My Experiences

The Magic of Bad Chinese Taxidermy

No matter the size of a Chinese city, if it has a museum, chances are high that one is sure to find some funky-looking dead animals there!

Why Wearing a Green Hat Symbolizes Infidelity in China (戴绿帽子)

No other class on a Western holiday elicits such a visceral reaction from my students, and not for reasons you might assume! It is due to green hats being the unofficial symbol for infidelity in China. What scandal started this taboo? How does it affect China today? Is St. Paddy’s Day celebrated at all in China? Read my post for answers to these questions and more!

Living in Limbo

My last blog post, back in October of 2020, saw me packed and mentally gearing myself up for the 14 day quarantine in Shanghai and +7 day stay in a hotel outside my school in Beijing before I’d be allowed back into my dorm and classrooms. At the time, I was optimistic to finally be returning to China. I had the necessary visa and plane ticket. Everything was good to go…Until it wasn’t.

Countdown to Beijing

In what feels like a lifetime and countless cups of late-night coffee later, I’m now set to return to China on the first of November barring I don’t test positive for Covid three days before my flight!

Forward and into the Fray

Still alive and taking it week by week, because what other choice is there?

Online Teaching: Big Drama on Day One

Here we are into the initial days of the 2020 spring semester during the Covid-19 virus outbreak. As my colleagues, students and I are stuck across the globe, we are diligently trying to follow the directives of our higher ups to comply with the government’s solution: e-classes over Wechat. Imagine trying to teach courses over…

Waiting out the Novel Coronavirus

I was supposed to head back to Beijing a week from today. The extent of the epidemic didn’t really hit me until my returning flight with Delta was canceled last Friday. Of course I’d been following the news like everyone else, and I’ve been dutifully checking in daily with my location and health status along…

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! 中秋节快乐!

I often liken the Mid-Autumn Festival to Thanksgiving in the USA, but Mid-Autumn festival has more similar counterparts in Korea and Japan (with the Chuseok and Tsukimi holidays). During this holiday in China, family members will cook and eat traditional foods, watch tv together, and enjoy the full moon.

Leaving Lishui

A move is in my future! I’m still coming to grips with my decision to leave my beloved home of two years, a place I’ve come to view as my Chinese hometown. It’s a big change that I have mixed feelings about, but it promises lots of new responsibilities and opportunities for growth that’ll be beneficial in the long run. This is a synopsis of the ups and downs of the last few weeks of the term and subsequent decision on my part to let go.

Anniversary Sirens for the Great Sichuan Earthquake

I woke up this morning to an air raid siren and a woman’s voice issuing a countdown. Groggy and confused, I wondered if we were under attack. I looked out the window and saw cars driving down my busy intersection and figured that it must be a practice signal, like they do with the Amber…

Songyang 松阳: Damunshan Tea Fields and Old Street

Songyang is one of Lishui’s nine counties in Zhejiang and focuses most of its industry in producing high-quality teas. Over 7,500 hectares (about 29 square miles) of the county is devoted solely to the cultivation of tea fields, with more being created every day. A group of friends and I went on an excursion into Zhejiang’s rural countryside in search of these famous tea plantations to experience the hype for ourselves.

It’s Mulberry Season!

Long rows of short, crowded mulberry trees stretched far beneath covered canopies of mesh wire fencing and plastic tarps. We’d driven a bit further out of the main area of town, near the old abandoned west bus station where I’d first taken a trip out with my 8th graders two years ago. The heat was sweltering, and I regretted not putting on more sunscreen as I pulled my hair up out of my eyes. Armed with my little blue basket, I followed my student and his parents into the dense branches of berries…

The Sad Closure of Lishui’s Only Walmart

Word leaked about a month ago that Lishui’s Walmart was to close on April 16, 2019. A document in Chinese that was shared on wechat sent shock waves through our town. While Walmart hasn’t always had it easy breaking into the Chinese market, it had grown to become a beloved store in Lishui.

Happy Year of the Pig!

新年快乐! 恭喜发财! Spring Festival is upon us! This February 5th, 2019 marks the beginning of the year of the Pig! Why is this important? It’s is the final year in the 12th-year zodiac cycle! This means we can all indulge in a huge sigh of relief and reap the benefits of having worked hard the…

Why 666 is a “Lucky Number” in China

It was 2017 when I first heard “666” in my classroom. I was taken aback; my sweet students were shaking their fists with their thumb and pinky out, chanting “six six six” in English at their classmates doing a grammar racing game on the chalk board. I left class that day feeling bemused and more than a little perplexed. After this initial observation, I began noticing 666’s positioned seemingly randomly around town. Pretty sure not everyone was a Satanist, I set out to investigate what was going on.

Halloween 万圣节 2018

The week of October 19th-24th, I gained permission from my school to take a break from our readings to teach solely about one of my favorite holidays, citing it as an “important part of Western culture.” The students seemed to get a kick out of my costumes, and were pretty attentive for the duration of…

Xia He Tower 廈河塔

I could catch glimpses of the clear silhouette of the skinny pagoda, visible against the green backdrop of the mountains, and as I zigzagged through traffic, I decided to just go for it. My bike was running on a full night’s charge, and I was feeling good after successfully picking up my train tickets. I…

Rainy Day Blues: Managing My Depression in China

I have depression. It’s taken years of counseling and treatment to make it highly functioning, but it’s there nonetheless. It’s not something that I would ever talk about with my Chinese coworkers or even to a doctor in China. There’s a huge stigma against taking antidepressants here. I’ve heard that those who are able to…

Settling into China (Again)

This summer really flew by didn’t it? My last two months and a half  were mostly spent traveling to see friends and family and spending time with my husband, Mark, and our little dwarf hamster. We were able to squeeze in a visit to a few places we had been meaning to go to such as…

China’s Strange Obsession with Peppa Pig (小猪佩奇)

Remember, back in May of 2018, when a meme on Facebook made the rounds saying, “China banned Peppa Pig for being too Gangsta?!” I remember reading it and laughing at the time, but now I can’t help wishing it was true. Peppa Pig is a British children’s cartoon centered on a young anthropomorphic she-pig, named…

12 Quirky Things to Know Before Visiting China

Maybe you’ve watched Disney’s Mulan a few hundred times and have a strong hankering to find your own Shang or to see The Great Wall. Perhaps you’re intrigued by how hard people say the language is or have come to buy “luxury goods” for cheap. Great! It is an awesome land with good food, loads of history and scenic places. But, for whatever reason you visit –it helps to come a little bit prepared to ensure minimal culture shock.

After living in China for nearly five years, I’ve made a list of things I wish people would have told me before I came. I’ve narrowed it down to my top 12 quirks, here.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…in China!

“Welcome to China! Gan Bei!” “Laoshi , welcome to our home! Ganbei!” “Laoshi, over here! Ganbei!” “Drink more! Drink more!” Melody’s mother-in-law urged as she poured more wine into my glass while Melody’s father reached over to refill my other glass with baijiu to “ganbei!” (bottoms up!) yet again. It seemed as soon as I…

Yes, I am Asian: Asian American.

 “Ay, you! What province you from, again?” “Are you sure you’re American?” “But your face looks Chinese…eh, maybe you could be from Xinjiang, but no, not American.” These are the types of greetings I get every day in China from curious taxi-drivers, to cashiers, to grandmas who want to tell me that I should know…

About Me

Hi, I’m Steph. While working full-time as a literature and drama history teacher in China, I started this blog to share about my travel experiences and observations. Now, when I’m not spending time with my wonderful husband, I continue to write about travel, food, teaching, and identity politics. Read more

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