Free Books About China

A couple of years ago I wrote a few ebooks about Chinese life and culture with my son Nathaniel. We wrote about Chinese snacks, going to a Chinese kindergarten and celebrating the Chinese New Year. The stories are short and simple (I was working with a four year old at the time!) and we included some pictures and then I published on Amazon’s Kindle platform. They sell for $2.99 each or are free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.

 

 

I consistently sell a lot of these books around Chinese New Year and, over all, they have been downloaded by thousands of people. But few people take time to leave reviews…and I’m hoping you can help.

 

Through Tuesday, January 10 the following titles will be free for download:
I hope you’ll take a few minutes to download and read one or more of them and then leave a review to help boost the rankings.

Win A Copy of

Knocked Up Abroad Again

For each review that you leave on my books, (one per book, of course) I’ll enter you to win a copy of Knocked Up Abroad Again, an anthology of 26 stories of women who’ve been pregnant, given birth or raised kids in countries other than their passport one. If you have it already, another book can be substituted.

 

Bonus: If you buy/read/review MaoMao and the Nian Monster by Anna Zech, I’ll give you another entry. Anna’s become an online friend over the last year, and I purchased her book a few years ago when it first came out. A great introduction to Chinese New Year with beautiful illustrations.

 

After you write your reviews, please email me at Charlotte Edwards Zhang (at) gmail (dot) com (remove the spaces and format it correctly…I just don’t want a lot of spam after posting this) with the title of the book you reviewed and your Amazon user name. I’ll also give extra entires for sharing on social media. Again, just send an email with the link to your post and I’ll give you another entry.

 

Reviews should be left before January 26, 2017 and I’ll choose a winner and post it while I watch the annual Spring Festival Gala.

Thanks so much and all the best for a wonderful Year of the Rooster.

 

Published in Knocked Up Abroad Again

a-must-read-book

 

I’m very excited to announce that a story about my pregnancy with Nathaniel is included in Knocked Up Abroad Again: Baby bumps, twists, and turns around the globe, the second book in a series of mothering abroad. This massive project, a collection of 26 stories that span 25 countries, was done by Lisa Ferland.

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From the Kickstarter page:

Knocked Up Abroad Again: Baby bumps, twists, and turns around the globe is a +250-page anthology written by 26 mothers in 25 different countries, all with a pioneer woman attitude.

Each mother, with her unique voice and from her perspective, describes the highs and lows of motherhood as she straddles the distance between what was once familiar and the reality of her foreign environment.

This heartwarming, sometimes hilarious, and sometimes heartbreaking collection of stories illustrates that the more we see, the more we learn about ourselves as human beings.

 

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Also included in the book are fellow expats in China, Ruth from China Elevator Stories and Vanessa, editor at beijingkids magazine.

 

If you’re interested in a copy of the book, digital or print, preorder it here. Or simply help share the project via social media at the Knocked Up Abroad Again site.

 

 

Six Things to Know About Prenatal Hospital Visits In China

For reasons that are no longer clear to me, with both pregnancies I didn’t go to the hospital until I was three to four months along in the pregnancy. Maybe this was because we were nervous about another miscarriage and didn’t tell anyone right away, unlike the first time. Or perhaps it was just to avoid all the chaos that is going to the maternity department at a hospital.

 

One of the biggest surprises I had was when we were walking outside one night, pregnant with our son, and I commented on how nice it was that our house was just a five minute walk, if even that, to the hospital. It’s where my husband works and I assumed that it’s where I’d give birth.

 

Oh, no, he informed me. They no longer have a maternity department since it’s a smaller community hospital  and the larger General Hospital wants to be in control of things. At that point (2008) there were just two hospitals at which babies were delivered. Our son was born at the GH and our daughter at the other one in 2012. A year later, that department was shut down and all the doctors and nurses reassigned positions or transfered to the GH.

 

That said, there are some private hospitals on the other side of town, but they aren’t regulated in the same way and are much more expensive. I imagine this situation doesn’t happen in larger metro areas, but if you’re in a smaller town, make sure you know where you can go to get prenatal care and have the baby.

 

Now, once you find a hospital, here are some things you need to know:

 

Go early. Hospitals tend to open at 8 am but people’s start queuing as early as 7 am to ensure that they are seen before the staff goes home for their two hour lunch break (at least that’s the norm in smaller towns like mine). Here there are no appointments, though there are some things are only done on certain days of the week. For example, the blood glucose testing is only done on Tuesday’s, at the hospital where my son was born.

 

Take your medical record book to every visit. Pen and paper still rules when it comes to medical care in Chinese hospitals. They only use the computers for citizens who have medical insurance cards, which need scanned to deduct the money. On your first visit you’re given a booklet that they fill out with your name, age and all those other stats that are important. This book includes space for all the details of your future visits as well.

 

You’ll see lots of doctors, all female. There’s no such thing as a primary care physician and the same holds true for prenatal care. Expect to see lots of doctors on each visit, but you can feel relaxed knowing that they’re all female. Men aren’t allowed to work in this department, and male nurses in China are about as rare as foreigners in my city. I know they’re here, but I never see them!

 

Exam rooms are also female only. Unlike Western clinics, where appointments are done in the privacy of an exam room with one patient and one doctor, and the dad is welcome, in the Chinese hospitals I had my kids at, there was one large room with several desks and tables. It finally clicked why so many women were accompanied by their mothers in law; even if the husband didn’t have to work at that time, he could only sit in the hall and smoke. (Yes, smoking is allowed I the shot pails, though it’s starting to be banned in top tier cities).

 

Take plenty of cash. The Chinese health insurance system provides a prepaid card to I discuss, though foreigners are not allowed to be part of this system. One resound its good to have a person accompany you to your visit is that they can go to pay the bill while you wait in line. I have records from one visit with my daughter where I needed both a bloody test and ultrasound.

 

In both cases, I went to queue up while hubby paid the bill and then returned with the recipes which we had to give to the doctor before they’d serve us. Fortunately, routine services are cheap. The ultrasound was around 100 RMB. Blood tests are similarly priced.

 

Return in the afternoon for results. While you can get your test results back on the same day, you have to return to the hospital after a set time, usually 3-4 pm to get them.

 

Disclaimer: I’ve only been to public hospitals and this has been my experience. I know lots of ex pats who’ve given birth in international hospitals in China and private Chinese hospitals where they had different experiences.

 

Have you had a baby in China? Share your experience–no matter what type of hospital–in the comments!

 

Other posts in the Having A Baby In China Series:
the American Embassy regulations
prenatal vitamins and radiation smocks
•prenatal hospital visits
•birthing classes
•breast feeding
•shopping for baby
•delivery
•the Chinese zuo

Having A Baby In China: Prenatal Vitamins and Radiation Smocks

pregnancy in China
A two-part smock that pregnant women in China wear to keep the baby safe.
Prenatal Vitamins and Supplements in China
With my son I didn’t take any supplements or extra vitamins besides the regular woman’s daily and extra vitamin C that I always took. I ate a very healthy diet of mostly vegetables and some meat (we were paying off my student loans that year, so money was tight) and I walked everywhere and exercised daily. Apparently we didn’t feel that I needed anything else.

 

Fast forward to finding out we were expecting our second child, and my husband bought me some prenatal vitamins. They were a pink chew-able that I took daily for the rest of the pregnancy. By this time I was more familiar with the pharmacy and bought calcium supplements as well, since I don’t like milk and only drink it when mixed with iced coffee and cocoa powder. 🙂
But since there are lots of questions about the safety of medicines and supplements in China, and since they don’t weigh all that much, I’d suggest bringing them along or buying some online and having them shipped here.

 

Radiation Proof Smocks (Fang Fu Yi Fu)
These are massively popular as Chinese are very concerned about radiation. When I was pregnancy with our first, my husband told me to stay out of the kitchen when I used the microwave. Because of this inconvenience, and because Chinese food does not reheat well at all, I slowly stopped using it and by the time we moved two years later, I no longer used it at all.

 

He also asked me to go to the shopping center to buy a smock that protects against radiation which is made of special material that makes it more difficult for the radiation to affect the growing baby. I went, unsure of what I’d find, and even though there were ones that would fit my size-14 body, the price tag didn’t fit our budget. They ran about 500 yuan, so I decided that I’d just keep the internet off unless I was using the computer. I’m not sure how much of this is hype, since most parents only get one shot at having a kid, they want it to be the best, brightest and healthiest, but some Western websites say that the amount of radiation that a person is exposed to on a daily basis is minimal and Fit Pregnancy says that you should keep your cell phone a safe distance away from you since does pose the most risk.

 

By the time I had my daughter, I was freelancing and using the computer several hours a day. Online shopping had also developed to where people trusted sellers and weren’t afraid to use sites like Taobao.
One day he came home with a package for me: a navy blue smock, the same as the one pictured above except navy, complete with an inner piece, to wear whenever I was at home. You wear them together, with the silver one inside.

 

Most Chinese women wear them all the time, but I had something against wearing it out in public–not to mention that it was so hot–so I agreed to wear both pieces at home, and the inner layer even at night. You can’t wash them, so I made sure to always wear an apron when cooking and cleaning.

 

Afterwards, my husband sold it on a local Craigslist-like site for something like 50 yuan.
Other posts in the Having A Baby In China series:
the American Embassy regulations
•prenatal vitamins and radiation smocks
•prenatal hospital visits
•birthing classes
•breast feeding
•shopping for baby
•delivery
•the Chinese moon month (zuo yue zi)

Update on Vitacost Orders to China

I’ve placed, and received, three orders with Vitacost and thought I’d give an update on my experiences so far.

In my previous post, I told how there was some glitch in the package leaving Hong Kong but otherwise it arrived without a problem, and within the given time frame.

 

With my second Vitacost order I bought a bag of beef gelatin to make a healthy gummy candy for the kids. It never clicked in my mind that since it’s derived from animals, customs doesn’t allow it. And they caught it. The box arrived with the item highlighted and a sentence saying that it’s not allowed to be shipped in the country. I spent a good two days upset with myself for making such a stupid mistake, which cost be almost $20 when you factor in the shipping cost.  That was in mid June. Imagine my surprise when about a week ago I got an email saying that my return was received and that my credit card was credited for the product! Sure enough there’s a credit back on my credit card for that amount. What an unexpected blessing. I’m still out the shipping cost and tax but I’ll chalk that up to “stupid tax.”

 

Now I’m very careful with my orders, double checking to ensure that I’m not accidentally violating customs rules.

 

My third order went through just fine, though I wasn’t allowed to add the two free samples, like I was in the past. I was able to add them but it said that they couldn’t be shipped to China. Once I removed them from my cart, the order was processed. Honestly I’m a little bummed because I love free samples of things like granola bars, toothpaste and deodorant (super hard to find outside of the big cities in China).

 

Vitacost Has Some Great Sales
My last order included 8 bottles of ALA (which my husband takes daily) since there was a buy one, get one 50% off sale. This week I got an email about a buy one get one free sale. Bummer…and it’s on the same sort of products, all Vitacost brand items, it seems. Next time I’ll wait for that; were pretty well stocked on all the supplements we take but in a few months I’ll jump on this discount when it rolls around again. I’m sure it will; retailers typically follow a sales cycle.

 

Shipping and Customs Fees
Since my first order, the packages have arrived much sooner. I’m pretty sure that was just a fluke, though it seems that it does take two to four days for the package to be picked up by the shipper. I’m not exactly sure how the process works, but once it gets picked up by Shun Feng I can track it via a link in my order confirmation.

 

With all three orders, each totaling over $100, the customs fee was 60 yuan. The first one was just over $100 and the second one was close to the order limit (imposed by Shun Feng) of $160. So I’m guessing that it’s a flat fee no matter the order total, which means you get more bang for your buck (or yuan) when you place a larger order.
Other Discounts
I also always start my order though Ebates.com (join to get a credit) which gives 4% back on Vitacost orders. Not much, to be sure, but it helps take the sting out of the shipping costs. Twice I’ve encountered problems with not being credited properly, but upon filling out the online customer service form, I was credited the amount within a few days. Ebates only pays out quarterly, so the delay in that wasn’t a problem.

 

I also check RetailMeNot.com to get the link to the free samples and see if there are any discount codes. Often if I place a few items in my cart, but don’t check out, I get an email saying they’ll give me 10% off my order. But I’ve had a coupon code for 12% off and seen another for 15% off, as well.

 

Overall I’m a very happy customer and so excited that I can get these things shipped to China at rather affordable prices.

 

(Links are affiliate links, which means I get a small credit if you place an order, but your price isn’t affected at all. Thanks for helping keep the lights on here!)

How To Get Affordable Coconut Oil, Vitamins and Other Health Foods Shipped to China Inexpensively

Online shopping is huge in China; the November 11 sales (for the 11.11 “single guys holiday”) easily outdo America’s Black Friday, but online shopping isn’t so easy if you can’t read Chinese. Besides having to read Chinese to find out the details about the product, which often includes a very long drawn out sales page with a lot of neon type, you have to engage in a chat with the seller to get more specifics. Something a simple as buying cocoa powder takes my husband at least 20 minutes. Seriously.

 

So for everyone who prefers to order in English, and without interacting with the seller, meet my new favorite retailer, Vitacost. They have a huge selection of food and beauty products, many of which are organic and natural. I was thrilled to find coconut oil for $25, compared to the $40 I paid in China. I also ordered some vitamins, cocoa powder, coffee and protein powder.

 

I’ve really been wanting to use more coconut oil in our meals and my husband wanted a certain vitamin, so I was so excited about this and really hoped it would work out well. And it did!

 

I’ve heard of Vitacost before, but didn’t realize that they ship to China. When a friend told me about this, I was skeptical, thinking the shipping will be outrageous. But it’s not. They use SF Express and DHL Global to ship from the USA to China. There’s a flat rate for up to a certain weight (and the weight is calculated as you add things to your cart so you can be sure to maximize your limit), and then a per pound weight for each pound above that. With Shun Feng Express your order can’t exceed a value of $160. And of course you have to pay import fees and taxes upon arrival. You can get more details about shipping and customs here.

 

My order was just over $100, $25 for shipping and then 60 yuan in taxes that I paid the delivery person.

 

There are, of course, some restrictions as to what cannot be imported. Mainly for China it’s meats and seeds. Don’t try to order them thinking it will go unnoticed; from the way it was taped, my package was opened twice. Once at customs in Hong Kong and the other in Tianjin. Everything was in the box and not damaged at all.

 

Not only is Shun Feng Express cheaper, it comes with tracking. My order arrived in Hong Kong less than 48 hours after ordering, but then got held up there for a week. When I called to inquire, they told me that it wasn’t anything with my package, just a delay. After it arrived in Tianjin, it was in my house less that 24 hours later. From the time stamps, they work round-the-clock! Less than 30 minutes after it arrived in town, it was in my community.

 

With SF Express, you do need a Chinese friend to help you upload their ID card to the SF website after you order and the order has to be addressed to that person. I thought I could use my passport, but they only accept Chinese ID cards so I used my husband’s name as the recipient and then uploaded his ID card. But you only have to upload the ID card the first time. Subsequent orders still need the same name, but the actual address and telephone number doesn’t matter. I don’t think you need to to this with DHL Global; that’s the only benefit that I can see since it’s more expensive and slower.

 

Get $10 off your first order of $30 or more by clicking here. (If you do order, I also get a $10 credit.)

Children’s Day In China

 

China has quite a few holidays that aren’t celebrated in many, if any, other countries. One that falls into the “not celebrated in many countries” is International Children’s Day which is on June 1 each year. Interestingly, it’s celebrated in 47 countries and on the second Sunday in June in the USA. I never knew that until I just looked it up.

 

Until this year, I found the holiday to be frivolous. In a country where most children are only-children, and their parents and grandparents’ lives revolve around them, it seems that every day is children’s day. But this year I had a new perspective on the holiday.

 

With my son in the local public school, I realized that this was the one day, of the whole 10 months, that there was no homework. On weekends he gets homework for every day. During the Chinese New Year, he had homework every day. There’s never been a day on which he hasn’t had at least some homework to finish. But on Children’s Day, there was no homework.

 

It was wonderful!

 

Of course, the day wasn’t without it’s annoyances. He had to be at school, in makeup, at 6:30 a.m. to prepare for the program. He’d volunteered to be in the first grade performance. About 20 kids from the three classes sang a song. Other grades, and even groups of kids, had skits, songs and dances. The program started at 7:30 and lasted until 9:00. Then he got to go home for the rest of the day.
We bought ice cream.
We played with Legos.
We all took a noon nap.
We read books.
We even watched a movie, something we hadn’t done in months!

 

I could really get used to this “no homework for a day” thing and am eagerly anticipating Children’s Day 2016!

Spring Fruits and Vegetables In China

Even though you can get fresh veggies and fruits in China all year round, they’re at their cheapest and tastiest when they’re in season. This is the time of year when, at least in the northern half of China, you can get fresh strawberries, pineapple, coconut, mulberries and asparagus. In my area (a few hours south of Beijing) this season runs from March to mid-May. After that, you may or may not be able to find these
I always get the smaller strawberries, which range from 5-10 yuan per jin (500 grams/just over a pound), since they’re sweeter and not just plumped up with water. Pineapples are great because the sellers will cut the skin off with a knife and nifty tool. Expect to pay a little more for this service; it will save you tons of time and scratched hands. We soak the pineapple in a bowl of salt water for 10-15 minutes to make it less acidic. A pineapple will cost 5-15 yuan depending on the weight and if they remove the skin. You can often find pineapple sticks being sold on the street for 1-2 yuan per stick.
Coconuts are tons of fun since you can drink the water and then crack them open to get out the meat. Eat it as is or chop it up to put in granola bars, shred it and dry it or blend into coconut milk. When I make coconut milk I save the meat and toast it in the oven. Due to the high fat content, the result tastes and smells a lot like fried hash browns. So yummy!  Coconuts are 5 yuan/jin right now, though sometimes they’re sold by the piece, and I’ve paid 8-10 yuan for each one.
Coconuts aren’t very popular in my town so you can’t buy them already opened with a straw to drink the water, but it’s not too hard to open them. Remove the little tuft of hair (as I think of it as) and then you’ll see the three eyes. One of them is easier to open than the others. Open it with the tip of a small knife and then insert a straw or invert it over a large glass for the water to drain into. The water tastes best when it’s chilled.
To crack open the coconut, the easiest way I’ve found it to take it outside and just slam it onto the ground a few times. Collect the pieces and go home to wash them off. Then scrape the meat off with a spoon. For granola bars I’ll chop the coconut meat with a big knife or toss it in the blender.
For coconut milk, I use about 1 cup of coconut meat to 4 cups of room temperature water. Blend it together, add sweetener if you need it, and then strain it through cheesecloth. Cover and refrigerate the milk; it’s best used within 24 hours. Then use the shredded coconut in cookies, granola bars or toast and eat fresh out of the oven!
Asparagus is expensive; 12 yuan/jin or more. It’s not always good and I always have to remove an inch or two at the bottom, but it makes for a nice treat. I roast it in the oven with some olive oil, sea salt and chopped garlic or garlic powder. Cook it for about 40 minutes at a medium heat to get it tender with a crispy outside.

“Happy Winter Vacation” Homework

To me, it’s an oxymoron to use the words happy, vacation and homework in the same sentence, but in China it’s the norm. Every holiday kids get even more homework than usual to complete. For this winter vacation, which should be about 25 days or so (we still don’t know when they have to go back to school), my first grade son has two workbooks with 54 pages in each. One is Chinese and the other is Math.
But wait! There’s more…
This morning we had a parent’s meeting to listen to the teacher brag on the top-scoring students and criticize the ones who got the lowest scores. Then they gave us a paper which outlined the rest of the homework, on top of the 108 pages that we started.
He has to
  • memorize the first two stories in his new Chinese book
  • learn to read and write the words from the first four units
  • memorize the math facts up to 100
  • memorize half of a famous book about morals
  • read at least 2 books every day
  • write six “big” pages of Chinese words
  • do a page of 20 math problems every day
I know I’m forgetting some of it and there’s one thing that I don’t exactly understand.
So it looks like we’ll be having “school” time in the mornings, broken up by bits of play, reading and flashcards.