A Travellerspoint blog

You Know You're in China When...

"When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable" - Clifton Fadiman

sunny 0 °F

When packing for a trip abroad, you might as well leave the comfort zone behind. Life in a foreign country ensures the exotic will spring from even the most mundane activities.

Below is a compilation of daily novelties which have colored our experience in southern China so far.

1.) Clothes dryers do not exist, only clothes lines.
2.) Children greet your face with either open-mouthed awe or open-mouthed terror.
3.) B.Y.O.T.P (bring your own toilet paper) is an unspoken rule, because public bathrooms won't have it.
4.) Umbrellas pop up everywhere, rain or shine.
5.) Water coolers take the place of water fountains.
6.) The supermarket includes a magnetized escalator ramp (when you wheel your cart onto it, the wheels magnetize to the ramp - ensuring a safe-non-cart-toppling journey).
7.) Your washing machine greets you with a cheery version of "Jingle Bells" when you press "start."
8.) The shaving cream you purchased has a scent remarkably akin to lime sherbert.
9.) Local drink stands sells delicious, fresh drinks for the equivalent of 50 cents.
10.) The iced drink you ordered arrives at your table...with the ice already melted.
11.) Your employee information form includes questions about your use of birth control (whether you use it & how often).
12.) Quality time with coworkers means an evening spent singing at a KTV (karaoke joint).
13.) When ordering a class of water, don't expect it to be iced or even cold - most likely it'll still be boiling.
14.) A honk from behind you on a sidewalk is a signal to either move or be run down by a : bike, scooter, bike-driven hackney or car.
15.) Items at the local shopping plaza are either purposefully overpriced or not priced at all, because bartering is both expected & encouraged.
16.) The beauty aisle at the local supermarket includes "skin whitening" products (whereas, in America, shelves are stocked with tanning products).
17.) Your foreign face causes a riot wherever you go (supermarket, post office, restaurant, bathroom...). People stop to stare, take a photo, or nearly wreck their scooters while struggling to a get a look.
18.) A two-seat scooter can seat as many as 5 people at a time (plus a dog, potted plant, or package of toilet paper).
19.) The overflow from your water heater drips into a bucket.
20.) Dvds sell for about 50 cents each.
21.) Every time you successfully complete a barter, you wonder who got ripped off in the end (you or the vendor).
22.) Splurging on a meal means spending $3 - $7.
23.) Smacking & slurping loudly while eating is not rude.
24.) Meat is rarely de-boned (eat slow & carefully).
25.) Buffalo wings are eaten with chopsticks (quite a feat).
26.) Most restaurant meals are eaten in a family-dinner style. Dishes are set in the middle of the table & shared by everyone present.
27.) Meat dishes often include the animal's head.
28.) Central air conditiong & heating don't exist.
29.) Incorrect English appears everywhere (especially on t-shirts, buildings, & notebooks).
30.) Cough drops are found in the candy aisle.
31.) You don't know what you've been served, but you eat it anyways.
32.) Drivers flash their brights to signal, "I'm not stopping, stay out of the way."
33.) Mob dance sessions are the norm each evening, where hundreds of people meet to perform synchronized dancing in various outdoor venues.
34.) Following traffic rules WILL get you into an accident.
35.) Most of the webpages you try to visit are blocked.
36.) Your kitchen appliances include a water-boiling device, for making tap water drinkable.

At the local shopping plaza

At the local shopping plaza



Local coffee shop

Local coffee shop


Posted by rovingduo 07:07 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (5)

Home Sweet (Away From) Home

"To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted." - Bill Bryson


We offer buckets of apologies for our lack of blogs this past month! Since arriving in Zhuhai, we have been extremely busy getting acquainted with our new jobs, new home, and new lives. Also, Internet access has been rare at best. To make up for our neglect, here are some much overdue photos of our Zhuhai apartment.






View from living room balcony. What you see is Yien Kindergarten (aka: our place of work).



Living room.



Living room.



Bathroom (without western toilet).



Bathroom (with western toilet - this is the one we use :))



View from our bedroom balcony. What you see is the courtyard of our apartment complex.



Our bedroom.

Our apartment (fortunately) is about a 30 second walk from the kindergarten we work at. Technically, I suppose it should be called a "dormitory" (or at least that's what everyone refers to it as), since it has 3 other bedrooms meant to house future foreign teachers. For now, though, Jake and I are the only foreign teachers, & so we have the place to ourselves.

As always, thanks for reading. :) More to come!

Posted by rovingduo 05:39 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (6)

Changing Our Address...Again

"There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign" - Robert Louis Stevenson


Our last blog entry was written over a week ago, from our apartment in Foshan. Well, much has changed since then. For starters, we no longer live in Foshan...

We now reside in Zhuhai, the seaside garden city of China. Nestled among such cities as Macau, Zhongshan, and Hong Kong, Zhuhai is a multicultural haven for tourists. Its name, which means "Pearl Sea," derives from its location at the mouth of the Pearl River.

Our new apartment, supplied by our employer, is ridiculously comfortable and greatly exceeds our prior expectations. It is a four bedroom "dormitory," with kitchen, living room, and two bathrooms. Though Jake and I are currently the only foreign teachers, the dormitory is meant to house any future foreign teachers as well. The dormitory was completely renovated before we moved in and everything is brand new - from the bathroom mirrors and sinks to the furniture in all the rooms. There are also two balconies, the first is off the living room and the second is accessible by a sliding glass door in our bedroom.

Though we have been in Zhuhai for only a week, each day has been packed with activities. The school we work for, Yien Kindergarten, is as new as our apartment. In fact, it is still under construction and won't be completed until September, when the fall semester begins. Until then, our work consists of promotional activities, which makes for a hectic schedule. We work from 9am to 5:30pm Wednesday through Sunday; but, we work an additional 3 hours every Saturday and Sunday evening.

Upon our arrival, we learned that the school has been prepping for a promotional performance on August 14 - so, as the two foreign teachers, we'll of course have starring roles. The event consists of various segments, and is meant to promote the school and its teachers to parents and potential students. The segements generally consist of dancing, music and English games. Jake will play a piano solo for the opening act, and I am involved in a singing/dancing act of various children's songs (including 3 songs I'd never heard of until now: "Ding Dong Bell," "Froggie, Froggie," and "I Had a Little Nut Tree). Also, Jake and I will perform a segment of English games (which are still under construction while we brainstorm ideas).

During Saturday and Sunday evenings, everyone (us and all of 15 or so coworkers) set up tables at public areas (such as Vanguard, the local supermarket) and hand out balloons (with the Kindergarten's logo) to children and brochures to parents. As the foreign teachers, our unfamiliar faces are like blazing neon lights against the nighttime sky.

Needless to say, we have been very busy adjusting to our new lives. But, this unique and exciting opportunity is worth it.

Speaking of being busy, this blog must come to a close - Jake and I must be off (we have to work on our English games).

  • *We had planned on including several photos of our apartment/Zhuhai, but we forgot our external hard drive at home! So, we'll add them tomorrow! Stay tuned.

Posted by rovingduo 04:49 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (9)

Foshan Footwork

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page" - St. Augustine

Rain fell lazily, washing away the feeble sunshine and any expectation of a dry Foshan outing. Huddled beneath our shared umbrella, Jake and I dodged haphazard puddles and the weaving paths of poncho-clad scooter drivers. We'd set out to find a local bookstore, but had succeeded only in finding ourselves drenched.

As we passed what appeared to be a massage parlor, I mentioned how one of my former instructors had raved about his Foshan foot massage experience. Though having offered this tid-bit casually, I suddenly felt a prick of worry at the curious gleam which flickered across Jake's face.

For reasons unknown, I have always possessed an aversion to feet. Perhaps, during the springtime of my youth, I was accosted by a brigade of trolls sporting hairy, wart-riddled feet, who then zapped my memory in a MIB fashion. I really can't say.

Feigning deafness at Jake's suggestion of midday foot therapy, I charged onward through the rain, a sudden devotee to finding the allusive bookstore. Unfortunately for my foot phobia, Jake can be as persuasive as Morpheus nudging Neo down the rabbit hole.

Needless to say, I abandoned Mission Bookstore and found myself outside the massage joint. Eyeing the curious one-room establishment, I stood inside the open doorway uncertainly, watching as Jake setted into a cushiony chair. Glancing down at my wet, flip-flopped feet, I figured the mud bath they'd already received was revitalizing enough for one day.

But resistance was futile. As one of the Chinese workers ushered me to a seat next to Jake, I realized doom was upon me.

"This'll be interesting," I thought, as an older gentleman carried out two buckets filled with steaming, tea-hued water.

We soaked our feet in the unknown brew as two of the workers began kneading our backs, necks and arms. Instrumental music flowed from speakers throughout the room, and I slowly felt my discomfort drip away with each pull on my muscles.

"This isn't so bad," I thought. "No feet."

The workers skillfully employeed their hands, knuckles, and elbows to ease out our kinks. Toward the end of the massage, one of the workers even used his knees to pop Jake's back.

Relaxed and feeling quite cozy, I didn't object as the worker motioned for me to turn around so he could begin work on my feet. Using some sort of oil-water mixture followed by coconut-scented lotion, the worker kneaded from the tip of my toes to my calves. At one point, as he drew his knuckle down the length of each foot, I was convinced he was slicing them open with a hidden blade of some kind. He repeated the process several times on the bottom of both feet, causing me to bite my lip and silently chant, "What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger..."

The massage drew to a close as he carefully dabbed my feet and legs dry with a yellow towel. "Okay!" he said, rising from his stool. I swung my feet off the ottoman, reluctant to slide them back into my dirty flip-flops.

Feet tingling, Jake and I gathered our belongings before going to pay. "Duo shao qian?" Jake asked, reaching for his wallet. "Er shi kuai," the man responded. Jake handed over the money, and we expressed our thanks before heading back out into the rain.

We'd just spent a total of $3, for two 30-minute massages. Who knew foot phobia could be conquered for so cheap?

Posted by rovingduo 05:19 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (3)


One of many memorable moments we'd like to share. By: Becky


It was our first full day in Foshan, and we had set out on our first mission: locate the supermarket. The roasting 95-degree air hit us as we stepped from our air conditioned sanctuary. Another humid day in southern China.

Though I'd engaged in nothng more strenuous than the 10-floor elevator ride, my skin was already sheathed in sweat by the time we passed the neighborhood security office. One of the guards, wearing a friendly smile and a blue uniform, patted the bench on which he sat. Jake and I exchanged a curious glance, shrugged, and accepted the invitation.

The guard immediately dashed inside the office and returned with two glasses and a pot of boiling water. He carefully poured the steaming water into both cups and then along the rim of each, cleaning them to satisfaction. Just when I thought he was prepping a batch of tea, the guard filled each cup and handed them over. Surprised, yet touched by his offer of hot water on such a sweltering July day, I accepted mine gratefully. In China, tap water is not drinkable - it must be boiled before it can be consumed. With this knowledge, Jake and I understood the message behind the guard's gesture: this water is good, clean and drinkable. Despite the stifling heat, the drink was oddly refreshing.

My own cup resembled a skinny shot glass, sans handle, and so the scorching water turned the clear glass unbearably hot. Holding it gingerly by its rim, I placed it to the side, hoping the slight breeze would help it cool. Meanwhile, the security guard attempted conversation with Jake. Rattling on in fluent Chinese, he continued in spite of the growing looks of confusion we gave him. Eventually, we asked if there was a supermarket nearby. He attempted, unsuccessfully, to relay its location, and the humurous sight attracted interest from numerous spectators.

One man in particular, pushing his dozing baby along in its stroller, joined in on the fun. After a lot of gesturing, pointing, shrugging, and head scratching, our game of charades was nearing forfeit. When all seemed lost, the young stroller-pushing man successfully communicated the store's location, to the cheers of all around. Having managed to sip half my drink, waiting for it to cool further, the guard hurried to re-fill it...to the brim.

After a few more minutes spent chatting and tentatively testing my scorching drink, Jake and I waved goodbye to our new friends. We successfully navigated the Foshan streets and arrived, unscathed, at the allusive supermarket.

Now, weeks later, we visit the same supermarket regularly. And everytime we do, we pass by the security office, waving to our friend as we go.

Mission complete.



Our apartment complex (Foshan). For more photos, see our gallery on right-hand side of page.

Posted by rovingduo 09:01 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

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