Living in the Moment; Being Thankful on Thanksgiving

DC Chinatown

A photo of DC’s Chinatown, the most contrived Chinatown I’ve seen


We’ve been back since June, and it feels like FOREVER ago that we were in China. Oh, how quickly we forget! My bank account, on the other hand, serves as a daily reminder that we’re back home.

It’s been interesting getting back into the swing of things back here in the states. Some expats joke about effects of counter-culture shock. When you’re so used to living abroad that things at home – the simplest things – make you feel like a fish out of water. For some people who have lived abroad for decades, it can be the simplest things: speaking English on a daily basis, not being the important American at the bar, or even street-crossing etiquette (ie; Americans’ adherence to it vs. South Asia’s disregard of it). Though it’s a bit on par with the whole “First World Problem” joke that’s been circling the web lately, there’s certainly some truth to it.

Beautiful Washington Monument

Something’s been on my mind a lot lately, and it’s spurred getting notes from friends abroad about their travels to exotic places. I find myself, suddenly, wishing I still lived in China, wishing I could be on vacation this Thanksgiving, and wishing I lived in a cheaper place so I could save more money to do more things.

This has been the hardest thing about coming back to the states from living abroad, when every second is a new moment and every location is exotic. It’s been hard to blog even, when there’s not a wrinkled street vendor selling steamed buns on every corner, or weird dried goods at the market. It’s been hard to find topics to write about when my days consist of writing at the computer and then working at the cheese shop and then watching a movie with the DiploMan.

But whoa, reality check – I shouldn’t need to be an expat living abroad to feel special or important or go on cool adventures or experience new things. We don’t need to pack up and travel and share photos of exotic beaches in order for our friends and family to think we’re important, or for me to feel accomplished for that matter. We don’t need to have mind-altering experiences in order to be creative, and we don’t have to fight a third culture in order to live in the moment and have new experiences.

Fall in DC

DC on a beautiful Fall day


And thus with a newfound spark, I’m off to New Orleans today to spend a lovely five days exploring lots of new things. First a Thanksgiving Feast tonight with some lovely ladies and gents, all whom love food. We’ve got lots planned for the menu, including a classic New Orleans-style oyster and cornbread stuffing. This weekend, we’ve got some city seein’ to do plus reservations at Root and Cochon.

I’m thankful for these new experiences at home, and thankful that I’ve got friends to share them with. Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are!!

Supermarket shock. English Muffins with Poached Egg and Chorizo.

You know you’ve been in China for too long when….

Living in China comes with its share of stories, jokes, and life lessons. Along with liberally spitting out the acronym TI(This Is China!), always said in part jest and part exasperation, the laowai (directly translated: Old Outsider. Basically, Chinese slang for any expat/foreigner) are always making comments about life in China. I mean, you know you’ve been in China for too long when….

How would one go about finishing this sentence? Well, for example, when…

…the sound of subway doors sliding open elicits a natural response to stick out your elbows.

…Tiger Beer no longer gives you nasty hangovers

…grunting is language. “mmn” becomes synonymous with “yes” and “unhh” synonymous with “sure“.

…every other sentence out of your mouth starts with the clause, bu hao yi si, 不好意思. Part “oh sorry!” and part “oops”, here in China it is used without any thought, and precedes just about any comment- a suggestion, a question, a snarky remark, and an insult. It works. bu hao yi si, can I interrupt? bu hao yi si, but I have to step on all ten of your toes to get bybu hao yi si, but your baby is uglybu hao yi si, can I borrow three hundred bucks? It’s basically the email smiley face emoticon of China.

…Privacy? What’s that?

…on a trip home to America, you notice people are staring at you inside of a Macy’s because you are yelling into your cell phone. No problem honey, I’ll pick up your diarrhea medicine on the way to dinner. What?!

…you drink hot water out of a tall glass as if it were lemonade.

…frozen burritos in the aisle of the supermarket causes heart palpitations from sheer excitement.

I could go on, but I think you get it.

That last one, the one with the burrito, actually happened the other day. The DiploMan and I were marveling at the wonders of a Western supermarket that had been open for awhile, but that we had only recently gotten across town to visit. ‘Western’ supermarket, as in, stocked predominantly with imported goods- Duncan Hines cake mix, a real deli counter with cold cuts and cheeses, dishwashing liquid, tampons, etc. I believe Barrett’s first words were in the canned food aisle,

“uuuhmagawd, they have different kinds of olives

I’m actually still not sure if this quote came as a question or an exclamation.

And later, when the Amy’s burritos appeared in misty cases of the freezer aisle, it sent shockwaves down our spines. I almost dropped the bag of King Arthur’s Flour in my hands.

Needless to say, we easily spent the 1000RMB necessary to obtain a frequent buyer card. After a long cab ride home spent chatting about Kettle Chips and Greek Yogurt, we got home and emptied our groceries onto the kitchen counter. In truth, our 1000RMB didn’t get us very far, especially in comparison to the measly 30RMB I spent at the wet market earlier in the week. So we’re combining some local goods- eggs, spinach, cilantro, onions, etc., and rationing our treasured goodies, devouring breakfasts such as the one below with poached egg, Thomas’ English Muffins, chorizo and greek yogurt.

We might just die when we see Whole Foods again.

Poached Eggs and Chorizo on English Muffins


  • 2/3 cup chorizo, diced into small cubes
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • a few sprigs of cilantro, leaves only, finely chopped
  • English Muffins
  • 2-4 eggs (depending on how hungry you are, or how many people you have)
  • 1 Tbsp. white distilled vinegar (for poaching eggs)
  • Greek Yogurt


  1. Saute onions on high for 3 minutes, add chorizo and saute for another two minutes. Add the remainder of the ingredients and turn down heat. Saute on med for another 5-7 minutes or until onions are thoroughly browned and chorizo is charred and crisp. Take off the burner and set aside.
  2. Toast English Muffins. Optional: Drizzle with olive oil or spread with butter.
  3. Poach Egg (see instructions below). Set the poached egg on top of one half of the English Muffin, and add a generous few spoonfuls of the chorizo-onion-tomato mixture over it and on the second half of the English Muffin. Top off with dollops of full-fat Greek yogurt.

yield: 2-3 servings

How to Poach An Egg:

  1. Crack each egg into one small prep bowl, one egg per bowl. In a small or medium saucepan, heat water to a boil. Add a teaspoon of white vinegar, and turn down heat to Medium.
  2. Lightly swirl the water with a fork, and drop one egg into the pan. Don’t touch it. After a minute, use a spatula or slotted spoon and make sure it hasn’t stuck to the bottom of the pan. Drop in a second egg at this time, if you dare.
  3. Let each egg cook for approx. 4 minutes. Or more, if you want the yolk to be slightly firmer.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, carefully fish the egg out of the water and set on a plate lined with paper towels. Carefully flip over to pat egg dry, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Carefully transfer to a plate. 
  5. Did I mention, to do all this carefully?

Dried Fish

Wow, I’m on a fish kick lately.

This is the last one for awhile, I promise.

I just couldn’t help but take a picture of this scene.  Where back at home we pickle and can and roast and smoke and cure to our hearts’ delights, here it seems that some take the DIY mentality to a whole new world.  Where some households have their underwear and bedsheets hanging on clothes hangers from their windowsill, this household has a few rows of fish tied up to dry.

I wish I was friends with this person.

Hello, China!

So, loyal readers (all ten of you)- You may have noticed a little change in the looks of my Peeps.  Whaddya think?!

I spent the first part of last week trying to figure out how to fluidly switch over from Blogger to WordPress, and then spent the latter half of the week not-so-fluidly making formatting corrections, CSS tweaks, loading (and unloading) plug-ins, and testing out dozens and dozens of themes.  Here, for better or worse, is the still-in-progress yet presentable blog.

Why the switch?  Well, most Americans in China subscribe to a VPN to get their fix of Facebook, YouTube, Hulu, and Google Reader- among hundreds of other sites not accessibile with the regular internet in China.  VPN for all you non-techies, is a subscription-based service which once loaded and keyed-in from a computer, allows a person to remotely log on from an American IP address.  Our VPN is hosted from a SF location, so we’re technologically close to home- it’s as if we connect and log-on via a router in San Francisco.  Anyway, VPN access, though amazing and inexpensive and easy to install, is just another step which slows down what is an already blazing-slow internet connection.  It’s really quite amazing.

As you’ve guessed, Blogspot (and subsequently all blogspot-hosted blogs) is blocked here in China.  Wordpress, surprisingly, has so far flown under the radar of silly government internet censorship rules, although me writing that probably doesn’t contribute much to keeping things under wraps.  Anyway, in an effort to reach my Chinese homies, I made the switch.  So really, whaddya think?!