I’ve been living in China for the better part of the past 2 years. At times I’ve been frustrated, surprised, and clueless. However, for the most part, I’ve felt welcomed. I’ve learned to be comfortable here and there are many things I’m going to miss when I return to the United States. The following is not a comprehensive list. The more I think about it, the more things I realize I’ll remember.
Of course, I’ll miss the big things. The students who are amazing. For the most part they are sweet and kind. They often let me know how they appreciate me, as well as the other foreign faculty and our commitment to teaching them. Even though many of the holidays we celebrate are not Chinese, they will send greetings or give small gifts (a card, bookmark, etc.) to commemorate these days. A few of my former students have made it their mission to share the local cuisine with me and we go out to eat almost every Friday.
I’ll also miss many of the foreign faculty and their families. We have a pretty close-knit community here. We have each other’s backs in a way that doesn’t often happen in the United States, at least not in my experience. For example, when someone goes to the hospital we sign up to take meals to them. We have a WeChat group where people can post “in search of” (ISO) items that others will sell to them. More often, the needed items are simply given—especially if they are small things like eggs, spices, vegetables, OTC medications, etc.
I’ll miss the food. Hot pot, málàtàng (麻辣烫), ròujiāmó (肉夹馍), fruit tea, milk tea, and so many other food and drinks are new pleasures I’ve discovered here. Many of the other things that I’ll miss may be thought of as incidentals, but they make up the warp and woof of my life here.
One of the things I’ll miss is the easy accessibility of most of my daily needs. Aside from some Western things we have to travel to Zhengzhou to purchase, everything is within walking distance. Most things can be purchased on campus as close as 2 blocks away. If we need to go further than a couple blocks, it’s usually about a 15-minute walk or a short ride by bus or taxi.
I’ll miss my manicurist and my hair stylist. I found a very good stylist about 4 months ago. Her shop is off campus but it is only about 4 blocks away. Even though we don’t share a language, somehow we communicate. She is young, very talented, and has become popular with several of the foreign faculty women. I’ll also miss my manicurist. She is located right here on campus. Her station is inside one of the stationery shops in Italian Square, which is down some steps and around the corner from Peter Hall (the foreign faculty apartment building). She is the best manicurist within walking distance and her prices are actually the lowest.
I’ll miss WeChat Pay and Alipay. They are two apps on my phone that enable me to pay for things everywhere without carrying cash. This is an incredible convenience. Whenever I go shopping the States, I automatically reach for my phone to pay. Then I realize that I have to use actual cash. Using cash is something I’ll have to get used to again.
I’ll miss WeChat. It is an easy way to keep up with what’s going on in the community. I use it to communicate with my students and other faculty. I can send files, documents, and pictures. I regularly send documents to my students that I’d otherwise have to print. So it saves on paper. I also use it to remind students of assignments and what they need to bring to class. At first, the WeChat app may be intimidating for new foreigners. But setting up a WeChat group for your class is so easy “even a foreigner can do it.” But students are always willing to do it for you if you want them to.
I’ll miss the way Chinese cities are busy at night. I’ve walked around many cities quite late at night and the people are still out and about. They walk to local “food streets” to buy late night meals, snacks, and drinks. Then they hang out with family and friends talking and just sharing life. It is quite safe to be out at night in these areas.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are so many things I’ll miss that I can’t write them all down. Every time I think I’ve come to the end of the list I think of something else.
What fond memories do you have of places you’ve been or favorite activities you’ve shared with friends or families? I’d love to hear from you about some of these things. Also, If you have any questions, please drop me a line. I’m always available to answer questions.
My family will miss you, Sheila!