Sunday, August 21, 2011


So every September 15th (or so) there is a celebration in China called the "Moon Festival", a tradition dating back to the Shang Dynasty (3,000 + years ago).  It is an important holiday for the Chinese people marking the end of the Autumn harvests and a sort of praise to the moon while it is at it's fullest.  The traditional  desserts are little sweets called Moon cakes. As I've only had one kind I'm not sure if there are many flavours or if there are only different brands. Brittany's birthday happened to coincide with the Moon Festival this year so I bought her a box instead of a traditional American birthday cake.  While I thought these moon cakes would be the usual 9" pan-size it turns out that they are actually small, about 3-4" in diameter.  Each are sweet white-flour soft cakes filled with something that has a taste and texture similar to the filling in fig newtons, except that the color is green.  Pretty tasty! The packaging is a little over the top, if I may say so (another topic I must address later in the post). I guess the traditional way these cakes are sold are in these gift boxes that are about 1 foot across, 1 foot tall, and 2 inches deep. Within each box are little slots where the miniature boxes containing the mooncakes fit. Each small mooncake is held within a plastic wrapper and then placed within a small cardboard box which then fits inside the larger box, next to the other mooncakes.  So weird, I know, but kind of pretty, too.  The price of each of these gift boxes range from 55 RMB to over 500 RMB (think between $7 and $75 USD).  I bought the 55RMB one. haha.  BUT! Brittany and I went back to Wu Mart today and found that they do sell the cakes individually. We picked 6 different brands and will be taste testing them tonight.  My next blog post will tell if there are different flavours.  The best tasting cakes will be noted and then selected again to be sent home as gifts! Get ready friends and family!!!


Ok, so let's talk about the packaging here.  Not just of mooncakes, but of all things.  The Chinese seem to love wasting materials. I don't get it. For instance, a package of oreos in the US is generally a plastic tray that holds 3 rows of cookies; these are surrounded by one plastic wrapper. The end. Here, each row of cookies has it's own plastic tray and is individually wrapped in plastic. This is then surrounded in even more plastic. You think, "Ok, cool, I can keep the cookies fresher for longer." Except that each tray, while it looks like you're getting a whole USA row of oreos, is really only holding 5 cookies. So depressing. 

Brittany, on her birthday, in front of the mooncake box and wrappers.

On a brighter note, the group of us here had a wonderful time celebrating Brittany's birthday last weekend.  We went on Saturday night to our favourite Latin restaurant, Casa Latina, where we ate good food and listened and danced to a live Salsa band!  Margaritas and Sangria were abundant, and it turns out that the special was "Buy 1 Sangria, get 1 FREE appetizer". Even though the restaurant serves mainly Latin fare, I went ahead and took advantage of their Italian-style wood-fire pizzas! So delicious!  I will also take a moment to admit that I may or may not have been slightly inebriated and that I may or may not have danced like a fool in front of the whole restaurant.  See, it was like this: The singer of the band came over to our table of 5 and tried to get everyone to dance. I got up right away and sprinted to the dance floor. No one followed me!  So, I just kept dancing! What the heck? Why not?  And you know what? This really handsome German guy came up to me afterwords and gave me a rose saying that I was very beautiful!  haha!  I had a lot of fun! And later Keyondra, Brittany and I showed the Chinese people how to do the Mackarena (sp?) and then we did a conga line!  At one point Chris and Brittany were also asked to come to the stage and do a drum solo with the band! How cool is that?!
The live Salsa band at Casa Latina!
The conga line... it's hard to see me, but Keyondra and Brittany are the two people in the left of the picture, next to the man in the pink shirt.

Brittany, the birthday girl!
Keyondra and Brittany with their margaritas, laughing.
Kyle and Keyondra at Casa Latina.
Kyle and Chris, obviously not too thrilled about the dancing part of the evening.  haha.
Who isn't happy when there are pitchers of sangria around?

Me and my Strawberry Margarita!

Last weekend I also took some time on Sunday to go to the English Book Store in Wang Fu Jing.  I have a lot of time here to read and, since I take after my mother, I read really fast.  Brittany and I have been exchanging books just to keep some of the cost down, though while my choice in books isn't limited in any way, Brittany doesn't always seem interested in my choice of books (I do prefer fiction/fantasy/etc).  So far I've read the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini (3 books about Dragons and adventure!!), Connie Willis' "All Clear" and "Blackout" (time travel), I've reread Stephanie Meyer's four books in her "Twilight" series (I'm still 'Team Edward", for the record...), Marion Zimmer Bradley's "The Forest House" (a prequel to her version of the King Arthur story), and Sarah Gruen's "Ape House" and "Water for Elephants" (both plots centered around animals and the complicated relationships between people). So, I bought (stocked up on??) the first 4 books of the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice ("Interview with a Vampire", "Queen of the Damned", etc), Tolkien's "Silmarillion" (it takes place in the same world as "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings"), and "portrait of a Lady" by Henry James (I had to fit in some classic literature to keep myself well-rounded).

MY CARE PACKAGE!!!  Life really is about the small things. Except when you get a LARGE package from Mom and Dad in the mail while you're living in Beijing, China. Words cannot express how happy and excited and thankful I was when Mrs. Wang came and told me I had received something in the mail. And then, imagine the looks I got when I walked back into rehearsal after break carrying this big box!  Kyle wondered who was more excited, me or the other four people I live.  Mom and Dad, you guys are great!  I got Jiffy CRUNCHY! Peanut Butter, 3 boxes of Kraft Mac and Cheese!!, a bag of Cheese Puffs! (love those things, and um, I ate the whole bag in one sitting...), 1 Much-needed Cosmo magazine (how can I live without knowing the most up-to-date fashion trends, how to flatten my abs in 4 easy steps, and 50 sex moves thousands of men rank, along with hot and not-so-hot things I can do to their naked bodies???), as well as 6 more books to read!!!  I am the luckiest daughter ever! The most important items, however, are the two home-movie DVDs made by my parents.  I think one of the hardest things about being so far away is not knowing when I'll get to SEE people again. It's nice to watch a movie that is generally hilarious, and get to hear people speaking; I love seeing how things have changed (or stayed the same) in the Cincinnati/Kentucky area where many of my friends and family are.  So, thanks guys! I love you!

Ah yes,  only the best literature in my care package... and Cosmo, too!

There has never been anything more beautiful in the world than Jiff peanut butter, Kraft Mac and Cheese, and Cheese puffs!!!

HARRY POTTER!  Last night Chris and Brittany and I all went to the Solana Shopping District and watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2.  It was wonderful to finally get to a theater and watch a movie in English. The Theater was really nice, too. We bought out tickets early in the evening; it was neat because here you actually get to choose the exact seats you want to sit in (like a concert hall). The seats were very plush, and the entire theater was very well taken care of.  The tickets were 80 RMB (about $11 USD) which is about how much it would cost in the states, but the popcorn was really cheap: 2 soft drinks and a large popcorn for 30 RMB (about $5 US).  Cool, huh?  I loved the movie... it was a little sad because the Harry Potter adventure has come to a close, but the movie ended well. I thought the length of the film was a little short, especially since they could have added so much more to the plot and character action, but overall they stuck to the book. I cried a bit at the sad parts (I won't give anything away for people who might not have seen it yet), but the very end was happy. I almost bought a wand and Harry Potter glasses at the gift shop. haha. I can always go back.

Solana Movie Theater with a cool little "Platform 9 and 3/4" set-up for the Harry Potter movie.

Sitting inside the movie theater... the seats were really comfy!
Today I just slept in a bit (ok, until, um... 1pm), went and had lunch at the Korean restaurant down the street with Chris, Brittany, and Kyle, picked up some ice cream at the Wu Mart, and then came back to play rummy with Brittany for a  few hours.  The way we all typically live around here is almost silly. Most days we'll come home from work (or on the weekends, we'll come home from shopping and sight-seeing), and then Kyle, Keyondra, and Chris will settle down to play World of Warcraft (computer game) with the TV on in the background generally set to the soccer sports channel; Brittany and I will sit at the dinner table and play Rummy or Scrabble while being generally silly (this includes but is not limited to occasional bouts of singing pop and Disney songs, dancing, laughing hysterically over absolutely nothing, and eating entire boxes of cookies).  Life is good. :-)

I talked to my brother, Paul, via text yesterday.  I guess he's back in Hawaii now.  I miss that kid a lot, and by kid I mean 6'4'', super-muscle, US Marine Corps dude who is now engaged to super-pretty Melissa Paul and about to close on a house in Michigan. Yeah, that kid.  I'm excited for the next time he and I are both home in the mainland United States... I told him that my wedding gift for he and Melissa would be a puppy of their choosing.  I'm pretty excited about that.. Paul, I hope you are looking into this dog-ownership thing because you're getting a pet now whether you want it or not!  ;-)  It turns out that Paul will likely be discharged from the Marines within the next few months for back problems and hearing loss (carrying hundreds of pounds of gear and ammo while traversing the Iraqi desert isn't exactly conducive to good posture...).  This is exciting for Paul and Melissa, thought, because now they can start planning their life together while knowing that they'll both be in the same place for more than 3 weeks. 

Well, I guess I'm going to make dinner now. I forgot to mention the pasta Mom and Dad sent... I found some Alfredo Sauce at the BHG in Solana so that's what I'ma gonna eat! Zai Jian!

Oh, and here are just a couple more pictures:

Keyondra and I getting in on some serious Watermelon action... I think she bought it from the Vendor outside our apartment complex.
These are little cabs that I sometimes take after a long day at work. The subway station is about a mile from my apartment so for only 5RMB (75 cents US) this is a cheap way to save some walking when I'm feeling particularly lazy.
Well, we were opening some wine and the bottom of the bottle broke off into the sink. OH NO! Don't worry, though... we had a second bottle ready to go!

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure why I picked this post (of all of them) to comment on. I've just been reading about all of your adventures, and it's so exciting! I love that you're still writing epics about pizza. I love that you're still drinking wine (and sad day that one of your bottles broke!). I love that your brother is safe and happy. I love that you are playing professionally. I love that you can still eat an entire bag of cheese poofs in one setting. Pretty much: I love you. I hope all is well and you continue to have amazing adventures. :)

    Loooove, Sarah