Back in America, one month on

Weirs Beach, NH ~ Fall 2013

On September 24, 2013 I started my repatriation experience after 8 years of Asianliving (mostly in China). Before leaving China I was told numerous times by foreign, non-Chinese friends and colleagues that I would be back in 6 months… tops… and I told them all I wouldn’t just cave and go back any time soon.
So, how am I holding up…?

Well, after a month in NH and Boston I’ve had a lot of time to prepare for a new career and new living situation. It’s been GREAT seeing my family and helping them whenever possible. I would never take that back. But there have been times when I’ve really missed China. Continue reading Back in America, one month on

1/3 of World’s Cigarettes Smoked in China

Two guys smoking
Two guys smoking

A blog that totes the wonders of Asianliving should really offer a fair slice of the other side: the health problems suffered in Asia. Suffice it to say the global news media frequently reminds us of the air quality issues across China, I decided to take it one step further and opine on the love of smoking here.

As Andrew Hales recently noted on his visit to Chengdu (where people use umbrellas in the daytime “like in the olden days”), China in the 20-teens seems much like America in the 1950s. Smoking is everywhere, all the time. And if you aren’t smoking, you will still smell (inhale) other people’s smoke. Restaurants, bars, shops, bus stations, train stations, bathrooms, and schools. There are virtually no tobacco-free zones in China, although in 2009 a policy was passed to “ban smoking in all health administration offices and medical facilities by the year 2011.”* That’s right, smoking in hospitals was common even just a couple years ago. City-specific legislation is still being carried out slowly across the country.* Continue reading 1/3 of World’s Cigarettes Smoked in China

Red Envelopes for Better Health Care

red envelopes
Red Cash – courtesy NPR

My colleague’s wife had a baby last Christmas in a Chinese hospital in Zhuhai. It was a typical scenario. Meet your doctor in advance and decide whether to have a natural birth or a c-section. In this case, the choice was to go c-style at a planned date (that was not on an unlucky date, mind you. No number 4s.) Of course, there is a relationship that develops naturally with an expecting couple and their doctors, but in China there is an additional consideration to be made: how painful do you want this birth to be? That’s when red envelopes start to appear. Continue reading Red Envelopes for Better Health Care

(Mostly) Winning in Macau and Chinese Luck

Jumping off the Tower
Jumping off the Tower

Yesterday I finished my work early to visit Macau with a colleague turning 36. Taking me by surprise was that he felt it was time to try nose diving off the tallest bungy platform in the world. Dropping over 750 feet (233m) in just a few seconds costs thrill-seakersHK$2,500 or about $320 each time. Although it looked like an experience of a lifetime, I decided to just cheer him on from the observatory desk. Actually, my thrill for the day was at the Galaxy Resort and Casino which is just a bridge hop over to Taipa from Macau. Continue reading (Mostly) Winning in Macau and Chinese Luck

Dragon Boat Festival in Shunde 2013

China is celebrating its 2000-year old Dragon Boat festival on June 10-13. This year I wanted to get a closer look at a popular location for the boat races rather than revisit the cushy Macau version. (Enjoy a complete overview of Duan Wu Jie from my 2011 post) This time we visited Shun Feng Lake in Bruce Lee’s hometown – Shunde.

Shunde  (Shwun-duh) is home to one of the most well-known dragon boat competitions in Southern China. Check out the Chinese version of the Shun De Boat Club’s website for the latest information on this competition throughout the year (  Every June teams from around Guangdong province get together at this lake to compete in a 500-meter sprint.  For a closer look, check out my pics from this year’s event below:


Although it was a little cloudy, that didn’t keep these smaller teams from competing in an event that has been around for over 20 centuries! [*] Continue reading Dragon Boat Festival in Shunde 2013

Food Deserts and Sterling Farm Markets

Wendell Pierce @ Sterling Farms

NBC Nightly News ran a report recently about “food deserts”, which is a phenomenon that occurs in low-income, rural areas of the country. (See 2004 article about Pittsburgh, NH) A food desert is where a fresh produce market is 1 mile or farther away from any given neighborhood. For many in this kind of situation, locals often do their shopping in expensive mini-marts or convenience stores. And the health implications of food deserts exacerbate various weight-related issues. Continue reading Food Deserts and Sterling Farm Markets

Xiangsheng and Xiangke: Foods that React to Each other

"The Plan" By Lyn-Genet Recitas

An American friend recently introduced a book to me that is gaining popularity in the US called, The Plan. It describes in detail that certain healthy foods we eat regularly do, in fact, cause us to gain weight. The author uses concepts that are regularly used in Chinese discussions of health and makes them accessible to a Western audience. “Inflammatory foods” cause “inflammation”, which produce negative effects on your body and can effect weight gain and loss.

All of this talk of inflammation reminded me of a poster I saw in a Chinese medical hospital room years ago. It basically outlines both appropriate and inappropriate combinations of food. This Chinese-medicine concept seems to be the foundation of the theories in The Plan book.  It seems this ancient concept, which can help us better understand how our bodies work, has worked its way to the discussion table of American households. Continue reading Xiangsheng and Xiangke: Foods that React to Each other

Asian Secret #3 Still can’t sleep?

Evening exercise in China

Make sure to do some kind of evening activity after dinner. Excess calories can cause your body to get restless and the best cure for this is to use up that energy. Although you might have been told that exercise at night is not the best for you, doing some light exercise every evening is done by virtually all over-50s in China.

And during the daytime, ask yourself this question every meal: How will I use this fuel that’s going into my body today? Some types of fuel that are not burned end up turning into fat while you sleep.  Continue reading Asian Secret #3 Still can’t sleep?

The Sandy Hook and Guang Shan Primary School Massacres of 2012

Kids names in henan
Kids in Henan's Massacre

This is so weird… was the first thing I thought when I heard the news about these two schools which are a world apart, but share have shared a similar fate. With social media abound, we can feel weird about both of these unbelievable acts at the same time. And although that’s remarkable, it begs deeper questions of these two very different countries which have so much in common. Continue reading The Sandy Hook and Guang Shan Primary School Massacres of 2012

Dieting in Asia: An Unexpected Reality

She needs a diet?

Believe it or not, a majority of the “skinny” women that you see when visiting Asian countries believe they are, themselves, “fat” or “overweight”. It is appalling to Western women when I tell them this but it is a reality. However, the reality of being “overweight” in a country like China is no different than in the US. Why? Because it is 100% relative and culture-based.

In China, women are worried about roundness and often strive for an image that westerners would call “boney”. When asked about the Western “plus-sized” models, many women here think that it’s not right to be so big. They agree with the fashion magazines that show thin, tall women. The first time I heard someone say that plus-sized models were not necessary was a strange moment for me, but then I realized that this culture (and their eating habits) seem to allow most women a fair chance at achieving a healthy, attractive figure. This “chance” is the result of traditional healthy eating habits, which one of the many reasons I started writing AL.ME.

But with the increase in Western-style eating, that healthy figure is becoming less of the norm. Since there is always a competition for being the hottest (in virtually all modern cultures) many of them want to get even thinner! As you might expect, confusion sets in for some of them and the results are quite unexpected, to be honest. The following are a few before and after photos of typical young women in China trying to reach their ideal weight… (All images were self-posted on Weibo in late 2012)

Continue reading Dieting in Asia: An Unexpected Reality