Where am I from

The answer to question “where are you from” can always be complicated.

For me, I can answer I am from Boston when I travelled to New York, so I wouldn’t have someone tell me he knows how to skip the line for visiting the top floor of Empire State Building if I pay him extra money; I will answer I am from China for every first class of the semester. I will answer “Henan province” if a chinese student ask about my hometown or for the following quesion “which part of China?”

Actually people are expecting answers like “Beijing” or “Shanghai”, which they may have a better idea of where it is. I totally understand people’s curiosity and I am deeply appreciated that my new schoolmates want to know where I really come from. Trying not to let them down, I always say that “Oh, it’s not very far from Beijing.” So we are both satisfied.

But there is a really awkward moment happened weeks ago. That day I was having dinner with a group of people and I sat with a Japanese girl and an American girl whose family was originally from Taiwan. We didn’t know each other really well and “where are you from” became an ice-breaking question. When that girl said her family immigrated here from Taiwan, the Japanese girl said, “so you’re from China, right?” “No! Taiwan, not China.” “But Taiwan is a province of China, isn’t it?” Then, they both turned to me looking for a vote.

When I was in China, whether Taiwan is part of China has been a really tricky political problem because we are so connected but not united yet. And all the education I’ve received is that Taiwan is part of China. And it’s also a topic that people don’t really want to touch. I never expected to encounter this question here in the U.S. with people who are from foreign countries. That’s really awkward they were hoping me to choose a side about a question I don’t really want to answer. I finally said that I know people are having different standpoints but I deeply believe that we are so connected.

Last month on a weekend, my friend and I went to New York to attend a concert held by a band called “Mayday”, a Taiwan band we both like for years. We were so inspired and excited after their concert, so we decided to record a song of them. The song is sang in Min Nan dialect, a dialect that some people use in Taiwan. Hope you like it.

If you are a new ukulele learner like me and you want to learn how to play this song, leave a comment and I will send you score.


Movie buff’s struggle !

I am a dedicated movie lover. One thing that kept me excited about studying in the U.S. is that I can get to watch the newest movie here. Because some movies won’t be brought to China. I stayed at Hostel International for the first few days after I got Boston. The hotel is near a movie theatre. And I went for my first movie here: The Blue Jasmine.

I was so excited not only because it’s a good movie but also because I can totally understand what it’s saying. And from then, I started to tell friends not to worry about language thing, just to go watch it.

But then the new “The Hunger Games” came. That one I missed some lines and I started to question my confidence. Things got worse. I barely understand what those actors were saying in “12 Years a Slave” when I was watching it. I sat there till the end just because my crazy crush for Benedict Comberbatch.

Here the struggle comes. I always have the urge to watch the new movie but I am worrying I can’t get all the plots well, and I don’t want to be spoiled. It’s going to be a infinite loop if I keep struggling like this.

I still went for Captain America few days ago and I think I missed some laugh lines and some plots.And when my friends and I got out of the theater, we were talking about something else but nothing about movie. When we were on the T, after an awkward silence, I said, “actually, I didn’t get some parts.” It seems everyone was relieved saying that they didn’t get those parts either. Then we had a very good conversation guessing what really happened in the movie, which is also kind of sad.

I am going to watch the broadway show “the Book of Mormon“ tonight. Wish me good luck.

Another Subway weirdo

Caroline is a friend of mine who is originally from Beijing. She told me her story about taking the T.

In Beijing, when you take subway you will swipe your card twice: swipe in and swipe out. Caroline assumed that people do same thing here. Every time when she tried to exit T station, she always took her Charlie card out of her bag (sometimes that took a while), swiped, and then got out.

“You don’t know how odd it is to stand there and look for my card. I swiped out for almost 2 months and no one told me I was being ridiculous.”

“It’s no big deal, really, and it’s nothing strange as long as you don’t spend too much time find your charlie card.” I tried not to laugh out too loud (it’s really hard) because as a former subway weirdo, I feel for her. I‘ve told my subway story in the previous post.

It’s not a school shuttle

It’s a story from my friend Michael, who is an international student from China. He had been taking T, which is public transportation in Boston area, to school without paying a cent for two weeks when he first came here. He was not trying to sneak onto the train at all, he just thought T was our school’s free shuttle.

When he had been taking T for almost 2 weeks, he had a conversation with a classmate.

“Hey Michael where do you live?”

“I live on Harvard Avenue.”

“So you’re taking the T to school?”

“Yes, I take school shuttle.”

He said “yes”, and “school shuttle”.

The moment he knew T is not the school shuttle and knowing that he’d been a fare evader for two weeks, he felt so shameful and embarrassed. And the whole class overheard their conversation and laughed. “That was so embarrassed because I looked so stupid, and I certainly blushed.”

“No wonder there were many people who don’t look like students,” he said.

Truth is, in China, it is barely the case that you can get into any public transportation without paying the fare. It is understandable that when Michael saw every door open and people getting in and out freely, he thought that was a free school shuttle.

Click to check our adorable T from @sallyqhz

I recently found a blog called “Tales of an Awkward Ecuadorian”. Here is a post she talked about her experience taking school bus, which I found very interesting.


Socially awkward PR person

Yes, I am.

I majored in journalism when I was in college, and now I am in a prestigious PR graduate program. But I’ve always been unsociable and introvert. I was thinking I was going to become outgoing and stop being a social inept because what I am studying will shape me into a new sociable person, which didn’t happen at all. So now I am trying to find a balance to be both introvert and professional PR.

I feel awkward in social occasions although I pretend not to be. It felt really awkward for me to go out for drinks with a group of people I just meet. It happened on the first day my graduate program. On the orientation day, although I prepared myself not to be shy and to talk to people, I literally said hi to one person, who sat next to me. After a brief introduction, we were told to go to tavern and “have some fun.” For me, it’s like to go to an interview.

I stood in the line to get my pizza. People were all around I just couldn’t start talking. I finally sat among some people but I barely talked. Luckily that day I did have to meet someone, which made me less feel embarrassed to leave early. I want to forget my experience that day because I felt quite frustrated and started worrying me future perform at school.

However, I feel so blessed that almost everyone I meet here no matter they are international students or American students, they are all nice and genuine. I’ve been having a really good time studying with them and feeling less stressed socializing with people.

“We are just close friends.”

I am pretty sure it’s an Asian girls’ thing: Girls are always arms in arm or even hand in hand when they walk together.

When you are in any college in China, you will see girls walking arm in arm everywhere. It’s just a sign that they are close friends, but people will probably think they are a lovely gay couple here.

My friend Cherry told me her story. The other day, she and her friend walked on the street arm in arm. A guy walked by them giving them a really warm smile and said, “You two look really happy. Have a good day.” Cherry responded unconsciously, “Thank you. You too.” But then she was confused because none of them was laughing or looked happy. They just realized they were probably seen as a happy gay couple,while they are not. “We are just close friends.”

I am all for gay rights but I get the idea that how people will interpret behaviour differently in different culture context. But it is not easy for people to change the way they show intimacy. While Asian girls so get used to walking arm in arm, but we don’t hug each other that much. It’s awkward that when someone try to hug me but I am quite dull and I didn’t  open my arms. She said, “Well, I was going to hug you,” and then she would pat me on the shoulder instead. Well I have no problem hugging people, I’m just slowly changing my habit.



15 bucks a day, would you take this internship?

This kind of talk first happened in New Orleans. You know, when you are doing a volunteer work, one thing that may assure you would come back the next time is the good conversation that you had with other volunteers. The other day, when I was standing on a ladder and second coding a window frame with pretty dark green paint, suddenly an ABC(America born Chinese) told me that she liked China more than the America. I wondered why because she only went back to China once in 20 years. She told me she didn’t really know the reason but probably one the reason is the food.

Then all of a sudden people started asking me about “is Beijing beef authentic?” kind of questions. When I say that four or five bucks can buy you a meal in a restaurant in China and you can feed yourself a meal (probably not very tasty) by 2 bucks. They were shocked.

Then there was also a conversation happened few days ago when I was having lunch with some American students, we talked about paid and unpaid internship. My friend and I told them, we get paid 15 bucks a day as an intern, even you are working for an international agency. They were shocked again. They said they would never take that internship and said it in with a genuine face saying “we really sorry for you guys.”

This time, I had a mixed feeling rather than being embarrassed. I felt little regret, and little angry and I also thought that’s funny. “Was I embarrassed my country by saying that everything is so cheap even our labor?”“There’s nothing to feel pity about because housing and food are much cheaper.” I kept those words to myself but this gets me start thinking.

I wouldn’t say “we” but I personally sometimes have a hard time to identify myself with my home country properly. I say “properly” which means not giving out exaggerate information of home country so I get attention then I can join in a conversation, or sharing a partial view which may show despise to my cultural so I can fit in here.

Leave a comment and let me know whether you’re interested in some follow up posts about Chinese food.

By the way, here is a coupon of a Chinese fast food restaurant. And they do send out coupons in front of their stores all the time.



¥32 ≈ $5,and that set for two people.