For the Love of Food

I love food. I always tell people two things about myself when it comes to food: I am hopelessly addicted to sweets and I am not one of those girls who pretends that I don’t love to eat. 

So when it comes to living in China, my love for food has deepened to match my curiosity-I want to try as much new food as I can. Living in China has introduced me to a variety of wonderful and sometimes unusual foods from pigs ears, to red bean porridge, to hand pulled noodles, to roasted silk worms. 

Here are some of my favorite Chinese dishes: 

Dumplings

Ok, so everyone knows about dumplings. But seriously, after a year in China I still can’t get enough of them. They are my comfort food, like the Chinese version of mac-n-cheese. Unfortunately they are not as easy to make as mac-n-cheese. They require a long process of chopping vegetables and meat for the filling, stuffing and folding the dumplings close, and then boiling. They make frozen dumplings, but I refrain from buying them because dumplings, like all good things, are extremely fattening and if I bought them, Lord knows there would be no end to how many nights in a row I would eat them.

The most common filling is pork and cabbage, which is my favorite, but you can have vegetable and egg, seafood, mushroom…anything. You also dip them in dark vinegar, which cuts through the richness of the dumplings.

Hotpot 

My second type of Chinese food is a style of cooking food, rather than food itself. Hotpot is extremely popular in China. There are hotpot restaurants everywhere or you can do it yourself at home, but like making dumplings, it’s a little complicated. 

For hot pot, if you go to a restaurant the first thing you’ll notice is a large pot in the middle of the table that sits on top of a burner. Often it is divided in the middle, creating two separate sections. You select what kind of broth you want, spicy or normal. If you select both, they put one on each side of the pot. Then you get a large menu with a list of different kinds of vegetables, tofu, meats, noodles….everything. You select what you want and how many portions. 

Next you go over to a bar and grab a small bowl. There will be different types of spices and sauces. The most common sauce for hotpot is kind of a sate sauce (peanut sauce). I usually grab that and then layer some spices and chopped green onion on top.

Once the food arrives, you pick up whatever you want and drop it in the pot. The broth is boiling hot (literally) and the food is sliced really thin so it cooks quick. You fish out whatever you want with your chopsticks and dip it in your small bowl of sauce. And repeat a million times. 

Supposedly there is a system to this where you eat the all meat first and the vegetables last to help you digest everything, but I just dump it all in together. 

You can do hotpot at home with a big cooking pot and a hotplate, or on the stove top. Either way, it’s a lot of fun to do with friends.

Moon Cakes

Even in a China, a country not known for it’s desserts because in China red bean or just fruit is considered a typical dessert, I still managed to find a sweet that I’m addicted too. You can find European style bakeries here that make sweets (donuts, chocolate croissants etc.) but I’m talking about Chinese sweets.

Last year I arrived a week before Mid-Autumn Festival, (or the Moon Festival) and was immediately introduced to moon cakes. These little cakes are dense and full of all kinds of different fillings. My favorites are the date/nut or red bean ones, but the most traditional is one with hard boiled eggs baked into it so that when you cut it open, you see the egg yolk that represents the beautiful Autumn moon.

If only they made chocolate filled moon cakes, then my love affair with moon cakes would be cemented and I would never fit into my pants. Good thing they only last for a few weeks during the Mid-Autumn Festival!

And that my friends, is a super short list of some of the foods I adore in China. 

No Longer a Stranger

 Living in China for a year has taught me many great and wonderful things, sometimes in hilarious ways, but most of the time in challenges. Here is a list of some things that I am no longer a stranger to. 

-staring down other foreigners

-being asked if I know every foreigner in the city by my Chinese friends

-shouting (in China you shout for the waiter and it’s not rude because if you don’t, no one will ever come to help you)

-pushing (I really hate this, but if you don’t push on a crowded bus you will not get on or off. Why not just wait for the next one? Well at certain times of day, all the buses will be crowded)

-not tipping

-waiting, waiting, waiting (waiting for the bus, waiting for a taxi, waiting in line behind old people who love to argue over the prices of the stuff they want to buy)

-not being understood

-not understanding anything

-being ignored (a common cultural way to avoid conflict)

-being told what you want to hear (even if its not the truth)

-being told the truth (by really honest Chinese friends who just want the best for you)

-having literally everyone from random strangers to friends ask you how much money I make

-being stared at (on the bus, at the beach, in the supermarket, in the elevator….no where is safe)

-having guys shout “hello,” or “hi” or sometimes “baby what’s up” as their form of cat-calling

-comments on my weight, skin, or hair (see “honest Chinese friends”)

-having people stare in my shopping basket or literally take things out of my shopping basket to look at them (the first time someone did this I almost shouted at them cause I thought they were trying to steal my beer)

-being offered hot water wherever you go

-seeing people spit on the street (do not wear open-toed shoes or sandals in China, just don’t okay)

-feeling paranoid all the time (Why is that person staring at me? How does everyone in my building know what floor I live on? Is going to this stranger’s house to tutor their kid safe? Will I get food poisoning from this street food? Will I get food poisoning from this restaurant food? Why are all the caps on the yogurt bottles open?)

-feeling like I’m sick all the time

-feeling victorious in the little things like taking the bus somewhere for the first time and not getting lost, or successfully saying anything in Chinese

condenasttraveler:

The Street of Heavenly Dumplings

Soon 

churchjanitor:

I have been asked about this issue many times. Sometimes I answer privately with my thoughts, but I often avoid this issue because I know that people have strong and varied opinions about the subject. This post is my attempt to address living as Christ in the world. These words are not intended…

Home

Today I had one of those days.

One of those days where the mere thought of simply getting up made me want to never ever ever leave my bed. I woke up, had a cup and a half of coffee, and then staggered back into bed. I slept for two more hours.

Needless to say, my morning did not start off great. One of those little things that shouldn’t bother me got under my skin, and my overactive mind takes that one little thing and makes it a great big thing.

So I decided to start over. I tucked my overly-caffeinated self back into bed and somehow fell asleep again.

It hit me today that I’ve been home for four months since my adventures in Amsterdam and I still have yet to figure out my future, and maybe that’s why I didn’t want to get out of bed. Time has passed both quickly and slowly as it always does-slow in the moment, quick in retrospect.

Being home has been wonderful, and overwhelming. Waiting for the next step of my life to unfold has taken me a day-by-day practice in the art of patience. I feel like every hour of every day I am just filling time, taking up space until something happens.

I dislike that feeling most of all.

I dislike feeling useless. I dislike feeling stuck. I dislike living in day dreams when all I want is reality to dawn. I dislike comparing myself to people who seem to be having a great life while all I do is sit around and wait.

But reality is that waiting is a part of life. For all the rest of my life, I will be waiting. Waiting to find my husband. Waiting to have children. Waiting to decide where to build a family. Waiting to watch my children grow and have their own children.

I can’t fight waiting, so I may as well learn from it. I may as well embrace the fact that it is teaching me patience, growing my character, and testing my faith in the fact that things will eventually happen.

Even though I feel inactive, I cling to the truth that something is happening. It may be so deep inside of me that it can’t surface yet, but it will one day. I always learn from reflecting back, and one day I will remember this exact moment and what it taught me.

For now, that’s enough.

Liuxia, Zhejiang | China (by MinliangChen)
Future dreams
What I miss…

 Bicycles and Boat

What I miss…

 Bicycles and Boat

(Source: tempuros, via hklittleton)

Goodness

Often times we don’t get to see the fruit of our labors, especially if you work in ministry.

I can’t count the number of times I was reminded that most of the time I would never see the results of my work in ministry. I would never get to see the lives of the people I helped turn out ok, or know what they were up to in a year. I would never know how many times I happened to talk about God with guests in the hostel, it actually stuck and changed something in their lives. That’s discouraging, but it’s also true.

Taped to the mirror in my room was a small piece of paper with this quote on it:

"No act of kindness was ever wasted." -Aesop

At first I smirked at this note every time I saw it. I thought it was some cute platitude, and I would even roll my eyes at it. Well obviously, I would think as I would look at the mirror to do my makeup or hair.

But after awhile, this thought wormed its way into my mind until all I could see in the mirror was this little note.

And on my last night in Amsterdam, I got to see the truth that this note was speaking.

I was sitting in a cafe overlooking the canal I would follow to work every day when I saw a man who had worked with us for a long time as a cleaner in our hostel. This man is incredibly intelligent when it comes to technology and is fluent in power languages like German, English, and Dutch. But years ago he lost his job and struggled to find one again. Normal life became overwhelming for him and he found it easier to be on the streets. He would live in squats and wander aimlessly around Amsterdam, trying to find some sense of normal again.

When he came to work in our hostel, I wanted so badly to see his life get back together. I worked with him for half a year. Along with other staff members, I prayed for him, I encouraged him to come to church, and I tried to make him see how much God love him.

When I saw him, I ran outside the cafe to give him a last hug. He was smiling like I had never seen him smile before and told me that he found a job. He looked proud, hopeful, and joyous-emotions I never saw on his face.

It’s not by my will, or work that his life turned around, but God’s persistent love for him. And out of His goodness, God allowed me to see a little bit more into His heart, a little bit more into His kingdom, and a little bit more into eternity, where all things are made right and perfect and beautiful again.

"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:13-14

What I’ve Learned

I’ve been living as a missionary in Amsterdam for a year now. I hesitate labeling myself as a missionary, the same way I hesitate calling myself a writer, the same reason I don’t wear a cross. I don’t want anyone to define me because more often than not, I don’t measure up to the standard or expectations of any of those labels.

But I can’t say I’m not any of those things. I am a missionary, I am a writer, and I am a Christian.

And that’s probably the most important thing I’ve learned here-to embrace yourself just the way you are.

I know that’s how most of the stories go. The hero sets out on a journey just to find that they have changed along the way, but somehow they’ve arrived at the same place where they started-needing to embrace who they are, or maybe who they’ve become.

Not that I’m a hero, not at all.

But I am returning from an adventure and its scary.

I’ve embraced more of who I am now, but what about when I get home? Home is where things are comfortable and sometimes comfort leads to complacency. I’ve learned things here I don’t want to forget. I’ve experienced more of who I am and I don’t want that to change.

But sometimes returning is just as big of an adventure as leaving-and when you look at life as an adventure instead of a chore, it becomes exciting instead of overwhelming.