Roughing it

First of, by posting this I want you to know I am not complaining.   I knew that things would not be easy and I was prepared mentally for challenges.  It has been really wonderful seeing my children adapt and make do.  This in and of itself has been a fantastic education and I’ll be happy if this is all they come away with!

When we first arrived, the apartment we were going to be living in was just in the end stages of being “renovated.”  In China you do not rent a “finished” apartment, you rent a “hole in a concrete building.”  There are no toilets, no sinks, no wiring and no plumbing.  This apartment had just recently had these upgrades added (recently=the week before) and some upgrades were still in progress.  There was electricity, but no hot water. (Literally, the water would stop completely if you turned the faucet that direction.)  There was an electric hot plate, but no stove.  There are two small toaster ovens and a toaster, but no microwave.  And, of course, no fridge!

For the first week or so, we took showers upstairs  (and only every other day.)  The situation improved after that when Mickey discovered how to turn on the hot water.   Since that time I have enjoyed daily showers (the girls shower every other and the babies are only getting baths once a week because they’ve developed a NASTY case of excema), nice warm radiators and hot water for the dishes…until today.  As it turns out, with our family of 5 and the 4 other volunteers that have rotated through, we have used up our gas allotment for the month! (Welcome to China!)   So, we are back to taking showers upstairs and using cold water to wash the dishes.  Next month we are going to forgo the radiators and save the gas for warm water and cooking!  (Can you say long johns?)

A couple days after we arrived, a gas cook top was added to the kitchen.   That made our life so wonderful, until we ran out of gas of course!   So, it is back to the electric hot plates!

We have been making bread since the end of the first week that we arrived.  We found three cake pans and have been making skinny rolls (they look like miniature bread loaves) that cut in half beautifully to make sandwiches.   Today we ran out of flour and so took the walk (hike) to the grocery store.  After a couple of hours and a lot of walking (and playing frogger every time we cross the street) we arrived home with our flour.  As soon as we started waiting for the bread to rise, we figured that there was a problem.  But, thinking that it was the cold weather, we persisted.  We boiled a pan of water and placed the bread next to the open toaster ovens.  Still not much of a raise, and so we gave up and cooked the bread.   What we ended up with was little hard rocks that were raw inside.  So disappointed.

Later in the day President Britton (who has lived in China for 5 years)  arrived and told us the the kitchen smelled really wonderful and we had to tell him the whole sad story.  He took one look at our flour and told us why our bread didn’t work!  We had hauled home 25 lbs. of NOODLE flour!  Geesh!  I’ll be donating that to the nannies upstairs because I don’t have the energy to make noodles in this kitchen!

As Amanda says often, “Tomorrow is another day!”

Tonight I think we outdid ourselves!  We were hungry after spending hours playing with babies and doing paperwork (Amanda has me filing)!  So, we headed into the kitchen to see what we had available for dinner.  I was not in the mood for anything with MSG, so that meant cooking.   I had two avocados, rice, two tomatoes, two cans of refried beans, an onion and a 1/2 a jar of salsa.  What we ended up with was HEAVEN and I plan on cooking my Spanish Rice this way from now on!

First we chopped the onion and put 3/4 of it into a frying pan with 1 cup of rice and a few TBSP of olive oil.  We cooked the rice until it was no longer translucent.  Then we added 4 cups of water, 1/2 a jar of salsa, 1 tsp. of cumin,  and garlic salt to taste.  (You can add chicken broth rather than water, but we didn’t have any…didn’t miss it.)

We added the remaining onion to the avocado along with the juice of 1/2 a lemon, a pinch of salt (again to taste, but Chinese salt is super strong!) and a couple of teaspoons of olive oil.  It made heavenly guacamole.

I was super lucky to have the cans of refried beans and used them, but I have a couple of cans of kidney beans I plan on using later for the same purpose.  I added a teaspoon of taco seasoning to that.

I lucked out and Amanda arrived to dinner with 1/2 a bag of lime tortillas!  They added to the meal nicely!  We piled the beans on the chips, then the rice and the guacamole.  It was the most delicious thing I have tasted since we arrived in China!

Everyone loved the meal and filled themselves to the brim!  It was really fun making something so delicious from what I’ve been able to scrounge up from different sources!

Oh, and I can’t forget!  Amanda had mentioned Lemon Meringue Pie earlier in the day, so we whipped up this!  (I used 1/4 a tsp. baking soda instead of baking powder, as I have yet to find it!)

All in all, I’m half roughing it, half making do and really honestly enjoying it!

P.S.  I have not yet found a China Post within walking distance of our Apt.  The hunt continues!

7 Responses

  1. Kirsty says:

    Anne – if you send me a mailing address I will send you baking powder – and anything else you want. Used to be we couldnt get flour tortillas so we used peking duck pancakes to make fajitas and enchiladas – now they are easy to find – the improvisation game is fun!

    • ?? says:

      I’ll have to mention the pancake idea to Amanda. Thanks for the suggestion. We have searched high and low for tortillas here in Xi’an and have yet to find them. Thank you Kirsty!

  2. Ginger says:

    Pantry diving is a favorite game of mine.

    Interesting adventures…I’m glad I’m reading about them and not experiencing them…at least the hot water and cooking part.

  3. Ke, Hai Lian says:

    why the MSG issue? I have never had a problem with that there? In fact it is one of the few places I never have to worry about getting a migraine becasue I am allergic to MSG big time… Did you take any food with you when you went? like baking powder , soda, medicines etc?

    • ?? says:

      MSG is in several things here. It is the first ingredient in the chicken bullion we found at the grocery store. Chicken bullion is probably not used in the restaurants you would have eaten in. We also found MSG listed in the dried “cup of” noodles that we purchased. This is what I was referring to in this email. The girls did end up eating them last night and really really liked them, so we may do it a couple more times, but will save them for the train trips! We did not bring any food other than the items that Amanda requested for herself. We found baking soda here. I have a friend in Beijing who can find Baking Power there and she is mailing me some! Amanda is sharing the taco seasoning that we brought and so that is in play here too.

    • ?? says:

      And yes, we did bring lots of medicine. We have Cipro for traveler diarrhea. Mucinex for respiratory infections, sudafed, ibuprophen, tylenol, anti-diarreal, and Bonine for motion sickness and nausea. We also brought two applications of Tamiflu, mostly for Mouse who has Respiratory Airway Disease from having RSV as a baby.

  4. Jeannetta says:

    These memories will last a lifetime, well done 😉