In the weeks leading up to our visit to Canada, Ross and I would say to each other, we must remember to pick up this or that item to take back to China with us. There are some food items that are impossible to find in our corner of Shandong province. For example, sweet pickle relish, Kraft dinner, bread that isn't slightly sweet, sour cream and for some reason, chicken livers. It's easier to find Western food in Beijing, I'm told, which isn't surprising. And probably the international food choices are improving every year because of domestic interest on the part of the growing Chinese middle-class. They're starting to buy more ice cream and frozen pizza and small thin frozen boneless steaks that are marketed to them as being the acme of European sophistication.
But I actually brought tea back with me to China. Like coals to Newcastle. Or ice to Alaska. Yes, there is lots of tea here, many varieties of green and black tea and delicious fragrant tea like jasmine tea and tea blends that promise to lower your blood pressure or help you lose weight. Some stores even carry a selection of Western brands of tea. But I haven't found decaffeinated black tea. So, even though it feels a little silly, I brought decaffeinated orange pekoe and Earl Grey back with me.
And despite the fact that paper goods are heavy and weigh down a suitcase really quickly, I brought back file folders. In my part of China at least, people don't use file folders to organize their papers. I don't know how they manage without them. I hope having some file folders makes me feel -- no, makes me actually be -- more organized this semester. Standard letter-size paper is slightly narrower and longer in China than our paper, but the file folders will still work.
And what to bring back as gifts to Chinese friends and colleagues? Aye, there's the rub. Canadian souvenirs of Mountie figurines and little totem poles, are ALL made in China, as we know. Besides, they're kind of useless. I bought some "Roots" t-shirts and it turns out they're also made in China. Maple syrup is heavy and the Chinese do not eat pancakes for breakfast. (They eat little pancakes with Peking Duck, but that's a different kind of pancake, more like a crepe). Maple candy, in my opinion, is pointless. Maple flavored tea? Yuck. Haida-inspired art might be of interest to some. Sandstone Inuit carvings would be nice but I didn't find a shop that sold them in my short visit. And let's face it, that would set me back a lot more than a plastic Mountie figurine. Packages of smoked salmon are okay, but bit of a rip off.
I got books for everyone's children, because my Chinese friends and colleagues all want their children to learn and practice their English. There are some English books for children here, but I never have seen Dr. Seuss. Look for English books in the bookstores around here and you'll find Sherlock Holmes and Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Alice in Wonderland. In other words, novels with expired copyrights. Victorian-era novels are pretty daunting for a student of English to tackle and will teach them nothing about modern conversational English.
Yes, books are heavy to haul in the suitcase but I feel better about introducing Hop on Pop and Katy and the Big Snow to my favorite Chinese children than bringing them maple candy.
And I like jade but I'm really confused -- should I take Chinese jade jewelry to Canada or Canadian jade jewelry to China? Someone told me that China is out of jade and their jewelry is now made with BC jade -- one jade mine sends 100 tons of jade to China every year.