Wednesday, August 29, 2012

China Love: Top 10

I think we've surprised those who ask, " How's China?" with our reply.

 "It's not that bad good".

I admit, having never been here before the move, I had some pre-conceived notions of what it was going to be like, moving to an Asian city where everything was, for lack of a better word, foreign.

Perhaps I had NZ's India experience fresh in my mind when I dreamed about what China might be like. My mind wandered into the land of filth, and crowds, and disrepair. Surely that exists here-but it also exists in America. Just not where we live in America. The same goes for where we live in China. We're really happy with our "home" here. We're in a good, fairly safe location. We have many amenities within a short walk. We have easy access to taxi cabs and mass transit. We have great neighbors in our complex, and a wealth of support from fellow expats and a handful of locals we've made friends with. Living here, and being happy, is possible.

The other day, while grubbing on jiaozi at our favorite dumpling joint ( 30 RMB lunch for two, holla!), NZ and I started talking about the things we have fallen for here. We had fun compiling this here it goes, commentary and all...

We have a dumpling place about 3 blocks from our apartment. It's our favorite. And it's cheap. We usually grub on jiaozi, which are won ton wrappers filled with minced meat and veggies, then steamed. Two plates divided by two people, plus a soda and beer for a grand total of $5 USD. That's less than McDonald's, yo.

We scored in terms of Ayi placement. So many of my acquaintances have fired their Ayi because they are unhappy with the attitude or cleaning methods. One of my friend's claims her Ayi talks back. We adore our Ayi, and it's clear that she enjoys working for us. My floors can be eaten off of ( just ask Sal), our windows are always clean, and she even scrubs our shoes once a week. I've heard horror stories of Ayi's using the same rag they clean toilets with to clean kitchen counters, so I bought her a bunch of different color rags when she started, and she never uses the blue one in the bathroom--so our kitchen counters are safe (sneaky, sneaky--aren't I? color coding towels and all) from bathroom funk. I do agree, that would be totally gross. But anyways, we do love Liu, and hope she continues to do a great job.
Keep the food comin, lady--and we'll get along juuuust fine.
Sal & Liu
(P.s. yes, I know about the BUMBO recall...he now gets fed on the floor and is never unattended)

This one is a joke, but not really. I have a had a long love affair with vinegar. Did you know it can clean just about anything? It's the answer to all of my cleaning, de-oderizing prayers. It's not unusual for me to answer with, " Oh, I'll just put/soak/pour vinegar on it.". Making this frugal girl even happier???? Buying it by the gallon for less than a dollar. I squealed ( kid you not, ask NZ) when I finally figured out which big white bottle was vinegar, and again when I saw the price. NZ also loves vinegar, but his is food related. He's been a rice vinegar fiend since moving here. He adds it to everything!

Our transition to Wuxi was made easier by joining the Wuxi International Club. It's a social group comprised of expats and locals alike. They distribute taxi cards, maps and host functions and get togethers to assist in making connections with others in similar situations. I've benefited the most from joining this group, as I've made a handful of friends to explore Wuxi and it's surround with. It's nice to have those who have lived here longer than us, give us advice and pointers about where to eat, what sights to see & what grocery center carries x, y, and z.

Love, love, love our vegetable market. It's like a farmer's market every single day. We have our favorite vendors now, and I feel like we're finally fitting in a little bit better when we go in to buy our week's produce. Sal has been practicing his Chinese " Ni Hao"as we walk through, with me waving his hand and saying it for him. The fruit stand lady always gives us an extra banana, and a piece of seen-better-days fruit to take home for Sal. He's a charmer, that boy of ours! I usually go on Wednesdays with the girls, and then again on Saturday or Sunday with NZ. Shopping there is forcing me to learn my numbers so I know if I'm getting screwed or not when my change is returned!
Vegetables at the market

Think of a huge indoor swap meet that never ever leaves. They just squeeze in more bays when new vendors show up. That's stuff mart in a nut shell. It's actually called Hon Mei market, but us gringos call it stuff mart--because, well---it's full of STUFF. I went there this week with Mrs. Michigan and Sal and I found art supplies, poker chips ( finally!) and even what I assume to be discarded quiksilver patches from the clothing line. I see an infant baseball cap and discarded logo being united in matrimony soon. I'll make my very own one of a kind hat for the boy. NZ still hasn't gotten to experience Stuff Mart, and he may not be as enthralled with it as his wife--but it's a lookie loo's paradise.

Tsingtao has replaced Budweiser in our refrigerator. Budweiser IS available here, but gets passed up in favor of Tsingtao..That's really sayin' somethin, if you know my ol man.

The high speed trains here are no joke. If you can get past the shock of how busy the train stations are ( & how hot they are-no A/C???? Really?), it's a real treat to take the high speed train. The trains are super clean, have tons of leg room, and are incredibly quiet. They cut travel time down to a third of what it would take via car. They're wonderful. To put it in perspective--NZ can make it to Shanghai, Hongquaio station from Wuxi in 45 minutes. It would take about 2 hours by car.

Where's Waldo?

We've got scooters on the brain around here. It wouldn't be too surprising if we find ourselves on the scooter lot soon.
They see us rollin, They hatin'.

Living in a foreign country together, and experiencing it first hand is just one of those things that I don't think either of us ever saw ourselves doing when we met. One of my favorite things about being here are the simple texts back and forth of "Only in China" moments. Some of the things we see, or experiences we have had--we will still be laughing about in years to come. I think that the " Only in China" moments that we laugh about will help keep us grounded and appreciate what we have.

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