travel kit of plugs (Franzus and Hoffritz both manufacture them) is useful, especially since the ''universal" plugs sold in the United States usually do not fit Chinese outlets.
You may want to buy some electrical appliances in China. One of the most commonly sought is a small fan; a nine-inch model costs about Y120-150 and larger standing models are priced between Y320 and 500. Chinese-made blow dryers are also widely available. Used appliances can be resold at Friendship Stores and certain other stores (ask your Chinese hosts) at about half the purchase price if they are accompanied by the original sales slip. Some stores will buy back Western-made appliances as well. Much equipment gets passed from foreigner to foreigner as one group leaves and another comes in. Look for possible buys on bulletin boards and talk to friends who are about to leave.
Many people try to circumvent the electric problem by bringing equipment that can be operated on batteries. However, good, long-lasting batteries may be difficult to find in China. AA "penlight" batteries are readily available under brand names such as "White Elephant" and "Golden Bee," but they wear out much faster than foreign ones. Japanese batteries are easy to find in most eastern cities. Some people bring rechargeable nickel/cadmium (NiCad) AA batteries and a 220v 50c or solar-powered charger (available from Radio Shack and Edmund Scientific in the United States). A solar-powered charger can trickle-charge fully drained NiCad batteries over the course of one sunny day. Those who are technically inclined can make solar-powered chargers for larger electrical equipment, including laptop computers, by purchasing the requisite solar cells and connections from Edmund Scientific.
Battery chargers for regular batteries and sometimes NiCads are now available in many Chinese department stores. However, alkaline batteries are best for fieldwork; although they can't be recharged, they last the longest. Recharging batteries during fieldwork is inconvenient, especially if you are constantly on the move. Take a couple of hundred batteries for extensive tape recording. If you run out of American or Japanese-made batteries, try to get brands manufactured in the larger Chinese cities.
Bring an adequate supply of batteries for cameras, calculators, wristwatches, and micro-cassette tape recorders since these specialized varieties are difficult to find in China.
The necessary supplies and equipment will depend on the work there. Many teachers find that a typewriter is sufficient for their needs. A standard manual typewriter will give the most reliable service because there is no need to worry about electrical transformers and there is no problem finding repair shops, which also sell ribbons. Some teachers bring typewriters with wide carriages for