Tag Archive | China

The Indo-Chinese Affair

It’s like what Russell Peters jokes about “Chinese people and Indian people cannot do business together… Because Indians cannot live without a bargain, and the Chinese people cannot give you a bargain. Their objective is to get every penny from you… and ours is to keep every penny… There is a really bad power struggle.”

I traveled to China and India this year and observed stark similarities. Indians are a lot like the Chinese along many facets. In many ways, it’s funny. But as Russell Peters candidly jokes, the Indians and Chinese will never link arms and live joyously ever after. Otherwise, they’ll burn holes in each others’ pockets and chase each other with wooden sticks.

Serious overpopulation:  There is too many people on the streets. Every area of the city is crowded and polluted. Old men in togas, plump women in sarees, exhaust smoke guzzling out of rickety buses and auto rickshaws, cracked and dusty roads, and islands of stray dogs. Down Pattom Road during the mid-afternoon hours, students in uniform filed out and clogged the sidewalks. It did not help I was always walking in the opposite direction of the traffic flow of kids. On top of that, kids staring at me and pointing. Gee, thanks for pointing me out to your merry friends… It was a constant battle filing onto crowded buses and crossing dangerous streets. I walked into the hospital everyday, jam-packed with the old and young, frail men and women. No air-conditioning throughout much of the facility, just hot-air fans and windows. With entangled clumps of patients waiting in the hallways, the atmosphere was stuffy and oppressing.

Too many cars, buses, motorcycles! Everywhere! The streets are not pedestrian-friendly whatsoever. The roads are terribly constructed and managed. Drivers show no mercy. People are also professional jaywalkers and that’s not a compliment. For me, crossing the streets never felt so endangering and hectic. However, in nicer parts of China like Shanghai, there are nice roads and sidewalks. Still no immunity from road rage though…

Symphony of honks, loud and vociferous! The clogging city traffic and impatient drivers, plus crowded streets, all add up to some ear drum damage and painful headaches and pounding heart beats. People honk for no reason and without hesitation. They honk loudly and angrily, even at close distances when it’s not necessary, only obnoxious, and then speed away. Take a chill pill men!!!

Umbrellas:  Many Indian women (and men) use umbrellas to shield against the sun’s dangerous rays. Except their umbrellas are not as cute as my lavender Monokuro piggy umbrella, or my previously lost baby blue umbrella featuring a pig exclaiming “I can fly!”… The ones used in India are plain, solid colors, like dull black. If anyone knows me personally, I hate black, only wearing it when professionalism calls. Even then, I’m not a solid black block. And when I think about it, Indians do not need umbrellas as much as I do because they have the extra boosted protection from melanin. I’m naturally pale, but the sun’s beating rays have turned me golden yellow, so I’m not well-equipped with pigments. The women there dress in long, flowy pants or dresses and shawls. With an umbrella, they are pretty much covered from head to toe. Me, I’m usually wearing black leggings that absorb sunlight and heat, hence I roll up sleeves to cool off. I care about my complexion and skin texture, so whether I dress conservatively here or freely elsewhere, I lather on sunblock or sport my stylishly adorable umbrella! In India, I feel no shame whipping out my umbrella. No feelings of awkwardness or shyness – enough people do it on the streets that I simply blend in…Besides, I get stared and pointed at enough times daily that sporting an umbrella won’t change the fact I’m a freak on the streets. Sometimes, I try to hide under my umbrella as a buffer to escape all the curious stares. The umbrella is like my double-edged sword, against the sun and Indian men. For an added effect, it keeps me cool and shaded, especially in the mornings when I walk to the RCC and during the sweltering afternoons.

Soapy H20:  Indians are notoriously cheap too. At the wash stations in restaurants, there’s the soap and sink. Except, the soap gets diluted down SOOO much that it’s basically soapy water. My mom does this and I’ve fallen into the habit myself – diluting soap and detergent so they last much longer, up to years.

I reiterate Russell Peters: Indians are dirt cheap. “They can be together, but never work together.”

Indians do not waste: Unfortunately, Indians are not as environmentally-friendly as I’d hope, since they do not recycle or use trash cans. The streets are the trash bins. Garbage gets burned on the streets. On the more positive side, they reuse newspapers for takeout packages. Similarly, my mom uses ads and papers for the stove, dorm dressers, and wrapping. I worked with a Jewish scientist back at NYU Med and he wrapped his daughter’s Christmas presents in old newspapers. Indians also keep portions small: small cups, small dishes, small burgers, small sides, a couple of fries, etc… Things are down-sized, most likely for economical reasons. To me, I like smaller portions because I have developed a small stomach and I feel healthier eating less. The big problem with America now is eating too much, especially fatty, non-nutritious foods. You flip-flop and problem can be solved. Easier said than done, but still, America is not as health-conscious as many other European and Asian countries and foodies like me … Regarding electricity, there are evening ‘blackouts’ to save energy. Water is also a precious commodity. Our apartment had a couple of mishaps with toilet leaks, much to the irk of neighbors and caretakers…

Fresh fruit juice and sharjas:  Too bad no bubble tea, since tapioca will be over the cheap-ass Indian budget. Still, quality fresh juice for cheap! I love fruits, best blended into a pleasant smoothie: mangoes, apple, pineapple, strawberry, lime, papaya, banana, and much much more. My favorite blend is the fresh milkshake: smooth, creamy, and sweet. After my tropical paradise in India, I have the gravitational urge to invest in a treasured blender =) Power shakes and fun concoctions, here I come!

Mango juice from Duetto's, Lime Juice from Ruby's, Mango and Black Courrant Shake from St. Michel's

Cherry and Pista Sharja somewhere in East Fort, 4 Fruit Juice Blend (brown stuff) at Zam Zam's

Variety of shakes: rose milk, strawberry, pineapple, pista, lime, lime soda, etc...

Lime juice: regular, mint, ginger, and grape kinds

Milma milk + Fruits = Happy Tummy

Indians are public pushers, too: They are rough, rude, and ruthless around other people on the streets. They have stern expressions and do not care who they bump into. They do not apologize or even notice that they elbowed someone. It’s completely inconsiderate and improper. Not even a simple “Excuse me please…” Aigoo …

Rice: It’s a beloved staple carbohydrate across Asia. God bless the grains! Rice is my brundin: breakfast, lunch, dinner… Delicious with saucy foods, meats, veggies, and all sorts of essential ingredients I dare not share, like cheese and Vietnamese chili sauce. Sticky, soupy, and grainy – rice never goes wrong with the palate. Some of my favorite Indian rices include aromatic basmati, biryani, and coconut. Absolutely marvelous as fried rice with egg and vegetables. Even better mixed in with aromatic Indian saucy and spicy dishes. However, when you’re in India, it’s worth the cultural experience to eat the traditional meals with Indian bread and with the bare hands.

Chicken Fried Rice and Veggie Kourma from The Golden Fork Takeout

Mutton Biryani & Curry Rice with raitha (yogurt and onions), tangy mango saladIn the hospital, people like to drink starchy rice water for nutrients. Hm… it was very filling and thick. I was told to add some salt for flavor and dilute with water. Even though it looked like muddy water, I developed a keen liking to warm rice water.

IT/Computer/Software Business means the Big Bucks:  Indeed, more than doctors! There’s a greater demand for software engineers and computer techies. Plus, they have better salaries, as much as 3-4 times more than doctors! Not sure if they have good lifestyles, but they are certainly comfortable in the job market, in India and abroad.

Boiling water for drinking:  I’ve been warned by many parties NOT to drink the tap water. It’s supposedly dirty and germ-infested and my body has no immune defenses against foreign bugs. I could get very sick from contaminated water, like Montezuma’s Revenge (aka. Traveler’s Diarrhea). In India, I bought bottled water or cooked water. I’ve also been warned by Dr. Shanley that the bottled water need to be checked because people may take old bottles and fill with water, then seal the cap with glue. When the unbeknownst foreigner buys it and opens the cap, it’ll be like opening any new bottle. Sneaky and cheap bastards… As a way to save money, I cooked water every morning or evening and cooled it down to fill up my water bottles. No Brita, just old-fashioned stove and matchsticks. It’s an Asian thing to cook water, even ‘clean’ tap water in the states and at home!

In the hospital, my friend and I asked a rather obvious question: What about all these kids here, they cannot drink the faucet water?! I mean, the kids and I were no different: we were both immunocompromised. Then we found out from the doctors that they have cauldrons of boiled water available in the canteen and for the patients. Oh~~ In the last weeks when the stove ran out of gas and I was slowly desiccating in the summer’s heat, I resorted to drinking cooked water from the hospital, including the pink ‘root’ water and rice soup…

Bathrooms:  NOT user friendly! No toilet paper. You use bidets that are more like hoses. Also you have to pay to use the public toilet. What the hell? Pay to work your kidneys and relieve the bladder? The bathrooms wreak of ammonia; oh so stinky! And public toilets are not toilets; they’re holes in the ground and if you’re a girl, you squat. Therefore, it’s called a ‘squat toilet.’ Better to hold the pee in public and go home to deflate the bursting bladder. Even with a regular toilet, I still squat for sanitary reasons. You get used to it…


Why I Like Traveling

2011 has been an intriguing and stupendous year of traveling halfway around the world. I got these inspiring quotes from the Travel & Learning Channel (TLC) and I live by them from now on:

  1. “When you journey there are no strangers.”
  2. “Fun is when you add a bit of extra in ordinary.”
  3. “The more you go out, the more you journey inside yourself.”

From Shanghai’s vibrant city escapades to Beijing’s Great Wall and Great Roasted Duck down to India’s paradise beaches and seaside sharjas, I am lucky to have traveled far and wide to Asia. I love Asia, period. There are many more places to visit: Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, Fiji. One place I’d want to live: South Korea. Another place I want to go back to: Taiwan. Where I want to see my dear family: Shanghai. I love discovering culture and food, and hence, this endeared blog and piles of personal journals. I save tickets, brochures, restaurant business cards, and pictures. I want to commit my experiences with the world to memory. One of my biggest fears is memory loss, forgetting loved ones or wonderful places. I get highly meticulous and ambitious when it comes to learning, remembering, and keeping my souvenirs. I do not need glittering crystal glasses of the Oriental Pearl Tower or a traditional Indian dress to make me happy; I am perfectly content with travel brochures of attractions, my tickets to ride an elephant or to climb the Great Wall, personal snapshots of the city’s glories, candy wrappers I received from important people, and food menus of indigenous cuisines. Simple, yet meaningful.

TV Time in India

You want to know how many movies and TV shows I watched en route and in India? A record too many. Sometimes twice. With hours of time to kill many days, I overdosed on cable TV in Asia.

  • What Women Want
  • No Strings Attached – Friends with benefits eh?
  • Source Code – Changing time and crime with a chunk of brain?
  • Ace Ventura:  When Nature Calls – The rhino part was hilarious, which I vividly recalled later when I saw a rhino at the zoo
  • Van Helsing
  • National Treasure – Inspired me to read the Da Vinci Code and finish it in record time (< 1 week)
  • The Haunted Mansion
  • My Mom’s New Boyfriend
  • Gladiator
  • Hulk – How come the Hulk becomes a monster, his shirt pops, but not his pants?
  • Red Cliff – Takeshi! Tony! It would’ve been better if I watched it in Mandarin, and not English-dubbed. It just was not natural hearing the Asian actors with Indian-accented English.
  • Shanghai Noon – Lol, Jackie Chan, you have to love how he gets knocked senseless, but always looking confused and amused amidst the fighting.
  • Rush Hour 2
  • The Karate Kid (2010)
  • The Social Network – Mark Zuckerberg is an awkward ass. I hope he does not read this.
  • Repo Man – Premium on organs heh?
  • Harry Potter Series
  • Girl with the Dragon Tattoo & Girl Who Played with Fire
  • Unknown
  • Grindhouse
  • Ingracious Basterds – Quentin Tarantino is GENIUS, flipping history upside down in this wacky flip
  • (Curse of the Golden Flower) – Missed all but the ending where I see Jay Chou kill himself =(
  • 007 – Die Another Day
  • He’s Just Not That Into You
  • The Ugly Truth
  • The Lincoln Lawyer
  • Ninja Assassins – just to get a kick out of seeing Rain’s hot Korean bod and ridiculous gory graphics
  • Other Asian movies that played, but did not get a chance to watch: Jackie Chan’s Who Am I, Invisible Target, Ong Bak, King of Fighters, Flash Point

Mornings and evenings, I watched mostly culture and travel channels about food, India, and Asia. When I travel, I like to learn as much as I can about the culture and beyond. Not many channels were available in English, but even with the 10 channels I was left with, I maximized my time in the living room. My favorite channels were TLC (Travel and Living) and Fox Travel & History, plus the usual Discovery and National Geographic, and movie channels.

  • Air Crash Investigates: Not the most comforting idea to watch a program about plane crash disasters.
  • Medical Anomalies:  Whoa, some freaky stuff in medicine. By coincidence, I tuned in to an episode on neurofibromatosis, when that day I saw a NF case at work! Another episode, I saw cases of antagonist diseases like epidermolysis bullosa (EB) and ichthyosis vulgaris (fish scale disease)… Google it, you’ll know what I mean.
  • Guinness World Records: Are there that many records to break still? People seem to train like hell and inflate their egos, vying to crush a previous record and have their name in the books. Sorry for the previous record holders, because they just were not good enough.
  • Scare Tactics: ROFL, victims are reduced to pulp and begging for their lives at times, all documented on national TV. Mwhahahaaha, other people’s fear becomes the nation’s laughter. Cruel and humorous indeed…
  • Animal shows: One show about fierce, wicked, and clever predators who utilize speed, mind-control, strength, camouflage, vision, hearing, smell and touch. Like there’s this parasite that enters a snail after getting eaten. It then enters the mind, literally, hypnotizing the snail. The snail’s little antennas change into psychedelic colors, changing its behavior and making it vulnerable to predators. It emerges and wanders out onto tree branches, where birds see their favorite meal. Bam! It gets eaten. The parasite enters the bird’s digestive system and returns to the environment via bird poop. Another oblivious, innocent snail stumbles across bird poo infected with the parasite, and the cycle continues. Among others are owls with acute hearing that goes deep beneath the layers of snow, hammerhead sharks with peripheral and panoramic vision, preying shrimp that can break through glass, blind mole thing that feels its way through burrows, and vampire bats with extraordinary night vision.

Did you know cheetahs are the fastest animals, yet they cannot run more than a minute, or else the heat will kill them?

The preying mantis is a sneaky bastard. It hangs and hides until it’s too late for the prey. A hummingbird was flying and drinking nectar, and suddenly, the preying mantis strikes and decapitates the furry flyer. Yuck!

I saw many lions and cheetahs chasing unfortunate zebras, antelopes, yaks… Just keep on chasing until a weak one trips up and attacked at the neck. Ouch… Then the vultures and flies come to finish the job.

Elephants are dangerous beasts too, the third most dangerous I believe, goring several hundreds people a year, up there with the hippos. One tourist in China wandered into the mountainous woods to find elephants and video-record a live footage, only to get much more than what he asked for. Elephants do not attack unless they feel threatened. Four elephants blocked the only exit down to the bus and proceeded to kill the man. Stomping and yelling and waving their trunks, the elephants were forces to be reckoned with. The guy hugged a tree to make himself still and less vulnerable, except he got besieged and thrown off. The worst attack came when an aggressive elephant picked the guy up with its trunk and stuffed him in the mouth. The guy vividly remembered hearing a crunch as he was folded up and crushed mercilessly. Thrown onto the ground, he had an open gash across his abdomen, intestines spilling out. He laid there for a good 2 hours before rescue, and even then transport took an additional hour or so to get him the emergency care he needed.

Komodo dragons can bite down with a powerful force, equal to the force applied if a hippo stood on a stiletto.

  • Fun Asia:  I love Janet Hsieh’s personality, hence I became a loyal viewer and fan! Pretty, bubbly, vivacious, and funny, she traveled far and wide, from the romantic beaches of Fiji & shark diving to exotic Thailand, Malaysia, and Mongolia. I wonder how it feels to be a traveler for a living and get paid for it, big time. Fun and money, what more could I ask for? That’s what I had going to India, not all-expense paid, but close enough.
  • What’s With Indian Men: For example, the togas and Punjabi mustache twirl. Lmao… The constantly played opening music video is very catchy and hilarious…
  • Oh My Gold: What a jaded show! The commercials would not stop playing! And reminding me how Indian women love their gold and jewelery. In the commercial, the host, Lisa Ray, travels India to experience India’s obsession with gold and jewels. In one segment, she is donned in gold: “I am wearing 6 million dollars worth of jewelery.” She is one expensive woman; I feel bad for her boyfriend, because she clearly has lofty standards.

Food at 9: Putting the OO in Food. Prepare to get hungry.

I’m no fatty, but I have a great appreciation for good food. In actuality, I lost weight on vacation. Happens every time I go to a country outside of the USA, and that says something about the ‘land of opportunity’ and its expanding horizons. 

  • Food Safari: I came home with essential ingredients and recipes to experiment with from Malaysia, Vietnam, China, Japan, Italy, France, Lebanon, France, Portugal, and all over!
  • Glutton for Punishment – This guy has only days to master the art of sushi/sashimi making and the nettle eating contest.
  • Family Food Fight – It’s a tame show, but a hectic battle between multicultural bands of families. In mother-daughter, father-daughter, mother-son, father-son, and sister-sister combinations, families feature signature ethnic and home dishes to impress the judges and win the competition.
  • Kung Fu Kitchen – Mixing entertainment and food and with agile hands, silken ease, and acuity, the Japanese and Chinese know how to put on a show and satisfy the palate! An Italian chef learned (and failed) to make famous Chinese noodles, la mian (hand made noodles) and dao sha mian (knife shaved noodles). A Caucasian woman learned the kitchen stunts of Japanese Teppanyaki, where the master chef does pepper shake and knife tricks, speedy chopping of bean sprouts, butter bowl maneuver, Mt. Fuji onion flames while cutting a meat without using the fork (only as a guide), flips, drumstick twirls, reverse salt shaker throw, synchronized swimming shrimp, and music using utensils. Whew! I was blown away. I’m going to have to experience this for myself to get the full kung-pow to my face and in my mouth.
  • Andrew Zimmerman’s Bizarre World: He likes to explore cultures through food, the exotic and strange foods of the world that people usually dare to eat only for money on Fear Factor. He likes eating bugs, which are terrific sources of low fat protein. Apparently, they are delicious, prized snacks all over Southeast Asia, caught in backyards, deep-fried and spiced. Tarantulas, beetles, roaches, juicy larvae, ants… nutty, crunchy, and yummy I hear but too squeamish to ever try. Not even for money.
  • World Cafe with Bobby Chinn:  Haha, he is such a tourist, especially when he whips out his camera in public and takes pictures or videos in the wide open, not too far from what I do anywhere.
  • Kylie Kwong – My China: She is one strange woman; her food did not look genuinely Asian OR appetizing, too simple and plain for any cultural appreciation. I also don’t think she spoke Chinese either. On the streets of Shanghai, she used hand motions and English to kick the street chef out of his streetside kitchen and proceeded to cook for curious pedestrians. She also chickened out of trying stinky tofu.
  • Gourmet Central: This nutty Indian guy who cooks with mozzerella, parsley, muffins, ovens, strawberries, among other ingredients NOT found in India. I shopped at the markets… nothing of the sort.
  • Indian Cooking Made Easy
  • Nigella
  • Exotic Eats

Random TV shows I stumbled upon.

  • India’s Minute to Win It:  My heart got a good beating from this show. Who knew everyday household items could be toys? A hunky doctor from Mumbai was deft with his hands and mobile with his booty, he had high hopes of going home with a whole lotta rupees… There was also an apple stacking game for Level 1. Every macintosh apple has five distinct bumps on the bottom and there’s a way to stack 4 up into a tower. Ghazi took out his Fuji apples and tried it =D Other fascinating games: standing egg with salt, cup relay, soda can balance and switch-a-roo, tic tac through the tennis racket, knocking off cups with balloons, shaking balls out of a tissue box attached to the ass, hands-in-the-stockings game, and much much more.

  • Top Chef: Drama in the kitchen, and lots of it. I vowed to get away from American reality TV, but food always lures me back somehow.
  • Modern Family: I got into this show, thanks to the persistent commercial showing Gloria belting a foul rendition of “Angel in the Morning”… LMAO Um, I cannot stop listening to the more pleasant version here – to be honest, I’ve been listening to this song on repeat while writing this post.
  • Two and a Half Men: I got into Charlie Sheen too, the “Bad Boy of Television.”

Lasting Memories in China

May 2011

Last time I was around so many Chinese people, besides Flushing and NYU, was 2008 Jay Chou concert at Mohegan Sun. And there, it was packed to the limit with ballistic Jay Chou fans, me included. This time around, I was in a country of Chinese people, a much different community than in America. As evident in my endless posts for my China Travel series, I found every experience eye-opening and tasteful. I have compiled lasting impressions, feelings, and insights in this finale until the next expedition.

Flip Flop

During the entire week in China, particularly in the beginning, Kelly and I were getting confused with each other.  At the first restaurant outing, Wai Po and Yi Ma looked and smiled at me, but called me Qing Qing (Kelly). I stared back and responded awkwardly, “I’m not Kelly, I’m Connie…” pointing at my sister to my right. To make matters more amusing, even my own mother started getting us mixed up! I would also poke at Kelly and correct her, “I’m not Kelly! I’m CONNIE!” My own mother?!  Kelly and I would blink at each other, “Seriously, they are getting us mixed up??” This may be a bad and inappropriate reference, but I’m drawing up a parallel with… love-making. I’ve seen it on television soap operas and movies and heard it happen amongst gossip tables. Amidst the pleasure, the girl (or guy) gets a little carried away and screams the wrong name. Everything stops and all is awkward… o.O

Clearly, my flip-flop situation is nowhere near as inappropriate and compromising, but I would like to point out a few key things. First, Kelly and I are not twins; we are actually a wide 5 years apart. Second, confusing Connie and Kelly meant one of appears older or the other younger. That can be disappointing, or flattering, depending on who you’re looking at.  I guess 10 years time really makes a difference in people’s minds, especially after the initial excitement of meeting us again. I do not notice the changes because, well, I’m in my own body, but for an outsider, I have undergone a dramatic transformation. Even within that same week, I went through a makeover for myself.

Rocky Roads

Let me make a point about driving in China. IT IS FREAKING CRAZY!!! Not just in Beijing, but Shanghai as well. Driving into Beijing was like driving a NASCAR race, not like I’ve done that myself, but judging by how much my heart rate skyrocketed, it was fast and furious. Seriously, I thought New York driving was bad. People in China do not follow lines on the road, pedestrian right-of-way, rules and regulations such as signaling, and roadway etiquette. It does not help when the streets are crowded with miniature carts, bicycles, motorcycles, mopeds, and pedestrians, the elderly and young alike. A few times, in Beijing and Shanghai, we got stuck at intersections where we were blown away by all the honks and besieged by cars from all corners, interspersed with bicycles, mopeds, and pedestrians.

I swear, these Chinese drivers really know how to live in the fast lane. They can speed so fast down the highway and avoid bumps & bruises in the crowded streets. They are aggressive and nonchalant at the same time. No one pays attention to the white or yellow lines. No one signals. No one wears seatbelts. There are no second thoughts when it comes to honking. Everyday is like orchestra of honks and bleeps.  I really wonder if their road tests are modeled after Mario Kart.

I was both frightened and amazed at how people drive out there. Even when I was on the streets of Shanghai, I was never so uncomfortable with jaywalking. Drivers had no mercy; they will mow you down and beep at you. When I was crossing the streets with my uncle from Kang Jian Park, I had cars and bicycles flanking from both sides! Never before had I felt like a poor squirrel just trying to get to the other side! Another time, I was walking back from one of the University restaurants on the last family dinner, I had a moped come up behind me, lights blinding my eyes. The pissed-off lady on the moped, on the cell phone, yelled at me to get out of the way… I was arm-in-arm with my Xiao Jiu Ma, and she and I complained about how unsafe walking around is all the time, even on the school campus. Never before had I felt like a deer stuck in headlights, literally! And man, was my family’s personal driver Xiao Wang an Asian Speedy Gonzalez. He got us to places quickly, but on a wild van ride. He would zip down the highway, high speed, maybe as fast as the Dongche (D-train). He would change lanes as quickly and smoothly as a motorcyclist on the LIE.

Ooops, Epic Trip

Dad’s terrible fall on the Great Wall was an epic vacation fail.  It was still the beginning of our week-long family fun, and BAM!, one slip on the rocks ruined many parts of the week. That day, we had to deal with a fretful Dad, frowning and complaining. When he wanted to go to the bathroom, Kelly and I were supporting him on both ends to the bathroom at the base of the mountain. Instead of thanking us, he was complaining we were slowing him down and he would rather not go to the bathroom after all. Dad was being a big baby, and we had to bear the brunt of it that morning.

Aside from shelling out 2000 yuan for a wheelchair, pushing him everywhere, carrying him up endless stairs, and really, treating him like a big baby, he will be fine. He had to withstand the rest of the week immobile, in pain, in bandages, and in tethers to a wheelchair until we arrived back in the states.

Update:  Dad went to visit an orthopedic surgeon. He got surgery on his fractured ankle. For the next three months, he will rest and heal in a cast at home. That means, no work for three months and plenty of time in front of the television watching his Asian dramas and variety shows and cooking channels…

Culinary Delights

Speaking of food and cooking, I was in such a well-fed state all week. That one week, I cycled from eating to sleeping, eating to walking, sitting to eating, then back to sleeping… It was mad tiring though!

My pancreas was on over-drive producing insulin to temper my carbohydrate bonanza and meat frenzy. I believe I ate enough meat that week to make up for 3 years of vegetarianism. I was okay with eating oily duck skin, chicken stomach, gizzard, braised eel, and many other exotic animal dishes, when a few years ago, I would puke at the mere thought! I’ve come a long way since eating purely plants. When I think about it, I still do not eat that much meat, only during special occasions or when people cook for me. On my own, I prefer to cook simple vegetarian dishes with rice or noodles. I have not dared to play with fire and whip out extravagant meat or seafood dishes. Sadly, I do not know how to cook meats, plain and simple =/

I have a greater appreciation for Asian cuisine now. Traveling is all about trying new foods (or going back to old roots) and becoming a part of the culture. Let’s say I was still a vegetarian, I would be missing out on culinary specialties; I would be in the background, watching other people enjoy the array of delicacies. I would also come off as ‘weird’ because Chinese people especially do not understand the concept of vegetarianism. There would be some explaining on my part; I would get frustrated talking about my healthy lifestyles and people might get offended if I choose not to eat their foods. My family cooked for us, took us out to dinners, and liked seeing us eat merrily; if I was the lone girl who refused to touch meat and fish, of course they would look down upon me.

Good thing I’ve reconverted myself to omnivorism over a year ago. I still prefer to eat healthy, but occasional, portion-controlled drifts to the exotic side of the dinner table are OK. And now I have the desire to perfect the art of cooking and make food that smells like Shanghai. I want to have my mom’s culinary magic. The foods I ate at Shanghai stimulated my nose and brought me back to home. I vividly remember the first night we arrived in Shanghai, Xiao Jiu Ma cooked us a lavish dinner that breathed home.


You do not know how many times Mom cautioned me to watch my bag. I kept clutching it and making sure it was securely zippered. Pickpocketing is infamous on the streets of China. Mom has told me stories of Chinese people sharpening their fingers as sharp as chopsticks. They are quick and sneaky, stealing your precious jewels and cash from right under your nose, gone before you can even blink and cry. I had to be particularly careful at Wang Fu Jing, because the nightmarket scene is where you will find prowling jackrabbits. Everyone is bumping into each other and taking out their money to buy street foods. When I was walking through the narrow streets of the nightmarket, I noticed many women like myself, grasping their side-bags and holding them in the front.

I also believe we saw a lurking pickpocketer in Shanghai, the first night after the Golden Jaguar International Buffet. Bunched together on the night streets, we were all chatting and enjoying the evening breeze. A suspicious-looking man walked by and kept looking at our shopping bags, which contained mostly shoes and clothes. I kept my eye on him as he walked off, but he kept circling around and looking back at us. I gave him the death stare right back, not sure if it kept him away, and watched him drift off. What a creeper!

So Long Shanghai

Saturday, April 23, 2011: Homeward Bound

I was sad my week had to end. After a fantastic week flying around China and eating with family, it was time to snap back to reality. Reality meant back to school, medical school, and studying my brains to Jupiter again. Not like I study that hard in medical school compared to college, but still, I have to read books again and return to my time zone. Let’s say it took more than a good couple of slaps in the face to snap me back out of vacation mode…

For our farewell breakfast, Xiao Jiu Ma made us wonton soup and 湯團 Tang Tuan. It is apparently a Chinese custom to eat wontons or tang tuan before a departing for home to ensure a safe trip:  路上平安 Lu Shang Ping An =) We did have something to worry about for the trip back home:  bags and bags of stuff.  Coming to Shanghai, we all packed lightly; for one, I had one backpack and a pocketbook. There were also two duffel bags, a medium Nike red one and a large blue camping bag. Originally, Mom wanted to chuck away the big blue bag because it was so heavy. Not happening! We actually ran out of room stuffing all our goods:  gifts, biscuits, pastries, SHOES, clothes, etc… Consolidation was difficult, so we ended up carrying gift bags in our hands anyway. I was concerned with our baggage check though, because I was not sure if the additional slew of bags counted as excess baggage… In the end, it did not matter; they were simply counted as gift bags and we were fine.

It was barely 8 am and we were ready for the airport. Xiao Wang came to drive us to Hong Qiao Airport. Qing Qing and Xiao Chen accompanied us on our last ride together. We waved goodbye to Jiu Jiu and Xiao Jiu Ma, not for the last time of course. It was a hazy, lazy morning as we drove to the airport. God I really was going to miss a place I’ve come to equate with home!

At the airport, Qing Qing and Xiao Chen continued to help us through and through, until the security check area, with our overweight bags and handicapped Pops. Without them, my arms were going to crack in half. Either way, without their enormous help from the security check in, my arms would still break apart and my back sore ={ It was a sad goodbye, because I have come to know Qing Qing so well over this week, whom I met for the first time since a long, long time ago, a time I barely remember in the deep cobwebs of my brain. From here on out, I will remember all the incredible expeditions with Qing Qing and Xiao Chen and what wonderful people they genuinely are. I learned a great deal about China with them, and I hope we have taught them just as much about America. Like I told everyone else during our family encounters and farewells, I hope to have them come to New York one day and show them the best America has to offer! I will be their personal tour guide, as I lived a culturally-thrilling four years in Manhattan. Funny thing though, we have always complained they don’t leave Shanghai enough to visit us in America, when in fact, Yi Fu told us he did come to New York for a business trip. We just missed his phone call because Mom tends to ignore incoming calls labeled “unavailable.” Our paths crossed but missed, just like in those sad Asian dramas… Anyway, we all hugged tightly and wished for the best! No matter how much we have come to love life’s bliss and treasures in Shanghai, we had to part ways and move on until next time. Next time will surely NOT be a decade!

In the airport, we were lucky, again, to have assistance. An airport staff member gave us priority in passing the VISA check line and catching the elevator. He escorted Dad with us, who happened to be a convenient shopping cart because he loaded some baggage and gift bags on his lap. He certainly made himself useful. At the departure gate, the Chinese man took us through another special security check usually for first-class. Ah, now I got a chance to walk through a special corridor with the first-class riders! On the plane we go, back to Detroit!!  Next post:  How I stayed sane and not somnolent on the long flight ahead…

Shanghai’s Last Supper

Friday, April 22, 2011:  The Last (Shanghai) Supper

Our last quality family time together around a fancy dinner table! Sun Po and his wife came to pick us up in his slick black car. Mom, Kelly, and I sat in the back seat, chatting up a thunderstorm. Let’s see, we heard about their honeymoon again, a romantic getaway to France and Italy. Of course there was a language gap there, but we mentioned how Kelly knows some Italian and I understand a little French. As a funny compromise with them, we’ll make a European trip one day, cheap through China, and have the ground covered with our versatile tongues! Besides, Kelly and I have been accustomed to translating in various settings. And after a whole week, we wanted to exchange contact information. We hit a bit of a bump with exchanging emails, because people in China do not use Google or Facebook; instead, they use some bootleg-Facebook, MSN, and QQ (how cute). We have already exchanged emails with Qing Qing, who uses email we are familiar with, like Hotmail! But the rest of our family members do not know English very well and email communication may present as an obstacle. However, I do not know why we didn’t think of this earlier, but there is such a thing as Skype! It came to me suddenly, and I asked Sun Po, “Heyy… Do you guys have Skype!” He responded, “Oh yes, we do have THAT!” Bingo, now we can video chat and not have to struggle with Chinese-English translations. I joked that Sun Po would have to practice reading English. His wife joked that he would have to write a line of Chinese and put that through a translator and type it out subsequently. It could take a whole day writing and translating and making sense of the mumble jumble… How bizarre it is to be able to communicate so easily face-to-face, even when it’s in their native Shanghainese which I understand to an extent, but fail so miserably by writing?!

We arrived at an elegant restaurant at Shanghai Normal University, this time on the Fengxian campus. We had to wait a little while for Dad to come by wheelchair because our cousin went to pick him up. Other members of our family were on their way as well. While waiting, a black car pulled up. Some Chinese guy came out and dropped a net with a moving four-legged creature down on the entrance steps. I looked down, and it looked like an upside-down turtle with claws. I thought it was nearly dead, until Auntie Lin-Ai nudged it with her foot to see if it was really alive. I knew perfectly well the fate of the prized fat turtle…

Everyone arrived and we were set to go. I looked at the entrance, and you guessed it, there was a long staircase. No handicapped ramp for easy transportation and mercy for the disabled. Yes, Dad had to hobble up one step at a time and one of us lifted his heavy wheelchair right on behind. Once inside, he could sit comfortably in his 2000 yuan wheelchair, snuggled up against the table.

Now, my last mouth-watering post until another global expedition in June. To start, we encircled around a fancy dinner table. The waitresses served us fine red wine and this addicting sour milk that tasted like vanilla yogurt. It was thick, creamy, and rich to the tongue. The entire dinner session, I alternated my dishes with milk and wine, milk and wine. Yum =P

There was a common theme of birds and seafood:  pigeon, chicken, lobster, codfish, fried cuttlefish, abalone, jellyfish, shrimp, etc… Then there was also the Jiang en, the poor turtle creature that got spiced and fried up. Spicy curry beef made another surprise appearance on the dinner table; this time it was more fatty and less dissolving. I compiled a medley of appetizers to emphasize the plethora of Chinese delicacies:  duck, abalone (bao yu), seasoned cucumbers (liang ban huang gua), salad, Asian fungus (hei mu er), jellyfish, potato slices and peppers, fish, pork ribs, and chicken. One of my favorite meals that day was something rather simple:  leftover King Lobster mixed with qing bai cai (bok choy) in soup. It meshed very well with white rice. Well, anything with white rice wins my heart.

Pigeon... see the head?!


King Lobster

Lonely Wonton

Fried Cuttlefish and Whole Shrimp (Dai Tou Xia)

Jiang En... the turtle now became dinner

Dad loves everything that once moved... =/

Cruncy rice cakes brushed with duck egg yolk


Ah, my favorite!

All good things must come to a conclusion. This was our last supper together as a family. I have cherished every waking moment this week, to experience China’s wonders and familial love.  Despite the distance, a span of an entire ocean, I have grown closer to my dear family. They love me, and I love them back. I will forever remember their exhibition of deep affection and hospitality. They have shown me what it means to have an extended family that will support you and love you unconditionally. Our extended reunion has reached a blissful end.

Feng Jing Zhen 楓涇鎮 – On the Streets

Friday, April 22, 2011:  Family Day

Feng Jing Zhen 楓涇鎮 – Walking the Streets

Mom, Lin-Ai, Qing Qing, Xiao Chen, Auntie, Kelly and I (whoa, what a jumble of people!) embarked on a promenade down the back streets of Feng Jing Zhen for a simple, small-town shopping experience. The ground was composed of rough, gray stones. The streets were narrow with occasional indentations housing little shops. Elderly people sat on wooden stools, just being simple people in a simple village. There was a painting above one of the stores, one of those Chinese landscape sketches of rivers, lakes, bridges, mountains, and Mother Nature. Xiao Chen told me a well-known phrase the villagers live by: 小橋流水人家 - Xiao Qiao, Liu Shui, Ren Jia (Small Bridge, Flowing Water, Family & Home). The painting exhibited a placid village amidst crossing bridges, towering mountains, and intersecting blue rivers. Feelings of familial love and sense of harmony exuded from the simple, but deep picture. The phrase Xiao Chen was elaborating on made the painting all the more special. Basically, everyone in the community is connected; no matter how small the bridge is, there is always that physical link between neighbors. Water symbolizes purity and continuous flow of fortune, always present in Chinese shops, restaurants, offices, and homes. Water will hopefully bring in the money, happiness, and luck. It will also wash and clear out any negative energy. Lastly, the essence of family is embedded in the Chinese character for home, or ‘jia.’  Embedded in the character is a sense of unity and togetherness. I thought that was a particularly powerful portrait of the village.

I like this sequence of pictures we took on our saunter. Mom and her sister Lin-Ai were arm-in-arm, heads together, gossiping and bonding over lost time. Kelly and I, representing the next generation, walked a distance behind, in perfect line with our corresponding roles. That is, big sisters were on the right side (Mom and Connie) and little sisters linked and off to the left (Lin-Ai and Kelly). It was an amusing Kodak moment. Qing Qing took the shots and here they are:

Why... Hello!

What did we spend on that afternoon? Mom stopped at a tiny shop and embarked on a spree for sandals, hand-woven baskets, and fire rocks.  The straw baskets were ideal for fruits and vegetables, or whatever else Mom wanted to toss in there. She ended up buying maybe 3 decent-sized baskets. There were also these fancy black lava rocks for rubbing the undersides of the foot to rid of dead skin and maintain overall foot health. Mom bought two-handfuls. I also saw a large wooden bucket. Xiao Chen explained to me the importance of foot health in Asia. Every night, before going to bed, it is of natural importance to clean and bathe the feet in warm water. It is tonic for the whole body, allowing for circulation and overall relaxation. I guess that’s why Mom always made me wash my feet before getting home, mainly for cleanliness reasons. And maybe it’s in my genes to absolutely hate walking barefoot anywhere, except where I know I’m in a clean area, like my home. I hate walking sans footwear on the sandy beach, in the shower, at people’s homes, etc… I’m used to following the Chinese way of living, where you wear sandals in the house. Or socks. But I do like my feet free, so I prefer flip-flops or flats. I’ll be sure to play around with those handy lava rocks! And try this evening feet-warming-and-bathing session.

We circled around the streets, over a bridge, and onto a bigger street. More shopping was pursued, obviously. Kelly bought sneakers. Lin-Ai bought a pink tennis shirt. I resisted the urge. Instead, I conversed with Qing Qing and Xiao Chen, while listening to the songs playing in the store. Again, my Asian side prevailed, since I started singing and dancing to Top Combine’s “Cotton Candy” and SHINee’s “Ring Ding Dong.” The latter song is absolutely contagious! I heard it, pointed to Kelly, who was trying on colorful sneakers, and said, “Hey Kelly, it’s Ring Ding Dong.” In her seat, right next to Shen Shen, she put down her shoes and started dancing to ~Ring Ding Dong~ My, my, it was hilarious!

We circled back to base. We met up with Ah-Gu, who looked a tad too red and tired ((O.O)). I bet he has the Asian gene… Anyway, we said our good-byes to Ah-Gu and Shen Shen, wishing them the best of luck and hoping to visit again in the near future. Then, we were on our merry way back to Shanghai city.