Thursday, July 22, 2010


I went an entire meal in the presence of Chinese using my chopsticks! I have photos as proof! I can get witness statements for those who are still disbelievers. As my grandmother said, "At least now you won't starve."

Taco night with Molly was a success, even though we had two minor last minute crises:

1) the green fruits I had bought turned out not to be limes, but a type of orange
2) Andrew's corn tortillas did not work out, so I had to, at the last minute, make flour tortillas (a much more time-consuming process as it requires yeast and rising)

But all in all, she liked the food and had a good time learning how to play "Go Fish," "Crazy 8's," "Blackjack," and "Jungle Speed," which is a French pattern-recognition speed contest that a friend gave us as a going away gift. In exchange for our humble meal, Molly brought us 6 bottles of Great Wall red wine, a huge bag of delicious fruit, and a 1994 bottle of Hungarian wine. Her gifts were super generous, especially since her parents had already taken us out to a very expensive and delicious meal the night before, and because I know for a fact that red wine in China is very expensive, about $10 a bottle. I'm not sure what made her think that we needed seven bottles of wine, but we're not complaining! I can't wait until Helen gets us the trays for our oven so that I can bake them some deliciousness to repay them for their kindness.

Yet another example of Chinese generosity was demonstrated tonight when Helen and John took us out to a Korean restaurant for dinner with John's nephew and his family. At the restaurant, we took off our shoes before entering a private room and sitting around a table. The first dish was lettuce leaves and a variety of "sandwich" fillings, such as grilled pork, garlic, onions, and different sauces. Using the lettuce leaf, you pick your fillings and then fold your leaf into something resembling a square and eat it. After that the usual food overload followed: sweet and sour pork, calamari in a spicy sauce, whole grilled fish, kimche'e, or spicy cabbage, cold noodles, black noodles, rice, tofu, a peanut dish, potato cakes, and I'm sure I'm forgetting others. All this for seven people! John's niece has offered to teach us to make some Chinese food while she's here, including dumplings! The language barrier might prove difficult, but her son Edward just started Andrew's class, so hopefully he can overcome his shyness and help us out.
John and Helen are the ones farthest on the left
Sweet and sour pork

After a very filling dinner, during which I used my chopsticks the entire time, wowing the crowds, John took us to Olympic Park, a park that was built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics (some of the competitions were held in Qinhuangdao!). It's a beautiful park, and I especially loved how all the trees were lit up with different colored lights. We didn't have much time to linger, as John had to catch an overnight train to another city in order to process our "Foreign Experts Certificates" (makes us sound important, huh?) which we'll need to continue working in China. But our students are dying to show us around town, take us out, and in short, spoil us, so Helen said one of them would definitely take us back for a second visit, and hopefully to see the nearby Safari Park, where rumor has it, you can play with elephants.

Cool reliefs at the park
I want a sword, too!
Famous Olympian's hand and footprint
We think this guy must be a distant relation to Andrew: see the similar noses?
Los Angeles!

P.S. As a side note, I know that there are many more people who read my blog than it indicates. If you read this blog, I'd appreciate it if you became a "Follower." At the top of the blog page, on the left, just click "Follow" and enter your email address and you'll receive an email notification every time I post a new entry (I promise, you'll never get spam or junk mail from Blogger). This would just be a nice way to let me know that you're out there reading this!


  1. Nicole (and Andrew!)! Do you have access to some kind of garden? Sending spices will be quite difficult but a few flat envelopes of seeds should be able to enter China unnoticed. Even if you don't have a garden, perhaps you could grow basil in your window? Let me know!

  2. We live in an apartment building in a city that has such bad air quality I'd worry for any plant that was left outside! However, Andrew assures me that we could grow something like basil, mint, and maybe thyme in the window provided we got a little stand for the pots. I'm a little more skeptical, as we have never had growing success, but it would be worth trying, I think!