The Land on Which We Stand


Lately I’ve had a strange recurring thought.

What was China before it was China, or for that matter what was any country before it was named? Was it simply just ‘land’ before it became ‘territory?’ Was there ever a time when it was just inhabited as opposed to fought over and possessed? Did people ever allow strangers to enter and wander through, crossing safely to the other side? When were borders, guards, searches, quarantines, passports and body checks established and for what reason, really?

We Come in Peace

The majority of people enter and leave a country without malice on their mind. Just like you and me they want the adventure of travel, to do business or catch up with family and friends.

If the reality is that only a significant minority cross the border of an alien land intent on doing harm to those that live there, such a small fraction in fact, that their names, addresses, shoes sizes, likes and dislikes, favorite colour and horoscopes are known to the agencies which police the same borders, then why does everyone have to suffer?

Isn’t it time to separate them from us? Give the innocent traveler respect due and focus restrictions on those whom the authorities know come with negative purpose and bad intent.

China’s beautiful land 

New Horizons

Travel broadens the mind but world rulers seems to do everything they can to restrict us. Is there a broader purpose at play? Would seeing too much of other cultures promote understanding making it apparent that the differences that separate us are really just perceptions and not reality?

Ordnances and Sub-Ordances

Frequently I hear tales of just how hard it is to make the leap toward a new life of work and study abroad and often the language barrier is the least problem. Being born in some countries subjects you to a set of complex rules and regulations. The system has been set by anonymous people who grant or deny the right to travel. This same system dictates how long you may stay away and on what terms you can leave.

Let Freedom Reign

But a nagging at the back of my mind reminds me that human beings are essentially born to be free and not subject to the will of others. Babies are born on earth and not just in a particular country. We all inherited a global viewpoint means that the enter a world which initially must have had no borders, no boundaries, no patrol, no need for passports, no sniffer dogs, no visas, no x-ray machines, no body pat-downs, just freedom to wander, to enjoy and marvel at its sights, to seek new territories and to settle in them at will. At one time all countries must have been like this but now in the age of the tangible terrorist, they exert a tight grip on its citizens who wish to leave and a cynical eye over aliens who wish to enter.

More of China’s beauty 

A Deeper Meaning

Who created this system and for what reason? Is it just a legal way to control a mass of people for fear that one day the ‘mass’ will rebel at the border? Most people just want to travel in peace, but nowadays in many places this means difficult, annoying, frustrating controls ensconced in paperwork which can change without notice. How about if we were guided across borders with ease of paperwork instead feeling like part of a lucky minority to have made it?

I want to be free to travel the earth, to go wherever I want to go, whenever I want to, staying wherever I want to stay for as long as I want and I don’t want to be under suspicion when I do it.

A Square in Shenzhen, South China 

Not all people want to travel. Many are happy to stay in the world they know; their  own city, town, village or region. Many have family commitments or illnesses that keep them close to home. Others prefer to view the vastness of the world either on TV or the internet from their own unique comfort zone. For them this is enough, but for me it could never be.

I want to experience the thrill of an elevated heartbeat because my senses have been challenged by the unexpected thrill of being immersed in a new world and I want it to be made easier to do so.

For all of us.


Adults in Waiting

Do you like babies?


Then come to China, come now! Really, stop whatever you’re doing and get on a plane.

So Sweet!

Even with the current, although soon to be amended, one child policy, China is overflowing with babies, toddlers and young people. The ten minute walk from my apartment to the subway usually consists of me trying not to step on, walk into or knock over any of the many small humans who are no higher than my knees.

They’re like ultra-cute, cuddly bundles which bring a smile to my face, especially as I don’t actually have to be responsible for any of them and can therefore do normal adult activities like get a full night’s sleep, eat my meals in peace and watch whatever I want to on TV.

Doting Grands

Proud grandparents care for the majority of these babies and toddlers but they’re regarded generally as precious by all of Chinese society with lots of pampering going on.

It’s not unusual to see a security guard holding the baby for its mother as she does her banking at the counter. Adults give up their seats for them on the subway or the bus and some parents will let them do what they like, resulting in a lot of spoiled kids.


On more than one ocassion I’ve witnessed children shouting at, kicking and hitting their parents who do nothing in return, not even an admonishment! Couldn’t get away with that when I was growing up.

The parents are probably mindful that payback comes when the child starts middle school and their formerly carefree life is swiftly replaced by a block of relentless learning and regurgitating, according to the Chinese education system, for a period of seemingly un-ending years.

Final Thoughts

In recent times China has relaxed its one child policy which at some point in the near future could result in even more squeezable teddy bear shapes for me to ooh and ah over as I’m shopping for groceries, buying my newspaper and sauntering through the oasis of calm that is a Chinese park.

As long as they don’t physically abuse me, I’m not complaining.

Chinese Food, My First Impressions

First Impressions

Each region specialises in its own type of cuisine. In Xu Zhou, in the eastern part of South China, it’s spicy hot and dog is seen as a delicacy. Street stalls with dog carcasses with cooked meat on them abound in the city centre. Pick up a few bits and have them for dinner, or breakfast, or whenever.

The Spice of Variety

Yes, the food can seem samey from meal to meal but there are so many novel ways to attain it.  Roadside stalls where they cook it in front of your eyes. A hundred different types of restaurant and café establishments. They’re not too big on franchises in this part of China. A café place where you choose what you want from a series of refrigerated shelves, they throw it in some seasoned soup for you and leave you and your chop sticks to do the rest.

The food is ridiculously cheap though, for 10 yuan or less (one pound or 60 US cents) you can get pumpkin soup and dumplings filled with brown rice – a meal so filling you don’t need to eat again till the next day, if you can manage to finish it all.


Weird and Wonderful

The supermarkets have great produce. Weird and wonderful looking fruit, veg and spices, shrink-wrapped meat in presentational boxes. Fake milk, fake honey, fake meat, fake cheese. Snake oil hand cream. Cucumber flavoured crisps. Little Tomato flavoured crisps, fake maltesers.

REAL Snickers bars.

Food56Final Thoughts

Margarine and butter and cheese are fairly new to China. Breads which look like Western breads but are full of sugar so taste more like cake than bread. Purple ice-cream made from Lavender.

Pastries and cakes which are works of art, they’re mostly whipped cream with very little sponge. Pizzas with what looks like brown crispy leaves on the top. Black shiny bread rolls with what looks like orange grated cheese coming out of it. Red pea tea. Green tea cake. Grapefruit and brown rice tea.

I hear the bigger cities have wider, more western based food choices, but for now (Sept 2012-January 2013), this, for me, is it and I’m enjoying the contrast tremendously.


My Beautiful Chinese City

South China’s tropical coast is exceptionally beautiful with lush greenery filling the well planned cities.

It is also the location for Shenzhen, China’s fourth largest city which has been my home for the past 3 years.

It’s grown rapidly from its origins as a small fishing town a mere thirty years ago to become a great place to live for both locals and expats.

Here are some of my recommendations for places to go and things to see and do.

The Chinese 7-11 Store

When I saw the familiar orange and green stripes on either side of the famous numbers I felt so happy. I’d only been in China for  few weeks and was feeling pretty homesick so it was great to see something I knew so well.

I bounded across the busy road, which isn’t easy to do in China as cars seem to be built without brakes and pedestrians are invisible to drivers, but luckily I made it safely and took a deep breath preparing myself for a taste of home before opening the door and then……

….silently berating myself for being so stupid.

I’d honestly thought that a plethora of British goods awaited me inside and I was looking forward to buying the stuff I used to buy back home. But I couldn’t, simply because, of course, I was in China and in this 7-11 everything was definitely Chinese. Natch.

Beauty Products in a Chinese 7-11 Store

I guess they wouldn’t get much custom if they only stocked Western goods!  I also guess that when Chinese people encounter a 7-11 in the US or England, they’re probably momentarily fooled just as I was.

Is 7-11 a global franchise with products unique to each market or has the name just transferred across oceans? If so, who was first to use it, the east or the west? I honestly don’t know, but location notwithstanding 7-11’s  all fulfill the same purpose, which is to provide cheap goods at reasonable quality, conveniently offered at a time and place to suit the customer.

Consequently in your Chinese 7-11 you’ll be able to pick up confectionary, toiletries, fast food and a variety of shrink wrapped meat along with pot noodle, ice cream, hot and cold tea and coffee, fruit drinks, milk, condoms and frozen and refrigerated food. They have lunch counters and in some cases tables, while the staff greet you with a loud ‘welcome to come back again’ both on your way in and on your way out, without fail, even though most people don’t acknowledge this. (I do because I’m too polite – apparently)

Now, my only worry is that when I return to England I’ll initially be surprised and disappointed to not find any of these goodies in my local 7-11 store!


China Cured Me! Now I’m No Longer Afraid of Heights

by Ava Ming: My Oriental Life

It wasn’t until the third or fourth time that I’d stood looking out the window at the building works going on a short distance away that I realized that being twenty stories up was actually okay.

No More Fear

For the first time in my life I wasn’t afraid of heights! Just in case it was a fluke and only worked in that room, I ran through the Xu Zhou, South China, duplex apartment and stood in front of every window, upstairs and down, feeling more and more elated.

There was no trepidation. No nervousness. No dry mouth. No clammy palms. No calling out to Jesus to save me. All was well. Somehow I really was cured and my acrophobia, just like the cold wind that had formerly been blowing outside, had vanished!

I tried to work out when it happened realizing that it had to be sometime just after my arrival in China. I hadn’t been afraid on the plane rides over from the UK, but for some weird reason planes never triggered my acrophobia.

I wanted to remember the last time it had occurred back home in England, but nothing stood out. Acrophobia was just something I endured like many people. So, although I couldn’t gauge the exact moment I was freed, it was more than wonderful to just know that I was.

Shekou, Shenzhen at Night

Can’t Stop Me

Now, I can go to the tallest part of anywhere and experience only the butterflies of a person with normal fear rather than the gripping panic of an irrational sense that death could occur simply from being up high.

Imagine not being able to drive higher than the fourth floor of a multi-storey car park! Once I merrily cruised up onto the sixth floor without thinking, probably singing along to the radio or something. Everything was fine until I got out of the car and noticed that I was looking down on the rooftops of surrounding buildings, yikes! As I’m not a bird, this felt totally unnatural to me. My poor sister had to talk me down over the phone and then later retrieve my car.

Sad but True

Imagine stepping out of the lift on the fifteenth floor of an office building, being greeted by a wall of glass and sinking to your knees as acrophobia kicks in.

Yes, this really happened to me in a real office, in front of real people!

Imagine climbing a small (ish) mountain in France, determined to see the views of the Languedoc valley and taking shaky pictures through your tears because even though you’ve made it up there in one piece and you’re on a flat, safe plateau, you’re still terrified?

Not surprisingly my photographs didn’t come out very well.

View from my window of Shekou Shenzhen I live on the 34th floor

Final Thoughts

Now China, mystic land of the Orient, place of great philosophers and historic monuments, has worked its ancient magic and I’m finally free of the terrible phobia.

Hope it stays like this when I leave.