When my family and I first came to Beijing in 2003, we would leave on vacation to Singapore or the US with a few measly bags and come back with twice – sometimes thrice – the number of bags we left with. Inside those bags were things we thought we couldn’t live without, like Prima Taste laksa paste and jumbo boxes of Cheezits.
Ten years later, after actual feats of magic were required to haul all my worthy possessions to university, I noticed that my bags were leaving Beijing heavy and coming back lighter. The flow had been reversed and I had to investigate why. Here are a list of things I’m taking back to the US.
Industrial Amounts of Stationery
No trip to Beijing is complete without a visit to Wangjing’s Zhongfu Wholesale market (next to the Korean restaurant Zixiamen) to stock up on black pens, whiteboard markers, and notebooks with A4 lined paper.
I bring these back to college with me because it kills me to buy things like pens at ten times the price I’m used to. Also, I found it impossible to get used to American stationery like college-ruled notebooks and letter-sized paper.
As much fun as it was to try my American college friends’ childhood snacks (Nutter Butters are a serious weakness), I missed my own. Nestle’s shark wafers in red wrappers, salad flavored Pretz sticks, and sesame candies are a little piece of home. In a strange way, having those snacks with me when I first went to college helped curb my homesickness.
I realize now that the chopsticks I used to take for granted are the best type of utensil, especially for a college student. Not only are they easy to clean and compact, but they also stand out from the sea of Ikea stainless steel forks and knives left to dry by the communal sink. Old habits die hard and I’m bringing a bundle of chopsticks back with me to replace my silverware.
Scarves from Taobao
Chicago winters are incredibly hard on the body, but I’ve found that they’re pretty hard on the pocketbook as well since the snow wrecks everything. In order to stay debtless and warm, I’ve had four thick woolly scarves in my Taobao shopping cart since the Snowpocalypse and I’m bringing them back. I’m sure that when winter strikes, they’ll be worth the space they took up in my luggage.
These white fuzzy hats are in my bag because my college roommates saw photos of them and fell in love. Since I can’t get my hands on a real panda, this is my small-scale attempt at panda politics to sweeten relations and hopefully get me first dibs on beds and shower times. It’s also the most practical touristy item I can think of, so I’d rather buy my friends these than novelty stickers and magnets.
Though I’m more of a baker, I’d try my hand at the stove for dishes like tomato and egg or steamed broccoli. I collected these recipes by watching family friends and my ayi cook and asking them a lot of questions as they went on. I’m a little scared of setting off my dorm’s fire alarm, but I’ll risk it for a bite of home-style tudousi (shredded potato).
Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures (Pixabay)
Heather Budimulia is a rising college sophomore, beijingkids’ intern and 北京人in progress. Though originally from Singapore, she spent a decade in Beijing and since she learned to bake and fell in love with publication there, considers it her home. When not in the office or storing sleep for college, she’ll probably be in a coffee shop with a good book, her journal or a stranger (or all three).