Sometimes I forget what a foreign country China is from my home because Qingdao, especially downtown where I live, it is so very easy to access all the western comforts I am used to. I can spend the day with coffee at starbucks, shopping at H & M, an afternoon session at the gym watching Friends, grab my peanut butter, boneless skinless chicken breasts, and ice cream at the grocery store, and order Papa Johns for dinner. Okay, it might be a crappy dinner, but sometimes one craves bad pizza.

Of course, despite the Western trappings China is still wonderfully different and Chinese, hence my continued love of being here. Papa Johns is not only significantly worse than at home, but they have many many pizzas with shrimp available. The grocery store does carry many western products, but it is mostly a true Chinese establishment with live turtles and frogs in the butchers. The gym includes both an "opperating room" and a "private parish" as well as an advertising poster outside covered in pictures of an entirely different gym. H & M is still H & M but I prefer to shop in the underground tunnel market anyway. And Starbucks, brace yourselves guys.... Starbucks does not have pumpkin spice lattes.

Now, I don't actually like pumpkin spice lattes (too sweet, and also Starbucks is not that good) but thats not really the point. When I went in to Starbucks and discovered not a single pumpkin poster, picture of a orange leaf, or red cup to be found, I was reminded of the fact that the difference between these places is more than just trappings.

At home, October is all about pumpkin spice and kids is costumes. In China, October was all about the National Day and Mid-Autum festival. Now that is is over, it mostly seems to be preparing for cold weather and drinking enough hot water to stave off illness until the Spring Festival. Okay, so that's a major and purposeful over simplification. But the point is, the basic schemas of our cultures are fundamentally different. (Please don't criticize me for arguing Halloween is a core part of our schema and just accept that the basic idea still translates) And that can be seen in something as supposedly ordinanry and apparently ubiquitous as a Starbucks cup.