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Entries about living abroad

A Home At The End Of The Madness

Cosy and warm in snowy New Mexico

snow 2 °C

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Hi folks. Well, it has been a long time since my last entry. Which is surprising since during this hiatus, I have been working less than I have at any time since July 1999. I figure this since I have been either in full-time education or full-time employment - often 1.5 of these - for pretty much all of the last decade.

Nonetheless I have not been idle: a small and - believe me - painstakingly generated string of offshore freelance writing and copy editing jobs; house cleaning, housesitting and petsitting; gathering paperwork for a Green Card; as well as expanding my website have all kept me busy over the past few months. Add to that the fact that myself and Megan have moved four times since September, and have lived out or half-out of a suitcase for most of that time, the amazing generosity of Megan's relatives notwithstanding.

To my great delight, the trunking has come to an end with the beautiful new pad (pictured above) we've got ourselves in the student district of Albuquerque, New Mexico. We chose it because it's more classic bungalow than modern stack apartment - the perfect home for two writers, in other words. Moreover, we have significantly more space than we did in Dublin - the fridge is comfortably four times larger, for example - and we have significantly more ways to use our space than we did in China. There it was a case of 'this room is unbearably hot and has no aircon', 'that room has a live bat circling in it', you get the idea.

We've already had the chance to celebrate with a small but hearty Housewarming, and have especially benefited from the good nature of friends, relatives and Freecycle to fill what is, unusually for me at least, an unfurnished home. Now we can be snug for the snowy winter and continue to have fun with the considerable range of things there are to be enjoyed around Albuquerque, except now largely on foot or via surprisingly cheap public transport.

Before you go, dear readers, have a peaceful and happy holiday season. And do check out the sister blog post to this one, 'A Home At The End Of The Randomers', in which I documented the diverse range of lodgings I held around Dublin town during the bulk of the noughties. At this end, I'm thinking that the warm glow of a happy new home is one of life's great feelings :-)

Posted by BillLehane 18:41 Archived in USA Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

66 reasons the US is better than China

Why Silly Billy's happy with his new home

sunny 19 °C

Well, hello there! In honour of Silly Billy's recent relocation from China to the United States, I thought I'd make this run-down of why life is so very much easier around here. In no particular order - apart from number one, which is number one - here are my 66 reasons why it's better to live on Route 66 than Liyang Jie.

1. Decent brewed coffee is widely and deliciously available.
2. Chairs and tables are designed for people of average Western height and size.
3. The range of edible fast food extends beyond McDonalds.
4. The range of inedible fast food extends beyond KFC.
5. When you want something midway through a meal out, the server will probably come over unheeded and ask if everything's all right. (In China, you have to crane your neck in every direction before screaming 'Foo-yennnnn!' at the top of your voice.)
6. Splashing water on your face does not require bending the knees
7. The toilets don't look like this:

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8. Using a public computer does not necessitate getting pernicious adware.
9. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Blogger are accessible at any time.
10. Cinemas show movies in English.
11. Taxis have seatbelts.
12. Supermarkets don't sell live birds.
13. Opening the kitchen window will not result in a new pet bat.
14. Apartment complexes have lifts.
15. Nobody says 'at last' when they mean 'in the end'.
16. Rubbish bins don't look like this:

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17. Coffee at the airport does not cost $12.88
18. Buying takeaway meatball soup does not result in convulsive vomiting.
19. Convulsive vomiting over a sink does not result in a broken rib.
20. Showering is in a stall or bathtub, not over the floor
21. The internet works during the midday heat.
22. There are no bars without beer on tap.
23. Babies do their business in nappies, not on the street.
24. Cooking herbs don't come via international mail.
25. Headache tablets don't come via international mail.
26. DVDs don't come with Mandarin subtitles burnt on, and usually feature accessible menus.
27. Drinkable wine is widely and deliciously available.
28. Cheese is less than a 90-minute train ride away.
29. Popcorn doesn't have sugar.
30. Fruit salad doesn't have mayonnaise.
31. Pasta doesn't have ketchup, and is served warm.
32. You can buy things online with a foreign credit card.
33. You can buy a cup of coffee with a credit card.
34. Overheard music sometimes sounds good.
35. Ham is savoury, not sweet.
36. Nobody drinks red wine with ice.
37. Sofas are comfortable.
38. Buses don't make your insides rattle.
39. Toilets have toilet paper.
40. Most streets can be walked in sandals.
41. Haircuts don't come with painful knuckle 'massages'
42. Crisps generally don't have added mint flavour.
43. Christmas is widely celebrated.
44. Visiting an internet café does not require a passport.
45. A man of average height can walk through doorways unimpeded:

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46. Gizzards are discarded.
47. Lunch is generally served later than 11:05am.
48. Local currency can be exchanged overseas.
49. Irregular bowel movements are just that - irregular.
50. Television's worth watching, at least some of the time.
51. English-language bookstores are not a phenomenon exclusive to megalopolises.
52. Westlife aren't popular.
53. Red meat never smells like dirt.
54. You never see anyone take a dump.
55. The number of rooms in your house does not depend on the season.
56. Notice is usually given before professional or social appointments.
57. Chances are somebody else will have already devised an English-language map for your town and you won't have to make one yourself.
58. Personal bags can come to the supermarket.
59. Lighters can come on the plane in your luggage.
60. No matter how incomprehensible you are, ordering a beer will never result in lime Bacardi Breezer.
61. Video games, for those that play them, are more thrilling than your average taxi ride.
62. Milk is less than a taxi ride away.
63. The dimmest child won't think New York is in Africa.
64. Limes exist.
65. Water can be ingested safely.
66. Pigs don't fly:

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There are plenty more reasons I could add to this strange list I'm sure, although stranger still was the slight feeling of nostalgia I had while writing it. Until next time, dear readers, suffice to say life is complicated in China. :-)

Posted by BillLehane 18:26 Archived in USA Tagged living_abroad Comments (10)

The curious incidents of drinking out in Lishui, China

That red wine needs a bucket of ice

sunny 33 °C

First up, a warning. If you order Chinese wine, it will probably be pretty awful. Harsh vinegar like you wouldn't believe, in fact. The best domestic wines they have, if you're lucky enough to choose a good one, are about level with an own-brand supermarket wine back home. One called 'Enduring Pulchritude' (that's 'beauty', thesaurus fans) should really be called 'Enduring Fortitude', and not because it's well aged!

The good news, however, is that here and there you'll find a smattering of foreign wines that, for the most part, are really quite drinkable. But most locals here in Lishui seem not to know what to do with them – they obviously never order them themselves for a start, as many a dusty shelf can attest. Furthermore, if you do order one in one of several comfy but slightly off Western-style café bars in the city, you might just get something like this:

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No complaints about the huge decanter, but you can't really enjoy wine from a brandy glass! Funnier still was the second time we ordered this particular wine – quite nice, really, and a great deal in Euro terms to drink out for €10 – when it arrived with a small bucket of ice for us to dip into our drinks!

As for pub drinking there's not a lot going on mostly due to our location in a developing city and the fact that the Chinese style is more to have drinks over dinner. So we really got a treat the other week when by chance we came upon Lishui's first place with beers on tap, the Yes Bar. Tiger and Carlsberg, to be precise. And unlike the café bars above, it has a real wooden bar and the pleasing look and feel of a classy jazz club.

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Imagine our surprise, moreover, on learning first that it had only been open for the previous two days – we don't miss a trick 'round here – and then that it even sold cans of Guinness!

The actual night time atmosphere of this place isn't great, sadly. It's all flashing lights and bad Chinese music, leaving the deck chairs outside as the only good spot. And like many other outlets of various kinds in Lishui, some of the staff just don't know how to handle us laowai.

One of the first times we went, Megan decided to order us two pints of Carlsberg. In what I can only assume was her usual flawless Mandarin, she asked the girl for two pints of beer, referring in addition to 'the green one' and pointing to the tap. Several minutes later, we weren't even looking at what was on the table when suddenly these arrived. We just had to hold up our hands and laugh!

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Until next time, dear readers, remember to be thankful for life's simple pleasures and the privilege of ready access to them!

Posted by BillLehane 20:33 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

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