Chinese school and Russian Soup

Kiska is learning Chinese in school, and seems to be adjusting pretty well. She brings home homework everyday of Chinese words (characters!) she has to practice writing. Basil is home with me, so he’s not having to learn any Chinese yet. We’re going to start looking for a kindergarden for him soon.

Our apartment building is on this large block. There are our five buildings (we’re in building number three), there’s a large garden and courtyard and two gates, then, once you walk out of the complex there are stores around the outside of the block as well. They include a furniture store, several convenience stores, an Internet cafe, hair dressers, restaurants, and, of course, Kiska’s school is on our block too. On the way back from Kiska’s school — a five minute walk — you pass by a restaurant, the hair dresser, the itnernet cafe, the convenience store, and the vegetable shop. The vegetable shop is really nice and I’ve been going in there every day. You can buy potatoes and cabbage for soup, and eggs and mayonnaise, and tomatoes and cucumbers and lots of different kinds of mushrooms. I’ve been cooking vegetable soup and frying potatoes and making tomato-cucumber salad. Yesterday, I cooked noodles that looked like spaghetti (and were very tasty) with spaghetti sauce. For breakfast everyday we have oatmeal, and sometimes I fry or boil eggs. Richard makes pancakes and bacon on weekends. WE DON’T EAT FROGS. 🙂

I’ve taken the kids to Kentucky Fried Chicken once (didn’t like it here) and to McDonalds twice (same as in US). We haven’t been to a Chinese restaurant yet! We keep planning to go, but something always comes up. Richard has bought things from Chinese restaurants and brought them home, however — mostly dumplings (like ravioli) and scallion pancakes. I don’t like the dumplings at all but he keeps buying them. Well, the kids like them.

We haven’t found sour cream here yet, which I miss to put in soup. I’m sure we will, I’ll keep looking. The yogurt here is very much like kefir. We buy it plain (which is sweet) and strawberry (which is also sweet). If it was like American yogurt, we could use it instead of sour cream, but it isn’t, so we can’t.

My back pain is almost all gone. (It took a while!) I’ve been doing back exercises every night to make sure it doesn’t come back. Richard bought a bicycle and rides back and forth to work at the Shanghai Daily. It takes him less time to go by bike than by taxi, he says.

It takes 16 yuan — $2 — to take a taxi to where Richard works. Other times, he walks or takes the subway.

I bought a laptop computer at a used computer shop, but am having problems with the operating system — it’s all in Chinese! A man will come tomorrow and install an English operating system on it. The man’s name is Silly Billy and he’s studying to be a doctor, and working as a computer doctor meanwhile. He’s pretty nice, but doesn’t speak much English. I don’t speak much Chinese, but we get along fine anyway.

Today, we went to Richard’s work and had some food in their cafeteria. Richard eats there every day because it’s very cheap. For the four of us, dinner cost only 10 yuan — just a little over a dollar. They have lots of different kind of food there, but I didn’t like most of it and was scared to eat a lot of it. But I guess you get used to it — Richard did, and likes it. He gets a certain amount of money that he can spend at the cafeteria and the grocery store in the building, and has to use it up. He usually buys milk and yogurt to bring home for the kids.

I’m starting to slowly get to know my way around. I met some of Richard’s friends. One, a German woman, was very nice, quiet and pretty. Another, was an outspoken Australian woman named Michelle. I like her a lot. Michelle is going to take me out shopping later on this week, show me the good parts of town. She also has books she will lend me to read. I have nothing to read, so I like her just for that alone!

Richard also has a friend named Seth, an American, who (like Michelle) is teaching English here. And I’ve met some of the guys he works with at the newspaper, who seem pretty nice. I’ve been in touch with the Russians here, but haven’t met any yet. Their next gettogether is in the middle of April. If I don’t find sour cream by then, I’ll ask them where to buy it!