Saturday evening we hosted yet another Disney Power Hour after a delicious dinner of kaoya. This time I sat on the side and didn’t drink and just sang along, and subsequently have had Disney songs stuck in my head all week.

Allie and Dina and Bambi were being nostalgic about their study abroad semester where they frequented a club called GT Banana, and so they convinced us all to go. It turned out to be a pretty fun evening, watching the most ridiculous of dancing Asian men wearing sunglasses inside, foam and confetti and bubbles raining down on the ceiling, winning the dance floor. Almost worth the obnoxious pushy men who try to dance with you by forcibly pulling you towards them until you stare daggers at them and threaten grievous bodily harm in multiple languages. The girls and I caught a cab home well past my bedtime, and much to my annoyance, discovered that someone had chained up all the gates to our apartment. Seriously? Seriously? Who does that and why? There is NO point to locking the gates, what if you had an emergency and needed to leave? We had to climb over the god damn spiky dirty fence. I was not pleased.

Sunday was a busy day where all my lessons were weirdly spaced apart starting at 9:30 and lasting until 5:30, so I biked back and forth several times. Ginny won the party with consequences, and I checked back in on him on intervals and fed him because clearly I live with two boys who can’t function as real people. Our fridge was nearly empty so I restocked some basics, but had no room to put anything, because of all the leftover beer. Seriously, I pulled open the produce drawer to get some vegetables for an omelet at lunch, and discovered a few more da pings hiding with the zucchini and peppers.

Exhausted after biking perhaps 12K total, and trying to impart English knowledge for four straight hours, I joined Ginny and Bambi at Dongzhimen for dinner at a restaurant called Chuan Ba 串吧, for, straight forwardly enough, chuanr. Pretty much everything tastes better when it’s grilled on a stick. We ordered massive amounts of food-sweet potato, potato, eggplant, black pepper beef, chicken and pork “strings,” Thai honey chicken wings, grilled bread and mian tou (small white buns), more chicken and pork, and lamb. Almost every thing was great; juicy, well spiced, flavorful, tender, and the sweet potato was awesome (I happen to be a big fan of most of the super fruits and vegetables) except the lamb. It was bland, tough, unfortunate. It even lacked the distinct flavor that lamb has, which in the back of my mind makes me suspect that perhaps we were eating something else, but I didn’t want to consider it too thoroughly since I enjoyed everything else.

The girls returned from their real estate adventures and some da bao’d food. We sat around discussing their housing options, and even though I had been quite full of meat on a stick, the really delicious family style fried noodles were sitting in front of me, and the fattest panda just had to nibble on them. Om nom nom.

I taught a three year old today. She really is the most adorable. Let’s call her Peach. She’s got this little bowl cut and she reminds me of my sisters when we were tiny and adorable and looked more Asian. I’m unsure of what three year old kids in America are capable of as far as being able to speak English, so I think that hers is pretty good. I read part of Winnie the Pooh during the lesson, and Peach mimicked my words as I read each sentence, but didn’t always understand what I was saying until I explained it in Chinese.

After the lesson I hopped on a bus and met the family in Shuangjing to look at a potential apartment for the girls. It was a bit of a walk from the station and there are some issues with price and whatnot, but the view was beautiful, it was spacious, and there was an oven. Wherever the girls end up, I’m hoping an oven might make an appearance. I was dying for a piece of almond cake last night, and would love to make batches of cookies.

We ate lunch at a little xiao chi place near the Today Art Museum. Four baskets of the cutest little dumplings ever (I’ve got to stop forgetting to bring my camera around with me), some noodles with pork belly in a peanut sauce that was kind of dry, rather salty bok choi, and a small, soggy ji pai over rice. The boys ordered delivery home from the cab on our way back, but I fell asleep studying on my bed before it arrive. I woke up a few hours later, disoriented, and remembered my bike was still at work. I decided to make a trip of it and hit up Jenny Lou’s for some foreign supplies. More mac and cheese for Bambi, whiskey for Ginny, red wine and vegetables and ground beef so I could make another big pot of bolognese, and brie and crackers for Allie and Dina.

The girls came home from yet more apartments while I was apron-ed and adding the last touches to my sauce before letting it simmer; we made a pretty excellent dinner out of leftovers and a few more da bao’d dishes.

Finishing my evening with an episode of Top Gear with the boys. I’m not really even into cars, but I’ve rapidly become addicted to this show. They’re just so British and funny and trolling each other. And pretty cars going really fast in pretty places.

Pollution Makes For a Cranky Robot

Despite the outrageous levels of pollution, I made myself motivate to join Ginny and Bambi at the gym. It’s been years since I did any real sort of weight lifting, and it’s not like I never did much of it anyway for running or sailing, so I basically stood around until Bambi explained every little exercise. They have a whole program for getting back in shape, but since I am a lady and do not want to have scary man muscles, I modified their program and just did lots and lots more reps at a fraction of the weight (Bambi actually did some reps with weights than were heavier than me). Working out left me (and them, I suppose) exhausted and achy and sore. Stairs. I hate that there are 6 flights of stairs between me and being home every day, but I was feeling good and sort of ran them.

Food immediately followed, we ordered delivery from the family style restaurant down the street and very quickly demolished fried noodles with vegetable and egg (delicious, even though it was really oily), steamed bok choi (I always forget the Mandarin name for this), gongbao chicken with zucchini and peanuts (I really like the addition of zucchini, but prefer cashews), and the omnipresent qiezi rou si.

I spent the rest of the afternoon studying Chinese, working on a couple applications, and preparing a little Chinese speech to congratulate my grandparents’ 50th anniversary. I stayed up (reluctantly) much later that night to video-chat with my gathered family.

Ginny and I made our way to Frisbee. The first bus and train were pretty empty, but that Line 1, it’s a rape train. A nice couple (laowai guy and local girl) asked us if we were also heading to pick-up based on Ginny’s pants, and with some relief asked to follow along since they had no idea where they were going. It was hard to keep track of two strangers on a train that was so filled with people squishing up on you. More getting a little too intimate with everyone around you. The smog was so terrible that the inside of the gym was actually hazy. There was pollution inside the building. The thought of it makes my insides hurt. Oh the cancer.

More Xinjiang food after pick up. This restaurant must really love us, we bring them so much business. My favorite dish at the moment is fried cubes of bread and lamb. It’s spicy, cumin, hot, a little oily, so much flavor. It was the first dish to come out, and between the 8 of us, we killed it in about 45 seconds. We also had celery with some small white vegetable, spinach and egg fried, chao pianr, which is flat wide noodles in a tomato based sauce, lamb chuanr, very finely julienned potato with hot pepper, another dapanji, although no grilled bread this time, and more gongbao chicken. I did two workouts in a day, so it’s sort of justified…but the amount of food that I consumed makes me feel like the fattest panda. Also, the sleepiest, crankiest robot, since after we got home (after a miserable shower experience, seriously landlord, when is this going to be fixed?) all I wanted to do was pass out, but I wanted to stay awake to see my family.

Thursday Ginny and I had an adventure at Dong jiao, the kitchen ware market place. it’s a whole big street with large shops and little shops and stall after stall of all the home goods that didn’t quite make it to to Crate and Barrel and all the upscale stores abroad. Lots of pretty nice stuff that just didn’t make the cut. So many purchases, a not-Teflon wok, a frying pan with a handle, big ceramic bowls, yoga mats, etc. I hadn’t had much of a good breakfast since the boys decimated most of what was in the fridge, and I hit the two hour shopping max real hard. Programming shut down, inability to react/converse/laugh, just sighing at the world. When we finally arrived home laden with all of our new kitchen goods (exciting!) I flopped down on the couch and consumed a silly amount of food in a very short amount of time, to Bambi’s amusement.

A fifth fellow alum joined our little family, Dina, arriving just in time to make it to trivia night. Ginny and I went early and we may have resorted to flirting with some marines in order to secure a table (I’m continuously amazed at how crowded Kro’s Nest gets each Thursday). The girls went home early but I stayed long enough to be convinced to take shot of whiskey with the boys and Box. Unfortunately, it was fake whiskey. God damn it, I think I can still feel the ethanol ruining my insides. I continued to be the fattest panda with more pretty excellent pizza at Kro’s Nest, followed by a midnight snack of Kraft mac and cheese. I never it eat at home, but for some reason whenever I’m in Asia, maybe because of it’s scarcity, I always crave it. That, and bacon, steak, lasagna and cake.

Friday was a long day. It started with a demo that never showed up, and then some lessons. I had a demo with the most adorable 3 year old, and a really good lesson with a 9 year old girl. I took a break for food and to get my computer fixed at the Buynow, a large and confusing computer superstore. The wire on the plug was frayed, so they cut it off and welded on a new one. Thank you China! Then I had a bunch of demos, class with a little boy who picked his nose the entire time and class with a little boy who spit when he talked and had this awful blank look in his eyes like there’s nothing in his head. Tired and cold and hungry I wasn’t able to leave until 8:15, and the bike ride home was long and chilly.

The apartment was empty when I got in, and I just wanted a nice glass of wine to unwind, but due to a combination of shitty corkscrew and shitty cork, opening the bottle became a bit of an adventure. The family came home to me trying to dig out cork pieces from the bottleneck with a knife and muttering curses…I swear I don’t have a problem…

Banks and Ikea

I finally got around to getting a bank account. I went over the weekend, but the lady had some sort of issue that I couldn’t understand, and insisted that she couldn’t finish setting the account up, even though I had just spent half an hour filling out all the stupid paperwork.

The pollution index for Beijing was OVER the maximum. More than hazardous, it literally exceeded the measurements for pollution. Oh, hello cancer. I decided not to ride my bike, just looking at the street made my lungs hurt. I took a bus, resolving to buy a face mask as soon as possible if this smog keeps up.
It took me 2 1/2 hours to get a bank account and go home (stopping briefly at the supermarket for some supplies). Most of that time was sitting in the bank waiting my turn, then signing endless small pieces of paper and this time, there was no problem and I got my account (just in time to get my information to my employers and actually get paid this month). Since I signed up for online banking, I was also given this weird little gizmo. I have yet to figure out what it’s for or what it does, and the girl at the English school had no idea either when I asked her.

In honor of President’s Day, Bambi had no work, so we three had an adventure at lunchtime, finally deciding on a 家常菜 restaurant, or family style. They are all over the place, literally, on every street at least two, and they serve the exact same things. It’s like if there was a diner on every street in America. How do they all stay in business? How do Beijingers not eat more diversely? That being said, the food is usually pretty good, and this restaurant was nice. The little lady took care of us, pouring our tea properly, even ladling food onto Ginny’s plate. We got four standard dishes; baicai fenxi or cabbage and glass noodles that I enjoyed very much, , a leek and lamb dish that was just average, fried rice of course, and 地三鲜which loosely translates into three earthly freshness or something like that, and is braised peppers, eggplant and potato.

Ikea day. I had a lot of bad dreams and some random person called me around 6 AM, so I overslept, and didn’t really get out of bed until Ginny knocked on my door. We motivated to leave by 10:30, catching the 110 bus. Unfortunately, the bus was packed. Ginny and I got real close to a whole bunch of Chinese people. So much intimacy with strangers. We got off at the transfer point, and decided that we didn’t have the dedication to find the next bus, and flagged down a cab.

Ikea is enormous. Neither of us had been in one in the states, and it was a bit overwhelming, all of the stuff, all of the floors, the mazes through everything. We pushed our way through crowds to find a coffee table, silverware tray, coat hooks and shoe racks, adorable fish and star shaped ice cube trays that Bambi and Allie loved, a lamp, mirrors, and a whole bunch of plants. I gave a cheerful hello to a bunch of teenage boys who were staring at me struggling to carry all the plants like they’ve never seen a god damn laowai before.

We ran up the stairs, basically threw our new purchases on the ground and ran back down, ready for lunch. I’m not a very good shopper; I’ve got about a 2 hour limit, and we hit that, and then my brain starts shutting down and I get cranky, tired and hungry. To make things worse, I hadn’t eaten a good breakfast…we were both ready for food. We went first to a Korean restaurant right on the corner, but upon reading the menu, we discovered that everything was dog. Dog rice bowl, dog hot pot, grilled dog, lamb. Sorry, you’re not fooling anyone with that lamb dish. We quickly left, and instead found a home style restaurant down the street. We went with a 茄子肉丝, eggplant and pork strips, which is a standby at these places, and lamb with leeks. The food came with two bowls of rice and we spent a good ten minutes in silence, not looking at each other, just shoveling food into our faces. The eggplant and pork was pretty good, and at first I thought the lamb was good because it was hot and I was starving, but as it cooled I found that it didn’t have the best texture, since a lot of it was tendon and hard to chew.

Lamb and Leeks

Eggplant and pork slices


Once Allie and Bambi arrived home we went out to dinner at the Xinjiang place. We ordered a whole bunch of deliciousness, lamb chuanr, a couple chicken heart chuanr which are chewy, dark, and a bit gamy but otherwise good, a dapanji with grilled bread that Bambi had the forethought to ask to make with no bones, just small pieces of chicken, noodles served with an egg and tomato sauce, and spicy dried green beans.

Our apartment is beginning to look real, with coffee tables and throw pillows and candles. We sit with Hendricks and tonic with our star and fish ice cubes, being sort of adults and sort of real people but not really.

Shiny New Bicycle

Ginny and I decided that we were going to go on a bicycle buying expedition in the afternoon, after spending some time watching ridiculous Chinese soap operas and sort of translating/ad libbing their lines. There’s a moped and bike store at the corner across from us, so we started there. We stood around looking at a motley collection of “new” bikes that looked flimsy, at best. I haven’t owned a bike in ages, or bought one since maybe fourth grade, so I wasn’t sure how to tell what makes a good bike. Ginny kind of kicked the tires a little bit, which made me laugh, and then we asked how much the bikes were, and they told us 400 kuai. I laughed more and walked away. A decent new bike at Carrefour will cost 300 RMB and a used bike should be anywhere between 90-170, depending on quality. Box, one of the boys from the Frisbee team, had given me some helpful hints and directed me to Beixinqiao. South of the station are a couple used and new bike shops. The first one we went into was more of a pawn shop that seemed to specialize in bikes, since the walls were lined with accordions and guitars and wheelchairs and other odds and ends for sale. They had a line of used bike priced between 90 – 290 RMB, which I think was a little ridiculous, since most of them were falling apart, missing pieces and really dirty. Ginny found the one decent one in the lot. I looked at some of the new ones, priced at 260, and was not pleased, it was incredibly flimsy. Walking out of the store, a man on the sidewalk approached the two of us. “Bikes? 你要买自行车吗?you want bike?” He pushed a new blue bike towards Ginny and tried to get me interested in a used lady bike. Bitch, please. Ginny had already decided on getting the decent used bike he had found inside, so I tried the new regular bike. It worked, was stable and in good condition, it was cheaper than a new bike I could purchase at Carrefour and even cheaper than some of the used bikes we saw. Also, it says “Gold Admiral” and “BATTLE” on it, which is just icing on the cake. I even have my basket, which comes in handy. We immediately purchased locks as well and slowly pedaled our way home (being extra careful with no helmets).

My Battle Bike.


For the time being I have appropriated Bambi’s helmet (making me the only person in Beijing to wear one on a bike. I’m ok with that, and the strange looks, like, why is that crazy foreigner on a bike wearing such a weird hat?) and biked all over to get to work and go out to dinner. That makes more biking than I’ve done all together since 5 years ago when a friend and I rented bikes on Green Island off the coast of Taiwan. I got to work much faster and I feel like I’m actually sort of being healthier and I’m being very careful not to get hit by anyone.

My student came late, so I wasn’t able to make it to Frisbee at all, I couldn’t leave work until 8. I met up with a friend for a kaoya dinner. So much duck. Duck for days. Absolutely delicious. The only downside is my friend is a smoker so we sat in the smoking section. I ate a lot of pancakes stuffed with cucumber and crispy, fatty, succulent meat, and then they brought us the basket of deep fried duck carcass, I ate almost 2/3 of it. So much tasty fatty awesomeness. Most people think that the sauce served with duck is Hoisin sauce, which is common in America, but it’s actually a sweet fermented wheat flour.

The beginning of a delicious duck pancake, leeks, cucumber, and fermented wheat sauce


Friday was a long day of biking back and forth, teaching, finding one of my student’s houses in a sketchy back hutong, and working at the Kitchen, and the highlight of my day might have been getting paid to watch Disney movies with the kids to teach them English. Biking is making it so easy to get around, I am excited, although I am tired and sore. After a long evening of standing and smiling and serving food, I pedaled slowly home, and opened the door to the family setting up a makeshift card table and pouring whiskey. Why, hello, family, happy to see you too.

My lessons in the morning were made possible by the greasy deep fried deliciousness that is 公发饼, my new unhealthy snack addiction. In Taiwan, it was jipai, a flattened half chicken battered and deep fried, and sprinkled liberally with MSG and hot chili powder. gong fa bing is basically a thick, large scallion pancake with a spicy meat sauce brushed onto the middle. There’s a stand that sells them right next to work, and they’re only fifty cents each.

Work was followed up with a struggle bus attempt at Frisbee. It was beautiful out, probably 50 degrees, so we decided to play outside on the field. Playing outside was a nice change, learning to adjust for wind and father distances, and a little easier on my shins, although I took a bit of a dive playing defense and bloodied up my knee. I felt mostly ill running around and like my brain was crashing about in my skull, but by the end was feeling pretty good about life. Plus, Baby M, the cutest most adorable infant I have ever seen, was there and I got to play with her and try very hard not to steal her. I’m trying to convince Ginny and Bambi that we need to adopt a kitten to inject more cute into our lives, so I’ll stop having the urge to kidnap strange babies.

We had a team party at a bar near the Kitchen. Box had a slideshow of the previous year in Frisbee that made me really excited to keep trying to get better. I gave into the pressure to learn the silly dice game, mostly because I was wearing my pirate boots and pirates play dice. Highlight of the evening? Seeing Chairman ride by outside on a little bike. She is the most adorable, cheerful old 奶奶。

Ayi came to clean this morning, and left, but then five minutes later returned. I thought she had maybe forgot a purse or something, but she had ran into a man on the street who was taking bottles, and brought him up to our apartment to take away our fifty some odd empties. First of all, living with boys is…an adjustment. Secondly, there was a lot of judging on the bottle guy’s part. Well, at least the fake mountain basin isn’t full of beer bottles anymore.

Homesick

Today was long. I had demos all morning and into the afternoon. I somehow agreed to teach a woman English although she’s Korean and doesn’t even speak Chinese, so I’m not sure how I’m going to explain things to her, but she wants to learn English in order to watch Desperate Housewives.

Worked at the Kitchen again tonight. It was a good time with a nice crowd of people, a few who knew the people I worked with last summer. Dice and Chairman are going to Bali on a business trip tomorrow, which makes me kind of jealous.

I came home with a bit of a bottle of white and a bottle of red, after snacking on the remnants of the batch of black sesame vanilla bourbon ice cream. The family was watching Top Gear, which is rapidly becoming one of my favorite shows. I joined them with my ill-gotten spoils, then decided to go to bed, since I was feeling a little bit mopey. Another one of my cousins got married this weekend and all of my extended family is together right now to celebrate my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary, and I’ve been missing everyone. The guests at dinner had all spent some time in my hometown, either based there or from there at some point, and hearing them talk about restaurants and things to do around home, as well as reading a brief email from my people and thinking about everyone back at home has been making me feel a tad bit homesick.

The boys actually noticed that I was being a bit glum, but their reaction was to think that they could fix my mood by the following two things: 1) chucking grape and lemon Hi-Chews at my face and 2) asking “would it make you feel better to make us ramen with fried eggs?”

First of all, I really do like Hi-Chews, they are tasty, tasty Asian starbursts, but having them thrown at me and showcasing my spectacular clumsiness (flailing and batting projectiles away from me instead of catching them) didn’t really make me feel cheerful. But I was hungry so I decided ramen was the way to go, and even actually fried up some eggs for all of us to put on top (a fried or poached egg really completes the instant noodles experience). We ate our ramen listening to techno and drinking red wine, since, no one is allowed to feel sad while listening to techno, according to Bambi. I went back to bed after that, sitting and reading, but they decided I still wasn’t happy enough, and invaded to “robot cuddle” which isn’t actually nice, it just entails stealing my pillows and making fun of me until I start giggling because there is no other response to the ridiculousness.

But honestly I mostly just keep laughing because they asked me with so much sincerity if cooking them a midnight snack would make me feel better, and then, when I sort of agreed to since it also benefited me, they tried to shut me in the kitchen. Boys. If I didn’t love them so much I’d stab them in their sleep.

Mornings

The air is thick, tangible, visible. Like I could reach out and grab a handful. I try and tell myself it’s just fog swirling in front of my eyes. The mountains that are normally a dark smudge against a burning red horizon have been obliterated; I can barely make out the buildings on the end of my street. An old man crouches on a street corner, tossing one of the nearly worthless coins on the ground for his trained finch to pick up and bring back to him. The streets are full again, the only remnants of the spring festival the red paper rounds of firecrackers littering the gutters. One bare, dry, frigid hand is wrapped possessively around my glass tea thermos, the other clutches my gong-fa-bing, steaming hot scallion-pancake-esque street food filled with a spicy meat based sauce, as I wait for the buses to creak by. The strong sweet tea will have to do as a kick start for my day, since the hot water ran out thirty seconds into my shower, and the stove wouldn’t turn on, so it’s been a sleepy, slow, grumpy start.

Today I was paid to sit and watch Disney movies with 9 year olds. Sheer awesomeness. I left work right as the lunch exodus was starting, and the first elevator that stopped at my floor was jam packed with Chinese men. As the doors opened and they saw me waiting, three or four of them simultaneously said “Oh hello.” I smiled and walked away to wait for the next one. The next elevator ended up not going down, but up to higher floors. Three of us decided to stay on anyways since it could be ten minutes until there was a reasonably empty elevator. We hit several normal offices, but then, at the highest floor, the doors opened to reveal gold beaded curtains everywhere, shiny fabrics festooned on all the surfaces, and a stern faced security guard standing forbiddingly in front of a set of wide shiny doors. I’m not quite sure what sort of establishment it was, nor am I quite sure I want to find out. It strongly reminded me of an accidental foray into the “Lotus Club” in Taipei, where several of us were seeking out a specific place and ended up getting off the elevator at the “Lotus Club”, and being strictly told by angry security and flustered, qipao-clad receptionists that we had to leave, right now.

Valentines

I almost forgot, Happy Valentine’s day!

This year marks what is possibly the best Hallmark Holiday I’ve had in quite a few years….in the past this day has been made memorable due to ten-day long bouts of stomach flu and violent illness, petty fights and stupid boys. It’s not that I dislike the concept, sure flowers and chocolate and celebrating love is a good thing, it’s just historically held bad memories for me. I was a little bit annoyed by all the vendors with their flowers and the boys standing on street corners with stuffed bears bigger than me and ridiculous, over the top frilly pink bouquets, but that’s mostly because I’m a perpetually pouty, angry robot. Chairman commiserated, saying the vendors would get none of her money and that “我没有情人“ or that she doesn’t have a lover.

Around noon, I rallied Ginny and Allie to come with me to get some errands done, needing to replenish the money on my phone and help them get their phones all set up. We wandered around a hutong and decided on a Shanxi restaurant for lunch (after entering the most populated restaurant only to realize we would have to cook our own food, and Allie was having none of that). My reading ability is the best of all of us, and menu reading is absolutely not my forte, so after laughing at us for a bit, the staff directed us to the door with a poster of pictures. We all ordered a Chinese version of a pulled pork sandwich (which Allie, on her previous trip to Beijing, dubbed a “duckburger” since no one in her group of companions had been familiar with 五花肉), a sort of crispy bun filled with shredded pork belly. I’m a huge fan, but I have a weakness for delicious braised fatty pork. We also got noodles, a big bowl of niu rou mian for Allie and dry noodles in sauce with a very liberal amount of chilies on top for Ginny and myself. it was delicious, if a huge carbo-load.

Lunch induced a bit of a food coma and I ended up taking an afternoon nap, then waking up in a panic thinking I was late for work at the kitchen. I got there in plenty of time, however, to be well prepared for the party of 16 coming in. Dice sent me out to make sure they weren’t lost, as the Kitchen is located confusingly in the back of a courtyard, unmarked, in a small hutong. I saw a large group of laowai standing on the street corner drinking wine out of plastic cups and just knew they were out guests. They were rowdy and drank a lot of wine, but very nice, even if they did insist on moving tables. We had set up two tables of eight, and they decided to all crowd into one room around one table, messing up all the table setting I had done earlier.

They were all couples, but at least they were all married so it wasn’t intensely romantic and depressing. The menu was all the same as before, pumpkin and pork dumplings, shitake coriander salad, wheat gluten, hongshao pork belly and eggplant, gongbao jiding, etc, with a few tweaks here and there for vegetarian guests. We changed up the dessert in honor of Cupid’s day, and served battered, caramelized strawberries with ice cream. We ran out of cream and the supplier we normally used was closed, and every store in a 15-minute radius was closed, so ridiculously we served McDonald’s soft serve, but it was pretty decent and the guests were happy. I like the caramelized sweet potatoes better, which I am going to have to try and duplicate, and I bet it would work better with apples or bananas. The problem with strawberries is that they get mushy and aren’t very sweet over here.

It was a long night, even with frequent snacks thanks to Chairman, and after we finally shuffled the guests out well past closing, Dice and I were ready to relax. We ate a lot of rice and the fish (带鱼)that Chairman had made us earlier, split a bottle of Chardonnay that was as sweet as candy, and ate chocolate, while comparing the East and West coast mentality and discussing our shared Asian American experience growing up with conservative parents in New England. It was peaceful and entertaining, and finally around 11:45 we finished cleaning up and I reluctantly decided I could splurge on a cab rather than walk 40 minutes home in the freezing cold.

Not the most romantic, but certainly not nearly the worst celebration. Plus, it sure as hell beats being beaten by goat hides (Lupercalia, the origin of modern Valentine’s Day, was one messed up Roman tradition).

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