Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Ho Ho Ho! Christmas in China

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Pictures at last!
I had every intention of making a little video tour of our apartment right from the front door outside, up the elevator, and then around our home. I wanted to do this as soon as I had things put away perfectly. Well, that hasn't quite happened yet and I don't know that it will happen before we move out. Perhaps I will get around to making a tape for family or something. For now, here are some pictures of our home sweet home.

Above you can see the view you have as you walk down the entrance hallway. There is usually a small table where the Christmas tree is, but you get the general idea. If you turn to the right is our living room/dining room and also the kitchen.

The kitchen

Our TV/computer/guest room (if you come to visit we will clean it)

Bedroom, including my reading windowsill
One of our three bathrooms (we have two tubs and two showers)

Monday, December 19, 2005

He doesn't seem to do anything...

My nephews (turning three this week and just turned five last week) look at their new baby brother. The middle kid is excited to be a BIG brother now! Now someone has to break it to him that not only will he not be four on his birthday, but that his big brother is no longer four. How will he ever catch up? Oh well, he can do more than the baby can!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Is it really THAT bad?

Rob said that I look scary in this picture. Nice thing to say to your wife, isn't it? I don't think it is my best picture ever or anything, but I don't think that merely looking at it is going to cause small children to have nightmares. He says it looks like I didn't want my picture taken. Like he does?

This little girl had already had a million pictures taken and her mom made her go back for another. Doesn't she looked thrilled? She was happier once I took the picture and let her see it. Her mom wasn't showing her the pictures and I think that was part of what had her not so thrilled.

There were cool yo-yo koosh balls for the kids to play with. The balls lit up when you hit them against something. The kids loved them and adults could be seen playing with them too.

And of course, what is a work Christmas party without the appearance of Santa Claus? A lot of the Chinese kids weren't so sure about this guy, even though he spoke Chinese. He did come bearing gifts, but doesn't your mom always teach you not to talk to strangers or take candy or presents from them? I guess it is okay if they are wearing a funky red outfit and wearing a fake beard.

The adults also got presents of sort at the party. All of the official gift stuff that people get over the year is saved up for the Christmas party. Each is numbered and numbers are put into a container. People draw numbers and get to keep the corresponding present. Some are neat and some are not so neat. Luck of the draw. Well, Rob was sure excited to get his as I am sure that you can tell in this picture. Later he did model it a bit for us. We are wondering though exactly why that was given as an official gift and who initially received it. The gifts are usually more business or city related. This just doesn't seem to fit either of those categories. Oh well.

Death of a DVD Player
Don't you hate it when you decide to watch a movie and the DVD player doesn't work? I had one die on me in the States, but it went slowly. At first it wouldn't play all of my DVDs, then when it was loading the ones that would play I would have to tilt the DVD player back at an angle. It got to the point where I would put my ear up next to the DVD player and depending upon the sound it was making I would increase or decrease how much I was tilting it. When it finally died it wasn't much of a shocker. I had seen it coming. I admit that I didn't want to throw it out and we ended up keeping it until we moved. I finally was able to part with it then (I did check one more time to make sure that it hadn't recovered) because moving it with us to China just seemed a bit excessive. I guess part of it was that I felt so wasteful. It probably could have been repaired and had many years of use. Why would I pay more to fix one than to get a new one though?
Our lovely DVD player here had a sudden death. We went to watch something and it refused to read any DVD or CD. The previous night we had been watching something and hadn't had a problem. Our only difficulties with the DVD player had been (1) not being able to read the Chinese characters on the remote control and (2) whenever the power went out it went back to the default language setting of Chinese. Perhaps we will never know if ZNX is a bad brand or if it was just bad luck. We had gone really cheap, so perhaps we got what we paid for.
Our new DVD player is an AMOI, one of China's best brands as the saleslady pointed out. We got the second most expensive model in stock and shelled out $62 for it. Of course when we turn in our receipt for VAT refund we will get 17% of that back. We also got a special bonus gift of two karaoke microphones and four DVDs. Looks like three of the four are going to be in English, but the fourth might be only Chinese. After she had made the sale is when we learned about our exciting bonus gifts AND when she showed us how to use the remote. This remote is also in Chinese so she hooked up our DVD player to a TV and showed us what the different buttons did. One of our favorite features is that you can change the lighting color on the DVD player. That's right, a feature you always wanted and possibly needed, but hadn't thought about. You can now have the DVD player match your decor by pushing a button on the remote. How do people even come up with features like this? Does it make this particular model more appealing? Do people try to decide which DVD player they want and then realize that hands down this is the best one, I mean you can change the color! Too bad it is hard to capture that with the camera. I tried earlier in the day and too much sun was coming in the window and then later it was dark and if I used the flash it took out the light color. Here are two no flash pictures to show you blue and red. You probably can imagine green, white, yellow, purple, etc.
I hadn't realized before that many DVDs purchased in the US have many different language and subtitles available even though they are not listed. With our new DVD player we can get several of each (spoken and subtited). I suppose it is because our player works on regions 1-6. I was having fun listening to the movie in Chinese with Portugese subtitles or in French with Korean subtitles. Doesn't take much to amuse me. Plus, I got to change the color display as I watched. Wow!
On a loosely related note (it involves an incident on the way back from buying the DVD player)... We were waiting to cross the street at a busy intersection. There was a bus stopped there that is one of the buses that looks like it should be in a junkyard or taking the riders straight to Hell. The kind of bus with more rust than not, door that doesn't close all the way, and of course the old lady with the megaphone shouting out to those who will listen as to why they should choose to ride this bus. Well, the bus was not moving and the honks were getting louder and more numerous. A couple of people got off the bus and started to push it. They were having little success, so they got back on and recruited some of the bigger looking guys to help them push the bus and try to get it going again. Their timing was great. They want to cross an intersection while other cars are making left turns across it, blocking their way. So the bus driver is trying to steer around the cars (which are also swerving and breaking) as they make their way forward. Too bad the light changed and we got to cross. I would have liked to have seen how that ended. I was so mad at myself for not having my camera to take a picture of these people pushing the bus. It was an amusing sight. Oh well, Rob's work Christmas party was this weekend too. I have some pictures to put up of that. I suppose that will have to make do.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Today I went to Wu'Ai Market with two Americans who work at the consulate (and live in my building). I managed to buy a 6 foot tree and a wreath for the door for $12.75. I don't think we got ripped off too much. Anyway, I was willing to pay that much. Haven't taken the tree out of the box and don't plan on it this year since we already have one up. Here is a picture of the wreath though, not too bad, huh? I mean, I have seen nicer ones, but it was under $4. If I can find a way to ship them easily and cost effectively perhaps I will get some for gifts next year and mail to people. I was so excited that Karen introduced me to this area of the market. I hadn't ever been in it before I I think I will have to go back to explore some more. They had a lot of great stuff and even if I have to pay the white girl price it should still be a deal.

Here is a picture of me with Rob in front of one of the trees in the hotel lobby. Thought we should try to get a couple of pictures of us together. Seems one or the other of us is always taking the picture so we aren't in them together.

Thanks to customs forms, Rob won't have any suprises this year at Christmas. Evidently he did a dance in the mail room when he got the package that the game I bought him was in. Oh well. I guess this way he gets to be excited twice.

Tomorrow is the Christmas party at the consulate. The Chinese employees will be there too. I hope to get some pictures of the little kids with Santa Claus.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Warning: This is a food related post. :)
My poor sister. Will she ever live down telling me that I have too many food related posts? Perhaps if she lived here in China and had to try to figure out how to put together meals she would become more food related too. Since October vendors have been selling these crabapple type things on sticks. The little round red fruits are coated in candy apple type sugar coating. They look pretty good and I see people eating them all the time. I see people eating gross things all the time too, so I suppose popularity isn't really a good gauge for me to use. Anyway, one day when I was walking back from Fu-Mart with my groceries, I saw a guy selling these apple kabob thingies. I figured I would give it a try. I kept my fingers crossed that they were somewhat fresh and that no bird flu infected birds had been licking them. It only cost 12 cents, so you really can't beat the price. At least I think you can't beat the price, perhaps I got ripped off because I am American. I am thinking that 12 cents is a decent price though. And in Chinese currency it is an even amount of 1 kuai so it isn't like a weird amount. It was pretty good. Since it didn't make me sick I will probably get one again sometime. I wish they had more of the sweet sugary coating on them, but I doubt they could ever have enough sugar on for me. It is really sweet as you first bite in, followed by a tart taste that makes you pucker. Good thing there is that sweet coating on the other side to help get rid of that tart sensation. I took a picture to show what it looks like. It is quite an attractive picture. Have you ever tried eating candied fruit on a stick while taking your own picture? It took a couple of shots before I got me in the shot.

Noodles in a Box
It was mail day for me big time! Don't I look so cute reveling in the whole mail experience? Poor Rob had to have a bellboy help him up with the mail. It's not everyday that a luggage cart filled with mail makes it up to your door. UPS is probably glad they didn't have to deliever to us. (Of course UPS doesn't come only once a week so they could spread out the mail load over multiple days.)
My favorite piece of mail (okay, it actually came in two huge boxes) was my nativity set. It is something that I would never buy for myself. Before my Grandmother died she gave her grandchildren money. I wanted to get something
that would truly be special and remind me of my Grandma. I had wanted to get it last year, but I just couldn't get myself to spend that much money on something that wasn't even useful. I kept thinking I could get it cheaper if I waited. I also wondered where in the world I would possibly be able to store all of the packing materials so that it could be packed for moves. By the time I finally deci
ded to get it, it was out of stock! I was so excited to see it in the catalog again this year. It is so beautiful! I think Grandma would be pleased with my selection. I know I will treasure it for years and hope to be able to pass it down in my family for generations to come.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Don't you hate it when that happens?

So THIS one they translate into English. I think I could have figured it out using the picture. (Oh, and nice picture by the way!) And since they did bother to translate it, don't you think a proofreader would be in order? I mean, before you have a bunch of them made up into metal signs and hung up in higher class department stores, couldn't you have someone just have a once over?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

My Reluctant Model
I am so excited that Rob's $91 tux is done! (In fact I think I am more excited than he is.) I can get him some cufflinks and he will be ready to go. He has a black tie and cumberbund and also red. I love the deep red and want to find a dress style that I like and get it made in that same color. Mrs. Wong is the best! I hope to find things that she can make for us while we are here. And, if we should lose or gain weight, she can alter them too. I just had to throw in the gain/lose weight thing because our eating habits might cause that to happen. Love ya Mer. Had to get a mention of food in there somewhere.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Random Thoughts on a Holiday

Rob got Veteran's Day off from work so we took the opportunity to go see Wu Ai Market. It can be a crowded, busy place and I figured better to take him there on an American holiday than on a Chinese holiday or a weekend. The market used to have tons of outdoor vendors, but they are doing some sort of construction or something right now and that is gone. The market currently seems to consist of two large five story buildings linked together by sky bridges. Escalators lead up, but you have to use stairs (or one of the few crowded elevators) to get back down. This seems to be common here. The vendors in the market place generally have little tiny booths about the size of a closet. There are aisles and aisles and I can't imagine ever seeing it all. Some vendors have bigger spaces, more store like, but those are less interesting in general. Once we had wandered around for awhile, we decided to go eat. (I know, Meredith, I am mentioning food again. I won't say where we ate, but there was a Ronald McDonald outside of it.) I didn't really think that we would find much at the market, but wanted to make sure that Rob got there at least once while we live here.

Afterwards we went for a walk towards the Imperial Palace. I took these two shots in that area. The first is some guy standing in the back area behind some buildings. The gates are actually open so you can see in. There are so many little nooks and crannies behind and between buildings here and I find them fascinating. The outside can look fine (or sometimes even beautiful) and behind the appearance is quite different. I am hoping to get shots down some of these alleys, but I worry that someone will be around and not appreciate me taking a picture of what they seem to want to keep hidden away. I guess I wouldn't like it if people came to my house and took a picture of the kitchen before I did the dishes. Shenyang seems to be building up so quickly and I find it interesting to see the older, less modern things and places. The second picture is of some guy who was sitting by a gate eating nuts or something. I just liked the way he was sitting there. I guess I lied when I said two shots because I am going to put in a color picture of him too so you can see the colors. Oh, and a PS for Mom or anyone else who is interested. You can click on the pictures if you want to see them bigger. :)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Not About Food

My sister has informed me that my blog is mostly about food. I tried to tell her that my last entry was about my bags, but she said it was really about how much food my bags held. I hadn't intended on writing primarily about food, but some of us aren't as gifted as my sister and don't really know what to write. (Check her out at and you won't be disappointed!) So, I decided to write about traffic today and I took some pictures on my way back from the Fu-Mart. I won't tell you what I bought there, but it was primarily edible items. I happened to have my camera handy and was able to take this picture of Mr. Lettuce Man deciding to cross
through an intersection against the light. I mean, why not? Traffic was not heavy at that particular time and place so it wasn't that big of a deal. I am going to have to keep my camera handy so I can perhaps catch some other interesting shots. It takes time to get it out of my purse, turn it on, line up the shot, and that often ends up being too much time. I need to come to terms with the fact that people are going to stare at me a lot even if I am not taking pictures of seemingly random things, so I might as well take the pictures if I want them. I am still a bit self-conscious.
Now Mr. Lettuce Man is not an exception to the rule. People really don't seem to like to wait more than 5 seconds and would rather cross the street against the light in a Frogger like method than wait their turn. To try to remedy this situation, there are actually people at the intersection who hold red flags and megaphones and direct pedestrians and cyclists. Now there are the little lights at
crossings with the red standing (don't walk) figure and the green walking (walk) figure. Seems self explanatory to me. Surely not all of the Chinese are color blind with poor vision. They should be able to figure it out. Sometimes the people (usually women) will actually wave the flag is someone's face and yell with the megaphone. They have to go to such extremes if they want to be acknowledged any more than the walk/don't walk signals. The sad thing is I used to think that the traffic and the people and the bicycles were horrible. Now I am rather used to them. Sometimes I even play a little Frogger rather than waiting for the light to change...

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Best Bags Ever!
It didn't take long for me to figure out that carrying home several Wal-Mart plastic bags in each hand was not going to work. I decided to find some bags I could use and was delighted to find some at and before I knew it they arrived in the mail. Now I take them with me everytime I go shopping. They fold up and fit nicely in my purse and hold a lot! Just check out what I got today:

One loaf of bread for sandwiches
One loaf dessert bread
Four 260 ml bottles of diet coke with lemon
One bag of flour (1.5 kg)
Two candy bars
Eight eggs
One packet frying seasoning
One lemon
Four small packets of tomato paste (about 2 Tbsp each)
Two cucumbers
One package beef (.25kg)
Four packages of chicken (totally just over 1.5 kg)
Two Asian eggplants
One bunch bananas
Two ears of corn
Four large carrots (just under .5 kg)

I managed to spend about $7. I am forcing myself NOT to be a bargain shopper in China. I figure if I want it and they got it I better splurge. Never know what they will have next time I go. Tonight I used one package of chicken and the eggplant for dinner. Wonder what we will have tomorrow...

See my great bags on the chair? All of the items in the picture on the right were in them and there was still room to spare.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

More Fast Food?
Our stuff finally arrived and the unpacking is almost done. When it first arrived, we needed to take a break from unpacking and have something to eat. What says moving day like pizza? We decided to go to Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut here is pretty upscale. I mean, when is the last time you got prawn or escargots at a Pizza Hut in the US? I ordered a cheese lover's pizza hoping that there might be at least a little bit of cheese on it. It was AWESOME! Cheese was oozing off of the thing, and it was good cheese too. Rob got the American special. They accidently brought him a ham pizza first so they let him eat that while they made the pepperoni one. Ham, pepperoni, guess it is hard to tell the difference. Anyway, I have decided that Pizza Hut is my favorite place to eat here. I LOVE cheese and it can be difficult to find here. I might even save enough room next time to try a dessert like their black forest cake. Check out the Chinese Pizza Hut site at and see for yourself all of the yummy (and not so yummy) things they have. Eel pizza anyone?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I'm Loving It!

When I lived in the US I very rarely ate at McDonald's. It just didn't do much for me. When I was sick I craved their cheeseburgers. Wanting one of them could only mean bronchitis was setting in. It was so predictable that I really could save myself a trip to the doctor. (I want a cheeseburger from McDonald's? Must be bronchitis!) Now that we are in China, I crave McDonald's about once a week. So far I have tried their Big Mac, cheeseburgers, hot chicken strips, fries, sweet taro pie, stawberry shake, chocolate shake, and soft serve ice cream. Cheeseburgers are my favorite. I am so excited to have real cheese (or real processed cheese product at least). Yum. I want one right now! The burgers and fries have tasted the same as those in the States (thus far). Check out there site:

Thursday, October 06, 2005

We Don't Speak Chinese!

Last night Rob and I decided to get our Chinese food to go so that we could bring it back to our place, eat what we wanted, and then have leftovers. We had previously had someone at the hotel write (in Chinese) that we wanted to get our food to go. At least, that is what we asked them to write. I think it came out to be something more like "we want take food from here back to hotel to eat so please help we." Anyway, got to our restaurant, some waitress type chic read the note and took our order. We sat on the side of restaurant waiting for our food, minding our own business. Of course we were quite a sight, being white as we are. One lady came over from her table and sat beside me and started talking. We kind of looked at her and shook our heads, so she indicated that she wanted to write something. Hmmm... that doesn't seem like something that is going to work. If we don't SPEAK the language, why would we read it? Do we look like we speak Cantonese and not Mandarin? Whatever. She saw our "take out" note and was amused by it. She was disappointed that we couldn't read her note so she tried to write something else. (Why, I don't know.) She gave us her phone number so that we could call her. Ah, that would be great. We can't communicate in person so the phone would be much easier. Don't really get that. Of course she wanted our phone number too. Okay random Chinese lady, like I am going to give you my phone number. Should she try to call I am sure she will enjoy the recorded message from our disconnected Verizon number in Maryland. She might not know that it isn't me. Her husband also joined in our conversation (or lack thereof) and wanted to know where we lived. We were able to explain that we are staying in the Sheraton Hotel. Since that is on the other side of town, he wanted to know why we were where we were and decided that it was because we wanted to see the Mao statue. Well, we got to give them big hugs and they are now our good friends, or at least a good story that they can tell their friends. I only wish I had my polaroid. I bet we could clean up charging people for photos with us. I am starting to think that I really need to make sure to do my hair and make up before I go out. What a burden being a celebrity!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Beiling Park and the North Tomb

Rob and I decided that we should go up to Beiling Park and the North Tomb. The North Tomb, located in the north part of Shenyang, is called the Zhaoling Tomb . It was built in 1642 and is the tomb of the second emperor of the Qing Dynasty and his wife. It is one of the three largest tombs in Northeastern China. The park itself is quite large and actually costs to get in. It was another beautiful day and there won't be many more before it gets cold.

For some of the people there I think Rob and I were a bigger attraction than the tomb. I mean, the tombs have been open to the public since 1920, but how often can you see Noodles and Rob visiting them? Small children were tapping their parents and pointing at us. One girl saw us and started laughing, though she did cover her mouth with her hand. One little boy was running ahead of his family, not paying attention, and nearly ran into us. I wish I had a picture of the expression on his face. It was a look of suprise, fascination, and fear. I feel kind of like a wild animal encountered in the woods. If you are out there you know there is a possibility, but when you actually encounter one you don't know how to react.

Big Spenders: Our (just over) $20 Day

  • Cab fare to and from the park $4
  • Admission to the park and the tomb (for both of us) $9
  • Nestle ice cream drumsticks and water $2.50
  • Dinner at local restaurant (braised eggplant, sweet and sour pork with pineapple, spicy diced chicken, and rice) $5.25

Now we did get cheated a little bit on cab fare on the way up. Whether snacks at the park were as pricey for the Chinese as for us is also unknown. Whatever. It was within what I was willing to pay. As Rob said, we wouldn't have spent more money in the States just going out to Applebees.