Water: I never thought I’d spend so much time each day thinking about drinking water. But I am, I am consumed both by water that I drink (it’s often lukewarm and gross) and water that I don’t drink (8 glasses a day? that’s not gonna happen). In China, water is served in small glasses and even then rarely, or not at all. I’ve gone dizzy for days because I forget to buy four-liter jugs of water from the supermarket next door and I cannot stand the metallic taste of the tap water at home. I’ve tasted water in restaurants (always a crapshoot!) and regretted it five minutes later, feeling the beginnings of that churning feeling in my stomach. I’ve felt a little queasy when I’ve brushed my teeth or when I’ve rubbed lotion into my chapped hands after showering. Every day, I actively have to force myself to think about water. This is not something I’ve ever done before. Even in rural Russia, where things like plumbing are scarce, the water can be boiled (although it still tastes like calcium) and a pot of tea is always on the table.
Tequila: Well, this can stand for any liquor, really. It’s taken me two Saturdays of waking up (to go to work!) with a pounding headache to realize there is something deeply messed up with the alcohol in Shanghai. And yes, because I am a western girl, alcohol is a lot more free-flowing than it would be otherwise, but as I am quickly starting to realize, the alcohol in China is often fake, distilled in the back of bars from God-knows-what (rat poison? tap water? rice?). Even places with a decent cocktail menu (like the 1950s-themed US bar Hepcat or Wooden Paradise in the French Concession) can’t seem to make a decent drink. I don’t know whether it’s about layering or about using the equivalent of gutter oil in alcohol, but I’ve yet to have a decent cocktail in China. We were brought a pitcher of margaritas on Monday that was just half a bottle of tequila and a squeeze of one sad, single lime. It has been painful. And yes, beer is so cheap here ($3 for a six pack!), but Chinese beer is also 3% alcohol by volume.
Yogurt: It says it’s yogurt but something that sweet can’t actually be healthy for you. I used to think that yogurt came from milk, that it was sour and thick and that I ate it with a spoon. Now, yogurt is sweet, out of a bottle, tinged a slight yellow shade, and if I tried to eat it with a spoon, I would be laughed at by all of Jingan. In theory, yogurt is supposed to help with all of the (nicely put) intestinal issues I’ve been having in China, but I somehow doubt that drinking this sugar water is helping me with anything.
Milk: They say you can’t trust a lot of things in China. Well, whoever they are, I think milk that I can buy now, whose expiration date is in November is one of those things. I’ve found that when I drink milk in other countries, none of my symptoms of lactose intolerance show. I don’t know whether it’s the lack of (or the addition of) weird chemicals, but aside from the dangerously high expiration milk (I’ve managed to find something that says it’s organic, but I somehow doubt that), the milk here hasn’t been making my stomach hurt at all