Monday, March 31, 2014

Ranting, Ranted, Rantable

These are the things I will never take for granted ever again.
1. The ability to send off an email without the system showing me a little circle going round and round, loading, loading.
2. The ability to chug down water at the tap when I brush my teeth.
3. Seeing blue skies.
4. The ability to go to a market, buy whatever suits my fancy, and never have to worry about whether I'm about to put poison in my body.
5. The ability to cross the street with a walk sign, knowing that cars won't try to run you down.
6. The freedom to heat my house on March 29 if it's chilly outside.
7. The ability to spend an afternoon watching cute kitten videos on Facebook without anything freezing up.
8. The ability to take online tests that tell me: what age I really am, what city I should really live in (note: Beijing is never on these lists), what career I should have had (writer! really?), and the five signs that tell you your marriage is over (news flash: it's all good. Although if a certain spouse butt-dials me again today, I may have to update this item.).
9. The ability to go jogging without imagining horrible little carcinogens lodging in my lungs.
10. Clothes dryers that actually fluff the clothes and not make them into a wrinkled, hardened mass.
11. Dishwashers, the automated kind.

I do realize that when I move back to the U.S., I'm going to be annoyed at things like Conscious Uncoupling, tourists on the escalators, an inch of snow in March, and automated calls asking me if I want to sign up for a timeshare in Tulum. But you know what? Right now, all that looks pretty good to me.

And that's my rant for the day. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

G-8 on the Wall

My hiking group realized about halfway through our hike this week that we eight represented eight different nations: America, Canada, China, Germany, Austria, Australia, Sweden, and France. So we started calling ourselves the G-8, the kind that celebrates birthdays, shares chocolate, drinks a little wine (Great Wall wine, of course), and sings. Imagine if real countries could get along so well. Maybe we all need a little hiking in our lives.

Boys must climb.
In which I try to convince myself that the haze makes the photo all arty looking.
But it is pretty in a deadly kind of way.
Cure for jet lag: hit the Wall.
A break with a view.
The Wall just fades off into the distance.
The path goes on and on.
How to prop a Great Wall.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Birthday, a Wedding, and Those Peacock Shoes

It was yet another lovely trip home. I always end these visits feeling warmed by the extent to which friends and family go out of their way to drive me around, pick me up, make meals and teas, have drinks, go shopping, and put me up in their homes. I will be forever indebted.

And once again, I won't be able to go into the details. What I will remember most is the laughter. Here's a very limited photo description of my two weeks. I didn't always remember to take pictures, so I didn't capture things like the lovely dinner at my cousin Kim's house, the umpteenth girls' night out, my lucky chance to have one-on-one walks, dinners, and coffees with friends. But here's a small sampling.
My first morning home: such an all-American sight.
I met my mom's new buddy, Landon.
Mom blows out the candles on her birthday cake.
I swear I didn't realize they were re-lighting candles.
Lori and I took Mom to the Culinary Institute of America for her birthday. 
Jogging in Athens usually involves a deer crossing or two.
And a beautiful riverscape.
One of the many fun dinners, this one with Carol, Pam, and Jo.
I found the perfect shoes to wear to Will and Chip's wedding. Thank you, Joanna.

Today, back in Beijing, I made a number of stupid mistakes that I blame on jet lag and bad bad air. But even so, I'm happy to be here again, at least for now.

Friday, March 7, 2014

And To Think It Happened at the DQ

One of the most significant lessons to come out of living in China is to expect the unexpected. And I don't mean it in a shopping-at-Target kind of way.

Yesterday, for example, is a good example. The lovely young woman who "threads" my eyebrows and facial hair had gone back to her home province for Spring Festival and to get married. Now the newlywed was back in Beijing but out of a job at the salon where she last worked.

We had a rather confusing back and forth about whether or not she could do any threading for me, and where, in a combination of English, pinyan, Chinese characters, and voice messages on WeChat, to meet. Finally we agreed to meet at Dongzhimen on Friday afternoon. Where exactly, I wasn't sure, but I headed off in that general direction.

"Wo zai DQ deng ni," she wrote. ("I'm in the Dairy Queen waiting for you.")

So I showed up at the DQ, which is in the basement of Ginza Mall and right next door to the salon where she had worked before. Inside the DQ I saw one woman in a janitor's uniform, her head down on a table, sound asleep. An older man sat and read a newspaper. Lots of people hanging out.

Finally she showed up too, and we sat down at a table. I gave her a hung bao: the red envelope with money inside that one should give newlyweds. She gave me a bag with some candy-like sweets. We chatted for a while, and she showed me pictures of her and her new husband, she wearing a red dress, he in a black suit.

The conversation flagged. Finally, she said, "Come and sit next to me." I sat down and she proceeded to pull out her thread and there in the Dairy Queen, she threaded my face. I kept my eyes closed, but I kept expecting someone to come along and say -- as I suspect they would in the States -- "what are you doing?" But people went about their business, no one said anything, and I had nicer-looking eyebrows.

She told me I could leave; she was waiting for other friends, she said. A shadow business in the DQ? I have no idea.

So I headed off home. When I arrived at the door to my building, two boys, about 7 or 8, were waiting to get in. I unlocked the door, and one said, "Thank you!"

"Ni shuo ying yu!" I said. "Ni shi na guo ren?" (I was giving them a little compliment by saying they spoke English and asking what country they were from.)

They looked confused. "Zhong guo," they said. China, of course.

"Wo shi Mei guo ren!" I announced.

"America," they answered. And as I left the elevator, I heard them quietly practicing saying it back and forth to each other, murmuring, "America, America."

That's a nice send off. Next stop, America.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Once More to the Wall

I visited an old friend yesterday. I visit the Great Wall as many times as I can, and it never disappoints. But on a clean air day in the crisp winter air, with a bunch of nice hiking buddies, there's nothing better.

A pretty sweet lunchtime view.
Great Wall builders gave up here. Did we find the end of the Wall?
So pretty.
Note to self: When you take a Great Wall selfie, make sure blowing hair doesn't obscure the Great Wall in the background.
The Wall ended so we decided to stop there for lunch.
Almost no rain or snow this year, which makes for an arid terrain.