I’m sorry I haven’t been updating as much as I’d like. Life got in the way, and photographing subjects just isn’t as easy as it used to be. I yearn to get out there and do more. I am hopeful for 2013 and what treasures it will bring, and I will concentrate on my photography more. I’m going to go through my archives and see what I would like to share in the upcoming days/weeks.

Until then, Happy Holidays to you all and I look forward to all your creative works.

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purge purge purge

Believe it or not, I’ve been busy to the point where I forgot I had three rolls waiting to be developed in the fridge! I usually plan my personal time around getting my film developed. yikes. Will make it a point to stop off at film lab and scan this weekend.

I don’t think people really realize sometimes the work you should put into moving overseas. Yes I’ve done this before, but I’ve also accumulated more stuff since then, and gone are the days (sigh) where I could just stuff everything in a big backpack the night before and hop on a plane. I partially blame it on my photography collection.

There’s lots of talk amongst friends who’ve moved in the past shopping by cargo and all that mumbo jumbo. Way too expensive in my opinion! I would feel like my possessions are taking over my life if I have to spend time and money into moving it all around. I think because of this I’ve adopted a more minimalist approach in general. Hubby is thankful.

Here’s how I’m moving, trying to minimize costs and hassles of carrying too much luggage on plane.

1) Books – Going through Hong Kong Post for this! It is actually cheaper and more reliable than China Post, because anytime you send/receive books it can turn out to be an issue. I’m just using regular parcel service to save money. If you’re shipping things that are not fragile and aren’t valuable (including sentimental value), this is a pretty decent option if you don’t have too much to send. I have also scanned about 40 books (work and personal) so will be donating those to school library.  If you have access to a good quality scanner this saved me a lot of hassle and money by having to send more books. We have about 8 books to send.

2) Electronics – the bulkiest item we own is my beloved scanner. We have a speaker set and my hubby’s PS2 to send as well.  We are going through a courier service with insurance for this.  Thank goodness we are in a city with numerous import/export business owners where some of them we happen to be friends with! Apparently different managers ‘quote’ different prices, so we shopped around.

3)Clothes – we have about three suitcases together, and I’m scrutinizing my clothing collection uber carefully right now. It’s hard to pare down things because Shenzhen’s weather is so different to weather in North America. The usual rules of throwing/donating clothes can’t really apply because a) Shenzhen has been unusually warm this past winter and I haven’t really worn my blazers/sweaters/coats much b)Many ‘spring’ clothes are too hot to wear in this current weather! If you move a lot owning less bulky and lightweight clothing can be a good option.

4) furniture/kitchen appliances – The apartment we currently live in came with furniture included, so thankfully we don’t have to worry about that. We have two small bookshelves that I think we’ll leave in the apartment for the next tennant.  As for other things, we are giving away oven/photo frames/rice cooker/space heaters as they are still in good condition and I’d hate to see them thrown away.  The rest of our kitchenware we’ll leave on the curb and hopefully it will go to a good future home.

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Luohu Commercial Shopping Centre

(image found on wikipedia)

Just literally did a TWO DAY shopping trip with my friend who is visiting from Canada. I’ve heard people who literally spend all day in the Luohu Commercial Shopping centre, but I have never experienced it until now.  I’m not really a big fan of knockoff goods so I don’t go there too awful much, except to the tailors once in a blue moon.

Most people who come to Shenzhen are here for shopping. Luohu Commerical Shopping Centre is five floors of knockoff bags, belts, wallets, watches, electronics, you name it. That plus cheap spa places makes it one of those places where people come to spend their money. My friend was definitely here for this purpose.

I will say, hubby and I bargained our hearts out to help our friends. It also included a fake purse which my friend bought that was so good, even she couldn’t tell the difference (she owns several authentic handbags)!

Some pointers if you do shop here:

-There are different ‘grades’ of fake goods.  Of course, the better the fake, the more expensive it is. There are also what they refer to as “top A” goods, which are literally made of material so good that it’s hard to spot from the fake. These items, however, you have to go to the higher floors for and you must keep insisting. My friend knew exactly what details to look for so the seller was convinced to show her the good stuff.

-DON’T buy electronics, unless you are just there for the fake stuff.  I mean, they do 1000GB usbs! Most fake usbs only go up to 4gb. But I wouldn’t risk it.

-Of course, don’t ever settle for a price they offer, even if it’s their second or third price.  You can bargain from 50%-70% down from the original price.

-Don’t be afraid to walk away. There are literally hundreds of stores probably with the same item you are looking for.

-Act interested at first. They will offer you seats when browsing at catalogs.  If you keep standing they’ll think they won’t have a potential sale and leave you alone.

-You must be willing to bargain or offer a price you’re willing to pay if you end up asking a vendor the price of an item. That being said, don’t be too rude about bargaining. Sometimes vendors will just think they’ll lose the sale and just stop.

-If a vendor puts away his/her calculator, it means no chance of bargaining. Some sellers are quite rude and you either buy it at their price or just go somewhere else.

-My favourite tip: My friend’s dad pointed me and told the seller “That girl there can get me the same item in Dongmen for —RMB”.  Do a bit of research (scour forums or if you have a friend who is a local of Shenzhen, the better!) and see what alternatives there are to buying the same product elsewhere. Use that as a bargaining tool.

-My hubby likes to pretend to be the cheap-o and get mad if I’m bargaining. Sometimes it works in our favour, sometimes it doesn’t.

If there are additional tips I’d love to hear them 🙂

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Our Neighbourhood – awesome haircut guy

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yes, those are ear covers in case hair dye gets on them.
yes, those are ear covers in case hair dye gets on them.

I’ve been rummaging through my photo collection and completely forgot I had taken these images a while back.  These people are some of the most kind (local) people I’ve met here.  They live in a modest little shop (they have a little attic where they sleep) and cut hair and sell veggies and fruit (it’s whatever they have available and the cheapest/in season I gather).  We stumbled upon this place while on our Sunday morning routine and we’ve gone back every two weeks when hubby needs his hair cut.

This is also my last post for a little while, as I’m headed back to Canada/USA to visit friends and family for 6 weeks. Might post sporadically here and here, but in-laws do not have internet access, so we’ll see.

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What I eat

I went into a fairly lengthy discussion with a friend the other day about food scares and such in China these days. It’s nothing new that every month (or less than that!) something is wrong with a certain food grown here. I’m fairly concerned about this, and try to avoid these if I can.  That said, it is hard to tell food quality regardless of the news that circulates.  So what to do? How do people maintain a high quality diet here?  I’ve worked and tweaked my food shopping habits over the years I’ve been here, and it’s worked fairly well for me. So I’m sharing my list here in case anyone is interested, or is trying to eat local foods without totally relying on imports.

What I avoid eating here:

-local milk (too many news articles about the melamine tainted milk scandal out there, go have a look! Plus any milk here is of the powdered variety, even if you buy it in cartons) and any food with milk ingredients, such as chocolate, yoghurt, cakes, ice cream locally produced butter,etc.

-eggs : I was allergic to them once, so I avoided that for obvious reasons. Now, its’ mostly because of the quality I’ve found: many eggs you find in local markets are fertilized. My husband and I bought many eggs so our students can dye them for Easter, but threw 2/3 away because of this issue. And this happened more than once!

-generic oil: it used to make me sooooo sick

-juice produced here: they put more sugar in it than a can of cola!

-stock: they make it out of chicken bullion and fat, and the veggie one is NOT veggie. It’s also full of other crap that you just don’t want in your body

-locally packed salted nuts: they’ve also got more sugar than salt. crazy.

-seafood: a lot of the ‘fresh’ fish you see at wet markets are defrosted fish (unless you literally see them swimming in tanks, of course!). I suspect sometimes they refreeze and re-thaw their products if they don’t sell it that day.  Shellfish here has gotten my husband and I very sick, especially oysters.

-“organic” veggies/meat: labeling in China is never reliable, plus they jack up their prices and I can’t justify paying it.

Things I buy in Chinese supermarkets/local wet markets:

-veggies and fruit (I tend to avoid the melons unless husband shares with me, but we’ve stopped buying watermelons because of the scandal recently) –>better to buy in morning if you can, and buy the day you need to use them, unless your fridge is big enough. On busy days I make sure to have my veggies three days in advance of me needing to use them. When the weather is hotter, I have to be very picky about the quality, if I’m not liking what I see, I go to a large chain supermarket because I know they at least air condition the place, and the veggies are at least not subjected to the humidity/heat that much.

-tofu: I try to avoid soy as much as I can (I’m fearful they’re GMO, and I’m not too comfortable about that), but they’ve got a variety here, my personal preference is fresh tofu skins and the firm kinds.

-ground pork (ONLY if it is winter time here AND it is very early in the morning, even then I take a lot of precautions)

-I would like to try buying a whole fresh chicken here, but not sure hubby will go for it

-chilli oil (only well known brands, and after thoroughly checking the labels to make sure there aren’t any preservatives)

-brown rice

-dried beans (though I have to watch out, once I had ones that were really old and starting to sprout)

-cumin seeds and ground cumin (though gotta watch packaging to make sure there aren’t any ‘fillers’)

-dried chilli flakes

-raw sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and almonds

-rice noodles

-green tea bags

-soy sauce (stick to sell known brands)

-local honey/bee pollen

Things I buy from imported shops:

-chicken breasts (hard to find in Chinese stores)  and thighs

-ground beef/pork (safer)

-pickled veggies (we are quite partial to pickles and jalapenos when we get a bit homesick)

-canned tuna

-dried beans (like chickpeas and lentils)

-spices, dried and fresh (oregano, dill, basil, rosemary, cumin, coriander, paprika)

-cereal (hubby loves for breakfast)

-rice/soy milk (still trying avoid dairy as much as I can, and it’s a decent alternative)

-unsalted pistachios

-some veggies (red and yellow bell peppers are a favourite)

-whole wheat pasta

-salsa (‘Wild Harvest Organics’ makes a great one with no preservatives, yum!)

-unflavoured popcorn (a good snack when I crave potato chips)

-Korean pepper paste, ok well any other Korean products, like miso and kimchi

-olive oil (would love to cook with coconut oil but it’s so damn expensive!)

-balsamic vinegar

-fish sauce

-coconut milk (have yet to look around bigger local supermarkets to see if I can find it)

-green chilli paste (only the brand that doesn’t have preservatives, forgot the brand on the top of my head)

– peppermint, early grey and english breakfast tea


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Yummy Honey

One of the things that frustrates me about being in China is the food here. Not that I don’t like local cuisine, rather it is how the food is prepared, farmed and raised.  I’ve been trying to find more ways to eat locally here, and I often wished I had more resources to find out where my food comes from. Unfortunately, it’s really not that possible in China sometimes.

One food though, I am able to get locally AND speak to the people who make it.  Local honey! I stumbled upon this while on a photo jaunt around the Fairy Lake Botanical Gardens, and saw all the deliciousness there is.  yum! One of the great things was, I got to see the beekeepers (though the bees flying around scared me a little). In grand China fashion, you never see one honey stand alone, or course there were tons along the road. I of course bought a huge jar, plus a bottle of bee pollen, and hopefully it will help me with my allergies.

Here are some photos from the walk:

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sarah li cain-mumbledjumbles-yummy honey02

sarah li cain-mumbledjumbles-yummy honey01

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