So I keep falling asleep every time I sit down, which sucks... even on the subway, if I am lucky enough to get a seat. :( It probably has nothing to do with the fact that my commute to and from work is now a three mile sprint walk to a subway, where I stand, nearly transfused to an expressionless stranger, then straight to teaching classes, lesson planning, dealing with drama, after which I return home to Gaga Drama and the Divas and if....and that is if, I don't fall asleep on my one hour off a day, I try to reach out via facebook to the friends I miss and adore and finish my pending book deals. This blog sits unattended, which makes me sad :(
Luckily on the writing front, I have finished one pending book and hope to have another competed soon and then the third....so cross fingers I can get caught up with that.
Life in China....
Well, I have already learned so much...and have changed a lot in a few ways, good ways, thanks China.
Culture Shock: I expected massive culture shock and never really got it. I HATE the live food markets that make me really sad, but if I dissect it down to the least common denominator, its not the live food market (who are we kidding, fish are floating around half dead waiting to made into dinner in the States too, we just don't see it) its the inhumanity to animals that gets me...but we have that in the States too, so that's not really a culture shock. And this may be surprising to most, but most Beijingers eat at least one vegetarian meal a day, and it is really easy to find a vegetarian and even vegan meal in most restaurants, that is delightful. The food is incredible and very simple. Wok + oil + some spice (not tons)+ FRESH food = heaven. Seriously cooking here is very simple, flash fry in a very hot pan with oil, chili, garlic and salt, use fresh veggies and some tofu, warm steamed rice or noodles and you have a meal. Somehow the restaurants can make the simplest ingredients taste incredible....not sure how.
The refrigerators in Beijing are a little bigger than dorm sized and fit only small amounts of food....here's why, you shop every day. You also throw your trash away everyday in tiny flimsy gauze like bags that rip when lightly touched. Those Ralphs plastic bags we used to get for free in the States are really envied here and usually are used for other things like storing clothes or as luggage, but if you are affluent enough to use one as a garbage bag, your life is a lot breezier. Also you don't waste anything, NEVER, you dont't throw away food, you don't usually make too much, everything can be used again and if it can't be reused you recycle it. I was so blessed the other day to find parmesan cheese, the crappy Kraft kind in a snack sized container, but it felt like I had struck oil, I covet that little green tube and am so happy I found it as it is a little taste of home. Even though I didn't like it much at home I like it now, even more so because it cost me almost $5, so some stuff in China is very expensive. You seriously use and covet every tiny thing. In this way China is much better than the US who wastes a lot, the Chinese just don't waste...so for all the ills that have been preached to us about Chinese lifestyle, I have found the Chinese to be a very peaceful, resourceful and environmentally aware people, at least my friends are.
Everything is fresh, the open air markets that stay open almost all day and night have fresh food delivered from the farm daily, if not twice a day. We have a fresh food vendor just outside the doors to our Hutong (compound) and they have fresh fruit delivered every morning and they are open until about 2AM every night. Everything tastes amazing...from this stand point we are really being spoiled.
Our Hutong is a series of about five large blocks that house a super market, hair salon, restaurant, hole-in the wall restaurant thing (2) a hospital, police station, convenience store, liquor store, pet shop, masseuse, odds and ends market and a few clothing shops as well as a central "park" where the kids play. Living here is like living in an episode of some 1950's family comedy, where it is very safe, everyone plays with your kids and everyone knows your name. For example most people in the compound know we live on the seventh floor, and many if not all know that the kids are adopted. We are local celebrities and my mom and the girls are always meeting an talking to new people. This is cool.
Culture shock....well, guess what the Chinese WILL eat almost anything if they are poor, and the level of poverty that most Chinese experience is beyond most of our comprehension. I happened to wander into a "normal" hutong that was much more like the way most of China lives, they had their convenience store, but a family of four and grand parents slept on the dirty mattress behind the crumbling facade, kids bathed in buckets outside of windowless brick dwellings that smelled of urine and had a dirt floor, torn and ratty clothes hung from clotheslines as stray dogs ambled along the dirt road where people sat on taped up or broken stools staring at the ground or prodding a stray noodle in a chipped bowl of soup. I was always greeted with a gracious smile, but behind the kind eyes was a distant stare that pleaded with me to keep walking and not take in the sights around me as it would expose the vast difference between us as I lived my life in affluence and they lived theirs in filth. However, even despite their dire poverty, there was a sense of community among them, this was their home, their land and their place to share with each other. High above them, the gleaming towers of a new more capitalistic China stand as a beacon to bargain hunting foreigners looking for a good deal on diamonds and gold, where just below, hidden in a dark alley, the people of China lived without ever making enough money to even order a coffee in the trendy cafe that sits below the jewelry market.
So these people, the poor will eat anything....they simply must. However, most middle class Chinese will absolutely not eat a dog, goldfish, ferret, scorpion and are, shocking as it may seem, exactly like us. In fact the friends I work with, both Chinese and Foreign are just like the friends at home (minus the fact that I have known most of you for years and years and years and miss you terribly!!!) But they are not running each other over on the roads and they are not cooking up fido....they simply don't!!! And some of my Chinese friends make no more that $500 a month, which would in some people's eyes, cast them in the barbarian class, but as I said, they are absolutely no different that us, for the exception (my friends excluded) that they are more gracious, more kind and more willing to help you than most.
However....remember those split pants on the kids, well I have had my ass chewed out by fiesty grandmas in the park that Little Diva (who is big for her age) is A) not potty trained...okay she is a little over 2 and a half and we are working on it AND, not wearing split pants....diapers are just a no no!!!! Shame on me for keeping my 2 year old in diapers...she should either have her little brown butt out for all to see, or just be done with potty training by now...GET IT TOGETHER MOMMA DRAMA...we are NOT impressed. Okay, but in America kids wear diapers till three sometimes, in fact they are not diapers but pullups, which aid in potty training, in America, kids don't pee on the ground anywhere, like in parks, at malls or on buses....cause, um in America that's gross, so you are telling me that my kid wearing a diaper is just so NOT OKAY with you and shows a lack of parenting skill on my part and it is BETTER (read: more desired) that I let my kid pee anywhere, wear slitted pants that make her butt hang out, than to allow her to continue to wear diapers, which are really pull ups...um, okay, I'll get back to you on that.
Other shocking thing...people sleep ANYWHERE....I first noticed this in Ikea, when all of the beds where occupied by sleepers and I had to actually move a man's foot over on the toddler bed I was looking at to see the price...okay really...SLEEPING (and I mean the snoring kind) in IKEA is just wrong!!!!
So, on that point, we have a market under my work, its really just a few stalls with people who own propane heaters that cook on them, but the food is really yummy...and fresh. So we all usually order the same meals everyday that consist of a soup of fresh tofu (dried into strings that have a meat like texture) glass noodles, fresh veggies and a fresh Salt bread (hand made just an hour before purchase) to dip into the soup. The Chinese call this dish Hot, Hot, Hot, because the temperature is hot, the spice is hot and in the flow of Chi...the energy is Yang....or hot!!! It is really delicious and costs....8 Yaun which is $1.20 in US dollars. So, like I said most of us either get the fresh (made in front of you) Gyoza (or Joyza as said here) for $1.50 (which is for about 25 dumplings) or Hot Hot Hot. Well I was working late and missed lunch so I went down after I was done with my lesson plan and when I arrived EVERY VENDOR and I am not exaggerating!!!! was asleep. I finally woke up the Gyoza vendor for a few dumplings and he almost barked at me and went back to sleeping. The fruit vendor then stirred and I believe told me off....not sure....but it sounded that way. So I went upstairs and skipped lunch. NOW...this is not some alley in the back of someone's house, this ia a market with an escalator and signs and stuff...and everyone was too sleepy to sell me my lunch so I skipped it...welcome to China.
Transportation....I will show pics at the ends of this, but I'll just say the family vehicle here is a bike with a padded book rack. Hubby peddles, wife sits on the padded book rack and kiddo balances precariously between pappa's legs as he weaves in and out of death defying traffic. EVERYONE does this...this is not just a side show freak...these are everyday families going to and from places...everyday. One bike three people...Welcome to China. Also everything is transported by bike...bedding, water, flooring, pets...all bundled up and perched on that book rack on the back, or a small trailer....the bike IS Beijing's mode of transit.
So, we have a holiday coming up and I plan to get some sleep and some photos and some better blogging down, but for now here are pics to show you of life here. I will have more videos up on facebook in a day or two....
The last pic is of my Beijing Family Dream "Car", if we stay in China longer (hint: um...well, IF WE STAY IN CHINA LONGER....we will be home for a long vacation....if..) I will buy one of these as our family car :)...can't really fit two Diva's, Gaga Drama and Me on a bike...but we could in one of these bad boys :)