Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What I'm Bringing to China (With Pictures!)

I officially leave for China in exactly one week (cue panic music), and over the past few days, I’ve been eagerly packing up my apartment, sending lots of emails , doing last minute shopping, and tying up any loose ends here stateside.

I will pack my suitcases in the upcoming days (or knowing me, the night before) and before that time, I wanted to show/advise my reading audience on what I’m bringing to China.  Many of the things/items I’m bringing are a culmination of previously living abroad, reading blogs, as well as, tips from those who currently reside in China.  This post will full of pics and packing tips so let’s go!


Since I have ample butt and thighs, I know that finding clothes will be difficult, if not impossible.  I’m bringing several pairs of dress pants (3), in addition to, three pairs of dark colored jeans.  I know this doesn’t sound like much, but after spending a year in France, I know this will be more than enough.  I also plan on bringing lots of neutral and dark colored tops and dresses that I can play up with bright accessories (i.e.: scarves, jewelry, tights, and handbags)


I have large feet (I’m taller than your average), I wear anywhere from a size 9-10 (a size 7-8 for my U.K. readers and a 40-41 for my readers on the European Continent).  I’ve heard from several people that one of the items they regret not packing enough of was shoes since anything over a size 8 is non-existent.  Thus, I’m planning to bring several pairs of dark colored shoes (once again with the neutrals) which will range from casual shoes, sneakers, boots, and even a pair of heels (which I rarely wear).

I’m also bringing a pair of flip flops for hostel and hotel showers (a necessity for those who desire to travel abroad)

After working for two different lingerie companies; not to mention, living abroad for several years, I know the importance of a good bra. I recommend for my women travelers to bring three bras (I’m bringing five): an everyday bra in a neutral color, a spare bra in any color, and a flirty bra for when you’re feeling frisky J I also recommend a strapless or convertible bra. Invest in good quality; new bras since washing machine abroad are quite rough (hand washing can be your friend). 

Beauty, Bath, and Makeup:
As shown in the picture below, I’m bringing a variety of shower and moisturizing products.  I was advised to stock up on these items since Asia is notorious for adding skin lighteners to their beauty and bath products. 

I’ve been going a bit more natural with my beauty routine hence the shea butter and coconut oil (whipped together, they make an excellent moisturizer).  I’ve also rediscovered bar soaps and these are excellent for packing since they take up less room and weight in my luggage.

Word to the wise, deodorant/anti-perspirant is not great/ practically non-existent abroad.  Even though there’s only one in the picture, I’m bringing three.

Hair Care:

I’m currently rocking my natural kinks and coils which require lots of love and attention as well as, many different products for washing, styling and moisturizing.  As you can see from the pic, I’m going to bring several different products and this is only the tip of the iceberg. I recommend minority travelers bring as many of their favorite hair products as possible since they will be overpriced and/or non-existent abroad.

I was advised by my China mentor to bring as much makeup as possible since my color (milk chocolate), would once again be nonexistent.  I hit up the MAC store this past weekend for my favorite foundation and I purchased some other make-up “must haves.”

I’m recently purchased a new laptop and digital camera that I’m excited about.  I’m also brining a set of converters for converting the electricity for my smaller appliances like my iTouch and battery charger (I need to purchase one for my laptop). 

 I recommend leaving the hair appliances at home since they can be purchased inexpensively abroad (I would even advise finding an expat website and purchasing these items second hand since people are always coming and going in today’s global society).

Health Matters:

The picture only shows just a small amount of what I’m bringing health wise.  I stocked up on vitamins, cold medicines and miscellaneous medicine for any other ailments that can occur while abroad.  I have a comprised immune system and I hate being sick so I plan on bringing enough items to get me through just about anything.  

Hand sanitizer will be a necessity (I’m also bringing several travel sized bottles, not shown)

To keep up on my physical health, I plan on walking lots as well as, bringing some workout dvds which can be done from the comfort of my apartment:


I’ve decided that I will sample as much as I can (within reason) while in China; however, I know that some of my favorite comfort foods will be calling my name.  To soothe homesickness bouts, I’m bringing some seasonings and other food items I can easily prepare.  Not to mention, seasonings can be packed in your carry on luggage and they take up barely any space.

Well ladies and gents, thanks again for reading!  I know this list was a bit short and there’s a lot more that can be said; thus, feel free to add any other comments or suggestions below on what’s been helpful for you to pack when traveling.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How I'm Going to China (Part 3: Paperwork, Planning, and Planes)

***This is a three part series, click on Part 1 and Part 2 for the full update***

As you read in Part 2 of this series, I secured employment despite some setbacks in my job search.  I managed to land a job with a global company that matched everything I wanted in an ESL job (teaching adults and southern China). 

Once I obtained employment, I had to submit additional paperwork in preparation for my visa.  I procured several important documents (copies of my passport, university diploma, TESOL certificate, resume/c.v., head shot photograph).  In addition, I had to undergo a background check (this was quite harmless, it pretty much verified that I had no criminal record and that I attended college); and lastly, I had to obtain references from two individuals (If you’re reading this, thanks for your expedient and awesome recommendations!).

After collecting all of the aforementioned items, I emailed everything to my assigned recruiter for processing (sidenote: this individual is the same person that interviewed me and she’s  been awesome about answering all my questions and assisting me when needed despite the 12 hour time difference!).  From there, I had to wait for the Chinese government to approve my paperwork and award me the following documents-my Invitation Letter and my Work Permit which I have pictured below:

My Invitation Letter

My Work Permit

After a month of waiting, I received my golden tickets!  Now that those documents were in my possession, it was time for me to go process my visa. 

Since the Chinese Consulate is quite a way’s away from my hometown, I looked into different visa agencies that would go to the consulate on my behalf.  I was somewhat discouraged at the prices, but once I read the fine print, I was happy to learn that the prices included the visa itself.  In the end, I chose Oasis China Visa for my visa processing and I was very content with the service I received.  Everything was very efficient and they answered all of my questions in a courteous manner.  After 10 days, they returned my paperwork and my passport complete with my entry visa.  They even enclosed a nice envelope thanking me for my business.  I recommend anyone who needs a visa for China (which is virtually every American, even if you are visiting) to use Oasis China Visa for all of your visa processing needs!

In order to keep myself organized, and most importantly sane, I devised an outline of everything I needed to accomplish before my departure.  This list ranged from medical appointments, to apartment matters, to shopping.  I sat down for two hours one evening and put pen to paper on virtually everything I needed to get done by September.

 Over the course of several weeks, I made calls, scheduled and made appointments, and shopped whenever I had a few, free hours for each item on my list.  I can honestly say that this outline was one of my best ideas when it came to preparing my Chinese journey.  

Besides my visa, the next important thing I needed to do was book my flight.  Once my recruiter gave me the go-ahead to make the booking, I searched several flight sites to find the best prices. I tried, since they have a price predictor to advise me on purchasing a ticket.  Unfortunately, there was no price predictor for my flight, so I just went to the Delta website to book it directly (apparently, Delta has cheaper flights than any other airline due to their best price guarantee). 

Unfortunately, things did not go my way during the booking.  Firstly, I learned that the airline would charge for a second checked bag (and yes, I will need two checked suitcases).  Secondly, I would have two lengthy layovers at two different blah airports (Laguardia and Detroit).  Lastly, I booked a bit too late and the only seats were middle seats.  I could have opted for business class and paid the $5500 difference (end sarcasm);  but on some real talk, I was not trying to max out my credit card for some comfort even if the flight will be over 14 hours.  So alas, I will be stuck in Coach, squeezed in between two  passengers with crappy inflight entertainment and bland food.  I’m sure I’ll be making the Edvard Munch scream face by the time the 6th hour rolls around...

Photo Credit:

  I can only hope that things pick up from here….

Friday, August 17, 2012

How I'm Going to China (Part 2: Job Hunting )

 ***This is a three part series click here for part one.***

 As you read in part one of this series, I managed to find a Mandarin course in my area that fit my time and schedule. A month into the course, I decided it was time to start my employment search in China.  I was pretty set on going the ESL teaching route for reasons that ranged from career interest to ease of obtaining a long term visa.

Before applying for jobs, I knew it was necessary to secure a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) or TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate of some kind.  After searching the internet, along with obtaining advice from my friend Jo Gan,  I found a TESOL course that covered lots of material at a great price (As you can see, I’m always deal hunting :)

I dove headfirst into my job search despite an already packed schedule of working full-time, Mandarin classes, as well as, studying for my TESOL certificate.   I started my job search with high hopes, but after several weeks, my high hopes were sinking. This was not due to patience (ok, I can be a bit impatient), or unrealistic expectations; in fact, my expectations were quite realistic when one compared my qualifications and work history.  After reading a number of books, blogs and internet sites, I discovered the uncomfortable truth….

It turns out, obtaining ESL employment could be difficult due to my race.  Apparently, a disproportionate number of employers in Asia are very hesitant to place a black instructor in the classroom for two compelling reasons-ignorance and money.   Many natives wrongfully assume that a native English speaker cannot be Black since a native English speaker may originate from the U.S.A., Canada, Ireland, Australia or the United Kingdom-countries with a white majority population.  If a native encounters a Black instructor, there's an automatic assumption that this person must be from the African continent; thus, they must not be a native English speaker (despite several countries having English as there national language).  If a parent discovers that there is a Black teacher in the classroom, they may question the instructor’s credentials and some will go as far as pulling their children from the class or petitioning for that teacher’s termination.  This places language schools in an awkward situation and a potential loss in revenue; thus, many schools find it less complicated and more financially advantageous to hire a White instructor over a Black instructor despite qualifications.

I understand race is something uncomfortable to discuss in today’s “color-blind” society; however, race still matters to many employers in Asia. I experienced this prejudice first hand when I applied for several jobs that were eager to grant me an interview; but, upon submitting my picture, I would receive  several “thanks, but no thanks responses”  if they responded at all (and no, I’m not ugly :p ).

I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge, so I dug deeper into my search and found a minority friendly company.   I submitted a stellar application and I was a tad aggressive in my sales pitch, but this payed off since I received a response quite quickly.  After exchanging several emails, I arranged an interview via Skype that went very well.  During the interview, I expressed my desire to be placed in the south of China (specifically Shanghai) and teaching older teens or adults.  I played the waiting game for several weeks and when finally, I received the “congratulations” email!  Not only were they offering me a position, but the position would be in my choice city (Shanghai) and age level (adults)! I cried tears of joy and waited another week before I accepted the offer (I received several other employment offers despite my race that I reviewed for consideration). The only downfall was that I needed to be there in a pinch (by the end of August, but now early September), so I had to act quickly with everything that needed to be done before that time (which I'm actively doing each and every day).

Thanks again for tuning in and come back for part three!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Book Review: Why You’re Not Married Yet...The Straight Talk You Need to Get the Relationship You Deserve

Background: Author Tracy McMillan wrote this book as a follow up to her popular, yet controversial article by the same title that appeared on the Huffington Post last year (click here for the original article).  Despite the praise and criticism the article received, one thing was for certain that many people were interested in what she had to say; thus, she detailed her original six reasons and added four additional reasons to explain the reason why you may not be married yet.
According to McMillan, this book “isn’t so much about getting a husband as it is about shifting your perspective on being a wife.”

 My Thoughts:
 Nothing brings out more animosity in women than hearing why they’re single (okay, maybe weight).  Many women will bemoan the fact that they do everything right, yet still find themselves kissing frog and after frog with the elusive Prince Charming nowhere in sight. I understand this sentiment; hell, I used to think just like this. But after some deep reflection and constructive criticism, I realized that there are definitely some things I can work on when it comes to communicating my romantic interest to the opposite sex.

Despite the author’s sometimes annoying humor and tone of her writing, I managed to extract some valuable information from the book. In chapter nine, McMillan says the reason why you’re not married yet is because “you’re a dude.” She makes some excellent points on how the current culture encourages women to be strong and independent, leaving men as an option or an accessory. McMillan says to counteract this attitude; a woman needs to tap into her feminine energy since heterosexual men are attracted to feminine women. There’s nothing wrong with wanting your own and supporting yourself; however, if a woman is looking to enter into a long term relationship or marriage with a man, she needs to learn that a man wants to feel needed and appreciated.

Another interesting point that McMillan makes is that you’re not married yet because you’re too selfish.  A woman needs to understand that marriage essentially means living and sharing a space with another person; thus, you must factor in that persons’ comfort along with your own.  This is something I’ve been pondering lately and frankly, it’s the number one reason I’m not actively searching for a mate.  I’ll be honest; my desire to travel is top priority right now and while one can make the argument that I should find someone with a similar desire, I know the life I lead would not mesh well with a large segment of eligible suitors. So, I will remain faithful to my first love which is my passport :)

The biggest take away from the book is that you need to love and embrace yourself before entering a marriage.  A woman must seriously evaluate her life and during this assessment, she should make any necessary improvements to bring out her best self.  Furthermore, McMillan makes a very valid point, that marriage is a partnership, not a completion; thus, a woman should be comfortable with herself and the life she has before searching for someone else. 

In the end, “Why You’re Not Married Yet” is a quick, witty and interesting read for women who desire to get married.  Although some points of the book may be overly simplistic and a tad redundant, try and read this book with an open mind and focus on the parts of the book that are most beneficial to you. 

Photo Credit:

Sunday, August 5, 2012

How I'm Going to China (Part 1: Learning Mandarin)

(Photo Credit:

 ***This will be a three part series which will discuss how I was able to go to China***

Once I made the decision that I wanted to go to China, I decided it would be wise to learn some Mandarin Chinese before my departure (FYI: there are many different languages and dialects spoken in China; however, Standard Mandarin Chinese is the official language of China. Please refer to this Wikipedia entry for more information about languages in China: After spending a year in France, I knew that knowing some words and phrases of the destination country's language would ease my transition there in addition to, reducing some of the impending culture shock.

Aside from practical and necessary reasons to learn Mandarin, I actually enjoy learning languages. I love to hear other people speak their native languages and whenever I traveled to other countries, I loved to pick up some words and phrases from the natives which would put an instant smile on my face along with an exchange of laughter between myself and my new "language instructor."

Now that you know the reasons why I wanted to learn Mandarin, I will explain how I arrived at my course.  Firstly, I started researching various classes and courses in my area. My biggest concerns were finding a class that would fit my schedule and budget.  I knew that several of the colleges and university in my area offered Mandarin courses, but I found them to be a bit too pricey and not conducive to my work schedule.

I expanded my search and after several hours on the internet, I had struck Mandarin language gold! I discovered a small, non-profit agency in my area that promoted Chinese culture and language. Even though the agency's primary participants were school aged children and adolescents, they offered Mandarin courses and Chinese culture courses to adults. The best thing was that these courses were a fraction of the cost of the college route and the hours fit nicely into my schedule.  After several email exchanges with the president of the agency, I arrived on campus a week later with my tuition fees and enthusiasm in tow....

So, looking to go to China or looking to learn Mandarin? Here are some tips that I will share with you:

1. Do your homework: Research if there are any classes or courses that meet in your area. Since taking the college or university route can be a bit pricey, look into local community groups or community annexes in your area. Also, keep in mind that classes may follow the traditional schedule of starting in August/September or January/February. 

2. Get out of the classroom: Don't have time or funds to devote to a traditional class? Think about using books, CDs or the internet as your guide.  Keep in mind this way of learning a language will require a lot of discipline and drive on your part; thus it's imperative that you still develop some time of schedule to keep up wit the demands of learning a new language.

3. Get Creative: Aside from the examples listed above, expand your language search with a creative twist. Think about hiring a private tutor (this could be a qualified instructor or even an exchange student who's a native speaker. For your safety,agree to meet said person in a public space). Set up a language exchange in person or even using the internet via SKYPE or MSN messenger (there are also various language exchange sites so google them!). Watch movies and television shows or, listen to the radio in the target language of your choice.

Remember the tips of learning a language: patience, discipline and fun!