Back in China

Despite not touching this blog once I set foot in the US back in 2012, I often think back to my time in China. I was so ready to leave, but now I find that I miss little things about China–the food, the cost of living, the culture, the sounds, the people. A couple weeks ago, I led high school students from Washington State on a trip to China called Chinese Bridge Summer Camp, sponsored by the Confucius Institute. Check out those adventures here

Hopefully this post can be a better conclusion to this blog than my previous post, which felt a little like reading a book with the last 10 pages missing. See you soon, 中国! 

 再见.

36 More Hours in Asia

I still have plenty of thoughts lurking around my mind before I wrap up this blog, but for now, I have less than 2 full days until I step foot on good ol’ American soil. I’m so excited….but also more sad than I thought I would be. I want to recap my China travels when I return to Seattle, but for now, here’s one of my favorite photos from my backpacking trip in the Nujiang Valley on the border of China, Tibet, and Myanmar/Burma:

Tyler, Meredith, Hannah, and Alou admiring the view after a long day of hiking and altitude sickness.

Shanghai Summer

We took a 22 hour train ride from Shanghai to Guilin on Sunday night, and now we’re off to explore the lovely city of Guilin! After living in Xi’an for a year, I have to say that I didn’t love Shanghai like I thought I would. One of the taxi drivers rudely made fun of Tyler’s Chinese abilities in Shanghai, and any taxi driver in Xi’an would have been singing his praises just for saying ni hao. It’s similar in the US too, I suppose. NYC has a reputation for being mean; Atlanta has a reputation for having Southern hospitality. I guess I’m not a “big city” kind of gal.

Packing Up

I’ve managed to pack up my life into 3 suitcases and say goodbye to everyone in Xi’an who I’ve come to care for. Spending time with my mom and sister, showing them my Chinese habitat and introducing them to the people I always talk about made me so happy…and seeing them go made me equally sad.

Tomorrow, I leave for Shanghai, Guilin, Yangshou, Kunming, and Deqin before leaving this country for an indefinite amount of time, and I finally get to see Tyler after being apart for 5 (!!) months.

Happy Independence Day. It’s hard to believe that I’m coming back to the USA on July 26th.

China Defies Preconceived Ideas

Everything Mama Lundstrem has learned about safety, hygiene and fashion have been challenged by 12 days in Beijing and and Xi’an. (I thank Georgina I.for that phrase.) Some of my observations follow.

Bicycles, new BMW’s and other late model cars, pushbikes,mopeds, motorbikes, trucks, double decker buses, taxis and pedestrians are all trying to progress from a different point A to some point B.  There is some structure to the navigational pattern (I’m assuming the driver knows where he is headed), but horn blowing and survival of the biggest reigns.  There are often 8 lanes of traffic with all types of vehicles and pedestrians jockeying to move forward or go in the opposite direction in the SAME lane!!!!  Fortunately I haven’t seen any head on collisions yet.  I cross the street on a wing and a prayer, plus my head is swiveling from right to left with every step I take.  That being said, there are crosswalks and the green walk signs, but if a vehicle needs to drive through the crosswalk, so be it. By the way, where are bike helmets made??? Not one of the hundreds of bikers sports a helmet!!!!  Nor have I seen a seat belt in any of the dozen taxi rides that I have taken.

Pungent, unpleasant and tantalizing odors greet you the minute one ventures outside. Babies and toddlers all wear split pants and relieve themselves wherever it is convenient. For the most part public toilets mean squat toilets and no tissue or paper towels.  The solution is limit your consumption of water and carry hand sanitizer.  No problem there.  The markets are filled with fragrant meats, noodles, curries, and other spices.  We have ventured out of our comfort zone and have tried the wonderful barbecued skewered meats, and all sizes of noodles with vegetables.  Our choices have ranged from 5 Star Hotel duck dinners to, skewered lamb and chicken wings from local vendors to nice sit down dinners at the Terra Cotta Warriors site. We have stayed healthy and enjoyed the various offerings, and have entertained other restaurant patrons with our very rudimentary chopstick skills.  On occasion half of my dinner has ended up in my lap, and napkins are not provided.

The fashion mix and match is quite bold.  All patterns and fabrics are fair game.  How about pink and green paisley tops with orange striped pants or plaids with polka dots, why not?  Women shop in pajamas with heels or dressed to the nines with gorgeous silk dresses and everything in between.  Three inch heels are the perfect shoe choice for scaling mountains.  My understanding is that the women have freedom now to wear whatever shoe they want and do not have to worry about binding their feet, and consequently shoes and shoe styles are extremely varied.  Women sport “sunbrellas” to insure that their complexion remains creamy, porcelain white.   When men get hot they just roll up their shirts and expose their midriff.  They will soon be sporting an interesting tan line.

The headlong rush into entrepreneurial capitalism means that the faster buildings including high rises are constructed the sooner people can be piled into the buildings. Think instant cities.  Beijing and Xi’an are in a frenetic state of tear downs to clear land for the high rises.  Unfortunately the quality of construction and the corresponding infrastructure leave much to be desired. The bamboo scaffolding certainly inspires confidence.  I doubt building codes have been invented here and if there is a building code then I am certain that a few hundred RMB judiciously paid could substitute for the code and inspection. In contrast Chinese icons and tourist destinations including Forbidden City, Summer Palace, the Terra Cotta Warrior site, the Great Wall and, Tiananmen Square are meticulously maintained and repaired on a regular schedule.  The historical landmarks were built during the Imperial reigns for the Quin, Ming and Han Dynasties and the highest possible quality of construction was emphasized and expected.  The landmarks are gorgeous treasures that China showcases to Chinese nationals and foreign tourists.

Our visit is approaching the end, and I am looking forward to adding another couple of comments in a subsequent post.  Thanks for the opportunity to share.

The Foundation Cookbook

I mentioned a while back that my Foundation students were writing recipes (some of them for the first time)  to create a Foundation class cookbook. Well, here is the finished product, spelling mistakes and all! I can’t wait to cook “The Mutton Soaks Steamed Bread” (p.51) for Tyler, or maybe he’d prefer “Beggar’s Chicken” (p. 94) which involves “cooking” the chicken by burying it in soil. Are you a vegetarian like me? There’s always “Turnip Cake” (p. 38), “Hot Candied Balls” (p. 19), or “Instant Noodles Pizza” (p. 4) to try!

If those recipes didn’t entice you to take a look, here’s an excerpt from the introduction, written by a Foundation student:

Do you like cooking? Do you like eating? Can you resist the temptation of all kinds of wonderful food? Here you can find the answer. This is a magical book. It contains not only abundant recipes, but plenty of enjoyment. Opening this book will bring you to the palace of feasts, the world of dishes! Come and excite your tongue! Yummy!

With an intro like that, how can you not check it out?!

Click the following link to access to cookbook: The Foundation Cookbook.

Special thanks to Tyler for helping me convert the files to pdf and collate everything from afar. 🙂