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The Freedom of Being Illiterate

Now I know what you’re thinking, illiteracy is no joking matter.  And you’re absolutely right, I mean that.  HOWEVER, taken out of the context of one’s own language and put into the context of a foreign tongue… let me enlighten you (or at the very least, explain to you).

As mentioned in my post yesterday, the art of communicating in a language you no next to nothing of, is quite infuriating and quite humbling (I may have left that part out, but it’s true).  This extends to most every form of communication (reading road signs, shop signs, and directions included)… with the exception of reading food labels.  I’m an AVID food label reader.  I like to know what I’m getting/choosing not to get myself into.  ALL THE TIME.  Well, guess what folks?  I can’t read Chinese characters (nor do I aspire to, ever) and as such, I’LL NEVER KNOW WHAT INGREDIENTS GO INTO ANYTHING PACKAGED (in China).  SO, you’d think the obvious answer would be to just boycott anything packaged, right?  Wrong. The answer is actually: pretend there ISN’T any partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, MSG (and a myriad of other things dreamed up in a lab), FREE YOURSELF!  Leave worrying about what potentially harmful consequences are lurking within your cells after consuming packaged snacks bought at the convenient store.

…right?  Maybe I got that wrong; that outlook is only excusable for so long (and in certain situations*, see below).

I’m here to tell you that this philosophy works well when you’re traveling and know that your time in that particular place is temporary, so sure, what harm is a package of local flavored Doritos really going to do (you don’t fully know a place until you know what flavored Doritos are offered there, winky face)?  And for the first few weeks here in China, it was sorta, kinda my outlook.  And then I was like, wait, I’M LIVING HERE NOW, this behavior MUST STOP.  But then I was like, come on, what about the children, the children!  This is the asterisk: the hardest part is having kids whose bodies tell them they should/could survive off of packaged crackers, candy, and cookies and when you’ve been dragging them around all day and they turn up starving (and all your normal go-to’s have been consumed) and your only option is a food kiosk where said packaged foods are the only convenient form of sustenance, you FOLD.  You buy the funny looking cracker sticks, flavor unknown, and pretend they’re not full of shit.

So, I’m sorry to say that this isn’t the end of consuming foods that could contain arsenic for all I know (I’m a realist), BUT THEY DON’T because what universe would do that to me when I’m illiterate?  Have some sympathy, for fuck’s sake.  I’m also going to pretend that feeling illiterate equals freedom, what other choice do I have?

And just in case a Chinese reader comes across this and calls me out on it, yes, I know the photo is of a bag of goji berries and as such, the label probably doesn’t have any other ingredients.  I had to make due with what I had in the house, and that was only healthy crap.  Don’t hold it against me… thanks.


Robert Rainwater

Really enjoying your stories. What a great adventure for you, Scott and the kiddos! Miss you Stateside, but looking forward to more stories and your return.

xo R

Lauren H

Thanks for reading, Robert! I’m dreaming of your fresh California air right about now… :)!


Everything in moderation!
Figure the packaged foods contain the man made chemicals which can’t be any worse than what they spray on their produce and the toxic rain that covers it!! When u & the kids start twitching uncontrollably you may have to reconsider. But until then, enjoy the freedom!

Lauren H

The air, water, and soil quality is another, VERY LONG blog post in and of itself… AND something that plagues our/my days here. Again, how much can you worry about things you have NO control over? We’re going to need a long respite from populated areas once we’re done here where we can detoxify.

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