Wednesday, December 22, 2010


So I've mentioned eating hot pot a few times before, and during our trip to Dandong I finally remembered to take some pictures. FIrst a quick explanation of what it is. Basically a hot pot is a large pot of boiling water with spices added that you cook vegetables and meat in at your table. It's a great food in the winter for warming you up quick. We usually order beef and lamb (cut super thin) and then tons of vegetables. My favorite is something I'd never tried before called wintermelon. Usually eating hot pot takes quite awhile because we have to cook things in stages. Here's a few pictures to help you visualize:

My first hot pot experience was at a nicer restaurant with some people Nick had been meeting with for work. They took us to a restaurant where we each had our own individual hot pot and a turntable in the middle to pass the various foods around. It was really fun and we got to try a whole variety of things, some good like wintermelon, and some not so good like Chinese mushrooms. The next experience was a little more stressful for me. We were with a group of 8 people all sharing one pot. I guess everything gets sterilized because it is boiling, but I still can't handle it. People kept dumping in more food before the previous batch had cooked and so some things weren't done while others were overcooked and you had to dig to find food you wanted. My poor little organized brain couldn't handle the chaos. Let's just say I left that meal still very hungry! Our last hot pot experience was just the 2 of us sharing a pot and that wasn't too bad, Nick understands my compulsive need to organize everything right down to food.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mini Vacation in Dandong

Last weekend Nick and I decided we needed a little vacation from Dalian. We decided to head to Dandong for a night. It is the Chinese city on the North Korean border. Our original plan was to go by bus, but when we got to the station Friday afternoon about 3:30 we found that the last bus had left an hour earlier. Well we had a hotel reservation, and we were really looking forward to getting out of town for a few days so we found another way. For only 30 RMB more per person than the bus we paid to go in a car. There are people that sell seats in their vans so we ended up with 7 other random people in the back of a van and headed to Dandong. It was quite an adventure. I think I've mentioned how crazy people drive in China, but this guy was especially bad. The freeways have lots of tolls on them, so not as many people travel on them so he was going fast!

Well, we made it in one piece to the hotel that was right on the river that divides China and North Korea. It was super cheap, and we had a beautiful view. It is crazy to look down the river. The Chinese side is very developed (I think some one told us Dandong has a population of 2.3 million) with tall apartment buildings, while the Korean side is empty. There are a few buildings you can see during the day, but apparently they were built by the government and no one actually lives in them so there is no electricity there or anything. Anyway, we got in pretty late so we went out for dinner (the one I posted pictures of a few days ago) and then went to bed. The next morning we were up early and ready to go out. We called a taxi driver and ended up getting a pretty nice private tour of Dandong for 2 hours. He drove us all over and was telling us about everything, very informative!

Here's a quick picture summary of our trip.

A picture looking down the river. China on the left and North Korea on the right. Crazy contrast!

In the back of the van that took us to Dandong.

Fishermen. We saw a show about how these fishermen use birds to catch fish before we came to China, but it was crazy to actually see it. Basically they have birds and they tie a string around their throats so they can't swallow. When the birds dive to catch a fish they can only halfway swallow it, then the fishermen haul them up and pull the fish out of their mouths. It was crazy. They also make these cool noises to call the birds as they move down the river. I wish I had a recording of it.

As past of our tour the taxi driver took us through this little town. It is crazy how fast we went from the city to this rural area. It was actually pretty funny, they were staring at us because they don't see too many foreigners and we were staring back at them because we don't see carts like this very often.

Nick with North Korea in the background. We had quite a few pictures like this.

If you squint really hard you can see the eastern end of the Great Wall of China in the background of this picture. We could have toured it, but it was expensive and the driver told us it wasn't worth it. This was my first glimpse of the Great Wall, but I guess I'll have to wait a little longer to climb on it. In the front of the picture you can see a green fence and that marks the border of North Korea. The river in between is neutral, but the North Koreans have a small part of land on the Chinese side of the river where they can launch boats and give people tours. They put up this green fence to mark the boundary. We were just 3 feet away! Apparently it is possible to get a Visa to go on a heavily supervised tour to North Korea, but you have to hang out in Dandong for a few days and now probably isn't the greatest time to be traveling there anyway.

Short story real quick. We were taking pictures by the green fence that marks the border to NK and we looked across the river. I mentioned before how it isn't really developed over there, so there were no buildings, well we saw 2 men in a field and at first glance we just dismissed them as farmers. The taxi driver told us to take a closer look, he said they were snipers watching the border! Sure enough we took a picture and zoomed in on the camera and it became pretty clear they were not out there just farming. Its safe though as long as you don't do anything stupid or try to get too close to the fence.

Here I am on a bridge that went about halfway out into the river. Our taxi driver/tour guide told us that this was a bridge that the Americans bombed during the Korean War. It was pretty cool, because it was farther away from the city we could see a few buildings, houses and cars on the North Korean side. There were people taking boat tours on the river that got closer, but we opted not to do that this trip.

This is the bridge that currently connects NK and Dandong. It looks really pretty at night.

Nick in front of a Chinese looking building in a park. We had a few hours before our bus left to go back to Dalian, so we found this park. It was built on the side of a hill, so we had to hike up to it. It has a really nice view of the city. I wish we had a park like this near our house in Dalian.

The entrance to the park where we went hiking.

It was a really quick trip, but we had fun. I would love to go back in the spring/summer and explore more. I was told by Mona at work that there are lots of fun places to go explore in the mountains around Dandong.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chinese food

After a couple posts about all the yummy Thanksgiving food we've been enjoying I figured it was time for one on Chinese food. We went on a mini vacation to Dandong this weekend (don't worry pictures/details are coming soon) and we were hungry when we got there. So we walked into a little restaurant off the street. It was delicious!

This is a pumpkin dish. It is the one my friend Mona tried to teach me to make on Thanksgiving. This one turned out better than ours though.... I guess the key is to deep fry the pumpkin first and then add the yellow seasoning stuff later. (Mona kept calling the seasoning duck eggs, but I prefer not to think about that when I eat it.) We didn't have enough oil, or the patience I guess. Ours turned into more of a pumpkin mush. Anyway, the pumpkin at this restaurant was delicious.

This is probably one of my favorite things I've eaten in a Chinese restaurant. It is eggplant with pork stuffed into it where it is sliced, and then deep fried and covered in a sweet and sour type sauce. We need to find a restaurant by our house that will make this pronto. I have eaten more eggplant these last 2 months in China than I could even imagine existed before we moved here. I think I ate it maybe once a year before, and now we eat it several times a week. They cook it so well here. I need to learn a thing or two before we come home.

We finished off our meal with some chow mein. I love eating noodles. I got tired of eating rice pretty quickly here, but I don't seem to ever get tired of noodles.

Don't worry we didn't even come close to finishing all that food. It always amazes me how big portions are here. Especially because they are so cheap. Our whole dinner cost 6 dollars, and we had so much leftover food we probably could have fed another 2 people!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Round 2

Our official Thanksgiving dinner was Saturday night this year. SInce we are in China, everyone had to work all day on Thanksgiving and it worked out better to do it then. We had a busy day!

We picked up some American friends we met a few weeks ago about 11 am and went out to lunch at a yummy dumpling restaurant recommended to us by a Chinese guy. Then we headed to a holiday bazaar held by the international school that all the kids we know go to. They had a lot of local Chinese artisans who were selling some pretty cool stuff. I got a pretty awesome wall hanging/Christmas decoration. Nick doesn't love it as much as I do, but I think he's grateful I didn't decide I wanted the huge handcarved nativity instead. Here' s a picture:

We then headed to the beach to walk around, but it was a cold miserable day, so that didn't last too long. We had Thanksgiving in the same home where we usually have church. It was so fun! There was a group of about 25 people and so much yummy food. I felt like I was back in the US. We had turkey, ham, candied yams, stuffing, potatoes, and even cranberry sauce. I can't believe somebody found cranberries, but apparently it was a joint effort with everybody looking out for them at every store around town.

Nick's favorite part of the night came next. Somebody decided it would be fun to celebrate Thanksgiving with a big fireworks show, and since fireworks are so cheap here in China they really went all out. Our dinner was cleverly named "Turkey and Pie-rotechnics." The show went on for about 20 minutes and then we headed back for pie. Nick laughed because I ate 4 different pieces, but I don't get pie that often and it was too hard to choose between all the yummy flavors. I ended up with chocolate pecan pie, banana cream pie, pumpkin cheesecake and apple pie. It was all so good!

We had a great Thanksgiving even though we are far from home. We are so grateful to have met so many wonderful people out here in China and for the chance to eat a little American comfort food once in awhile. I don't think Thanksgiving will ever feel complete for Nick again without fireworks though, China is spoiling the little pyro in him.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I never thought the first Thanksgiving dinner I would have to host would be in China, but after 2 frantic days it turned out pretty well. I think all my Chinese coworkers enjoyed the food, and if they didn't then they faked it really well! We had quite a bit of food and I think it overwhelmed some of them. Western food is heavier than what they are used too. Here's our menu:

Chicken breasts
Mashed potatoes
Steamed carrots with honey
Fried Pumpkin
Fruit Salad
Green Beans with Bell Peppers and Onions

and pumpkin pie to finish!

It was quite a hectic night, work was actually really slow for me today, but the minute I got off my friend Mona and I raced to the tram to get here before the pumpkin pie and stuffing were supposed to be delivered. A minute after we ran in the door I got a call from the bakery telling me they were stuck in traffic and wouldn't get there for almost an hour! So we spent that time prepping all the other food. It is hard work planning a dinner that big with only 2 little burners and no oven. Thankfully everyone was really understanding when some of the dishes weren't served super hot. I guess they don't know any better.

Soon after we got started everyone else started arriving bringing lots of random Chinese snack food which will probably lay around the house for months and lots of helping hands. My little kitchen was packed full of people trying to be helpful. It was fun though. Some of the girls I work with are really good cooks, and others were trying to pick up some cooking tips.

Here's some pictures from the night:

Lee and Mona helping prepare all the food. We way overestimated how much we would need, and even after I shoved plates of food off on everyone I still filled my fridge up.

The group minus Evelyn. All these people are from my department at work so they all speak English pretty well. You can also see most of the food on the table.

The aftermath. Our kitchen table was way too small for this group so we ate around the coffee table. It actually worked out well because everyone was so full they just wanted to stretch out on the floor anyway.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Last minute Thanksgiving party

Our Thanksgiving plans this year were boring, in fact Nick will be in Nanjing on Thursday, so we were just planning on going to a post-Thanksgiving dinner a woman in our church group organized for Saturday. Today at work however I mentioned it was Thanksgiving and everyone decided they wanted to celebrate and have dinner at my house! Its not a huge group, just 10 people. We don't really have a lot of space though....

So we are having fake Thanksgiving. I told them not to expect turkey since I have no oven, and I couldn't cook a turkey even if I did since I'll be at work all day. I feel kind of weird making chicken for Thanksgiving, but its the best I can do on such short notice. I found a bakery that would make a turkey for me, but I don't want to spend $150 so that option is out. I am getting a pumpkin pie and stuffing delivered from that bakery though. Seriously I can't wait! Having people over provides me with a good excuse to order yummy food while Nick is gone, usually I am content with grilled cheese sandwiches every night.

I'll post pictures later of how our little Thanksgiving turns out. Luckily everyone that is coming is Chinese and has never celebrated Thanksgiving before so they have no expectations.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Today I saw a pretty interesting outfit. If I come home and wear something completely ridiculous and unmatching (I don't think thats a word) I blame it on over exposure to the crazy color combinations I see on the street and in the office everyday. Most days I'm just overwhelmed with mixtures of black and brown and navy, but today was particularly bad. Just try to picture this...

Emerald green shoes
Purple leggings
A checkered beige colored skirt
Bright red t-shirt
Black and white striped scarf

All on one person! Its fun to people watch here and wonder from what magazine someone got their clothing inspirations.

On a completely unrelated note, we bought HARRY POTTER tickets today. It was quite an ordeal finding a show in English so we wouldn't have to read subtitles, but some people from work helped me out and we bought 33 tickets for tomorrow night. Pretty much everyone in our church group here is going with us. I'm sure we'll be quite the spectacle for the Chinese people, most everyone at work didn't understand why I was so excited for this movie. I guess its not a big deal here, but I can't wait!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Floor Heaters

I have a love/hate relationship with the floor heaters in our apartment.They were turned on November 1st, so we had a couple of cold weeks before then but now we are toasty warm. The problem is it gets too warm! Most days we have to wear shorts and keep the windows open to be comfortable. Eventually we'll get them all adjusted, but I've heard it takes a few weeks. The good part is that if you leave your clothes on the floor at night, and then pull them on in the morning they are nice and warm when you climb out of bed. Also, since my feet are pretty much perpetually cold it is so nice to walk around on a heated floor.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Happy Birthday Carl Sagan!

So I found out yesterday that I share my birthday with Carl Sagan. I feel a little bit smarter now.

Dana celebrates something called "birthday week". That means i get to buy/open/discuss birthday presents all week long. Dana's mom sent me a package that arrived friday. It included very important things that i have run out of including: a new shaving razor (I have been using the last mach 3 head i had the past 2 months----without the stick itself), i also got some deodorant, which i had been low on. and some awesome new black slacks seeing as i seem to be dressing up a lot more lately. Also, some seasoning packets for chicken wings which i will be using tonight! Thanks Ericksons!

Next, i picked out my present from my parentals. They always put birthday money into our bankaccounts because everyone in our family is a bit spread out. We have had this little nook in our house that has the best view in the house but no way to utilize the view because it lacks a chair (remember we are on the 29th floor)! I went to Ikea and got one of those cool rocking chairs. Now...this is my view while i answer work emails! I wake up at 6:30am or so and answer emails and watch the sunrise. I love it! Thanks mom and dad!

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Nick introduced me to this new treat on Friday night. We were wandering around downtown and had just finished a delicious dinner of dumplings, but we needed a little something more.

I have no idea what this is called, but it was delicious. Yes we did finish it between the 2 of us! I know it looks huge, but the whole center of it was a pile of shaved ice. Basically what they did was make a huge pile of shaved ice and put fresh mango all over the outside. Then they blended up some more fresh mango with sweetened condensed milk and poured it over the top, then completed it with a scoop of mango ice cream. It was so good! They have other flavors, but the mango was so good I don't know if I'll ever get around to trying them.

Nick told me this was a favorite treat of his from Taiwan, and I am super glad that we can have it here too.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

chinglish..."jew's ear drops"?

This is a drink they sell at the market downstairs....

wonder what the manufacturing process entails????

Monday, November 1, 2010

Random Pictures from this Week

We took a walk Sunday afternoon down to the water. Nick can't wait to buy a pole and join these guys!

The lovely tram I ride to work every morning. It's better than taking the bus because you avoid the traffic, but I bet you can't guess just how many people they shove into this little thing...

Nick pointing to our apartment building.

I finally convinced Nick to go get a foot massage with me. He wasn't very good at relaxing, while I was almost asleep he had his phone or his kindle in his hands the whole time. He did enjoy it though, so hopefully we can make it a tradition and I can help him learn to just sit and do nothing.

That's my computer. I'm in a little room with 6 other people. They all speak English pretty well and are super nice. They are helping me with Chinese slowly. I'm even learning some of the local dialect.

My view from my desk. The girl standing up is Mona and she's my favorite person at work. She took me shopping last weekend and I found a fabulous coat for cheap. She also knows all the yummy places to eat in Dalian so I'm slowly expanding my food choices.

I ate hotpot for the first time this weekend too, but I forgot my camera that night. We will go back soon and hopefully get some pictures. I was kind of scared to try it since I've heard mixed reviews, but the place we went was really nice and I enjoyed it. Mona even informed me that we can have hotpot at home as long as we have a rice cooker, just fill it with water and plug it in. I don't know if we're quite ready to try that yet... maybe someday.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Job

Quite a few people have asked me lately for details about my new here they are!

I work for a company called BIT Life Sciences. They basically organize big conferences here in China. My job is to proofread just about anything they ask me too. Right now I am working on their main website, and then after that they have about 40 other sites (one for every conference they organize) that needs editing. Here's the website if you want to go check it out. Keep in mind they haven't made any changes to it yet, so this is what I had to work with my first day. Sometimes some of the things they say are super funny, and others don't make any sense. Hopefully soon they will have time to make some of my many corrections. I also proofread letters, or speeches, or any other random thing they send to me.

Most of the people in my department speak English pretty well. They all lived in either Australia or England for a couple of years. They do all the translating and then I have to proofread. Some of them are pretty good, and others aren't. I've realized that Chinese and English don't always translate so well. They always tell me funny stories of things they have been asked to translate that are normal in Chinese, but in English just sound ridiculous if they translate it literally.

I work 4 days a week from 8:20 til 5:20. Its a pretty random time, but getting to work in the morning is crazy. The traffic is ridiculous, and the public transportation is even worse. Its something you have to experience for yourself to understand. Let's just say I didn't think it was possible to fit so many people on one little tram. I try to find myself a little corner and keep my head down. My work isn't far, but it takes me about 45 minutes to get there. After 2 weeks of trial and error I think I have finally managed to figure out the exact time I have to leave to catch the least crowded tram.

I have also had a crash course in Chinese food. I eat in a cafeteria everyday for lunch. It's cheap, and they have a couple of different options so it's not bad. I generally try to eat without asking what it is exactly that's on my plate. I stick mostly with vegetables since I have been to the supermarkets and seen all the crazy animal parts they consider edible! One of these days I might end up eating pigs ears or kidney and will be none the wiser because they just call it pork.

My contract is for 1 year and then we will see if I stick with this job or if I go out and look for another one. So far I have been happy with it. It gets me out of the house, and I have met some really cool people, even if the work itself is kind of boring.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Polar World

Nick and I got season passes a few weeks ago to the little theme park/zoo/aquarium by our house. I read on wikipedia that Polar World is the only exhibit of polar animals in China. Lucky us. We had a fun time seeing all the animals, but one of the highlights was definitely feeding the sea lions.

The other highlight was a show called Kung-Fu Walrus. They had a seal do some tricks, then a walrus do some tricks, and then the grand finale, the walrus did a dance routine to a Michael Jackson song! The video I took didn't turn out well, so we will just have to go back and see it again... Here's a little preview until then.

Notice the picture behind the walrus!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Quarter of a Century!

My birthday last week was great. I just wanted to post a few pics of some of our new Chinese friends and our little party.

This one is with our cute little ayi. She comes 4 times a week to clean our house. We are so spoiled! She showed up on Friday with this huge bouquet of flowers for me. I guess Nick had a whole conversation with her about it, but I had no idea. I really need to learn Chinese!

Me and Nick with the very asian cake our new friends/neighbors bought for my birthday. She told me to get whatever I wanted, so I picked out a yummy looking chocolate hazelnut cake with frosting flowers on top, but I guess it wasn't considered "pretty" enough. (whatever it looked delicious) So I ended up getting this funky cake with a cat on top because she told me cake would taste better if it looked good.

Our new friends. They live on the floor above us. We met on the elevator one night. They came over to help Nick get some business cards printed and when he told them it was my birthday we had our impromptu party complete with funny cake. Cissy speaks enough English that we can have some conversations, although they do get kind of funny when I use a word she doesn't know and have to try to explain. They live with her parents and we already have plans to go over and learn to make dumplings with her mom. I can't wait.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pictures of our Apartment!

Nick got me a new camera for my birthday since my old one broke over a year ago. Hopefully now I can be better about posting pictures. Our apartment came furnished so we only had to buy dishes, and linens. It is super comfortable and we love our neighborhood. We have made friends with a cute Chinese couple that lives above us, and Nick flirts shamelessly with groups of 60+ year old women when we go out to walk at night so he is quite popular.

The front room. This is what you see when you walk in the door to our apartment. We have a great balcony out that window that overlooks the ocean.

DIning room. Everything is still pretty bare. We are slowly decorating.

The kitchen. We were so excited to have a dishwasher. We haven't lived in an apartment with one since we got married and now we have one in China where most people have never even heard of them.

The stove. We are seriously missing having an oven. Hopefully we can buy one soon.

My closet!

Our baby washing machine. I can fit about 6-8 pieces of clothing in at once.

Guest bathroom. Love the tub!

Nick's office.

This is our bedroom. You can see the bathroom door in the background.

This is our "reading nook" in our bedroom. It has an AMAZING view of the ocean and of downtown Dalian. We still need to furnish it though. I'm looking for a cute little chair and table, or maybe just a rug and about 50 pillows?

Our shower. The first thing we noticed was that you had to plug the water heater in right behind you while you shower. Super safe!

Another shot of our bathroom.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Well Herrro

Here is the first 3 months rent for us. I went and took it out of the ATM. Walked into the hotel room where Dana was reading and proceeded to make it rain.

Life in Dalian is great. Things are moving along so fast and falling into place. Above is my new pride and joy. It actually came into the house. It is a full jet powered bathtub with built in CD player and radio. Bingo. And it looks right out on the ocean. Our ocean view is normally nice. BUT today there was a ton of smog. And we couldn't see much past the shoreline. The wind is coming in tonight and should push the smog into North Korea by tomorrow.

Below is one of the best statues I've ever seen. Please note the mane on the keyboarder. It is in a park, called Peace Park. Right by the mall that is now Dana's favorite mall because it has 1) H&M 2)Zara's and 3) a massage place that gives a 60 minute massage for $5 USD.
I've been really busy with work. The one thing they never tell you about working for a start-up company is that full-time isn't 40 hours. I work everyday. I wake up at 6am. And then work until late at night. It's a great job though. I really like the people I work with and they give me a lot of support. I was in Beijing all last week. And Dana was here. Being real tough. Traveling for business is sweet. Especially when the CEO is around. Because you eat. And you eat good.

Dana and I are happy. So happy. We are hoping to get out to see Zack and Amy here in the near future. Most likely around Thanksgiving. But with Dana and I both working now. We have a lot of schedules to line up. But I really want to get back to Taiwan. And i'd love to show Dana around and let her meet my buddies there. And there is a lot of business there.