This a VERY late post... I just found it and I wanted to post it....
I wrote down a list of the top ten things I would miss about China. However, I lost the list while packing to come back so this is my attempt at trying to remember!
Bartering in outdoor markets: After my first time at the Muslim market in Xi'an, where I spent way too much, I began to love bargain shopping with the Chinese. The fun part of it was to develop a relationship with the store owner, just enough to get what I want. As my friend Becca advised me; "don't get to attached to one thing, you gotta work the system. If you jump from one place to the other so they can see their competition, that is when you will get them to go down in price". So I took her advice and later when I went to the Pearl Market in Beijing, I had better luck... I have noticed thought that as I was looking for things that I really wanted, I would spent just a little more.
Street food from town: The food is great. My favorite, what we like to call "Crunchy Goodness". its like a large crepe with a few veggies and spices chopped up and an egg cracked on top then some really dark colored sauce and of course, hot chilies. I always say "yi dian la" (a little spice). they always laugh at me. However, I'd say Kaifeng has the best crunchy goodness. They add onions, other green spices, and then flip the thing over and work on the other side so its double sided goodness! MMMMM
Shopping for ridiculous styles: Ive come to love the styles of clothing. It took me about 9 months to really embrace it. (out of the 10 I was there, I'd say I did pretty well. It usually takes me two years to decide I like a new style). I really like looking at shoe, although I couldn't fit into them, it still gave me inspiration to shop here! Earrings, Earrings, Earrings! I had to by three new jewelry holders to hold all the earrings I bought there. Shopping will never be the same again with out the bargaining and ridiculous new styles.
The people: Chinese people are very helpful and thoughtful. They see someone, they help. Especially foreigners. I get lots of looks and stares, not only because I am foreign but also because I am tall. So frequently I'd get some crazy old man asking me "Ni yi mi ba? (are you 1.8 meters)?" I'd say "Dui, Wo hen gao" (yes, I am very tall). I do miss being the main point of interest sometimes but now I just want to be alone! I think its all reversed culture shock.
Traveling. Traveling is so cheap there. It barely costs anything at all. You can go just about anywhere possible and hit lots of hot spots as you go. From overnight trains to public transportation, its a really cheap way to see the country and other parts of Asia. In one year I've been to 6 different countries, seen even more different ethnic groups and minority groups and gotten to experience many different cultures with in the same provinces and regions. (and whats fun is that I wore the same pair of shoes to each of those places, I feel a bit like Forest Gump...)
Culture: There is so much culture as far as history goes. The holidays are a huge festival and each one has a specific story from their long history. My favorite story is the Dragon Boat Festival. My student came over to teach me how to make Zongzi... rice and dates wrapped in a bamboo leaf. Really fun to make but hard to some. The story goes back to a poet. Somehow he ended up in the river. The people make Zongzi and throw it into the river so the fish will eat the Zongzi instead of the great poet. (Very bad interpretation but hey, it's been two years)
Milk Tea (Zheng Zhu Nai Cha): This was my absolute favorite. I would go to the shop before my afternoon class and get a hot vanilla milk tea. I knew all the words for all the flavors. Sometimes there would be a new flavor and I would take the opportunity to try it and learn the word. I really miss my nai cha lady. She was always so patient with me... :)
Riding bikes to the grocery store: There is nothing like the feeling of renting a bike right outside my university for 1 yuan. It was so fun to take a bike down the street, through the busy intersections and round the round about. Trying not to get hit by oncoming traffic was the challenge. Shopping in the store was always a challenge as well. Everything was all in Chinese so I stuck to the usual. It was sometimes intimidating at the bigger grocery stores because they were more focused on sales. The others on campus had more patience with us foreigners. My favorite thing to buy was the koala bear crackers. They are usually filled with chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla creme. Yum. Still love getting them at the Asian markets.
Speaking Chinese: I just have to say, after being home now and working with so many international students, I have come to truly miss speaking Chinese. I hung out with a fellow teacher who taught in China. She and I looked up Chinese Grammar and had a blast saying phrases into my Chinese Translator app. Trying to say each phrase with the correct tones can be challenging. You can try to say one thing but with one wrong move, you could say something completely different.
The joy of being on a grand adventure: Every where I turned, something new happened. I felt as though I could soar. Yes, there were some feelings of sadness and depression that came along with being away from home, but the adventure was well worth it. These are thoughts coming from one who has been away from the adventure for sometime. If I were to return today, I would feel torn; but to know that I've had all of these wonderful experiences listed above, it is priceless.