Thursday, March 1, 2012

Starting to feel homey

Today has been a fun and interesting day. This afternoon the principal of my kindergarten picked me up to take me to the Haikou Foreign Affairs Office for an interview with the Director. I had no idea what to expect. My principal said don't worry, they just want to meet you. I think this is the next to last step in the entire process of becoming an official resident here in China. The next step is to obtain the resident permit, which should be happening within the next week I think.

So we arrived at the Foreign Affairs Office and were met by a really nice gentleman who spoke great English, and he led us to a big room full of the biggest, whitest, fluffiest, comfiest armchairs I've ever seen. I gave him my contact information and my passport so he could make a copy of my new work visa, and we waited for the Director. The Director came in and greeted us, shook our hands and gave me a really nice compliment, very sweet and charming. We sat and basically just chatted. He asked me a few questions about what led me to China and then told me a lot about the Hainan Province and Haikou City, and a little about what their office does. He also gave me some statistics and information about the expat community in Haikou. He says there are about 800 registered foreigners in Haikou, about 100 of which are Americans. It sounds like they have some services and programs designed to get the foreigners involved in the community and able to meet up with other foreigners. He also gave me a nice speech about hoping I will stay many years and become an ambassador for my country. He also mentioned maybe tutoring his son in English, but I'm not sure if he was joking or serious. I hope he's serious, how cool would that be. It was a very nice and welcoming visit.

After the interview my principal drove me back to the school and we went shopping for food nearby. I had told her I was interested in learning how to shop for veggies so I can start cooking more (and cooking meals besides rice and noodles) so she said "ok, let's go!" She taught me how to say "How much is this?" and "That's too expensive!" She asked me if I like squid and I said yes, so she bought some baby squid and said she would give me a cooking lesson. Then she helped me find the vegetable I keep having at restaurants that I really love, but don't know what it is. We finally found some and I bought a handful...I think it's some kind of spinach. So we took our food back to the kindergarten and she gave me a cooking lesson right there in the kindergarten's kitchen! It was so much fun. I cleaned the baby squids and spinach leaves, and she did the rest...cutting up the ginger and garlic, and cooking up a delicious meal in a huge wok. Here it is!...

That big fluffy white thing is some sort of pastry/roll they cook up for the children for breakfast at the kindergarten, so she told me to try one. Delish. The prep and cooking took no more than 15 minutes. Awesome. Can't wait to start buying my own food, fresh daily. Everything here on the island is so fresh. She told me they don't even sell frozen food anywhere, and everyone buys fresh food everyday for each day's meals. She also told me that the average life span here on Hainan island is longer than the average mainlander lifespan. I wonder if it has to do with the better air quality here or fresher foods, or a combo of the two. I wonder if it applies to newly-landed foreigners, ha.

I ate the delicious meal at the kindergarten and then walked home. I stopped at the market on the way and picked up some peanut oil and soy sauce so I can start cooking at home, and guess what I found!...

Pure unadulterated Nescafe! Finally! It only took a month...and finally opening my eyes (I'm sure it was there in my little market the whole time).

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