Posts Tagged ‘ayi’

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


Jill Posted in Uncategorized,Tags:

What a great week!  Last week was our first week with our new “ayi.”  (“Ayi” is literally translated as “aunt,” but refers to just about any female hired help–nanny, maid, housekeeper, etc.)  We interviewed a few ayis last month, decided on one, but had to wait until her current finished before she could start.  Wang Ayi (Wang is her surname) is a full-time (semi-live-in) ayi who help with general housekeeping, cooking meals, and occasional childcare.  She’s here Monday morning through Saturday morning, goes home most nights, and stays the night on occasion.  She doesn’t speak English, and my Chinese is limited, so I had Todd give her some general instructions before he left for work that first day.  Basically, clean up after meals, hang the laundry to dry, sweep the floors daily (the dust in this apartment has me longing for New Mexico), and the last instruction–if you see something dirty, you can clean it. :)  The three of us–Wang Ayi, Todd, and I–all chuckled a bit at that last instruction.  For those who have lived with me (which is oddly more than a few), you know there is ALWAYS something to clean in my house. :)

So, last Tuesday we had been in our apartment for about 2 weeks.  We had mostly arranged the living areas, but were (are) still living out of boxes a bit, particularly in the bedrooms.  Wang Ayi asked about all the boxes, and wondered if we wanted to sell them.  We told her that she could do whatever she likes with them.  Her normally smiling face lit up a bit more when she knew she could have them.  (The excitement of trash and cardboard will require its own post.)

When I heard Wang Ayi in Michael’s room (which had so many boxes that you couldn’t walk around the bed) a little while later, I assumed she was emptying the boxes so she could take them.  Imagine my surprise an hour later when I walked by Michael’s room and found that she had unpacked and organized his entire room!  WOW!  I knew at that moment I could never let her leave! :)  And for Todd, the never-let-her-leave moment came when he realized at the end of the first week that he hadn’t seen laundry at the end of our bed in days.  He didn’t make the connection at first and thought I was responsible for getting ALL the laundry put away EVERY  day.  HA HA HA!   I had to ask, “When has that ever happened in the last 12 years?”  (Why is it that I can sort and wash the laundry, dry and fold the laundry…but can’t get it put away??  That last step has always eluded me.)

How did I ever live without an ayi?!  And the bigger question…do I ever want to live without one again? :)


- Jill