Life in China, MsBarb

Happy Skin on the Road: Dalian

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Waiting for our train from Panjin to Dalian

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. 

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Driving through downtown Dalian

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. 

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Part of the very active night life

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.

IMG_7148Anyways, 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. 

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Possible labeling we are looking at, try 1 if you will

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!

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Yeah, the sky looks gross, but I can assure you it is the windows that make the world look sickly!

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.

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The essentials.

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. 

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Gordon Ramsay is in China too! Only in the big cities though.

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! 

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General News, Life in China, The Scrub Me Down Kitchen

Social Media and China

As most of you are aware, the plan is to one day have our own little shop where The Scrub Me Down Kitchen never has to close! That’s the dream. Will it happen? Here’s hoping!

Since the future is uncertain, who knows if this little shop will be in China, or in another country. And that means…. a history. On social media.

Do you have any idea how far the world has come in terms of technology since I arrived in China in 2002? Crap, dial up was still considered to be the most amazing thing. I remember a telephone call with the guy from Best Buy in 2005 and I was trying to find an external storage device for my computer, and he assured me I would never never be able to fill up a 1GB hard drive. Laugh with me! I just finished downloading 2.1GB of stuff last night.

And then! The last time I actually really used YouTube, it was legal in China. Same with Facebook. Twitter was never in China. The Great Firewall of China just doesn’t seem to like western social media platforms.

VPN.jpgTo get on any sort of western site, one needs something called a VPN to access it. It allows us to see the internet the same way you do. And honestly? It is a little bit troublesome to get on things like Facebook or Instagram or WordPress when you can’t just click on it, you have to make sure your VPN is working, check to make sure the signal is strong, if not change it…

When I first set up my Facebook account, it was so easy! Now looking at it, it is crazy! There are ads everywhere, something about nothing is trending now, random games popping up, Facebook is always trying to get me to add more friends (I am quite happy with the few I have thank you very much), and their ads while I am trying to look at soap porn (honest to goodness, some people are so talented with their swirling). It’s just such a busy page! And then there is Twitter. Compress your thought into 140 characters or less. And then Instagram, which I think is better than Twitter actually.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to upload to YouTube, we’ve lots of videos we’ve taken of making things! But go figure. They are all upside down, sideways and trying to figure out how to flip them. But for that you need a film editor software and then have to learn how to use that and then then then… trying to figure out the iMovie app and other editors are doing my head in. I spent over an hour trying to figure out how to cut a movie to make part in super quite lightning mode, and the rest in normal. Still haven’t figured it out. But at least I know how to add a movie!

Social Media is not easy. The plan was to only have, “word of mouth” advertising for a while here in China. But it turns out, word of mouth advertising is no longer what it once was. Social media has become the word of mouth. So we either learn it, use it and learn to get the techie stuff out of the way fast so we can get on with making stuff, or we fall behind.

Come to think of it, I guess if you never stopped using social media like we did, there would be no problem. So this entire post makes no sense to anyone but us!

General News, Life in China

Weather is Crap. Really.

The past two weeks, the city has been suffering from high winds, lots of dust and sand in the wind, painfully low barometric pressure and just plain old gross weather. And that has caused everyone to have weather blah going on. It’s made everyone in the city feel tired bordering on exhausted. It’s like no matter how much sleep you give yourself, it is just not near enough.

And because of this crappy feeling, it means that the Scrub Me Down Kitchen has kind of been closed down. Well, because of this, and I am out of room to store anything new. I had to empty off my shelves in my TV room to stash new soaps to cure.

It’s been strange waking up laying there in bed thinking that I need to get up and do things, but I just cannot seem to drag my sorry behind out of my bed. I get out of bed, go put on the coffee, and sit down.

Worst mistake ever. A few hours pass, coffee has gone past the gross-highly-potent-pit of- tar-stage. And it is already time to get ready for work. And you have to limit your outside exposure as there is so much dust in the air so that means no walking to work.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one who has been feeling this way. If I was I’d be worried! Once I told a few friends about it, it turns out that they too have been feeling borderline exhausted, kind of empty and cranky. Just hearing that others felt the same thing and that they were forcing themselves to appear interested in everything too, made life easier. We all just stopped talking from lack of energy!

Isn’t he a cutie? Teaching pre-K English

Teaching is a hard job. Your own personal world might be falling apart, but you cannot bring it to work. You’ve got all these tiny humans running around excited to see you. Jibber jabbering about their new words and expressions, and excited to learn something new. To practice through games and activities as well. You cannot bring your problems into class. Checking your problems at the door because to them, they are the centre of their universe and they just don’t understand that someone around them doesn’t feel like they do. So slap a crazy grin on your face and suck it up.

I had a full three minute conversation with a kid and his imaginary friend today in my second to last lesson. And in my last class of the day I got hugged and kissed and attacked by tiny human huggers. How could anyone not have a real smile plastered all over their face after listening to a kid talk to you and their imaginary friend in English!

There’s still a few more hours of work left before I get to go home and do the most exciting thing ever. Eat some fruit and watch Supernatural. Mangos and pineapples are in season.

#LuciferisamazingCrowleycomesaclosesecond #bestcomedyshowonTV

If you’d like to see some wickedly cute videos of tiny humans in China, visit us on Facebook and Instagram we post regularly!