The Lure of Cheese

So how does one end up in China?

Well, we didn’t dig a hole through the center of the earth and jump through it. We wanted to teach in a beautiful European city like the one on the front of the brochure that lured me to take the six-week course, “Teaching English as a Foreign Language” near Wrigley Field.

Well, maybe not exactly like the city featuring rivers flowing with cappuccino. I had created many brochures similar to the glossy one I had in my hands, as I had been an advertising copywriter for over twenty-five years. I knew a good art director could make any place look good, from a trash dump in Rome to language school in Chicago, and good copy-writing could make a forty-eight-year-old gal like myself feel thirty years younger. The seven-word headline held an incredible promise.

DON’T JUST DISCOVER THE WORLD. REDISCOVER YOURSELF.

I wanted to move somewhere exotic with different electric outlets, where we didn’t have Cubs traffic, where I didn’t write about a fruity part of a complete breakfast each day.

So anyway, we started looking for teaching jobs in Europe, not China. We searched all the provinces with good wine and cheese, every country where toilets had seats and the locals had a majority of their teeth. But there was one flaw with our strategy: European towns don’t need English teachers. Slowly, our fingers spun the globe to the dark side, avoiding countries that ended with ia, too.

A place that rhymes with diarrhea will give you diarrhea.

Finally, we got a nibble from a small school in Bangkok, Thailand, not China. It sounded too good to be true.  We’d teach English during the day, eat Pad Thai at night and ride elephants on the weekends. We signed the contracts. We’d fly out the beginning of June. So we put our condo up for rent. We got a storage unit. We donated our furniture to a local church.

But two weeks before our departure, our dreams went up in flames, literally. We watched it on the nightly news.

RIOTS IN BANGKOK. THE CITY IS ON FIRE.

My husband dropped the tape gun.
“Honey? I think you better watch this.”

It was an incident I will refer to as the Fashion Wars. A political group in Bangkok known as Red shirts got in a fight with the Yellow Shirts, causing orange fire balls all over the city. I even got an email message from the US State Department urging  citizens to avoid travel to Thailand.

Well dang, Uncle Sam. Thanks for raining on our parade.

That was May twenty-something, 2010 (a date I’m unsure of) but on May twenty-eighth, 2010 (a date I’m AM sure of), a tenant would be moving into our condo.

It took a while for my husband to realized that we were screwed like turtles who rented their shells, refugees of our own making, with nowhere to go. But then a miracle happened. I received another email, one that got lost between Viagra offers. It was from a who was a walking Travel guide. His message that went something like this:

Ginger,

I know you’re looking at Thailand right now, but if you ever consider teaching in China, I know of a small school that might be a good fit. It’s in Yunnan, where they grow all of the tea. The weather is like Southern California and the air that won’t kill you if you breathe. It’s small, only six million people, but there is a new Walmart that sells cheese.

Did it say, cheese?

So, there you have it.

But that was ten years ago and a husband ago. Since then, not only does Kunming have cheese and Walmarts, the city also has Starbucks and as of recently, tampons.  

So why do I stay?

Hmmm…I get my fill of cheese in the states in the summer and uh, haven’t had to use tampons since a million hot flashes ago.

But I enjoy riding a bus for 14 cents where folks actually offer their seats to the old folks.

And, I can always find a good ma and pa restaurant.

But the question is: will I be able to find it again?

I also enjoy complaining about neighbors who burn to many incense on holidays along with sing and bang drums to 3 am. And, to be able to help out the one-legged street musician by scanning the QR code next to his donation bucket. The kids are sorta cute, too.

I enjoy the new of a country so old. Maybe once the oldness or the newness wears off, I’ll venture back to the land of Velveeta. That’s one thing they still don’t have here.

Until then, I’ll eat jiaozi. 

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