Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, November 6 – For many people in China, owning a car is a luxury they can’t afford. Many people, including families, use regular or electric bikes for transportation. It’s fairly common to see families riding together, usually Dad, Mom and 1 or 2 children. In this picture, it looks like the grandmother on the back. The way the little boys are standing in front of the Mom is typical. If they are really small, I’ve seen them turned around and holding on to their mother’s legs instead of the handlebars. www.myownchinesebrocade.com
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, November 4 – You can buy soooo many kinds of tea in China! I love tea and really haven’t found many I don’t like yet! But… in the past, when I saw ‘cheese” and “tea” together, I was very hesitant. Well, we FINALLY realized that the “cheese” is a soft cream cheese topping that is added to the tea, and it is DELICIOUS! Imagine a cheesecake with your tea :-) There are different kinds, but what we have had twice now is called “Hai yan zhi shi nai gai”; That is translated as “Sea salt cheese milk cap,” and you choose if you want it on black or green tea, or others depending on the shop. The first time we tried it, there were even directions on the lid for how to drink it! You don’t put your straw in and drink like with most iced teas, you sip from the cup, tipping it just enough to get a little of the cream cheese while you drink the tea. The first time I had this, it was on the menu as “Riyuetan Pool Black Tea Milk cap,” nothing about the cheese in English, the “riyuetan” means “sun and moon pool.” Today, we tried it at a new little drink shop at our plaza, no English on their menu, thankfully I have Leah to help! The shop is called “Tea Get” :-) We agreed that the mascot looks awfully similar to an M & M character! Hmmm....yes, we live in China! Milk caps are common for iced tea, but I haven’t tried any other than this cheese kind. Has anyone else? How are they?
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 26 – The past few weeks, I’ve started seeing the vendors with “tanghulu.” These are candied fruit on a stick. Traditionally, they were made from Chinese hawthorn (also called haw, haw berry or hawthorn apple), and these are still the most common, but, I’ve also seen strawberries, kiwi, cherry tomatoes and mandarin oranges. They are the Chinese equivalent to a candy apple; hardened sugar coating outside with soft fruit inside. They are typically a street food found in cooler weather. In the summer, you can buy “bingtanghulu” where the sticks of hawthorn fruit are frozen. I like to eat the frozen ones better simply because they normally don’t have seeds and the others do! The man also has a cotton candy making machine on the back of his cart, and has pinwheels for sale. This cart was parked at the entrance to a park. You also commonly see people either carrying the poles with the candied fruit for sale or riding a bicycle with them attached to the handlebars.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 23 – I’m not sure how I’ve made it this far into the year without posting specifically about dragons! Dragons, called龙 long, are HUGE in China and there is no way I’ll cover everything there is to learn about them in this paragraph! Most importantly, dragons in China are GOOD, unlike dragons in Western lore that are/were mean, ferocious enemies. Chinese dragons are mainly symbols of power and good luck. They have a very different look than most Western dragons. They have NO wings (although they can fly) and they don’t breathe fire; They have scales like a fish, the mane of a lion, the claws of a hawk, a long tail like a snake, the antlers of a deer, the mouth of a bull, the beard of a catfish, the nose of a dog, and eyes like a shrimp! Legend says that the emperor was a direct descendant of the dragon. Legend also says that the Imperial dragon had 9 dragon sons; today, you can still recognize nine different specific dragons, used in different ways. The dragon is also one of the Chinese Zodiac animals, the only mythological one of the group. Long ago, the dragon symbol was only allowed to be used by the emperor, but, today dragon symbols are widely used as a decorative symbol. This large ornamental pillar with a dragon wrapped around it is located in the Dalingshan Town Square, in Dongguan.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, May 8 – Chinese cities, although very crowded, seem to always have parks within fairly easy reach of most areas. Many people use the parks for socializing and relaxation. There are quite a variety of activities that go on in these parks and music is a regular one. Sometimes one person is playing, sometimes a group, and sometimes they are singing. Today, we saw this man playing the erhu, a traditional 2 stringed Chinese instrument, and quite a few people sitting around listening. www.myownchinesebrocade.com
A fairly common site in China as you are out and about is to see staff “pep talks,” either inside of a business or outside in front of the business. These seem to last quite a long time from the ones I’ve seen, but, I’ve never actually seen one from beginning to end because I’ve moved on. The employees line up in nice neat rows, and I assume it’s their manager speaking at the front. At times, I’ve seen them saying things in unison and even dancing! This group was in a supermarket where we were shopping today.
Today, we went to Walmart: Visiting Walmart in China is somewhat different than in the USA. At first glance, walking into “Wa Er Ma” 沃尔玛 (pronounced waw - rhyming with raw- are ma -like your mom), which is the Chinese name, I can pretend I’m in the USA - if I don’t look at the fact that all the people around me are Chinese! But, as soon as I start shopping, that vision is usually shattered! There are a few more familiar items than in Chinese brand supermarkets, but, we are in China, and Walmart must sell what the Chinese people will buy! There are “Great Value” items, but, I don’t think you’ll find these same items in your local American Walmart: marinated duck gizzard, a huge bag of rice, watermelon seeds, chrysanthemum tea, plus a lot more! And that isn’t even taking into account everything else they sell! Like most supermarkets here, they are basically inside of shopping malls, and typically 2 floors. The towns on either side of us each have fairly new Walmart stores, but for us to get to them means 2 or 3 buses, and 45 minutes to an hour transport time. So, we usually go to closer stores.
Gong Cha is my favorite tea shop for a drink while we’re out. The company is originally from Taiwan, first started in 2006, but now has over 1000 stores in about a dozen countries, including CA and NY in the USA J We’ve had it in many parts of China, Hong Kong, and Singapore. When we lived in Shenzhen, it could be found in just about every shopping mall. They are known for Taiwan Style Bubble Tea. Teas with different kinds of fruit are plentiful, and you can add in extras to any drink: things like pearls, red beans (adzuki), milk caps, various jellies (herbal, coconut, aloe, fig, etc). You also choose your level of sugar and ice. We have found that different locations have different options though, and depending on the location, they may or may not have an English menu. This picture is from our neighboring town of Dalingshan. Photo credit goes to my husband Jim.
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 16 - Many times in low to mid cost restaurants in China, along with your teacup, rice bowl, plate, spoon and chopsticks, you will be given a large empty bowl and a pot of tea. Often, the dishes are wrapped in plastic to show that they have been sanitized with heat, but it is considered proper etiquette to rinse your dishes with the tea before eating. Tea supposedly is a good disinfectant and will dissolve any oil that may be left on the dishes. You rinse these over the bowl: I usually first add tea to the cup, then pour it into the bowl, swish my spoon and chopsticks in the bowl, then pour it over the plate into the large bowl. To finish, put the plastic which the dishes and chopsticks were wrapped in into the large bowl and the waitress will come and pick it up :-)
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 3 - This is the gate or archway to Dalingshan Park, in the town next to where we live. Although you just walk right under, it is definitely a separation between the lively, noisy, business area behind where I stood, from the peaceful, quiet, park on the other side.