Friday, September 6, 2013

Eating and lions, by Stacie

I feel this back and forth response to being here in China. I love it, and I feel helpless. I love so many things here, and even the adventure of things, but it is difficult to take care of yourself and your family when you can't communicate well enough to be able find things or to do some things. It is the end of our second week here, and I feel a little unsettled still. We are rolling with it, and enjoying being here anyway.
I love it here, especially the people. One saving grace of being helpless in China is my new friend Lily. Lily teaches children English here in Changsha, and she grew up at the beautiful national park in the Avatar movie: zhang jia jie. I am always in her debt. She helps me with all my questions, and I have to be careful about what I ask her about or she might buy me something. She helped Ezra with his cough and asked one of her doctor- friends to take a look at him to make sure it wasn't serious, he is fine now. She has given me my teaching project, and now I feel useful and happy. She is always checking up on me. She is extremely kind!
Lily and her son Joey (their American names)

The building dedicated to the revolutionary general
The other day we went to look around at the HNU, and she explained one of the buildings there. I found it really interesting. The building was dedicated to a General in the Chinese Revolution. After the war, the ashes of the fallen soldiers from Changsha were kept in the building to honor their loyalty and sacrifice for China. Eventually the ashes were returned to the soldiers' homes. Their are two lions outside flanking the front entrance. The lions are guardians to keep the occupants healthy and safe. You might notice that the ears are back and the tongue is out, that is because they are playful. Also this one has a child, the left one has a ball instead. The chinese above the door is in the pre-revolutionary style of writing from the right to the left; today chinese is written left to right except for special things like this.
Lily explained that many people's homes have lions flanking their front door as well. The lions keep the family healthy and safe. Then inside the home there is often a picture of a tiger, another guardian with the same job. The city of Changsha has many of these lions in front of banks and other buildings as well. My kids like to stick their hands in the lion's mouth and pretend they are being eaten. :-D Some of the lions have a stone ball in their mouth that was carved as the mouth was carved and is too big to take out, it rolls around in the mouth, again to show they are playful. (It is okay that they are playing on them if you are wondering.) Also, the older lady in the photo is doing tai chi (very slowly). There were other people around this building doing tai chi as well.
Cooking here is interesting too. We are trying to find place to eat out that fit our criteria: not super greasy, our kids will eat something there, not too pricey so we can go often, and within walking distance. It is likely we will find a few places, but for now no place has fit all those requirements. It is hard to walk in somewhere and ask about the food and prices because of our lack of language skills. We have been trying to eat at home too, but it has its own challenges. As far as eating out, China is really interesting. Their are plenty of nice, well-established restaurants around. There are also tons of little shops that sell food too. The small food vendors can have a street cart or they can be in a small storage-unit like store. When we walk down the large streets the food-vendors are about two to five per block. Also, when we walk down small apartment filled alleys and side roads that seem quiet and off the main road, there are still all these small food vendors.Some of them are in the bottom floor of the apartment building.
As far as cooking, the fruits and vegetables are different. We have found potatoes, corn, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and other familiar things to eat; but all the leafy greens are foreign to me. I have been trying a new one each time. One tasted like asparagus, another turned the water purple like a beet green would. The greens we ate today smelled and looked like leaves off of a tree, but tasted mild like spinach. I find it fun to try the mystery greens. Even funner is the mystery fruit. We ate a mangosteen today and the fruit was slimey and looked like white orange sections inside a woody purple peel, but it tasted delicious. The other day we had longan, it was in size and texture like a peeled grape. It tasted good too.
We generally eat fruit, oatmeal or bread for breakfast, the kids find it familiar and it is a nice break from eating Chinese every meal. We often have soup or rice or noodles, any of those with a vegetable or two for lunch. They all taste like Chinese food because they are flavored with soy sauce. We have made corn on the cob and mashed potatoes at home, which was a more American flavored meal. We buy the imported Skippy peanut butter in a tiny jar. We also keep a supply of soda crackers and cookies of some kind in case the little girls, or anyone else needs something they can eat without cooking. We have a hot plate and a rice steamer and that is it, one for each of the two electrical outlets in the oven-free kitchen. The fridge is small and doesn't stay cold too well, so we are careful about what goes in there.
homemade soup
eating at home

maozi bread and the very soft white bread they sell here

bing bread

mangosteen fruit

mystery greens of the day

trying the mangosteen


  1. Hi Stacie! Hi Kevin! Hope you don't mind me blog-stalking you a bit. I'm amazed both by your adventure and by your adventurousness! Reading your posts has given me a strange combination of flashbacks to my mission to Japan, and to the Fulbright year our family spent in Germany when we had two little ones. I can only imagine what it would be like with five kids! I'm sure there will be daily challenges, but I hope the positives will outweigh the difficulties, and that you will all feel acclimated soon! Thanks for sharing your experiences in the blogosphere.

  2. Hi, Harmony. It's good to hear from you. I bet you had an amazing time in Japan and in Germany on the Fulbright. Keep in touch :)