Tuesday, April 27, 2010

That Duck Egg Is How Old?

Posted by He Said

Those of you who know me well know that I am a picky eater.  One rule my mother burned into my skull is if you are a guest in someone’s home, you eat what you are served.

That rule has been hard for me over the years.  I have sat at many tables and choked and washed down what I have been served.  I suspect many times it was far from convincingly.  Thanks mom, the one childhood rule I haven’t forgotten is yours and I will likely never forgive you for it.

This rule has applied here, and although eating in restaurants with coworkers doesn’t exactly fit the bill, I have still tried to eat what I have been served.

Sweet and Sour Chicken Feet
Pickled Cows Tongue
Blood Tofu (made of coagulated blood)
Partridge Eggs
Counterfeit Wine
Fish served with the head still on
Shrimp which you have to behead, de-leg and gut before eating (to be fair I have done this with crawdads several times)
Fried milk (yeah, not really sure what it was, but we ordered it again)
Fish and squid balls (who knew they had balls big enough to eat)

Those are my favorites of course. This week I went with the manager Johnny to lunch and he ordered for me.  This always kinda freaks me out because I feel obligated to eat what is served even if I don’t like it or it visually is disturbing to me. Two items came to the table.  The main dish was delicious.  The second dish freaked me out to say the least.

Let’s put it this way, they did NOT have Green Ham, but the duck eggs on the other hand? They look just like this.


and thisPicking_up_century_egg_by_Mandru_in_IncheonThis image was originally posted to Flickr by Mandru at

I ate them.  In fact, I ate half the plate.  Frankly they tasted like…well, hard boiled eggs with some additional complex flavors.  Dipped in the vinegar on the plate they were quite interesting.  The white of the egg, excuse me, the brown translucent gel surrounding the yolk was flavorless.

But hey, lets get right to the interesting part regarding the discovery of these eggs.  Stolen right from Wikipedia.

“Its discovery, though not verifiable, was said to have occurred during the Ming dynasty 600 years ago in Hunan, when a home owner discovered duck eggs in a shallow pool of slaked lime that was used for mortar during construction of his home 2 months before.”

Wow, isn’t that fascinating.  Six hundred years ago this process was discovered when a home owner finds 2 month old eggs in a shallow pool of slaked lime.


But wait, lets get to the best part.

“Upon tasting the eggs he set out to produce more…”

Wait lets stop here. UPON TASTING THE EGGS? That’s right, he just found these old duck eggs which had been sitting in a shallow pool of lime outside (likely in the summertime) whose color had transitioned beyond any normal egg ever seen on this planet.  The egg white having turned gelatinous brown, the yolk several layers of various green … AND HE ATE THEM?  And people make fun of Nevada rednecks.

Ok, let’s put the whole sentence here for context.

“Upon tasting the eggs he set out to produce more, this time with the addition of salt to improve this taste, thus resulting in the present recipe of the century egg.[3]

Yes, salt.  We all know salt helps bring out those complex flavors. In 2 month old eggs … mmm… a nice bouquet with hints of chocolate, coffee and pear with a nice slaked lime finish.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sometimes Knowing Chinese Is Worthless

Posted by He Said

We have made friends with our new neighbors Ethan and Vivian.  Ethan is a Caucasian American who speaks rockin’ Chinese. I know this because in his conversations with the street fruit vendors I have asked what they are talking about, and he tells me they are complimenting him on his Chinese.  I hear him speak, and his inflections and words so perfectly match the the flow of conversation, it is indistinguishable to me from that of the local speakers around me.

Of course, I don’t speak Chinese, so what do I know.

Last night we ran over to the nearby university where he works to pick up some books for his daughter.  There was a book sale similar to what you would see in the states. Line after line of tables with stacks of books, pens, pencils and other useful items every college student needs. You know like memory card readers, headphones and desktop lamps shaped like sunflowers.  You know, IMPORTANT stuff.

For the most part the acres of books are in Chinese.  There are lots of programming books, chemistry books and the like, but buried in the sea of simplified Chinese characters there are small islands of English books.  Very CHEAP English books.  Ok these are counterfeit books, let’s just get that out of the way.

Ethan had promised his daughter that he would pick up more books in her favorite series “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” We made a beeline for the area where he knew there were English titles.  We found the series of books he was looking for and selected all the ones his daughter didn’t have.  He grabbed some super cheap copies of the first three of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series on my recommendation.

I picked up a copy of Catcher In The Rye because:

  1. It was like a buck and a half
  2. I have never read it
  3. J.D. Salinger recently passed away
  4. Because Susanne says I am trying to prevent my reentry onto the US by carrying a copy with me

Then Ethan asked the bookseller in his most excellent Chinese if she had any books for his 8 year daughter.

She pulled out Warren Buffet investment books, Michelle and President Obama books, and this one:


Ethen turned to me laughing and says.  “I don’t think she knows what she is selling”.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Posted by He Said and She Said

She Said…

As we walk down streets and up alleys in Beijing, we see things that remind us of friends and family. We want to share these with you.

This one is for Libby over at Libby Logic. She and I share a similar appreciate of all things comfortable. What size and how many, huh, Libby?

CJ, this one has you written all over it:

This next one will seem strange to most.  Living here, we don’t have all of the amenities we have back home, such as a utensil organizer. Eileen, I think of you every time I open my drawer.

Memories of living on Lake Street next to Eddy come flooding back with this one:

P4050047and this one…wait, these actually make us think of CJ AND Eddy.

Facebook is a magical thing. Through it I have reconnected with friend from down in the west Texas town of El Paso. Paloma, this one is for you (and sorry, this was the real store – no special price!):


Dad, this one is ALL you:


and this one...


He Said…

This one is for Rebecca at work, seeing as now I can’t NOT think about her every time I see a fricking Hello Kitty, and yes, this was an ENTIRE store FILLED with that damn cat.


Chris, this one is for you.  What is more patriotic in China than a RED Baby? An entire catalog dedicated to your RED Baby.


This one in particular makes me think of all the Best Buy fanboys at home.  Now even though I won’t go into the Blue Box at home, this is ONE Best Buy I could get into!


We picked this up at the local Jenny Lou’s.  Eileen, we miss you!

This one had me thinking about Kevin and Kevin’s for DAYS (Bitters)!

… and Barbara AND Kevin, need I say more!  Of course just behind our building they are erecting the new Microsoft Beijing campus, but without signs, it’s not worthy of a picture yet.

_IGP6991Damnit, why won’t this thing get a signal???

and lets not forget Amy, Brad and Hannah PEW PEW!

And not a DAY goes by that I don’t think of Rob or Jami and their love affairs with their bicycles. Can you see the end of them…I can’t?

This is more of a generic one, but all the Dexter fans back home (Ok, Barbara and Kevin get double billing), I think he was here in the kitchen.  The glasses at this restaurant all have this dripping red blob.


and Jacob, if you were here, this would be your new home, food, coffee, English speaking customers AND BOOKS!

Speaking of books, Jacob.  I know you would have had to climb to the top as well!!!!!

_IGP7110and you would probably bankrupt us eating at the Union Bar & Grill.

Ok Eddy gets double billing too. You KNOW you want one.  Notice the winter hand warmers installed. Oh, you know you want a closer look.  The handlebar gloves look like something you would have invented.


And every time I see this one I think about work. 

Question: “Should we do it right, or fast?”
Answer:  “BOTH”


Stella, this one is for you.  For some reason the style of these make me double take every time I see one.  They look like a mini Westfalia camper.


Which One’s Not Like the Other?

Posted by She Said

There is a Korean BBQ place not too far from our apartment that I have been wanting to try for a while. After Sinny, a coworker of Greg’s, took me to a scrumptious dinner at a different Korean BBQ restaurant several weeks ago, I have been anxious for Greg to try it. I just knew he would enjoy the wonderful flavors and the way there is an actual coal BBQ at each table on which to cook. With his affinity for fire, what’s not to enjoy? I have to admit, I was a little surprised he finally agreed to check it out after he complained of the way I smelled for two days after eating it. I guess he figured it was like garlic – if we both ate it, he wouldn’t be bothered by it.

I’ve noticed at the nicer sit-down restaurants, where you pay at the end of the meal instead of at the beginning, the server will follow you to your table and stay there until you order. So, imagine if you will, we are on a side of town with very few foreigners, so we always seem to create a stir – well the kids do anyway. So this may not be accurate to say, but it feels like when we walked in, all eyes were on us. Next, we have to take off all our coats. Then we have figure out what to do with them. Here? No. How about piled up there? OK.

Shift, shift, shift.

Then we have the arduous task of deciding who is going to sit where and next to whom –a Moyle version of quack, quack, goose.

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.

And all of this is prior to even cracking open the menu. Then we do a quick menu dance, akin to a rain dance, in the hopes that there are English subtitles under the pictures in the one enormous, multi-paged menu delivered to our table that we, we being I,  have to flip through.

Flip, flip, flip.

And all of this happens while our server stands next to us with her pen and pad ready to take our order. Suffice it to say, being the one given the role of ordering, this makes me a little nervous! In my desire to expedite the ordering process, I pointed at watermelon juice for Emily out of a color brochure. Small. This is what we got:

P4190081This is freshly squeezed watermelon juice. And it cost us about 38 RMB (or over $5 US), which I didn’t really realize during my rush to get our order in.

So this is the way it works. They bring over all of the raw ingredients you ordered – thinly sliced meats, mushrooms, and other veggies – and give you all of the tools you need to cook it over the coals, including tongs for flipping and scissors for cutting larger pieces into more manageable bite sizes.  That’s right. You do the cooking.

That is, unless you are the Moyles.


Greg was busy figuring out how to wear Emily’s Barbie headband from KFC, so he’s not cooking. I’m taking the picture, so I’m not cooking. And there’s no way the kids were getting their little hands near those hot coals, so they’re not cooking.

Instead, we had our own personal chef.


This friendly woman stood at our table for our entire meal and cooked every morsel we purchased. Greg kept looking around and continually asked me why other people were cooking their own food? I kept insisting the staff was helping them too.

Because of her help, Greg had time to figure out Em’s hair band. And who wouldn’t be grateful for that?


As our last bites were taken, and our coals whisked away, another plate arrived with four watermelon slices and four ice cream bars. Braedyn ate a couple bites of the watermelon, and we all devoured our delicious coconut flavored ice cream bars. We didn’t order any dessert, but we sure enjoyed the treat!

By the end of the meal, our watermelon juice was hardly touched. The kids, insisting they liked it, wouldn’t drink it. I started filling all of our small glasses and making us all drink more so as to not seem so wasteful. Damn wasteful Americans! We still only got through about half of it.

So, I have a confession. This is a first for me, so please pay attention, and for my sake, please do not repeat this:

Greg. Was. Right. Iwaswrong.

I know, the horror, right!?

I was led to this realization when my friend, Lilian, and I went back to the same restaurant last night for dinner, and lo and behold, not one small slice of savory mutton, not one piece of thinly sliced sweet potato, not one medallion of savory pork, was cooked by anyone other than Lilian or me.


Oh, and there was no watermelon and ice cream bars delivered either.

I did mention this was the SAME restaurant, yes?

When I told Lilian that we had everything, everything, cooked for us earlier in the week, she just looked at me, laughed, and said, “You must look like you don’t know how to cook!”

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fabio Visits Stemed Dumping Shop

Posted by He Said

Today at the last minute I messaged Susanne “Want dumplings?” Her response was something akin to “if you don’t bring dinner we are eating the children!”  I guess they were driving her a little nuts today.

Sadly, I was without my little piece of paper given to me by a coworker to order my dumplings at the Stemed Dumping Shop. 

Normally I walk in, the girls behind the counter act all giddy and laugh and point like 12 year old school girls, I hand them my paper, which also has the total, and pay my $1.77 for 15 dumplings. It’s always the same girls who giggle and point.  I guess they just don’t see white guys as muscular and hot as me around here very often. Then I walk over to the window behind which there are another 6 women stuffing “steamed dumplings” by hand and the same super friendly young man with a contagious smile.  Yeah, he is kinda cute, but not in that gay kinda way, because you know I am so not into asian guys.  The first time I came into this place by myself I played Susanne Charades until he acted as though he was eating (with chopsticks of course) off a plate.  I, in my usual understated fashion, started waving my arms in a large arc towards the door like one of those guys on the airport runway motioning the planes. He laughed and made my order to go.

This has worked great.  I always get a friendly smile and sometimes even a “hello” from the boy in the kitchen. We have eaten take out from here many times. I even succeeded in ordering without my paper order by using my iPhone and simply playing the word “Pork” and “Beef” and when the price didn’t match, I simply played the word beef and signaled 2, then 3 until the price was what it should be.

Tonight, I was not so lucky.  I asked the manager at my office to write out from memory the beef and pork dumplings order, which he kindly did. Then he asked if we liked soup.  “It’s not really soup, but Chinese rice soup,” he explained. 

“Sure, what the hell, order what you like.” 

He added four more items to the menu.  So I knew the top 3 items were the delicious dumplings and the bottom four were mystery “rice soups”.


I was pretty confident when I walked in with my handwritten order and placed it on the counter.  Immediately I knew there was a problem.  Chinese chatter between Giggle Girl 1 and Giggle Girl 2 and then a man came from the back room and took my paper away.  One of the giggle girls showed me a single finger, not that one, and said something to which I figured was “one minute.”  So I waited patiently.  Then the man and my paper came back and Giggle Girl 2 held onto it while she took someone else’s order.  Now this is much different service than I get from my fried bread guy who hands me my bread before anyone else (who by the way, was back making bread the day after “the bust”).  It pays to be a regular sometimes.  Either that or it pays to be two feet taller and 100 pounds heavier than everyone else.

So there I am, leaning against the counter thinking, should I just yell “ENGLISH?” to all the patrons and hope SOMEONE speaks both languages.  I couldn’t.  Just like I always want to shout CRACKER when I see white people, and I don’t. I waited, and I waited.  When the second person was helped before me, I simply grabbed my paper from Giggle Girl 2 and laid it on the counter. 

I pointed to the first line.  Both giggle girls shook their heads no.  I didn’t know if this meant they didn’t know what the hell it said or if they didn’t have it.  It didn’t matter, I moved on to line two. More head shaking.  Line three. More head shaking.  I point to line three knowing this is the last line that describes dumplings and lo and behold, they shake their heads.  I moved on, line 4? Yes. Line 5? Yes.  Line 6? Yes and so on.  All the items that I KNOW are NOT dumplings they will order for me.  I don’t have my cell phone so I can’t even call my coworker, Johnny, and ask him to order on the phone, and my iPhone is charging, so no translation app. I am stuck. So I cover the top of the page with the precious dumplings and circle with my fingers the bottom 4 items and they ring them up.  A whopping 90 cents, this can’t be good.

This sucks.  I have no idea what I am ordering.  I take my little ticket to the window where Giggle Girls 3, 4 and 5 have a field day pointing and chuckling.  I am beginning to think it’s not my Fabio-like good looks. I watch them pour 3 different soup-looking concoctions in cups, seal them and hand me a bag of what looks like shredded beets.  Yup.  That’s my order, and I am so very bummed.  I figure I will head home, find my OTHER piece of paper with the correct menu items and return.  So I dejectedly strut out of the shop in my Fabio walk.  I hear shouting in Chinese as I leave, but that’s common here, so I continue on up the alley. 

I get almost half a block away, and I hear someone running up on me.  I realize as he grabs my arm that it is the cute kitchen boy from the kitchen. He points back to the kitchen and talks in Chinese.  I think they all must think I am a mute because I don’t even waste time TRYING to talk s..l..o..w..l..y in English anymore.  I just smile and nod and follow him back.

I am directed to the pickup window by the kitchen.  Now realize, I HAVE NO FRICKEN CLUE what is going on here.  A guy dressed in chef’s garb who was eating gets up, and walks to the window.  Cute Kitchen boy talks to him, Angry Chef guy starts yelling at Giggle Girls 3, 4 and 5.  This arguing goes on for some time.  I sit there listening for what sounds like a serious ass-chewing for several minutes.  Then Giggle Girl 3 starts laughing, and the air starts to clear.

Then magically, Cute Kitchen boy hands a large bag of dumplings through the window to Angry Chef guy, and he turns and hands it to me.  Smiling.  A huge friendly smile and I realize at that moment that being a regular does help. Even if you can’t speak the language.  He looks at me and quietly rubs his fingers together and carefully says “money?”

And I realize that several of the people who see me come in all the time realized that I was getting the shaft because Giggle Girl 1 and 2 could have cared less in helping me get my order.

Not Angry Any Longer Chef but Super Friendly Chef guy walks me to the register, speaks quickly and Giggle Girl 2 rings up my order.  I pay my $2.25 for more dumplings than I have ever eaten, and Super Friendly Chef guy kindly holds my arm and walks me out the front door.  He stands looking straight at me and carefully says “Thank You”.

No Super Friendly Chef guy, a huge “Shea Shea” to you and your caring staff.

I still think its because they thought I was Fabio.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Great Experience

Posted by She Said

I have to give Greg credit for being the geek he is. Before he makes a big purchase, he becomes an avid googler and reader. For example, before he buys a new computer or a new camera lens, he reads every possible review he can find on the web. I know this about him, and I know that the first 10 or so links he sends my way about this or that will not ultimately be what he buys. The process generally takes anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks. Well, unless we are in a hutong market and Greg sees a USB key. Then all rationality goes out the window. “But this one can’t be fake!” What’s that saying? Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on GREG? Ahem.

Greg’s meticulous process totally paid off for our family yesterday. We visited the Jinshanling section of The Great Wall. Having read every possible review of the various places to visit The Great Wall from Beijing, he decided this section was the place to go. His googling was spot on. He had read that this was the best place to go because it has recently received many renovations and because few people go there.  There is a tram you can ride up, or a very easy 20 minute walk up a new path. We walked the path because the tram was not working, which would have been fun for Braedyn and Emily, not to mention a little easier for the rest of us carrying their stuff and at times, them.

So we headed up the path with The Great Wall in our sites.

Path to Great Wall

Frank, a coworker of Greg’s, took us there, and what a gracious and kind tour guide he was. It was about a two-hour drive, and unlike the states where you pay a toll as you get onto a highway or cross a bridge, once you leave Beijing, you go through a toll booth where you are given a ticket and are charged when you get off of the highway. Each exit has a toll booth, so the longer you are on the highway, the greater the toll. All in all, the highway fees totaled about $20 US.

Given our experiences in crowded areas like Tiananmen Square, we absolutely cherished how alone we were. Except for the two women who accompanied us for the entire trip (with the hopes of selling us souvenirs), we only sporadically saw anyone else.


I am actually struggling to find the right words to tell of the power of this place. It’s magnificence and sheer size made me speechless and unbelievably happy to be there experiencing it. It was pure bliss.

The kids had a great time too, and Braedyn was quite an adventurer. In some places you could choose to go down very steep stairs and then back up another set of very steep stairs or take a short cut across a ledge built at the top. This next clip shows Frank helping Braedyn take one of these shortcuts. I’m also pretty sure this was the culprit for his nightmare later that night.

This next shot helps show just how high up they are. See Greg in the bottom right?


Here is everyone taking another one of these shortcuts, and even though heights and I are not even close to being BFFs, I actually went across this one too:


Some of the stairs were incredibly steep, but that didn’t deter Greg from climbing to the top of The Dark Tower, the last tower we visited. Being an avid Stephen King fan, there was no holding him back from visiting the place that shares the name of one of his favorite King series. Seriously, I’m certain he was imagining himself as Roland Deschain - chaps, gun, attitude – as he climbed The Dark Tower.

This next shot shows the stairs leading up to the top. Yes, there are itsy, bitsy stairs there.


Did I mention we were practically alone? I did? Hmmm… Well, here is some proof anyway.

_IGP7141 This next one is Frank holding Braedyn’s hand and Greg holding Emily’s hand.

_IGP7204I eventually caught up with them, but at the time I was hanging in the back talking with my new friend:

_IGP7202 Can you believe she is 61 years old? She didn’t speak English, and since I don’t speak Chinese, we did a lot of gesturing, and even though there was little we understood from each other, I found her to be a stunning person. She was stronger and more agile than anyone else I know that age. Hell, she is stronger and more agile than me! She not only followed us for our entire trip, she often flew down the steps the rest of us so slowly and carefully took, and she always offered her hand to help us if she thought we needed it. She even offered to carry Emily down some uber steep steps at times, to which we kindly declined.

The reason she and the other woman followed us for the hours we traversed The Wall was to widdle down our resolve and hope we would buy souvenirs from them instead of from one of the plethora of shops at the end of the path. After all, they were our personal guides, right? That was worth something, no? I was a little annoyed at first, but by the end, I really enjoyed this woman’s presence. I ended up buying a beautiful book from her about The Great Wall with gorgeous photographs that were taken by by a local farmer. I watched her dig out plastic bottles and aluminum cans from the garbage cans (interestingly designed to look like The Great Wall). Frank told me that she will receive 10 cents (RMB) for each, which I can see adding up over time. I had a lot of respect for her by the end of the trip for what seemed to me to be a hard life.

The other tag-along, although helpful with Emily at times, was rather pushy. She did tell me in fairly good English that she was from a “farmer family”, but that she climbed the wall every day as her second job to help make money. I begrudgingly bought some t-shirts from her at the very bottom of the path, just before she headed back up to start the trek over.

When I was little, my mom took several candid pictures of me during a temper tantrum. I was under the bar stools in my house in El Paso. I’m not sure why, but I always remember the detail in these photos. Non sequitur? I think not. If Emily is anything like me, she’ll feel lucky that her tantrum pictures were at this magnificent place.

Temper tantrum_IGP7125

Friday, April 16, 2010

They Better Love Me for This When They Grow Up

Posted by She Said

Today I took the kids to an enormous mall (seriously it HAS to rival Mall of America) that has one whole floor dedicated to all things kids.

  • Children’s clothing stores. Check.
  • Toy stores. Check.
  • Arcade. Check.
  • McDonald’s ice cream cones. Check.
  • Stage for kid’s shows. Check.
  • Place to fish for goldfish. Check.
  • Art area. Check.
  • Circus style trampoline thingy. Check.
  • Place to dig for dinosaur bones. Check.
  • Ball pit. Check.

And today,

  • Lady with microphone that won’t get out of Emily and Braedyn’s faces. Check.

In order to get to this mall, we have to take a taxi. The two times we have gone, getting there has been no problem at all. I show the driver the map of the mall, the driver nods, and then I struggle to keep my two children, two children without any kind of seatbelt restraints mind you, from keeping their hands and feet inside the ride at all times.

Getting home, well, that’s a whole other can of worms. The business card for the apartment/hotel we are in has a map on the back. A map that is COMPLETELY WORTHLESS. The first time getting home from this mall, I had to call one of Greg’s coworkers to direct the driver to our place. Today, we all hopped into the back of the taxi, and I handed the card to the driver. He looked at it intently and then shook his head no and pointed to the door. We hauled ourselves out of the back seat and hailed a different taxi. This time the driver looked at the card and then back at me, looked at the card again, and then shook his head. Of course, he also said something to me in Chinese. That helped. So, this time I pointed to the subway stop on the map that is closest to our house. He nodded, and we climbed in to the back seat. Each kid wants a window seat, so I am left sitting between them with a very clear view of our near-death experiences drive home. He took us to a subway station, not the one near our house that I pointed to on the map, but hey it was doable and we got home.

Anyway, back to the mall. First stop, circus style trampoline thingy. I was surprised that Emily wanted to try this and Braedyn didn’t. Of course, as soon as she was strapped in, he insisted on having his turn too.



Emily’s turn was shortened because she is so light, the guy working the circus trampoline thingy had to keep pulling the straps around her waist down. You know, kind of like a sling shot to make her fling up into the air. Let’s just say she wasn’t a fan and her turn was rather short at her own insistence.

Then came the excavation. The rather painful (for me) excavation. Braedyn saw a big sandy pit surrounded by glass cabinets displaying dinosaur bones. He was so excited to do a “real dig for bones” that I pulled out my handy iPhone and pulled up the phrase, “How much is this?” The guy held up 10 fingers. 10 yuan each? Hooray. Let’s do it. So I nodded for the kids to start digging:

P4150050And they dug.

P4150054And they dug.

And dug.

And dug.

And then the real mission started. Digging for the exact understanding of how this little mall attraction worked. Were they actually digging for the bones that were displayed in the cabinet? Did they even hide anything in that sand? Was I suppose to buy something first and have them put it in the sand for the kids to find? Where were they hiding the Candid Camera?

Sadly, my iPhone app does not have any of these as standard questions, so our “conversation” went something like this:

Me: <pointing at the dinosaur bone kits in the glass cabinet> Something in English? <pointing to the sand>

Him: <pointing to the cabinets> Something in Chinese.

Me: Uhhhhhhh……..

Him: Something else in Chinese. 

Me: Something in English. <desperately seeking for help on my iPhone app>

Him: Something in Chinese. <smile>

Me: Uhhhhhhh…… Due boo xia (phonetic Chinese for I’m sorry)

Him: Something in Chinese.

Then he ran off. I only hoped it was for some linguistic assistance. And then I saw the crowd of people watching us and the lovely spectacle that we had become.

As if riding a chariot led by two muscular white horses, a member of the property management team showed up with my mall attraction guy. Or should I say, a member of the property management team who also spoke English.

At this point, I felt really terrible for causing so much fuss. So far, I have been able to figure most things out using charade skills or my handy iPhone. This time was a total bust. The gentleman said hello and asked if he could be of assistance.

After I apologized profusely for creating such a scene, he explained that for 50 yuan each, the children could pick something out of the glass cabinets. I happily handed over my 100 yuan, the kids got their dinosaur bone puzzles, and I thanked him for his and the mall attraction guy’s kindness.

I still don’t know if they were actually supposed to find anything in the sand. I didn’t ask. I was just so happy to get the kids their dinosaur bones and hightail it out of there to the nearest place to order a drink.

Cappuccino for 10 yuan. Not quite what I had in mind, but it gave me enough energy for the next part of our outing – the hamster tunnel/zip line/slide/ball pit/lady with the mic part.

I bought the tickets for the kids to enter this play area, presumably to wear them out so much that putting them to bed by myself that night wouldn’t be an issue. Greg was going for his foot massage after work, and I was on my own. I wanted them TIRED.

And tired they were. Not necessarily from climbing up to the zip line or crawling through the hamster tunnels, but rather from running away from a woman who was intent on getting them to speak into her microphone. With music blaring loudly, she was teaching several children what I assumed to be traditional Chinese songs, accompanied by what I assumed to be traditional Chinese hand signals. That’s what she was doing until we walked in anyway. Once the kids stepped foot into the area, she stopped what she was doing and tried to get Braedyn and Emily to say their names into her mic. They were intent on the zip line and b-lined it there; so they were safe. For the moment.

The lady wanted to talk to them so badly, she followed them into the ball pit.


Emily bailed, so she cornered Braedyn.


The lady was very nice and enthusiastic, and I’m certain she thought the kids were having fun with her following them around. I can assure you though, they were not. The lady kept motioning for them to come out and dance with her. I called the kids over to me, and I smiled at them. Then through gritted teeth in a low voice so no one could hear me rock the group harmony going on, I said, “Get. Out. There. Now. Dance. One dance. Or I will take away your dinosaur bones.” I barely had the word bones hissed through my clenched teeth, and they were out there boogying.


I wasn’t trying to be mean to the kids by making them do something they didn’t want to do; I just figured she’d leave them alone if they did. Yeah, what the hell do I know.