Taco Night

What a long couple of days. Sunday I was out of the house for over 12 hours, leaving at 8:30and not coming home until 10:30. My students were even more rowdy than usual, and I taught a demo with a little boy who wouldn’t open his mouth to say anything the entire time-a wee bit frustrating. Almost every student was running late, so it wasn’t until 5:30 that I was able to leave, when I should have already been at the Kitchen getting ready for a dumpling making class. I biked my little robot heart out, cursing at the tourists clogging up the streets. I pulled into the hutong just heartbeats before the group did, giving me time to lock up my bike and throw on an apron.

They were a very convivial bunch of grad students from the South, happy to be here, happy to be drinking wine, happy to be making jiaozi. I was translating for Chairman for the most part, and generally being charming. After actually helping make the filling this time, I won’t have to guess the ingredients, now I know how to really make amazing dumplings at home. We made lamb and pumpkin, pork and cabbage, and spinach egg. After the group left, Dice and I powered through the leftover jiaoziand I made my slow and tired way home.

Monday started with my morning class with the chefs, which as usual ended with a delicious lunch. Scapes fried with Chinese bacon-like preserved pork, tofu with mushroom and cabbage stir fry, lots of rice. Simple, filling, and tasty. I biked quickly to the office afterward for another class, and stopped at Jenny Lou’s for some western staples, including Cocoa Pebbles since my roommates are 12 years old. I went to the vegetable market as well, and picked up all sorts of veggies, as well as venturing upstairs, purchasing some chicken and tofu, although I haven’t quite worked up the courage to buy lamb or pork, nor have I seen beef sold there. Perhaps next time. I do want to braise lamb shanks now that I have an oven, and oxtail stew. I had so many choices to make for dinner but settled on roasted Brussels sprouts tossed with olive oil, soy sauce and honey marinated chicken wings, and a red bean and pumpkin stew. I set the adzuki beans to soak for an hour as directed, but I think it needed more soaking or cooking time, as the end result was a little too chewy. The taste was good-pumpkin, carrot, celery, dash of soy, some herbs, chicken stock, but the vegetables were overcooked and beans undercooked. I marinated the chicken wings in light and dark soy, cooking wine, dash of Maggi and fish sauce, honey, sugar, pepper, minced ginger leek and garlic. Baked for 40 minutes at 210* C, flipped over once halfway, they came out really well.

Honey Soy Sauce wings, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Rice and Adzuki Pumpkin Stew

Again with the early morning class, this time Dina came to sit in and see what tutoring in China is like. The desk girls were jumping at the prospect of a new foreign teacher to hire, and quite impressed with her very proper British English. I hope it turns out well for everyone, especially if I have to start cutting back teaching hours. I also showed her the way to Jenny Lou’s and we stopped in and shared a moment of happiness for the feeling of home that that store brings.

I stopped for a noodle lunch with the boys, then spent some time trying to think of ways to engage my newest student. I realize that I have it so easy with Peach, who learns so quickly and is well mannered, very bright, and usually attentive. I gave myself an hour to get to the student’s house, thankfully. It should have only taken me half an hour, but I ended up waiting for my bus transfer for half an hour under a bridge next to a canal of some sort. When I finally arrived to their apartment, the little girl was napping! Her mom woke her up and reluctantly the learning commenced. We played some games, read some stories, traced some letters, and then I made the mistake of trying to read a Dr Seuss book to her on my iPad. I had thought that it would be an effective tool, since Peach never mashes it with her hands, but the little girl and her littler brother were a bit more rowdy and insistent, so I had to put it away and rely on old school methods of play. Her mom basically wants an English babysitter, not a teacher, to teach her a few letters but then play with her for two hours and let her absorb the English from me, so we went outside and played pirates (took me a while to realize that “haidao” meant pirate and not that we were on the ocean in a boat) and looked at the flower garden until it was mercifully time to leave.

I managed to flag down a cab (in the middle of rush hour!), narrowly avoiding being hit by a cab. My driver was pretty nice and tolerated me striking up a conversation, and informed me that the way I said to get to my house would allow other drivers to charge me more and be stuck in traffic, and told me the better way to get home. Dina came over and we made tacos! We may have cheated and used seasoning from a little packet and salsa from a jar, but who cares, it was all delicious. First we made guacamole-two avocados, about a third of a purple onion minced, three cloves of garlic, half a tomato minced, salt, pepper and lime juice. We caramelized some white onions, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, and browned beef. Since we had more ground beef than the package called for, I added liberal amounts of cumin and chili powder. Warmed up the tortillas in the wok, and voila! Messy, delicious, craving-quenching tacos. We were all happy, the boys particularly, although they repaid this kindness by making fun of me for acting like they are mostly useless in a kitchen, and are now constantly yelling “oh no, Robot, why are things on fire what did I do to make this all burn.”

Despite feeling hectic and busy and usually tired, things are looking like my life could be taking direction. I’ve got my fingers crossed and a freshly pressed suit and a fancy dress and a list of facts to process into my brainpiece.


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