Life for Expats in Polluted Chinese Cities

Over the past few years living in China, the air pollution conundrum (among many development issues) has been a major concern for expats and locals alike. Just last month (October 2013) an “airpocolypse” shrouded the city of Harbin in northeastern China at a level of around 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter! That’s off the charts and about “40 times the safety level recommended by the World Health Organisation” reports the Guardian newspaper.* Obviously this is (and will be) a major cause of lung cancer in the future, along with the effects of circa-1950s attitudes toward smoking.

Continue reading Life for Expats in Polluted Chinese Cities

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

After 8 Years in China, I’m moving to Boston

Me, Benji Ming
Me, Benji Ming

2 years ago I told a troop of Duke University students visiting China that I intended to give my current projects (via Huajie Group) another 2 years to float or sink before returning home. This summer being the 2 year mark, I’ve decided it’s time to move the Benji Ming show back to the USA, for now. It’s not easy to leave a place that has been my 2nd home for such a long time, but I have decided that my real home and family are what matter more than anything. Continue reading After 8 Years in China, I’m moving to Boston

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

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

Asian Secret #6 Walk after every meal

A walk after dinner

There’s a saying in ancient Chinese: “Walk 100 steps after every meal and you’ll live to 99 years old.” This is a reminder that food isn’t meant to sit- it should be moved around.

Avoid the following scenario: Drive to the restaurant, get out, go in, sit down, eat, then leave, drive home, and go directly into the house. This is a recipe for digestive disaster over the longer term.

And although many people may think that it should be a 30-45 minute “brisk” walk, it doesn’t have to be. Just a 5-10 minute walk around the block is worth it and does make a positive difference. Continue reading Asian Secret #6 Walk after every meal

Healthy Living resolution in 2013

Welcome to 2013!

It’s been a wonderful holiday back in the US with family and friends. This is definitely the best time of the year because it not only brings loved ones together but it also gives us an opportunity to start fresh again. And in that respect, this new year is no different from previous ones… everyone wants to improve something about their health.

When I asked my family about their New Years resolution I kept hearing a variation of “getting healthy” and that got me thinking… Why not do something easy for your health everyday throughout 2013? Yes, I said everyday. Continue reading Healthy Living resolution in 2013

Ben Turns 30 in 2012!

30 years old
Turning 30

Hi everyone. Today I’m turning 30 and I guess I’ve been feeling 30 for a while already. Family and friends have called wishing me a great day on this occasion because I guess it is a milestone. (I’m still alive! Woohoo!) Actually, I have got to say that I’ve really enjoyed spending most of my 20s out in Asia and I would never trade those years for anything. A lifetime of experiences have come from the last 10 years: interesting people, amazing food, unusual arguments, wild adventures, new friends, and near-death experiences… who could ask for more?

Although I’ve spend most of my career as a teacher, I have certainly learned more than if I had chosen to stay local and get a job after graduation. Certainly I would have made more money and kept in better touch with friends, but I’m sure they have also found themselves busier with their own lives as the years have rolled on… And I don’t blame any of them for that – it’s life, and we all must live it in our own way. It is important, though, to remember your roots and find a way to give back to the society that raised you. And that’s why I know I will come back to New England before I’m 40. Continue reading Ben Turns 30 in 2012!

Yum! Southern China’s Soup Culture

After getting to the real Southern China (Guangdong, not Shanghai) in 2006, I never became too fond the local pension for homemade soup. I knew it was a great excuse for parents to invite their kids home for a weekend visit and I knew there were loads of health benefits too. But I personally never preferred to eat soup as a meal, except as a free side to Chinese fast food. It was only recently that I discovered how easy it was to make and enjoy. Now it has finally found its place among the other great discoveries here on AL.ME

Maybe I avoided it because it was so Cantonese and I missed the Mandarin world a little. Making soup (煲汤) and Morning Tea (早茶) are very Cantonese and have slowly found their place among my all-time favorite Chinese weekend activities. Now, or when I’m ready to move on, they will join me as I explore the rest of China (and the USA).

Soup Ingredients

Continue reading Yum! Southern China’s Soup Culture

Christianity in China

Last December I experienced my first Catholic mass in China… yes, it’s true, there are lots of Christians here although their numbers make up a small proportion of the population. A friend of mine in Guangzhou asked me if I’d like to go to a religious concert at a church in downtown Guangzhou. Of course my curiosity was peaked, so I checked it out and learned a few new words along the way. Master, Lord, and Surrender were pretty common in the songs.

Have a look at what the church looked like outside. The white banner on the left is the official signage which shows this church is registered with the central government. (Click image to zoom in)

Chinese Church Entrance

The inside was a little bit of a surprise to me. I guess the group was a Taiwanese, Christian band which tours throughout the world. They do English songs too. The crowd was feeling pretty spiritual, which couldn’t be a bad thing. It all reminded me of how strong capitalism truly has become in China.

Chinese Church Inside