Thunderstorm

A surprisingly clean and clear and gorgeous morning in Beijing. The sky is a bright clean blue with a few wispy puffs of cloud floating lazily when I step out of my front door.
Perhaps not that surprising. Last night the sky was red and wracked with violent lightning. It was the rain that woke me, at three o’clock in the morning pounding against my window, and as I went to the kitchen for a drink of water, drumming hard on the skylight nook, but the lightning kept me awake. I pulled my shades up and watched the sky shimmer, patches of light in every direction, sometimes a crisp jagged line striking nearby. The lightning lasted for over an hour, and the rain for much longer. So the morning is bright and clean and sunny, the air is cool and refreshing. It’s a nice change from yesterday, the oppressive, relentlessly gray skies, the soupy air. Hot, thick, I could feel the air against my skin. Almost enough to reach out and grab and handful and wring out the pollutants.

Leigh and I have discovered we work incredibly near each other, so have started meeting up for lunch, buying the BHG cold noodles and sitting by a newly erected and poorly constructed replica of , eating cold noodles and sitting next to a newly erected (and poorly constructed) replica of the Thinker. Dina and I went to the Silk Market to buy work-appropriate blouses, but instead we both fell in love with an adorable denim skirt and bought them instead. The touristy markets always annoy me because of the hassle of bargaining and the absurd prices they first offer, but it’s what I can afford these days.

Since a lot of my kids start to cancel sporadically over the summer, I’ve decided to get a third part-time job, calling US companies and holding video interviews during the early morning or late evening. I had a test interview last week, and took my lunch hour from my internship. Stretching my legs under the summer sun, praying I wasn’t sweating through my shirt. It’s stifling inside, worse than outside. I sit next to the camera, reading off questions in English and Chinese, trying not to laugh as a fluffy white cat sneaks out under the camera’s field of vision and starts to paw at the backdrop and a potted palm. My interviewer took us to lunch at Bite-a-Pita, in Sanlitun. I had heard of it, but it was my first meal there. Generous falafel sandwiches; warm, pillowy pita stuffed with crispy-crusted falafel, crunchy bits of cucumber, pepper, and tzatziki. A bite into the sandwish reveals the steamy soft, startlingly mint green inside of the falafel balls.

Bambi went back home for a while, for his last dinner we went to a restaurant just to the south of us. The food is good but their seats are the most ridiculous–low tables and uncomfortably low chairs, leaving me feeling folded up and awkward as origami, and I’m short, I can’t imagine how annoying it was for the boys. It had been a pretty long week and I had taught until 8:30, once I got home I put on a long tunic and refused to put on pants. We had dumplings drowning in a spicy broth, gongbao jiding, overly salted braised pork with flat wide noodles in soup, and a platter of lightly stir fried vegetables.

I tried to organize some people to go to yang tui again but I ended up at Allie and Dina’s place. We went to a family-style restaurant nearby. The food was delicious-a cold and spicy cucumber coriander salad, sweet and sour pork, lamb chuanr, but as I was eating I was suddenly overcome with a queer feeling that something was not right. I sat very, very still, until I was certain it would not go away, then borrowed Allie’s keys, walked home very slowly but determinedly, and luckily made it to their bathroom before I projectiled all of the lovely meal, and curled up on the couch. The girls sat with me as I drank juice and we watched several episodes of my new favorite obsession, Misfits.

After a very low key weekend, Allie and I got manicures and pedicures at the little hole in the wall at her grocery store. For 120 yuan, I got the whole works, plus a new pumice stone and toes separator, plus two adorable flowers appliqued on my thumbnails. Looking at my fingernails still makes me giggle.
Allie has the best fruit cart people by her apartment. I stopped on my way home for a bag of peaches, mangoes, mangosteens, plums, and lychees.

Pollution returned with full force to Beijing Monday morning. I couldn’t even see the end of our block. Biking outside made me feel like my lungs were turning black.
After a long day of research and teaching, I made it home, got some great news from my family, and decided to cook food instead of going to the gym.

A quick fried rice, but I had no vegetables, so just garlic, ginger, leek and egg. A simple reduced version of mapo tofu without the bean paste–lightly poach cubed tofu, saute ground beef with soy sauce, Magi seasoning, chicken bouillon a little bit of rice wine and fish sauce, minced garlic and ginger and torn up dried red chili, add back the tofu and let it simmer for a bit. Also, I made yuxiang or “fish fragrant” eggplant, which turned out very well.

Two long eggplant sliced and quartered (skin on). Lightly coated with cornstarch, then fried in the wok (make sure the eggplant gets a good fry on all surface, to get a good texture)in light oil (the recipe calls for deep frying but I didn’t want to). Add in minced ginger, leek and torn up dried red chili. After a few minutes, add in the sauce–two table spoons of soy sauce, chicken stock, sugar, a table spoon of rice wine, vinegar, and a little bit of Magi, and cornstarch that’s been dissolved into water. Mix it all about, let the sauce thicken. Serve.

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