Archive for January 30, 2016

Mongolian calligraphy

I only understand a few hundred words of Mongolian so I can’t understand much of this video, but it’s a beautiful tribute to the Mongolian script.

Remember to check out if you are interested in learning Mongolian.

If you’re interested in getting a Mongolian tutor, check out Caide Consulting.

If the embedded video doesn’t display properly use this link.
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Friday’s foreigner: Anastasiya

Today is our fourth post in a series I hope we’ll do most Fridays.

Check back each week to “meet” the other expats!

See our other interviews here. 


Today, we’d like to introduce you to Anastasiya.


What’s your name, where are you from, what brought you to Hohhot and when did you arrive?

My name is Anastasiya. I’m from Donetsk, Ukraine and arrived in Hohhot in October 2014. My desire to keep working as a dance teacher brought me here. Whereas in my home, the situation was very tense and critical and I received a proposition to come to Hohhot to teach ballet. My parents were insisting I accept this position and leave home for some time and knowing the positive experience of my ballet teachers who used to work in China I decided to try.


What have been some of your professional successes in your industry?

Sometimes it feels like every little step forward is already success. Teaching without language knowledge is quiet challenging. But even though most of my ballerinas are completely beginners we were able to get 5th place in our first competition in August 2015. And 2nd place in a recent competition in December 2015.

Share with us some of the moments you were proudest of your students

Honestly I am proud of every student in my groups and grateful to the parents who trust me to educate their kids. My students are very different and aged from 4 to over 50 years old. All of them have big desires to learn from me, but also understand me despite language difficulties. I have to admit working with them is one of my best experiences of being here. I have girls who come to my classes since I just arrived. Seeing them growing and changing physically under ballet training during this time is my inspiration.
I am proud of them every lesson when they learn something new or after a few attempts when they could do movements that they couldn’t at the beginning, I am proud of them when they trying new costumes, perform, smile and I can see signs of happiness on their faces. And I am especially grateful to them and their attentive work when I have to lead classes without voice (this winter I lost it almost twice because of catching cold).


If you have free time, what do you do with it?

I like doing morning stretching or yoga, reading, shopping, meeting with friends and going to theater.

If you could make one city-wide change to Hohhot, what would it be?

I read your blog, Jill;) so, I would be agree with Agnes: please plant more trees!!! It will look completely different with more green around. And I would add signs in English for public transport maybe. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to get around without knowing Chinese, especially at the beginning and therefore city doesn’t look friendly to foreigners in my opinion.

What has been the most surprising aspect of life here?
Well, there are quiet few things coming to my mind. But first price will win Chinese siesta with people sleeping even on the ground and this very special underpants/trousers with hole between legs for small kids. Never seen anything like that anywhere else!

What is the kindest thing a local has ever done for you?
There are so many incidents of my friends from Hohhot helping me that it’s very difficult to point to only one. I can’t imagine my life here without their help and definitely I couldn’t stay here for so long without their support.
Where do you go to “escape?”

I love traveling and feel like an obligation to discover China and Chinese culture while I’m here. I’m escaping to other cities and every trip makes the picture of China more colorful for me. And of course I escape back home to get love and energy from my family.

When your time here is done and you return home, what do you want to take with you?
I would love to take my students with me…but because I am realist and know is not possible I would take my best memories about work with them and my experience from teaching them.


If anyone is interested in learning ballet from Anastasiya, you can contact Ulanova International Children’s Art Education Center at 04712356611.

Free Meat!

A local beef and mutton company has a fantastic promotion going on now: GET FREE MEAT!

The full details are in Chinese below, but the basics are you go to their store on January 30, scan their QR code, take a photo in the store and share it on your moments, and walk out with 2 boxes of mutton (a 118 RMB value).

There are other promotions if you spend 500 or 1000 RMB, or just get your free meat.

Here are the two addresses: (maps are on the link below). Click here if it doesn’t display properly.

This one is near dong wa yao.


This one is a bit south and east of the exhibition center.
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seen around town

With an infant I don’t get out and about as much as I used to, but it only took running one errand on Monday to see all of this craziness. Or normal-ness?


This older gentleman is taking his sheep out for an afternoon stroll around our neighborhood. That’s it there eating from the trash can.


I walked just a few more steps and they’re selling fresh beef at our gate. very fresh…butchering it right there.



This one is harder to see, but a sales promotion for electric cooking surfaces. One would think they wouldn’t want the one they cut open to show the inner workings to be the one with corroded acid leaking all over, but I’m no home appliances salesperson.

In better news, the shop at our gate is now selling Newman’s Own butter flavor microwave popcorn.


What interesting things have you seen around town this week?

weekend news

I feel like there are two main news events from the weekend.

First, traffic was even more horrendous than normal yesterday, that is, if you were trying to go anywhere that involved driving on or crossing Xin Hua. It took James one hour each way to go somewhere that normally take about 20 minutes. (Also 72 RMB instead of about 35).

Both taxi drivers told James there was some kind of meeting of government leaders so they closed Xinhua during the duration of the meetings.

The other big news is that it’s COLD. Some are saying it’s the coldest winter in 30 years. I’m not sure if that’s true, but below are two articles about the cold.
This one is pictures from all around northern China this winter.


This one is about six items to make the cold more bearable.


What advice do you have about staying warm? How do you handle Hohhot’s long, cold winters? Do you think this really is the coldest winter in 30 years?



document authentication

This post is written to help any US citizen navigate the process of getting documents authenticated if that need arises. I’m sure the process is similar for other countries, I just have no personal first hand experience with other countries.

When does one need documents authenticated?

When you apply for a S1 visa for your spouse or children, when you register a business, and, as with everything else in this country…whenever they say 🙂

What is document authentication, anyway?

This is a process by which China can certify that the document is legitimate, and legitimately yours.

Here’s a picture of what the offices here need to see:


a document authenticated at the Chinese Embassy will have this stamped on it


What is the process for getting a document authenticated?

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just getting this stamp. First, you have to go to the issuing authority of the document. For a marriage license or birth certificate in the US, that would be the state. You need to get the document notarized or get an apostille (different states have different names for this process). Basically, the state will certify that the document is true. In the state of Oklahoma, it looks like the photo below, where they attach another full piece of paper to the document itself. I’m sure every state is different.


Once you have this step done, you can send that document to the Chinese Embassy to get their stamp. You bring that document with you to China to present at the employment bureau, gong an ju, or whichever office it is that needs it.


Reading the above, you may think this process is easy. And it can be. It you are still in America and all your documents were issued by the same state. It gets more complicated when you are dealing with multiple states. (or multiple countries, or countries at war with no process to validate anything).

It gets even more complicated if the document you have to authenticate is your passport. This is a federally issued document so instead of going to the state, you have to get it notarized by the US Secretary of State. (that’s right, a copy of our passport is signed by John Kerry).

It’s even more complicated if you are in China when you need any of these documents authenticated. It means first, you’ll be emptying your pockets for lots of postage and without your documents for the better part of a month. I think most states allow someone else to notarize it for you, but you should confirm.

If it’s your passport you need authenticated (this is rare), it requires an additional step whether here or in your home country. Because they can’t affix something to your passport or stamp random things in it, you first need a certified copy of your passport. If you’re in China, this means a trip to the US Embassy or Consulate for get an official copy made and notarized that it really belongs to you. If you’re in the US you still have to get a certified copy made and have it notarized as a true copy.

Then you send that document to the Secretary of State, then that document to the Chinese Embassy, then present the final stamped document to the office here. (Let’s say this another way: instead of just accepting my passport which already has multiple visas and other trackable date, the gong shang ju and shang wu ju both preferred us to mail a copy of our passport around the world and then accept that copy instead of just using the actual document itself).

Using an agency or service company

Yes. They can generally get it done more quickly and efficiently than you. Normally the same companies that help get Chinese visas can do authentications as well.


Here’s the link to the information about the process from the Chinese Embassy website. You’ll notice that they no longer accept mail-in applications with means unless you plan on hand delivering it yourself, you have to use a service company.


Have you had to go through this process before? Was it smooth or a headache? What tips do you have for someone else doing it?

Health Screening

If you’re a foreigner here with a residence card as a student or employee, you’ve been to the ONE location in Hohhot where you have to get your annual health screening in order to renew your permit.
I had to go today and quite a bit was different than before. I got there just before 8:30 (opening time) and the front gate is still closed and the front entrance looks like this:

There guard motions me to a small door to the right. There’s  a sign on the door that said to go to Room 401. It’s just a few minutes before 8:30 and there are exactly 0 employees in the building. 4 of us are waiting outside the room but no staff or doctors or anyone was there. And then at 8:30 or a few minutes after, they showed up.

And sure enough, they are giving physicals, they just don’t show up to work one minute before start time.
And, the check in window area is boarded up, so you check in at room 401.





no Friday’s Foreigner

Alternately titled: a stream of unfortunate events

No interview today for a number of reasons.

  1. We just got back from Hong Kong last night and I didn’t plan ahead to have one prepared in advance.
  2. A few people I’ve sent the questions to haven’t sent their answers back yet.
  3. When we came home last night, we came home to no gas. Everything I had planned to have ready for our dinner, I couldn’t cook and we didn’t have heat. (Aside: we apparently need some serious help in regulating our self-regulating floor heating. We blew through about 400 kuai with the temp set really low while we were gone!) ugh.
  4. We also hadn’t realized that we were down to just a few sips of water in our big bottles of water. It was too late to call for new ones so Helpful Husband went outo buy some water. He poured it into the big bottle so it would fit nicely on our dispenser. He placed it nicely on the dispenser and we went to bed. I woke up this morning to the sound of water dripping, and quickly discovered a dining room covered in water. (And discovered with sock-clad feet, of course) ugh. ugh.
  5. This afternoon my oldest yelled from the bathroom, “Mom, the floor is all wet in here!” It was. And the hallway. And the spare bedroom. And into the dining room. The drain for the washing machine had clogged and each cycle was just spilling more water onto the floor while I unknowingly fed a baby in the other room. ugh. ugh. ugh. Interestingly enough, the load of laundry that was in the washer was all my towels so we essentially had nothing to clean up the gallons (liters) of water on the floor. Also interestingly, the last time our water dispenser broke, our washer overflowed on the same day.
  6. After spending most spare moments of the day prepping the first ten week session of homeschool for my daughter, my computer crashed and I lost a good portion of the work.

Here’s the crazy thing: This is not even close to our worst day in China. But, it is one I’m ready to put to rest and start again tomorrow.



some of my favorites

Today is my birthday. (I know, I’m surprised as you that it’s not honored as a public holiday, too). Because it’s my birthday, I wanted to share with you some of my favorites so you can enjoy them too.

My favorite shopping:

  1. Chang le gong, 4th floor, stall on east side of furthest west hallway. This stall is full of intended-for-export clothing and shoes which means you can find foreign brands for local prices. This also means they have foreign sizes to fit those of us who aren’t Asian size. It’s not displayed well…no racks just stacks of stuff, and each time I go it’s a completely selection than the time before.
  2. Erlian Wen Zhou Shang Chang: This isn’t in Hohhot but in Erenhot/Erlian on the border of Mongolia. (This is also where all the jeeps to cross to border park and wait to fill their cars before crossing over). This market has 4-6 long hallways of stall after stall of anything you could possibly need. Some of the stalls are items intended for export, some are from Russia and Mongolia, and the selection is great. I’ve found great deals for clothes for my kids here, sometimes western name brands.
    Erlian jeeps
  3. Guo Mao/Tong da
    Both of these markets are near the train station. Tongda is diagonal toward the southeast, guomao to the south. You can find all the household items you need, stationery, clothing, Christmas decorations, and lots more. Find a map here. 

My favorite restaurants:

1.  Ban Mu Di You Mian Da Wang
You Mian (pictured below) is my favorite local food and Ban My Di is my favorite place to get it, although I’m not that picky. It’s a noodle made from oats that has a soup to dunk the noodles in. I like the cold vegetable soup but James prefers the hot mutton soup. Ban Mu Di has multiple locations throughout the city. It’s also a plus for the kids because they have a large glass window into the kitchen where you can watch the cooks work.
IMG_20150325_172624 IMG_20150325_172629 IMG_20150325_172638

2. Western: Cheese Factory
We eat at home more often than anywhere else, and we cook mostly western food at home. So if we eat out, we generally eat local food, but if we eat Western out The Cheese Factory is our favorite. Remember to use the code 0471 when you pay your bill for a 10% discount.

3. Korean: Hang Guo Gong
This is now on Wanda’s walking street but it used to be near the bridge. The owner is the sweetest lady in Hohhot. She will speak slow and smooth Chinese so that you can understand clearly.


My favorite local treats:

1. Bottled jasmine tea
I don’t have a picture but I love the one with the green and white flowers on the packing. I should just buy these bottles by the case or invest in the company or something.

2. spicy peanuts

Any brand, any kind. Packaged or the kind you buy by weight at the supermarket. It’s my favorite TV watching snack.

3. Nai Dou Fu (horrot)
This is a Mongolian traditional food that they eat dipped in milk tea. I don’t love milk tea but I do love this particular kind of nai shi pin. I usually go in phases of loving this for awhile, then not wanting it for a few months, then craving it again. It’s pictured below, but it’s generally served cut in small square slices.



I could add to all these categories and make even more categories, but that’s all for today. Share your favorites with us in the comments.

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