When even basic needs are not met

I still remember those early days when I just moved to China. I lived in Yangshuo, a touristy little town in Guangxi province. There was luckily a decent expat community, so I still had Western conversations and didn’t have to speak Chinese.

But, soon I started to see that to be totally immersed in China was quite difficult. There were no Western products and I was surprised when I went from supermarket to local grocery shop to beauty shop to finally understand that Chinese don’t use deodorant. I was quite shocked as in the West, men and women use deodorant from when they are a teenager. I couldn’t understand and didn’t believe it at first.

Another most awkward and frustrating moment was to realize that Chinese women don’t use tampons. No way that I would go back to grandma’s sanitary pads!

So, I remember that I emailed my mother in exasperation to quickly send me deodorant and tampons (and while sending those anyway, some Belgian chocolate to comfort me. For us Belgians this is as much a basic need as these other two).

Flash forward 9 years later and married to a Chinese for almost 3 years now. He doesn’t understand the deodorant thing and another Western thing: shaving armpits and legs.

Last week, was the first time my husband ever used deodorant as he sees me doing it every day and doesn’t understand why. So, he finally had the courage to try it himself.

The other thing we even had some big discussions about was why I had to shave my armpits and legs. I told him that I feel like a man if I don’t and I want to feel like a woman. I don’t care that much about clothes or shoes, but there is no way I am going to let my hair grow in these places.

In the beginning of our relationship, we went trekking for at least 6 days by tent. We couldn’t shower during those 6 days and I felt an immense relief when I could finally shower, but the best part was, to be able to remove the hair from my legs. I felt civilized and clean again.

It’s interesting to see the differences in cultures and it doesn’t have to be the big things. It’s those little everyday things that make it interesting. I would never stop to think about using deodorant or shaving legs in the West and nobody would mention it as it is such a normal thing to do. But in China you see that it is not so common and that other people see it as something weird to do.

I can’t wait to take my husband back to Europe and see what he thinks of it. Now, he just went for 2 weeks on holiday, but that is not the same as living there and starting to miss those everyday little habits that you do! Although, I already got him hooked on drinking a cup of coffee every morning. He is slowly getting there.


Should you be afraid of eating meat in China?

I get this question a lot from foreigners, especially the ones that are new to China: Should you be afraid to eat meat here in China? They all heard some horror stories that in some restaurants they might serve dog instead of pork or so.

We all know that in certain areas in China, people eat dogs. I lived in such an area for more than 6 years and it is horrifying: you see dogs in little cages, all packed together, being transported to the local market to get slaughtered; you see dogs, hanging on hooks, like a piece of beef.

But, where I lived, it is a specialty and more expensive than other meat, so they won’t take it instead of other meat. Most of the time, it’s also only in specialized restaurants that you can order it. It is a gruesome thing to serve dog, but it’s their culture. I felt bad for the dogs and they are kept in bad conditions, but is this not with all animals now?

Before, I ate other meat, because I lived in the countryside in Belgium and we were keeping our own chickens, we went to a farmer to buy a pig or a part of beef. The butcher would come to our home to cut up the meat.

Now, I am a pescatarian – still eat fish – because I don’t want to eat meat from the supermarket. First, because I don’t know what they did with the meat, i.e. what hormones, antibiotics and other things they injected into the animal and second, I don’t like the way they treat animals. It is not humane, we treat living beings as an industry now. I wouldn’t mind to eat a juicy steak of a bull that ate organic grass all his life, was happily running around in a pasture and was killed by the farmer in swift way.

Eating dogs is wrong, as much as eating animals that have been living in small cages where they can’t move, have been injected with too many chemicals, and are then en masse killed in a slaughterhouse filled with fear.

We all need to think of what we are doing to our world. Don’t condemn one culture to do something that we don’t agree on and refuse to look what we are doing in ours. I used to love eating rabbit meat. It is normal in Europe, but when I would say that to some people, they also look shocked. How can I eat a nice bunny rabbit?

Long time no post

It’s been a couple of years since I posted something here… WordPress was blocked in China and I didn’t have a good vpn, but this has changed now. I wanted to have contact with the outer world again 😉 I am using Astrill vpn, a good and fast one for only 6 US dollars a month.

A lot has happened in these past 2 years, but one thing stayed the same: I still live in Yangshuo! 
A couple of months ago I published an article in China daily about my life here:


My Chinese journey still continues and it will continue for many many years. I love this country!

I just came back from Hong Kong and I have a one year visa now, which is again a big relief. The only trouble with living in China is that you are never sure for how long you will have a visa and how much it will cost you. I go to forever bright in Hong Kong. That agency proves to be the best and the cheapest. I go there in the morning and I can get my visa that same afternoon, so I don’t have to stay overnight in Hong Kong, but I always combine this with some shopping in Shenzhen 🙂 If you want to go shopping for clothes and shoes, you can go to Dongmen (metro station Laojie). There you have some good cheap stuff, but all fake. If you, like me, want to have some decent quality and you want to have a foreign supermarket as well, you can go to MixC mall (metro station grand theater). They have all the foreign brands and a big Ole supermarket at the bottom of the mall. If you want to shop for electronics, Huaqiangbei is the place to be!

I took the train back now, because the night bus is a pain in the ass. I never sleep on the bus as it’s quite uncomfortable (bumpy roads, stops in the middle of the night where they turn on the lights, smelly feet, dusty blankets). The train takes longer: 12 hours instead of 8 and stops in Guilin instead of Yangshuo, but at least it goes very smooth and you can get a decent night of sleep (take your mp3-player with you, because you can have snoring people close to you, like I had 😛 The train is also well-organised: I had the hard sleeper, which has 3 beds: 1 down, 1 middle and 1 on the top. On your ticket you see your compartment and the number of your bunkbed. The lowest bed is the most expensive, 10yuan less and you have the middle or the top is another 10 yuan cheaper. At the beginning of your journey, they ask your ticket and give you a card with the number of your bed, that way, the personnel knows where you have to get off. Half an hour before you arrive they give you your ticket back. There is an aisle next to the beds, where you can sit and look outside. There are also enough toilets and in every compartment you have always a tank with hot water.

That’s a bit of information about traveling in China…

Till next time (you won’t have to wait 2 years now)


back in Yangshuo

ni hao,

I’m back in Yangshuo and this is where I longed for!!! I’m finally home again!
I was a bit homesick in India and Beijing, because I really missed my town, my apartment,… And now I’m so happy to be here again and to see all my friends again. I was surprised to see that a lot of my friends are still in Yangshuo. Some go to Thailand or other warmer countries for the winter and come back in April or May. My parents are still here as well and they say they had a great time here. They like Beijing, especially the great wall and the forbidden city, but it’s a big city and it’s too crowded and too busy. Yangshuo is more on the countryside. The food here is more delicious, the environment is beautiful. It’s nice to see they like it as well, but they couldn’t live here, they say, which I’m glad to hear 😉 Don’t want to have my folks around me here 😛
Tomorrow, I’ll go with them to Shenzhen and see them off. And from next week on, I’ll teach English again in the mornings and will practice kung fu and tai chi again.  And I will start learning chinese again. I’m surprised of how much I can already understand, but I still have to learn a lot to become fluent. I ‘m also looking forward to have my own life and my old routine again. Although, in Yangshuo it will never be a routine. Here nothing will stay the same: you can meet new people from all over the world, have to teach somewhere else, have a business opportunity,… You just have to stay flexible the whole time, which I like the most about this place. There are already some opportunities for having a business here, but I’ll see what the future will bring. Right now, I will enjoy living here again and I keep my ears and eyes open to certain opportunities… I’ll keep you updated.

Keep mailing me about what’s going on in your lives. Love to hear your stories as well…
Stay in touch

end of the course and back in China

The teacher training course is finished. We all got our certificate and a white shawl wrapped around us in a final puja (prayer ceremony).  We went to the beach and made a bonfire, had dinner and did a funny yoga class. Everyone had a name that was remarkable for them and had to teach a yoga pose. I was kung fu Kathy and had to teach the Jackie Chan pranayama (pranayama are breathing exercises). That evening, we already had to say goodbye to  people, who would leave early next moning.

I will miss everyone on the course. They were all great people! I got some good friends now from all around the world. ..

I stayed in Rishikesh for another 10 days and I was a bit bored. It was really hot, so, I couldn’t do a lot of yoga, because I was really suffering from the heat. On 24 march, I went by train to Delhi. That was again a real adventure because of kumh mela, the festival. I had to take a rikshaw from Rishikesh to Haridwar, but they couldn’t bring me to the trainstation, because the city is still closed because of the festival. They could take me to 2 km from the station. Hmmm, picture me with a heavy backpack, a heavy handbag, a yoga mat and another plastic bag in 40 degrees. I didn’t like the thought of walking like that through the crowd, but fortunately, I saw some bicycle rikshaws (they can go into the city) and I took one to the station. I paid the man more than double the price, because I was so glad he helped me, and which was still less than 1 euro.
When the train entered Delhi, 6 hours later, it had something of a scene from a WWII movie. I saw ruins and a lot of debris. Very skinny people in rags were walking or crawling over the debris. It looked I entered a warzone. I could also hardly breathe because of the pollution. The next day, I stayed in my hotel, because I had a major headache and I didn’t feel safe to go outside alone: all the men on the street were staring at me and shouting. The city is really dirty and polluted, you have to watch where you walk and the traffic is pure chaos…
The day after that,26 march, I booked a sightseeing trip through Delhi. But the bus was not what I expected. I booked the luxury thing, which was only 300 rupees (4,5 euros) for a whole day. But the bus was really small, and there was no A/C. The bus was full of middle-aged men, who, as soon as I stepped on the bus, undressed me with their eyes. I felt already uncomfortable. There was 1 guy of 25 years old and we started talking. He was really cute and nice, his name is Guru. He is from Kerala, but works in Bangalore and he was for his work in Delhi and had some free time. We had a terrific day together: we made a lot of fun, talked about all kinds of things and when we visited Qutab minar, a famous tower in Delhi and I had to pay 250 rupees and Indians only 10 rupees, he said that he said he would’ve tried to tell them that I was his wife, so I had to pay less as well, but he thought it would take a lot of trouble. They would’ve checked it. But it was sweet of him.
The tour was finished around 7pm and we had dinner together. After dinner, we walked a bit around in Delhi, but it was too chaotic, too dirty, we couldn’t breathe, there were drug addicts alongside the road giving each other a shot. So, we looked for a quiet spot and sat and talked. We embraced each other and stayed like that for a long while. He told me about his difficulties with girls and how relationships work in India. The parents have a major influence on the girl and the caste system is still strong. I was shocked to hear his story and wished I could say something. Instead, I just held him in my arms and listened. I think he needed that. After some time, we both went to our own hotel and the next morning I had to go to the airport around 7.30 am. I called him around 7 and he came to my hotel to say goodbye. It was sad, we both didn’t want to leave each other. He is so sweet, I like him!!

I’m in Beijing right now. It feels good to be on Chinese soil again, but I will miss India too. I know that I only saw a little part of India, so I will definitely come back to see more. And I want to see Kerala, now I have an extra reason to visit it 😉 My hotel in Beijing is in the middle of the hutongs, really a nice spot. It’s nice and I can’t wait to welcome my parents in China.