The Rural Zhejiang Bird-Watching Club: Finding Unlikely Avian Wonders in My Husband’s Village – Pub’d on WWAM BAM

Brown dipper

The group blog WWAM BAM just published my latest post, The Rural Zhejiang Bird-Watching Club: Finding Unlikely Avian Wonders in My Husband’s Village. Here’s an excerpt:

Years ago, when my husband Jun and I spent some transitional months living in his family’s home in rural Zhejiang province, I once joked that we had inadvertently formed a bird-watching club in the process.

We hadn’t intended to turn a gaze to our avian friends in the vicinity during our transition. But every day when we ventured out for a late afternoon walk through the fields and woodlands in the village, sightings of birds became one of the most delightful surprises during that time, one that introduced me to biodiversity I had never noticed before in previous visits.

A walk beside the meandering stream that cut through the village yielded a most magnificent sighting – the dipper. My heart leapt with excitement the moment I fixed upon that bird, because I knew exactly how special it was. Dippers, which live among fast-moving streams, can “fly” underwater, but are also equally adept when winging through the air. In the US, I had only encountered this bird a few precious times during hikes in national parks out west, cherishing every glimpse like a rare stone on the trail. But here we were, only a 10-minute walk from the door of Jun’s family home, watching a dipper flit along the stream. I felt as if I had just won some kind of bird-watching lottery. Even better, we had the opportunity to see it bobbing up and down while perched on rocks, as if performing a brief but amusing dance for anyone who cared to look.

As I began to turn my eyes toward the avian life around us, I found myself continually rewarded with incredible views, including those of bird varieties I rarely had the opportunity to spot back in Ohio, USA, where I had grown up.

Head on over to WWAM BAM to read the full post. And if you like it, share it!

P.S.: The bird in the featured image is a dipper!

The Joys of a Bilingual Relationship – Pub’d on WWAM BAM

It’s been busy in the past week — and as I’m getting caught up on things, I thought I’d point you to a piece I recently penned for the group blog WWAM BAM called The Joys of a Bilingual Relationship. Here’s an excerpt:

You could argue that English and Chinese – translations that is – brought me and my husband Jun together.

We met as colleagues in an internet company in China, where he translated company introductions from Chinese to English and I polished the language. And while our initial interactions happened over work-related tasks, soon we found ourselves collaborating on translations just for fun, such as a set of quizzes I developed in English and Chinese.

Not long after that, our partnership turned romantic – and that love, in both languages, has continued to this day.

Before I met Jun, all of my other relationships with Chinese men had remained grounded in English or Chinese, but not both. With Jun, however, I loved having the freedom to express myself in two languages, as well as the comfort of knowing that, when I needed to speak from the heart in my native tongue, he would understand.

Being able to share our lives, thoughts and ideas in two different languages has only strengthened our relationship. Many years ago, I wrote that “the couple that wordplays together, stays together,” something I still stand by to this day.

Read the full piece at WWAM BAM — and if you like it, share it!

How Are Age and Chinese New Year Connected? – Pub’d on WWAM BAM

The group blog WWAM BAM just published my post titled How Are Age and Chinese New Year Connected? Here’s an excerpt from that piece:

Years ago, when I went to have my fortune read at the Shihlin Night Market in Taipei, the fortune-teller gave me quite a shock when he declared me two years older than what I considered my actual age.

“But I’m not that old yet!” I insisted. Had this guy misread my birthdate? While I could live with one extra year — something I had become accustomed to from living in China, a culture where you’re considered 1 years old the day you’re born — two was pushing it.

What I never realized at the time, however, was that this “extra year” had something to do with Chinese New Year.

As I mentioned before, I’ve known for a long time that people in China count your age differently, with newborns being 1, not 0, years of age.

So how does Chinese New Year fit in with age?

To read the full post, head on over to WWAM BAM. And if you like it, share it!

Putting Heartbreak Behind Me in Moving to China – Pub’d on WWAM BAM

The group blog WWAM BAM just published my piece Putting Heartbreak Behind Me in Moving to China. Here’s an excerpt:

Years ago, when I made the serendipitous – and seemingly accidental – decision to come to China, I actually had a fresh start in mind after I signed on to teach for a year at a university.

My college years ended with an explosive breakup so devastating that I spent weeks in counseling trying to sort out exactly what had happened and why I had ended up with this wreckage of a relationship. It helped some when the counselor told me she suspected my ex was bipolar, which then explained a lot of the erratic behavior I hadn’t understood.

But that summer before I left, it was also a great comfort to me that I had China to look forward to. Even though I hadn’t explicitly chosen the opportunity as a means to sidestep my heartbreak back home, it nevertheless offered a golden chance for me to put this nightmare of a relationship behind me and move forward in a new direction.

Ironically, I had even built up China in my mind as this kind of “post-relationship retreat”, where I would get a reprieve from all matters of the heart and finally recover, particularly in light of what someone had told me about China.

To read the full post, head on over to WWAM BAM. And if you like it, share it!

Seeing Christmas Through the ‘Apple’ of China’s Eyes – Pub’d on WWAM BAM

The group blog WWAM BAM! just published my post Seeing Christmas Through the ‘Apple’ of China’s Eyes. Here’s an excerpt:

The other day, while browsing Alibaba’s Tmall, the online giant’s popular virtual shopping center, I happened upon a Christmas item that I had never seen before: gift boxes for Christmas Eve Apples.

They had the kind of charming little Christmas trees, Santas, reindeer, snowmen and holiday greetings you would expect to find on cards or boxes at, say, a Hallmark store. Except you wouldn’t find such a product on any shelves of a Hallmark store. Never in America had I encountered boxes made explicitly for apples that you present on Christmas Eve — because no such tradition existed in my home country.

Yet, based on the stats for this online store in China, over 100,000 people have already ordered sets of 50 from them just this month. And that store has plenty of company, with tens of others vying to gain business from young people who want the perfect little box for their Christmas Eve Apples.

I had known for some years that China turned Christmas Eve into a time for giving apples, particularly among young, urban people (even though it’s not a tradition in any Western country that celebrates Christmas). But I didn’t realize you even needed special boxes for the apples!

It stood as proof of just how far the tradition has integrated itself into the lives of young, urban Chinese — that it had spawned an entire industry of packaging to support the custom.

You can head on over to WWAM BAM to read the rest of the piece. And if you like it, share it!

P.S.: If you’re looking for gift-giving ideas this holiday season for someone in China, yes, I’ve recommended apples — but you can also see other suggestions at my classic post on gift-giving in China.

A World of (Familiar) Wonder: How Living Abroad Changed My View of Home – Pub’d on WWAM BAM

The group blog WWAM BAM just published my post A World of (Familiar) Wonder: How Living Abroad Changed My View of Home. Here’s an excerpt:

The velvety expanses of grass, and the rolling hills blanketed in oaks and maples still commanded my attention hours after leaving the airport, like a child who had never seen them before. As we traveled along the highway, my eyes remained fixed on these grand natural landscapes all around us. And I wanted to soak in every single detail, from the different shades of green to the way the leaves seemed to shimmer in the July sunshine, set against a sky so blue it looked computer generated.

The whole scene felt like a dream, and even I wondered if I would suddenly awaken and find myself back in bed, somewhere else far removed from all this, even though it shouldn’t have thrown me into such a reverie. After all, this was the land of my childhood — the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, USA, the place I had grown up and called home for a good portion of my life.

So what had changed? Simple — I lived in China now, and it was my first trip back to the US in years.

It’s amazing how putting down roots in another country can transform your perspective on places you knew so intimately, to the point where they can enchant you all over again, like a first-time visitor. Where you forget all of the imperfections, the warts, the problems of the past and simply appreciate the scenery in that moment. It happens to me every time I come back to the US from China for a visit, and no matter the season, these landscapes of my childhood turn into something shiny and new.

To read the full piece, head on over to WWAM BAM. And if you like it, share it!

Photo credit: By Niagara66 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51712992

An Ode to China’s Enchanting Sweet Osmanthus Flowers (Pub’d on WWAM BAM)

The group blog WWAM BAM just ran my post An Ode to China’s Enchanting Sweet Osmanthus Flowers. Here’s an excerpt:

If dreams and hopes had a scent, it might just be the sweet osmanthus bloom.

This autumn marks the first in many years without the pleasure of one of my favorite flowers, which comes out in late September into early October in Hangzhou, my husband’s home region.

These enchanting blossoms grow on the osmanthus tree, native to a wide swath of subtropical and tropical East Asia, and their beguiling, sweet fragrance has notes of apricot, peach and even a little vanilla.

And yet, the flowers are incredibly tiny, smaller than the nail on your pinky finger. It’s amazing that these delicate blooms send out such a powerful smell. I’ll never forget one autumn when I stayed with my in-laws in their home, and the scent of the sweet osmanthus flowers wafted in through all the windows for days. It was like being engulfed in the smell of heaven everywhere I walked in that house.

I also love that you can use the flowers in your cooking. My mother-in-law always makes roasted chestnuts at home, and she sometimes tosses in osmanthus flowers collected from the village or front yard of the house. The heady fragrance of the flowers makes the chestnuts even more delicious.

You can head on over to WWAM BAM to read the full post and see some of my photos of the beguiling flower. And if you like it, share it!

And for those of you in China or from the country, here’s wishing you all a very happy National Day!

June’s Magical Yangmei Fruit Brings Thoughts of Love, Family in China – Pub’d on WWAM BAM!

The group blog WWAM BAM! just published my post titled June’s Magical Yangmei Fruit Brings Thoughts of Love, Family in China. Here’s an excerpt from the post:

Nevermind the high humidity. Or the relentless sunshine. Or anyone else who tells me how unbearably hot summers are in China. Who has time to worry about that in June in China, a month that, for me, is inextricably entwined with the arrival of what I consider the country’s most magical fruit – yangmei or Myrica rubra.

If you’ve never bit into the juicy, ruby red goodness that is a yangmei, imagine the world’s most succulent red fruits (like my favorites of cranberry and pomegranate) packed together into one tiny, koosh-ball shaped package. It’s a little bite of ecstasy that will dance across your tastebuds and probably dribble onto the table or your summer clothes, making you look like you indulged in some red wine…but who cares when there’s yangmei on the table?

You can head on over to WWAM BAM! to read the full post. And if you like it, share it!

“Don’t Eat Potatoes and Eggs Together” – and in China, She Wasn’t Alone in This Belief – Pub’d on WWAM BAM

The group blog WWAM BAM just published my post “Don’t Eat Potatoes and Eggs Together” – and in China, She Wasn’t Alone in This Belief. Here’s an excerpt from the post:

Many years ago here in China, I remember sitting down to lunch with the wife of my husband’s cousin on a sultry summer day. Surrounded by the tempting aromas of the many delicacies covering the table, we invariably turned our thoughts – and the conversation – to food.

I still don’t remember exactly how we stumbled upon the idea of foods you should and shouldn’t eat. But somehow, the topic surfaced in our friendly chat at the table. And that’s when she began pointing out some curious combinations of foods you should never, ever eat together. Including one suggestion that, to me, was baffling.

“Don’t eat potatoes and eggs together,” she said, explaining that the combination was supposedly harmful to your health.

She might as well have been wagging her finger at me and my entire family in America, not to mention entire countries in the West. ….

I had yet to perish from my allegedly “hazardous” egg and potato dishes. And as far as I could tell, the entire country of Spain was doing just fine, with no plans to suddenly cancel one of their most beloved foods. How was it possible that biting into a potato omelette would put your life at risk?

To read the whole post, head on over to WWAM BAM. And if you like it, share it!

 

Should You Leave Behind Facebook and Its AMWF Communities? – Pub’d on WWAM BAM!

The group blog WWAM BAM! just published my post titled Should You Leave Behind Facebook and Its AMWF Communities?

While I’ve been following the news on Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, I was particularly inspired to write this post after hearing the most recent episode of the NPR show On the Media. They invited a number of experts on the show, who highlighted how Facebook, not Cambridge Analytica, ought to concern us more.

Then I started pondering how I’ve used Facebook to connect to the community — and whether or not I could leave, turning into this post. Here’s an excerpt:

Unless you’ve been taking a social media detox or avoiding the news, you’ve probably heard about the recent scandal involving the Facebook data leak. But while much of the spotlight has been on Cambridge Analytica, many experts are saying we should be far more concerned about Facebook.

So what does this have to do with the relationships we write about — such as AMWF (Asian Male, White Female), AMXF (Asian Male, Non-Asian Female) and WWAM (Western Women, Asian Men)? The many, many connections I’ve made on Facebook through the community.

I don’t know about you but I’ve long turned to Facebook to connect with many people in the AMXF/AMWF/WWAM communities.

Head on over to WWAM BAM to read the full post.

How about you? Have you thought about leaving Facebook?