Showing posts with label culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label culture. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Life on the Flip Side: Open Air Markets

Buying food is perhaps one of the most different things about living in China. Not just that many of the western staples we are used to aren't available here, but the whole process. In America now the usual way to get food is just to get in your car and drive to the supermarket, load up with what you need for a week, drive back, unload it, and move on with your day. Buying food from Farmer's markets and such is now an exception and they can be hard to find.

In China, as in much of the world, the most common place to buy fruits and vegetables are street markets. It is actually less common for people to buy their produce (and even meat for that matter) in supermarkets than in open air markets. Many older people won't even consider buying produce or meat from a place like Walmart, preferring to continue their longstanding tradition of shopping once a day in their traditional Chinese markets.

I have friends who have moved from China to more westernized countries and even these young women very much miss going to traditional markets and picking out very fresh produce and meat. One of my friends told me she hates getting her produce already packaged, as she wants to be able to pick out each carrot and potato herself.

Here we often by our produce in open air, farmer's type markets. The produce is generally much better than you will find in a supermarket, although the price might be higher. The selection is almost always better, both in quality and variety of food available. For example, when strawberries first come into season here at the beginning of December, you will only be able to get them in Farmer's markets or from street sellers for several weeks before you will be able to find them at Walmart. So if we have the time we quite prefer the fruit and vegetables at the open air markets.

Watermelons in Walmart

We do still sometimes try to just do one shopping trip at Walmart for the week, because it is simply more convenient. All the prices are marked, so you don't have to ask about each individual item, there is no bargaining, and I have never yet had cause to question the accuracy of Walmart's scale. So if we're trying to be efficient (which is something Americans tend to value way more than here) we will just stop at the supermarket and get as much as we can there.

Old style scale still used in markets

However, even if we are trying to do one stop shopping, it isn't at all usual for the supermarket to suddenly be completely out of something or it will be really poor quality (sometimes for weeks) and we'll make an unplanned stop for sweet potatoes, eggs, sometimes even meat, or something else. One thing that living in a different culture definitely is teaching us is the need to remain flexible. Additionally, we have found some open air markets that offer many other things besides food, some of which are much higher quality than a place like Walmart. They are definitely the only place we've found in a large city like this to offer traditional items like beautiful pots and bamboo baskets.

Large open air market

We do really love much of the unusual produce that are available here and learning new ways to purchase food has taught us many things. We love learning to make new things from ingredients that aren't readily available in the States. We are learning to enjoy eating seasonally as most of the world does.
I am confused about why they wrap the oranges though...

Diana from Saving by Making is currently running a series called Farmers Market Reviews to help people find lesser known Farmers Markets in their area. I think this series could be really helpful for many people living in America. If you live in China I don't think you will actually have a very hard time finding  open air or farmers type of market. But in case you are, I have a broad tip for you that should help you locate one in any Chinese city (Where they speak mandarin anyway). Simply locate an older person carrying a small amount of vegetables (there is a high probability that they shop daily in a local market) and ask them. "Shìchǎng zài nǎlǐ?" (市场在哪里,Where is the street market?). They should be able to point you in the right direction.

In addition to very large markets here it is very common to see produce for sale on a smaller scale anywhere on the streets.  People travel a long way with baskets, carts, or by van to bring in food from the countryside and sell it conveniently all over the city streets. So chances are if you are traveling in China and can't find a large market,  you would still be able to buy local produce from someone like this. It is truly awesome to be able to pick up fresh fruit for a snack on the go, although we usually stick to peel-able fruits for quick snacks.

Personally, I'd love to see America increase the availability of local produce and food products, much like you would find here in the East, but perhaps implement more western hygiene practices for the best of both worlds.

And why wrap oranges but not meat?

Very fresh fish

Dried fruit

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Life on the Flip Side: Laundry

Or in which I go crazy and air my dirty (and clean) laundry all over the internet.

I am going to be writing a series entitled: Life on the Flip Side: Learning how things work on the other side of the world. I want to record a little bit of how our daily life works right now, so I can remember later. I'm guessing this won't be the most interesting series for that many people, but I do know one person who will appreciate it (Hi Grandma!), so I figured I might as well go ahead and publish these thoughts.

Today I'll show you briefly how I do laundry, later I'll show you how we do some other things, which may or may not be more exciting.

Our laundry set up is on the balcony off of our bedroom. Our washing machine is a bit smaller than most in America, probably about half of the capacity of a standard American machine. Dryers also aren't common here and are hugely expensive, both to purchase and power, so we just do what most people do here and line dry all of our laundry. We have to bars on the balcony to hang the laundry to dry on. They can be raised and lowered with a crank. The balcony is covered so the laundry doesn't get rained on. It actually isn't a big deal to me to hang up the laundry with this set up and now I have helpers too.

I took these pictures on a day back in February when I needed to get three loads of laundry done in one day. I normally don't do more than one or two, but I got behind had to catch up. I figured taking pictures to blog about this process might motivate my to actually catch up.

Crank to raise and lower bars
I washed one load before I started taking pictures. But since the first load I washed was the diapers, it is probably a good thing, you don't really need to see our dirty diapers. You can use your imagination or not as you see fit.

In the washer you can see the clean diapers, a green washer ball (which helps ionize the water and decreases our need for detergent), a couple other colored washer balls (which increase agitation as this machine only has an agitator at the bottom), and off to the right side of the washing machine you can see my detergent and fabric softener.

Diapers are the highest priority laundry item around here, so on days I need to do more than one load, I try to wash these first. We don't want to run out of diapers. Even if split pants and no diapers are culturally appropriate; we don't use that method for many messy reasons.

Once the diapers are done I summon my minions subjects children/helpers and set a classical music timer to get us all hanging up the laundry fast. The only way I can get anything besides basic household chores done in the day is to have the kids help, so I train them to help as soon as they are able.

I spread out the diapers over the bars and railings to get then to dry as fast as possible.

My biggest helper can grab laundry from the machine and  clip them up while standing on a step ladder.


 And the littler helper clips up diaper wipes inside. Many hands make light work.

And we're down with load number one! Many days (and definitely if it is cold and rainy and things are taking a long time to dry) I would be all done with laundry for the day. But February was warm and dry and I needed to catch up on laundry.

Alright, moving right along to the second load. We don't use many paper products so I ask my helpers to bring me the handkerchiefs and the kitchen rag/towels as I start to load up the washer again.

Here comes a cutey with the handkerchiefs.

I add some homemade laundry detergent.

And I fill up my downy ball with vinegar for fabric softener. 

The only way to get hot or warm water to the washing machine is to carry it from the bathtub as the machine is only hooked up to cold. So if we want to run a load with a hot or warm wash, if we're trying to conserve water, of if our cold water has been shut off but we still have hot solar water from the roof, we fill buckets in the bathtub and fill up the machine that way.

Here I had taken a bath and then pretreated and let soak some laundry that needed extra attention. Then we filled the washer with water from the bathtub as well.

Full to the max and ready to go.

Alright, finished hanging up the second load by 1pm. All of my hanging bars and railings are completely full now and I would definitely be done with laundry most days. But it is fairly warm and dry so this will dry quickly. I throw one more load of wash into the machine to hang up later.

 We have some things to do and leave the house for a while.

When we come back in the evening I take down the sheets and diapers that are dry and hang up the last load in between any items that are still damp.

Because of the relatively small area,
everything gets hung on hangers and then hung perpendicular
to the bars to maximize the drying space

The little boys shirts and sweater vests are cute all hanging in a row. :)

And the boys are even cuter as they help me fold the diapers, while I take care of making the bed.

In case your wondering how helpful baby is in all of this, he still only has two jobs.

To dirty the diapers.

And be a good boy and smile when we play diaper peek-a-boo.

And we're done! Three loads of laundry washed. One and a half loads folded and put away. Time to read stories, eat treats, hug my boys, and go to bed.

If I blogged about laundry more often I might not get behind, my balcony would get cleaned more frequently, but any readers might be even more bored.

For the next Life on the Flip Side post I'll talk about shopping, which should be more interesting than laundry. And at least I have cute helpers to take pictures of.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: 哥哥 (Older Brother)

Andrew hugging a little brother as they look at the fish
Andrew is growing so fast and seems a lot older lately now that he is speaking in sentences and using the potty quite well most of the time. We've already announced that he has a younger sibling due to arrive on the outside in the fall. But Andrew is already getting called older or big brother (gēge, 哥哥) on the playground.

I've mentioned before that in Mandarin people traditionally use family terms to relate to people even outside their family. This is especially true among children. When we first arrived Andrew was almost always the little brother (dìdi, 弟弟), when we would be out and about. This is in part because they usually don't put kids down to play outside until they can walk well, because well the ground can be dirty from kids playing in split pants. So most of the kids around were his age or older, or they were being carried around constantly and not really interacting.

Now there are different one-year-olds running around, but Andrew is older and much bigger. So now he gets to be the older brother (gēge, 哥哥) to Chinese babies even before he meets his new sibling in the fall and finds out if it is a younger brother (dìdi, 弟弟) or a younger sister (mèimei, 妹妹).

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: 感冒 (Common Cold)

I mentioned recently that our whole family caught a cold over the weekend. It really isn't anything serious, and our boys already got over it in one day. My husband and I still have the sniffles, but it isn't anything terrible. We're taking extra vitamin C, eating well, and drinking lots of fluids, and we will probably be over this bug shortly.

To the Chinese people though, catching a cold (gǎn mào, 感冒) is a very serious matter. If fact people often go to the hospital here when they catch a common cold. Usually, they are simply given an IV and sent home, possibly with some pear medicine for a sore throat or some other kind of medicine.

Most people also still really seem to believe that having a cold (gǎn mào, 感冒) is related to being cold (lěng,). That is, your internal temperature is too cold (lěng,) and thus you are sick with a cold (gǎn mào, 感冒). There are other diseases that they believe are caused by too much internal heat. One person I know says this includes pink eye. Even people we know who are pretty aware of germs, wash their hands frequently, and take extra precautions when preparing food, will still pile on the sweaters and blankets when they have a cold. It is just the way it works here. And you definitely shouldn't tell any Chinese people that you have a cold if you are wearing anything less than 3 sweaters and a parka, even in the middle of summer, because you will get harshly scolded and tell you to go home and put more clothes on.

I actually find it kind of ironic that the words cold (gǎn mào, 感冒) and cold (lěng,) in English are the same, but different in Mandarin. I would definitely expect it to be the other way around because this belief is so ingrained into their culture.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: 杨梅 (Chinese Waxberry)

While fish heads, chicken feet, and some other delicacies here, may not particularly be our favorites, one thing we do love about the food here is all the different fruit we get to try. This region, because of it's mild climate and long growing seasons, has a exceptional amount of fruit and vegetables all year long. Like most of the world, the people here mostly eat seasonally and locally grown produce, with very little imported. But because of the abundance and variety available in this area, this is very easy to do here and get a well rounded diet and not get bored. We definitely appreciate this about this area because as Americans we are particularly spoiled by the notion that we should be able to have virtually any type of produce at any time of the year. This just isn't the case for most of the world, and many areas of China have vastly different climates and much less variety of produce.

One of our favorite seasonal fruits this time of year is the Chinese Waxberry or Chinese Bayberry. Although since we have only known these in China, we never call them that and only use the Mandarin name yángméi (杨梅). These taste like a cross between a raspberry and a cranberry to us. Our boys absolutely love them, which sometimes surprises the Chinese people, because they can be quite tart.

Recently, Nate took the boys to pick some growing in our apartment complex. This batch wasn't all the way ripe so they were more sour than usual. I ended up boiling, mashing, straining out the pits, and then adding sugar to make yángméi pancake syrup. It turned out great and the boys were super excited with their special pancake sauce.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: 鱼 (Fish)

Last week, a friend of mine taught me how to make steamed fish (yú, 鱼) in a traditional Chinese way. I am not a huge fan of fish, but this was quite good and Andrew (our two year old) couldn't get enough.

First we went to the market so my friend could pick out a fish. After she bought the fish they gutted and scaled it for her.

We took it back to her apartment where she put it on a plate with fresh herbs. She also place a dish with soy sauce and oil on the side. Then this whole plate goes into a wok on a wire rack to keep in elevated out of the water in the bottom of the wok. The wok should already be steaming hot when you put the plate in, and then you simply cover and steam the fish for 9 minutes. It has to be 9 minutes exactly, per instructions. Then you pour the sauce over the fish and eat!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: 市场 (Street Market)

In honor of International Labor Day (wǔ yī láodòng jié, 五一劳动节) messing up everyone's normal weekend plans again, I didn't have to tutor on Sunday afternoon. So we went to a nearby street market (shì chǎng, 市场) that is huge, but only there on Sundays. We got some things for our new apartment that are like early birthday presents for me.

You never know quite what you are going to find at these markets. In the past, we've seen cow's heads but passed on purchasing any. You can also find all kind of health cures there, and maybe even get your teeth fixed? Uh, we passed on that too.

Anyway, what we love about this market are the handcrafted items, that are much higher quality than stuff at our Walmart and are difficult to find anywhere else. This time, we got some more blue pots and bamboo baskets. We're using them to hold our fruits and veggies, kitchen towels, and some school and art supplies for the boys. Our dining room looks a lot more organized and happier now.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...