珍珠奶茶 Milk Tea...

I have a new addiction! It goes by many names; 奶茶, Nai Cha, Bubble Tea, Milk Tea, Pearl Milk Tea. But, to me they all mean warm tasty goodness that I must have! Original bubble tea consists of black tea, large pearl tapioca, condensed milk, and honey. It is served hot in the winter and cool in the summer. While the original is my favorite, they also come in many fruit flavors. I have consumed one nearly every day this week and I plan to drink more. I even bought three packaged mixes, which come with their own disposable cup, so I can make them at my apartment. They cost about 3.5Y at my local store.

When you go out to buy them the prices vary considerably, from 7Y to 2.5Y. Happily, the place that sells the cheapest milk tea (as pictured above) is the closest to my apartment. It has a wonderful taste and the family who runs the store is very nice! I visit often! But, if you pay the higher prices you can get the tapioca balls stuffed with a filling. I’ve had this once and it is fun. They fillings come in chocolate (巧克力), red bean paste (紅豆), mung bean paste (綠豆), and peanut butter (花生) flavors. When you chew on the tapioca pearl you can taste the filling.


圣诞节和星巴克 Christmas and Starbucks...

Today I did not do much. Sort of hung out at the apartment, washed dishes, watched some Chinese dramas and some game shows. Then headed over to Roberts, our computer room at the Foreign Student Dorms, and checked my email. Plus, as an extra surprise I received my second package from my Mom!!!! In the first package she had actually included a tree and other gifts so I was excited to see what was in this package. This one was just as fun as the last and had 2 sets of thick sock, 2 books, Snickers(!!!) more Christmas gifts, and lots of Good Earth Tea! I'm really excited to use the socks since it is cold here and my apartment only has the one space heater I bought and the one air conditioning unit in my bedroom. It is really expensive to heat my room with the AC so I generally only heat it up before I want to go to bed and then turn it off once I’m under the covers. Anyway, I ate 3 Snickers right away (snack size, mind you) . They have Snickers here but they are lacking in peanuts! So, the ones my Mom sent are AMAZING!!!

Then I called Daniel to see what he was up to and he invited me to go downtown, Cheng Qi Lu. We went and he took me to a super expensive grocery store in the basement of a department store called Setan. Daniel thinks the name sounds like Satan so he thinks it’s funny we were is “Satan’s Basement”. They have a good selection of pastries; I bought 2 doughnuts. Plus, I also got a REALLY good ham and cheese sandwich for 8Y ($1.15). (Which I later realized they did not charge me for). Plus, they had some other good imports like cheap butter. Funny thing though, the salted butter was more expensive than the unsalted. Isn’t the opposite true in the States? Anyway, it was fun and I also got some fruit tea and ground pepper.

Then we headed over to one of the 4 Starbucks in the area (there are like 16 in Chengdu) and we played dominos and I had my first coffee in China. I got a Nut Toffee Latte. It was very good although a bit pricy at 32Y ($4.6) for their medium size. If you’re planning to set in the store with your coffee, it is served in a porcelain mug. Very fun! This was not my first visit to a Starbuck here or even my first purchase in one. However, I hadn’t bought coffee in China until then. We got comfy chairs because I forced us to move when a woman using 3 sofa seats left… they were nicer than the hard wooden seats ^_^
Also talked to Eddie and he said we could set up my internet tomorrow (Saturday) after I return from going to a garden with a Sichuan Grad student, Zhao Nan, who I’m working with on my research project.


宜家家居 IKEA ...

IKEA Buys!
Originally uploaded by Alexandra Lord
So my morning was pretty routine and rather boring. I went to class and then sat in Roberts and added to blog. Then I headed home to be lazy and watched some Korean dramas dubbed into Chinese. This is one of my new favorite passions. Every night I sit and do my homework while I watch these dramas in Chinese.
Finally, I did something productive and headed to to IKEA (Yi Jia Jia Ju) by taxi. The taxi driver was funny because he was chatting on his radio to all the other taxi drivers telling them where he was going and that a had a “Mei Mei Lao Wai”. This essentially means that he has a young foreign girl in the car. Funny things is that at first I mixed up the meaning of Mei Mei and thought he was calling me old. I was kind of offended (Mei Mei actually means younger sister but can be used to describe people’s ages.)

Anyway, I spent more than expected in both time and money at IKEA but, I think it is well worth the amount. I got a ton of items: Set of3 pots, 2 lids, cast iron frying pan, 5 piece spatula set, pitcher, 40 piece tuber ware set, squeegee, 2 pot brushes, 2 hot mitts, 3 large scented candles (2 apple cinnamon and 1 vanilla), 8 spice containers, 2 fleece blankets, dish drying rack, 2 shower curtains, shower curtain holders, duvet cover with 2 pillow cases. I’m most excited about my cast iron fry pan!!! It was only 70Y ($10).

On way home I had to take the free metro bus because no taxis were available. Apparently, you can take one there but they seldom come to IKEA to pick people up. But, this turned out great because I made the coolest new friend. Her name is Qian Wei (钱玮) and her English name is Claire. She is a ChuanDa student on the same campus as me in the school of Economics. We talked for a long time on the bus while we were waiting for it to leave (they only leave every hour) and then she invited me to dinner. We ended up having something similar to jiao zi (pot stickers) but boiled. Then she took me out for warm milk tea (the type with tapioca pearls). AMAZING!!! I don’t like it in the States where it is always served cold and in a variety of weird fruity flavors. Here, in the winter, it is served hot and in a standard original black tea flavor. (But of course there are other flavors available.)

We exchanged info and I’m excited to meet her again. I headed home, watched 3 ½ hours of Korean dramas dubbed into Chinese and then went to bed!


家乐福 Carrefour and more...

I went to Carrefour today with Daniel and SiYu!!! I ended up spending 600Y (about $100) but in my defense I bought a space heater (fan style), some more dishes, some western food, shower rod, silverware and more. Buying the space heater was complicated. Not only had I never bought one before, or for that matter, really used one before, but I was also, of course, dealing with the language barrier. But, with the help of about 4 store clerks, I eventually found heater I was happy with for about 120Y. In China buying appliances is made a little easier buy the fact that you can always try them out. Stores always have a test model available to experience. The first week I arrived in Chengdu, I bought my blow-dryer and I was able to try out like 6 different models. It’s very useful!

(All the new food from Carrefour)

After paying for all my items, of which I had a crap-load, we attempted to get a taxi…. Not the easiest thing in the world. All of the ones that went by were already occupied. Plus, we were competing against well seasoned and very experienced Chinese taxi goers. But, eventually Daniel got it done by sneaking in front of a Chinese lady and flagging down a rare empty taxi. That is how the game is played in China!!! We rock! Anyway, we all piled in and I tried not to poke anyone with my new mop or shower rod. ^_^

Chengdu, Bookworm Cafe!
Originally uploaded by Alexandra Lord

After dropping all my new goodies off at my apartment I went to the foreign student’s class building to pick up my bike. Then I plunked around on the computes at Robert’s r for a little bit. Since I don’t have internet yet in my new apartment it was a rare chance. I watched two episodes of Terminator and then sped off into the night!!! No just kidding, at around 7:30 I stopped by at the little store near my apartment and got mayo, oyster sauce, jam, and cornstarch plus a bag of Lays. Nice combination, right??? Then, I had to rush over to West Gate to meet the girls for “Girl’s Night” at the Bookworm.

Chengdu, Bookworm Cafe!
Originally uploaded by Alexandra Lord
The Bookworm is an expat oriented café/library. They have AMAZING CHEESECAKE and, for a fee, you can check out books from their English language library!!! I had not yet eaten dinner so I ordered a ham and cheese sandwich ,which came with a salad, and I also got a slice of cheesecake. It was a little expensive (by my Chinese dinner standards) but fun. It was actually the first salad I’ve had since coming to China! Later, I rode my bike home, put all the things I bought at Carrefour away in their temporary homes. Then, I went to Bed!!!


Crazy ATMs in China...

So, I’m finally done with the kitchen but I don’t have any food in the apartment and only 22Y to my name. So, I was desperate and needed to find money fast. By this point it was nearly 7:30 but I figured that HaoYouDou didn’t close until 10pm so everything would be fine. HaHa!!! Yeah right! I ended up needing to go to 9 different ATMs to find money!!!! YES 9!!! ATMs in China run out of money because there are so money people using them, but still, it is completely crazy to need to go to 9 different AMTs just to find one with money. As I had finished visiting my 6th ATM, I ran into Eddie. He could hardly believe my story. Finally, the Bank of Communications had money and I was able to take out the maximum 2000Y.

It was near 9pm when I finally crawled into HaoYouDou and struggled to buy all that I wanted…I spent 300Y. But, then on top of all the crap I had just been through, I realized, as I’m riding my bike home with 2 huge grocery bags hanging from the handlebars and 1 in the basket, that my bike is broken! Somehow, whatever holds the metal mud guard above the front wheel had broken!!! Eventually, I made it home and climbed the 7 flights of stairs with 4 bags! I ended up having a dinner of yogurt and 2 slices of bread with peanut butter. Then showered and immediately went to sleep!

白色的 White = the new color of my kitchen...

So today went relatively smoothly until later but I’ll save that story for later. As I told you before, my kitchen, although a great set up, was going to need some work. Today, after class, I stopped by at the local store. It is something between a 7-11 and a full blown grocery store. It has rice, the basic staples for flavoring food, cleaning supplies, drinks, snacks, some dishes, etc. I picked up a pair of gloves (which I bought at the last moment and they ended up being a lifesaver, of in this case, finger saver), stainless steel scrubber, dish soap, window cleaner and a heavy duty cleaner called Mr. Muscle. (I did not need a sponge since I’d found a new one left behind by the owners.) Now, let me tell you, Mr. Muscle is something amazing and yet at the same time you know that this is one of those chemicals that is definitely banned in the States. I personally think it could be the leading cause of China’s water pollution problems but I used it anyway. You can’t argue with results, at least not in China. (Just kidding^_^)

Anyway, after climbing my seven flights of stairs and eventually entering my apartment I looked at the kitchen and realized it was going to take much more than some elbow grease to get rid of the mess. (Which, ironically, was mostly grease (old, old grease)) Thank goodness for Mr. Muscle!!! You have to realize that this grease had been allowed to accumulate for years, collect dust and other grime and solidify. There were layers! To say that it was grows would be an understatement. In fact, I think to truly understand how disgusting grease like this is you have to experience cleaning it up.

So I got to work, at first bypassing the most difficult job, and headed straight to the sink and the surrounding walls. I put Mr. Muscle to the work and soon had the walls, sink, and rack/knife holder above the sink spick and span. After completing this task I glanced over at the stove top, contemplated starting that challenge and instead decided to start work on the spice rack and counter tops. I finished the spice rack and the underside of the above-sink-shelves. Then, I realized as I was working on the counters that even the countertop near the stovetop had a buildup of grime… not cool. At this point I figured out that my sponge just aint doing it so I finally pulled out the stainless steel scrubber and got to work. It worked like magic and with a little elbow grease and cut through the filth. Unfortunately, the countertops are some sort of black stone and it was difficult to see the grime so the going was slow.

Eventually, I finished and I had no other place to go and must start of the stovetop and nearby area… the next part of this story is not pretty so if you are a young impressionable child or like clean kitchens or maybe your just American; read at your own discretion! To this point had not taken a close look at this area so it came as a surprise when I realize that not only was there grease of the countertops but also the “backsplash” (piece of wood), the surrounding tiles (the worse was on the windowsill where the grease had accumulated so it looked like the tile was black), the window screen, the actual stovetop (movable), and even the countertop below the stovetop. I decided to start with small steps and just sprayed the area with a bunch of Mr. Muscle and then went to work on the wooden back splash. After I was done with that I figured it was time to really start and began to scrub the area with my stainless steel sponge… it did not really work. It the end I had to resort to using an old knife to scrape away huge chunks of fat from all the surfaces… it took awhile… Then I was able to begin using the metal sponge again.

After finally cleaning the surrounding are and the stovetop (which had grease on all sides but the bottom) and began work on the stove’s hood. The inside was also covered in grease but I got it done. To accomplish this job, though, I had to pull out my handy-dandy crank charging flashlight. It worked great and I was able to see what I was cleaning plus, I used it to look at the kitchen countertops and see any grease I had previously missed. Finally, I only had two chores left; cleaning the cabinet doors and scrubbing the floors. I started with the cabinets and, like my mother thought me, cleaned all sides till they shined or at least looked better. I had to continue to use the stainless steel scrubber because the sponge had gotten so bad at this point that I’d needed to through it out. Then I cleaned the floors. The center of the floor was relatively clean but the sides near the counters were actually black… not good so I sat down on a little stool and slowly worked my way around the floor scrubbing with a little scrub brush. It did not take too long and then I wiped it dry without bothering to remove the soap… that way I can use the same soap next time (^_^)

THEN, I WAS FINALLY DONE!!! Wait, actually no… … … While I had been cleaning the sink had accumulated a ton of grime… a ton! So I had to clean it and then I put a kettle of boiling water through the pipes. Should be good. In all, cleaning the kitchen took about 4 ½ hours. Now I just have to get to the bathroom, clean the fridge, do some laundry at some point, and wash the walls… just a little more…

Too bad I did not take pictures of the process but here is 1 before and a couple after photos!


我的洗澡是很舒服! My Shower is so comfortable!...

Bathroom = Heaven!
Originally uploaded by Alexandra Lord
I’m currently stretched out on my bed at my new apartment. My air conditioner’s heat is on high and I’m toasty. It feels amazing as my muscles slowly relax after my hot shower and I begin to get drowsy. That is one huge plus that I can add to the list of positive qualities my apartment possesses; a great shower. I can forgive the difficulties of getting the hot water running and having to cope with standing over a squat toilet while de-tangling my hair in view of the fact that, it was fucking incredible not to have to hold the damn shower head while I was trying to wash or deal with drainage problems. (Haha, my drain is actually my toilet) Mind-Blowing Amazing!!!

I spent the afternoon cleaning my apartment, which had already been “cleaned” the day before. In China, you find out pretty fast that “clean” does not have the same meaning as in the US. While I’m generally fine with that, it doesn’t fly in my apartment. So, I re-cleaned what had been cleaned and cleaned things which were overlooked. This includes that top of the microwave which was covered in a layer of grows slime and dust as well as behind both beds which, while appear new, had probably never been move after arriving in their current domicile. I have not bought cleaning supplies so I have not yet tackled the immense challenge of the kitchen but the owners were nice enough to leave behind a rag mop and broom (sans dust pan).

Actually, my landlords left behind a lot. Not only were the obvious like beds, couches, and tables furnished but they also left a few pots, pans, dishes, bedside table lamps and even extension plugs. It was really a wonderful surprise. Of course, some of the things left behind are useless including a pair of shower slippers, two toy assault guns, tons of old chop sticks, and a bunch of bottles of ink, plus more.

Anyway, after cleaning for a few hours SiYu was great and helped me move most of my things into my apartment. For the past week I have actually been staying in SiYu and Daniel’s guestroom. They live in the same complex as my old apartment and are also part of the University of Washington program. My new apartment is on the 7th floor in a building without an elevator so it was a big task to ask of him. But, like always, SiYu was more than willing to help out. We only had to make two trips (we walked it over) and on the 2nd trip my TA, Eddie, called and volunteered to help. After moving everything I took them both out to dinner. Dinner was only 35Y ($5) so I definitely still owe SiYu and Daniel for being such amazing sports about the whole situation