Archive for January 31, 2014

从马年第一天www.hohhotinfo.com开始提供中文博客!!

在赵然和张璐的帮助下, 就写的这些:

呼市,我爱你!我说是真的!

我刚大学毕业就搬到这里。 我开始自己生活,没有父母朋友关注我的生活, 就是在这里。我自己成熟, 就在呼和浩特。

我和我老公是在呼市认识的。他也是美国人。他在我的州也上过大学 不过我们两个都跑到呼和浩特才认识了。

这个城市也是我的两个孩子会叫“老家”的地方。 虽然他们都是在美国出生, 但是她们的生活大部分时间是在这里。 老二只在美国呆了一个月。她肯定对美国没有记忆。  她们的朋友们是这里的人。她们了解的生活也是这里的。

从我第一次来这里到现在已经有十一年半了。 我在这边当过学生, 当过员工, 也当了妈妈。 我也看到呼市很多的变化。 我跟呼和浩特的关系已经比较熟。

呼和浩特我有时候不明白你,我有时候也对你不满意, 不过还是爱你;我有时候也对你生气, 但是还是爱你。

我为什么开始写这篇博客呢? 原因很多,第一就是因为我真的爱这个城市。 第二个原因是因为我在之前的半年已经用英文让在呼和浩特的外国人更了解呼市, 现在我决定提供中文博客。 我希望这个能够帮我自己提高我的汉语,也能够更好的帮助我和你们的交流。在这里写我对呼市的看法,也能够帮助我了解更多的信息。 从你们的评论我会明白我以前不明白的事情。 我希望我的博客也能够帮我的读者更了解我。

我用中文写肯定会有错误。 请原谅。谢谢大家的支持!谢谢大家的理解!

cost of living in Hohhot

I ran across this site the other day that compares the cost of living for various world cities. We can help make the Hohhot information more accurate by adding more data. Check out the link, add more Hohhot data, and then compare with your home city or other cities in China!

My only suggestion for improvement for them would be a “N/A” option. It’s funny to me that they assume there is an “expat area” in Hohhot and some items on their list are non-existent or very hard to come by.

Renting a Car

So first let me say this isn’t Jill.  This is her… worser half… which means that grammar and other things may not be as accurate as when my wife writes.  I’m more interested in telling a story and I don’t really want punctuation and grammar to get in the way, which they have been known to do from time to time.

We rented a car for the first time last week, and short of getting lost once, and almost being run off the road twice we had a pretty good time.  We started the whole drivers license process when saw a sign from www.zuche.com in our elevator.  Realizing that we could rent a car made the idea of traveling to other places to see friends with two little girls much more do-able.

To begin with, let me say that when I drive in Hohhot I drive a lot like my mother.  Mom is a country girl and when she is in the city caution and precaution are understatements.  I am the same here.  I found myself a little overwhelmed with all the traffic and driving styles in the city.  Once I got in my lane I didn’t leave it!  It didn’t matter if the other lane was moving faster, it didn’t matter if I had to stop for vehicles in front of me, it didn’t matter if someone parked in my lane… I was going to wait it out. 🙂  I felt that I was both the safest and most unsafe driver at the same time.  I was definitely watching out and driving more courteously than anyone else (like they teach you on the drivers test), but at the same time I’m sure I was driving the most unpredictably to the other Chinese drivers.  (I also think I accidentally merged lanes in the middle of an intersection, but that’s another story.)

Before we rented from the website above we found a friend of a friend who had a car rental company across from the Shangri-La and rented from them instead. My Chinese friends had warned me about hidden fees and the companies trying to rip you off so I was a little bit nervous, but in the end didn’t have any problem with that.  They were quite kind, and actually gave me a little grace on the mileage limit when I went over it.  I put down 3,000 RMB.  The car was 200 per day and they just took that out of the 3,000 when I got back.  They also kept 500 RMB of it for one month.  This is in case I get a/some automated speeding tickets…. so time will tell on this.  All in all I felt like they were a good company.  The car on the other had was a different story.

You know when you rent a car in the states you find yourself in a late model car with quite a few bells and whistles and immaculately clean?  Not the case in China.  We had a small Buick Something-or-Another Sedan.  I don’t know the year model, but it had definitely seen some use.  It came complete with a nice smoke smell when it heated up from the sun (for some reason being hot from the heater didn’t bring out the smell).  The seatbelts in the back were all safely tucked away behind the seat so they wouldn’t get in your way.  The engine had some noises that worried me a little bit, 3 of the hubcaps were wired on, and we started to shimmy when we got over 110 KMH.  (Most of the speed limits were 100 so only between here and Baotou was it an issue)  Lastly, when I was cleaning it out to take it back I found an empty bag of shrimp chips under the seat.  We hadn’t eaten shrimp chips. Still, it got us there and back safely so I guess I can’t complain.  Let’s say this is just a fair warning so you’ll know what to expect.

Driving itself was not TOO bad.  Inside Hohhot was a bit nerve racking as mentioned above, but once we got on the highway it was very similar to driving in the states with 3 exceptions.
1) We both read some Chinese, but some of the roads are not very well marked once you leave the freeway.  Our one episode of getting lost involved this.  However, thanks to a plethora of toll booths everywhere we asked and they pointed us back in the right direction.  If my GPS had been working on my phone this probably wouldn’t have been a big issue.
2) Gas and tolls are expensive.  We have been back in China for the last 1.5 years, but I just haven’t bought much gas. When I filled it up the first time and did the conversion I realized I had just put in $50 to fill it 3/4 of the way.  (I think it’s roughly 10 RMB/liter) The tolls also were more than I expected.  We spent somewhere between 150-200 RMB each way just on tolls. (for a drive that was about 425 km)
3)  Chinese people drive aggressively.  I know you are like, “No, kidding.”  I have lived here quite a while but their were 2 instances I was not ready for and almost got ran off the road.  The first was just a crazy driver in a small car who thought he was playing Mario Kart.  I was not the only car he made swerve.  The second was a bit more malicious.  I was driving back at night time and slipped into an American driving mode for a minute.  The truck in front of us wobbled in his lane a bit and so being the good American driver that I am I merged into a farther lane just to be on the safe side.  This elicited several honks from the drivers in the fast lane who were catching up to us.  I passed the truck and merged back into my lane.  The van that was in the fast lane swerved into our lane as soon as he was ALMOST passed us. I had to swerve to keep from hitting him.  I guess he thought he was teaching me a lesson about Chinese driving… and indeed he did.  WATCH OUT!

Looking back… all in all, it was a good experience and one we will probably do again sometime soon. (Jill had a great idea that we might try during Spring Festival, and that was to drive up to the mountain where we can look down at Hohhot and enjoy probably the greatest firework show in the world). It was more expensive than a bus, but it was so much more comfortable with a family.  Also, the flexibility and freedom were amazing.  Some day we might buy a car here, but for now I think we’ll just rent when we want to take a trip out of town.

-James

Top Ten Things We’ve Survived Here

This was my submission to the writing contest at Expatsblog. I’m reposting it here so you’ll have something to read while we work on all the small details of getting the site switched over and functioning as it should.

Hohhot is now our home. My husband and I have lived here for 3 ½ and almost 5 years, respectively, spanning from 2002 until now. This is the first city I lived in as a “grown-up” after college. This is the city where I met my husband. This is the city my girls will know as home. Although we love it, it hasn’t always been easy. Here’s our list of the top ten things we have experienced, survived, and have enough hind-sight humor to write about.

ONE: CONFUSION OVER WHERE WE LIVE. (Ongoing) Every time we are in America we get asked the question, “How is Mongolia?” We hear it’s good, but we don’t live there. We live in China. Our most recent response to this question involves the analogy: Inner Mongolia is to China as New Mexico is to the United States.

TWO:  FIVE WINTERS. (2002/2003, 2003/2004, 2006/2007, 2012/2013, 2013) We have survived five Hohhot winters and my husband gets a special recognition for also surviving one grassland winter. There is at least heating for six of the seven months of winter.My husband would like it noted that surviving a grassland winter means learning when to burn cow mature and when to burn sheep manure to sustain a fire through the night. (Cow lights easier, sheep burns longer, for the curious).This skill is especially useful to return to a warm home after a trip to the facilities, which are any patch of land outside of the village.

THREE: SARS-Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. (Late April-early July 2003) I didn’t have SARS, I just survived the craziness involved with this province being the third-most affected by the outbreak. For roughly two months, the entire city of Hohhot, and perhaps the province as a whole, essentially shut down. Flights stopped, restaurants closed, shops closed and you could no longer enter housing complexes other than your own. I was single and studying Chinese at Inner Mongolia University. I lived off campus, but the university required all students to move back to campus and to be, for all practical purposes, quarantined. We were initially told we would have to return to the dorms for ten days, but it was actually a bit over two months. During this time no student could exit the campus. Surviving this phase meant sustaining on three meals a day of Chinese university cafeteria food, having only two other humans with which to speak English and attempting not to die of frustration at the ever-changing announcements, cures, protection methods and SARS-preventing-procedures.By saying I survived, I do not mean to say that I handled this incident well at the time it was taking place. In fact, the one time when we were permitted to leave campus for a few hours to return to our homes to get some personal effects, I may have thrown a full-blown temper tantrum outside my apartment building when the guard said I couldn’t enter my own apartment without first going to the hospital for a document stating I was SARS free. I may have a tendency to exaggerate in story-telling, but this is as true as it gets: I was crying and stomping my feet like a two year old and using what little Chinese I had to express every bit of dissatisfaction, injustice, frustration and anger I felt.

FOUR: BIKE THEFTS (ongoing) Bike thefts are too common and too numerous to bother counting. My first bike was in my possession less than 48 hours. The bike passed down to me from another expat upon my second arrival in Hohhot lasted less than 36 hours. However, the night that bike was stolen was the night I met the man who would become my husband, so I don’t have too many hard feelings about that one. Aside from bikes, wallets, cell phones and electric bike batteries and/or chargers seem to be easy targets. Other than minor instances like this, our city is relatively safe.

FIVE: AN EYEBALL-LICKING INCIDENT. (Late 2006) I know. Weird, right? I worked for a time at a four star hotel. One day at work my eye was itching and hurting so I stepped into the ladies’ restroom to see if I could find something in my eye and get it out. A coworker was there and asked if she could look at it for me. Before I knew what was happening or had time to think through an escape route, she was licking my eye. This is a true story. There was tongue to eyeball contact before I could do anything about it. She said that’s how they get things out of babies’ eyes. I, however, was an un-expecting adult. At this point an appropriate question is, “Did it work?” The answer: I’m not sure. I think the trauma of the incident itself made me forget the initial eye discomfort.

SIX: GETTING HIT BY A BUS (Jan. 14, 2007) One evening I was crossing the street in the crosswalk during a green light, but a bus attempting to turn right on red ended up swerving to miss a taxi and hitting me. There I was, sprawled on the freezing concrete in the intersection. I remember my first thought was, “I think I’m actually ok.” A middle-aged women and her teenage daughter had been walking beside me and had barely missed being hit. They helped me get up gather my hat, mittens and backpack which had been knocked off upon impact. They helped me to the side of the road. The bus driver had parked the bus and come over to check on the three of us. He actually took responsibility and wanted to make sure I had all his credentials in case something was wrong. He insisted that I get in the bus and go to the hospital with him. I could tell nothing was broken or bleeding and I didn’t have a problem moving so I declined. At that point in my China life, I had never been to a Chinese hospital and the thought of going with a stranger who just hit me with a bus was scarier than going home and finding an injury later. The mom and daughter waited for the conversation to end and walked me almost all the way to my home. The mother wanted to take me to the pharmacy to buy me some medicine because she was certain I would be in pain the next few days. She was right.

SEVEN: PREGNANCY+JET-LAGGED TODDLER+FOOD-POISONED HUSBAND (Early August 2012) When we moved back to Hohhot as a family of three, soon to be four, we initially stayed in a hotel room while we looked for an apartment. On day three my husband ate some jin jiang rou si that sent his body into a kind of purging it had never seen before. I was pregnant and still suffering from morning sickness. I threw up almost every time I had to change my days-away-from-one-year-old daughter. Now, I threw up almost every time he did and every time I had to change a diaper. We had just arrived so our daughter wasn’t over jet lag and still waking up in the night. She would wake up every time the toilet beckoned her father. The throwing up and other means of expulsion would commence. We’d all get back to sleep in time for another round to begin. Had we not just survived 30+ hours of international travel with a pregnant lady and a toddler, we probably would have gotten back on a plane if the opportunity presented itself.

EIGHT: ALXA DESERT ACTIVITY (Sept. 2012) Alxa is the farthest western league of Inner Mongolia and home to the Badain Jaran Desert and China’s space satellite launch site. It’s FAR. We got word [through a local friend] the local government there wanted to invite some foreigners to participate in their annual Nadam Festival and Desert Activity. Our transportation and hotel costs would be provided. We’re in! We were told it would be a ten-hour train ride followed by a six-hour bus ride. In actuality it was a ten-hour train ride followed by a thirteen-hour bus ride. Then upon arrival they insisted we attend a concert that began at roughly 9:00 pm. Reminder: I am still pregnant, we have a one year old, and we’ve been travelling for 23 hours. Kids and pregnant ladies go to sleep early. To their dismay, we declined and we were thankful for our foreign companions making up for our absence. When it was time for the “desert activity” we learned this “activity” was a 15 km scavenger hunt/race in the middle of the desert. This activity might have been fun with some advanced warning. And without a toddler. And not pregnant. Thankfully, we played the pregnant and with toddler card again and got to stay in the bus and play in the nearby dunes while our able-bodied companions sweated it out in the desert with the corporate-sponsored teams who had been training for this event for some time. We should have had one of our friends who trekked write this section since we only technically survived sitting in the bus.

NINE: APARTMENT FIRE (Nov.2010) Thankfully, it wasn’t our home, but in our unit (the same stairwell). The smell of smoke caused us to check our house to find nothing, which caused us to check outside. As soon as we opened the door, smoke flooded into our 18th floor apartment. We grabbed our daughter and tried to exit down the stairway. We made it 2 ½ flights before we realized we were not going to make it to the ground level before we suffocate. We returned to our home and called 119. They informed us that they were already on site, took our specific location and asked us to wait to be rescued. I’m not sure how much time actually passed, but it seemed liked hours. We had time to pack a bag. We could hear the sound of neighbors yelling down to the firemen and the sound of repeated breaking glass, which we later discovered was the firemen breaking out all the windows in the stairwell. Finally our door busted open and our heroes arrived! They had super-powered flashlights and the stairs were a bit more bearable with the glass busted out. They helped us down a few flights of stairs and then would shove our heads half-way out the window to get air then we would descend another few levels and repeat. The farther down we got, the thicker the smoke. The fire had started on the first floor. When we got to the third floor we were hoisted through the window out to a balcony to breathe some fresh air. Here we were given the firemen’s masks to make the final descent where the smoke was heaviest. We made it out safely with no injuries and no damage to our possessions.

TEN: TRANSITION. (ongoing) Another aspect of life here we have survived is the welcoming, and the much harder parting, of friends who become like family. I know it’s the fate of every expat that as soon as you make really good friends their study is over, they are transferred or their contract ends. It’s hard. And sometimes we are the ones to leave. And although the promise of unlimited cheese and cereal in America are waiting, it doesn’t make the leaving process any easier. We have survived it all because I could write a list ten times as long about all the good we have experienced here. We could tell even more stories of the good friends we’ve made and their kindness to us. We hope to have stories of survival to tell for years to come.  – See more at: http://www.expatsblog.com/contests/748/top-ten-experiences-survived-on-steppes-of-inner-mongolia#sthash.qlMzmMq7.dpuf

Starbucks

I can’t believe I haven’t posted this yet! I saw that the Starbucks on Zhong Shan Lu was now open (it at least appeared that way on Friday). Has anyone been there yet? What did you order? Was it everything you had been dreaming about in this previously Starbucks-void city? For those coffee lovers among you, I’m happy for you that it’s here. I don’t love coffee or their prices, or their location choice, but I will still be happy for those of you who are excited. Personally, I’m more excited about the Subway about 1 km from my house! Our “small” city sure isn’t feeling like a small city anymore. I better stop now before this post turns into a “back in my day” saga.

Under Constuction: Pardon our (continuing) mess!

Well, welcome to the new-ish site. Moving servers was (of course) more trouble than anticipated, but we’re working hard at getting everything back to looking nice and functioning well. It will take us some time.  When moving, we lost all the previous comments and images. The images we’ll slowly get up. This new site, however, will allow us to have more content than before, which we hope will be useful to you.

We’re going out of town for a few days so the mess will be around for awhile. This will be our first road trip with James driving, so it’s sure to produce content for next week’s posts. 🙂

I’ll also try to get the weather and air quality reports back up soon. By the way, isn’t today the clearest day we’ve had in awhile???  We can even see the mountains south of the city from our apartment today!

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