All In A Day’s Work in the Expat World

Last night, before bedtime, I realized I’d be at the school all day the next day and had to plan for dinner.  In this odd life, that has a different meaning than it did when I was teaching back in the US.  Two plus years ago, I’d put something in the crock pot or plan something simple or get take out.  In this diplomat life abroad, though, I am fortunate that we can afford to have household help.  So, all I have to do, usually, in this situation, is decide what we want to have for dinner and our ayi, Xiao Lü, will have it ready by the time she leaves our house at 5:30.

The boys are tired of chicken, pasta doesn’t keep well, and we really don’t trust any other meat here in China, as we are unsure of its safety.  So, after thinking about it and talking with Horatio and the boys, we decided on my beloved friend, Martha’s, Cuban bean recipe.  We all love it, but it’s a bit of a procedure to make it, so I knew it would take some effort to prepare the kitchen and explain the process to Xiao Lü.

The first thing I did was edit the recipe to increase the chances of accuracy when I copied into google translate.  After I translated the recipe, I printed it out in English and Chinese.  She does not speak or read English, but since I cannot check the Chinese translation for exact accuracy, providing the English copy allows the opportunity for her, if she has any questions, to can take it to our clubhouse to ask for help from one of the bilingual reception workers there.

I set out the recipe on the kitchen counter, with the spices and the correct measuring spoons.


Next, I took out the food processor and plugged it into the transformer.  China uses 220  power, while the US uses 110.  Plugging the American appliance into the wall here would fry the expensive piece of equipment.  I figure it’s better to be especially prepared, and safe, than sorry.

Then, since I’ve never shown Xiao Lü how to use the food processor, I took a video of the process and sent it to her on We Chat, (the texting app EVERYONE here uses.)  I also sent her the recipe and shopping list, so that she could go to the market on her way to my house in the morning.  We Chat has a translation function, so I can type in English and she can translate on her end.  I can do the same when she responds to me in Chinese.  I always word my texts to her very carefully, in hopes that the translation will be clear.  I never really know, though.


Something is often lost in the translation, but the gist is clear.

I’ve done everything I can to ensure that the process is smooth.  I never really know what to expect, though, and I’m generally not surprised when things don’t go according to plan.  I hope for the best, but prepare for less than that, to minimize the disappointment.

This evening, hopefully, I will arrive home from school to the aroma of Cuban Black Beans, and we can sit down to family dinner together and enjoy the meal.

About Commander in Chief At home

Erin is a military spouse and, sometimes temporarily single mom to 4 boys. She's a writer, editor, teacher, and (Autism) mom.
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3 Responses to All In A Day’s Work in the Expat World

  1. Rick says:

    ….looking forward to hearing the result.


  2. Karen says:

    So….how did it turn out?


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