Expat Lingo

My heart was happy to touch down in Mainland China after three and a half years away. My lungs recoiled. And my mind fully confirmed that Hong Kong is on another planet from “The Motherland.”

Hangzhou itself surpassed my expectations. West Lake and the surrounding gardens are truly gorgeous. Exactly what you imagine “romantic,” “exotic,” “foreign” China is like: tall golden-spired pagodas, green willow trees hanging over lotus-ringed ponds, pavilions used as informal stages by Chinese classical musicians, charming tea houses, and elaborately carved wooden pleasure boats.

Unbelievably, none of it was marred by garbage cans in the shape of penguins or speakers in the shape of mushrooms blaring tinny music.

The main draw-backs were the matching-capped tour groups whose leaders amplified their talks by microphone, and the non-stop, over-the-top attention my two children drew. My one-year-old son — so long as no one tried to pick him up —…

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