tasty bytes from China

November 2010
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A Thanksgiving without green jello.
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 6:02 pm


Yes, we are celebrating Thanksgiving in China but without many of the fixins’ we are used to. Friends are cooking two turkeys and a big vat of Velveeta mac and cheese. The Velveeta was shipped in from the states. As for the turkeys? A few stores carry them for deep-pocketed, homesick Westerners, who long for a taste of Norman Rockwell.

Unsurprisingly, in China, you seem to be able to find every edible here short of green jello. Canned cranberries that retain the shape of the can, croutons for stuffing, pumpkin (both canned and fresh) for pies, mini marshmallows and Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. Bu, no green jello. What will Thanksgiving be like without green jello clouded over with cottage cheese and pineapple chunks?

I’m sure if we looked long enough, we could find it. Maybe next to the teeth guy in Green Park. Would you buy a new smile from this guy?



Or, the lady who sells bootleg Viagra. Maybe she knows where to score some jello.


No luck at the wet, dry or street markets finding green jello. Maybe I’ll bring home my own dialysis machine instead.


According to a study done by the National Turkey Association, Americans eat about 690 MILLION pounds of Turkey on Thanksgiving. That’s equivalent to the weight of the ENTIRE population of Singapore. That doesn’t include the yams, green beans, mashed potatoes or the pool of melting jello that seems to contaminate everyone else on your plate.
Here’s to eating my share of the bird without lime flavored horse hooves.

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Being Mrs. Mac
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 5:51 pm

Being Mrs. Mac


OK. Along with trying out new foods, new squatty potties and a new language, I’ve been trying out a new career as a teacher.
I am now Mrs. Mac.

Most of my students are Korean, meaning, these kids aren’t smart, they’re super smart. Asian students can memorize anything short of the entire answer key of an ACT test. While some students struggle with English grammar, others make insightful observations…

“Mrs. Mac? Why do American girls begin all of their sentences with the word “like”?


Writing reports on Asian countries would be an exercise in cutting and pasting memorized facts in their efficient brains. So instead, my Social Studies students recreated their own world. One student’s country can only be described as sci-fi meets Ken Burns. Another created Miss PacManistan, where Xboxes are used as currency and the national anthem is the same diddly from the classic arcade game.


I work with two six-grade gems in an ESL reading class. The girls used to be shy but now I can’t get them to shut their Kim Chi holes. I urged them to write the author of one of the books read. And guess what? The author wrote back! I think I’m more excited about it than they are.

School has changed since my days at Hooterville High. I do share with students some of our escapades, including flicking the eyeballs from a dissected frog at other students in Mr. Bednarowski’s biology class. We use the Internet daily in my media class. We don’t have Google, but choogle. It’s the Chinese version of Google, meaning you have a fifty-fifty change of getting the THIS PAGE IS FORBIDDEN MESSAGE with every search.

Students came up with the conclusion that “there is no such thing as cool” in China. Since advertising doesn’t get past the firewall, lots of the pressures teens face don’t make it here, either.

Sponge Bob did make it pass the firewall. He is my hall pass.


I’ve probably learned more in my classroom than my students, especially regarding study habits and goals. Working with an international buffet of brains, I’ve noticed that it’s the American students who struggle with their studies—especially spelling. That includes me. I’d be lost without SPELL CHECK.

Then there’s Henri, an eleven-year-old from Canada with a vocabulary the size of Saskatchewan. Watch out world. That kid can write better than Hemmingway.


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Sorry that I Got Fat
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 4:46 pm

Okay, I can hear my mother-in-law right now, “What did you do to my baby? He’s so thin!”
It’s true. About all of the men I know who moved to China have lost an average of 20 L-Bs, including Jeff. I’m not sure if it’s because the local cuisine doesn’t agree with their stomaches or if it’s because there’s no Sunday Football (ya know, every man’s excuse to park his butt on the sofa and eat junk all day).
Whatever it is, weight gain is not a problem in Kunming for the guys.
As for females? We don’t seem to lose weight in Kunming but we don’t seem to gain it, either. No Oprah-yo-yoing, either. We’re all have pretty much the same thighs, muffin tops and ankle fat that we left with from the land of Ben & Jerrry’s.
Kunming is in the mountains, so hiking up a flight of stairs leaves you a little more short winded than what you’re used to. It’s serious exercise, so serious exercise is a real work out. At our school, my classroom is on the fifth floor. While it’s not a big of a climb as the Great Wall of China, believe me, your thighs feel the burn.
I’ve actually done a test to see how much I could eat before gaining weight. The answer? A lot. Mrs. Field’s cookies aren’t common here, and even if they were, you wouldn’t be able to find a glass of milk that actually tastes like it came from a cow to wash ‘em down with. Then, right about when you think you’re gaining weight, you get a bout of, well, ya know.
There is Skippy Peanut Butter, the real deal and a bootleg version. We got a big jar at the wholesale market, but I noticed that the label was a bit funky. No “circle r” by the Skippy name and, the font was a bit different.
I can deal with bootleg 007 DVDs, but not something that I swallow.
Here’s a little video about a day in the life of a local “wet” farmer’s market. It’s called wet because when it rains, you get wet. There are also inside “dry”markets. Both have butchers with meat cleavers are right out of a Freddy Krueger movie. It also contains a few short clips of a tasty local bakery chain and the Westerner’s Best Friend, Auntie’s Garage Market. You can find many of the packaged goods you miss from the states at Aunties, including Good N’ Plenty, Hershey’s Syrup and Miracle Whip.

Fashion Polic
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 8:11 pm


In the country that has surveillance for everything, they sure have a shortage of fashion police in China. The entire country is one gigantic fashion no-no.

They could give a lot of tickets here, like to the common violation of the farmer fashionista.

“Excuse me lady, you’re wearing high heels while carrying a rake!”

Or to the old man peeing in the middle of the school track, “Hey you in the Armani sports jacket and  muddy work boots! Your pants are ripped!”

There are clothing combos here you wouldn’t even see on Carrie Bradshaw in Sex in the City. Everything clashes with good taste.


Plaids are matched with paisleys, sport jackets are worn with everything, and nylon stockings are longer than the boots but shorter than the skirts.

Along with micro-skirts, they sell designer granny-panties. You’d never find these haute couture bloomers at a JC Penney outlet, FORTUNEATELY.

Lots of fashion is sold on the street in makeshift shops.

Don’t ask me where the dressing room is.

At least the women are slimmer here, so you don’t have moo-shu butt squeezing into skin-tight jeans like overstuffed pot stickers.

Except for the teens.  McButt is becoming  a bit too McCommon in Kunming.  But a little extra sweater covers a lot of McNuggets.


The good news is, there are still a lot of Chinese who wear native clothing.


Now that’s something that will never go out of style.  

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