Archive for February, 2007
8:50 am Wednesday
I write at night and send in the morning so often the email has other dates than the current one in case you are confused by the verb tenses I use.
I made bread today (2/26/2007) and it was a BIG DEAL!!! Not the actual mixing and kneading; that’s easy and doesn’t change no matter where you are. But everything else was a big deal.
1. Buying the flour!!
2. Buying yeast!!!!!!!
3. Buying bread baking pans!!!!
4. Measuring the ingredients!
5. Finding a good place for the dough to rise.
6. Figuring out the "Gas Mark" stove (Celsius degrees) and converting it to Fahrenheit!!
7. Learning how to turn on the gas oven!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
8. Guessing how long to cook the bread.
Last Friday we took part in a group shopping trip. There were Stella and Bill, Connie and Fido, Natalie and Jerry, Sue and Ed and Randal and me. Everyone wanted something different in the 4 floor JUSCO store. Our instructions when we left the van were, "come back when you’re done." But it was mid-afternoon and we were expected at Stella’s sister’s apartment about 5 so….And we had to make a stop at the "wholesale" shopping street about 5 blocks away too where Randal and I wanted to buy some frozen beef, chicken breasts, and shrimp.
JUSCO has a grocery store with many western foods and products. Randal and I divided our list. I was to find flour and yeast to make bread. Yah, right! First Natalie gamely tried to help me though she really needed to go off to the bank across the street. We traipsed around the store from clerk to clerk looking for flour and yeast. She would ask them and we would go where they sent us, but no luck. My time was running out and I had found nothing. Natalie and I finally found the flour but only Chinese characters described what kinds they were. I wanted whole wheat and white flour. Now Chinese bread isn’t like good European bread and most Chinese people buy bread at the bakery or supermarket; they don’t make it. Poor Natalie was at a loss how best to help me since nothing seemed to match "whole wheat." There seemed to be white flour, oat flour, and rice flour and "maybe" whole wheat" flour. I like a mix of flours so I really didn’t care, though ultimately it did matter when I actually went to make the bread. ( I tried the sniff test but that didn’t work…they all smelled odd to me.) All of that confusion turned out to be the easy part. Natalie turned me over to Stella who’d had a chore elsewhere and was now trying to quickly do her own shopping. In the end I just kept the flours I had chosen with Natalie’s help and Stella and I went on the quest for yeast. The "Beale Treasure" (supposedly buried somewhere in Bedford, VA. in around 1818) might be easier to find. I think we were directed to almost every row depending on whom we asked and finally one forthright clerk told Stella, "ask for some at a bakery, the supermarket doesn’t sell it." JUSCO had a bakery in the grocery store so I went to ask there. One unlucky bakery clerk admitted to knowing a little English so I tried to explain to him what I wanted. By the time the transaction was completed and I had received a gift of ¼ cup of yeast, most of the bakery staff had been involved as well as a kind Chinese couple who spoke English and were familiar with the principles of bread making. They had overheard the discussion so had stopped to help.
My shopping basket didn’t have much to show for 40 minutes in the market, just 4 bags of anonymous flour and ¼ cup of yeast in a small plastic bag. Guessing it was time to go, Randal and I got in line behind Stella at a cashier . But how to explain to the cashier about the bag of yeast? (In a JingAn supermarket Randal had tried to buy a "priceless, barcodeless" small bottle of cooking oil, the last of its kind on the market shelf. "I want to buy it," "can’t buy it," "want it," "can’t buy it". That dialogue went on for about 5 minutes before we left oil-less. How would this cashier deal with the little unmarked precious bag of yeast? ) Thankfully Stella was able to explain about the yeast and the very busy cashier just waved it into our bags. No problem.
Stella and Randal and I took our purchases and rushed to the van to find no one there but Fido, her son who had kindly volunteered to chauffer one van. Bill was off buying something and Natalie and Jerry and Sue and Ed were I don’t know where. So Randal and I hopped out of the van and I went to buy a new wallet and Randal some CDs. Finally we were all back to the van and then Randal, Bill and I set off walking to the wholesale street. This is a street of small shops that sell all manner of food and everything to cook or serve it in. Lillian and I had been there to buy my dishes so I actually remembered how to get there from JUSCO. The others would drive over. In 10 minutes we were there. Randal went directly to the frozen foods store with Natalie where he ordered 14 kilos of beef sirloin US grade, 2 kilos of frozen chicken breast, and 4 kilos of shrimp. A kilo is 2.2 lbs. The shop packed the shelled shrimp and chicken breasts, cut the meat to specified sizes, wrapped it all, packed it all , and hauled all of it over to the van. How’s that for service. Cost about 1100 rmb = around $140 US. Average about $3.18 per pound. Chicken was the cheapest and meat the most expensive.
With that transaction completed Natalie came with me to look for bread pans and to see where I had bought my plates. She and Stella had been quite taken with them. But we found no bread baking pans. In the meantime Randal was noticing that the small store 2 stores down had spices and things, baking soda and baking powder. And then Randal spotted , ta da YEAST!!!! Enough to bake bread for years in one vacuum sealed package. We bought two just in case. Then Randal went bread pan hunting and had better luck than Natalie and I. It helps that he is tall enough to see on the high shelves. We bought 2 narrow oblong pans that look more like flimsy metal planters. Finally we were done and off to the van and off to Stella’s sister’s apartment and off to dinner and then back to Baijiao and the boat and bed.
Yesterday I actually made 2 loaves of bread and today there is just a small piece left. Warm just from the oven bread is great so half of one loaf was gone immediately. Bill loved it and I liked it but Randal thought it too dense and chewy. It was a little dense and chewy but I like it that way and so does Bill. It tastes like mixed grain bread, rather anonymous in flavor. But with butter or peanut butter it was fine.
In the process I learned how to press the gas button and then turn on the oven. My problem was that I kept forgetting to press the gas button or hold the oven knob in long enough. Randal had to keep coming over from the boat yard office to show me and finally went through how any gas oven works to help me understand and remember. (As a kid in the 50s I would turn on the oven gas and then find a match for the pilot light…DUMB! That would allow enough gas build up to cause a scary "explosion" so I am a bit wary.) Also, the boat has a "gas mark" Celsius oven so earlier I’d had to find a converter site on the internet to translate from the American Fahrenheit oven temperatures. I had no recipe, no measuring cups or spoons so just guessed on amounts and times, and no pot holders to deal with hot bread pans. But I have made lots of bread in the past so could recreate a recipe. And finally the bread was made and eaten. And it was a qualified success. And I might ever do it again.
This photo show the stove buttons. You press the first square and it lights up green. Then you turn the oven knob and press the igniter button near it, let off on the igniter and hold the oven button on till you think it has really caught. It’s not really so complicated as I am making sound. At least not any more.
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Today Randal and I walked to Macau and back. I’ll explain. According to Chinese law most visitors must leave China once every 30 days even visitors like us with a year’s visa. I say most because I don’t know the actual regulations, just how they affect us and most of the other westerners we have met. I can’t begin to guess why the regulations require that we leave once each month. Because of our business with Seahorse Marine we have a multi-entry visa so it’s not a real problem to come and go as often as we like. (Most tourists have a single or double entry visa so are limited.) The Chinese government, like most governments, has it’s reasons and since they graciously allow us to come and enjoy their country we have to play by their rules.
In the past we have had chores to do in Hong Kong; typically an all day tiring trip trying to accomplish too much in too little time. From Baijiao or JingAn it is about a 40 minute drive to the Hong Kong ferry in Zhuhzi. We usually hitch a ride from Bill who goes fairly regularly to Hong Kong for business. In Hong Kong we all start out together with us learning boat supply shops and interesting nooks and crannies from Bill. But then we part ways in Hong Kong, Randal and I cramming in as many chores and book store visits as possible. Ferry tickets are not cheap and the trip takes 75 minutes either way. There are forms to fill out and custom lines to stand in before you board. The ferry itself in quite comfortable and I like their morning egg noodle soup. But the videos they show not only have too much violence for my taste, but are longer than the trip so we never see the end. I have seen the same 60 minutes of the same video about 4 times and still don’t know it’s end. It is in Chinese with Chinese subtitles so I really haven’t a clue about the plot except that like most western films the good guys are better looking than the bad guys, they get the girl, and will ultimately win. At the end of the ferry ride are more forms and more lines. Then it’s race like mad to do half of our list before it’s time to catch the late afternoon ferry back to Zhuhai and then a bus or cab ride back home. Since we tend to remain longer in Hong Kong and return later in the day, we miss Bill and the ride home. By bus it takes almost 2 hours and requires one transfer. Randal and I have done that too: and actually enjoy it.
So back to our walk to Macau. We needed to leave China before the end of February. Bill was heading to Zhuhai and the ferry to Hong Kong this morning so he dropped us off along the way in Gongbei which has a border crossing to Macau. Macau has the same status as Hong Kong so counts as a trip off main land China. It took exactly one hour to walk over to the customs area, go through customs to leave China, go through customs into Macau, turn around and go through customs to leave Macau and go though customs to re-enter China. We were done by 9:15 am and it was all free!
We walked through the zillion store shopping area of Gongbei but shops hadn’t opened yet. So we walked over to the big grocery store Lillian and I had visited on a trip to Zhuhai. I knew my way there and around the 2 floors of food and household products. Then we were pooped from all of the looking and decided to call it a day and catch the bus home. On the way to the stop we passed a musical instruments store and Randal bought a guitar!! The river will sing a new tune tonight. We headed over to the bus terminal to catch the bus back to JingAn. On the way we passed a video store and got a few for when we finally have time to really relax. Then we caught the 601 back to JingAn, ate lunch, caught the ferry across the river to Baijiao and here I am, in the office typing this email.
Ru and Randal too who helped
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Tomorrow we will go to Macau just to "leave mainland China" during the 30 day period since we last were off the mainland in January. We (and most visitors and foreign workers) are required to leave every 30 days even if it is just to walk across the bridge to Macau. That’s what we will do tomorrow. It may take all day so I might not have a chance to email.
Here is an email Randal sent out to his "group."
Randal Johnson wrote:
Hard To believe it was near the end of October when I sent out my last group email. There has been a lot happening since then. Ruth and I made it to Jing An, the little town in Doumen across the river from the boatyard where Dora Mac is being completed. We checked into a hotel there on November 12th and lived there until February 14th, Valentine’s Day, an appropriate day to move onto the boat.
In hindsight and especially recently, it seems to have been one celebration after the other. Because it is the time of Chinese New Year, Ruth and I were invited to dinner parties the first six nights we stayed on the boat. Our first meal on the boat was our own little dinner party with eight people in attendance and was great fun. The space in the boat is going to be fine for entertaining and I loved cooking in the galley.
The boatyard closed for ten days beginning Feb. 15th so we have had the entire factory to ourselves, with exception of the guards and Bill and Stella dropping by occasionally. We walk just about everywhere we need to go but we are trying to catch a ride to Zhuhai today (last Friday) to pick up some Western type groceries that are not available here. What is available here are the wet markets with vegetables I would die to have back in Roanoke. And the prices are unbelievably low. There are different types of meat available as well but I cannot bear the idea of purchasing any of it. There are live chickens and ducks and you simply point to one and before you can say jelly bean it’s dead and being plucked.
There are open tables of meat in every form and from every source you can imagine. There are people selling spices by the sack full including all kinds of dried ground peppers. We’re going to load up before leaving. What is not available locally is French or Italian bread. I do believe you can find that in Zhuhai and that’s one reason we want to go. I’ve heard there is a German bakery there run by a Japanese guy that has good bread.
The boat, well the finalizing of systems has been slow and agonizing at times, at other times I feel I’m in my element and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. There are only a few more details to be addressed when the workers come back to work and then we’re off to Hong Kong. Our stay in Hong Kong will be hectic I know. We have to have our pallet from home shipped in and hire a truck to pick it up from the airport. We will probably stay at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club and they don’t have docks but rather mooring balls so we and everything else has to be ferried to and from the boat by little sanpans. We will have an emergency medical chest put together at one of the Hong Kong pharmacies and I will buy a deep sea fishing rod and reel there. I will buy rope and chain, tools, spares, food, and the list goes on and on.
One reason I haven’t been too faithful in updating everyone is because Ruth has web log, it is: http://www.oddgamer.info Ruth and I plan on being back in Roanoke in April signing tax returns and visiting family and friends.
So there you have the it from Captain Randal. We did go to Zhuhai. We did buy bread making supplies. I made bread today. Bill Kimley and I liked it’s rather dense and grainy taste, but Randal said, "try again."
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Posted by: doramac in Boat
Monday 11:40 am
clearish, breezy day
Oscars on TV
I typed this last night.
Tonight for dinner we ate tuna fish with chopped scallions and mayo with sliced tomato on Italian bread. Potato chips on the side. Washed it all down with lemon diet coke! It tasted just like home. Of course the tuna can had Chinese characters as did the chips and mayo jar. And the tomatoes came from our walk this afternoon to the "wet market" in Baijiao where we also bought eggplant and 8 chicken eggs. The mayo came from the Baijiao supermarket and the bread from our trip Friday to Zhuhai. We bought about 5 loaves! We also bought some supplies to make bread, but that’s a story in itself that I will share when I finally make the bread. For dessert I ate one of the apples we had received from Chinese friends who came for a boat tour this morning. (Another story.) Randal ate a sort of moonpie; a gourmet treat if there ever was one. Now I’m drinking my instant Nescafe decaf as I type this. What did you have for dinner?
Things in our frig!
Sticky rice in leaves, water, diet coke, milk, Randal’s rabies meds, eggs straight from the chicken.
We have a water maker on the boat. But now we use bottled water. The tap water is ok for dishes and showers.
Front and back depending on your language.
Chevas Regal sold in supermarkets! Peanut butter, soy sauce, grapefruit juice from Minute Maid and regular Coke for visitors. You can only buy diet coke in cans.
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Sunday, 2/25/2007 9:30 pm
"5 Chinese Sisters"
I call this email the "5 Chinese Sisters" because of my mother. She was a volunteer reading tutor in an elementary school in Margate, Florida. She told of tutoring one young African American boy who would always pick the story, Five Chinese Brothers to read with her. So when we were visited by many children this morning, I thought of my mother and the 5 Chinese Brothers.
Here they are, the "5 sisters!" and I’m sorry that I didn’t learn all of their names. Maybe this next picture will explain why.
These shoes represent only some of our morning visitors.(Boating tradition has visitors leaving their shoes at the door. We are breaking that tradition, but some folks do it anyway.)
We had a wonderful time with Making’s family who were visiting from Shenzhen. Making works at the Jin Tai Zi Hotel with Lillian. She works in the business office and has joined us for outings to the Doumen Temple and for dinner. Making’s relatives are part owners of the hotel I believe.
Here are Lillian (left) and Making. This picture hardly does them justice, but it was the only one I managed to get today.
There were between 15 and 20 people on board here, there, and everywhere!
One outnumbered boy in the bunch!
There were moms and dads and tiny babies too. We ate snacks and ran up and down and all around and everyone and the boat survived!
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Posted by: doramac in General
Gloomy but warm
I think the gloomy is from my battle with Outlook Express.
My sister read my obviously nostalgic description of the little cabin on Lost Hollow Road off Rt 311 in Roanoke and suggested I might want to clarify a few things. Harriet said that I made it sound a bit too rustic and that we were all living in the little house. A cozy image, but not true. For starters, I lived there alone with 2 dogs and a cat. Harriet, Jim, Jess, and Andrew lived up the driveway in "a ranch-style house." We all had indoor plumbing and TV. I would walk next door to use their washer and dryer. My brother-in-law installed electric baseboard heating in the little house so the wood stove wasn’t so essential the entire time I lived there. I thought my little house looked like an ad for Country Living and I would go "antiquing" and find the exact stuff that I liked for it. Now none of us live on Lost Hollow Rd. though my sister and brother-in-law and niece Jess still live in Roanoke. But it was a good time for all of us.
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attempting to work offline in Outlook Express
(Ignore the js. It came when I took the symbols from an internet page.)
"ma ma hu hu" = horse horse tiger tiger = so so. I think that’s my favorite so far, now that I can remember it. No one can tell me exactly why those words together mean "so so". Our friend David Nagle said that the story involves a farmer with 2 sons who become half horse and half tiger. They are neither one or the other so are only so so. Lillian said the story involved a farmer and 2 sons so that part is probably correct. I’ll find out one day. Today after lunch Henry asked what Chinese words I had learned so far. I can say please, thank you, hello, very good, bad, so so, no, no problem, excuse me, chopsticks, very full, pretty woman, America and American, big, small, ferry, straight ahead, 1 - 10 and a few more words that pop in and out of my head. Not much in the way of conversational Chinese. Not much for almost 5 months of living here. I find the Chinese characters and the forms of calligraphy very interesting and have learned a few. I like learning the ones that include the symbol for woman. I have been taught sun and moon and can recognize the symbol for boat, door, exit, people, big, China, Doumen, and mountain. Again, maybe not so useful, but interesting. I bought a chart with 128 characters and Lillian labeled them with their English meaning. (The chart I gave to "dirty girl.") When I am not so lazy I try to learn more characters. But mostly I am lazy. Daily life on a survival level doesn’t require us to know Chinese. Certainly Randal and I would have loved to ask the Father of the Father/Son food stall what spices he uses and where he gets his wonderful noodles that we love. And yesterday when we brought them framed photos of themselves, we couldn’t really explain why. We had to rely on a short note in Chinese written for us by Lillian. When Sallie DeWitt and I had lunch with Mr. Zhao the writing teacher and his wife, I so wanted to be able to have a real conversation with them. You could see in his eyes the desire to speak with us and share thoughts. When Randal and I came to China we thought we would be leaving by mid-December so didn’t think the work to learn Chinese would be the best use of our time. (We had signed up for Chinese classes through adult ed in Roanoke, but the class was canceled since only the two of us registered. We didn’t pursue possible alternative means.) But even after we leave I think I will work on the characters because it is good practice for drawing and some of the symbols are just so beautiful and interesting. Here are some examples.
My name: Ruth
(found this on the internet)
the 3rd and 4th characters mean safety. It is the symbol for a woman under a roof which makes for a safe place.
Symbol for man and outside of the "men’s toilet".
Last character is fire.
I particularly like this sign. The first 2 characters (woman or girl) and son = good. The 3rd character is man. Then the word good again and then girl.
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Yesterday afternoon was a whirlwind of eating and shopping and visiting and eating! Lots of wonderful food. But one stop was to visit Stella’s sister’s new condo. Both she and her husband are retired higher level government workers. The condo is on the 10th floor (elevators take you up in the new tall buildings, 23 in their building.) It was a very large condo complex.
I call it a condo because the people who live in buildings own their units. Bill says not many people rent.
One interesting gadget in the kitchen is a dish and cooking items sterilizer.
The large windows opened to great views of mountains.
Yes, the bathroom looks like ours at home and they had mood lighting in the sitting area with the TV. There was underground parking with lots of SUV like vehicles. It is a far cry from the less developed areas where folks lead water buffalo along the road. But most countries have those dichotomies, differences appreciated by visitors like me who enjoy the old as much as the new.
But living in "quaint" is another story. I once lived in a little house on my sister’s land. It was one big room downstairs and 2 upstairs. A wood stove provided heat most of the years I lived there. It was rustic with a furry blanket blocking the stairway to keep the heat downstairs. I loved it and lived there with 2 dogs and a cat and Harriet’s family and washer/ dryer just out the back door. It was cooler in the summer and hot in the winter from the wood stove. My wonderful brother-in-law chopped the wood so my living expenses were minimal and I could go traveling to Ireland,Japan, etc. But it wasn’t a house that would fit on Plymouth Street or South Roanoke County. I didn’t care, it made me happy and my friends comfortable to visit. A stream just the other side of the driveway/road into our "hollow" provided evening music after heavy rains. (The flood of "85" was another story.)
But here are more photos from the Zhuhai apartment.
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bright and sunny
Here are some photos of the boat interior. I have sent similar ones, but now we are actually here and sleeping and cooking!
The picture on the wall is an oil painting copied from a photo of and oil painting painted from a photo of Randal’s mom when she was 16. Dot Roberson painted the original and a Chinese artist Guo Xing painted the one we have. We took the photo and our friend Lillian to a frame/art shop and the result is the wonderful painting. We had one of Dora when she was 28 painted from the original photo so it is the first painting. The red DoraMac sign was done by the writing teacher from the Doumen Middle School.
You can see our bikes behind the cockpit.
The tiny Chinese people, man and woman are traditional for New Year. They are arranged on our "front door" with the man on the left and the woman on the right. The small red hanging Chinese knot is also for good luck.
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We had our first impromptu dinner party Tuesday night. Stella and Bill Kimley, Ed and Sue Maynardvisiting from the U.S., Natalie, Stella’s daughter, Jerry Wallace, Sue and Ed’s son and Randal and me. It was dinner for 8 on the boat. Randal cooked up a storm. He made sauteed noodles with fresh spices and broccoli. We had warmed bread with peanut butter and honey, assorted snacks and cookies and assorted drinks. It was great fun as we all sat around the table in the pilot house.
That morning Randal and I had walked the mile to the market in Baijiao, our new side of the river. Behind the "supermarket" is a wet market with all kinds of fresh meat, fish, poultry, spices and veggies. There is lots of activity from the buyers and sellers and it’s great fun. My ears, eyes, and nose were working to take it all in. That evening everyone was sitting around the boat yard wondering what to do about dinner and Randal suggested that instead of dinner out, he would cook a noodle dinner like we’ve eaten at the Father/Son Restaurant. So Randal chopped and sauteed, and the giant wok and our gas stove worked like a dream. Randal is quite a good cook! It was every bit as good as the locals.
Here are photos of a wet market and some from the big grocery story in Zhuhai that Lillian and I went to. Next time some boat photos.
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