Monday, October 31, 2011

Not-So-Itsy Bitsy Spider

Maybe the not-so-itsy bitsy spider just thought this was a nice place to live with the big spider web and other spiders hanging out here and all. Sorry I smashed you to bits. Well, not really. 

Happy Halloween to everyone back home! Here, Halloween is coming to an end. Last week, we celebrated at the school by giving the children a truly unforgettable Halloween party. We would have done so today but were told that the school is used as a church for some Korean families on Saturdays (yes, they do their church services on Saturdays) and the concern was that the children in the church group would tamper with our decorations. Not wanting to come in on Sunday to set everything up, we decided to hold it last Friday.

For 2 weeks, we had all been preparing all our activities and decorating everything in sight. My Korean assistant had made a giant spider web in our classroom. She hung a large spider in the center and I told the kids it liked to eat children that spoke too much Korean. That worked rather well actually. Anyway, we were to have 2 craft projects last week that were Halloweeny in nature. I had them make little ghosts and then we made our own spiders.

Ironically, on the day that I had planned to do our spider-making craft, some of the boys were gathered around by one of the bookcases. I told them to go sit down and write the word of the day. "But Teacherrrrrrrr," whined Ryan, who is always tattling, "there's a spider!" I look all over but I don't see a spider, or anything for that matter. I shoo them back to their seats and class proceeds as normal.

Perhaps 10 minutes go by and then suddenly, I see it. An absolutely enormous fucking spider crawls across the classroom floor. The girls see it and scream, bolting for the door. The boys see it and scream, and then crowd closer to get a better look. I scream while arming myself with bug spray and try to drown it in poisons, while corralling the children out of the way. It creeps under a large piece of furniture on the opposite side of the room and I'm forced to wait for it to emerge again. It doesn't take long. It skulks out of its hiding spot to a chorus of more shrieks. I spray it full-on and it curls up into a ball and presumably dies. All is well in the classroom again. The girls come sit down and as I'm about to continue speaking, the boys begin yelling. I look and see that this horrible creature just won't die and I scream too.

By this time, Christine, the Korean teacher, who has been setting up some Halloween stuff down the hall, has heard all the commotion and has come to see what on earth is happening. She tries to calm the girls down while I, having run out of bug spray, trade up for a broom. I clobber the massive monster to death with the broom while the boys all cheer. The girls have to be coaxed back into the room and it takes some more time to get the children focused again but alas, the spider is dead. It made for a good lead-in to our craft. I told them that the big spider in our web was lonely and it just couldn't wait for us to make it some friends, so it invited one of its own.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Whipped Dessert (With Topping)

Back when I was in high school, which seems like yesterday but in actual time was 20 years ago now, it was so uncool to eat in the cafeteria. We either brought our lunches or drove ourselves to one of the nearby establishments such as McDonald's, Arby's, Taco Bell, a fabulous deli called Peter's Road Deli or my personal favorite, Mr. D's, where you could get a pizza bread and Coke for just $2. My friends and I wouldn't have been caught dead in the cafeteria for lunch. The only time we ever went to the cafeteria was to pick up our yearbooks at the end of the year.

My best friend from high school, Lauren (who is still one of my best friends in this world), and I had Spanish class together. Mr. Parsons. Second period. And during that time, we had the morning announcements. Mr. Parsons, for some unknown reason, would delight in reading the school lunch menu. His favorite item to read off was something called "whipped dessert with topping." He would read the whole menu for the day and then, if whipped dessert were on there, he'd pound on the desk right before announcing gaily, "Whipped dessert, with topping!" Lauren and I found this absolutely hilarious. Moreover, we wondered what the fuck whipped dessert was. One day, in the name of research, we went to the cafeteria just to see what it was. It wasn't anything very impressive but it didn't look all bad either. It was almost like a pudding but not quite, topped with a decorative swirl of whipped cream. Now we could sleep at night knowing what it was.

The school I teach at offers only Korean food. There is nothing nearby plus I have to sit and eat with the children so I'm stuck eating what they provide. I love Korean food so you'd think this would be a lovely experience. Somedays, the lunch IS quite tasty, but more often than not, it's not so great. I decided to document a week of my lunch for you fabulous readers so you can see how I am finally losing the rest of the baby weight despite eating cookies from the store to stave off starvation on really disgusting meal days.

Without further ado, here is my analysis of the school lunches from this week...
They always give you a massive pile of rice. I can never finish all this rice. There is always some sort of soup too. Most of the time, the soup is good. This one, totally nasty. It had some weird bitter radish and eggs in it. It smelled like old dish water and that's how it seemed to taste too. Not that I habitually drink old dish water but I think you know what I mean. Next to the soup, there is some meat dish which was pretty good, but I couldn't eat the whole thing. See, it's sharing a section with something horrible. That brown jelly thing. See that crap? Do you know what that is? Go on...guess. Give up? It is coagulated cow blood. I am not making this up. Oh it is absolutely one of the most disgusting things ever and it was touching my beef. Ugh! But in the next section, we have some fried dumplings which were rather yummy. Too bad they only gave me 2 of them. Along with them, kimchi. I love kimchi! But this particular style of it tastes horrible. It's something in the sauce that I cannot place. So I couldn't even eat the kimchi shown here. Then we have thinly-sliced radish kimchi-style, which was edible. I was also thankful for the small yogurt.

Tuesday's soup was troubling. I stirred it and couldn't really figure out what the contents were. It looked like sticks. Is there a stick soup? The smell was off-putting too. I took a sip of the broth and didn't die but there was no way I would live through a bowl of this. Next to that, you'll see some fried-looking thing. That's fish. Which fish, I couldn't say. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either. Then, we have an egg with spinach stuffed inside. Now that was actually very tasty. It was the saving grace of this meal, that's for sure. We also have some eggplant thing which was, sadly, very bland. I love eggplant. It broke my heart to see it cooked in such a lifeless way. It's like something MIL would do to the food. If she wasn't home with my baby all day, I would suspect she was working the line in the cafeteria on some days, honestly. You may have also noticed the gross kimchi has been served to us again. The meal is completed with a massive pile of sticky rice and some strange but good fruit thing.

Now THIS is my idea of a good school lunch! Here we have 감자탕 (kamja tang) or pork bone soup. It has pork spine in it which sounds grosser than it actually is and 감자 (kamja) which means potato. It's really quite a wonderful soup, though Korean restaurants make it better than the school cafeteria. Next, we have fried squid, also another yummy item. The red-sauced item that looks like pasta is actually떡볶이 (tteokbokki). What IS it, you ask? It's a soft rice cake cooked in this fantastically spicy sauce. It's something I grew to love when I lived in Seoul. When I first tried it, I couldn't even begin to handle the spice. That was on one of my first dates with Lane, actually. We had gone walking along the Han River and afterward, we stopped at an outdoor street vendor tent, which was my first experience of the sort in Korea. I liked the flavor but the afterburn of spice caused my eyes to water uncontrollably. Both the vendor and Lane laughed hysterically at me. But over the course of my living there, I soon found that my taste buds had adapted to all the spice around me. This tteokbokki would have only been better if topped with cheese, like at my favorite little spot down the street from our old home in Seoul. Then we have some spinach, tomatoes and rice which were all as normal and refreshing as they look.

Though not as good as Wednesday's lunch, Thursday's lunch was what I would consider a fairly decent lunch. The seawater-tasting kelp soup, however, was not at all edible in my opinion. But the disfigured French fries with ketchup made up for that. As did the wannabe hamburgers that tasted more like meatballs. There was also some spicy vegetable thing that was rather pleasant plus the good kimchi, rice with some chunks of sweet potato and the same strange but good fruit that we had on Tuesday.

Regrettably, I have no photo for Friday. That's because we had our Halloween party and things were just crazy busy. And instead of eating our lunch in the classroom, we had to take the children up to the cafeteria. We never do that because of the big kids but on Friday, lunch was held early to ensure they wouldn't get underfoot of the older children. This decision was made because there would have been no time after eating in our classrooms to clean them up before the parents arrived for the party. Friday's lunch was great though, with a spicy curry stew as the main highlight. I wish I hadn't spaced and forgotten to take a picture. I did solve the mystery as to why some days we get the gross kimchi and others we get the good kind. There is a kimchi bar in the cafeteria! It has about 7 different kinds. I guess when we have lunch in our rooms, they just send down whatever they feel like giving us. Oh well. Here's hoping the upcoming week serves us up more meals of the edible kind.

Friday, October 21, 2011

More Misinterpreted Menus

This evening, my husband and I went out to dinner, along with our very adorable but noisy third wheel, Raelynn. Lane is a wonderful husband. He's always so considerate about the things I miss from back home. When we were in Seoul, I'd gotten him to fall in love with various cuisines, one of them being Mexican. But once we moved here, we found that the array of available cuisine was seriously lacking. One thing that is sadly missing from Qingdao is a Mexican restaurant. You CAN find the things you need to make Mexican-style dishes at some of the stores, but you have to hunt around for the ingredients.

Anyway, Lane told me the other day that he found a Mexican restaurant here in Qingdao. I couldn't believe it. It seemed too good to be true. And of course, it was. What my husband found though was a lovely little restaurant with some very good food, even if it wasn't Mexican. This is the closest we will get to Mexican cuisine here, with a few dishes on the menu like "Mexican Fried Shrimp" or "Mexican Meatloaf." Which I had and it was not Mexican by any stretch but it was very tasty.

Before we ordered, we had a great laugh at the menu. Yes, more poorly translated items, served up hot and fresh for you! And here they are:
First up, "Comely Girl Iced Blend." Apparently, this coffee blend is only for pretty girls. Or perhaps it makes you into one. There's a lot of ugly people here. Maybe they should be drinking this one up then.

Where to start here? Oh let's work our way down the list, shall we? I love this "Matcha Smilar to Ice Piece" item. I mean it is all sorts of WTF now isn't it? "Sweat Honeydew"cracks me up too because my husband also confuses "sweet" and "sweat" when he's writing. He once texted me that he couldn't wait to give me a sweaty kiss and I about split my sides laughing while on the subway in Seoul.

What had originally caught my attention on this page though was the "Aegean Sea Taste Ice Cream." I can't even begin to imagine what that flavor would taste like. If I had to venture a guess, perhaps salt, shrimp (complete with their spooky shrimp heads still intact), seaweed and krill. I also looooooove that they have something called "Colorful Ice Cream." Because, you know, when I go out for ice cream, I want it to be colorful. Fuck what it tastes like!

And here we have the pièce de résistance. No, it's not the "Bacon Muffin." You all have that shit in Denny's now or something like that, right? No, no, no. This is so much better. Look below that. "Meat Floss Wuffin." Take a moment to digest that, and pardon the pun while you're at it. What in the world is meat floss? Just so you know, Lane didn't know either. The frosting on the cake though (or in this case, muffin) is "Wuffin." How fucking funny is that? Oh sometimes I do soooooo love living here! 

On that note, I'm off to spend time with Lane while Raelynn is sound asleep. Maybe we'll eat some wuffins or something.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Kindergarten Klepto

They only LOOK innocent. Who knew that kindergarteners could be capable of such meticulous thievery???

This week, a scandal rocked the noisy playground that is my kindergarten world. Some greedy little bastard was stealing the play money from other classmates. Yes, the very same play money I lovingly printed which was then even more lovingly laminated and cut out by my wonderfully helpful Chinese assistant. The same money that my students are rewarded with for doing their homework, and consequently lose should they speak Korean during English lessons.

It actually all began last week during our monthly assembly which happened to be about good behavior (like keeping your hands to yourself and what not to do like kicking, hitting, pushing and all the shit that makes being a kid fun) which went in one ear and out the other with these kids since, for one thing, none of them can keep their hands to themselves. The kindergarten director told all the kindergarteners (my class plus the other 2 kindergarten classes) that the student who speaks the least Korean from each class will get to attend an ice cream party. Each of our kindergarten classes has a reward system and mine happens to be play money. So for my class, the student with the most money saved would get to enjoy ice cream while the rest of them would get to stay in the classroom for a lesson (which will hopefully be Chinese or Korean time so I can get some ice cream too). It sounded like a good idea at the time, but it created a horrible green-eyed monster, at least in my own classroom.

Soon after, I noticed Harry, who had spoken so much Korean in class the week before that he had to do a writing assignment to EARN money because he'd been fined so much, had a huge stack of money. I immediately suspected he'd pilfered my money bank but everything was accounted for. So I tried to figure out who he'd stolen it from. But no one was complaining. YET.

Harry isn't the brightest kid. He can barely read in English and the only reason he is in my class is because his complainy yeti of a mom thought he was too tall to be in with the other children his age. So that makes him the runt of my class. He moved from my friend Genesis' class to mine in the first week. Despite his deficiencies in kindergarten, this kid will probably (and frighteningly) make a great thief because he had started by taking small amounts of money from the others.

I confronted him about this but he lied right to my face. I put on my best serious face while suppressing the urge to sing "liar liar pants on fire" and announced to the class that we are constantly being recorded by the camera (which is no lie) and that if I went back through the footage (which I don't think actually exists...I think the camera is just there so you can view our classes as they happen and that none of it is actually cataloged and saved), I would be very sad if I saw anyone taking money from anyone else. Harry suddenly looked pale and squirmed in his seat. Still, I needed proof, and I couldn't prove a damn thing.

Then, my other children began to complain. I'd count their money one day and the next, there was a big discrepancy in the amount. And Harry's pile of money kept growing. Now I was furious. I look at my good students like Clare, Janny, Ron and Esther and it pisses me off that these children who actually would deserve an ice cream party wouldn't get one because some little goober stole their money. I suddenly remembered how Harry had hung back when I took everyone to the bathroom. So that's how the little creep did it!

Outrage spread among the students and so I made an instant decision for the greater good of my children. I announced that everyone was to turn in ALL their money and that we would be starting over from scratch. I told them they would each get $50 in play money. Harry looked even more defeated but he didn't protest. I knew he wouldn't because he didn't earn it like the other children had. After I passed out their new allowances, I talked to them some more about keeping their play money in a safe place and how taking things that don't belong to us is wrong.

I smiled the whole rest of the day. I was able to thwart Harry's plan to illegitimately attend the ice cream party and make it fair for the rest of the children who were all playing by the rules. I was so proud. Until class time this morning that is.

I don't actually start teaching until 9am although I am supposed to be at school by 8:30am. I use my mornings wisely and get everything organized for the day's lesson. Making copies, putting up the word of the day, gathering the books I need, etc. I have 3 students who usually arrive before 9am. Wendy and Esther are both very good, sweet little girls. Brian is my slow one who never listens. He does his homework well but I suspect it is because his parents tell him all the answers. This morning, long before Harry had arrived, I found a large pile of play money on Harry's desk. I asked Wendy, Esther and Brian what all that money was doing there and Brian told me it was Harry's money.

"Harry isn't even here yet, Brian. Where did this money come from?" I quiz him. But Brian turns away and tells me he doesn't know. So I take the money to my desk and wait. A few minutes later, the rest of my students arrive. And as they put their bags away and get out their materials, I have more complaints of missing money. I know how much each child should have since reissuing the money yesterday so I give the money back to each person who had their money stolen.

When Harry gets in, he tells me he is missing his money. I know he had $45 left from yesterday after I handed out the dough, so that is what I give him. But before we can even get to snack time, Ron comes to me telling me that his money, which had been on his desk before we went to the bathroom, was now gone. I go through everyone's money pile and all is in order until I get to Harry. Harry had the $45 PLUS what he'd taken from Ron! I couldn't even believe the balls on this kid! Taking money AFTER I lectured the whole class about it. And then, I found out he wasn't working alone.

Yes, slow-witted Brian might not be so slow after all. He was in on it too. It was then I recalled hearing Harry and Brian talking in Korean before class officially began. Although I only took and passed beginner-level Korean, I had heard them talk about the ice cream party. I was only half-listening though. Perhaps if I'd paid more attention, I would have caught on to their diabolical scheme. It was during our math lesson that I busted Brian for his involvement in the scandal. He'd gone from having a small amount of money on his desk to a large sum while my back was turned.

It all made sense now. Brian would steal the money early in the morning when the Korean teacher and I weren't in the room and while Wendy and Esther were busy working on their word of the day like the good little girls they are. At first, he'd snag a small amount from each person. Then he'd stash it where only he and Harry would find it. Harry himself would hang back when I took the class to the bathrooms. He made quite a show of "helping" straighten the tables and chairs so as not to arouse suspicion. Pretty clever I must say because I thought he just wanted to help. But it finally caught up with them. Harry flashed his stolen riches while Brian played low-key. The plan was to split the dirty money right before I would count it to determine our winner.

Thanks to my keen detective work, Brian and Harry have been banned from the ice cream party. I know it will probably sound mean, and maybe it is a little, but I told them both that they could try to steal all the money in the room and it wouldn't matter because they are not allowed to attend the ice cream party. I used the words "NEVER EVER" when telling them that they couldn't attend and that they'd lost their chance to win this month. The rest of the class breathed a collective sigh of relief. The kindergarten klepto and his not-so-trusty sidekick are now kaput, and that is the cherry on top of my day for sure.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Family Feud

My thoughts EXACTLY.

When I was a child and home sick from school, or even as an adult hopped up on cold meds and camped out with green Gatorade on my couch far from the office, I would always adoringly watch The Price Is Right and Family Feud. I've always loved game shows. I've always enjoyed yelling at the TV, much like I do when watching sports. In a way it IS a sporting event. Only the prizes are much shinier. Oooh. Ahhh! Interestingly enough, my dear long-time friend, William Calonge, and his beautiful wife, Caitlin, will be appearing on a new episode of Family Feud on October 20th which I hope I will be able to catch online somehow. For now, I can easily catch a live version of The Feud right here in my living room.

As I mentioned in my last post, this week was a Chinese holiday. I had off from work and we'd been filling our time shopping, going to the park, meeting friends and feasting at buffets with ill-mannered patrons. But what I neglected to mention was that this Chinese holiday technically ends on Friday. Which means on Saturday (today for me), people have to get back to work to make up for the time off. What the what? Yup. I had forgotten about this simply because it doesn't affect me. I work at a Korean school in China. Koreans like their weekends. Thus, our school was not forcing the children (or teachers) to come in over the weekend to make up for the Chinese holiday. My friend Andrea was not so lucky since she teaches at a Chinese university. She was beyond annoyed to find out she had to go teach today. What we both found completely absurd about this whole thing was that people would go to work on Saturday and Sunday instead of having off Monday through Wednesday and then working Thursday and Friday, then having the weekend off like normal. But China, as I have learned all too well, is not a normal place.

I should have realized that MIL would have thought I'd be like the other sheep and have to follow the flock to work on a Saturday. But I was too busy enjoying my time alone with my daughter without her grandma's snaggle-toothed face lurking around my house, speaking loud enough to wake dead ancestors from a million moons ago with her grating village voice. It just so happened that, for whatever reason, Raelynn woke up at 3am this morning and wanted to play despite being very sleepy. I sat up for 2 hours until I finally succeeded in getting her (and myself) to go back to sleep. For this reason, my husband left me alone until after 8am, taking Raelynn into the other room to give me some peace.

But that peace soon shattered into a million shards of biting anger. He came back and woke me with the news that his mother was here. I could hear her clunking around in our kitchen and I just wanted to scream. Why the fuck was that old cow in my house today? She couldn't give me one week alone with my daughter who she gets to see more than I do so I can work to support our family? Fuck. My blood boiled. I dug my nails into the mattress to keep from screaming obscenities. My husband angrily told me to keep calm and I did try to remember that I married him, not her, and that my father said I needed to try to be kind to this woman if I wanted to make my husband happy. But damn her! I wished so hard we could move far away and never have to see her again.

In the meantime, it's not possible yet, so I must get up and dressed and tolerate her ruining my second-to-last day off. Lane assures me she'll go soon (which she did, and I was able to enjoy a lovely day with my husband and daughter). She just wants to see the baby. "She sees her all week while I work," I snarl. I must seem like such a bitch but I honestly can't take it. I did not carry this beautiful child into the world so this woman could act like she's her own or teach her how to lack good hygiene and manners or dress like a blind Sunday school teacher. Nofuckingway. I'm not having it. He then tells me the thing that nearly made me go for blood: "She just wants to make sure the baby is ok." Ok? Ofuckingk??? How would she NOT be ok? She has us for parents, not them! I explain this to my husband and let him know that I hope something was translated incorrectly because I'd hate to be insulted in my own home by 2 people whose lack of education and common sense and disregard for safety is beyond terrifying. The people that were going to give a child under 6 months a grape to eat. The people that overheat the baby in summer. The people you have to remind to wash their hands with soap. The people that, despite being shown where all the blankets are, use TOWELS to wrap the baby to keep her warm. The people who put loose towels on top of the baby and leave her unattended so she has more of a chance of suffocating. I am forced to leave my sweet baby with these complete morons and THEY want to see if she is ok?

As Raelynn plays with her grandma, I seclude myself in the bedroom to get dressed. And that's when my husband reveals something to me. His dad picked a fight with him this week. He's been picking many fights with his son lately and where I once felt FIL was more cool than MIL, I'm now changing my mind on that. He criticizes my husband constantly, even more so than MIL does and I'm getting more than a little pissed off by the horrible things my husband is told by him. In one argument, he told Lane that real men don't hold babies and don't stay home with them. Um, so why do I see all kinds of manly Chinese men all over this city happily carrying their children around? In another, he and his wife both called my husband terrible things for not having a full-time job right now. Because his mother would have been offended and shamed if we didn't ask her to watch the baby, we have to wait for her to get here every morning. It's an hour and a half commute for her but soon, they will be moving right around the corner (oh joy). Still, she can't get here before 8am which means my husband has to stick around if he wants me to pull in the kind of money I'm making. Still, it's OUR fault for not letting them stay in our house, where there is no room for them to stay - even if I liked them. Which I don't. At all.

Lane thankfully listened to me and started tuning his dad's comments out. The last thing FIL had fought with my husband about was that he said we should hire a nanny instead because watching Raelynn is hard for his wife. Well, I had said I'd pay for a nanny - hell, I WANTED A NANNY - but everyone flipped the fuck out because that old zombie goatface with rat teeth wanted to spend time with her grandchild. My husband was really upset about the argument and to try to be nice to his mother, he INVITED her to come so his father wouldn't have something to bitch about since FIL is now constantly guilting my husband into thinking that he's a bad son. All this on one of my days off. A day when this woman is not supposed to be in my space. He said this as he was vacuuming our room, which I suspect was so he could cover up the scream he knew I'd make when he told me this. And boy did I scream, especially when he told me he knew YESTERDAY that she would be coming!

I felt so betrayed, yet I understood my husband's need to stick it to his father and to make his useless mother feel as though she's contributing in some way. Of course, I didn't just roll over on this one, but I've got my husband's back. He's a smart man and a good man. And he's a better son than these 2 country bumpkins deserve. I let Lane know that if something like this should happen again, he needs to tell me first. Not when I'm first waking up. But hell. I'm working this job so we can afford to send Raelynn to an international school when she's old enough. So that we can move to a bigger apartment. So that we can visit the states and eventually live there. So that we can give our daughter the very best in life. They can feud with us all they like but we will not lose this battle. Survey says: Shut The Fuck Up.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Buffoon At The Buffet

Our little family celebrates a wonderful week off. As we clink our glasses, I hope the free beer keeps coming to help erase the  memory of what I just saw. Keep reading to find out what that was.

Thanks to yet another Chinese holiday, which is definitely the plus-side of living here, I've had off work all week long. It's been absolutely fantastic. This whole week, I have savored every second of time with Lane and the baby. And no MIL! Lane had told her not to come this week so I could spend all my time with Raelynn without interruption or annoyance.

It's not always easy in these parts to get out and do things with a baby that will be turning 6 months old next week (can you even believe it?!?). Our activities are limited to brief trips to restaurants, shopping malls and parks, and those sort of things. Still, we can't always sit in the house. Raelynn needs to see the world outside these walls and it's up to us to show her. Even Lane won't allow his mother to take Raelynn out anywhere. Because he knows as well as I do that she won't even think of stopping other village people like her from touching the baby with their filthy fingers.

Lane had offered to take us on a trip, but I know him. No matter how much money we could possibly get coming in, he never thinks it is enough and he complains that we must save more. I love my husband dearly, but I'm not a fan of the "save money" speech. So I told him that I'd rather us stay here in Qingdao for the holiday, even though it would have been awesome to go check out Beijing or another city. I figured we've got plenty of time for that. Besides, taking Raelynn on a trip is a trip in itself. We already took her to Shanghai and that was before she could roll over. Now we're on high alert, waiting for her to begin crawling. Until she does, we're plenty busy keeping her from rolling off of things and stopping her from eating socks, toys, blankets, chairs and anything that isn't nailed down.

And so, we filled our week off with drinking beer by the sea, eating squid on a stick, shopping, playing in the park, sleeping in until 7am instead of 6am, going to coffeehouses, meeting a friend for lunch and dining out at restaurants instead of cooking at home. One such restaurant was the buffet restaurant in the Grand Regency hotel. It's a nice hotel. My brother stayed there when Raelynn was first born. But it is not as nice as the Shangri-La. Nothing is. I am a fan of buffets. That is, until I think about all the other buffoons dining there. People who don't wash their hands after using the toilets. People who have a cold or the flu touching the same serving utensils as me. People I don't know touching food I'm about to consume. This bothered me a great deal in America if I thought about it too much.

Now, I began to think about it too much HERE. Oh. Dear. GOD! Can I bring my own utensils? Not wanting to spoil the night or upset my husband since the cost wasn't cheap, I scanned the offerings for things that would be less likely to have been defiled with germs by the general masses. True that the price of the buffet would keep out dirty folks like the sort we'd see at the market, just as in America, however, a higher price doesn't mean that people will wash their hands. I was relieved to see that a sashimi station was set up with an employee wearing sanitary plastic gloves slicing the fish right in the open. Score for me since I adore sashimi. Then I turned my attention to the other large tables surrounding the dining area. Some things seemed safe and others made me a little afraid.

But nothing could prepare me for the scary soup encounter. As I started heading back to our table, I noticed 4 cauldrons of soup. I moved closer to read the labels and see if perhaps it was something I'd deem delicious. Before I could even read those labels though, all the soup was ruined for me. What I saw was so alarming and may have just frightened me away from buffets forever. I saw a very hideous middle-aged Chinese man, likely drunk, TASTING the soup with the SERVING SPOON! Let me repeat: he was using the serving spoon that everyone is to use to ladle soup into their bowls to taste the soup!!! Oh wo de tian ne (that's "oh my God" in Chinese)!

Quickly, I retreated to the table where Lane was having a time of trying to get Raelynn to sit still. I gladly took our fussy-faced date from him and recounted the horrifying tale of the man sipping from the soup serving spoon. For the rest of our meal, my husband was kind enough to bring back food for me. Plying me with free beer, it was better this way, lest I see some other atrocity. I stuck with the sashimi, eating an amount that would certainly justify the cost of the buffet. The desserts were also safe too. Chinese people eat very strange things for dessert. They have cakes filled with red bean paste and other chalky items. It's not bad, but, well, it's not like they are known for desserts, now are they? Look at Chinese restaurants in the states. What kind of dessert do you get there? Fortune cookies, which I have yet to actually see here in China, and ice cream. That's how it is in Chinese restaurants in China too. There was a big ice cream freezer and all the Chinese patrons were constantly surrounding it. Even my husband went for the ice cream (which was sorely disappointing, he'd been sad to say, after taking a taste of each flavor). I went for the Western-style desserts which were in abundance because people here think we're crazy for liking these things. They think it's too sweet. I say MORE FOR ME. That's right. Take your weird, tasteless rice crap and shove it. I'll take my chocolate cake with a side of chocolate pie and cream puffs and then top it all off with liquid deliciousness in the form of chocolate from a chocolate fountain. And then, I'll go back for seconds. And thirds. And you know what? Maybe, just maybe, next time I will stick my hands in the chocolate fountain, or better yet, just open my mouth and shove my face in there. Hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.