Ultimate Indoctrination

Since I last updated, it seems that China has decided I can’t access my blog, but after a few sessions with Witopia customer service, I managed to get a more functional internet. So I’m back.

After being locked in all day, Wednesday, Bambi felt bad and brought me out to his pick up Ultimate Frisbee game. Bambi and our other fellow alum soon to come to China are both ultimate players, and there is apparently a pretty well organized ultimate community in China and other Asian countries. Go figure. I have never played before-I don’t even remember the last time I threw a Frisbee. I ran track and cross country and high school and sailed a little bit during college, so I consider myself to be fairly athletic, but I have nothing to do with projectiles, no aim, no catching, and the last time I was on a team sport was sixth grade soccer. Still, I guess they want to recruit more girls, so out I went to see how this would go. All in all, I don’t think I did too badly. I’m pretty competitive, so I try pretty hard, and minus a few blunders and my absolutely horrid form, I didn’t make a fool of myself. At the end, after weeks of not working out and then sprinting hard for two hours, I felt destroyed, with a fifty percent chance of being sick, but really, really good. I miss being active and there’s no way I’m going to run outside in Beijing, regardless of my father’s advice (run outside, if a car gets too near you, hit it, scare the crap out of them with aggression, and then run away as fast as you can). I even went back on Saturday. I really enjoyed myself and I’m thinking I’m going to stick with this and see how it goes (the boys have successfully brainwashed me, I’m a Frisbee player now?). I’m also interested in finding out if there’s any kind of rock climbing scene here, which I was really getting into back at home.

Afterward, a bunch of us went to a little Xinjiang place near the gym, and with eight of us, we managed to decimates something like 10 dishes and 16 bottles of beer, all for about 30 kuai each, or about 5 dollars. Amazing. The food was fantastic, too, lamb and chicken chuan (skewers) covered in cumin and other spices, noodles in a hot tomato base fried, fried rice, big puffy naan bread to dip in the ‘dapanji,’ a giant tureen of spicy stew, spinach and eggs fried together, shreds of spicy pork with peppers and ginger and celery. I didn’t get any pictures since Bambi was all disapproving eyes at my touristy desire to photograph my food.

The next day when the boys were at work I was sent to pay their internet bill, as our internet had ceased to work. I went to the bank and filled out the form as instructed, with an account number, to no avail, the internet never restarted. After 24 hours of fail, I ventured back to the bank where I explained my situation to the nice information clerk. She had a terrible Beijing accent that I could barely understand, but I managed to get that I was supposed to call a number that she wrote down. After more puzzlement and calling the number and being confused by the person on the other end, we discovered that I had been given the wrong account number, and paid someone else’s internet fee. Bambi came back with me one more time since at this point I was vaguely embarrassed, and his conversational Chinese is better than mine anyways.
The information lady was quite taken with Bambi, telling me when he wasn’t paying attention, that he’s “很可爱” or very cute. But she was more than helpful, and got it all sorted out for us after a bit of pleading.

Bambi went out for a meeting and then I took the bus to meet him that evening at another potential apartment. As I got off the bus to meet him, my phone minutes ran out. Luckily, there was a young girl that I waylaid, and possibly because I asked her in Chinese, or possibly because I looked so distressed and panicked, she let me use her phone to track down his location.

On our apartment hunt over the weekend, Bambi and I stopped for lunch at what seems to be a pretty famous restaurant, called Fu Lou Jia, with statues of opium smokers in the front window. It was loud and jangly-nerve-wracking, with lots of yelling and crowds and hustling waitstaff, but the food was pretty good. It took too long, and the “疙瘩汤” or lumpy soup, that Bambi and his roommate are obsessed with and always order, had to be canceled. After this rowdy little restaurant, we met the real estate agent at the subway stop. This time, surprise and joy, he was on his moped and motioned for Bambi to get behind him, and he had brought a friend on her moped for me. Just exactly what I needed, to ride on the back of another stranger’s moped in China (last summer, Co-intern and I had been stranded at the far ferry in Dandong, on the border of North Korea, without a taxi for miles, and ended up being offered a ride by a shopkeeper’s husband. After we accepted the offer, we discovered he rode a moped. That day was one ridiculous event after another). With some reluctance, as I haven’t had the best of luck with mopeds or bicycles in general, I climbed on and held on for dear life. We weren’t even going that fast, and as surprise moped rides go, I suppose it wasn’t bad at all, even almost enjoyable, if I wasn’t so afraid of crashing every turn.

I survived the subsequent ride away from the apartment, and that evening we all went to a small Sichuan restaurant down the street, where the boys finally got their lumpy soup. It’s a tomato based broth, with egg and a little spinach and vegetables, and doughy bits like German spaetzle. The more lumps, the better, according to my lumpy-soup aficionados. We ordered a few bottles of Yanjing beer to go with the meal, and the waiter only brought two cups for the menfolk, I had to ask for him to bring one for the lady too. Honestly, you’d think enough foreign women drink here that they wouldn’t think it’s weird. (Side note, when I ran down to get a refill for our big bottle of fountain water, because I am a helpless laowai girl and not a big, strapping laowai boy, the water man brought the big bottle all the way into the kitchen and set up the tap and everything for me, and gave me a card to call him instead of having to walk downstairs. In all their time the boys had not received this treatment.) We got a few dishes, duck and vegetables similar to a mushu, to be stuffed in hollow steam buns was my favorite, and a fried rice that would be exactly amazing like my mom’s, only the peas and ham were poor quality.

After Frisbee on Saturday, during which the gym was double booked by a basketball tournament, many people decided to meet up for jiaozi (dumplings) at Baoyuan Jiaozi on Maizidian Jie. They have a large variety and colorful purple skins. Crispy rice dumplings, spicy dumplings, we ordered eight different kinds I can’t even keep track of. A mostly Frisbee people party followed at another ex-pat’s apartment, at which I met more people and enjoyed white wine sangria and strawberry pina coladas.

This Monday being a holiday back in the States, Bambi had the day off, and we looked at a couple more apartments, one of which is a possible contender. We’ve got two good choices, although we have looked at so many they are beginning to run together in my head. Some have had no guest rooms, some are dirt holes with no sunlight and in abandoned looking buildings that seem like they’d fall down with the next gust of wind. One is a decent four bedroom place that requires us to find another roommate. I just want to make the decision as soon as possible, since our deadline is looming, once the lease is up and Bambi’s roommate returns to America on Saturday, we’ll be homeless. I want a home, I want to start making a place my own, settle in, feel like a real person. I have a tentative job interview, so at least I can be optimistic that I may have employment in the future. I still sort of feel like I’m an extended vacation, all this suitcase living and couch surfing, feeling constantly like I’m intruding in someone else’s space.

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