phone call from some random shipping company (like UPS) a week later telling you to come and pick up your letter.
  4. Did you know that 11/11 is the Chinese version of Black Friday? Mainly for online shopping.
  5. Did you know that the Chinese often like to put fruit on their pizzas? With mayonnaise dressing? Yep! Other popular pizzas are corn & cheese pizza, tuna and veggies pizza, and cheese pizza. Few include tomato sauce – – it’s not often used.
  6. Did you know that most of the really strange foods (snake, rat, dog) are from Southern China (and mainly one or two provinces). Like Australia, it was the ‘wilderness’ part of the country in ancient times (far from the capital) and people survived however they could. They still have some really unique foods today. Are you brave enough!?
  7. Did you know that the Chinese don’t actually drink much tea? They don’t drink at meals at all really. . . except maybe hot water if the food is really spicy. My Students told me ‘tea is for old people.’ ūüėā
  8. Did you know that most ATMs offer English options – thank God!
  9. Did you know that most restrooms don’t have toilet paper or soap (and maybe no water?). You should always carry little packages of Kleenex & Wet Wipes, which is why they are sold in the toilet paper aisles and at convenience stores for cheap!
  10. Did you know that if you wear a green hat in China, it means your spouse is cheating on you? ūüėā

So What’s Your Question!

#Shaolin Temple’s #Kungfu Monks

21 May

Henan is home to the Shaolin Temple – made famous in Jackie Chan’s films and the center of Chinese Kungfu or “Wushu.” ¬†The monks did a performance for the Henan Tourism Festival!

Do You Eat Mouth?

31 Dec
Student: Teacher do you eat mouth?
Me:¬†ūüė∂ no, can’t say that I do! What kind of mouth? — Pig, cow, goat? (thinking to myself, you eat pigs feet and chicken head, maybe you eat the mouth too? . . )
Student: No, teacher “mouth”
Me: -_- I feel like we’re not communicating here. . . Can you spell it?
Student: ¬†M o u s e ūüź≠
Me: ūüėĪūüė® Nope, thought mouth sounded bad, but that might just be worse.

CAQ: Is China Safe?!? – The Health Issue: Pollution

27 Feb

Continuing¬†the¬†Commonly¬†Asked¬†Questions¬†series¬†based¬†on¬†questions¬†people¬†give¬†me¬†about¬†China.¬†¬†While¬†it¬†may¬†not¬†answer¬†everything,¬†I¬†hope¬†that¬†it¬†will¬†clear¬†up¬†some¬†big¬†misconceptions¬†people ¬†have¬†about¬†this¬†beautiful¬†country.¬†¬†You¬†can¬†find¬†the¬†first¬†part¬†“Is¬†China¬†Safe:¬†the¬†Size/Language Issue Here.

CAQ #2: Is China Safe?!? ~ the Health Issue: Pollution

Yes, this is really what my city looks like some days


Concern: China is a scary place with backdoor doctors, unsanitary practices,  horrifying pollution, and dangerous hazards lying around everywhere.

I’ll¬†start¬†by¬†addressing¬†Pollution¬†in¬†this¬†post~¬†the¬†biggest¬†concern¬†for¬†most¬†people.¬†¬†Is¬†there ¬†pollution¬†in¬†China?¬†~¬†Yes,¬†of¬†course¬†there¬†is.¬†¬†There¬†is¬†also¬†a¬†lot¬†of¬†pollution¬†in¬†the¬†US,¬†Korea, ¬†Japan,¬†England,¬†India,¬†etc.¬†¬†Is¬†smog¬†a¬†problem?¬†~¬†Yes,¬†smog¬†can¬†be¬†a¬†bad¬†problem,¬†especially¬†on ¬† certain¬†days.¬†¬†The¬†worst¬†of¬†the¬†smog¬†arrives¬†when¬†we¬†haven’t¬†had¬†rain¬†in¬†a¬†while¬†(Henan¬†had¬†a ¬†drought¬†this¬†year,¬†so¬†that¬†didn’t¬†help),¬†when¬†they¬†burn¬†off¬†the¬†fields¬†in¬†the¬†fall,¬†and¬†when¬†the ¬†machines¬†are¬†running¬†extra¬†long¬†at¬†the¬†local¬†factories.¬†¬†There¬†are¬†certain¬†days¬†when¬†skyscrapers ¬†right¬†in¬†front¬†of¬†you¬†completely¬†disappear¬†and¬†you¬†can¬†taste¬†the¬†acid¬†in¬†the¬†air.¬†¬†I’d¬†say¬†that’s¬†been¬†about¬†7-8¬†days¬†in¬†my¬†first¬†semester¬†here¬†in¬†China¬†(Aug-Feb).¬†¬†It¬†can¬†be¬†really,¬†really¬†bad.


My City Today


Of¬†course,¬†I¬†live¬†in¬†Zhengzhou¬†which¬†is¬†one¬†of¬†the¬†worst¬†cities¬†in¬†China,¬†so¬†I¬†can’t¬†measure¬†the¬†rest¬†of¬†China¬†by¬†that.¬†You¬†can¬†see¬†a¬†rating¬†every¬†day¬†for¬†most¬†Chinese¬†cities‚Äô¬†pollution¬†level¬†here,¬†and ¬†Zhengzhou¬†is¬†always¬†pretty¬†bad. But if¬†Zhengzhou is the worst they have to offer,¬†I¬†don’t ¬†think¬†the¬†problem¬†is¬†as¬†prevalent¬†as¬†people¬†believe.¬†

First, I’d like to say (and I’ll probably repeat this in later posts), a large part of your ability to withstand the smog depends on your own body. ¬†Personally, I generally suffer from serious¬†skin sensitivity and asthma; one bad day in the US¬†will knock me out. ¬†But in China, I’m actually the healthiest I’ve been in a while. My skin clears up, my asthma goes away, I suffer fewer headaches, I’m breathing much better. ¬†Others are the opposite; they’re fine in the States and then get landblasted with respiratory illnesses here. ¬†I think a lot of it is dependent on how your body likes certain environments. Mine seems to like China. ¬†

Furthermore, as far as actual pollution goes, it¬†isn’t¬†like¬†every¬†single¬†day¬†I¬†am¬†terrified¬†of ¬†walking¬†out¬†the¬†door.¬†Only¬†about¬†2-3¬†days¬†this semester¬†have¬†I¬†been¬†unwilling¬†to¬†leave ¬†without¬†a¬†mask.There¬†is¬†also¬†the¬†fact¬†that¬†Zhengzhou¬†has¬†coal¬†mines¬†not¬†to¬†far¬†away¬†~¬†and ¬†that¬†always¬†adds¬†to¬†the¬†issue,¬†just¬†look¬†at¬†the¬†coal¬†towns¬†in¬†West Virginia.¬†¬†We¬†have¬†to¬†dust¬†about ¬†twice¬†a¬†week¬†to¬†clean¬†the¬†black¬†off¬†everything,¬†especially¬†outside¬†windows.¬†That¬†gives¬†me¬†a¬†few ¬†concerns¬†about¬†Black¬†Lung¬†or¬†something¬†similar,¬†but¬†it’s¬†my¬†own fault¬†for¬†choosing¬†to¬†live¬†so¬†close ¬†to¬†the¬†coal¬†mines.

Seeing the sun in a bright blue sky is a pretty rare sight around here, but we do get it, especially  after a rain.  And I can see the stars many nights, so long as the fireworks haven’t smoked the  place up. I breath fine for the most part, although I know some people who struggle.  They do have masks everywhere; you can always pick one up to help you out. I personally never really use them unless it’s during the crop burning week. 

One¬†nice¬†part¬†about¬†China¬†is¬†that¬†the¬†people¬†here¬†are¬†incredibly¬†health conscious¬†and¬†actively¬†work¬†to¬†clean¬†the¬†mess¬†up.Even¬†big ¬†factory¬†owners¬†know¬†that¬†their¬†children¬†have¬†to¬†breathe¬†in ‘the¬†air¬†they¬†create;¬†it¬†provides¬†a¬†lot¬†of¬†incentive¬†to¬†clean¬†the¬†mess¬†up. ‘They¬†are¬†truly¬†worried¬†about¬†the¬†situation,¬†and¬†there¬†are¬†constant¬†

discussions¬†on¬†how¬†to¬†eliminate¬†or¬†guard¬†yourself¬†against¬†the¬†threat¬†posed¬†by¬†air¬†pollution.¬†¬†They ¬†have¬†extremely¬†advanced¬†masks,¬†they¬†make¬†sure¬†that¬†everyone¬†knows¬†what¬†days¬†to¬†avoid¬†going ¬†outside¬†and¬†what¬†days¬†it‚Äôs¬†okay.¬†They¬†are¬†constantly¬†planting¬†trees,¬†bushes,¬†shrubs,¬†and¬†adding¬†water¬†in¬†an¬†effort¬†to¬†combat¬†the¬†problem¬†and¬†reoxygenate¬†the¬†air.¬†¬†Zhengzhou¬†even¬†bought¬†a¬†‚ÄúSmog ¬†Machine!‚Ä̬†¬†It¬†goes¬†around¬†the¬†streets¬†spraying¬†water¬†in¬†an¬†effort¬†to¬†cleanse¬†the¬†air.¬†¬†ūüôā¬†

If you move further out of the big cities, the problem isn’t half as bad anyway.

So maybe some cities in China are worse than most of the United States, but they are working with millions more factories, mines, people and other pollution causing issues. As my student’s say,  just look at the advancements they have already made in eliminating causation factors. Give them a few more years, and they will probably have advanced in leaps and bounds.  They like their  clean air, and generally the Chinese are a stubborn/innovative set. If they want clean air, they’ll  find a way to get it. It just takes time and patience, and a willingness to wear a mask every so often till the problem is fixed.





CAQ: Is China Safe?!? – The Size Issue

16 Jan

Well, small break in the vacation plans – mom fell yesterday and crashed her hip so I spent 13+ hours in the Korean hospital.¬† Today she is zonked out on pain meds, so I have some time to do a little typing ūüôā

I haven’t really had time to answer questions yet, but I wanted to start addressing some of the Commonly Asked Questions people give me about China.¬† While it may not answer everything, I hope that it will clear up some big misconceptions people have about this beautiful country.


CAQ #1: Is China Safe?!?

When I began telling family and friends about my new adventure plans to teach in China,I found fear and worry was a bit more prevalent than excitement, and I had to do some serious selling of the idea before they would start to get behind me.¬† The most common question I was asked¬†was “well, do you think it’s safe?”¬† After thinking about¬†it, I’ve decided that this question stemmed from concerns of about three things (size/language, health, and security); I’ll address each in turn over the next few posts, but I want to start with the size/language concerns.

Concern: China is massively large and the language is foreign. 

Just looking at a map will tell you that China is one of the worlds largest nations (technically¬†#3, right after Russia and Canada).¬† Then there is the fact that it is actually the #1 largest nation in terms of populations (1.3 billion in 2015, making up 19% of the worlds’ people!).¬† Just, woah!¬† There are 45 cities in China with more than 1,000,000 people, and the vast majority of them are closer to 3-4 million.¬† Compare that to the US, where only 9 cities have more than 1,000,000 and only 4 of those are more than 1.5.¬† It’s just kind of mind-boggling to think about how HUGE China really is.¬† And I think this is one part of China that people actually kind of get – we’ve seen the movies about Shanghai and Beijing, watched the tiny little streets and billions of flashing lights in strange characters leading us into back alleys to be lost in the maze forever.¬† China’s size is daunting, and I won’t say that this doesn’t scare me at times.

Unlike Korea and Japan, where subway signs, maps, and bus routes are more or less in English, most of the transportation aids in China are in Pinyin.¬† In fact, there isn’t even a map at all of my home city of Xinzheng, and it has about 600,000 people.¬† While this seems extremely big to a Missouri girl from a town of 12,000; to the¬†locals, this¬†is practically a backwoods country farming village.¬† Even the nearby city of Zhengzhou, boasting 5,000,000 as early as 2010, is considered a small¬†city. And that’s TWICE the size of Chicago! And still no good map! Continue reading

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