Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Today's Lesson

You know how they always say, “When life gives you lemons, write a blog post?” Today was one of those days.

Bob and I woke up to a dark apartment. Since there were monstrous storms moving through Beijing last night, we figured the entire complex was dark. Not true. It was just us.

Coffee-less, I marched over to the Seasons Park management office at 7 a.m. The door to the office was ajar, and it was dark and quiet inside. “Ni hao?” I inquired. Silence. And then I turned a corner and found a young man asleep on his computer keyboard. It’s a common sight in a country that doesn’t really have many limitations on working hours.

In any event, I managed to communicate to him that our electricity was out. He wanted to know if we had paid up. I stood up straight and said, “Of course we’ve paid. There’s something wrong with the electricity.”

So they sent a fellow over in five minutes where he discovered….we hadn’t paid up. I guess now that it’s summer and we use a lot of air conditioning, we use more electricity than before. And in China, when the money on the card is used up, the power shuts off. It’s possible that someone tries to notify us that we’re low on juice, but they’re probably doing it in Chinese. Of all things.

Getting the power turned back on involved going to a local shop for traditional Chinese medicine that also lets you put more money on your electric card. After we loaded up the card and I looked around at all the products that either cured cancer or grew me another ear, we went back home and tried to swipe the card and power it up. No go.

Meanwhile, the clock was ticking. Today was a cooking day – a big Italian feast cooking day – in honor of a special VIP guest invited by Joanna. I had promised much. Bob was thrilled since my enthusiasm for cooking has, well, let’s just say it’s waned since our arrival in China. I make no apologies. I just don’t seem to enjoy cooking in a kitchen with four square inches of counter space, in a country where you will probably need to hit three stores and two markets if you have very specific ideas of items you must have. Like Brussels sprouts. Or mozzarella cheese.

In any event, before we could get our electricity up and running, the AC guy showed up. When I tried to tell him that we couldn’t get the electricity on, he was ready to bolt. I believe he said in Chinese – “Not my job. I’ll come back when the electricity is back.” So he left, the electric guy came and opened a special door with a special key that switched the power back on, and then we had to get the AC guy to return.

It was a multi-step process that delayed the baking of the cookies, the cooking of the sauce, the making of the braciole, and the slicing of the eggplant for eggplant parmesan by several hours. I am now in a race with time. There have been other hurdles – for instance, I don’t have string, twine, or thread to hold together the braciole. I used dental floss, which may or may not make it a little waxy-tasting. The cookies don’t have that nice buttery crispness that my cookies usually have, but they taste okay. The sauce – that I hit out of the park. And no, I’m not even going to attempt to make ravioli this time. If the VIP guest is still a VIP guest after a couple more months, he may get to try some of my ravioli.

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