Monthly Archives: November 2008

You see chocolate…

I see a plastic treasure trove of gold-foiled magic. I see silky chocolate perfection cloaking a perfectly toasted hazelnut heart. I see 16 (well, now 14) therapy sessions on days when the weather is too cold, the people too blunt, and classes too tiring. I see a fat chunk of my paycheck given back to me with well wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving. I see my mom telling me to practice the utmost self control. Which I will, but only so I can keep the Ferrero Rochers for as long as I humanly can.

Aw man. I love chocolate. Especially when it is free… and delicious… and melamine-free.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

For a few minutes before I began writing this- I will admit- I threw myself a little pity party. I thought about my cousins who I saw over Skype and how much I miss them. I thought about my family and how this Thanksgiving felt incomplete because I did not get to partake in our yearly tradition of going around the table saying what we are most grateful for. I thought about how there were no cranberries on our dinner table (one of my favorite Thanksgiving staples!).

But then I turned on the TV and watched the continued coverage on the attacks in Mumbai on CNN and gave myself about 2 more seconds to wrap my pity party and start being sensible.

I am thankful for so much nowadays– for the heat in my apartment, my amazing friends and support here in China and my dear friends back home who make the effort to reach me 16 hours in the future. I am thankful for my dear students who brought me 2 plants today to show their appreciation for their American teacher on an American holiday that they have never celebrated. I am thankful for my friend Susan and her adorable son Max who invited all of us over to their home to break bread together and share a slice of home. I am thankful that my mashed potatoes and gravy were edible. And so on and so forth… the list could go on forever.

The last few weeks have been hard. The chilling wind has come back and I have been fighting a cold that I just cannot afford to have right now. Still, Dad is good… all the time. The sun still shines faithfully, as if to snub its nose at those harsh northern winds and remind us that we can always wander into marvelous light and experience his warmth. It IS easy to complain. But it is so much more fun to enjoy the smaller pleasures in life (a warm coat, a cup of coffee, a conversation in English- or Korean now!, a piece of really good chocolate) and laugh and think with friends to get through the unfortunate events (did you know that there are THREE different ways to say diarrhea in Chinese? And with good reason, too!).

All sentiment aside, my first lone-Thanksgiving was quite eventful! Since my friend Susan invited a bunch of us over, we decided to bring sides. I knew that I could do mashed potatoes, but realized that mashed potatoes are quite bleak without gravy. I tried a new technique for the potatoes- boiling them whole with the skins ON, then peeling, then drying them out in the pot so that they absorb the milk and butter better. It worked really well! Still, gravy is a horse (or turkey, hehe) of a different color:

I did not have any turkey juices to use to make gravy, so I looked up a recipe to make mushroom gravy and I must say- I think I did a good job with it! It was my first time making the roux, sauteeing the onions and mushrooms with garlic, and mixing the whole mess together with chicken broth and water. I made a full saucepan of it and it was all gone by the end of the night, so I guess it was a success!

All in all, it was a wonderful Thanksgiving. When my greatest concern is the consistency of my gravy, I know my life is blessed.

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This is Beijing

According to seasonal calendars, we are technically still in Fall. According to the fact that it was -1 degrees Celcius on Tuesday, it is DEFINITELY WINTER. Or the fact that outside my classroom there was a real life no-joke legitimate ICICLE… says to me- the born and bred Californian- that winter is upon us.

Fortunately, the weather has warmed up for the weekend and I will be enjoying as much of it as I can… when I am not busy doing lesson plans. On the flip side, as you can see, Beijing remains busy as ever, even on a super cold night, which is when I snapped those photos of rush hour traffic and the literal bike pile-up outside of the WuDaoKou subway station.

I saw that horrible pile of wheels gone awry right after I found a spot to park my set of wheels about 10 meters away and immediately changed my mind and went back to move it. That mess is all good for nobody fo sho. After seeing something like that, it is no wonder so many bikes get stolen in Beijing. Imagine having to sort through that mess trying to find your bike that probably looks exactly like the rest of them but maybe has a different basket or bell. No thanks!

The sudden onslaught of northern winds prompted me to find a winter coat pronto! I purchased one, naively thinking it would be sufficient, and quickly realized that I am still stuck in a CA winter mind frame. I went to buy a new one this morning at this GIANT shopping center on the other side of town with 2 of my students. This shopping center was the size of 3 normal sized malls stuck together. It took up an entire city block and was 6 stories tall… ridiculous! All in all, it was a successful shopping trip and I now have a down jacket that goes past my knees and has a collar that covers half of my face. Usually I am pretty psyched to bring out new clothes to wear out, but this is one item I am looking forward to NOT needing.

In other news, I have been pleasantly surprised by the selection at the DVD market on campus. I find little gems amongst the random straight-to-DVD action movies and copies of Starship Troopers 3 (like– really? Wasn\’t the first one bad enough? And when did the second one come out anyway?). My latest find was an amazing film called The Visitor. At face-value, you might think that this film is incredibly slow and boring because the dialogue is quite sparse and the main character is a bumbling and awkward college professor who I KNOW I would have hated if I were his student. But the performances are amazing, the directing is excellent, and it sheds some much-needed light on the very confusing laws, regulations, and power the government uses against immigrants in the US. I am doing a horrible job of explaining the film, so here is the link to the trailer for the movie:

I know I have a knack for depressing movies, but this one is definitely worth checking out– there are some lines and scenes in it that kept me up all night.

Until next time, enjoy your warm weather, watch The Visitor, and keep thinking about me. I miss you all and think about you all of the time.

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Happy Music On Repeat

I do not have this song in my iTunes library. So instead, I watch the video from A Hard Day\\\’s Night on repeat when I manage to get a wireless connection on my laptop.

I am not sure why I am so in love with this song right now. The lyrics are pretty bittersweet– after all John, Paul, and George (since Ringo only plays and does not sing) are singing about falling in love with a rebound girl. Nevertheless, I am finding so much joy in listening to their lovely spiteful harmonies and the simplicity of this video clip.

And besides… could there be a better pick-up line than \\\”I hope you see that I would love to love you\”? I think not.

This, among other things, is one of the simple things that brings me joy as of late.

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Spiffy New Photos

While wasting some time this evening, I stumbled upon a downloadable tool that allows you to \’polaroidize\’ your standard digital photos. It is pretty darn nifty in my opinion. I love the look of a polaroid, so of course I hopped on board rather quickly.

So where are said \’faux-laroids,\’ you might ask? Merely a single click away, friends! On my Flickr account which is that little bar to the right of your screen that has random photos on it from time to time.

Check-check-ch-check-check-ch-check-em-out!

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A funny thing happened in Beijing…

I\’ve been keeping a photographic record of funny things I\’ve seen around Beijing. A few of you faithful readers may recall the most excellent menus that they have at our campus dining commons. Well, here are a few others to enjoy at the expense of this big, developing city.

Only In China Will You Find…

#1 … Jackie Chan serenading you from the television screen. I was flipping channels when I stumbled across this site. Jackie is actually a really talented singer! He was throwing a big gala to celebrate the success of the Olympics and honor the foreign athletes. Jackie Chan is quite the philanthropist. He\’s also opened a few coffee shops around China and donates the proceeds to children in need. There\’s one in ZhongGuanCun, an area right next to WuDaoKou. I\’m sure I\’ll check it out eventually.

#2 … a group of grown adults jumping rope… and TOTALLY kicking butt at it. This is my class practicing for the jump rope competition (yes, there\’s a jump rope competition). This was a while ago, but since then, they\’ve WON the competition! They jump rope differently– they get into lines and each take turns running through the rope and jumping over it when it hits the ground. My class had over 200 jumps in 3 minutes.

#3 … is The Devil Wears Prada rated PG-13 for \”Martial Arts Violence and Some Sexuality.\” Self-explanatory.

#4 … can you get \”Crunky\” at the Korean Market. Lil\’ Jon would be so proud.

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Halloween in China Ushers in New Milestones in US History

What did I do for Halloween in China? What any self-respecting American citizen would do on a US National Holiday– go to a karaoke buffet, eat a lot of mediocre food, and sing Mariah Carey tributes like it\’s my j-o-b. Well, I guess it was sort of my j-o-b since I went with my students from the local corporate company that I teach evening classes at. So it was definitely the first time I passed on costumes and candy joy for a traditional Chinese songs and the loss of 20% of my hearing. Normally, I don\’t think I would\’ve been that upset by the lack of Halloween Spirit, but I guess being away from home and not having holiday commercialization thrown into my face every time I go to the grocery store made me miss it a little.
In any case, Halloween joy was still had, thanks to Dana\’s endearing affinity for all things Napoleon… Dynamite that is. She had (probably China\’s first ever) Napoleon Dynamite theme party and I came dressed as Pedro. You can all laugh and/or marvel at that stunning stache I managed to grow in mere seconds. I know somewhere out there is an Asian man with patchy facial hair that is intensely jealous.
Most importantly, though, Halloween ushered in the most triumphant moment in US History to occur within my lifetime. I\’m sure nearly everyone back home caught McCain\’s impressively gracious concession speech and Obama\’s amazing acceptance. I was glued to my TV watching CNN as the electoral votes quickly accelerated in his favor and of course, cried like a baby when he won. It is so amazing that I can look back when I have children and grandchildren and tell them about the day the first black president was elected. With all this excitement, it made me a little sad that I couldn\’t be at home with my family and friends celebrating and reclaiming my shambled sense of pride in America. Still, this only means I have something more to look forward to when I come back as I watch how the United States begins to pick up the pieces of the past unfortunate eight years from China.
Oh other good news– I was fortunate to have a taste of the US in China a few weeks ago! Annie and Lawrence came out to Beijing and I was lucky enough to catch them for dinner the night before their flight out. They shared about their experience traveling around the world and it was a huge encouragement just to see old friends, but also to see all the work that is being done around the world.
With Halloween past, the glow of the election still shining brightly, and a lecture on San Francisco about to start in 30 minutes (so I\’ve gotta go run and shower!), today I know I can finally say I am so proud to be an American.

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