Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, May 17 – When you see a package of “Almonds” sliced like this in China, they usually aren’t really almonds! They are usually apricot kernels or seeds. The confusion goes way back historically. They look and smell alike, and both are called 杏仁 “xingren.” There are two types of apricot kernels: sweet, which are fine to eat, and bitter, which can be dangerous because they contain Amygdalin (vitamin B17), which can break down into cyanide! I’m honestly not sure which kind are usually sold here, hopefully sweet, but the package does warn that you shouldn’t eat too many and that they aren’t safe for children or pregnant women, so…. Maybe they are the bitter ones? The package also says to rinse them before eating (but I never knew that until now!). The bitter ones are considered a TCM remedy for cancer and dry coughs. They do have an amaretto smell and taste good, or I wouldn’t bother with them! We usually just sprinkle a few in our yogurt or chia pudding, the Chinese put them in soup. The only estimate I’ve seen of how many you can eat, said that about 50 kernels would be a lethal dose for adults, 10 for children. I’m surely no doctor, just writing what I have read that seems to be in agreement from multiple places! www.myownchinesebrocade.com
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 20 – Christmas is NOT a legal holiday in China. It is acknowledged by many people, and of course the Christians in China celebrate the best they can, while working and going to school! Young Chinese people like the idea of celebrating Western holidays, even if they think differently about what they are celebrating, and stores in the bigger cities take advantage of selling Christmas decorations. China has also developed one of its own Christmas traditions: Giving apples on Christmas Eve. This came about because the word for apple, “pingguo,” sounds similar to “ping’an ye, ” which means “peaceful night.” The Chinese connect this to “Silent Night” which to them represents the Western Christmas Eve. Stores sell special little boxes that apples can be given in on Christmas Eve. I’ve never tried to buy an apple on Christmas Eve, but supposedly the price goes way up because of the high demand.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 16 – I’m always surprised at the huge amount of frozen pizza available when I’m back in the USA! I’m curious if pizza is so popular in other “Western” countries? Anyhow, this picture shows the frozen pizza selection at our bigger supermarket in the next town; I think our smaller supermarket only has 2 kinds. And I can guarantee that outside of the cities, you would never find frozen pizza in China! The “Special Barbeque Pork “sounds pretty good (even though it also has peas and corn on it!), but what do you think of “tropical fruit,” “Durian,” and “Blueberry” pizza?
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 13 – When we were shopping yesterday, I was excited to find a box of Christmas postcards, 36 cards for 10 rmb ($1.45usd)! Most are nice looking, I even gave some out today at our Dongguan coffee morning, but, there are a couple with “Your Name” printed in the banner across the front! We have seen this before on notebooks and even mall decorations, sometimes reading “Your text here.” All I can figure is that whoever is making these items are copying their pictures from somewhere that you are supposed to customize the items before printing. Since the English level of those making them isn’t good, they are just made and distributed this way. I guess I won't be using those two cards!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 9 – Our local shopping plaza has just switched its decorations from Halloween to Christmas. And… along with the Santa Claus toys, the first roosters have appeared! Chinese New Year is very early next year, arriving on January 28th. 2017 will be the “Year of the Rooster,” so, it looks like in China, Santa will be sharing the spotlight with the rooster this holiday season :-)
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 6 –Dongguan, the city we now live in, has been considered the “world’s factory” for about 20 years (although things are starting to change, factories looking for cheap labor are moving out and high tech industry is moving in. This area produces a large amount of the world’s factory made merchandise: shoes, clothes, toys, cell phones, and more are specialties. The company my husband works for manufactures many name brand products, including Swiffer mops, Brita water filtration products, Procter and Gamble products, and more, plus their own line of household cleaning brushes, sold at Walmart stores.
Some quotes I found online:
“Dongguan, the city known as the “world’s factory,” is home to more than 10,000 foreign-invested enterprises and one of the largest global manufacturing bases.” (that was in 2013)
“One out of every ten pairs of sneakers around the globe is made in Dongguan, one in every five persons on average has a sweater which is made in Dongguan and 30% of toys in the world are also made in Dongguan. “
When I was in the states, just for fun, one day when I was in Pat Catan’s craft store, I purposely looked for things “Made in Dongguan.” It was easier finding them than I expected, and I’ve done the same in the past, looking for things made in Shenzhen while shopping in a Cracker Barrel store!
Today, we went to a small ladies holiday lunch and cookie exchange, then shopped at a temporary Christmas shop in the restaurant’s basement. I was expecting a little shop, but it was quite large, filled with items supposedly from a factory which supplies products to Hobby Lobby stores. This was a treat to have this type of merchandise to browse because usually you can’t find items made for export for sale in China.
Todays pictures show a small section of the Christmas shop we were at today, some of the items I found in the USA that were made in Dongguan, and the tag from a brush at Walmart, made by Hayco (actually in Shenzhen), where Jim works.
So, I have a challenge for those of you reading this … next time you are shopping and think of it, pay attention to where things were made. I know most just say “Made in China,” but, see if you can find something made in the area where we live: Guangdong province, and the main cities are Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan. You could even make a game of it and send your kids on a hunt around your house too :-) If you find something, come back and comment here! :-)
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 5 – At our larger discount/supermarket stores, like Walmart, we have carts that require a one yuan “deposit” in order to use the cart. When you finish shopping and attach the cart to another cart, you get your one yuan coin back. I guess this is to discourage people from taking the carts, but, I think if someone really wanted to take one, the one yuan, which is currently 14.5 cents in USD, wouldn’t really stop them!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 4 – This display was set up outside of the supermarket in the town next to us. While this is not regularly there, snakes and turtles are commonly used as both food and Traditional Chinese medicine where we live, they are thought to give longevity and health when consumed. When snake is offered on a restaurant menu, it is often referred to as “dragon.” These people had a large container of snake wine and they were offering free samples, as well as selling bottles of it. Snake wine is made by infusing the whole snake in the wine. On display, there were also horseshoe crabs (which I’ve been told are used in soup), frogs, some kind of insects, and ganoderma (a type of mushroom). I personally missed seeing this, Jim and Leah saw it and took these pictures.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, November 7 – Steamed buns are a very popular food in China. You can get them with all types of fillings. I can’t eat the steamed buns being gluten intolerant, but they look delicious! In the mornings, you walk past shops with huge steamers piled high (but I can’t find my pictures right now :-( ) Quite often, you also see these cute little piggy buns :-) I think they usually have BBQ pork in them, but not always. The top picture is some piggy buns for sale at the larger supermarket we shop at in the next town, and sometimes buy some Dim Sum. The other pictures are frozen buns you can buy at the supermarket nearer to us. They have panda bears and brown bears as well as piggies. They are more of a sweet snack or dessert with custard or red bean filling.
It is time for another break from my daily pictures, tomorrow, Leah and I head for the USA for 3 weeks. I will post random pictures as time allows. In the meantime, feel free to heck out my old blog from when we first came to China! http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/covemom/
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, November 5 – China has become a bit stricter with pirated DVD’s and movies in areas where there are more foreigners, but for the most part, I think the practice is still everywhere. We have a small local movie/CD store where we buy our movies for 5 or 10 rmb each, that’s 75 cents to $1.50 USD. At first I struggled with doing this, but, although we have Netflix and Amazon Prime, the internet is usually too slow to watch movies. So, while in China, we do as the Chinese do, and watch pirated movies! Actually, the majority of Chinese just download their movies and music (for free). Where we used to live, there were movie carts, and they would set up in the evenings. Every so often you wouldn’t see them for a while and then you’d know that the police were cracking down. The picture is the back of a music CD that was translated to English; enjoy reading the song titles :-) Out of curiosity, I typed the ISBN number into Google search, a bunch of Chinese results came up, so I clicked the first one and the music instantly started playing, it was Chinese songs though, not English, but this was a set of multiple CD’s, supposedly for listening to in the car, so maybe it was mixed. If you go to the large chain bookstores and department stores, you can find DVD’s and CD’s that are supposedly official, but the English selection is very limited. www.myownchinesebrocade.com
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, November 3 – Buying rice in China, or probably most of Asia, is quite different than in the USA and other western countries. In a western grocery store, I would say most rice is in 1 or 2 pound packages, am I right? Well, I had Leah stand in my picture by the rice aisle so you can see how big the bags are! There are NO small packages! Most of the Chinese people here eat rice with every meal, so, they need these big bags! There is also the bulk section, where you can buy a smaller amount. You often see people running the rice through their fingers; I was told that is how you can know what quality it is. With all of these different types of rice, there is obviously a lot more to choosing rice than I ever learned!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 31 – I was surprised that we actually had trick or treaters last night: 2 kids and their dog! There was no planned trick or treating where we live, so I wasn’t expecting anyone, but I did find something to give them :-) Halloween isn’t really celebrated by most Chinese, but in areas where expats live, and also where children have English classes and learn about Western culture, there are often parties. This year, I think I’ve seen more parties advertised for adults, at bars and restaurants, than activities for kids! Some of the housing complexes with a lot of foreigners have trick or treating (But not in Songshan Lake, where we live). Our shopping plaza has Halloween decorations up, and the supermarket and one other store had small sections of Halloween items for sale. These pictures show the ‘signs’ of Halloween in Songshan Lake: left – The red lanterns came down and were replaced with Jack-o-lantern lanterns! Top right – The one store that has a big window display has it all done up for Halloween, pumpkins right along with the red lantern window stickers :-) Bottom right – A close up of one of the plastic jack-o-lanterns … with an evergreen branch handle! And Lower left – A place for pictures in the center of the plaza, those panda statues that have been around for a while now, are there right along with the haunted house :-) That’s it, Halloween Chinese style!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 25 – Mickey and Minnie Mouse are probably the most popular Disney characters in China, although certain Disney princesses are also well known, as well as the more recent movies like Frozen. Mickey Mouse is called 米奇 Mǐ qí, (pronounced Mee Chee) or 米老鼠 Mǐ lǎo shǔ (lao shu is mouse).” Minnie is called 米妮 Mǐ nī (pronounced Mee Nee). The Chinese names are phonetic, and have nothing to do with the actual meaning of the characters (the “mi” means rice, I think it’s a fun thought that they could be “rice mice” in China! :-) ) You find them quite often on young children’s school and art supplies, but although I have searched specifically, I couldn’t find a product with their Chinese names included. I figure it must be something with the copyright laws? There are also plush toys, clothing, etc. with Mickey and Minnie, but it all looks like what you would find in the USA. There has been a Disney park in Hong Kong since 2005, and the first one on mainland China opened this past June in Shanghai. If you’d like to hear Mickey speak Chinese, here is a You Tube video with the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Intro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tsuf_5_8-Ak
In Guangdong, the province where we live, as well as in Hong Kong, the local language is Cantonese, which is quite different from Mandarin Chinese. Here is the same Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Intro in Cantonese: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TijzuzYFtqc
The picture shows, from top left clockwise: Dr. “Mi qi” and nurse “Mi ni” on a paper pad, Oil pastels (these are what the children use as crayons), pencil cases, candy boxes (these are obviously a little different but still had Disney), backpacks, and a notebook for English practice. All products pictured are official Disney products.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 24 – China, although thy have a large number of animal lovers and animal rights activists, still has many practices that can be considered as animal cruelty. Tattooing goldfish is one of these. Goldfish themselves are considered to bring good luck to their owners, and people worldwide have gotten tattoos of goldfish for a long time. Then, about 10 years ago, someone got the idea to start tattooing the goldfish to make them even more appealing to people. The idea became popular 5 or 6 years ago, unfortunately, it’s not so lucky for the goldfish. The Chinese characters or patterns that are tattooed on the goldfish are done by either injection or with a laser; either way damages the fish’s scales and it usually dies prematurely. These fish are sold pretty much anywhere you can buy live fish to keep as pets, although I’m sure there are some independent shops who look down on the practice. So, if you live in China, please don’t buy these fish!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 21 – The delicatessens in Chinese supermarkets are similar in idea, but very different in the kind of food you can buy in an American deli! They have whole roasted chickens (with the heads and feet of course!) and ducks and maybe even a goose, pigeons, or other birds. There is also a variety of chicken pieces, usually cooked in a few ways: spicy, something yellow that I’m guessing is curry or saffron?, and … there is breaded/fried chicken! There is no such thing as lunch meat or cold cuts. But, there are fresh rice noodles of all sizes, and you can get a bowl fixed right there. There is no salad bar either, but a “bar” of spicy food dishes, I’m not sure what it is actually called! There is also a big tofu section, a sushi section, and roasted peanuts! Of course they vary, and the bigger the supermarket, the more they have, these pictures are from the same supermarket where we get the Beggar’s Chicken (July 21st post) and Dim Sum. www.myownchinesebrocade.com
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 20 – Often in China you see misspelled words and think someone has made a big mistake, and sometimes they probably have, but, it’s often done on purpose. There are LOADS of fake or copied brands and products in China, and I was once told by a Chinese friend that companies will do this to protect themselves from copyright lawsuits. I guess it’s hard to really know when it’s a mistake and when it’s on purpose, either way, for the many Chinese people who don’t know English, it doesn’t really matter to them. It looks very similar, and in the case of this shirt we saw today, whether it says Snpooy” or “Snoopy,” the picture is something they recognize, so they buy it. Have you ever bought a shirt with something written in another language? Did you know for sure what it said? A few other misspellings we’ve seen are: Pink – Pnik, Nike – Mike, Adidas – Adides, Calvin Klein – Calein Klvin, and …. Samsung – Snmsang, Sansumg, and Sumsanc (all in a row at a phone store!) If you’ve been in China and saw some good ones, feel free to share in the comments.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 19 – After 7 ½ years in China, I still just don’t get why the Chinese (and other Asian countries) love chicken feet so much! I have starting putting the whole chicken, including head and feet, in the pot for broth, BUT - I have tried eating the feet, and my opinion is that you are just chewing the flavored skin off the bones. Anyhow … my opinion doesn’t really matter; Chicken feet are VERY popular in China! Top picture is three different flavors ready cooked at a supermarket, bottom left to right: package of spicy chicken feet for snacking, fresh chicken feet on a pile of ice, and more precooked, but packaged chicken feet.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 17 – Dalang, the town next to Songshan Lake (where we live) is known as the “Famous Sweater Town of China.” When you get off the highway at a nearby exit, it even states that fact, even in English!... above the toll booths! It was hard to find information in English, but here is a little …. There are supposed to be almost 10,000 knitting and textile companies in the Dalang ‘cluster’! 3,000 of those are in Dalang itself. There are over 300 big companies, but also LOTS of small ones, some with just one knitting machine. Another place (I forget where I copied it from!) stated that “One in every five persons (in the world) on average has a sweater which is made in Dongguan (in which Dalang is the center of the knitwear industry). In 2010, the sweater industry in Dalang employed about 100,000 people and sold 1.2 billion sweaters, with 60% being exported! There are about ten sweater markets in Dalang and today we finally went to one. We chose the largest, the Dalang Woolen Trade Center. It is mainly a wholesale market, but some places will sell individual items and many have racks of samples for sale. The ground floor was full and had a good amount of activity, second floor was partially full, and the third floor was still empty, I guess there is plenty of room for growth! Here’s an interesting video on YouTube of one of the large knitwear companies in Dalang https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEVt1ElQZRA There is also a HUGE knitwear Fair held annually in Dalang which brings in buyers from around the world. Pictures are all from the market today, the one of the outside is the North entrance and half the building length, the others all all different parts of the inside.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 14 – I think I’ve said before that I really like many of the Traditional Chinese Medicine products… it’s basically natural medicine, which I’m all for. (Yes, I do know there are needs for modern Western medicine too!) Anyhow, I unfortunately have trouble with my knees, but for years now I have used these Chinese medicine patches or “plasters.” When I know I need to climb (like when we visited the rice terraces!), using these does wonders! I’ve been having more problems with arthritis in my thumb joints lately, so today I went to see the local pharmacist. I hadn’t realized that I could buy these pain patches in very small size! The pharmacist not only showed me what I needed, he proceeded to put the patches on my thumbs and tape them down good so they would stay! (I was kind of sweaty :-( we had been walking and it is still in the upper 80’s here) What service :-) So, if you have aches or pains, I highly recommend these! There are different types of the “tong” (pain) “gao” (paste/plaster) patches. They come stuck to both sides of a paper, and you have to be careful peeling them off so they don’t stick to themselves (or you won’t get them undone!). If you have really sensitive skin, you might have problems, and they have a pretty strong herbal medicine smell for the first couple hours. My favorite kind for my knees are the green package, the blue package are the little ones on my thumbs, and the big package are for your back. You can buy these online in the USA, but they are about 10 times the cost of in China! If any US friends want to try them, let me know and I can bring some home in November! Here’s an article with a little more info: http://www.theworldofchinese.com/2013/10/time-to-get-patched-up/
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 12 – Passionfruit isn’t native to China, it is originally from South America, but it is grown here now (mainly Guangxi). I wouldn’t say it’s really common, but we can find it when it is in season (mid-summer to early fall). It has a very interesting taste, quite tart, but yet sweet. You cut the fruit open and scoop out the pulp and seeds to eat; The seeds are crunchy. I usually eat it just as it is, but sometimes I add a little sweetener. The other way I see it used is in fruit teas. There are a lot of varieties, I’m not sure what exactly we get. They grow on vines, and the flowers are beautiful! This is a flower we saw at the Singapore Zoo.