I’ve been trying to get through all these birds eye peppers that I have, making a lot of Thai and Vietnamese inspired dishes lately. One night was a quick basil chicken, stir fried broccoli and some cucumber. Except for all the chopping, this is a really easy meal and a one-pan kind of night (if you don’t count the rice cooker)

Cucumber was the most simple: diced one, threw it in a wok with some crushed up green chilies and garlic and a bit of soy sauce.

Broccoli was also pretty simple: toss the florets with garlic and chilies in hot oil in the wok, saute, add some fish sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce and sugar, and a little bit of stock.

The chicken comes together quickly. Slice ginger, chicken and onion in long thin strips. I velveted the chicken strips as well, beating in some water, salt and cornstarch to make it tender. Pluck basil leaves off the stems. Cut up and de-seed chiles (unless you’re all about heat). Soften garlic and ginger in the hot wok with oil, then add chicken and onions. Let this cook for a bit, and add fish sauce, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, a little vinegar, and some water. Let it cook for a few minutes then toss in the chiles and basil leaves. Mix it up, cook for a few more minutes, then serve, garnished with fresh basil leaves.

All in all, a quick and simple delicious dinner made for a good end to a day, minus Ginny blaming me for making him fat, and me getting pepper on my nose. It burns, it really does burn.

Friday one of the girls at work treated the interns out to a happy hour in return for a stressful week. She bought us tequila shots and half price margarita pitchers. Not to be ungrateful, because I am a fan of free drinks, but I really despise tequila. We disbanded after several pitchers and rounds of chips and salsa, and I met up with Dina and Allie to play with a friend’s puppy and eat dinner. Another catastrophic rainstorm started, so we scrapped out plan to go out. My beautiful new shoes got soaked on the way home, and one taxi refused to go any further north than Shuangjing, and made me get out and I had to flag down another. What a piece of work.

I decided against going to Summer League on Saturday and instead caught up on TV shows, read a book, and got some things done around the house. I wasn’t feeling any effort in terms of food, so I made braised chicken legs. This is one of the laziest good dinners (discounting anything that you just have to microwave or boil). Place two thawed chicken legs into a glass casserole dish and scatter one chopped up onion around them. Cover with braising liquid–in my case the liquid I had frozen and saved form the shredded beef tacos, along with a few more chilies–pop it in the oven at 375F or 190C with the timer set for an hour, and then take a nap. I ate it with pasta on Saturday and on toast Sunday.

On Saturday I got locked in. Yes, locked INSIDE my apartment. Again. For the third time in 6 months. When Ginny came home from the Frisbee dinner with a friend in tow, they discovered the key wasn’t working in the lock. He called me and I went to let them in-only to discover that I couldn’t open the door. Couldn’t unlock the door, nothing. And all the windows on our first level have cages on them. If there was a fire, I would have died. Well, in an emergency I could probably escape via one of the second level windows onto the roof and then break into some random Chinese neighbor’s apartment, but that’s not really something I want to consider unless I have a really good reason to think about it. Point of the story is, I was trapped. Ginny decided to wait it out at a friend’s house while I called the landlord for help. At first, he was useless. He didn’t understand what the problem was, couldn’t comprehend me being stuck inside. He said he couldn’t fix the door and was going to send me the number of our real estate agent. I fail to see how a real estate agent would help. I then considered trying to find a locksmith, but was informed that in China, if a door is going to be broken open the police have to be present, and well, I think calling the police would have been an overreaction. Eventually, my landlord called back and said he was on his way over. He was very surprised to get to the door and find me inside the apartment, and him unable to open the door. I had to explain it again. He tried and tried but could do nothing. Then his wife did something and the door magically opened. he landlord suggested that he would replace the lock, but couldn’t at night because the locksmith stores aren’t open. His wife suggested taking pencil shavings to grease the lock. No, seriously, pencil wood shavings.

I have no idea how that makes sense. She kept asking if I had a pencil, so I looked around, and found some colored pencils, but apparently colored pencils won’t do, only normal pencils. I still don’t really comprehend what they thought pencil shavings would accomplish, but the landlord went and bought some little bottle of oil (beijing version of WD-40, I suppose) and greased up the lock and said something about it being because of the weather and all the rain, and that if it happens agan, then he’ll change the lock. Well, at least it got fixed before I had to go to work in the morning, but if it locks me in again, I can see it being at a very inconvenient time rather than a Saturday evening.

Sunday I got up bright and early to teach. One of my girls went to Chengdu for a little holiday and saw pandas and brought me back a present–oh hey look at that I’m a legit teacher with teacher’s pets who bring me adorable litle gifts, that is so cute/weird. I guess Chengdu is the place in China famous for all the pandas, but what baffles me is why they sell little stuffed animal pandas dressed up as red-nosed reindeer.

After classes I met up with my friend Leia in Sanlitun and we lunched and picked up my clothes from the tailor (and can I just saw, the tailor did an amazing job? I look like a real live professional adult in these clothes!) and a little shopping.

Speaking of locks, after my last evening class I went to a hair salon by April Gourmet. I was a little nervous going to a Chinese salon, but it came recommended by a co-worker so I thought I’d give it a shot. Walked in from the humid-stand-still-and-break-a-sweat sauna air to the cool, well lit little room, sat in the chair with some trepidation, and mustered the best Chinese I could to explain what I wanted to get done.

I want to dye it blond.
I had visions of light blonde at first but looking at pictures of blonde hairstyles online and at the hair-swatch booklet, I got nervous and decided to go a darker honey-copper tone instead, just in case it looked horrible. First, the highlights. It took forever. They put me in a little chair and what looked like a little alien MRI machine spun around my head to “jia re” or add heat. they washed out and the highlights were actually really well done. I relaxed a little bit. Then the dye. I didn’t realize they could dye my very dark brown hair without bleaching it first, so I got a little anxious again, especially after the heat application, it looked like nothing had changed. My hair was still brown. And they washed it and it was still brown except for the highlights and I got a little more anxious thinking did I really spend this much money and 3 hours of my life for brown hair with blond highlights? But then they blow dried my hair and it lightened and I was immensely relieved. I don’t look quite like a different person but it still surprises me in the mirror, but it came out surprisingly well. I am pleased. And blonde. Blonde. Weird.


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