Gas & Electric Bills – No More!

Todd Posted in Uncategorized,Tags:

[Found this in my drafts from a month ago, oops - forgot to publish it!]

Any of you ever wished you could just kiss your gas and electric bills goodbye forever?  Well, come move to China!  Turns out that we’ll never receive a single bill for our gas and electric usage.  Sound too good to be true?  Wondering what the catch is?  You’ve come to the right place – here is the 101 on gas and electric bills in China (or at least in Beijing).

My typical experience in the U.S. was that once a month someone came and checked my gas meter, and my electric meter.  They noted the new values on the meters, and then we ended up receiving a bill for the amount used (sound pretty normal?).  Things are done differently here in Beijing, no one comes by and checks how much electricity or gas you’ve used, no one sends you a bill.  So, is it all free you ask?  How does this work?  Well, in our apartment (and in most all apartments from what I can tell), we have an electrical meter sitting directly outside of our front door in the hallway, it looks like this:

Our electric meter is the one on the right, showing we have a bit over 100 units of electricity left.

This meter works in a much different way than meters in the U.S. – it counts down.  The number you see is how much electricity you have remaining until your electricity will just stop working.  It’s up to you to go out and pre-purchase electricity when you need it and add it to your meter for usage.  Smart cards are used for this purpose.  I have a smart card that I take to a 24 hour terminal and the local bank from which I can purchase electricity, gas, water, internet service, amongst others.  I put in my electricity smart card, type the amount I want to buy, swipe my bank card, and the amount is added to my card.  When I return home, I simply insert the card into the electric meter which then updates the amount I have remaining.  Pretty cool ay?

I’m particularly impressed with what seems to be the norm so far concerning most purchases here in China.  Rather than paying after the fact (as seems to be the norm in the U.S. and other countries for many purchases including utilities), you actual purchase things ahead of time before you use them.  It is this way with our electricity and gas, as well as with our rent (albeit rent is typically pre-paid in the U.S. as well).  It might seem like a minor difference (i.e. a one month difference in when you pay), but I think it shows a difference in mindset somewhat between living within your means and living on credit.  Living within your means is the best way to go.


- Todd

Engrish – Take 1

Todd Posted in Uncategorized,Tags: ,

I’ve enjoyed posts from other blogs that highlight Engrish signs, notes, etc… so figured I should help share some of the fun Engrish we’ve seen the first few weeks while galavanting about Beijing.  To start, here is a notice at the breakfast served here at our furnished apartment we are currently at:

Please don't take over the food!!!

They are very protective of their food – don’t want any outsiders taking it over ;)  This next one we saw along the street not far from where we are living:

Put your clothes on light!

Yup, all lights must have clothes in Beijing!  Jill had already posted this one, but just to include it in this Engrish post for your enjoyement, here is the wonderful wheat smell breakfast:

Yummy, wheat smell breakfast!

Last (for this post anyhow), I’d like to share something I ran across yesterday afternoon while at a “Temple Fair” (庙会) in Beijing.  These Temple Fairs held at Buddhist Temples remind me of county fairs back in the U.S. minus the carnival rides.  They do have all the rigged games though, where it is next to impossible to win that large stuffed animal.  To play these games though you first have to purchase tokens, and are confronted with this sign at the token booth:

So, that will be ten money three, and it won't be retail, ok?

I must say that after reading the English side multiple times, I was at a loss for what they were trying to convey.  A perhaps more readable English translation would be “10 yuan for 3 tokens, tokens have no retail value and are non-refundable.”

Enjoy the Engrish ;)

- Todd


Jill Posted in Uncategorized,Tags:

Mmm…I love food!  (Did you know that?)  I think food is one of the “biggies” that defines a culture.  (By the way, I am SO glad I love Chinese food!  I would sure be in a heap of trouble if I didn’t.)  Because I am interested in food I like to assume everyone else is.   Here is our food experience so far.


We are fortunate to be in a serviced residence while we wait for our shipment to arrive.  This means we have a

Baozi, sweet ones. The kids LOVE these and eat them as treats several times a week.

cute little kitchen with some basic cookware.  Phew.  I have the privilege (you heard me) to cook at home and help our bottom line, and I’m sure it doesn’t hurt our waistline either. :)  I think eating out every meal would be torture for the super-thrifty-penny-pincher in me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to able to go out occasionally, but it’s something I plan and save for; it’s a treat.

So most days we eat at home, and rarely is it American food.  The ingredients are just harder to come by here (see banana bread post :)), and if you do find them in the international section of the store you can guarantee it will be double the cost of anything local.  So I usually cook up some meat and/or veggies in a skillet (since I don’t have a wok) and serve it with noodles or rice.

Chopping garlic stems for dinner. Super tasty!

You know, it’s surprising how many different meals one can conjure up with the same basic ingredients!  The one repeat we have is one of my all-time favorite foods–fried rice.  I LOVE FRIED RICE.  It’s not just a China thing.  I have loved that stuff for years and years.  I make it at home, order it at Chinese restaurants.  I can (and do) eat buckets of that stuff.


So, what did we eat our first night in Beijing???  McDonald’s!  Ha ha ha.  Ridiculous, but true.  We hadn’t gone to the store yet and didn’t have food.  Anyway, the kids enjoyed the food, and the locals enjoyed our kids enjoying the food.  (Have I mentioned the attention we get taking 5 kids out??)  We also had Pizza Hut (Chinese-style pizza sans sauce) delivered one night.  Here’s something fun that I bet you didn’t know.  Pizza Hut is not the only place that delivers here.  McDonald’s does too.  Kinda fun.  We ordered ice cream last week and had it delivered.

McDonald's ice cream--delivered. Cheers!

We’ve heard that many other places deliver here as well, including the local Carrefour (European Wal-Mart-type chain).  I’m seriously tempted to have my groceries delivered from there!  It would sure beat trudging home with heavy bags in that biting Beijing wind.

Last week Joe and Carrie (new friends who live in the same temp housing) treated our family to dinner.  What a nice thing!  I am truly humbled when someone does that because our family is NOT small.  I didn’t realize that was what was happening until we started to order.  Anyway, they took us to a great little dumpling (jiaozi) place just a few subway stops from home.  Besides the yummy food and great company, one of the neat things was getting to watch the dumpling-making process.  At first glance it looks like a team of surgeons–masks and all–performing a delicate operation behind glass. :)

The delicate surgery of...dumpling making.

Fancy dumplings topped with shrimp.

Die hard dumpling fan.

The 2nd weekend we were here Yugeng’s family invited all of us out to dinner.  (Still can’t believe people bring our big ol’ family to dinner!!)  Wow.  A teppanyaki style,  ten course meal.  Ten.  No exaggeration.  One of the nicest things was that we had our own room.  With 5 kids, that is a really great thing. :)  And the dinner–it was delicious, entertaining, beautifully presented, and darn it all I forgot my camera!  The kids are still talking about that meal, more than 2 weeks later.  I guess it left an impression on me as well, since I can still probably list each dish.  Memory test.   Ready, go:

  1. Appetizer of sushi
  2. Green salad with lip-smackingly good strawberry dressing
  3. 2 different soups, but I don’t know what they would have been called
  4. Fish with a potato-soup-type sauce
  5. Custard-like egg dish, cooked and served in egg shells, topped with pork bites and caviar.  (Ok, I have to find a picture of this one, because it looks so unique.)
  6. Shrimp–can’t remember how it was served, but I remember loving it.
  7. Steak, cut into juicy little bites and dipped in a super savory seasoning
  8. Baby somethings (sprouts? mushrooms?) rolled in paper-thin sliced beef (I think?)
  9. Sauteed mixed vegetables–cabbage, summer squashes, onions–I think?
  10. Fried rice
  11. Fresh, sliced and diced melons and fruits (Ok, so there were 11 including the fruit.)

I thought, “Wow, NOW I’m full,” before each of the last 6 courses.  They just kept coming!  Every time our chef started to throw a new dish on the grill the kids’ jaws dropped a little more and their eyes got a bit wider.  It was unbelievable.  I didn’t think we’d need to eat again for a week after we rolled out of there.  I’ve been treated to some really nice dinners, but that one just may take the cake!  Thank you, Sun family!


I think I mentioned our first trip to the store.  We had Michael take the pictures for us.  We thought it might be less conspicuous and strange than having adults do it.  Fine, I admit.  I was too embarrassed. :) Pictures, courtesy of Michael and Kaylee Ann.  (Next time I’ll have them snap a picture of the hanging pigs. :))

"Wheat smell breakfast" Mmm...makes my mouth water.

Fish, photographed by Michael.

Kids and fish.

We’ve done the regular store thing, Carrefour, and we’ve also done the little outdoor stands.  Todd occasionally buys fruits and veggies from a little vendor just around the corner.  His latest purchase was “huo long guo,” literally translated as “fire dragon fruit.”  YUMMY!  This was a huge hit with the family.  That’s all for now folks.  Until next time!

Huo long guo (fire dragon fruit)

- Jill