Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Fresh Start

Spring is in the air. Even though today was on the chillier side of a spring day, it was still sunny and had that certain smell that makes me think of cherry blossoms starting to bud, pulling on a denim jacket instead of my heavy pea coat, taking an evening stroll with the kids on bikes and in strollers instead of curling up with hot cocoa.  And since spring is in the air and that always brings with it a sense of freshness, new beginnings, cleaning your cupboards and closets... I decided to start a new blog. 

Some of you might wonder why in the world I decided to do that since we had a blog a couple years ago, supposedly to keep all our friends and family updated on our life in China, and we also now have the wonderful world of Facebook. Well, some of you may also have noticed that I haven't done real well on keeping up with that supposed other blog. One of the reasons (the second one being our mac membership expired and I am not about to renew it for 100 bucks a year!) was because I felt an inherent pressure to be writing about all my amazing cultural experiences and things I was learning or being exposed to here in the Middle Kingdom... but all I could find to write about more often than not was the bike Riley was trying to ride or the new soup recipe I came up with, or something totally unrelated to anything cultural. 

The reality is that my stage of life requires me to spend most of my waking hours (and some of the ones I'm supposed to be sleeping) with three kids under 4. I also love living here in China and do in fact have some interesting things that I learn once in awhile about this country. Unlike many of my friends here though, I have been a little more limited in my exploration of the city, and my ability to meet and establish a high number of foreign friendships. Case in point: the eclectic, super cheap shopping district where most people go to buy, well everything outside of groceries... I haven't been there since September of last year. So, instead of feeling the pressure to always be updating about the cultural background of the latest Chinese holiday or the incredible conversation I had with the street vendor, I am going to simply share about what my days hold that I find interesting, or funny, or yummy, or yes maybe even sometimes educational and thought provoking. And maybe it will be fun to read... for my mom. Thanks for reading Luanne:)

So with that Statement of Purpose in mind... here we go. Today's real title is:

Taco Night
Last night we had a bunch of friends over for a much needed dose of Mexican food. On the menu: freshly made bing (tortillas) thanks to my wonderful Ayi, taco meat- beef or chicken (and all the trimmings), fresh salsa, cornbread, spanish rice, strawberry jello, and korean noodles thanks to my friend Tash! One experience that I believe all American expats share here in China is a serious withdrawal of Mexican cuisine. The one restaurant we had here in Qingdao for the longest time served a strange variation of taco meat with a serious absence of cheese of any kind, and yogurt in place of sour cream. It's just not the same. 

I remember the first time we had guests for dinner after moving here and I had decided that tacos sounded like an easy meal to throw together. Still being in the midst of food prep/culture shock I was having a hard time coming up with meals I could conceivably find all the ingredients for. Tacos however, turned out to be an all-day affair. Had to make my own tortillas, my own tortilla chips, chop up all the vegetables for salsa, make sour cream, cut up all the side dish trimmings... the meat was the easy part. But once in awhile I still find it necessary and worthwhile to go through all the trouble. That mouthful of juicy meat smothered in fresh lime juice, cilantro, cheddar cheese and sour cream is enough to make all that prep seem like a faraway dream.

Last night was no exception. But the other, and probably more important element of Taco Night was the simple pleasure of having people in our home. Josh and I both continue to laugh at the irony that we, who feel like the most socially handicapped people, feel this compelling desire to fill our home with people. We love it. There is something important about having people come in and sit in your physical living space, eating food together, talking together, watching your kids bust out a break dance with moves that come out of nowhere, that allows you to know each other differently than being at work or out to dinner. God made us physical people, with bodies that interact with physical environments. Somehow, our souls feed on that time we spend in the physical presence of others, and somehow there is an important difference in being in the places where we live and spend some of our most personal moments. So, bring on the tacos I say. I'll eat my rice and stir fry 6 days a week, but once in awhile I need a little time South of the Border with some pengyou (friends) in mi casa.