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If you read my blogs with any regularity, you will know that I frequently encourage people to keep their eyes open if they are in China, because you never know what you might see.  Well, here are some examples of that from a trip I took in May.

This first picture is from a restaurant that had a structure built around some of their tables.  The theme was to have you feel like you were in a wicker basket.  The food was OK, but I wouldn’t brag about it!


The next picture has always made me chuckle a little to myself.  I completely understand the idea of helping the trees get the water and essentials needed, but I can’t get used to seeing a tree receiving an IV!


Another photo which was somewhat unique to me was the people dancing in the park.  This was taken in, by China’s standards, what would be considered a small city.  I have been to this city many times before, so I knew that on the main central square there will be dancing on Saturday night, but this was a small square during the week.  The people in the red uniforms on the left are on a dance team, and the other people on the right are local citizens coming out to dance.  I am so thankful I have seen so many aspects of this wonderful Chinese culture!


Walking away from the small park, I saw a lovely wall.  Someone with great skills took it upon themselves to paint the wall around their small neighborhood.


Keep your eyes open while in China, because you never know what you might see!

Green Thumbs


In my recent post, Heaven on Earth, I mentioned how the gardeners on the university campus where I had the honor of teaching didn’t have many modern tools or vehicles to carry their tools. I was very impressed with how well these workers kept the grounds looking, and knowing the resources they used made it even more impressive. Regrettably, I didn’t speak Chinese well enough to tell these workers how impressed I was with their work, nevertheless I will show you some of the fruit of their labor.


Roses in China_BeauSides


The Director of Foreign Affairs at the university was a wonderful man; however, one thing in particular made my trips to his office so enjoyable: An area behind his office had beautiful roses and a long hedge going the length of the next building.


One day, I was surprised to see a man with manual hedge clippers trimming the row of hedges. I couldn’t imagine how long it would take him, but he was doing a great job with the tool he had.


Trimming hedges_Beau Sides_Lessons from China


The gardeners did have a lawn mower, which they used to cut to cut grass in large open areas. But on more than one occasion, I saw people using hedge clippers to cut smaller sections of grass. Even though the hand-clipped areas of grass were smaller, I couldn’t imagine how long it would take to complete that task.


One project that was reported to be completed on time and under budget for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing was the planting of trees. One million trees were planted! I have noticed that when many trees are planted in China, they are kept in a very straight line.


Beautiful trees in a row_BeauSides

To learn more, check out my book Lessons From China




To learn more, check out my book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education!

Heaven on Earth

Spring is my favorite season of the year. I hate cold weather (except on the few occasions I find myself snow skiing), so I love the promise of better things to come which spring gives us. I also love the new life that is all around us: the baby birds chirping and the plants blooming.

Beautiful flowers on China campus_Beau Sides

In my new book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education, in the chapter “Beautiful Spring,” the main character, Jan, describes for me one of the loveliest places I have ever seen in the spring: the college campus where I taught in China.

The students told me that people from the city would come just to take pictures of the flowers, but I didn’t believe them. Yes, I was wrong. And yes, I became one of the people taking pictures of the beautiful flowers blooming there. In fact, I was so impressed with all of the vivid colors and majestic blooms that I would walk out of my way just see the flowers blooming.

Koi Pond_Beau_Sides_Lessons from China

I must tip my hat to the gardeners on campus because besides having green thumbs they created the most beautiful landscape settings. One setting in particular, which was one of my favorites, was a lovely limestone waterfall that poured into a koi pond. The pond with its exotic jewel-toned fish sat partly under an arch that was adorned with gorgeous purple wisteria clinging all over it.

One guy, whom I became good friends through English Corners and basketball, was scolded severely by one of the gardeners for trying to catch one of the fish in the koi pond with his hands.


Purple wisteria in China_Beau Sides_Lessons from China

Without many of the tools we westerners would expect them to have, the campus gardeners worked hard. They mostly used wheelbarrows instead of motorized carts or trucks to haul their supplies and tools. Regardless of how they did their work, they were very successful at it.

Now, I want you to enjoy their work as much as I have!



To learn more, check out my book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education!

Regardless of where you are in the world, you may encounter a scenario that is truly unexpected― you know, one of those things that makes you stop and ask, “Why?… How?” Then all you can do is answer yes, and maybe even laugh. That is exactly what happened to me when I saw this in China:


Cart and bike on rooftop in China_Beau Sides


You can’t fully see the house, but yes, that is the roof of a house…with multiple large carts and bikes on top of the roof! When I initially saw this, from what I saw in the area, I thought, “Why are those there?” My next thought was, “How did someone place heavy metal carts on a rooftop? I couldn’t imagine how much effort was involved in completing the task.


The more I looked at the situation, the more I just had to chuckle, because I didn’t have enough imagination to come up with good answers to either of my questions. Maybe on one of my trips back to China, I can meet the homeowner and ask why are the carts on top of your house, and how did you get them there? If I ever learn the answer, I will be certain to pass the information along!




To learn more about China’s culture and history, check out my book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education!

China’s Flag

May 6, 2014 — Leave a comment

China Flag_Beau Sides_Lessons from China


During each of my trips to China, I am reminded of how proud the Chinese are of their flag because it is displayed so often. Many of the cranes at construction sites will display the flag on top so that it waves in the breeze, and everyone can see it. I’ve often seen China’s flag displayed on office desks in pen and pencil holders. The pen holder’s flat base will have holes in the top of the base to place pens and pencils, and standing out from the writing utensils will be a small Chinese flag on a short stick.


The History of China’s Flag


The history of China’s flag is very interesting, to say the least. It is often referenced as the Five-star Red Flag or wu xing hong qi. The Five-star Red Flag has one large star in the upper left corner and 4 smaller stars to the right of the large star set in an arching formation. The red represents the communist revolution. The 5 stars and their placement represent the unity of the Chinese people under the leadership of the Communist Party of China.


Zeng Liansong designed China’s flag in 1949 after the Chinese Civil War. Liansong’s Five-star Red Flag was first raised by the People’s Liberation Army on October 1, 1949 over Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Although Chinese government regulations do not allow cities and provinces to have their own flags, Hong Kong and Macau do, but only because they are Special Administrative Regions.


China Flag_Beau Sides_Tiananmen Sq


Symbolism of the Flag


Many people think the 5 stars represent the 5 largest ethnic groups: Han, Manchus, Mongols, Hui, and Tibetans. The truth is, the largest star represents the Communist Party, and the 4 smaller stars symbolize the 4 classes of people in China in 1949: the working class, the peasants, the urban petite bourgeoisie, and the national bourgeoisie.


China Flag_Beau Sides_Five stars


Wikipedia was a big help with this information!


To learn more about China, check out Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education!


How to Get Lessons from China


Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education now available as a paperback and as an e-book on Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook!


You can buy Lessons from China on, (to donate a portion of the sale to Global Partners in Life),, and in Barnes and Noble stores and a variety of other bookstores and online booksellers.


Note: If you don’t see the book on the shelf at your local bookstore, just ask the sales clerk to order it for you. The booksellers are eager to accommodate you, whenever possible. Independent bookstores can order the book through Bookmasters.



Yes, we all love our starches, even though they don’t always help our figures! Luckily, I’m old enough to not care too much about my figure, so I jump in and enjoy the starches often. “How do you get starches from a street vendor?” you may ask. That’s easy. The vendors make them right there on their carts or small stands.

Street Food 2-Starches-small

Corn on the Cob

Corn on the cob is quite popular in China, and usually the street vendors have VERY large ears of corn to sell. Sometimes the corn has different colored kernels, which is colorful and interesting. Often, you’ll see the steam coming from a large pot of corn on the cob, indicating that it’s hot and ready!

 Street2  Food Starches small


Baozi, steamed bread stuffed with a paste made from pork and vegetables, is another delicious food you can get on the street. Baozi is most commonly eaten for breakfast, but I like it any time I can get it. Sometimes it comes fried, but most often it’s steamed in woven baskets. This would be considered a very common food for most Chinese.

Street Food 2 Starches small


Noodles are very popular and common in China. They come in many different shapes and sizes, so choose what you like! It requires great skill to twirl the dough in the air and pop it tight as the cooks knead the dough.

Street Food 2 Starches 4 small

Enjoy the food, culture, atmosphere, and people!

Learn more by reading my book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education.

It’s Launch Week for Lessons from China

Last week I told you that I’d keep you informed on some of the fun things that are happening with the book. Well, as of yesterday, April 7th, 2014, my book, Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education, officially hit bookstore shelves and online bookstore websites. Thanks to all of you Lessons from China made it up the rankings to #10 in travel related books on Asia and China and finally settled at #15! That is amazing. My heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you because you are making the publication of this book an enjoyable success from day one.

Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education is available in or on, (to donate a portion of the sale to Global Partners in Life), Barnes and Noble stores, and I’ll be sharing more interesting posts about China and news about the book, so stay tuned.




Click to order from


Everyone, I am so excited to share with you the news of my new book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education. It’s being published on Monday, April 7th! That’s just five short days from today.

Lessons from China is a fun, easy-to-read story that provides unique insights to current Chinese culture, business and personal etiquette, and economic development. This fictional travelogue is also delicately sprinkled with bits of historical background. I hope that you will love the book.

So far, Lessons from China has been getting some great book reviews and attention from the press! When I taught in China, I would tell my students to listen to the VOA broadcast to improve their English skills. So it is amazing that I get to be interviewed on the VOA. So, to kick-start this month of April, I’d like to share with you my radio interview from Voice of America Asia aired on March 26.

VOA Interview: Lessons from China

Click to read or listen to Beau’s Interview on VOA

Over the next few weeks, I’ll keep you informed on some of the fun things that are happening with the book, but I’ll continue with my regular posts of what it’s all about: my lessons from China.

Celebrate with me, share the posts, and the news about my book Lessons from China (by Beau Sides). Look me up on Facebook (Beau Sides Author) or Twitter (Beau Sides) and have a blast with me and all my friends.



Click to go to

One of the best ways, I have found, to meet new people in China is to go to an English Corner. An English Corner is where indigenous people gather to practice speaking English. It’s a bonus for someone trying to improve their English skills to have a native English speaker join them at an English Corner.

Talking at English Corner

Some English Corners are very casual. The university in China where I taught had a designated spot on campus and time to meet. I was amazed by how many students attended. Some weren’t English majors, but they still wanted to have conversations in English. Anything and everything was discussed in this setting. Now, I must brag on my friends there, because they would come out in any weather. I have literally stood in snow and on ice with my toes numb, and the students kept wanting to speak in English.

In another casual setting―in a different city in China where I lived― many people would gather at a coffee shop on Friday and Saturday nights to practice their English. We would have quite a range of ages and backgrounds at these gatherings. Oftentimes, a middle school girl would come, a large group of college students, some young professionals, and a retired guy that was a global current events guru. We were quite a group! We enjoyed each other’s company, and we’d miss someone if they weren’t there.

On the other end of the spectrum, some English Corners are more formal or structured. When I taught at a business school in Beijing, a designated subject or magazine would be discussed. At the end of the meeting, a new assignment was given so that everyone would know what to be prepared to speak about at the next gathering.

I am very fortunate to have met so many wonderful people during my time at English Corners, and with many of whom I am still friends.


Learn more by reading my book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education.