Cruising 35,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean on my flight home to the U.S., I’m thinking of all the things I’m going to miss about China – and some of the things I’d just as soon forget.
Things I’ll Miss:
- My students: Their English was lousy, but they really tried to learn. They treated me like royalty and became my friends as well as my pupils.
- The food: Though it took awhile, I learned to love real Chinese cuisine. It’s actually healthier and better tasting than Chinese food in the U.S.
- Massages: They were incredibly cheap and relaxing, though the masseuse will spend the whole time on your feet unless you request otherwise.
- The children: The Chinese have the cutest kids in the world. Parents dress them like dolls and spoil them like little princes and princesses.
- My colleagues: Most of my fellow teachers were dedicated, generous and congenial. There were a few exceptions, of course, but overall it was a pleasure working with them.
- My friends: I made lots of great friends in China — at my university, at bars and restaurants like Zax BBQ and Tao, in the streets, at Swallow’s Nest foster home, on tennis and basketball courts, and during my travels around the country.
- Unforgettable places: Goodbye to Xi’an, Chengdu and Guilin. Farewell to Yangshuo, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Things I’d Just as Soon Forget:
- Air pollution: Seeing the sun in Zhengzhou was as rare as seeing a lunar eclipse. The sky was perpetually smoggy and the air was so dirty that breathing masks were a common sight.
- Spitting: It’s a national sport for Chinese men, who seem to compete for the most disgusting way to expectorate.
- Squat toilets: You’ve got to be a gymnast to use them, and they can’t handle toilet paper. Trash cans are filled with used paper that makes the bathrooms smell like sewers.
- Lines: You’ve got to wait for everything, which isn’t surprising when you’re dealing with 1.3 million people. And long lines often lead to pushing, shoving and people cutting in front of you.
- Shoddy construction and maintenance: Even relatively new buildings look like they’re about to fall down. On my campus, which is only a dozen years old, almost all the buildings had filthy walls, cracked floors and broken fixtures.