This is us.  The one showing lots of shoulder (in her Chengdu, China Marine Ball ball gown!) is the EFM who writes this blog. The one wearing a tux (James) is the employee who moves her (and their two sons) around all over the world. The red link, below, is how you can get in touch with me...

The time in Chengdu, China

Chengdu: city of fabulous food and beautiful Buddhist monasteries!
Yes, Beijing's Forbidden City (pictured, above) is really pretty and all, but I like Chengdu much better than Beijing!

In Our Same Boat (with State)

  • Beyond the Cornfields
    Brand-new State Department family in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Love their two little girls (she just recently had a baby while being posted in Dhaka), horticulture, traveling and adventure!
  • Email From The Embassy
    State Department family formerly in Beijing, China, and recently posted to Amman, Jordan. A trailing spouse, she's also a writer, and frequently publishes articles with major news sources. A very experienced State family, this new post is something like overseas post number six or seven for them.
  • Just US
    A beautiful family of seven - they have arrived at their new post: Jerusalem! They just finished off an unaccompanied tour to Iraq and are very much looking forward to sightseeing around the middle east.
  • Our Life
    State Department family on their second post...Tijuana, Mexico. It's their first overseas assignment and they have two little boys. They love Tijuana so far and post pictures frequently! They also get to enjoy the best of both worlds for they can sneak over the border into San Diego when they want to!
  • The Dinoia Family
    State Department family formerly in California, now in DC for a DC tour. Next, the husband will do a one year unaccompanied tour. A very experienced State family (formerly in Iceland and Caracas) with a blog that has been around quite a while and has great archives. Jen has a sweet heart and a lot to give!
  • The Perlman Update
    State Department family formerly in Chennai, India, who then did a year-long unaccompanied tour in Iraq. They are now on a DC tour and after that will do another unaccompanied tour (Afghanistan). She totally tells it like it is and doesn't sugar-coat what life is really like. Witty, snarky, funny and down-to-earth. Look elsewhere if you want fake. Read if you want REAL.
  • Where in the World Am I?
    State Department family formerly in Bujumbura, Burundi and now in Hyderabad, India. They just had their first baby this summer - a beautiful little girl- (there's a separate blog about this) and she also eats gluten-free (with a separate blog, also).
One of the most intriguing things about Chengdu is that it is a seamless blend of ancient and modern... all together, side by side.

Can't Live Without (non-State)

  • Crass-Pollination: An ER blog
    The best ER nurse blog EVER!
  • Doctor Grumpy in the House
    The best doctor blog EVER!
  • In Which...
    My IRL friend, a stay-at-home, homeschooling Mama of seven. Her darling daughters are, goshdarnit, probably too young to be hoped for as my future daughters-in-law.
  • The Crib Chick
    My IRL friend, a stay-at-home, homeschooling Mama of five. Hopefully two (Any two! I'm not picky!) of which are my future daughters-in-law.
  • the underwear drawer
    An anesthesiologist who is possibly the most talented & entertaining writer ever. I've read her blog ever since she started medical school. No, don't know her in real life. Wish I did.
  • The Bloggess
    This blog is both hysterically funny and hilariously irreverent. I actually let my 17 year old son read it (who loves it as much as I do!), but wouldn't even CONSIDER letting my 12 year old son read it. Which is about all the description it needs!
The grounds of Chengdu monasteries can be very, very peaceful...even though they are smack dab in the heart of a city of millions of people.


Yes, there are Starbucks in Chengdu! All over the place, in fact. So much so, Starbucks even crafted mugs for Chengdu stores!
Texan bluebonnets. Because I learned during our very first posting (Houston) that there's nothing prettier in the spring than the meadows of Texas.
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Did you go to the one by Five Guys and Unique on Gallows Road...H Mart? Went with a friend last week for the first time and nearly lost my breakfast when I saw the poor turtles and frogs (and I'm not a vegan) and all the other little animals I wouldn't normally eat. Or if it wasn't that store, then...well...guess there are even more poor turtles out there waiting to be someone's dinner!

A Daring Adventure

Oh, Jen, YES. That was the store! The Great Wall Chinese grocery store on Gallows Road. Thought I was going to DIE.

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who thought that when they saw all those animals! Thank you so much for leaving this comment- it made me feel a lot better!

And while we were in the meat department, someone actually approached the meat counter and asked if they had cat or dog meat! Matthew heard that question, but couldn't hear the answer. I am SO hoping it was NO.

Bleah.... can't believe that place is allowed to sell animals like that... but it's normal and commonplace in China, from what I understand...

Becky Watt

I have a friend who grew up as an expat in Hong Kong/China. His little sister bought a "pet cat" (using the expat pointing and nodding skills while her parents were at a nearby stall). She was thrilled, and then the guy skinned it for her.

I think I started going vegetarian the first time I had octopus and liver soup. I'm about 90% vegetarian.

Good news for your stomach is that my all time fav restaurants in Asia were vegetarian or vegan (even when I ate meat). My favorite one in Taiwan is run by Buddhist monks. SO GOOD! You'll have great options if you love veggies. And the green markets are awesome.

And I agree, nothing like something like that to take the wind out of your sails, ugh. Good thing you are married to a great guy and it is much more likely that you'll have to worry about being fed frog (or chicken feet).


:) China is pretty exotic, and it sounds like you just got a little taste. My favorite part of your story is the older lady who got all up in your face and started telling you this stuff. I can't say that every Chinese woman is like that, but I can definitely guarantee you'll meet more ladies like that-- especially if you go outside when it's cold while not wearing enough clothing (hats, gloves, several layers of coats) to satisfy her opinions on how you should be dressed. ;)
But on the other hand, as a vegan you might appreciate this: Kevin and I went to a Buddhist monastery in Nanjing, and they had a restaurant on the property. It was the most amazing all-vegetarian food I've EVER eaten!!! Buddhist monks (and many practicing Buddhists) are strict vegetarians, and it is amazing what they have concocted using Tofu, rice protein, and other stuff. I recommend eventually visiting a monastery around Chengdu, and I hope they have a restaurant!


We heart Great Wall and H Mart on Gallows. They were regular stops while in Falls Church (2 more days). Ceiba and I actually love to look around the meat section and have the winky eyed Latin guys skin our fish. Hee hee. She likes the live animals, though probably not really totally aware they are not pets. Our visits to Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore had me over ready to see it all again. At least it smells better in the States and you don't see giant blowflies everywhere. Sorry.... not really helping, am I? You know I love ya :)

As for the pretty girls... no worries, he has one at home ;) Need you be reminded, look at the lovie dovies in the pic to your left. Wife human nature though, me too. You'll all have a great time! Thought of you today when we saw the pandas at the zoo. We may have to trek over to Chengdu while in the area... but no pretty girls.


I really love the visual of this lady giving you this advice.
The good news is you are going to fit in perfectly in Chengdu. Pretty lady coming to Chengdu, watch out.


I had to do a restaurant review once in Beijing, but when I looked at the menu and saw it was mostly fancy food like "bull penis" and "sea slug," I cheated. Couldn't order a thing.

Listen, despite the fact that the menus often have pictures of some of these delicacies, you'll be okay. Because the food that you can eat (the bean sprouts, the noodles, the green beans, the dumplings) is so good you will again find yourself hyperventilating. Only this time in a good way.

I got through three years without eating any of those nasty things. Heck, I didn't even try the duck!


Chelsea's comment reminded me of when I bought some white silk in Nanjing. The lady asked what I was going to do with it. Being an idiot, I told her I was going to have a dress made. At that point she freaked out and drafted two other old ladies to come talk me out of it. I explained that it was heavy silk, would be lined, etc. etc. But that didn't do any good. Panicking, and not able to explain myself any better (or understand what they were saying anymore), I hurriedly stammered that it was for a wedding dress mistakenly thinking that would solve the whole issue and maybe make sense to them since a regular dress didn't. (It wasn't true but I was desperate and had a pretty limited vocabulary.)

It did get them off my back long enough for them to go draft a bunch MORE little old ladies who all HIT THE ROOF at the idea of me wearing a white wedding dress. They were telling me about how I'd curse three generations of my children or curse myself with infertility or you name it. She finally sold me the silk when I agreed not to hold her accountable for all the bad luck I was going to have.

Afterward, I asked my teacher what the big deal was and he laughed like crazy before explaining the whole white=death in ancient China thing. Oops.
(This was ten years ago though. I hear white wedding dresses are okay now.)

On the upside, those same kind of old ladies used to chat with me every time I went running in both China and Taiwan. They also helped me figure out where to buy stuff, told me how to cook just about anything I bought from them in the markets, lectured me about what I should and shouldn't be eating during different times of the month/year (and yup how I should dress warmer), and fed me more than I could ever eat every Chinese New Year and Harvest Moon Festival. They'd probably even keep tabs on my teenagers if I asked em to (or even if I didn't). Hmm. I'll keep that in mind in about 8 years.

Though the white silk encounter kind of stressed and annoyed me at the time and made me laugh shortly afterward, now I have a lot of tender feelings about a bunch of Chinese grandmas who tried to save some American kid they didn't know from ruining her life with a white dress. I teared up a little realizing that most of the ones I knew are probably gone by now.

China will probably seem so different to you but a loving, friendly, giving person like you will do just fine. The culture shock will probably hit hard (way hard) but will pass eventually and you will find great friends. I can't wait to hear how things go for you.

PS I have to admit that I am amazed that she didn't realize what a PRETTY PRETTY woman you are. Must have had poor eyesight :)

Amy Pratt

Thanks...I just spit my much cherished raspberry crystal light out of my nose and that was the last mouthful until my mother gets off her butt and sends more :)
We have a vegetarian son now after our first outing in New Zealand to sheep country. Those baby lambs are just too cute. Now he refuses any kind of meat and gets teary eyed when his brother eats bacon. The Kiwis eat more meat than Ted Nugent and now I am chopping veggies and making loads of pizza. I am weirdly proud of him and have joined him in solidarity.


Live frogs and turtles are standard issue in all the local supermarkets in China. I used to get in trouble for photographing them. :) As for the dog, I don't think you're too likely to come across it unless you really go looking for it.

Sichuan girls are known across China for their beauty (or so the stereotype says), so I'm not surprised the old lady warned you of that. People say it is because of all the chilis they eat.

Donna, if you're reading this, I'm so surprised that you never had duck in Beijing! Not even mock duck at one of the Buddhist veg restaurants? I realize that no one is likely to take me up on this one - but I think duck neck is very delicious. Then again, I eat chicken feet (Hong Kong style). I blame my Ozarks-raised mother.

I really can't wait to read your impressions after your first supermarket visit in Chengdu! It is so overwhelming!


Somewhere out there is a random Chinese lady snickering to her friends about freaking out a random American lady in the sugary treats aisle!


I've never heard anything about the women throwing themselves at the men in China ... Thailand, absolutely! But not in China. In fact, if you read the Real Post Reports about Chiang Mai - people specifically state that the women there are aggressive ... so much so that if the men had any propensity to stray that these women would have NO problem with it...

I wouldn't worry your beautiful head off - as long as your husband looks but doesn't touch you'll be fine. *wink*


I'm so sorry you were freaked out, but this is SO funny!! You will definitely have some adventures in China, and that is the fun of it all!


Woah. Calm down crazy lady. First of all, Sichuan girls are like 4feet tall. And I bought my dog there and no one tried to eat him. But, I will admit that in the winter, when you walk through the market, some of that meat hanging there that looks like lamb is NOT. And, when you walk down the alley and think you are in a "pet market" you are probably NOT.

So, in short, Chendu here you come!


Great Wall is... um, great, but H-Mart is better, I think (mostly because it has kimchi made right in the store, a ton of Japanese stuff and all of the Chinese stuff you could want). It's like a huge, Asian-themed Wal-Mart.

As far as accidentally letting Fido get served up, I've heard the same story, and it's probably an urban legend. In the markets over there, they have certain dogs that are for for eating and right down the street, you'll find others that are intended to be pets. There's also a growing movement to ban eating dog entirely, but in areas where people have been chowing down on dogs for hundreds of years, I don't know how effective that's likely to be.


I can't stop laughing. You are too funny. Relax it will all be fine.

A Daring Adventure

Oh my gosh, you guys - such amazing, awesome comments! I don't know how in the world I've been blessed to have such incredibly witty/wise/funny/brilliant folks read this post and comment on it, but I'm so grateful!

@Diplogeek - We haven't tried H-Mart, but that may very well be our next specialty store stop! And I very, very much hope that the story I heard was an urban legend, however, a few things: 1.) I was told this story by an International missionary who had been in China for a while, 2.) I believe she personally knew the adoptive family to whom it occurred, and 3.) The story did not include the dog actually being served to them.

They realize, a long time after ordering the meal, that it was taking longer than they expected... they asked about the long wait... they were told something to the effect of, "Well, it takes a long time to take the live dog and make it into the meal," and then they left the restaurant, shocked, but not knowing what else to do. This did not take place in Chengdu, but I cannot recall which city in China it was supposed to have occurred in... but it was recent (in the last couple of years).

But I would be the first one to be thrilled to learn that it was an urban legend.

@ Angus!! So glad to see you!! :) And yes, you have me pegged- I am a truly crazy lady. Also, even just *thinking* about those markets freak me totally out!

@ Jill - See? This is why I love getting to know tons of different State people... I keep coming up with new and interesting posts to take OFF the potential bid list!! (Kidding!)

@ Connie- O that that were true. But, honestly... she meant it! But that was a cute comment!

@ Heather- Well! It's time for me to start eating lots of chilis!

@ Amy Pratt- Can't thank you enough for leaving your comment - I have a dear friend whose husband just got paneled to your post!! They won't be there for another year or so, I think, but I sent her your link and she's thrilled to be able to read about her future new home!

@ Becky - LOVED the story about the white material! That was awesome! And I love hearing that, in retrospect, you're wistful for your time there. That's sooooo nice to hear!

@ Donna - Bull penis? Merciful heavens...

And I'm sooo glad to hear that you got by in Beijing for three years without eating anything too strange. That makes me really happy!

And about the duck- when Matthew and I were at the Chinese grocery store, they also had a rotisserie section of ready-roasted meat--- and there were quite a few whole roasted ducks there, with faces and all! It reminded me of that scene from the movie A Christmas Story... "It's SMILING at me..."

@ Emily... You're too sweet (and witty)! But you're also biased!

@ Denise... GIANT BLOWFLIES!?!?!? Girl.

And yes, I know you love me-- love you too, and lots and lots of luck today and tomorrow. Our whole family is thinking of you as you fly off to your very first overseas post!!! I hope Dhaka is all manner of wonderful and amazing.

@ Chelsea- Oh my HEAVENS, you mean there are MORE of them out there?!?! (Kidding!) And they won't have any problem with how many layers I wear in the winter. Heck, I wear tons of layers in the summer! But I'm always cold...

@ Becky- the cat story was horrifying. WOW. And Becky and Chelsea- thanks again for the Buddhist monk eatery suggestions!

Oh yes, everyone... it will be an adventure!

sassandsweet - rachel

That was amazing.. and I laughed a lot while reading. .thanks for sharing the great story. :)


Love that story! Love that your son knew you'd blog about it. China is a different world so you will be getting a new perspective soon. Maybe this woman knew just how different your life in China will be. Although the subject matter she focused on is silly but like you, I don't want to hear about it!!!

Gayle Hawley

It is most definitely an urban legend. As an adoptive parent from China and one who has lived in Beijing for a very long time, I would say there isn't an agency on the planet who would have allowed a pet to be brought along for an adoption trip. Also, pet import for tourists isn't allowed in the PRC and never has been in the timeframe possible (since adoptions began). Third, even if there is a kernel of truth (it happened one time somewhere), it has been re-told in such a variety of scenarios that it has lost all plausibility. All of that aside, China today is one of the single most pet-crazy places on the planet. Now that people have more discretionary income and can afford to have a non-producing mouth at home, they lavish SO much love on their dogs / cats. You will see animals for sale, but any pets you have/see will be safe and well-cared-for but pampered beyond belief.


Totally cracking up throughout this whole story.

The little asian store across from my house? Much more friendly to weak stomachs like ours. I mean, it has a strong, overwhelming seafood smell, but no live animals. I believe it is run by Vietnamese people, but lots of stuff looks labeled in Chinese.

And I've had weird anxiety attacks, triggered by odd things. . . *hug* Transitions are. . . interesting. . .

Judie Pruett

Funny, funny, funny! You will have many more food adventures to come.


On dogs for dinner in Chengdu: never eaten as far as we can tell. What you are far more likely to see is that grandma's favorite poodle gets his own chair to sit on in the restaurant even when there are hoards of people waiting for a seat. Luxury pets are BIG here.

On pretty girls: you have nothing to worry about for so many reasons :) It's a point of Chengdu pride to brag about it's pretty girls but much of it is attributed to their pale skin-because the sun never shines here :)

Don't know if we'll still be here when you arrive but good luck getting ready, you will have a great time in Chengdu!

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James loves me. And our sons. And his job. But not having his picture taken. In 2011 he finished up over a year and half of training, and in the fall of 2011 we got to our first overseas post - Chengdu, China!
Mao says hi! Because Chengdu is one of the only cities in China with a Mao statue.
Flowers are like friends. Each one is unique. Each one is beautiful. They brighten up everything around them. And you can never have too many. 

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2012 is the Year of the Dragon, y'all! Talk about the ultimate in good luck! This kinda party only comes around once every twelve years!
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Colorful! (Inside a Chengdu ancient Buddhist monastery.)
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