Friday, August 27, 2010

Choosing Classes

So, after discussing about China's economic and social classes in my last post, I want to talk about a different type of class. After what I've learned and experienced in the two past months, I really want to study about more Chinese politics, society, and culture. Thankfully, this semester Yale offers very interesting classes about China. I'm having a hard time deciding between two of them in particular. They both deal with extremely fascinating topics. Of course, I will wait to "shop" the classes before I make a decision. Here are the two classes and their descriptions:

Wealth and Poverty in Modern China:
"The underlying causes and consequences of the changing distribution of income, material assets, and political power in contemporary China. Substantive focus on inequality and stratification. Instruction in the use of online Chinese resources relevant to research. Optional weekly Chinese language discussions."

The Chinese Disaspora and the Americas in Fiction and Film:
"Comparative survey of modern fiction and film portraying Chinese diaspora in North and South America. Topics include labor, migration, displacement, ethnicity, gender, linguistic hybridity, world Chinatowns, and popular culture. Readings in translation. Evening film screenings on alternate Mondays."

The first class is in the political science department, which means it will count towards my major, but the second class is a humanities credit (a distributional requirement). Any suggestions? I'm really torn between the two classes but taking both of them will not work with my schedule. I think I will see what each of the professors is like.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wealth and Poverty

About a week ago, I read this article in the NY Times about China becoming the second largest economy. This occurrence was inevitable, sooner or later. However, what is more surprising is this line:

Its [China's] per capita income is more on a par with those of impoverished nations like Algeria, El Salvador and Albania — which, along with China, are close to $3,600 — than that of the United States, where it is about $46,000.

This had me reflecting back upon my own trip. When I met up with friends living in Beijing, living the ex-pat life in sheltered modern communities, I believed that they did not have the opportunity to experience the "real China." Metropolitan, wealthy cities like Beijing and Shanghai really can shield a person from the realities of the larger country. Living in high-rise apartments and top-ranked universities, shopping in mega-malls, visiting tourist attractions, using sparkling clean flush toilets, sipping Starbucks coffee, and hopping swanky bars is a far cry from the typical experience of Chinese citizen. Even outside of the ex-pat community, Beijing's average standard of living towers over that of other areas.

I thought I knew the real China. After all, I had ridden in a motorbike in the streets of Changsha, used dirty public restrooms, slept four to a room, gone without air conditioning, lacked internet access at times, eaten fresh greens just picked from the garden, hand-washed clothes, visited public schools and daycares, bought produce from a street market, browsed in tiny street-side shops, and suffered the suffocating humidity of the summer.

However, even my experience cannot be thought of as the life of an average citizen. All my relatives and acquaintance were members of the upper-middle class. My uncle is the chief editor of a university journal. My other uncle is a golf course designer. My grandparents were university professors. One uncle is a prosecutor. Most of the people I have met are academics, the students and professors of prestigious universities. These are not average people - they are the cultural, if not economic, elite.

The cultural elite may not be able to afford houses (rarely anyone can!). They may have to live in apartments for the rest of the lives. However, they do not have to worry about putting food on the table. Their kids are well-provided for and go to good schools. TVs, cell phones, and computers are within their price range. They will have enough to live on comfortably after they retire. They definitely make over the per capita income of $3,600 cited above. They are a part of the "real China," but they are in no way representative of the average citizen.

What is the face of the average citizen? Maybe the lady carrying the large woven baskets of bokchoy to the market down the street. The salesgirl in the tiny shop, her eyes eager as you walk in. The construction worker, dusty and sweaty from toiling under the midday sun. The little boy in the country, his bare feet muddy from helping on the farm. His older brother, eyes bright with opportunity as he enters the city to find a job and begin a new life. The old nanny, who left her family behind in the village in order to take care of another household.

I'm glad I got to see more of China this summer, but I cannot fool myself into believing that I lived the life of the average Chinese. But won't the nation's fast economic growth aid its citizens? China is changing. The expanding economy has improved the lives of millions of citizens while simultaneously crushing the dreams of others. A large city sucks in migrant workers with its demand for construction of new high-rises, while ejecting long-time residents with the demolition of old neighborhoods. Electricity and modern conveniences are now more available to farmers, while the the land and rivers that support their livelihood become more and more polluted everyday.

Development is a paradox. I can only hope it will be for the best in the end.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The One-Child Policy

So many of you probably know that China has a one-child policy, started in 1978. The government implemented this controversial policy because of fear that the population would grow far too large to be sustainable. The laws are not always concrete though, and slowly I think the government has relaxed upon many restrictions. However, this policy has many social consequences.

The Policy

If you have a second child, you are subject to heavy fines. You may lose your job if you work for the public sector. Therefore, making the wrong decision could cripple your family's finances and future. However, it seems now that instead of viewing the monetary penalty as a punishment, some people (with enough money) see it as the price to pay to have a second child. Additionally, if you work in the private sector, your career might not be affected.

There are many other exemptions. If one of the children is born in another country (or Hong Kong), he or she doesn't count and the parents can have another child. If both parents are single children in their respective families, they can have two children. Farmers in rural areas can have more than one child. Members of minority groups are also not limited to one child.

Therefore, if you are wealthy, you basically can ignore the laws, because you can either afford to pay the fines or afford to go to another country to give birth. However, the majority of the population does not have so much free-spending money. Hence, most people that live in urban areas only have one child.

I have read articles and books about the human rights abuses involved, such as women being forced to be sterilized and have abortions. I'm sure these stories are true though I have not personally heard of or observed any such atrocities. In my opinion, since most citizens seem to be complacent and passive with the government's policies, they accept birth control and abortions as a normal way of life. When I spoke with people about the policy, most of them did not really like it but thought it necessary to control China's population.

The Effects

There are so many concrete problems that arise from the one-child policy, aside from the issues of reproductive rights and privacy. Of course, these issues aren't absolute, because as I mentioned before, there are loopholes where couples can have more than one child. However, the effects are real and growing, especially upon the families.

  • The Parents: It is traditional in Chinese families that when the kids grow up, they support their parents through old age. Children are like insurance. The parents usually are financially and emotionally dependent on their children. This fact explains why in the past, parents liked to have many children - so they could be sure to be well cared for in their old age. However, it becomes an inverted triangle now. Each child has to maintain two elderly parents. A married couple must provide for four elders. Since the aging parents usually live with their children, this creates an issue.
  • The Children: Since children are so important in Chinese society, single children are under a lot of pressure from their parents. After all, each one of them is their parents' only hope for the future. Parents are also overly protective and coddling, spoiling their child. Many parents take this point of view: as long as my child succeeds in school, he can have whatever else he wants. This environment can create many emotional issues, such as overly-stressed students or kids with low emotional maturity. Society becomes extremely competitive as each parent strives to make their own child the best.
  • Babies: Traditionally, Chinese parents prefer sons. After all, it is your son who will support you in your old age. Sons will carry on the family name. But how can you be sure that your only child will be a son? Hence the large numbers of abandoned baby girls. The lucky ones will eventually make it to an orphanage. No wonder all the stories you hear of adopted babies from China are all of baby girls. I've heard that sex-selective abortions are not legal any more but I'm sure there are ways to get around that. I am lucky that my family is wonderful and even though all my cousins are girls (on my father's side), nobody complains, though my grandfather would love a grandson to carry on the family name.
  • Sex-ratio: Because of the preference for boys, the sex-ratio of this generation is skewed. I believe it is around 120 males for 100 females as an average, but in some areas it could be more extreme. It is harder for guys to get married. They also face more competition in the workplace. Many thinkers believe it is unhealthy to a society to have a large population of young and single men, as this demographic is the most likely to be violent and full of unrest.
  • The Economy: China will definitely have an aging population in the near future. It will be tough to have these new, small generation of children supporting a large elderly generation. Healthcare costs will definitely be an issue. Also, with a smaller working population, I wonder if China will be able to keep up its miraculous economic growth.
  • Family: Isn't it kind of sad to think that after my generation, many families will not know of cousins, uncles, or aunts? Each family will be a single nuclear unit. Right now, though my cousins do not have siblings, at least have each other and they treat each other like sisters. But what about their children? Extended family is such an important part of the Chinese culture and tradition.

We don't know what China's population would look like without the one-child policy. Maybe it would have continued exploding like India's population. Maybe there would have been even more social problems, such as lack of basic resources, crowding in cities, destruction of the environment, and famines. Maybe China would have turned out like Japan, where fewer and fewer couples want children, and the population is actually shrinking. This possibility wouldn't be unlikely in the future, with the rise of China's middle class.

The Chinese government did have good intentions but I think the policy was implemented poorly. If it was incentive-based rather than founded on fear and penalty, the policy would have been much more acceptable in terms of human rights. However, what financial incentive would be enough to stop a couple from having another child to insure their security in the future? Without a doubt, it was a tough policy decision to make. The main choice mirrors many topics we are debating today: Is it okay to violate the rights of individuals in order to benefit society at large?

It's only been 32 years since the policy has been instated - only one generation of children has been without siblings. The population growth has not stopped because of the lasting effects of population momentum. It's too soon to tell what the lasting societal effects will be.

What have you heard of the one-child-policy? What are your thoughts?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Western Influences

So there I was, in the heart of Xi'an, a Chinese city full of history and culture, home to the famous Terra-cotta warriors. The great walls of the city stretched from east to west, north to south, protecting the ancient capital. The lights of this beautiful temple in the center of the city shone in the night sky. Even with the modern advances of cars and electricity, the scene was dazzling.

But there seems to be something out of place... do you see it? Look carefully...

How about now, in a close-up of the bottom-right of the photo?

Yes, it is the ubiquitous McDonald's. Even in the heartland of Chinese history, you cannot escape the 99 cent (or should I say 6 Yuan) chicken nuggets and greasy french fries. It's actually kind of frightening how quickly this fast food chain can spread throughout a country. In major Chinese cities, you can find a McDonald's on every block. The kids can't get enough of it. The Other invaders include Starbucks, Pizza Hut, and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Speaking of KFC...guess where this next picture is taken?

It was on the site of the museum of the famous Terra-cotta warriors, one of China's national treasures. We had to pass this KFC to get from the parking lot to the main museum.

And guess what we also found displayed the Museum of the Terra-cotta warriors? A framed photograph of Clinton and his family visiting the warriors. Obviously the museum was very proud that such an important figure visited their exhibit.

Oh, and remember the Haagan-Dazs? These little precious scoops of ice cream cost a fortune, more than the cost of an average meal.

Why do people buy this ice cream? There is plenty of other brands in China that are much more affordable - but the reason people want it is because of the price. The high price means that this is a western luxury good, which represents somewhat of a symbol of social status.

Sadly, this seems to be a trend. Anything western, whether it be celebrities, pop music, movies, clothing brands, or food, automatically seems to be superior to their domestic counterparts. Teens listen to singers such as Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift and watch the popular TV show Gossip Girl. People want Buick cars and iPhones. Fashionable women wear Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren with their Dior sunglasses and Louis Vuitton or Coach bags (likely fake ones!). Boys run around in Nike shoes. Beautiful Caucasian models fill billboards in cities and commercials on TV. Students dream of studying abroad in Europe or the United States. Little kids whine for hamburgers or Lay's chips instead of traditional home-cooked food. Magazines and product advertisements are littered with English phrases in an attempt to look "cool."

Though it's good that China has "opened up" its economy in the past decades, I really hope that its people realize that "western" or "American" doesn't necessarily mean better. There are so many wonderful Chinese musicians, designers, beautiful models so China shouldn't have to look towards the West for talent or style. Also, Chinese food is delicious! I really hope people can realize that fast food can never compete with a good traditional meal.

It's interesting that at the same time the mainstream Chinese opinion derides the West and particularly the U.S. for being dominating and intrusive politically, the Chinese people are simply devouring all these western goods. If they are voting with their dollar (Yuan), I'm not sure what that means for the future. However, I guess it is possible to separate business and politics.

I learned in class that the Chinese do a very good job of separating the U.S. government from the American people (and their businesses). While most Chinese people have negative feelings towards the government, they believe that the American people as a whole are good. Therefore maybe it is not ironic that they have such favorable feelings towards consumer goods and such negative impressions of the government.

Anyways, I think that is enough rambling for today. What do you think about the spread of Western influence in China? Is it a benefit or is it harmful?

Friday, August 13, 2010


"Do they only eat bread there?"

As you can imagine, there are many misconceptions that Chinese people have about the United States. Likewise, many American beliefs about China are also twisted or incorrect. This is probably because in general, the only knowledge one has about the other is gathered through pop culture, dramatic media reports, and consumerism.

Chinese Misconceptions

1. Food in the U.S. consists only of bread, hamburgers, and french fries. It is laughable how many times relatives have insisted that I eat more of something because "you won't be able to eat it once you leave China." I try to explain that in the U.S., you can find any type of food imaginable, all year round. Even hard to find ethnic foods are found in specialty grocery stores.

Where does this misconception come from? Probably from the abundance of Western fast food restaurants that have spread throughout China in the last decade, serving just those foods.

2. Everyone in the U.S. is rich. It is true that the standard of living in the U.S. is much higher. It is also true that land and housing is much cheaper here. However, there is poverty, found both in inner cities and rural areas. Most people have to work hard to make a living and achieve their "American Dream."

Where does this misconception come from? Films depicting people living in the sprawling suburbs with white picket fences and manicured lawns, news reports of GDP, stories of acquaintances immigrating to America and making it big.

3. America is dangerous. I've always said that I am more likely to get run over in the street in China by a bus than get shot by some gang member in America (streets are very busy and drivers don't do a good job of following traffic laws). But many Chinese people just have this notion that living in the U.S. is not safe.

Where does this misconception come from? People have definitely mentioned to me the fact that Americans can legally own guns. Citizens in China cannot bear arms. There actually doesn't seem to be that big of a black market in China either - at least most attacks occur with knives. I think both countries have their own dangers so the best idea is just to always be careful!


Of course, there are many Chinese also don't have these misconceptions. This is just what I've personally observed to be common. Citizens also have many common opinions on the Iraq war, Taiwan, etc., that are not necessarily right or wrong. But that's another story.

Next time I'll write about common American misconceptions of China.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Yali School

While I was in Changsha, I had the pleasure of visiting Yali Middle School, which is one of the most selective high schools in Hunan Province. What's so special about Yali, you ask? Well, it was founded more than 100 years ago by Yale-in-China, now known as the Yale-China Association.

The school is known for its excellent English education, as the English teachers are Yale graduates who receive a two year fellowship to teach at Yali. I met one of the Yale fellows who graciously gave me a tour of the campus.

The School

Yali has an open campus, with a main gate and separate buildings for athletic facilities, libraries, classrooms, and dorms (it's a boarding school).

I already mentioned that Yali is famous for its English education. Recently, in addition to having standard English classes, it has also added specialized English courses such as theater and writing.

Yali is also unique compared to similarly ranked Chinese high schools because it offers an abundance of extracurricular activities. To my knowledge, the typical Chinese high school student does not really get to engage in many activities because he or she must focus on academics and the big college examination. However, Yali makes sure its students are well-rounded. There is student government, environmental clubs, etc.

Similar to other schools in the area, the students are divided up into classes by their grades (grades as in scores). Therefore, all the best students are in the same classes and the "worst" students are in the same classes. Though this is extremely controversial, I can see how it would make teaching instruction easier, as students are grouped by ability level.

Unlike schools here, students are in the same classroom with the same classmates the whole day while the teachers are the ones that have to shift around. Classes are 40 minutes each. Though the school day is longer, students have a lunch break of 2 hours.

The Students

No doubt about it - the students here are the cream of the crop! Many of them apply and get into the top universities in China as well as around the world.

The teaching fellow who gave me a tour told me his view of Chinese students. He believes that compared to American students, Chinese students are at a higher intellectual level (at least the ones at Yali). I can understand this - they spend so much more time on academics. They start high level math at a very young age. At my cousin's age, I would not have been able to comprehend the calculus she is now working on. Now, this does not mean that Chinese students are inherently smarter or quicker - just that at a younger age they have the capacity to understand more complex concepts because they have been trained this way.

However, the teaching fellow thinks that Chinese students generally are at a lower emotional maturity level than their American counterparts. For example, high school students in China would be comparable to middle school students in America. This also makes sense. After all, Chinese children receive so much more coddling and overprotection from parents as well as the school system. The parents cater so much to their children's needs that they do not allow them any room for independence. Schools prohibit students from dating, and teachers are a very big influence in a student's private and family life.

The students I met and saw wore the same plain blue school uniforms. They were all friendly and polite. The ones I did speak to had impeccable English.

The Teaching Fellows

I was surprised to learn that the Yale teaching fellows do not need any Chinese language or culture background at all before arriving in China. The fellow that gave me a tour explained that at first he actually was more interested in the teaching English part, not the China part. He arrived in Beijing right after graduation from Yale and had a crash course in Chinese and teaching. Then he left for Changsha.

I imagine that must have been quite a shock! Beijing may be a pretty cosmopolitan capital and a good transitional stage from the U.S. to China, but Changsha certainly is not. Changsha, located in the southern heartland, is a bustling, colorful city that certainly makes no apologies for being Chinese down to the core (after all, Mao Zedong did grow up here!).

The teaching fellows live on campus in a separate building from the other teachers. I was interested in the dynamics between the foreign teachers and the Chinese teachers, because, for one, there is an age difference, and the Chinese put a lot of emphasis on respect for elders. Apparently the two groups do not have too much interaction but the foreign teachers do instruct the Chinese teachers in English on a weekly basis.


So I'm really excited because my cousin in Changsha got into Yali! Chinese students need to take examinations to see which high schools they can place into. Apparently you basically need all A's on six exams to get into Yali. Yali was her first choice and she is really excited! Her parents would rather her to go a nearby high school so she doesn't have to live away from home, but her heart is set on Yali, because 1) there are many extracurriculars, and 2) apparently the guys there are very cute. Oh, that would be on the mind of a 15-year-old girl.

Monday, August 9, 2010


As you probably know, there is something called Chinglish. This is when someone tries to translate a Chinese phrase or word into English and for some reason, whether it's just a typo or too literal of a translation, the end result is grammatically incorrect and sometimes just plain funny.

Sometimes I wonder, how can it be possible that someone has spent all that money on a sign for their store and has somehow turned something as common as "fruit" into "fult?" Isn't it easy to check a dictionary or ask someone? But then I realize how many mistakes there would be if for some reason we had to translate a lot of the English here into Chinese.

Anyways, I'm still glad for Chinglish - it really amuses me! Sometimes the phrase just sounds awkward, though it may not be incorrect, such as below. This was found at the World Expo in Shanghai. I think it's telling you not to cut in the lines.

Here are some other ones in which the meaning is slightly obscured by the awkward placement of words.

This next one was found in one of those pamphlets in the hotel room describing all the amenities. It was actually a five-star international hotel. Wow, they do actually think of everything...

This was the evening CCTV news. CCTV is the state-controlled media in China. I was surprised they don't have better editing.

National parks always have interesting signs...

This next sign, which says "Do not touch me, do not kiss me," is actually translated perfectly. I think it's great that the tree is standing up for itself and wants you to respect its comfort zone!

I'm not sure how they were trying to translate this next sign, found at the Southern Great Wall. It's meaning in Chinese is "Do not enter," but I have no idea how they translated that into this garble.

This next one takes a bit more concentration to find. It was located at the entrance of a fast food court. Do you see it?

"Entrance" was translated as "Import." Not in this photo was the exit, which was labeled "Export." I guess this place is a human-feeding factory, where you import hungry beings and hopefully export satisfied ones.

Oh Chinglish, you will never fail to amuse me.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

In the Past Two Months, I've...

My dad first did not want me to go to China for a full two months. He was convinced that I would soon be bored. After all, in the past my visits had only been for a few weeks. However, I was a typical stubborn child and retorted that being in China would be less boring than being stuck at home.

In the end? Yes, there were times that I was bored. That is inevitable for any long-term trip. Non-stop action and adventure would be exhausting. Yet I also had many fun and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. In the past two months, I've...

2. Watched a fiery stunt performance during my trip to the ancient Phoenix City...

3. Visited the mountains that they used for the movie Avatar...

4. Touched a tree that Mao Zedong planted as a seedling on my trip to Xi'an...

5. Eaten enough delicious mantou (steamed bread) to last me a lifetime...

So the story of how I got this particular bag of mantou is kind of embarrassing. See, everyone in China made fun of me because I preferred mantou to rice, which to them was a foreign concept. I was at dinner with a large tour group. At one restaurant the mantou was served at the meal like bread would be in the states. At the end of the meal there was still a lot of mantou left. The other diners at my table saw how much I liked the fluffy bread and insisted that I take the rest with me. This caught the notice of the other fellow travelers in our tour group at other tables, and they insisted that I also take the leftover mantou at their respective tables. I was very red-faced but, being familiar with Chinese generosity, decided that it would cause less of a scene if I just accepted the mantou quickly and gratefully.

6. Soaked my feet in snake venom after an arduous, dangerous mountain climb. Apparently it has properties that are good for you? Hey, at least I still have full use of both feet. I do have a picture but I thought I would spare you.

7. Seen the first telephone in China. It was in the Forbidden City in Beijing. I'm so glad we have sleek, convenient cellphones now!

8. Learned to write Chinese calligraphy from my grandfather. He's incredibly skilled at calligraphy.

9. Shopped at many markets for fresh, cheap produce (just be sure to wash it thoroughly!)

10. Spent precious time playing with my adorable cousins!

Oh, can't forget little Jackie! He's the only boy in our whole extended family.

I am going to miss them!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What I Will Not Miss About China

So last time I wrote about the aspects of China that I will miss. But everything has pros and cons, right? While living in China, there were definitely some things that really bothered me.


It's no secret that there are over 1.3 billion people living in China. This creates congestion everywhere - in stores, in the streets, in schools. Buses and subways are always packed to the maximum amount of individuals possible without someone being crushed to death. At the Sam's Club in Shenzhen, on busy days sometimes there aren't enough shopping carts for all the customers. Traffic jams are a frequent and unavoidable consequence for city
dwellers and country residents alike.

Because there are so many people, each individual has to look out for himself. It is a dog-eat-dog world out there. People generally are impatient and will cut in line or push you out of the way. Most people are quite suspicious and therefore not friendly or welcoming to strangers. Both literally and metaphorically, if you let someone else get ahead, it only causes you to fall further and further behind. Of course, there are many exceptions to the rule, and once people get to know you they will treat you like family.

Environmental Degradation

I have written about China's environment before. It is hard to balance every individual's desire for a higher standard of living with the subsequent impact on the environment. My grandfather believes that right now China is just going through its development and afterwards the environment will improve. But the people and the government will never be satisfied with a set level of development. It is human nature to always want more once you have achieved your initial goal. Now your family may have a washer to do laundry, but wouldn't a dryer make life much easier as well?

In many cities that I visited, the air was heavy and the sky was smoggy and gray. There was a stunning lack of green grass and large trees. People tossed trash on the sidewalks without a second thought. Little kids relieved their bladders in the streets. Empty Styrofoam ramen noodle containers floated in rivers.

Additionally, people smoke everywhere - in cars, in restaurants, on buses and trains. Since regulations are so stringent in the U.S., it had been so long since I had actually inhaled cigarette smoke. At first I tried holding my breath every time I passed by a smoker, but I quickly realized this was probably the faster way to die, considering some of my own relatives smoked regularly.

Lack of Diversity

I have never fully appreciated how diverse the United States is, in terms of both race and culture as well as in perspectives and ideologies. Even in a relatively homogeneous place where I live (as compared to New York or Los Angeles), I can still find every single race represented, and people all along the political spectrum. It is easy for me to go to a public location and hear Chinese or Spanish spoken.

In China, outside of the more worldly cities such as Beijing, foreigners are a sight to be stared at. As soon as a foreigner walks into view, whispers commence about their hair color or their stature. It is very awkward, especially since most of the foreigners are fluent in Chinese. Some citizens are even brave enough to ask to have their picture taken with the said foreigner. Of course, though Chinese people may be one race, they can have very different appearances - short, tall, slender, pudgy, wide or narrow faced, large or small featured, etc.

Most Chinese citizens also have the same general opinions about politics and issues such as Taiwan and the U.S. This is the result of state-controlled media and education system. This reason is probably why most people do not talk of politics in everyday conversation. After all, what is the point in discussing if you already agree? I think this might start changing with the younger generation, especially with the rise in Internet usage. Though there are censors on certain websites, the government cannot possibly shield its citizens from all controversial information. We will see what will happen in the future.

What I Will Miss About China

I am finally back in the states - and it does feel really good to be here. Maybe I still was not completely adjusted to China during my two months, but I cannot see myself ever permanently living there. That being said, there are certain aspects of China and life there that I will really miss here in the United States.

Things I will miss:


I have always grown up without an extended family nearby, and without knowing what I missed, it did not seem like such a big deal. Yes, we celebrated holidays with close friends instead of relatives, but I thought it just made our nuclear family closer. However, upon going back to China I realized that I really enjoyed being around my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. I feel like your own flesh-and-blood relatives, like parents, will always love you unconditionally. In China, a lot of importance is placed on family ties. During major holidays such as the New Year, everyone, no matter where he/she currently live, tries to journey back "home" - the childhood home where he/she grew up and where the grandparents live. As my grandparents talked about the celebration in their home, I realized that my own nuclear family has been the missing piece of the united extended family for many years.

Though we do try to visit every few years, we miss a lot of important family events such as marriages, college graduations, or the birth of a child. Each time we visit, it seems as if their lives have been fast-forwarded into the future and we are only viewing snapshots in time. I have no idea when I will see them again.

Public Transportation

No one needs a car in China. There are all kinds of buses, taxis, subways for extremely low prices. I found that most buses only charged 1-2 Yuan (about 15-30 cents). Subways were around 2 Yuan. Additionally, usually schools and stores are easily within walking distance. If you are skillful and can navigate through a sea of pedestrians and cars, you can also ride a bike or motorcycle. It was so convenient and affordable to get anywhere in any city I visited.


There is so much good food in China that sadly cannot be replicated here in the states. For example, right-out-of-the-ground fresh Chinese greens, fluffy white steamed bread, or salted duck eggs. Maybe I can try replicating some of the recipes? However, without the fresh ingredients, it probably will not taste the same.


It's no secret that most everything is cheaper in China (with the exception of western brands, cars, and housing). I estimate that everyday goods are around 5 times cheaper there. It was really fun to buy things knowing that I was spending basically spare change. However, there is a hidden cost to the low prices. Who knows under what conditions and pressures laborers work under to produce massive amounts of goods?


So those are some things I miss. Next I will write about what I do not miss about China.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Favorite Photos, Part II

China Pavilion at the World Expo at night

China Pavilion during the day

My cousin at her middle school

Summer Palace in Beijing

Another view of the Summer Palace

Favorite Photos, Part I

Waterfall of the Yellow River

ZhangJiaJie National Park

FengHuang Ancient City

Outskirts of FengHuang


Pond of Goldfish in Shenzhen