Although he had been advised by everyone to avoid the bleak north east of China, Ben Whately spent six months in Qiqihaer in the winter of 2004, one of only six native English speakers in this city of five million people. In telling the story of his growing understanding of the way of life and of the people here, the author introduces the reader to China today. Arriving in mid-winter, - 30°C, to find a grey, concrete city concealed beneath layers of ice, the author learnt to deal with and eventually to enjoy the frustrations and impossibilities of everyday life. He travelled widely to parts of the remote northern province of Heilongjiang, rarely visited by westerners. In relating his experiences in an often self-deprecating fashion, he displays a deep fondness for an extraordinary place. Full of amusing and illuminating stories and insights, this book offers an indispensable introduction to this fascinating country and its people.