Monday, February 25, 2013

Keep Calm

Well, here I go again. At least not on my own. And not on the only road I've ever known. Oh Whitesnake. You still rule.

I'm trying to relax before the first day back at work in 2 months. My students won't be there until Thursday but it will still take some getting used to again. I spent my whole last day coloring with Raelynn. That kid colored dinosaurs and fairies until she was pretty sick of them I'm sure. We had a tea party and played with all her toys. I always love those simple moments with my daughter. I'll certainly think back on them when I'm having a rough moment at school.

Instead of getting to be with my little cuddlebug all day, guess who gets to come watch her? Yup. Those two dinglewads my husband calls his parents. Ugh. They'll come over and make a mess which they won't clean up. They'll cook things that smell like farts and roadkill. They'll bring Raelynn ugly rags of clothing to dress her in while I'm away so she looks like one of the fat little baby boys here. Oh yes. I'm sure these two imbeciles are gearing up for pissing me off repeatedly.

Thinking about it of course sends me into a huge rage. My husband keeps telling me to calm down but it's really hard. His parents are very sweet but very dense. At MIL's house for all those awful, greasy dinners, when Raelynn wanted water, she gave her hot water. Not warm water. HOT. Even FIL yelled at her. And every single time we've gone for dinner, she's fed Raelynn wontons. Raelynn likes lots of things. Poor kid won't touch wontons if we have them at our house. I know why - because it's all she eats when MIL is watching her.

There's nothing I can do about it though, is there? All I can do is try to keep calm. And make the most out of my afternoons, evenings and weekends when I am with Raelynn so that her skills, speaking and development, continue to blossom. I found a motivational poster of sorts that seems to work for me at least. Everyone's always posting those "Keep Calm" memes on Facebook. I searched on Google until I found one that made me smile (you can go here to find one for you). It is SO fitting for me, since I must admit I love the song and dance, plus I work with Koreans. I think this will be my motto for the year:

See? It's perfect!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Aw Man!

I can't even believe it. In just one more day, my lovely 2-month vacation from work will be over. Instead of snuggling with my precious little toddler, I have to drag my tired ass out of bed by 6am and attempt to smudge make-up over my sleepy face and do about 1,000 other little things before the clock strikes 7am so I can be at work on time.

I must endure boring meetings and stupid little changes, or "changies" as the Koreans call them. Can you tell I'm super excited about this mess? Not in the slightest. I will be happy to see my fellow teachers though. They make the place alright. It could always be worse too, couldn't it? Yes. It could. Just read this post about my old advertising job.

During my vacation, I've only dealt with my one darling child who I love with all my heart. Even though she can drive me insane by drawing on the walls with crayons, pencils, pens or markers. Or breaking through the child safety locks and emptying out entire cabinets and drawers. Or removing every single piece of laundry that was hanging to dry from the rack and putting it into a huge mass on the floor that hadn't yet been mopped. Yeah, she can drive me batty but she's mine. It's been great teaching her new things too. She says so many cool things now. She can count to 3, sometimes to 10 if she feels like it. Usually she skips a few numbers in there, but it's cute all the same. I'm going to miss this.

Instead, I get to trade it for 20 seven-year-old Korean children. That's 19 more ways to be driven crazy than I have right now. Super. Back to losing my voice every other month from a combination of singing and screaming. I think I'm burning out on kindergarten. But you know what they say - "it's better to burn out than fade away." Or maybe just Def Leppard said that.

In any event, it's happening and I've got no choice now. I'm in it, so I better be in it to win it. I'm sure once I meet my students, I'll find something to love about each of them. And I know I'll feel good when I get each one reading by the end of the year. Tomorrow is my last day of vacation so I'm going to do my best to make it rock, even if we just stay at home.

Tonight was the Chinese lantern festival, or as I should probably call it "Just Another Night of Being Forced to Eat at My Stupid In-laws' House." She made the same things she made for the Chinese New Year dinner. I hate that she makes the same shit all the time. I feel like I'm eating leftovers for a year. She made one different dish - a fried lotus root that was stuffed with some sort of pork and vegetables. It's great but it is really fattening. You can see it in the photo below. It is to the right of that mush which is actually MIL's version of Beijing-style eggplant. She made it AGAIN. Bless her heart for trying.

The highlight of the dinner was watching Raelynn color. She drew all over herself too. That was fun to scrub off. Not! I was pleased when she made a giant, stinky poop though. FIL helped me out by carting off the rancid hell that was her diaper. That made me giggle.
 Future tattoo artist perhaps? Que sera, sera!

Oh! And there were these people on the TV:

Why, yes. They DO look like they are wearing lampshades on their heads. And yes, that's a new TV. I bought it for them. Why? Because my husband wanted to give them something and I thought if I buy it, the next time he gets sand in his peehole about something and starts to yell, I can throw this gem back up into his face and he'll shut the hell up.

And what could make a night with your boring in-laws tolerable? Tsingtao beer, of course!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Morons Of Metro

I think I mention Metro a lot on here. We certainly shop there a lot. If you're not familiar with it, it's a German-owned store that is a little like a Costco but not quite. The above picture looks just like the one we go to. Except for those green trees. And the cars seem to be parked in actual parking spaces and not just left all willy-nilly wherever the driver felt like leaving it before entering the store.

We go there a lot because it is literally a two-minute drive from our home and it has a lot of the things we use at reasonable prices. With the exception of major Chinese holidays, it's never horribly crowded either.

One thing we tend to overlook is how inept and/or rude the staff can be. A while back, when I was still pregnant with Raelynn, my husband was looking at some shoes there. He asked a saleswoman for a larger size and she started YELLING at him. Yes, that's right. He asked a woman who worked there in that shoe section if she could do her job and she was a total cunt. We never saw her there again after that episode and it's quite likely that bitch was fired. I mean geez! That was the worst of all.

Another time, I mentioned in this post about one of the employees repeatedly making those annoying clicking sounds I hate at the baby while Jeremy and I were discussing which hair care product to buy. If you're wondering what that's all about, don't be lazy like a Metro employee. Go read it and come back. I'll wait.

All caught up? Good. Now, on to the most recent annoying experience...

On Sunday, we went to Metro for a few items. I figured while we were there, I should pick up more razor blade refills for my Gillette. I know it's freezing and all but I simply CANNOT go without shaving my legs or armpits or regions in between. Even though my husband doesn't care if I don't shave, I CARE. Women here have a different attitude toward shaving (and grooming in general...YUCK!) but I am so not going to look like a yeti. In any event, I tell my husband I want to pick up more blades and on command, he steers the cart expertly into the aisle with the shaving items while I follow immediately behind with a snoring and adorable toddler in the stroller. It takes me just a second to pick the package of blades from the rack, at only 14.50 yuan. That's quite cheap. I toss them into the cart and off we start to go when one of the useless employees in that aisle says something to my husband. Wait, what the hell is going on?

I listen and suddenly begin to seethe. She is putting them back onto the rack and giving us a slip of paper. She tells us we HAVE TO present this paper when we are paying for our things at the checkout and THEN they will bring us these blades. These 14.50 yuan blades. Seriously? Do I look like I'm going to jack them? Holy hell!

I angrily and loudly complain to Jeremy about how moronic this is as we continue shopping. But as we move about the store, I actually forget about the razor blade refills. Until we get to the checkout. And I only remembered because Jeremy presented the cashier with the slip of paper the dolt in the aisle where the shaving items are located had given us. The cashier looks at us sympathetically and eyes the paper with annoyance. Perhaps she thinks this is as idiotic as I do. She picks up her little phone at the register and makes a call. I can't understand everything that's going on, but from her expression and my own husband's face, I knew something was up. The line began to back up behind us and the other customers on our line were becoming impatient. I was too. I mean, come the fuck on! If they had just let us put the blades in our cart to begin with, we would have paid for them and been on our way already and so would half of that line. But no! Store policy! I don't understand when they implemented this insipid policy because all of the other times I've purchased these blade refills there, we have never been asked to do this.

There was more waiting and more commotion because - get this - the stupid lady from the aisle wrote down the wrong product number on the paper she gave us! Dear Lord! They must have something on their job applications that says the equivalent of "you must be this stupid to work here" in Chinese. At this point, I'm telling Jeremy to fuck the blades and let's just pay for our other shit and go. No, no, he insists. The cashier had asked us what the price on this item was and hey, what was this item anyway. When we told her, her eyes glazed over. I could tell she found this whole thing as pointless as we did.

Shortly after she curtly snaps at someone on the phone, our sluggish and chunky friend from the aisle of shaving items heads toward our checkout line. Seeing the massive accumulation of people tapping their feet behind us, she picks up the pace. The cashier gave her a nice bitchy look. I like that cashier. She's quite possibly the only non-deficient person in the whole place. Next time we're at Carrefour, I'll look for my refills there. I don't want to deal with some half-assed full-ass attempting shrinkage control. Dear Metro, if you're so worried about people jacking your items, then put sensors on them that have to be removed at the checkout line. Derrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Seeing Is Believing

I've been living in China for going on three years. It's not easy to live here. I'm sure it would be more enjoyable if I were in Shanghai. But it's Qingdao. It is what it is, as my Mom says. It could be far worse. I mean, I am in the place known for Tsingtao Beer. And for plastic bags. All joking aside, China can be a difficult place to endure at times. But when I see other parts of the world on the news (Syria comes to mind), I'm grateful that things are more or less normal here, even if some things can be irksome (my in-laws come to mind).

It's not all annoying all the time though. Sometimes, it can be rather amusing to live here. When I first got here, I was fascinated at the sight of these:
A three-wheeled car! It's like a motorcycle with a cheap car chassis thrown on top. Honestly, I feared my husband, who likes to be thrifty-borderline-cheap, would buy this thing when he was first hunting around for a car.

I remember my brother had told me a story about how he knew when he had been living in Poland too long. He said he was driving and noticed in his rear-view mirror a horse-drawn carriage pulling garbage. He recalled thinking, "Oh, I better move over so he can get by," and he said with that, he realized he'd been there far too long. As he told me, I cracked up over the image in my head. But he's right because the longer you live in a strange place, the less likely you are to laugh at all the absurd shit you encounter daily.

That's quite true with many things here. Like the car pictured above. I don't giggle anymore when I see them. But there is something that still cracks me up every time. I have been trying to catch a photo of it when I see it. I'm either without my camera or just too damn slow in most cases. Finally, my moment came when I could capture it on camera for all to see. In my mind, it is the vehicular version of Sasquatch.

Presenting the motorcycle garbage truck!
Here it is from behind. It looks like it's on some sort of half-assed cart, right? Well, the half-assed part is right, that's for sure.
Now you can see it from the side. What craftsmanship it must have taken to secure all that crap on there! You can also see that it's no cart. But it IS half-assed. It's a motorcycle/cart thing. They love these things here. Many times, you'll see them with migrant workers in them. I once saw what looked like someone's ancient grandma riding around on the back of one. Poor old lady.
 And here's a shot of it from the front. You can see these two people carting off this hot mess of what looks like loads of styrofoam. Predictably, Jeremy doesn't laugh when he sees these. He's Chinese. He's seen this his whole life. He says he always feels sorry for the people driving these garbage-motorcycle contraptions though. Here, you'll always be poor if you don't break some laws, he explained to me. This isn't exactly legal to do but just find a police officer who will stop these folks here. They won't. Then again, I wasn't too impressed with the police force here to begin with. My general impression of them is that they don't do very much more than chain smoke and eat noodles. I'm always taken by surprise when I see an actual police car on the road. In the states, you see them everywhere, but here, very rarely. Probably because they are back at the station smoking and eating.

Speaking of eating, you won't find the cops stopping anyone with random food carts either. People love to set these things up here. I'm never amused by them. You can pretty much bet on diarrhea if you eat at one of them too. Once you've seen one food cart, you've seen them all. Or so I thought. We were out shopping in Taidong the other day and while walking around, I could have happily lived the rest of my life without ever seeing what I am about to show you. But because Jeremy had to point it out and I had to see it with my own eyeballs, now you get to too! As disgusting as it is, I could not control my laughter. Only in China would this be a selling point for street food. Ready to see???

Look closely at this food cart. What do you see? It looks like some meat on a stick pictures. Big fucking deal, right? Why don't you look to the left of the customer.

Can you even believe it? Here is a better shot...
Why, YES! It IS a REAL ram's head! Because when I'm hungry, I want to look at the face of the poor animal that died to become my meal! And beyond that, how sanitary! Like anything coming from a cart of this type would be bacteria-free! Gah!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year!

Happy Year of the Snake everyone! Chinese New Year is upon us now and as I've mentioned before, I rather like this holiday. Sure, I spend a lot of time making snarky (and rather bitchy) comments about life over here but this is the holiday I enjoy most of all, except for the incessant popping of fireworks of course.

Getting ready for the new year here is much like how everyone back home prepares for Christmas. My husband and I went to Metro the other afternoon to get some things. Technically, it was a working day, but his schedule is flexible. We figured it would be a breeze since everyone else would be shackled to their desks or assembly lines. We did not want to wait until the weekend, when Metro would be transformed into a zoo with aisles of food and such instead of animals for the masses to gawk at.

But even at 2pm on a Wednesday, it was pure insanity. The parking lot alone was a feat to conquer. Somehow, Jeremy managed to snag a spot at the very end of the lot. There was still snow and ice on the ground and other cars were sliding and honking, adding more to the chaos. Inside, people were everywhere, swarming about the displays, searching for the perfect gifts to bring their relatives for the new year.

Jeremy had already planned ahead for that. All we needed were some grocery items. We actually gathered what we needed quite quickly. Then we had to settle into a line. And the lines were loooooooooooooong. The man behind us was fascinated with how beautiful Raelynn is. He kept smiling at her with his decaying teeth. At least he was kind though. A few lines over, some screaming erupted. A fight was about to break out. I stared at the people, bickering away about who was first in the line and honestly, it reminded me of home. How many times have I seen that before? It was just in a language that was not my own now. Ah, just like Christmas shopping back home! The most wonderful time of the year indeed!

For the start of Chinese New Year itself, which officially began yesterday, we of course had to go to my in-laws' house. They added some new decorations which looked rather nice for what it was. Certainly not my taste but at least it looked less like a crack bunker and more like someone lived there.

Unlike my family, my husband and his family won't crack open the beer until it's time to eat. But I didn't need any beer to keep me amused with some of the things we found on the TV. My in-laws have basic Chinese cable. I know I've mentioned before that even my husband will tell you that Chinese TV is extremely boring. It truly is. But some of it is so insanely horrible, you just have to see it. For example:
Let me attempt to explain as best as I can. I believe the show's name translates to "Journey to the West" or something like that. My husband claims it is old - from the 1980s. It certainly seems much older than that though. It's like they ripped off Planet of the Apes. There is also a pig-man creature but I couldn't get a good shot of it. Right now, if you listen carefully above the din of firecrackers being let off all over China, you can hear my dear friend Aaron Gordon laughing so hard his sides are splitting. 
There is also this odd little boy, who is no longer a little boy if the show is from the 1980s. Yes, this is what passes for entertainment on the Chinese channels. I would additionally like to mention that this show had the most terribly obsolete-looking special effects, even coming from that time period.

Soon, MIL began bringing out some food and now we could crack open some bottles of Tsingtao. We all know she's not the best cook. At all. But during the Chinese New Year, she makes her very best dishes. I must admit I'm kind of worried about her. During the previous 2 years, she really made some incredible things. But now she's kind of floundering. Maybe she didn't feel like doing the work? I don't know. In any event, here are some food photos:
In the back, from left to right: some egg pancake thing filled with a mixture of pork, shrimp and vegetables which was quite delicious; tofu with carrots and celery; ribs. In the middle, we have boiled peanuts with celery and carrots and that annoying fried, small bony fish that I despise. In front, we've got cashews AGAIN. Well, at least they did go wonderfully with the beer, which you can see in the background.

A short while later, MIL brought out more food. If you look in the center, you'll see a dish with a bunch of spoons in it. It's some weird jelly thing. I don't know what the hell it is really but I hate it. I cannot stand it. I've tried it several times and the best way I can describe it to you is that it tastes like saltwater and semen with garlic thrown on top. And then to the right of that, shrimp.

And again, another dish has arrived. Next to the semen jelly, there is a chicken and peppers dish. I was quite impressed with this one actually. The sauce was amazing. But one thing people in China tend to do that bugs me out is that they hack up chicken into little bits so there are shards of bones everywhere, and you can't tell which part of the chicken you're eating. I'm not down with that. David Sedaris, an amazingly talented and hilarious writer, wrote this piece about his visit to China and you really should go read it just to hear what he has to say about the food. Honestly, he sums it up perfectly.

The picture does not do this justice. MIL made another attempt at making Beijing-style eggplant, which is one of my absolute favorite Chinese dishes. She did much better than the last time but something is still missing that would give it that authentic Beijing taste. Maybe chili powder? I don't know. I'll have to try to make it myself. In any event, this was fantastic.

This isn't too exciting...just some small but very fresh tomatoes and the standard cucumbers with too much garlic that people here love to eat.
 Tradition has it that you serve your big fish dish at the end of the meal. Here is MIL's signature steamed fish in some sort of savory sauce. As I've said before, this is one of her most delicious dishes.

And finally, keeping in accordance with Chinese tradition, you simply must have dumplings. These come at the very end of the meal. By then, you are so stuffed you can't even fathom eating another bite. But you must at least have one or else it would be rude.

After my obligatory last bite, I passed the rest of the time by drinking lots of beer. And laughing at more of the cheesiness they aired on TV. Because there really isn't much to do aside from that. I wonder if everyone's Chinese New Year is boring because Chinese people aren't very interesting (and don't think I'm being a bitch here - that is something that has come out of my husband's mouth!) or if it's because my in-laws are the most mundane people in existence. In any event, I managed to amuse myself with the TV crapfest. Here's a look at that:

We have this lady and her hair. This absolutely fascinated me. Maybe it's a wiglet?

 And then, something truly remarkable happened. I couldn't even believe it. Guess who showed up to this spectacular gala for the Chinese New Year?

You won't believe it...

Celine Dion! No fucking way!
I'm not a fan but I don't hate the woman really. I like her hair here.

I was actually quite impressed with her - she sang a duet with this crazy-wiglet-haired Chinese lady...IN CHINESE! That must not have been easy for her to learn. Kudos!

Yes, that is the ultimate in excitement for our Chinese New Year, that Celine Dion was on Chinese TV and sang in Chinese. Also, that when we got home, despite all the fireworks, which honestly seemed like much less noise this year, Raelynn went right to sleep when I put her in the crib. Wow. We're walking on the wild side!

I'll finish this post with one last picture...the cutest picture of the cutest little girl's our special dumpling! Happy Chinese New Year to you all!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Crying Game

I've been on paid vacation from my teaching job since January 1st and one of the things I most looked forward to, aside from the obvious of hanging with my husband and toddler, was getting more sleep. I have to be at work at 7:30am even though the kindergarten children do not arrive until just before 9am. I'm far from school so each day, I must be up no later than 6am to get ready and catch my ride with Hu Shufu.

Now I could sleep. Sleep, glorious sleep.
Only it wasn't like that. At all.

Since I no longer had to wake up while it was still dark outside, Raelynn no longer woke then either. Her entire schedule shifted, making nap time and bed time pure hell for Jeremy and me. More me, really, since Jeremy has never been the one to put her to bed. I was becoming more zombie-like than ever. Something needed to change and fast, before I would go back to school and be even more drained from playing the roles of mommy PLUS teacher, chef, police woman, seamstress, artist, MacGyver, grammar cop, actress, maid and detective.

I put out a plea on my Facebook page. I was counting on my other friends and family members with children to lend me their expertise and experiences. And I just want to take a moment to thank each of you (you know who you are!) for sharing your trials and tribulations with me. I'm not sure which of my friends said it, but one of them told me to go with my own intuition; that whatever works for my family should be what I do. So simple, yet it was so far from my grasp.

Most of my friends were urging me to let Raelynn cry it out in the crib. I'd been through this problem before and because I am still a breastfeeding mom (and for those of you who have never breastfed or think you should stop breastfeeding well before the age Raelynn is, please shut your stupid mouth before I shut it for you and go read about breastfeeding on La Leche League's page) I have to admit I cringed at the thought of leaving my daughter to shriek endlessly. I'm sorry I ever passed any judgement on anyone for that, even if I never told you all. I totally was. That wasn't very cool of me.

But I think the circumstances for every parent are different. Another friend of mine said parenting was a crapshoot. She's right on. And not only are circumstances for every parent different, but those circumstances CHANGE with your kid making it even more exhausting to keep up with. I took a long hard look at our family. Raelynn is almost 2 now. She is very independent in that she wants to feed herself without your help. She wants to do things her way and she is a total diva too. Just like her mommy of course. I realized that the first time crying it out was suggested to me, Raelynn was smaller and not yet manipulative. But now, she's a totally manipulative little princess. Somehow, she'd made it impossible for my husband and I to sleep next to each other anymore. Or for us to really even sleep period. She was constantly waking up and screaming. Part of it can be attributed to teething but the other part, I knew I had to be honest, was her trying to manipulate us. In essence, she was playing us as her pawns in the crying game. She'd cry and we, desperate for sleep, would give in to these demands.

I had to do this my way though. I felt it was cruel to just, out of the blue, shove her in her crib in her room and trot away. So I began talking to her about it during the day. I told her she was a big girl now and that she was going to sleep in her room in a few more nights. I also started taking her to her crib to read her stories. I was told the first night would be the worst. Well, duh. Of course it is! I tried to stay positive, lest she read my fear through the mask of my smiles and laughter. I bathed her, I breastfed her, and then I put her in the crib for stories. And then, I turned on her sound machine and star light and went to leave. That's when the freakout began. She screamed and cried, sounding more like a stuck pig than a precious toddler. With each shriek, my heart broke more. Jeremy and I could hear her in our room even before we turned on the baby monitor. He was my rock that night. Finally, after what seemed like forever but was actually about an hour, she went to sleep.

For a whole week, we've been doing this. Each night, I could see more progress which enabled me to stay strong. And last night, after I read her stories to her and left, she didn't make a peep. That's right. She went to sleep almost immediately.

Some people suggested to me to not check on her at all once I put her in there but I couldn't do that. When she wakes, I go in there and check on her if she hasn't stopped crying by herself after several minutes. I'm glad I did because one night, she'd uncharacteristically pooped during that time and I don't think she would have been very comfortable trying to sleep with a huge pile of shit smudged onto her ass, do you?

While we've been doing this, I've made sure to show Raelynn how much I love her and how proud I am of her. I've also told her that the bed is for Mommy and Daddy to sleep in, but when we're not sleeping, she can always snuggle with us and play with us on it. I think it helped her to know this. She's one smart cookie, but hey, she's got me for a mom, right? *wink*

As Jeremy and I enjoy having our bed and our evenings back to ourselves again, I've noticed all of us have been sleeping better and are happier too. I know I am. The happiest one of all is Raelynn who has won herself ice cream for her good behavior. We're so proud of you, Raelynn! You are our little Raelynn of sunshine and we love you!
This ice cream moment is from Jeremy's birthday dinner at the Shangri-La. It's just too cute.

The following photos are of Raelynn enjoying her ice cream treat today! Awwwww!

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Schlumpy Female Newscasters Of Qingdao

Yesterday, Jeremy, Raelynn and I had to go to my in-laws' unfabulous house for what is known as the small Chinese New Year celebration. The actual Chinese New Year starts on February 12th, but Chinese people just can't wait to celebrate. This is one thing about their culture that I absolutely adore. It's about being as happy as possible, FIL had told me (translated by my husband of course) and I think that really IS something special to celebrate indeed.

I was disappointed that we had to go there though since I'd made dinner plans with my friend Christine. Raelynn and I were going to meet her for Italian food. Jeremy didn't even realize the date so he didn't care initially. He was supposed to meet a client. But then, he realized that it was the date of the small Chinese New Year celebration. He canceled his meeting but he told me Raelynn and I could go meet my friend still. I sighed heavily. He wasn't going to tell me no, but I knew if I didn't reschedule my plans with her, it would embarrass him and possibly upset his family. On any other random night, I wouldn't care. But I think I am obligated as Jeremy's wife to attend family dinners on special holidays. Fortunately, Christine is a sweet and understanding person and now our dinner has turned into lunch on Thursday. Oooh! A ladies' lunch! Fabulous!

Anyway, back to last night's dinner. I actually don't mind MIL's cooking for these holidays because she cooks good Chinese dishes. For the new year, she always makes her very best dishes. I wish she would remember to cook these things during the rest of the year. Maybe she forgets they exist. When I first came to visit Qingdao while I was still living in Seoul, I came during the harvest holiday at the end of September. She made so many delicious things that she had me fooled. I thought she was a good cook! She's not, sad to say. She gave it her best yesterday though. She served toasted cashews (afuckinggain! She must have gotten a deal on a ton of them or something because she has been serving these with the dinners we've been to over there for WEEKS!), cucumbers in garlic with shrimp (she serves cucumbers in garlic ALL the time too but she fancied it up with shrimp. This is not a bad dish but it gets annoying to eat it so often), steamed clams (good!), whole steamed fish in some sauce of deliciousness (another one she does well) and eggplant attempted in Beijing style but failing. The eggplant wasn't bad, but it wasn't Beijing style. I'll give her an A for effort though at least. Oh! And how could I forget? It is always tradition on this holiday to serve dumplings. And these she makes VERY well. 

I needed something to keep me busy before we got to eating. And to keep me from going crazy while inside their home. I noticed that the TV was on and I smiled deviously as I sipped my Tsingtao beer. The last time we'd been there, I'd forgotten my camera on my desk and I was angry with myself because I was missing documenting the truly unfashionable way people here present themselves on TV. I just want to say that the following was done with my wonderful friend Aaron Gordon in my mind. Because if he could teleport over and sit on that wood couch from hell drinking beer with me, I think our laughter would have drowned out all the fireworks.

Next time you watch the news in the states, look at how the newscasters, particularly the women, are dressed. Impeccably, right? Their hair is perfect. Make-up too. And the clothes are fashionable and flattering. Well, for Qingdao's local station, allow me to show you what these people look like:
The hair! My God! What is that? A washed out perm? It's just horrible. Boring glasses. I don't even see any make-up. And that shirt/jacket/whateverthefuck it looks like a bad uniform in a shitty Chinese restaurant. It's so amorphous and blobby. Ugh. Poor weather lady!

Next, this lady. She's probably the least hideous of the newswomen on the local channel. But this pink blazer is just a hair too tight and I just feel like they've taken extra pains to cover her up. They are so prude here, it's just unreal. While I hate boy-short hair on most women (so few can pull it off), this style isn't too awful, all things considered. Here, it is very common for women to cut off their hair like this. Only this woman actually has hers styled. Most of the women out there cut their hair short, like MIL, cutting it in an especially incongruous, utilitarian way that doesn't even look very good on the little boys here. No, this woman's hair isn't too bad. But the next woman...

See what I mean?!?!? Who fucking cut her hair? I want to make sure that person NEVER comes near my hair. Good Lord! That just does not look good. At all. Again with the too-tight blazer. AND what in the world is on her shoulder? It looks like a bird shat up some sequined thing on there. And just like the last reporter, her white shirt under the blazer goes all the way up to her neck. Prudes. Ugh.

Live on the scene at what I think is the bus station, we've got this woman. She looks like she fell asleep at the news station, was thrown into the news van and just threw herself together in 5 minutes or less to go on camera. At least she blends in with the other people behind her. The only way you'd be able to tell she was a reporter is by the microphone. Back home, I've seen reporters in the middle of a hurricane looking more put together!

And here's another reporter on the scene. She's at one of the Carrefour stores though I can't tell which location. This is one of those little Chinese boy haircuts. Glasses that do nothing for her face. And the same Stay Puft pink jacket as the last lady! Did the other woman give her this jacket before she went live? I wouldn't be surprised. Blah.

Yes, these are just some of the women newscasters that Qingdao's local news puts on TV. Like this. They may as well just grab some of the women peddling vegetables on the street. In Shanghai and Beijing though, you would never see such slovenly crap flapping their gums at you on the news. No way. To give you a good contrast, this next photo is from the international news channel. Meaning, if you are outside of China and want a Chinese news channel, this is it. The station for the international channel is located in Beijing. Take a look...
HUGE difference, right? Her hair is slicked up in a complimentary way. Her suit is quite stylish. The make-up! The earrings! Qingdao News, please take notes. This news anchor looks professional and credible. She does not look like she sleeps in a gutted-out building or deigns to eat street food like the local news folks do. Oh Qingdao! Why can't you be more like Beijing? Well, don't be like it in pollution. Or rude people. But be like it with food. And style. Or be like Shanghai. That should be your goal. It's so awesome there.