Paradise Kitchen in Baishizhou
You certainly don't find Belgian bars like this anywhere else. Enjoying a night at Paradise Kitchen in Shenzhen's Baishizhou with a few of my favorite dudes - complete with BBQ oysters, fried fish, and pork dumplings. Good times!
Greetings from Hong Kong!
Wait, why not Shenzhen? Well, unfortunately, I still cannot access my own blog from the Mainland due to increased internet censorship and problems with my VPN, so I had to cross the border to the land of freedom in order to give you all a much needed life update. It’s been a two-month journey with no Facebook/Instagram/Google/News/Email/#EverythingNecessary on my phone, but I have survived. Just don't quiz me on international current events when we next chat. The China Daily isn’t always the most reliable source…Surprise surprise.
So, what’s the latest scoop over in Shenzhen? I couldn’t possibly fill you in on everything I have done in the last 2+ months, but I will share some memorable highlights. In an effort to keep this post from turning into a rambling mess of word vomit, I have organized my update into a few sections (see below). Happy reading! Feel free to leave a comment! :)
PART ONE: What is new in the social department?
Lots of international student bonding. Now that the weather is warmer (we couldn’t handle our 60 degree “winter”), we’ve been doing a good amount of outside chilling accompanied by several rounds of Tsingtao late into the night (or rather, early morning). Hey, you’re only in your twenties once! However, because I am preparing for the upcoming Great Wall Marathon and need to function properly for my training runs, I have been sticking to my own special Wolfberry and ginger concoction. A Chinese medicine “expert” in nearby Pingshan Village prescribed it for healthy digestion. I am a sucker for the placebo effect, so I couldn’t honestly tell you if it is in fact adding anything substantial to my overall wellbeing. However, my mom also advocates ginger for the stomach and she is usually right. So, eat more ginger!
Speaking of eating, us internationals have done a lot of family-style feasting. Literally, “family” style. As in, we have truly become a family over here. Despite our differences, diverse backgrounds and beliefs, and weird quirks (we are quite the quirky bunch!), we share an irreplaceable “China bond”. We can’t Skype mom and dad every time we are stuck with no hot shower, can’t get on the internet, got ripped off haggling for fakes, or are sick of Chinese canteen oil (oops, I mean food). Instead, we have our China Family with whom we can share our love-hate roller coaster ride. Our shared China experience gives us a commonality and creates a real sense of intimacy and understanding. What in the world has driven me to stay in China for so long? My China Family definitely plays a huge part.
The pics below include several of our family feasting occasions, including Indian food at our favorite Bollywood Café (approved by my Indian bestie, Harsh), Chinese BBQ in Pingshan Village for a campus event I organized, and a neighborhood hotspot serving northern-style Chinese food for my friend’s birthday.
PART TWO: How's the Great Wall training coming along?
“Enjoy the process, not the outcome” are the words I am trying to live by right now. I have definitely been enjoying the process. Some see running as a chore. I see it as a time for reflection and meditation (and sometimes procrastination to avoid doing things like my thesis, eek). The longer the run, the more time I have to zone out and de-stress. Therefore, I don’t dread my long runs, I actually look forward to them. I have also learned to love running in the rain. It rained for about 2 weeks straight here, so I had no choice but embrace the tropical rainy season. Shenzhen has just reached the season of MAJOR humidity (aka you look like you just took a shower every time you step foot outside due to excessive sweating). The nice part about running in the rain is that it’s impossible to distinguish the rain from my pool of sweat, so I look slightly cleaner when I go straight to the canteen for post-run fueling. Gross, I know…But hey, it’s China. In a country where spitting massive loogies and pooping in the street (usually just toddlers, don't worry) is commonplace, I think going to the canteen sweaty is the least of our etiquette worries.
…Wait, but isn’t the Great Wall of China all stairs? Yes, pretty much. My training has not just included leisurely runs, but also lots and lots of stairs. Not quite as meditative or de-stressing. Good thing I live on the 19th floor! No elevator for me these days. I am pretty sure my dorm guard thinks I am certifiably insane. Maybe he is right. 6 WEEKS TO GO UNTIL I CONQUER THE GREAT WALL!
PART THREE: "China Moments"
CHINA MOMENT # 1:
The three-week reimbursement process. Okay, so I must admit, I do not have a ton of experience when it comes to filing for work or school related reimbursements in the USA, but there is no way it’s as complicated as China makes it.
As many of you may know, I am the currently the President of the International Association at my campus. Therefore, I organized a “Welcome Back BBQ” for the Chinese and international students last month at a Chinese BBQ joint in nearby Pingshan village. I covered the event cost with my personal money and then started the reimbursement process. Migraine galore! Everything in China is a process with many (seemingly very unnecessary) steps. Nothing ever seems entirely logical or straightforward. I am sure those in the China Bubble support this statement. Reimbursement just so happens to be one of those things.
Bringing an official stamped invoice / receipt from the restaurant and filling out two forms and getting four administrative signatures is not enough. I had to return to the BBQ restaurant three separate times before finally getting all the “official stamped papers with red ink” needed for successful reimbursement. The restaurant manager and I are Wechat friends now. Just look at the picture below. Enough said.
CHINA MOMENT # 2:
I think we can all agree that getting a pedicure is supposed to be a relaxing experience. A nail salon should strive to make customers feel Zen and pampered. Ask my friend Max if he felt Zen and pampered when I dragged him with me to get a “manly pedicure” in Pingshan Village, ha! We sat in our pedicure chairs for 45 minutes holding our noses as the lingering stench of China sewage overwhelmed the nail salon. It was hard to breathe! The picture below of the laundry hanging outside the nail salon gives you a pretty good idea of what we were dealing with here. Zen? I think not. Entertaining? Absolutely. Gotta love China. I guess paying 4 USD for a pedicure sometimes comes with tradeoffs.
On another note, I did get a successful (Zen AND relaxing, 100% free of sewage stench) haircut at UM Salon (at the Holiday Plaza mall near Windows of the World - in case any readers are looking for a haircut recommendation). I always go to Eddy and he is AWESOME, speaks perfect English, and is quite the stud. A little eye candy while getting my hair trimmed…no complaints here ;)
CHINA MOMENT # 3:
I was one of the lucky ones who got a dorm room that has a window with a small hole. The hole was never a major problem. Sure, a little rain got in here and there. Sometimes my room got a little bit colder than my neighbors. However, the small hole became a big problem when a WASP NEST suddenly emerged on my balcony. Every day, giant wasps were flying around my dorm room. The only way I knew how to instantly kill them was to spray my toxic Raid spray. The wasps immediately dropped dead, such a satisfying experience. The downside? I was poisoning myself with toxic spray and starting to feel lightheaded on a daily basis. I was also experiencing major sleep deprivation because I was too scared to sleep at night, afraid of being attacked by giant killer wasps. After a team effort, I am now safe and sound.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE! Did anyone celebrate the Chinese New Year in America? Leave a comment and let me know if you did anything Chinesey – Dumplings? Fireworks? Hongbao giving? Parades? Lion dances? C’mon people, don’t let me down here.
I made sure to celebrate the proper way…No messing around here in Guangzhou! Well, after my 6:30am Super Bowl viewing / Budweiser drinking at Hooley’s Irish Pub in Zhujiang New Town (I am American ya know, even though I sometimes feel Chinese deep down). I decided yesterday that I was a Broncos fan, guess I made the correct last-minute decision. Woop woop! Hooleys was a good time. Although, ironically, I was the only American at the Super Bowl event. I met some nice Aussies, several Brits, and a few Indians who were all there watching the game…I (the hardcore football fan that I am *Ha!*) was solely responsible for representing my country. Yikes. Do not do that to me ever again. I only came for the breakfast buffet, free jersey, and halftime show, duh.
After Hooley’s, I hopped on the metro to make my way to the CNY Flower Fair. Unlike the last five days, the metro was CRAZY today. Everyone was commuting to family gatherings and CNY festivities. Cabs are nearly impossible to flag down on days like today, so everyone resorts to public transit. The security check was no joke. I was patted down head to toe at every metro station. I know I look pretty suspicious. Afterall, I was the only foreigner in the metro station, which probably made them slightly confused / worried / distressed. There was even a security man who seemed to be on “lifeguard duty” (see pic below and you will quickly understand my reference). He sat on his tall lifeguard chair overlooking the masses to make sure everyone behaved themselves. Although, when I looked up he was playing cellphone games and picking his nose, so hopefully he didn’t miss anything too major!
Once I finally made it out of the metro, the magic began. Truly, it was a magical experience. Everywhere I looked, there were beautiful red lanterns hanging from the trees. There were money trees decorated with tangerines, red envelopes (Hongbao 红包) and kumquats. There were families wearing the biggest grins I’ve ever seen, excited for their only child (“Little Emperor” or 小皇帝as little boys are sometimes called) to experience the excitement of the Spring Festival. Children were flying kites, eating chocolate coins, and taking their photos in front of the lucky red backdrops that would surely be framed by their proud parents. Love and pride filled the air. I walked confidently through the happy celebratory chaos, my blonde hair glistening in the sunny 72-degree Chinese wonderland, unaffected by the stares, camera snaps, or finger pointing. Although I may be a “lao wai 老外” (Chinese term for foreigner or outsider), I don’t feel like one. Rather, I feel completely at home and in my element. I understand the Chinese way. I forget that I stand out (BIG TIME) to everyone around me. Who cares that I’m a blondie from New England who spent her morning watching American football at a pub. I can have both worlds. I do have both worlds. It’s awesome.
There’s not much open on the first day of the Spring Festival other than the outdoor festivities (such as the Flower Fair and lion dances), but I managed to find an underground “fashion plaza” that was full of action and highly entertaining. I’ve never seen anything like it before. I felt like I was at an underground rave. The mall, which literally went on for MILES, was entirely underground. Neon lights everywhere. Definitely a seizure-causing environment. However, the best part: the store names. Incredible! I had way too much fun reading all the names of the stores. I wonder if the Chinese shoppers had any idea what these titles meant? I was going around snapping pics of the store fronts, and the Chinese customers must have thought I was a total weirdo. Little did they know, “Lazy Family”, “Smoky Jan”, and “Lonely” aren’t exactly the kinds of store names you see everyday. They were picture worthy. Which store name is your favorite? Hard to choose, I know! (See below for pictures of many store titles). I didn’t buy anything, but I spent several hours weaving in and out of the neon maze, people-watching, and trying on “trendy” clothes. Like my hat? “New York Happy Life”. #Representing. Although, I did purchase a bubble tea. Awesome, but not quite as good as Liv’s. She makes some fab bubble tea, I must say.
I’m saving my dinner time experience for last because I feel slightly guilty, eek. If I were really doing the CNY right, I would have made some homemade dumplings. (I made them last year for my family and they turned out great. Really!) However, this year, I did something that may be considered a sin. I had a strong sushi craving, and had JAPANESE FOOD FOR THE CHINESE NEW YEAR! I know, I should be ashamed. But I’m not. It really hit the spot. It was not anything fancy, aka cheap conveyer belt sushi, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I will work on making up for my sinful act by eating some Chinese chocolate coins for dessert. Problem solved.
What’s in store for tomorrow? Well, I just arrived back at my hotel to find an exciting note. There’s a message on my bed that the hotel will be putting on a traditional Spring Festival lion dance on the lawn outside the hotel at 8:25am tomorrow (my birthday!). What a great way to start off my 27th year alive! So, obviously I will be attending the lion dance. I was going to go to one today, but I found my way to the neon fashion maze instead. Now I get to do it all. Yay. After the lion dance, I will celebrate my big day by going for a run along the Pearl River (it’s suppose to be another beautiful 70-degree day tomorrow) and getting a Matcha green tea latte at Starbucks. Those two things will no doubt put me in a great mood. Looking forward to going to Hong Kong on Friday to properly celebrate with my best friend Jeanne. Cannot wait! Until then, I am living it up in Guangzhou. Tomorrow is my last full day here, so this is my last Guangzhou update for y’all. I am going blog-less tomorrow because it is my day to be selfish. I don’t want anything on my to-do list expect my run, my latte, Netflix, and a bubble bath.
HAPPY NEW YEAR.
Metro ride to the bar street
Magical Spring Festival Flower Fair
Underground rave, I mean "Fashion Plaza"
What's your favorite store front?
Sinning (aka Japanese restaurant for the Chinese New Year). Oops.
Day 6 highlights: Happy Chinese New Year Eve!!!!!!!!!!!! I am so full from all-you-can-eat dumplings I can't even move (in a good way). How did I spend my New Year's Eve? I spent the entire day outside enjoying the absolutely perfect weather, blue skies, and streets literally lined with flowers. Guangzhou is actually known for its flowers, lush greenery and parks and is therefore often referred to as "The Flower City". The bright flowers that line the streets smell wonderful and instantly put me in a happy cheerful mood. I just couldn't stop smiling today, and I'm pretty sure it was because of all the beautiful flowers. During the Chinese New Year Spring Festival, Chinese people in Guangzhou typically offer flowers and Kumquats as gifts, so there are flower markets (also selling the special red envelops ("Hongbao") and Kumquats) left and right. I am especially lucky to be here during the Spring Festival (just another name for the Chinese New Year) because I will have the opportunity to go to the flower fair (tomorrow) that only takes place during this special time. Anyways, back to today! I began today's outdoor adventure walking through Huizhu Square (another lush park) and then spent the next 7 hours walking all along the Pearl River greenway. Amazing! Stunning! Everyone was out exercising (jogging, tai chi, biking) - people of all ages (and almost everyone was wearing the color red for a lucky new year). I got so jealous of all the runners, so after the flower fair tomorrow I am going to go back to the greenway in my running gear and join the Pearl River running scene. I really cannot wait. I am exhausted now from all my walking and dumpling eating, so I am off to get my beauty sleep so that I am fresh for the New Year tomorrow. I freaking love this city! HAPPY YEAR OF THE MONKEY!!! XO
Pearl River Greenway walk
Day 5 highlights: After my incredibly satisfying breakfast buffet at the hotel (it is going to be really hard to go back to cafeteria food!), I took the metro to Sun Yat-sen memorial hall. In case you don't remember, Sun Yat-sen was a revolutionary and founding father of Republic of China. I sat on the steps outside the memorial and read my Kindle for a few hours - the sun shining down on me (66 degrees, California weather) and surrounded by flowers - can't get any more zen than that! Great way to start the day. Behind the memorial is Guangzhou's famous Yuexiu Park, so I made that my next stop. It's the largest park in downtown Guangzhou, consisting of roughly 212 acres. It was beautiful and especially peaceful. Lots of stairs to climb! Good preparation for the Great Wall Marathon. I walked along the ancient city wall and eventually made my way to the "5 ram statue" - one of the most famous structures in Guangzhou. Below I copied and pasted a little history about the statue to add to your collection of knowledge. After the park, I needed a rest break, so I found my way to "Zoo Coffee" and ordered a purple sweet potato latte (Taro latte) and sat with a stuffed panda. It looks artificial and gross, but it was awesome! The purple color is entirely natural - that's the color of Taro. I wish Starbucks had Taro lattes. My last stop of the day was The Tavern (a pub in the Zhujiang New Town). I have been buying one real meal a day (breakfast is included at the hotel and lunch is usually something cheap from 7 Eleven), so dinner is my time to indulge a bit. Today's lunch was certainly not the most satisfying - a "tea egg" (see picture below) purchased at a stand in Yuexiu Park, so I was ravenously hungry by 7pm. Tea eggs are eggs that are cracked and then soaked in a combination of vinegar and tea...and some other unknown ingredients?...A Chinese favorite. The Tavern was far more satisfying. I ordered a shrimp fajita and will enjoy my leftovers for lunch tomorrow, yay! The Tavern has one other branch (in Shenzhen), so I had been there before and knew I would be pleased. Post hiking and dinner, I had my ultimate relaxation time - a face mask in my bubble bath and watched the chick flick Love Actually. That's all for now folks! Tomorrow is Chinese New Year eve, so make sure to eat some dumplings to celebrate! XO
P.S. Please excuse any typos in my "daily highlights". I am typing my updates from my cell phone...
Story of the 5 ram statue taken from
The Five-Ram Sculpture is one of the most famous structures in Guangzhou. It has become the emblem of the city. Legend has it that more than 2,000 years ago, the city was a barren land with people who despite hard work were suffering from famine. One day five immortals in five-color garments came riding on five rams, playing their legendary music. The rams held sheaves of rice in their mouths. The immortals left the sheaves of rice for the local people, gave blessings to the city and left. The rams turned into stone and the city became a rich and populous place. Guangzhou got the name of the City of Rams and the City of Ears.
Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
Back to the Hotel for Relaxation
Day 4 highlights: Today was another great day! Started off the day with a leisurely picnic in an urban park that I found. I stopped at a 7 Eleven and bought some yogurt and a berry smoothie to bring to the park (trying to mix up budget meals with a few nice meals to keep to my student budget). After the park, I took the metro to Huacheng Square. Huacheng Square is Guangzhou's modern city square/plaza where you can see many of the city's major landmarks such as the Canton Tower, Opera House, Guangzhou Museum, Guangzhou Library, etc. No cars and lots of open space make it an ideal place to stroll around. I need to come back at night, so I can see all the buildings lit up! I couldn't help but also checking out the plaza's Hello Kitty Cafe - it's just not something we have in America. However, I ultimately chose my Starbucks over the Hello Kitty Latte. After Huacheng Square, I enjoyed traditional Cantonese cuisine (some sort of braised tofu dish) before heading to the 108th floor of the Canton Tower! Time to relax now with some Netflix and a Bloody Mary. Love you all!
Urban Park Picnic
Traditional Cantonese Cuisine
Day 3 highlights: Strolled around Shamian Island for a few hours. How peaceful! Shamian (literal Chinese translation = "sandy surface" island) is a sandbank island in Guangzhou. According to Wikipedia "The territory was divided into two concessions given to France and the United Kingdom by the Qing government in the 19th century. The island is a gazetted historical area that serves as a tranquil reminder of the colonial European period, with quiet pedestrian avenues flanked by trees and lined by historical buildings". Definitely a contrast to last night's Zhujiang New Town! After Shamian Island, I found my way to nearby Qingping Medicine Market. Street after street after street of Chinese traditional medicine. I saw several shocked faces when I walked down the small alleyways...I don't think it's really a tourist hangout spot. (By the way, it's now day 3, and I still have only seen one other foreigner since I arrived). The locals offered me to sample some dried fungus(?), but I politely refused (sensitive stomach). The medicine street then led me to a "pet street". I just wanted to take those precious puppies home! Don't worry, those were not food, phew. The last stop of the day was Shang Jiu Shopping Street 上九路. You can see the street is lined with lots of decorations for the Chinese New Year. I will probably go back there on New Year's Day (February 8th) to see the parade. Time for some Afternoon Tea and a face mask. XO
Qingping Medicine Market
Shang Jiu Pedestrian Street
Day 2 highlights: Made use of hotel gym to start day one of training for the Great Wall Marathon coming up in a few months, enjoyed amazing Western-style breakfast buffet, explored Zhujiang New Town (Guangzhou's incredibly modtern city center with all new skyscrapers), found a yummy Vietnamese restaurant with great people-watching. Loving this city! Also, the metro is fantastic! Super easy to get around everywhere. P.S. I have only seen one foreigner so far. It's okay, I blend in pretty well...
Day 1 highlights: Fueling my body with delicious fresh food from my favorite China chain Element Fresh (found one in Guangzhou's Taikoo Hui Plaza - the fancy mall you see below), do-it-yourself spa treatment in my hotel room...Off to a good start!
Greetings from Hong Kong - the land of internet freedom! Please note that due to recent increased internet censorship in the Mainland, I can no longer access the blog from Shenzhen. I am working on downloading a more reliable VPN in order to allow acess, as I know my fans are quite eager for stories and updates! They are coming! In the meantime, please enjoy the many photos below of Peking University's Holiday Party as well as numerous photos from my parents' first ever trip to China! It was a truly incredible adventure and was so wonderful to finally show them my other life in China. Be sure to scroll back to previous pages to read several stories and reflections on my exciting journey in Shenzhen. Wishing all my dear friends and family a happy new year of the Monkey! 祝你新年快乐!
My name is Allie or 何爱俐, and I am enjoying my fifth year of living in China. I started out studying Chinese in Beijing at 北京首都经贸大学, then teaching in Shanghai at 上海中学国际部, and now I am attending business school at 北京大学汇丰商学院 in Shenzhen. Read my blog to follow my adventures...Feel free to reach out with any questions or comments!