So it’s time to start making that list of what to take back to Beijing. My youngest is nearly three, so we no longer need to be stuffing our cases full of swim nappies, onesies, wipes, and other baby paraphernalia. With a very generous baggage allowance we always make the most of it, filling every available space. Some of the things we bring back from the UK can be found in Beijing, but it’s either a hassle to source them or they’re at least twice as expensive. So we’ll fill up our cases with essentials for the kids, essentials for us adults, whilst of course leaving a bit of room for a few home comforts.
I’ve had the kids feet properly measured, and kitted them out in Clarks shoes and trainers for school. I had no idea my daughter’s feet were as wide as they now are, highlighting how important it is to have their feet regularly measured, whilst they’re still growing so rapidly. Talking of growing, vitamins are essential for their healthy development, and even with a healthy and varied diet, there are some vitamins that are difficult to get enough of through food alone. That’s why we stock up on kids vitamin A, C and D drops. Most health professionals now recommend that all children from 6 months to 5 years old are given supplements for these vitamins.
I have their teeth checked every six months with the fantastic Dr. Huang at BJU, and always opt for the topical application of fluoride on their teeth. In the UK we drink water from the tap, which contains fluoride, but of course in Beijing it’s bottled so they’re not getting this protection. Using the right toothpaste is vital, so that’s another thing on the list, as well as toothbrushes that are the correct shape and softness for their young teeth.
For me, having a properly stocked first aid kit is so important. What people sometimes forget, is certain items have use by dates, so before each trip home we’ll check the kit and see what needs replenishing. The basics that are essential in any kit include decent plasters, of different sizes, alcohol-free cleansing wipes, sterile dressings, cream to relieve insect bites and stings, antiseptic cream, ibuprofen tablets (age appropriate syrup for the kids), antihistamines, eye wash, and a cooling burn spray. In terms of medicines, the only other thing we’ll bring back is Lemsip, a brand of cold and flu remedies in the UK. Their original and best known product is a lemon-flavored hot drink containing paracetamol, and a decongestant. For me, nothing beats it for relieving a headache, blocked nose, and those aches and pains associated with a cold.
With the kids sorted, it’s time to think about what I need. There’s Tampons, because it’s nearly impossible to find the applicator versions here in Beijing, Elnett hairspray (it really is the only hairspray that completely brushes out), YSL Touche Éclat (always on offer at Heathrow Airport Terminal 5), and MAC lipsticks (ditto T5). And of course underwear, because I still have no idea how the bra sizing system in China works and even if I did, there are no decent lingerie shops.
I like to bake, so will use the trip to replenish my baking cupboard. This will include some Star Kay White food extracts, including vanilla, almond, lemon, orange, and lavender, some 100% natural food colorings and flavorings, my favorite flavors being raspberry, violet, and rhubarb. I’ll get some vanilla bean paste, agar (used instead of gelatin), xanthan gum (a flour replacement used to thicken sauces and gravies), and suet for baking traditional British pastry and puddings.
Whilst the local and western supermarkets in Beijing stock dozens of types of breakfast cereals, I like to stick with certain brands and definitely those with no added sugar, honey, chocolate, or frosting. The decent brands are also so much cheaper back home, so we’ll stuff one of our cases with kilo boxes of shreddies, shredded wheat, weetabix, bran flakes, and cheerios. We’ll leave room in that case for some catering size packs of PG Tips teabags and for treats some Scottish oatcakes, short bread biscuits, chocolate, and Hellman’s mayonnaise, because there really is no other mayonnaise. The easy part is carrying all the stuff back to Beijing. The hard part is rationing all of those treats, so that they last until the next trip home.
beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent Sally Wilson moved to Beijing in 2010 from the UK with her husband and son. Her daughter was born here in 2011 and both her kids keep her happily busy. In her spare time, Sally loves to stroll through Beijing’s hutongs and parks. She is a (most of the time) keen runner and loves reading: books, magazines, news, and celeb websites – anything really. Sally is also a bit of a foodie and loves trying out new restaurants.
Photos: Matthew Coughlin, Shawn Thorsson, Sean MacEntee, Benson Kua (Flickr).