Living in China: Comforts from home

When you live in China, after a while you start to miss little things from home. Things you don’t really expect to miss. You expect to miss your family, friends, and pets. But when you’ve been living here a while, you start to realize things that you never thought were important become important.

Like food.

You never really appreciate an ice cold Coca-Cola and a Snickers bar until it’s one of the only things in your diet that tastes exactly like you expect it to. Every time.

I went to the Riverside Grocery a couple of days ago to pick up a few things for dinner. It is a great little shop, and one of the best in the city for finding American and foreign import goods. Fortunately (and unfortunately, considering the prices) its within our compound and a 5 minute walk from my apartment. Whenever I go in, I always take a complete walk around the store. (It’s really not very big, more like a convenience store in the US.) You never know what they’ll have it stock. It’s always changing.

The rule we follow here says that if you find something you’re excited about, buy them all. They may not have them tomorrow (especially since all the expats follow this rule) and they may not get them in again for another six months… or ever.

So today, when I happened upon the next to last isle on my systematic trek around the store, I literally jumped for joy. Seriously. I may have even squeaked.

It’s really no wonder they stare. We just think it’s our skin color. Actually, it’s because we jump and clap over products on the grocery isle. Or maybe it’s just that now we have no problem making such a display in public because we realize they are going to stare anyway so we might as well give them a reason to. The chicken or the egg? What do you think?

But in this case, I really just didn’t care… (ok. ok. In most cases, I just don’t care. But that trait turns out to be pretty beneficial here.)

…a light shone down from heaven and I’m sure I heard angels singing.

Riverside Grocery. Shenyang, China

Shells & Cheese!!

To understand how exciting this is, just try this out.

Fast from cheese for the next 4 weeks.

Eat rice. And noodles.

Then you’ll see.

Oh, and the one thing I went to the store to buy…

Shopping for food in China

This little grocery trip only cost 110 RMB.

For those of you who are as bad at conversions as me that makes it $16.56 USD.
More than $5 each.

What do you think? Would you do it?

If not for mac and cheese, what food would you fork out the cash for no matter the cost?


Our New China Apartment

Main gate of Riverside Garden. Shenyang, China

We had a meeting set up for Thursday with our realty agency who has been working out all the details in getting our apartment for us. They set up the lease, negotiate the rate and any other little details. In China, everything is negotiable, including rent prices, and typically you need to know someone who knows someone to get a deal, or even to get in at all. We actually got turned down by the owner of the first apartment we picked out. Pretty much because he didn’t want to rent to us for whatever reason. This was after the price was negotiated and the deal was pretty much done. It’s all about who ya know ’round here.

Lucky for us, “the company” hires an agency to work out all the details. I couldn’t imagine having to figure that out on our own. If you are moving to China and your company isn’t taking care of housing, I would definitely look up one of the real estate agencies who deal with expats. Kelt Realty is the company who took care of our housing and we had a great experience with them.

I was a little nervous to check out the apartment. Ok, a LOT nervous. Like I mentioned, the first apartment we picked out fell through, so we ended up having to sign a lease on this second apartment sight unseen. This is our home for the next two years, and I will be spending a LOT of time there. To me, this was one of the biggest decisions we had to make. It really could go a long way to make or break this experience. Making this decision without even visiting the place took quite a leap of faith for me.

Living Room in our Shenyang Apartment

It wasn’t a completely blind choice though. This apartment is in the same building as the first one and the location in the city is one of the main things we liked about it. Riverside Garden is a gated community where a lot of expats live. It has a nice park, a market, and English speaking staff. We did get to see photos of the inside via email also. From the pictures, it could have been the same apartment except in mirror image. However, there was one glaring problem I noticed right away. These hideous light fixtures. They were unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Really awful. It worried me that the owner actually chose these and proceeded to hang them up. I’m even a little scared to show them to you. Did you notice the plural? Yep, they are in EVERY room too!

Chinese Light FixtureLight Fixture in our China Apartment

But all in all light fixtures aren’t that big of a deal and I figure I can decorate around them. World’s Greatest Ignorer, remember? I was just really hoping there wasn’t some other scary thing hiding in a closet that the photographs failed to show off. To be honest, I guess I didn’t really have that much to be worried about.

As it turns out, the apartment should have been more scared of ME, than me of it.

Check back later for the REST of the story. Here’s a hint…
it has something to do with this little contraption.
Security in Shenyang