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Archive for the 'Early Impressions' Category

Leave the Visa at home

As to paying for things, we are stacking up a few bills, just with the cost of setting up things here. We were under the impression that visa was an acceptable way to pay for things. Don’t bother. No-one knows what to do with a Visa card, and take it away for five mins while asking someone what it’s all about. Not good for financial peace of mind. We’ll have to check our statments even more regularly now. Usually, ten mins later, the cash-register person comes back with a receipt and something to say that the transaction was successful. After it happened for the second or third time yesterday, we resolved to have much cash and not to use visa. Obviously there is no way that small shops would have visa facilities, but the other day we went to Walmart; multi-story United States complex that’s really like Kmart. The above situation occurred. For the record, we could pay via visa in the end. )

Sheets are an expensive item. We purchased an all-in-one set of linen, which had a fitted (at the corners only) under-sheet with those frilly bits coming from the top of it, (not the bottom), and a synthetic and very thin duna in a duna-cover. Very summer-quality. I can’t imagine being able to use it in winter. (As it is, I usually brave winter with flannelette pj’s and explorer socks. Warm and cozy.) The queen-size beds are not queen-size. They are a bit longer and wider than double beds, but not by that much. I forsee inadvertent snuggling in winter and frustration in summer. When we come back to Australia for a bit, we’ll probably go and bring back a basic set of sheets. They’re much better quality, and will cost about 1/2 to 1/3 of the price of these.

Food Bits

We have eaten a bit of Chinese food, but not too much. The restaurants (that word is actually very hard to spell, believe it or not; vowel combo in the middle is hard) we’ve gone to are quite good ones, so not much chance of food poisoning/ ‘traveller’s diarrhoea’ (- a semi-accepted medical thingy!), but it really is only a matter of time until we get something. Mark Z, another Aussie up here, said that he pretty much had diarrhoea on and off for the first month that he was up here. Then the body gets used to it. I feel like we’re slowly integrating ourselves with the food, though we haven’t been too adventurous yet. We’ll probably save that for food in the provinces.

Food prices are bit of an interesting thing; the supermarket prices are equivalent to those in Adelaide, or a bit more expensive. Not what I was expecting at all! And it is obviously not comparable as far as quality goes. Everything is lesser, and I don’t think I’m just being patriotic.

Seafood Bits
As for seafood, it is a regular part of the Chinese diet. They sell it live in the supermarkets; many prawns (albeit half-alive ones) in tanks for you to take out and bag, then take to the supermarket people who weigh them and price them, then to the checkout counter. A bit like our deli-counters in Woollies. They also have fish and we saw an eel, too. I think they may have other miscellaneous live sea-products, but we’ve always not stopped to look, having been on semi-strict time-lines. There’s dried abalone, too. I’m sure there will be opportunity for me to browse later, once we’re sorted and set up. I’m really glad that they have so much sea-food, but it loses its shine a bit when you think of the state that their seas must be in. Errch!

The price is not right

Cereal is so expensive, about A$10 a small box. I found a packet of porridge oats that is not so bad cost-wise, and am regularly having them for breakfast. I also have a small packet of Kelloggs corn-flakes (with almond and honey, weird but tasty) for when I really want something homely. Bread comes in wholemeal or white. Or you can get special little packs of bread, of ½ a loaf, but it’s much more expensive.

The hundred year egg

Congee

I had a traditional Cantonese-style lunch today. It included things like Century Egg Congee (a rice gruel with jellied duck egg), pork, prawn and vegetable dumplings, spring rolls, rice & beef rolls, pork balls, pork buns and other things I can’t quite remember. There was this stuff that looked and tasted a little like half-cooked potato but apparently comes from a plant that looks like bamboo. Very nice.

Traditionally, century eggs are made by coating duck eggs with wood ash mixed with lime and clay. The eggs are then left to ripen for about a month. Chemical analysis of the coating shows that alkali and alkali earth oxides are the main ingredients in making the century eggs. Production of the century egg involves chemical reactions such as denaturation of proteins, hydrolysis, deamination, decarboxylation and racemisation. In denaturation, the strong alkali disrupts the hydrogen bonds and salt bridges, causing an unfolding of the coiled structure of the protein. Although the peptide bonds are still intact, the biological nature and activity of the protein are destroyed. After denaturation, coagulation takes place, resulting in the hardened egg white and egg yolk. The colour darkens during the ripening period. Hydrogen sulphide and ammonia gases are often evolved during the production of century eggs. This is due to the decomposition of the macromolecules into smaller protein units by the alkali (hydrolysis and deamination reactions).

A chemical method for making century eggs is described in the following book published by the Singapore Science Centre:

Chemistry Potpourri — Unlocking Chemistry through Investigations by Mabel Ho (1988).

It’s been a really good 24 hours. In a short space of time we’ve had the phone and ADSL connected to our apartment, both our mobile phones have started working, we now have a tumble dryer and I finally have my new email address at work. Without the dryer we were hanging clothes on coat hangers and hanging them on chairs arranged around the borrowed fan heater. Even then it was taking 2-3 days for clothes to dry. The boxes with our personal belongings have been released from customs and are scheduled to arrive at our apartment tomorrow morning. It’s feeling really good to be able to finally talk to our friend and family again and the prospect of finally getting our stuff is quite a relief too.

I spent the day recovering from a shocking night where I slept for about 1 hour total. Some kind of flu or head cold that meant I couldn’t get warm enough and was heavily dehydrated. By mid afternoon things had started to clear up and I was feeling better. I was also starting to feel more positive about the whole “living in China” experience too. Seems like the day of rest was just what I needed.

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