No Longer Homeless

Excellent news! We finally settled on an apartment, we’re going to start moving some stuff in tonight, sign the lease, pay the deposit, and be completely moved in by Saturday. I am so excited. We went with the 4 bedroom, even though for the moment there are only the three (actually, there are two of us for the next couple weeks). Our landlord seems like a really chill guy, he speaks pretty good English, used to be an engineer, and designed the apartment himself, so there’s none of the usual ridiculous Chinese design flaws. In fact, the only really Asian interior design is the chandelier, a purple flowery thing, that I’m sure his wife must have chosen. I am excited to have a fully stocked kitchen in which I can start cooking for real. And my own bed. I look forward to having a bed.

The only bad thing is that on top of the deposit, the real estate agency is insisting we pay three months rent up front, but didn’t tell us until two days ago. Since I don’t carry that kind of cash around with me, I’ve had to try and withdraw it from the ATM. I spent a very panicked half an hour yesterday when Bank of America told me that since I was in China, only a four digit pin would work, and since I had already left the States, I couldn’t change my pin and there was no way I could access my money from the China Construction Bank (which is the only one that doesn’t charge a fee for Bank of America accounts). Turns out to be false, as I immediately ran to the closest bank, an ICBC, where I was indeed able to get cash. But the ATMs have a limit, and on top of that, for some reason is only letting me take out half the limit. It’s all been very frustrating.

In other news, I’ve had two interviews, and am in the process of setting up more, which is promising. Although they’ve so far just been for teaching and translating, making money is a good thing. I look forward to having an income, although I think this might lead to an adventure in which I figure out how to open a bank account in China. My interview this morning was in Wudaokou, and it was pain to have to get out that far, and on top of it, I walked a lot of stairs with all the subway transfers and my knee is in an atrocious amount of pain.

Went back to Frisbee last night, and I’m sort of improving form, but I don’t think I quite warmed up well enough, or maybe just walking around in the cold all day was a bad idea, because my knee, which I hurt in New York two months ago, decided to act up again: it hurts to bend, to go up and down stairs, to take steps, and pain runs up to my hip. So after a short turn playing I called it a day and sat out and stretched.
The requisite post-game dinner followed, although this time we switched things up, instead of going to the Xinjiang restaurant, we went to the restaurant next door. The food was good, the beer was plentiful, the company was fun. More lamb chuan, which are always good, lots of (good, not drowning in oil) vegetables to accommodate the vegan with us, a really tasty braised chicken and mushroom, and disappointing eggplant. It wasn’t that bad, and in the states, I almost never order eggplant, but I’ve found that the 茄子dishes in China are generally really delicious, and this just wasn’t.

After my interview today, Bambi and his roommate were both home so we went out for lunch at this little Shanxi place a ten minute walk away. We all had, based on recommendation, 羊肉汤馍, the lamb and dough ball soup。 It was rich and flavorful and hot, so hot it burned my tongue, but I was freezing and starving so I kept eating, little bits of dough ripped up and chewy like dense noodles, and with glass noodles, and mushrooms, and chunks of lamb. It came accompanied with a small dish of pickled garlic, cilantro, and hot chili sauce, of which I only added the hot sauce. The whole soup tasted vaguely of lamb fat, and I had to try to not think about how much of the broth would congeal if the bowl was refrigerated.

Things to look forward to this week: more people that I know are coming to Beijing, which will help with the feeling-like-a-hermit-robot of being in a strange new city. Also, restaurants. Back at home, a very awesome chef that I met at a fundraiser took me under wing and invited me to hang out in her restaurant kitchen and see what its like to be a chef and let me cook things that actually went out to paying customers. Chef told my parents and her sous-chef, when explaining why I was in her kitchen, “I like to convert normal people into restaurant people.” While I don’t have any ambition to go to culinary school or open my own restaurant, I really do love cooking, and stumbled rather fortuitously upon a chance to work/intern at this restaurant here, hosting dinners in exchange for cooking lessons. I am pretty stoked for this.

Time to go wander the streets of Beijing until I find an ATM that will give me enough money for rent.

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