Archive for June 24, 2015

Grassland Culture Festivities

So apparently there is a holiday season approaching called “Inner Mongolia Grassland Culture Holiday. The holiday’s official dates are June 25-July 3, but some activities have already started. A complete list of activities in Chinese is available here.
I’ll do my best to translate some of them in English for you here. Again, click the link above for full details. I left out the academic forums so check the original for full listing.

June 25 and 26 at 8:00 pm the Poly Theatre will have performances.

June 25 Inner Mongolia Television will air a short film called “Our China Dream: a Wonderful Grassland Story”

June 26- 27 at 8:00 pm a dance performance at the People’s Performance Hall

June 26-27 at 8:00 pm a dance performance at the Nationalities Art Theatre

June 26th Grasslands Creative Works Exhibit at the Exhibition Center

June 26th at 3:00 and 8:00 pm a children’s performance at The Art College

June 27th at 8:00 pm another performance at the Poly Theatre

June 28th at 7:30 another performance at the Art College (in Mongolian)

June 29th and 30th, a choral performance at the Poly Theatre

June 29th and 30th, a group of performers from Wulanchab at the Nationalities Art Theatre

June 29th at 7:30 performance at the Art College (same as the 28th but this time in Chinese)

July 1st at 7:30 a performance at the Art College

July 2 and 3 at 8:00 pm performance at Nationalities Art Theatre

July 2 and 3 at 8:00 a dance performance at the People’s Performance Hall

July 3 at 7:30 a dance performance at the Poly Theatre


Be cultured! Attend some of the performances and leave us a comment to let us know how they were!

Used Furniture Markets

Here is an older post about some good finds at local used furniture markets, but it was recently requested that I add maps to the locations, so I hope this will be helpful in finding what you need. And, I’ve learned of at least one more since the previous post so it is included below as well.

I know of a few used furniture stores.  Descriptions, names, and locations are below.
1.  Name unknown and not marked with signage:  This one is located on Xhe Li Mu street just north (about 200 meters) of Gong Da’s west gate. It’s in a hutong/ping fang/courtyard style building and you have to wander in and out of each courtyard to find what you’re looking for.
Best finds:  small size dining room table for 60 RMB, large nice, solid wood dining table for 320

used furniture one


2.  旧货市场  jiu huo shi chang “Old goods market”  This is located on the north side of wu ta si xi jie (Wu Ta Si West Road).  It’s in a large warehouse style building with stall after stall of used items, in some cases stacked to the ceiling. They have furniture, commercial/industrial kitchens items, appliances, some new furniture, and items to random to list individually.
Best finds:   Commercial/Industrial Oven for 800 RMB
New 3-door wardrobe/closet/柜子 with many finishes/colors available:  300 RMB (2 doors for 200, 4 doors for 400)

used market 2
3.  旧家具店  jiu jia ju dian “Old Furniture Shop”  This is a very small shop located just west of the intersection of E’erduosi Road and Zhao Wu Da South Road on the south side of the street.  (red sign)  The selection is large considering the size of the shop, but definitely doesn’t have as much as the others, but they seemed to have a good selection of TVs.  The owner is really nice.
Best find:   Standing coat rack for 30 RMB

used market 3
4. 鑫春新旧货市场 xin chun xin jiu huo shi chang



This one is located on Zhan Dong Lu on the west side of the road, just south of the railroad tracks. This is a large lot with a warehouse of goods on the north side that is labeled something to the effect of “smoke free goods” but I doubt that. The south side of the lot has more individual stalls.

Best finds: a metal rack/shelf (like the ones sold on the bottom floor of guo mao for 150-300) for 40 RMB, a standing electric fan in like-new condition for 80 RMB.

And in the category of scariest finds, this item (pictured below) was sitting on one of the tables for sale.



Here are others that mapped that I have no personal experience with, but if you try them leave us a comment and let us know how they are. (F and G are mentioned above)

other markets

What are your best used store purchases? Leave us a comment.

Food Swap: June 29th


We’ve talked about doing this before, but now I’ve set a date! Once we know how many will be participating, we’ll set a location to meet and a specific time. You have ten days to prepare your tasty treats! Leave a comment if you’d like to participate!


I think we all like to eat tasty, homemade treats. But, making those treats takes extra shopping time, extra preparation time, and at times, special skills to really nail the taste of home.

I’d like to start something a group of folks did in my hometown (Oklahoma City). Each month participants had a food swap. You make extra of whatever deliciousness you are making, and you get to trade with others for their deliciousness.

Here’s what I propose for Foodswap Hohhot:

  • Anyone can participate. You need to sign up in advance so we know how many items to bring. (Ten participants means you bring (and receive) nine items). If registration exceeds ten we’ll group into smaller groups for the exchange.
  • Items need to be properly packaged and labeled with storage instructions and expiration or other pertinent information.
  • Use the best quality ingredients you can find.
  • Items must be homemade


Some suggestions of types of items to bring:

  • sauces, dressings, salsas, etc
  • flavored butters, cheeses, yogurt
  • jams, jelly, other homemade canned goods
  • baked goods
  • soups
  • cereals, granola, etc
  • other delicious items that may be hard to acquire or make in Hohhot.

A portion should have 4-6 servings.
If you plan to participate, leave a comment by Saturday June 27th so the others participating can have time for planning.

For our very first swap, we are going to keep it simple while we work out all of the details. We are going to do even trades. For example, if ten swappers are participating, each should bring 9 items to trade. We also don’t want any of your hard work to go to waste, so if you have any dietary restrictions, etc. that would keep you from using any of the goods, we ask that you either give it to someone that you know would enjoy it or leave it at the swap with no hurt feelings.
Also, we hope everyone will participate with a kind and generous heart instead of having a critical attitude about the portion sizes, expense, or personal dislike of an item brought by another participant.


Here’e a link to other suggestions from the event in Oklahoma. You’ll need a VPN to access it. Many of the swapped items wouldn’t be feasible here, but just some ideas to get your creative cooking juices flowing.

Hohhot Life Hacks, part two: life with kids

This is our second post in a series designed to help you make some everyday aspects of life here cheaper, easier, or more functional. Our first hack post can be found here. We’ll offer five hacks per post. Today’s posts focuses on hacks for kids. Have a Hohhot hack of your own? Leave a comment for us!

SIX: Boxed milk is expensive.

Not as expensive as fresh milk, but still expensive. And yet, the boxes are so convenient to take on-the-go. Anyway, paying 40-60 RMB a case adds up if you do it week after week. Here’s a little trick I’ve learned…
Hack: Check out a smaller grocery store. There is always something half price!

I have found the best prices for the cases of boxes of kid’s milk with straws are the small, local grocery stores, not the big supermarkets. This has been true in both neighborhoods I’ve live in recently. Almost every week, there is something on sale for a buy-one-get-one promotion. Sometimes it’s even the fancy organic milk. Half price is much more affordable!

A side note: I would still read the labels if you’re able. All these boxed milks have pretty high sugar content and some are more like a “milk-like drink” than actual milk. Even the fancy organic milks have sugar listed as an ingredient most of the time.



SEVEN: Kids’ shoes everywhere?

We have two kids and another on the way and I feel like our doorway area is generally a disaster. Winter is even worse when there are coats and hats and mittens and scarves and layers of clothes. I’ve tried multiple systems for organizing our chaos, and one that is working especially well right now is this one:

Hack: Use a small coat rack (or some other kinds of hooks) installed close to the floor.

keeping kids’ shoes tidy

This method allows my kids to keep their shoes tidy themselves and it cost less 20 RMB. The rack was 15 RMB at a hardware store near our home and the stick- back hooks are about 4-5 RMB for a three pack.


EIGHT: Kids waking up too early?

Summer in Hohhot: where it’s daytime bright at 5:00 am. And although I wish I was up and ready to start the day that early, I’m just not. But if it gets that bright in my kids’ room, they will be.

Even though the installed drapes in the room where they sleep are fairly thick, they were still just letting in too much light.

Hack: Black out curtain

They have these silver, sort-of-plastic-y curtains that are made for blocking the sun. But, I’ve looked everywhere I can think of locally and haven’t found any yet. We used this curtain, hung it up inside the window sill with a tension rod. We have since gone all the way redneck and also fashioned black trash bags to the back of it. I’m sure we’re the most loved neighbors in our complex :). This hack cost about 60 RMB. And our girls are sleeping until 7 most mornings now.



NINE: Diapers are expensive.

I wasn’t aware before we moved back here in 2012 with an almost one year old that diapers are more expensive here than America. In the States we generally bought either Target or some grocery store brand of diapers that cost roughly 1 RMB per diaper when you work out all the math. I don’t think any brand here is that cheap and most cost closer to 2 RMB (or more) per diaper.

I know some people save by ordering from amazon or taobao but I’ve never found significantly better deals there myself. Here’s our solution:

Hack: Use a cloth diaper cover and a “U type” diaper.

IMG_5011 IMG_5012 IMG_5013

Truthfully, I’m not sure how locals use these, but we stick these sticky-backed U shaped diapers into a cloth diaper cover, and it reduces our diaper cost to less than 1 RMB per diaper. This package above is normally 16 RMB for 20 inserts. They hold as much as a typical diaper, they just don’t have anything that wraps around the child’s waist. They have three sections of adhesive which hold them in place inside the cover.

You do have to have cloth diaper covers to make this method effective, but we have plenty of those on hand so it works for us.


TEN: Staying in a typical Chinese hotel with more than one child

China’s standard rooms have two twin beds or one large bed. Sometimes you get lucky and the two beds are a little larger that twin size and generally the large bed is big enough that theoretically parents and child could share, but in our family we’re accustomed to our kids having their own bed. Figuring out where to sleep all four of us comfortably in two small or one large bed is a challenge.
Our solution when we have to travel has been:

Hack: Try a three person room

IMG_2320 IMG_2321


The pictures above are from a hotel in Si Zi Wang Qi/Wu Lan Hua, which is about 2 hours north of Hohhot. This room with three 1.2 meter beds cost us just over 100 RMB per night. The girls can easily share a bed and we can sleep comfortably.


If you find yourself in Si Zi Wang Qi, here’s the card for the hotel pictured above. (Si Zi Wang Qi is the kind of the middle point between the two closest grasslands tourist areas, Zhao He/Xilamuren and Gegentala).
Another advantage of this room type is that the rooms are not used as often so there’s a chance they are a bit cleaner.
However, we recently tried the strategy when we went to Tianjin and it didn’t work so well. At the hotel in Tianjin the three person rooms were in a separate building than the standard rooms and they were much lower quality than the standard rooms. In that case, the price we were paying wasn’t a good value for the room we got, but we also weren’t cramped into beds that didn’t suit our family.


teaching position

We are a newly opened Children’s Library expecting to start our program in July and we provide children K-12 English language courses. We are franchised by National Geographic Learning to use their whole series of teaching materials OUR WORLD and WELCOME TO OUR WORLD and get their professional development support.

Now, we are looking for two native English speaking teachers who can teach children aged 3 to 12 English. The detailed requirements are as follow:

  • Candidates who have work experience of teaching children aged 3-12 in China will have the top priority.
  • He/she should be able to work for over one year once employed.
  • If employed, he/she needs to be able to work for 20 hours per week and work in evenings and weekends.
  • We will offer 8000 RMB/month for each teacher once employed.


We also look for part-time English teachers:

  • We will offer 100-500 RMB/hour for each teacher once employed according to different tasks and teaching experiences.

Interested candidates can send resumes to:

weird water

I hope today we are back to posts that are useful and helpful to you. Or that at least I’m in a better mood.
Today I wanted to write about a strange occurrence regarding water, bleach, and a spray bottle. In order to more efficiently clean up after my daughter’s potty training accidents, I put some bleach and water in a spray bottle.
For the first couple of days, everything was fine and normal. However, a few days in to using it, the water would be discolored when in sprayed out. At first, just tan but now really dark brown (see photos below). But, the water in the spray bottle is still clear.
It isn’t a big deal. I’ve dumped it out and moved on. But I really, really, really wanted to know why. Something in the water? Some kind of reaction with the plastic bottle? cause for grater concern about our water or not that big of a deal?

I asked a few smart friends on wechat and the best answer came back from Dave, who lived here briefly a few years back but now is an engineer with the agency that governs Oklahoma’s water.
IMG_20150529_202756 IMG_20150529_202808
So above you have the clear water in the spray bottle, and the brown water on the floor when it sprays out.
The reason (according to my knowledgeable friend Dave): iron and manganese. These two elements are commonly found in ground and surface water and if not removed in treatment process they go into the public water supply. When mixed with an oxidant like bleach, they basically turn to rust. (Iron turns red, manganese turns black). Thus the source of my nasty brown water.

Dave also tells me iron and manganese are unregulated in the USA and that the EPA says it won’t harm us. Therefore, it means the water is “most likely safe.”

I haven’t found a source to verify this information, but I’ve heard that Hohhot’s water comes from two sources: wells and the Yellow River and each xiao qu’s water comes from one of those sources. I’ve written a bit more about my thoughts on the water situation here.

The good news for me is that Dave tells me these elements are more likely to be in well water which means it is more probable that our water source is a well instead of the Yellow River. (If those truly are the sources of Hohhot’s water).

What are your thoughts about Hohhot’s water situation? What precautions do you take? Leave us a comment.


What a week! alternatively titled: Pregnant and cranky

This week’s frustration #1: Finding out that we do indeed have to authenticate our PASSPORTS to be able to finish our business registration.

That’s right. Passports. I’ve lived in and out of China for 12 years now and I’ve never heard of anyone having to do this, nor has anyone I know ever heard of anyone having to do this. (other documents, yes).

Also, we know that the law firm we contacted has never had a client in ANY PROVINCE have to do this.

I want to add this to the list of “crazy things I’ve heard in governmental/official offices” not the fact that they are requiring it, but that the boss said the authentication process is free. Umm, it’s not free. There’s a charge at the Embassy for the official copy, notarization, and certification. There are the postage fees, the agent fees, Department of State fees, and the Chinese Embassy fees.

So James is on his way to Beijing tonight to go to the Embassy tomorrow to get a certified copy of our passports authenticated so that we can send them to the US to get authenticated by the Chinese consulate so that they can have a stamp so that we can continue the process with our business registration.

We’re taking good notes of the business registration process and we’ll write a complete post with all our snags (this one being the largest) so that hopefully you can avoid them.

In the meantime, here is the link to service we’ve used in the States to authenticate our documents if you find yourself in need of such documents. In the past we’ve had to get our marriage certificate and our kids’ birth certificates authenticated in order to get our residence permit.

This week’s frustration #2: being pregnant and cranky. I mentioned earlier that I made the mistake of going to a newly opened Carrefour on a public holiday, which didn’t put me in the most culturally appreciative mood. When I got home I parked my trike in the shed beside our building while I unloaded five or more large bags of groceries. I’m six months pregnant currently. While unloading bags of groceries (and waiting for chivalrous husband to come downstairs and help) an able-bodied 40 something year old man stopped me to tell me that I shouldn’t park where I did. I should park in the main shed by the gate which is 300 or so meters away so that “kids don’t play on my vehicle and it will be better and safer for everyone.”

I know being pregnant makes me more irritable in situations like these, but I can happily report that I didn’t say anything like, “Men where I’m from would offer to help me instead of complaining about where I parked, which by the way, was in a bike shed!” Instead I just told him I would move after we had unloaded the groceries.

I should also note here that I have been here long enough to understand that mostly random strangers say things like that comment out of concern (concern for the safety of my trike, concern for public order, etc) and I try to remember that when I feel frustrated with what I perceive to be criticisms from locals.


This week’s frustration #3: not being able to clearly communicate after 12+ years of Chinese study.

I wanted to buy some contact paper like stuff that is sold in office supply stores and the stores that make advertisements. I stopped in the office supply store near the gate of our complex. I don’t know the actual word for that kind of paper (or if they even call it paper). I asked for “the colored paper that is sticky on one side that comes in rolls and is sold by the meter.” She seemed to know what I was talking about but said she didn’t have any. I looked around and didn’t see it either. I asked if anywhere nearby sold it. She said no. I went out and saw that the shop next door was a printing shop and decided to give it a try. They had it! I could see the rolls on the shelf in the back. But then I noticed something else….these two shops, the one I had just been in and this one were one shop! Adjoining doors on the inside and same family running both parts! Clearly, I hadn’t communicated with the lady in the first shop who said it wasn’t sold nearby if indeed it was sold in the other half of her shop.


Warm-hearted gesture from a stranger making up for most of these things: free sewing repair to my clothes. Seriously. I dropped a few things off to be mended and when I went to pick them up, the shop owner wouldn’t let me pay. I needed one little bright light of gladness in the midst of not doing a great job of navigating life here this week.


Consolation gifts for having a bad week will be accepted in the form of positive comments, salty snacks, or good quality dark chocolate. 谢谢你的合作 🙂


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