China Nationals and a Very Sick Robot

After a somewhat productive morning of mostly sitting around and eating soup, but also picking up some groceries, I decided to enjoy the beautiful weather and support my team. I wrote down meticulous directions to the fields (all the way out past the Fifth Ring Road) and took the subway. I got to Beiyuanlu Station and tried to flag down a cab. The only cab that stopped refused to take me because he didn’t want to go northeast, he just wanted to go north. A gypsy driver was waiting for this opportunity, and told me he would take me there. Since I didn’t want to miss the game or stand around waiting for another twenty minutes, I reluctantly agreed. He seemed nice enough and he followed my directions, and commented that my Chinese writing was pretty good.

The grass and fields were beautiful, I lay in the sun soaking up vitamin D, both the A team and the B team did pretty well. I got a lot of good-natured ribbing about my lack of voice (to be fair, I did sort of sound like Gollum), but it was a beautiful afternoon. We bussed back and after the boys had a chance to shower, went to some friends’ apartment for some video games before going to the tournament dinner. The food was good although quickly eaten by ravenous hordes. The theme was end of the world-there were some interesting costumes. One couple came as Bruce Willis and that chick from Fifth Element, one girl wore a colander on her head like a space helmet, someone threw a wig at me and so of course I donned it (bringing back memories of when I was young and stupid and actually died my hair blue and purple). BG really pulled off the “end is near” homeless guy, and Ginny rocked the sign thing too, so when we were all on the train some lady came up and started chatting BG up about our costumes. Bambi and another guy decided to represent the zombie apocalypse. It was..ridiculous. Dinner was fun, but I wasn’t feeling quite festive, so after a while I grabbed a taxi home while everyone else headed out to Sanlitun. My cab driver was quite interested in why so many people were trying to grab cabs and why I was by myself and all that.

Me and Jersey at End of the World Party

Bambi as a zombie

Although I went to bed early (around 11) I woke up feeling even worse, with my voice gone again. I tried to teach two classes, but ended up just having my free-talk girl play text twist on my iPad when it got too painful, and had the desk girls cancel the rest of the day. I came home and watched zombies all day (Zombieland, the Walking Dead) since they looked about how I felt. I played with Hector and let him run around my room, but after a little calm nap where he halfheartedly tried to nom my fingers and accepted being pet, that little fur ball got a second wind and kept trying to chew on my and my power cords and peed on my sheets.

Monday morning was no better. I had to give myself a pep talk to put clothes on. I got to work, and my voice started getting croaky again. I managed to work on one small task, but my brain was fuzzy and I couldn’t hear anything or breathe, so eventually I gave up and went home at lunchtime. I stopped to pick up the makings for soup and went to the corner pharmacy for cough syrup. I had the desk girl’s recommendation for a good cough syrup but the pharmacy guy asked my symptoms and recommended some different things, and in that state of misery he could have sold me snake oil. I ended up getting three different kind of meds and I’m not really sure what each of them do/are for, but one is a pack of blue pills that look like M&Ms, one is a pack of yellow pills that look like M&Ms, and one is a box of little brown glass vials that kind of looks like heroin, which comes with 12 little straws and a cap-popper. I tried to translate the directions and everything on the boxes but it was too much. We’ll see what happens.

Creepy Chinese medicine

And I drank enough tea to drown in and watched movies from Bambi’s hard drive and ate a lot of soup.
Step One: Roast a chicken. Rinse whole chicken, trim off excess fat, pat dry, rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Step Two: Stuff cavity with onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and lemon. Slice lemon and garlic wafer thin, and insert under the skin, slitting the skin by the cavity and sliding it forward next to the breast.
Step Three: Set the oven for 1hour 40 minutes at 200 C and take a nap/sit in bed with a kitten.
Step Four: Remove chicken. Let rest. Cut up a stalk of celery, three quarters of an onion, 2 cloves garlic, one carrot, half a sweet potato and potato. Cut a little bit of celery, onion, garlic, carrot and potatoes into soup-size bits and set separate.
Step Five: Once cool enough to handle, break down the chicken. Try not to eat too much of it while you shred up the meat. I like dark meat, so I used most of the drier white breast meat for the soup, and put the rest in Tupperware for another meal. Bones, fat, some of the skin, I use for the broth.
Step Six: Heat olive oil in a pot, toss in the onion celery and garlic, soften. Throw in the rest of the vegetables. Throw in the chicken carcass (and if you’re like me, any other soup bone bits you’ve been saving in the freezer). Season with some salt, pepper, herbs, bay leaves, star anise, a little bit of cinnamon stick, and a dash or two of soy sauce. Add 8 cups of water and maybe a dash of wine. Let it boil, skim away the foam that accumulates on top. Taste occasionally and season accordingly.
Step 7: I parboiled the sweet and regular potato cubes first, then boiled a handful of small shell pasta, drained and set aside. Softened the rest of the vegetables in a little olive oil, then strained out about two cups of broth from the big pot into the little one, added in the shredded chicken, potatoes and pasta. Simmer. The rest of the broth I strained and froze for later use, and ate my soup with toast.

Simple delicious lemon stuffed roast chicken

A Voice-less Robot

Tuesday was a mess. Dina was kind enough to tell me I looked lovely when we met up for a quick lunch, but I sure didn’t feel it. I had woken up late for an interview at a foreign embassy, with no time to wash my face or brush my hair I felt greasy and gross and I put my tights on twisted inside out. At least I looked halfway decent.

I was too excited too soon about the crying girl’s progress. I went to her house for a class on Tuesday and she was very angry to see me, and yelled at her mom, and pitched a fit, and refused to study for her test. Things she had done well the class before she refused to even try. We ended up talking about Chinese picture books in English and at one point, I started talking about Hector to coax her out of her sobbing, she perked up at the mention of a kitten, and reached under her desk and pulled out a little hamster by its leg and flung it at me. Poor creature, it had this anxious and frenetic chitter every time her hand approached it. It probably leads a miserable existence. It was a stressful hour and I left with a headache and ended up eating almost an entire box of Laughing Cow cheese cubes on the bus home because I am the fattest and I eat my emotions. Ugh.

Once at home I made a nice healthy pasta and pesto to last a few days.
Shaved two zucchinis with a vegetable peeler and julienned them to toss in with the pasta. Blended up a package of basil with 4 cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup grated parmesan, 1/4 cup pine nuts and the zest of two lemons then mixed in 1/3 cup of olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss pasta with less pesto than you think because its quite powerful.

Zucchini and Pesto Pasta

Thursday was a pretty good day. despite the fact that I overslept again, it was beautiful out, I felt great, I even made it to work on time. They’re starting to give me real work to do, which is interesting and daunting at the same time (I fear they may be overestimating my ‘expertise’ of economic and Chinese) and the interns all went to lunch at a Korean place for bibimbap. I got chicken with egg, it was pretty tasty.

BiBimBap from Bahn30

I baked a honey cake last night and brought some in, everyone seemed to enjoy it. Since I had so much of it, during tutoring with Peach I offered some to her and her mother. Peach was ecstatic (but then again, the 3 year old is ecstatic about everything but drawing). We went on the same elevator down after class, and Peach’s mom insisted on giving me a ride to my friend’s house.

We walked out of the building and a slick, shiny black Audi rolled up, and I got inside, and it was shiny and bright and comfortable, redolent with that new car smell. Peach’s mom directed the driver. Peach chattered away cheerfully about everything she saw. They dropped me off at my friend’s apartment. She lives with her family here-they have an apartment four times bigger than mine, with gorgeous view of the city, and an excellent chef. The other dinner guest talked about how his dad was in oil, his mom was a housewife. My friend’s parents are quite affluent. They tossed back acquaintances’ names to see who knew who from what industry and in what country. After a while, my friend’s mom remember me, turned my way and asked “so, where are your parents based?” I never thought I’d feel poor saying that my dad is a general contractor or my mom is an engineer, that they live in a small New England town and don’t have to fly out to Azerbaijan or Dubai or Libya or Russia or wherever.

Dinner was lovely, everyone enjoyed the cake, although my contribution was upstaged by the other guest, who made peanut putter mousse filled cream puffs drizzled with caramel. Well, some of us are students who have a lot of time on our hands, and some of us are poor, starving interns with two part time jobs. Afterwards, I felt drained and could barely summon the energy to go home and play with Hector. I fell asleep with his mouse toy in my hand, and was grumpily woken up when the boys came home, rowdy after an evening at Kro’s trivia, around midnight.

Either the exhaustion was because I was getting sick, or I was so exhausted my body decided to crap out on me, because all yesterday my brain was in a fog and I could feel the sickness waiting to descend. I cut my tutoring short, but by the time I got home I was feeling miserable and couldn’t tempt myself to eat anything besides some chicken stock with a little rice in it. I went to sleep early, planning on waking up at 5:30 for China Nationals, our Frisbee tournament. I woke up, could barely move or breathe. Just before 6:30, when the B team was supposed to meet up to cab to the fields, I called in, and couldn’t make sounds come out of my mouth. I croaked my excuses and apologies and went back to sleep.

I still can’t talk or swallow without pain, and I still don’t want to eat anything, which should be a huge sign that something is wrong with me. I’ve drunk copious amounts of ginger, garlic, lemon and honey steeped in hot water, and coaxed down some more soup. There are so many things I could do with my now-free day to be useful, but all I want to do is sleep and get better. I managed to gasp words loudly enough into the phone to order two barrels of water, but that effort caused a paroxysm of coughing and a search for chloraseptic spray.

It’s amazing how a little bit of fashion tape can turn a clubbing shirt into a suitable and appropriate work shirt. Although the fact that I know this is possibly a sign that I desperately need a shopping spree.

I’ve gone a long time without that smoldering anger brought on by skeevy attention. That is to say, while I’ve been hit on here a fair amount-and sometimes in just the silliest way imaginable, I mean, hey why wouldn’t I consider going to Sweden to “play polo” with someone I just met..oh wait I’m not crazy–and people do often stare, it took some flabby faced, drunken American tourists to notch it up to that special creep factor that make my skin crawl and my fists ache to break a nose. I’m not really sure why men–and I use that term loosely here–think that it is acceptable to say inappropriate and derogatory statements to complete strangers, but it’s infuriating. That coupled with some aggressive dancing at me almost spoiled an otherwise very fun evening. Boys, really. First of all, trying to dance-hump a girl you don’t know is not the way to pick up a lady. Some of us go out to actually dance, not simulate sex in public. Secondly, if that girl maintains a lack of contact between you, then shakes her head and moves far away from you, she’s not interested. If she then says, I’m not interested, well, guess what, she’s not interested. Don’t follow her, or yell “oh come on,” or persist until another male edges you off. You’re not doing yourself any favors. I shouldn’t have to make a guy friend dance with me in order to scare you off.

Somehow this past week flew by. Thursday the other interns from work had a little get together. After teaching, I joined them for White Russians, the Big Lebowski, and Gung Ho pizza. The thing about White Russians is that while they taste good, milk and alcohol really shouldn’t be friends, and drinking more than one makes me feel sick. The rest of the interns went out to Sanli, but I headed home for some much needed sleep. I thought about being social Friday night, but after tutoring was drained. I went home to Hector, and enjoyed some quality time with the kitteh, who fell asleep lying on my back.

Saturday I woke up too late to accomplish anything before Frisbee. It was a long practice in the hot sun on dusty dry fields with a stiff breeze. A few people told me that I was improving, but I don’t see it. I still feel I’m running around with no idea what I’m doing. Another team dinner outside despite the wind, although there was no drunken entertainment this time. After a long shower to wash off the layer of dust, and a few hours of peace, I met up for a casual little get together with mostly Frisbee people at a friend’s apartment, then we motivated to get to Sanlitun. A stop for guan-bing at the street carts, then Miga’s where we sprawled on bed-like cushions for ten minutes before we decided we would probably fall asleep, and went to Bar Blue instead. I went home earlier than everyone else (including the boys) and still was out too late.

Sunday was a long day of work but surprisingly satisfying. My free-talk girl is bright and talkative, the Mongolian boy continues to be surprisingly clever, contradicting the negative comments his schoolteachers made, and the problem girl made excellent progress and didn’t cry a single time. I got her to focus 90% of the time which was amazing. And when I went to teach the four year old, her pee-happy little brother was not at home. It would have been a better day if I had eaten or slept more. One of the teachers brought me a cup of coffee in the afternoon when I was flagging, and the lack of food and overabundance of caffeine made me jittery and shaky. By the time I got home (took a cab, thought I would be sick if I tried to deal with public transport), I was nauseous, weak and dizzy. I tossed together some eggs to eat immediately, insisting that Bambi call for Xinjiang food in the meantime.

I continue to discover new and good things to eat for lunch. Today, Cera and another intern and I went to a little cafe with excellent salads and sandwiches. I got grilled eggplant, zucchini, and cucumber with lettuce, tomato, dressing, and melty cheese on ciabatta. One of the best sandwiches I’ve had in a while. To top it off, the FroBio free sample lady caught me, and I caved and bought a small cherry froyo with fresh strawberries. Since I had been considering eating just a big froyo for lunch, I suppose I’ll call it a healthy victory.

And for your viewing pleasure, some more pictures of Hector


When I was a scrawny little sixth grader taking the bus home, I noticed a girl who, like me, was usually pretty quiet, and like me, usually had her nose buried in a book, and again like me, when riled, didn’t hesitate to brandish that book threateningly and smack annoying, scrawny sixth grade boys across the head. She used to get of the bus a few stops before mine, and then one day she didn’t, and I assumed she had missed her bus stop and helpfully told her so. She gave me a warm, bright smile, and cheerfully exclaimed “No I didn’t, I moved to a new house and my living is hell red, want to see?” and you know what, I kind of did, given that my house, inside and out, was a sort of pale and peaceful yellow. It was as easy as one afternoon to make one of my best friends, and although we have continually moved to opposite ends of the world-when I’m away she’s home, when I’m home, she’s away-we are still thick as thieves.

We’ve shared countless cheesecakes and morning cups of tea before school, had a few incidents concerning pistachio pudding. I’m as comfortable stopping at her house for dinner as I am going to my own. Dibbs was reliable to help eat the food my grandmother would send over in batches, and we created quite a few messes in my kitchen. Her mom single-handedly spoiled me for Indian food, and even now, tells me she has a pot of chicken curry waiting for me whenever I see her, bless her wonderful soul.

I’ve been craving Indian food ever since I left the States. Since most non-Chinese food is on the more expensive side of things, I’ve decided to try my hand at curry. Now, my mom used to make a “Chinese” curry, that is a Chinese brand of pre-made curry sauce pressed into a darkly fragrant and crumbly brick, mixed into six cups of chicken stock or water with onions, sweet potatoes, carrots and chicken, and I’ve made the same thing a few times. Once, I tried to make curry from scratch when I had first moved to Taiwan and was still figuring out how to navigate a grocery store with no English labels, and it was a disaster, as I ended up using sweet yogurt and curry powder instead of mixing up my own spices. Since then, I’ve stuck to going to Dibbs house whenever I could instead. But now, back on the other side of the globe, I’ve got Dibbs’ mom’s recipe and five years more of cooking experience under my belt.

I de-boned two chicken thighs–Dibbs’ mom usually leaves the bone because it’s more flavorful, but the boys always complain how the Chinese never remove the bones or fat from meat. Chopped up an onion, two potatoes and a sweet potato. Heated oil in a wok, added whole cumin, bay leaves and a cinnamon stick to it, along with the onion, softening it and browning it. I couldn’t find any cardamom, so omitted that. Then I added the cut up chicken, with ginger and garlic powder, cooking it for 6-7 minutes. I parboiled the potatoes, worried that they might not cook fully in time. Mixed turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander and red chili flakes into a cup of plain yogurt, then added it into the wok, stirring it up, and then adding about a cup and a half of water, and let it simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for twenty minutes. It could have used a bit more chili to up the heat, but it came out great this time, and the boys were really pleased. I thought a large wok full of curry would be enough for dinner and provide me leftovers for lunch the next day, but no such luck. Every last bit was eaten up.

Chicken Curry

Kitten now has a name, and that name is Hector. It was a long and tedious process of discussion and debate and we couldn’t agree on a name-two of us would love a name and the third would hate it-but we finally decided Hector fits our little guy. About time…I was getting tired of calling him Nom Chompsky and Fuzzball McKittenFace and Baaaaaaaby.

Being in the whole working world is seriously affecting my spending and eating habits. I don’t want to be antisocial, so I go to lunch with the other interns, which is great because there is a plethora of restaurants near us and the food is great, but I really shouldn’t be spending 40 or more on lunch everyday. We went to a Japanese restaurant on Tuesday, where they neglected to tell us for twenty minutes that they had run out of two of our dishes, and then when we reordered ten minutes later again they told us they had run out. I don’t understand why they waited-everyone else had their food and two of us were waiting and miserable. Ridiculous. One of the interns complained to the manager and got them to give us a ten percent discount-oh yay, 3.5 kuai. Whatever will I buy? We went to a famous jiachangcai place called Xiao Wang Fu’s today. The food was pretty good, gan bian dou, gongbao jiding, a basket of spicy fried chicken, and dandan mian.

I must say that I think my boss is a stealth ninja. I sit at a window with my back to the rest of the office, and generally I can hear people approaching. But this lovely, nice woman has this habit of creeping up on me and it’s like she just materializes at my elbow, and startles the crap out of me with a question.

Kitten Kitten Kitten

Kitten Update: It’s a boy! We took him to the vet and discovered his gender. We had been under the impression it was a girl, and had compiled a bunch of girl names, so now we’re at a loss and must brainstorm boy names. The vet had some slightly more depressing news: the poor little morsel had some intestinal issues, was dehydrated, and didn’t start eating he would die. He gave us some antibiotic powder to sprinkle over food, but was very pessimistic.

We have coddled and spoiled and loved the illness right out of that fluff ball. Either that or the antibiotics are like healing-crack powder. Mr. Fuzzypants is eating-daintily at first, I had to hand feed him individual pebbles softened and crumbled, but now he’s comfortable eating out of his bowl-and capering around and climbing us and nuzzling and in general being a kitten, and more amazingly, already popping in a litterbox. It’s a wonderful recovery from the first on-the-edge evening. Our little baby is also kind of dumb, I must, say, lacking some sense of survival skill. We have a second floor ledge, and we’ve been keeping him in a small room and been quite vigilant. We let him explore in small doses and always supervise him closely. He was by his bedroom door, 10 feet away from the stair ledge, when without warning, in an incredible burst of speed, booked it for the ledge, and dove over the edge. I screamed, Bambi almost had a heart attack, I flung my self down the stairs almost in tears, to find Lemming McSadface pouting, lying on the stairs, a little bit shocked but otherwise fine. Terrifying. We haven’t allowed him to do anything stupid since

Life is beginning to get real busy these days. Work at the new internship and then teaching usually for an hour afterwards is killing my cooking time-been ordering in or slapping together the fastest meals possible. I came home Friday night at 8:00, and after devouring some noodles with fried egg (it took me all of 10 minutes to make and eat) ended up dozing off while playing with kitten. I woke up when Bambi and another friend came back after dinner and tried to convince me to go out with them. I agreed, and went downstairs to change from pajamas to a pair of jeans, but ended up crawling into bed and falling sleep as they left.

After a long day of practice in the heat, 12 of us went to dinner and sat outside since the weather was fairly nice. We were treated to dinner and a show, as apparently sometime in the early afternoon a Chinese party had occurred at the restaurant, and the incredibly drunk patrons were still causing some minor ruckuses. One really blitzed couple came stumbling out, the man could barely stand, and they were arguing, and he had at one point just Hulk-ed out and torn his shirt at his collar. Had they been more sober the fight would have been bad because he was trying to hit her, and if he did, there would have been about 5 tall laowai Frisbee guys and possibly a few outraged girls coming at him, but as it was they were mostly wavering and just not-collapsing. In the meantime, two other guys dragged out a third friend by his arms-he was literally dead passed out on the ground. The waitresses were standing around with paroxysms of laughter while the pretty sloshed guys heaved their pal into a corner and left him, tottering back inside. A few guys were worried he might choke and die, and walked over and insisted that they roll him on his side, which turned out to probably saved his life, since he started spewing copious amounts of beer not moments after. Keep in mind, this is all at 5 in the afternoon. Just…ridiculous.

I mustered the energy to go out and be social, but it wasn’t a particularly memorable evening; a quiet hutong bar with good but expensive imported beer, sanli jiubajie and some dirt cheap seats at a bar outside then a hot and crowded club with semi decent music for a little bit of dancing, but I was overeager to eat some chuanr, go home, and get to bed. Ginny and Bambi insisted we ride one of the bicycle taxis because the two of them had the night before. Here’s a tip: these things are fine if you’re going a short distance. However, if there are THREE of you, and two of them happen to be tall lanky boys, don’t do it. If you’re going a long way that includes several major intersections in which the bike man might precariously stop with much squealing of breaks and almost tipping of cart, don’t do it. If it’s getting chilly out and you’re only wearing a t-shirt, and you are uncomfortable because you are halfway sitting on two people’s lap, clinging for your life to a rickety ass rickshaw, don’t do it.

A long day of teaching today, ending with a noodle shop for dinner and a phone call home to my grandmothers and my mom to say Happy Mother’s Day. I desperately need a day to rest, and yet, the week is starting tomorrow.

Introducing a New Member to Robot’s Family

After a weekend of beating the shit out of our bodies physically, then heaping on the abuse with complete lack of sleep and a little alcohol, it’s no surprise that Ginny was sick during the beginning and middle of the week (and then of course, I got sick this weekend). I went and bought a whole chicken (40 kuai at the wet market, and the woman helpfully chopped off the head and feet for me) and roasted it. For my first whole roast, it came out beautifully, although I completely forgot to take pictures.

Roasting chickens can sound daunting but it’s surprisingly simple. I soaked it in brine for a few hours (optimally would have let it soak overnight). I made some slits in the skin at the end, and inserted wafer thin slices of lemon and garlic under the skin. Salt and pepper the outside with a drizzle of olive oil. Toss a little salt and pepper on the inside, jam in half an onion, several smashed cloves of garlic, the leafy top part of celery, and the lemon half into the cavity. I didn’t have any twine so I used tin foil to tie the legs together, and poppe din the oven for an hour and a half at about 350 F. Preparation took me ten, fifteen minutes at most. In the mean time, I wanted to make soup. I started by making vegetable stock, and then once the chicken was done and rested, carved it up, and popped the fatty bits, gristle, bones, and some of the meat for the broth. The rest of the meat I shredded up, some for the soup, and some for chicken tacos the day after. I couldn’t help but sample some of the chicken–it turned out really well, juicy, not dry, and during carving I came across the “oysters” of the chicken which made me fondly remember the movie Amelie. I had no choice but to pop those savory little bites into my mouth.

I put most of the stock in the freezer, added chopped up carrot, celery and chicken and some cooked white rice, and then fried up some grilled cheese sandwiches to accompany it. Who doesn’t like comforting childhood foods when they’re sick?

Class with the chefs was the last, since I now have work everyday. I’m sad, but excited to have a (slightly more) real job. They made me a spectacular meal-hongshao rou and tofu with bacon and scapes, and gongbao jiding. Chef wasn’t having any of this–he sat there with his cherubic grin on his face, a round of nan in one hand and a raw jalapeno in the other, taking alternative bites. I look forward to my next night at the Kitchen, now that I won’t be teaching them.

Dina came over and we made stuffed mushrooms: stalks of button mushrooms, celery, onion, bread crumbs, egg, seasonings, and if you have it, ground shrimp, if not meh whatever, and baked for a while, guacamole, pan fried some sweet corn and caramelized onions to go with the roast chicken and made tacos. They were delicious. Ginny, Dina and I were quite happy. So much tasty goodness. Especially lovely, Ginny doesn’t like mushrooms, so more for us!

Roast Chicken Taco Assembly

Stuffed Mushrooms with Parmesan

Beijing was hit by a bit of a sandstorm on Saturday, so practice was canceled, and Sunday morning I succumbed to Ginny’s cold, and after a day of teaching, came back and fell asleep on the couch at an absurdly early hour. Monday was a holiday so after a leisurely afternoon visiting a friend’s rooftop and drinking tea, I decided I wanted a lovely dinner before my first day of work. I marinated duck breasts in a mixture of soy sauce, cooking wine, a splash of red wine, Maggi seasoning, honey, sugar, salt and pepper, for at least 3-6 hours. After making a criss-cross cut on the skin, pan seared them over medium skin side down for 10 minutes, flipped them over, cooked them for 5 minutes, then let them rest for a bit. In the meantime, I started the mushroom risotto. one onion, diced, thrown in the pan with olive oil and some of the duck fat and two cups of arborio rice, sauteed until almost golden, then stirred in water and broth, half a cup by half a cup, stirring constantly, about 5 cups, until the rice was finished. Sauteed finely sliced mushrooms in a little more duck fat and mixed them in with the rice, then mixed in a generous helping of grated parmesan. I popped the duck breasts in the oven at 400 F for fifteen minutes to finish them off, let them rest, then sliced them-the meat was on the more medium side of medium rare, perfectly cooked. For some veggies I roasted some carrots in olive oil as well.

Duck Breasts Resting

Sliced Perfectly Medium Duck Breast

Pan Seared Duck, Mushroom Risotto and Roasted Carrots

Dinner turned out perfect. Everyone loved it (I love it when people are happy to eat my food). We watched a movie and I had a nice evening to relax before my first day of real work.

So far, I really like my internship and I’ve managed to find stuff to keep me quite busy, despite half the office being abroad at the moment. I even usually kind of enjoy teaching, but my productivity was all sorts of thrown off. We got an email last night about an offer the family had been mulling over for a while, and the end result when we went to bed was decide by the end of next week. I got to work–with enough time to grab a coffee and some cookies for an afternoon snack–went to lunch with Dina, was making headway on my latest project and then boom, received the following message “We’re picking up the kitten this afternoon. Will be there when you get home.”

KITTEN. I literally had to restrain myself from squealing like a 13 year old airhead twit, or otherwise embarrass myself. I tried valiantly to get work done, but I was so excited. And I couldn’t even go with the boys to get the little dear, because I had tutoring at the far end of the world tonight. I managed to find a shorter way to get there, but the lesson felt like it lasted forever. Plus, the girl’s little brother, unhappy that I wasn’t paying him any attention, decided the best course of action would be to whip it out and start pissing on the floor. I was aghast, but the family didn’t seem to think it was out of the ordinary. Not even that could put a damper on my mood though, and soon enough I was able to find a cab and run straight home for the tiniest thing in the world. Our kitten has the cutest, saddest little face and is small enough to fit in one of my hands, and is just adorable in so many ways, minus the poop that is everywhere. Vet visit to determine sex and health and age tomorrow. MAO.

Introducing the Saddest Little Addition to the Family

Nanjing: Robot’s First Frisbee Tournament

So a week ago Friday we headed down to Beijing South Railway, met up with a few other Frisbee kids, and found our seats in steerage. Turns out even hard sleepers had been sold out, so whoever bought our tickets got us hard seaters. We walked down the length of 15 train cars, peering into luxurious looking cots, and found the sixteenth car, a more crowded, louder, brighter, much smellier, and cramped version of coach. And not on a nice airline like SingaporeAir or JetBlue, I’m talking Northwest. A standing-room only woman put her little stool right next to me, and as I tried to sleep, ate an apple as loud as she possibly could, moist and loud crunching and much smacking of her lips. And then she got a phone call at 1:00 am, from a wrong number, but proceeded to have a fifteen minute conversation anyway. I was livid. The boys were so uncomfortable that Ginny actually lay down on the floor to sleep, which he claimed was better than the chairs. I think I believe him. I maybe only got two hours of sleep.

The Boys Camping Out In Steerage

We were woken up by bright lights at 4 in the morning, although the train didn’t arrive until 5:30. After a brief and necessary stop at McDonald’s we went to the hotel of a teammate who had flown down with his family a few days before. A breakfast excursion and a glorious waterfall shower allowed me to get dressed and be persuaded to get to the field by 8:30.

I was excited. We played Ningbo, than Nanjing, then Tianjin, then Shanghai. I didn’t do too badly, I even scored a goal. Shanghai was supposed to be our big rival, although they hadn’t sent any of their best players-we weren’t exactly at top form, with two complete novice girls on the field. I managed to do my part without falling or in general making a fool of myself, made a few great defensive plays, danced a lot to the same songs that kept repeating (for the entire weekend they had two mix cds on repeat. I will never get that song about Jenny and her stupid phone number out of my head), and in general had a good time running around being athletic. Shanghai scored one point during the first half, and we shamefully let them double their score in the second half…but won with a solid 11 point lead. Also, the Tianjin team was from a sports university, so their boys were cut…and walking around with their shirts off…hello six pack city. Abs for days. I picked up a bit of a burn (damn you, ineffective Chinese sunblock) that I noticed as we left the field.

End of Day One. Tired, Burnt Robot.

Bambi, Ginny and I hit up Subway for a foot long each (I’m not really one for fast food, but those subs are real satisfying after not much of anything besides Snickers and Gatorade all day), then went back to our friends’ hotel to wash up. The tournament organizers had messed up so we weren’t sure where we were staying yet. Another glorious water fall shower, and we changed into our party gear for Black and White. It was…spectacular.

Spy vs. Spy.

The party, however, was kind of lame. No other team really dressed up besides a few black and white dresses. It eventually migrated to a bar, where some of the guys thought it would be a great idea to get tequila shots. I refused to take any after the first, because I’m lame but also because they were fake liquor and I didn’t feel like vomiting out my eyeballs the next day. I also happened to get locked out of my hotel room for the night, and ended up with an uncomfortable night of no sleeping. Was able to get in touch with my erstwhile roommate in the rosy hours of dawn, enough for an hour long nap on a most comfortable mattress to myself, until I hauled myself out for day two of torture-by-discus. We wearily made our way to fields, and limbered up for our first games.

Black vs. White

I was achy and creaky but warmed up soon enough. We ended up winning the tournament undefeated, and I even got the “spirit award” for our team, most likely for being the loudest newcomer, which won me a frisbee and some swag-a jersey and some bright, bright, yellow shorts. It’s like wearing a highlighter–I swear the shorts emit light by themselves.

The Final Teams: Tianjin vs Beijing

We stopped at Subway again. I was feeling like the fattest of pandas when one of the guys commented that I had in fact, demolished an entire foot long sub in the time that it had taken him to eat half. Whatever, I’m a growing girl? No shame. After sating our hunger, we sneakily went back to the hotel where they had mostly checked out, to use the showers and steam room. It was glorious. We dinnered at an Italian restaurant, then wandered. We got foot massages for 50 kuai an hour. The woman who was massaging Ginny kept telling me that something about our hands and fingernails was more Asian than white, I didn’t really understand what the hell she was trying to tell me, but explained that we were both hapa, which mollified her. They were amazed by his ginger hair, amused by my Chinese, and stumped by the Korean kid’s silence.

The boys and I had second dinner at a little hole in the wall. It was decent, fried rice and vegetables and a pork and spicy green pepper dish that was more spicy pepper than anything. After that, we boarded our stupid hard seater for the long ride home. We had an end row, so both the boys slept on the floor on yoga mats, while I tried to stretch out on the three seats, but it was one of the most uncomfortable nights of sleeping I’d ever had.

We arrived in Beijing at 7 am, early enough for me to brush my teeth, throw on some clean clothes, and head out the door for a full day (9-5) of teaching.