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.


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