um… no!

(co-written by Anouk)

I have been vegetarian for most of my life. My parents tell a story about me gagging in the meat department of a fancy grocery store when I was just 6 months old. I don’t know if the story is true, but for most of my remembering years, I’ve been a vegetarian.

But being vegetarian in Beijing Is. Not. Easy!

Most foods, especially those that are packed in small bits of deliciously fried or steamed dough (read: dumplings) look rather scrumptious. But even a discerning palate like my mom’s cannot often guarantee that the minced up food inside is meat-free. So I usually have to take a hard pass!

And many “vegetarian friendly” foods in local restaurants have chicken, fish, fish sauce, or mystery ingredients that I can not be sure are vegetarian.

Additionally, I’m what my mom calls, “a lousy vegetarian” because I don’t like tofu and mushrooms–two foods that are in many Chinese dishes that ARE vegetarian.

So what is a lousy vegetarian to do?

Here are my top tips for eating vegetarian food in Beijing:

  1. Eat out with a friend who speaks the language.
  2. Learn how to say, “Is there meat/fish/chicken/pork/beef/lamb/etc.” in this?
  3. Always keep snacks on hand. If you’re going out, be sure to be loaded up with healthy-ish food that IS vegetarian because you never know what you’re gonna get.

    Quick anecdote: During the New Teacher/Family Orientation Weeks there were MANY dinners out. On a number of occasions, my meal consisted of roasted potatoes and/or white rice with a HUGE helping of dessert. There were some beautiful looking vegetable dishes that were laden with chicken or mushrooms. Um… no!

  4.  Check the menu first. With the internet at your fingertips, you can often check the menu before you decide where to go. And with WeChat’s translation services, you can figure out what most food is. (Except for my mom’s cappuccino the other day. WeChat translated it to: Cow Curry Morphine. Which I guess it kind of is– milk. Hot. Caffeine.)


Anyway, here is some fascinating food we’ve found here in China:

by Anouk and blogSignOff

P.S. the carb heavy french fry and fried egg concoction tasted great!

madam president

written by Anouk…

I’ve had an exciting month! On October 9th and 10th I will be the lead in a play called “When a Bad Plan Goes wrong.” I will play the witch named Nightshade! This character is a lot of fun to play because she is evil to her minions while she tries to kill the princess with a blueberry smoothie. It may sound like I have an evil and bad role, but my lines are hilarious! And it’s funny to see how my character messes up her evil plan! I can’t wait to show you the video over the summer.

The next piece of big news is that I was selected by my class as a 5th grade class representative. I then met with the Elementary Principal and our school Superintendent to share my thoughts about our school’s future. They liked my ideas so much that they told my parents and then the Superintendent talked about me in front of all of the Model United Nations students visiting at our school! I’m turning in to a superstar!
From there, I went to the first meeting and we all had to select an Executive Committee. Over the holiday weekend, I worked on a video (that my papa kinda screwed up a bit) but on Monday, when I went to show my video… it didn’t work! So here is my chance to share it with someone.

But after the video didn’t show, I had 2 seconds to create a speech straight from my heart. I guess I did a pretty good job (even though I stuttered) because I am PRESIDENT!!! You heard me right! PRESIDENT! Or… you can call me Madam President.
When I got home after play practice, I teased my parents and Xavier about getting the job. When I finally told them the truth, they kinda jumped around with happiness. We went to my favorite Mexican restaurant (in Joburg) to celebrate.
Now… I have to get started on my first few jobs where I make my school a better place!
  1. Introduce all the members of my team (in a clever video)
  2. Give a speech at next Thursday’s assembly
  3. Share my new initiative: “Meet and Greet with Madam President”
If you have any more ideas… let me know!
-Anouk (with Mama’s help!)

one direction

…by Anouk

I got to celebrate my birthday early this year. My dad worked hard to get tickets to the 1D concert here in Johannesburg. He got four tickets. Since he and Xavier didn’t want to go, I got to pick 2 friends to go with me and celebrate my birthday.

It was an outstanding concert!!

We started out by getting on the “party” bus and playing “Heads Up” on my mom’s phone. We were SUPER goofy because we were so excited about our first concert. Though we had seen a video about 1D and how girls cry at the concert, I didn’t think girls would already be doing it. But they were! On the bus. There were women crying before we even got to the stadium.

Once there, my vegetarian friends and I had no trouble dashing past the braai (South African word for BBQ) and hamburgers. The line to get inside was very, very, very long, but it felt quick because Cliana, Chloe, and I danced, sang, and goofed off ’til we got to security.

The first person who sang was named Johnny Apple (He won “South Africa’s Got Talent” in 2013). He was pretty good. But when he was over all we wanted was One Direction.
But they were late. So the crowd sang and danced to “The Macarena,” did “the wave,” and clapped in unison hoping they would come on stage. When they did–it was worth it! We danced and sang and screamed until our voices wore out. The people on the ground threw hats, posters, teddy bears, and even a bra on stage! Harry Styles threw water at the audience and I think the girls probably fainted. (Just in case you don’t know their names, they are Liam, Niall, Harry, and Louis. If you know the band well enough, you’d notice I missed one. That’s because Zayn left the band.

I’m SO excited that excited my dad got tickets. Me and my buddies where giggling for hours. It was  a very fun night and the firework display was really good, like a 3 D movie! My first concert was worth tiredness on sundae.

Here are the photos of her adventure!


the ups and downs of having MY brother

by Anouk

Brothers can be two things great or annoying. Never anything in the middle. Big brothers and little brothers can be very different and luckily I’ve only got one. He’s bigger than me. But he’s in puberty. And that’s tough! It’s tough for me. It’s tough for the entire family. But it’s mostly tough for me. So I’m going to tell you about the pros and cons about having MY brother.

First, I’ll tell a few cons about living with MY brother:

1. Mood Swings. During puberty, if you catch him at the wrong time you’ll be yelled at for a long time. The mood swings are weird. One moment he’s happy and the next moment he’s grumpy. It’s like he’s a machine with a switch. If you flick the switch, his moods change instantly. I have the same thing… but not as often!

2. Pranks. His pranks have become more frequent. They are also MORE annoying! Whenever I pass a doorway I flinch, thinking that he’ll jump out and scare the poop out of me. And when I get mad at him, I get in trouble for yelling at him and he gets away Scott-free. Another one of his regular pranks is that he’s telling amazing stories from school. When he sees that I’m in awe he’ll say, “Just kidding” and then he’ll laugh and make fun of me for begin so gullible.

3. He’s Older. So he thinks he gets to be in charge when our parents aren’t at home. He gets control of the TV, sometimes he tries to boss me around to do chores, or he’ll say, “Won’t you be a sweet little lamb and get me a glass of water” and I’m easily persuaded by his niceness. I can’t blame him entirely for this one, but sometimes I just wish I remembered to grab the TV remote before doing the dishes. Then I’d be in control!!!

But… there are also a few pros to living with MY brother.

1. He’s a Good Persuader. My brother has been around a few years longer than me so he has better persuading skills. He’s good at negotiating a free dessert and he can almost always talk my dad in to a late night swim. He can convince me to play his stupid games with his stupid made-up rules. And he can almost always convince you to help do his chores.

2. He is a Laugh and a Half! When he’s not in a bad mood, he’ll laugh at anything. His favorite middle-schools words are: poop, tittle, and kaka. He has potty humor. He got it from my dad, but it usually makes us all laugh even if we shouldn’t.

3.  He Teaches Life Lessons. Since he’s older, he’s in middle school first. And then he’ll be in high school first. And then he’ll be in college first. Since he has to do this stuff first, he tells me about it and then I’ll have the upper hand when I go through it. I mean, I already know how much homework middle-schoolers get!

4. He Loves Me. Xavier cares about me a lot. One example of his love is when I was in a play last week. He didn’t complain that he had to watch both nights! When we came home, he even sang the songs with me and gave me compliments on my make-up. Another way he shows he loves me is when our parents go out at night. Sometimes, I get scared and I get a pain in my stomach. But he gets me an ice-pack, makes me a toast or some tea, and tells me, “It’s gonna be OK.” He gives me the remote (though I usually turn on his channel).

As I said, brothers can be great or annoying. Nothing in the middle. But my brother is great about 51% of the time!

Anouk’s 9th

Anouk celebrated her 9th birthday in SPA style. After deciding on a theme for her party, Anouk and Mama got busy creating eye mask invitations and a relaxing spa setting for the celebration. The first step was: the relaxation zone which was full of pillows, blankets, and all the pre-tween magazines we could get our hands on.
Once that was all done, we organized a beauty zone so Mama and her two teacher buddies could make up each “client.” Girls received two beauty treatments. They had an option of a dozen nail colors from which to get their manicure done. This was followed by a “facial” with eye make-up and lip glosses galore.
While girls waited for their spa treatments, they were asked to cut small spa-themed icons and glue them on to a blank BINGO board. Once all the boards were created, the girls played RELAX (as opposed to BINGO).

Mama’s favorite event was hot nail polish. In this game, all the girls sat on a blanket in the garden, each with their own nail polish color in hand. While the music played, they were asked to pass the nail polish to the next person. When the music stopped, they were stuck with the color in their hand and had to paint one of their toes. The game continued in this manner until all 10 toes were pained a variety of colors. It’s hilarious how unskilled these girls are at painting their own toenails.

Once everyone’s nails dried, it was time to participate in Papa’s annual Birthday Scavenger Hunt. This year’s scavenger hunt took the girls upstairs, downstairs, outside, in the car, and ultimately, to the Master bedroom, where they found a basket full of terrific spa tools: nail polish, wash clothes, lip gloss, nail files, mints, nail stickers, and hair ties.

The party wrapped up with a heartwarming rendition of Happy Birthday that was sung with incredible enthusiasm! The girls devoured chocolate cupcakes or fruit and custard cake (though most girls tried BOTH!)

To see more pictures of this Spaaaaaaahhhh day, go to our Flickr page.