India (3 of 3): Udaipur

Last stop! I really enjoyed Jodhpur and wouldn’t have minded a few more days there, but Udaipur was beautiful as well. I’d heard it was a nice drive between the two cities so we booked a private car tour that stopped at the Ranakpur temples about halfway in between. Jess and I were too broke to actually pay the entrance fee (more on this later; we had some funny stories) but we walked around them to stretch our legs before getting back in the car. I don’t have any photos because in many places cameras weren’t allowed, and in others there’s a fee to bring a camera into the site that I was tired of paying. But we got a lot of photos of other places we stopped. It was a fun road trip. Just beware, “private tour” means “let me stop at all my friends’ places so they can talk you into buying things you don’t need and can’t afford”. Spoiler: I bought a lot of things I didn’t need and couldn’t afford. Oh, well, how many times do you get to go to India?

Our Airbnb was about 10-15 km outside the city, a bit farther than expected, but Udaipur was a bit cheaper than Jodhpur. Our hosts called Uber for us and it only cost about 160 rupees to get into the center of town (about $2.50). We spent our first day mostly walking around the city:

We hear about water shortages and problems with clean drinking water around the world but still, until you’re faced with the reality of it it’s hard to connect. It’s easy to take things for granted when you’ve always been able to shower or run the sink water to wash dishes or get a drink. Even in Beijing I don’t think about it too much. You can’t drink the tap water there but it’s easy to have bottled water delivered and we use the water for everything else. But many places in India still rely on wells and old-fashioned water pumps. Several times I would see people on a street corner using the communal water pump to fill buckets and carry them home for daily use. In Udaipur, people would swim, bathe, and wash their clothes in the lake. It’s a sobering sight.

The next morning I slept in and was awakened to this wedding procession. We had a small balcony we could watch from and it was really cool to see. My favorite part though, was this random camel that was walking around. We saw he had a pen across the street from our apartment but the gate was open and he just seemed to roam around the neighborhood. He gets his own slideshow:

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Afterwards, we got a cab to see Fateh Sagar lake nearby, then went into Udaipur and found Gulab Bagh park.  I had just noticed there was a park on Google maps and we had time to kill so we thought we’d check it out, but weren’t sure what to expect. It was huge, with a gorgeous rose garden-there were dozens of different varieties, along with other flowers.

My favorite encounter of the day, however, was with this cow. She was enormous! We were pretty used to cows at this point and didn’t pay much attention to her as we passed. A little ways down the street we stopped to window shop at this jewelry store. I noticed they did ear piercing and was debating whether to try it when Jess jumped up on the doorstep and told me to look out. I turned around and found myself face to face with this:

I wasn’t too concerned as the cows all seemed pretty harmless. I just jumped up on the doorstep to get out of the way, thinking she’d pass us and mosey on down the road. Instead she swung her head around and headbutted me on the hip. We ran into the jewelry shop and I tried to close the door as she seemed to be following us in. The shopkeeper was sitting just inside and got up, laughing at us, to get a jar from the corner. Apparently his wife makes homemade treats for the cows on the street. This girl was just stopping by for her afternoon snack when we got in her way! The shopkeeper was friendly though so we ended up looking around and I got my ear pierced after all, figuring that clearly the cow was a sign from some Hindu deity that I was supposed to.

That evening we found this quiet rooftop bar with a great view of the lake to watch the sunset.

We decided to check out Bagore Ki Haveli the next day, a former palace turned into a museum. It was a bit run-down and mostly deserted, which was nice as we got to explore and take photos on our own without a lot of crowds. I liked the second floor women’s quarters, with all the hangings, stained glass windows, mosaics, jewelry boxes and artifacts. They also have a collection of different styles of turbans, including one that weighed more than 30 kilos!

The elephant was clearly not an ordinary sight, even for locals. They seemed as excited as me and Jess. A crowd was all around her taking pictures, a lady next to me offered her a handful of hay, the coconut water vendor was feeding her coconuts, one guy pumped some water from a pump near the street so she could drink and splash and spray water around. It was so fun to see!

Our last day in Udaipur we got up early and took the boat tour of Lake Pichola, which stops at the island palace of Jag Mandir. There are actually two islands with palaces in the middle of the lake, but the Lake Palace has been converted to a hotel and is open only to guests, so Jag Mandir is the only one open to the public. It was a lovely and peaceful way to spend a morning. A bit of trivia-Jag Mandir and other parts of Udaipur were the setting for the 1983 James Bond movie Octopussy. The whole town is plastered in original movie posters advertising nightly viewings of the movie at seemingly every bar and restaurant. We thought we’d try to see it while we were there, but after checking at a few different places, finally realized they quit showing the movie a while ago and kept the posters up for bragging rights.

That afternoon we got on our train back to Delhi around 5pm, which meant arriving around 5am, which is basically the middle of the night. We quickly determined that middle of the night in Delhi is not where we wanted to be. Nothing would be open for hours and even if there had been somewhere to go we had no money, so we decided our best bet would be to take our last 1000 rupees and take the airport express subway to Indira Ghandi International to wait for our flight. At 12:05 am the next day. That’s eighteen hours in the airport if you’re counting.

We got off the subway (the subway station is connected to the airport and has its own shops and food places), got some coffee, and then just found a spot on the floor to sit and read and nap for a few hours. Around noon we tried to go into the airport but they wouldn’t let us in until 6 hours before our flight. The guard directed us to a passenger lounge to wait but when we went in we saw a sign behind the desk that looked like it said 100 rupees per person for three hours. We had a lot of hours left and barely enough money to cover snacks and drinks for the day, so we went and sat outside for a while, then went back to nap in the subway. Note: it was actually a very nice subway station, and we were not the only ones doing this. Although we were definitely the only foreign women which certainly got us some stares. At one point this well-dressed older man stopped near us. Jess was asleep under a scarf and I was reading my book. He looked down at us all concerned and asked “Is there a problem?”. No, no problem, we said, just waiting till our flight later. “Why don’t you go to a hotel?” In truth, we couldn’t afford it but we just told him we had just arrived in Delhi that morning. “Okay, but you know, it looks a bit…odd.” Yes, yes, we do, thanks.

I’m sure he was being helpful and we mostly just found it funny at that point. I hadn’t gotten paid yet before we left Beijing so I had roughly USD $200 in cash when we arrived in India, and that only because of a payday loan courtesy of my parents-by the way, thanks again Mom and Dad 🙂  My school is fairly…flexible with payments. My contract states I get paid on the 15th of each month but in reality I’ve gotten paid anywhere between the 6th and the 22nd before. Normally we get paid before holidays though, which is what I had been counting on. I got paid after we arrived in India but it was pointless because my Chinese debit card only works in China so I couldn’t access it. I thought I could outsmart the system and transferred money from my Chinese bank to Paypal, so I could then withdraw it to my US debit card and use that to get cash. Paypal however, decided to hold my money hostage for the better part of two weeks because they suck, so the transfer didn’t go through until the day I arrived back in Beijing. Jess was not much better off than me, so by the end of our trip we could not stop laughing at ourselves and how broke we were. Jess actually turned down coffee (which as anyone who knows her could tell you, she desperately needs) because it was too expensive. The coffee in question was 100 rupees, or about 10RMB. Coffee in Beijing is between 25-40RMB so that was actually extremely cheap, we just couldn’t afford it. (I convert everything to RMB since that’s how I get paid so I no longer think in dollars, but the coffee would have been about USD $1.50.) Most of the really expensive souvenirs we wanted were in actuality $4-$30. The Ranakpur temples we couldn’t afford to enter cost about $3 per person. We sat on a bench outside them and laughed at ourselves for about 20 minutes when we realized that.

The kicker was when, after an afternoon of pacing from place to place, we finally decided to “splurge” on the passenger lounge (which was also about USD $1.50) and just eat chips till we got on the plane. After some back and forth with the woman at the desk, we realized that the 100 rupees per 3 hours sign we had seen earlier actually applied to parking; the lounge was in fact, free. Yep, we spent 12 hours on the floor of the subway station before we figured that out, people. In our defense, we were already sleep-deprived. Anyway, we managed to survive until our midnight flight back to Guangzhou, where we had a 5 hour layover but were fortunately able to access our Chinese money at last.

I tell this story for all the people wondering how I have money to travel. Guys, I don’t have money; I have priorities. Somehow it just works out.

A Day in the Life of a Preschool Teacher

4/14/17

Thursday was a trying day. One of the days that I question why I teach, or even get out of bed in the morning. Then, I came home, started writing, and this happened:

[9:00-Nicole is in the office in the process of boiling six dozen eggs to color later in the day. Kids run in.]

NICOLE: “Guys, stay out of this room. The pot is really hot. Go play.”

[Kids run out to the lobby. Nicole goes to print worksheets. Looks up to greet Zach as he arrives. Turns around, the rest of the kids are back in the office.]

NICOLE: “Get out!”

[Nicole picks up Fred, carries him out of the room, and deposits him on a bean bag. Goes back, picks up Rarity, caries her out as Fred runs back in. She carries Ella out as Rarity is running back in. Repeat as needed for 10-15 minutes.]

 

[9:30-Nicole is removing eggs from water to cool. Qing runs up to watch.]

NICOLE: “Do not touch the eggs.”

[Qing leans forward and reaches for egg.]

NICOLE: “Qing, those are hot, don’t touch them.”

QING, touching an egg: “Ow!”

NICOLE: “Don’t. Touch. The. Eggs.”

 

[9:45-Reading. Kids are talking]

NICOLE: “Shh. Ok, Fred, can you read? Ryan, shh.”

[Fred starts reading, Ryan continues talking, but quieter.]

NICOLE: “Ryan, stop talking.”

[Fred reads, Ryan continues to whisper in the background.]

NICOLE: “Ryan, Stop. Talking.”

RYAN: “I not talk.”

NICOLE: “’I’m not talking.’ You are talking. Whispering is still talking. Who is next?”

[Zach starts reading the next page. Girls start a conversation about My Little Pony.]

NICOLE: “Girls, stop talking, the only person talking is Zach.” [Zach continues reading.]

NICOLE (10 seconds later): “Jason, get your finger out of your nose. RYAN FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP TALKING!”

 

[10:15-Math class, kids are working on subtraction. Jason has to make sure he has the right answer before committing anything to paper. He also was never taught how to form a question in his last school. We’re working on it.]

JASON: “I want to this.”

NICOLE: “What is this.”

JASON: “Wo bu zhi dao.” (Translation: I don’t know.)

NICOLE: “No, if you don’t know what it is, you say ‘What is this?’.Zhege shi shenme? What is this?”

JASON: “I want to five.”

NICOLE: “Is it five?”

JASON: “Yes.”

NICOLE: “No, you say, ‘Is it five?”

JASON: “Yes”

NICOLE: “Jason, say, “Is it five?”

JASON: “Is it five?”

NICOLE: “Yes it is. Very good.”

[Jason continues to next problem.]

JASON: “I want to nine?”

NICOLE: “Is it nine?”

JASON: “Yes.”

[Nicole sighs.]

 

[11:15-Recess. Note: Chinese people are always cold. Truly, they believe that if they are not actively sweating then they must be cold. In winter, parents send their kids to school in no less than six layers. In spring, it’s four or five-at least two pairs of pants, an undershirt, one or two long-sleeved shirts, a sweater, a jacket, and possibly a scarf. Regardless of the weather forecast, if the calendar says spring, they think they are cold. It was eighty degrees today. As soon as the kids got outside they started stripping and flinging clothes around.]

QING and RARITY (chanting): “Too hot! Too hot! It’s too hot!”

QING: “I want take off” (pulls off jacket and sweater)

NICOLE: “Okay, fine.”

RARITY: “I want to take off my dress”

NICOLE: “Okay, fine” (She has two pairs of pants and shirts under it.)

QING: “I want this off” (pulls off a pair of pants, revealing another pair)

RARITY: “I want my pants off too” (pulls off outer pants)

NICOLE: “Okay, sure, whatever” (Nicole is now covered in discarded clothing)

QING: “And this shirt”

NICOLE: “No”

QING: “Why?

NICOLE: “Because you have to keep at least one shirt on”

QING: “Why?”

NICOLE: “Because I said so.”

QING: “Wei shenme?” (”Why?”)

NICOLE: “Mei you wei shenme.” (“No why.”) “Go play.”

 

[11:40-Kids are collecting their clothes and lining up to go inside. Qing grabs her pants and puts them on her head, pulling them down over her eyes.]

NICOLE (sighs): “Qing, take your pants off your head.”

[Rarity pulls her pants over her head and both girls giggle like maniacs.]

NICOLE: “Rarity and Qing, take your pants off your head. You will run into something.”

[Qing falls down.]

QING: “Ow!”

[Nicole sighs.]

 

[11:45-Lunchtime. Nicole and Lucy are attempting a conversation.]

LUCY: “So I think Dan Yang can do an art project with the kids while we hide the eggs.”

NICOLE: “Yeah, that’s fine, Jason take your finger out of your nose.”

LUCY: “Okay, and maybe-Jason, do not put your spoon in your hair. Eat your lunch.-we could do some face painting.”

NICOLE: “Yeah, I think-“

[Ella and Qing are spinning around in swivel chairs because for some reason someone decided to put swivel chairs in a classroom full of five-year olds.]

NICOLE: “Ella! Qing! Che fan! Eat your lunch! That sounds good.”

 

[12:30-Story time. Nicole, Avery, and kids are sprawled out on beanbags. Nicole is reading. Sniffling noise.]

NICOLE looks up: “Rarity, what’s wrong?”

RARITY wailing: “Ella kicked me!” (Translation: Ella’s foot accidentally brushed hers.)

AVERY: “I think you’re okay, Rarity, it was an accident. Ella, can you tell Rarity you’re sorry for bumping her?”

[Ella bursts into tears, hiccupping and gasping for breath while other kids gawk, and Avery finally has to carry her out of the room to calm down.]

 

[1:15-Dyeing eggs for Easter egg hunt tomorrow. It’s chaos.]

FRED: “I’m going to make Jupiter!”

RARITY: “I’m going to make Neptune!”

RYAN: “I want two colors!”

ZACH: “I want three colors!”

QING: “I want eat a egg.”

NICOLE: “I want to eat an egg. Wait until snack time.”

RYAN: “Me egg break!”

NICOLE: “Well, if you don’t stab your egg with a pencil, it won’t break.”

RARITY: “I can’t eat eggs”

NICOLE: “I know.”

[Nicole knows this because any time anyone anywhere is talking about food, Rarity has to announce the details of her egg allergy.]

RARITY: “I can eat the yellow but I can’t eat the white. But I don’t like the yellow.”

NICOLE: “The yolk. I know you don’t.”

 

[3:00-Snacktime. Kids are gathered around plates of fruit and crackers, talking quietly for once. Nicole takes advantage of this anomaly and goes to the bathroom. Comes back thirty seconds later to find all the kids standing in the front entrance, laughing and shouting, door open.]

NICOLE: “WHAT is going on?”

AVERY: “Ryan is peeing in the bushes. He said he couldn’t wait.”

NICOLE: “Oh, yes, he could have!”

[15 minutes later. Zach is in the bathroom.]

RARITY: “I have to go to the bathroom but Zach is in there. I will go outside.”

NICOLE: “No you will not. No one is going outside. Ever. NEVER. AGAIN”

 

[3:15-Nicole gives up on attempting to do anything with children and shoos them out to the playground for the rest of the day. Maintenance workers are spraying down one of the slides and sidewalk. Puddles everywhere.]

NICOLE: “Stay on this side of playground, ok? I don’t want you getting all wet. Ryan, Zach, did you hear me? Only this side of the playground. Do not go in the water.”

BOYS: “OK.”

[Kids run off to play. Nicole and Avery collapse on a bench with sighs of relief. It lasts about 30 seconds.]

RARITY runs up sniffling: “Jason scratched me!”

NICOLE: “Where?”

RARITY: “On my there.” [Points.]

NICOLE: “On your cheek? Let’s see.”

[Avery calls to Jason in Chinese and tries to mediate. Nicole doesn’t understand a word and turns around to see Fred, Zach, and Ryan splashing in puddles and kicking water at each other.]

NICOLE: “Boys, get OUT of the water!”

[Zach and Fred take off running. Ryan continues to splash around, twirling and humming to himself.]

NICOLE: “RYAN! GET OUT OF THE WATER.”

[Ryan laughs and kicks water across the playground.]

NICOLE screaming at the top of her lungs: “RYAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GET. OVER. HERE.”

[Ryan looks over, cocks his head to one side for a moment, then slowly strolls away from her.]

NICOLE: “Ryan. Come. Here.”

[Ryan looks over at her sideways, pauses, turns back, and continues walking away.]

NICOLE: “RYAN. Five minute time out. If you don’t get over here RIGHT NOW, it will be ten minutes.”

[Ryan slowly drags himself over to the bench, stands next to it, and starts twirling again.]

NICOLE in serial killer voice: “Sit. Down. Now.”

[Ryan sits.]

NICOLE, 3 minutes later: “Why are you in time out Ryan? What did you do?”

RYAN: “I don’t know.”

 

[3:55]

AVERY: “Are we going inside now?”
NICOLE: “No. We’re staying out here until their parents come and take them away. Hopefully forever.”

 

[4:00-Dismissal. Technically, but not really, because parents don’t pick up their kids, they send their ayis (nannies) who show up sometime before four and five-thirty. ]

RARITY: “Ew!”

NICOLE: “What?

RARITY: “Jason’s nose is bleeding.”

[Nicole turns around to see Jason covered in blood from a massive nosebleed. Avery and Lucy sit him down and try to stop the bleeding, clean him up, stuff some tissue in his nose, and send him back to play. Jason pulls tissue out of his nose and proceeds to run around the room splattering blood on every surface. Girls run around the room screaming at the blood. Ryan runs around screaming because he is Ryan and that is what he does.]

[4:30-Nicole goes home, drinks alcohol, eats chocolate, and attempts to erase her memory before repeating the next day.]

 

4/15/17

Friday wasn’t much better than Thursday, but our party was fun. Here’s some pictures I thought I’d share. Happy Easter, everyone!

 

November 27,2016

Just some pictures to share. The Atelier, a big art school, was hosting a class on making advent calendars for the holidays. They were full last weekend but the lady offered to host another class this weekend, even though Jess and I were the only ones there. They were all really nice and we had a blast cutting and painting and hot-glueing. Our calendars turned out cute too!

When we got home I made a batch of homemade hot cocoa to drink while binge watching the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix. There better be a 5th episode forthcoming is all I can say. I had a bad reaction to the ending. There was some screaming. Think I scared Jess at first and she came running out of her room. Then she started laughing at me. It was an emotional evening.

Otherwise I had an extremely lazy Sunday. I did make a batch of apple butter though. Jess made some apple cider to take to a get-together and there were four quarts of mushy cooked apples left after she strained out the juice. So I decided to experiment with them. I always heard apple butter is a pain to make but now I think what people meant is that is extremely simple, but painful. Because basically all you do is let the apple boil for hours on end. The problem came when I tried to stir all the stuff sticking to the bottom of the pot and got splattered repeatedly with thousand-degree fruit pulp. I have a blister on my right hand that Jess compared to a small planet. (This in addition to my stab wound from slicing apples for pie on Thursday and the glue gun burns from yesterday. Not to mention the lingering cough from this week’s smog attack. I’m kind of a mess right now.) On the upside we now have four pints of delicious homemade apple butter and I have to say…it was worth the third degree burns, if I do say so myself. Especially since it’s one of the few things I have not been able to find anywhere in Beijing. Then Jess got the idea to start selling cider and apple butter on WeChat and put out an ad, so we’ll see how that goes.

Greetings all,

It’s been a fun crazy hectic couple of weeks. My body is getting a serious workout trying to adjust to rapidly changing temperatures and smog levels. Last week the air was disgusting and I came down with some sort of miserable respiratory illness. But then Saturday was sunny, sixty and perfectly clean so I pushed through it and Jess and I stayed outside as much as possible. We got haircuts early in the morning, then went to check out the Wangjing SoHo and ended up taking a four hour walk around the city-lots of cool new sites.

Then we went out to the suburbs where the British International School was hosting this winter fair. There are lots of these types of events coming up but theirs was the first. It was fun. The weather was perfect to be outside, just a little chilly, but hot mulled wine took care of that. They had roasted a whole pig and were selling gingerbread cookies. There was a Christmas tree lighting and all the kids were outside singing carols. I know it’s  a bit early for holiday festivities but I still enjoyed it. Mostly because Christmas is not so over-the-top and obnoxious here. You can still find activities if you know where to look but they’re not so in your face. And they don’t start in August. I’m finding I actually prefer to be out of the American madness, although I’ll still be glad to go home and visit.

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Monday was the first snowfall of the year, with just a light dusting that blew away before noon, but still pretty. And the air was pristine for three whole days, big plus, although it was freaking cold, under 20 degrees and felt colder. I still took my class outside though. Between the cold and the smog they don’t get outside as much in the winter so I’m taking advantage of any opportunity to get them out the door because they are insane when they are cooped up inside.

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Last week, their character trait was Patience (which they all desperately needed a lesson on). Each trait is linked to an animal that represents it; for patience the animal is a butterfly. We made butterflies with toilet paper rolls and then I tied them up in a cocoon and made them be quiet for one full minute. It was quite a challenge.

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This week their trait is gratefulness, and we’re learning about the U.S. and Canada in their international cultures class, so I’ve tied everything together and we’re celebrating Thanksgiving. I played them a really old animated cartoon I found on YouTube about how Thanksgiving started and they were totally fascinated by the idea. We made a gratitude tree, writing all the things we were grateful for on the leaves. This is why I love teaching kids:

Rarity put birthday cake, flowers, dogs and cats

Zach said “iPad, mom, dad”-in that order too. We need to get his priorities straight.

Qing: family, shoes, candy  (Hey, those are my top three, also!)

Ryan: Bapi (Daddy)

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We’ve also been covering the environment in science so today we took all our scrap paper and made recycled paper. To be honest, I did not think it would work. I didn’t have any of the equipment listed in most of the instructions I read. But we threw paper and water in the blender, poured it through a screen improvised from a coat hanger and some old nylon stockings, and voila! Paper. Kids had a blast. Tomorrow when the paper is dry we’re going to use it to make thank you cards for Thanksgiving. Also, apple pie.

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I sat down and booked accommodation for my Spain trip-super exciting. I’m splitting my time in Barcelona, a few days near Sagrada Familia and then some time at this converted artist studio in the gothic quarter. Then 5 days in Granada, all Airbnb finds. I kind of want to do a couple days in Madrid too but it depends on transportation. It appears it would be much cheaper to rent a car for two weeks than to buy train tickets all over the place, and I would kind of like to drive. However, my U.S. license expired over a year ago… and since it’s been so long I think I’ll have to retake the driving test…so yeah. I need to call and check on that and see if I can renew it while I’m home before I finalize the rest of my plans.

And finally, I’ve had some technological breakthroughs lately. I finally got my online banking straightened out and also set up a Taobao account. Taobao is like the Chinese version of Amazon.com, but cheaper. I went on a bit of a shopping spree-pretty much everything I’ve been deprived of for the past year is on this site. There are plenty of import stores in Beijing but they don’t have everything. I found the exact jeans that I pay $60 for at Macy’s but on Taobao they’re only 60RMB, or about $8. And some cozy fur-lined boots for $10-just in time for the snow. I also got the DiDi app-like Uber but in Chinese. You can get a cab anywhere, it’s cheaper, you can even do ride shares. Only drawback? All these apps are in Chinese. And the Didi drivers always call to confirm and make sure you are where the GPS says you are. This had made for some awkward conversations this week. So I’ve been buckling down and trying to study. I’ve drafted my friend Cami to help. Every week I come up with a new topic and write down the phrases I want to know. And I learn stuff from my kids too. Fred especially always wants to tell me the Chinese phrases for something I tell him in English. Then they all laugh at my pronunciation. I have picked up the names of lots of countries in Chinese from our international cultures class, which resulted in an incident this evening:

One of the best things about our neighborhood is Jinganshichang, this huge year-round indoor farmers’ market. They have tons of fresh produce, meats, and eggs, even live seafood flown in daily and swimming around in tanks. It’s a great landmark for taxi drivers as well-almost everyone knows this market. And it’s super cheap- I can get a week’s worth of groceries for about $25. I always go to the same vendors and they know me now. The produce lady is really sweet. I think I threw her for a loop this evening though when I went in looking for pumpkins for Thanksgiving decorations. “You fànguō ma?” I asked. She looked confused. “Faguó?” Now the lady next to me looked concerned and looked at the saleslady like “I don’t know what the heck she’s talking about either.” I finally pulled out my translation app. “Oh, nánguā!” Relieved, the vendor pulled out a couple of pumpkins. Only after I got home and was telling Jess about this did I realize that I had asked her first for a rice cooker and then the country of France. We laughed till we cried. One of the many joys of expat life.