Repatriating from China – Food & Dining

It’s July and I’ve been living in Boston since I moved back from China at the end of 2013. A LOT has happened over the course of half a year back in America and I thought it was time to check in with AL.ME to recap what’s happened and the hidden challenges of my repat experience. Enjoy installment #3!


pizza at posto
A new regular – an old favorite

I’ve gained a noticeable amount of weight since I got back and from the expected causes – America’s bread and butter issue. My identity has returned to being American, rather than a pseudo-Chinese or something else, and therefore find myself uncontrollably attracted to coffee and sandwich culture. Most mornings I’m drinking coffee with a bagel. Lunches are often sandwich-based, like a subway or a wrap. My dinners are becoming simpler, although I do attempt to make Asian dishes on occasion (toufu, pan-fried cabbage, spicy shrimp salad, etc.). Work keeps my entire weekdays busy and I normally cook for one, which makes convenient meals and snacking much more common.

As for dining out, I find that every meal is either pizza, hamburgers, or a steak. Just the other day I had dinner with my brother, sister-in-law, and father. I happily pushed down a plate of mac and cheese with pulled pork drizzled on it. My only vegetable that night – a fried pickle with ranch dressing.

This is not meant to be an attack on American faire, or on the food choices of my loved ones. After all, no one forced me to order the mac ‘n cheese. It was my choice, I know. But now that I’ve been here for a solid half year and slid into new habits, I can’t help but observe these changes in the way I eat. I probably would ignore it a bit longer if my pants were buttoning up properly… Half of the pants I wore in China are too tight now. *ugh* Continue reading Repatriating from China – Food & Dining

Repatriating from China – Job Hunting in Boston

It’s July and I’ve been living in Boston since I moved back from China at the end of 2013. A LOT has happened over the course of half a year back home and I thought it was time to check in with AL.ME to recap what’s happened and the hidden challenges of my repat experience. Here’s installment #2.


job searching
Job Searching as a Repat

Another case in which America seems to be the place which takes forever to get anything done is securing a new job. Of course, I was told by family and friends that it would take time. I’m also not oblivious to the fact when a company hires the wrong person, the cost of rehiring and new training can make a serious impact on the company (bottom line, or otherwise). What did surprise me was just how long it takes, from application to offer, in the United States.

In my hasty ignorance as a repat from China, I thought a few weeks or a month would be all it took to prove my mettle to a company looking for an eLearning specialist or instructional designer for the purposes of online learning. I was sorely mistaken! A job search that started in September of 2013 just barely concluded before Christmas, which my family said was actually pretty quick. *yawn*

The first job I landed in the Boston area was actually in a Chinese-run, international education company that had wanted to develop an online learning service for its clients. From January to March 2014 I endured a probationary period which was not an uncommon thing among new salaried employees in China; however, I quickly realized that this company was not the right fit for me. I realized too late that I was grossly misled during interviews, which was much like my experiences working on various projects in China… Long story short, I expressed my disinterest in continuing after the 90-day trial period and left the company. That short stay was extremely valuable to my repatriation because it made me realize what I needed: to take a serious break from China, especially Chinese organizational management.

Late Winter was a turning point for me, career-wise, because I had interviewed for a position that suited me, but in an industry I had no experience with: the US healthcare industry.  Since my previous experience applying for a job, I had learned that responding to an ad that was only a few days old was not a good idea. For the next job, I made sure to apply to an ad that was 1-2 months old. That, along with my consistent communication with the new company, led to a wonderfully painless experience. In March 2014 I applied for a position at HighRoads and in April I accepted their offer! The compensation was more than fair, the organization was on a growth kick, and I was about to be assigned to a project the likes of which I had oodles of experience with: setting up an online training area and populating it with courses about their software!

Let’s get back to the repatriating experience… In China, I was more experienced with starting short-term, high value, consulting/training agreements with schools and companies. I would contact an organization, hold a meeting to discuss my offer, and if all went well we’d sign a contract the following week. When I was managing the English department at a Sino-German international program in China in 2006, I found out how quickly a hire could take place in a Chinese organization. Literally 1 meeting was enough to make a decision on crucial staffing matters. It was surprising at first, but I eventually got used to decisions being made either quickly, or not at all.

Counter intuitive, right? Shouldn’t it take forever to get things done in China??? Well, not always. It really depends on the nature of the deal and whether or not there’s a time crunch involved. There certainly is something here that both of our cultures share – the amazing leverage provided by a burning platform.

READ More about repatriating from China in articles about Renting & Moving and Food & Dining.

Repatriating from China – Half a Year on

It’s July and I’ve been living in Boston since I moved back from China at the end of 2013. A LOT has happened over the course of half a year [back home] and I thought it was time to check in with AL.ME to recap what’s happened and cite the many hidden challenges of this repat experience. Here’s the 1st installment about Renting and Moving as a repat!


Somerville houses in winter
Slums in disguise (Boston, MA)

When you live in another country for so many years (8 in China, 1 in Korea in my case) you eventually accept and internalize how the local culture does things. In the case of finding an apartment for rent, signing a contract, and moving in, there were some surprise differences for me here in Boston. For starters, the value proposition of rent in a city like Boston is a horrible deal.

As Winter 2013/2014 ticked by, the experience of subletting from a “slumlord” (in the local lexis) was more of an exercise in price-gouging than fair accommodation. At $950 a month from each of the 5 roommates, this rickety old house with warped floor boards, drafty windows, unreliable water pressure, and noisy street traffic was a tough pill to swallow when compared to my previous living situation in Zhuhai. Back in China I was in a modern, newly furnished, single apartment with reliable utilities and an ocean view off the balcony for $300 a month. I know… location, location, location. *barf*

Locating an apartment and securing a lease is also quite different than I was used to. In China, I was expected to wait until 1-2 weeks before my move-in date to actually look for the new apartment, otherwise it wouldn’t “be available” on the date I was looking to move. It was all very last minute, but you could always find a place in the end. In Boston, I’ve experienced weeks of searching and interviewing just to sign a lease that would begin nearly 3 months later. All very much in advance and reliable, however, requiring $3000 up front upon signing the lease. Putting that money in the hands of the landlord (a stranger) so early threw up a red flag for this repat, quite naturally, but I later realized that this is how apartment-hunting is done here. I needed to accept this or go back to wherever it was “I came from.” 🙂 Continue reading Repatriating from China – Half a Year on

Learn to Brew 5 Fresh and Healthy Teas at Home


Inspired by previous posts on green tea and proper tea consumption, I’ve decided to share a batch of simple, soothing homemade teas. As with everything here on AL.ME, these fresh and healthy tea options are meant to keep life simple and keep your body happy. We’ll select fresh, natural, inexpensive ingredients and use them to create a harmonious balance throughout the body. Let’s kick things off with a light one… Continue reading Learn to Brew 5 Fresh and Healthy Teas at Home

Eating Seaweed Soup for Cancer Prevention

miyeok guk
Korean seaweed soup with mussels (Recipe below)

 *This post is dedicated to AL.ME’s #1 fan – Thank you Saba

A few years back I visited a little island off of the coast of Zhuhai (China) and found an elderly couple collecting seaweed. They were bending over and reaching around rocks that were covered in barnacles and salty sea grass. When I asked why they were collecting this brownish, bumpy seaweed and putting it into big plastic bags they said, “We’re going to make soup with it.” And I just thought… Chinese people have horrible taste buds… Slimy seaweed in homemade soup must taste awful!

But then a couple months ago I was on the phone with my mom who was walking along a beach near her winter home in Florida. She was looking for sharks teeth, as she does most mornings, when she bumped into a fellow snow bird gathering seaweed into a shopping bag. When she asked what he was doing he said that he was a doctor and that the seaweed has great medicinal properties. By the end of their chat, she had realized she was talking with a doctor who gives speeches around the country on cancer prevention. And this man in particular was sending all of the seaweed he collected to his brother’s clinic in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Continue reading Eating Seaweed Soup for Cancer Prevention

BAD Review of for Domain Name Services

Since AL.ME is a blog, and requires a domain name, I thought I might share some comments for those of you who are also interested in creating your own site to share your stories. If you are looking for a Domain Name register, make sure you AVOID (I’m not receiving any compensation from anyone for this article.)

A couple years ago I purchased the domain “” because I was developing a site for American English accent lessons and services. When I shopped around for the domain I looked everywhere and found a decent sale at Register. Aside from the fear tactics, misleading warnings, greyed out “next” buttons, etc. I navigated my way to check out. I pointed the domain safely to my host, and that was that. At least I thought that was that… Continue reading BAD Review of for Domain Name Services

The Ultimate List of East Asian Festivals for your Bucket List

Welcome to my list of the major festivals and holidays celebrated across Northeast Asia- Japan, North and South Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Mongolia. This will be a continuously updated list as I keep exploring new and interesting festivals that have evolved in the East Asian cultural sphere, also known as Sinosphere (including Vietnam) because they are all historically influenced by Chinese culture.*

Consider adding some of these to your bucket list and I’m sure you’ll never regret the effort to cover them all!

bucketlistAndroid Users
Bucket List app
i wish appiOS Users
iWish app

NOTE: Celebrating some of these festivals usually requires physically being in the country. If travelling that far is impossible, see if you can get to your local Chinatown or East Asian neighborhood on the date of the festival.


Chinese New Year (Spring Festival 春节, Seollal in Korea, ) is celebrated across the world by Chinese diaspora. In 2014 it will be celebrated on January 31 and the final day occurring on February 15- see the Lantern Festival below. This is the most exciting festival I’ve ever experienced. It feels like American 4th of July but more dangerous! Get a more detailed overview on this amazing festival here.

Continue reading The Ultimate List of East Asian Festivals for your Bucket List

East Asia’s Culture of Learning and Higher Test Scores

A Culture of Learning
A Culture of Learning

In reaction to the recent PISA 2012 results, this week’s panel GPS with Fareed Zakaria discussed the educational leg up that East Asian countries seem to have over American education. His guests included Sal Khan (Khan Academy), Tom Friedman (New York Times author), Wendy Kopp (Teach for America), and Arnie Duncan (US Education Secretary). The discussion was dominated by a sense of ‘those guys got it right’ which unfortunately is not the over-arching reason for China’s higher test scores, in my opinion. Let me explain… Continue reading East Asia’s Culture of Learning and Higher Test Scores

Will Students still come to America after PISA 2012?

Chart courtesy of

After American 15-year-olds scored 36th overall on the global Reading, Math, and Science test, will parents continue to send their students to study in America? Test-obsessed parts of the globe may look at the 2012 results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and determine that our K-12 education does not compare to theirs. Or parents might not care and just send their kids to America anyway. (We’ve still got the highest ranked universities in the world…)

Continue reading Will Students still come to America after PISA 2012?

Does your Body Reward you?

Yumm, breakfast!

One week ago I moved into a house with roommates in Somerville, Massachusetts. In that first week of transition I had a lot on my plate, so I did what most temporarily scattered people would do – eat shitty food. I ate plain ramen, peanut butter bread, cheese on toast, dunkin donuts sandwiches, rotisserie chicken from Shaws… barely any vegetables or fruit. I also exercised very little… maybe a few push-ups and sit-ups. I wasn’t depressed but I felt like I was just… existing.

But today, I feel like a million bucks. Here’s what happened…

Yesterday morning I was having my peanut butter on toast with banana slices when one of my roommates explained why he makes fruit smoothies every morning. “I eat fruit only in the morning.” he said. “It’s actually really good for you and the body breaks it down quickly, which in turn gives you a lot more energy to burn.” Continue reading Does your Body Reward you?