Day 300: Welcome Home!

18 Jun

Hey everyone!

We’re back in the States and I’ve found my kitty, an iced coffee, and the world of American sandwiches. All is well with the world.

It’s been interesting adjusting to life in the States. We experienced a lot of our culture shock in Hong Kong, but there have been some things unique to the US that have been particularly striking.

  • The first thing I noticed when we stepped out of the airport door was the smell of pine! I’ve lived in North Carolina for a few years now but I’ve never noticed how overwhelming the smell of pine is in the air. Compared to the plasticky smog we’ve been inhaling all year in Baoding, it was a refreshing change, to say the least.
  • On the drive home, we were in the car (on the highway) for about ten minutes before we realized we didn’t have our seatbelts on! I was surprised by this since I’d complained about the disuse of seatbelts in China so much when I first got there, but I guess I got used to it in the end and habit didn’t kick in once I was back home (note: that was the only time we’ve forgotten since being back).
  • Maybe it’s because there’s no mold on the walls and all the holes in the plaster have been patched and we’re a little obsessive about cleaning, but everything here seems so luxurious – McDonalds, the bathroom, even the floor (I am thrilled to have carpet in my house once again). It must be mind-blowing for first-time visitors when they arrive in the US and see how luxurious and fancy everything looks (I guess the conspicuous consumption thing is working…)
  • People seem SO friendly! When Duncan and I were in the airport, we were just beaming (we probably looked ridiculous) because everyone seemed so happy and friendly. I had a nice chat with the customs police about my minion Baby Johnson and when we went to order Zaxby’s (our first American meal) the people behind the counter smiled, welcomed us, and said you’re welcome. It really is the little things that count. (And after having put up with rude people for a year, I’m making an extra effort to be friendly and polite to everyone I meet.)
  • 4G seems really unnecessary. After getting used to not having Internet access on my phone 24/7, returning here and having it feels really excessive to me. Do I really need to be able to access Facebook when I’m in my car or at the grocery store? Surely, I can wait to look at Instagram until when I’m at home. I’m trying to keep this perspective in mind so that I don’t take it for granted and so that I can be more in the present (and it’ll save money).
  • We’re wary of other drivers. Since it was pretty common for people to run red lights in Baoding and break all other traffic laws on a whim, I’m wary of other drivers on the road doing the same thing here. It became even scarier when I realized how much faster everyone moves around. Whereas Chinese drivers almost expect people to be in the road and therefore (most of the time) drive slower, here we definitely don’t expect people to be in the road and we drive a lot faster. It’s interesting to see how my driving style has evolved over time (especially compared to 16-year old me).
  • Everyone speaking English was really weird at first – I constantly felt like I was eavesdropping. Even though we were surrounded by more people more frequently in China (and they definitely didn’t care about you hearing their conversations), since Mandarin isn’t my first language, I tuned other people out most of the time. Now though, hearing what other people are talking about requires pretty much no conscious brain activity and I feel like I’m being rude by understanding what those around me are talking about. (Sorry to the lady on the plane behind me, I wasn’t trying to hear about all your kids and their life choices.)
  • Americans have an arrogant air about them. I can understand what some people from other countries think about us – God, guns, and glory!
  • Hanging out with American kids took a bit of adjustment. As I started talking to a group of 2nd and 3rd grade kids I ran into at a summer camp, it was surprising to realize that they understood everything I said. I’ve been so used to adjusting my speech and working hard to communicate effectively, that it was startling to remember that I was interacting with kids that are fluent in English and American culture and therefore I can communicate with them at a much higher level than I’m used to. It was weird but really fun at the same time. I left the situation thinking, “Wow! Those kids are so smart!” until I realized they’re probably average kids and it was my expectations that determined my evaluation (hmm… life lesson in there somewhere…)

Little things that are so commonplace that I’ve never thought about there before are astounding to me and I’m having so much fun just interacting with the world. One of my favorite things is people not touching me all the time and the fact that I can put my arms out and spin and not come close to hitting anything or anyone. I’ve been really fascinated by the amount of space there is here, especially looking at peoples’ front and back yards. It’s funny (for me now) to remember that some Americans complain of being overcrowded because their house is eight feet from their neighbor’s house – that would be an enormous luxury where I’ve been living for the past year.
But I do miss it (already) and I know I’m going to miss the little things from China even more as time goes on. I miss being outside (despite the smog) and I miss walking everywhere. People really are less communal here (at least in the use of the tremendous amounts of space we have) and I have yet to see a park (which makes me sad). I’m definitely goes to miss all the exploring we were able to do in China, but I’ve made a goal to explore all of my city to compensate for that travel bug itch.
It’s interesting to note that I’ve done more cleaning and been on technology less since I’ve been back in the States than when I was in China. Cooking in my own kitchen and being in my own house have been absolutely amazing experiences. Seeing friends has been more fulfilling than it ever was before and I definitely have a newfound appreciation for being an American citizen.

I spent a year off the grid and on the map and I absolutely would (and hope to) do it again!

Thank you so much for following along on my adventure (300 days!) and I hope you’ll join me on the next one (whenever that turns out to be)!

Best wishes,



Posted by on June 18, 2014 in Uncategorized


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3 responses to “Day 300: Welcome Home!

  1. Laura Goodner

    June 19, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    I’m still in awe. I will miss your writings. I looked forward to living vicariously through you almost daily. I am so proud of you!

  2. Josh Igoe

    August 3, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Hi! I’m thinking about taking up a job in Baoding.

    Just wonder if you could help me out with some prices, and cool places to go??

    Please email me!! jjipkr [at] gmail [dot] com

    Thank you so much!

    • abelcher22

      August 4, 2014 at 5:18 am

      I can’t help out with living prices because we were living at the boarding school, but I can suggest some places we frequented.

      I don’t have exact addresses for most places but I can give you street names to get you in the right direction. We lived on the eastern outskirts of Baoding, so most places we visited are on this side of town and I don’t know if that will be convenient for you, depending on where you live.
      We got street food from an alley filled with a variety of vendors and tiny restaurants across the street from the Hebei Agricultural Engineering School (河北省农业工程学校) campus on WuSi East Road. Our “bread people”, “kabob people”, and many other restaurants of all different kinds were in the covered alley across the street from the Hebei University Nanyuan (河北大学南院) campus. QLH (coffee and ice cream), the noodle shop we frequented, and a melon hot pot place are all on Junxiaojie (Junxiao Street) along with many other great restaurants to check out. We basically lived in the areas around Military School Square (保定军校广场) and there’s a Huiyou (a supermarket) underground in the middle. If you want pizza you can go to Philly Story off of Qiyi Middle Road (保定市七一中路). Over by Nongda (the Agricultural University of Hebei – 河北农业大学农村发展学院) there is another QLH, several other pizza places, and many many other restaurants. It’s a fun area to check out. The InZone mall (down Yuhua Road from the Governor’s Mansion and the Ancient Lotus Pond) has a really good Korean restaurant, a movie theater that shows some movies in English, a Dairy Queen, plus a ton more. There is a really nice grocery store at the intersection of Dongfeng Middle Road and Beiguan Street (this is where we were consistently been able to find peanut butter). There are a couple of malls (one very expensive), a Starbucks, a Walmart, and some other stores in the shopping center at the intersection of Chaoyang North Street and Tian’e Middle Road.
      If there are any places I’ve mentioned in my blog before that I didn’t mention here, let me know and I’ll try to head you in the right direction.Definitely also check out the Lotus Pond, the Governor’s Mansion, and the Baoding Botanical Gardens. Also, if you’ll be here for an extended period of time I would definitely recommend buying a motorbike and using it as your main method of transportation around the city.

      Definitely make liberal use of the bullet train since it’s so close and convenient.

      I’m wondering, what kind of job are you considering in Baoding?

      Thanks for contacting me! Let me know if I can help with anything else!



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