Living in China…Again

After the traumatic experience that took place at my last school, I have to say my second experience in China has been a walk in the park thus far. Yes, people still stare, but it’s definitely not as bad as the first time. The fact that I am now married probably has a lot to do with that. Although, this time around, the kiddo is back stateside finding her way in this world as an adult. Continue reading “Living in China…Again”

And so it begins…

I’ve largely been silent on here because this past year at my place of employment has been pretty darn traumatic. From being the victim of racism (in Nigeria no less), to unsupportive colleagues and then being forced to work closely with and train a bully who consistently attempted to paint himself the victim and of course, others so readily believed and having to do it all with a “smile” pretty much muted and masked my true feelings. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait for the end of the school year and finally being rid of that very toxic environment. I’ll speak more about the mind-numbing ordeal this past school year has been in a different post. Continue reading “And so it begins…”

The Hype of the Canton Tower

Two issues. Overpriced and overrated. I won’t tell anyone not to go, because others may very well have a completely different experience from the one I had. Nonetheless, I will share the details of my experience so that those who choose to go will have the benefit of being informed. A benefit which I was not afforded at the time. Granted I read on TripAdvisor that it was somewhat overpriced, but I thought it would at least be worth it. And to be honest, I suppose I got exactly what I deserved seeing as though my sole motivation for wanting to go was based on one of my favorite reality shows, The Amazing Race. Continue reading “The Hype of the Canton Tower”

Egg Foo Yung Please!

Call me ignorant if you choose, but I’ll be the first to admit that I miss with all of my heart American Chinese food. I would give anything for a simple order of shrimp fried rice or Singapore noodles with tofu or General Tso’s shrimp or even shrimp with broccoli. Oh how my mouth waters at the thought of egg foo yung and crab ragoon and chicken lo mein. Call me crazy for assuming that living in China would put me in close proximity to a limitless supply of those dishes I now long for. Imagine the shock and horror when I discovered that the Chinese food I loved is, in fact, not authentic Chinese food at all. For shame!

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Squid prepared locally. Very tasty!

Don’t get me wrong, there are some dishes that are close to the ones I grew to love in America, but here in Foshan where Cantonese food reigns supreme, it is quite difficult to find Chinese dishes that make me crave the local cuisine. The lo mein or chao mein is probably the closest, but even that is prepared differently. Ginger and garlic are the go to spices for most local chefs. This leaves their food mildly seasoned and just lacking flavor. But hell, I’m no food critic; I just like to eat.

Egg Foo Yung 2

I’ve asked several of my Chinese colleagues about these dishes which I cannot and they often just give me a blank stare. They don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. However, I haven’t determined if it’s because most Chinese tend to eat the local food they grew up on or if it’s because American Chinese food really is solely an American thing.

There have been a few dishes which have tickled my taste buds like the sautéed squid rings, the grilled, garlicky oysters and the steamed scallops with rice sticks. Despite bemoaning the food, one of the things I absolutely love about living in Foshan has been the access to fresh and varied seafood. Nonetheless, ultimately, I am still in search of good, really, really good authentic Chinese food. In the meantime, I’ll take complete pleasure in the search.

“Unromantic Realities of Teaching in a Foreign Land”

I thought about this piece while walking to work this morning. The lone unicorn walking down these China streets powering through the stares and scowls of those around me. When I first made the decision to move abroad I was at the juncture in my life where I knew that if I didn’t change something and in a very big way, I was going to leave the world of academia behind altogether. My life in the U.S. was fine, but something always seemed to be missing or askew or just not quite right. And the constant threat upon my black skin from sources concrete and abstract made living there scary and seemingly dangerous. So like the romantic that I am, I decided living and teaching in a new country would be the answer. I fantasized about the impact I would make, the lessons I would perform and how I would grow to the heavens in my teaching practice. I imagined myself and my daughter in our exotic new locale indulging in new foods, visiting new countries and learning new languages. And while the things that I’ve imagined have, in fact, taken place, my main reason for living in China has been the most challenging aspect of our new journey.

You see, teaching in China has many more challenges than I anticipated. Aside from the obvious challenge of a language barrier, there have been three distinct challenges with which I have had to contend: unrealistic expectations from parents, lazy, under-motivated students and lack of resources. Teachers everywhere are reading that thinking, “I deal with the same issues!” Believe me, I know. Like many teachers, I thought teaching abroad would be a teacher’s utopia. And I especially thought teaching in China would be easier. I was a victim of the same preconceived notions as many other Americans are, “Chinese students work hard”, “Chinese students are naturally motivated”, “Chinese students are blah, blah, blah. Just wonderful”. The truth is Chinese students are, well, students, merely children who suffer from many of the same ailments and conditions as other children – laziness, self-indulgence, self-centeredness and just plain incorrigibility. Now, of course, it’s not all students all of the time, but the model student that many of us believed existed in China is in actuality a rarity not the norm.

The good thing about this realization is that being a trained, certified, experienced teacher in the U.S. properly prepared me to successfully handle this reality. Therefore, it is business as usual in my classroom. I simply employed the same strategies and expectations that I would in my American classroom. The biggest difference is having a teaching assistant/translator. Somewhat similar to the co-teaching model without the collaborative planning. Of course, many of us who have had co-teachers know that collaborative planning doesn’t always happen either.

Nonetheless, those realities aren’t enough to make me regret my decision to teach abroad, especially since I would be dealing with the exact same issues in the U.S. Moreover, just like back home, the students always make it worth it. I have students with big personalities, students who are exceptionally quiet, some who are extraordinarily loud and some who love drama. There are comedians, fighters, actors and natural leaders. Their personalities are just as varied as any group of young people would be and so are their academic levels. They definitely have helped to make this journey quite interesting.

The Six Best Places for Expats to Shop for Clothes in China

No matter what you know or don’t know about China, one thing we can all agree on is that the Chinese are rather small.  The Northern Chinese may not be as small as the Southern Chinese, but they all are still smaller on average than most Westerners. Therefore, shopping for clothes can be quite challenging. However, expats have a few choices to accommodate those extra inches. Continue reading “The Six Best Places for Expats to Shop for Clothes in China”

Teenager Abroad Segment: “Another Chapter”

One of the most important factors that I have to consider when traveling or living abroad is my quiet, reserved, yet very opinionated teenage daughter. Adjusting to living abroad is one thing when you’re solo, but when you’re a parent, and especially of a teenager, it adds an extra layer to the already challenging dynamic. My precious one agreed, albeit somewhat begrudgingly, to go on this journey with me. I thought the least I could do was give her a platform to share her thoughts. These are her words, raw and uncensored.

Continue reading “Teenager Abroad Segment: “Another Chapter””

Thanksgiving in Foshan- Food for My Soul

I’ll be the first to admit that I was truly worried about how the mini and I would spend our first major holiday abroad. Despite my best efforts to spend the day surrounded by people we were familiar with eating food that fed our souls as much as it did our stomachs, nothing seemed to be working out. The plans that we did make fell through, well sort of…but that’s another story. Nonetheless, I was left trying to make sure we didn’t spend the holiday sad, depressed and alone. So I had to put on mommy cape and get to work. Not only did we have a decent Thanksgiving dinner surrounded by good people, but we were so busy that we didn’t have time to think about all the glorious food and family time we were missing back home. Continue reading “Thanksgiving in Foshan- Food for My Soul”

Dude, Where’s My Mail?

Forgive my reference to the tacky, yet hilarious, 2000 movie staring Aston Kutcher. But just like the movie, my search for and expectation to receive packages sent from the U.S. are both futile and absolutely comedic. First, in order to get anything done in China, you MUST speak the language. There is simply no way around it. Well, I don’t speak the language. Therefore, I have to garner the assistance of Chinese work colleagues to assist me with things as simple as tracking down my packages. Continue reading “Dude, Where’s My Mail?”

To Bangkok with Love Part 2- A Happy Surprise

I remember asking some people how much time one should plan to spend in Bangkok and being told two days max. Admittedly, my perspective of Bangkok was a bit skewed due in part to the stories and feedback of others’ and largely the Hangover movie. I had a picture in my mind of a place with tons of garbage and grunge and lady boys and lots of sex for sale wherever you turned. I got the impression that absolutely anything goes and that two days was more than I could take in a place that offered up cheap booty and anal invasions even to those who weren’t the least bit interested. Needless to say, I was wrong and hella glad of it. Continue reading “To Bangkok with Love Part 2- A Happy Surprise”

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