Robot Goes on an Almost Date. Someone Gets Engaged on 酒吧街.

Curses upon curses, my camera is broken. So any people who actually read this will have to deal with wordiness until I decide to do something about it.

It’s been an interesting week. A weekend full of seeing people, a girls’ night out at Enoterra for some tapas and free champagne, and I guess you could say I went on sort of a date. Maybe. If dates end up with me paying for dinner and an awkward side hug goodbye. We met at the China World Tower, and had a drink at Atmosphere, the bar on the 80th floor. Walking in, we realized how very incredibly swanky this place was and that we were probably not the more common clientele. A small bottle of qingdao was RMB 50, which is enough to buy like, 10 big bottles at a normal store. I nursed an Erdinger and at least appreciated the view of the city (slightly foggy, which was disappointing) and eventually we kind of agreed that this was neither of our scene…and went for a mini adventure into the side alleys of guomao and found a little hole in the wall chuanr restaurant. we sat outside in the alley at a wobbly table next to a a loud group of old chinese men in their ruched up wife beaters playing chinese drinking card games, eating a massive pile of lamb chuanr and shredded pork and spicy green pepper sandwiches, washing it down with almost icy cold yanjing, under the shadow of the massive building where we had so little ago been perched on leather couches with a live band crooning and a lit up dance floor and colored glass chandeliers. It’s one of those dichotomous experiences that are so common to China that I never really experience anywhere else. Sitting in the humid night, a fine sheen of sweat on the back of my neck, wearing an adorable polka dress and pearls, my finger tips greasy with cumin and seasoning, hoping I didn’t have and meat shreds stuck in my teeth. It started to drizzle and the laoban unearthed out a big tent to open over the patrons eating outside.

Work’s been very busy. Why am I so busy, you may ask. Robot, what did you do for work on Friday? well let me see…I spent twenty minutes individually stamping every third sheet in a receipt book for the tickets sales I’m in charge of. and yes, each one has to be officially stamped with a big red seal–the stamp is this heavy brass thing. first of all makes me feel like I work in a Chinese bank. second of all, reaffirms how ridiculous the whole official-red-stamp thing is for me, and the ridiculous of all the required paperwork in the Chinese system. We have to fill out a ticket form, stamp it as paid. Fill out a triplicate small receipt–give them one copy, give the accountant one copy, keep the third in the book, and do the same thing again if they pay with a credit card. In a week they have to bring back the stamped copy, which we take in return for the actual physical tickets, and the official invoice if they require it.

After a really awesome dinner at a colleague’s house with my roommates and some other random foreigner, we headed into Sanlitun. We found a table outside in the bar street and opted to sit and people watch for a little bit. And that is when I witnessed something that made my soul die a little bit.

We’re sitting there, and the whole street is crowded with laowai and their beers. It’s a hot night, not quite as humid as last Wednesday, not sit-there-sweating-hot, but it’s summer in Beijing. The alley smells like stale beer and piss and there’s an ill-concealed pile of broken glass behind us. This is where poor foreigners, international high school kids, and tourists who don’t know any better come to drink 10 kuai beers and fake alcohol, and beggars take their four and five year old children to guilt trip drunk people at 2 in the morning. And this skinny little man who’s been chain smoking his cigarette all night stands up on his table and starts to demand attention from everyone all around us. He started a little bit of a speech, and then proposed to his girlfriend, and she said yes.

Girl, there is nothing about your life that I envy if your man thinks proposing in a dirty alley surrounded by drunk white people is a good idea, if you think that accepting that is a good idea, and then to celebrate your engagement you go party at Smuggler’s.

I’m getting used to having free Saturdays. It’s just…relaxing. No frisbee to work around, just a whole day I can plan out. I thought vaguely about getting up early and getting a whole lot of errands done, but I caught up on some missing sleep instead. The boys and I headed over to Yashou around 1 to get new my glasses fixed (lenses needed to be replaced) and to pick up Bambi’s tailor made suit. The tailor shop made me ache for some custom made clothes of my own…I have a whole list of things I want, and I have to narrow down what I can afford and what I really need. I was productive enough to go to the dry cleaner and the vegetable market. And I realized I’ve been in China for a long time when I come away from a bargaining session thinking “wow, I could have held out and paid only $20 instead of $25 for my replacement prescription lenses, that’s too expensive” and “a kilogram of cherries is $2? That’s absurd!”

But my fridge is fully stocked now and after two weeks of being busy and going out to eat a lot and eating very unhealthily (did I eat mac’n’cheese and dry cereal for dinner one night? quite possibly) I’m ready for a cooking spree. On my list of things to make are the requisite bolognese and chicken stock as the reserves are empty, a whole big batch of pork and pumpkin dumplings to freeze, lasagna and beer braised pork belly in steam buns, and shredded beef tacos. But tonight…tonight we are going to eat 羊腿. Or lamb leg. Apparently, you are given a leg of lamb, and some steely knives and you get to carve it all up (or stabbity stab it) and eat it like Mongols. Om nom nom. I am excited.

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