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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Snap Crackle Pop

It happened for the first time today and I’m shaken. Standing in the small American grocery store, I look at a familiar label of microwave popcorn, it costs $10. I snap. Instantly the thought flashes momentarily through my consciousness, undeniable and frightening. I think… "I want to go home, I’m not going to make it."

A tough week, with the newness loosing it’s edge a bit and the difficulties not receding as quickly as anticipated. All the challenges suddenly seemed much larger, and my capacity for dealing shrinking. Eating expensive middle quality western style food, and haphazard Chinese food affetcts my mood. Getting around, knowing where to buy things, basic communication on top of regular adjustments begins to wear on the soul. Am I going to learn enough of the language to be independent? Am I going to adjust enough to the new work culture?

I knew this was coming, a nice american expat descibed the highs and lows that new arrivals typically go through. The first flush of excitement at the unknown, the slow drain of constant incompentence at basic sustainence, and finally the equilibrium. I knew it was coming and it still felt achy.

The next day I figure out that the text message from China Mobile tells me that my pre-paid minutes are disappearing with alacrity. Weekend calls await and I will have to purchase time without the aid of the helpful company bilingual admin. I go to the convenience store and say something equivalent to “do you or don’t you have sell hand phone money?” After a few rounds of confused looks, I get the China mobile minute coupon and call in to activate. It worked. It worked!!! I did it! Another baby step closer to being independent. I txt the company admin on the weekend, a tinge of guilt for bothering her but feeling like a kid that just tied his own shoes, I have to share it with someone who really knows how helpless I have been. She responds immediately, graciously acknowledging my mini-feat. I needed that metaphorical pat on the back.

Maybe I will make it a little bit longer.


  1. why does china have to give you the basic western sustainence in their country when most people here don't even need it? they are from a completely different cultural background and you have to understand it. same case as how chinese restaurants are in america.
    btw, using the word "achy" sounds way too exaggerating.

  2. This is similar experience that I had in my 1st year in USA. Nothing but culture shock, I was told by an instructor. I had to survive. Maybe you will. It may help you if you know that I will have culture shock again when I am in China, even as a Chinese who lived in my motherland for many years.