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


This is Japanese art from 200 to 400 years ago.  I know it has nothing to do with my blog, but it is way too funny to not share!

What better way to disable your enemies than with Earth-shaking… flatulence?

Best way to win a fight.

To my dear brother:  You would’ve been a mighty warrior a few centuries ago in Japan!!

"We win!"

You can see more of this art here:  http://archive.wul.waseda.ac.jp/kosho/chi04/chi04_01029/chi04_01029.html  (Waseda University Library)

Due to the graphic nature (nudity) of the illustrations, viewers should be cautioned!

From the December issue of "that's SHANGHAI" ... What better gift to give yourself for Christmas?

I seriously just found this yesterday.  Haha!

First of all - they are STAIRS. Second, I'm pretty sure you have to be on some strong sh!t to slide carefully down them...

(Another old picture.)  This was taken at a restaurant that will be front and center during the 2012 Asian Beach Games in Haiyang, China….


I’ve been meaning to post this for a while – it’s from Shanghai back in December at week 15 in China.


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?

The ability to wake up in the morning and take a hot shower is a luxury that most Americans would never think twice about.  Unless you’ve lived through a natural disaster that has resulted in loss of home or major power outages, everyone typical experiences uninterrupted hot water heater service – whether electric or gas.

Now before I go on – we DO have a hot water heater, although it is far from a typical western appliance and is 10 times more temperamental.  Each apartment in the expat village is provided with a hot water tank located on the roof of our building.  In theory, these tanks are a wonderful example for the USA in terms of energy conservation – but that the extent of my positive review.

First of all, the tanks are ugly.  Most Americans take pride in having a beautiful home and yard, and these water heaters definitely cause an eye-sore.  I think that solar panels are more aesthetic because they are flat and follow the slope of a roofline.  Many homes in Haiyang use these hot water heaters because it is either this or a coal/wood burning stove beneath a pot in the bathroom (more information in a bit).

Water Heaters

The water heaters are a hybrid solar / electric appliance.  Electricity in China is extremely expensive so this evolved to make use of a more renewable heating source.  After some research, I’ve learned that this Solar Water Heating (SWH) is widely used in several countries including Greece, Turkey, Israel, Australia, Japan, Austria and of course China.  From what I understand, the exposed piping is metal tubing surrounded by a near-vacuum glass cylinder.  I’m not sure if water or a separate fluids flows through the exposed piping to heat the tank.  Regardless, on sunny days, our water can get pretty hot – I’ve seen it at 95C (about 200F).

The biggest problem with the tank is that is a gravity driven system, rather than forced.  The hot water pressure depends solely on the head pressure of the fluid in the tank.  As you empty the tank during a shower, the pressure drops drastically.  Our cold water supply is a much higher pressure.  When taking a shower, this difference in pressure makes it difficult to obtain a temperate water temperature.  When you turn the valve about 1 degree to the right or left of the “sweet spot” the water goes from scalding hot to freezing cold.  There are two ways to alleviate this, but in a foreign country – nothing is easy to accomplish.    Ideally we could make the hot water line a forced system by installing a pump – but I’m not paying for it and we aren’t allowed to make such changes.  Second would be to install an orrifice in the cold water like to lower the incoming pressure.  However, without an actual pressure reading and no clue where to buy appropriate parts, this isn’t practical either.  Not to mention – I need full water pressure when I clean the bathroom…. Mold growth is a serious problem…  Alas, we are stuck with a difficult shower.

Another thing I hate is – because it is a passive system – you need to “manually” fill the tank.  Thank God that means just pressing a button!  We have a control panel is the master bathroom:

Water Tank Control Panel

This panel tells us the rough level in the tank (25/50/75/100%), and the temperature of the water.  After a shower, or using ANY hot water, we are in the habit to push the far-right button (fill).  The far left button turns on the electric heater.  Right now our high-temperature is set at 80C – so at 80C, the electric heater will shut off.  If it is a sunny day, the temperature will continue to rise until the sun sets.  Unfortunately you cannot fill the tank while using hot water.  The fill valve is located in the master bathroom so the hot water is turned off during the “fill process”.

Although the tank is a pain because it must constantly be refilled and heated, the worst is when the pipes freeze.  This has happened a handful of times during extremely cold nights.  If the heat tracing doesn’t work, I spend hours flushing cold water up the pipe in an attempt to defrost.   Also, sometimes we lose power for up to 12 hours at a time… without the electric control panel, the tank cannot be refilled or heated.

As much as I complain – the alternative in China is much worse.  We recently had lunch at our driver’s home.  While there, husband used the toilet…  Our driver ran up ahead of him to manually fill a tank to flush because they have no running water at the toilet.  There was also no shower and no hot water.  They heat water in a pot with a stove in the bathroom to bathe.  It’s a different way of life, for sure

After all of this, I am so-very-greatful for our reliable hot water heater at home.

I’ll admit, there were several things about being the woman in a marriage that never really appealed to me.  I used to love cleaning… until husband and I moved in together.  I grew up living with my mother, grandmother, and brother.  Great!  Three women to split up house chores, laundry, and cooking.  My brother, well… bless his heart… took advantage of all of that… hahaha!
Granted he had to deal with 3 women growing up, so I can’t say that I blame him…  He still takes advantage of it as an adult!  When we were back in Pittsburgh, he would come to our house, hang out, play video games with my husband…. AND bring his laundry for me to wash…  Then over Christmas this year in China,  my brother came to stay with us from South Korea (where he does research for his PhD in Electrical Engineering).  ….so what would you guess?!  He brought some dirty laundry for me to wash.  The reasoning?  We have a clothes dryer….  Granted, it takes over 2 hours to dry a load of laundry – and shrinks anything I leave in too long – but it is a DRYER!  Think about when you buy new towels or sheets…. They contain a crazy amount of lint every time you use them.  You dry yourself after a shower and feel like you need another shower to get rid of the fuzz that stuck to you the first time you showered.  I’ve always put towels through the washer/dryer a couple of times to alleviate the lint (and any remaining production chemicals & dyes).  …Fast forward to China…  It is NOT standard to use clothing dryers (AT ALL)… electricity is just way too expensive and most homes do not have a gas line like we do in the USA.  Fortunately, the company pays our electric bill so I have no issues running the dryer.  At first we had no towels and no sheets – – – and no dryer.   When you hang dry sheets & towels inside (only place we can do it), the lint gets everywhere.

This was before I invested in a vacuum cleaner…  It is a stupid follow-a-long with no rotating brushes.  I bought it at Metro in Qingdao… but guess what!  They don’t sell replacement bags for it!  And I could NOT find a distributor in China.   FIGURES.   Thankfully, husband’s boss was just back in the good ol’ USA so we were able to buy replacement bags for him to bring back over.

But I digress… between the lint and the cat hair from our dear little “piglets”, cleaning was D*** near impossible.  I wasn’t the first wife here to buy a dryer, and I’m sure I won’t be the last.

The funny thing – the store that sold (us wives) the dryers said they never sold ANY dryers until we showed up in Haiyang.  These things were special ordered from Qingdao and I had to wait 6 weeks for mine.  This time would have been prolonged if it weren’t for Miss Li, the owner of our property management company, who is VERY “well-connected” in our town.

Regardless, I have one, as well as a front loading washer to replace the provided one which tied our clothes in knots to destroy them…

Laundry Room

We’ve had our fair share of rare and unique foods here in China.  Everyone knows about the chicken feet – which I still haven’t had a chance to try, but there is SOO much to choose from aside than chicken parts.  As you know we had pig tongue and stomach on New Years Eve, and both were really good.  After returning home to Haiyang and getting our driver, he and his family invited my husband and me to eat lunch at their home.  The house was larger than the one we had seen in Shanghai, but much less comfortable and lacking most amenities.  As usual, the master bedroom is also the living room and we started lunch by sitting on the master bed, basically a hot water heated surface with a thin pad overtop, to drink tea.  Once lunch was mostly prepared, we moved to the dining room and took our seats for the food to come out.  At lunch was our driver, his wife, his mom and dad, and two of his dad’s old classmates (at least that’s who I think they were, haha!)
The meal consisted of a normal assortment of fish, pork, warm and cold vegetables, dumplings, and… silk worm pupae…   I had the intent to try these eventually but wasn’t really prepared for it at that moment.  His family seemed perplexed that we were hesitant to dive into the giant bowl of creepy looking brown insects.  I explained to our driver in my broken Chinese that Americans do not like to eat insects.  I think he understood.

Silkworm Pupae

Unfortunately the conversation at this lunch was irritatingly difficult.  I only speak basic conversational Mandarin and my dear husband speaks almost none.  He tries to use google translate on his phone to start a conversation – this usually causes more confusion than results.

I watched the mother and wife make dumplings for a little while.  I would’ve helped but didn’t want to mess them up!  The best part :  They were making them on the master bed in the master bedroom.   Yup.

Drivers Mother & Wife Making Dumplings

Drivers Mother & Wife Making Dumplings on the master bed

All of the food was really good.  I’ll admit that the Silkworms were not bad.  You don’t actually eat the outside shell, which is tough, but not hard or crunchy.  The inside was the part to eat.  There wasn’t much taste and it had a consistency between that of scrambled eggs and mashed potatoes.  Would I eat them again?  Yeah, I probably would if they were served at someones home (out of politeness), but I will never willingly order them at a restaurant.

As with every Chinese meal with friends, they served alcohol.  We started with some warmed up brown alcohol.  It was ok although I don’t know what it was.   There was some wine then another alcohol that tasted like a sweet plumb wine although it had images of deer and chickens on the front of the bottle.  I thought for sure there must have  been some animal parts in the brew…

We left there feeling very full and comfortable and VERY ready for a nap!

On a side note:  don’t think it would be that uncommon for a Chinese liquor to contain animal ingredients.  They do, after all, eat every part of everything that had ever breathed, swam, flown, walked, grown, lived, or is still living.  We did not have this liquor at our driver’s house but he has a very strong opinion about it…

I’ve seen it featured on two different TV programs.  First, it was a segment on National Geographic Channel’s The Witch Doctor Will See You Now.   The next time I heard about it was when my husband was watching an episode of “The League” (if you haven’t ever watched this show, it’s funny – you need to see it.)  So what am I talking about??  THREE PENIS WINE of course!!!!  I understand… you don’t believe me…

Ohhh, but it IS true!

ChangYu Three Penis Wine

Three Penis Wine Ingredients

This particular brand of Three Penis Wine contains a brew of seal penis, deer penis, and Cantonese dog penis.  The intent of this “wine” (really it’s more like rice wine/liquor) is to provide male virility to the drinker.  I found this small bottle at our local JiaJiaYue (the grocery store literally means “family family happy”).   No better way to make a family happy than to make your wife happy by consuming some good ol’ Three Penis Wine!  I picked it up and showed my driver.  Without skipping a beat he said (in slowly pronounced English) V e r y G o o d !   I giggled and bought a few bottles.  Now before I go on, my dear husband has not yet tried this stuff.  I had to!  In all honesty, the taste is much better than baijiu (white liquor / moutai).  It has a bit of molasses/sweet taste to it.  Put it this way – if you had no idea what was added during the original brewing process you would never know you were drinking fermented animal privates.

Life in the Middle Kingdom is never boring!

新年快乐. Xin Nian Kuai le.  Happy (Chinese) New Year!

Chinese New Year was celebrated on January 23rd this year.  Husband had the week off so we went to Shanghai to celebrate with some delicious Western food and delicious Western drinks!  January 22 was also my 28th birthday – so I was thrilled when the most populous country on the planet decided to set off fireworks and celebrate with me.  😀

The highlight of our trip was a traditional New Years Eve dinner at Huband’s Co-worker’s Wife’s family home.  In the time I have spent in China so far, this was my first visit to a family home.

Friend's Mama Cooking in the Kitchen

The only problem there was communication.  Her family, being mostly without higher education and living in Shanghai their entire life, spoke only Shanghainese, not Mandarin.  However, there is always one international language found at Chinese meals – and that is the language of alcohol.  The family broke out the beer, the wine, and the dreaded baijiu (white alcohol / mautai).  I accepted a little mautai at the beginning – but after the first ‘ganbei’ (toast), realized it wasn’t a good idea to be drinking rubbing alcohol so early in the night.  *bleh!*  The food was delicious and just kept coming…  Two of the most unique dishes we tried were pig tongue and pig stomach and they were suprisingly tasty!  Just LOOK at ALL THAT FOOD!!!!

New Years Eve Dinner

So you want to know about a Chinese home?  I imagine this apartment is pretty typical for the older generation living in Shanghai.  Small.  Very small.  The entire space was probably about 40 square meters and costed MORE than our home and property back in Pittsburgh.  When you walk in the front door, you enter the dining room…

Dining Room / Entry Looking towards Bedroom (also livingroom) entrance

To the left was a kitchen and a bedroom.  To the right was a bathroom and the master bedroom (which is ALSO the living room).  When we first arrived, the whole family was sitting on the master bed watching TV like it was a couch.  To them it was!  After dinner they invited us to sit on the bed and watch TV with them.  A nice gesture but we found the custom a little strange, not to mention we couldn’t understand the CCTV programming that was on…

Friend's Mama on the Bed (also the Couch) watching CCTV after dinner

Our friend had bought a cake to celebrate my birthday.  Let me tell you how funny it is to have people singing to you in two different languages on your birthday!  It was probably one of the best cakes I’ve ever had.  I’m not a fan of super-sweet icing, and (to my disbeilief) the icing was perfect.  The numbers on the cake are 28 AND 29, because I am considered 29 in China.  (They consider the first 9 months in the mom’s tummy as a first year… somehow…)  (To my brother – When a Chinese girl tells you she is 18, be careful, she may really mean 17….)

My Birthday Cake

Once it was time to leave, the 4 of us decided to try and find a bar to celebrate the rest of New Years Eve.  Unfortunately, since most Chinese go home for the New Year (much like us Americans do for Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving), the vast majority of the bars in Shanghai were not open that night.  We ended up at Big Bamboo on Hong Mei Lu Entertainment Street.  Most of the bars and restaurants here were closed but there were still several open.

The coolest thing on Chinese holidays are fireworks!   I’ve heard they are banned in Shanghai, making them “illegal”, much like driving on the wrong side of the road is “illegal”, also like blowing past red lights, driving on the sidewalk, speeding, smoking in stores, and pretty much disobeying every common civilized country’s code of conduct.  But in China, if you’ve lived or visited here, you know they are mere suggestions of conduct… It is only suggested that you drive on the correct side of the road… Police man sees you, no problem…  So!  Alas!  We saw many fireworks – VERY CLOSE UP!   I think back to Pittsburgh where any of the township’s fireworks are very safe…  everyone stays very far away from ground zero… by law…   HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.!!!! …   Watch my youtube videos from Chinese New Years….

More to come…. takes an eternity to upload from China….