The Christmas Grouch

I woke up a real Christmas grouch.

I know how you feel!

From having to work at 8:30 a.m. to misplacing my itouch and prickling my finger fumbling through my bag in search of it (don’t worry, I found it), to doing a mad-Christmas-gift-dash in the busiest part of the city, to coming home to an empty house, you might understand why I was not feeling the spirit.

Christmas Crowd

Yesterday was more eventful. To start the day off pleasantly, I received a package all the way from Boston from my friend Grace, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more awesome.

!!!!!!!!!!!

I requested that if my friends ever send me anything in the mail, it be themselves. So, thoughtful as Grace is, she sent me a mini-cardboard cutout of herself (to the right of the cookies) on top of the best box of cookies ever, a life-size Santa hat and a children’s book which I’ve already read twice to my students (Grace and I have a tradition of giving each other children’s books as gifts–I think that’s pretty cool). It’s hard to beat those gifts, especially when my students came over later with gift-wrapped fruits and a can of cola. I was so confused.

Rather than calling Christmas Eve “Christmas Eve,” the Chinese refer to it as Silent Night, or literally translated from Chinese, Peace Night (pinganye, 平安夜). The tradition–I now understand–is to give apples (pingguo, 苹果) to wish someone peacefulness. I also got an orange (juzi, 橘子) to symbolize good fortune and a can of Pepsi (kele, 可乐) to symbolize happiness. Clever, but also a waste of plastic–oh negative Nancy, it’s the thought that counts!

As for Christmas Day, my spirits were eventually lifted when my aunt and uncle arrived from Kunming, and we rushed off to catch my cousin perform in a typical Chinese “gala”–the kind of event you see on any Chinese TV channel–which consists of food, drinks and live performances. We ended the night eating hot pot, not exactly Christmasy, but it was shared with family. If I recall correctly, this is the first Christmas since junior year of high school that I’ve spent with my parents because they were always either working or were already in China. Growing up, I mostly celebrated Christmas with family friends, which–while I consider them family too–was always still a bit lonely.

Well, Christmas flew by this year; it came and went. But this is just the beginning of the holiday season! I expect Chinese New Years to be explosively festive (lots of fireworks involved I hear)!

Any-Cindy-Lou-Who, it’s time for bed. Stuffed to the brim, it’s going to be hard to fall asleep tonight…

To end another Christmas, I leave you with a classic. Wham!

Merry Christmas (to those who celebrate)! Happy Holidays!

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The Dangerous Side of a Good Meal

Good food is hard to come by these days in China. I don’t mean good as in tasty, because there’s PLENTY of tasty food. I mean good as in good quality, or good for you, or even real. That is the latest concern.

Modernization and quick technological advancement have for sure boosted China’s economy but scientific knowledge and talent is totally being misdirected. All of your fake brand name handbags are made in China right? Fake iphones, fake money, and now fake food.

photo credit: Aziz Hussin

I don’t mean to steal this idea from one of the college application essays I had to edit today, but the student made a most excellent point: why are the Chinese wasting all of this precious talent on producing counterfeit and imitation goods when they could be redirecting their efforts into producing original top quality goods in their own country?  When iphone 5 didn’t come out last week as planned, the thousands (if not more) of already made fake iphone 5’s and the dollars it cost to make them all sorrowfully went down the toilet.  Learn your lesson!

Now back to food. HOW WILL I KNOW WHAT FOOD I EAT IS SAFE? I won’t. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop me from eating out, but I still wonder if I should actually eat the mango that’s bigger than my head or the grapefruit that is the size of a basketball…

How can I be sure this meat and fish that have been drying and marinating in the open air for who-knows-how-long is actually okay to eat?

Even the mushrooms (junzi) in Yunnan, stuff you can’t get anywhere else in the world, is now feared to be chemically induced.

Many hot-pot restaurants in China have been shut down because they were caught reusing repeatedly the same oil/soup base for multiple customers. That means the food you’re about to eat was cooked in someone else’s pot of boiling soup, and the food they ate was cooked in the soup used before them. Now that is just ill practice and a terrible way to run a business!

This photo was taken at "Haidilao," one of the few safe hot-pot restaurants left in Beijing. It's absolutely delicious. I'll take you there when you come visit.

Currently the safest option is to buy your own groceries and cook at home.

My family eating one of the best home-cooked meals I've ever eaten.

*WARNING* Wash and scrub those fruits and vegetables down because the coating of pesticides or whatever it is will kill you, or at least make you sick. My mom used the water she saved from washing vegetables to water our wilting houseplants; the next day, those same plants were bursting with life! That should say something…

Or, just stick to WASHED vegetables. That’s better for me anyway. I need more greens in my diet.

My cousin getting a healthy dosage of soupy greens.