Week 1 – Food, Fun, Phone, and Freezing Our Fannies Off

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Exquisite gift from Yugeng's family (our exchange student). Bigger than it looks in this picture. Notice it takes up a third of our dining table?

[Note to reader: my picture gallery is driving me bonkers.  Please ignore the duplicate pictures.  Can't figure out why it won't cooperate. :(]

Hello from Beijing!  We’ve been here 1 week!  Here’s a recap by topic. :)

WEATHER.  I’m excited.  I just checked the weather and tomorrow will be a balmy 36 degrees Fahrenheit!  We’ve been here 1 week today, and this will be the first day with a high above freezing.  Yea!   Highs have been in the twenties–and that’s normal for this time of year.  Eek.

BANANA BREAD(-ISH).  I was feeling a little adventurous in the kitchen today.  My overly ripe bananas had been begging me to do something with them for a couple days.  So, I made Banana Sour Cream bread.  Sort of.  I had to improvise.  I didn’t have a mixing bowl or bakeware of any sort.  (We won’t get our shipment until we’re in our permanent place.)  I had about half of the ingredients, and then made do with 5 substitutions:

  • sour cream: plain Chinese style yogurt
  • white sugar: soft white sugar.  It’s white but has the consistency of brown sugar.  Never seen anything like it until now.
  • baking soda: umm…I couldn’t find a suitable substitute.  Just decided to be okay with “unleavened” bread :)
  • vanilla extract: almond extract.  glad I tucked it in my suitcase full of spices!
  • nuts: didn’t have any, oh well.

So, besides those ingredients I had everything else!  Ha ha!  It was definitely different, but still yummy enough that the kids and I devoured it at snack time.  Todd’s comment, “Wow.  It’s very….Chinese!”  Thanks! I think?


FOOD.  I am so glad that I like Chinese food!  Actually, I’m glad that most of our family likes Chinese food.  The kids are totally digging the noodles, dumplings, and steamed buns.  We promptly bought a new rice cooker when we arrived.  It has a steamer basket inside so we can cook our frozen dumplings and buns.  Yea!  And if you haven’t heard, your rice cooker can also double as a mixing bowl when you need to make banana bread.  :)

The breakfast menu, in order of frequency eaten: yogurt (drunk through a straw), baozi (steamed stuffed buns), toast, oatmeal, jiaozi (dumplings).  We have 2 tickets for breakfast each morning, and the lucky 2 people who eat at the buffet get to choose from lots of Chinese food with a few western things thrown in for good measure–namely cereal, toast, and bacon.

For lunch it’s noodles, fruit, and an occasional peanut butter sandwich or jiaozi.  Dinner is whatever I can scrounge together from our meager ingredients.  (I forgot how hard it is to start a kitchen from scratch.)  Chao fan (fried rice), jiaozi, baozi, rice, chao mian (fried noodles),  soup, McDonalds.  Yes, we did McDonald’s once right after we got here since we hadn’t been to the store yet.  Which leads me to our outings…

OUTINGS.  Now those are fun!  Ok, and a little scary.  Todd and I have 4 hands between us, and 5 kids.  No way to hang on to all the hands when we’re out and about.  So I find myself constantly counting heads, making sure everyone got on the subway, off the subway, on the escalator, off the escalator, across the street, in the building, on the elevator, off the elevator, out of the way of the crazy taxi drivers.  You get the picture.  And it’s great having a herd of kids with us.  With 2 children, people stare.  Wow!  Two kids!  “Liang ge xiao har!”  (Not sure how to spell “har.”) So we come along with our troop, see people counting, then hear them ask “4 kids!?!”  Then we get to say, “No…five!”  (Somehow they always miss one.)  Ha ha!

Bundled up!

Because it’s the dead of winter we bundle everyone up in 3 or 4 layers, and complete their already-poofy outfits with hats, coats, and mittens.  If the wind is blowing that’s really not fun.  It cuts right through those layers, and I feel like I can hardly smile sometimes because my face is frozen.  (Guess we need to get something to cover our faces?)

On the way to the store.

We walked to McDonald’s last Friday evening, walked to the grocery store on Saturday, and took the subway to church on Sunday.  Taking the subway also requires a little walking, so the girls and I wore pants to church and changed into our dresses in the bathroom after we arrived.  Fun stuff. :)  The trip to church is about 45 minutes on the subway, but we’ll need to leave a bit earlier so we can change clothes and comb out everyone’s hat hair after we arrive.

CELL PHONE.  Ug.  Almost forgot about this experience.  Kind of wish I could.  Todd was so nice.  He went out last Saturday evening and spent hours in the tech district shopping for a cell phone.  Well, he brought home this shiny, red smart phone on Saturday night.  Spent a lot more money on it than I felt we had.  And gave it to me!  Wow!  My cell phone is going to be my lifeline!  It has directions and maps, Chinese dictionaries and translators, people’s phone numbers in case I get lost.  Yeah, can’t live without it.  Needless to say, I felt pretty special.  So special that I left that shiny new phone in the bathroom at the church building the following morning.  (FYI, we attend church in one area of a building that is open to the public and houses other things.)   Well, no big deal.  I realized it while we were on the subway home.  We got home and quickly called back to the church and talked to someone there.  “Yeah, if you leave your cell phone somewhere, you can kiss it goodbye.”  Sure enough, we tried calling it and it had been turned off.  Someone had already pulled the battery.  I owned it for a whole 12 hours. :(  So, I’m still without a cell phone, and haven’t ventured out without Todd because of it.  I can say “oh well” now, but on Sunday I felt totally sick over it and had to cry it out of my system.  At least I have the box to look at…? :)

There’s so much more I should write, but I’ll have to save it for my next post.  Zai jian!

- Jill

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