How to Deal With Traveler’s Diarrhea in Beijing

upset-stomach-beijingHopefully this subject won’t be too uncomfortable of a read, but traveler’s diarrhea (拉肚子la1du4zi0) is a real issue that many of our students at 1on1Mandarin have experienced on arrival to China, and it even affects permanent expat residents in China every now and then- though perhaps you might want to save this read for a time when you’re not eating or snacking on something.

Traveler’s diarrhea is usually caused by eating unclean food or water, though normal diarrhea can also be caused by anxiety, stress, allergies, fatigue, and changes in diet- all of which are things that a new visitor to Beijing will encounter as they adjust to this densely populated city, and experience the culture shock of adjusting.

Symptoms:

The symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea are four to five loose or watery stools per day, though vomiting can also be a symptom. Traveler’s diarrhea usually lasts 3 or 4 days, and only a few cases does it last longer; in some rare cases, it can last more than 3 months.

Treatment:

pepto-bismolTwo of the popular drugs that many travelers take are bismuth subsalicylate (which is found in Pepto-Bismol), and Imodium. Taking Pepto-Bismol tablets before travel, and during travel, can help to prevent many cases of diarrhea, though some travelers like to carry the liquid form with them and take a dose before a meal (I would recommend that you read the CDC site for Traveler’s Diarrhea on recommended usage though). Imodium can also be taken to provide quick relief by reducing the muscle spasms in the gastrointestinal tract.

Unfortunately, Pepto-Bismol is not easy to come by in Beijing, and is only sold by some of the international clinics and hospitals in the city. Imodium, however, is more commonly found among the pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals. It’s best to prepare well, and bring some from your home country before arriving in Beijing, to avoid having to search around the city when you need it the most.

If you’re really having trouble finding these drugs in the city, you may find some willing and helpful incoming expats on the forums thebeijinger and Chinese-forums.com that are may offer a helping hand to bring some extra in with them, provided you pay them back, of course.

Finally, don’t forget to rehydrate if you’re experiencing traveler’s diarrhea. Dehydration is very common result of the fluid loss, and a useful recipe for fluid replacement is:

Two glasses of fluid: the first glass containing 8 oz. of fruit juice, 1/2 tsp. of honey or corn syrup, and a pinch of salt, and the second glass filled with 8 oz. of purified or carbonated water and 1/4 tsp. of baking soda, and the traveler should drink alternately from each glass until their thirst is quenched.

For additional reading on traveler’s diarrhea:

Wikipedia: Traveler’s Diarrhea

Center for Disease Control: Traveler’s Diarrhea

University of Maryland- Medical Center: Traveler’s Diarrhea

Do you have any tips or advice? Let us know in the comments!

Learn Chinese cooking terms

complete

Francisco was planning to cook a great meal for his Chinese friends in his apartment. They arrived early to help him cook. He wanted to have Bavarian stir-fried vegetables with Russian borscht, which his friends had absolutely no experience with. So, he had to give them directions, but oh, no! When he wanted to ask someone to use the spatula to stir the vegetables, or to use the ladle to serve the soup, all he could say was “把那个。。。那个东西。。。那个,快点拿那个把它那个那个,快!”(bǎ nà gè 。。。nà gè dōng xī 。。。nà gè ,kuài diǎn ná nà gè bǎ tā nà gè nà gè ,kuài!) His poor friends didn’t know which kitchen utensil he wanted. It was like that all night.

So, they ordered KFC. Hope this post will help you avoid those situations.

In Chinese, 勺 (sháo) refers to spoon or a round utensil for eating/cooking, but can also refer to something that does what a spatula does – stirring or turning over food in a wok – 锅 (guō). 锅 (guō) is the generic name for most pots, but if you’re looking for a specific utensil or pot, see below. Cookware in general is called 烹调用具 (pēng diào yòng jù).

铲子 or 锅铲

炒勺汤勺饭勺 漏勺 or 笊篱 平低锅 汤锅 汤锅2

Traditional Chinese New Year Foods

Traditional Chinese New Year Foods

Besides a time for vacation, sales, and a much less populated/much more comfortable Beijing, Chinese New Year 春节 is also a time for FOOD! If you have (good) local friends, look forward to feasts with their families that may include
Chicken, duck, fish – traditionally eaten at celebrations because in the old days, meat was very expensive and only eat on special occasions. Northerners like to stew the meat, while southerners like to
In the Chinese lunar calendar, during the first day of the new year, called 初一,(beginning-one, i.e. the first day of the first month of the lunar year) (around February 14 this year) dumplings are eaten. By contrast, during February , 初二, noodles are eaten (at least in Beijing). The good news is on 初五 dumplings are eaten again. Personally, I have a tradition where I eat dumplings on the days that end with “y”. I think it’s a good tradition. 正月十五 on the 15th day of the first month of the year, Chinese eat元宵yuanxiao round glutinous rice dumplings. The sweet variety is more common and have hawberries, black sesame, red bean, peanut, dried fruit, sugar as filling. Some also eat salty yuanxiao, filled with meat.
If remembering what to eat on what days is too confusing, just eat whatever your local friend’s family gives you on that day. Alternatively, you can click here http://www.webexhibits.org/calendars/calendar-chinese.html to get a basic understanding of the Chinese lunar calendar. Click here http://www.mandarintools.com/calendar.html for a Western calendar to Chinese calendar converter.
年年高升 年糕 Northerners eat steamed or fried (golden brown, like gold, so you can get rich or die trying. Many people like it better fried because it gets chewier) glutinous rice cakes shaped like fish. 超市发 Some are made with corn flour with dates.

Besides a time for vacations, big sales and a much less populated/much more comfortable Beijing, Chinese New Year 春节 (chūn jié) is also a time for FOOD! Chinese New Year food is referred to as 过年饭菜 (guònián fàncài). If you have (good) local friends, look forward to feasts with their families that may include:

Fish & Chicken

 

Chicken, duck, and fish – traditionally eaten at celebrations because in the old days, meat was very expensive and only eat on special occasions. Expect a lot of delicious stewed meat if you’re in the north.

Life-stages of a dumpling

The first day of the new lunar year is called 初一 (chūyī, lit. beginning-one, i.e. the first day of the first month of the lunar year. This year, it’s  February 14) and it is traditionally a day for eating dumplings 餃子 (jiǎo zi).

On 初二 (chū èr), noodles are eaten (at least in Beijing). The good news is on 初五 (chū wǔ), 餃子 (jiǎo zi) are eaten again. Personally, I have a tradition where I eat 餃子 (jiǎo zi) on the days in the week that end with “y”. It is, without a doubt, a fantastic tradition. 餃子 (jiǎo zi) are filled with combinations of different types of ground meat, vegetables, tofu, egg, and even bean thread noodles. You can dip them in vinegar, soy sauce, or both, and each family prepares the dipping sauce differently. 餃子 (jiǎo zi) can be boiled, steamed, or fried.

yuan xiao

正月十五 (zhēng yuè shíwǔ) on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar year, Chinese eat glutinous rice dumplings 元宵 (yuánxiāo). They are made with rice flour and are usually white and round. Sweet 元宵 (yuánxiāo) is more common and have hawberry, black sesame, red bean, peanut, dried fruit, or sugar as filling. Some also eat salty 元宵 (yuánxiāo) which are filled with meat. If remembering what to eat on what days is too confusing, just make friends with a local and eat whatever your local friend’s family gives you on that day. Alternatively, you can click here to get a basic understanding of the Chinese lunar calendar. Or check out mandarintools.com for a Western-to-Chinese calendar converter.

祝你们春节快乐,年年高升!
(zhùnǐmen chūnjié kuàilè, niánnián gāo shēng)
We wish you a happy Spring Festival, and may each and every year get better and better!

Do you have a street food stomach?

So we’ve talked about different types of delicious street food. It’s always good to ask “is satisfying my craving worth the possible toilet time later?” I always think about if I can afford the time. So, keep in mind the following considerations when eating street food, though. Personally, I would say eating less street food is better. Is your stomach strong enough?

Outdoor vendors sometimes make street food in advance and leave them out. No one knows how long it’s been sitting there and collecting dust and dirt stirred up by cars or the wind. Taking this into consideration, it may be safer to eat street food that’s offered indoors.

tianjinguozi1

煎饼 jiān bǐng

You can get 糖葫芦 (táng hú lú) or candied fruit skewers,  inside many supermarkets, although not all street food is offered indoors. Still, many supermarket delis offer cold/hot noodles, noodle soup, chinese crepes (煎饼jiān bǐng), and Chinese pork sandwiches, or 肉夹馍 (ròu jiá mó).

肉夹馍 ròu jiá mó

肉夹馍 ròu jiá mó

In the summertime,beware of eating meat (i.e. chuàn’r) as high temperatures can provide a suitable environment for bacteria to grow. Although the raw meat/organs for chuan’r are cooked over a fire, usually they aren’t refrigerated beforehand.

Are you more “better safe than sorry” or more “my iron stomach can take on anything”? Let us know in the comments.

Autumn snacks #2

In the last post, I mentioned roasted sweet potatoes and candied fruit skewers sold on the street. Let’s take a look at them in more detail.

Yam? Sweet Potato?

sweet-potato

It’s hard to tell the difference between yams sweet potatoes. Specifically, yams are supposed to have a drier, starchier texture (more info: Library of Congress). In China, it seems like everyone has a different name for each. Anyway, when you go on the street and the sweet aroma of sweet potatoes roasting drifts toward you, just ask for a roasted sweet potato: 烤红薯 kǎo hóng shǔ.

Sugar and fruit on a stick:

糖葫芦 táng hú lú

tang-hu-lu

A step up from caramel apples, these skewers of candied fruit have kiwi, orange slices, strawberries, and haw fruit, and sometimes they’re dipped in nuts or raisins after they’re dipped in boiled sugar. When the sugar dries and hardens, you have an extremely sweet treat. Haw fruit (山楂 shān zhā) (also called Chinese haw or haw berries) is the small, round, red fruit that sometimes take up a whole skewer. It’s slightly bitter and sour. You can get haw berry flakes, haw berry juice drinks, and haw berry roll-ups at the local supermarket.

shan-zhaNext time when we wrap up, we’ll have a few more foods plus a few things to be careful of when eating street snacks (街头小吃 jiē tóu xiǎo chī).

Autumn snacks #1

One of my favorite things about autumn is the food. Not only do we have mooncakes 月(yuè)饼(bǐng), but roasted sweet potatoes 烤(kǎo)地(dì)瓜(guā), roasted chestnuts 栗(lì)子(zi), and candied fruit skewers 糖(táng)葫(hú)芦(lu) appear on the street.

But one of the best things that appear is the fruit – especially dates 冬(dōng)枣(zǎo). Small and green in color with patches of red/brown, they have the crunch and consistency of apples but a different taste. You can wash them easily and take them with you easily as snacks. Watch out for the hard seeds in the middle, though! And if it’s entirely red/brown with no trace of green, and it tastes sour, it’s probably gone bad. Throw it away.

By the way, don’t forget to wash your fruit at least twice (three rinses if you can manage it). Soak once with vinegar and water for 10 minutes, once with salt and warm water for 10 minutes, then rinse with cold water. If not, then one soak with salt and vinegar, then one rinse.

What are your favorite autumn foods? Let us know in the comments.