Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from China!

Spencer and I had a perfect first Christmas. We woke up early, opened our presents with the enthusiasm of children, then spent the rest of the day playing games, skyping with family, watching Christmas movies, and watching Little Miss (our friends' daughter) while her parents went to the hospital so that her little brother could be born. Turns out the little man won't actually end up being a Christmas baby, but we can't wait to meet him tomorrow instead!

We are so grateful for our wonderful last few months in China. We have loved (almost) every minute of it, and I love creating fun holiday memories here!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Day in the Life

Dislaimer: This is Spencer writing. So don't blame Alisha if it's not up to par.

Since our life in China has just become life--rather than some grand adventure--I figured it would be good to write a little blurb on what I do. Before you get too excited, please know that it's really not that exciting. Essentially, I just go to school. I'm taking a total of four classes. My two Chinese classes boil down to a very straight-forward writing class (not difficult) and an analysis of the past 60 years of Chinese history as reflected in Chinese media (even less difficult since it's mostly just attending the lectures).  My other classes are the two chemistry electives that seemed most relevant to me as an engineer: polymer structures research/analysis methods and separation science.

Fortunately, both of the chemistry classes are fairly relevant even if the professors are focused on the parts that are mostly irrelevant to me. I guess that's what I get for taking Chemistry classes for first year masters students when I'm an undergraduate Chemical Engineering student who plans on working in industry. Aside from going to class, I meet with an assigned tutor 5 hours a week to ramble about whatever we find interesting that day. (Ostensibly, the purpose is to cover what we go over in my Nanjing University classes. Which means that I ask for clarification on maybe three or four terms, and then we need a new topic of conversation. So far, we've covered the basic rules for football, racquetball, rugby, cricket, chess, RISK and fantasy football. He has also taught me Chinese chess.) That's about all I do for flagship this semester. Super enthralling, right?

Anyways, Alisha would be ashamed of me for having so many words with so few pictures. Ergo, I'll put up pictures of the part of my day that generates better pictures than sitting in class: my walk to and from school. So here goes.

We live in Nanjing, China. It's a city of 8.1 million people (for reference, New York City has 8.2 million people. More people live here than in 39 of America's 50 states (individually, not combined)). Lots of people. I know Alisha has already put this picture up before, but this is the view from our window.

Since Nanjing is an important city to China, it is fully modernized--albeit not entirely westernized. This is what a parking lot looks like here:

And here is a sidewalk:

Most people drive electric bicycles and scooters. This is where they park.

The traffic laws here are theoretically about the same as they are in America. Then again, China is not a country that is actually ruled by law. There is a legal principle that if everyone breaks the law together, none of them can be held accountable. Cars typically don't run red lights, and all of the other laws are really just guidelines, right?  This is what crossing the street looks like on my way home from school.

Step 1: Walk into traffic. (or wait, but that's not as fun)

Step 2: Let traffic move around you.

In case you can't tell, the picture below is of a one lane one-way street. There are usually cars parked on both sides, and one moving in the middle. That leaves enough room for pedestrians to either walk along the outside (as in the picture), or sometimes I just walk in between the car in the middle and the parked cars. (Usually a little less room). It's times like that I'm glad I don't ride a bike. It would be much slower.

Besides from traffic, there are other subtle hints that we're not in America anymore. Like this:

Pretty sure the potstickers made in the shop in the
background use this meat. (They're pretty good)

They sell all sorts of things on the side of the roads here. 

This rack was on the back of a bike
Lots of cabbage
Sometimes they clean the fish before they sell them
Lots of steamed foods

This is the back alley/side street where we get fruit and other food.

And this is home sweet home.

So that is the excitement of my typical day. The end.

We'll be here in Nanjing through the end of May, after which we'll move to South Carolina for my next (and final!) internship.

By the way, this is what my commute looked like 4 months ago.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

This Little Piggy Went To Market

There are grocery stores in China, but they usually don't have very good produce and it's usually more expensive. So Spencer and I go to the wet market each week to get our fruits and veggies. They are delivered every morning from the local farms and I really love having so much fresh produce to choose from. Granted, we mostly get the same things, but someday I will be adventurous and try something new. Some day...

Anyways, welcome to the market!

There are multiple vendors inside, and in the very back is the meat vendors. No pictures from back there, I avoid it. It smells like you would imagine looks just as bad and the meat sits there all day so we buy our meat from a grocery store instead.

Our favorite vendor. There's usually a different lady here though...
Strawberries have made a recent appearance, but they are
EXPENSIVE. I'm thinking we'll buy some soon anyways.

But my favorite thing about going to the market is seeing what is just outside the entrance.

There are always bins full of the "catch-of-the-day". And most of them are still alive when we go in the morning. My little brother wanted me to take a video of the eels wiggling around, but for some reason it my camera didn't want to take video yesterday, so you don't get to enjoy that stomach-turning sight today (sorry Adam!)

Lots of fishies and shrimp, and until recently
there were also lots of crabs

BIG squid and eels

And you also always know what produce is in season by what people are selling out of their trucks and vans on the side of the road. And I know Thanksgiving is over, but I'm thinking sweet potatoes sound really good right now...

Cabbage and what we think are radishes

Sweet potatoes! Yum.

So when we get home everything has to be washed, because you never know what might be on food here. Running it under water doesn't do the trick, but vinegar does. So the fruits and veggies get a nice spa treatment in a bath of vinegar water and then they are ready for eating!

It varies in size and type, but this is about an average weekly haul
(actually I'd already eaten a couple tomatoes and oranges)
(and the 2 bananas)
All for about 4 dollars!

Hurray for fresh produce!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lazy Bones

So sometimes I feel like not much is happening, so what is there to blog about? So I have to come up with reasons to blog. Other times so much happens in such a short period that I don't know how to blog it all. The last couple of weeks have been the latter. So because I am lazy and it takes more effort to write a bunch of blogs at once than I am willing to commit to, here is a short summary of the last few weeks.

First, we had a houseguest last month. He needed a place to stay for a few days, and we were happy to share our home with him.

Say hello to Mo. He belongs to one of the Flagship couples who went out of town for a weekend. Spencer was hesitant at first, but he loved Mo by the end. He will never admit it, but he did.

Mo slept in the shower each night.

And he LOVED Spencer

The Great Wall I constructed to try to keep him in the front
room...that he kept jumping over anyways so we took it down.

Seriously, he followed Spencer everywhere

But he loved cuddling with me.

His favorite spot, right next to where the heat is fanned out
of my computer.

Seriously, he loved him.

And here are all the turkeys that my Primary kids (children's program in our church) made to decorate for the branch Thanksgiving dinner. Aren't they so cute?!

Oh, and I was recently called as Primary President. Yay me? (just kidding, I'm loving it so far)

The first thing I did when I got out of bed the day after Thanksgiving was go to the bathroom. Ha, gotcha there. Anyways, the second thing was to put up our Christmas tree and decorations!

I love our tree!

Homemade cinnamon ornaments

And we have even since received our first Christmas present to put under the tree, all the way from Turkey!

Some of the Flagship guys started a soccer team and entered a tournament, sponsored by McDonalds, and they won! Ok, so for the championship game the other team only had 3 people show up, but still...

Then the Flagship program had a "Thanksgiving" dinner. The meal consisted of Peking duck (I've never had duck before), sweet and sour pork, sweet potatoes, tofu, mashed potatoes, dumplings, cheese pie, lotus root, chips and salsa and nacho sauce (of which I ate more than anything else that night...), apple crisp...among other things. It didn't feel like Thanksgiving, but it was still fun and I got to try a few new things. Oh, and Spencer and some of the other husbands sang some Christmas songs.

Last week we had another field trip, which wasn't very exciting except for THIS:

We went to a silk museum and on one floor they have these HUGE looms that take two people to operate, and they happen to be hand-making some of the most expensive silk fabrics in the world.

Oh and we went to the place where people used to go to test for government jobs, and they had this dragon bench thing. And according to legend you receive different blessings depending on how many times you step over it. Spencer stepped over it 6 times.

Oh, and in case you are interested, my current favorite food is plum jipai (jee-pie), which is fried chicken pounded thin and breaded with some crazy orangish looking breadcrumbs, cut into strips, then doused with a weird red powder. Sounds sketchy but it tastes SO GOOD.

And also birthday cake Oreos. Yum.

And last but not least.....I'm married to Santa Claus.

I'll blog more about this later, but if you want to know more you can read about it on a friend's blog at http://www.islandschoolhouse.com/2012/12/santa-claus-is-coming-to-gaochun/.

So now you're all caught up!