I am so excited to share this interview with you all! Please enjoy getting to know my friend Renea and learning a little about her experience being “BLACK AND ABROAD.”
kg: Renea –– Thanks so much for joining me on my blog. More importantly, thanks for sharing with us about your experience in China.
(orange is kg and black/bold is renea)
A: Let’s do a quick introduction:
- What’s your name, where are you from, and how long have you been in China?
My name is Renea. I’m from Mississippi, USA, and I have been in China almost 9 months now.
- Are you single, married, have any children?
I am married, but we do not have any children yet. We just came up on our first anniversary this past February.
-congratulations on your anniversary!!! how awesome for you two-
- What brought you to Asia- more specifically China?
To be honest, I had no plans of coming to China. It has always been my older sister’s dream but not mine. I was more interested to be in South America, but I struggled to find work. I applied and applied, and no one ever got back to me. Then China happened.
- How long have you been here?
I’ve been here for almost 9 months. I can’t believe it.
Now we have a little background information about you lets dig a little deeper! You actually inspired this “Black and Abroad” series for my blog. We were chatting on WeChat – because that’s #LIC (Life in China) and you said “We’re traveling and breaking barriers and crushing stereotypes” – and with all the challenges of life abroad that statement really resonated with me.
B: Breaking and Crushing:
- In your opinion – what do you think are some of the biggest stereotypes we (generally speaking – though I know you don’t speak for everyone) face as people of color living abroad – here in China?
First off, I’m so happy little ol’ me could inspire a series for your blog! I would say that the biggest stereotype I’ve faced thus far is everyone thinking I’m from an African country because I’m a melanin queen. Then the other stereotypes follow. I can’t possibly be educated well because, ya know, we come from apes and all that… No one has ever said that to me, but I’ve gotten that vibe during an interview before.
- What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced living here?
Renea: Perhaps, the biggest challenges have been navigating without Chinese language knowledge, transportation, and the constant change of laws (or people making stuff up when it’s convenient). I have been in some situations where knowing Chinese would have really served me well, and I became so frustrated and felt so defeated.
I can understand that for sure. I think the only think I can say well is “ice water” and “stop” (for when I am in a taxi).
In regards to transportation, it’s more efficient than anything we have in Mississippi. We all drive there. If you don’t have a car, you are screwed. Nonetheless, commuting is exhausting because of the all the people here. I work in Zengcheng, a very distant district on the outskirts of the city. I dislike it very much, so I travel back and forth to Foshan, which is a neighboring city to Guangzhou. The commute takes roughly 3 hours.
It seems like laws aren’t consistent. If you go ask someone about the legal requirements to get a Z-visa, they’ll tell you one thing while another person will tell you something totally different. What makes it worse is that the confusing answers will come from locals who are supposed to be versed in this. I needed to take a bullet train from Guangzhou to Foshan to pick up some dessert orders. My passport was being held by the PSB to process my new visa, so I used a copy to get around. I always successfully used a copy with no issues to get a train ticket. On this particular night, this wasn’t allowed. I showed them a picture of the receipt (job had original). It wasn’t accepted either although it had been accepted previously. Goodness gracious.
- How do you think we are crushing stereotypes?
If students are familiar with black people at all, it’s through black face characters on local television networks or through a few Hollywood films. We are portrayed as dumb or criminals. As a result of us coming here and teaching, they’re learning that we’re educated, business-minded, and no one to fear. We’re teaching them how to approach diversity and different ways of thinking. We’re crushing ALL the stereotypes: one student and one interaction at a time.
- Knowing what you know now- about life in China and being here as long as you have been here, would you still have moved here knowing what you know now.
I’m not sure. I’ve been struggling lately with always being reminded of my skin color in almost every interaction. Sometimes it’s disheartening, and I have to think about the ‘why’ behind it all. Why do they view me the way they do? I guess you could say that I would still come because I’ve learned that I am resilient, adaptable, and more optimistic and adventurous than I’ve ever been.
C: #LIC – Let’s talk a little about Life in China! There are definitely some positives about being here.
- What are three things you like about living in China (if you can think of three). A. I like the safety. There is crime, and there is violence like any other place, but it’s nothing like what occurs in the United States, and I really love that. B. I like the food! It’s so fresh and so vibrant. They’ve introduced me to seafood here. C. Despite the ignorance (literally ignorance, not meant in any derogatory manner), the people are usually very nice and friendly, so I love that.
2. What do you do for fun with your free time?
I love discovering new alleyways and places with lots of green.
3. Has it been hard for you to meet people and make friends here?
Not at all. I think being different makes it easier to make connections because everyone wants to know more about you.
4. What do you do for work here in China?
I am a teacher. I’m also breaking into business here. I bake on the weekends, and I am also getting into the hair business (hoping my approach will help it stand out).
*i’m looking forward to ordering some goodies from you soon*
D: Food- Food makes the world go round!
- How has your food journey been here? Has it been a hard transition from home to here?
It’s been great (aside for a few instances of food poisoning). The Chinese food here is fresh and less fried. I especially enjoy the Muslim-owned noodle restaurants.
- Have you tried anything here that you love that you don’t have at home?
I’ve never seen ‘tangyuan’ back home. It’s these balls made from rice flour, and they’re filled with a sweet peanut paste and served in a soup of just boiling water. They serve them during the Spring Festival. I LOVE them! They also have these gummy balls that are filled fruit puree, red bean paste, and so on. I don’t know the name of those, but I love those as well.
- Have you tried anything here that you absolutely hate and hope to never eat again?
I HATE the black jello. It tastes like tar, and I have no idea what it’s made from.
- How is shopping for food here for you? Do you spend a lot buying food or eating out?
Once I discovered TaoBao and foreign food stores like Sharefoods and Corner’s Deli, shopping for familiar items is so easy. I only shop for foreign food items for my baking or when I’m craving something…like Tostitos and salsa.
E: Access to travel – A lot of people move abroad because of the access to travel to other countries. Let’s talk about this!
- China is huge!!! Have you been to any places in China? Are there any places in China you would like to visit?
So far, I’ve been to Chengdu, which was SO special, but I haven’t traveled as much as I would like. I would like to go to Sanya, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macau, Xi’an, Chongqing, and Zhuhai. I’m not so interested in Beijing simply because one of my friends is there, and she’s been getting sick a lot from the air.
- Have you visited any nearby countries since you have been here? Where did you go?
I’m so boring when it comes to this because I’ve been working so much. I haven’t traveled outside since I’ve been here, unfortunately. People back home swear we’re just on vacation. They have no idea.
- What cities/countries are on your list ???
I’m so glad you asked! This is a bit of my list:
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Ajman, United Arab Emirates
Seoul, South Korea
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
These are just a few, and some are happening this summer, Lord willing. So excited!
*please take me with you to Tanzania*
F: Wrapping It up
If you could share one thing with everyone about life what would it be.
I would say that life is all about living to become your best self. That’s what we should all be striving for, so don’t allow anyone to make you feel that you should settle for anything less than greatness. Travel, read, write, discover. You’ll love yourself for it.
This was great… I am so glad we were able to do this and that you were open to sharing about your time in China. Thanks again for joining me on my blog!
You’re so welcome. Thank you so much for choosing me! By the way, one of my favorite songs to jam to right now is Jhene Aiko-While We’re Young.
Currently Renea is jammin to- Jhene Aiko! Check it out below.
I am excited about life! I am filled with Hope. I am overwhelmed with JOY!
I am going to do my best to live by the ‘Glad Texts’
(one of my favorites is–Psalms 98:4-Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music) — Did you know that there are over 800 Glad Texts in the Bible?!?! More than one for each day of the year for me to live by.
#FearlessinShanghai #Thankful #joychangeslives #KMarieTakesChina #BlackGirlMagic #KarlaGirlLivingLife #BlackGirlJoy #LivingMyLifeLikeItsGolden #ChinaorBust #ChinaAintReady #BlackInShanghai #LookOutWorldHereComesKarla #KarlaGirlJoy #BlackGirlInShanghai #eatsleeppartyrepeat #givingisgood #givingisfun #WakandaForever #ShuriAndNakiaAndOkoye #MelaninMagic #Blessed #FaithfulIsMyGod
“life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” – Hellen Keller
*I choose ADVENTURE*