Big news: my husband’s little sister is pregnant! She was 3+ months pregnant and didn’t even know it. It was the pickled cucumbers 凉拌黄瓜 cravings that cued my mother-in-law to thinking she might be pregnant and she is! How difficult it must be for my husband to have his little sister expecting her first child before him. We are already failures of reproduction in China because we have not produced offspring within the given time frame of 1-2 years after marriage and then in the age hierarchy, our future unborn children will forever have to call husband’s younger sister’s child “older brother or sister.” It’s messing up the generational hierarchy here. To add to the town gossip, conception was before the wedding. Simply scandalous! It’s big news and I’m very happy for her. My mother-in-law is very happy for her, but I feel kind of bad because I’m sure there is talk in that small community and I’m sure there is a pang of disappointment that baby’s a 外孙/女 “outside” grandchild and not a 孙子／女 grandchild within the family name.
Oh the pressure this puts on us! Except we live halfway around the world so we don’t have to care what anyone says and we kind of enjoy our carefree DINK lifestyle. That, and about a month after she found out her news, we discovered that I am pregnant! These things must be contagious or something. It puts everything right in the world again, sort of. Mother-in-law is happy – I will have fulfilled my traditional obligation as a daughter-in-law. Our baby will always be about 4 months younger than sister-in-law’s, which would mean they are the same age in America, but it means he or she will be considered younger in China. On the American side of things, I don’t know what we are going to do with a one bedroom apartment or how I’m ever going to finish grad school, and how does one take care of a baby? Nor do I foresee the two cousins being very close since they will grow up so far away from each other.
Well, we are very excited. No idea how we are going to handle a baby. At least I get to experience the joys of pregnancy with my sister-in-law though she is half a world away going through the experiences very differently.
When a Chinese person buys a wallet, he/she looks to see how much cash it will hold; when an American buys a wallet, he/she looks at how many credit cards it will hold. (Useless fact: Chinese wallets are actually larger than most American wallets because 100 RMB bills are larger than US dollar bills) The entire concept of money seems to be different between the two cultures.
As soon we came back to the states, I started building my husband’s credit. I found a credit card with a terribly low limit but no fees, and we bought a car with a high interest rate even though we had enough to buy the car in cash. Sadly, the bank representative told us this was very common. As she explained, even though immigrants often have plenty in cash to buy a house or a car in full, without credit, they can’t get a loan. I’m sure there is logic in there somewhere. So we paid interest to have a credit score because credit is king. Continue reading
So my parents-in-law have been coming up with lots of theories of why I have not produced a grandchild. The one that they are sure of is that because I once took birth control pills I must therefore be infertile. I laughed at it because it was absurd, but it made me kind of angry with no way to educate them on how birth control pills works. That’s when I realized that their assumption was not entirely uneducated. What exactly is considered “the pill” in China?
A long long time ago, I was a student in Xi’an with a 6 month stock pill of my American birth control pills. I ended up staying in China for longer than 6 months though and did not want to disturb my cycle or hormones by going off the pill. Too bad you can’t refill prescriptions by international mail. So I grabbed one of my Chinese girlfriends to take me to the pharmacy to buy a month’s supply of birth control. Simple enough. We told the pharmacist what we wanted and she handed me a box with one pill. I looked at both my friend and the pharmacist and explained that it was not right. My friend laughed and said that it was the right medicine. “You take this pill once a month and you will not get pregnant.” It took a few seconds for what she said to sink in. In my hands was the morning after pill.
Some things that I really missed about living in China were the indulgences. Today we enjoyed getting pampered.
In the US, I can never seem to find time to cut my hair, and while I get pretty terrible hair cuts in China, they give really nice head and shoulder massages while they do it. It is some seriously nice papering.
I tend to avoid mani-pedis in the US because they never keep. My nails do not like polish; it always chips after a day, even gels. Something about the way they do it in China, probably some serious chemicals, but my nails stay perfect until they grow out. I think they actually superglue plastic nails on and then cover them with a gel polish; whatever they do, it stays beautiful and doesn’t chip. I really only get my nails done in China. I was able to get a full set of french tips and a gel pedicure for about $20 and it is better than what I could get in the US.
I also missed bubble tea. It was so nice relaxing with friends while drinking yummy milk tea. More and more milk tea shops are opening up in the US so I can get it there, but it just isn’t the same.
It’s true that my hands and feet became immediately dirty from the dirt roads and factory air and my hair was a tangled mess as soon as I stepped out into the wind, but I felt momentarily put together.
The mid-autumn festival is a holiday I have always liked in China because it is the very first holiday I celebrated here. I love walking around at night when everything is decorated with lights and lanterns and the air is lightly crisp. I also have a fascination with mooncakes. Maybe it is an obsession.
It does not make much sense, but every time I celebrate the mid-autumn festival, I buy a bunch of mooncakes because I hate the taste. Seriously. As the first holiday I ever celebrated in China, I wanted desperately to understand it and mooncakes were a large part of the holiday. Mooncake stands popped up everywhere and everyone was buying and giving mooncakes. I figured they must be good or they wouldn’t be so popular so I kept trying different mooncakes to find the good ones. Some advice from my experiences, any mooncake that costs 1 yuan or less is not worth eating. Traditional mooncakes are heavy and oily and terrible. Some people like the yokes, I don’t. I have since found that the modern mooncakes actually taste pretty good though many chinese don’t consider them to be mooncakes. The ice cream ones are wonderful, the fruit ones remind me of fig newtons, and the mochi ones are delicious!
Mooncakes apparently very by area as well. This one above is the local traditional mooncake. It is perishable and doesn’t last forever like the other mystery cakes. It reminds me very much of fruit cake and I have grown accustomed to eating it because there are tons of them in my house.
This is the amazing mochi mooncake. It seems somehow wrong to buy a Chinese mooncake at a Japanese bakery, but mochi is so yummy. These are actually very expensive, almost comparable to the mochi I buy in the US.
Much like American holidays, we did not do anything special during the day and then simply had dinner together as a family to celebrate the holiday.
My husband has been refusing to have his wisdom tooth pulled for months saying that American dentists are too expensive. Excuses. So here we are in China getting his tooth pulled. Through a little guanxi, he’s getting it pulled for around $10.
So how are dentists in China?
The dental industry is not very developed, though it is a common destination for dental work for people from other parts of Asia. When I lived in Japan years ago, I broke a tooth and my host family almost took me China to have it repaired because it is more affordable. Years later when I broke the same tooth again, I had it repaired in Xi’an. The dentist was great, he’s the reason I can understand Sichuan hua. The office was very clean and they imported all of the materials for quality. He told me that most of the people who come in for cleanings are foreigners. The majority of Chinese people simply don’t think about dentists until it’s too late. The Chinese patients that do come in are generally older and have major dental issues. My husband certainly had never visited a dentist until he met me.
Every meal in China we’ve eaten as if we hadn’t eaten in days and we’ll never eat again. It all tastes divine and each bite brings back memories and stories from our past lives in China. These are things that simply cannot be bought in America and never taste the same when I make them. It has been a love affair and today we have had many lovers.
I love you jian bing guo zi 兼并馃子!
I finally had jianbing guozi for the first time since coming back. It is a Shandong specialty though I’ve seen other provinces take claim for it. It’s a very large flour crepe with an egg omelet on top with a spicy savory sauce wrapped around crispy guozi with lettuce for color. It’s a warm “sandwich” that I love to eat with my hands. It’s fast and convenient though I have waited 20 minutes for one during lunch rush hour at Jasco before. Buy these at grocery stores or very busy stands to ensure freshness, the stand next to my hotel looked a little shady.