Crews are out picking up rubbish all over campus, cleaning up their work sites, even sweeping the sides of the canal and skimming debris out of the water. I rode my bike near the old German (1909) building they finished refurbishing. Two gaunt cercis chinensis Chinese redbud bushes were retained on either side of the front door, the school flower just now blooming.
Where there used to be construction materials stored, stacks of pavers and tools and equipment, is now being prepped for a large landscape installation. It's a big square or rectangular area, lending itself to a geometric design with privet parterres infilled with hundreds of miniature roses. The plants in 1-gallon (or liter equivalent) are stacked in a mountainous pie on not one but at least two flatbed trucks. Another truck was arriving as I finished photographing and threaded my way out of the scene.
Crews of peasant workers did the installing. On the other side away from me it looked like a sunken garden was being engineering and young trees were poled and staked up between the two sections.
Food: I have two meal cards, one for staff restaurants and one for student canteens. There are about twenty restaurants on campus. The prices are very reasonable. The Chinese love to eat-- who doesn't? So there is a tremendous variety to choose from. Lots of things stir fried with a sauce served with rice on the side, or noodles. At the largest dining hall I've been to, maybe 80-100 different entrees everyday.
There's a good variety of tofu, the likes of which I have not seen. Some shredded and stringy, some pressed flat, or textured like fabric. I especially like the silky soft type served in a block on a small plate drizzled with a sauce and sprinkled with chopped green onions. When I eat lunch out with my co-workers, I will get extra dishes and take home some to use as a base for my dinner.
I was overjoyed to find canned tuna and kewpie mayonnaise at the store. I can now make a very delicious tuna sandwich with sliced tomato on a toasted bun and a pickled sour cucumber on the side. Their tuna comes plain in spring water, flavored 5-spice, curry, other flavors I'm not familiar with, black bean and guangdong-- excellent
My apartment's small kitchenette is equipped with a big cooking unit on one end with two big gas burners that go from fast (low) to incinerate (high). I've added to that my rice cooker (fan guo) and electric wok (wok!). A microwave and electric tea kettle came with the apartment.
There are wonderful varieties of mushroom (mogu). They come tightly wrapped in saran on styro trays about a pound: thin thread like ones that are attached at the base in clumps with small white caps; medium sized portobello type with brown caps and scales on the stems; morel type creamy beige with wavy caps.
I can also get fresh peeled, sliced lotus root in a package. They are delicious in salads, but a little funky cooked. I need to learn how to prepare them!
On Thursday spring was flaunting herself, high of 86 degrees F. In the morning cottonwood floss was drifting everywhere, but by afternoon had spent itself. The grass is greening up, and it is sweet to take a cat nap on a little hill near my office at lunch under blooming double cherry blossoms, Prunus serrulata 'Kanzan' native to central China, and ginkgo biloba just coming out with their bright yellow-green fan shaped leafs.
I couldn't help myself, I just had to take the long way to work next to the ancient canal lined with marble carved posts and weeping willows reflected in the water. Hard to remember only a few weeks ago it was frozen ice.
The pink and white flowering almond, prunus glandulosa plena, is still blooming its head off, orange quince, chaenomeles speciosa (sweet) Nakai, and lighter orange single kerria japonica. Suddenly bare sticks are now sprouting little Japanese maple leaves, acer palmatum.
So warm tonight, I took a long walk around the block. Fun getting down on the ground and mingling with my neighbors, out leisurely strolling: families with baby toddlers, young couples, pushing grandma in her wheel chair. A police car unobtrusively parked in a side street, the officer solemnly greeted my smile and nod, friendly faces, quiet greetings, happy tonight.
I learned a few things from the DYGS last night. I can buy in the frozen food case steamed rice buns filled with red bean paste. The rack with holes that came with the rice steamer (fan guo) fits over the cooking rice and that's where and how you steam foods like the buns, at the same time.
Ms Chen invited me to see a dress rehearsal for an outdoor dance routine extravaganza involving hundreds of students in a big stadium setting-- fan dancers, flags of all sizes and colors, swords, primary school roller blade teams, young girls in long dresses with colorful ruffles-- all moving with precision and enthusiasm, practicing for a centennial performance later this week.
She told me I could bring my video cameras, so later this spring I'll be able to share this with you all. At one point they unfurled a gigantic red China flag, the young people underneath squatting and standing up and down rhythmically creating the effect of a waving flag!
On the way back to my apartment we passed a man on my street with a long pole breaking new leafy sprigs off the ends of branches way up in the top of the tree. Chen explained Beijingers ate these fresh sprigs this time of year, quickly boiled and salted or chopped in an omelet. She pulled over and we had fun trying to get a sprig or two. The man graciously and generously gave me a big bunch. She told me later that she had bought some from a street vender later today and that they are nine times the price of other vegetables at market.
The tree is called Cedrela sinensis, tender leaves of Chinese Toon tree, used in traditional Chinese medicine, it can successfully treat several kinds of cancer and diabetes, and SARS virus as well as improving learning and memory. In literature it stands metaphorically for a father and day lily for mother as in "wishing your Toona sinensis and day lily are strong and happy."
Hui tou jian