Saturday, August 25, 2012

25 August 2012 – Journal Log

Scooter's Journal Log
Earth Date 25 August 2012

I awoke early in the day and having finished the second book of the Hunger Gamesdecided to start the third immediately as the cliff hanger from the second was too big to keep waiting too long. My foot was feeling a bit better. I drank water and then read in bed for a while. Eventually, I noticed I had email from my sister-in-law urging we could connect by Skype at 11 my time and watch Thursday's "Big Brother" vote out show which my family had been saving for me. We got the idea to watch a show each week together when we realized it would be possible to do so a couple of weeks prior. We are sure that nobody probably wants people doing this, but until somebody says we cannot do, we will probably continue to do it.

So, I switched over to Skype and called her up. Our connection was great, and I got to see my niece and talk with her as well as my brother and sister-in-law. We then watched Skype with my niece's computer serving as my conduit to see their big tv. The quality of the sound and picture were quite amazing considering. It was also a great way to get over some feelings of homesickness etc. My niece also modeled her new school uniform and told me all about her first week of school – her first week at independent school! I read her summer reading book, so we were also able to gab about the twists in the ending. When I hung up, I felt a lot better knowing that I will be able to spend some time each week with them! It is not the same as being right there but pretty close. I was disappointed that my mom wasn't back from Michigan yet so I could see and talk to her too!

Due to my swollen foot, I decided to forgo the trip to the IKEA-Beijing store. I was really looking forward to Swedish meatballs. I'm sure there will be a trip around the first of October right after pay day where I plan to acquire a mattress! Anyway, I did have to go out on a shorter venture to the grocery store. I first went to the bank. I wasn't sure if it would be open, but I wanted to convert my last $101 in US dollars to my name into CN 元. Turns out the bank is open nine to five everyday including Sunday! It is one of the things that is very different in 中國 / Zhōngguó than in the USA. There is no huge emphasis on Saturday and Sunday being days off for people. People tend to have two days off per week, but they can be on any day of the week. It's not a big deal here to work on Saturday or Sunday. The apartment tower to the east of my building that is under construction was worked on all day.

It took about twenty minutes and a lot of stamping and entering information off my passport to finish the transaction. I had them put all the CN 元 on my debit card. Supposedly it is very safe to do that here. I am not sure why. I do not know if you can use it to shop on line here or not. I do not know if you can withdraw currency using it outside of 中國 / Zhōngguó. It does not have a master card or visa logo, but I am told I can use it anywhere in 中國 / Zhōngguó at ATMs and stores. If I use it at ATMs from other banks, then I will have to pay an ATM fee. I took the card to the grocery store next door to the bank, and this is what I bought...

First Solo Grocery Store Shopping Acquisition List
Store: known to us now as the CFS (Chao Shi Fa Store)

1/2 Loaf of Wheat Bread
• the regular sandwich bread is sold in half loaves of 8 slices in white or wheat for 4 CN 元
• the consistency is a little more dry than US wheat bread, but the taste is more wholesome and grainy like something out of Whole Foods®.

Jar of Skippy® Crunchy Peanut Butter
Notes: tastes just like at USA-version, also comes in creamy and a special "swirled with chocolate" flavor

Jar of Honey
Notes: There are a wide variety of choices in honey from the faint yellow to the rich golden brown.

Bucket of Mini Snickers Bars
Notes: Much like European grocery stores, here in Beijing, the grocery stores have huge sections, not just one aisle, devoted to sweets. You can find all sorts of things you never knew existed. There is more of an international flair to it as there are candies from all over the world, not just 中國 / Zhōngguó or the USA.

8 Pack of Single Serving Milk (came with 5 free Winnie the Pooh pencils)
Notes: Turns out the stuff I bought that looks like little juice boxes of milk are actually little juice boxes of sweetened milk. Not like condensed milk, but more like a vanilla milk. It's very good on cereal! It would probably be good in tea and coffee too.

Box of Bimbo® Brand FunPies™
• The FunPie™ is about the size of a pre-packaged Rice Krispie® treat. It is made of two layers of an off-white cake with an off-white cream in the middle with the whole treat coated in a thin, thin layer of a chocolate-like substance.
• It may come as some surprise to those who don't follow the international baking scene, but Bimbo Corp was founded in Mexico and has cleverly grown into the world's largest international bakery. In 2008, it acquired a huge number of US brands including Boboli, Brownberry, Entenmann's, and many others. They have a huge presence in the snack cake market here in 中國 / Zhōngguó as well.

Pack of Prince Sandwich Cookies (Strawberry flavor)
• Picture two sweet Ritz® crackers with a strawberry cream filling
• If you want to know more about the Prince go to – only if your Chinese is very good.

2-L Bottle of Pepsi® Mirinda Soda (Grape Flavor)
• Mirinda Soda was started in Spain and purchased by Pepsi in 1970 to compete with Coke's Fanta. It is a huge brand outside of the USA, so why not in 中國 / Zhōngguó!
• This variety tastes a little like carbonated grape Tylenol® for kids. Too bad there was no taste testing of these sodas as I might have picked a different flavor. Still, it will be a nice diversion from drinking so much bottled water. Arnold Palmers have yet to be found.

Box of Nestlé Milk & Egg Stars Cereal
• This was my second cereal purchase in 中國 / Zhōngguó with the first being Nestlé's KoKoKrunch®. I have already tried both of these in my last trip to 中國 / Zhōngguó, and they are good. I always find it fascinating what different cultures find valuable in their foods. I don't think something called Milk & Egg Stars would sell well in America, but here, apparently, it seems natural.
• Nestlé has the rights to make a lot of USA cereals outside of the USA. I had a choice of Trix® and Multi-Grain Cheerios® also. I will probably purchase them over the coming weeks!

Small Package of Lays® Potato Chips (American Classic Flavor)
• Yes you read that correctly, and either the chips are made here to the exacting specifications of Lays or shipped over. In either case, they are the most authentic-tasting of the products designed to taste like those from America that I have yet eaten in Zhong Guo. I had to really focus not to eat the whole bag in one sitting – and this was a small bag, about enough to accompany two sandwiches.
• There are many more flavors, however, than the American Classic Flavor including such great flavors as "Italian Meat Flavor" and "Spicy Prawn".

Pint of Nestlé Chocolate Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
• Unlike in the USA where you might find five or six places to taste-test products, there were like twenty on this particular shopping day. It was more like being in the Underground Atlanta food court where every restaurant is out hawking tastes to draw customers in. It is great for international shoppers who have no idea what these foods may be or how they taste. I tried the ice cream, and it was delicious. So, I bought a pint.
• I was given a free Nestlé ice cream cold bag with my purchase – a necessity when transporting home your ice cream three Beijing blocks on a hot, humid afternoon.

Bottle of Beibeixiong Dish Soap
Notes: There are so many kinds of soap for sale, and the only way to tell which one is which, unless your Chinese is excellent, is to look at the pictures on the labels. Unfortunately, I couldn't find what I was looking for. So, I went to the dishes aisle and grabbed a bowl. I took it to the soap area and motioned as if I was washing it. A lady took me right over to the dish soap proving that there is a real and useful value to playing charades and learning to pantomime well!

Total Cost: 179.10 CN 元 or $28.42 US

Other notes about this grocery store:
• You want a bag? Here you pay for each bag. Right! That's the solution America is missing out on. Instead of crediting people who bring bags, charge everyone who doesn't. I brought my big back pack, so I was ready!
• This grocery store has two-stories and uses a low incline escalator and specially designed fittings on wheels of carts to allow you to go up and down with your cart.
• There are all sorts of fruits and veggies we don't even know exist in the USA, but there are many missing here as well–notably avocados and blueberries.
• This particular grocery store is more like a mini-walmart with all sorts of other stuff too including clothing, small appliances, toys, games, cell phones, etc.
• This store is not known for being the best at carrying western-style products, yet you can see how many there still are – amazing how much more diverse is the product selection than we find in the USA.

After returning from the store to my apartment, of course, I put away all of the food and made myself a peanut butter and honey sandwich with some chips and Snickers® bars for dessert. I poured a tall glass of Grape Mirinda soda and sat down for lunch / dinner. I know what some of your are thinking. What kind of a Chinese experience is that? Well, to that I say 'hogwash'. Every experience I have over here is a Chinese experience. Searching out products, trying things out, learning my way around, testing the "American Classic Flavor" Lays potato chips to see if they are, indeed, American Classic Flavor is a brand new experience. I have been to 中國 / Zhōngguó on three previous occasions. I did the whole, "I want an authentic experience" thing before. I refused, for example, to eat at McDonald's before, and I really missed out. I didn't know that until I went to Sweden and tried McDonald's there kind of by accident as it was the only restaurant near our hotel that didn't have an hour wait, and I wanted to get back into that megacomfortable bed ASAP. There was little about the McDonald's other than the golden arches that reminded me of the ones back home. The prices were out of control. But, really, it was sitting in there eating a Pixar's Nemo-themed Happy Meal in the middle of Stockholm and watching all the of the Swedish people enjoying something that was born out of the inventive minds of Americans that was really kind of cool. Now, does this mean that I think you should travel to another country and stick to American brand names, absolutely not. On the other had, in America I drove a German-made car, ate at restaurants with food from all over the world, and wore clothes made mostly in 中國 / Zhōngguó, India, and the Philippines. What is an authentic American experience? In a global world the ideas of this are becoming more and more full of grey areas as we witnessed over the outrage of some that the Ralph Lauren-designed uniforms for Team USA were made in 中國 / Zhōngguó. Did the Chinese show outrage that the biggest restaurant in the Olympic Village was a McDonald's? No, they did not. And nor should we be outraged if the Chinese made our uniforms. Part of the experience of getting out and becoming a more globally aware person is seeing both the positive and negative effects of globalization.

Meanwhile, I am sure there are many Americans who believe that the proliferation of McDonald's, Starbucks, etc. around the world is sad. We forget that both are symbols of American success, rightly or wrongly, and for many others the world over, they are a sign of the American dream coming true.

Finally, before one passes judgment, remember one more thing, the diversity of America's melting pot has created eating habits whereby USAers are very used to eating very different food every day. USAers tend not to like Italian food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, for example. Well, it's fine for people living back in America to want me to each Chinese food three meals a day, seven days a week, for two years, but that simply isn't going to happen. I am going to eat Chinese food more often than back in the states, to be sure, but I am also going to venture out, try the Outback Steakhouse, try the Pizza Hut, and by golly, I am going to occasionally whip up some French Toast for breakfast in my apartment!

After that, I spent the rest of the day working between my journal and reading Mockingjay while keeping my foot elevated and praying the swelling would be down by Monday morning and our first teacher's meeting.

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