In the Closet, On the Apps

China Rainbow

Despite a long history of relative apathy towards same-sex behavior, China’s attitudes towards the gender and sexually diverse (GSD) community has become more negative since the Qing Dynasty came to an end in the early 1900s. During the beginning of the Communist state through today, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people typically get swept under the rug, and expected to stay in the proverbial closet.

Thanks to the one-child policy and traditional Confucian values, the pressure on today’s youth to marry and have a child (or two, as of this year!) is extraordinary. Young people born between 1978 and 2015 have the weight of their ancestry on their backs – they must have a child to continue the family line. There are no brothers or sisters to take up the mantle on their behalf. We have seen this play out in other areas, like the societal shunning of sheng nü, or “leftover women” in their late 20s / early 30s who have never been married. Their parents pressure them, and plead with them, to get married and start a family.

The ideal Chinese family structure also plays a role. Parents typically live with or near their children, even after marriage, and take care of the grandchild(ren). This gives the grandparents a) something to do with their free time and b) a safety net. It is expected that a family lives in this way, and if they don’t, many family members and/or family friends might chime in with their thoughts and criticisms. “You don’t live with your son? He must not love you enough!” “You’re daughter hasn’t gotten married and hasn’t give you a grandchild? Shame on her, she’s so selfish!”

For LGBTQ people, this pressure to start a family for one’s parents’ sake can be paralyzing, and so too is the stigma against the GSD community. 85% of gay men surveyed reveal that they are in an opposite-sex marriage. It’s estimated that 14 million straight women in China are married to gay men. Indeed, it’s so common that there’s even a word for these women: tongqi. On a similar note, gay men and lesbians will often pair up to exchanges vows so as to make their parents happy, and then live as roommates off doing their own thing.

Just this week, I had a gay male friend tell me that his lesbian friend needs to get married and is looking for a “suitable man,” adding, “She’s hoping to find a gay man looking for the same thing.”

In the bigger cities, views towards the LGBTQ community are changing rapidly. But mostly the idea is: “You can do whatever you want to do, as long as your not my child.” Living in a smaller city, I have listened to countless heart-wrenching stories from some of my gay students and friends. Many hope to just move away to a different city – such as Chengdu, the gay mecca of Western China – where it’s more accepted – and keep it all a secret from their family for as long as possible.

A friend of mine has been dating his boyfriend for a year. I asked what his plan was, and he told me, “Well, ideally I would like to marry him after 4 or 5 years. But I might have to get married to a woman. I found one who doesn’t mind that I’m gay, but she still expects me to… I, I can’t give her what she wants: A baby. I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Another has been dating his boyfriend for nearly 5 years, and fantasizes about going abroad to get married and adopt. “I just don’t know how it’s ever going to happen… My mom knows, but keeps trying to set me up with girls.”

Living in a world rapidly progressing on LGBTQ acceptance can be difficult for young Chinese men and women. They often cling to Western TV shows, movies, and music as an escape… a fantasy. Those who are not out to their friends and peers, and even those who are, turn to LGBTQ-specific social media apps as an outlet.

Apps like Blued (Chinese Grindr), LesPark (Chinese lesbian Grindr), TanTan (Chinese Tinder), The L (Chinese lesbian WhatsApp), and Aloha (Chinese gay Tinder) are sometimes their only options for meeting other LGBTQ persons. These apps give young people a space to be themselves, something so very crucial. They can share posts on their profile, find other people who identify like them, and talk openly about what they want.

For now, it seems that the Internet has brought a semi-outness to LGBTQ people of all ages in a much needed escape from the suffocating closet of society. It’ll be interesting to watch as a generation of LGBTQ Chinese grow up living in one sphere where they accept and understand their sexual orientation and gender identity and in another where they must uphold the reins of filial piety. While many will remain in the proverbial closet, I believe they will continue to do so with apps in hand.



Chinese LGBTQ Lexicon



“I miss you”

While my mastery of Mandarin might still be shaky, I’m fascinated by the language used by and for LGBTQ people here in China. Below are some words and phrases I’ve learned during my time here. This is not an extensive list of words/phrases used, but everything I could muster up. Happy learning! Or should I say, “Gay learning!”?

同性恋 Tongxinglian = homosexual

同性爱 Tongxingai = same-sex love

同志 Tongzhi = literally means comrade, used for gays and lesbians

酷儿 Ku’er = queer

变性人 Bianxingren = transgender

阴阳人 Yinyangren = transexual

双性恋 Shuangxinglian = bisexual

给 Gei = gay

拉拉 Lala = lesbian or bisexual woman

百合 Baihe = lesbian

T = tomboy / butch lesbian (not trans)

P = lipstick lesbian

好奇 Haoqi = bicurious

直 Zhi = straight

出柜 Chugui = to come out

伴侣 Banlü = partner

同妻 Tongqi = a straight woman who marries a gay man

形式结婚 Xingshijiehun = marriage of convenience, between a gay man and a lesbian

恐婚 Konghun = fear of marriage

变装皇后 Bianzhuanghuanghou = drag queen

名媛 Mingyuan = a handsome and sociable gay guy, literally “debutante”

茶水妹 Chashuimei = guys on Weibo who try to get juicy gossip on famous mingyuan

金主 Jinzhu = sugar daddy

熊 Xiong = bear

猴子 Houzi = twink

蛇 She = slim guy

娘 Niang = sissy or effeminate (not necessarily gay though)

CC = sissy

炮友 Paoyou = friends with benefits

同仁女 Tongrennü = a woman who hangs out around gay men

腐女 Funü = a woman who hangs out around gay men; literally “rotten woman”

1 Yi = top

0 Ling = bottom

0.5 Lingdianwu = versatile

(小)攻  (Xiao) Gong = top; literally “take the offensive”

(小)受  (Xiao) Shou = bottom; literally “receive”

419 Four One Nine = “for one night” / one-night stand

约炮 / 约 Yuepao / Yue = hook-up

强攻 Qianggong = power top

帝王攻 Diwanggong = strict top (always active, never passive)

美受 Meishou = sub bottom

女王受 Nüwangshou = power bottom

弱攻 Ruogong = sub top

忠犬攻 Zhongquangong = a very loyal top who will not be enticed by others

公主 Gongzhu = an effeminate gay guy; literally “princess”

龙阳 Longyang =  male homosexual

分桃 Fentao = homosexual; literally “sharing peaches”

断袖 Duanxiu = homosexual; literally “cut sleeve”

断背 Duanbei = homosexual; literally “Brokeback” (as in Brokeback Mountain)

断臂 Duanbi = homosexual; literally “broken arm”

飘飘 Piaopiao = gay male; literally “to float in the breeze”

玻璃 Boli = gay male; literally “glass”

基情 Jiqing = bromance, gay love

Hope this was helpful! I’m still trying to find how to say, “Yaaaaaas” in Mandarin though.

What’s for breakfast?

Breakfast: The most important meal of the day! In the U.S., we might consider a proper breakfast to be eggs with toast and bacon, or cereal and orange juice, or yogurt and a pastry, or… just coffee. Always coffee.

But what’s the typical Chinese breakfast like? Well, it’s hard to speak to that for a country with wildly diverse food habits, but I can at least speak to Sichuan! Here are some popular breakfast options in my province.

Noodles (面 mian)

There are so many options for noodles in Sichuan! There’s wheat noodles, rice noodles, soup noodles, dry noodles, spicy noodles, mild noodles, vegetarian noodles, meaty noodles, thin noodles, thick noodles.

I’d say the three most popular breakfast noodles in my province are:

杂酱面 (Za Jiang Mian; Mixed Soy Sauce Noodles)


燃面 (Ran Mian; Dry “Burning” Noodles) – These are my favorite!!!


牛肉面 (Niu Rou Mian; Beef Noodle Soup)


Additional delicious noodles include…


Spicy Chicken Noodles


Spicy Chicken Noodles


Dan Dan Noodles – mix these up with the sauce at the bottom and prepare to die of happiness


Sweet Potato Noodles


Radish Chicken Noodle Soup

Steamed Pork/Vegetable Buns (包子 baozi)

These come in different sizes: big or small. The most popular fillings here are preserved mustard greens, pork in soy sauce, and pork with scallion.



Steamed Buns (馒头 mantou)and Twisted Steamed Scallion Buns (花卷 huajuan)

Mantou can be made from wheat, whole wheat, or even corn!


Plain steamed bun (mantou)


Twisted scallion buns (hua juan) with eggs and different sauces


I decided to try a Chinese breakfast sandwich. Great life decision.

Deep-Fried Dough Sticks (油条 youtiao)with Warm Soy Milk (豆浆 doujiang)



So, which would you like to try?? Come visit and we can try them all!


No Choice

I asked my freshmen the following questions:

Think about a time in your life when you didn’t have a choice. 

  1. How did it make you feel?
  2. Who or what took away your ability to choose?
  3. If you lose your ability to choose, what else have you lost?

Their answers shed light on their culture and lives in such a fascinating, and sometimes heartbreaking, way. I’ve curated some of the best, and wanted to share them here. They are unedited, so there are grammar mistakes, but I believe they’re understandable!


Boarding School

Before I went to junior middle school, I was a nonresident student. However, there was nothing to do but entered on boarding school to experience my study life of junior high school. I was allowed to go home just once a month. All of that I can’t accommodate was to live with others in a dormitory rather than my family. I got an insomnia and felt very homesick. Although I had to struggle with that, I had no choice. During that period of time, I barely enjoyed my life and had no smile face to others. Things were boring and terrible in my eyes. The whole world was lonely like me. The birds twittered as if they were laughing at me when I roamed the boulevard. My mom and teachers have talked to me patiently, but I just wanted to leave school for home. I can’t go against school systems. When I recalled that time, I realized I lost very interesting and gorgeous things. I just buried my mind to sadness and ignored friendship and wonderful people around me. I lost a lot. I lost my tears, my energy and my courage. Also, I get a lot. I get the experience, the ability of independence, and the ability of adapting.

Birthday Cake

            I’m inclined to eat birthday cake, for it is very delicious to me, if it takes place of rice, I’ll be very angry and unhappy. What’s worse, maybe I will burst into tears, because I just want to taste the delicious food, cake. I’ll be frustrated.

In my opinion, my father is always strict with me, and he doesn’t allow me to eat birthday cake. In his view, birthday cake is not meaningful, only wasting much money. In effect, it is our poverty that has influence on my choice. At that time, we have not sufficient money to afford such unnecessary overhead. Maybe that is life.

In this situation where we lose our ability to choose, we may lose more. A good case in point is that we are accustomed to depend on our parents who often instead of us to make a decision, which caused us lose our opinion as well as the mind. What’s worse, our parents always pave the way for us, even though we are extreme reluctant to obey them, they will not change their attitude, causing us lose interest do this thing, which made us cannot do what we want as well as develop our own interests. Therefore, we deserve to make decisions by ourselves in some regard.

Part-Time Job

            I remembered that when I was 16 years old, one day, I told my father that I want to get a part-time job outside the home, because it’s too boring staying at home but my father refused me, he said, “No, you can’t do that because it’s very dangerous for you.” I felt very angry and threw a wobbly. I shouted to him, “Why, I just don’t want to stay at home. It’s too boring, and getting a part-time job can help me save some money, also can improve some social skills for me!” But my father made nothing for it, he said, “I’m your father, you must listen to me no matter what I say.” At that time, I felt helpless and sad, I thought that my father interfered with my rights. He wanted to control me by taking away my rights, even he said it’s better for me to stay at home. I can enjoy the movies and endless snacks. I felt sad, not only because he took away my rights, but also because he prevented me from finding more freedom.


When I was a little child, I didn’t have a choice to dress what I wanted. And I always complained about my mother’s style was very ugly. But she forced me to follow her and I had no choice. Because I was too young to decide what I wanted. This was ridiculous in my mind. I’m always confused why parents are used to controlling their children’s mind even something small.

I felt tired every time things happened just like that. To some extend, I lost my freedom and own judgments. Now, my parents always say my matches of clothes is not beautiful and nice. I think it’s their fault! HAHA!


            Several years ago, I had many bad friends, and I always hung out with them. So we always smoke, outside, but my parents didn’t allow me to do it even though when my relatives visit my home, my parents also don’t allow me accept the cigarette that my relatives sent to me. As a boy, I lose my choice I feel very angry, not unhappy. Why I can’t do it as a social skill.

Maybe I know smoking is not good for my body, my health, but everything in the world has their reason to exist, if a old friend I haven’t seen sends me a cigarette, I refuse, maybe he will think I don’t give him face. So I think, at the important occasion, I should have the ability to choose. If I lose my choice, maybe I will lose my friendship, my freedom.


            When I was 15, my parents divorced. I had no choice and I didn’t know what to do. I was very sad because I love both my mother and my father. And also I’m concerned about my mother. I live with my father so that I can’t imagine how her life will because without me. I don’t want to be alone and I want to see my parents at the same time when I come back home. I miss the days we family live together but they’re gone and never come back.

I think divorce is not a matter between two people, it’s about the family. Don’t forget the child. I don’t know who took away my ability to choose. What most I want is a whole family. Maybe they are not wrong, I have no idea. And I don’t even know how will I do if I have a choice. To prevent them to divorce or agree. I really don’t know even now I’m 20.

Maybe I lost the right to know the whole thing completely. Maybe I lost a harmonious family. Maybe I lost my innocence because after that I got silent and I was unhappy for a long time. I must take care of myself instead of being worried by parents. Maybe, I grew up.

Born A Girl

            The first thing I have no choice is that I am a girl. Why I’m not a boy? I always think that how wonderful if I were a boy. When I was a little girl, my cousin played with me every day. We played toy cars together, played peg-tops together, played yo-yos together, and run through the town together. But few years later, my cousin doesn’t play with me anymore. Why? Because I’m a girl. He played basketball with other boys instead of me, played cards with other boys instead of me, and had dates with his girlfriend. I lost my playmate because I am a girl. I have no choice, so I began to play with girls. But, actually, I’m unwilling to play with girls, because they like dolls, flowers, and dress themselves. I like run, jump, and wear shorts instead of dress. There are so many great differences between us, but I have no choice. As time goes by, I found so many advantages of girls. They are kindhearted, attentive, and beautiful. I do not refuse to play with girls anymore. I like them and I became a girlish girl by their influence. How did I feel when I had no choice? Well, maybe it was determined by God. And what else have I lost? I lost an active playmate, but I harvest many sweet playmates. If I have no choice, I should accept it.

Choosing A Senior High School

            I can remember a time in my life that I can’t have a choice. You know that there is a nine-year compulsory education in China, then we need to take a senior high school entrance examination. If we got a high grades, you can choose a good senior high school. I had found a school which I want when I was in junior high school. So I worked hard for it. Eventually, I got a good grades. But my parent let me to choose another school. Because they think the school which I chose is much farther than they chose. And I couldn’t look after myself well. So they forced me to choose the one which I don’t like at all. It made me feel so sad and angry. My parents took away my ability to choose. I lost the ability to choose, I think I lost the freedom of my life at the same time.

School Uniforms

            If someone asked me, “Have you ever been deprived the right to choose,” I will say, “Yes.” I believe that everyone must has had at least one experience.

For example, I was asked to wear school uniforms by school when I was in high school. It always make me feel angry and also uncomfortable I know the purpose of the school is to regulate our behavior at school but it is also true that the school takes away our own freedom to choose what we want to wear.

In my opinion, the power of choice is always associated with freedom, so if we lose our ability to choose, we will also lose our freedom. Even though the freedom to choose what we wear is insignificant in some people’s eyes, it can be very serious as long as we get used to this condition. So, protect our freedom from protecting the power of choice.

College Entrance Exams (Gao Kao) Preparation

            The most back-breaking time in my life is when I was in twelfth grade senior. Study is so hard that a lot of classmates dropped out. Although I felt heavy pressure as well. I have no choice but study harder than ever. Because the Gao Kao is the only way to succeed in Chinese eyes. Besides, I’m the only one who have opportunity to acquire higher education at my home. I have to stick to it. Sometimes, I really want to give up, for the school work is too hard to be understood easily. I feel frustrated, sad, and helpless, which likes an endless road that I cannot reach the finish line.

The Gao Kao, which is a torment but an opportunity for nearly the whole China’s students. It’s no doubt that Gao Kao takes away my ability to choose. And the Gao Kao is a symbol of Chinese education system. When I want to travel, my teachers and parents would say it’s wrong to play, you must study. Study is everything, etc. Gradually, I became clumsy and a study machine. As a result, I lost my ability to choose.

What’s worse, I lost else things at the same time. I lost curiosity and interests about things. I become compliant, and I lost my creativeness. I lost chance to widen my eye-sight and I become shortsighted. What I have finally? I just have the ability to obey rules. Not just me, but all the Chinese students.

I’m sad for that I cannot chose the way I lie. If everything could being again, I will follow my own awareness and chose the way that makes me feel happy and comfortable. Because, losing ability to chose is terrible.

Choosing A Major

            Last summer vacation, I graduated from high school. When I filled applications for college entrance examinations, my parents wanted me to choose the Normal Universities or the Medical Colleges because they want me to be a teacher or a doctor in the future. In their opinions to be a teacher or a doctor is very wonderful. I can earn high salary with several day off.

But I didn’t think it’s a good idea for me. I think to be a teacher or a doctor is very boring. I’ll do the same things all the time. So I talked with my parents, they didn’t agree with me. And I lost my temper and quarrled with them. I felt angry and upset. I didn’t know what to do. I think, if I lose my ability to choose, I have lost my freedom, happiness, and my dream.

In the last, my parents and relatives managed to persuade me to choose a medical college.


One in 1.38 Billion: A Photo Series

“In China, we are all so noisy, so loud. But we’re really alone. We talk with our friends, our family, but we don’t listen. Everyone feels so alone. So alone.”

It may have the world’s largest population, but China can still be incredibly isolating and lonely. I’m out to capture moments of solitariness in this bustlingly crowded nation. Here is one part of an ongoing photographic series.

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The Invited Wedding Crashers

I had the great pleasure of attending a wedding this past weekend. My fellow Volunteer, Gina, was in town, and her host mom invited Gina, Melissa (another Volunteer), and I to her friend’s children’s wedding. Aunt Zhong (Gina’s host mom), a delightful woman with a full-bodied laugh that could melt butter, wanted to make sure that we were able to experience the entirety of the joyous traditions. She picked us up at 7:50am and carted us over to where the groom waited to go and pick up his blushing bride! Even though we had never met the newlyweds or their family, we were welcomed to join from start to finish.


Left to right: Melissa, Zhong Ayi, and Gina


Getting to be a part of this special day was such a memorable experience. While the tux-toting groom and white-clad bride look the part of a classic Western couple, the customs were very different. The day was full of laughter, smiles, tears, and genuineness that penetrated any and all language barriers. If anything, it was a reminder of the universality of love and happiness. Yeah, yeah… I know… Cheesy! But true!

Instead of droning on about the customs that make a Chinese wedding so special, I thought I’d show you. Enjoy the captioned photos below as I take you step-by-step through the day.


The bride and groom’s ride


The groom getting tidied up!


The groom waits to head out and pick up his bride


And we’re ready!


The brigade of cars and taxis follows the groom to the bride’s parent’s home


We’ve arrived! In the foreground is the character associated with marriage – a doubling of the character for happiness


The groom passionate waits with one of the groomsmen


“Honey! I’m here! I’m coming up!”


“I see you! Good luck getting in!”


“Don’t make me break down the door! I love you!”


“Ok, I’m coming damnit”


As is tradition, the groom and his friends have to push their way into the apartment


They’ve made it in!


Heading into the bride’s parent’s home


The final door! The groom needs to break into the bedroom where his bride waits.


Realizing he couldn’t get in through the door, he broke in through the window and then opened the door for everyone else


The groom sees his beautiful bride, but… Where are shoes? The final obstacle: find the princess’s slippers!


“Where could they be hiding the shoes?”


Let’s get this craziness on video!


“The shoes! They’re probably in the airconditioner!”


“Maybe the shoes are up here?”


“No! They’re totally up there!” “Nah, they’re not in here.” “Oh…”


While the groom is searching the apartment, it’s selfie time with the bride


While the groom is searching the apartment, it’s selfie time with the bride


“Oh no! He found the shoes?”


“Now what?”


“Honey, I love you. Let me put your shoes on!” “No!”


“Honey please!” “Ok! Fine!”


“You idiot! You don’t know how to put her shoes on!”


The couple serves tea to the bride’s parents


The bride’s parents give money to the bridge and groom in a red envelope called a “hongbao”


The parents serve the bride and groom tangyuan – a sweet sticky rice dumpling soup


Now the groom has to carry the bride to the car


“We’ve made it outside!”


“Quick to the car!”


“No, no… You’re not heavy! I’m just weak!”


“Oh god, help!”


“I got this! Home stretch!”


After a short drive, we go to a park for some group photos!


The bride and groom surrounded by their bustling friends


The wedding party poses with the foreigners they’ve never met before today


Time for some photos of the bride


And some more photos of the bride


Look how adorably happy he is watching his bride!


“I can’t believe this is happening!”


*Blows kiss*


*Catches it*


The groom and his best man


Moving along to the groom’s family’s home


Everyone goes to see the happy couple’s new bed!


Hey, y’all… Your bed is a little dirty. Oh, they’re symbols?


The traditional greeting for a new couple is “新婚快乐 ! 早生贵子!” Which means “Happiness to the newly married! Give birth to a child soon!” Each one of these pieces on the bed represents a character in the second sentence because the words sound similar.


Now the bride and groom present tea to the groom’s mom!


Flash forward to the wedding ceremony! Look at the adorable children! They’re not flower girls, but instead just wish the new couple congratulations.


The “flower girl” who doesn’t throw flowers poses for a selfie


The “ring bearer” who doesn’t have the ring stares at the weird foreigner


The MC gets the gears turning on what looks and sounds to be a Disney princess wedding


The groomsmen wait stoically


Each groomsmen escorts a bridesmaid down the aisle


Here comes the bride!


The bride and her mother wait at the end of the aisle for the groom


The groom looks on


Quick, a photo!


After the mother passes her daughter off and runs of stage crying, the bride and groom walk down the aisle together


They’re married!


A young boy looks on excitedly


Awkward kiss transitions to awkward hug


“Oh my! We’re married!”


The groom’s mom welcomes her new family and thanks everyone for coming


A frenzy stirs when it’s time for the children to collect the money in red envelopes (hongbao)


And it’s over! Time to exit the stage


The bride and groom exit together and go change before returning to cheers every single table

Dinner and drinking and followed the ceremony, but no cake!

East Meets West

Recently, I did a lesson on cultural differences between the East and West. My students and I went through some of Yang Liu’s East Meets West infographics – showing some differences between the West (German-centric) and the East (Chinese-centric). I asked my freshmen to make their own infographics, and the results were creative!

*Note: These are to show differences, not to say one is better than the other.*

IMG_1757 copy



Eating Utensils


Drinking Water: “In the West, people always drink cold water, and in the East, people like drinking hot water.”


Eating Meals


Ways of Thinking: “Think something new and different” || “Think something old and identical”


Conjugal Relations (Marriage Gender Balance)


Civilization: “When it comes to civilization, Chinese often look back to show their rich and long history, while Americans would more likely look forward to their advanced technology.”


Associations with Red


The Cultivation of Intellect: “I will find the reason by myself” || “I remembered that the teacher had taught us…”


Praise for Achievements: “Chinese parents are proud of their children’s high test score, while American parents might be proud of their children playing sports well.”


Learning Styles: “Learn from experience” || “Learn from books”


After Class


Greetings: “How are you?” || “Have you eaten?”


Gardens: “I’m going to grow vegetables in my backyard” || “I’m going to plant flowers in my garden”


Personal Privacy


Seeing a Handsome Boy: “Hey man! Can I have your number?” || “Oh! What a handsome boy!”


Crossing the Street: “In the West, people always keep the rule and in order. They wait on the line until the traffic light turns green. Even though sometimes there are few cars, they won’t break the rule. In the East (in China), it is the common thing, there are some people that won’t follow the rule. As long as there are few cars, they will go through it as quick as possible.”

So what do you think? Which ones do you agree with? Disagree with?

Peace Corps China Packing List

I can’t believe it’s been 10 months since I’ve said goodbye to Washington, DC and made my way over to West Coast for pre-departure orientation. What’s crazier, is watching the new group of China bound Volunteers getting ready to depart! I wanted to be of assistance and share my packing list with annotations after some time here. Here it is!



  • Two large wheeled duffel bags
  • Backpack (carry-on)
  • Side bag (carry-on)


  • Two coats — one light and one heavy!
  • Smartwool socks (long) — 2-3 should be fine, highly recommend these
  • Two belts
  • Swim trunks
  • Three scarves
  • Three pairs of gloves — two should be fine, again one light and one heavy
  • Ear muffs
  • One baseball cap
  • Slacks — 3-4 would be fine if you’re ok with rewearing them throughout the week
  • Button downs — at least 5 if you plan to do laundry every weekend, I’d say up to 8
  • T-shirts — you’ll want plenty for the summer time!
  • Plain white t-shirts (8) — bring as many as you need for button downs
  • Polos — these are a great option for business casual during the summer
  • Tanks (2)
  • Shorts
  • Jeans — these should be nice and clean with no tears
  • Socks
  • Dress socks — make sure these are breathable for summer
  • Underwear (12 pair?) — you might want plenty… it gets hot in the summer…
  • Long underwear (2 pair)
  • Sweaters
  • Sweat shirt


  • Black dress shoes
  • Brown dress shoes
  • Toms — these are actually really similar to traditional Chinese shoes
  • Flip-flops
  • Two-three pairs of casual shoes
  • Sneakers


  • iPhone and charger — I’d definitely recommend a smartphone
  • Laptop and charger
  • Nikon D610 and charger  — or whatever camera you have; if you have a smartphone, that’s probably enough unless you’re really into photography like me!
  • 4 Nikon D610 batteries  — or batteries for whatever camera you have
  • Lenses
  • SD cards
  • 2 LaCie 1TB External Hard Drive  — I definitely recommend a hard drive for backups and media
  • USB flashdrive
  • Two pairs of headphones  — one is fine, you can get cheap ones here
  • Adapters  — have only needed this for my laptop
  • Amazon Fire — good for buses and trains
  • VPN — I highly recommend PureVPN


  • Hair gel
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Lotion — if you use lotion, bring it… all of the lotion here has whitening in it
  • Hand sanitizer — literally never use this
  • Travel tissues — you can get these anywhere
  • Q-tips — you can get this here too, but not the good sturdy ones
  • Cologne
  • Razor
  • Shaving cream — you can get this here
  • Deodorant — BRING TWO YEAR’S SUPPLY! And a variety of options in case you develop an allergy to your deodorant like I did…
  • Tide to go — These are heaven sent
  • Eye drops


  • Umbrella
  • Laundry bag
  • Lonely Planet
  • Glasses
  • Sunglasses
  • Duct tape
  • Chest x-rays
  • Copies of all my documents
  • Passport
  • Photos
  • Frisbee
  • Side bag
  • Backpack
  • Notepads
  • Host family gifts
  • Starbucks VIA  — so much better than the crap instant coffee you get here
  • A great attitude and willingness to accept and try new things!

Things to do

  • Change address for credit card company, etc
  • Set up forwarding address
  • Cancel gas
  • Cancel wifi
  • Cancel gym membership
  • Figure out host family gifts
  • Get movers
  • Suspend phone number
  • Cancel health insurance
  • Print 5 copies of diploma
  • Register absentee ballot
  • Change address on luggage tags






Blake Vs. Snake

Today, as I was drinking my morning coffee, I found this. A slithering snake along my front door.


I posted the photo to WeChat as I tried to figure out what to do. Some of my students gave responses I would expect:

“That’s horrid – did you finish it off?”


“What the f…”

“Holy cow!!!”

“It is terrible”

“So scary~”

But then, I started getting some comments that reminded me that I am in Peace Corps China…

“Capture it alive, and we can use it to stew!”

“It tastes good, u can try”

“Cook it”

“Do you want to eat it?”

“wow! if it is nonpoisonous, you can cook it for a soup or bake it with some pepper and garlic! to be delicious!”


Well, I caught her! I’m not sure what to do next, but I may try to coax her into my wok with some oil and garlic. Cultural integration, right? 😛