My time in China is hanging by a thread now, days are slowly dwindling to zero, and it's completely unbelievable. At this present moment, I have 5 work days left, 8 days left in China, and 16 days left in Asia, but I have already completed and cherished nearly 200 work days, and just about 250 days in China and Asia. I can't help but feel like I have accomplished an enormous amount while being here, and I am so thankful I decided to take this gigantic leap of faith after graduating college last year. But, more reflection will be saved for my final post at the end of the experience! For now, let's catch up on the random cluster of activities that have been consuming my time here in Shanghai.
First things first: food. One of the best things about Asia is the food, obviously. I've been lucky enough to experience food from literally all of the world living in Shanghai and traveling throughout this continent. However, some of the best food I've eaten are foods that my friends and I have created ourselves. I can't remember if it was before New Years or after, but a long while ago, Kayden and I started our Sunday night wonton tradition. We've gotten pretty creative with our wonton fillings, from pumpkin and feta, to Indian samosa, to blackberry cheesecake, to raspberry/nutella. Each week we discuss the prospect of our delicious wontons, and if they would possibly have a future of being sold from a food truck. If all else fails in life, or even doesn't fail, we have our back-up to start our food truck White Girl Wontons. Just try to tell me that you wouldn't want a bowl of fresh wonton soup for $5 or a plate of delicious fried dessert wontons from a truck. Just TRY.
Recently, we created I think our very best wonton soup. We have fallen in love with a new restaurant in Shanghai called Spice Bazaar that serves food specialized from Xinjiang Province, China. The style is Chinese but with a heavy influence of Muslim and Middle Eastern flavors. Pretty much perfection. One of our favorite dishes is a soup, filled with chunks of potato, carrot, red onion and cilantro. Sounds simple right? It is, but something beautiful happens when all those flavors combine. While we were eating it one day, we thought: wonton.
So we did, we made Xinjiang soup into a wonton filling.
XINJIANG POTATO WONTONS:
- russet potatoes (peeled, chopped)
- red onion (finely chopped)
- carrot (peeled, finely chopped)
-cilantro (finely chopped)
First, peel and chop potatoes into chunks, boil, and mash as usual. Mix together with chopped onion and carrot, add salt to taste. Combine with chopped cilantro, and easy as that, this is your wonton filling.
Place a scoop of the filling in the middle of the wonton wrapper. Dip your finger in warm water, and run it along the bottom of the wrapper (side closest to you), as a seal. Fold up from the bottom toward the top, leaving a horizonal space about the size of a small pinky nail, not to thin, but not too thick either. Once that is sealed, pull the two sides together toward the middle, overlapping the sides, and seal with warm water. Then, pull over the extra wrapper at the top so that the wonton looks like it is wearing a cape. Done! It takes practice for sure, so don't worry if you tear the wrapper a couple times, or end up just making them into a triangle. I was a professional triangle-wonton maker for a while until I got the hang of the proper folding method. They look like this when finished:
When they're signed and sealed, the next part is delivery. Fill up a pot to about where the handles sit, and maybe a little above (depending on the size of your pot). In China, we use water, then once it's boiling, we add these strange vegetable broth "pellets," however, not in China where liquid vegetable broth exists, just go with that. Or if you're a carnivore, chicken or beef broth would be fine too for extra flavor. For this soup, we added our extra cilantro into the broth and it was delicious. The more wontons you put in, the longer it will take for them to cook, but let them boil until the wrapper is transluscent, and their capes are soft.
We find that somewhere around 7 - 10 wontons makes for a good enough portion where you don't want to just flop over into bed afterward. But they're just so good so sometimes we eat more. Don't judge.
So those are the wonderful Xinjiang wonton creation - definitely would be a staple on our WGW truck menu. Also, all those wontons cost us about $8 total to make (wrappers and vegetables and herbs) so that was about $2/person when a few of us ate them. Cheaper than take out, MSG free, and just plain yummy.
Tomorrow will be our final wonton Sunday, and we've decided to give those wontons a reprisal because they're just too damn good to not make again! In addition to our favorite dessert ones: peanut butter, oats, bananas, and [vegan] chocolate chips. That recipe was actually an accident. Originally our plan was to make cookie dough wontons (which we did make another time), but it was Passover that week, so we sort of came up with this idea as a Passover-friendly wonton. And it was perfect.
I apologize if I've made you hungry now - subject change!
Everyday this week I've had ridiculous realizations about how little time I have left with all my students. They've been proving to me how much they have learned this year, and what fantastic little humans they have become. For example, my four-year-olds, who are now speaking an incredible amount of English compared to September (*patting myself on the back*), and I were having a short discussion about how summer vacation is coming up, and that unfortunately I won't be back at school when they return in the fall. Most reactions were "WHY?! You don't like us?! Where are you going?!" Why: It's time to move on to my next life adventure. You don't like us: You're right, I don't like you. I love you. Where are you going: Back to America, I need to go to school again! They seemed to understand once I explained to them, but I made them promise to me if any of them visited the States that they would absolutely have to call me. They all promised.
I also explained to them that on Friday (yesterday), we had concluded learning all the countries we would be for the year and they should be so proud of all the countries they know about now. Response: but there's still so many countries on the map we don't know. Answer: Well, yes, that's true, but maybe your teacher next year can teach you more countries. Response: No Aliza! Only you can teach us countries and English! What they realize is that they just can't say things like that because my eyes welled up a little bit after that, and I needed a second to gather myself before I continued teaching. On my first day in China, I never expected this sort of connection with my students to develop, but it has made me a better teacher, and has given me the encouragment to continue in this profession.
Earlier in the week, those same students presented a beautiful show for their families. The program consisted of Chinese and English singing and dancing, and each of the children had the opportunity to present the next act in both languages.
trying to get ready to sing...
silly little fashion show.
moms' turn to sing!
dads' turn to Gangnam Style...
For the English portion, I had taught them a very cute song for Earth Day that they loved, so we practiced that again, and that was the first song they performed. It's to the tune of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and goes "Reduce, reuse, recyle, words we all know. We have to save our planet, so we can live and grow! We might be only children but we will try you'll see, and we can save our planet it starts with you and me!" I taught them some easy choreography for the song so it would help their memory, and they're totally adorable while singing it. The second song was the chorus to the Jackson 5's "ABC," which I taught them during our American culture week. Also adorable. The final song was a classic, "Knick Knack Paddy Whack," complete with choreography as well.
I had them do some dancing, too of course, since well, that's what I like to do! I taught them about France and Spain prior, and while we were learning those countries, I taught them about flamenco and ballet. So, for the girls, I choreographed about a minute of The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Nutcracker, and for boys and girls, I taught them flamenco to a song I found that is some beautiful flamenco guitar playing. They did a great job in both - even if I had to remind them once in a while what exactly to do :) The final dance is to a song that is called "Wishy Washy Washer Woman," which Kayden taught to her classes, so I got the video from her. It goes a little something like this "way down in the valley where nobody goes, there's a wishy washy washer woman washin' her clothes. She goes ooh ahh, oo ahh, oo ahh, oo ahh, that's how the wishy washy washer woman washes her clothes. I said heyyyyy washer woman, HEY WASHER WOMAN, oo ahh, oo ahh, heyyyy washer woman, HEY WASHER WOMAN!" So it's pretty silly and the kids love it. The dancing is pretty easy, so they can put their own personalities into it. The song continues with other things the wishy washy washer woman does, and finishes with how she strikes a pose! If you want to watch it, you can just search on Youtube for it!
Admittedly, I wasn't too excited on having to help organize this show (I was only given about 2 weeks to prepare - subtract 3 days for a holiday we had), but it ended up being really fun once I decided what to do, and the kids put in a lot of effort to make it pretty wonderful. The parents gave me some great feedback afterward, too, which always makes it worth it in the end when the parents and kids are satisfied with your work!
With 5 days left of school, it's just going to be a cumulative review of the semester, in addition to some just plain fun activities and crafts (Pinterest will help me out on this one). I'm not really sure what will happen me on the last day of school. I expect some tears from a multitude of feelings - relief, shock, happiness, sadness, confusion - it should be an interesting day.
Aside from school things, I have managed to be having enough fun to keep my brain sane! We've been trying new restaurants, going to art museums, dancing in the highest bar in the world (92nd floor of the Hyatt attached to the World Financial Center), returning to some of our favorite areas, and eating all the noodles I possibly can before I no longer can. Basically I'm trying to squeeze as much of all the things I love about Shanghai into 2 weeks. So far, so good.
China Art Museum - built into the 2010 Expo Center.
very cool panoramic animation of traditional Chinese life back in the day.
fantastic Andy Warhol exhibit at the Power Station of Art!
I suppose my next post will be the last post...