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Posts Tagged ‘china’

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!

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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….

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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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Recently I finish reading The Good Earth, written by Pearl S. Buck in 1931.  It was recommended to me by my Aunt-In-Law, and I’m very glad I took her advice!  If you are interested in an accurate, unbiased portrayal of pre-revolutionary China, this is a must read.  It was also on Oprah’s Book Club List for 2004.

The story follows a poor farmer, Wang Lung, through daily life that includes manually working the land and taking care of his elderly father.  The relationship demonstrates the intense filial piety of old China.  When Wang Lung marries – he buys a slave from a local wealthy family.  This girl was a slave because her parents had sold her to the “Great House” for silver as they were so poor.  From the book’s portrayal, this seemed to be a common occurrence before Mao Zedong’s revolution.

Now,  I am hardly a feminist – but I cannot imagine a society where I am not free to make my own decisions, go to school, work, and be a contributing member of society.  Not only that, but get rewarded and recognized for said contributions.    I hope that the selling of daughters is no longer allowed – but I have read a few websites suggesting that women are being abducted and sold as slaves or wives.  In a 2009 article in the LA Times, Some Chinese parents say their babies were stolen for adoption, some rural Chinese claim their “illegal” children were taken from them by family planning authorities for adoption by Western families.

China has a less than admirable past when it comes to women’s rights and the value of women.  This is why the Gendercide that appears even today has caused the ratio of boys to girls born to rise to something around 120 boys born for every 100 girls, while the norm for industrialized countries is about 105 boys for every 100 girls (This value varies in different provinces).  China’s one child policy which makes it illegal for people in several parts of China to have more than one baby, the accessibility of ultrasounds, and the legality of abortions make this skewed ratio possible.

In a country that runs on a patriarchal lineage, there is going to be a large percentage of men at a marrying age that are completely unable to find a marriable woman.  Will this cause the selling of daughters or the abduction of women to go up?  How else can a man pass on his name and legacy?  And if he has no children, who will take care of him in his old age?  Times are changing, yes, and he may have enough money saved or enough assets in his home to provide monetarily for his future, but what of the poorer farmers and the factory workers?  According to a U.K. article:  China’s village of the bachelors: no wives in sight in remote settlement, this is already a problem in small rural villages.

It is highly favored to have boys instead of girls since the girl will marry and because part of the man’s family…  China needs to change their outlook on gender equality unless they want to wipe out the female population.

This is a very sad situation for a very proud nation of people.

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I used to go mountain biking on a fairly regular basis, until, frankly, I got lazy.

I’ve had my mountain bike for 5 years now but it was never anything special,  so for those of you riding on a Specialized or Trek, please don’t take my actions as the ultimate mountain-biking blasphemy!  I bought the thing right before college graduation, so at the time – the cheaper, the better.  It worked.

First, let me explain why I have committed this heinous crime to a respectable mountain bike…  When I was in China 3 years ago, I used a Giant brand mountain bike for going to work, shopping, and local sight-seeing.  It was a great form of exercise and I enjoyed the experience of “going local”.  Unfortunately, while the bikes are a huge bargain there – you always get what you pay for:

  1. Bike was MUCH too small for an American.  Chinese bikers do not ride such that their legs are extended at the bottom of the stroke, they ride with legs almost always at a 90 degree angle.  Hence, the bikes are sized for this method of riding.  Now when you are a 6ft tall Westerner used to riding a larger bike with the seat extended – this can be very uncomfortable.  I had the bike seat extended all the way (maybe 3/4″ still inside the frame), and it was still much too small!
  2. Chinese bikes are overly prone to flat tires.  I still don’t understand why this is (considering most everything in the US is manufactured in China) – other than to provide jobs for the poor.   In any tier 2 or 3 city, you will find a tire-repair man on almost every corner.  It is dirt cheap to get a flat tire patched, and they’ll sometimes lube the chain for you as well.  I’m talking 2-5 RMB at the most! ($0.30-$0.78) One shifu that I distinctly remember sat there with his two children and his wife.  They all wore very tattered clothing and I can’t imagine they lived in much more than a basement-like one room apartment.  Regardless, Haiyang is smaller than Qinhuangdao, so I don’t want to count on a tire-tube repair man on every corner.
  3. Chinese Mountain bikes don’t have baskets.  I’m sorry – I know – it’s not like I EXPECT a mountain bike to have a basket!  However, when I plan to use my bike as a means of grocery shopping, I could really use one… or two…  I suppose I could settle for a typical chinese-black-bike-with-basket, but I’ve been spoiled by 18+ speed bikes for the last half of my life.

SOOOOOOOO…… The ONLY solution to my beef with China-bikes is this:

My Chinafied Mountain Bike

The “improvements” include:

Kickstand

Front & Rear Fenders (for rainy-day grocery trips!)

Rear rack with basket & optional panniers

Rear End

Front Basket, and, uhhhh, bell.

Front End

YES, I put a kickstand and a bell on a mountain bike.   In China these are two very important additions.  I will post example pictures and videos once we are abroad!

I’m very pleased with the way all of the new accessories turned out, but the road to completion was not easy and I spent many frustrated hours trying to get everything to work.  There are still a few changes that I want to make.  For anyone with no technical experience, I highly recommend paying a bike shop to make these kind of additions!

The first major obstacle was the fenders.  Even though they are supposed to work with a mountain bike – the directions and mounting options are ONLY for road bikes.  Basically you need to be creative with new bolts, several washers, and zip ties to make it work.  Next, I guess you aren’t supposed to install a rear fender and rear rack together (?!?!?!), because there is only one threaded hole to attach both.  Again, you need to get creative and buy new bolts.  I purchased new M5 x 0.8 bolts (forget what length), only to come home and realize the metric allen wrench set was in Husband’s car.  Back to Lowes to buy a new one…  then I was finally able to get everything assembled.

Next problem – the panniers I bought are supposed to hang from the sides of the rack – and they CAN, but only if the rear basket is removed.  This is what happens when you cross over manufacturers on bike components….   Nonetheless, I can still hang them from the basket.  I want to find another set of panniers to properly hang from the rack.  After all is said and done (AND I take a backpack with me to the market), I should be able to do some heavy-duty grocery shopping trips!

I also have a new U-lock that I want to mount in place of one of the water bottle cages.  I’m aware that bike theft can happen – even though I’m pretty sure this bike is much too large for any Chinese person to ride!

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I’m glad to hear that we are still allowed to take Kittie Litter on the sea shipment to China.  I’ve been told that they sell it in Haiyang, but Jade and Nala can be picky creatures  –  and considering they’ve “peed around” in the past, I don’t want to give them the excuse of doing it in our new apartment because of a strange litter box.  Unfortunately, we are not allowed to send cat FOOD over there.  I’m guessing because it is made from chicken?  I’m hoping to smuggle a bag or two over in our luggage.  At least this way I can try to acclimate them to Chinese cat food.

Wall of Cat Liter

Next, I’ve finally accumulated a total of 24 of my deodorant and 24 of DH’s deodorant.  This should be more than enough to last us for the long haul in China.  Personally, I’m not quite sure how such a large country with particularly unimpressive personal hygiene can survive day-to-day without passing out from B.O. in crowded places like buses and subways.  Perhaps when I’m there long enough I can enlighten you on this.

Two-Year Supply of Deodorant

 I purchased these through Amazon.com’s Subscribe and Save program.  I only subscribed for 2 months, but ordered 12 each month.  This program allows you to save 15% off of Amazon’s normal price (which usually is already less than Walmart, Target, etc.)  Granted, you don’t need to buy as much as I did, but I think it’s a great way to stay stocked up on toiletries that everyone forgets to buy until it’s too late (and you start to smell bad).

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After having previously spent several months in a “small”  city in China, I’m well aware of what I need to bring unless I want to either overspend on it or travel to Shanghai or Beijing to purchase it.

I’ve begun to compile a list of things that we are bringing for our relocation:

At least 2 years supply of the following:

  • toothpaste
  • deodorant (men’s/women’s)
  • razor blades (men’s/women’s)
  • makeup (Chinese makeup contains whitening/bleaching ingredients)
  • skin creams & lotions (non-whitenening)
  • tampons
  • hair straightener spray & other non-shampoo items
  • sunscreen (again, NON-whitening!)
  • Insect repellent
  • Cat litter (stupid cats…)
  • Cat food (…again…)
  • Vitamins & medications
  • Batteries (or a rechargeable set)
  • Pasta – Costco, here I come!
  • Tomato sauce

Other important stuff:

  • MATTRESS
  • Sheets
  • Pillows
  • Pots/Pans
  • Common spices
  • Computer/Camera(s)/Video Camera
  • Wii
  • Xbox (hubby needs his ‘Call of Duty – Black Ops’ fix every once in a while…)
  • iPad/iPods
  • Variety of American condiments
  • Clothes/shoes/underwear in my size (which is not available in China)
  • Bug repellent
  • Electrical outlet adapters
  • 220v hairdryer and straightening iron
  • My & Hubby’s mountain bikes
  • My & Hubby’s road bikes
  • Extra tubes & chains for bikes

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Two weeks ago the hubby was finally given his new assignment letter.  After going back and forth for a few months we are now sure of our upcoming move to PRC!  Once I broke the news on Facebook, I assume that many people thought I am crazy for being so excited.  That may be true.  Although I’ve been to China on two previous occasions, the prospect of moving there for an extended period of time is still daunting.  On both prior occasions I was (a) unmarried and (b) still living at home.  Now I am married and own a house, and have two…. cats…  (insert random comment regarding Chinese food & cats here.)  For lack of a better place to cat-sit Jade & Nala long-term, we are taking them with us to China.  Yes, you read correctly, we are taking our cats to live with us in China.

This is actually a more involved process than you might imagine.First, there are 3 ways you can bring a dog or cat into China:  IN the plane cabin, as checked luggage, or as air cargo.  I’m hoping to take the in-cabin option.  (This is still up for debate.)  Pets are allowed in the cabin on some airlines as long as the carrier will fit under the seat in front of you.  There is usually a fee to bring pets onboard, for Delta the price is $200 per pet (Jade & Nala are small so they should fit in the same carrier – saving us $200).

There are specific health requirements and documentation when getting a pet into China:

  1. Proof of rabies vaccination within one year and at least 30 days prior to entry into China.
  2. International Health Certificate (APHIS form  7001) issued by a USDA-accredited veterinarian and endorsed by the USDA.
  3. Vaccination certificates for Feline Panleucopania, Feline Respiratory Disease, and Entritis.

There is a mandatory pet quarantine upon arrival in Shanghai and Beijing.  I’ve heard that if we fly through South Korea to Qingdao (bypassing the larger international airports), that we may be able to avoid the seven-day quarantine.  I will verify this after we complete the process.

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