Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I hope everyone who celebrated had a good holiday, surrounded by family and friends. Thursday day I bicycled between several different markets to buy ingredients for fruit salad, a green salad, and brownies. My oven doesn't heat up properly, so even at the highest temperature it took over an hour to bake brownies that should have taken twenty minutes, but it was still fun to bake.

That evening some friends came over for a girls' night of frivolity, planned without that that there was a U.S. holiday: we ate pizza, salad and brownies, and watched Sex and the City on DVD. It took us a few minutes to figure out how to change the language track to English, but it was amusing to hear the characters speaking Chinese while we matched wits with the remote control. It was a fun evening overall.

This afternoon I went to a holiday charity bazaar at the German embassy, a ten minute walk from my apartment in brisk air under a clear sky. There was a row of BMWs parked outside and a bevy of foreigners, mostly German, packed inside - most eating sausages and drinking mulled wine. I grabbed a perfect pretzel and covered it with mustard to enjoy while I strolled around, looking at the wares. I picked up a holiday present for a German-speaking friend (who will be very curious about it after she next checks in here) and some yummy potato bread to eat with dinner while watched downloaded American television.

Tonight I join some other friends for a belated turkey dinner. I'm taking the green salad. Afterwards I'm going to a party celebrating African culture at Club China Doll, where I'll see several different groups of friends - Italian, German, British. It will be a fun night.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Airfares - and taxes and fees

I'm currently planning to do a quick trip back to the U.S. at the end of January. That means spending time in NY, with a couple of days in MA and FL. I've spent this morning looking at airfares. One of the better deals I found was on British Airways, with the option of an eight hour layover in London on the way back, which would allow me to go into town for lunch and see what's up at the Tate and the Royal Museum. The airfare is US$699, which is several hundred dollars less than most other fares right now.

The expensive part isn't the fares. When I clicked through to find out the total cost it was more than double the actual airfare. Taxes and fees came to $807.70, for a total of $1496.70. That's insane!

I didn't book it. I couldn't bring myself to pay that much. I'm going to keep looking.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Much of last week was spent studying - either hunched over textbook or computer - and my shoulders were pinched and extremely tight by Sunday evening. Monday during yoga class it hurt to hold my arms out parallel to the floor. I knew that massage alone would not open my shoulders back up so I decided to once again go for baguan, the Traditional Chinese Medicine practice that is know in English as 'cupping.'

There are a number of Traditional Chinese Medicine hospitals in Beijing, but I went to a blind massage center in east Beijing where I have gone for massage on several occasions and where I know that they also do cupping. They don't speak English though. I walked into the center on Tuesday afternoon and told them what I wanted. I was taken upstairs to a room and given a top to change into before the doctor came into the room to consult.

I explained (mostly through pointing, body language and pidgin Chinese) what I wanted and he looked at my back, then explained that I needed a massage first to loosen up the muscles. I agreed and then relaxed for the half hour oil massage. When it was done he wiped the oil off of my back, then I turned my head to see him wheeling the table filled with the round glass cups over to the side of the table, and setting fire to something pinched between the ends of a long metal holder. My first thought was that I didn't want my hair to catch fire but then I relaxed as I saw him use the flame to heat the inside of a glass cup, then he attached it to my back along the edge of one of my shoulderblades. He repeated the process seven more times, until a total of eight cups were attached to my back, in strategic places where the muscles were pinching me most. He asked several times how I felt and I told him honestly that yes, it hurt, but only a little, it wasn't bad, and I breathed deeply to relax. He sat watching the cups and the way my skin was sticking into them, then started to remove them.

There were indents in skin on my back where the cups had been placed but my shoulders could move freely, they were no longer pinched, they were relaxed, and I had my range of motion back.

Today I was on a Skype video chat with a friend in New York. I was wearing a tank top and turned around. There were a series of round bruises, about 3" across, on my upper back. My friend saw them and yelled out "You have polka dots."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Day to Celebrate

After hours at the Rickshow watching election returns, a concession speech and an acceptance speech that acknowledged the landmark occasion of this election, my friends and I moved up the street to Saddle Cantina for a lunch of Tex Mex food and conversation before parting ways for the afternoon. Several of us have to study for the class starting this weekend.

Today I was in a room with more Americans than I've seen in one place since my last flight out of Newark five months ago. A few were waving flags and one young man was walking through Sanlitun wearing a large American flag. Usually if I'm out and in a group that's majority English speakers I'd bemoan the lost chance to practice at least a few words of Chinese. Not today.

I am still in awe of what has occurred, of what we, the American people, have done. Obama jia you!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama Jiayou!

The crowd in Rickshaw is mostly American, a handful of Chinese, and a mix of Canadian, Brits, Australian and others. Everyone is excited. Some people are already drinking champagne but others are being a bit more conservative and sticking to beer until there are enough official returns to call it.

An amica Italiana just Skyped me: Obama jiayou!

The Eve of Another Camelot?

Is this what it felt like for Catholic Americans on the eve of the Kennedy election?

Some people have had to leave Rickshaw to head to work, to offices where they'll be wired and watching the election online. Their seats are quickly filled by the many people standing, watching over the shoulders of the rest of the crowd as cheers go up.

Interesting that Fox News called Pennsylvania for Obama before even CNN did.

Election Morning

With the recent time change in the United States, New York is 13 hours behind Beijing. At 7:30am I was able to grab the last table in a crowded bar full of Americans. I'm at the Rickshaw, the same place where I came to watch the debates, and I've never seen the place this packed. Everyone is routing for Obama.