Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I know it's been a bajillion years since my last post.  Not going to make excuses though.  I mean, the rest of June and most of July were pretty busy,... but since then things have really mellowed out.  So I really have no excuse for not posting.  I guess I was just nervous to, because despite how many times I say in public that I'm adjusting well to living in Guangzhou, the truth is that I don't really love it here.  By the way, I hate it when people ask me how I'm adjusting.  What am I supposed to say?  "This place sucks, I want to leave my husband here to finish his tour while I go back to the U.S. with our kid and look like the most selfish person on the face of the planet"?  Yea, I'd rather just lie.

I honestly am trying to figure out if it's a matter of culture shock, or if it's Guangzhou.  I'm hoping that going to Hong Kong this weekend will help me figure that out.  I feel like the fact that I have a degree in Anthropology and have spent time in other countries would help me a little bit with the culture shock thing since my whole degree is based on the fact that other cultures are cool.  I mean, I literally fell in LOVE with Quito when I spent 10 days there 3 years ago.  But of course, the other countries I learned about and visited were almost exclusively Latin American, and Italy.  None of which come close to matching Chinese culture, unless you count rice and noodles as food staples (I guess since the Italians got the idea for noodles from China, that counts a little bit).

Anyway. I currently believe that I might like almost any other Chinese post besides this one.  For one thing, it's humid and hot everyday.  And with the humidity comes mosquitoes, which I have always attracted in large quantities.  It's summer here, so that is to be expected.  But, I heard that the humidity doesn't really go away, and it stays pretty hot most of the year.  It's a tropical city though.  I'm a huge fan of Autumn, so that's kind of a bummer for me.  Also, they are doing shit-tons of construction right now while they get ready for the Asian Games in November (apparently the 2nd largest sporting event IN THE WORLD... second only to the Summer Olympics...and I bet you United States-ians have never heard of it, have you?  Yea, me either, until I moved here.).  Construction is really making the city look fugly, especially when they tear up curbs and sidewalks...this also makes it difficult to leave the house with a stroller-child.  But, maybe once the construction ban goes into effect on Sept 30, it will be better here.  Then there is the pollution, which is INSANE.  I've never seen anything like it.  It literally blocks out the sun some days.  I actually have a theory that the reason I haven't gotten sunburned here is because the pollution blocks out UV rays THAT well.  I haven't used any sunblock whenever I've gone outside and spent huge amounts of time in the sun.  Usually that's a big deal for me since I'm really pastey white and always burn, but I really think those UV rays are blocked by the pollution!  I guess that's good, but on the flipside, think of how much pollution there has to be for me not to get sunburned.  But again, once the construction ban is on and the Asian Games are about to start, the pollution will probably go down for about a month, so that will be nice.

I think the biggest thing I dislike about here is that I'm so far from old friends and family, and it's going to be so long before I see them again, even if I do see them on Skype.  But, I discussed my desire to move to Dallas and live out my last days amongst those friends in my last post.

There are a number of cool things about Guangzhou, but I feel like the cool things would be true for every Chinese post, and probably many Asian posts in general.  For one thing, salon and spa services are like 1/4-1/8 the price of what they would cost in the U.S.  For instance, I got a mani/pedi for $11 USD, and an 80-minute massage for $20 USD.  Those things are usually about $55 and $100 respectively back in the U.S. (well, not sure about the massage, but definitely sure about the mani/pedi!)!!  So that's awesome.  Also, we have household help.  Our ayi is just awesome.  She's playing with my son right now while I write this post.  She's so inexpensive too, and I think we pay her more than most families here pay their ayis... and she's still so cheap to have around!  It's so worth it to have her, because leaving the house here with a baby is SO difficult.  I already described why strollers are a pain in the ass.  The other pain in the ass parts of taking a child anywhere are:

1) You get swarmed by Chinese people who act like they've never seen a baby before (perhaps they've never seen a white baby?) and want to take pictures with him and touch him everywhere and hold him.

2) High-chairs in restaurants are not too common, so you either have to keep him in the stroller (which he hates unless he's moving or sleeping), or hold him on your lap (where he can reach EVERYTHING and wave it all around dangerously).

3) U.S. sized carseats generally don't fit in cabs here (nor do strollers that are bigger than an umbrella stroller), so we have to hold him on our laps (for dear life) when we take him places.  Aside from the obvious safety issues, we have a baby bouncing and crawling all over us the entire trip to wherever we're going.  He doesn't sit still, so it's really a huge pain in the ass to have to sit with him on my lap.

Anyway.  I don't like to be a downer, so I'll add to this that, despite my inability to speak Chinese, I'm not finding the whole language barrier thing to be tooooo terrible.  It's definitely not one of the reasons I dislike being here.  I've picked up a few phrases - I've learned how to direct a cab and say "I don't understand" whenever they ask me follow-up questions.  I use Google Translate to communicate with our ayi (even though she does know a little bit of English!).  And I'm planning to take some language classes sometime in the near future.

So I hope to enjoy it here soon, but I need to take it at my own pace.


  1. We spent two weeks in Guangzhou during March (2009) when we were adopting our daughter. It was pretty chilly (almost cold) and no humidity. We were expecting hot and humid. Not sure about the rest of the year, but the 1st two weeks of March should be nice! I hope things get better for you soon.

  2. That first paragraph pretty much sums up my feelings about Malawi! I think part of what makes the culture shock so horrible with the FS is the realization that this is my life for the next 2 or 3 years.

    The pollution is probably exactly why you aren't burning. In Jakarta it was like that, I could swim all afternoon and never burn but let me go to the beach about 100 miles out of town and I burned even with SPF 50.

    Give it time, it will get better (I hope!) you will find people to hang out with, things to do, places to go, and it will become normal.