Roasted Ducklings, Hidden Bones

It’s like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but much more likely to break your teeth than Chow Yun-Fat. Chinese cuisine has some of the most delicious and diverse dishes in the world, but it also includes the unfortunately common chainsaw chicken. Imagine your typical stir fry, except among the vegetables and hidden underneath the sauce lie chunks of chicken with the bones and tendons still in them. Who knows which part of the chicken is in your dish, but you can bet it wasn’t the most edible or valued portion of the bird. Sometimes shards of the bones have even broken off into your vegetables, creating a potentially dangerous dish of low expectations and soy sauce.


Lets play spot the bones

Chefs in China are known for using every part of an animal, and filleting birds just isn’t seen as necessary here in the Middle Kingdom. Eating these meals is like navigating marrow-laden land mines, although chopsticks do make it easier to pick them out, and I’ve experienced this at both high-end restaurants and dingy kitchens. Heck, a dish in Guangzhou even claimed one of my back molars when a particularly negligent chef had decided to deep fry chainsaw chicken. Drunk and hungry, I’d dug in expecting something to similar to sesame chicken, and left shortly after needing to see a dentist. Good times, bon appetit.



Bones or no bones, Cantonese duck is still one of the most savory and delicious meals that I’ve ever eaten


When you see something like this in a restaurant, it really all comes down to expectation management


For the customers who order extra bone

Moving Money out of China; the Legal, the Convenient, and the Shady

Whether you’ve taken a job in China as an opportunity to travel the world, to experience a new culture and learn Mandarin, or even just to break out of the normalcy of back home, nobody is denying that the money had also been a major factor. There are countless opportunities for a foreigner in China, and anybody who has been living here for more than a month probably has several side jobs on top of the job they’d originally came for. Tutoring, part-time training centers, transcribing and proofreading, even English basketball training… you’re a valued commodity here, and even if you don’t play your cards right, you’ll still have offers thrust at you left and right just for being a native English speaker. Couple this with the low cost of living and your ability to save huge amounts of money without being forced to live like a pauper in order to do so, and you could easily accumulate a grand or more every month to stash away and send home.


Mao money Mao problems

Making the money is the easy part though, because sending money out of China is where it can get complicated, as well as expensive. The wealthy are getting wealthier in China faster than anywhere else in history, and China’s rising emigration rate is directly related to this. One of the many side effects of the wealthy leaving has been the tightening of currency controls, and while it is a lot easier for a foreigner to send money outside of China, it can still be a hassle if you aren’t aware of all of your options. “What’s the best way to send money home” is a question I’m constantly getting asked, and so I’ve decided to create this guide to lay out the different options available. Establishing a shell corporation in your home country to sue yourself with will unfortunately not be covered though.

Bank Transfers Most legal. Most expensive. Most hassle.

What you’ll need: Tax documents, a Z VISA, and your home bank’s SWIFT code.

If you asked an official, they’d tell you this is how it’s done. Lining up in a bank and potentially waiting for hours, you’ll eventually get your turn to meet with a teller and start the process. You’ll need to pay a fee on both ends, as well as a percentage of the amount that you’re looking to send back, and your tax documents will dictate how much you’re able to transfer at one time. Fees and percentages differ with each bank, and the Bank of China will probably be your best yet most crowded option. Make sure you have the afternoon free and try to keep patient.

International Bank Accounts Most legal. Most expensive. Convenient.

What you’ll need: A Z VISA, your home bank’s SWIFT code, and the money to keep your account open

To my knowledge, only CITI bank and HSBC offer international bank accounts, and from everything I’ve heard, you’ll pay more in upkeep for maintaining your international account than you will doing a bank transfer at a Chinese bank, while still being subject to transfer fees on both ends. The upside, and why some expats consider this the best option, is that bank transfers are painless and easy, they can be done online, and won’t ever eat up a sizeable portion of your day off. This is best option for anybody who wants to move money out of China legitimately and conveniently.

Chinese-assisted Bank Transfers Debatably still legal. Moderately expensive. Some hassle.

What you’ll need: A Chinese friend and your home bank’s SWIFT code

This is the same as the above-mentioned bank transfer, except a Chinese national is doing it for you using their ID. Perfect for anybody working less than legally, you can move large amounts of money without restriction assuming you know somebody well enough to ask them for this favor. A Chinese girlfriend is the obvious option, but my coworkers had also been happy to help when I’d asked them. Just expect to return the favor with something English related around the office when the time comes, or help them buy cheap designer handbags if you ever visit back home.


For anybody still getting paid with envelopes

Western Union Legal. Somewhat expensive. Convenient.

What you’ll need: Your home bank’s SWIFT code or a family member/friend

Western Unions are available in any Chinese city, and fees will vary according to how much you’re sending and the country you’re sending the money to. In my opinion there’s very little reason to send money back this way unless you absolutely need to or only want to send back a small amount. The fees are high and I’m pretty sure the restrictions are tightening every year on how much you can send back at one time and the documents you’re expected to provide. Find a Chinese friend if you need to send money back without providing a valid working VISA.

Mailing a Bank Card Home Not so legal. Cheapest. Most convenient.

What you’ll need: A second Chinese bank account and somebody back home to withdraw the money on your behalf

Union Pay is the interbank network that China uses exclusively, and almost every ATM in America will have their logo next to Visa and Mastercard. After you’ve opened a second bank account, you’ll need to take a photo of the number on the front of the ATM card and then send it home by mail to somebody you trust. Save that account number, you’ll need it later. Myself and people I knew who’ve done this never had any issues mailing an ATM card home, but there is the potential for it to get confiscated on its way out of China. If you’re especially worried about this or don’t want the potential hassle of having to redo the process, you can always carry the card back with you on your next visit home, along with a fat stack of cash of course. The best bank to use as far as international withdrawal fees go is Ping An bank, although if you use Bank of America they should reimburse any and all ATM fees when you use a China Construction Bank card at one of their ATMs. Take your money and go to your local Ping An ATM to deposit the cash without your card by imputing the account number of the card you’d sent home, and wait for whoever’s back home to withdraw the money and drop it into your home bank account.

When you’re sending back large amounts, you should coordinate how much you’re sending back with the maximum that can be withdrawn at any one time (usually 300-500USD) to get the most out of each withdrawal and minimize the fees that will come with it. Even though I’d been working legitimately the majority of my time in China, I’d still chosen to use this method for sending money home simply for its flexibility and lack of fees. In time though, as restrictions continue to tighten, this method may become less viable.

Flying it Home Yourself Totally legal. Situational.

As far as fees go, none of the aforementioned methods are going to be anywhere near as expensive as a plane ticket home. That being said, eventually you’re going to be heading back home whether it be for your summer break, a wedding, or even just to recharge. This is the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone and stuff your pockets with money. Of course, you’ll need to keep in mind that you can only carry up to $5,000 worth of currency out of China, but a little bit more than that had never caused me any trouble. Money does contain RFID chips though, and there will be scanners at every immigration checkpoint checking for egregious amounts of cash, or electronics, that somebody may be covertly trying to exit with. Put the saranwrap down and plan for a second trip back if you’re loaded.


An A+ for effort Photo credit: Reuters/China Daily


Black money men are a common fixture in any Chinese airport, hanging around banks to exchange large amounts of cash for anybody looking to circumvent currency controls


“Taking photos of money laundering is against the bank’s policies”

Getting screwed out the door

I wrote about this years ago, and then I got too comfortable. My direct manager was my friend from before either of us had started working this company, and I’d thought two and half years of working with there, padded by two promotions, would’ve afforded me fair treatment. That’s turning out to be an increasingly expensive misconception.

Having just come back from an unpaid vacation home for the holidays, I’d decided to leave China at the end of the current semester to pursue new things. In an attempt to avoid burning bridges or laying any collateral damage at the desk of my friend-first-manager-second, I’d decided to do things the official way with a formal notice of my intentions. I didn’t need to; in fact, there wasn’t much downside at all to not doing it legitimately… Some personal fallout, a bad taste in my mouth, and maybe an angry email or two. The winter break was coming up and I would’ve received my salary during that time, well before I would have been expected to be back in China, giving me plenty of time to no-show or create a personal tragedy once I’d had my money. The ATM fees in America would’ve been peanuts to get my money out of China, now more than ever considering I’m out almost 2,000 USD for being the good guy.

I mentioned a promotion just now, which is, or should I say was, more so an additional role I’d played in the company acting as their cultural consultant while also teaching. There’d still been quite a bit of work I could’ve done during my final month to earn this separate salary, but only a day after handing in my formal letter of intent, that rider-contract had been retroactively canceled, despite the clause that required 2 weeks in order to legally terminate it. “Get a lawyer” the vice CEO had said, as if I was going to be around to fight this.

I’d always thought I was lucky for working in a middle school, since their winter holiday, and my vacation, started about 2 weeks before anybody else’s. In this instance though, it meant my pay would stop 2 weeks earlier, regardless of when I was planning to leave the country since I was ultimately leaving the company. Every other teacher would be paid for that full month regardless of their school’s end date or when they were planning to head out on vacation, as an incentive to not unexpectedly disappear during the 6 week break like I could have. Sure, not receiving this pay was slightly more understandable than flagrantly terminating my consulting position, because any rational person would say “yea, well you were done teaching,” but again, my contract and its terms of leaving had been blatantly ignored.

This blog post isn’t to say my former company is terrible or even that I would never again recommend them to somebody else; it’s just a statement of how the ESL industry in China often works. If I’d ended exactly as they’d expected, I’m sure everything would’ve have gone accordingly. Call it a tax, or an embedded cost, but if they don’t need to pay for something, they probably won’t. Business and profit come first, and while I’m not particularly pleased about all of this, I’m still good friends with my direct supervisor whose hands had ultimately been tied. Insert that one quote about hindsight and good vision here, and be aware of what could happen if you’re ever in the same boat. That’s just how it can be here, a costly con across from all of the pro’s of living and working in China.

Needless to say, he paid for my going away dinner

Needless to say, he paid for my going away dinner

Courting Employers from afar

I gotta say, applying to jobs abroad kind of sucks. I don’t have much experience with online dating, due to the fact that it also sucks, but from the limited amount I’ve gathered from friends and by browsing tinder nightmares, I’ve come to the conclusion that they suck quite similarly and I’m prepared to back it up. If you were one of over 10,000 eHarmony members that met your spouse through their website this year alone, my bad.

No standardization whatsoever

Some profiles are just better put together; they’ve provided good information about themselves, were written interestingly, and have plenty of pictures that aren’t just selfies. Then you’ve got profiles that only have a sentence each and force you to judge the person solely off of their looks, as well as ones written so terribly that you’re unable to even make it past the second run-on sentence.

Employment ads for international jobs end up having the same downfalls. If you have to scour through paragraphs of varying fonts to find relevant job information, they’re probably not an organized employer with streamlined management experience. If the ad is in broken English with ridiculous pragmatic errors, read through it because that shit is hilarious, although this is also an indicator of inexperience working with foreigners… despite promising a Fortune 500 sunny everyday worker living. And then, some ads have been formatted and structured to give you everything you need to know upfront and a clear view of what life will be like there, while others read professionally enough to make you confident about buying a plane ticket with your own money to wherever it is that they are. Although when it all comes down to it, writing structure really isn’t going to be what you look at if you’re going to judge a book by its cover…

First impressions boil down to a single detail

Shallow as it might be, there’s a necessary first step for each of these, regardless of whether or not most people would admit it this openly… physical and fiscal attractiveness. How do they look? Are they attractive enough to meet my friends? What’s the pay? Can I live well and save here? If these requirements aren’t met, then it won’t matter how cool they’d seemed or how cushy the job would’ve been; the offer is simply no longer on the table. Only once this initial barrier has been crossed can personalities/job details start to be explored, with concessions being made based off of just how good they look. To avoid appearing as anything but a gentleman, I’ll keep it only about jobs for the rest of this.

Well, I definitely wasn’t looking to work that much, but damn could I hammer away at my debt there

You want me to work in the desert?! Staying on an alcohol-free compound of only men?!! Wait, how much did you just say? …Oh, yea, ok, when can I start?

Teaching kindergarten students makes me want to do somersaults down stairwells, but damnnnnn look at what they’re paying.

The I’ve got personality flaws/baggage warning

Dating websites give their users full reign to express what they’re looking for, which I guess is exactly what they should be doing. How this goes wrong though comes from the fact that people are people, and some of those people have crazy shit orbiting around them that they’ve chosen to type out in a paragraphical red flag. Employment ads generally aren’t as obvious as and if you’re this type of person, don’t even bother messaging me, although depending on where you’re looking white candidates only isn’t uncommon at all.

The way employers try to not make the same mistake twice is instead within their policies. The contract clause “payment for winter holiday will be withheld/staggered until Party B has re-attended their duties at their school for X amount of time” should have a face next to it, with a big ‘ole this guy ruined it for everybody else caption underneath it. Foreigners can come and go as they please, and the more financial controls and penalties that a contract has written into it, the more previous employees of theirs had probably dipped out unexpectedly. Or this place is managed by jerks. Either way, red flag.

Safety concerns are another one, like how this one job in Indonesia I’d looked at suggested getting daily malaria medication before coming, and how an international school in Brazil had promised to put us in a very safe, gated community. Why do they emphasize that they’ll routinely rotate vehicles when driving us to and from the school? The worst by far though had come up during a phone interview with a job I’d actually almost chosen to accept; Oh, and before we proceed further, I’m legally required to inform you that in 2003, a suicide bomber had managed to gain access to our compound and kill 9 people. Don’t worry though, since then we’ve upgraded our security with Jersey gates and a second guard checkpoint. A lot of guys will tell you crazy girls are fun, and since this article is all about drawing parallels, dangerous jobs are lucrative.


“Just keep your head down and you’ll be debt free in no time, Mr. Collins”

Sending out large amounts of messages and waiting for responses

Did they get my message? Did I say the wrong thing? Am I just ugly? Did he manage to get back with that ex he couldn’t ever get over? There’s no way of reading the person you’re contacting, and communication is limited to typing alone. Applying to job ads feels the same, and I haven’t always gotten responses. Maybe they’d already found somebody, or maybe on paper I just wasn’t right for them. Perhaps that recruiter had recently quit and nobody will never even know I’d applied. A headhunter who’d been enthusiastically up my ass for several days unexpectedly dropped off the map for a week… Did he fill the spot with somebody more preferable? Did he lose the contract? Did he skim my email while driving and then forget to get back to me once he was actually free to respond? Applying from abroad has this feeling of always being kept at arm’s length, and until you’ve received a contract to potentially sign, it’s hard to count on anything. Juggling so much with preparing to move to another country, buying reasonably-priced plane tickets as far in advance as possible, and settling up your affairs wherever you currently are… it can get really stressful without a tangible offer. There is one thing to be said though, being clingy when applying internationally will get you a whole lot further than it will on tinder.

You’ll never know if you’re being cat-fished until it’s too late

Just outside the city center, assuming you’re commuting by helicopter

Enter on a tourist visa and work illegally while we attempt to process your working visa in-country.

Of course accommodation is provided, or you’re free to get your own place if you wouldn’t like living in a closet or with 7 other teachers.

Our license to legally hire foreigners is on its way, don’t you worry! Just don’t mention you work for us in the meantime if anybody asks.

Only 20 classes per week, unless we can get more students to sign up, in which you’ll need to work like a dog six days a week, because our profit matter more than your happiness

Nobody will ever be this straightforward about these unfortunately realistic and very possible scenarios. You’re at the mercy of these people’s honesty, and unless you’re able to contact current employees or find a scathing blog post forewarning any would-be applicants, then you’ll just need to have faith that you’ll be flying into a good situation. Nothing’s worse than showing up at a cafe and realizing that photo was from 3 years ago when they had actually exercised. But don’t you worry, that’s just winter weight, and living so far outside of the city that you’ll never have a social life is a great way to pay off your student loans. Perhaps this is the biggest similarity, some just want to screw you. Best of luck in your search.

Mantrums in China

Sometimes I really don’t get this place. I’ve seen a foreigner’s snide remark result in him getting hospitalized by a group of Chinese guys, and the nastiest fights I’ve witnessed here have been over the most trivial shit, like who would get a taxi, a fender bender that didn’t even result in a scuff, or an extra item on a restaurant bill that couldn’t possibly have been more than 40RMB (about 5 dollars). Taking these into account, you’d think wiping a counter clean in a bank and Shouting in Mandarin would’ve left me unable to write this.

Let me preface this by saying I’m not usually a dick, I’d just had a really rough week. I guess I should also add that the majority of my mantrums have taken place in banks while trying to change money, so maybe I need to reevaluate the way I do my finances. After waiting over 30 minutes to change money for an early morning flight back to America the next day, sitting in that lobby past 5 o’clock when financial institutions close and any chance of going somewhere else had expired, I was informed that foreigners couldn’t change RMB to a foreign currency anymore. I tried to reason with them, explaining the urgency, telling them how I’d done it before at this exact bank, and offering my passport to show them my residency permit in order to prove that I was legally employed. I’d even told the customer service girl what I’d wanted to do when I’d arrived in order to register into the correct que, but apparently that had been completely ignored. None of it mattered; foreigners could no longer change RMB to a foreign currency at this bank. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I lost my shit.

“Does anybody else here a white guy yelling?” Photo Credit:

To lose your cool or show anger, as well as throw a full-on mantrum, is one of most shameful ways you can conduct yourself in Chinese culture due to Confucian values, and well, I lost some face that evening. The people around me froze to watch, and the several security guards, each equipped with batons and mace, meandered my way hesitantly. Maybe I got lucky with the “foreigner card,” or maybe I was just angry enough and big enough to deter serious action, but instead of getting clubbed and pepper sprayed or having the police called on me, the middle aged bank manager calmly came up to me in the midst of verbally throwing down with the women behind the glass barrier, put his hand on my back, and said “calm down, Dad is going to help you.” Translated directly, that’s not actually as creepy as it sounds; Chinese people often refer to each other by age, calling each other big brother or little sister depending on who’s helping who, with children and young adults referring to their elders as uncle or auntie. I guess in this situation, I was the kid; I’d definitely been acting like one.

Same facial expression, and pants

Same facial expression, and pants

I sheepishly watched as Dad called over one of the secretaries and told her to change my money for me using her own ID, and within several minutes, I had the stack of US dollars that I’d come for. I of course had been apologizing the whole time, but my excuses and sorry’s weren’t necessary, the manager just waved them off and said it’s nothing, apologizing to me as well for the inconvenience. Modesty and deference, those are virtues here for the same reason flipping your shit in a bank is shameful, and this guy had just helped me despite how big of an asshole I’d been, even going so far as to break the rules of his job and the laws of his country. When I left, several of the onlookers and employees even smiled at me and waved goodbye, wishing me a good a day. Anywhere else… 3.5 years later and China still baffles me. I should’ve gotten my ass kicked.

IV Errthing

Hangnails and dirty streets don’t mix, and I’d just happened to be working in one of Shenzhen’s oldest and poorest village areas, colloquially referred to as a Cunzi or cun. Looking back on it, it should’ve been a no-brainer that biting my cuticles and petting Cun dogs would eventually catch up with me.


A typical Cun, where the ground is always wet regardless of the weather..


Don’t even risk picking your nose in these parts of town

Small clinics are scattered all over Shenzhen with at least a couple in every neighborhood, and conveniently enough there had been one just down the block from my primary school. I had figured this would be pretty simple to get taken care of… Just a couple pills and some gunk drained out, then I’d be back to playing with lockjaw in no time.


“I aint done shit”


Who would’ve believed the amount of hassle I was going to go through just to be able to point at people when I yell

The only issue with that theory was that it turned out to be 100% wrong. Pretty much the opposite of quick and simple, the doctor there informed me that I’d need to be put on a regiment of IV treatments for at least 3 days, and in addition to coming to get hooked up twice each day, I’d also need to drink mashed up roots mixed only in hot water several times throughout each day. The IV treatments made it sound much more serious than I’d expected, and I started to get a little nervous about coming out of this with all of my digits as I’d watched the doctor prepare the IV bag. Only after being led into a large seating room as varied as an inner-city ER waiting room, sans stabbings, did I realize that the severity of my treatment was due more so to cultural differences than it was MRSA. After getting seated in front of multiple TVs all playing soap operas, they hooked in my IV and told me that the bag would take roughly 45 minutes to drain fully. The nurse then gave me a clip board of take-out menus and walked away, leaving me with plenty of time for people watching.


Although MRSA is never outside the realm of possibilities in a place like this


In the time that I’d been sitting there, I’d watched quite a few people finish or start IVs, and I couldn’t help but notice how many were there for simple colds. I guess I’d known this already just from working alongside Chinese teachers for years and witnessing them leave during a free period to get an IV rather than call out sick, but damn… there must’ve been ten people with the sniffles there at any one time, coughing openly as they got fluids pumped into them. Anchored by my IV nearby one woman who was hacking away in my direction, I remember hoping to leave the clinic healthier than when I’d arrived.


My photo had died at the perfect time to play candy crush, and I was unable to get a picture of the waiting room. The clinic I’d been at hadn’t been this busy, but this photo is exactly what you should be imagining. Photo credit: QQ news

Besides the people with common colds, there was a woman had to have been a prostitute, which are prevalent in the cun’s and gnarlier than their dogs, and I’m not above guessing fingers aren’t the only infected area an IV can treat. What had really floored me though was when a younger guy was brought in by his friend, who’d fireman-carried him to a seat as a he groaned and clutched his face. Had he been hit by a car? Did he have a ravaging fever? Nope. He’d gotten drunk last night, and merely had a bad hangover. I mean, I’m not gonna say it doesn’t make sense to knock off a hangover with some saline and glucose, but whatever happened to just closing the curtains and sipping Gatorade all afternoon?

It wasn’t long before my IV had finished, along with the curry chicken I’d had delivered in, and it was my time to go. The other appointments went about the same, and by the second day my finger was more or less back to normal. All in all, the culture shock had been worse than the infection.

By the Way, What Is This?

Some things are better left enjoyed. I’ve had plenty of egg tart dishes before, and while this one was slightly creamier and had a subtle chalky taste that I just couldn’t quite place, it was hitting the spot after a delicious sea food dinner. My neighbors had invited me out to meet their daughter before she headed back to America to continue her studies, and besides feeding me every type of shellfish available, they’d splurged on an Alaskan king crab. After cleaning out every one of the crab’s long spiny legs, we topped off the dinner with that soupy bowl of what I’d guessed was egg tart.


Turns out the legs weren’t the only part of the crab that had been cleaned out, because after having asked out of curiosity just what exactly was in my bowl, I found out what that chalky taste was: blended up, congealed crab organs. When speaking in second languages and swapping between English and Mandarin like we had been, it’s so much easier than you’d probably expect to get as close to the bottom of the bowl as I had without actually knowing what it was that I’d been eating… I doubt I would’ve caught “crab brain goop” if they had happened to mention it in mandarin, and it was pretty unlikely they’d learned how to say “crab brain goop” in their English classes. Usually you just assume your way through it and evaluate based off of taste, and sometimes, you purposefully don’t get told in order to avoid what they expect could be a cultural taboo… such as how Americans typically don’t eat crab brain goop.


If we only knew how much this stuff boosts virility…

Upon hearing what it was, I suddenly became a whole lot less hungry, although I wasn’t at all surprised that they’d scraped out the carapace in order to make a mousse out of what would only described as by-products anywhere else. Cooks over here don’t waste, and the Chinese are anything but picky eaters. Tendons, congealed pig’s blood, fish heads in soup, even duck tongues… Crab brain mousse is just another edible oddity in the long list of things I’ve tried over here, whether accidentally or to please my host. It’s all in your head, right?


Fried, steamed, candied, pickled.. Chicken feet are as popular of a snack over here as Doritos are in the States


Tortilla substitutes or The Silence of the Hams?


Fish heads in bulk. No joke, it’s an honor to eat the eye


Even duck tongues… Actually not all that bad

If you're ever feeling adventurous, you can get duck tongues and chicken feet at just any convenient store or super market

If you’re ever feeling adventurous, you can get duck tongues and chicken feet at just about any convenient store or super market

A Terrible Night’s Sleep on a Chinese Sleeper Bus

It’s only 170RMB they said. It’s the most convenient way to get to Yangshuo they said. By the time you wake up you’ll be there they said. At least, that was the idea.

Rich or poor, there’s a method for everybody when it comes to traveling in China. The speed trains were booked out for weeks, and flying was either going to be too expensive or too time restrictive for a spontaneous weekend getaway, so at the time, taking a night bus had sounded like the best option for getting out of the city one Friday afternoon. Dirt cheap and set to arrive productively early at 8am, I’d boarded the 36 bed tour bus around 9pm, looking forward to falling asleep to movies and waking up well rested for a weekend of hiking and exploring in the mountains of Yangshuo.



As soon as I’d crawled up into my bunk, I realized this wasn’t gonna be the relaxing ride I’d been hoping for. Whether it was due to the fact that I was literally several inches too tall for the length of the bed, or the many, many times I’d banged a knob or a funny bone against metal and corners while shifting or repositioning myself, or how every time the bus hit a bump, my body bounced upwards, smashing my shins against the lip of the foot cubby… within the first ten minutes it had become dismally clear that I wouldn’t be getting much sleep.




But still, I’d tried to think positively and make the best of it by padding my shins with clothing from my pack, and using the blankets provided to cushion the wooden foot cubby of the passenger behind me, which my head had overextended onto. And then the man underneath me’s phone went off, ringer set all the way up to “inconsiderately loud,” to which he answered befittingly, shouting into his phone to overcome the increasingly poor cell service. The whole bus had already sounded like a hot June night near a pond, with text alerts going off like Spring Peeper Frogs, but those could be blocked out by headphones easily enough. This guy and his ten decibel conversation though, definitely wasn’t.


They say the first scratch on a new car always hurts the most, but that isn’t the case when it comes to sleep deprivation. Besides the ten or so phone calls I hadn’t been able to sleep through, each of which consisted more or less of the person shouting about they hadn’t arrived yet, and ironically enough mentioning just as loudly how they were on a sleeper bus, the bus had also stopped about every 2 hours to pick up and drop off passengers, none of whom passed by me quietly or thoughtfully. Bags occasionally slapped against my bunk and whichever part of me that was slightly sticking out to make room for the rest of me, raucous announcements of arrival were made into phones, and most of the men exiting were in such a hurry to smoke that they’d already lit up as they passed by me. By the time I’d gotten off the bus and driven to my hotel, the only thing I wanted to do was sleep.


Budget travel comes at a price


Whoever said ‘It’s the journey that matters, not the destination,’ clearly never took a night bus to Yangshuo. But damn, this place was worth it

The Most Creative Rip-offs of Western Trademarks that I’ve Seen in China

It wasn’t until I came to live here that I would’ve ever thought that copying something could be considered creative, but damn, the Chinese have practically turned it into an art. See, originality isn’t always common over here in China, let alone enforced, and what we might consider blatant copyright infringement, a Chinese company or entrepreneur would just see as hopping on the bandwagon and running with a good idea.

This is seen at the universities, where as much as 50% of the thesis papers my friends attending international programs had to write could be plagiarized at no penalty.

This is seen in my classes at the public schools, where teams of students would openly copy each other’s answers during competitive games and not understand why they weren’t awarded points as well.

This is seen in Kunming China and countless other cities, at the 22 recently shut down Apple stores that Apple itself never actually opened.

This is seen in America, where shopping mall store employees have been prepped on how to handle Chinese people photographing their merchandise for future duplication.

This is seen in local shops and market places, where vendors profit off of counterfeit goods and make little-to- no attempt to hide what they’re doing.

This is even seen in a company currently leading the Chinese Stock Market, whose business practices have ensured that’s the only stock market they’ll be listed in for quite some time.


“Right now our business model is focused on copying a successful company, innovation is our goal for next decade”


Seems legit.


                        HEIMEKEM LAGER BEER                        PRENIUN QUALITY


That product placement.

“If a product sells, it is likely to be illegally duplicated,” and the counterfeit industry in China is as blatant and ballsy as it is widespread. But the unscrupulous business practices and knock-off Nike’s and Folexes are all common knowledge; stuff you doubtlessly could’ve heard about without ever having come here. In the pictures below though, I’ll show you how ridiculously the Chinese take copying one step further in their everyday life, from for-the-sake-of-profit to for-no-other-obvious-reason-than-just-because-they-could.

1. Are these ATM’s or arcade games?


2. You’re lucky Fox can’t start a fantastic law suit


3. Which happy meal did this kid buy?!


4. Although I can’t remember seeing him in the movies, it was definitely a smart decision to swap in Spider-man. I seriously doubt the Aryan God of Thunder could’ve been Asianized all that easily


5. So.. what? Does this mean they’re wild-picked?


The Honorable Mention – A gem from my childhood which just so happened to end up in an English book I once taught out of. Lemme know if you’ve heard this one


The original totally had more wim-oh-weh’ing…

Unbelievable Yangshuo


There’s no question why this is one of China’s top 5 tourist destinations


Buddhist temple style hotels


Untouched nature


The perfect destination for a romantic getaway




Plenty of tourists, rain or shine


Plenty of shopping and drinking for the tourists


Strange foods for the tourists, as well as the staff


This was during the off-season…




Fishermen villages




Boat tours up the LiJiang river






Typically tacky photo ops




The Silver Caves







Amazingly fresh air



Unforgettable. There will always be a part of me that never left these mountains that one weekend away from Shenzhen