We mentioned a few months ago that both Sonia and I would be wicked busy during the summer due to our respective schools having summer intensive classes. So when we realised we actually had a weekend free, we took the chance to hit up the big city of Dalian, Liaoning. Dalian is a very famous port city in China with a very interesting and long history dating back to about 220BC. And over the years it has survived some very interesting occupations. The British, the Japanese and even the Russians all occupied this beautiful city at some point in its history. And what strikes my fascination with Dalian? While the Russians occupied Dalian during the turn of the 20th century, their goal was to model as as the Paris of Asia.
Scattered throughout the city you can see architecture from the Japanese occupation from pre- revolutionary era till about the same time as World War II ended. These buildings are surprisingly very western. Many times during my frequent trips to Dalian I have to remind myself that I am still in China and not in old Toronto or some of the more scenic parts of upstate New York. Dalian also has the beach, and a lot of seafood. Due to the fact that Dalian is considered to be an international city, the way of life is much different there than in our little “village” (as Sonia calls it) city. There is a lot of western influence in Dalian; people seem to be more aware of personal space and not trying to squeeze between your buttcheeks (they don’t actually do this, it really just feels that way as they invade my comfort zone way too much). And, people actually say please and thank yous. Most of the time.
Just so you know, in Chinese culture, please and thank yous are implied, and not often spoken as they believe saying them is only for strangers and people you don’t know. The closer they are to you or the closer they want to be to you, the less they will actually use these terms. As a Canadian, I still cannot help but to say my please and thank yous. Usually a few times to the same person.
Anyways, so we arrived into Dalian on Friday, got situated then crashed. The weather for all of China in the summer is disgusting. Hot and humid, you’re never dry for the entirety of summer. You constantly walk around with sweat pouring off of you, you change your socks a few times a day, your clothes usually always smell damp, and even your skin is not happy in the humidity after a few weeks. And the sweat truly pours off you- think of how you feel after you get out of the shower. Now, imagine getting out of the shower and putting on wet clothes. You’re damp the whole day. Your makeup falls off your face in rivers and you have no choice but to walk around like this all the time as air conditioning is bad for you and very few places or homes have it. It is very unhealthy to most traditionalists. It will cause you cancer. (My apartments temperature has been a comfortable 26.6C and between 25-40% humidity for the entire summer. Every Chinese person complains that it is too cold. While the outside temperature at the time of writing is 24C with 87% humidity, my house is too cold for Chinese people). No amount of hot water convinces them otherwise. And everyone looks the same.
We decided early on that this weekend would be a work trip where we would be able to discuss a few things, specifically our Anniversary and Christmas line ups. I’m not able to dish to much about them, but I can tell you that, the Anniversary Edition will be a limited edition set. But I can tell you the pictures of the anniversary set will be coming soon! I’m really excited about them as this is the first draft of the label we are thinking for the set.
I was actually surprised with myself that I actually took some time to relax. I brought my computer to work, but then only work I did was look at my emails, reply to comments, and then went to bed. It was quite luxurious to finish three books this weekend!
Saturday saw us visiting Sam’s Club as soon as it was opened for some restocking of some very needed supplies and to oogle the Australian beef. And the beautiful coloured bell peppers. Then we hit up Metro which is kind of a cross between a Costco and Sam’s. Warehousey, but you can buy just one. They’ll happily sell you an individual bottle of Tabasco sauce, but you get an awesome discount if you buy six or more. Mostly we ended up buying lots of western food to stock up for the next few months.
A lot of times I get asked why don’t I just buy such things locally? And the answer is simple, they don’t sell it in our city, Panjin. And if they by chance sell something like pasta sauce, it is about six to ten times the price what we’d pay at Metro. So most foreigners who live in small cities usually do such “runs” as we call them into a nearby large city to stock up. And the way Chinese butchers prepare a cut of meat, it is perfect for the way they need meat to preapre food, but it is epically undesirable for the way foreigners like to eat meat. Chinese cook all fish with the bones. There are no fillets. The whole fish, head and all get tossed into a pot for steamed fish and even fish soup. Chicken breasts are so very cheap, but chicken feet and drums and wings are very expensive. Steaks are not a common meal, nor are pork chops. And if you meet a butcher, butter them up to be willing to get you western style cuts. And then get yourself a George Foreman. Or just a couple of Gordon’s pans.
If you travel to almost any large or international city in China you can always spot the expats from out of town. They are the ones groaning in absolute bliss biting into a Subway sandwich, a fond but happy smile plastered on their face as they get served a salad that is not swimming in a sweet salad dressing. We are the ones who will stand in a store oogling the box of whatever as it is in English and can actually understand what the ingredients might be. We’ll be jumping and squealing that we found something like Chipolte Tabasco sauce and run around the store to brag about the find. We’re the ones who stand in front of the first refrigerator trying to figure out how to keep x- number of packages of cheese cool on the trip home only to find out there are four fridges of cheese and you actually get a choice other than cheese slices!
So now we are on our way home, feeling very hot and humid on the train, thankful that they stopped the habit of packing people onto the trains like sardines. I remember a time when you took a train and they actually sold tickets for a 34 hour train ride and there would be people standing the whole trip. And because there were so many people standing, you could fall asleep standing without worry of falling over. And I’m truly thankful smoking isn’t allowed on the fast trains too!
I’ve attached a little slide show for you to take a gander at some sights. Enjoy!