Noel Smith

7 minute read

I was four months in China before I finally decided it was time for a burger and fries. Upon my arrival to a little-known provincial capital, I was set on diving deep into the culture, and one way of doing that was by embracing the local cuisine. After all, I went to China to do the craziest thing I could think of, and living in a foreign land to eat hamburgers every day just didn’t make sense. When I finally did break down, when I finally couldn’t stomach another bowl of noodles or kung pao…

Noel Smith

6 minute read

The last time I returned to China, it took travelling to a nearby village and getting caught in an hours-long traffic jam to recall a central part of my early China experience: the infamous xiulu (road repair). My first real encounter with road repair occured during my second year in China when the main highway of the university I worked at got converted from a four lane to an eight lane highway. However, this story is not so much about the repairing of roads as it is about the repairing of the…

Noel Smith

4 minute read

Almost every foreigner who has dedicated a significant amount of time in China has had that fearful moment when they realize they could have been kicked out the country or, even worse, landed in a Chinese jail. For some, it’s smoking or buying weed. For others, it’s drunken belligerence or late night altercations with Chinese. There are plenty of ways I’ve seen foreigners wind up in trouble and there are many more possible ways to get in trouble. Yet there is one situation that I…

Noel Smith

5 minute read

I’ve been known by many nicknames throughout my life. I received my first one when I was just learning to talk. According to legend, my mother yelled my first and middle name when she was angry at me, and in an attempt to parrot her language, I said what my aunts believed to be “Burn da beans.”

Noel Smith

4 minute read

Let’s admit it. Sometimes certain languages have words that just hit the nail on the head. In the case of Chinese, characters are often combined in interesting ways which produce words that are compact and concise and have no appropriate cognate in English. Here I’m thinking of xiangfa and banfa, loosely translated as “way of thinking” or “way of doing something.” I absolutely love these two Chinese words, and I often find myself searching (always in vain) for the English translation when…

Noel Smith

11 minute read

During the near decade I lived in China, there wasn’t much I refused to do and try. Aside from adamantly declining to eat certain things, like stinky tofu, birds nests, and the feet of various animals, China was my oyster. Yet I did draw the line regarding two things in China: I said that I would never buy a house and that I would never get a driver’s license. This year upon my return to China I crossed one of those lines to do what was once unthinkable. I got my Chinese driver’s license.

Noel Smith

3 minute read

Playing pick-up basketball games is one of my favorite ways to pass the time in China. When I first arrived, soccer was still the most popular sport in the country. Soon afterwards, basketball charged to the forefront. Although soccer is still popular with the older generation (40+), the younger generation has fallen in love with the NBA and pick-up basketball.

Noel Smith

5 minute read

I’ve been cheated a time or two in my life. I’ve been swindled out of time, money, friendship and love. But fear not my dear reader, for this post is not intended to inventory each time I’ve gotten the short end of the stick. Rather my aim is to recount one specific time I got the short end of the cucumber, the time my heart was broken by the woman I was seeing for over a year—my vegetable lady.

Noel Smith

4 minute read

I absolutely loved Chinese food growing up. The most well-established Chinese restaurant in my hometown, New China, was a landmark on the eastside. And aside from Dominos, it was the only place that delivered. Like all middle-America Chinese food aficionados, I savored the egg rolls, egg-drop soup, Mandarin Chicken, and fortune cookies. But when I arrived in China for a one-year stint at the tender age of 22, I was heartbroken when I found out that New China was not so Chinese after all. Check…

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