Gratitude Post #9: FDA Part 1

If you’ve recently read the L.A. Times, you’re certainly aware of the food safety concerns the Chinese government is contending with. (Google it.) Sure, we’ve got issues in America, with our pink meat taffy processed into happy little chicken nuggets. But we’ve also got much more transparency and disclosure when it comes to consumer products.

The Food and Drug Administration was established in 1930, after the creation of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 (thank you, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle). The FDA oversees and promotes public safety by regulating industries such as food, drug and cosmetics. And by George, I am grateful for it. As an expat in China, I have tremendous concerns about the meat and produce I purchase. I tend to purchase imported dairy items, like UHP (uber-pasteurized) boxed milk from Germany or the U.S. or imported Land o’ Lakes cheese and butter. I’m still working on finding the safest cuts of meat for consumption but am at a loss knowing the wisest way to research it. Needless to say, with the high cost of living and many import items I buy, my food bill is double the cost of what I was paying for quality items in the United States.

At meal times, praying for the Lord to “bless our food” has taken on a whole new meaning.

Half-hearted Attempts

This may be a semi-sincere apology for not blogging. I do have more gratitude posts. However, aside from recovering from gall bladder surgery, I am having WAY too much fun. Blue skies, sunshine, a car to drive, friends to play with… I have to agree with The Kid who said it best on day two of our return, “I really like America. It’s Paradise.”

Be back tomorrow.

Gratitude Post #8: Chocolate

This morning for breakfast I enjoyed a bowl of chocolate mini wheats, full of chocolate chips and cocoa, soaked in chocolate soy milk. Sigh. Life is beautiful.
I’m certain you’ve read about the outrageous cost of a bag of Hershey’s chocolate chips in Shanghai. (Translation: you’ve heard my whining.) I never realized how prevalent chocolate is in my diet, until I opened my refrigerator and pantry doors.As a purist, I’ve tended to snub American made Hershey’s chocolate, until it became a luxury item in my life. I never knew I loved Hershey’s Chocolate Twizzlers until I could no longer have them.
“Real” chocolate in China is considered a luxury item, with bags of Hershey kisses often locked behind glass doors. And Chinese chocolate is just… wrong. The taste, the texture…honestly, I don’t even know if there’s real cocoa in there. Something to research, when I return.

In the meanwhile, I’m taking full advantage of chocolate everything… including chocolate balsamic vinegar. Mmmmm…
As Americans, I don’t think we realize how much chocolate we consume in our diets. High quality or not. Speaking of exceptional quality, thank you to my friends Richard and Lina, for sending me a lovely gift of Amano dark chocolate.

For the next six weeks I will be indulging in chocolate. Thank heavens for elastic waistbands. The Hubs will have to roll me onto the plane… chocolate in hand.

Gratitude Post #7: Family-Friendly Services

Family-friendly services run abundant in the U.S., from family restrooms to kid menus to pediatric dentistry. Where can The Circus play video games or watch videos? Why, at the kids’ hair salon and pediatric dentist’s office, of course.

It’s good to be in a land full of such services. But it’s great to be in a land full of families and children. Trust me.

Gratitude Post #6: TV

This post may border on the ridiculous. There are many people who happily exist without television and even see it as an unnecessary evil. I, however, embrace surfing the 300 plus cable channels available to us and view it as luxurious rather than excessive. It’s entertainment heaven. There’s nothing like a good episode of Hoarders, Glee or Diners, Drive-ins & Dives. My children have been enjoying a plethora of programming on PBS Kids, Disney and Nick. Hey, Elmo introduced/reinforced the alphabet to The Kid, many moons ago, and he just earned top marks in his class. His brain works just fine.

Speaking of not working…did I mention my six foreign television channels in China work ten percent of the time? Local TV is interesting, full of melodramatic soaps of Red Guards or shows propagandist in nature of Japan attacking China. Same thing in the U.S., I suppose, only you have a representation of the spectrum of opinion, right? Hopefully…

While I’m recovering from surgery, The Circus is enjoying reading, running around outside and Phineas & Ferb. Yes, I’m grateful for the myriad of channels on TV. Busted.

Gratitude Post #5: Quality Healthcare

One of the greatest blessings in this country is the quality of health care available to everyone. Yes, I said everyone. (Hospital worker friends in L.A. share plenty of stories; no one is turned away. What a blessing.) No, I’m not attempting to engage in health care reform debate. What I am sharing, however, is a perspective of someone who resides outside of this country and has access to limited health care. While Pudong has a good 8 to 5 western clinic, the nearest western emergency room is forty minutes across the river, in decent traffic. Friends have asked me about the possibility seeking local care. Mr. Smith mentioned that people line up for days in the local Chinese hospital, waiting in line for treatment, passing their illnesses to one another. Socialized medicine in action…

The Circus and I arrived back to the United States on Monday evening. Within the week, we made several doctor visits, some previously scheduled and planned, some (like my surgery) unexpected.

Day 1: Within 24 hours of arrival, I had an ultrasound for gallstones.

Day 2: Pinky Stinky’s tube stopped functioning in Shanghai. On Wednesday, it was removed by her ENT and the other tube functionality was tested by an audiologist.

Day 3: The Kid suffered a possible broken nose, after rough housing with a friend. X-rays were taken at the ER at 7 p.m. Due to swelling, results were inconclusive. He’s scheduled to see the ENT.

Day 4: One of the best surgeons in Utah squeezed me in for gallbladder surgery. In one hour, they laparoscopically removed my gallbladder (and over 50 gallstones) through four half-inch incisions. The next day I went to Walmart with my sister.

Let’s be frank. There’s no way in Hades I would have surgery in China, even with a western trained surgeon, if I could help it. I am grateful to be cut, cleaned and stapled back together here, where medical people wash their hands and sterilize their equipment. (Again, true China story of surgery infections.) And if they don’t…you can find someone who does.

Gratitude Post #4: Chicken Lollipops

KFC lovin’.
This week, the 3-year-old was happily reunited with her “chicken lollipops.” While China has several fast food chains including KFC, McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr., Burger King, Pizza Hut and Papa Johns, they are obviously geared towards the Chinese market and palate with items like seafood topped pizza (think squid) and deep fried thigh sandwiches, containing thick pieces of chicken fat. KFC is…different experience, without fried or grilled chicken pieces, let alone sans white chicken breast.

But enough about the food, this post represents the fantastic wonder and creativity of children. Because, who else would describe a drumstick as a lollipop? Creativity is often squelched in other cultures, especially in an incredibly conformist China, where elementary age children come home after school and do homework until midnight. But that’s for another post. Thankfully, creativity and innovation is embraced in America. I’ve spent the last eight years dedicated to raising my children and there is nothing I love more than observing their creative and imaginative play. Thank goodness for the spirit of “chicken lollipops.”

Gratitude Post #2: Blue Skies

Herriman, Utah.
Even the most smog-filled day in Los Angeles, or worst red burn day in Salt Lake City with its hazy inversion is mild compared with the brown skies of Shanghai. That’s right: BROWN. Last month, the Shanghai index (a pollution index which I don’t fully understand but usually averages numbers under 100) peaked at 500. Media reports announced the poor air quality and high pollution levels triggered asthma and respiratory problems among the masses.

Blue skies are a blessing.

Gratitude Post #1: Clean Restrooms

Thirty days of gratitude. What I love and miss about living in the United States, posted in no particular order. (Obviously, family and friends would be first on the priority list if I were better organized.)

Living in Los Angeles for five years, I’ve encountered some less-than-clean restrooms. However, nothing can compare to the sight and smell of a squatter, with urine and um, other “stuff” splattered all over the squatter and surrounding floor. Lucky for you that I accidentally left my laptop in Shanghai with my squatter pics. I can’t count the times I’ve “held it” in the hopes of finding a semi-clean western restroom, like in a nearby hotel or waited until we went home. Pinky Stinky absolutely refuses to use a squatter, crying the entire time I (or usually The Hubs) am trying to maneuver her over the porcelain vessel. The Kid is one lucky kid for being a dude. Also, many of the facilities I’ve encountered have been without toilet paper or soap. Sometimes both. That’s just a level of dirty that I don’t understand. Then again, these are the same people who pick their noses and then serve me my food…(true story.)

Our twenty-hour journey back to the U.S. required multiple uses of airplane and airport toilets, all cleaner than just about everything I’ve encountered in Shanghai. Bonus: paper sanitary liners included. Today, I walked into a palatial Walmart restroom and beheld it in its immaculate glory. Decorated, deodorized and “spic n span” clean.

For the next six weeks, I can fearlessly walk into most stalls and flush with gratitude.

Thirty Days of Gratitude

Last night, after a twenty-hour journey, we flew into Salt Lake City. As the plane landed, and I saw the blue skies and mountains, tears swelled in my eyes. The Kid later confessed to me that he felt teary-eyed when the planed landed. Who knew returning to the U.S. would be so emotional.

We have the joy of staying on U.S. soil for six weeks and I will be posting thirty days of gratitude, of what I’ve missed about living in America. I hope these posts will give some perspective on what we unintentionally take for granted in our lives.

Gratitude Post #1, coming tomorrow…