Archive for March 30, 2016

market finds

Well, first let me tell you what I didn’t find at any of our local stores…all those Smithfield products that were there just a few weeks ago. They went from having entire cases to a couple of packages of ham. Maybe the Weiduoli at City Mall still has some but both the large stores near us have sold out with new replacements in sight.


Someone with better Chinese than me confirm, but I think those are pecans. Too bad Thanksgiving is half a year away.


IMG_20160329_135026When choosing the wipes that will be exposed to all the things that come out of my kids, I always choose the Fashion Choice 🙂  Not really, I get the cheapest one, but this made me chuckle.


Vaccine problems in Inner Mongolia

I wasn’t blogging last week, but I was still on wechat. If you were paying attention to your moments (朋友圈) at all, you were probably inundated with the news of expired/damaged/unsafe vaccines being distributed and given to babies and children in 24 provinces across China, including Inner Mongolia.

If you somehow missed the news, here are a few articles in English about the situation:

Shenzhen Daily

China Daily

Guangdong Emergency Management


And here are some links to the articles that were circulating on wechat (in Chinese)




This one a doctor posted with the title “Be more reasonable about the vaccine situation” so perhaps it’s a little less alarmist

And I think you’ll like this infographic


If you have a child you think may have received an improper vaccine, my understanding from the articles above is that the chart on the articles above is for the contact person for each region where you can call to get information about when and where in your area the improper vaccines were distributed.


Hohhot was voted #1 city for….

…any guesses?

The best city for growing old. I’m not sure who voted or what factors determined the rating, but you can read the article in Chinese below and see the other top ten cities.

Do you agree? Is Hohhot deserving of this distinction?

I think it’s a place that still holds more traditional values than the big coastal cities, so I can see it getting this vote in that regard, as the young here still feel an obligation to care for elderly relatives. However, I’m surprised considering the climate of Hohhot that Chinese people would think such a cold place is a good place to grow old.


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Things I’ve Never Said while living in Hohhot

I try to keep a positive outlook on life here, and I hope you’ll see this post falling in line with that. Sometimes though, you just need a little humor to make it through. I’ve been here off and on for 13 1/2 years, and here’s the list Handsome Husband and I came up with of things we have NEVER said:

  1. I wish there were less sauce on this pizza.
  2. (at any hospital in the city) Oh great, look! There’s hand soap in the bathroom.


    Something is missing in this hand washing station, yes?

  3. I wish the heating was warmer on the upper floors of City Mall (mo er cheng). [I mean, seriously, how does it get so much hotter with each higher floor!]
  4. I love it when someone smokes in the elevator!
  5. I’m so glad [insert any government process] was so easy!
  6. I wish more strangers would touch, pick up, or photograph my children.


    on a trip to Kangbashi

  7. Yes, I would love to buy that product because you broadcasted its features in a megaphone as I walked by in the supermarket
  8. Just what I was craving…shrimp flavored potato chips. (or durian, or other flavors we find odd)
  9. In the same vein as the one above, “I’m so glad this is bean paste filling and not chocolate, taro and not blueberry!” [But at least now I’m not surprised by it]
  10. I’m so glad there are so many housing development flyers stuffed into my bike basket. (Although I have said, “Wow, that old lady has seriously good aim to get all those people whizzing by her.”)
  11. It’s so convenient that this giant building with 12 doors has exactly one that is unlocked.
  12. Sure, Mr. Airport Taxi Driver. I’ll pay you 100 RMB to take me into the city.
  13. I wish I could find an apartment to rent that had more strobe or multi colored lights.
  14. This hotel’s carpeted flooring is so clean.
  15. This is the softest mattress I’ve ever slept on!


Leave us a comment with the phrases we’ve left out. Two notable exclusions: the cold weather and the traffic. Reasons for exclusions: it’s not always cold. Summer is coming. And the traffic hasn’t always been this bad, so in my early days I never complained about it.

Learn Mongolian in 20 minutes

A friend shared this video with us this week. It sets out to teach you everything you need to communicate in Mongolian with only the information from the video and a Mongolian-English dictionary….in only 20 minutes.

It was posted by a wechat public account called Buryat (BuLiYaTa) You can follow them at: buryat_mongol.

The video was made by Santis Educational Services. The video is made for the Outer Mongolian version of Monoglian, but everything I heard in the video applies to the version spoken here as well, minus some minor accent differences.

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What do you think? Can you speak Mongolian now? If you can truly speak Mongolian, what is the video missing?

Friday’s foreigner: Fabio

Well, another week has come and gone. That means it’s time for our next edition of Friday’s foreigner. A few weeks ago you met Pedro. This week, meet his coworker and fellow countryman, Fabio.

Check out our previous interviews here, and check back next week to meet someone else!


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

My name is Fábio Castro, I’m from Portugal and I arrived in Hohhot on the 19th of October to work as football coach for the Luís Figo Football Academy. For those who don’t know him, Figo is a famous ex-football player from Portugal and won the “Ballon d’Or” in 2000 and was considered the best player in the world by the FIFA in 2001.



If you are doing something different now than when you first arrived tell us about that also.

When I arrived in China I passed one month working in Beijing for the same academy, we have centers in different cities of the country.


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

I played as a amateur level football player and soon I realized I would like to become a football coach. Because of that, I decided to go to the university to prepare myself for this role. I made my graduation in Sport, one master degree in Physical Education and another one in High Performance Training, with football option. Besides that, I made my coach’s licenses to be able to work.

Until now, I worked with all the age groups and I had a short experience working in India. It was a fantastic experience that I will never forget.


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

I don’t have specific moments, what I have are many memories from all the places I worked, the words from some of my players, special moments that only the football can give us. Those who have had the experience to share time with a team can understand my words.


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

I like to do different things during my free time, however, once I still don’t know very well the city I’m going to the cinema, I’m eating at some occidental/Asiatic restaurants, exploring the city, meeting some cultural places and I’m going to the gym.


Tell us something about your pre-Hohhot life that most people here don’t know.

As I told, before come to China I worked in India. Before India, I was working in Portugal as Physical Education Teacher and as football coach.


Favorite local food and where you like to get it:

As local food, I tried the lamb and I really have to admit that the leg is good. Besides that, I like to try different kinds of food as the noodles, the barbecue, the hot pot, the dumplings… I also ate Japanese food here and was really good too. The names of the restaurants I don’t know them and I like to try different ones.


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

I would like that the Chinese could respect more the traffic rules and especially the places for the bikes, once I drive one electric bike and most of the times the cars don’t care about anything. But what I really would like to have here it was a beach, even if it was artificial! I like to walk near of the beach and relax at some bar in there too. I’m missing that from my country!


What has been the most surprising aspect of life here?

I knew a little bit about the Chinese culture and their traditions, however I wasn’t expecting as much cold as I felt here. I never passed by situations with these temperatures in my life and getting used to that was surprising for me.


What’s the most culturally awkward situation you’ve been in here?

One day I was on the taxi and I saw one person burn some money on the streets. After some time, I understood that wasn’t just one person but many people doing that and I asked what meant and the reason for many people have done small fires in the streets. The answer was that they were sending money for the dead people, usually for family and the money was fake. I never saw something like that…


What advice would you give to someone just arriving to Hohhot?

If the person knows another cities of China I would say to be prepared for a more quiet place and consequently, maybe a quiet routine too. And of course I would advise to bring warm clothes!!


Where do you go to “escape?”

Once I’m here for four months and once the weather is cold, I didn’t find yet that place. If I had a beach, definitely I would go there. As I don’t have I will try to find it for sure and until there, a ride on my bike with good weather should be good and enough for me.


When your time here is done and you return home, what do you want to take with you?

Certainly memoirs, new experiences, funny moments and once that I will start to learn Chinese language I want take that with me.


You can connect with Fabio in any of the following ways:



WeChat: fabiocastro5


If you’re interested in more information about Winning League Football Academy call 13171090089 or 13304712425.

more help for Chinese typing

I used to know this, then I forgot, then seeing this article reminded me again. Here are some instructions for using pinyin input method when you don’t know the pronunciation of a character. Hope it’s helpful for you!

It is reposted from the wechat account of The World of Chinese. You can follow them using wechat ID Theworldofchinese
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The Little Gym

For the families with kids, we’ve discovered a great place for our girls to burn off some energy and learn some basic gymnastics skills!

The Little Gym is an American franchise with a branch here in Hohhot. Staff are trained by their international program and are truly really great with kids.

There’s also a waiting room with activities and books for kids not participating in a class.

Classes are available for toddlers through age 12.



actual gymnastics equipment!


The address in Chinese is below. It’s located just west of the gong an ju.

Follow the Little Gym on wechat by scanning the QR code below:
QR - Copy

Friday’s Foreigner: Steven

Hello, Hohhotians. (A scholarly book I read about Hohhot used that word, so I’m going with it) What’s with the air here today?? pollution or sandstorm? I hope you are inside with your air filters on.

Here’s some reading for you if you’re passing the time

This week I’d like to introduce you to Steven, the voice behind the podcast The Culture Bum. Check out his site and subscribe to listen. He’s also guest posted for us here before, so check out his review of the Wanda area here. 

Check out our previous interviews here, and check back next week to meet someone else!

I moved to China in 2014 to be a teacher and just kind of see the world. I landed in Beijing and hated it immediately. The pollution left me sick all the time and I hated the massive amount of Westerners using Beijing as their own personal bragging right. I met a beautiful woman while there and she was moving back to her home city, Hohhot, and suggested I go with her. I found a lot of job opportunities and figured why not. I am still a teacher but I have bounced my title around.
Tell us something about your pre-Hohhot life we may not already know.
Before moving to Hohhot I was a teacher of several years in the US so I don’t feel like I fall into the “couldn’t find a real job” camp that often plagues ESL teachers. HOWEVER, the year and a half before moving to China I was a taxi driver. Budget cuts had led to a lot of my teaching opportunities drying up and what was supposed to be a 3 month ordeal turned into a full time job. I don’t hate my time driving A taxi, it was actually one of the more fun jobs I’ve ever held, but it is a go nowhere type of situation.
Favorite local food and where you like to get it:
I wish I had better answers but my favorite Chinese dishes fall into 2 categories: Something so simple I can make it at home (rice with mu er and spring onion) or horrible greasy unhealthy messes (chow mian or malatang).
It’s impossible to live in Hohhot and not go out to Hot Pot at least once a month.
I recently spent time in Datong which is famous for its noodles and I did get a little hooked on rice noodles with vinegar for a while.
If you could make one city-wide change to Hohhot, what would it be?
Compared to most foreigners I don’t have that many complaints about Hohhot. I do wish there were clean places to do outdoor swimming.
I’m surprised there aren’t easier ways to get to the airport on public transportation.
Most foreigners will complain about a lack of cultural events compared to bigger cities but I chalk that up to just not a lot of foreigners in the city so when we do a “foreigner” themed event your lucky if 12 people show up.
What has been the most surprising aspect of life here?
Being able to slow down. In America I was very used to 60-80 hours a week and in Beijing you usually have 30-60 minute commutes to work each way. Hohhot provides me a comparable salary to Beijing but so much more free time. I work 30 hours a week, every week, never a minute more and my commute is less than 20 minutes by bus or bike. I am able to relax, walk around and take my time without ever feeling I’m in a rush.
What makes Hohhot more appealing than other cities?
Some foreigners in Hohhot tend to act like they’re in purgatory, but these are the people who complain no matter what. There are a lot of people who see Hohhot as a slower, more manageable pace of life, much larger opportunities to save money, a more Asian cultural experience away from being over run by Western food on every corner and a chance to see the Mongolian culture that is usually out of peoples minds.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve experienced here?
Donkeys pulling carts next to the traffic is a bit odd even after everything else I’ve seen.
donkey cart audi

donkey cart and Audi dealership

What is the kindest thing a local has ever done for you?
When I first got here I did not work for about 2 weeks so I sat at home very bored while my future wife went to work. I eventually demanded to go outside and do something. She would set me up like a kindergartner with notes and maps to get to various places in town like a super market. On my first trip I had to make one turn to the super market and I managed to screw that up but the first person I asked for help, a very elderly woman on her way home with a large bag of groceries, walked about at least 1 Km out of her way to walk me to the super market and make sure I got there. This was a very big change of pace from Beijing.
Where do you go to “escape?”
I have a few Western friends who are very close and we like to go to 7 Pizza Bar or Yummy Box and disappear. In the Summer I took a few hikes to the mountains where it was easy to pretend you were in Michigan. Right now with the NFL starting me and a few friends download the games and beer makes the rest of the world go dark.
When your time here is done and you return home, what do you want to take with you?
I would take back the idea that you don’t have to work yourself to death and live in constant jealousy. I enjoy my lazy life so much in Asia. I am not hung up on material things and I value the experiences and comfort afforded here not to mention my very high proportional salary.
I’m here for the long haul! I see Hohhot as an opportunity and not a curse. Every day there are more people and in the coming years I see Hohhot as a cultural hot bed of foreign students, grassland people moving in to occupy the hundreds of apartment complexes being built and I’ll be here for years to come.
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