Keziah Green in China
Hi Keziah! So glad to have you with us - can you introduce yourself?
My name is Keziah Green, I’m 25 years old and I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. I went to college at Buffalo State College near the border of Canada.
What was your first introduction to travel?
During my sophomore year in college, I studied abroad in Manchester, UK, and it changed my life. I started to see the world in a wider scope. I then decided that I wanted to work and live abroad. After graduating in 2015, I planned on joining the Peace Corps to volunteer my services but I got denied.
[Afterwards] I went on vacation with my boyfriend – it started with Mexico then it was Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Thailand. Then I did a solo trip to Spain and Portugal. At this point, I became addicted to traveling, but after every trip, I felt incomplete and depressed when I returned.
I love watching anime and I absolutely love Japanese culture; I wanted to go to Japan and teach English there, so I applied to a bunch of English teaching jobs in Japan – but they require you to have a TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) certificate, which I didn’t have. But, I kept applying and a school in China finally replied back to me. I wanted to leave New York so desperately that I went for China.
How is it being a teacher of color in China?
Being a teacher of color is more or less the same as other teachers. Younger students are usually scared at first sight...the parents stare and ask a ton of questions. Students comment on my skin color and say, “Keziah is black!” but I don’t think it’s out of malice, but more out of curiosity.
The school that I teach in is located in a small city, there are about three other foreign teachers at this school. The only clear act of discrimination I’ve seen in my whole nine months here is when it comes to advertising the school. [The school administration] used pictures of past and current white teachers and somehow “forgot” pictures of me.
I’m sorry you had to go through that. Outside of your experience as a black teacher, how has it been for you to adapt to the local culture?
Finding food I that I crave and miss is really hard. The school does provide Chinese lunch and dinner, but to be honest...sometimes I just go to McDonalds and KFC – which I would never do if I were still in America. I just rediscovered Pizza Hut and the pizza and pasta are really good! Other than that, I’m eating rice, noodles, and dumplings.
Clothing is not a problem at all. Chinese fashion is on point. I don’t wear makeup, but in bigger cities they have Sephora – which includes brands like MAC, Bobby Brown and other kinds of brands for our skin color. Hair care has been the hardest. I came to China with box braids – which every person on the street was very intrigued. I didn’t bring a year’s supply of products with me because I wasn’t thinking, so my oils, leave-in conditioners, and moisturizers didn’t last too long. My boyfriend just came to visit me and he brought a huge pack of Shea Moisture!
The worst part of being an expat of color in China is that people in this city always think I’m African. I get it at least once a day and when I tell them I’m American they seem so surprised, like black people can't be from America. What’s even weirder is that they know LeBron James, Steph Curry, Barack Obama but they still can’t register it.
Where are your favorite places to visit in Asia?
My favorite country in Asia so far is Thailand. Thailand is so beautiful! I would dare to say its the most beautiful place I’ve seen. Granted, Bangkok is crowded and a bit dirty, but once you get to those surrounding islands ….it’s breathtaking. When I went in 2017, my boyfriend and I visited Bangkok, Koh Phi Phi, and Phuket. The food and people were amazing and we didn’t feel out of place at all.
You might have heard online on the social movement called Blaxit, where Black Americans are leaving the United States for a better life elsewhere - what are your thoughts on this?
This is the first time I’m hearing of the term “Blaxit” but I am familiar and understand the phenomenon of leaving for a better place. There are people who share the same sentiment on leaving and I see it all the time on social media. I see this phenomenon with other expats that I meet during my travels, but usually, they are Europeans or white Americans, very few African Americans. I met an older guy in his 70s from the UK and told me that he visited Vietnam about 30 years ago, saved some money, opened a small cafe, and never went back. He got married, had a baby, learned the language and is living a happy life – that inspired me.
I’m tired of competing for jobs that aren’t beneficial or rewarding to me or my long term goals. Outside the political scope of our country, Americans are very desirable in the workplace – especially in Asia. I follow a black guy from America on Instagram who lives in China. He learned Mandarin perfectly and now has a business teaching it to other expats. I wouldn’t say there are better opportunities for blacks to live and work abroad, but there sure are more and the more experiences. That’s why I’m grateful for this opportunity since it’s preparing me for better in the future when I plan to live in Japan.
What are some packing tips you can share with us?
Because I travel so much, I’ve become a minimalist – because ain’t nobody have time to walk with three suitcases! If you are traveling to China, I recommend carrying all the important haircare products you use every day – you’re not going to find it here. Painkillers like Tylenol and Advil you also won’t find it here. Download a VPN – China blocks a lot of American websites. You can’t go on Google, Facebook, and Instagram without it. There are lots of free ones to choose from.
Where can we find you to follow your travels?
If you want to see some of my travels I recently started documenting it follow me on Instagram @international_kezzy.