Hello world!

First of all, let me introduce myself. A few months ago I was fresh out of a quaint New England university, jobless, slightly starting to panic, several of my cousins marrying off, and anxious about how I had no idea where my life was going. I decided, why not move to China and see what happens? So I arrived in Beijing the evening of December 31st hoping for an interesting and adventure filled new year.

I am a hapa, a hybrid kid, a halfie, a mutt.  In Mandarin, the term is hunxue, “混血” which means mixed blood. Hun literally translated is confused, churned up, muddy, mudblood.  
I am part Taiwanese and part a whole bunch of other stuff,  and then there’s the part emotional robot, with all the neuroses that come with trying to be a real girl.  I spent five years studying Mandarin, which may or may not have prepared me enough to live here, and 4 years studying economics, which may or may not have prepared me for the professional world.

If I could do anything in the world, it would be to have Anthony Bourdain’s life, minus the sketchy parts.  I love food, I love eating and cooking and creating, I spend a lot of time focusing on food, and I love to travel.  For me, travel and food are inherently intertwined, exploring what delicious things each new place has to offer, and if I spend any significant amount of time in one place, what things I can learn to make. So in my exactly 100 pounds of luggage I insisted on bringing volume 1 of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which I received for Christmas (there was a long internal struggle about not bringing volume 2).  Don’t worry, I have no plans on making every recipe and whining about my life (actually, it might be interesting to see if I could make every recipe, as I most likely won’t have an oven while I’m here), but do expect to see a lot of food pictures and cooking experiments gone awry.

Now, let me get you up to date. My China adventure has been unfolding while the internet has been refusing to cooperate.

After a bit of a rocky start (delays, fog in my stopover at Toronto, lack of Asian cuisine besides the Noodle Cup snack) I arrived at the Beijing airport with high spirits and swollen feet. Wrestled my suitcases off the carousel with no small difficulty and dragged them out to the exit where I met up with Former Co-Intern. We had spent the previous summer working together in Northeastern China and shared many a misadventure. I was excited to learn she had a research project bringing her to Beijing the very day I was moving there. We managed to maneuver all of our collective luggage to the train, and met up with her Local Friend.  After a quick meal that I was too tired to truly enjoy, my New Year’s Eve was rather tranquil; by eleven I was blissfully sleeping on Local Friend’s rather comfortable couch.

Day 1: bright and early I was awake and chipper and for lunch we headed out to the new Din Tai Feng.  Having spent a year living in Taiwan and frequenting the original DTF, my loyalty lies with the Taipei xiaolongbao (soup dumpling) restaurant, but this was a pretty good copy. The whole place was much fancier and shinier than the original, and along with the requisite many baskets of tasty soup dumpling, we ordered a thinly shaved orange-juice-marinated raw pumpkin that turned out to be addictive.

Much of this past week has been full of the requisite sight seeing. Yonghegong, or the Lama Temple, was worth visiting, and much more extensive than I had realized, every time we finished with one section there seemed to unfold another behind it. Definitely make it all the way back to see the giant sandalwood Buddha statue.

Even having received some warning, Beijing is colder than I imagined it could be. I spend most of the week wearing at least three layers of sweater and silk long underwear beneath my thickest jeans.  And as a piece de resistance, a thick furry lumberjack hat that makes me look vaguely like a giant teddy bear wobbling around. Kind of a frightening image. Or adorable.

The second day we spent at 798, a famous artsy district with lots of little galleries and cute boutiques. If I had a steady income, I’d be buying lots of cute adorable things for my new place. As it is, I allowed myself one pair of beautiful pottery earrings as a New Year gift. To be honest, while I love art and making art (not that I do much of that these days), I’m not the biggest fan of contemporary art and my style of gallery gazing is more of a quick glance. After a long time of walking around in the bitter cold, and posing with statues and giant birdcages, we decided to eat dinner at At Cafe, the first of all 798 eateries. The food was pretty good, if a strange take on western style, and a tad pricey.

Co-intern and I spent the next day by ourselves, hitting up Jingshan for the birds eye view of the Forbidden City and to see where the emperor famously hung himself. I had the bright idea to take a picture of Cranky Robot with a noose around his neck, but there were too many people and I thought it might be a tad insensitive. We followed this with an excursion to Beihai park, where we were so amused by the people dressed up and pulling a carriage around on the ice, that we paid for a ride and pretended to be princesses looking out upon the populace. It was hilarious, at least for me.

After that, we made the obligatory stop at Wangfujing Jie. This is the street that garnered so much American media attention during the Olympics, that sells all the crazy and disgusting snacks like scorpions and cocoons and sea horses. We walked the length and back, taking many pictures, but everything smelled pretty bad and even I, a fairly adventurous eater, was not tempted to try anything.  The looks of horror of the Japanese girls gamely trying the scorpion was enough of a second hand experience.

We met Local Friend at Makye Ame, an expensive but good Tibetan restaurant right near most of the embassies.  We ordered too much food, crispy yak (I love that the name is 牦牛, or hairy cow) and lamb ribs, special songrong mushrooms cooked on a hot rock (these were meaty, nutty and delicious) as well barley cooked in yak butter and honey with goji berries and little roots that the waitress called “jinshengguo” or ginseng fruit, but was not ginseng, and tasted like tiny sweet potatoes.

I made a lemon cream sauce for gnocchi that Local Friend had and lemon zest chicken for dinner that night back at the apartment, and after that wheeled my several suitcases to the street and tried to catch a cab to take me to my hostel. Finding a cab that would fit all my suitcases was a feat in and of itself; he then dropped me at the mouth of the street and said in fairly unintelligible Mandarin, “the hostel is that way but this is a one way street. 20 kuai please.” I can only imagine I was a bit of a sight, struggling down the narrow little alley, with a big furry hat, two giant suitcases a backpack, a purse falling off my shoulder, and a little suitcase stacked on one of the larger ones. My bags kept falling sideways and I was muttering obscenities to myself, but I managed to make it to the hostel and to my room with a minimum of incident.

 

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