Determined to make progress on my article and video of the Shanghai Botanical Gardens, I started the complicated process of transferring the video media from my little camcorder where it has been waiting these few weeks. The prospect of a long holiday weekend has motivated me to get started. Cataloging each video event--that's what you call each file of filming--with its unique 20 digit number and description and filed away where I can find it took most of the day Saturday of last week. Sunday I was able to start the project proper in the video editor, marking every segment of frames corresponding to the Chinese spoken by Mr HU and the English translation by Robert ZHEN, sentence by sentence. A young woman I met recently, Sunny, who lives nearby in what they call Global Village (a huge community of perhaps 50 apartment style dormitories for international students attending Peking University) emailed me. Sunny has graduated, majored in English education, but stays on in her apartment with a roommate at 2,000Y per month or about $307 which they split. It's not cheap living in Beijing, even in the suburbs which is what they call the Haidian district where these universities are located.
She invited me on a spontaneous adventure to visit the Beijing Botanical Gardens. We met near the Peking University East Gate, a huge intersection with numerous bus stops, subway entrances and tons of cars and people and bicycles. From there we squeezed onto an already standing room only bus and tootled along over hill and dale on and on to the real outskirts of Beijing to an area they call the Western Hills.
Like many beautiful places here, it used to be the estate of nobility from the Qin era and the home of Cao Xueqin, the author of a very famous novel -- in the top four classics of Chinese literature-- The Dream of Red Mansions. Also many ancient steles and huts with frescoes of dragons, spring and stream through metasequoia forest above the bamboo. In ways it reminded me of the Sacramento River canyon in Dunsmuir.
The groves of magnolia denudata in all shades of white to ivory to dark pink sweetly intoxicated the gentle groups of visitors with it's dulcet fragrance. Also seen: Platycladus orientalis Chinese arbor vitae, Sophora japonica Japanese pagoda tree native to eastern Asia, mainly China, despite name. And all the blooming forms of prunus-- cherry, almond, nectarine, etc. Sunny recited poetry while striking classic poses, her delicate hands like birds one minute like palace painted lady the next.
At the exit we got hot roasted sweet potatoes to eat on the crowded bus back home. This time we jumped off part way and got on a new subway line that has a stop right at Peking U East Gate where we hopped on our bikes. By this time its dark, I'm pooped, but still we pedal on to a cute very nice restaurant in Global Village for dinner.
Met a young German woman only three days in Beijing, she starts working in Peking chemistry department. Another woman from Denmark with two rambunctious little girls getting dinner to go----Finally I got home and crashed in my big soft Chinese bed with a fluffy cloud of a silk duvet.
As if this wasn't enough fun for a lifetime, my DYGS plus Sunny and her friend and Wendy ZHU, another new young DYGS, came over for a cooking party the next night. Each one brought a favorite food item (NO MEAT). It was fun watching them working and flirting together, trying to cook something they remember fondly their mother made, some cooking and shopping for the first time
Half the time talking in Chinese and half the time in English, all very bright and educated young people. Dustin and his roommate Jason from Tsinghua Biology majors. Jason is already set to go to Paris to study in June. He brought little bags of frozen thingies-- rice balls that looked like eyeballs but were soft and squishy with a strange sweet filling and dumplings.
Wendy is a Finance major from Peking going to Tulane in New Orleans in June. She and Jason seemed to hit if off. He was showing her how to peel garlic. She brought three huge bunches of spinach. I discovered a new taste treat-- stir fried spinach with banana, prepared in the new electric wok I got today for the party--yum! FYI: Wendy's parents paid 40,000RMB (that's yuan) or $6150 to an outfit that handled her out-of-country application. She will pay 60,000RMB or $9,230 per semester at Tulane. No pressure on these kids to perform... whew!
Sunny was ambitious and made a couple dishes, sending out for more ingredients from the corner market-- sir fried eggplant with chopped tomato went super with rice. They wrinkled their noses at my olive oil but had to have the tasteless peanut variety. Next came eggs with stir fry mushrooms.
Each dish eaten as it was made, all them clustered around the big table chattering away. Sweet! Before leaving we took a group foto and then they stood in a little knot with their cellphones, exchanging numbers, making new friends. Adorable to these old eyes, I'm the nainai (grandmother). The last DYGS departed and I mopped up the swamp in the kitchen where the boys had washed the dishes.
Jason on the other hand is artistic and loves to cook. I suggested he take some cooking classes while in Paris and wondered if he had taken any art electives at Tsinghua-- no and no. Just grind grind grind for these DYGS. When they left the party at 9:30pm on a long holiday weekend they were going home to study a few more hours before going to bed. No smoking or drinking either.
By Friday the violets were blooming, it's getting warmer. New sculptures have been installed near my building: a big bronze boy in a boat and another set of four inscrutable monoliths on the opposite corner. They're watering in the new sod. My diploma arrived.
Saturday morning I was invited to see a children's musical, Pipi Longstocking in Chinese at Beijing U in their big new auditorium with huge balcony--maybe 5,000 children with an adult here and there. My friend Yan got us good seats in the 8th row on aisle. She is married to an American from Fresno, a physicist and fish biologist--the physics of fish DNA? They have four children because the one child policy doesn't extend to foreigners. Mike stayed home with the baby. We met up with some of her friends. I think I was the only foreigner in the auditorium. I'm getting used to the feeling.
Afterward we met Mike and baby at a tiny pizza parlor in our neighborhood. It was swell talking to an American-- and someone from California. He's worked at T. 13 years. It was great being able to make a plan, ride my bike to a meeting place without getting lost or being late.
In the evening I had plans to meet a darling YGS, Susan, off campus for dinner. This time curry restaurant in a big shopping mall. I took the subway by myself. A ticket costs 2Y or $.31 and the subways are all new and clean. Again I rode my bike almost to the same place as in the morning. Found the subway entrance. Found the right train, took 5 minutes to go two stops, and met up with Susan near the exit.
Going home same thing and didn't make a misstep once. Really super feeling. Little by little venturing farther away from home base. Dustin, my other DYGS, is studying for midterms this week. Susan has been accepted to Tulane U in Finance, same as Wendy from last weekend.
So many things to think about. Sitting up in my cozy Chinese bed, writing to all of you, too wound up to sleep. Listening to internet radio from HongKong HKGFM.net-chill out. Maybe you can get it. Non stop no commercial a kind of alternative pop drone beat. http://www.radioguide.fm/internet_radio_china/hkgfm-chill-out
I've downloaded a trial copy of Adobe Dreamweaver. When I finish my penjing article this weekend, I want to start working on a whole new website. This time WISIWYG/CSS, for you html nerds out there. I'm getting tired of writing code from scratch.
With the new hair cut and job is coming a new web brand. I wish the vision was more clear. It feels like groping in the dark. A tiny speck of light showing at the other end.
Gotta go, just got a rush job from Professor Boss!
Hui tou jian