October 31, 2008

last of the October updates

Devin and Merlin have a few things they've been meaning to post, delayed for no good reason other than that it takes some coordination to get kids, computer, and digital photos in the same place at the same time with a corresponding interest on the said kids' parts to actually sit down and write something. So, I'm not sure if we'll get any other posts up today, but hopefully we can wrap up posts of October's activities in the next few days.

In the meantime, I'll just throw on a few random pictures, just for fun and general audience edification.

Here's Merlin, working on some Chinese calligraphy, with Dan in the background. This was taken during Dan's students' cultural activity. In the future we may join them for papercutting, stone stamp carving and other language/art activities.We're welcoming Julie (obviously her English name, as most of you wouldn't be able to pronounce her Chinese name) as our new Chinese language instructor. She's a grad student at CUN, is also a tutor for Dan's students, and has become the best thing about living in Beijing. She's tons of fun and really good at getting us all to speak Chinese (her English is good too, so she can provide translation when we're stuck on a word). You'll be seeing her picture more often because we like to go on field trips with her. This semester's students have instituted a new tradition every time we eat out together: ku gua, or bitter melon, is the one dish that HAS to show up on the table, regardless of what kind of ethnic cuisine we're focusing on. Ku gua lives up to its name - it's phenomenally bitter, but oddly satisfying. A little bit goes a long way.
Sometimes there are fantastic things here, like a clop clopping coming up behind you, through the traffic,
and a new-found gustatory treasure: Jian bing - roughly a Chinese crepe, though it's a very wild cousin to the familiar French style. Here's one version, but just watch the video and you'll get a good idea of what's involved: batter, egg, cilantro, green onion, a jiang (a sauce, probably made of fermented soybeans and salt and other things, like a chunky miso), za cai (a salted/pickled vegetable), lettuce, a crispy fried sheet of something (tofu maybe, as per the website linked to above, though it looks like some vendors make it with youtiao, a type of fried dough/cruller thing), and then it's all wrapped up and delivered hot. I think this is the first time I've eaten a food created with a putty knife.

(hmm, maybe the video doesn't work? I'll keep trying...)

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