Archive for October, 2013

All in the name of mint.

I spent the day driving from obscure little shop to even more obscure little shop, looking for mint flavouring for our daughter’s bake sale on Friday.  Guess what …. CHANGCHUN HAS NO MINT FLAVOURING! I also survived the ‘wild wild west’ driving attitude so popular here.  Got home and promptly bashed my toe against the table.  Yep, survived the roads but have trouble navigating my house …

Anyhooo. I tracked down the baking supply shop everyone told me about, just off the corner of Hongqi Jie and Chang’an Lu.  It is tiny but has a few odds and ends, but no mint.  Same goes for both the Walmart stores.

What Walmart did have was a small table stacked with Halloween decorations, masks and cheesy witches’ hats. The table was crowded by Chinese parents dressing their kids up in the masks, taking photos of them and putting it back on the table.  So I guess Halloween here is good enough for a photo op, but not good enough to spend money on. We’ll see if that changes over the next few years.

Westernisation (is that a word?) is however spreading fast and furious, as Changchun has just opened its third Starbucks. The chain is a favourite hangout for the hip & cool Chinese, and the bleary-eyed, caffeine deprived expats.

In the past week or so I also visited the old Flower Market (aka the Smoking Shopping Centre), saw some naked frogs, had a 2-hour full-body massage and facial for RMB220 (ridiculously cheap), had the best Chinese food in an absolute dive of a place and took a scenic drive to a hill that will soon be a ski slope.

Here are a few more Changchun snapshots. Stay tuned!

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Cheerio Ms Sophie!

We went to dinner at a Chinese Restaurant on Saturday with a group of my husband’s colleagues. Don’t know if I’ll be able to find it again without help from our trusty gps lady, but the company was fun and the food great. I was the designated driver for the evening, so I nursed my Pepsi and giggled while everyone else liberally partook of the local beer and báijiǔ – a clear Chinese alcohol that kicks like a mule and could keep a plane running.  If anyone ever offers you some báijiǔ, tell them you’re allergic to alcohol, you can thank me later.

I’ve been asking around if Changchun has a signature dish, but it seems as if the food here is mostly a mixture of dishes you’d find anywhere else in China, with an emphasis on hot, hearty soups and lots of meat – perfect for the cold winters.

Favourites of the evening were the crumbed pork with a sweet and sour sauce (Guao ba rou), as well as a steamed bun that you could fill with a chilli beef and potato mixture.  I passed on the chilli frog stew and pork trotters though. With so much food on the table, there could never be a good enough reason to eat frogs or pork feet.

I knew it was time to drag the revellers home when the mostly German crowd started toasting each other with full glasses of báijiǔ and loud shouts of ‘Cheerio Ms Sophie!’ and ‘Same procedure as last year!’  Nex time, my husband can drive.

Cheerio Ms Sophie!

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We are here.

And the ‘here’ is Changchun, China.  They say it is not the end of the world, but you can see it from here. Siberia and North Korea are a hop, skip and a jump away, summers are short and winters brutal (yet to be experienced).

All of these factors should surely be enough to prevent any reasonably sane person from coming to live here, so yes, you guessed it … we probably are not reasonably sane.

So far, this little city has revealed itself to be friendly, helpful and filled with people who will try their best to understand your meagre Mandarin and obscure hand gestures.

The boxes are unpacked, the cats and kids have settled, the husband has started work … so lets see where this journey will take us. Hold thumbs, I might just be able to start writing and blogging again.

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