“It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.” ― John Green, Paper Towns

I spent last week in Bloomington, IN for a kind of a going-away week-long vacation. This may seem kind of redundant, seeing as I have been unemployed for nearly two weeks and have a few more before leaving for China, but I guess I’m just the kind of guy who takes vacations while I’m already on a vacation. Regardless, I think I needed it, in a small way. I needed to say goodbye to some friends, my house, and the city of Bloomington itself. I mean, I did live there for five years, and even though aspects of it drove me crazy, it was my home.

Anyway, saying goodbye to Bloomington made me start thinking more and more about what will be good and bad about China, and I started a list in my head. It’s kind of a “pros and cons,” except I’m already officially going, so it’s more of a “things that I’m excited to leave behind” and “things you’re going to hear me complain about in future posts.” I’ve done a little research and talked to friends, so here we go.

Things I will miss very much:

Bread – Apparently, almost all of the bread that is commercially available in the Pacific Thea- I mean, South-East Asia, is lighter and sweeter than the bread we have in the States. So I probably won’t be able to find Marbled Rye, or Sourdough, or Asiago Cheese stuff. On the plus side I might lose a few pounds just out of sadness.

Personal Space – Everyone stereotypes the Eastern population as being rather small, and apparently we’re not just being racist, we’re being accurately racist. Also, let’s be honest, no one who has met me will call me a small man, so I am probably not going to always find adequate space for my frame. For those who don’t know, the bubble of personal space we consider common courtesy in the US is not a thing that happens in other countries.

Public Facilities – It’s not that China doesn’t have public bathrooms, it’s that you probably don’t want to use them. I’m not really looking forward to training myself to only use the bathroom in my flat, but from what I hear it will be much better than dealing with the squat toilets. And yes, “squat” refers to your bodily orientation, it’s not just an adjective describing how they are short and sturdy.

English – I am fairly confident that American and British Imperialism have been effective enough that I will have only the occasional problem finding someone with a common language as long as I stay in a city. However, just because the average citizen speaks enough English to sell me something doesn’t mean I will be able to converse with them. I’ve lived in another country before, but when one language failed me, I had another at my disposal. I doubt many people in the Republic speak Spanish.

Things I will not miss, thank you very much:

Driving – You may have noticed I do a lot of complaining about driving and traffic. I mean, I know I can be pretty subtle, but I have a feeling most of my readers are aware that I sing the praises of public transportation and in turn would rather set my vehicle and everyone else’s on fire than drive every day. It’s not even that I mind driving, just that paying for gas and repairs causes me financial stress, and being in traffic causes me to experience more anxiety-fueled rage than a self-conscious UFC fighter on steroids. In other words, I’d rather take the bus.

Paying Rent – China doesn’t really have a renting culture, and even if they did, my university is going to supply me with a place to stay. I hear the lodgings are far from luxurious but as Great Grampa Alphonse always used to say “Anything free is worth saving up fer,” (Escanaba in da Moonlight.) So, even though I’m half-way certain the university is only giving it to me free because they would feel bad making me pay for it, I’m excited to see that rent check go away.

Other peoples’ English – Seriously, have you listened to the people around you? In China at least I can assume their lack of ability in my language is because, well, it’s not their language. But here? It’s just shameful how some of our population refuse to take the time to learn how to speak correctly. Furthermore, as the people in China won’t speak as much English, I won’t have listen to their conversations. So pretty much what I am saying is that this entry probably should have just been titled “Other people.”

Things that, oh god, why don’t they have this in China:

Good Beer – I have been told the beer in China is at least better than Korean beer, but that’s not exactly setting a high bar. Once again, if you see me in person it’s pretty obvious that I like good food and good beer, and while China has some great food, they don’t fulfill the second half of my flawed lifestyle. It sounds like it will be easier to start my own brewery than to find something worth drinking there. So I guess I had better get started quickly because who wants to stop drinking beer?

Hugs – My friend Ale tells me that, while physical contact like holding hands or interlocking arms is pretty common, no one gives each other hugs in this part of China. This is going to be a problem for me. I am a hugger. I hug. I only hope that if I act strange enough, people will begin to accept my hugs. Either that, or Ale and I will be hugging each other and crying fairly frequently.

Humor – This one is going to be tough. My humor ranges from absurd to dark to awkwardly poignant, and I will probably need some time to get used to not making wisecracks and laughing at things that other people tend to find off-putting. There’s also that whole “they aren’t native English speakers” thing, which makes it hard to bridge the funny-gap.

BEER – But really, I’m going to miss craft beer. Like a lot.

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One thought on ““It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.” ― John Green, Paper Towns

  1. It’d be cool to see a follow-up post to this post about a month after you’ve been in China. You know, to see if the good is as good as expected and to see if the bad is as bad as expected.

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