Friday, May 24, 2013

Morning Jog

Just when I get sick of China, it turns on the charm. This morning on my run I saw: 48 men fishing in the canal, one old man playing the erhu, a smiling woman who gave me a thumbs-up, people walking backwards for their health, people walking their dogs by carrying them in their arms, and loads of old folks doing tai chi in the fresh morning air.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why My Bowling Was So So Bad Last Night

I have excuses. Pick one.
1. I was tired.
2. My shoes were too tight, and my feet were sweaty.
3. My ball was too light.
4. My second ball was too heavy. Is it too much to ask that someone makes a 9.5-pound ball?
5. The bowlers in the lane next to us didn't know what they were doing and kept drifting over to our side, causing a distraction.
6. It was too hot in the bowling alley.
7. I wasn't drinking beer.
8. My knee felt funny.
9. The air pollution outside was getting worse.
10. There were too many bowlers, so that the wait for my turn was long enough to cause me to lose momentum.
11. This game really mattered, which created undue pressure.
12. People were watching me bowl.
13. Bob was doing really well, creating more pressure for me to step up my game.
14. Jim kept talking.
15. I was standing in the wrong place.
16. I was watching the pins, instead of the arrows on the lane.
17. I was staring so much at the arrows I forgot to look at the pins.
18. My shoes were so old I kept slipping.
19. I'm too old for this.
20. China.

Beautiful Hangzhou

Sometimes you just need to let the pictures tell the story.
Okay, so it was a little rainy.
But it made the Buddhas in the mountains all the more mystical.
And they all still have their heads.
Thinking that Leah has a future as a monk.
This guy is pouring tea. 
And even though it's ridiculously expensive tea, we have a good time.
You don't want to know what is in these concoctions at the traditional Chinese medicine museum.
And finally we go in search of the picture on the back of the one-yuan note. Found it!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sometimes You Miss People

And sometimes you miss your plants. In my case, I get to visit my grandmother's fern, as it spends the winters inside the Conlons' sunny living room and its summers on the deck watching the deer below, and I see it every time I pass through Silver Spring. It looks far larger and healthier than it did when it lived on Burlington Place.

And my grapefruit tree, in the capable hands of Rick and Kathy Swengros, is also thriving, judging from a picture sent to me this morning by Rick. It seems to appreciate a little Miracle Gro.
That's a whole lot healthier than the plant kingdom inside my Beijing apartment. Then again, these plants have to deal with Beijing air.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

How Not to Throw a Party

1. Send all of your guests a reminder of the party, but put the wrong apartment number on the email, forcing guests to wander around building 22 carrying casserole dishes and knocking on the wrong doors.
2. Overload the frig with beer and wine so that when your husband opens the door to get something, a full bottle of white comes crashing out to the floor, flooding the kitchen floor with white wine and shards of glass, and forcing the first dozen guests to stand awkwardly around as you rush to mop it up.

Seriously, though, last night's Seasons Park party turned out to be fun, with an international group: American, Chinese, Dutch, Singaporean, Finnish, Swedish, South African. No one stepped on broken glass, the neighbors didn't complain about the noise, and everyone had fun, except maybe Smudge.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How to Fly for 13 and a Half Hours in Coach

I’ve got the long-haul plane flights down to a science by now. The important thing is to get an aisle seat so you are not trapped by the passenger who announces he hasn’t slept for 48 hours, pops an Ambien, and sinks into so deep a sleep that you can draw pictures on his arm. Not that it happened exactly that way. At least not the pictures part.

The downside to the aisle seat is that if you cross your legs, letting your foot jut even two inches into the aisle, you can guarantee that some fast-charging person will knock into your foot hard just as you’ve dosed off. But it’s still better, especially if you grab every cup of water that is offered and need to hit the bathroom every two hours. Which you should, even if you are on a plane full of Chinese passengers who invariably manage to pee all over the bathroom. And I mean all over.

In any event, this is what I did on my most recent flight, which is pretty close to my m.o. on nearly every one of the five trips I’ve taken between the U.S. and China in the year and a half we’ve been in China.

1.     When I leave on a Sunday, there’s nothing I like more than reading every word of the Sunday New York Times, which allows me hours of uninterrupted reading pleasure even as it blackens my hands. I read all of it: weddings, movie reviews, news out of random small countries.
2.     I read New Yorkers on my iPad, which I’ve fully charged so that it can last me the full ride.
3.     I read my book club book on my Kindle, also fully charged.
4.     I jot down notes for my to-do list and story ideas on my iPad.
5.     When I find that I’m dozing off, I start watching the video offerings. This flight, I watched four hours of Ken Burns’ impressive series on the Dust Bowl. I may have dozed off after the 12th video of a dust storm, but I saw most of it.
6.     When I really want to veg out, I watch fun things like “What Not to Wear.” It’s interesting that I didn’t have to sink to the level of “Honey Boo Boo.”
7.     When I’m too tired to keep my eyes open for TV, I listen to podcasts. I usually start with “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” move on to “Prairie Home Companion,” and then, when I want to doze to a soothing voice, transition to Krista Tippett’s “On Being.” Yes, it’s sometimes too earnest and love-thy-neighbor for my tastes, but if I have to have a voice in my ears when I sleep, let it be Krista’s.
8.     I generally eat at least part of the three meals served, although my new health kick means that I’m now pretty good at skipping the brownie and that little hard roll that comes with dinner #1 and dinner #3. As Bob says, it’s something to do.
9.     This time, I skipped the alcohol. I used to think, free cheap alcohol is better than no alcohol. But then I discovered that the white wine was always chardonnay and the red wine was always something sweet and nasty that made my teeth blue for 10 hours. And the beer is never ever cold enough.
10.  Speaking of cold, I always bring a warm scarf on the flight, even in the middle of the summer. United in particular has a particular knack of making the flights feel about 62 degrees and I find that even with layers, a blanket over my legs, and a scarf wrapped around my shoulders I’m so cold that I’m almost shivering.
11.  I try to be nice to the flight attendants even when they are a little snippy. You never know when they might slip you an extra Dixie cup of ice cream. Not that I did that. But they do have it in their power to make your experience even more miserable than it already is, so I’ve totally got the Stockholm syndrome when it comes to long flights on United.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Beautiful Meiguo

I've been in the States for a week and a half now, and still find myself nearly gasping at the beauty of this country: snow-capped Adirondacks in Lake Placid, the sparkling waters of Lake Champlain, the gentle beauty of my Hudson River, the deep blue shade of DC's sky just after sunset, the brilliant azaleas that cover DC.

People. At the risk of sounding preachy, I need to say this. We have so much. We live in such beauty. We have to cherish it and preserve it as much as we can.

I'm looking forward to getting back to the 'Jing, but I'm also glad I have a few consolation activities to distract me on my arrival: a reception at the British ambassador's house with the Tuesday Trotters, a party for friends in our apartment complex, upcoming visits to Hangzhou and Yunnan, and bowling. Especially bowling.