Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Chicken Feet

The other day I saw a restaurant that specialized in chicken feet.  I noticed that the character for the chicken's foot actually looked like a claw.  Evidently that didn't sink very far in to my brain though.  Here is a picture that I took of that restaurant.

Today I went to another restaurant and decided to get some beef noodle soup.  They don't put many vegetables in it, so I looked on the menu and saw a section titled "small vegetables".  One of the characters on the sign looked like "gua" which could refer to some kind of squash.  I took some chinese classes in college, but my reading ability isn't very good, and here in China they use simplified characters instead of complex ones.  I learned the complex ones.  Well, sort of learned them.  I read about the same level as a first grader.  When I asked the waitress about the "gua", she replied using a different tone.  I should have had a clue then, but I thought maybe I just remembered the tone wrong, or maybe because of her dialect she said it differently.  So I ordered the "Dong gua".
Here is what they brought me:
I should have remembered the character from the chicken toes restaurant!  I thought to myself that maybe I could learn to eat it.  I honestly tried, but couldn't eat it.  I even tried to just gnaw it a little so that it would look eaten when the waitress came to clean up my dishes, but I didn't really get very far with that.  It was just repulsive to me.  I remember as a missionary being served chicken's feet once, and failed at eating it then too.  I just can't get past the texture.  It's not just skin, it's soft, almost gelatinous skin.  And honestly, then I tried nibbling on the claws, but immediately pictured in my mind the chicken scratching around in chicken poop.  I couldn't eat it.

The beef noodle soup was delicious, but a little spicy.  So after lunch I went to the convenience store to buy a container of milk.  But once again, my characters were so bad that I couldn't tell what was what.  I finally asked the store attendant if the milk I was looking at was yogurt milk or fresh milk.  It was yogurt milk.  I like yogurt milk, but that wasn't what I wanted.  Finally I saw a small bottle of milk that had "milk beverage" written in English on it.  I bought that.  It turned out to be sweet, coconut flavored milk.  It tasted good, but alas was not what I had wanted to buy.  So I'm learning.  Very slowly......

And speaking of food, my husband and I went out to eat hot pot.  It actually was very good.  But we had a stomach ache all the next day.  We won't be going back.
Tonight we ate Papa John's pizza.  It was okay, but after eating Chinese food every meal for the past week, it was kind of heavy.  The last thing I want to try is a shrimp/rice patty burger with mango at Burger King.  I am curious to see how it tastes.  I'll let you know.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Drifting Between Two Worlds

I'm back in China for 6 weeks.  It's such an odd sensation to go back and forth between the two cultures.  It's not a bad feeling, just weird.  I actually feel very at home in China.  It also takes a few days to get my mind back in the language mode.  This city has a slightly different accent than where we used to live, so it takes me a few days to get accustomed to the accent.

We have been hotel hopping trying to find one that suits us.  Last time we were here we stayed in the same hotel the whole time.  It wasn't the most convenient location, but the room itself was the best.  It has a small kitchenette and a washing machine, as well as a refrigerator/freezer.  This hotel has a tiny refrigerator, but nothing else.  We are still trying to figure out the best way to do our laundry.  We will try an air B&B next week.

One thing I'm really enjoying here is the food!  We eat out all the time, so it's always an interesting experience.  Breakfast is a buffet here in the hotel.  I love Chinese breakfasts, so that is always my choice.  My husband tends to stick to the American eggs and bacon.  My breakfast usually consists of:  fried rice, two different stir fried vegetable dishes, a small sausage, a few steamed meat buns, some rice porridge with pickled vegetables, hot soy bean milk, some fruit, and some bread pudding.  Yes, I will probably gain weight here!  For lunch, I go next door to the mall and go downstairs to the food court.  One day I ate beef noodle soup.  Another day I had chicken curry with rice, vegetables, and mushroom soup.  Today I ate dumplings and a cucumber salad.  But tonight I had a stomach ache, so that food might have not been very fresh.  I won't eat there again.  For dinner tonight we went to an excellent restaurant!  We had some barbecued pork/chicken with rice and vegetables, an egg and shrimp dish, and a DELICIOUS eggplant dish!  It was eggplant stuffed with a rice cake, seasoned with a spicy sweet sauce.  I will definitely be going back!

Last night my husband and I took a coworker out grocery shopping.  He is an intern from Germany and is having trouble finding food he can eat.  He is a picky eater, so coming to China is especially difficult for him.  It is very difficult for me to understand, but he doesn't eat vegetables or fruit!  How can a person go through life with no vegetables or fruit!!!  I just can't comprehend it.  After helping him shop, I asked my husband if a young man like that can actually live off of coke, ice cream, and cookies.....   No, actually he did buy some meat, noodles, cheese, milk and bread too, so I guess he will survive.  He is still young, so maybe he will change his eating habits as he gets older.

The other day we took the subway to go to church.  On our way home, as we were almost to the door of our hotel, I heard a big crash!  I looked and saw that a young woman driving a scooter had tipped over.  I ran over and asked if she needed help.  She was clearly shaken and had hurt her leg.  I helped hold up the scooter while she gathered her things.  The side mirror had broken.  She explained that she hadn't seen a small lip where the sidewalk dropped off.  My husband thought maybe she was embarrassed that I helped her.  I told him I felt she was embarrassed that she had tipped over, but was actually glad that I helped her.  It's hard to know how things are viewed in each culture.  But I think overall she appreciated my help.

Oh, back to food for a minute.  Burger King has tailored it's menu to the Chinese palette.  They have a shrimp/rice patty served on a bun with a couple of slices of mango.  I'm kind of interested to try it.  They also have a very strange looking chicken burger that is served on a black bun with dried pork on top.  The pork looks kind of like hair.  If I can get it to post, I will insert the picture I took of the advertisement on the subway.

Well, if I can continue to get my VPN to work, I will post again.  I can't get on to Facebook, but I can check blogs and watch youtube.  Go figure.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Back to China

I'm back for another round of China.  This time my stay will be about 6 weeks.  I think I won't be coming for the rest of the year though.  My husband has to keep his weeks in China to about 26, or he has to pay more China taxes.  At this point, his company doesn't want any expats, so aren't willing to pay the tax burden.  So this will be my last visit until January.

I boarded my plane in SLC, bound for SFO.  I ended up sitting next to a very large man whose upper body spilled over in to my seat.  His arms took up the armrest, and I had no where to put my arms.  It was a full flight, and I felt sorry for him that he didn't fit, so I just made do the best I could.  I found that when he fell asleep, he would cross his arms across his chest, and that gave me room on the armrest.  He slept most of the flight.  But about 20 minutes after we boarded, while we were still taxying on the runway, the pilot informed us that SFO was turning us back.  We had to go back to the gate and wait for 1 1/2 hours before we could depart.  I began to be very nervous because that would put us in SF about 11:30.  My international flight was at 12:00.

As soon as we arrived at SFO, I hurried out of the plane (after waiting for my carryon to be brought up from the belly) and asked the first airline employee I could find how to get to the international terminal.  I have been in the airport a few times, but it had been awhile, so I couldn't remember very well.  I walked as quickly as I could, and when possible I even ran a little.  My feet are so bad that running is difficult.  As I hurried away, I heard the employee calling out to me that I should take the "red line" on the air train, and go to the first stop.  I walked for about 10 minutes and finally came to the air train.  Next I came to the security check point.  I had about 20 minutes before my flight was due to leave.  I was praying that God would delay the plane.  I got in the security line and noticed a drug sniffing dog coming by.  Suddenly he keyed in on a man in front of me, and sat down next to him.  The TSA agent caught the eye of another agent and gave him a knowing look.  They took that man aside, but I don't think they found anything.  He was Chinese, so the dog could have been smelling Chinese medicine.  But just to make sure, they made us all walk a large circle so the dog could sniff us again.  Meanwhile, the clock was still ticking.....

Actually, because we had to walk in that circle, we were directed to a TSA precheck line that didn't require us to remove our shoes, or take laptops out of our luggage.  It made my security check even quicker, for which I was thankful!  The minute I got my bags, I took off again as fast as I could.

I finally got to the international terminal, and went as quick as I could to my gate.  I hurried right up to the door, but the employee there stopped me.  I said, "Have they already left?"  She said, "No, we don't board for ten minutes."  They had been delayed, but didn't post it on the board!  I was so relieved!

I got a perfect seat in the plane.  It was the last row of the middle seat, and I had the aisle seat.  Another woman had the opposite aisle seat, and the seats in between us were empty!  We both felt so lucky!  What a great flight!

My only problem with the flight was that when I arrived in Shanghai, I realized that my luggage had not arrived with me.  Although I made my flight, my suitcase didn't.  Fortunately, I had slipped some clean under clothing in to my carryon before I left home, so at least I could put on clean clothes the next day.  I wore one of my husband's casual shirts, which looked like a tent on me.  I gathered it at the side and tied a knot.  At least it wasn't a dress on me.  The airline delivered my suitcase to our hotel the next day.  So all's well that ends well.  But next time I think I will put a full change of clothes in my carryon.

I'm already enjoying the Chinese food again.  Our hotel has a wonderful buffet breakfast, and then my husband and I go out for dinner in the evening.  I usually grab something quick for lunch.  I love Chinese food!

The weather here is a little trying for me.  We have typhoon weather, so it is actually cooler than normal, but is still in the 90's with 80% humidity.  I think today will be close to 100 degrees F.  Ugh.

Last time I came, we went to Hong Kong for a few days.  I love Hong Kong and wish I could live there some day.  I was kind of wishing I didn't have to go back to China when our trip was over.  But when we arrived in Shanghai, I realized that I feel very at home in China.  I've lived here for about 4 years of my life, and it does feel very normal to me now.  The people here are wonderful, so I really have nothing to complain about.  Oh wait, except the pollution.  :)

Thursday, July 06, 2017


I have always been terrible about forgiving.  It takes awhile for my "mad" to wear off, and even then, I feel like I have a memory like an elephant.  I remember the offense for a long time, and often think about it.  My husband is just the opposite.  He gets over anger quickly, and then promptly forgets the offense.  Weeks later he can't remember the details, while I remember every word.

Recently we had a very offensive thing happen with a neighbor.  Certain offemsive comments were made to us.  In the moment, I tried to be tolerant.  I tried to be long suffering,  I tried to bite my tongue and keep the peace.  My daughter was in the next room, and came out and put the person in their place.  Part of me wanted to just try to keep the peace.  Part of me was cheering my daughter on.  You would think that after that flare up, and after my stating our position, that would be the end of the problem.  But no, the neighbor went on to be offensive to my sons while we were in China for a month.  I wrote an email to the neighbors.  I started out trying to be tactful, but I have to admit that my anger came out and I wrote a few sharp things.  The neighbor replied, and said they never meant to be offensive.  But honestly, it wasn't much of an apology.

In our scriptures, we are taught that we can "reprove at times with sharpness"but show an "increase of love" thereafter.   (Not an exact quote). I did write an email thanking this neighbor for something nice they did for me.  I also have greeted her when I have seen her.  But that's as far as it has gone,  frankly, I think we are both trying to avoid each other.

One of my problems with forgiveness in this situation is that now I don't trust them.  They have revealed themselves to me, and I haven't liked what I saw.  This is perhaps the hardest thing about forgiveness that is hardest for me.  I might be able to accept them as friends again, but I will probably always keep them at a distance.

So as I've been thinking about this, I thought of the dog training done by Cesar Milan.  One thing he does is provide psychological exercises for the dogs.  For example, he makes them lay in a calm state while listening to loud noises that frighten them.  As the dogs practice these exercises, it is amazing how quickly they overcome their fears and bad behavior.  I've begun to look at these experiences with my neighbor as a psychological exercise for us.  It helps me to think of this as an opportunity for me to learn to forgive.  I'm still struggling with the forgiving part, but thinking of this as a sort of spiritual exercise has helped me to look at these neighbors differently.  I'm not a person that lets go of things easily.  Call it tenacity, or stubbornness, or just pride, but I tend to hang on to things.   I would like to learn to be able to wholely forgive and forget.  How does a person get things out of their mind?  If you have any suggestions, please pass them on.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


I'm not even sure if "sinofied" is a real word.  But to me, the meaning is "to become Chinese".  I feel like in many ways I have become "sinofied".

One of the things I first noticed after coming back to China is how normal everything seems to me.  I went to a grocery store, and things I would have never bought before looked good to me now.  It so easy to sink back in to every day life here.

I look forward to eating the food.  I happened to mention at church that I haven't really been cooking during this visit.  The woman at church said incredulously, "What do you eat?!"  I was kind of dumbfounded, and plainly answered, "Chinese food....".  I love Chinese food, and I can't imagine not liking it.  I was talking to a friend who has been to China several times.  Her husband led a touring group from BYU.  Another friend asked us both, "Is Chinese food good?"  She and I answered at the same time.  I answered "Yes!" and she answered,"No!"  I told her that one reason she probably didn't like it was that she spent a lot of time at resorts.  My experience with resorts is that their food isn't very good.  I told her that if she went to a regular restaurant, she would like the food.  But later she did say to me, "Me and China don't mix."

I have to admit that I didn't always feel about China the way I do now.  As a new missionary, there were many things I wasn't used to.  Back in those days, cilantro wasn't really a part of the American diet.  When I first ate it in Taiwan, I didn't like it.  But through the years I have developed a love for it.  There are many other things about the culture that although I wouldn't choose to live them, I understand them and can accept them.

Although I might understand the culture, there are still things that I haven't really incorporated in to my psyche.  Let me give you an example.  The other night we went out with some friends to a part of "Old Su Zhou".  My husband, and the other man had a conference call they needed to attend by phone, so they went to a nearby McDonald's to find a quiet place to have their conference.  Me and the other co-worker, a woman, walked around the square window shopping.  While we walked, I mentioned to her that I hadn't been able to find any greeting cards in SuZhou.  I wanted to send some thank you notes to some people back in the States.  Today she is flying back to her home in Singapore.  This morning my husband remembered she had given him a small package for me.  It was a sack with some Chinese greeting cards in it!  The Chinese are so good at doing this.  I know they do it, but I have never really made it part of my thinking, so it didn't even occur to me to buy a present for her.

I guess you can take the American out of America, but you can't take America out of the American.  But I do think that China is sinking it's way in a drop at a time.  I do think I"m slowly becoming "sinofied".

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's Back to China I Go

I just got a VPN so that I can access my blog and Facebook, Pinterest etc.  I tried to get one on my iPad, but I could never get it to work.  I feel sad for people in China who don't have access to the wonderful sites and blogs that I regularly view.  I feel sad that they don't have access to as much information.

We are presently in SuZhou, Jiangsu, China.  I think this is the most beautiful city I've ever seen in China.  It was designed with the help of Singapore, and is considered a model for the rest of China.  In addition, the area where we are staying isn't quite as densely populated, so has much less traffic, and is cleaner.  Oh that all of China could be this way!

I'm still trying to adjust to life here.  My main problem is figuring out what to do all day.  I usually go out shopping in the mornings.  There is a vegetable market about a block away.  There is a grocery store right by it.  Then I come home and eat lunch.  I am taking an independent study class, but honestly I don't have the patience to spend hours and hours a day with it.  But I am working my way through the class slowly.  I still have a little jet lag, so usually take a nap in the afternoon.  Also, we have been getting a lot of phone calls from the U.S. during the middle of the night, so we aren't sleeping well.  We have had some family issues that we have had to deal with concerning my husband's brother who was involved in a wreck with a scooter my husband gave him to use.  In the evenings after my husband gets home, we usually walk a block or two to find a restaurant to eat dinner.  Eating out in China is inexpensive, and is really good.  So that's pretty much how my days go.

Tonight's dinner was unusual.  The speciality of the restaurant is a congee dish that is served with meat and vegetables in it.  We ordered some vegetables, shrimp spring rolls, and beef to go with it.  We were sitting right next to the fish tanks.  They have fish, shrimp etc. in big glass tanks.  Every few minutes the chef would come out and get some of the shrimp, or a fish to cook.  So we were just sitting there when all of the sudden a fish leapt out of the tank!  It was flopping on the floor right next to me, but no one but us seemed to even notice!  I called out to the waitress.  She came quickly over, smiling, and grabbed a net to put the fish back in the tank.  Pretty funny!

We have run in to some funny signs too.  One restaurant had the name "Toilet".  I am wondering if they meant "Towlette" or something.  Someone needs a refund on their translation.  

And this drink shop chose the name "Fly juice", when I think their meaning had more to do with the verb, than the noun.  We chose a passion fruit juice that had big black seeds in it.  It was a little too much like real fly juice.....

And the adventure continues....

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Losing Mom

The first of April my siblings and I made the decision to put my mother in a care center.  Her care was getting beyond me.  Her dementia had progressed greatly in the past few months, and there were times I wondered just how much she was aware of her surroundings.  Usually she would respond to me, and she was still "there".  But there were a couple of times that she wasn't, and didn't respond.  Putting her in a care center was EXTREMELY difficult.  We all felt so much guilt.  Some people asked if one of my siblings could take her for awhile.  Yes, theoretically they could have, but honestly, if her care was getting beyond me, it was also getting beyond them.  The care center people assured us we had made the right decision, and felt that she was one of the people who needed a care center most.

As I dealt with the guilt of putting her in the care center, one day I had a thought that really helped me.  It occurred to me that those feelings of guilt and feeling bad for my mother were actually feelings that are pleasing to God.  Feeling empathy, and pain for another person are godly feelings.  I ran across a scripture while reading the Book of Mormon:

Jacob 2:And also it grieveth me that I must use so much boldness of speech concerning you, before your wives and your children, many of whose feelings are exceedingly tender and chaste and delicate before God, which thing is pleasing unto God;

How would God feel if we didn't care about putting our mother in a care center?  If we had no regret at all, what would that say about us as children? My thinking is that feelings of empathy and concern are godly feelings and even though they might be painful, we should feel blessed to have the ability to feel them.

After three weeks of being in the care center, a great blessing happened in that my mother passed away.  Her dementia had progressed to the point that she was having difficulty swallowing.  Evidently, she aspirated something.  The care center called my sister, who lives 30 minutes away.  But my mother died before she could get there.  In my religious beliefs, and from experiences of family members who have died, I believe that loved ones come to "get" a person when they die.  I have no doubt my father came to get my mother's spirit.  Did she die alone?  Absolutely not.  And not to mention that my mother had done a lot of geneology and had come to know many ancestors who died before she was even born.  I'm sure a fair few of them were there as well to welcome her to the world of spirits.

As for me, I feel that because of her dementia, I lost my mother several years ago.  The person I cared for was not the person I have known all my life.  Our family has been grieving for years, so her death is just a release.  I feel relieved for her, that she doesn't have to live with a demented mind, and live in an unfamiliar care center.  And I feel relief for my family who no longer have to worry about her and wonder if she is okay.  We know she is with my father, her parents and siblings, and a daughter that only lived a short time whom she never met.  She lived a great life, and now can celebrate in heaven.