Laotongs and Stinky Chicken Feet

I’ve been trying to think of how to write this blog because last weekend was the moment that I realized I live internationally.  It sounds silly as I have been gone for almost two years, but it’s true. To make a long weekend a short blog, I rocked Hong Kong and Tokyo in the same weekend. I mean… the good, the bad, and the ugly. Like Vegas, that’s really all I can say.

Last weekend also included a tech conference and needless to say, Jen and I were exhausted so we paid extra for the good seats on the return flight which turns out, wasn’t such a good idea in some ways.

In China, Laotongs are considered soul sisters. This was initially and traditionally an arranged relationship for life, much like a marriage, where the two women involved shared a secret language.  I think of Jen and I with our acronyms like gf, bff, ob… our ‘dudes’ that sell us trinkets, to our inside jokes, and then I start to appreciate the idea of this close bond.

If you haven’t been to Japan, you really need to go. The crisp, clean air filed with white, puffy clouds, the heated toilets seats with so many buttons it can be overwhelming, the polite people who smile and go out their way to help… it’s just lovely.

With cleared out lungs and heavy eyelids, Jen and I headed back to a workday in China. At first we were very excited about our upgraded seats until we started getting jostled around as people pushed their way through our aisle. Then, the woman next to us opened up a bag of dried chicken feet and some flavored oysters.  Imagine paying extra to sit next to someone eating a rotten tuna fish/egg salad sandwich. Yep. Welcome to flight 679.

We ended up watching a movie together ‘Snow Flower and the Secret Fan’ (I paused so Jen could catch up) and that’s what got me thinking about friendships. Being abroad has been more challenging in some aspects than I could have ever imagined. It sneaks up on me, this isolated feeling. I try to focus on all the great opportunities, but it can get the better of me at times. I guess that’s just the good, bad, and the ugly of it all.

As the plane wavered left to right and up and down before landing, Jen looked over at me and said, “Well Snow Flower, if we don’t make it, I am glad we are such good friends.” We both laughed because we were legitimately nervous – it was a rough landing but I felt the same way about our friendship. Happy.

It wasn’t until we got safely into the airport when I asked her, “Why do I have to be Snow Flower… the crazy one?” Jen and I both laughed, but it stuck.  Just one more inside joke to add to our own secret language.



  1. Susan Wachowiak

    Really good friends are hard to come by. I think we only get a few in our lifetime. I truly hope that someday I will get the opportunity to meet Jen. She sounds like someone I would like to know.

  2. Christine W.

    very excited about your new travels to Istanbul! can’t wait to see what is in store for you at the next bend.

    1. Thanks Christine… now you will have to visit!!!

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