Monday, November 30, 2009

Somebody Just Pays...

We went out to dinner with most of the foreign teachers from our school on Saturday night. We went to Brussels, the restaurant I wrote about in my last post. Sadly, in a cruel twist of fate, Katrina got sick just a few hours before we left. She was the one who put all the hard work into planning the event and then she couldn't even go. Just know that we were thinking of you Katrina.

Well, after about 1 1/2 hours on a bus we got off the bus and had to wander around for a few blocks to find the restaurant. We accidentally got off the bus a little bit early so we had to figure out where we were going. Once we got to the restaurant and out of the cold we got a chance to look at the menu. The menu had so many yummy options to choose from that were not Chinese! You can actually get a steak there! It is the first place we have come across that serves an actual steak. The steak was tempting, but I had already decided I was having turkey, so that is what I got. All of the food we ordered was delicious. It was more than delicious, it was amazing! Our taste buds were so happy. We would like to eat there every night, except that it was super expensive (some of the steaks cost 200 yuan!). However, after eating the food we decided that the high price was worth it.

When we were ready to leave we asked the waitress to bring us the bill. When she handed it to me my jaw dropped. The total came to almost 700 yuan! I tried to say there was a mistake and ours should only cost about 15o yuan, however I was stopped by some people around me. I was told that here in China they don't do separate checks, they just bring one big bill for the entire table. And they won't split it for you even if you ask. That is just something they don't do here. Then I was told that here in China they don't worry about splitting it up and every one paying for their items because they usually eat family style at restaurants. I was then told that usually they bring the bill out and "somebody just pays.... we usually take turns taking care of the bill". I was also told that usually the person who asks for the bill was the one who paid for it. AHHHHH! I was so worried. I didn't want to pay for the entire table! McKay and I made sure to eat economically. We didn't have any drinks like the other teachers and got some of their cheaper items for dinner. Luckily the others at our table were willing to figure out exactly what each person owed. That was a relief.
I never thought I would miss going dutch when going out to eat. When I was dating I thought it was dumb, and since being married I haven't had to think about it. But the other night I really missed being able to go dutch when it came to dinner. Despite their different billing style, we will definitely be going back to Brussels Cafe. We will probably just go on our own next time to avoid those bill issues.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Ramada Thanksgiving

This year thanksgiving was really strange. Because China doesn't celebrate thanksgiving it wasn't talked about or anticipated as much. We also didn't get any time off of work or get to spend the time with family, so it didn't really feel like thanksgiving. However, one of the other foreign teachers at our university took it upon herself to put together some thanksgiving plans. Those plans were made by multiple phone calls to the owner of a restaurant here in Wuhan called Brussels. It is a restaurant that serves "western" and European foods and the owner had found some place to get turkey, so we were all calling in our reservations to get a plate of turkey from him.

Well, right after we had all made plans to go to Brussels, we received an email from the foreign affairs department here at our school inviting us to a thanksgiving dinner at the Ramada a few miles down the road from our school. They gave us really short notice and gave us just a few hours to tell them whether or not we were coming. However, since the turkey dinner at Brussels would have been about 120 yuan per person and the dinner held by the school was free... we all decided to go have thanksgiving dinner at the Ramada on the school's dime instead. Luckily the owner of Brussels seems like a pretty cool guy and he is letting us come eat some turkey on Saturday instead.

When dinner time arrived we all met together at the bus stop in front of the school and planned to take taxi's down to the Ramada, but there was a major traffic jam and the taxi's didn't want to go down there, so our taxi ended up taking us the long way around, which made the cab fare cost double what it usually does. However, at least we got a cab. Some of the teachers ended up walking. It is just over 2 miles, which isn't that bad, but it still takes about 3o minutes to walk. When we all finally arrived in our various taxi's or on foot, we were happy to find that the Ramada here in Wuhan is really fancy!

The Ramada

We were taken up to the 28th floor of the hotel to have a buffet style dinner in their rotating restaurant. It was really beautiful and we had some amazing views. We could tons of twinkling lights spreading out across the city below us. I have never been in a rotating room before, and I have to say it is pretty cool, but it is a little bit disorienting.

The dinner itself was pretty good. They had hundreds of different things for us to eat, but very few of them were actually thanksgiving foods. They had one turkey for the entire buffet, so I only got a little slice. Needless to say, I am glad I can go to Brussels on Saturday to get more turkey. They also had about 5 baked potatoes and a crock pot full of pumpkin soup. They also had a pumpkin pie, but it was the worst tasting pumpkin pie I have ever come across in my entire life! All of the teachers had fun trying random foods, and a lot of teachers took advantage of the fresh salmon that they had there (it was raw so I didn't have any). They also had all kinds of fruit and noodle dishes and TONS of dessert. They had a chocolate fountain, but the only thing by the chocolate fountain to dip in were skewers with cherry tomatoes! Who eats tomatoes dipped in chocolate???????? No one that I know does that, so the tomatoes sat untouched and we found other things to dip in the chocolate (Simon got smart and drizzled some lemon marshmallows in the chocolate).

The dessert buffet and seafood buffet
It was a fun evening because it had tons of good, non-chinese food, and it was nice to be removed from our mundane teachers life in our drafty apartment for a few hours, and we could live it up for a little while. I think everyone ate more food than we have in months! The person who packed the most food away also happened to be the smallest and the skinniest of the bunch. We were all quite surprised that she could keep eating and eating and eating and eating, and her stomach didn't even start to poke out!

Well we were missing our family and friends back home on Thanksgiving, but it was nice to have something nice to do to celebrate.

Monday, November 23, 2009


I am officially one year older now. On the 23rd I turned 22! We started birthday celebrations on Sunday by having birthday cake with our little piece of the ward here in Wuhan. They were all over at our apartment for church and then lunch anyway, so we decided to have birthday cake then. It was fun to be able to share my birthday with them.

On my actual birthday I had to teach classes but when I came home from classes McKay had a very sweet birthday card and my first present waiting for me next to a lit candle. He told me it was my birthday candle and had me blow it out, and that was the start of the birthday festivities. We talked to a number of our family members online through skype and with each new conversation we had he would whip out another present and have me open it over video chat so that my family and his family could share in the birthday celebration. It was kind of fun to have them a little involved, even if it was only over the internet. He ended up getting me some beautiful chinese hair pins, a beautiful pair of earrings, a fun pen that is leaving a trail of glitter behind it, and UNO!

That evening, after McKay was done teaching his classes we went to Pizza Hut for dinner. I never thought I would see the day when Pizza Hut was a high class, swanky, expensive restaurant. Well, It is. At least here in China it is. We love going to Pizza Hut because there is noting more familiar than pizza. We both thought it was kind of funny that Pizza Hut has decided that it is Christmas time. Because they don't do thanksgiving here they switched right over from Halloween to Christmas. All of the waiters and waitresses were wearing Santa hats and they had Christmas trees in the corners and Christmas music playing in the background. It was awesome, but it felt a little early for all of that. However, we would have enjoyed our ham and pinapple stuffed crust pizza just as much, with our without the Christmas decorations.

Enjoying our yummy stuffed crust pizza.

After dinner we walked around the shopping mall that the Pizza Hut is attached to and McKay took me to all the places that he found my presents. At one of the stores we found the most beautiful beaded shirts, dresses and skirts. I really wanted to get one, but for some reason I am not built like a 5 foot nothing tiny Chinese girl, so the items that could actually get on, fit horribly. One of the dresses looked like I was wearing a apron! After the shopping we stopped at one of our new favorite places, Beard Papa's. Isn't that a silly name? I think it is, especially since they sell cream puffs and eclairs. Beard Papa's is a mini cream puff bakery located underneath and escalator. What makes them so good is that unlike most of the chinese desserts, they are actually sweet, and they fill them with the cream filling right in front of you, so they are super fresh. We each got a chocolate covered cream puff for desert and thoroughly enjoyed them.
Our rather large chocolate eclairs from Beard Papa's

After that we made one last stop in the basement of the shopping center so McKay could show me a store that carried games. They store the Chinese version of lots of familiar games including Monopoly, Settlers of Cattan, Pictionary, and last but not least, BANG! We bought out their entire collection of Bang games because the basic game back home costs $15-20 and the expansion pack costs about $40. However, here in China we were able to buy the original game and the bullet expansion pack (which includes all 3 expansion packs) for the equivalent of $13. We thought that was a pretty sweet deal. We are not exactly sure who they will go to when we get home, but we couldn't resist. When we got home one of our fellow teachers Katrina came over, and we talked with her as she helped us finish off some birthday cake.

It was a good day, and I am so excited to experience my 22nd year of life!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


On Friday at the beginning of class, one of my students asked me if she could make an announcement. I told her as long as it was quick that would be fine. She proceeded to write on the board in Chinese. The only thing I could read was 999 written in the middle of her Chinese characters. When she was done writing she announced that the whole class was going to the KTV that afternoon, and then she turned to me and told me I was invited. Normally when I am invited to do things with students I try to graciously duck out because I don't want to blur the line between Teacher and friend. I want them to like me, but I don't want them to think that they can treat me like on of their buddies, especially since I am only 2 years older than them. Well, on this occasion almost all of my students turned to me and asked, "are you coming?" "do you have plans?" "you want go with us?" "are you bringing your husband with you?". And then the statements and pleas started. "You have to come" "your husband come with you" "we meet at 1:30 and we wait for you". Even though their English is a little broken, there was no mistaking that almost all of my students wanted and expected me to come, and they expected McKay to be in tow. So, we went. McKay came a little bit grudgingly because singing karaoke, especially in front of a bunch of Chinese teenagers is not his cup of tea. But, McKay loves me, and he wanted to have a new adventure so he came for part of the time.

When we got to the KTV I was really surprised at how fancy and upscale it was. My class had their own private room reserved, room 999. It was really cool. There were 2 levels to the room, the bottom level had 2 tables surrounded by couches, a computer monitor to choose your songs, a bar area, two T.V. screens and a little stage with a monitor and a stool for you to perform on. The second level had a long counter with bar stools looking down on the lower level performing area, a private bathroom, a big circular booth where the students were playing some dice game, and more couches against the walls. On top of all the space and amenities the ceiling was mirrored and the room was lit up by fiber optic and neon lights that kept changing colors. The room was fairly dark, but it was really colorful and pretty.

Waiting for our turn with a handful of students.

It took them a while to get the karaoke equipment working properly, but once they did my students decided that McKay and I were going to sing a duet first. That worked out just fine because McKay was only going to be there for 30 minutes so he needed to go first. Their English song selection was lacking a little bit, and if they singer is at all popular they have a name in Chinese, so only the unpopular singers have the artists name in English. The First song we came across that we both knew (and could actually tell what the song was) was barbie girl by Aqua. McKay and I made complete fools of ourselves by singing loudly and a little off key, and we danced around a little bit to make it even better. When that song was done they told us we were doing another one, so we sang Apologize by One Republic. It didn't go so well... but it was very entertaining for the students and we got a lot of applause from them.

Singing Barbie Girl and Apologize
A little after that 3:00 hit and McKay had to go back home because he had a class to teach, so I was left alone with 25-30 Chinese kids, luckily I knew the majority of them. I voluntarily sang a solo because I happen to enjoy singing, and they happened to have one of my all time favorite songs, Cry for You by September. It made me feel really good to hear them all clapping and cheering for me when I was done. I thought I would be done after that but we stayed at the KTV for another 2 and a half hours, so, I ended up singing a number of songs. I even sang a duet with one of my students. Her English name is Day and she is quite the little singer. For some reason Avril Lavigne is really popular here in China. I like Avril Lavigne as well, but it still amazes me that out of all the English speaking singers out there, Avril is the one the Chinese people have latched on to. Well, I sang a duet to an Avril Lavigne song with Day, because Avril's songs were the only American songs she knew. Before we left they got me to sing Hot'N'Cold by Katy perry, Halo, by Beyonce, and like 4 other songs that I cant remember at the moment. It seemed like every time there was a break in people who wanted to sing, or whenever someone started to sing multiple songs in a row they would decide that it was teachers turn to sing again. It was fun, but I wonder what my students think of me now and what kinds of comments I will be met with in class next week. I had fun though, so it doesn't matter too much.
(I couldn't hear myself because I had a cold, and it was really really noisy.
Plugging my ear seemed to help.)

Since then I have been wondering whether or not a KTV or a high class karaoke bar would have any potential in america and think it would be really cool to open one, and then I remember that most people back home wouldn't think that paying to possibly embarrass yourself in a fancy karaoke club would not be that cool. Oh well, at least I got to enjoy it while I am here in China.

McKay singing his guts out...

Sitting with Yolanda, Day, Stefanie, Vanessa, Miracle and Alice

With Ozzie and Easy Glass
(I know, Easy Glass? He picked it, not me!)

Outside the building with some of the girls. They told me that it is very popular to take your picture in front of that water fall thing, so, we decided to be very popular.

Thanks 3C kids, I had a blast!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Grandma's Feather Bed

McKay and I went out to dinner tonight after we picked up my birthday cake from Mr. Mai's. While we were waiting for my noodle dish (it was supposed to be fettuccine carbonara, but it turned out to be noodles with scrambled eggs) I heard a familiar song playing quietly. I couldn't really pick out the words at first but recognized that I knew it because I was humming along. Then the words to the song hit me. It was John Denver's song Grandma's Feather Bed! That was one of the songs we would listen to with my dad when I was a little kid and it was comforting to hear a familiar song in the middle of china (other than an Avril Lavigne song). Hearing the song made me feel all warm and happy inside. I love that little sentimental things like a familiar song can make you feel at home, even when you are on the opposite side of the world.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Super Long Sunday

While we are here in China our Sunday's are very different than they used to be. Church is held through teleconference originating in Beijing. All of the members in the big cities meet together somewhere to dial in and listen. We are not the only members here in Wuhan, so we try to meet together with everyone else on Sunday. Luckily one of the other LDS couples are also here at our school and live in the same building that we do. We love that we live so close to the Skaggs, they are so fun to have around. There is another couple who lives about half an hour away who we have only met the wife once. There is also a super cute family that lives all the way across the city named the Flannery's. They have a 3 year old boy and a 2 year old girl and they are seriously some of the cutest children i have ever seen! They make the 2 hour trip across town worth it. Well, church starts at 10:00 a.m. so we have to get down to the bus stop and hop on a bus by 8:00. We ride the 583 bus until the very end of the line which takes around an hour and a half and then because the bus route ends they kick us off and we have to catch a taxi. Once we find a cab that doesn't already have passengers (which is harder that it seems) we take a 10-12 rmb bus ride to the Flannery's apartment. By the end of 2 hours sitting in buses and taxi's it is hard to sit for church, but like I said their kids make it worth it. They are so cute and energetic and entertaining. I don't understand what they are saying to me because they are speaking Chinese but it doesn't even matter. We have lots of fun playing with them, teasing them, and just watching them bounce around and make messes. After church we all eat lunch together and then catch another taxi and bus back home.

Well this last Sunday it was really really cold. We (The Skaggs and ourselves) were all bundled up for the bus ride. This time we got to the Flannery's in less than 2 hours, which was really nice. However, on the way home something went terribly wrong. Our taxi driver seemed to have a hard time getting us to the bus stop. He took a very long roundabout way that ended up costing us more than normal. We were lucky enough to get on a heated bus for the ride home, but we ended up being stuck on the bus for 3 hours! After 3 hours a heated bus smashed full of people gets really really hot. We started to get sweaty and had to peel off some layers. The last hour of the bus ride we only drove about 2 miles. When we were just about 2 miles or 7 stops from home our bus broke down and they herded everyone off. There was another bus waiting to pick us up, but it already had it's own load of passengers and there was no room for us. The traffic was also pretty backed up so we all decided to just walk home, even though it was raining. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be walking in the rain while I was still sick, but we didn't get home until after 4:30. 8:00 a.m to 4:30 p.m. is a long time to devote to church and traveling to and from church. I guess at least we got an interesting experience and story out of it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sick . . . at the same time

I caught some kind of a bug on Halloween. I am not sure what, but it has continually gotten worse over the last week. Being sick was fine when i didn't have to teach because McKay is a really good husband and took care of me completely. He would fetch me whatever I needed and helped me feel better. Well, McKay caught the bug too about 2 days ago. Having both of us sick at the same time is bad news! Usually one of us takes care of the other when they are sick, but now we are both just lounging around the apartment in our matching blue sweatpants and BYU hoodies, watching season 4 of Monk and coughing our guts out. We would probably be a pretty pathetic sight right now, it is a good thing we are really cut off from the world right now because we can wallow in our misery in peace. Lets hope this bug passes through quickly!