We. Have. Decided. You. Are. Not. An. Orc.

I had a bit of a trying day and was being a little morose one evening, and this is how the boys decided I would feel better (to be fair, they had come home from a boozy Chinese business dinner during which much Mongolian baijiu was consumed, so I guess their hearts were in the right place). They sprawled out on my bed while I was being a sad panda, and proceeded to start quoting the Ents from Lord of the Rings. That is, they spent half an hour loudly, slowly proclaiming, as if they were giant, talking tree-people, that they “had decided I was not an orc” and “those trees were my friends, I knew them from nuts and seeds” and other such gems. This continued until they fell asleep. On my bed. Leaving me no space. Bless their silly brains, at least their talking in infernally slow monotones about orcs and goblins and hobbits made me chuckle.

My busiest day is Friday, classes stacked all day, extra demos early in the morning and lessons until 8:00 at night. I had forgotten something at home, and taught one lesson at a student’s house, and all together biked 22 kilometers. One demo I had was with two siblings who were not happy that their previous English teacher could no longer teach them, and spent most of the time crying, or in stony, angry silence, or talking back to their mom about not wanting to be there. Eventually I got them to participate a little, which was gratifying. During that demo, some crazy mom had stormed into the school and started shouting at the local teachers, and didn’t stop for an hour. It got so bad we had to run down the hall to find a quiet classroom. The highlight of my day was when the mom at the house invited me to eat dinner with them before my next lesson. Home cooked food from nai-nai, excellent. I had breaded/fried fish, cauliflower in a red sauce, mushrooms and beef, jiaozi, and a strange leafy green vegetable. The nai-nai said it was something like “chuanlieji” the leaves were thick and slightly waxy like a succulent, and reminded me of an aloe plant, although the taste was very leafy, with the same aftertaste that spinach has, only stronger. Also, an egg and suan-cai soup in clear broth, which is supposed to help digestion, and remove the oil and fat from your body when you consume it.

Dinner gave me just the last little pick me up I needed to make it through my last class, and then meet up with friends from a conference I attended in Taiwan last year. We went to Scarlett, an interesting wine bar on Gongti Xilu. The counter top of cheeses and charcuterie proved to be too tempting (if only there hadn’t been an attendant, I would have gone over and started slipping cheese into my purse!) and I decided to splurge a little bit and order a large platter. The man taking my order looked at me and said, “You know that’s really large, right? Like, it will feed six people.” I looked at the table of girls, knowing that they’d all probably nibble on it if I got it, but not caring if they didn’t as they all claimed, and very calmly replied, “Honestly? I’m prepared to be the fattest panda and eat all of it, or pack it up. I do not care.” Apparently all sense of my dignity has been robbed by China.

Five Cheeses and Three Charcuterie Platter.

I walked over to the counter to make my selection, and there were so many choices! I ended up with brie, manchego, truffier, saint-almay, and a soft creamy goat cheese, as well as fois gras, Parma ham, and chorizo. It was all amazing. The brie was probably my favorite cheese, but that’s just because I love brie, everything else was also really good. The fois gras was a bit on the sweet side but creamy and soft and excellent. As I predicted, once the platter arrived with two baskets of steaming, warm, crusty baguette, the girls all dove in. I absolutely made the right call. Good bread and cheese fix? I was in heaven. I ordered a martini as well, but it wasn’t quite cold enough, but I did discover a new found love for the martini olives.

Another long day: class early in the morning Saturday, and then two demos that they begged me to take. Little boys who are still in the adorable phase of life (not quite six) with helicopter moms. I biked home and had enough time to shove pasta in my face before we left for Frisbee practice.
It was nice weather and we were outside, and that did not help my performance at all. I am terrible. At least there are a couple other girls who also are new to this sport, or I’d feel like a complete idiot. As it is, I have bruises all on my forearms from catching things. Afterward, everyone headed to one girl’s place for a pool party that I am extremely jealous of, since they got to hot tub and sauna, but I had signed up for an evening at the Kitchen.

Chairman and Dice were back from their trip to warm island places, and Chef had returned from his six week sojourn to Las Vegas to work with a celeb chef there. He came back with some funny stories-he’s a regular Chinese guy from up north, had never left the country or been on a plane until this trip. He also speaks next to no English. In DC, apparently some homeless men started asking him questions and asking for money and he didn’t understand what they wanted. His translator told him they were begging. He asked why they didn’t just pick up some recycling and then go buy mantou? Chef and Chairman were very cute about trying to make me practice Chinese and kept asking me to translate various English things around the kitchen. It was busy, with sixteen people, all various Europeans. I talked to a very nice French guy who went to a university in my town, but then a Serbian guy decided to hit on me by saying, “once you meet the right guy you’ll settle down in a place, but I’m not the solution to your problem, because I’m leaving next week, but hey, are you free for drinks tonight?” Really? Just because I’m serving you doesn’t mean I want to service you. The dinner went long and I didn’t get home until past eleven. Unfortunately, I couldn’t work on my sleep deficit for a few more hours since the boys had invited stragglers from the pool party and a loud, impromptu party was happening in my living room.


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