Sunday, August 29, 2010

Exercise Accountability!

OK ladies. I'm bringing this to the blog because I need some sort of accountability in order to get myself back into working out! I used to work out so much, and I loved it... the hobby itself, and the way I felt both physically and mentally. Fitness has pretty much always been a major part of my life. But, since moving to China (4 months ago!), I've become majorly lazy on the working out front, and I have no excuse. My gym is in the next building. It's so convenient. There is no reason I shouldn't be working out 5 days a week.

But, as I am sure you all know, once you stop working out and get into the lazy routine of being a total bum, its really hard to get out of the habit! so I decided to bring this to the blog with the hope that just having other people KNOW about it will help motivate me to get into the habit of working out again.

I have decided to start working out Monday through Friday. Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays I will lift weights, and Tuesdays and Thursdays I will do cardio and pilates.

I'm thinking that I will do some sort of check-in at the end of the week so everyone will know how I did.

If anyone else wants to participate, let me know and we can hopefully serve as a source of motivation for each other! And anyone with any tips & tricks for getting motivated... please share!

....they say it takes 20-something days to form a habit, right? Let's put that theory to the test.


Monday, August 23, 2010

I'm not going to lie....

I totally went back to Beijing.

After Ningxia Province, we still had about 2 more weeks of travel ahead of us... lots of planes... lots of trains... and lots of buses. And after a 3-day migraine that wouldn't go away, I decided to head back to Beijing by myself. It was the right decision for me. I think its important to stay true to who you are. "The more you know who you are and what you want, the less you let things upset you."

I was forced to be alone in Beijing by myself, and that was so great for me! I went out with friends, I took cabs, I rode the subway, I walked around the city alone. I went to the haggle markets, I sat in parks and read, I cooked my own food, and I went to the train station several times to buy train tickets for friends that don't speak any Mandarin. I also bought train tickets for this week, when the husband and I head to Shandong province for the Qingdao Beer Festival (I'm really going to see European-influenced Qingdao, and you know this South Florida girl needs a glimpse of the ocean... though I know it won't be anything like my beautiful beaches at home!).

So, even though I didn't continue on the amazing Silk Road trip, this IS a China blog and I still want to share some of the amazing pictures my husband took along the Old Silk Road. I really wanted to share the photos not only because of how wonderful they are, but because the geographic features of China are so diverse - as are China's minority groups - and I think these photos really show that. If anyone has any questions about logistics, recommendations, etc., let me know: I have access to my wonderful husband who would love nothing more than to talk about traveling around China with other people.

Turpan, Xinjiang Province. Turpan is one of the hottest cities in China, and is known for its grapes. Grape trellises are everywhere in the city, and help to keep it cool.

Jiaohe Ruins, just outside of Turpan

At the Sunday Market in Kashgar. Amazing that this is China, right? Many Muslims live in Xinjiang Province, and as you can tell, even their physical features are strikingly different from typical Han Chinese.

Can you picture me here? .... I can't, either.

A mausoleum in Kashgar

A look into Old Kashgar. I love this shot.... what a great photo my husband took!

The kids tie a watermelon shell to the end of this tape and swing it around as a game.

Along the Karakoram Highway, which connects China and Pakistan

No longer in Xinjiang Province. This is now Dunhuang, Gansu Province

I hope you enjoyed a look into the far corners of the world!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Did she just say that?!"

And a random photo taken from The Great Wall - to pretty things up a bit

I think one of the many cultural/social differences that is really obvious to me, as an American living here in China, is the Chinese tradition of BEING BLUNT.

In the U.S., its just not socially acceptable to tell someone they are fat or they eat too much or they have a big nose or they look as if they haven't slept in days. Those are things people may think, but for the most part, remain left unsaid. If someone were to point out these less than desirable characteristics, we would think that person was being rude or too judgmental or in some cases, just plain nasty.

In China, pointing out things like this is the norm and for the most part its not intended to be rude. I think to them, its very black and white... its just a fact: the sky is blue, the grass is green, the sun rises in the east, you have a big nose and you need to tone your arms. Fact. And what's the problem with reporting facts?

I was at the gym today, speaking with one of the Chinese trainers I had met the last time I went to the gym. She is thrilled I can speak Chinese and enjoys chatting with me - and I like her, too! But, today, she confessed that last time when I told her I was an American, she was really surprised because according to her, I look French. Yes. Apparently French people have big noses like mine. I smiled and told her no, I am American, but my dad is Italian. That made much more sense to her - apparently Italians tend to have big schnozzes too! I didn't explain to her that if she thinks my nose is big now, she should have seen it before my nose job! (I don't think that would have translated well!) Luckily, I am no longer a 15 year old girl self-conscious about my nose. Besides, supposedly, Chinese people think a big nose (they actually don't use the word for big, they use the word for tall) is attractive. Hmm.

As I continued on with my work out, I saw her walk over to a perfectly fit girl who had a little extra junk in the trunk. She points at her. "You. You use this machine. You need to lose fat here" (points to the girl's bum). I see the girl nod "yes, yes I need to lose weight in this area" (refers to her bum).

Next, she walks over to a plump lady. "You. too much food." The lady, "yes, I know, I bake too much." The trainer "you like to eat cake and sweets. Don't eat so often."

And I'm over in my corner, doing bicep curls (you know, to tone my arms) and smiling, because its so typical and sort of funny and I am really hoping the two ladies who just endured "the truth" understand she isn't trying to be rude.

The moral of this story? Don't ever ask a Chinese person if you look fat unless you want to know if you look fat! And if you plan on coming to China - toughen up a little bit, first!

With all this said - if you are not an American, what is the standard in your country for this sort of thing? Do you tend to blurt out the truth in this blunt fashion? Or is it like in America where we try not to acknowledge these things, unless we are asked (and make sure 500 times that the person really wants to know)?


Friday, August 13, 2010

HELP me decide! What cooking class should I take next?

I'm completely indecisive and need help deciding! In case you are wondering - pork is the meat of choice in China, and "fragrant fish" actually has nothing to do with fish (doesn't use, taste or smell like fish) and is completely delicious. Also, I love eggplant & spinach... (just for reference). I want to use what I learn in class in my own kitchen!


stir fry pork
braise chicken with mushroom
Fish fragrant pork (stir fry pork with chili) (hot)
Stirfry pork with garlic shoot/celery…
Three treasures (braise potato, eggplant and green pepper)


Braise pork rib with soy sauce and sugar
Black pepper beef
Stir fry beef with chili pepper (hot)
Fish fragrant eggplant (braise eggplant with chili) (hot)
Stirfry spinach with garlic

(Dim Sum)

barbecued pork ( char siu)
steam bun in two filling ( char siu and fresh meat )
Wonton and soup


Braise beef with bamboo shoot/white radish
Dry stirfry chicken (hot)
Dry stirfry beef (hot)
Mapo doufu ( numb and hot)
Blunch vegetable ***I don't know what this is, I just copied and pasted... lol**



Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hello from Ningxia!

Hi everyone! Right now we are in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, exploring this area before we set off to explore certain stops along the Old Silk Road.

These are the Xia Tombs about an hour outside of Yinchuan City.

A cool scarecrow my husband insisted I post

The husband stumbled upon a traditional "miaohui" in one of the rural farming villages ... in the past they were used as markets where people came to trade goods, but now they are primarily used as social gatherings (according to our driver). This "fair" only occurs once each year so everyone was lucky to stumble upon it. At this fair they had different types of performances. This lady in the picture below was really happy and, in English, I think the word DIVA describes her! She demanded her photo be taken!

We are having a complete blast and are looking forward to our next destination!


Friday, August 6, 2010

Completely amazing nonfiction: Into Thin Air, by John Krakauer

(This ties into China, people! Just by fact of geography:))

I've been reading lately... reading a lot. I've loved to read ever since I was old enough TO read, but while I was intensively studying Chinese for almost a year and a half at a really strict school, my recreational reading of English books was put on hold. Since I've been in China, I feel like I've been trying to make up for lost time, because reading has again become one of my favorite hobbies!

Now, I know I've mentioned in the past that I am a complete girly girl - and while I love the great outdoors, I mostly prefer to look at it from the beautiful window of a plush hotel... so, you can imagine, I'm really not into mountain climbing. In fact, I have no desire to do it, and I've never really climbed any sort of real mountain or have done anything I consider to be serious hiking.

This is precisely why its nothing short of amazing that I decided to pick up John Krakauer's non-fiction, eyewitness account of the 1996 Everest Disaster - something I admittedly only became aware of about a month or so ago when my husband was watching the movie on HBO. After someone mentioned it on a book message board I frequent, I began to research the event online and instantly became fascinated with the story. I also have the opportunity next year to go to Tibet and see Everest for myself, which I think played a role in why I picked up this book.

I read Into Thin Air last week, picked it up on Tuesday and finished by Thursday. When I wasn't reading, I was wondering what was happening on the mountain, and when I fell asleep, dreams about Everest plagued me for days. I "googled imaged" the different places Krakauer mentions in the book - I wanted a visual of what he was talking about.

The book, in short, is amazing... suspenseful... harrowing... tragic. Its completely mind boggling to imagine anyone can climb that mountain, just a few thousand feet below the altitude at which airplanes fly, let alone survive in those elements under extremely poor circumstances.

Pick this up. Trust me. I am traditionally a fiction girl, but occasionally read nonfiction when it's worth it... this, my friends, is worth it.

Its available here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Inner Mongolia: Mongolia it is not!

A couple weeks ago we traveled to Inner Mongolia. Quick geography lesson - Inner Mongolia is a province of China, but Mongolia is its own country. My other posts about Mongolia and the Nadaam Festival were about the country of Mongolia - but just a couple weeks ago, we returned from a trip to Inner Mongolia, a Chinese province.

I think the biggest reason we went was so that we could 1. check Inner Mongolia off our "Chinese provinces I've been to" list (which will be totally checked off by the time we leave China), and 2. so that we could compare the province to the country of Mongolia.

In my opinion, Inner Mongolia is pretty much just another Chinese province. A couple differences: the roads in Mongolia were really rough, infrastructure was undeveloped, whereas in Inner Mongolia, the roads and infrastructure are typical of a developing & advancing China - awesome. Also, the nomadic culture is still very much alive in the country of Mongolia, whereas in Inner Mongolia, everything about the nomadic culture is more a remnant of the past, but is kept alive through tourism and giving us tourists what we want. People who stayed in yurts in Inner Mongolia stayed in a cement-bottomed yurt while the "nomadic family" lived in their concrete house that was behind the yurt. With that said - we didn't go to the best area of the province to see traditional nomadic culture, and the tourist-centric grassland & "nomad experience" was very unauthentic. However, the grasslands around Hailai'er and Xilinhot are supposed to be better.

The really dry "grasslands"... more like a desert, this year!

Majorly touristy yurts...

Something great that came out of the experience... we met a family, chatted with them all day, and they invited us to their home in Anhui Province! We are going to visit in September, when the husband's parents visit. We plan to see Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) in Anhui Province, and now we have some friends to show us around. (How lucky are we that this sort of thing seems to happen to us everywhere we go?! What can I say - Chinese people are usually really impressed when two white Americans can speak their language!)

The Zhang family, and my husband

In my opinion - if you want a true Mongolian experience, I'd head to the country of Mongolia where the nomad lifestyle is still very much alive and authentic.

The most interesting thing, I think, about the provincial capital of Hohhot is the unique architecture remnant of the Middle East. Hohhot does have a large Muslim population & one of the main attractions is a mosque. Unfortunately I had a dress on and was unable to enter.... the man also shooed us away and told us not to take pictures.

The Mosque

A Buddhist ceremony-thing we stumbled on in the streets

The White Tower

We took a cab out to the white tower... its actually out a-ways from the city.... on the way my husband assured me it would be easy to find cabs out there, because it is a major tourist spot. Unfortunately, we arrived & realized we were the only people there visiting the tower! We wanted to stay but knew it would be impossible to find a cab way out where we were... and our cab driver was getting off work. SO, he gave us TEN minutes to visit the tower, and if we weren't back then, he'd leave us. So, we hauled butt, took a few pics, and left.

These next pictures were taken of or around the 5 Pagoda Temple in Hohhot.

Unrecycling! HAHA!

Well thats about it for Inner Mongolia. I have to say, one thing that was really obvious was the staring. Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, is definitely the place we have been stared at the most during our travels. Adults and children alike would stare at us, often times open-mouthed, or to the dismay of other bike riders as they actually stopped looking where they were riding so they could turn their entire bodies to stare at us as they rode past! Besides on the flight over, we didn't see any other Westerners the entire time we were in Inner Mongolia!

In just a few days we are off on another trip, this time a 15 night trip out to a place that is famous for being the farthest point away from the ocean in the entire world. We are going through several areas and small towns, so internet will probably be sporadic, but I'll post if I can!