Officially Wise Update

Today I discovered that another wisdom tooth is growing in and starting to poke out. This time it’s the bottom left. So far, my righties aren’t showing any signs. When I told Jeff, all he said was,

Oh, you’re so smug.

I think he’s just jealous his wisdom teeth were removed, and he’ll never get to watch a new body part grow again!

Tis the season?

So winter is officially here, according to the Chinese government and my frozen toes. Right now it is 28 degrees fahrenheit according to Google, but I’d be willing to bet it’s a lot colder with added wind chill. Today we had to usual story of high winds making my place drafty and knocking things around outside the building.

Next week is Thanksgiving, which means that those of you in the states have been listening to Christmas music for a month now. It’s a little weird to go into malls here and still hear upbeat techno covers of the Beatles instead of a six-week-long barrage of Christmas music. Naturally, at first I thought I had the better end of the stick — who doesn’t get sick of Christmas music in October? But now it’s almost Thanksgiving, and with only four weeks until I head home for the holidays, I’m feeling a distinct absence of the Christmas spirit.

Did I just hear Devin throw up?

Anyway, as the temperatures drop, my natural instinct is to begin exuding and enjoying that Christmas spirit. Though I never noticed it much before, people really are generally nicer and happier during the holidays, including myself. Beijing even has many of the indicators of Christmas — the aroma of roasting chestnuts on every street corner, a chill snap to the air, the faint smell of chimney smoke. I’ve even seen a conical-shaped array of lights. But the Christmas spirit just isn’t here. It’s confusing my subconscious, I think.

At any rate, anyone who wants something from China should speak now! I’ll be doing my shopping as soon as midterms are over. Which, for anyone who’s counting, will be approximately during the time I’m supposed to prepare for finals.

Officially wise

So, yesterday I felt like I had a piece of food stuck on my back gum, and I couldn’t get it off no matter how I tried — kind of like when you get a piece of popcorn kernel suction cupped onto your gum, you know? After obsessing over it for a while, I stuck a finger in to investigate.

Turns out it’s a tooth! I know everyone complains about wisdom teeth, and how they’re a pain and whatnot, but I’m kind of excited. I mean, my body just grew a new part! Isn’t that wicked cool?

I invited Jeff to investigate with his own hands, but I guess my new tooth isn’t as thrilling to him. That, or he doesn’t think sticking his finger in my mouth is worth it.

Last time I went to the dentist, he said there were no signs of wisdom teeth. Then, right after I left for China, I started having awful tooth aches. Well, now we know for sure those little teeth exist, and they’re moving in. I hope this won’t turn out too badly for me. I have over a month until I come back to the land of licensed physicians and safe x-rays. How long does it take for new wisdom teeth to wreck your alignment? Just wondering…

The Best Set Ever.

On Saturday when we were at the mall, Jeff and I experienced the most magical and thrilling rock set I have ever and will ever know.

The band consisted of about four scruffy, hipster Chinese guys, and one apparent chef. We came over to listen to the set because a couple of Chinese guys playing reggae is always an interesting and confusing experience. Partway through the set, we began to realize the genius that was unfolding.

The first song they played was a reggae song about going home to Zion. I’m pretty sure the singer didn’t know anything about Babylon or Zion, and certainly wasn’t aware that he was doing a good job heading a Christian rock band in atheist China. Maybe we don’t have to be so quiet at meeting after all…

After the first song, the apparent chef took over the vocals. He started off with Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” which was pretty amazing in a train wreck kind of way. Some of those R sounds can be a little rough, you know? He also did Tina Turner’s little dance (see 1:50 of the clip). Because of that, Jeff is pretty sure he learned the song off of a Youtube video. Without missing a beat, he segued into “Venus,” currently best known as the song from the Gillette razor commercials. Then in a musical leap unseen in the modern era, he was singing “I will always love you” by Whitney Houston.

So some of the words may have been garbled a little, and not all the notes were on key. But still, pure genius.

Mango Mango

Tonight Jeff took me to Mango Mango, a dessert place that pretty much just serves mango. The walls of the cafe were bright orange and squishy, like some kind of 1960s B-scifi movie space station. It was deee-lish! I had mango with sweet sticky rice and a side of mango pudding. Jeff had mango in coconut milk with sweet sticky rice. I like this whole birthday thing!

The best day!

Saturday I had the best day. Someone I’m turning 21 on Thursday, and since we don’t see eachother too much, and he hates making decisions, Jeff decided we’d start celebrating my birthday on Saturday. For the day, he responded to every question with “whatever you want,” and I felt spoiled silly.

After teaching (which for the record was not “whatever I wanted” to do Saturday morning) we went out to lunch at a Thai restaurant. Lately I’ve been sick of Chinese food, but since non-Chinese means a hefty price tag, I haven’t stepped out too much. The restaurant was really nice — we even saw another customer take a picture of it with his camera-phone. The food was also really good, mainly because it tasted like non-Chinese food.

After lunch, we continued doing whatever I liked and went to Cold Stone — also a hefty price, both for my wallet and my health. I had a Boston Cream Pie, which is vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream and cake. It was delicious, and it really did taste like a Boston Cream pie. I also got it in a waffle bowl, since it was my “birthday” after all.

After ice cream, we went window shopping and watched “Heroes.” Then it was time for dinner, which was again, my choice. We had Xinjiang food, which comes from China’s Xinjiang province. You may have heard of Xinjiang from articles about civil unrest there. You see, the people in Xinjiang are not ethnically Han Chinese, and are mostly Muslim. It’s easy to see how the somewhat xenophobic and anti-religion government could be at odds with this group of outsiders. While the government is bent on keeping the rogue province tightly within grip, the culture and the people’s food is often dismissed as “un-Chinese.” But enough of politics — their food is amazing. It’s sort of a wonderful mixture of Middle Eastern, Indian and Chinese food.

The food has a heavy mixture of spices and often is a touch spicy. Many dishes are stews with a sweet tomato sauce base and lots of yummy veggies. Their staples are thick, handmade noodles and fried, seasoned naan, which are both absolutely wonderful. Jeff’s favorite Xinjiang food is meat skewers, which is one of a handful of characters he knows. On Saturday we also discovered that though the most common meat is lamb, I’ve been incorrectly translating it as “goat” for months now. Jeff was a little miffed about that one, but I maintain that it’s not my fault, since it’s all the same character in Chinese, and my brained sort of merged the two animals into one as a result.

Having eaten our fill, we went and got hair cuts. Neither cut was ideal, but we had a great time at the salon. Jeff started screaming for me several times to come over and translate, and all the stylists thought we were hilarious. Jeff looks a lot more Chinese now. My hair cut was just a trim, but I’m not satisfied with the blockiness of my layers. I’m sure everyone cares about that.

Anyway, it was pretty much the best day I’ve had in a while. I think it mostly had to do with Jeff being really sweet, and the amount of tasty food I had. In other news, Thursday is my real birthday, so he’s still not off the hook for celebrating it.

Heat-llelujah!

This weekend, the building’s heat got turned on. This is amazing, especially since it’s been getting really, really cold here. In fact, I have been spending most of my time at home snuggled fully dressed in my fuzzy bathrobe, under a comforter and an open sleeping bag. Getting out of bed in the morning was terrible, because the floor is ice, and removing the covers caused instant chattering.

Now, all has changed, and it’s glorious. I can walk on the floors barefoot! I can move about the apartment without four layers on! Showers are much less miserable! Indoors and outdoors are differentiated. Life is wonderful.

There are some caveats. One, I can’t change or turn off the heat, since it’s controlled for the whole building. Two, I just bought a second heavy comforter because of the cold temps, and now it feels like the heating gods are laughing at me.

What my neighbors are doing 2

My upstairs neighbors have a golden retriever. This is worth noting because:

1. There is a size limit on dogs, so it’s one of the biggest dogs I’ve ever seen in Beijing.

2. Our apartments are all rather tiny.

3. It explains many of the weird noises I always hear from upstairs.

I have a bun in the oven.

Today, I finally brought home my baby. I’ve been slowly preparing for weeks, getting the apartment ready. Finally, today was the day!

No, I’m not keeping a small child in the box. It’s my new oven! I had to carry the dang thing up five-and-a-half flights of stairs myself, but it wasn’t that bad. Actually, ovens are mostly hollow since you have to put stuff in them, so it was pretty light. The box was just a little too big for my arm span, so it was awkward.

As soon as I got it home I cleared a space for it on my least favorite desk and set it up. I got the same brand as a friend who makes amazing baked goods, and I got the nicest biggest oven the store had. It cost a whopping $160 USD, but it was worth it. It has multiple movable racks and a chicken potato? rotisserie. After getting it all plugged in and settled, I amassed my baking supplies for a good, old-fashioned, new neighbor get-together. The cinnamon sticks did not make an appearance, but they exist.

Then I set about cleaning my oven. I splurged and used hot water to clean the racks, and then I put everything in the oven and turned it on high for 15 minutes, as per the directions. About ten minutes later I came into the bedroom and discovered that the oven was blowing smoke/steam and smelled like crap. I chalked it up to the water/packing oils evaporating, opened a window, and hoped it wasn’t carcinogenic.

Then I got to baking! I didn’t want my first baking experience with my new oven to end in disaster, so I used my chocolate chocolate chip cookie mix and make a quick batch of cookies. Do you have any idea how amazing warm chocolate cookies and a glass of milk are? Because I had forgotten until today. Some of the cookies broke a little, so I had to eat the ugly ones. Also, I’m not ashamed to admit that I dropped part of a cookie, and I still ate that sucker off the ground. That is what happens to you when you go four months without fresh baked goods.

This is my first batch of cookies with my new best friend. The baking sheet that came with the oven is kind of small and not level, but it worked!

I brought my cookies to work with me, which really pleased Jeff, since now he has cookies too. When I came home from work, my apartment still smelled like fresh cookies.

I love my new oven!