May 12, 2010


Alright, I better explain the title. Farlang means "foreigner" in Laotian or Thai (I don't even know for sure). I was inspired by a story I read about a couple who got a farlang roll on a sushi menu in a Laotian village. They were craving peanut butter like crazy, which I can totally relate to (see my Rome blog if you don't believe me), so they "invented" a sushi roll with peanut butter, bananas and a bit of honey all wrapped up in rice and nori.

I wanted a title that incorporated a word from another language, and given my severely limited knowledge of Chinese, that was tricky. So I went with "farlang." It's easy to say, easy to spell, and with any luck, simple enough to keep you coming back to read what I have to say.

I'm not crazy, I promise.

For the past few months I've had a reoccurring daydream that I'm running, running as fast as I can and I'm approaching a huge cliff that I'll either soar off of or take a nose dive.

Well friends, I'm about to jump.

 It's so cliche, I know. But I promise I don't actually try make it happen, it just comes to me.

As expected my last semester of school was a mad dash to figure out exactly what I want to do with my life. Talk about exhausting. I knew I wanted to go abroad, preferably to Jordan or a Spanish-speaking nation, after which I would move to Boston or DC, land a stellar job, get my Masters and live my dream. Instead I find myself going to China.

“You’re going to China?” Yes, I’m going to China. “Wow. That’s crazy!” Yes, I know it’s crazy. Then the dumbfounded look of awe from each newly informed friend usually lasts for up to ten seconds before breaking into more rapid-fire questions. That scene has been played out at least once every day for the past month and a half.

Yes, I’m moving to China. I find myself having to repeat that over and over in my head as I try to digest it. In all my endeavors, none have proven more emotionally draining than when I try to process the fact that I’m moving to a country that I only have vague generalizations of what to expect.

I have zero expectations for China. I never ever saw myself going to Asia, it’s not that I didn’t want to, I just had never thought about it. I guess that’s the beauty of this adventure. China to me is like a blind date, all that I really know about him [China] is what I was able to creep off his limited public profile on Facebook.

To me, China is Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Xi’an with a landmass the size of the United States lying in between them all. It’s the land of emperors and the world’s largest wall. It’s home to the most people in the entire world. And to my eyes the language is a tangled web of darts and dashes forming an incomprehensively beautiful script.

China also happens to be the last communist world power. I’ve studied their government and gained a solid understanding of the economic machine that keeps GDP growing at a rate of nearly 10 per-cent a year. China is also on the winning side of a nauseatingly large trade deficit with the United States. In this economic climate, that’s rather disconcerting.

Everything from my sunglasses to my water cups to the picture frames on my wall is made in China. I read last fall that one Chinese city makes only buttons. In fact, 80 per-cent of the buttons used in the clothes that are made in China (so like half of my closet) are made in that one city. It’s a thriving button-industry city – can you imagine!

Yet, the Chinese people I’ve met break every economic or government-laden generalization I have dreamt up about the country. By far they are some of the most friendly, kind-hearted people I know. My Chinese friends are fiercely patriotic and are thrilled I want to learn more about their home.

So off I go.

Off I go to the land where Facebook and Twitter are blocked. My best friend, Google, won’t be accompanying me either. Hell, I haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to stream this blog since most blogging sites are blocked by the Great Firewall.

I’ve got three months to prepare for the adventure of my life. At this point, four out of five days are good ones when I think of the incredible people, the great university I’ll be working at, the beautiful cities and the millennia of traditions that still are proudly practiced.

But every now and then, the fear of the unknown envelops me. The language barrier, the humungous cities, and expansive government kind of freak me out.

When I go, I’ll be ready. And knowing me, after a month I won’t want to come home.

In the meantime, I'll get to practice my Spanish during a service trip to Guatemala. I leave the day after graduation (Sunday). My life is 73 levels of fantastic right now.