Balls, Cab Drivers, and Food Poisoning. Again.

So I got food poisoning again, this time I think from Annie’s, and have spent the last two days trying to recover on the cracker, white rice and ginger ale diet while still at work. It’s been kind of miserable and I haven’t been motivated at all to write about the very fun weekend I had or my Taiwan vacation which I promise I have started to write about and will post soon.

I’ve been so busy I haven’t been cooking that much, just ordering lots of salads (or eating crackers and soda) but I did see Brussels sprouts appear at Jenny Lou’s so I bought some and made a nice veggie pasta for dinner one night: cut pumpkin into half inch cubes, halve Brussels sprouts, saute in olive oil, butter and garlic until the pumpkin is soft. Add in some thawed and peeled frozen shrimp, and a handful of dried cranberries. Toss with pasta, a tad more olive oil, and grated Parmesan. Omnomnom. Tasty, simple dinner.

Shrimp-Cranberry Pasta

The boys went to Hong Kong this past weekend for Frisbee. On Thursday, I helped Ginny with his seemingly 2 tons of luggage (someone sent down a team order of uniforms, which is surprisingly heavy) while trying to flag down a cab to the train station. It only took us 25 minutes and some frustration and swearing at empty cabs who refuse to stop, but finally got him in a cab, and then I accidentally forgot to give him his small gear bag which I for some reason thought was my purse. Luckily, Bambi didn’t leave til the next day so I could pass it off to him. The two of us went to dinner at the Xinjiang place, since I’d been feeling like an absentee friend. Dinner was good, as always; yang bao nan, which is wedges of bread under a lamb stew with vegetables, some green vegetables and chuanr. Good food, but I forgot how utterly dirty the little hole in the wall is. I sat and tried not to touch anything and tried not to put anything down on the sticky table.

It had been a long day–I started at 7 at a hotel to host a conference event, then took the afternoon to deal with my bank problem–discovered that they made a typo, and thus I couldn’t receive any money, and went for the next training session of my kindergarten curriculum. Surprisingly, the bank was incredibly embarrassed and fixed everything right away, where I was prepared for an hour long wait and days of frustration, which usually characterizes banking in China. Kindergarten is exciting. We’re moving on from patterns and finger painting to color mixing and learning the rules of the classroom.

Friday after work Sawyer and I went to In & Out to meet several people for dinner. It’s a Yunnan restaurant north of Sanlitun, hidden among the embassies, that has pretty great food. It turned out to be quite the adventure getting there. Our reservation was for 7. At 7, we found a rickshaw cab. We had just gotten to Sanlitun Village and were about to cross the street when our driver suddenly turned around and joined several other rickshaws that were fleeing in the opposite direction. He wouldn’t stop and let us off until we were quite far away, which was really annoying. His only explanation was the cops–I guess that the rickshaws and tiny motorized box cabs require a special license to go into certain areas, only most of them do it illegally. We ended up walking to the restaurant, and not getting there til past 7:30. But most of our party didn’t get there ’til 8. Perhaps in retaliation to that, but probably more to the fact that they’re incompetent and we were in a private room and therefore easy to forget about, the service was abominably slow. We asked, like foreigners always do, for our rice to be served first, so of course it was served second to last. Each dish took an additional 20 minutes to come out. We didn’t finish up with dinner until 10.

Afterwards we went to Fubar for a delicious Dark & Stormy, but while the ‘speakeasy’ is a pretty cool space, their ventilation leaves something to be desired, and we left early due to haze of smoke.

Saturday I read a story about pumpkins to a bunch of little baby nuggets and their bossy older sister who insisted we play the games she explained and not the activities we had planned, and actually yelled at my assistant teacher. Kids are kind of brats these days. I went home, discovered Hector had unearthed an old bag of kitten formula and torn it to shreds and rolled around in it, causing himself to smell like baby vomit, so had to clean it, reluctantly ate some lunch, and went to get my nails done. Apparently I fell asleep in the chair and they decided to just let me sit and not do anything, since usually the whole process takes about half an hour, and I woke up after an hour and they still hadn’t finished. Then went to get ready for the Charity Ball. Work subsidized some tickets so I was able to go to a very fancy charity dinner and networking event at the China World Hotel. Britta and her roommate, who already had found a cab after a long wait, picked us up. We cut through Sanlitun–why, I’m not sure, the traffic there on a Saturday night is always horrible. Our cabbie did, however, make the strategic decision of taking the bike-only lane (an asshole lane that I hate when I’m walking/biking, but that I appreciated while in the cab). Halfway through Sanlitun we met with a bit of a kerfuffle. Another cab had stopped diagonally, blocking traffic, and someone was forcibly trying to pull the cabbie out of the seat, with much yelling, old people screaming, kids crying, and crowds pressing around decidedly not helping. Our cabbie stopped, recognized the other driver as his friend, got out (ignoring us, asking him what the hell was going on and can’t he drive around it and not get us involved), physically separated the big guys fighting, gave his friend a talking to, gave the onlookers and disgruntled passengers a talking to, got back in the cab, and drove on like nothing happened, smiling and obligingly turning the radio station from some screechy music to 88.7, “baba dian qi,” which plays American pop.

We arrived at the event without further drama. Apparently there was a island/castaway/survivor theme. The moment we walked in, everyone was given a different patterned sash denoting our “tribe.” I was soon accosted by a woman who asked me my name. Being there to network, I immediately replied, oh hi, nice to meet you, I’m Robot. And then she wrote it down. “Um, excuse me? What’s that for?”
“You’re going to participate in the tribal games” said that sneaky, sneaky lady as she ran off. I immediately headed for the bar.

Castaway Coconut Drink

Managed to forget about that while enjoying the appetizer trays being walked around, and drinking the juice out of a whole coconut, and perusing the silent auction. But then, shortly after being seated for dinner, the entertainment people got up on stage and announced the imminent start of the competition. No. No. No. I wanted to run away, unfortunately, ALL of my bosses and their bosses were there and knew exactly who I was when they called out my name and I had to go up on stage. In front of 700 people. Oh fun.
So I made my way up there and stood on stage with all the others who had been browbeaten or tricked into participation, and the “challenge” was to “build shelter” i.e, put together an Ikea coffee table. With no tools. I tried to smile and not look like a zombie or someone who was terrified that they were going to flash some very important people like the Ambassador and ALL of their superiors while trying to assemble Swedish furniture by hand on stage. Amazingly, I won, and no wardrobe disasters either. A measly three points for no prize, but I still won, and immediately went back to my table for a stiff drink.

Oh why look, there's a giant screen showing me build a table in a party dress with my bare hands.

The food was actually pretty awesome. Started out with a shrimp and avocado cocktail, followed by a creamy sweet corn chowder. The main course was filet mignon skewered with sugar cane and in some sort of sauce, with roasted vegetables and sweet potato puree. And the dessert–a fluffy coconut sort of custard ice cream, cake, macadamia praline, and then dishes of dark rich fudge filled chocolates. Mrs. Fields cookies were passed out as favors, as were mini bottles of Jack Daniels. It was a very fun evening altogether, although the Caribbean Steel Drum band decided to go with Disney songs that seemed to chase everyone away (seriously: the band started playing and there was a mass exodus). There were midnight snacks on the menu, but I was pretty full and we left before I could sample any.

Some of the young professionals ended up joining forces and went to Melody for karaoke. Finally. How have I been in China for 10 months and not gone to karaoke yet? Well, mostly because the boys always went when I wasn’t around. I blame them. But it’s finally been remedied and I can say that I sang my little robot heart out along with everyone and had a good time.

Sunday I must have spent 100 kuai on cabs, going back and forth from teaching to Sawyer’s couch to watch episodes of Breaking Bad. We ordered delivery for lunch from Refresh!, which apparently has more than subpar smoothies, but some very good, albeit small servings of, food (I got a cheddar, apple and bacon panini and salad). I got stuck in traffic and mild rain all day. When I got to my 2:00 lesson, they were locked in the apartment and couldn’t let me in, had to wait for their grandmother to return home with the key. I taught the kids through the front door screen and scowled at the tiny, ugly little dog roaming the hallway that barked at me nonstop for 10 minutes. On the final cab ride back, was stuck in traffic for 40 minutes (it’s generally a 20 minute ride). The cabbie, who had been silent for most of the ride, took the opportunity to ask me some questions. I answered most of them–how long I’d been in China, etc, before I didn’t understand something. I made him repeat what came out as garbled junk–it sounded like he was asking me about white and black people. Oh, no that’s right, he was. He asked me if white and black people ACTUALLY got married in America, if that was a real thing. When I confirmed that yes, people of different races do intermarry, he asked why, and why was it allowed. I wasn’t exactly sure how to answer this, although I decided I probably shouldn’t mention that I was mixed, so I shrugged and pretended to nap for the rest of the ride.


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