It takes a lot of guts to set out on your own and move halfway across the world, from say, New York to China via Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and Laos, but that is exactly what Sally, a self-confessed scaredy cat did back in 2007, bringing a suitcase full of irreverent wit along but leaving her warm winter pants behind. Courageous in many ways but a woeful wuss in others, put Sally on stage for a round of improvised comedy and she'll perform without batting an eyelid, yet fireworks have her running for cover. Here she tells us about being an Wuxi. >>>China Travel: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be in China.
Sally: I'm a writer, teacher, traveler, performer and big-time food addict. I've been living in Asia for the past four and a half years. I originally moved to Japan in 2007 to teach English at a university in Kobe. After three years of living and working there, I decided to take some time off and spent a year traveling and volunteering throughout Southeast Asia. When my year was up, so were my savings, so I knew I needed to find a paying gig. I had a lot of colleagues in Japan who had lived and taught in China and had enjoyed it, so I decided to come here.
Oh, and I'm a big fat scaredy cat (hence the blog name).
China Travel: Did you write a blog back home or was it something you started here?
Sally: I started blogging when I first moved to Japan over four years ago. I had a blog called "Sally Sensei" ("Sally Teacher" in Japanese). I would usually just use it to post pictures of my lunch or blather on about my weekend for my friends and family back home to read. I can't say my posts were terribly interesting, and my friends and family claimed they couldn't remember how to spell "sensei," so I didn't have many visitors back then. It took me about three years to develop my own blogging voice and an audience besides my Mom. That's when I started my current blog, which, I'm happy to report seems much more popular and easier to spell.
China Travel: Your blog is hilarious and great fun to read – how do you find your humor goes down with Chinese friends and colleagues?
Sally: How sweet! Not only do you think I am hilarious, but you also seem to think I have Chinese friends! Unfortunately, I can't say I have many of those yet – I've only been here about three months and I haven't had much luck meeting people outside of my work environment. Plus, my Mandarin skills are atrocious. Most of my colleagues are foreigners, so I don't even have many Chinese colleagues. I do regularly try to test out my humor on my students, but I can't say it goes over very well. In fact, it doesn't really go over at all. I once told one of my classes that I used to perform in a comedy group, and none of them believed me.
China Travel: Tell us a bit about your improv comedy experience in China.
Sally: I've only had a chance to perform once in China – I had the honor of participating this year in the Beijing Improv Interactive Arts Festival, a great event hosted by Beijing Improv every year. Pirates of Tokyo Bay, the Tokyo-branch of the comedy group I used to perform with in Osaka, was performing at the festival and they asked me to join them. I hadn't done improv comedy in over a year and I had never performed with the Tokyo group before, so it was pretty nerve-wracking at first. But I found the Chinese audience to be really receptive and supportive, and it was really awesome to be back on stage again.
China Travel: Have you had the chance to travel very much in China? Tell us about your best moments so far.
Sally: I've only been to Beijing and Shanghai so far. My best moments have just been meeting up with friends in both of those cities. I can't really pinpoint one moment that was the best – mostly because these moments have involved lots of alcohol.
China Travel: And your worst?
Sally: Luckily, one good thing about not having traveled much is that I haven't had much chance to rack up bad travel experiences. Probably my worst moment so far was when I gave the taxi driver the wrong address for the hostel in Beijing and ended up at some public housing project near the Olympic Stadium. In the end, he got me to where I needed to be, told me all about his life as a tank driver in the army and knocked 10 RMB off my fare. So, as far as "worst" experiences go, that was pretty awesome.
China Travel: You're currently based in Wuxi. What are your top five recommendations for a first time visitor to get a real feel for the city?
Sally: Woah. Five things? In Wuxi? Umm, how about three?
Nanchan Temple Market is a great place to visit and shop; plus, they've recently built a new "old street" nearby that has lots of cute cafes and eateries. The old canal that runs through the downtown area past the temple has a pretty cool evening boat cruise. And, you should definitely check out Wuxi's number one attraction, Taihu Lake (China's third largest inland lake! Wahoo!).
Aside from the lake, Wuxi is famous for its pork ribs, so you might try to find a restaurant that sells them. (And when you do, you should invite me along as I've only managed to find the pork ribs for sale in a box at the tourist shop in the train station – which kind of creeps me out. I mean, pork ribs? In a box? Eww, right?)
China Travel: What is the one thing you wish you'd known about China before arriving?
Sally: I wish I had known to pack warmer clothes for when I first got here in February and to pack cooler clothes for the summer months. Actually, I kind of did know that as my friend, MaryAnne (and the blogger behind A Totally Impractical Guide To Living in Shanghai) warned me about the weather, but for some reason I didn't listen. My luggage contained exactly one thick sweater (which I wore everyday for my first two months) and one pair of capris (which I'll be wearing everyday for the next two months). All my other clothes are definitely mild weather stuff.
China Travel: What do you miss most from home?
Sally: My family and friends. Oh, and being able to buy pants and shoes that fit.
China Travel: What would you miss most in China if you were to leave tomorrow?
Sally: The few friends that I've met since arriving. My couch. And dumplings (which could explain why I can't find any pants that fit here).
China Travel: What three words sum up your China experience?
Sally: Gin and tonic. (Sorry, it's summer and almost the end of the semester and those are pretty much the only words my brain is able to conjure up these days… that, and "dumplings," of course.)
If you want to read more from Sally (and we suggest you definitely do for gems like her love letter to China) head on over to Unbrave Girl and say hi.China Blogger Spotlight is a regular column highlighting great China blogs that we think you should know about. If you know of a blog that's got good things to share with other China travelers, be it your own or an RSS essential, let us know by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org