Huan ying dao wojialaWarm welcome to my house to all new members of the BBL(Beijing Breakfast Letter)
The workmen finally completed refurbishing the old gate and took down the scaffolding. Just as quickly a video crew arrived. This morning on the way to work there was more than the usual crowd of people around the gate taking pictures. A giant 20-foot boom was filming the scene at the top of the gate and a track was set up for a camera dolly.
Later in the day they had a choral group singing in the street, all kinds of mikes, reflectors, monitors. The young men in the back row waving their arms, looked like a good shot. I got choked up for a few seconds and had to stop, straddling my bike and take in the whole scene.
Things got back to normal later in the day, just the usual traffic. For some reason, I took a different route back home to my apartment and suddenly came upon the crew again, filming in front of some old two-story brick hutongs. This time a different group was singing, and the camera dolly curved around as they filmed back and forth.
Curious residents politely watched this performance of a performance, a line of bicycles and cars crept by in a slow motion rush hour. The university is making a good effort to get some new footage for the centennial video. This past week I've been helping develop the English version script.
Wednesday my front tire was totally flat. So I walked it a couple streets over, looking for the bicycle shop in my hutong neighborhood. Found this darling old guy operating out of the back of the guard shack in this nearby cluster of apartments next to the hutongs. Very lo-tek, using hand bicycle pump-- no air compressor here. So I got a new tire and tube installed, a little lubrication on the axles and a chain adjustment for 32Y(yuan) or $4.95.
Parked and locked my bike in front of my office building in the row of bikes already there before me. The fragrant odor of magnolia denudata rests delicately on the sidewalk littered with spent petals, already passing its prime bloom, pushing small green tips of leaves. Spring is hurrying by-- don't miss it! Savor every breath as if its the last spring on earth.
Everyone says the radiation drifting over Beijing is harmless. Levels are below 1:100,000 the average annual exposure level. And what does that mean? The National Nuclear Emergency Coordination Committee says no protective measures are needed at this time.
Thursday I was sitting outside at the internet cafe enjoying the warm spring afternoon-- catkins falling from poplar trees(populus tomentosa), tiny fresh green leaves and miniature pussies on golden weeping salix(willow), yellow forsythia pendula and winter jasmine(jasminum nudiflorum).
In a hidden garden between buildings, piles of unswept leaves, a pun of a garden combines magnolia grandiflora and magnolia denudata, a big pinus bungeneana in the middle, symmetrically arranged podocarpus with winter blasted foliage.
Suddenly squads of peasant workers are installing entire landscapes of mondo grass and privet hedges where yesterday was bare ground. Young girls/women venture out in short skirts, admiring themselves in the glass front cafe windows. Prunus of many varieties popping blooms-- flowering cherry and almond, glandulosa plena. Magpie nests high in still nude tree branches.
James the cabbie tells me tomorrow will turn cold and rainy. He says spring comes slowly in Beijing, the rain like tears falling. This weekend is a long holiday. Won't be going back to work til Wednesday. It's the Qingming Festival, Tomb Sweeping Day. James will be going back to his hometown, sweep his father's tomb, see his family and return. Traditionally on the 104th day after winter solstice. It's a time to go outside and enjoy the green of spring and tend to the graves of the departed. Only recently-- since 2008-- been reinstated as a holiday in PRC after been suppressed since 1949.
Famous poem by DuMu "Qingming" Tang Dynasty around 800AD A drizzling rain falls like tears on the Mourning Day The mourner's heart is breaking on his way Where can a winehouse be found to drown his sadness? A cowherd points to Almond Flower Village in the distance
I want to take a minute to give thanks to things that go right in the universe. Almost every day I get to exercise my problem solving skills. Yue my good fairy often is called upon to interpret. I try to be as independent as I have always been, and not be a big foreign baby, but the language and custom thing often intrudes.
So when things go right, well, it's just swell. Like the little miniature clothes washer in my apartment. Yue showed me how you put the soap in and press the buttons-- easy! Well, darn, it works just like it should, like a good little clothes washing slave machine, cheerfully announcing every phase with a melodic chime. For this I am grateful.
Today I purchased a rice cooker. Of course the instructions are in Chinese. The sweet girl at the shop went over the whole operation several times, but only a fraction made sense. And what was the part with the holes for? Steaming maybe, but not the rice-- mi-- and clearly don't put the water-- shuei-- in the bottom. Online directions were encouraging and unexpectedly Yue called, so she also reassured me how simple it all was.
And indeed, the darling little unit worked super. Just put the rice and water in, cover, push down on the switch lever and walk away. The rice cooker genie knows when it's perfectly done and turns itself off. Another thing working perfectly for which I am grateful.
More about the bicycle man. I wanted to get a picture for the breakfast letter, so I went looking for him today. Everything so clean and fresh after the light rain yesterday. Lao Feng showed me inside his tiny shop, actually 2 rooms. The first room about 6x10-feet was his shop with a few simple tools, tires hanging from the roof rafter.
Behind that is his living room, about the same size. Bed on one end, tiny desk and shelves on the other. He shows me a huge framed picture of a young and handsome man straddling his bicycle and holding gigantic trophy. He washed his hands and carefully wrote out a little story for me and here it is.
His name is Feng Zheng-jiang, Feng being his family name. It is written first in Chinese. In 1959 he won the China National Games Gold Medal in cycling. He is donating it to Tsinghua University to commemorate its 100 year centennial. He was born in 1933 and is 78 years old.
Hui tou jian