The Last Goodbyes

This is my last night in China. Even as I write that it doesn’t feel quite real, it hasn’t quite sunk in. But everything has to end at some point, and for now this part of my life is coming to an end. There is no way to write an all-encompassing au revoir to China,…

In Appreciation of the Middle Kingdom

It’s easy enough to moan about all the things that are difficult or unappetising or just downright mad about China. But living here for the past 16 months has also given me time to reflect on the things that China does pretty well. So this post is dedicated to appreciating that side of the Middle…

The Second Paradise

There is a famous saying in Chinese: ‘上有天堂,下有苏杭’ which translates to ‘Just as there is paradise in heaven, on Earth we have Suzhou and Hangzhou’. Having been lucky enough to live in one of these aforementioned ‘paradises’ (paradi?), I thought it was only fair that I should visit Suzhou’s sister city, Hangzhou, to see how it…

老人 (Old People)

So recently I’ve been thinking about old Chinese people; in particular, old Chinese ladies. They are a very peculiar and unpredictable bunch. Some I have met have been the sweetest people, giving me toothless grins and repeatedly wishing me luck (as was the case with one old lady on the bus last year), or making…

‘Tall and slim, with yellow hair and blue eyes!’

Today I went to a language exchange meet-up, where Chinese and foreign students could come together to practice languages. I arrived late with one other English pal (we couldn’t find the place) and promptly realised we were the only white girls in the room. This at least added to the quota of ‘foreigners conversing with…

Fifteen Rooms and Nighttime Runs

Last week was our 7 day national holiday. You might remember last year I braved Nanjing for one day and Shanghai for a few days during golden week – both of which were successful trips but nevertheless involved battling through unprecedented crowds. This year I decided to be completely unadventurous and stay in Suzhou. Whilst…

On Returning

No matter all the frustrations and ridiculous bureaucracy and peculiar food and smells and overwhelming masses (the Chinese expression 人山人海, people on the mountains and people in the sea, captures this pretty well), this is only one side of life. China challenges me almost every day, but you can either fight it or welcome it. There’s a lot here to dislike, but also a lot here to love.

Back in the P.R.C.

So the summer passed in a blur of activity. The last time I wrote was the night before I was due to leave on my 5 week trip, and those five weeks were spent in Hong Kong, Hainan, Xiamen, Beijing, Xi’An, Chengdu, Guilin, Yangshuo, Suzhou and Shanghai. Travelling was great and I got to see…

Zaijian, 再见.

So this is the last of my stories from Suzhou – for the time being, at least! Tomorrow I’m leaving for Hong Kong and then spending the next 5+ weeks travelling around China – going to Hainan Island, Xiamen, Beijing, Xi’An, Chengdu, Guilin, Shanghai and then finally back to home sweet home. I’m looking forward…

The Trials and Tribulations of Chinese

When I came to China, one of my main goals was to learn Chinese. Immersed in a completely Chinese environment, I was perhaps a little too optimistic – coupled with high expectations of myself. Now, I wasn’t completely naive – having been learning Chinese for a couple of semesters’ worth of evening classes, I knew…

Beijing’s Old World Charm

I think wherever you go at whatever time of year, whether you choose to visit the more tourist-friendly restored sections, or brave the crumbling relics, you can’t help but get an overwhelming sense of the awe and wonder of history. That it is still standing at all – after enduring centuries of attack from both the elements and foreign invaders – is testament to the staying power of China’s history, against all odds.

The Capital (Take 2), Doppelgängers and Taste Tests

Since my friend from home Sophie has been visiting, I’ve been tour guide and we’ve spent an enjoyable 3 days in Beijing where we did all the essentials – Great Wall, Forbidden City, Lama Temple – but I still enjoyed it just as much as the first time (which is good, since I’ll be doing…