Aunt Joy is here for a visit! Joy is married to Joel’s brother Jay. She’s originally from China’s Hunan Province but she and Jay currently live in Saudi Arabia. Joy made a trip back to China to visit family and was kind enough to include a few days in Zhuhai. It’s been wonderful to have her here. First of all, she’s a delightful person. (One of Jay’s best decisions ever!) Also, she is SO HELPFUL at explaining things we did not understand about life in China. She teaches Chinese to kids in Saudi Arabia, so she gave us a quick lesson soon after she arrived. I learned as much in her impromptu lesson as I’d managed to teach myself in a month. See? SO HELPFUL!
We met up with a few other UIC staff members and took Joy out to dinner on Thursday night. A funny thing about restaurants here in China: we cannot read the signs, so we have no idea what their names are. They’re given nicknames, like “Private Restaurant” (because it says this in English on the menu) or “Dumpling King” or “The Boyfriend Restaurant” (the UIC interns have a story for this one) or “The Friendly Uighur Noodle Place” and it’s foil, “The Grumpy Uighur Noodle Place.” Last night, we took Joy to the place that we call Mao, because of it’s decor.
So it turns out the food there is Hunan-style. Like Joy’s hometown. And the translation of the real name of the restaurant is so charming that I may have to start using it: Hunan Cottage of Destiny. That’s cute. Anyhow, the food at Mao/Cottage of Destiny is delicious. It’s possibly my favorite place in Zhuhai, when you factor in both the tasty, tasty food with the fact that service is really speedy. (Seventeen-month-olds are not known for their patience at the dinner table.)
When I really like a dish at a restaurant, I use my phone to photograph it in the menu, so I know how to order it when I return. My favorite dish there is the spicy green beans, which are cooked with lots of pork fat. Simon loves them, too. Joy recommended a new beef and vegetable dish and it warranted a photograph.
On the way home from dinner, we stopped at a Chinese pharmacy. I have been looking for some sort of muscle ointment. Sometimes after I run or bicycle, my calves are sore. Back home, I’d use Ben Gay or Icy Hot but you can’t find those here. With Joy translating, the pharmacist recommended a beautifully packaged tube of Imada Seasons Safe Oil. Upon getting home, I found some English instructions that indicate the ingredients are menthol, camphor, and a whole host of essential oils including peppermint, cinnamon, and clove. It smells nice–better than the American stuff. I guess I need to go for a good long run so that I’ll be able to test it out.
At home, Joy has been giving us some pointers for Chinese cooking. At lunch on Friday, she prepared a beef soup with carrots and mild Chinese radishes as well as a tofu stir fry. I’ve been really interested in learning about tofu here so I was watching her technique closely. Tofu is a great protein source and absurdly cheap. A single package (enough for dinner for two) costs one yuan, or about 16 cents (US). Can’t beat that, especially since meat safety is such a big concern here.