My birthday is this week. Counting up the years, I find that it is the eighth birthday I have spent as an expat.
That first overseas birthday in Zhuhai, I had only been living abroad for a few short weeks. We were still living in temporary housing, strangely enough the “Nanyou Oil Hotel.” Tired from a day in Guangzhou spent shopping for a fake Christmas tree, I was surprised by a knock on the door at 6 pm. Opening the door, a staff member stood before me with a birthday cake, some candles and a packet of matches. I was truly touched.
Apparently, taking passport details in China not only allows Big Brother to track foreigners, but can also be used at a force for good: treating homesick guests to birthday surprises.
This year, my husband and I went out to a fantastic dinner at the winkingly faux-retro, northern-Chinese-style restaurant, Bistro Manchu, and a late showing of “Skyfall.” As a lover of Asian kitsch, dumplings, lamb and James Bond, it was spot-on perfect.