An Action Packed First Day in China

Expat Jimmy by Travis Lee is a fast paced short novel that follows a young American English teacher’s first day in Wuhan, China. He is met by a seasoned expat, Adam, who has been navigating Wuhan for seven years. The day starts at five a.m. and takes them on wild taxi rides, into seedy bars, through a Chinese family’s apartment, witnessing an attempted suicide, making a drug deal, eating different foods, drinking local hooch, and encounters with prostitutes. The day is packed with eye opening adventure.

Adam’s first advice is “Don’t forget who you are or where you are. Who you are is a laowai (foreigner). Where you are is China. Don’t go trying to change things or help people out. Mind your own business and if you don’t heed my advice? Then fine, just don’t come to me for help…”

Adam knows Jimmy is excited and fresh. He doesn’t know much about his new home and has a lot to learn. Adam packs in as much as he can on the first day while Jimmy is jet lagged and wide-eyed. He will have time later to decompress.

There are a couple of things Jimmy mentions that are very relatable. Arriving in this new country, Jimmy mentions it is all hard to describe, you have to experience it. I felt that way when I first arrived in Africa. For example, the smells are unique to certain parts of the world and impossible to describe. Also he has his camera with him and is taking pictures of everything. Everything. It is all so new and different and interesting he wants to capture it all. When walking down the street he sees other expats and expects them to talk to him and to be friendly. They are not. Just because people look like you does not mean they are going to be your friends. This is a naïve notion that many new expats have.

It is amazing how much Adam packs into one day. Adam has become part of the fabric and is so immersed in the culture, he says he cannot leave. It would be too difficult to adjust back to the USA. Any expat can relate to how hard re-entry is. However, he doesn’t seem to be having a very good time in China, either. He drinks a lot. He doesn’t heed his own advice and appears to be heavily involved in one Chinese family’s life. He tries to be rough and detached on the outside but is caring on the inside.

Throughout the day Jimmy is able to keep his sense of self and his moral creed but he does end up giving in to some peer pressure. He starts smoking and is getting a taste for the strong alcohol. At the end of the day he can’t get back into this dorm and stumbles upon a room full of computers and college kids playing video games. He happily joins them.

Jimmy ends with the realization that Adam is right, he is not going to change things but he is still excited and looking forward to more experiences to come.

This is a great snapshot into life in Wuhan. If you have lived in China, you will identify with much of it, if you have never been there, you will have a peek in the window. Although some of it is disturbing and strange, I have no doubt it is real. This book is a fun read.

 

Travis Lee is the author of Kale & Jason, Tear Sin, The Seven Year Laowai, the Journey through Nanking and Grandpa & Henry. His fiction has appeared in The Colored Lens and Independent Ink Magazine, among other places.
For more information, visit: http://www.travis-lee.org

52 Food Fridays

covershot

 

 

 

 

 

My new book is finally out in paperback and Kindle.

Paperback

Kindle

 I dedicated this book to my mother.

Here she is in up country Burma in the 1950’s.

img1372

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

My mother taught me to be adventurous in the kitchen. I grew up overseas, often in countries where supplies were limited and inconsistent. My mother is the queen of improvisation. She can find a substitute for anything. I took this viewpoint when I went to live overseas myself. I improvised and I invented. Cooking should be an adventure.

She raised three children in Burma, USA, Mexico, Colombia, Nigeria, and the Netherlands.

P1140621

She Wore White Linen

 

 

 

 

 

 

November is National Novel Writing Month.  The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1, and November 30.  Well, a first draft, anyway.  I don’t know if it is possible but I figure, why not give it a try?  Motivation!!!!!

 

Chapter 1

Stepping off the airplane the air was thick enough to cut with a knife.  She choked on her first breath, faltering for a moment, the second one came easier.  She was dressed in white linen, fitting for the tropics.   Or so she thought.  She had not taken the dirt and grime of an African city into consideration.  She was not going to a vacation resort but one of the bustling capitals of the Dark Continent.  Having never been in this part of the world before, she had no idea what she was getting herself into.  She was to find a completely alien world.

As she saw everybody pushing and shoving to get through immigration, she began to realize it would be some time before she arrived at her destination.  Passports were being waved in the air and the rank smell of people who were obviously unaware of soap filled her nostrils.  She tried to keep her composure but decided she must stand her ground if she ever wanted to get out of the airport.

Finally the immigration man took her passport.  She smiled at him using all her charm hoping it would speed up the process.  It did not.  He tediously filed out the necessary forms and stamped everything several times and then he leaned down and gruffly said,  “Make your way to the Health Counter”.

There being no through passage, she had to fight her way back through the crowd and around to the next stop.  Her vaccinations were in order and again she fought her way to the luggage area.  There, young boys descended on her asking to carry her bags.  Being laden down with a coat, a carry-on bag, and her purse, she agreed to let them.  They had to dig through the pile but finally all her luggage was accounted for.

As she approached the gate, an official asked if she had anything to declare.  She couldn’t think what he meant and said “No”.

On the other side of the gate, a mob was stretching to see the people inside, looking for a familiar face or an easy mark.  Several men asked her if she wanted a taxi but she paid no attention as she was also stretching to see a familiar face.

Her dark brown eyes relaxed as a man in khaki shorts and sandals came up to her.  He kissed her on the cheek and asked about her trip.

“Long and crowded” she answered, “I’m exhausted.  And I can’t believe this stifling heat!  How do you stand it?”

“You will get used to it.”

“And the smell?”

“You will get used to that, too”,  he said, laughing.

Chapter 2

She hadn’t seen her brother in two years.  He looked well.  Tan and thin.  He was a little taller than she was but not much.  They shared the same brown eyes but he had lighter hair.  Maybe from the sun.

Ned was living in the bush, working on some contract related to the US Embassy.  He was probably some kind of spy.  She didn’t really know what he was doing.  But he seemed to like it.

They piled into his rugged white Peugeot sedan and headed off into nightmare traffic.  It took them five hours to reach their destination, a large village north of the city.  It was crowded and dirty and smelly but she was glad to finally arrive and unwind with a glass of wine on the porch.  Her time was so messed up she couldn’t really think.  She just went with the flow.

“Sorry but I’ve accepted an invitation for us to go out tonight.”

“What?”

“It’s the Christmas Pantomime and then a light supper at a friend’s house.  It will be fun.  You can sleep through the pantomime.”

“Fine.”

 

HaHa… I’ve got a long way to go… where will it take me?

 

 

 

 

 

Expat Alien

 

Today I am happily re-posting a review of my book.  Maggie at FlyAwayHome was kind enough to share her thoughts.  Have a look at her blog and her book as well (it is a good one!)

 

With all the traveling I’ve been doing this summer, my blog is starting to resemble a travel blog. To mix things up, I thought I’d try writing a book review. I just finished reading a good book, so here goes…

If you’ve ever lived or simply dream of living in a foreign country, then Kathleen Gamble’s book Expat Alien: My Global Adventure, is for you. I was first introduced to Kathy and her well told stories of travel and adventure through her blog, also known as the Expat Alien. Kathy and I are two American girls who were both born in the fifties, but while I grew up on the steady shores of our homeland, she grew up wandering the world.

Click here to see the rest!