I am writing this from Starbucks, where the person at the table across from me just blatantly took my picture on his phone, using flash, without trying to hide it at all. Ironically, right before he did that I had planned to write a post on the things I will and will not miss about China. Randos taking my picture is probably number one. So without further ado, the things I will and will not miss about life in Kunming/CET:
Things I will not miss:
1. As previously mentioned, random people taking my picture. I understand that I look different than most people in China, and if they really feel that it’s imperative to take my picture, they can ask. If a Chinese person asks me to take my picture, I usually say yes. I’ve even held a toddler, and if you know me you know I don’t easily hold strange children. But just putting your camera 4 feet from my face and pretending like that’s a normal thing to do is overwhelming.
2. Chinese walking etiquette. Many Chinese sidewalks are crowded and narrow, so it would really make sense if people were to stay to the right and, when it’s especially crowded, walk single file so everyone can pass. What doesn’t make sense is walking at a snail’s pace, arm in arm with four friends and making it impossible for anyone else to move.
3. Worrying about food sanitation. In China it is not uncommon for cheap restaurants to skim oil off the top of the trash, gutters, or even the sewer and re-use it. Enough said.
4. No bathrooms. There are public bathrooms in China, but they cost money and often it would be more comfortable to pee in your pants than use these disgusting toilets, if you can even call them toilets.
5. Drinking Nescafe or Coke Zero every morning to wake up after only 6-7 hours of sleep.
6. Trying to get a taxi during shift change time; calling the taxi phone number and having them say “There aren’t any taxis near you, sorry, no solution.”
Things I will miss about Kunming:
1. The food. While Kunming is no Chengdu, the food here is still spectacular and cheap. I will especially miss the restaurant we call “Zui Xihuan de Fanguanr” or “Favorite Restaurant.” We went there so often the laoban (boss) recognized us after a while. When we would walk past his restaurant or even just see him around the neighborhood, he would always smile and wave. I’ll also miss the regional specialties at KFC and McDonald’s, like the Beijing roast duck flavored chicken wrap and the special chili garlic McNugget sauce. Of course, the ice cream and beer on every street corner, nearly always costing less than 1 USD, goes without saying.
2. My friends here. I was lucky enough to have a group of awesome friends and classmates. Especially because our academic pressure was so high, we all bonded really quickly and became really close. Adapting to life in a foreign country is difficult, but having a group of friends also going through the same things makes it so much easier. Especially after a month on my own, I was so happy to find such a great group of friends right from the start of CET.
3. My roommate. According to numerous sources, my roommate Sha Sha was one of if not the best roommate in all of CET. In addition to being kind, funny, and a considerate roommate, she went above and beyond in terms of fussing over me (that’s how a lot of Chinese people show affection). If it was below 75 degrees and I wasn’t wearing a sweater, she would always advise me to “duo chuan yidiar” (wear more clothes), and she would always make sure I ate enough cookies every day. She would even bring my clothes in from drying outside if it started raining and I wasn’t home. Most importantly, though, she patiently helped me study Chinese, repeating words over and over when I forgot them and dealing with my complete lack of tones when I speak.
4. My teachers. This could probably fit under the “friends” category, since we all became friends with our teachers, but they deserve their own category because they were all so great: patient, understanding, and most importantly, fun.
5. Endless opportunities to practice Chinese. Since I got here three months ago, I’ve been speaking nearly only Chinese, and the impact of that on my Chinese level is very obvious. I can’t believe how much I’ve improved, not just from class but from talking to my roommate and even my fellow foreigner friends in Chinese. I’ve gotten to the point where sometimes I have to think for a minute about how to say something in English. I apologize in advance for accidentally speaking Chinese when I get back to the states.
6. Those hilarious things that can only happen in China. For example, going on a tour of a cave and coming across a KTV place inside the cave; discussing your love life with your teachers as a means of practicing vocabulary and grammar; impeccable service and cleanliness at McDonald’s; laduzi (diarrhea) being a socially acceptable dinner table conversation; babies pooping in the street; hearing the birthday song in Chinese and English every night at a ritzy nightclub; the list goes on and on. Every day in China is really an adventure, and that’s probably what I will miss most when I get back to America, where things are definitely more comfortable but also a little more boring.