tasty bytes from China

May 2012
« Apr   Jun »
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 4:08 pm



I celebrated my 51st—ouch—birthday this past
weekend. I’d like to think of it as turning thirty and twenty one again at the
same time.


I turned 21 in Amsterdam doing what 21 year olds do best in

I turned 30 in Chicago fighting with an ex boyfriend who
thought a blender would be a romantic birthday gift.


Needless to say, both the boyfriend and the blender were

To turn 51,  I invited some of my
best friends over for some cake and yoga.



Doodoo, my yoga instructor is from near Harbin. She is tall,
strong and lots of fun. Plus, is as flexible as the cast of circ du soleil. 



The kids did yoga while the adults ate cake. The big kid is
jeff. The legs in the window belong to my other friend, Mandy. She surprised me with the cake.







Now cake in China is big, physically big.




What else would you expect?


And even bigger than the cake is the cake box.


The place we got the cake from is a bakery chain called

Actually, China does a good job with cake.


Being light and fluffy, the cake itself was a light gold
sponge cake with layers of custard and sliced cherries.

The frosting wasn’t as light as whip cream but was a far cry
from betty crocker’s ready to spread.


The top of the cake was decorated with assorted chunks of
fresh melon, candied fruits and cherry tomatoes (which are considered a dessert).

No smoked duck tongue or dried chicken feet.

Plus, a huge white chocolate flower in the center and a
sprinkling of sliced almonds.



Birthday cakes of this size are about 160 RMB, or $20.



A lot of the frosting ended up smeared on our face (a
Chinese birthday tradition, or so the kids said….)





Jeff enjoyed licking it off.



My birthday was fun. I never would’ve suspected I’d be
licking frosting off of cherry tomatoes to celebrate number 51 in China.


But that’s what makes life interesting.


Something old, something new…
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 4:04 pm



Some might
think it’s the year of the dragon, but let me tell you, this has been the year
of the wedding in China.

we went to our third nuptial ceremony, that being the union of Chen and Rose.

Chen was
the first Chinese friend that Jeff made. His English name is Stanley by the way. They met at the pool in the locker
room where Chen instantly realized Jeff wasn’t Chinese.

I’ll leave
it at that.

We were
sort of guests of honor for Chen and Rose, and got to take a day off from
school to be a part of the ceremony.

Westerners at your wedding is a sign of status in China. The mother of the
bride bought me a special dress for the occasion called a cheongsam.


I actually
found a pair of dress shoes in china that fit, which means, there is a God. Actually, they did fit due to the help of a highly motivated sales lady who poked extra holes in the sling back straps.

parents flew down from Harbin for this event. Chen is the spittin’ image of his


His Mom wore
red, too.


Now the wedding
ceremony started at 9 am (that wasn’t a typo) where the groom searched around the
couple’s new apartment for red envelopes. Red envelopes
 are the traditional wedding gift in China,
where guests fill them with a lucky amount.

We were
told 666 RMB is considered very lucky in China, the “666” meaning smooth
sailing, unlike in America where it means the mark of the beast.
Gee,  hope whoever told us that  wasn’t messing with us!

Giving 888 RMB
signifies prosperity, but to others, that amount would mean “greed”.

After Chen
found a good number of envelopes, he had tea with the mother of the

Then, we
got to cruise around Kunming in a car like this.


We headed
to Lake
Haigan  to take pictures. And let me tell
you, there were a lot of pictures.



First, there was the two groom shot….


Then the “honey, will you put the camer down” shot…

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And the classic, “You’re posing for the wrong camera” shot…


Even the bride needed a break.

pictures, we loaded back into the limos and headed to a wedding hall.


The people watching was great, especially the children. THey don’t have to wear itchy clothes to weddings like they do in America.



couples were celebrating their big day that day, each waiting out front for
guests to sign their guest books.


It reminded
you of a game show of sorts, where each couple was trying to outdo the other
with gowns and guests.


Well, when
the měi guó réns signed Chen and Rose’s guest book, the game was over. They won
the grand prize show case.


Guests were
given red chopsticks, assorted nuts, candies, and cigarettes.

And oh yes,
sunflower seeds.


Either sunflower seeds have a lucky meaning, or the wedding planner was a parakeet in a past life.

The wedding
continued with tons of food, so much, that the lazy susan almost had a nervous
breakdown. The menu included turtle, duck livers, sweet mushrooms in sticky syrup
and lotus root. That was just the stuff we recognized.


It was all
chased by a traditional shot of wedding white wine Wuliangye , also known as turpentine.

We got rid
of the weird tastes in our mouth by chewing a piece of Wrigley’s cucumber gum.

The bride changed
into a red dress for the toasts.


After the
reception, the guests went to a
establishement, or Chinese karaoke.  After that, the fun continued in the bridal
chamber, where young guests play tricks on the new couple.

It was cool learning about chinese wedding traditions. They go beyond something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

Something lucky, something red, thimble shots to clear your head.


It was a big honor to be a part of the ceremony and to get to wear a cheongsam.


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Life Uncensored (well, sort of)
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 4:01 pm



I’m sure if you never lived in China, you’ve heard stories about being watched and under constant surveillance all time.

 Anyway, security cameras are everywhere, just like the high crime areas of Chicago. Busy intersections, stores, airports, buses, and trendy eateries are taping you. That means if you are in Wal-mart and orphan a bag of dried seaweed in the great mound of chicken parts, they have it on film.


Or if you end up wading in the vomit pool, you better smile.


Now you’d think with cameras everywhere, the fashion police wouldn’t be asleep on the job.


But they are.

On the internet, expats call the 24/7 surveillance the Great Firewall of China. It should be called The Great Procrastination Preventer. You can’t access Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other time drains on a regular basis. There are ways to get around this, using a VPN service. These services bounce your internet signal to the US and back. So, it takes twice as long to waste the same amount of time.


When internet sites are blocked you get a page that reads Internet Explorer Cannot Display This Page or an italicized ACCESS DENIED. These sites are usually blogs, possible mine.

But recently, I discovered Uncle Mao can mess with your computer in different ways. Either that or my HP laptop is possessed.

I was dozing off the other day when I was woken by the chimes of my Microsoft sign in page. The chimes weren’t unusual. The weird thing was, I don’t remember turning my computer off.


All I could think of was that my computer, like an independent child, decided to install updates without my permission then restart itself.

I thought nothing of it, other than to disconnect from our WiFi signal when not online.

But this morning, I had another strange thing happen. While entering grades into our school’s cyber grade book, my mouse decided to have a mind of its own. I was chasing it around my screen like a greased pig. Every time I thought I caught it, it would scurry around again, opening a new folder, document or picture.

I switched off the internet connection and the cyber demon went away.

Is this Uncle Mao or is it just my old jalopy computer?


Actually, I think it’s this guy. He looks like a chinese version of my dad, the way he sits and all with a button cap pirched on his head.



So if they block this post, you’ll know why.

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