Tuesday, March 9, 2010

But Wait! Have Those Dishes Been Through the Ozoninator?

Water is a BIG HUMONGOUS issue here in Beijing. There are bad, microscopic things living in it. Things I can’t even pronounce. It’s so bad, even locals boil their water before drinking it. Every website I read while researching our temporary Beijing move warned of the dangers of the tap water. The nurse who did our vaccinations emphasized the importance of using bottled water and of not eating any fruits and vegetables you can’t peel. Other tips gleaned from health professionals and travel websites:

  • make sure you always get new chopsticks with your meals when dining out (in case the previous user had something you didn’t particularly want to share),
  • do not get ice in your drinks (in case it came from the dreaded tap water),
  • make sure your food is served PIPING hot so as to kill any pesky little critters like e.coli living in it (to make sure it hadn’t been sitting around for a long period of time before being served to you).

It seems to me bad water is treated as a nuisance by the locals but nothing to freak out about. So, my new mantra is, “Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out.”

WAIT! Did you just get water in your eye? Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out.

OH MY GOD! Did you just WASH YOUR FACE with tap water? Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out.

EEK! Is the steam from the shower going into my lungs? Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out.

Companies have even created devices to work around the bad water. Things like the ozoninator in our apartment. OK, that’s our nickname for it; technically, it is the “utensil sterilizing cabinet”. I thought it was a dishwasher at first but couldn’t figure out where to put soap or how to turn it on. Then Greg found the apartment’s “Operation Manual”. Turns out this handy little machine sterilizes your dishes AND can even sterilize your fruits and vegetables. It does this through UV light and “ozone”. The description of this unit in the manual says:

“Thru the utilization of ozone and PTC heat circulation, this cabinet dry, sanitize, defrost and keep fresh tableware, fruits and vegetables.”

Hooray! We have something to kill all the germs on our washed dishes! Oh crap! We figured out this handy little fact on our third day here. How many dishes had we washed and used already? *sigh* Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out.

Here’s the ozoninator in action:


So, we learn and move forward. Don’t freak out. Right?!  That is exactly the approach I am trying to take as my stress level with this whole water thing gets tested - over and over again. My first real test came yesterday when Emily comes to me, smiling proudly, with her toothbrush in her mouth. She barely got the words out her mouth, “Mommy, I am brushing my teeth!” before I sprang from the bed like a lion on its prey and yanked the toothbrush out of her hands. “Where did you get the water, Emily? WHERE?!” Poor thing didn’t understand; she was doing a good thing, right? “Where, Emily!” She pointed to the cup, the same cup we put bottled water into for our teeth brushing. “But Emily, what water did you put INTO the cup?” Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out. Then she pointed to the faucet. THE TAP WATER. FREAK OUT! FREAK OUT! FREAK OUT!

OK, deep breath. It’s too late. I can’t throw her into the ozoninator, so we’ll just have to hope for the best, hope that those Olympic websites that claimed the water was improved prior to the Olympics were accurate and we’ll be in the clear.

My stress with the water quality met its second and third challenges today when we went out to lunch. Chang, an uber kind coworker of Greg’s, showed us some more restaurants in a different mega-mall several blocks from the apartment. It must have been six or eight stories, but Chang insisted it was not big. Can’t wait to see what makes up a big mall around here! We picked a noodle restaurant, and Chang helped translate our order to the waiter. No ice in the kids’ juice, we said. No ice. No “bing”. When their mango juices were delivered, they were in these huge carafes with gigantic straws. AND ICE. We repeated to Chang, no ice please. He called the waiter over, bantered with her in Chinese, and then she scooped the drinks away. I noticed one of the carafes had a memorable chip in it. Moments later the same chip came back to us. No ice this time, but I had to wonder, did they just scoop the ice out? Was it the same juice with bits of melted germy-ice in it? Oooh, and what did they use to scoop it out? Had it gone through an ozoninator? *sigh* The kids drank their juice. Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out.

Next, the waiter brought over our super yummy noodle dishes with reusable chop sticks. Chang dug right into his dish, so I did too. When in Rome… I noticed later that some of the other patrons had been given sets of disposable chopsticks with their lunches. You know, the kind you have to break apart? I asked Chang why we got one type of chopsticks while others got the disposable ones? He just stared at me and shook his head. OK, moving on.

So, in less than a week, we’ve managed to break several food and water rules. It’s hard enough with kids, but throw in the language barriers, and it is an ultimate challenge. 


  1. Just think of how strong your immune systems will be when you get home1 You'll be able to drink anything!

  2. Hey! Was just passing by your blog, and I understand your concerns as well because besides me all my friends are just as concerned about the water conditions here(especially the ones with skin allergy). From living here I have been trying to find ways and a product to improve the water quality here just to make daily living easier for the expats and the local people, and I think I may have it but will need your opinion about it(since I prefer to have a collective response about this). I was wondering if you have time will you be able to drop me an e-mail at cherry.ng500@gmail.com?

    Thanks, and much appreciated:)