Monthly Archives: March 2012

Pork that tastes like pork!


Well I went and did it yesterday. At the wet market – I bought pork.

I picked out a nice little filet, she tried to get me to buy more (they always do), and paid for it. Her next door neighbor was trying to get me to buy from him but he wasn’t subtle enough. I could have started a bargaining war (thanks RHHOG for that warning) but the language skills aren’t up for that yet. I’d just end up looking like more of a fool than I already do. ūüôā

I made pork fried rice with it and it was delicious. It was the best pork we’ve had since moving here. We haven’t eaten a lot of any meat but what I buy comes from the supermarket. This filet was so tender and tasted like pork! Imagine that? I could actually taste the meat. It weighed 3/4 of a pound and the price? For a filet, mind you. $2.45.

I told Ben about it this morning and he was impressed that I did it! He said that not many Americans buy meat at the wet markets. He said that because this one is in the city he trusts the quality more than the ones that are further out. He told me that next time he’ll go with me and show me where to buy the best meat for the best price. ūüôā

Next: live shrimp! I’ll try to take pictures.

1PM – 81¬į

A long sentence in Mandarin!


I had a major Mandarin success this morning. I was telling Ben that I needed to buy a new bathroom scale.¬† We have been without one for about 6 weeks. We were discussing where to get one and the place where¬†he suggested is where I buy my food: it’s kind of like a Super Wal-Mart but it’s not. He said that if I didn’t need other¬†things there he would take me to another place that was closer. So I said:

“I don’t need to buy a lot of food because we’re going to Hong Kong this weekend.”

This was all in Chinese. I hadn’t warned him like I usually do¬†so I watched his face the whole time I said it. ¬†He grinned and then there was silence. I thought that surely there was a correction or two or three.¬†After a few seconds of waiting (he was so¬†messing¬†with my head ;-)) I finally asked if that was right. He nodded enthusiastically and told¬†me he understood just¬†fine. ¬†

It was a definite improvement from the half sentences, common phrases, and Chinglish sentences that I spew.

3PM – 81¬į

What? Huh? Are you kidding me?


It is another beautiful day in GZ. The sun managed to shine through the high clouds (might be a little smog mixed in), there is no humidity, a gentle breeze, and so many things are blooming. I decided to walk to the river to read a bit and listen to birds instead of pounding, drilling, hammering, and noisy dump trucks.

There is a huge stone bench on the river walkway that is underneath a Bougainvillea arbor. It’s¬†beautiful and one of my favorite places to sit and think, read, or watch the world go by. It’s probably about 20 feet in length so when a ¬†nice-looking man pulled up on his bicycle I wasn’t concerned that he was going to invade my space. He sat a respectable distance away and pulled out his newspaper. He also pulled out a pack of cigarettes but that was OK¬†as I was upwind from him. He sat, smoked, and read his paper for about 20 minutes.¬†I sensed him gathering his things so when he¬†passed in front of me on his bike I looked up and smiled.

Punchline: He had donned a white, cloth breathing mask.

5PM – 79¬į

The life of a Taitai


Today was a fantastic day. First of all the sun has made an appearance for the last several days and it’s amazing how much¬†of a difference it makes. The temperature is warmer and there is very¬†little humidity in the air. In other words it feels like late spring. I’m told it won’t last long so I intend to enjoy it while I can.

I started off with a Mandarin lesson that was a lot of fun. I learned about the Chinese holidays and their meaning. I read a poem associated with the upcoming festival. I read it to Ben in the car. I went back about 45 years and felt like I was a kindergartner reciting a poem for my mom and dad. He was a good sport and helped me where I needed it.¬† Personally I think I’m helping prepare him for when his daughter comes home and recites her little¬†Qingming¬†Jie poem. I guarantee she will have better pronunciation and will be a thousand times cuter. ūüôā

Then I happened to mention to Ben that I need chicken wire (did not even come close to using those words) to keep Lily from jumping off the balcony of our 6th floor apartment. Yesterday she was perched on the edge and I was just waiting for a bird to fly by and have her forget where she was. She thinks she’s a tough outdoor cat. She’s not! He took me to a tiny hardware stall near the wet market and asked me how much I needed. I NEVER expected to do it today so I never measured. I just wanted to know if he knew where I could accomplish this task. He probably thought typical woman. If I just get the measurement he’ll go and get what I need and probably at a better price without the American standing next to him. I don’t feel bad having him do it either because I have learned that he loves to bargain.

Then I met RHHOG (Real House Husband of Guangzhou) for lunch at 12:30. ¬†He’s the fellow blogger I met that lives here in GZ. ¬†I had such a good time with him. I snagged a table outside in the sunshine and we were able to talk, drink beer, eat burgers, and talk some more. I told Ben that I would probably only be at the restaurant for an 1 hour – 1 1/2 hours. At 3:30 he drove by. I am laughing as I write this. I guess he was checking to make sure I was OK. Now RHHOG is the same guy that Ben got a little upset about way back when I met him the first time for coffee. That post seemed to be the favorite of a lot of people. Where would I be without my protector? Last night when I told Anders that I was meeting RHHOG for lunch he asked me if Ben knew? ūüėČ RHHOG decided it would be wise to introduce himself to Ben and exchange niceties (in Mandarin). I further explained the situation to Ben on the way home. I think we’re cool now. And just in case you’re nosy, RHHOG, Mrs. RHHOG, Anders, and I have been out for dinner together and will meet again next month for dim sum.

So to recap my difficult day:

  • Fun mandarin lesson
  • Mere mention of needing to buy something and I’m whisked to the market
  • 3 1/2 hour ¬†lunch with a good friend outside in the sunshine
  • Oh yes, leftovers for dinner so I don’t even need to cook!

Life doesn’t get any better.

6PM – 76¬į

“They” learned a valuable lesson!


Whenever I get together with Anders’ team I seem to do things that I’ve never done before. They’re good for me, I think. ūüėČ This post is part of my doing “anything that’s asked of me as long as it’s not illegal or immoral while I’m here” crusade.

Saturday afternoon 14 or so of us met for lunch to send one of his team members off to a new assignment. We met at a Chinese place for lunch that was fantastic. On our way there, Ben told us that this place is #1 restaurant in GZ for serving eel. He didn’t know the English word for eel and I certainly didn’t learn it in Chinese because I didn’t think it was necessary for my culinary dictionary. But he very easily used his hands¬† to explain(I think he’s part Italian) and I figured out that we were going to be enjoying, or at least trying,¬†eel for lunch.

As it turns out we had it 3 different ways. The first way was my favorite which I think was smoked. I don’t even know what I’m eating which is a problem. When the mood strikes and I just gotta have me some eel how will I ever know what to order? It was also cooked another way (no idea how) and served with a wasabi sauce. That too was good but it was a little rubbery, perhaps overcooked? Then we had it in fried rice. They probably just used yesterday’s eel for that because those pieces were small. ūüėČ

We managed to play another game of good person, idiot, and ghost after we were done eating. They were explaining to a few others how to play in Chinese and I caught the word “shagua”. When I so proudly announced that I knew that word they all laughed. That was one of the first words Ben taught me in one of our “cursing” lessons. Although it’s not a curse it’s just not so nice to call someone shagua/idiot/moron.

We then walked a few blocks for karaoke! Yeah, they do love karaoke in Asia and it is a favorite pastime for a lot of people. Anders has done it before with his team but this was my first time ever. Now…I do not sing…for anyone! I think I have an awful voice. Somehow whenever I sing, what I “hear” in my brain doesn’t match with what I hear with my ears. In my mind I’m on key, on the beat, and sound darn good. In reality, it’s quite different. All of the people we were with are quite good. D has a beautiful voice, very beautiful. I managed to skirt the issue despite being very politely asked several times if I would sing.

We played Spoons again! They are so cute.¬† XJ asked if I brought my traveling spoons and cards and when I told him I forgot (I had planned on it) he stopped at a convenience store, bought 2 decks of cards, and we used The Music Box” spoons. If you lost you had the¬†choice of drinking or singing. Needless to say, I chose drinking. In the end I succumbed to peer pressure of the kindest, gentlest sort, but succumbed nonetheless. I took Anders down with me too. We sang “You’re the One that I Want” from Grease, minus the ShakeShack. I hammed it up sufficiently to deflect attention from having anyone actually hear.¬† Some of them¬†were recording with their phones and I bet that poor Anders and I are on Weibo (China’s equivalent to Facebook). Anders deserves someone way better than me in the choral department. And then…we left.

I’m certain there will not be multiple pleas next time we go out for karaoke, provided I even get an invitation. ūüėČ

5PM – 74¬† sunny, glorious, dry¬į

You know you want to know


I know that you want to know what I’m about to tell you but you’re too polite or too embarrassed to ask. Lucky for you I’m neither. Growing up with 5 brothers and living in China will do that! ūüôā

  • What are the bathrooms like? They are hit or miss. Some are clean, some are filthy. They are no different from any country’s public bathrooms in that regard. Some have western toilets¬†but most are squatters. Sometimes stall doors are marked with a representation of a western toilet seat so you can go in there¬† but this is rare. Personally, I try not to perpetuate the stereotype and therefore avoid being seen going into one marked as such.
  • Have you used a “squatter”? I probably used a squatter at the very first place I had to use the facilities upon arrival last April on our look/see trip. ¬†I have easily used more squatters than not since that time. The only thing you have to be sure to have is TP or tissue. You know how in America you’re surprised (and irritated) if there isn’t any TP left in the dispenser? Here, you’re surprised if you see a dispenser, filled or not! You NEVER, EVER go into one without it because chances are none will be provided. If it is, there is a communal dispenser and you have to remember to check before you enter the stall. Soap is not often provided for washing up afterwards either. There is usually a sink but all you get is water and as your mother told you, “You have to use soap now get back in there and USE SOAP!” So…hand sanitizer is helpful.
  • Have you gotten used to squatters?¬†Squatters are so easy. Really. We make way too big a deal of it. It is what it is. That is one of my mottoes while living here. You get used to. Just imagine what the Chinese think when they come to America and see what we have going on. I bet there is some Chinese ex-pat in America right now¬†that is writing a blog post about American bathrooms and how extravagant they are when really all you need is a hole and a flushing mechanism! Now, having said all that, I do use my own bathroom before I walk out the door and I know where the good bathrooms are at the places we frequent. ūüėČ
  • Is there a line outside women’s bathrooms like everywhere else in the world? Yes. We can send men to the moon, make electricity of wind, and¬†I can “video” chat with my kids for free using the phone and iPad like they were sitting in the same room with me but…no one, not one single person in charge of designing public toilets¬†in the entire world, has figured out that women need more toilets than men!!!
  • Do men’s urinals at Chinese rest stops have jokes above them? YES! Who knew? Anders didn’t and I still wouldn’t know if Anders hadn’t come out of a rest stop bathroom on the way to Yangshuo laughing hysterically. (I was a little worried until he explained and showed me his phone) The women’s bathroom didn’t and I’ll allow you to draw your own conclusions about what that says about men and intelligence. It also further proves the point that public bathrooms are designed and built by men!

Today’s slideshow is a 2 sets of photos. The first set is the “urinal” jokes and English translations. They are hilarious! Not because the jokes themselves are funny but the translations are priceless. Anders took about 8 pictures in all but I only posted 3. I wonder what the other people in there thought while he was taking photos?!?!

The second set is the facilities at the farmhouse where we had lunch. I said it was rural and real China. Makes me appreciate how spoiled I am.

Reminder: to stop the slideshow, hover the cursor on the photo and a box will appear surrounded by arrows at the bottom of the photo. Click on the box to stop the show. You have to do this in order to read and fully appreciate the jokes. This is mostly for my dad, just in case he’s reading this. Love ya Dad!!!

5:30 PM – 78¬į

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The end of Yangshuo


I have a few things to wrap up and then I’ll be done with Yangshuo.

  • Anders’ team could not have been nicer to us. They treated us like we were royalty. We went to the noodle restaurant for breakfast, were told to sit down (no waiting in line for us) were presented with a menu, asked what we wanted, and a tray appeared with our bowl of noodles. We did not order one bite of food the entire weekend. I got up to pour tea and was practically tackled at the knees by 2 of the women! They were not going to let the laoban’s wife pour tea for everyone at the table. The¬†ironic thing is that I am the only one in the group that doesn’t have a job!¬† This hierarchy stuff doesn’t fly with me but I’m trying.
  • It was amazing to see rural China. These “country people” work very hard just to live day-to-day. Ben had told me a while ago when we saw some beggars that frequently the “country people” will go to a larger city and beg because there’s simply no way for them to make a living in the winter at home. They have no other way to put food on the table so they come to cities to beg for a few months and when the growing season starts again they go home. I can see what he means. We were off the highway for about 50 miles and driving through these places was eye-opening. So many people sitting in front of their store-fronts and along side the road watching life go by. There were also a lot of people out working their fields with cows that were pulling their farm equipment! I only ever saw that in Lancaster, PA in Amish country. So many people bent over from the waist digging, planting, weeding, and watering their patches of land. Back-breaking work that I¬†think they do for most of the daylight hours just to have food for the table. R-E-S-P-E-C-T
  • In an odd way the town of Yangshuo reminded us a bit of places we’ve been in Europe. The karst mountains were backdrops at the ends of streets, the cobble-stones, bars, restaurants, cafes, outdoor seating, ¬†lots of people, and a general good life atmosphere.
  • Our travel companions introduced us to a really cool game one night while we were at a coffee shop/bar. It was so much fun and too involved to explain but we played it for about an hour and a half. It’s a popular game at universities. I love how they play games to keep themselves occupied while waiting for food or to pass time the time while enjoying a few drinks. So Anders and I did our American part and introduced them to the brainless but oh so fun game of Spoons. I actually packed spoons and cards hoping for the chance. Actually it was supposed to rain every day and I figured we’d need something to do. Our chance came at dinner on Saturday night. We had time to kill before we headed our for the evening’s entertainment so I whipped out my spoons. It was so much fun!! Other people in the restaurant were stopping by to see what was going on. Later in the night as we were waiting outside in a pavilion area to see a show they wanted to play again. There was no table and no place for cards or spoons, but they wanted to play. (we didn’t)
  • The show we saw was an outdoor music and light show that was directed by the man who directed the opening/closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. The mountains and river are used for the scenery and it was amazing. The performers are the local farmers, fishermen, boatmen, and residents. They work their jobs by day and perform in the show at night. What a great way to give them earning power. I understood about 5 words of the songs but I didn’t need to understand the story to appreciate the show. I wish I had photos but night shots without the use of a tripod are just blurry! ūüė¶ There was a group of women that had a difficult time not talking at the beginning of the show and our team kept shushing them. It was funny because the women were about 40 years older than them but they weren’t shy about telling them to be quiet. No respect there. ūüėČ
  • On our return ride home on Sunday we stopped at a tourist destination that Anders and I had no clue we were scheduled to make. On the back of the 20RMB¬†bill is a beautiful drawing of the Li River. I knew this before we left but didn’t think we were going to see it. We walked for about 15 minutes and came upon the spot where you can see and compare. It was beautiful. Unfortunately I have been trying since we got back to procure a 20RMB and all I keep getting are two 10’s. Trust me, the photos I took look just like the drawing. That got me to looking at the other RMB notes and I think I have a few trips to make to complete the Chinese RMB drawing tour. Oh Anders, the travel part of my brain is ALWAYS scheming.:-)
  • The town where we stopped on Sunday is also where our travel companions did a lot of food shopping. This is where they bought their candies and snacks. Let me tell you – they all know how to bargain.¬† It’s a sport to them and as a spectator it’s fun to watch. They are ruthless though which doesn’t exactly fit in with the whole “aren’t they sweet for treating us like king and queen personas. (that’s probably supposed to be personae)
  • I hope I behaved well enough that they invite me on another trip. I may have sealed my invitation with the cookies.¬† My mom didn’t raise no dummy.;-)

5PM – 83¬į

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Faces in Yangshuo


I don’t have a lot of time today to write so I thought I’d just post a bunch of photos.

The little girl was at the farmhouse where we had lunch. She was gorgeous and so friendly. I think she would have walked away with any one of us. She started to eat lunch with us and then Granny took her away. She was not very pleased about that because she was definitely the center of attention. Granny strapped her on her back and in about 15 minutes she was sound asleep. As we were leaving Granny came out and woke her up. She smiled at everyone and waved goodbye from her back strap. All from a sound sleep!

The photo of Ben and D on the bike is my favorite from the trip and one of my favorites ever. I had packed my old camera just in case something went wrong. As it turns out I took so many photos on the raft trip that my battery died. I was so glad I had the backup or I would have missed this shot. D doesn’t know how to ride a bike and this time there were no tandems. I’m not sure who had it worse: Ben because he had D (he teased her about the extra load) or D because her legs were about 1 inch too long and she had to hold them up ever so slightly the whole way. You wouldn’t know it though look at their faces though and that’s why I love this shot.

5PM – 76¬į

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Farmhouse lunch


On the car ride to Yangshou on Friday I was able to see rural China from the comfort of our van. After our bamboo ride on Saturday¬†I was able to see it up close.¬†I have no idea where we were but I didn’t really need to know. I just know that it was someplace along the Yulong River in Gongxi Province and we were on our way to eat lunch.

I still don’t know how our group found this place. It was a restaurant but I never would have known. It was the downstairs of this family’s home. They lived upstairs and kept the main/only room on the first floor for a restaurant. There was a menu board and they served 7 dishes. I think we had all of them with a special one requested?¬†If it seems like I don’t have a clue it’s because I don’t have a clue. We were shown into their home and the women started working. They stoked the fire in the kitchen (separate building) and asked us to choose the chicken from the coop. I missed the killing of the chicken but watched them pluck it. Then she sent XJ to pick the greens and he kindly asked me to help. I was able to pick the greens that were cooked for our lunch! The food doesn’t get any fresher than this.

The kitchen was primitive. Just look at the photos!¬†I will never complain about cooking again after seeing how much work went into preparing our food. Of course, it was a meal for 14 people but still it was accomplished without a stove, oven, electricity, gas, or running water. There were so many times that the younger woman had to empty her water basin and refill it and every time she¬†did she had to walk outside and pump the pump. ūüėČ

This all took about an hour and a half  to prepare so we chatted, played with the adorable little girl who lived there (I will include photos of her another day), wandered to take photos, and soaked it all in.  Anders and I kept looking at each other and grinning. We know that if we were not with his WONDERFUL team that we would not have experienced any of this. As we were walking to take photos we were passed by 3 very lovely cows and their owner.  He stopped and said something with a grin on his face. I have no clue what he said but he chuckled. This all occurred while walking on the sidewalk in the village.

Finally it was time to eat the¬†hen that so graciously gave her life. I can’t even remember what all we had but I think it was 2 chicken dishes, a pork dish, greens served 2 different ways, the taro, and of course, RICE! Let me explain about the taro. It looked and tasted like purple Play-doh. As a child I tried Play-doh (who didn’t?) and can therefore say with all certainty that that’s how taro tastes! Trust me on this, there is no need for you to ever eat it! This is where we had the bee and “I don’t know what berry” wine. Total cost of this meal? $3/person!¬†¬†Let me repeat ¬†lest you think it’s a typo, $3/person.

After we finished lunch we walked back to the river and¬†alongside it for about 15 minutes to pick¬†up bicycles. We rode back to Yangshuo and it took about 45 minutes. It was so cool to able to ride through these little villages and see things that I have only ever seen in Nat Geo. It was an easy ride, all downhill. The bikes were also better than the ones we had a few months ago when we did the scavenger hunt with Anders’ team. When we got to Yangshuo it was a tad scary as we rode through town to return the bikes. There were cars, motorcycles, other bicyclists, and pedestrians everywhere. No one follows ANY traffic rules and it was chaotic. But… it was so much fun! I am living a dream.ūüôā

In the¬†van on the way back to GZ on Sunday when I asked what everyone’s favorite thing was Ben said that this lunch was it for him. I can see why. I don’t know how many times I’ve said it and how many more times I will, but here it is again. I will never forget this!

I think I’ll let the photos tell the story now.

4PM – 74¬į

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Bamboo raft ride


On Saturday morning we had our breakfast of Guilin noodles and then headed to the bus station. We got on a local bus and after about 25 minutes arrived at the area where we started our bamboo raft ride down the Yulong River. There was no sun and the¬†air was a bit chilly¬†but¬† it wasn’t raining! We were given rain ponchos, not because they expected it to rain but to keep our back ends dry. I started to wonder just what we were in for at this point but¬† figured that as long as they didn’t pass out floatation devices I was OK. Flotation devices=chance of getting dumped into the cold river. ūüė¶

What an experience.¬† The karst mountains are different from anything I’ve ever seen. We were told by just about everyone that they are unique to China. So in all of China this is the one place you can find these mountains and we were floating along the river taking it all in. I had goosebumps and not just because I was cold. There were 8 places where the river changed a tad¬†in elevation. They built stone ramps to aid in making it easy to pass from one height to another. They were kind of like the locks in a canal only you couldn’t see them until you went over them. It was not much of a change but enough that we felt like we were on the kiddie¬†flume ride at Hershey Park. That’s where the ponchos came in handy. As we went over these little ramps and the front end hit the water it of course sprayed water¬†back. Our “gondolier” warned us every time we came to one by saying, “Hello.” I didn’t know this but evidently hello means beware your camera and your butt. ūüėČ

A couple of the young¬†men (so this means that Anders did not participate) decided that they would try their hand at steering. Uh-huh. That didn’t seem to work too well. Anders made a wise choice to enjoy the comfort of his chair. I would have fallen into the river just trying to get to the back of the raft. There was no space beside the chairs to walk so you had to shimmy your way past the seats. Then once you were back there you had to have excellent balance. When going over the “locks” the gondoliers had to stand at the very back of the raft until it started descending and then¬†move quickly to the middle to avoid being launched off. They were quite skilled. I’m sure they made it look a heck of a lot easier than it was.

Along the way there were people on rafts selling BBQ ¬†fish. We pulled up to one but thankfully left without buying any. Evidently the woman was asking $13 for a small BBQ carp. Even I knew that was too much. The amazing thing is that after we started moving away she was calling the group back. Yeah, like it’s so easy to steer the rafts that they can just swing us around to start the negotiating process! She wasn’t a very good saleswoman.

The ride lasted for about 1 1/2 hours. It was calm, peaceful, serene, surreal, and an absolute delight. Anders and I kept saying that we could have been on The Amazing Race. I will NEVER forget the bamboo raft ride on the Yulong River.

¬†6PM – 59¬į

This slideshow requires JavaScript.