Monthly Archives: November 2005

The Hidden Dangers of Mac & Cheese

The Hidden Dangers of Mac & Cheese

By Friday night, things were looking good. Bedroom was all set up. It was the weekend, so John and I figured we’d try a night on the town. We hit KABB, an American bar and bistro in the trendy XinTianDi (I had a BOGO coupon!). John likes their burgers and burritos, but the problem with KABB is that despite offering American fare, nothing on their menu ever appeals to me. Even the mac and cheese sounds odd– onions in mac and cheese? Ah well, who messes up mac and cheese? Little did I know, eating just a half serving of that slop would plunge me into the throws of hell. After the meal, my tummy started gurgling. We headed straight home. Saturday, tummy was messed up all day. We went around town on Furby running errands. The sun was out, and it was a good day to be outside. By evening though, I started feeling a chill. From then on, I was a goner– bedridden the next two days, except for trips to the bathroom. I had a really high fever and couldn’t eat anything. It’s Tuesday and I’m feeling much better today. Thankfully, my illness wasn’t avian flu! I would like to give special thanks to John, my dear, dedicated caretaker. He takes care of me even when I make the whole room smell like an old person.

Turkey Day

Turkey Day

Someone, on Thanksgiving day, decided he wanted to get new bedroom furniture on his day off. We’ve had this super el-cheapo closet since the day we moved in. And about ten days later, the drawers collapsed. Basically, the particle board crumpled around the fittings. I now pull the drawers out with pink plastic string gift-wrapped around each unit. Ugly as hell, but useful. Well every now in then, when he sees my contraption in action, John gets pissed off. So Thursday, he decided it was time for new drawers. Yay. Headed to Ikea and bought a dresser and a highboy. Now, Ikea is all about DIY furniture, so when the salesperson said it would cost 4% of the total bill to assemble this shit in my apartment, I sort of huffed in disbelief. 100 RMB (12 USD) for assembly? Hah, I’ll do it myself! How hard can it be? See what China does to you? You begin to value 100 RMB like it’s 100 USD. It totally warps your concept of what things are worth. So we get the heavy-ass shipment home, unpack all the pieces, and the entire dining/living room is cluttered with wooden planks, cardboard, wooden pegs, hundreds of screws. Sigh. What have I done? Plus, John’s really bad with directions: in other words, he refuses to read them! If he were to assemble the furniture, the drawers would surely be upside down! He still helped though. I played surgeon, and he played assistant. Screwdriver! Check. Wooden pegs! Check. He handed me tools, held up parts, hammered some pieces. We started before the buffet and I finished afterwards. With OCD, everything is an urgent matter. Oh well, was a good way to work off some of that meal!

Speaking of the feast, the Hilton’s turkey day buffet was grand. I ate my happy little heart out. My only regret is that I didn’t save enough room for dessert. Kinda OD’d on the turkey and cranberry sauce and then had no choice but to let the chocolate crepes, raspberry black forest cake, chocolate lollipops, and several slices of spiced pumpkin pie slide by untouched. Lucky for John, he employed the correct strategy. Skimp on the main foods and binge at the dessert table. He put away so many chocolate crepes, man, I started feeling ill just watching him scarf it all down. That night my tummy was so full, I was writhing in pain. I’d never felt so much pain from overeating since that time in Raleigh when John dared me to finish his a tray of homemade bread pudding. When John dares me, I immediately go insane. So, I shoved in FIVE bread puddings. Ingesting them was the easy part, but ten minutes later, I probably had a pound of bread expanded in my belly. I ended up rolling around moaning and groaning all night. We seriously considered going to the hospital. Yeah, it was an asinine thing to do. But you see, that’s my fix. No smokes, no drugs, little to zip alcohol. On occasion, I just indulge to the point of food coma.

Gobble, Gobble!

Gobble, Gobble!

For someone without a full-time job, I certainly keep my Outlook calendar packed. My god. So, last Saturday was the Hu & Hu event slash book swap. Was a major disappointment. Part of the problem was I set my expectations too high. I get burned every time that way. Saturday morning, I got up super early and headed way out west to the boondocks to set up my AAF table at essentially what was this huge antique warehouse (in other words, the place was FREEZING cold). Took craploads of animal paraphernalia– t-shirts, scarves, holiday cards, postcards, stuffed animals, keychains, plus tons of brochures. How many items did I sell? Three. Yup, for 5 frickin’ hours! Total money raised? 300 RMB. See what I mean? Totally depressing. Clearly, I lack the skills and charm of a salesperson.

Meanwhile, turnout was HUGE. Conceptually, the holiday bazaar was a promising idea. I appreciated that charities were given free tables at a high-throughput event. Unfortunately though, the shoppers were no games. They were on a serious mission to buy shit. Shit for themselves and shit for gifts. No time to hear about poor, abused moon bears and domestic animals. Sure, there were some pretty Chinese silk purses, cute teddy bears, yummy-smelling candles… very nice retail items indeed, but come on: this is China. Who pays 200 RMB for a silk bag? 50 RMB is already above market value! Ah well, who can dictate where people choose to drop their dough. Needless to say, I headed home with a trunkful of AAF goods. And in many ways, I doubt I’ll have better luck offloading the stuff elsewhere– after all, like I said, this is China. Who’s gonna buy an AAF shirt or stuffed animal for 100 RMB? It’s just not a realistic expectation. I’ll likely have better luck convincing people to donate to a good cause and just not get anything back other than good karma.

The trials of my nonprofit world continue. Mind you, all my classes were canceled this week. Still, I’m exhausted. Monday, I headed to the office for a LifeLine staff meeting. Got all caught up on our happenings. Donated computers work most of the time. Sometimes, we get a dangerous message of doom and gloom: no operating system found! Ah well, restart the PC with your fingers crossed, back up files, and carry on! Also, our fundraising event (a fun city-wide scavenger hunt called Quest) slated for Saturday was canceled due to lack of interest. Not enough tickets sold. Take that off the damn homepage! Tuesday, picked up some organization brochures and holiday calendars to distribute and sell for Second Chance Animal Aid. Prepped for a class that would later get canceled (typical short- to zippo- notice). Wednesday, got my ass up early to set up yet another table for AAF. This time in SOGO (aka Jiu3 Guan1), the swanky, high-end mall next to Jing An Temple. I’ve actually never been above basement level (where there’s a nice supermarket). The stores are too high brow for a low-life like me. But at least now I have the transport of AAF goods down. John came up with the brilliant idea of stuffing everything into a little rolly suitcase. I did that this morning, and it was so much better than lugging five million plastic bags around. Given the high sales today (one scarf to Susie, who volunteered with me), I’m thinking I can empty out the suitcase and just cram it full of brochures. Screw selling items, man. No one’s buying anything. By the way, any readers out there want to buy? I know I’ve made the goods sound soooo enticing!! Ok, excuse the sarcasm and bad attitude. Actually, I like the shirts and holiday cards. I’m just not convinced that’s how I would want to support AAF and its programs. I prefer the “less is more” philosophy (excluding computers/tech gadgets, of course), which reminds me: check out the Center for the New American Dream. Some interesting things to consider, especially during the holiday season. But I digress: back to the tabling today. Although the event was nicely organized, turnout was low– in part because it was a weekday and also because SOGO is a pricey mall that just doesn’t get much traffic. I’m going back tomorrow for another good beating. Then, I’m gearing up full force for some massive sales/fundraising action on Saturday and Sunday. Hopefully, there will be bigger crowds then.

Regardless, I’ll be in high spirits following my monstrous Thanksgiving bingefest. I know, all this talk about minimalism and low-key lifestyle, blah, blah. Well sorry, I LOVE Thanksgiving food. When I strayed from vegetarianism, poultry was the first thing to give. Specifically because I had to have turkey. In China, people don’t eat turkey– they consider the bird too big and the meat too dry. So it’s only available when Thanksgiving rolls around. That’s when I have to go all out. And I’m not just talking a plate of Turkey and cranberry sauce. When I say “all out,” I mean a serious big-hotel holiday spread with the 25-lb bird, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and every possible kind of pie ever known to humankind. Yesiree, you heard right: Thanksgiving ain’t no meal for the weight-conscious. It’s a full-on attack. My mouth has been watering for weeks now in anticipation of turkey-day. And finally, tomorrow is the day. Thank goodness class is canceled. John’s gonna have to plop me into a wheelbarrel and roll me home. Can’t wait to ride out the food coma stretched out on my space-foam mattress topper with the little space heater churning away! Man, life is grand!




John and I are on a new mission. The goal is to get new glamour shots taken this April for our third wedding anniversary. We got our first ones done in September 2003, when we traveled to Taiwan a few months after our wedding. I went through the whole thing kicking and screaming (it was my mother’s idea), but of course in the end, we were glad we did them. In fact, the pictures turned out better than our actual wedding photos, and the cost was reasonable. As with most services, the cost is super cheap in Shanghai so why not go for the repeat? This time, we’re aiming for a different look, namely different hairstyles (both of us short) and new and improved physiques (at least that’s the plan). So we’ve started the preparations now.

One component involves going to the gym. No matter how you dice it, I hate cardio. Weights are tolerable, but running sucks. I don’t know how I ever ran track in high school. Running outside gives me serious shin splints (thanks to track). Indoors, I just find it plain boring. As part of a larger activity (for example, basketball), running makes a little more sense. Nonetheless, I can pull some other excuse out of my ass for not playing b-ball in Shanghai.

Weights are easy enough, but my arms have this strange tendency to bulk even when I do low weights and high reps. In high school, my friend Jill always called me crab arms or crab lady. At least my other friends tried to be somewhat flattering: they nicknamed me Hercules. Either way, no slender Jennifer Garner arms for me. I probably just have to ask a trainer or something. Eh, too much work. I’ll continue with my self-styled workout and hope for the best.

So the gym is a disturbing experience. I can’t recall if I wrote about this before… Now before I continue, let me first put this out there: I’m an American prude. Yes, I’m feminist and I fully agree that people should embrace their sexuality. Still, I grew up in a conservative household. To give you a sense of how big of a ninny I used to be, imagine this: I didn’t wear v-necks until college. Why? Because I felt the collar was too revealing. Yes. That was me then. Of course, college was a real eye-opener. That’s where the metamorphasis happened. I emerged, well at least by Duke standards, a liberal. And today, I’m way father left of that. In spite of all this progress, I still have some hangups. Sorry, but when surrounded by a bunch of buck-naked bodies in the locker room, I get uncomfortable. It’s not like I feel threatened or that I’m homophobic: I just think the nudity is gratuitous. I dunno. I’m still trying to pinpoint why their nakedness freaks me out. Needless to say, I’m probably the only one in there who undresses and dresses in the shower stall. Everyone else strips at the locker before heading in.

So this morning, I had an incident. There I was undressing, trying to hurry as much as possible (John says I take too long), when suddenly, my shower curtain was pulled back. Rather than yanking the curtain back immediately, the lady just stood there apologizing profusely. As if eye contact were necessary! I played it cool (at least I thought I did), but inside, I was thinking, “yeah, ok ok. Can you just turn around and leave?!” Then later, as I was blow drying my hair, I saw this lady in the buff lounging on a fold-up lawn chair eating an apple. Huh?? Am I the only one who finds this bizarre? Yeah, I know. I’m uptight. I’m working on it, but still!!!

Hu & Hu’s Annual Charity Christmas Bazaar

Hu & Hu’s Annual Charity Christmas Bazaar

Hey all, a quick announcement (as posted on

Hu & Hu’s Annual Charity Christmas Bazaar

For those of you who don’t know, this is one of Shanghai’s greatest annual community gatherings, incorporating OVER 50 VENDORS with quality hand-crafted gifts, jewelry, knitwear, home decór artwork, and more. PLUS about 10 worthy charities like Shanghai Sunrise, Lifeline, and others. There is also a great book swap where you can donate books you no longer need, and buy new ones for just 10 RMB each.

There will be food from Moon River Diner, Bastiaan Bakery, Dragon Bar and Cafee Molinari

And of course a big raffle where you can win really nice prizes from some of the vendors in attendance.

When: November 19,10:00-17:00
Where: Hu & Hu Antiques
1685 WuZhong Lu (near Hong Jing Lu)
Tel: 3431-1212

I’ll be there tabling for the Animals Asia Foundation. Anyone wanna help? Please email me if you’re interested. We’ll be handing out brochures about our popular programs (including the China Moon Bear Rescue, Dr. Dog, and Professor Paws) and also be selling t-shirts, scarves, and holiday cards.

If neither antiques nor charities interest you, at least swing by for the book swap. 10 RMB/book. Can’t beat that!

I have issues

I have issues

I apologize. In my last post, I told you to “stay tuned,” because I thought I’d have a slew of posts in the offing… then, I got lazy. Sorry.

John and I are finally back in Shanghai. We’re on day 2 and doing surprisingly well, adjusting from the jetlag. Getting up a tad early (5ish) but chugging along during the day. I’ve had some disturbing dreams lately. In one, I met up with my childhood friend Tricia in the States only to discover she was fully literate in Chinese! While I was in Shanghai doing my China stint, Mandarin had become a compulsory language in the US educational system! Ha, ha. My friend was showing me up big time, reading me her term paper and shit. Thankfully, it was just a dream.

My second dream was intense but in a life-threatening sort of way. Some bad guy was after me and my friends. We were like crawling around in the ventilation ducts trying to escape. Yeah, it was very scary. Luckily, I didn’t wet the bed!

So ANYway, the US trip finished up all right. Visited my parents, my FMF peeps on the East coast. In week 3 on the West coast, we met up with my high school friend Jill and her dude Morgan. Had a good time with them in San Jose. Of course, afterwards, John and I felt like unhealthy slobs…

Speaking of which, I returned to Shanghai about 5 lbs heavier. Poor John: his company really did him in. Can you believe the employees get a daily assortment of doughnuts and pastries for breakfast? In addition, the firm caters lunch AND keeps a fully stocked snack cabinet. No frickin’ wonder, ya know? I won’t give exact numbers, but let’s just say double digits. Yeah, in three weeks. No worries though. John’s been on this roller coaster ride before. In one month, he’ll trim down again. He’s a trooper that way. Then, it’ll be time for another business trip to CA. The epitome of a healthy lifestyle, I tell you.

Frankly, this last week has been very emotionally draining for John and me. His company offered him a promotion into management… with the expectation that he/we be moved to CA and ready to go in four weeks. Yup. Always on the tight schedule. We seriously considered the opportunity, but in the end, we decided against it. Mostly, the timing just wasn’t right. So all you people out there wanting to visit, you just got a second chance. 🙂

We’re relieved the decision is over. “Indecision 2005” was not fun. Of course, I’m sure will face a similar life crises soon enough. We’re emotionally messy that way.

So, new stuff on tap this week. I’m very excited to get back to work. I have a couple of new teaching prospects– might be nice to change things up a bit. Don’t ask about Animals Asia, man. Bad news. My visa application is on hold indefinitely due to continued infighting at the Chengdu visa office. You’d think there would be SOME way around all this. Not so, I’m told.

Oh, almost forgot. Time for another respite from Ebay, man. Been burned way too many times. In my young life, I’ve already encountered two nasty beotches and an oddly tacit nonpayer. This last trip to the US, I had to take this crap up another level. Yeah, I’m talking submitting a claim in the “dispute console.” Serious stuff. Ugh. These people, man. I swear they bring out the worst in me.

This lady won my auction and then emailed me asking to “mutually agree to cancel.” Supposedly, she didn’t realize the makeup was medium- (rather than full-) coverage. Ugh, hello? I state it’s medium coverage in three places: the heading, the description, and the picture. Moron! At first, I even considered her request. Then, after checking out her feedback and realizing she’d pulled this bs before, I declined. So then what happened? Suddenly, she became MIA. I emailed her every other day, sent her invoices, requested money via Paypal. No reply. Meanwhile, she was buying up a storm on Ebay. Makeup, household items, baby clothes… WtF, right? Thank goodness for the dispute console. Yeah, man. The hardest $9 I ever earned. She paid, I shipped, case closed. WRONG! So today, I get an email from her. She’s pissed about the negative feedback. OMG! Who can be so damn oblivious? Damn straight I’m gonna leave a big, fat MINUS. Figure out how Ebay works, beotch! Ugh. Time for another Ebay hiatus.

Bad luck surrounds me. This afternoon, I got suckered into a scam. Kind of. Earlier today, some dude called and said I needed to go to his office. I asked who he was, but I neither recognized the name nor the company. I asked what business his company was in, and I didn’t understand the reply. Yes, that’s what I get for having still limited Chinese vocabulary. I don’t know why, but I assumed it was some package or document– something important. So, I took down the address and agreed to swing by this afternoon. When I arrived at the high-rise, I made out that the company was some sort of “management” firm. Long story short, I went in, met with Mr. Qian, and realized like a dumbass that it was some investment management company recruiting new clients (i.e. me). I told him I wasn’t interested. That I didn’t invest money in China. That I thought he had some kind of package or delivery for me. He persisted and offered me a bunch of company brochures. I explained that I couldn’t read. He looked confused. How could this be? Here I was sitting before him speaking Mandarin (albeit sub-par Mandarin), but I couldn’t fill out a simple form (for that, I actually played dumb)? Searching for answers, he started bombarding me with questions. “Are you Shanghainese?”. No. “Where are you from? How do you speak Mandarin? You really can’t read? How long have you been here?” Blah, blah. I got out of there as fast as I could. Fortunately, it was just a quick ride home on Furby.

Miami: Mission Accomplished

Miami: Mission Accomplished

Sheesh, it’s been an eternity since I last wrote on this thing. As you know, John and I were gorging ourselves the first few days back in the States. That level of gluttony has since subsided; my acupuncturist in California has determined that I have all sorts of qi blockage issues. She suspects the problem has been my diet: too many “fire” foods, meaning fried goodies and sweets. Have I really been that bad? Honestly, I don’t think so. The whole vegetarian thing has cornered me into meals that are largely rice-sauteed veggie based… I mean, sure I get those cravings now and then but geez, compared to the way people in the States typically eat, I still feel like I’m ahead of the game. I dunno. That shit never makes sense. But now I’m on pai du (qi opening) tablets. We’ll see how far that gets me. I think the color of my tongue is some kind of indicator as well. I dunno. My acupuncturist is Chinese, and she’s not exactly forthcoming with the information. I just trust her blindly. That’s what happens when your parent is a health professional. You just believe in the medical community. They have answers.

I heard a funny story today. At my father’s office, there’s a baby book in the waiting room. It contains pictures of all the babies delivered by the physicians in their group. One day, a patient’s mother was visiting from the UK. While she waited during her daughter’s appointment, she thumbed through the album. She grew disturbed seeing the same man pictured with several women and their newborns. “Jesus, how many kids did this guy father?” she asked the receptionist. “Um, he’s not the father. That’s Dr. Gou.” Haha. If you knew my father, you’d get a good chuckle from that too.

In other news, John and I did a quickie trip last Friday to Miami (of all places) to renew our driver’s licenses. Flew out of San Fran Thursday night on the redeye. Arrived looking super rough Friday morning. Of course, Wilma had hit the region just a few days before our trip. Bastard airlines. They didn’t care that DMV offices were closed, or that there was a gas and power shortage, or that police implemented a curfew to curb “problems.” The airport was open and the flight was on. Any change to our itinerary would cost $200 + the changes in fares. Since everything was last minute, we were talking about $1000 extra to change our trip. Screw that shit, man. We’re going in. So I call the rental car and hotel ahead of time to make sure everything’s running. Alamo tells me they’re renting out cars, and that the cars have gas. When we arrive at the counter, the Alamo office is all dark with a few bulbs here and there. The place is running on generators. The service rep then tells me they’ve had trouble getting gas. Waited six hours and the gas station ran out. Most the cars have only a quarter tank. So we upgrade to intermediate to get a car with half a tank. Then off we go into this surreal world of picture-perfect weather juxtaposed to post-hurricane chaos– debris everywhere and downed traffic lights.

Since some of the roads were blocked off, we got lost and getting to the DMV was a challenge (it was only 7 miles from the airport). When we got to the office/shopping plaza, my heart sank when I saw this “office closed due to Wilma” sign on the door. John was just about to explode, but I insisted the website said the license office was open. I SWORE it had to be open. Thankfully, the license office was another unit at the far end of the plaza. Voila. Was open and even better, there was no frickin’ line. In and out in an hour. Driver licenses: Check! Now we had all day Friday and Saturday to burn in Miami. What’d we do? Checked into the hotel early and slept til dinner. Yep, that’s what happens when you’re an old fart married couple. Hell, I don’t regret it one bit. Was the best night’s rest we had in a long time.

So now I’m in DC with the parents. Fortunately, they’ve spared me the “what is your plan” and grandchildren talk. Of course, I’ve been earning my keep helping with yardwork and researching various products (cordless phones, health insurance, flatscreen tv’s, cellular phones, etc.). Despite having sent their laptop in for service on four separate ocassions, seems like the damn thing still shuts off abruptly. I’m in talks with the manager now about getting this problem resolved. Customer service these days, man. Bad news.

Btw, guess where my parents took me for my first meal back in DC? Chinatown. Gotta love it. But hey, I got my MD crabcakes fix tonight at Gladchuck Bros. So succulent and flavorful! Can’t beat blue crabcakes, I tell you. Ok, hope to have another update soon. Stay tuned!