Oh give me a home, where the elderly roam…

Jill Posted in Uncategorized

Our Chinese friend, Mary (her English name), invited us to visit a park with her family and some friends.  Todd was in San Francisco so he missed out :(, but she drove the kids and I out to this beautiful little park to feed the ducks and fish.  The grounds were so nice and the weather was perfect!  I love Chinese-style gardens.  There’s almost always a water feature, lots of trees, and sidewalks and meandering stone paths.  Here are some pictures of our little Saturday afternoon outing.

This was such a nice place–clean and quiet with lots of families strolling through.  I also noticed lots of older folks sitting around too, but that’s not unusual in China.  (Everyone is family here, and everyone is always outside hanging around visiting with anyone who happens to pass by.  It seems hardly anyone stays indoors.)  I finally asked Mary what this nice place was exactly.  Surprise!  It was an “old folks” home!  Not the answer I was expecting. :)

- Jill

Old habits die…easy? (Grocery shopping, eating, cooking)

Jill Posted in Uncategorized,Tags: , , , ,

I’m beginning to take for granted all the little changes we’ve made since coming here.  If I stop and think about it, it’s quite startling to think about how drastically we changed 12+ years of shopping/eating/cooking habits after moving here.

First there’s grocery shopping.  An ordinary shopping trip is not the ordinary shopping trip you imagine in the U.S.  Actually, I’m sure there are people here who do the normal American-style shopping, but they probably have more money than we do. :)

At home I would have planned the week’s meals, made the 2-page shopping list, driven to the store, and filled up my minivan with $100+ worth of food.

In China, there are 2 stores we frequent: a little store/market next to our house that sells fresh produce, and a bigger Wal-Mart type of supermarket a few blocks away that sells everything.  (The actual term used on their sign is “hypermarket” which I guess is even MORE crazy than a supermarket?) So here is our grocery shopping experience during a typical week.

The little store.  I don’t plan the meals (thanks to our ayi) and make no list.  I walk to the store (3 minutes away) 2-3 times a week, and carry home 2-3 days worth of fresh produce for 20-30RMB (about $3-5).  Have I mentioned how much I enjoy that walk to the store?  It’s very pleasant. :)

The big store.  Once a week we make a 5-10 item list, walk to the bus stop, take the 10-minute bus ride to the big store, buy a week’s worth of meat, grains, snacks, dairy and other miscellaneous items (spices, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.) for about 250-350RMB ($38-$54).  Have I mentioned how much I dislike waiting for the bus to go to the big store?  The bus itself isn’t bad, but sometimes the wait almost as long as it would take us to walk there.  Oh!  And we have to be careful not to buy more than we can carry home!

Chicken, beef, pork, shrimp--meat for a week or so.

Yogurt is much more popular than milk, hence the small milk carton and 2 large yogurt cartons. (This half-gallon carton is the largest size milk I can find.)

Next, diet.  Our eating habits have changed quite a bit.  You can buy western food here, but it’s harder to find, so much more expensive, and so much harder to prepare.  (See tiny oven picture below.)  It’s okay to eat it occasionally, but would be unrealistic for us to do on a daily basis with a large family.  I was thinking about it today and I don’t think I’ve bought a single can of food since we’ve been here.  For me, that’s weird!  We buy meat and veggies and our ayi slices and dices and turns them into something delicious.  I also haven’t bought a single box of cereal.  It’s outrageously expensive for a teeny tiny box.  (We were the biggest cereal eaters ever!) Now we have oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, eggs, or fried rice for breakfast, and occasionally pancakes or waffles.  Lunch and dinner are whatever Chinese food our ayi makes–usually veggies stir-fried with a little meat or tofu served over rice.  She also makes baozi (buns), jiaozi (dumplings), xi’er bing (never seen this anywhere else so I don’t know what it would be in English), and fried rice.  Snacks are fresh fruit, dried fruit, freshly boiled peanuts, edamame, and occasionally crackers of some sort.

Apples, grapes, and boiled peanuts. Typical snacks.

A bit about our kitchen.  The things that get used most often are the rice cooker and the tiny two-burner range.  Notice the counter height in the picture??  (Makes me look like a giant.)  It’s a bit low for us, but perfect for our ayi. :)

And the tiny oven.  9×9 is the maximum size I can fit in it!  But that means I can at least make cookies and (little) cakes.  I can also fit two loaf pans.  I’ve even made some little pizzas!

Teeny tiny oven (that Kaylee Ann is laying her head on), and our water dispenser–a necessity since we don’t drink the tap water.
Teeny tiny fridge. (Freezer is on the bottom.)  This is AFTER going shopping. :) We hardly keep a week’s worth of food in the fridge anymore.

So, there you have it.  Our new normal here in China.  Coming as soon as I can collect a few–photos of meals, courtesy of our ayi.

- Jill

Holy Guacamole!

Jill Posted in Uncategorized,Tags: ,

Two Fridays ago Todd and I were out on our weekly date, wandering through Wudaokou.  (Wudaokou is the neighborhood where Google is located here–a hip and happenin’ area near the universities that caters a bit to foreigners.)  Todd met me at the subway station and we started walking.   At about the same moment that he asked where I wanted to eat, I glanced to my right and saw a glorious, shiny new sign.  (I probably noticed it only because I could actually read it; it was in English.)

Avocado Tree

Mexican Food Restaurant 

“Todd!  What’s that?!”  asking the obvious.  “A Mexican food restaurant here in Wudaokou?!”  ( There is Peter’s Tex-Mex here in town, but it’s an hour and 15 minutes from our house–2 subways lines and a taxi ride away.  Not convenient.)  He said he had noticed their grand opening a few weeks before. Then the same thought crossed both our minds.  If it’s called “Avocado Tree” did we dare hope they might have guacamole???

I should explain a little about our love of guacamole here.  We specifically discussed guacamole before moving to China.  And I decided that if we couldn’t find guacamole this wouldn’t be a problem because I know how to make it!  Just give me some avocados and I can whip it up.  What have we discovered since moving here?  No one in China knows what an avocado is, so there is no store we’ve found that sells them.  Ahhh!  So when Todd goes back to the States he eats guacamole for both of us.  And when we traveled home as a family this summer, we ate guacamole to make up for lost time.  Anyway, back to the Avocado Tree…

We decided to give it a shot.  After walking through the small, nondescript entrance we were surprised to find a rather large, exceptionally clean restaurant.  (This is a treat here in China. :) ) After the cleanliness, the second thing I noticed was a big picture of guacamole on the menu!  JACKPOT!  We were almost giddy with excitement.  I say almost because sometimes food here looks American but tastes Chinese.  So, there was no way to be sure if this was Chinese food in a good disguise until we tasted it.  The menu wasn’t huge, but WHO CARES!  It has GUACAMOLE!  We each ordered a burrito with a side of chips, salsa (more like pico de gallo) and GUACAMOLE.  (Sorry, have to keep shouting GUACAMOLE because yes, it IS that exciting!)  We took our first couple bites, and then we really were giddy.  It was not Chinese Mexican food!  (That sounds weird.)

We were so excited about our little discovery that we brought our new friends, the Carters, to try it out the very next night.  (You can read their perspective on dinner here.)  Well, I am really craving guacamole after writing this post, so I think I’m going to end here and stop teasing my stomach. :)  Viva el guacamole!


- Jill