emily-j-bioHi, I’m Emily, and I currently live in southwest China with my husband and two children. We’ve lived in China for over a decade and yet I’m still learning new things about the language and culture nearly every day. I love hanging out with friends, being in nature, cooking, learning new Chinese characters (it’s true) and watching movies. I jump at the chance to experience new cultures or explore new places, even if it’s just a park in our city that I’ve not yet been to. I’m so glad to share a day in my life with you!

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Good morning to you from the city of Kunming! Two mugs are greeting me this morning. The mug on the left shows me as a typical American: starting my day with a cup of coffee. The mug on the right represents my Chinese side: drinking a cup of plain hot water because the mornings have grown chilly with autumn’s arrival. Double cheers!


After I get the kids off to school, my morning involves a mundane list of laundry, dishes, straightening, etc. I’ll let you in on a little secret: these brainless tasks are good for my sanity. I’ve found that it’s healthy to have this mental space to let my mind reflect and breathe. Some of my best praying, writing, and problem-solving happens while I’m hanging wet clothes or sweeping the floors.


Construction. This is what dominates the soundscape of every waking moment of my day, and too many sleeping moments of my night. Clanging, banging, grinding, welding, yelling, honking, rumbling. I am now intimately familiar with what the hydraulics of a crane sound like. When we chose this apartment last year, I knew the balcony overlooked a construction site, but work had not yet begun and I naively assumed they’d only work during the daytime. Let’s all have a good laugh at my sweet innocence, shall we?


“Self portrait of the author with her laptop.” Much of my work is done on the computer. My “desk” rotates between coffee table, couch, dining room table, and bed, depending on how comfy I want to be and how close to a wall outlet I need to be.


Our apartment is one of the prettiest and greenest complexes we’ve ever lived in in China. Walking our dogs mid-day is a serene nature break for me. I stroll past gingkos, pines, palms, osmanthus, bamboo, lantana, lilies, and dozens of flowers I don’t know the names of. There are turtles and koi in the ponds, butterflies and dragonflies flitting around, and interesting birds calling out to each other, including a few highly entertaining hoopoes. Much nicer than dump trucks and drills.


I generally buy groceries at a supermarket or at a small vegetable shop close to our apartment, but I’m happy to have this traditional Chinese wet market as an option. Everything is super-fresh, including the goat carcass on the butcher’s table (not pictured; you’re welcome). Possibly my favorite thing about this place is the wake of amusement I leave behind me as I shop. It’s not every day they see a tall blond buying her garlic and greens here.


Some intersections here have stoplights, crosswalks, and a moderately high level of obedience to traffic laws. Others are a complete free-for-all. In this shot, public buses, pedestrians, motorcycles and scooters all slowly inch their way through the tangle, everyone going their own direction. The big shadow on the ground is of the ambulance that nearly hit us as it lurched forward. We were in a three-wheeled electric scooter, so we would have lost. But, hey, if you’re going to get hit, it’s best to be hit by an ambulance.


The older part of Kunming is a vast jumble of buildings, some slated for demolition, others that will be here for ages. We’ve only lived in Kunming for a year and a half, and it is the most urban place we’ve lived in China, so I feel like we’re still getting used to this concrete jungle. However, Kunming also has the most wonderful climate of any place we’ve lived, and expats from other cities will tell you how much cleaner the air is here. All in all, we really like it here.


At school, our kids made mooncakes, the traditional treat of Mid-Autumn Festival. They can have a huge variety of fillings, some of which usually make foreigners gag (sugary ham; preserved duck egg) and some that most foreigners love (mango; five seeds & nuts). Our kids brought home mooncakes filled with red bean paste, lotus seed paste, and fruit. In case you are not sure, those are all in the “yummy” category, at least according to us!


Our bedtime routine currently includes reading Journey to the West as a family. This Chinese classic is incredibly long, but it’s been holding our attention as we follow the fantastical adventures of The Monkey King et al. This epic tale is well-known and well-loved in China, and you can find versions of the story and references to its main characters all over the place. After reading together and family prayer time, we’ll head to bed, so I will wish you a good night. 晚安!Wǎn ān!


This Global Life | Day 29: Southern China | TakingRoute.net