Thai Wonton Soup

The fountain of eternal youth might be a myth; however, in Thailand people look young, strong, healthy, happy, and it’s contagious!! 🙂

thai-woman

Thai woman

There’s so much to do in Bangkok, and I’d like to tell you everything about it. But I just learned a very healthy, easy, low-calorie recipe that you can make in less than 30 minutes and it’s delicious!

Ingredients

  • Ground meat (pork, beef, or chicken)
  • Oyster sauce
  • Wonton Sheets
  • Morning glory or water spinach
  • White radish
  • Chinese cabbage or pak choi
  • Roasted garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped green onions

The Vegetables

  • Chop the Chinese cabbage and  morning glory about 1-2 inch long
  • Slice the white radish and boil it (keep the water hot)
  • Boil the morning glory and the Chinese cabbage in another pan for a few minutes
  • Rinse with cold water for the vegetables to keep their bright green color
  • Set aside

Homemade Wontonswp-1484901251790.jpg

  • Marinate the ground meat with oyster sauce and pepper
  • Take a wonton sheet and put a teaspoon of the marinated meat inside it
  • Fold it in a small triangle then bring the other two edges together
  • Press with your fingers to seal
  • Make as many as you (and your guests) might eat
  • Boil them for a few minutes

The Wanton Soup

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    My breakfast: Wonton soup and coffee 😉

    In a deep dish put the wantons and vegetables, add roasted garlic and chopped green onions

  • Pour the white radish water including some sliced radish in it
  • Add salt and pepper to taste
  • Repeat this procedure for every plate
  • Enjoy at breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

 

 

 

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Special thanks to Ampai Chukhiaw (a.k.a. Ms. Nang)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hui Piao (Or Personal Check)

One of my coworkers heard about my frustration when transferring money to America, so he suggested to ask for a hui piao at the bank. This is basically a personal check for any amount of money that you can either send to America for a friend or relative to deposit for you, or to deposit yourself by taking a picture with your bank app. No fee for this service.

I was hopeful again, went to the bank and asked for a hui piao.

“How much money do you need?”

“1,000 dollars.”

“You can only buy 500.”

“But I need a hui piao. It’s different.”

“Do you have your tax certificate?”

“No. Here is my debit card and my passport.”

“For the hui piao you need bank card, passport, contract, tax certificate, and expert certificate.”

I go back to school to ask the coordinator for the tax certificate. She says the school can’t provide it, but we could go together to the tax office and ask for it ourselves.

“Do you have your passport with you?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s go!”

Tax Office

It is raining. We arrive at the tax building, but the gate doesn’t open. The coordinator gets out of the car, pushes all the buttons, but the gate doesn’t move. She asks a passerby and he indicates to go around.

Once inside, the coordinator shows them my passport and asks for my tax certificate. The woman shakes her head, “Méiyou” (don’t have). Other employers come, all speaking at the same time, repeating méiyou everytime they look at my passport and back at the computer screen. Another woman comes, she seems to have more authority than the rest. She speaks with the coordinator, “Blah, blah, blah, méiyou.” The coordinator tells me they cannot give me the tax certificate because they only give those before August. “But I’ve been in this country for three months, I have the right to ask for this document!” They send us to customer service. The man there does the same thing. Checks my passport, looks at the screen, “Méiyou.” However, he gives the coordinator a website where she can print my tax certificate from her computer.

Back at School

The coordinator gets excited. She says that from now on she can print as many tax certificates as she wants thanks to that website. This employee shouldn’t have given her the website information but seeing the desperation on my face he felt a little bit of compassion. She also says that having the tax certificate gives me the advantage of being able to buy as many dollars as I need to at once. She prints the tax certificate and I go to the bank at 4:00.

The Bank

“I’m here for a hui piao

“You mean you want a check from the bank?”

“Yes.”

“Sorry, this bank is small. Hui piao is in the big bank.”

Breathe…

“And where is the big branch?”

She leaves and comes back with paper and a pen. “You can take the bus number… get off here… take bus number…”

“I’m not going to take the bus, I need the address so I can take a taxi.”

She writes the address in Chinese characters, I leave, then I hear, “Miss! Miss!!!!”

The lady says, “The big bank they close at 4:30, you have go tomorrow.”

The Big Branch

The next morning, I take a taxi that arrives at the Bank of China 45 minutes later. It’s beautiful, big, clean, and shiny. I take my number, fill out the hui piao form, and wait.

“You don’t have 1,000 dollars.” My heart drops.

“Of course I have more than 1,000 dollars!”

“I mean, you can’t buy 1,000, only 500.”

“I was told at work that if I asked for the hui piao I could buy 1,000 or more.”

“But you need other documents.”
“I have all the documents.”

I handle the passport, expert certificate, contract, and tax certificate.

“This tax certificate no good.”

“My boss printed this for me at school.”

“It doesn’t have the government seal.”

“No, because my boss printed it at the office!”

“And you need other document. We need see proof of salary.”

“Here is my contract, my salary is there.”

“Yes, but you need timetable, your money for every month.”

My voice breaks.

“I went to the other bank, this one is very far from where I live, they told me this is what I need, they never mentioned a timetable, the tax office didn’t give me this document because they only provide these before August, that’s why my boss had to print it at the office, I’ve been trying to do this for a long time, my contract says how much I earn every month, I don’t understand why I need something else, please…”

The teller turns to talk to her colleagues, there’s shouting, she nods (yes!), then she shakes her head (oh boy).

“Please, don’t worry. The manager come talk to you.”

A woman comes with a list of documents I need for the hui piao. I want to take it and put it in my pocketbook, but she says to take a picture. The only thing I could do that day was to buy $500 and put them in my Chinese account.

The Other Bank

I attended a birthday party that weekend and during the taxi ride I told my friends about my bank issues. One of them tells me I shouldn’t be doing so much and offers to take me to the bank she always goes to, where she’s been able to send much more than $1,000 at once.

Since I already bought $500, I just want to buy the other $500 and send the $1,000 home.  Forget about the hui piao, with all that has happened I might not be able to make a deposit with my bank’s app.

That Sunday, I climb on my friend’s e-bike. The wait at the bank is at least one hour according to my number. We go shopping and come back, but the numbers haven’t moved much. They tell us about a new branch, since almost no one knows about it there’s the possibility it’s almost empty.wp-image-1527885523jpg.jpg

They were right. The bank is almost empty, but when it’s my turn they all start asking questions among each other, I hear the word méiyou and I start to wonder what now. They tell me to wait a minute, then ask me if I had another passport. One teller says they can’t find me in the system, we wait for about 30 minutes, another teller tells me there are two passport numbers in my account. My friend tells them it might be because another person opened the account for me. They tell me to come back the next day and I refuse. If they can’t find me or there’s another passport number it isn’t my problem, I am there to buy dollars and make a transfer, period. They keep working in the system.  A couple of hours pass by. I feel sorry that my friend has to wait for so long, plus it’s Sunday and I’m supposed to be at church.

The Documents

In the meantime, my friend asks them which documents I would need to transfer X amount of money at once. As she asks, she shows them and me the papers she has always brought to do her own transfers. I ask them if I can use the tax certificate the coordinator printed, and when they say that’s okay I think I might try to do this $1,000 transfer thing one more time.

After all the wait they say they fixed the problem and I am able to transfer the money to my American bank, but as soon as we leave the bank I break down. I’m a nervous wreck. The waiting, the banks, the mistakes, the coordinator, the tax certificate, the méiyou’s… I am exhausted!

The Transfer

A month later, having desisted from getting a hui piao, I ask the coordinator for the school’s letter and go to the bank determined to transfer $1,000 at once! The new bank is empty, I sit in front of the teller.

“I need to buy $1,000 and wire them to America.” The teller calls another employee. They both revise my papers. Lots of conversation. Lots of typing. Lots of “Sign here, please” and “Enter your password.” An hour later the transfer is finished! My e-bike friend has arrived a few minutes after me and makes her transfer much faster, but she waits for me to grab lunch together and gives me a ride home.

It only took me four months to get the right documents and the right bank (the banks here have different polices even if they belong to the same branch). And from now on I’ll only need to go to the bank once a month to send myself money to the United States! Yeah China! 🙂

Chinese Fireworks

It was about 9:00 a.m. the first time I heard the bang, kaboom, crackle, and whistle. I was in a classroom and the first boom made me jump a little. My students chuckled. I was puzzled. “What is that? Is somebody shooting?” I asked nervously. My students laughed louder. “No! Those are fireworks!”

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Taken from the web

“Fireworks?” I ran to the window hoping to see the bright lights in the sky, but it was the morning, plus a big cloud of pollution was covering everything. We kept hearing the loud noises outside. “It sounds so close… that’s dangerous. And why are they lighting fireworks so early… no one can see them!” My students continued having fun with my observations. Fireworks in the morning… even for China this has to be a bit odd. “It’s a wedding!” One of my pupils yelled. “A wedding? Really! With fireworks? How romantic!” I rushed to the window again. My students were more delighted than if I were a puppy. “They bought a house!” Another one shouted. “A wedding and a house? Wow… this has to be the best day ever for that couple!” My students found my words amusing. I paused. chinese_fireworks“How do you know there’s a wedding and that they bought a house? Do you know them?” My comments cracked my students up, meanwhile I didn’t understand why my inquires sounded so funny to them.

The same day I heard the fireworks around 3:00 o’clock. I didn’t ask why, but looked out the window with the same hope as in the morning… and again saw nothing. I remembered my beloved North Carolina and all the 4th of July celebrations I attended there. Waiting till dark to see the fireworks was the best part! Hearing the fireworks now made my heart leap with joy. Whatever ceremony or festivity they were having I wanted to be part of it, even from a distance. The kaboom, and the crackle, and the whistle continued, I could only imagine how beautiful those colors decorated the sky for my eyes couldn’t reach them.

I heard them again one night when I was resting in my apartment. I grinned as I levitated towards the window and opened the curtains. Bang, pop, whoosh, crack, badaboom. All these noises filled me with a nostalgic joy… but I saw nothing. I stuck my head out of the window, opened my door, looked at the sky from the hall, I even went outside as if I was hunting a ghost… Nothing. I blamed the tall buildings that surround my school; then I thought about the pollution. It was possible that I couldn’t see the fireworks for the same reason I couldn’t see the stars.

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Chinese New Year 2014 (from the web)

I came in, disappointed that one of my favorite things to see had become a distant, sometimes scarily close uproar. I continued hearing fireworks in the morning, in the afternoon, on weekdays, and weekends; nevertheless, I didn’t ask more questions, until one Saturday morning I was sleeping and the badaboom startled me. I sat bolt upright. My heart beating fast for a minute.

I asked the department coordinator and she said it was because they were celebrating, moving to a new house, or something. Weeks later a friend clarified this for me. “The fireworks are to scare the evil spirits, the same way as when they hawk and spit on the floor, they are expelling the evil spirits from their bodies.”

They light fireworks so the noise scares the evil spirits. They whoosh away the bad luck and the demons when they buy a house, when they get married, when they start a new business, when they graduate, when they have a birthday… The list is interminable. But in this case I have to agree with my Filipino friend who once said jokingly, “The Chinese make it so noisy outside the evil spirits fly back inside the house!”

It’s an interesting tradition though, and they make it happen even when it’s raining, seriously!

Light the fireworks in your heart…

Xīnnián kuàilè 2017 dear friends!! ^_^

When You Lose Your Debit Card In China

I was feeling blue. The end of the year caught me almost off guard. I woke up crying and hadn’t eaten much. It was December 31st, and my mind was divided between the USA and Colombia… I couldn’t focus on any task as simple as this would appear.

I needed cash for a taxi because I was going to attend an end-of-year party at Shangri-La Hotel that night, so a little bit against my own body I took a bus to the mall. Traffic was awful. Even though the Chinese New Year date is different from the Western New Year, everybody was out and about making the streets and transportation more crowded than usual.

I inserted the card in the ATM, took the cash and left. I completely forgot to take the card back from the slot. I noticed later, when I was almost ready to leave my apartment…

The Bank

January first was Sunday and a holiday so I decided not to go anywhere. On Monday the second I stood at the bus stop for quiet a while. Buses were scarce and packed. Luckily the bank was almost empty.

“Passport please.” The teller looks at me not knowing how to ask, so I tell her, “I lost my debit card.”

“Do you remember your card number?”

“No.” She calls another teller who understands English a little better. She becomes my interpreter.

“Do you want the same card number or it’s okay to have another number?”

“It doesn’t matter. Any card, I just need a card.” As soon as I said this I remembered I’m in China!, and nothing is that simple. “Wait! Does it matter if you give me a different card number?”

“Mmm, maybe, if you have another number your salary will be late or they can’t pay you.”

“But my account number would still be the same (again, Kurma, you’re in China)… Yes, give me the same number, please!”

The teller makes copies of my passport while I fill out the “lost card” form. Then I remember, for some reason I had taken a picture of my debit card (Yes!) so I show it to her. She types the number, gives me a bunch of forms to sign, and asks me to enter my password.

“Huh… You have to pay 10 yuan.”

I’m getting ready to give her the money, when she interrupts me, “Sorry, sorry, it’s 20 yuan.”

“Okay, here you are.”

“Your card will be here in 7 business days. Come to this bank with your passport and this form.”

Wow. They’ll pay me the 10th, my card will be ready on Wednesday the 11th, and I’m leaving to Thailand the 13th… Oh God, please, make everything go smoothly this time.

“Thank you. Can I withdraw some money now?”
“No, you need your card to take money out of bank.”
“What? But I’m here, this is my passport, I gave you my card number, I need some money now.”

“Sorry, you only can take out money with your card. Wait 7 business days.”

Oh boy, almost two weeks without access to my money in China. I’m still able to use my American credit card, but then to transfer money there is a hassle.

Happy New Year to me… 😡 😦