Friday, December 31, 2010


We live for our Fridays. It is our day of the week to do whatever we want or absolutely nothing at all. It is the only day where nothing is planned or expected of us. And so, here we sit, on our bed, studying, reading and blogging. We have dinner plans at a Chinese place around the corner and the rest of the day to enjoy. I haven't even made breakfast yet, but our stomachs are beginning to motivate me to rectify that situation. We usually spend the day preparing some Chinese lesson or reading a magazine article. We decided to have one day a week to rest and recuperate from the week's activities and prepare for the weekend. Ooh, my stomach just growled again, better go make something!


Friday, December 24, 2010

How Could I Forget!

I'm not sure what possessed me to make dinner plans at a restaurant, LAST NIGHT. A temporary memory lapse (no smart remarks please) caused me to forget that yesterday was the 24th. I didn't realize it till we were on our scooters fighting thru unusually cram- packed streets. It was like Mardi-Gras or the circus had come to town. People selling balloons, cans of silly string and cellophane-wrapped apples were EVERYWHERE! Ren shan ren hai! 人山人海 means there are people from the mountains to the sea, everywhere. It had the feeling of a carnival the way people were running around, buying red hats, balloons and spraying silly string on each other. Yeah, that is the Christmas custom here. Don't ask me! Anyway, we fought thru and ended up at a huge food court where we had shrimp hotpot and grilled meat and veggies. It was packed full of people and loud, but we still had a good time. Then Frank took a friend home and I raced back to the safety and relative quiet of our cold apartment, made popcorn and cranked up the space heater in the office. Whew!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Well, would you look at that?

We are back on Blogger, again! We will see how long it lasts this time.

A Typical Thursday

Today, I am writing this blog from the school's computer lab. My students are taking online IELTS Listening tests and then they will watch videos of students who scored well on the speaking part. They only have a few weeks before the test and their stress level is through the roof. There is so much pressure from parents, teachers and school officials for these young people to pass a test they are not prepared for. I try to lessen the stress by having fun activities like computer lab or use speaking practice sessions to talk about things they are interested in, like America. After this class, Frank and I will eat lunch together in the office and he will have his Chinese class. Then 2 hours later, I have my last class with level 1 students. I get to be more creative with them since it will be a year or more before they take this test. We played with balloons last week to teach them the TH sound. TESOL training has definitely come in handy! Thursdays are long days. I used to have an 8:40 class as well. Now I don't have to be here until 10:30am. We finish up around 4pm but most of our time is spent waiting for the next class and the long lunch break. I am here 5 1/2 hours with only 3 hours work. Frank is worse, he has 4 1/2 hours but is here from 8:30-4:00. Such is the life of English teachers in China. At least we are getting paid and have a great boss! It could be much worse! I enjoy having the day with Frank though. Its like when we were first married and worked together doing construction. After school and the hour ride home(for slow poke me, that is), we arrive home exhausted and make dinner or sometimes we go to a friends house for a few hours. The best part is that after our long day, Friday comes, our day of rest.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Eggnog For Two

I was going to make myself some homemade hot chocolate but decided to experiment with eggs instead. Here is my very easy, very fast (10 min), eggnog recipe:

2 1/2 coffee cups of milk, warmed up in a pot

a few tablespoons of sugar, sweeten to your taste

sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg (grated whole nutmeg is best)

a few drips of vanilla (its precious stuff here so have use sparingly)

2 eggs beat well in the coffee cup you already used (no need making more dishes)

Add the Vanilla to the eggs. Add the sugar and spices to the milk as it warms up. Be careful not to let it boil or you will get that yucky skim on top. Use a whisk to keep it moving. When it is almost scalding, slowly pour some into the coffee cup with the eggs while you quickly stir with a fork. I did it twice, a little milk at a time till the cup was almost full. Then, slowly pour the egg mixture into the pot and whisk briskly until almost boiling. It will create a bit of foam on top. Ladle out and sprinkle with more grated nutmeg. Serve and enjoy!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Market Values


Inflation has hit hard here and the first indication is found in the local vegetable markets. 市场 (shi chang). Newspapers and other reporters are beginning to take notice of the impact this has had all over China. The government too has started taking interest since in some places the prices have as much as doubled in a matter of months. Part of the reason seems to be the loss of farmable land due to development. Another reason is the cost of transporting those vegetables has also risen. In our area, an agricultural province, the vegetables do not have to come so far, but that has not stopped people from raising the prices. If you ask why it was less expensive yesterday, they just say: "taxes" and you basically have no solution except not to buy or keep looking for a cheaper price. The price of a carton of milk went from 7.50Y to 8.50Y for about a month and then just like that, it was back to 7.50Y. Do prices really change that quickly or was I being gouged? My friend who shops at the same place never paid more than 7.50Y. Hmmm. Interesting. The government has set up stands all over the city where vegetables are sold at a slightly reduced rate. These are mobbed early in the morning and not much is left by the time we head home from work and have time to stop and buy. They mostly have green, leafy vegetables but I have seen a few with tomatoes and other veggies. I brought a bag today just in case I have an opportunity to buy some. For you living in western countries, this rise in price may not seem so harsh considering how high prices are already. However, when many people here make about $13 US a month, paying twice as much for anything puts things in perspective.

"A quart of wheat for a denarius, and 3 quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the olive oil and the wine"-John


A Frozen...Chin??

I made the mistake of thinking today's weather would be as warm and sunny as yesterday. We all know what happens when you assume, don't we? Thanks to my loving husband, who also assumed, I got a heads up about the "biting cold" along with a request for me to bring the coat he left behind. I was well bundled on my scooter with the extra coat on my lap, a heavy scarf on my head and yes mom, I wore my helmet! However, the only unprotected area was my nose, mouth and chin since the air blew under my face shield as I rode along. I have never had a frozen chin before! Seriously, I could not feel it and hitting it with my hand did nothing, except draw attention to the strange foreigner. It only thawed after I got my hands on China's very inventive little electric hot water bag and sunk my whole face into it. It is 0*C today, around 30F but with a wind chill well below that. Combine the strong winds with driving a scooter and you have... a frozen chin!!


"When the goose honks high, fair weather; when the goose honks low, foul weather"-proverb

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Robbed Again!

I don't think its the money lost that is the issue, but more the feeling of betrayal and helplessness that is left behind when you are robbed. Today, my bike charger was stolen while I was in class at the high school. It was quite possibly another teacher and that really hurts. Nothing is sacred and it is very hard to trust anyone. In a country where "first-come-first-serve" and "survival of the fittest" are the motto for most, I understand why things are stolen so frequently. However, that understanding is not enough to keep me from feeling fed up with the whole thing. I guess it's progress that, instead of getting angry, I was just frustrated and consigned to accepting the loss. I didn't even tell the guards because, well... what can they do? Nothing. I just went and bought a new one. There is always the possibility of losing anything you own, so we have to consider that with every single purchase. Can I bear to lose this?? I am sure it will be something to laugh over very soon.



"Anger is the outcome of the tongue working faster than the brain"-Anon.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Little Things

Our apartment was a lot cheaper than all the others. It was much bigger too. But things like hot water in the shower sometimes are worth the extra expense. This place has been outfitted with solar panels, which may sound great to many. However, the weather has been cloudy, cold and rainy for most of the past two months. Know what that means? NO HOT WATER!!! We let the water run for 30 min. or more hoping it will warm up but, nope. We are going to have to install water heaters at our own expense. The landlord came yesterday to talk to us about it and we discovered that when they installed the plumbing, they did not install a water access valve inside the apartment that we could connect to. So, there is only one kind of water heater we can use. Its a tank that mounts on the wall and plugs into the outlet and the shower tap. He said he would look into prices and installation and get back to us. So we have to start saving for that. Always something! How are we getting along with no hot water, you ask? The same way we did with no washing machine, roughing it! We boil water on the stove for dishes and baths. We haul the stock pot and the kettle into the bathroom, stand at the sink or in the shower and take a bird bath. The water can be as hot as we like! Our water bill should be miniscule too. At least we can escape to our little office with the heater and stay nice and toasty. We have since abandoned the living room, taking the smaller couch with us. Here, surrounded by books, our computers and a wall covered with friends, we spend our quiet time in the evening and any other chance we get, like now. I can't wait for warmer weather! We went out this morning but during lunch, the sky fell and we scurried back to our hole, soaking wet. We ride scooters remember.



"Whether the weather be fine, Whether the weather be not, Whether the weather be cold, Whether the weather be hot, We'll weather the weather, Whatever the weather, Whether we like it or not"-Unknown

Monday, December 6, 2010



I have discovered the pattern of driving in China! I can get to and from work every day without hitting anyone or getting hit by anyone. (Unless it’s Frank, who I have rear-ended and been rear-ended by - He pulled in front of me, stopped suddenly so I hit him, and then just creamed me in the back and broke my fender!) Other than that, there is a real pattern to the mayhem of traffic. That's the pattern-Mayhem! You simply assume that everyone will do everything you don't want them to do and you've got it. The person on the curb who is staring at you will walk in front of you at the last moment. The cars with the red light will run it so wait a full minute after your light turns green for them to race through, along with that string of bikes and scooters coming from all directions, taking advantage of an "empty" intersection. Then proceed slowly, which is no problem for me, since the hamster in my motor has to get warmed up again to build momentum. Watch out for ALL pedestrians coming from ALL directions. The stripes in the crosswalks are for your aesthetic viewing pleasure only. They do look nice contrasted with the bright yellow vest of the traffic guard and his bright red flag that says “Civilized ‘our city’ Civilized people”. Poor guys, there must be a high turn-over rate since the flow of traffic nearly runs them over.

Don’t forget! The turn signal, much like in America, is used as an afterthought if used at all. Expect people to turn left or right at a moments notice and always across your path, Never assume they will complete the turn, or you will be smashed up against their passenger door. Someone will cut them off in the front or they may decide this is the perfect place to park! Like I said, piece of cake!

Jingle Bells?

You hardly realize its already December until you enter the local monster stores like Carrefour and Walmart. Suddenly, you are inundated with holiday fever. For a country that does not profess Christianity, they have certainly adopted the Christmas commercialized spirit. Pushing, shoving, yelling, grabbing, while all par for the course in any season, are taken to a new level in honor of the upcoming Winter festivities. And there's that music, pouring out of the speakers. How did they manage to find the worst possible versions of every song? You know how they get stuck in your head this time of year? Imagine its the chipmunks, man! Or some Chinese song that sounds just like O' Susanna! I rest my case! I had made up my mind to avoid anything larger than a vegetable market and still found myself at Carrefour twice this weekend, in the city center no less! What was I thinking? I feel certain the scars will fade by next Winter. Meanwhile, I will forego the Western amenities only found at these overrun establishments until the storm wreaks its havoc and dissipates. Then, I will have to make a mad rush before the real insanity that is the Chinese New Year begins. Be afraid, be very afraid!

You definitely don't want to forget the best gift this year:

Spray Snow and Spray Flowers: Glorified Silly String! That's right, IT'S BACK!


"When the blind leadeth the get out of the way!"