Monthly Archives: July 2012

Dinner at a Chinese family’s house

Richard picked me up after lunch again yesterday and we went exploring. We picked up his brother, Jack, who had just finished karaoke with friends. I know what you’re all thinking, and yes, karaoke is that popular here. You don’t even have to be drunk to do it, as is the common prerequisite in pubs and bars in the west offering the same activity. Richard said a little liquid confidence may help me out to sing, and I said if its not my car or my shower you’re unlikely to catch me belting out any tunes.

They brought me to a coffee shop their cousin had just opened, which instead of a Starbucks type of thing, was more upscale and yes, had coffee, but also had an array of wines and imported liquors. Richard hopped behind the counter and made us cappuccinos (apparently he worked at a coffee shop during university). He also said I should work part time there as a waitress, but I think the service would be a bit slow considering I don’t know Chinese. Unless the patrons want to use the ‘point at what you want on a menu’ type of ordering I have gotten familiar with, they had better wait until I at least have a Chinese lesson covering cafe items.

We moseyed around town a bit more and Richard invited me to dinner at his family’s house, which though he is 25 and successfully working, he still lives in. It is customary in China that unless you are away at university, you live with your parents until marriage. At home if I met a 25 year old that still lived with his parents, I would guess that either he is supporting his parents, or they are supporting his jobless self. But that is just a cultural difference and not the crux of the story!

I accepted the invite and we continued, going to a paper cutting factory and museum but it was closed because it was Sunday. We walked around more and saw more traditional art forms like the dragon heads, lanterns, things made out of jade, and beautiful, soft, expensive Foshan silk. We went to the open market and picked out some things for dinner, and we eventually made it back to his parents apartment.

They were very happy to see me and welcome me to their home. I later learned that I was the first foreigner that had been to their house. They complimented my chopstick use and made a few toasts to me. Gambei! After dinner, Jack and his dad showed me some self-defense, a valuable skill I will exercise on any who want broken ribs (kidding! Or am I?…).

We also took many pictures, on probably every camera and camera phone in the house.

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(Jack, me, and their parents)

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(The mother and I sitting in traditional wooden Chinese chairs)

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(Richard, the dog, and me)

What a nice family! They invited me back whenever and hope that I treat their home as my second home in China!

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Panda cookies and Oreo heaven.

Panda cookies. They have them here too! Not that I had any doubts, but its one of the only Chinese foods I immediately recognized, so it was nice to see them! Also, they have tons of different oreo flavors here. When I investigated more I saw flavors like apple, grape, and peanut butter. Will post a pic of all the kinds soon.

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Chinese bathrooms, part 1.

At the foot massage place was my first encounter with the quirks of Chinese bathrooms. After all the tea I really had to use the bathroom, so Shirley brought me into a different, unused massage room with a bathroom. She said the public toilets were squatty potties so I could use this western one. Well thats great and all, but this western toilet didn’t have its own supply of toilet paper. Thank god EVERY tourist site I went on said to carry around tissues, because I did, and they saved me from an unfortunate experience. First Chinese bathroom disaster, averted.

The next Wednesday on an attempted trip to Guangzhou with Daniel and my mandarin tutor, Celia, I wasn’t feeling very well. I hadn’t felt well the night before so I skipped dinner, and though I’d had a little breakfast, for all intents and purposes, I was running on empty. I drank a lot of water to avoid dehydration, but it sloshed around in my stomach and made me feel sick. I told Celia this while we were in a 7-11 getting drinks, because the smell of whatever food was in there about drove me over the edge. We rushed to a bathroom, which had squatty potties.

Already unenthused about upchucking in a public restroom, trying to aim into what looked like a horizontal urinal on the floor would be too much. Then came the smell. This indoor, public restroom smelled like a port-a-john at the county fair, minus the blue disinfectant stuff. In a moment of divine will, my body was able to suppress the involuntary act of puking, because the conditions were so unfavorable. This is probably the first time in history that the smell of human waste has prevented anyone from vomiting, because often it seems to induce said vomit. Bathroom disaster #2, avoided.

I held it in until the conditions were more favorable, which my body decided was in the underground, in front of all the people on the train we were supposed to board. Needless to say, we waited for the next train. At least I made it to a garbage! My body needed to purge its self of the sprite and water inside my stomach, and couldn’t wait any longer. The subway ride back to Foshan was twice as long as the trip to Guangzhou seemed. Subway disaster #1, right on target.

This was the first day I had McDonalds in China. It made my quivering, empty stomach feel light years better. Thank god for the convenience of McDonalds, and I apologize to any Chinese who have witnessed my health issues.

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Chinese foot massages

When you think foot massage, what comes to mind? I envisioned a soak in some herb-infused water followed by a good foot rub down and a lotioning to top it off. Boy did I underestimate the Chinese foot massage. The first Sunday I was here, Iris (the mother), Shirley (an English-speaking cousin) and I all went to get a foot massage. It started with tea and watching tv in lounge chairs in a private room. They brought in big tubs of hot herb water for us to put our feet into, and about 10 minutes later 3 masseuses came in.

We sat on the ottomans as the masseuses massaged our backs for about a half an hour. This hurt a bit, due either to my western roots or the fact that I’ve been sleeping on a bed a little softer than a box spring, but I figured it was for the greater good. We switched back to the lounge chairs and had our feet massaged for about another half hour. This involved the use of a little wooden thing that was poked into my foot occasionally, apparently a massage aid. This also hurt a bit, but I grimaced through it.

Who knew a foot massage could be so inclusive of the entire body!

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More new foods!

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Sucker from the grocery store: good! I don’t think the clerk charged me for it either. Bonus!

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Chocolate bar I thought might have milk in it (I’m sure you can see where I’m coming from) : good! No milk in it, but little crunchy balls like in an American Crunch bar!

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Birthday cake oreos: way good! If they don’t exist in the states I might have to bring some home with me!

You may notice that all of these things are candies. This is because a) I like candy, and b) I feel like candy, overall, is a pretty safe thing to buy when you can’t read the labels. I would also try snack foods like chips and crackers, but I haven’t bought any of those yet. There are pretty good crackers here though that the family bought, called Rebisco. Would be the equivalent of soda crackers in the US.

I don’t know if I have mentioned our trip to Hagen-Dazs last week, but it was great to taste western dessert! The time we went for dessert before that I just got vanilla ice cream. The green tea ice cream, mango pudding, and grass jello weren’t looking too appealing. I got cappuchino toffee (or something) ice cream at H.D. and for a 2 scoop it was like 59yuan, or almost $10US! Yikes. Richard said this is because its a western thing and is considered a big treat to have. I will remember this when I get home and can get an extravagant ice cream creation from Coldstone for about the same price. All this dessert talk is making me crave it though, so I’d better stop while I’m ahead!

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McDonalds in China

Well, I’ve been to McDonalds 3 times since I’ve been here, once only for coffee. There is one right outside the subway station so its a good meeting place for when I meet with Daniel, who comes from Guangzhou. Of the three times I’ve been there, I’ve tried to order a mocha frappe all 3 times. I’ve only gotten one one time. They seem to misunderstand what I’m saying, even though the McCafe menu is in English. One time I got a plain coffee (I think) and one time I got an americano. Shouldn’t be too hard! But for those who think McD’s is cheap in the US, let me tell you what cheap really is. Guess how much this was? There are 5 chicken nuggets and it would be considered a small soda by American standards.

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A whopping 15 yuan, or about US $2.50.

Not too bad for a meal!

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How it feels to be famous

Well obviously I’m not famous. But I don’t think the majority of the population here has caught on to that yet. I have only seen a handful of other westerners here since my arrival, so when the locals spot one they can’t help but stare. Usually its just staring and hushed Cantonese to their friends (they could speak as loud as they want, the only Cantonese I know is ‘bow la’ which means full) but I have been approached by a few. Most of the times they just say hi and run away giggling when I say hello back, but a few have been even bolder.

My first Sunday here we went ice skating at a local mall’s indoor rink so I felt right at home, apart from probably 100 Asians staring at me, wondering who I was and why I could skate so well. One girl approached me and asked if I could teach her sister to skate. So, I tried. How does one teach someone to do something I’ve been able to do for so long? I don’t remember being taught though I’m  sure I was at some point. So I pulled her along telling her to step and glide, and I think she was going a bit better after I had helped her.

Last week, on my first venture out by myself I was greeted by an eager pre-teen near the market. He said hello! And I said hi! And that was it. On my way back from the market he was there again and he extended his (sweaty) hand and said ‘nice to meet you,’ and I said ‘nice to meet you too!’
‘Where are you from?’
‘America’
‘I’m from Hong Kong’ and that was it, the end of our exchange.

This past Sunday when  I went to the pottery kiln, I was stopped by a mid-teens boy who asked me for a picture with me. Had I been quicker thinking I would have taken one to remember that moment, my first picture WITH a stranger here (though I have witnessed others sneaking pictures). I wonder how many blogs my picture is ending up on, as the foreigner with the Chinese family, the confused looking blonde, the tall one, or any combination thereof. If there is a next time, I will definitely get a copy of the picture that I’m asked to be in.

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My first typhoon

Its been windy and rainy here since last night, typical storm (or so I thought) so I come down this morning, ready to bring the kids to school, and apparently this is a typhoon and they don’t have school.  WELL I NEVER! In Minnesota we would still be expected at school bright and early, but in China, a nation known for its dedication to education, they cancel because of a bit of wind? Here are a couple of pictures of the ‘typhoon.’

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My first typhoon

Its been windy and rainy here since last night, typical storm (or so I thought) so I come down this morning, ready to bring the kids to school, and apparently this is a typhoon and they don’t have school.  WELL I NEVER! In Minnesota we would still be expected at school bright and early, but in China, a nation known for its dedication to education, they cancel because of a bit of wind? Here are a couple of pictures of the ‘typhoon.’

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Ancient pottery making area in Foshan

Today, Richard took me to a really neat historic area of Foshan. There are two huge wood burning kilns that have been making pottery for over 500 years. These two buildings (one pictured below) represent the dragon and the phoenix, both symbols of good luck and fortune in China.

~FUN FACT: the kiln house has different roof heights because each level has a different temperature at which to fire the pottery!

This is wall art at the top of the stairs next to the kiln house. It is made of broken pieces of pottery.

Read more about my day after the jump!

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