An Introduction

April 12

HELLO, BEMIDJI READERS! How wonderful it is, the ease with which I can stay connected with all my old neighbors…from 7,600 miles away. In fact, technology allows me to reach out to more of you from here in China than I could if I was right there looking over your shoulder. So when I made the decision to move here, I knew I had to take advantage of this capability.

Because the fact is, we all have ideas of what China and the Chinese are like. And the news can’t get enough of it—China this, China that. But even with all this coverage, there’s nothing like the impact of actually being here. Man, there’s a big gap between what I used to think and what I think today! You may not be here, but I’ve been writing, taking pictures, and shooting video since August of last year. Over the winter, I reached out to Minnesota newspapers to feature my material. And wouldn’t you know it?—the Bemidji Pioneer and I have hooked up. :)

But much more than a Chinese tutorial, this blog is about the lessons learned when living in any foreign land. It’s about the novelties of travel, and it’s especially about the observations and insights gained.

Ultimately, it’s about reaching new plateaus of understanding about who we are.

Who I am: My name is Brandon Ferdig. I was born at North Country Regional Hospital on May 15th, 1981. My family lived in Blackduck—you know, that little pin prick on the map about half-hour north on highway 71. Actually, we didn’t live in town. We were about 4 miles east on a plot of 30 acres of forest and fields.

Hello there.

I left town at 18 and lived the last ten years or so in and around the Twin Cities. I realized that my heart was set on writing and journalism. Blogging, a cable access program, and an internship with the St. Paul Pioneer Press provided a great foundation.

I also started to travel, and the way these experiences blossomed into writing led to the eventual decision to move to southern China, to a city on the ocean called Zhuhai (Pearl of the Sea). For work, I have been teaching the Chinese children and adults my mastery of the English language. (Don’t worry, I give them the Minnesota edition.)

Basically, I moved out here to “get to know the world”. It hasn’t disappointed. Today, I’ll catch you up on some of the images, experiences, and lessons learned since my arrival.

First and foremost, this blog is about people. I bumped into this fisherman my first morning in China:

“Yesterday, I caught a mermaid.”

Some of the older folks like to take advantage of the community exercise equipment:

“I will get into that size 2…”

And here’s a character with his companion:

The local monkey-man wants money for a picture--though it compromises his little friend.

Some salt-of-the-Earth laborers:

Porkmen on the job.

I wrote a couple articles on the lives of the disabled. It said a lot about the social system in place here and the type of character embodied in these folks:

Not your classic Disney scene, but a loving couple just the same.

Armless, but quite capable

A study of people includes what they do collectively–their culture. This Buddhist funeral service brought up issues of death, religion and the afterlife.

Up close, a young man bows before the deity. In the background, you can see other young men taking part in the service.

A young man bows before the deity.

The Chinese have adopted most of our holidays. Here’s a pic from a Halloween event:

Nice job fulfilling the cute quota, girls.

And of course, there’s the famous cuisine:

Get your snakes and turtles here!

I’ve had my chances to participate, too:

All these years, I had no idea chickens came with a head.

One time, I was hosted by a student’s family. Here’s me giving dumpling wrapping a whirl, as well as learning about life for this middle-class Chinese household:

'Brandon, why don't you just give that to me', said Father.

Back at the Halloween bash…

This is what I signed up for?

And, yes, I’m a teacher. This experience speaks volumes (and can be a little in your face):

My students.

Certainly, life here is different in some funny ways:

You can’t make this up. Yes, those are cigarettes.

Different in some modern ways:

Hong Kong

And full of natural beauty:

Each of these photos represent a chance to compare our lives to something different. This fresh view is enlightening.

If you’re interested, all these photos (and their articles) were taken from my blog, There, I’m in the midst of a travelogue covering a recent excursion to Cambodia and Vietnam. I got to walk with crocodiles, celebrate a Cambodian wedding, see 1000 year old temples, and look into the “eyes” of hundreds of human skulls.

You’ll also notice the “fan box” for my Facebook page and my Twitter feed to the right on this site. Join up. :) Otherwise, I’ll be providing regular posts right here which you can subscribe to as well.

Welcome to my blog; I’m excited for the opportunity.

to new plateaus,

-Brandon Ferdig


Posted by on April 12, 2011 in Culture, Society, Travel


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12 responses to “An Introduction

  1. SF Fan

    April 13, 2011 at 4:13 am

    Hei yazi! You write from China, I read from San Francisco–
    all distilled in Bemidji. Ain’t compooters grand?
    Looking forward to reading of your adventures in teaching.
    Oh, and bon appetit!

  2. mollymiron

    April 14, 2011 at 4:26 am

    Welcome, Brandon. I’m glad we got the glitch straightened out.

  3. lz

    April 15, 2011 at 12:41 am

    Great to hear from you. Pictures are great. My wife, Pat Zea, had you for a student in Jr. High English.

  4. Barbara J. Vasquez

    April 15, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    Hi, Are you Glen Ferdig’s son? Relative? My dad knew him, a couple of (30) years ago. His name was Isadore Lussier.

    You’re doing a fantastic job, I love the far east, we lived on Okinawa and Taiwan ROC.

    • Brandon Ferdig

      April 16, 2011 at 1:47 pm

      Barbara, Glen is my Father’s uncle or cousin. I’ve met Glen several times when I was young. My parents are Ken and Colleen Ferdig. Thanks for the note. I hope to get to Taiwan: ) -Brandon

  5. heather robertson schimmel

    April 16, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Bryce forwarded this to me and I love it:) I was in your brother’s class in school. Keep up the good work!

    • Brandon Ferdig

      April 16, 2011 at 2:45 pm

      Yeah, Heather, I remember you. You gave me rides to play practice when I was in 7th grade. You’d pick me up in that awesome station wagon. Glad you like the site: )

  6. Alan Shilepsky

    April 20, 2011 at 1:07 am

    Wow! You have some great stuff here–pictures, topics and thoughts. Thanks!
    Your most recent brought back memories of my wife and my day-trip on a river in the Guilin region–probably the same river you went down. But it looks like you got more up close and personal. Fun.

    From Black Duck, huh. My wife’s mother was from Mizpah, and I’ve been there and Northome a few times. So I knew the answer to “Where the hell’s Black Duck?” Had no idea you were from there.

    I envy you the time you are having, your courage to get in close with people, and with eels and other foodstuffs, and the technology available today to stay in touch and share!
    Best wishes, Alan S

  7. Jaime

    May 12, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    I love reading about some adventures from a fellow Bemidjian! Here’s a big hello from South Korea!

    • Brandon Ferdig

      May 12, 2011 at 10:54 pm

      Thanks, Jaime. You teach English, too? I have an old classmate that does so in S. Korea as well: )

      • Jaime

        May 19, 2011 at 10:03 pm

        Yes, I am teaching English on the east coast in Pohang, a pretty small city, but great nonetheless. Hope you’re enjoying China as much as I am enjoying Korea. If you ever visit, let me know!

  8. Anthony Moretti

    November 18, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    Brandon, I saw your op-ed in today’s Star Tribune and took a chance I could find you. I might be spending a semester teaching in Zhuhai (at UIC), and I saw in your op-ed that you lived there. If you wouldn’t mind sending me an email address, I like to pick your brain on some of the things you saw, and any tips about living there. Thanks, Anthony Moretti