It’s official! It’s been 10 weeks of living in China so far (Ryan for 12). It’s strange because honestly everything still feels so new; so many things to see and experience that are on our list while we’re here. Other things aren’t so new, which means I’m getting used to it…and that’s a GREAT thing. I’ll explain why I’m really happy about this part.
Lately, there are some things going on at home that makes me wish I were there. Such as my brother getting into University. I’m SO proud of him! I wish I could celebrate with him, because it’s been some time and he really deserves it. My sisters both recently bought houses with their significant others and I’m not around to help them get settled in, or do renovations. Luckily I was able to be home for the passing of our one dog Odie just before I came to China, but wasn’t around for our oldest dog, Sparky. My cousin is getting married which I unfortunately can’t make it home for (sorry Michelle!). I’ll also be missing the regular birthdays and other celebrations that go on. I’m missing out on quite a bit by being here. I’m not any less happy to be here with Ryan, and I really am enjoying myself; we’re having a blast experiencing the differences of China together. But lately I suppose I’ve been thinking about what I’m missing at home and it makes me miss being around! I think at home, I took for granted what it was like to just be available for the small or big family get togethers, like birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s and Father’s Day, or anything really you can think of.
So Ryan and I were trying to brainstorm some things that we REALLY miss from home. Some things that we never really thought we’d miss, but are excited to come home for. I mean family is a given (especially our two cute kitties we had to leave at home)! I miss my family lots and often think about them…and sometimes get that lump in my throat when it feels like I could cry because I’m imagining what it’ll be like when I see them again. I can give you a hint…waterworks! So I try to stay away from that thought. I haven’t cried in public yet, so that’s good! I was actually on the phone with my dad on Sunday wishing him a happy Father’s Day, and he was saying how him and the neighbours had just enjoyed dinner and drinks outside on the patio…now THAT I miss. I don’t think anything can really beat a Canadian summer. In China, we can’t come home from work and crack open a beer on the patio because 1) we don’t have a patio, and 2) it’s sometimes too hot and humid to want to do that. We could go to a restaurant or bar and sit outside, but then you’re not in the comfort of your own home and then we get the unwanted stares…But other than that, just sitting outside by the pool with some English music playing. There’s another one…I miss music. Or being able to have a fire out back whenever I feel like it…we can’t do this in China! And the company that would come with that, it’s not the same here.
Some other things we thought of were quite smaller and not so ‘necessary’. Although something small and necessary that they don’t have in China- gentleman you can ignore this part- they don’t have tampons! I don’t miss tampons to be clear, I knew this beforehand and stocked up before I left. But I’ve still kept my eyes open just in case, to see if any store would carry it. NOPE. Women in China cannot enjoy this luxury I suppose. So…I’m left with seeing some bloody tissue paper in the trash can whenever I go to the bathroom. Sorry for the detail, but this is something else I miss from home…the bathrooms. At home I can rely on a clean bathroom, pretty much anywhere I go. I’m definitely not high maintenance, but the bathrooms in China are often smelly and dirty. The smell is because most public bathrooms, you’re not allowed to flush the toilet paper down the toilet. So there’s a small garbage bin conveniently placed right beside the toilet for easy waste removal. BUT the bin is open, which means when you’re sitting down to relieve yourself, you’re also smelling the ‘relief’ of many other people before you. Another downside to the bathrooms is in most public places, they have squatty potties. Luckily, I am an expert at it now, but at first I was scared to use them for fear of peeing on my pants, or not being able to aim right into the hole. What’s gross, is that its commonly impossible to avoid stepping in someone else’s pee, because females don’t have good aim I suppose! But some places when people have to go #2, well I know right away that someone had diarrhea because they missed the toilet….lovely….For anyone that is making a trip to China (this is mostly regarded at the females), bring your own toilet paper when you go out! Public washrooms expect you to have your own toilet paper on you, so don’t forget it. Also, if you’re looking for a nice, clean bathroom: the airports and malls, or really high end restaurants WILL be clean (and have toilet paper)! But avoid train or subway station bathrooms, or if you’re seeing a temple or garden, try not to go there either; these places are the worst I’ve seen. Unfortunately for me, I have a small bladder and will use any bathroom I have access to; unless I can see diarrhea, then I’m out!! Hand sanitizer is necessary here. I guess at home you can still experience going into a stall where you see someone else’s waste in the toilet, but at least you don’t have to avoid stepping in it…
Okay, toilet rant aside…there are other things we miss. The big one for Ryan is delicious, juicy steak. It’s really difficult to find a thick juicy steak here in China, cooked to your own specifications. There’s multiple reasons why we would avoid steak if we saw it on the menu in China. Unless we are at a well-known high end restaurant, we are worried about the quality and price of the steak. In China they get their beef imported, and so the price is really high for a small piece of meat. I’ve ordered steak before and they don’t know how to cook it correctly. At home you could order a rare steak and it would be okay, but here if something isn’t cooked all the way through, I get concerned for my health. It seems like they only check to see that the outside is cooked, and the inside is still pink! Here in China is the first time I’ve had to send my steak back because the inside was still bloody. No thanks!
Since I’m on the topic of restaurants and food, something else we miss is being left alone when you order. Most places that we’ve gone to, the server will stand around the second you sit down waiting for your order. At first I would feel really pressured trying to choose right away because I figured that they’re in a rush. Actually, that’s just how they handle it! They will stand around to get your order, bring your food out when it’s ready, and then they leave you alone. What’s a bit shocking is that even at the Western restaurants, they don’t care if you ordered an appetizer and then a main course, you’re getting it whenever it’s ready. And now, I just let the server wait around until I’m ready to order, or if I can tell them, I’ll let them know to come back in a few minutes. So far I haven’t figured out how to handle the timing of when my food comes out, but that’s something I can deal with anyways. Another downside to restaurants in China is that often when you try to order something, they will be all out. Ryan and I sometimes have to end up asking ‘What DO you have?” to decide what to order. It was about 3 times we chose something and they came back to say that they were out. So something to add to the list of what Ryan and I miss…MOM you will love this. We miss my mom’s home cooked meals; the meatloaf she makes is Ryan’s favourite. Which brings up the joke of “MA! THE MEATLOAF! MAKE US SOME MEATLOAF!” It’s the best. Also her lasagna and tiramisu are the bomb. But I could go for any meal my mom makes, right now. YUM!
People working at a retail store in China are similar to servers in China in terms of not leaving you alone. The second you come into the store and start looking/ touching something, they will be right behind you. This one is pretty annoying, especially when I’m just trying to browse. Depending on my mood, I’ll just walk out because they’re seriously following me around too much. I think they just understand it as good service. One time I was going to sniff perfumes and the girl would open the bottle for me and let me smell it. I didn’t have to touch anything! So in a way I felt pretty special I suppose 😀 I was in a good mood that day.
Oh the driving! I’m not allowed to drive in China…well I could, but who would really want to. I would have to go through testing to get my license to drive (probably not too difficult), but the driving is crazy. Taxi and bus drivers are the worst, but also the best. I love getting around in a taxi since I don’t have to worry about driving, but as well, they’re able to maneuver around cars so much that it seems like I’m getting where I need to go faster. There’s really no rules with driving here, so things we’re not allowed to do at home (when sometimes you wish you could), can be done here. So in a way, I miss the driving from home because I don’t feel worried for my life…but on the other hand driving here is a dream come true for any traffic rule you ever wanted to break. Oh, and the police will never chase you for speeding or breaking ‘traffic rules’. If they do, you’re allowed to speed up and get away from them. Pretty sweet huh! Maybe I should get my license and start road racing…
We miss being ignored. It’s as simple as that really. Going to the gym at first was a bit to get used to because people will stop and stare. Going to a restaurant, the servers will place us white/foreign folks by a window so people walking by can look in and hopefully be inspired to come in to stare at us a bit more. I think I know what it feels like to be an animal at the zoo now…poor fella’s. Ryan’s had the experience of people checking out and touching his shopping cart items before. I think they know better than to try that with me…hehe. I mean any situation that would be normal at home, doesn’t feel normal for us here because we’re so different to Chinese people. I get that they’re curious and don’t mean any harm. But really sometimes I just want some privacy in public. Which sounds like a weird statement to make, but it’s true!
Some other small things we took for granted at home was how normal smelling and quiet things were. In China, you’ll get a constant change of smells. First it’ll be normal air, then fart, then flowers, then perfume, then shit, then pee, then some cooked food I can’t recognize, then someone’s bad breath, then air freshener…I mean it’s not consistent at all and my nose is in for a surprise every day. Keeps it interesting I guess! I usually always play the game of “It smells kind of like…”. In terms of the quiet part that I mentioned, I mean with anything. Driving in China is loud because people will honk ALL the time. Talking on the phone is loud, chewing is loud, laughing is obnoxious (usually by men). Not too much quiet going on.
The last and final thing Ryan and I thought of were stars. We really miss being able to look at the sky and see stars at night. I always enjoyed being able to see them at home, especially going out of the city and into the country and they’d be so much brighter. Here, the pollution is so bad that you can’t really ever see the sky. It actually wasn’t until last night when we were able to see some stars! They weren’t that bright, but it was really exciting. The same goes for being able to see blue skies…doesn’t happen too often, but starry skies are more uncommon.
I just wrote a lot of things that we miss, but as I mentioned up top, I’m getting used to all these changes. It’s not really so much a surprise anymore, and a lot of it is easy to handle now. But as usual, my mood plays an important part on what, and how well I can handle certain things! While this list may seem quite extensive and maybe cause you to wonder what I’m doing in China, well there’s also lots of things I really enjoy in China as well! So stay tuned for my blog about why I love it here, and why you should visit! Because you should.
Oh, and I miss easily accessible coffee. I’m currently trying to convert to being a tea drinker…boo!