I look up to see a tall and handsome conductor sternly saying something to me and implacably shooing me and all the passengers in the car out onto the platform and up the stairs to the exits. I emerge into the dark somewhere I don't know where I am. I beat past the illegal cab drivers looking for a legitimate one.Read More
Last day of the old year is sunny and warm, not smoggy, riding to Beijing Nan Zhan Railway Station, going in another, new direction. My little leaf boat swirls in the current, drifting with the tug of tide! Faintly I detect the salt tang and morning mist in Qingdao.Read More
Early wake up call at 7am followed by fabulous western style breakfast: appetizer of cai green vegetables with sesame seeds, red shred and curly carrot garnish, glass of hot water, cup of delicious kaffei nai he tang, New Zealand butter, Austrian strawberry jam, square toast, buttermilk medallion size pancakes, omelet cooked in butter, and slightly sweetened yogurt. Piping hot. The shy waiter is named Pok. I'm so relieved. The let down brings tears. This trip is starting out pretty good. Everyone is pleasant and smiling at Chery. On the plane, at the security check at the diminutive airport, the guards couldn't hold back from returning my smile. My two tour guides and driver met me at the airport. The hotel is very nice. My room is huge with lots of closet space, two thick, red wool blankets with a floral design plus the duvet. Forced air heat on a thermostat. Pretty warm, 20C / 68F in the room.Read More
At the moment my plane is landing at Beijing Capitol Airport PEK in the late afternoon, the smoggy haze begins lifting. Feng and her husband SUN Libin find me in the Korean restaurant in the recreation building opposite my wing, the only place open at this late hour of 8pm for me to eat. We exchange gifts. They have brought me a ceramic bottle of Korean miijiu, 51% alcohol. Whoa baby! Back in my room we open it and have a little welcome home party. It feels great to be back in the big city and seeing my friends again. J
Out the window on my first morning in Beijing, I see it is clear and breezy. A magpie greets me, against the pale blue morning sky, standing on the roof of the adjacent building in the courtyard of the Xijiao Hotel complex. This hotel is affiliated with Tsinghua and is located off campus in Wudaokuo, very convenient. In Beijing today 42F / 25F and clear or 5C / -4C. In Dunsmuir, it’s also clear 32F / 17F or 0C / -8C.
After meeting Eunice WU for breakfast in the big dining room in the main building, I ride to campus and meet TONG Pei at the East Gate. She rides me sidesaddle on the back of her bicycle to the center of campus where I rent a bicycle for the three weeks I will be staying in Beijing. 100Y or $16.36. Later, I get my hair done at the Jiasuo Guest House salon. The ladies remember me! 180Y for cute cut and L’Oreal color or $29.45.
The Qinqi Fitness anmo clinic proprietor also remembers me. Her face lights up. We hug and air kiss. At the tailor in the basement of the TusPark building, she also remembers me. I buy a short, plaid corduroy, pleated skirt, also 180Y. Her business has grown, and she now has an apprentice. At the TusPark ATM I see for the first time the VISA/Mastercard logos.
By Thursday, it’s colder 34F / 18C or 1C / -7C and clear but windy, feels like 21F or -6C, riding my bike to campus to have lunch with my former colleague SONG Peijing. The former Overseas Office building is empty. All the buildings in a row north of the library are deserted and surrounded by a construction fence. The long anticipated expansion of the library is underway. The huge bauhinia trees that once shaded the bumpy parking have been dug up and removed to another location. SONG guides me to the new offices in refurbished dormitories next to the gymnasium.
The Centennial Park, where 100 world university presidents planted friendship trees the first month I was at Tsinghua in April 2011, commemorating the centennial of Tsinghua University founded in 1911, looks good, even now in winter. I think I see some hulking carcasses of transplanted bauhinia trees, wrapped in burlap and rope, and cut way back. I take a picture of myself in front of the UCLA pine tree and send it to Chancellor Gene Block. Here’s the link to my blog from April 24, 2011 .
In Dunsmuir today, it’s 50F / 29F or 10C / -1C and clear. In Pyongyang, my next destination, it’s 25F / 10F or -4C / -12C and snowing.
I'm sitting in a tiny coffee shop behind Dongsi subway exit in the Dongcheng District, home to the Forbidden City, known as the National Palace, and Tian’anmen Square, with a kaffei Americano 20Y or $3.27. Traveling here from Wudaokuo train station is mei wenti, no problemo. I take Line 13 to Xizimen Station. Wo zuo 13 haoxian qu Xizimen zhan. Then I transfer to Line 2 for only one stop before transferring to Line 6 and going all the way to Dongsi. Ranhou wo huan 2 haoxian yizhan zhiquian wo huan daodi 6 qu Dongsi. A single subway ticket is 2Y or $.33. The Puffee Café has a secure network with a password. Today is 35F / 17F or 2C / -8C brrrr! It is not windy and seems pleasant in the warm sun.
A new friend from the conference, xin pengyou, Mike ZHANG is meeting me here. He is Senior Editor at Commercial Press Shangwu Yingshiguan, founded in 1897, the first modern publishing house in China, currently employing approximately 600 persons.
We walk to the nearby National Art Museum of China NAMOC to see the new shows of contemporary traditional huahua painters
on the main floor before going upstairs to the fifth floor where the breakaway contemporary artists from the 80s exhibition. When China was opening to the west and their artists were exposed to outside ideas, all western art from the Greeks through Renaissance and Impressionism to Expressionism was promoted through a small art magazine called Translations of Fine Arts. The first issue was launched in 1980 by the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts and is still in circulation. The publication reprints articles in English on all the styles and major movements in western art.
With a massive body of traditional Chinese art going back millennium, contemporary artists are at a crucial juncture—to carry traditional styles and ideas into modern themes and techniques or materials OR to breakaway entirely into new directions. It is difficult to discover originality for ALL artists, Eastern or Western. Everything seems to have been done already—and better—by someone else before. Along comes the digital camera to further reduce the artist to a collector of artifacts.
Next, we walk to his place of business located on the trendy Wangfujing Daije shopping street, on the south end that is mainly commercial businesses. The Commercial Press, CP, produces paper books and nothing in e yet, although they do publish American bestseller authors. We tour the gift shop and sip tea. Mike has to run upstairs to meet with his colleagues, so I walk around, buy a Beijing street map 15Y $2.45 and visit a mezzanine art gallery of calligraphy before he returns and takes me to see his office and meet his co-workers. He’s working on the latest edition of the Oxford Dictionary in English with equivalent Chinese words. He’s on “P.”
At 5pm we leave and walk up Wangfujing Daijie to the fashionable retail end to meet his wife Xiong Jie and her friend Mei LEI. His wife, Jane, is an accountant for The World of English, a monthly magazine of English learning and a subsidiary owned and run by CP. This means they can commute together from their home in Haidian District. Mei LEI is a Senior Partner and Attorney at Law in the Beijing office of W&H Law Firm with offices in Asia, Canada and San Francisco. The women are waiting for us when we arrive.
The restaurant 西贝莜面村 (Xi Bei You Mian Cun) is famous for its northwestern style Chinese food, specialized in making noodles, oat noodles. It was established in 2001, headquartered in Inner Mongolia (a region noted for its top-quality mutton), with branches in many cities around China.
1. 果蔬拌菜 (guo shu ban cai, salad mixed with fruits and vegetables)
2. 凉面 (liang mian, cold noodles)
3. 豆芽炒河粉 (dou ya chao he fen, rice noodles stir-fried with bean sprouts)
4. 自制酸奶 (zi zhi suan nai, home-made yogurt)
5. 自制蜂蜜 (zi zhi feng mi, home-made bee honey)
6. 羊肉串 (yang rou chuan, mutton kebab)
7. 功夫鱼 (gong fu yu, Kung Fu fish)
Going down through the mall by escalator, we pass shops Bulgari, Rolex, Zara and more. To get to the exit we walk through a large, children’s toy store to the street. Under a waxing moon, no stars in the velvety night sky, people are out in the evening on the brightly lit walking street. At the Wangfujing subway station we say byebye to Mei. I travel a few stops with Mike and Jane until I get off and transfer to Line 2 heading north, getting home about 9:30pm.
Hou tou jian
While enjoying dim sum breakfast today, we're overlooking the world's largest flower and bonsai market. Alan Feng is washing the tips of our chopsticks in a little hot water before eating. He explains this is a local custom.Read More
From the airport in Guangzhou, the taxi takes me to a large hotel in Foshan City where I am met by Alan Feng and his Master CHEN Zhi Jiu. After getting to know each other over supper at the hotel, they drive me to another one in the downtown district. It must have been grand in its day, a little shabby now but royally gorgeous. I can imagine great leaders staying here in the day. The lobby is loaded with gigantic stone penjing and carved wood pieces in glass cases. In the elevator area on my floor a huge glass etagere displays countless small ceramic treasures without as much as a cover. My room features a huge bed and baroque trappings, the bath is all sculpted ceramic tile and stone with fancy appointments to hold water glass and such. Marvelous glass encased shower with lots of hot water.Read More
We checked out of our hotel in Haikou after an early breakfast of fried bread, kaffei hui nai he tang and hurry up hugs good-bye. I board a bus with new friends and depart for the Volcano Park. We climb steps cut from polished blocks of lava through tropical paradise dotted with large penjing and grotesque rocks, croton, bougainvillea, mango manguo, cactus xian ren qiu, aloe, coconut yezi, papaya and red hibiscus. We circulate the small, extinct crater dripping with exotic foliage and fluttering butterflies.Read More
After flying from Monday to Wednesday, RDD to SFO to SEA to DET to SHA to HAK, and actually arriving at Xian Lu Fu Hotel at 1:24am Thursday morning. Basically without sleeping. One day was passing the international date line.Read More
We visited Medford, Oregon, where Bruce gave a presentation as part of the Ashland Historic Railroad Museum’s monthly lecture series. The Medford Mail Tribune said, “Author Bruce Petty will present a slide show of historical photos of Southern Pacific’s Shasta Division at 6:30pm Friday, March 8, at the Ashland library.” Bruce’s co-author Larry Mullaly and his wife Alice live outside of town surrounded by farm land: cow pastures, alfalfa fields, and one wild elk. She has violets, daffodils, forsythia and apricot blooming.
Delicious camarones y pescadero tacos with horchata on the way out of town at Restaurant El Kora. I passed the time in the car doing easy Sudoku and working on my latest manuscript draft, an invertor in the cigarette lighter of the Explorer allowed me to use Pépe the netbook with powercord. Beautiful sunny day, warming up to 59 F or 15 C.
Professor Don Eads shared this image with us, an Obama family portrait. Left to right: Craig Robinson, Leslie Robinson, Avery Robinson, Marian Robinson, Akinyi Manners, Auma Obama, Maya Soetoro-Ng, Konrad Ng, Savita Ng, and Suhaila Ng.
I tested and turned on four irrigation valves today. Then I set out the downstairs bonsai. I’ve been hand watering every day for the past few weeks. Peas are well up and flowering. The Tuscan kale is finally going to flower here and there: blue crinkled leaves and bent coat hanger flower stems surmounted by a sparse spike of four-petaled yellow flowers. Purple and white lilacs are blooming on the hill. Apple blossoms scatter in the breeze drying towels on the umbrella-style solar clothes dryer.
Dustin Song Tao Zhu shares news from Beijing: Dear Petty,
How is everything going?
Now is spring, and we are enjoying the clean weather.
Last Sunday is our student festival, and was playing in one modern drama.
Here come the photos!
After replacing my netbook Pépe with Pépe II and all that entails with wifi accessories, printer, security downloads and reinstallation of Word … and all the rest: I finished and sent reports to the Overseas Office, finished reading my ms out loud to dear friends willing to give me the time, made improvements and sent to editor: 26,000 new words. Now I’m relaxing in the backyard, playing Sudoku, eating a sandwich and finishing my coffee from the Cornerstone Bakery.
A mature gray squirrel snuck into the yard and nibbled peanuts I had set out for the jaybirds.
Eunice Woo from Beijing shares with us: I went to the Garden Expo yesterday, know you love these stuff. This picture is the typical kind of gardens in Southern China (Jiangnan District). Here's the Expo's website: http://en.expo2013.net/cj/list.php?tid=111#5. This one from Daguanyuan, a garden, too, the TV show "The Dream of Red Mason" filmed there.
I visited this site and found it to have an excellent English version and many pages of interesting horticultural exhibits of Chinese style.
Beautiful veggie garden this year with tomatoes, medicinal and culinary herbs, sunflowers, marigolds, snapdragons. I planted pole lima beans with morning glory. Planted basil and more morning glory on the old pea netting. Big full moon this weekend and rain forecast.
Just groovin’ on the porch. The sun went down behind Mt. Bradley an hour ago. The sky is still light and the air is fresh and pleasantly warm at 79 F or 26 C. Listening to Grover Washington “Just the two of us.”
Finished my manuscript Beijing Abduction. YAY! Now, I’m looking for an agent who will represent me to a publisher. Every day I send a Query Letter and samples of my writing. We call this a numbers game. The more query letters I send the greater are chances I will find the right agent.
Not so busy now. I go to the lake with my husband to the lake or Farmers’ Market. Thursday after 3:30pm, the Dunsmuir Growers’ Market takes over the corner next to the Dunsmuir Brewery, making it convenient for locals to shop and stop for something cold to drink. The director of SAM (Siskiyou Arts Museum) Lauri Sturdivant sits across the table from local activist Joanne Steele at an impromptu party for Linda Price’s sister Tammy and Helen Cartwright’s daughter Nicole. Who needs a reason? Entertainment a string ensemble traveling from North Carolina.
Last scene at the Brewery Thursday night: Brett LaMott proprietor and chef at Café Maddalena quaffing summer ale with Bruce Petty, after shopping for new okra from Redding growers. Ted and Bonny Lou, fans of Wendy Crist, one of the organizers of the wildly successful Dunsmuir Growers’ Market. Wendy and hubbie Michael grow micro herbs at their sunny location behind the Von Hein’s place for local eateries like Café M and the Dogwood Diner. Not only fresh veggies and fruits are available but also local food items, BBQ and homemade tamales. Boomer, live, soft rock entertainment.
See you later
Artwalk last weekend was a huge success from the number of visitors estimated at over 400. I got to exhibit with two friends of mine: Joy Price-watercolor http://siskiyouartscouncil.org/joy-price/ , and Dorthea Schoenstien-oil.http://siskiyouartscouncil.org/dorothea-barlett-schoenstein/ You can see us in the city council chamber for the day.
Birds are on a feeding frenzy: hummers, their fat little bellies pressed against the feeder rail, sucking down the sugar water. Blue and scrub jays call out to Bruce, “peep-squawk” “feed-me-peanuts.” The scrub jay can carry two nuts at once if they are small. It thinks it’s being clever, burying them on the edge of the compost pile in deep duff. I’m watching the whole time from my cozy nook in the kitchen.
Finches arrive in a cloud of fluttering, peeping wings, harvesting every last seed from the gaunt, bent sunflowers.
Everyday Bruce and I pick a 5-gallon bucket of apples and process them for our freezer. That means Bruce runs the ingenious hand-crank, mechanical peeler and slicer. We pack the apple slices into freezer bags with a little sugar, ready to make strudel or pie all winter. We have flats of whole, perfect apples in the shed where they should keep a long time in the cold. Mind you, these aren't any old apple. These are artisanal apples that hail back to the day when Dunsmuir provided fresh apples to the burgeoning population in San Francisco during the gold rush of 1849. The fragrant, juicy fruit have a faint blue tinge to the red, prominent now it has frosted, making them a deep purplish-red compared to the sunny golden red of summer and a delicious, apple-flavor that reminds you of what apples tasted like when you were a kid.
The first big winter storm swept through, Mt Shasta Baise Shan is white down into the tree line. Sixteen inches of snow fell at Crater Lake, Oregon. http://www.nps.gov/crla/index.htm
In Dunsmuir today the sun is shining, its 50-degrees F (10 C), kids are walking home from school past my house.
Black-headed Oregon juncos have arrived. During the summer, they live high up in nearby mountains. The snow drives them down to Dunsmuir for the winter. They’re picking through the remnants of the dry, sunflower stalks.
Leaves on the oaks and maples are still mostly green with patches of gold. Here and there a red flame of dogwood or ash. The dead-looking, dry grass has sprouted fresh, green blades overnight.
In China the Golden Week and National holiday, Guoqing jie and Huangjin zhou, has passed. On October 1 Chinese celebrate the founding of their Peoples’ Republic of china in 1949, marking the first day of the week long vacation. Many Chinese travel to visit local and distant attractions during this most beautiful time of year. Forbes says Chinese consumers are shifting from luxuries to camping. Chinese media reports more than four million people visited the nationally monitored scenic spots, a rise of 23.7 percent from last year. Campsite tourism and scenic drives are a new trend for re-balancing their economy as the Chinese lurch towards a more sustainable growth factor.
Remember this summer, when I visited southern California? I got to see my family and a friend from Beijing, Feng, and her son, Alec, and her husband who was attending a conference in Anaheim. This woman befriended me at Tsinghua campus. She worked in the housing office and would help me with things because her English is very good and because she is good hearted. I was sorry to leave Feng and the many Chinese and ex-pat friends I made in the short ten months of my tenure. Writing this blog helps me massage that sore spot in my heart where Beijing sticks like a dart.
Feng tells me about her Golden Days outing with her family. She says, “The holiday is very relaxing and casual. I have a lot of fun chatting with friends, barbecuing outdoors, enjoying good scenery and delicious food. I love staying in the outskirts of town and didn't want to come back.”
These are Feng’s recipes for her family camping barbecue.
1. Lamb skewers Sheep hindquarters, the best little fat. Appropriate cut into small pieces (2 cm or 1-inch) marinated. Marinade: onion, white wine, salt, sugar, a little, put some dry chili marinade if you like spicy food. Add to the Marinade Drizzle a little oil. Generally marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Before grilling, sprinkle meat with some chili powder and cumin powder. Brush with any favorite sauce or dressing.
2. Grilled chicken wings Wings can be marinated with a ready-made barbecue sauce, pickling spices and mutton. Brush a small amount of honey on the outside skin will be crispier. You can use the Drizzle oil or not according to taste.
3. Grilled vegetables
Vegetables good to grill are mushrooms, beans, eggplant, garlic, leek, peppers, sweet potato slices, and potato chips. Brush a little cooking oil while they grill will cook them faster, but not easy to paste. Brush with any favorite sauce or dressing. Fast Flavors: butter + a little oil + a little sugar, spice powder, sprinkle on the vegetables some for the fragrance. Do not buy meat with flesh attached off-the-shelf. Some people like to buy chicken gristle + Chicken already skewered in the package for convenience.
Feng adds “The barbecue is very happy, but the photos are very few, people only enjoy the food!!! Ha-ha, it is very cold now, how fast this fall passes!”
Tao Te Ching Philosophical Interpretation By Feng GuangXing and Ms. Feng Jingwen
I received a book in the mail from my friend Feng. Holding the white and green bubble cushion China Postal envelope with red stamps, I was excited with anticipation at seeing her father and her sister’s book on Taoism had arrived.
Feng’s father was Dean of the Administrative Law Department at Northwestern College of Law and has published numerous academic books and journal papers. This book about Taoism is his first attempt to capture that elusive quality of the Tao. Also an author is Feng Jingwen, his daughter, who currently works as a faculty at the Law School of ShanXi University of Finance and Economics. Ms Feng is distinguished for having studied law, receiving a BS at the University of Shaanxi and a MS from the Law School at Shanxi University where she now works; she has published articles in the Social Science Journal.
I asked Feng, what is it about? Water: The best of humanity is like water, which benefits all things and does not contend against them, which runs in places others disdain, abiding within flow. 上善若水。水善利万物而不争，处众人之所恶，故几于道。
348 pages, this book can be purchased from Shaanxi people's Publishing House ‘issued section.’ Feng says, “In XI'AN my parents’ apartment has some books, if someone want to buy one. They only provide books, but can’t provide receipt. The publisher said because these kinds of books are professional, too bad sales, the author may sell books, but does not provide the invoice. He-he, Sounds a bit complicated.” If anyone wants to get a book from Feng, let me know and I will forward your request to her.
After the first strong rain, Oregon stream fairies can be glimpsed standing in ditches next to roads looking ephemeral.
See you later
For all the younger people reading this, when you hear folks say they are busier after retirement, I can attest the truth of that statement. Between caring for Bruce after his second surgery for a hernia, painting, writing, visiting with family, I try to carve out a few minutes for yoga and relaxing.
I am sending one more fire fighting image, showing the red plume of fire retardant releasing from a specially outfitted plane. Look closely in the lower corner and you will see the flames.
After playing in the yard, picking windfall apples out of the grass, Nai Nai, my son James and my granddaughter Maddie visited one of several parks in our small town. The city park near the Sacramento River combines botanical gardens, children's playground and river. Maddie has been active in toddler gymnastics in her hometown in Eugene. Here she shows her stuff on the rings with Dad in the background.
We picked up Bruce and went downtown for lunch at the brewery which makes several of their own brews, utilizing Dunsmuir's Best Water on Earth. http://www.dunsmuirbreweryworks.info/
As the day wound down and the sun was dropping behind Mt. Bradley, we visited Tauhindauli Park at a historic site in Siskiyou County, the first Euroamerican settlement in 1852. Prior to that date Tauhindauli clan of the Wintu indians lived here. This is a natural park restored with native plants and natural river features. Fishermen and kyakers use it.
Over the weekend after Labor Day, I went camping with my son, nephew and their families at Wright's Beach in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco. http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=451 This is a beginning of a tradition of family camping. Each person wrote or drew pictures in the album. Here are some excerpts:
Overnight "Racoons came by and stole James, Amy and Madelaine's bacon! We found some footprints and trash on the floor, so we figured out what the wooden boxes at each campsite were for..." Ana
"Doran County Beach http://www.sonoma-county.org/parks/pk_doran.htm --breezy, catamaran race turning around an orange buoy--horses on the beach--para-foil style beach kites" Cher
"Wright Beach Happy Hour--wine by the glass/box, Reverie Sancerre French Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz--Australia, Fleure, Cru Beaujoulais--France. Almond stuffed crocked green olives, acme baguette, soprasseho salmi, Persian medjool dates and French feta. Cheese course: Cowgirl creamery (California) http://www.cowgirlcreamery.com/ --Mt Tam Wagon Wheel, (Spain)--Manchego Ibenco" Malini
"Amy and I prepared shrimp and scallop fettechini alfredo for the first camp dinner ... We drank some awesome Belgium beer http://www.visitbelgium.com/?page=beer-lovers and we had a lovely sit down dinner at the camp table. Even with a table cloth." James
"Last night we spied the Cosmos 1484 satellite http://www.n2yo.com/satellite/?s=14207 directly overhead among the vast amount of visible stars. Now it is time to pack up our dewy tent and say good bye." Jon
See you later
Walking around the Sanlitun neighborhood with my language teacher WuDan, she showed me an imported food market called April's Gourmet. They have four stores in Chaoyang district. It's just like a little old fashioned Trader Joes! gorgeous cheeses, big (for China) wine selection, lot's of familiar brands in every category, some Halloween costumes for theMeiguoren (American) children, olives!!!, pasta, spaghetti sauce, kettle potato ships, flowers, deli case, fresh fruit and veggies, pumpernickel bread, etc, etc.http://www.thebeijinger.com/directory/April-Gourmet http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/asia/china/beijing/33498/april-gourmet/shopping-detail.html Before getting on the subway Dr Monica and I ducked into the Ginza mall basement for a delectable Chinese pastry with cappuccino only 16K $2.52.
We're waiting for the heat to be turned on. There are steam heat radiators in every room, including the shower, in every building in Beijing. I've been running my Kaopian air conditioner/heater in the spare bedroom day and night to keep the temperature around 64-68-degrees.
I've noticed a definite change in the internet this past week, and I've corroborated this with others at work and my friends. "They" DAGE Big Brother Firewall, whatever you want to call it/them, have been tightening the filters especially on news sites. You can get to the home page but every story is blocked. Yesterday I couldn't get to a cooking site for dumplings! The dictionary and the Thesaurus sites are now displaying homepage, if at all, without CSS, just text no graphics, and the word search links are dead. The SacBee which usually works when Google News won't is totally blocked. Also NY Times, LA Times. Yahoo News is still working.
On the morning of October 30 I went shopping early toHualian Shangchang to get some American breakfast cereal for Bruce, my husband, who arrives tomorrow afternoon for a visit! At the warmest part of the day I packed up my oil paint gear and pedaled to an avenue of trees I've painted huahua near the SW gate. For about an hour and half I played with my oils, something I haven't done since summer. I finally realized I was freezing. I added the last touches, a little smear for a suggestion of a person walking and more Renoiresque brushy dabs in the foreground suggesting grass and leaves, then packed up and biked home to get warm.
November 6 the afternoon sun hits the top windows in the apartments near mine, reflecting warmly on the wall over the big Chinese table. Gradually the poplar leaves turn yellow to golden brown, dropping into the hutong lanes where the residents sweep them into piles. Bruce and I visited a coal fired heating plant on campus.
On the way to the apartment we saw children painting a mural at their school.
Suddenly vans are showing up on every corner stuffed with Chinese cabbages for sale.
Miniature mandarin oranges are for sale everywhere, sweet and seedless. We stopped for coffee and a brownie at Scholar's Coffee shop.
Next we stop to pay on my bill at Yingzi the tailor's. I found a skirt and jacket I had to have.
We picked up some pastries and egg tart dan tat for breakfast at Tous les Jours bakery, had Mexican dinner at the Avocado Tree and home!
Saturday Eunice came to the apartment in the morning to help shop for Bruce's welcome party. She brought a giant magnum of Changyu champagne, yum! We got tea eggs, shrimp, water chestnuts, peas, lots of miscellaneous stuff like paper plates and chopsticks. Menu: 2 kinds of ramen fang bien miensalad, pan fried wonton with two flavors dipping vinegar, sliced tea eggs http://appetiteforchina.com/recipes/chinese-tea-eggs/ on pea sprouts. Li arrived in the afternoon to help, bringing several bottles of Belgium beer and Mexican smokey cheese we served sliced with crumbly Chinese biscuits. The guests started arriving at 6pm and soon the rooms were filled with chattering conversations in Chinese and English.
Bruce says its easy to get around by subway and bicycle and everyone looks fit and trim from all the walking and biking they do. Bruce's body adjusted to the rental mountain bike. He says the city is clean and everybody is busy doing something. It's crowded at times, no homeless people he could see camped on the street.
He got a tour of a power/heating plant near the university. He says its not that old, running on Chinese built machinery modeled on American technology from 1920's. They will be transitioning to natural gas from coal in a year or two. Neat plant, was great being able to get in. They found a young woman who spoke English who translated for him as they walked him around the place. It supplies hot water for passive heat system to several high tech business enterprises (institutes and a key laboratory) from three giant water boiler units approx 25-feet wide by 40-feet long and 40-feet high.
He says the food is good, found a bakery close to the apartment where he can get pastries for breakfast. Found McDonald's and got a double burger on his own in Wudaokou while taking pictures at the train crossing. Wudaokou means 'five rail crossings.' Bruce is not interested in the usual tourist hot spots like the Great Wall but is obsessed with photographing every smoke stack he sees and there are plenty in Beijing!
Hui tou jian
Remembering 9/11 Li and Sara came to my apartment for a cooking party which started with a lesson in shopping for Chinese fruit and veggies. We met at the Farmers Market at the neighborhood Zhao Lan Yuan mall. Women huijianle nong mao shichang, zai fujiu de zhaolanyuan shangchang. We came home and arranged the fresh things for still life pictures. Here's a key for their identification:
- Jui cai Garlic chives
- Xiao Small onion, similar to chives
- Jiao bai Looks like big bamboo shoot, Water bamboo
- Cong Sweet onion, similar to leek but much stronger oniony fragrance and flavor
- Xiang cai Fragrant vegetable, cilantro
- Lu hao Wild
- Qing jiao Tiger claw pepper, Anaheim chile
- Bai luo bo Daikon radish
- Dasuan Garlic
10. Tong hao Looks like loose-leaf lettuce, similar to Lu hao
Red/Purple: (top row) Hongse/zise (ding xing)
- Zishu Purple potato
- Dasuan Garlic
- Huo long guo Dragon fruit
Second row: Di er hang
- Hong xian cai Beautiful red green veggie
- caogu mushrooms
- Hua Jiao Sichuan pepper also called pepper bush
- Qiezi Long skinny eggplant
- Da zao Chinese date, jujube
- Great Wall Cabernet sauvignon
Dishes Cai Top row: ding xing:
- Qiezi Eggplant with peppers
- Jiao bai Water bamboo
- Bai luo bo Daikon salad with cilantro
Bottom row: zui xiamian yihang:
- Hong xian cai Beautiful red green veggie with pink garlic
- Lu hao wild vegetable
- Tong hao wild vegetable
Dishes were served with small bowls of rice cooked with diced purple potato, which made it a lavender color, and Yu tou or taro root, Chinese potato and small bowls of mushroom soup mogu tang.
Just as we were sitting down to sample Li's creations (Sara and Cher were sou chefs, prepping, cleaning, chopping) and toasting with the liwu de yiping butao de honse de jiu, Evelyn, a new neighbor on the 2nd floor, rapped at my door bearing a plate of rhambutan fruit. Evelyn is visiting professor form Brown University in Rhode Islandhttp://www.brown.edu/, lecturing in the anthropology department. She speaks very good Mandarin. Founded in 1764, Brown University is the 7th oldest college in the United States with a current student enrollment of 8,000.
My internet was out, the entire southwest neighborhood, for some 'unknown' reason. I changed the duvet on my bed to the winter weight, fluffy one and washed the cover in my tiny washing machine and hung it to dry on the little sun porch.
This week Evelyn and I went to a fancy hotel downtown in the Chaoyang district to attend a lecture by a Tsinghua factulty director form the School of Economics and Management. After a lengthy presentation about the Tsinghua INSEAD dual degree program (in only 18 months you too can pay $90K and receive an MA from TU and one from INSEAD). The second half of the night's program was on "Challenges of the Chinese Economy and the 12th 5-year Plan." Before everything started we were treated to espresso and darling miniature current muffins as big as a quarter and the cutest little custards in porcelain dishes about the size of a large spoon, each with a couple tiny blueberries and little crumb of praline. Delicious! Everyone was networking like crazy, and it was big fun.
Some points from the lecture:
- The current rate of growth being experienced by China today is unsustainable. This is something known by the architects of the 12th 5-year Plan (2011-2015) who point out several problems but don't offer any solutions.
- The Chinese constitution contains some specific points such as:
- o party officials' salaries increase at the CPI rate annually, resulting in highly compensated bureaucratic officials.
- o The private to the public ratio shall never exceed 50%, currently at 50%, what happens if private sector growth exceeds to 51%?
- State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) are used to balance many conditions since they are 100% under the control of the government such as employment and investment.
- Currently SOEs are starting merger operations with private entities which preserves the SOEs hegemony.
- o This is possible because private enterprise is having trouble obtaining loans/capitalization, contributing to this trend
- The current growth trend started in 1978 when Deng Xiaopeng was recruited out of exile. He instituted agricultural and industrial reforms to counter the disastrous results of Mao's Great Leap Forward (1958-1962) and Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Mao's official tenure 1943-1976, died 1976.
- o In 1967 Liu and his wife were under house arrest in Beijing and disappeared. In 1969 Deng was sent to Xinjian County Tractor Factory. Both men attempted to remove Mao from power and rectify many problems with the country. The Cultural Revolution was a method to combat Mao's growing numbers of critics and regain control of the country.
There are many technical aspects to the net trade income, the tole of the central band, money supply and Value Added Tax which I can't delve into here, but are fascinating. The lecture provided me with greater understanding of the current situation and some interesting details, all delivered succinctly and with humor.
This past weekend I spent a blissful afternoon at the little square park near the office with the big grotesque rock and antique planter. I sat in the hazy autumn sunshine and drew the big rock. Part of my WuWei (non-action) series I am developing. Little bits of bamboo in the background and wispy clouds indicated by a few lines. Next I brush painted the little umbrella trees and their bigger maple companions. This will be beautiful when the leaves turn color.
The Sophora japonica 'pendula' is also known as Pendulous Pagoda Tree or Weeping Scholar Tree. A weeping head is grafted onto and upright trunk. Creamy yellow pea-like flowers bloom in summer in large panicles. The Chinese maple, Acer discolor, is very similar to the Japanese maple, Acer palmatum.
My internet and Gmail have been going in and out since Thursday when I accidentally triggered something while researching articles for my bi-weekly media report. I don't even want to tell you what keyword started it this time.
The mornings are crisp now. The guard shack ladies were admiring the little pots of ornamental peppers, poking up purple and red in the sun. They are tearing up the main road in my neighborhood, the one that goes by the shopping street Zhao Lan Yuan, down to the Senior Center and Primary School, where it flooded during the one-day typhoon event.
On any morning on my way to work I pass the old 'playground' of Tsinghua, now used mostly for soccer. Many folks are out in the morning of all ages from toddlers to seniors, enjoying the fine fall weather. I saw a boy on his bicycle riding furiously around and around the track trailing behind him a string of kites. Darling!
Chinese yo-yo dou kong zhu, che ling, xiang huang practitioners can be seen frequently on the field, morning or afternoons, with their big spool shaped discs joined by a shaft. Grooves are carved into the discs which make a whirring or buzzing sound which they use to gauge the speed. Numerous tricks can be done by a skilled player such as: accelerate, lift-up, swing, elevator, toss-and-catch, stick grind, jumping, waterfall, jump and escape. More advanced tricks: cicada/fake throw, around the world, genocide/propeller.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_yo-yo
Because of the road construction, residents in my neighborhood have had to find new ways to come and go. I am sharing some pictures from the hutong.
Hui tou jian
[audio mp3="http://cherylpetty.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/月亮代表我的心.mp3"][/audio] Shortly after returning to Beijing, I went out to dinner with Yun and Yun and son to my favorite neighborhood restaurant. Wo hui Beijing yihou, wo qu yu Yun, Yun he erzi zuixiai de linli canting. We had chao fan -- fried rice Beijing style which is verylightly fried with peas and bits of scrambled egg, shala -- lettuce salad with cherry tomatoes, peanuts and bits of other greens, stir fried mushrooms and cabbage with lotus seed and water chestnut, and fried corn cakes cut into wedges and sprinkled with sugar. Wode chi chaofan, shala, mogu lianzi he ling jiao fan chao he bai cai.
Around 9pm, after relaxing at the table, we walked across the big highway Chendulu on the overhead pedestrian walkway to the massage clinic where Yun and I first met. We all got a massage while their son, James, watched cartoons. What a nice way to end the evening around 10pm.
When the Foreign Expert Office had ballet tickets this time, Dr Monica and I went together to get them. Jintian wan shang wo, Sumo he tade laogong qu kan balei. First we took the subway where we met Greg. Then the three of us took a cab to Tian Qiao Theatre. Wo xian zuo ditie. Women zai ditie shan jian Greg. Ranhou, women dache qu Tian Qiao. We saw Carmen and The Girl from Arles, by Frenchman Roland Petit, featuring the young dancers of the Chinese National Ballet. Preceding the performances, we saw a video of M Pettit, recently deceased, an aged but active ballet master instructing the youthful and agile dancers in his style. It was impossible to find a cab home, so we had to go back by bus to find a subway station and then home. We were tired when we finally arrived home at 11pm. http://www.ballet.org.uk/what-s-on/roland-petit.html
The next morning I managed to get up and out the door by 9am. My plan was to Chinese brush paint at the lotus pond on campus. Wo dasuan shi zai xiao yuan lide zai he hua chi, hua hua. Besides having many curious on-lookers, I completed four sketches of the lotus leaves, he ye, water, shui,reflections, dao ying, pavilion, tingzi he,willow trees, liu shu, and water skimmers,gerris gibbifer (latin).
Later Li Zhang came by my apartment to visit. This bright and accomplished young woman is research assistant to one of my ex-pat girlfriends, Sara, who is conducting research on anthropological economics, specifically the migrant girls working in the downtown market area. Later we had dinner at my favorite restaurant, and now I can tell you the name. Man Pen Xiang Shui Zhu Yu,Full Bowl Fragrant Boiled Fish, specializes in Sichuan style dishes cooked in an oil/water mixture with Chinese spices and chile pepper.
The longan is very similar to the lychee, also called Dragon's eye, with a hard, smooth, light brown outer shell, inside is a soft, juicy fruit like a grape with one large black seed. Great quantities of longan are imported to Beijing from Thailand. I see from looking online that the University of California is working on cultivation of these fruit, but they find it difficult for several reasons. Although not a picky as lychee as far as temperature, longans must be propagated by marcottage-- air layering-- and they have trouble inducing fruiting since California is an arid climate unlike monsoonal Thailand.
Over the weekend, my Puji apartment was the location for a cooking party. Shange zhomo wo de Puji gongyu de pengren dang. Bruce and Jerry are buddies from Shanxi province, and ZhiWei is a new friend of theirs in Beijing. A mountainous area and a major coal, iron and electric power production region.http://www.drben.net/ChinaReport/Shanxi_Province/Shanxi_Province-Index.html Shanxi is also filled with significant cultural heritage sites, including the Yungang Cloud Ridge Caves.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datong .
I met Bruce at the lotus pond at Tsinghua while I was brush painting. He is here in Beijing doing an internship year at Beijing University in the Total Immersion Program (TIP) http://www.tip.org.cn/ in co-operation with the State Foreign Expert Bureau, Federal Education Department and Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press. He is an instructor in the program and is called LaoLi or Teacher Li. He will be taking his final exam in January at Shanxi Agricultural University founded 1907http://www1.sxau.edu.cn/foreign/ejianjie.htmwhere he will graduate with a BS degree in molecular biology. Click onhttp://blog.sina.com.cn/actionslee to see Bruce's blog.
Jerry is in graduate school at Beijing Language and Culture University, studying to be an English teacher. Here is his school link and class schedule. http://www.blcu.edu.cn/blcuweb/english/index-en.asp ; Intercultural communication, Classical literature, Modern Chinese, English, Chinese composition, Teaching investigation and case analysis, Second language teaching, Chinese art and history, Linguistics and Chinese political system. Jerry sent me the attached mp3 called "Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin" "The Moon is like my Heart" and I thought I would share it with you. I thought the melody sounded a little like Debbie Reynolds singing "Tammy."
ZhiWei is working at ChinaLife. ZhiWei's company http://www.chinalife.com.cn/publish/English/356/index.html/ . ZhiWei's parents have a restaurant back in Shanxi.
We feasted on dishes meticulously prepared by the young men. There was Hong shao quieziShanxi sweet eggplant fried with onion, sugar and fish sauce followed by Xi Hong shi chao zi dan stir fried tomato and eggs seasoned with salt, pepper berry and garlic.. Lastly,Da zha hui veggie medley with fu zhu dried bean curd sheet, la jiao red pepper, lu dou jiao green beans.mogu mushroom.
I have included a jpg of Wu Dan, my language teacher at That's Mandarin. http://www.thatsmandarin.com/ When I started 4 months ago, Mr Monica and I were going to nearby Wudaokou but suddenly they announced the classes were being consolidated with another campus near Dongmenzhan in the old downtown of Beijing. Now we get up on Saturday at 6am and take the subway, grab some interesting breakfast on the sidewalk on the way to TM, arriving by 8am. Meige xingqiliu wo dou zai That's Mandarin. Meige xingqiliu wo dou shang hanyu ke. Ni lai TM fangbian ma? Xiayu de shihou wo buzhidao fan bu fangbian. Is it convenient to come to TM? When it is raining, I don't know how convenient it will be.
This weekend was the Mid Autumn Festival or Moon Festival, Zhongiu, a 3,000 year old asian moon worship rite originating in the Shang Dynasty 16-11th century BCE. It coincides with the autumnal equinox when the moon is at its fullest. Traditional food, the mooncake, comes in many varieties. Being a legal holiday, we get a 3-day holiday and will return to work on Tuesday. Similar to our American Thanksgiving, farmers celebrate the end of the fall harvest and is a traditional time for families to come together and share a meal.
The young men from Shanxi wanted to invite me to celebrate with them, all of us being far away from family. We went to Grandma's Kitchen on the 5th floor of Hualian mall. Wode qu Grandma's Kitchen, hualian shangchang di 5 ceng. ZhiWei was stuck in rain for 1/2 hour and couldn't get a cab. A friend of Jerry's, Helen, joined us. She is also studying to be an English teacher.
The menu at Grandma's is mostly American. I ordered French Fries and a Corona, Helen tried a Quesadilla with salsa, Jerry and Bruce had strawberry and pineapple ice cream sundaes with mooncakes and chocolates. We talked about movies and music, Chinese and American customs.
Afterwards we went to the 1st floor -- shoes -- where they helped me find a sensible pair of shoes for the fall season, flat heeled short boots good for bicycling and subway travel in the rain. Later we all walked the short distance to Jerry's school. It stopped raining. Jintian xiayule danshi xianzai buxia le. The Beijing Language and Culture University, founded in 1962, has 20,000 students at its small campus next to Tsinghua University. You can compare this to Yale Universit It has a darling, intimate lotus pond and wall with the names in Chinese of all the countries from which students have come to study here, 175. I got home before dark.
Many people have asked why I don't use web hosting for my blog. One reason is that this way I am avoiding increased scrutiny from dage, Big Brother. Another reason is that I want to keep control over the content. I am happy to have you forward these emails to your friends, and add anyone who sends me an email asking to be on the distribution list. There is a possibility that I will want to use them for future projects after my return to the US, and I want to retain my copyright ownership. If I published them on the world wide web that would be nearly impossible. Thank you for your understanding.
Hui tou jian
It's final, I will be visiting Dunsmuir this summer, July 27 to August 16! The end of the term is fast approaching. Suddenly I am very busy proofing articles for the next campus newsletter. It comes out 3x and is a 4-color glossy journal produced in English by our department. Other projects suddenly are phasing into the final stages, and all are needing proofing by the foreign expert in English. Every two weeks I search various international news outlets like Businessweek and Reuters for mention of Tsinghua. I found a nice bit about all the US patents granted this year. I think IBM had the most, over 500, and among universities Berkeley was #1 with just under 200. Tsinghua was right up there in the top 10 universities. So we made an article out of that for the newsletter/journal.
At the anmo clinic, I met a delightful and beautiful young woman busying herself with the tea set and who poured me these tiny little fluted porcelain thimbles of tea. Jasmine is the most popular kind in Beijing, hua cha. She had an art book in her lap and that led to exchanging cards and attempts to talk, her in Mandarin, me with a few pitiful phrases alternating with English. But the main ideas were clearly communicated. I wanted to see her studio, and we both wanted to check each others websites to see what kind of art the other did. http://www.qiuyunart.com/ She is pretty accomplished in Chinese brush painting, hua zhongguo hua.
She, QIU Yun, and her husband PEI Yunzhang, picked me up in her Honda. They took me to her studio in a nice apartment building which they bought and finished the interior themselves. It's huge with several rooms and a couple little East facing balconies. She also paints in oils with a spiritual Buddhist theme. They, Yun and Yun, are Tibetan Buddhists which also means they are vegetarian and don't drink.
We later went out to eat at a tony 'Natural Vegetarian' restaurant. For you foodies: we had cone-shaped nori wraps with lettuce, slivered pear and some other things, a vegetable stew with yellow squash and something purple cubed, little tofurkey sausages with Chinese katsup and powdered cumin dipping sauce, big communal plate of lightly seasoned escarole piled up high with cubed pickled something red and orange on the side, veggie pot stickers presented under a puffy paper thin rice batter crepe, and braised tofu slices.
The next day, on Sunday, xingqi tian, we went shopping for Cheryl's art supplies. We went downtown near the big Art Academy which is surrounded by little art shops where I got brushes and tubes of water base tube colors. wo maile huabi he yanliao.
BTW Yunzhang works at Google, yes there is a Google office still in Beijing at the Tsinghua (TUS Park) Science Park. He is 38-years-old, slightly older than my son. They have a 9-year-old son and live two buildings away from me with his mother and grandmother who is 90.
I went downstairs to do a little photography and happened to catch some big equipment squeeze through the gate, a big front loader and two big dump trucks. So I guess they don't use manpower for everything. The migrant men were off for the day, xiaban, eating their ramen noodles and drinking beer next to the little minimart. They are friendly, not shy about the camera. Clean clothes. Decent, hard working guys with families back home, far away.
Listening to some sets of Steely Dan made me think about the 80s in LA and my old friends and life at Cooke's Crating, living in a warehouse in downtown LA with other young artists. Steely Dan captured the whole LA scene, cocaine, yearning for fame, living life with art and music and disillusionment. Where is Rick Cox now? The talented studio musician and the coke whores Genisse and Sarah? I saw Chas on a demo video online doing the same ambient music awhile back. He still lives in the same house we lived in Sherman Oaks. Lisa with the green hair and Heather, Jame's favorite babysitter? I got my first computer job back then, working for Walter Bilofsky in the Union Bank building on Ventura Boulevard.
Today Yun and Yunzhang came over with their son James to give me a little Chinese painting hua zhongguo hua lesson and have dinner. Afterward we all got into Yun's car and drove to the TusPark complex where Yunzhang works. At the lower level are some little shops where Yun introduced me to a young woman who is a tailor. She is making up some things for me.
My internet connection was down for 24 hours again this weekend. Zhoumo wode diannao bukeyi shangwang le.
Monday was my last anmo treatment. My shoulder is pretty nearly straight, and my foot is back to normal. I got acupuncture needle treatment in my hand and foot. More excruciating massage of abdomen and legs, but the painful pressure points in my arms and shoulders have diminished, so I guess the treatment is working.
I went downtown for the last time to pick up the residence permit in my passport. This will be good until the end of my work contract at Tsinghua, in March 2012.
Hui tou jian
On one corner of the library is an ancient garden built up with beautiful rock, winding paths, small hill covered with gaunt pines and junipers, winter withered bamboo groves, just now pushing out small green spears. On the grassy area a flock of hutong ladies worked their way across like geese, heads down and tushies in the air, digging dandelions out by the root and stuffing them into shopping bags, later to be transformed into a tasty meal.
Nearby is another park with a fantastic rock called Ling Xi Shi. Ling: quick, departed soul Xi: sharp, rhinoceros Shi: Rock. Lady Xi Ling Shi was the 14 year old bride of Emperor Huang Ti, "Yellow Emperor," a legendary founder of Chinese civilization from 2697-2597 BCE. Lady Xi invented silk weaving while sipping tea. A silk cocoon fell into her cup. While she watched the delicate fibers unravel in the hot liquid she was inspired to try using it to create yarn for weaving.
What do things cost category: Package needles, large spool thread, several yards ribbon 2Y or $.30, tube superglue 4Y or $.60, 1/2 small hot house watermelon 13Y $2.00.
Met an interesting young woman at the on campus coffee cafe. After studying in Belgium, she has returned to China to do more studying. Although her major is Chinese literature and language, she is transitioning to anthropology. And another thing, she is the research assistant for Sara you will be hearing about later in this letter. Her name is Li, and she is very knowledgeable about the hutong neighborhood where I live in my Puji apartment building. She tells me the little tony internet cafe down my way used to be the residence of two famous people, husband and wife. She, Lin Hui Yin, an architect and writer, and he, Liang Si Chen, an architect.
Lin Hui Yin (1904-1955) first female architect in China, at age 16 met Xu Zhimo, poet, in London and they started an affair. He asked for a divorce from his wife, but Hui Yin ended up marrying another man Lian Sicheng. Zhimo never stopped loving HuiYin, and this is a famous 20th century Chinese love story.
Liang Sichen (1901-1972) studied architecture in the US and returned to China to found 2 schools of architecture at NE University 1928 and at Tsinghua U 1946. He helped design the UN building in New York and is considered "the Father of Modern Chinese Architecture." He received honorary doctoral degree from Princeton U in 1947 and is "a creative architect who has also been a teacher of architecture history, a pioneer in historical research and exploration in Chinese architecture and planning, and a leader in the restoration and preservation of the priceless monuments of his country." Here are some cool links: http://history.cultural-china.com/en/48History7616.html (love story) http://history.cultural-china.com/en/50History7635.html (Liang Sichen) http://history.cultural-china.com/en/50H7635H12632.html (historic building Xin Lin Yard)
In Jan 2010 the former residence of Liang Sicheng and Lin HuiYin, located in Beizonghu HuTong, Dongcheng District, Beijing, was been declared an "immovable cultural heritage" and is now protected. Now you can have very expensive coffee 28Y $4.31 in a casual artsy setting, supporting a good cause, where waitresses suddenly pick up a guitar and start practicing and a tiny homage to the two famous residents is decorated with flowers and photographs.
Friday was FE (Foreign Expert) girls lunch, we do this every other Friday, organized by Sharon PhD at Econ Dept. She has brought together Monica Canadian PhD Automation DNA sequencing, Sara PhD Econ Cultural anthropology and entrepreneur-ism, and Cherie! BA Art and is, as we all confirmed, the first FE staff in all TU-- still breaking barriers at 62, female and from California
Some of you have requested food pix, so here we go about food again For lunch we meet at the Main East Gate and walk to a bustling commercial district just off campus, the waitress knows us and we get a good table by the window. The waitress takes our order right away, guiding us through the beautifully photographed menu, recording everything on a little hand held device. You pay right then. For four of us, four dishes, rice, a big bottle of beer (pi jiu) + four little glasses came to just under 80Y $12.31, easy to split 4 ways.
We got an egg dish with flower buds, eggplant with sweet red and green peppers, spicy mapo tofu and a new one: eagle claw peppers which we all agreed were very like Chinese chile rellenos, delicious.
Lately they've been checking ID's of people coming onto campus. I've been here three months and have never had to show my ID to anyone, and a good thing cause I don't have one. I've been hearing stories of people being refused entry, and I see them really scrutinize the cars coming in. James the cab driver has a placard he displays on his dash that lets him in cause he lives in the hutong. It's gold apparently.
Approaching the gate, we discuss our strategy. Sharon and I blithely breezed past the young guards, not looking at them and talking to each other. Monica and Sara flash their ID's behind us. I conveniently can't hear or understand the guards talking to the back of my head. Somehow I've gotten in again no problemo. I'll be happy to have a decent ID soon.
I worked on my website in the office on Saturday. No matter how you try to anticipate the work, you always need something at the other place....
On the way, I stopped to grab lunch to go at a stand in the hutong shopping area serving a traditional Beijing 'snack' a pancake called jian bing like a cross between a crepe and a breakfast burrito. First black sesame seeds are sprinkled on the grill. Then a bit of batter is poured onto the center of a hot round grill and deftly swirled with a bamboo squeegee to make a very thin, large round pancake. They add bean paste, hot chile sauce, cilantro, a wad of lettuce, an egg, there might be some purple taro root in there, all for 4Y $.60 plus a 550ml cold jasmine tea made with real honey 3Y $.46. Here are some food links: http://appetiteforchina.com/recipes/chinese-tea-eggs
In the accompanying pix you will find a picture of a chinese magpie, a symbol of happiness, xi que. Chinese agave (aloe) long she lan shu zhi wu is used for perfume.
Hui tou jian
Let's talk about food some more. Everyday I try to have a Western salad: iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, radish, and chopped fresh ginger or red onion. Their cucumbers are delicious. They're skinny and bumpy, sometimes the shriveled flower is still attached, with super flavor. I try to get as much raw veggies as I can, so I like to add some grated carrot. Their carrots are husky dudes, bumpy, and with specks of mud. Everything served raw has to be washed well. Sometimes I'll have spinach to add. There's two kinds of tomatoes I've noticed. There is the regular Early Girl type, sometimes you'll see a big one. The Chinese love the sweet, little grape tomatoes which they eat for a snack. I haven't seen salad dressy anywhere, so I shake up a jar with olive oil, Chinese wine vinegar, seasoned soy sauce, salt, pepper and mayonnaise. I also haven't seen any olives. Anyone coming to visit me, please bring a jar.
It's not entirely true no salad dressing. They do have jars of Kewpie thousand Island next to the Kewpie Mayo. That's Kewpie as in Kewpie doll. Anyone remember what that is? The time capsule at 1933 NY World's Fair contained one. A Kewpie doll was mentioned in The diary of Anne Frank. John Steinbeck mentioned it in Of Mice and Men in the 1930's. A Kewpie doll was used to smuggle plutonium in a Get Smart episode in 1968. Many other citations for any of you interested to look it up. The creator, Rose O'Niell, was a writer and illustrator for Ladies Home Journal in 1909 and became rich and successful in the media business, at that time rare for a woman.
Thursday they started mowing the lawn, the air is floating with cottonwood floss, birds chirp, and the park is filled with families with baby rollers and toddlers. The yellow, double rose I'm sending you today is unnamed. It's not the several listed in Google, so we will have to enjoy her mystery. Small trees of Davida involucrate, the Dove Tree, are blooming. It actually is in the dogwood family (Cornaceae) and is native to China. I think the similarity to dogwood is pretty obvious, do you agree?
It's been a roller coaster ride the past couple days. Riding up to the stars, I got invited to see a contemporary ballet, Peony Pavilion, at the Tianqiao Theater in downtown Beijing, a new and beautiful palace of culture. It is big enough, with two balconies, to hold a crowd, but it's intimate enough to see the musicians in the pit and facial expressions on the dancers.
The National Office of Foreign Experts sponsored the performance and distributed tickets throughout the city to employers having FE employees. Tsinghua provided a bus and a Chinese fast food burger for dinner as we rolled downtown.
The traditional story, a Kunfu Opera by Tang Xianzu from 16th century Ming Dynasty, is a Romeo and Juliet theme with a macabre twist and, in the traditional Chinese opera, lasts twenty hours. Thankfully, this contemporary version with a new musical score and set for modern ballet was only two hours.
This piece is the first dance drama directed by Li Luiyi, from the Beijing Peoples' Art Theater and the first full length ballet choreographed by Fei Bo, a young artist from the National Ballet of China.
In the story of a sleeping girl and two of her two alter egos, her sensual self is in red performed by Huasheng Liniang, and her traditional, and my personal favorite, self is performed by a traditional opera artist, dropped into this contemporary production.
In sumptuous robes with huge sleeves, elaborate train, makeup and stylized gestures, she glides in a strange centipede fashion she looks like she's not moving while moving. And that voice! Strange vocalizations, bits from the original opera, delivered with poise and strength. At one point she slips out of blue robe, revealing a lighter robe beneath, and finally down to a third white costume, as the girl dies, like a chrysalis in reverse. In fact, many odd juxtapositions that captivated me and kept me eager to see the next and the next surreal detail. Andre Breton would have loved this performance.
Zhu Yan, dancing the female lead Du Liniang, and Hao Bin, the male Lin Mengmei, are fabulous as is the entire troupe of girls, rustics, the hell scene with the King of Hell in red beard and his yin and yang imps, a crown of ghosts. Hunch backed in wispy shrouds, carrying detached heads with floating, blue light eyeballs.
The sparse sets by designer Michael Simon thrilled my surrealist heart with giant crumpled peonies like alien ships, giant dead branch hanging across the entire stage width, freakish flower pods that suddenly drop from above, tilted platforms, ligthing, fluttering things falling.
I was joyous at the Chinese inspired ballet costumes by Oscar winning Japanese designer Emi Wada that clung to the body or spun out in tiers instead of the fluffy tulle that comes to mind when you think of ballet.
An interesting motif of one ballet slipper, somewhat reminiscent of Cinderella, that threaded its way through the story. The gruesome story line begins with a pretty girl who pines away and dies of love sickness, and then she goes to the underworld of the dead to beg to be given a body to return to find her dream lover. They are finally reunited in a grotesque wedding finale, perfectly complemented by the contemporary approach to the set, the psychological subplots and the sometimes creepy music. This performance exceeded my expectations, and I hope to see more Beijing ballet.
Still, underneath, Cheryl is feeling glum and a little discouraged, my mood oddly matched and ripened by the death/love ballet theme, evocative imagery, colors, lights and music. Riding my bicycle home late at night through canyons of streets, theatrical and ghostly in the street lamps, the feelings drifted down in a slow spiral. My own hell imps questioning me, why, why? And what is the point? And does everything have to have a point? Or is it enough to get up everyday and plod through the wheel of dharma around and around.