Monday, September 27, 2010


After my #10 of the top ten earlier today, i couldn't help but add in this picture....

This just happened 10 minutes ago. God is incredible.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


One thing I'm beginning to discover here is that very frequently we are forced to play MacGyver.

Which can be very difficult since I am horrendous when it comes to anything with pieces. You can give me a square peg and a square hole and i can't figure out what to do with it. Unless it's a puzzle. I'm good at those.

Here, in the land of foreign everything: foreign language, foreign stores, foreign mops, we find it difficult to solve some problems that either wouldn't exist, or be very easy to fix in the States. The upside is that we are getting very very creative. The past couple weeks we have become excellent problem solvers: (I actually shouldn't say 'we.' Brian was an excellent problem solver already)

- Apartment door sticks and you have no idea how to find WD40 or call the landlord: hit it with olive oil
- No dryer in the apartment: buy extra large hangers
- Windows incredibly dirty on the outside: use a mop through the window
- Mop is apparently missing a critical piece that holds it together: use a miscellaneous hook that you find in the apartment
- No bucket: fill up the sink and use a mesh trash can to carry around the mop
- Sink won't hold water: use a garbage bag around the drain plug
- When you can't get the drain plug to open again after you've used the trash bag: call in Brian. He took the whole thing apart piece by piece and fixed it. Eerily similar to an episode with a video camera....

We are settling into life quite nicely here. I can hardly believe it's been three weeks! The first week I think I walked around like I was in a coma. Culture shocked into numbness. Week 2 was full of trying to find everything: the nearest grocery store, the place to grab dinner, a place for hamburgers, how to get drinking water to the apartment. This week, week 3, is working on getting ourselves a routine.

I've made a few dinners at the apartment. This is the first dinner: bread crumb encrusted (read: burnt outside, pink inside) chicken drumsticks and broccoli/tomato pasta. You couldn't call it a success.

After that I've done a little research and gotten a little better. Brian told me about, which I discovered has some great recipes after I got over being offended. We had our first Chambers Family Dinner in China! Just like our first CFD in America, we had one visitor: Greg Kaeuper. Although it wasn't much, it sure tasted pretty darn good.

Blackened chicken
BLT salad
Cucumbers/tomatoes with ranch dressing
Sweet carrots
Blue Label Chimay
and brownies from the nearby supermarket
(i'll post a picture next blog)

Top 10 List of fun, favorable, or at least, feasible things:

1. We don't have an oven.
2. Number 1 rocked my china world. That, and the fact that i have 1.5 square feet of counter space in the kitchen, have dashed my dreams of pastry perfection. Well, and the fact that I didn't bring any of my kitchen supplies with me. I must admit that I was a bit of an optimist in thinking that I could accomplish such a feat. However, in response, I am simply changing my vision. Instead of pastry wonder, I am going to master cooking in a dutch oven on the stove. I want to introduce our new friends to american food and it's going to be delicious.
2. Pizza Hut is not good here.
3. Neither is all of the candy. Much of it is delightful. But not the candy that I received the other day. Everyone was excitedly gathered around someone who was passing out candy. When i was handed a wrapped piece I asked what it was.



i didn't eat it.

4. I went to the restroom the other morning 30 minutes after the work day started, expecting silent emptiness like in the US. Not so here! The women's bathroom on a workday morning is THE PLACE to be. Put in your contacts, brush your teeth, wash out your tea cup, brush your hair....
5. They have Soup Tuesday here. The company 'ayi', or cleaning lady, brings in homemade soup every tuesday and fills the cups of anyone who sets it out. Pretty nice. Except that one that i've had is not very delicious. Beans in water.
6. The language sometimes gives me headaches. Since I can't understand anything it's like have really loud white noise in the background.
7. Eggplant here is delicious. I was never the biggest fan of it before, but they know how to do it here!
8. There's a lunch place nearby called LoHao. It's organic and lunch is 12rmb. Which translates to about $1.25. Very inexpensive and pretty much everyone from the office goes.
9. The school that I can see outside my window is enjoyable to watch. The kids were doing group exercises today.

10. Some days in Beijing, like today, are incredible and absolutely gorgeous. Others, the pollution gets to be bad. But the upside is that the particles make for some breathtaking sunsets.

Write back and let me know how you're doing, I miss you guys!

Much love,

Monday, September 20, 2010

Huludao (Iceland something?)

I can't believe that I ran out of things to say last week. At this present moment I am looking at entire sheet of notebook paper filled from top to bottom with notes and occurrences to share. However, many of them will need to wait. More pressing matters are at hand.

This past weekend my AECOM office hosted an "outing." We left the office on Friday and traveled by train to Huludao - near the coast and apparently the words iceland are in it's name. I never really understood. Of course, a cold and rainy front rolled in for our beach weekend, but we enjoyed it all anyway and I managed to take quite a few photos. Since every day here is, well, foreign, I think telling much of the story in photos will be better.

Here we go:

We leave the office in a big bus, everyone chatting and laughing and in a really good mood. Now, while the office contains quite a few international people, everyone on the trip was chinese except for myself and Javier, from Spain. When I realized this I started to get nervous.

Once on the train we ate KFC, which is incredibly popular here. It's a several hour train trip, and we arrived at......

the beach! For you Floridians, like I said: FOREIGN. Where are the white seashells and the bikinis?

After the beach we checked into our "semi-4 star hotel." I couldn't tell if that meant 2-star.
Anyway, the most shocking part about the hotel is........

the bathroom is GLASS. As in, the walls are glass and completely see-through. Plus the shower is simply in the middle of the bathroom, without an enclosure. But, you know the best part?? I have a roommate. Lotus. i.e. Jiang Dan

Who I've known for 1 week. Yeah. I don't know what else to say. It was pretty awkward for me. Not for her apparently.

Anyway, onto the fun part: the food!

That evening we all went out for a HUGE seafood dinner. Dinners here are all, as we say in the US, 'family style.' They bring out dishes, set them on the lazy susan in the middle of the table, which is then spun back and forth throughout the meal. I ate quite a bit of the first few dishes, since I was hungry  and wanted to make sure that I filled up on things that I liked. Only to find that they didn't stop bringing plates out. Over and over and over again. We ended up with 18 dishes!!!!




After dinner we went to a local show, which I'm told is a very specific type of entertainment for the area. It features guy/girl pairs who do stand up comedy together. And then occasionally break into karaoke style singing and dancing. All the entertainers were very young teenagers, but you could tell they worked so hard at their craft. While I couldn't understand a word, my coworkers said it was pretty funny.

It started with this guy....who was wearing a white tank top for some reason.
Then he and this girl went into their routine. She had the highest pitched voice I have ever heard...meaning, i had to plug my ears when she sang.

Then this guy was the star of the show. Just watching him was pretty darn funny. He was outfitted in a fur coat and gold bling, then onto a leather coat and sunglasses. Then his partner came out and they went into their routine. When he spotted me and starting talking about me I didn't like him anymore.

That evening several of us girls stayed up in our PJs playing cards. I taught them how to play 'BS.' Wait, I'm sorry, Mom, I mean 'Lie.' They initially tried to teach me the Chinese version of the game, but it wasn't working out so well, and we ended up playing my version. Hilarious. Some of them are so easy to read that I hard to stop calling BS because I thought they were going to throw me out of the room.

The next day we piled onto the bus and toured around Cucurbit Island and the Old City.

The cold, wet, rainy island visit:

The Old City:

I mean, everything is just so different.

One nice thing about going sightseeing with Chinese nationals: they love their photos. They love taking photos of themselves, of their friends, and of other people who they don't even really know! The best part about it is that I now have some good photos of myself, which are perfect for profile pictures.

Week 2 Top Ten:

1. Our 18 seafood dishes included: An entire fish (complete with head and eyeball), mussels, crab, several mollusks, small lobster-like shellfish, sweet corn saute, tofu, noodles, shredded potato, pork, mollusk soup, cucumbers (which I discovered that i love! cucumbers, that is)

2. At dinner they toasted with 38% alcoholic drinks. In small glasses, I'll admit, but we toasted a lot.

3. Any time I sat next to someone anywhere, I asked them to teach me something. They think it's hilarious, but I have learned how to give better directions to taxi drivers, the chinese names for most of the girls, how to 'dumplings,' and 'why??'

4.  On the train ride back all of the girls gathered in one area. Not really sure how it started, but they began, one by one, to open up their makeup bags and go through every little thing, discussing what it did, if it worked, etc etc. They were amazed at how big mine was, and that it contained just makeup. Where were my skin care products?!?! I looked blankly at them for a minute. 'Oh. I use some neutrogena face wash, is that what you mean?' Not so much. They have eye cream, hand cream, face wash, regenerative cream, moisturizer, collagen lifters, wrinkle cream. Which is crazy, since they are all pretty much under 30!

5. I can't seem to buy the right toilet paper. The first time it was paper towels. The second time it was toilet paper, but without the tube in the middle. Who need toilet paper with the tube in the middle?

6. I also purchased things that were not hand soap, towels, or kleenex.

7. One of the most interesting things I had was my first traditional Chinese breakfast!

- porridge (watery rice without ANY flavor)
- hard boiled eggs
- sliced sausage
- a variety of spicy veggie or meat dishes
- doughy bread ball things
- doughy bread ball things with sesame paste inside

- i think i prefer waffles with strawberries and syrup.

8. Everyone seems shocked that I like Chinese food. They hesitate to ask me out to lunch and sheepishly ask if Chinese food is okay. Um, yes. Are there many other options?

9. I'm getting better at the squat pots. They are much more common than I originally thought, and I'm just learning to carry tissues and hand sanitizer around with me. Which, local people definitely carry around tissues with them (which they use for the bathroom and as napkins when eating. There are never napkins at the tables, just a box of tissues).

10. Our address!!! We would absolutely LOVE to receive mail from any of you. And, since my birthday is coming up.....just kidding. Wait no, i'm not. I want chocolate chip cookies.
The best place to mail everything is to the office so, as listed below:

Leah Chambers
F24, Tower 1, China Central Place
81 JianGuo Road, ChaoYang District
Beijing, China 100025

That's it for the day, folks, hope you enjoy!
~much love,

Friday, September 10, 2010

Beijing Days

Ni hao everyone!

So this is it, the first official Beijing post. Wow. So much to say. Not sure where to start, but this is probably as good a place as any: the beginning.

Brian arrived in Beijing last Saturday afternoon, while I didn't arrive until Monday. After spending three months in the city 2 years ago, I think it felt somewhat like a homecoming to him -  full of recognition as he landed in the airport and drove past familiar streets, buildings, and sights. His first weekend was spent in a whirlwind fashion, joining up with our Beijing friends Greg, Miranda, and Bill for an orchestra concert, movie night, and drinks out on the town. I, however, came face-to-face with the realization that arriving in a foreign city for a week-long vacation is a very very different thing than arriving with 3 huge suitcases ready to move in for 6 months. Culture shooooooock. Not sure why this didn't hit me until I was in a cab hurtling towards my new apartment, but I didn't know ANY chinese. I mean, i know 'hello.' And yes, that's it. Never have I gone to a country and not known at least basic phrases! Yikes. Thank God for Brian and for Greg. I think I was on the verge of panic when Brian showed up, reassured me, and then ushered me to Greg's apartment where I immediately relaxed. It's really nice seeing a good friend. Especially when that friend has spent the last year in Beijing, has survived, and really likes it here! I can totally do this....

So since my near panic attack, Brian and I have been settling in. Albeit slowly. We've found the grocery store and nearby restaurants, the first 'must' of a new neighborhood move. I'm apparently stunning my co-workers with the fact that i LIKE chinese food and am up for snagging a vegetable dumpling out of someone's homemade lunch and diving in for shrimp balls shaped like seashells. What can i say, i like food. Apparently, so do they.

Back in the day when I lived in Paris I used to do a Top 10 List for the week. As Jay Wozniak can attest, my brain works in bullet form, so it seems only logical that I set out to do the same thing here. Therefore, without further ado:

Leah's 1st Beijing Week Top 10 List:
1. Beijing girls LOVE their shoes. High heels, sparkly silver sequined stilletos, brightly-colored flats, indie tennis shoes. They will wear them all over the city, to site visits, on slammed subways.
2. The subway is no joke. Brian and I took it the second day I was here, joining thousands of other riders to stand in line, wait for the doors to open, and then push, shove, jump, and cram into any available millimeter of space left in the subway car. There really are a few attendants at busy stations who "help" you get on. i.e. shove any lingering elbows, purses, and legs into the car.
3. I can't hide. I feel incredibly safe here, but there is no 'fitting in.' I am given the once over 30 times a day. I can't help but have the thoughts run through my mind, "I need to wear fancy shoes so i fit in." Nope, that ain't gonna do it.
4. My office coworkers are incredibly nice...and love their fruit. The afternoon is full of peach, grape, nectarine, durian, and random unnamable fruit-eating. At brian's office they have "watermelon break" every day. There's even a machete and fruit cutting table set aside.
5. Our internet is up and running at the apartment! So please, talk to us. your options:

         skype: orlando.chambers
         skype (leah): leah_chambers
         skype (brian): china.chambers
6. The elevators in my office tower. Are incredibly efficient. Since there are so many people in this office tower, they regulate the elevator usage. How, you might ask? Well, there is an attendant there every morning. When you walk up, she asks your floor, and pushes the button for you. The elevator is programmed to group certain floors together in order to be more efficient. So, you walk up, she pushes the button, she directs you to Elevator B, where you join other people from about 3 other floors. Others get sent to Elevators D or maybe even F.
7. Your office beverage choices: water and coffee. Apparently the chinese were taught at an early age that coke products are bad for your bones, and that you shouldn't drink water at mealtimes because it's bad for digestion. And they haven't ever deviated. So most drink water or tea all day long, except at mealtimes, when they don't drink anything.
8. Boy, i'm running out of things. hmmmm. Ah! I can 43 lanes of traffic from where i sit right now. I counted around the major intersection right outside and that's how many I got. Plus about 8 full bicycle lanes. I didn't know that you could have a highway within another highway. It's true.
9. No one wears shoes inside their residence. Slippers are a necessity, which would explain why i'm going to get some tonight. Even the man who came to bring me more water, looked in my door and pulled out a pair of shower caps for his feet and delivered the water.
10. We've got two holidays coming up! Looks like we joined at just the right time. The first week in October is a big Chinese holiday, so Brian and I are hoping to go hiking in the Yunnan province (southwest china) with Greg and his friend Gordon. Can't wait...

Alright, that's it! Have a great day, friends, and I know this was super long. Ah, oh well.

much love!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Chambers Family Dinner goes to China!

Hello friends and family!

Chambers family dinner is entering a new era. After 1 year of open invitation dinners, we are moving to Beijing and adapating the blog to a chronicle of our adventures, Chinese education, and, of course, food exploits.

Brian and I are both joining our respective companies' Beijing offices for at least 6 months. It is an incredible God orchestration to bring us both halfway around the world to the same city for the same amount of time. We are incredibly excited for what is in store!

Our goals for this time are fairly multi-faceted. Brian and I both are committed to helping our companies advance their marketing presence in China, through making connections within and outside our offices. We both are committed to gaining a working knowledge of Mandarin. Supposedly that usually takes quite a while, but since we're crazy optimists, we're convinced it can happen in 6 months. In addition to the professional goals, I have quite a few personal culinary and journalistic goals as well. First, this blog. It is my vision to intentionally and thoughtfully share this experience with friends and family, while flexing my writing muscles. It's been awhile. Secondly, Chinese cuisine. I'm searching for Chinese cooking classes and am determined to learn the art of pastry. The thought occurred to me that china doesn't really have desserts! And I realized that I may not survive these 6 months. So. I have ordered a dessert cookbook by Wolfgang Puck's pastry chef and I am ready to begin my foray into the pastry world. In china.

So, here we go! We are on our way to the land of the Forbidden City, clad with the ability to say 3 Chinese words, Culture Shock China, and an appetite for adventure. Ni hao, Beijing!!!