Josh’s favorite food by far is hand pulled beef noodles 牛肉拉面. They’re made super fresh right in front if you, according to the thickness that you request for only 5 kuai (about 80 cents USD). They add beef broth, thin slices of beef and cilantro. You can add vinegar 醋 and chili 辣椒.
I think out other favorite foods were made by families that invited us over.
We haven’t even seen orange chicken or fortune cookies ;-). We love noodles, dumplings, beef dishes and vegetables, especially eggplant and these really thinly sliced potatoes.
China is one of two counties that has the longest history in the world. It’s amazing to be in a country where (just about) everyone is from the same heritage, especially one that has been thriving for so long! Our overall impression is that most people here are kind and helpful. They are also are bold and aren’t afraid to speak their mind! They are very hardworking, and passionate about their country.
3. Old meets new
There is so much history everywhere you look! But there is also so much innovation and growth at the same time.
4. The taste of fruits and vegetables
I am sad to say that vegetables in America taste terrible in comparison to vegetables here. There is a large open market just a 2 minute walk away from us that has tons of fresh green vegetables (and at amazing prices). The vendor is rubbing soil off big orange carrots that you can only assume came straight from the farm. The way a tomato in America tastes is a crime. What did they do with the flavor? No wonder american kids don’t like to eat vegetables, the flavor has been taken away. I want to get to the bottom of this and figure out what to do about this problem.
5. Everyone is one big family
My heart melted the first time a little kid that I didn’t know called me “ayi” (aunt). In China, little kids call adults aunt, uncle, grandma or grandpa, even if they’re not related to them. They also call their peers big/little brother or sister. It is so sweet! I wonder if it stemmed from the one child policy. (Which is still in effect but not as strict, it seems. I know a lot of people who have one sibling. I know one person who has two, but you have to apply to have more than one child.)
6. The language
Even though Chinese is one of the hardest languages to learn, I love it! I love that the characters are pictorial and that the characters that they use today derived from ancient Chinese which started in 2700 BC! The writing is the same thtought all of China (except Taiwan, which uses traditional) so even though there are a lot of dialects, everyone can read the same characters. Even though pronunciation and tones are difficult, I really like the sentence structures and how words “make sense.” For example, “raisin” in Chinese is 葡萄干 literally “dried grape.” To me that is much easier than having two totally separate words for grape and “dried grape-raisin.”
7. Public transportation and trains
So crowded! But so cheap and convenient! In the winter we went with my friend to Xi’an. We traveled 19 hours by train and it only cost us 150 RMB each, which is about 23 USD. The subway can take you all over the city for only 2 RMB, about 30 US cents!
8. Energy saving and re-purposing
China is so good at saving energy. Though this means two things are gone that I miss desperately: a dishwasher and a clothes drier. Two appliances that I definitely took for granted in America! Everyone washes dishes by hand and line-dries their clothes (usually on a small patio attached to their apartment).
A lot of things in my classrooms were repurposed from a different object. Pringle-like chip cans are popular vases and pencil holders. Toilet paper tubes are turned into a decorative fence and hung on the wall. 100 cigarette boxes are turned into a doll house (not my kind of child toy, but still creative. Smoking is very popular here).
9. The price of things and their proximity
I got my hair cut today. I walked 1 minute away from my apartment and it cost me 10元 which is about $1.60! For Levi to get his haircut there it’s 5元, or 80 cents USD!
10. Our close friends and Bible study group
Most Thursday nights we spent with our friends in their apartment reading the Bible together. Half of them spoke English, the other half didn’t, so sometimes trying to translate deep concepts or questions about the Bible was hard, but it was a special time. I loved being able to hear the Bible being read in Chinese and to learn from our friends. Sometimes we sang worship songs, some in Chinese that I didn’t know, some were popular hymns that we could sing together in English and Chinese. We would share dinner together too, everyone would bring something. We brought pizza a couple times and everyone was so excited! Some had never had pizza before!
4 things that were hard
1. Air quality and grey skies
The rumors are true-most days the sky is grey, or even a tinge of brown. What makes me sad is that Josh, Levi and I have the chance to back to blue-sky CA, but the people here are stuck under this big grey mess. We eventually all wore suregon-esque face masks while riding bikes and that did seem to help.
We look SO different from everyone here, which is part of the “draw” with our jobs, so it’s definitely a good thing, but it’s also very tiring. We get stared at and talked about everywhere we go. It’s frustrating when we’re trying to learn Chinese and people automatically say “听不懂” (they don’t understand) without trying to talk to us in Chinese. This isn’t 100% of people we come in contact with, but it can feel like it sometimes. Levi is gorgeous
even outside of China, but here he’s a 洋娃娃 - foreign doll, ha! He’s something that people may have never seen in real life before-a beautiful white baby with huge blue eyes. All that being said, people stare at him all the time and talk about how beautiful he is, and take pictures of him, most of the time without asking. People here are really sweet and really love kids, but it gets old for me fast. Seriously, crowds have gathered to take his picture and that is too much for me. I love it when people send their kid over to take their picture with Levi. Even though it makes taking pictures with Levi seem like taking pictures with Mickey Mouse, I’m more comfortable with them having a picture of their kid with mine. Since everyone assumes we don’t understand Chinese, they yell out “老外” or “外国人” foreigner! A little hilarious, but annoying on some days. We tried to have good attitudes about it and say “外国人来了＂the foreigner is here!
3. Freezing winter
I know I’m a winter wimp, thanks to the desert, but winter was freezing!! And it seemed to last forever! I was cold from October to April and the (government controlled) heat is only on from November 15 to March 15. We learned how to deal with it a little. I really wish there was a class that we could have taken on how to survive winter in China, explaining what clothes we need to have, how much hot water to drink, etc. I do not miss applying layers upon layers of clothes (on myself and a squirmy two year old) before heading out the door. When we went to Xi’an it was winter and there were no heaters. The room we stayed in had some space heaters, but you could still see your breath in the room. The bed had hilariously thick blankets, one was electric, so we were literally only warm when we were asleep in bed. Made it hard to want to wake up!
4. Language barrier
The language got easier as we went along in the year, but some days were very hard, especially when trying to communicate with our company or trying to understand things about the school we worked at.
5. No dishwasher or clothes dryer
Those two things simply do not exist in China. I think it might have to do with the sheer number of people. If everyone ran their dishwasher at least once a day there would be a power shortage. You wash your dishes by hand and hang your clothes up to dry. Most of the time I was ok with line-drying, except when the weather didn’t permit, like on freezing cold or snowy days, or when it rained for a week! I honestly hate washing dishes by hand, especially when the sink here only gave out cold water. To sanitize our dishes we would boil water or get hot water from the shower and bring it to the kitchen in a bucket. A dishwasher and a clothes dryer are real luxuries.