A Love Letter to China: 5 Reasons I Have a Crush On My New Home

February 27, 2011

Dear Big C,
I can call you that, right? I know we’re just getting to know each other and all, but I feel like we’ve really, you know, connected over the past ten days.

I could just call you China, but everyone gets to call you that.

Your nickname – The Middle Kingdom – seems a bit, well, formal. (And, umm, scary. I mean, Middle Kingdom sounds like some place with lots of angry trolls.)

I think we’ve kind of moved past the formal stage, don’t you think?

I mean, I did move in and everything!

I’m writing this letter to tell you how much I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you over the past week and a half.

In fact, I’ve been really surprised at how well we’ve gotten on together.

A lot of people warned me that we wouldn’t be right for each other. Some told me you would be too busy and hectic for me. Some said you’d be too difficult and challenging. Others called you pushy and ill-mannered. Even others badmouthed you saying you were dirty and disorderly. A few even said you were “crazy.”

But what do those people know, anyway?

After all, we have so much in common! You’re the biggest country in Asia. I’m no dainty butterfly myself. Your favorite color is red. I look good in red. You’re a communist. I’m all about sharing the wealth. (Admittedly, I don’t have much wealth to share these days… and when I do have wealth, I’m usually sharing it with my local Starbucks, but still… I get you. Money doesn’t matter. People do. And lattes — lattes matter a lot.)

Okay, so we did have a little tiff last week when I first got here. You were all jealous and wouldn’t let me talk to my friends on Facebook and Twitter. But we got through that, right? (Or at least I got through it with the help of my friend, VPN. You haven’t changed — you’re still the jealous type. But can I really blame you for wanting me all to yourself?)

Anyway, Big C, there’s something I need to tell you.

You see… well… I don’t mean to scare you or anything… but…

I think I’m in love.


With you.

Okay, okay, don’t get that look on your face! You can’t deny that you haven’t felt something, too, can you? I mean, I see the way you look at me – all wide-eyed and in wonderment when I’m doing the cute little things that I do like, umm, shop for groceries or walk down the street or eat food.

Yep, I’ve seen you staring at me. Don’t try to deny it.

Sure, this might just be the “honeymoon stage” of culture shock people are always talking about. But, seriously, what do those people know? Besides, if this were our honeymoon, that would mean you would have already bought me a ring. (Hint, hint. I did move in and all!).

Let me assure you, I don’t throw the L-word around lightly. I’m not the type to fall in love quickly.

I lived in Japan for three years and certainly developed a fondness for it, but we had our differences. (Mostly when it came to important things like whether or not I should be able to buy pants.)

Thailand and I enjoyed a fun on-again-off-again relationship, but it was never anything serious. (After all, this is Thailand we’re talking about here! Do you know how many backpackers, travelers and other expats I had to share that country with? Sheez! I don’t like to spread gossip – but T-land gets around, if you know what I mean.)

Laos was fun, too, but seeing as I could only get a month-long visa there, it was never meant to last.

And, Malaysia, well, I could never have a meaningful relationship with a country that doesn’t believe in pork. (Sorry, Malaysia! You were fantastic and all, but if given the choice between you and bacon, I’m going to have to choose bacon.)

You may be wondering what you’ve done to make me love you so much so fast.

Well, here goes, China, these are the reasons I’m crushing on you right now:

My couch

Yeah, so I know I mentioned my new couch and posted a picture of it in my last blog post. But I really feel a couch like this needs a second mention… and a second picture… from a new angle.

I mean, check this beauty out!

I didn’t have a couch for the entire year that I was traveling in Southeast Asia, and I really did feel there was a void in my life. I don’t mean to be overly dramatic about this (okay, I do… I mean, when am I not being overly dramatic about anything?), but it seriously felt like a piece of me was missing. (Granted it’s possible a piece of me was, in fact, missing. Given the amount of time I used to spend on my couch in Japan, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of my body parts had fused itself to the upholstery, and I accidentally left it behind when I moved.)

My couch isn’t the only perk of my new apartment.

I have a nice big bed and a huge TV. (Okay, so I don’t actually watch the TV as I don’t have any English-language channels. So it’s more like just a huge reflective surface. But, hey, who doesn’t enjoy a huge reflective surface?).

I also have my very own washing machine, which means I no longer have to wash all my clothes in a bucket like I did in Chiang Mai. So what if the washer stretches out all my t-shirts so the necklines are off-the-shoulder and the hems now reach down to my knees? At least I don’t have to worry about wrinkly, pruny, clothes-washing hands any more!

And the best perk of all (besides the aforementioned couch): it’s all rent-free! Yep, that’s right, because I live in university housing, I don’t have to pay a dime for my lovely new digs. (Not that I wouldn’t pay good money for that couch. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t?)

My job

I’m going to admit something super dorky right now: I missed having a job.

Not that I didn’t enjoy unemployment — trust me, I loved it. I’d dare to say that I was born to be unemployed. You know all those people who say they’d be bored if they didn’t have a job? I am proud to say I am not one of them! I can always find plenty of things to do with my free time – like napping… and staring vacantly into reflective surfaces… and more napping.

But, the fact is that I am the kind of person who gets absolutely nothing done unless I have a schedule. In the past week that I’ve been teaching English full-time again, I’ve not only managed to get all my work obligations completed, but I’ve also managed a number of other productive daily tasks – like working out, writing more regularly and not staring absent-mindedly into the surface of my television screen.

Plus, my new job rocks.

I only teach for sixteen hours a week.

I don’t have any early morning classes.

As I teach the same writing class to four different groups of students, I can reuse my lesson plan for all four groups, which severely cuts down on my planning time. And I don’t have to work at all on Fridays – like at all.

If I can’t afford to be unemployed, I’d like to have this work schedule for the rest of my life, pretty please. (Future bosses, take note!)

Besides all of that, I’ve really enjoyed working with the students, who are second year college students planning to study abroad in North America. They are, for the most part, quite eager to learn English.

Plus, since it’s popular in China to pick English names (and not necessarily ones any English-speaking person would consider a name), I get students with names like Tinker, Winner, Tiny, Pixy and Fish. You can’t get much more entertaining than that! (For me, at least. They don’t seem to find it all that entertaining. For example, when Fish didn’t show up to class on Thursday, I joked that he’d be “in hot water” when he got back. Ha ha ha! Get it? A fish? In hot water? Funny, right? Yeah, the students didn’t think so either… hence I was the only one laughing… for approximately two minutes… hysterically.)

The people

In the past week and a half that I’ve been in China, I’ve had at least half a dozen random strangers come up to me, smile and start talking to me.

Unfortunately, the majority of these strangers start talking to me in Chinese – a language I am woefully unprepared to have a conversation in unless our conversation consists of me saying “hello” and “thank you” over and over again.

Despite not knowing what these people are trying to say to me, their friendliness and openness have made me feel very welcomed here. (Granted it’s entirely possible that these people are not welcoming me at all… but telling me to get lost. But, hey, until I actually learn what these people are saying to me, I choose to think they’re saying something friendly and welcoming like, “Welcome to China! You are very beautiful. And, wow, you can already speak two whole words in Chinese. You must be a genius!”)

In addition to their friendliness and openness (which, admittedly, may all be imaginary on my part), the people in the part of China I am in have a certain devil-may-care attitude I find quite refreshing… especially in regards to fashion. It’s quite common to see women dressed in their pajamas at the market. My students show up to class in everything from tutus to sweatpants to acid-wash jeans. Once, a young man walked past me on campus wearing giant furry gorilla slippers. Any culture that openly embraces the wearing of pajamas and fuzzy slippers in public is alright by me. (And, heck, maybe those people who keep on coming up to talk to me are actually complimenting me on my lovely collection off-the-shoulder, knee-length t-shirts!)

The food

To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure I’d like Chinese food.

Having grown up in a less-than-racially-diverse suburb in New York State and then having gone to college in the Midwest, there weren’t a whole lot of Chinese food options available to me — aside from the ubiquitous Chinese buffet. (Which I pointedly stayed away from as I tend to associate buffets with my very first job as the Salad Bar Girl at a Ponderosa Steakhouse… which I tend to associate with horribleness.)

When I got here last week, I happily discovered that Chinese food is so much more than shoveling sweet and sour shrimp from a trough. (In fact, I haven’t had to shovel a thing from a trough yet! Whee!).

Around the corner from the campus where I work, there is a small farmer’s village which is chock-a-block with noodle shops, family-style restaurants and street vendors.

My favorite, by far, are the street vendors, who sell everything from freshly grilled ears of corn to crepes to fried dough slathered in sesame seeds.

Not only is their fare delicious, but it’s also a cinch to order from them – even with my limited Chinese skills (unlike restaurants which actually expect you to do fancy things like read a menu).

All you have to do is walk up to their cart; say “hello” a few times while grinning stupidly until the vendor has noticed you (and, usually, a crowd has formed). Point hungrily at whatever it is they happen to be dishing out. Hand over a wad of cash (because you haven’t actually learned what any of that funny money means or how much things should actually cost). Get your change. Say “thank you” a few times. (At this point, you might want to add in a few more “hellos” to the crowd, too). Walk away with your new treat (usually while cramming said treat directly into your mouth). Show up at the next cart and repeat the aforementioned process.

Dinner is served! Easy peasy!

Aside from the wonderful street foods, China also has all manner of wonderful snack foods.

Like cool and refreshing cucumber-flavored potato chips…

Cool and refreshing lime potato chips…

Cool and refreshing vanilla ice cream Oreos (which actually did have a weird “cooling” after-taste to them)…

And cool and refreshing bacon! (Okay, maybe not so cool and refreshing… but it was delicious. And it was real bacon – not like the wimpy ham strips that Japan tries to pawn off as bacon in its grocery stores. Japan, if you’re listening, you should be ashamed of yourself! Ham is not bacon. Canada, you might want to take note of this, too.)

The challenge

It isn’t all couches and potato chips and pajamas in public here in China. It is, as many people warned me, a challenge to live here – especially compared to Chiang Mai.

I loved Chiang Mai — it was a very comfortable place to live.

A lot of people spoke English. (And, if all else failed, I could speak four whole words of Thai – four! That’s double my knowledge of Mandarin — double!).

My neighborhood boasted a Mexican restaurant, a pizza place, an international grocery store, a Starbucks and countless other coffee shops and more convenience stores than you could shake a stack of Pringles at.

There was a mall with a cinema (and the best karaoke place in town!) within walking distance.

My television actually had channels I could understand.

I had lots of friends.

Aside from my lack of a couch, life was good… and easy – almost too easy. (If there even is such a thing as too easy. Is there? Nope, I didn’t think so.)

Life in China is definitely more of a challenge.

I will, most likely, need to learn more Chinese to be able to get around and travel independently.

My neighborhood doesn’t have any restaurants that serve stuff with cheese on it.

Yesterday, I had to take a bus for twenty minutes in the rain to get to the closest Starbucks. (A bus! For twenty minutes! In the rain! To get to Starbucks! Talk about hardship — now I know how the Pilgrims must have felt.)

But it’s been a fun challenge, so far.

After all, no one said love would be easy.


I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On February 27, 2011 at 4:12 pm Roy said:

    Interesting read! I have a friend going to China this summer – I shall pass this on 🙂
    Roy recently posted..Goodbye To Shipmates

    • On February 27, 2011 at 4:22 pm Sally said:

      Hope it helps! Of course, China is a HUGE country, so I can’t say my situation would apply to all (or even most) people coming to China. And I’m pretty sure they don’t give out couches like mine to just anyone! 🙂

  2. On February 27, 2011 at 4:16 pm TravelMaus said:

    The pilgrims were actually enticed to America with promises of Hazelnut Latte Grandes. Boy were they in for a rude awakening !

  3. On February 27, 2011 at 4:19 pm jill- Jack and JIll Travel said:

    I’m pretty sure Starbucks would sympathize with your your plight is working hard to remedy that 🙂

    Really excited for your new adopted country, new job, and cucumber flavored potato chips (can’t wait to try it!)
    jill- Jack and JIll Travel recently posted..11 Steps to Get Your Ass Kicked by A Mountain

  4. On February 27, 2011 at 4:22 pm Camels & Chocolate said:

    Forget China. I have a massive girl crush on that couch of yours! (It is a lady, right?) And I wouldn’t say no to cool and refreshing Chinese Oreos either!
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..Photo Friday- Bastia- Corsica

    • On February 27, 2011 at 4:26 pm Sally said:

      My favorite so far were the Lime potato chips: very tangy. Wasn’t so crazy about the Oreos… but I only tried the one kind. And, as for my couch, she/he/it is taken!

  5. On February 27, 2011 at 4:45 pm Lauren said:

    Awesome! Sounds like you’re having a great time! I’ll be heading to China in August this year, and can’t wait to try the cucumber crisps – haha! 🙂
    Lauren recently posted..Will I ever stop changing my mind

  6. On February 27, 2011 at 5:01 pm Allison said:

    I’ve been telling my homeland that ham is not bacon for years. She’s not listening. Neither are my fellow Canadians, who actually prefer the ham.

    In all seriousness, coming from someone with her own love affair with China, great post. Makes me wonder why I am sitting in Toronto and not in Beijing. Or Hong Kong. I loved living in Hong Kong.

    • On February 27, 2011 at 11:59 pm Sally said:

      Yeah, and you Canadians drink milk from a bag! I mean, ham-for-bacon and milk-from-a-bag? It’s a wonder anyone reaches adulthood in that country!

      • On March 4, 2011 at 10:28 am Kelly said:

        Hold up, there! I know what you’re talking about, but in some parts of Canada, we bought our milk in cartons and jugs and had bacon that really, truly IS bacon (not that I eat either option). I myself had no idea milk came in bags until I visited my grandma in Toronto and was thoroughly baffled (still am, every time I visit!).
        Kelly recently posted..It’s Showtime!

  7. On February 27, 2011 at 5:41 pm Shane said:

    This is starting to get pornograhic. Will next week’s couch photo be shot from behind? Perhaps with a little bit more upholstery showing? I’m not judging, just concerned.

    I loved that Chinese habit of coming up for a chat despite the language barrier too.
    Shane recently posted..The Man Who Went up a Mountain… and vowed Never to go Near One Again

    • On February 27, 2011 at 11:58 pm Sally said:

      Please don’t turn my love for my couch into something dirty. This is merely the pure, innocent love shared between a woman and her favorite piece of furniture! 🙂

  8. On February 27, 2011 at 6:24 pm Ayngelina said:

    The couch is pretty sweet. I want to see more of what you eat!
    Ayngelina recently posted..Don’t hate me because I’m lazy

    • On February 27, 2011 at 11:57 pm Sally said:

      Definitely will have to write a post on the street food. I’ve been so surprised by the diversity of it & how delicious it is. The other day I had this rolled-up sandwich thing that was amazing. May also have to write a post on the potato chips… which means I will have to eat even more potato chips. Alas, the things I do for this blog!

  9. On February 27, 2011 at 7:55 pm magdalena said:

    You’re a terrific writer! Looking forward to reading more from you

  10. On February 27, 2011 at 8:07 pm Sophie said:

    Oooh, glad to see such a positive post about China, it’s one of my favourite countries as well. Where in China are you?
    Sophie recently posted..Daydreaming Dubai

  11. On February 27, 2011 at 8:16 pm Krista from Passportdelicious.com said:

    OMG there are so many things I want to say about this post!!! Firstly, I loved it! It’s awesome. I’m trying to retweet it now to everyone but Twitter seems to be f*cked this week.

    One of my company’s back office operations is in China and I have colleagues named Peanut. And Blue. And Meow. (And Meow? His last name is also Meow. I am not kidding. Spelling might be Mieow or something but still…)

    Secondly, I LOVE the potato chip flavor suggestions. Cucumber and lime actually sound quite nice! I wish Lay’s did a competition in the US like they do in the UK where you pick the best new flavor every year.

    Thirdly, we could probably get Starbucks to send you some Via. It’s not entirely the same, but it’s not bad…
    Krista from Passportdelicious.com recently posted..Tell Me Which Desk I Should Buy…

    • On February 27, 2011 at 11:55 pm Sally said:

      Wait, you have a colleague named Meow Meow. THAT is awesome. I’m now going to suggest at least one of my students changes his/her name to Meow Meow… I may even give bonus points.
      The lime was definitely my fave potato chip so far — but there are many more to try; including lemon tea flavor, mini-tomato flavor, Mexican chicken flavor & Italian red meat flavor (and these are just the flavors I could read in English!).

      • On October 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm Alex said:

        The lemon tea flavor isn’t bad, but I definitely like the lime flavor best! Try the Spring Onion Bugles—they’re amazing! Have you tried the crazy ice cream bars with half a chocolate bar inside (and chocolate coating)? They’re unbelievable, and only about RMB 2.5!

        I’m in a tiny town, too (of four million people)—there’s no Starbucks, but there is a McDonald’s and a KFC. Now if I could just find a Pizza Hut…

        • On October 23, 2011 at 1:18 pm Sally said:

          Yes, I love the lime ones the best, too. I’m also pretty partial to the cucumber ones — very refreshing… well, refreshing for a potato chip! I haven’t tried the bugles and what is this ice cream bar concoction you are talking about? MUST TRY IT.
          I love how we both consider 4 million people “tiny”. 🙂 At least Wuxi does have a Starbucks (and a new Pizza Hut!). Wheeeee! (Not that I’m rubbing it in or anything.)

  12. On February 27, 2011 at 11:09 pm Heather said:

    Aww Sally is in love!!!

    I once wore my PJs in London to walk from my friend’s flat to the closest Starbucks. No one said a word but I don’t think they were as keen as your new neighbors. I expect to see photos in the future!
    Heather recently posted..Burgers in Sydney

    • On February 27, 2011 at 11:53 pm Sally said:

      I really wanted to take pictures in their PJs for this post but I always feel like a jerk for snapping pics of people — especially when I plan on splashing them across the Internet. But maybe I can take a few photos of the kind of PJs they wear here — they’re padded & look very cozy. I can understand the urge to want to wear them everywhere!

  13. On February 27, 2011 at 11:43 pm MaryAnne said:

    Maybe you do have some Venus in you after all…
    MaryAnne recently posted..Notes on Genocidal Tourism in Cambodia

  14. On February 27, 2011 at 11:55 pm Kim said:

    Hilarious, again! I’m glad you’re loving China. That really is a sweet couch. Perfect for a little afternoon lounge with junk food.
    Kim recently posted..The Journey

  15. On February 28, 2011 at 11:53 am Lorna - the roamantics said:

    oh sally! you’re like a dose of good medicine! and not, like, for the clap or something 😉 this had me lmao, and i have to say that your couch is swanktastic! it may have to arm wrestle with my house on wheels’ interior for most swankalicious, but it’d be a close one for sure. glad you’ve found true love and can’t wait to read more of the love stories to come 🙂
    Lorna – the roamantics recently posted..Eureka! An Off-Beat Dream Leads to a Road Trip There

  16. On February 28, 2011 at 2:08 pm Arina said:

    So you’re kind of great, and you actually seem like a real person with real fears, which makes me like you even more. All I’ve been doing for the past year is researching and reading travel blogs (note: I have no epic trips planned until I finish university 2 years from now) and it seems like everyone just gives you these rules to leave your old life behind and I’m like.. THAT DOESN’T SEEM THAT EASY, or RIGHT. AT ALL. But you.. I don’t know, maybe it’s your humour that’s making me feel really calm after reading you about my future travel plans, but you do. You make me feel calm, like, holy shit, maybe I can actually do this and not crap out and make something of my life. Maybe I can.
    Arina recently posted..passport to freezing

  17. On February 28, 2011 at 6:23 pm Ceri said:

    Great post. 😀 I did wonder what you were going to do about being on the net. I know quite a few sites are restricted over there.

    Everything here makes me so excited for you, Sally. It sounds like such a great country. 😀 I can not wait to read more about your time there.
    Ceri recently posted..Shuffling songs- Being like Cosmo and Attractiveness

  18. On February 28, 2011 at 7:40 pm Terry said:

    I guess this explains why you’ve been too busy to respond to my e-mail!

  19. On February 28, 2011 at 9:15 pm Daryle said:

    Thank you, Sally! You never fail to entertain and enlighten. Love your blog.

  20. On February 28, 2011 at 11:03 pm Erica said:

    I’m glad that China is treating you well! Dare I say you may be it’s mistress?

    I’m super excited to read your thoughts on it while you continue to settle in. <3
    Erica recently posted..Fur Babies- Your Fuzzy Children

  21. On February 28, 2011 at 11:36 pm Mikeachim said:

    You know what I love most about this post?

    It’s the words.

    (You’re good at this writing lark).

    But hey, the *other* thing I love most about this post is this: it’s a post that doesn’t bash China. You’re admitting that much of it is a challenge – but you’re also saying that’s not a negative thing. You’re recognising that it will always require a little hard work. A little compromise. A few habits changed, here and there. A meeting in the middle, again and again.

    That’s true love, that is.

    Good on ya.

  22. On March 1, 2011 at 6:30 pm Photogenuiss said:

    My previous technique of reading all tags from bottom to top has what I expected kept me on my toes. I know I said that’s what I wanted, but now I know that’s not what I want at all. I’m confused. Every post I read, I as the reader fully believe that you are at that present moment working on a rice farm, or sanding a boat or teaching in Japan, the next post you’re kitty snuggling and then back to Japan for three years. Before I took on my bottom to top tag technique I just willy-nilly started reading, so now I’ve read a few posts for the second time around and by the time I realized I’d already read that post and laughed at those jokes I’m too far in to stop. So this is it, this is my final change of reading technique. I will start with February 2011.
    So my unbrave girl quote of the day that went out in my morning rant was the whole paragraph about your fish in hot water joke that got lost on your students. I normally don’t find things like that funny, but I’ve been hanging out with my English major friend pretty much daily now and she’s always coming up with puns like this. She throws her head back in laughter at her own jokes and I can’t help but think that my friend is such a nerd and by association I’m a nerd and well, your hot water fish joke was a lil’ nerdy. (of course I laughed hysterically) The following was my facebook status yesterday, which I am sure you will find humour in:
    Me: we are cooking machines! Chels: Like ovens? Me: What a wholesome life he must lead when we find jokes like these outrageously funny.
    I also laughed at the line about “shaking a stack of pringles at…..” regarding Chiang Mai. If it ain’t pringles from the local 7-11/mini mart then it’s mentos. (ahhh sigh, a lil’ skip of the heart for Thailand)

    • On March 2, 2011 at 10:41 am Sally said:

      I kind of like this idea of me existing in some weird time-space continuum. So have you finished all my previous posts or am I still floating somewhere in the ether above Malaysia/Thailand/Laos/etc? If so, I would appreciate it if you could transport me some place warm! This winter thing is killing me!
      And, come on, that fish in hot water joke is HILARIOUS!

  23. On March 2, 2011 at 12:55 am Christy said:

    Awesome read! So happy you’ve had such a positive experience in your first week. From everything I read and hear, I have been expecting nothing but hell! You have me more excited than ever to get to China. And those chips – cucumber all the way for me. Until of course the night markets – SO excited for those.

    You are a fantastic writer! Looking forward to following your journey.

    BTW – any recs for VPN’s?


    • On March 2, 2011 at 10:40 am Sally said:

      So sorry to hear that your visa didn’t go through. Do you think you’ll, at least, be visiting China? The cucumber chips are pretty dang good — may be worth the trip!

  24. On March 2, 2011 at 2:55 am Christy @ Technosyncratic said:

    “Middle Kingdom sounds like some place with lots of angry trolls” –> this made me LOL for real!

    And that couch looks awesome; cushy and comfortable and stylish. What more could a person look for in a couch?
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..Wizarding World of Harry Potter

    • On March 2, 2011 at 10:38 am Sally said:

      A cup holder, would be nice. Sometimes I have to drag the coffee table over so I can put my glass of wine somewhere (when it’s not attached to my lips) and that takes a lot of effort!

  25. On March 2, 2011 at 5:14 am Tawny Marie said:

    You.Have.BACON?! I’ll be shouting this from the rooftops in Korea! I have to make a monthly pilgrimage to Costco just to get my hands on the stuff.

    • On March 2, 2011 at 10:37 am Sally said:

      Yes, I was very excited when I found the bacon at the grocery store — and it was just in the regular grocery store in the regular pork section so I didn’t even need to go to all ends of the earth to find it! Wheee! Reason enough to move to China, I do believe!

  26. On March 2, 2011 at 10:47 am Juno said:

    I think I’m in love with the Big C. Not that I’m thinking about the TV show. 🙂 My vote is to Lime potato chip… please send me some.

    • On March 2, 2011 at 10:52 am Sally said:

      Ooo, they are SO good! I’d send you some, but I doubt I’d be able to put them in the mail without testing them first (you know, for your own sake!). 🙂

  27. On March 2, 2011 at 10:55 am Jacob Yount said:

    Sally, a fun and warm-hearted read. It’s stayed in my mind all day and was fun to think about. I call it the “antidote for ges / grumpy expat syndrome”. We’re in the same province ~ if you pass through Suzhou, look us up.

    Have rockin’ time in China.
    Jacob Yount recently posted..Handling Issues in China

    • On March 2, 2011 at 11:05 am Sally said:

      Glad I could help relieve a little bit of the grumpiness! I’m pretty sure I’ve been driving all the grumpy expats at my work crazy with my sunny attitude (well, not so sunny at the moment as I’ve come down with a cold) — I know the newcomers and their sunny dispositions used to irk me something awful in Japan!
      I’ll definitely be checking out Suzhou. I’ve heard it’s a great place for weekend visits from here. I’ll let you know when I’m planning to visit!

  28. On March 2, 2011 at 11:13 am Christine said:

    I swear one of the best things about being in a new country is discovering what type of Lays or Ruffles flavors they have. Here in Spain the best are the Jamon Iberico flavored ruffles, mmm! Great, entertaining post 🙂
    Christine recently posted..Photo Essay- Seeing My Surroundings With New Eyes

    • On March 2, 2011 at 12:08 pm Sally said:

      Mmm, that does sound good! They have lots of meat flavored options here — but I’m working my way up to those. I feel those are more like “main course” chips so I’ll have to buy them on a day I’m REALLY hungry (as opposed to the “cool & refreshing” chips which act more like a palate cleanser between meals, if you will).

  29. On March 2, 2011 at 2:43 pm Choi Kum Fook said:

    Miss Sally, since you have time and chance in teaching in China, you have more opportunity to learn Mandarin than any other people. I hope we can converse each other in Mandarin when I meet you next time. okay!? Certainly,knowing Mandarin is very good for you!!!. .

  30. On March 2, 2011 at 3:15 pm Scott - Quirky Travel Guy said:

    Fascinating post. Working 16 hours a week sounds great. And I love those exotic flavors of foods in Asia… I can only imagine what cucumber flavored chips taste like!
    Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted..Your guide to the Bonnaroo music festival

    • On March 3, 2011 at 12:32 am Sally said:

      Well, lest you think I’m a total slacker, I do work more than 16 hours — those are just my teaching hours. I do spend quite a bit of time outside of class grading & planning… but it’s definitely not as demanding as jobs I’ve had in the past, that’s for sure!

  31. On March 2, 2011 at 5:01 pm Amanda said:

    Haha, this made me laugh so many times! But, then again, your writing always does. I’m glad to hear you’re loving China! It certainly is a challenging place, but an interesting one, too.

    Have you seen the “American Flavor” potato chips?? Those were my favorite, just for the name.

    Also, the next Chinese phrase you should learn is “Bu yao” – meaning “No want.” It can help you fend off vendors trying to sell you watches and DVDs. Unless, of course, you want to buy all manner of watches and DVDs… Then I guess you’re good with just the “hello” and “thank you”!
    Amanda recently posted..Best Blogs of the Week &amp What in the World

    • On March 3, 2011 at 12:31 am Sally said:

      “American Flavor”?? I haven’t seen those yet & I can’t even imagine what that means (Hamburger flavored? Donut flavored? Hamburger AND donut flavored?). Must begin my quest to find them!

  32. On March 2, 2011 at 7:29 pm gretta said:

    i miss traveling…and i miss you! ..and i miss potato chips

  33. On March 2, 2011 at 11:55 pm Phil said:

    Sally, sounds like a great gig. 16 hours a week with college age kids! Are there other job openings!?

    “Any culture that openly embraces the wearing of pajamas and fuzzy slippers in public is alright by me. ”


    Glad to hear you are enjoying Big C 🙂
    Phil recently posted..The Story No One is Talking About

  34. On March 3, 2011 at 1:09 am Staffa said:

    did you just write “chock-a-block”! Ha, I haven’t heard that in years.

  35. On March 3, 2011 at 7:47 am Jeremy B said:

    So the witty, wordy, travel writer moves to China huh? Ok I admit it – this was a hilarious and ingenious approach. Quite honestly, I doubt China gets very many love letters. Sure, they probably get told they are loved a lot because they tell people “OK tell me you love me…no really…TELL ME!” But it is rare that someone professes a genuine love for them.

    I have to say this though – Maybe it’s just a crush? Hopefully it turns out to be the real thing. I am sure you will have your awkward moments as those in love often do. Hopefully you move past them and your life will be better for the new love you have found! Best of luck with the new relationship!
    Jeremy B recently posted..5 ways to connect with locals when you travel

    • On March 3, 2011 at 1:08 pm Sally said:

      Well, it IS possible it’s just puppy love… but I’m only planning on being here until the end of June (possibly until end of July if I can extend my visa), so I’m hoping that’s a short enough time that I don’t grow out of love with China. But China should really buy me some more chocolate… I mean, come on, China! Step it up a notch or I could easily start pining away for some other country… I hear Mongolia knows how to treat the ladies right!

  36. On March 3, 2011 at 12:11 pm Gray said:

    This is an awesome post, and I am incredibly envious of your work hours! I think we all ought to have work hours like those (even if it doesn’t come with free housing). We need to start lobbying Congress. Think about it: If everybody only worked 16 hours a week, everyone in the US would be employed and much happier than they currently are. Wealth could be distributed more evenly. It’s a total win. (Except…OMG, I’m promoting communism, aren’t I?) But getting back to your job, teaching adults who want to learn English sounds ideal. Congrats on the great gig!
    Gray recently posted..The World is Her Classroom

    • On March 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm Sally said:

      Admittedly, I do work more than 16 hours a week — as it’s a writing class I have a lot of grading to do and there’s always lesson planning. But I can get that work done at home so it’s nice not to have to sit in an office…. oh yeah, and the Fridays off are super sweet.

  37. On March 3, 2011 at 3:35 pm Kenan Lucas said:

    China completely fascinates me. I wouldn’t use the L word myself, but lets just say if I was in high school and there was a school dance going on, I would totally considering asking China to be my date.

    AND WOW 16 HOURS A WEEK. That sounds cruise-y. Obviously you live rent-free and have a reflective surface and comfortable couch, but what about the rest of your expenses? Are you scrounging to get by?

    I am set to teach English in Japan as of April. If you have any tips PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

    • On March 4, 2011 at 3:49 am Sally said:

      Now, the question is, are you taking China to the prom or just one of those informal school dances? And what time are you going to bring China home? Remember China has homework to do!
      As for my expenses, I wouldn’t say I’m scrounging. I definitely make a lot less than I did in Japan, but the cost of living and traveling is a lot less here so I don’t spend as much. I am hoping I will also be able to save most of my salary to use towards traveling this summer — but we’ll see how that goes!

  38. On March 3, 2011 at 9:08 pm Amy said:

    I’ll be going to China in a month or two to teach English and I’m so glad to hear that you like it! Well, that you love it! I’ve also heard people badmouthing China, so I have been a little worried recently, but I’m even more excited to go now! 🙂 Especially if I can find a couch half as beautiful as that! 🙂
    Amy recently posted..Know Before You Go- Ways to Learn From Home and Make Your Trip Easier

  39. On March 4, 2011 at 3:46 am Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures said:

    I’m also in love with the “Big C,” having spent a couple of months there last year. Yes, people will stare and approach you talking in Chinese, but everyone I was able to communicate with was very curious about me. One of the first words I learned in Chinese was my nationality because EVERYONE wanted to know that! Of course, I couldn’t understand them so they would eventually point to themselves and say “China” and then point to me…

    What city are you in anyways?

  40. On March 4, 2011 at 4:32 am Candice said:

    I am jealous of your couch AND your life. Can you get me a job there, please?

    I know EXACTLY what you mean about being the most productive when you’re overwhelmed in work. I could take this exact huge workload and add it to a part-time job, and suddenly I’m finishing things up with hours to spare. Outstanding.
    Candice recently posted..Life Advice From an Unemployed Artist

    • On March 4, 2011 at 4:50 am Sally said:

      Probably the most productive I’ve ever been was when I was working one full-time job, two part-time jobs and going to grad school. I have no idea how I even SURVIVED that year, let alone found time to lounge on my couch and stare numbly at my TV (which I did… because back then I was in the States where my TV served as a TV and not just a reflective surface!).
      You want a job here, you got it! For serious. I’m sure they’ll be needing teachers for the fall, and the program I work for is Canadian so they really love to hire the Canadians. (I think I only got the job because I’m from Buffalo, which is practically like Canada!).

  41. On March 4, 2011 at 4:55 am Michael said:

    Sadly, you can’t find cheese in most places. I usually have to go downtown into a fancy international supermarket to buy cheese and it’ll cost 10x more than it would at home. Worth it still but a pain.

    Starbucks is about 30minutes away from me. I gotta admit though, I love the D&D better here. Sorry!

    Oh and I totally know how you feel about the apartment. I’m totally hooked up here at my place. I have TWO couches and a kitchen I will never use that has become a stock room for Oreo’s and other (un)healthy snacks.

    Come to Xi’an….

    • On March 4, 2011 at 5:15 am Sally said:

      I found some cheese yesterday at my nearby grocery store & I bought it — cost me three times as much as dinner usually does but I don’t care!
      I haven’t seen any D&D here… in fact, I’m saddened at how hard it is to get a good coffee here. I was totally spoiled in Chiang Mai — so much awesome coffee there!
      And you have TWO couches? Whoa. You really ARE spoiled!

  42. On March 5, 2011 at 3:46 am Randy said:

    Love it! Super creative post. I’m envious of your couch and, dare I say, your employment. I also enjoy not working, but I am definitely not as productive when it’s all on me.
    Randy recently posted..The Essential Wwoofing Pack List

  43. On March 6, 2011 at 9:29 am HappyHomemakerUK said:

    What an exciting move! So glad to have stumbled upon your wonderful blog.

  44. On March 6, 2011 at 11:27 am Theodora said:

    Woot! So glad you’re back blogging. And so glad you love China, too: I’m also nervous about the prospect of learning Mandarin.

    That has to be the best couch I’ve seen in mainland South-East Asia. Congrats!
    Theodora recently posted..Learning to Love Our Motorbike

  45. On March 6, 2011 at 10:19 pm Leslie (Downtown Traveler) said:

    Glad you enjoy your new home! That couch is beyond fabulous 😉
    Leslie (Downtown Traveler) recently posted..Stephen King’s scary clown inspires NYC street art photo of the week

  46. On April 9, 2011 at 3:19 pm Steve said:

    Glad you’re enjoying China. I’ve been living between Beijing & Chengdu for 18 months now and there are still surprises every day.

    Oh, and try the ‘Numb & Spicy Hot Pot’ flavour Lay’s – worryingly addictive…
    Steve recently posted..Beating the Ghost – YongHe Temple- Beijing

  47. On April 24, 2011 at 11:25 am Angela said:

    Umm.. I’m developing an unealthy fixation on China myself, and this is a little destabilizing as I wasn’t prepared. I’m on my sixth year of living as an expat and although I enjoyed my former hometowns, I never fell in love with them. Thing that is happening in China. What should I do now? I had all my plans for future hometowns settled and I’m not ready to leave the Big C!
    Angela recently posted..A Carnival of local markets around the world

    • On April 24, 2011 at 12:53 pm Sally said:

      The Big C & I had a couple rough weeks after that post (contracting the Plague will do that to love), but I just spent the weekend in Beijing and I’m officially back in crush-mode.
      As for what you should do, please don’t ask me. I have a new life plan every 2 hours (before going to Beijing I was all ready to get out of Asia, now I’m ready to settle here forever… sigh.)

  48. On December 28, 2011 at 2:58 pm Alexandra said:

    I just LOL’d at Fish in hot water – poor guy.
    Alexandra recently posted..A Very Chinese Christmas

  49. On June 1, 2012 at 3:20 am Jessica Hill said:

    You’re amazing! I just read every word of this love letter – you’re a talented writer. You might have convinced me to move to China…
    Jessica Hill recently posted..It’s Only a Dollar in Siem Reap, Cambodia

    • On June 3, 2012 at 2:19 am Sally said:

      Thank you, Jessica! But don’t blame me if you don’t love it here. Of course you’d be crazy not to love it here — I mean who doesn’t love wearing pajamas in public & dumplings??? 🙂

  50. On March 3, 2013 at 2:08 pm Alex said:

    What a charming letter! Made me smile so much, how lovely. I’m going to university to study Chinese, so hopefully I’ll be living in China in a few years’ time! Where do you work in China if you mind my asking? Was it easy to find such an appealing-sounding job? I can’t wait to go there! 😀

  51. On March 26, 2014 at 9:35 am Nomadic Boys said:

    Absolutely wet myself reading this – hilarious 🙂
    Love your style of writing.
    Where in China was this?
    We are heading there in Aug/Sept and having to pre book everything in order to get the friggin’ visa 🙁
    Nomadic Boys recently posted..Buying a good backpack for travelling

    • On March 30, 2014 at 6:11 pm Sally said:

      Glad you enjoyed it. I was in Wuxi — about an hour away from Shanghai by fast train. Good luck with your trip. I’m sure you’ll love it! (And kind of hate it — China kind of has that effect. But mostly love it. I hope!)


  1. best of {take 4} :: .liveit.loveit.blogit.
  2. The Twitter 10: March 2011 | The Working Traveller
  3. The Friday Five: March 4, 2011 | Aaron's Worldwide Adventures
  4. Love Hurts: Sally Versus China | unbrave girl
  5. Talking Shop: The Unbrave Girl’s Guide to Grocery Shopping in China | unbrave girl
  6. Love It or Leave It: My Decision to Stay in China | unbrave girl
  7. unbrave girl | 5 Things I Learned After 10 Months of Living in China (with pictures!)
  8. unbrave girl | What Happened in Harbin (Or how freezing my fingers off made me love China again.)
  9. unbrave girl | Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: My Dear John Letter to China
  10. Finding An Apartment in Taipei: Welcome To My Crib - Waegook Tom

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