Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween from Beijing!

Happy Halloween!
Our Halloween is winding down, but I wanted to say Happy Halloween to all my friends and family in the US and tell you about Halloween Beijing style.

We had trick or treat in our neighborhood. Our neighborhood is about 3/4 Chinese, 1/4 expat I would guess. I'd say 10% of the neighborhood homes participated by handing out candy, not sure how many kids participated.

Halloween is definitely a Western tradition and holiday.  Not much happened at school, the kids were not invited to wear their costumes and there was no Halloween party.  I'm not sure how many European countries celebrate Halloween, but England and Australia seem to celebrate.

Trick or treat itself was pretty normal, the funny part was the candy.  Check out the picture.  What looks different??


Halloween candy, Beijing style!
Parents despair, I can't tell you how disappointing it was to not find ANY chocolate besides 2 Hershey Kisses, and the tiniest bag of M&Ms in the world, in kiddo's candy bucket. The majority of the candy is chewy like gummy worms or suckers.  Made me sad just looking at it!!

Fun was had by all, minus the fact that we had to wear our air masks to keep everyone safe. Quite the look with Halloween costume and air mask.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Expat Child (Language)

Growing up in small Midwestern USA, I'm pretty sure I didn't even hear a foreign language until I was in elementary school.  At that point, say maybe third grade, I remember learning some numbers or maybe colors in Spanish.  That constituted my entire foreign language learning until I was in high school.

My daughter on the other hand, has grown up in a multicultural family, up until we moved to China hearing three language on a regular basis, and now hearing four language regularly.  Oh how are lives are different!

I'm sure we often put ourselves in a position of thinking back to how our childhood is different from our child(ren's).  While I had an amazingly simple and happy childhood, I wasn't traipsing around the world like my child, learning a foreign language and meeting people from all walks of life. I often wonder how this will change the person my child is long term, for good or bad.

I think one of the most amazing things about being an expat is all the experiences the children get living abroad and immersing themselves in another culture.  I love that six days a week, my daughter is learning Chinese.  Even if she never goes on to speak Chinese after our assignment, I hope this learning had helped her brain to form new paths and allows her other opportunities, ones that I never had.

One of my favorite stories so far is from last year and a nod to language learning of all kinds while abroad.  Our daughter was going to a British school, and she says to my husband very excitedly one afternoon, "Daddy, guess what trash can is in Chinese?"

Hubby says, "What is it kiddo?"  At this point, I can tell he is super impressed not long into our move and she already knows words in Chinese and can remember them.

Kiddo says, "Trash can in Chinese, is RUBBISH BIN."

Now for anyone confused, rubbish bin is a trash can in British English.  Not quite Chinese, but hey she is learning!  She isn't just learning Chinese, she's learning many different things.  I think you would be hard pressed to find quite the same experience, with world class learning, in the US.  Just one of the many reasons we choose to move abroad.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pop (Soda) in Beijing

One of my gripes about Beijing is the lack of "good" pop. Or whatever you call it in your part of the world. Yes, this is probably better for me in the long run NOT to have access to my addiction of Diet Coke but damn I want it!

So you have a couple choices here, local pop, which is Coke, Coke Light, Coke Zero, Sprite, Pepsi, Mountain Dew to name some of the most popular. Coke is definitely more popular in China. You can find these by the can for around 2RMB, which in US$ is $0.30/can. So $3.60/12 pack. Ironically this seems cheap to me now, when in reality I NEVER pay more than $3.00 for a 12 pack in the US.

Via Easternblot on

The other option is imported pop.  Sadly, the majority of the imported pop in Beijing is not from the US, I'm guessing it is from other Asian countries, or Europe.  You will pay closer to $1.00/can, which for those of you slow at math is $12/12 pack

Not having US pop may not seem like a big deal to you casual pop drinkers, but the reality is that they don't use the same sweeteners which makes the pop taste off.  When I first visited and moved here I wouldn't even drink local or imported pop, it just tastes gross to me.  Coke tastes different all around the world, depending which country you are in.  Sadly, I now drink the stuff for lack of other options.

Here are some pictures I took at the local store.  I'm not sure where either of these are from but they are imported as you can see by the price.  What I thought was funny about the Pepsi cans is that they have covers on the tops.

I'm not sure what this is, maybe flavored water, but it reminded me of the Pepsi Clear back in the day.  Not sure if you can tell but those are see through cans.

Don't even think about finding Diet Coke, Diet Mt Dew, Diet Pepsi, Sprite Zero or even most of those options in caffeine free.  Pepsi is the only thing I've seen caffeine free, but it isn't American. I have seen Dr. Pepper and Cherry Dr. Pepper, but rarely do you see Diet Dr. Pepper.  It is all very random.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pictures from Beijing

I take a lot of funny pictures and some just to show the life of Beijing.  Here are a few I've taken over the past few months.

sheep in Shunyi
Sheep crossing a 5 lane highway near by home.

small truck
Delivery driver, like UPS but MUCH smaller version truck

Lane sign, see the bus lane (right), with a right turn to the left,
this might cause a slight problem when
turning right with a bus going straight.

I thought this was mint chocolate chip, boy was I wrong.
Try mint with red beans.

Fish, or amphibian? As seen at the flower market

One of many car accidents I've seen.
If only they followed the rules and signs, I'd see less.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Chinese Knock-Off of Walmart

Here in Beijing we have four big Walmart type stores, Carrefour (French brand), Auchan (French brand), a Sam's Club like store called The Metro (German brand) and Walmart, oh and then the Chinese created their own, Wumart.  Now before you get all excited and think that I have three very nice stores to choose from, understand that these stores are the Chinese version which means live things swimming in the meat section, dirty, slippery floors, and all things Chinese.

So basically they took the Chinese Walmart and made their own version.  If possible, it is even stinkier than the Carrefour and Auchan.  I'm not sure what makes them so stinky, but I know selling this fruit doesn't help.

Via Oldandsolo on

This is called Durian, and I liken the smell of it to rotting sewers. I bought some, trying to be adventurous one day and by the time I got it home, I took it straight outside to the trash and threw it away.  OMG does that fruit smell.  The guy I used the picture from on Flickr says that it is banned in hotel and restaurants all of Asia because of its smell.  I believe that! The fact that someone had courage enough to eat it, after finding it somewhere and smelling it is beyond me!!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sentosa Island, Singapore Review

One of the best parts of living the expat life seem to be the exotic vacations.  This month, we spent some time on Senotsa Island, in Singapore.

Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa Resort

This was my first visit to Singapore, and while I will say the place wasn't as "clean" as I'd imagined, I still saw trash on the side of the roads, it was very nice!  Really nice weather, really nice people, and wow does it get hot that close to the Ecuador though!

We opted for a resort type vacation with beach and pool being our main objectives.  We stayed at the Shangri La on Sentosa Island.  Sentosa is made up of a bunch of hotels, beaches and Resorts World which has Universal Studios, S.E.A Aquarium, 60 restaurants and a casino on property, just to name a few activities.

I enjoyed the S.E.A. Aquarium the most, over 800 species of water life, and the largest aquarium in the world. We saw some beautiful and unusual fish and other sea life.  It was amazing!

S.E.A Aquarium, world's largest aquarium

Some local wildlife that beg at the restaurant at the resort.

My stay wouldn't have been complete without a trip to the local McDonald's to see what different things were on the menu. I tried a cheeseburger which was WAY better than the ones in China, and then we tried Seaweed Fries, which were just regular french fries with this seaweed/salt combo added.  Not too bad, but I won't be requesting it in the U.S.

Last but not least was a very nice dinner on a cable car, overlooking the water and the entire island. Quite the experience, eating and moving at the same time, very high up!

I would definitely go back to Sentosa, and Singapore!