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Archive for the ‘Daily Life’ Category

This past Friday husband and I went to an outdoor Chinese barbeque in FengCheng with a bunch of people.  I’m pretty sure the sign was supposed to say “SEAFOOD CITY”.

 

They had a huge assortment of food to pick from.

Chinese barbeque

Before this, I’ve eaten a variety of unique food… pig tongue, pig stomach, duck brains, fish eyeballs, chicken hearts…  but this takes the cake:

Lamb Testicle (Before cooking)

To be completely honest – it wasn’t that bad.  Would I order it again?  Actually, yes… besides it looked much more appetizing AFTER it was cooked, so I need to get a picture of that.

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It’s been a while since I’ve been able to go grocery shopping in Qingdao, therefore we are running desperately low on meat of any sort.  I can definitely get pork at any of our local JiaJiaYue supermarkets, but I have trouble justifying the purchase of meat that sits out all day being poked and prodded by masses of people who probably haven’t washed their hands in over a week and a half, and refuse to cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing.  Call me picky, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. At the XinHai market there are several concrete bomb-shelter-like looking buildings full of cages of hens, roosters, and some other small mammals.  I hadn’t purchased one yet, because I assumed that I would need to kill and clean it myself.  I’m sure I could handle that, but plucking feathers off a bleeding-out chicken on a Wednesday afternoon just didn’t seem like my idea of a fun and productive day spent.

It wasn’t until last week that I learned they will kill, clean, and remove the lower digestive system for me.  Perfect!  I can handle that.  The rooster costed more than I would’ve expected (about 20 USD), but it was more than worth it to know it was fresh and only handled by one guy after it was killed, AND that I got to watch the who process.  This just isn’t something you see back home when you go to Giant Eagle (grocery store) to pick out a chicken.

I went with my friend A.  Her driver always helps a ton with these traditional Chinese things.  He asked if I wanted a boy or girl chicken.  Well that wasn’t a question I had ever been asked before?  I asked him which one was good?  The hens were much smaller, but the A’s driver picked out a big rooster and said they are let out to walk around more and the hens just sit around and eat.  Does this make it better?  I have no idea.  Now I want to clarify, when I describe these conversations that I have with just about any Chinese person in Haiyang, it’s usually a mix of my broken Mandarin, their local Haiyang dialect, and a lot of funky charades.  Thankfully, most of the drivers that work for us Westerners have learned a small amount of English, making something like buying live poultry MUCH easier!   But, as you can imagine, I don’t really know how to ask “will they take off the feathers and remove the sh*t from the rear end of that bird?”  Between my Engl-ese (opposite of Chinglish), and some creative chicken dancing, I usually can figure out what is going on.

After we picked out a rooster, the owner pretty much ripped the wings off to put it on the scale. I was taking video the entire time. If you are a fan of PETA, you might not want to watch these videos. Since I’m a fan of People Eating Tasty Animals, I have posted these videos and will share them with you.

After I paid for my bird, he slit the neck and put it into a rotating drum to bleed out.  From there my rooster and some other guy’s chicken were put into a vat of boiling water.  Unfortunately the other bird was still very much alive.  After that there was another drum for defeathering.  Also, notice the gutted dog hanging in the middle of the room.  This is the first one I’ve seen.  (This may be offensive to some individuals, watch at your own risk.)

And finally, removing the intestines, etc…

Alas, I brought my rooster home to the roaster:

Dinner

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 WARNING:  THIS POST CONTAINS IMAGES THAT MAY BE DISTURBING TO SOME INDIVIDUALS.

DO NOT CONTINUE IF YOU HAVE A QUEASY STOMACH OR SMALL CHILDREN ARE NEAR.

Meat table at the market

Delicious, Pig Heart

And finally, this pitiful creature was hanging in the “store” (more like a concrete bomb shelter)   where I bought a live chicken…

Yes, That's a Dog

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First came Arm & Hammer, a baking soda from the 1860’s.  It is a registered trademark of the American manufacturer Church and Dwight and probably one of the most common products in every home in the USA.

Arm & Hammer

The most common and readily available counterfeit at wholesale stores and large supermarkets in China is ARM & HATCHET:

Arm & Hatchet

 And then just last week I found this 2nd generation counterfeit at a spice store in HaiYang.  The only thing better than Arm and Hatchet is ARM AND TOMAHAWK!

Arm & Tomahawk

 

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PRIVACY!

For those of you who know me, I am usually a private, generally shy person.  Anything outside of my “normal” self is just a show.  I can pretend to be outgoing and social, but it is fake because I’m not comfortable that way.  Everyone is different.  I’m grateful that my husband understands and loves me all the same.  He’s a social person – much the opposite of me – but we are happy.  There is a balance between us.

I’ve never lived in an apartment before.  I lived at my mother & grandmother’s house my whole life – even through college in order to save money & buy a car.  Then I bought a house with my fiance (now husband).  I’ve always had a certain bit of privacy.  We purposely bought a home on the border of the  ‘country sticks’ for land and privacy.  After just about 2 years of living in our home, we agreed to move to China for 2 years…

Apartment living is “trying” to say the least.  Even though husband is a manager, we somehow live on the first floor – and EVERYONE can see into our home.  Apparently we arrived too late to get a better apartment.  It is nice and convenient to bring in groceries and furniture – until there is a small Chinese man taking a piss outside your bathroom window… or the landscapers walk around and peer into your living room window.  It’s pretty much a fish bowl.  One thing I never do is close curtains because I like natural light, sooo, peekaboo!  I see you too!  Also, the placement of our kitchen sink (and window) is RIGHT next to the main door to our building so anyone walking in or out of the building can see me all day washing dishes.

Adding insult to injury, the second and third floor residents can see the ocean… I KNOW it’s there, but the sand berm blocks any view.  As a photography enthusiast, I am devastated that I can’t see the ocean.  That was one thing I hoped to keep me happy here.

This problem is not unique to the expat village because almost all people in China live in an apartment – and the buildings are constructed ridiculously close.  I assume this is the reason why Chinese are so much less modest than Americans.  It is no big deal for a man to stop on the side of a busy main road in Shanghai and take a piss (not even bothering to look for a bush)…  Or a mother in Qingdao let her 10-year-old daughter drop her drawers outside of the Metro Supermarket and take a leak right along the busy road… or a woman in the sauna at a hotel in Shanghai take a complete shower with the door wide open while she talks to a topless old woman in a chair about 10 feet away…  Or a man take an…uhhh…. number 2 in the middle of the Forbidden City (maybe he was just showing his support for the Party?).

I wonder if there is even a translation for the words modesty, shame, and privacy in Mandarin?

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It has been a long time coming…  TOO long.  My original plan was to do all grocery/general shopping via bicycle, as I had done in Qinhuangdao.  Even though I had been told by husband’s boss and his wife that it wasn’t really practical, I was determined…  Then I learned the awful truth.  Just because you’ve lived here before doesn’t mean you know about a town with 100 empty booze bottles, random missing shoes, and used hypodermic needles on the beach in front of your apartment.  Very True.  We requested a driver from Avis (vendor to the Company) a few weeks after arriving.  That was a good bit ago.  Many weeks later they provided us with 3 drivers to interview and choose.  Our first choice was a highly recommended driver with *GREAT* English skills and experience driving in all of the major cities around us.  Basically – perfect.  Apparently there is a “guanxi” issue between the driver we picked and Avis.  To this day I wonder why they sent us a perfect driver to interview that THEY had not approved… THIS IS CHINA.  Regardless, My husband’s boss’s driver had recommended a friend to the company, and we also interviewed him.  I was very impressed with his enthusiasm – even though he knows little English.

Food From our Driver!

Food From our Driver!

There were two veggies I was not sure how to cook… Asian Taro and Chinese white radish…   Thank the Good Lord for Google!!!

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It’s a long overdue post, as usual, sorry.

It’s now half-way through January, but I wanted to keep my passionate loyal readers on edge for an exciting new story!

My brother arrived from South Korea on December 23.  He is doing research for his PhD in Electrical Engineering at university in Suwon, South Korea(Brother, please post the name – it has at least 20 letters and I can’t ever remember it!).  (Don’t ask me about it – he’s much smarter than I am!)  I took a ‘Company’ driver to Qingdao to meet him at the airport.  Seriously, the only thing worse than flying to your destination, is PICKING UP someone who is flying.  I always assume the flights in China will be late.  Since we’ve been here in September only 1 out of 8 of my flights were actually on time.  Point being, my brother’s flight was late, and we arrived much too early at the airport for my taste.  By the time we left the airport, it was dark… Brother asked what was ‘out’ there along the highway to Haiyang…. farms… farms… farm…   …   …   …  Eventually we arrived at the expat village and got into our place.  Husband had a managerial phone call that night, but that didn’t stop Brother from turning on the XBox and starting his video games….   I said, “ahhhhh….. just like HOME!!!!”.  That was the point.  I wanted to have Christmas as much like HOME as it could be – for all 3 of us.  I know our families suffer with our absence as well – but they have a much larger support system.  We have other expatriate friends here, but family is not something you can replace.  Brother was able to come, and because he is ridiculously similar to Husband’s younger brother, he sorta played two roles… BOTH of our younger brothers.

Christmas weekend was pretty uneventful.  All I wanted was to have the two most important men in my life to rest and enjoy themselves in a way that felt like home in Pittsburgh.  I’m pretty sure they did just that.  Basically I spent 12 hours a day on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in what is (kind of) a kitchen… and they played XBox and watched movies.  To me this was perfect.  They were happy and I was able to provide them some sort of “home feeling”.

Brother and Husband enjoying Christmas

Our Christmas Tree – purchased from Metro in Qingdao…

Chinese-bought Christmas Tree

Chinese-bought Christmas Tree

This was our Christmas dinner.  Some of the sides were leftovers from Christmas Eve, but still tasted good.  We had a leg of lamb, potato salad, leftover Boulder Chicken (Husband’s favorite), salad, veggies and spinach-artichoke dip, pineapple, and Champaign.  I can’t ever reproduce what my Mom and Grandma, or what Husband’s Mother can do, but with the limited resources in China, I think I did a pretty acceptable job!  Further, I KNOW that Husband and Brother appreciated it!  🙂   And THAT was all I wanted!

Christimas Dinner

Christmas Dinner

After Christmas, the three of us went to Qingdao for two nights.  Personally, I knew I needed a few days to rest from the hours and hours in the kitchen!  While here, we toured the Qingdao Beer Museum.

 Brother and Husband at Qingdao beer museum

Brother and Husband at Qingdao beer museum

For New Years, we all went to Shanghai.  I figured there was no better place to get a taste of the West than Shanghai.  We stayed at a hotel in the French Concession area – which I had heard about, but never seen.  It was awesome, a good mix of East meets West.

We managed to eat dinner one night at M on the Bund – this place has one of the best views of the Pudong District of Shanghai.

 

Husband and Brother at M on the Bund

 

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I know it’s been a while since my last post (for the 5 of you that really care!), and I apologize.  Thanksgiving week was hectic to say the least.  To give a quick rundown, there was a huge dinner held here at the expat village for members of both companies involved in the project.  Of course, China is the only place in the world where you invite 80 people and somehow 120 end up showing up.  This was not an event I wanted to participate in but it went ok.  In general though, we ended up spending more money on food for people who didn’t contribute, and that I don’t even know, than we would’ve for a nice catered dinner at a local hotel for the two of us.  It went ok, but I won’t do it again.

That aside, I am really excited for Christmas.  This is my absolute favorite time of year because (normally) we spend a lot of time with family and friends.  Unfortunately I haven’t seen my family since arriving in China and I regret not seeing them during these Holidays.  Mom and Grandma, I miss you so much!  Uncle M., Aunt K., M, J, and J, I miss not seeing you this year! Same to my mother and father in law and Chris/Em/Sof, Court, and Geoff.  The holidays are not the same without you all, but be sure we are thinking of you!

On a good note – my brother is coming to Haiyang for Christmas!!!  I’m sure he and dear-husband will play video games most of the time (Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3) – and that is PERFECT!  It will truly feel like home!  I’ll do my best to make a good American Christmas dinner – which will be a challenge because (a) I never hosted Christmas dinner and (b) we have a lack of kitchen appliances/supplies/utensils/cookware, and (c) THIS IS CHINA!  I was able to find lamb legs (bought  2!) at Metro in Yantai.  I also want to prepare a nice potato salad even though it will never be as delicious as my G-Ma’s potato salad.

The plan (so far) is to spend Friday to Monday in Haiyang, then go to Qingdao from Monday till Wednesday and spend the remainder of the week, till January 1st in Shanghai.

There are two things that would be wonderful to happen before Christmas.  First, we applied, interviewed, and chose a driver many weeks ago… we are still waiting to actually GET our driver.  He speaks pretty good English, so he’s worth the wait, but it is still frustrating.  Husband told me we will probably get a substitute driver for a bit while our actual driver completes the qualifications he needs with Avis.  I hope we have SOMEONE by the time DJP comes!!  Next, we are STILL waiting for our sea shipment to arrive.  We were told several weeks ago that paper work should be done… alas we have heard nothing about a final date yet.  This isn’t a huge problem, but it’s getting a LITTLE FRIGGIN cold in Haiyang and we have NO WINTER CLOTHES.  I rode my bike to the site for exercise last week and felt sick the rest of the day from the cold.  If they would at least deliver my winter hat I will be a happy Haiyang resident!

Oh that reminds me!  I finally received my residency Visa in China a few weeks ago.  Husband has had his resident Visa since I was in Japan.   In retrospect, I now understand that – for sure – everything happens for a reason… If you recall, my passport/visa and wallet were stolen on our first attempt to come here in September.  After thinking about it, however, I only had a single entry-30-day visa.  When husband’s parents were coming, I would NOT have been able to show M.I.L. around or go to Japan due to visa restrictions and residency applications.  My second China visa was a 60-day-multi-entry Visa that allowed me to travel out of China before I had attained resident status.  All the stress and trouble we went through actually did pay off.

Anyways, back to Christmas!  I bought a fake tree at Metro in Qingdao.  It was only about 50USD and looks very similar to the one my mom used to have.  I purchased 720 LED lights for it, as well as ornaments, garland, and a star.  There are lights in our front kitchen window, the office window, and along the banister in the living room.  I’ve tried to make the house look at least a bit like our house at home, where every corner is festive this time of year.  Unfortunately, Jade (the “stupid” cat), finds some sort of sick pleasure pulling every ornament off the tree and chewing on the tree and garland itself.  I spray her with a water bottle but I’m starting to wonder if she thinks it’s a game.  She sits there while I spray her in the face and just looks at me with her dumb stare as if she’s saying “wtf are you spraying me for?”.  Hence, our ornaments have slowly moved UP the tree as I take them off the floor and put them back out of her reach…  I’ll try to post a picture of our decorations this weekend.

For the past week I’ve been suffering from migraines…  I’m not sure why because it’s not like I have any stress here.  I’ve never had a migraine before, aside from stress headaches in high school and college…  I feel better today.  🙂

The strangest thing happened last night…  Dear husband signed up for a two-year contract and was pretty adamant about not staying longer than 2 years.  We were talking about our driver and having to sign a 2 year contract – even though we’ve been here for 3 months, and he said we just won’t extend for longer than we need him.   I thought wait, EXTEND?  What is going on?  I asked him, “I thought you just wanted 2 years here?”   He said originally just two years, but now he really likes his job.  He asked my opinion… I said it depends if we have a baby… I would want to spend more time in the states to share a baby with my family, especially my grandmother who has no great grand-children.  (Just throwing it out there… nothing is ever planned or carved in stone.)

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I’ve never been on a military base, but I imagine this is pretty close.  The husbands go off to work every day and a certain number of wives are left in the apartments.  We are pretty isolated from the town and any large stores.  There is a small store in the village, but the prices are higher than normal so you only go there if you really need something.  There is a gym, a small restaurant where they segregate the Westerners from the Chinese, the property management office, and some ATMs.  I’ve heard rumors there will be a pool opened at some point, but I’m not sure where.

Here are a few photos from the Expat Village:

Our apartment is the first floor to the right of the white entry door

Our apartment is the first floor to the right of the white entry door

To the left of our building

To the left of our building

To the right of our building

To the right of our building

Restaurant

Restaurant

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Many family and friends have been asking for pictures of our place.  Please know that we have only been here a few days, so it is far from looking like a home.  I am working on it…  Shopping is very difficult because town is a 15 minute car ride away and we don’t have a driver yet.  I am reliant on the few shuttle vans and other wives’ drivers…  Right now the place looks very hospital-sterile.

Living Room

Living Room

Kitchen

Kitchen

Dining Area

Dining Area

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom

Master Bath

Master Bath

Spare Bedroom

Spare Bedroom

Hallway

Hallway

Spare Bathroom

Spare Bathroom

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