Despite us all having coughs and colds, we travelled to Green Lake today to have a lunch, celebrating my Birthday in a pretty (if pricey) restaurant there. Ma joined us, despite "being on her death bed" all last week (she said). Jiajia ordered a wide variety of meat and veg. JD especially loved the squid. We'd brought along a birthday cake too but, by dessert time, were all too full to eat it. So we'll tuck into that this evening.
When Jiajia took JD to his first sushi meal a month ago (I was away) he fell in love with it. He wanted to take his friends to the restaurant for his birthday, but it only seats a dozen people so we vetoed that. However this last weekend he declared that he wanted to treat Jiajia and I to a sushi meal with some of his Birthday money. Very sweet.
So we went there yesterday. JD loved it and Jiajia is happy to eat it, but it was a bit of a trial for me. I don't like seafood and it doesn't like me. I settled for a seaweed soup with minimal fishy bits, but I still woke with a gout attack this morning and I suspect it's no coincidence.
We went to a mountainside picnic area where the kids could run around and play. Lunch was a DIY barbecue - you bring your own food and then pay for charcoal and the barbecue grill to cook it on. Fun.
We shared a nice pre-Spring Festival banquet with families of JD's old Kindergarten friends last week. The other fathers got gradually drunker through the evening and were loud and tactile when Jiajia told them I had got my green card ("You are us Chinese", they slurred in broken English, hugging me!).
But towards the end of the meal they insisted on lighting up, as usual, despite me pointing out the very obvious "No Smoking" signs behind them. A fume-filled end to an otherwise lovely get-together.
Our friends returned our recent "conveyor-belt hotpot" treat by inviting JD and I (and another family) to their house, which is in our neighbourhood, for a home-made hotpot (Jiajia is away on business).
The family live on the top floor of their building and have built a glass frame over the rooftop where they can eat and look out on the city skyline. The reflection in the glass also allows you to look up and see down to your food! [see left]
Their son, Johnny, is in JD's school/year, but in a different class. They both go to the same after-school homework club though and are slowly forming a nice friendship.
We had "cross-the-bridge noodles" for lunch yesterday with a teacher friend of ours who is helping us to find a suitable tutor for JD. JD starts a new term next week and Jiajia and I are aware that we won't always be able to pick him up from school (because of our work commitments) or help him complete his homework (because of language/patience issues!). So, if we can employ someone to help, it will relieve the pressure on us and give JD some stability in his after-school care.
"Cross-the-bridge noodles" is Yunnan's most famous dish. A scalding hot chicken broth is delivered to your table along with raw ingredients such as quails' eggs, thinly sliced meat and diced mushrooms or vegetables. These are poured into the broth which quickly cooks them. The noodles are then added and it's time to tuck in! It can be a cheap lunch option, but we took our friend to the most famous noodle restaurant in Kunming for some quality eats!
Another in my occasional series of "Flashbacks" looking back at blog entries made before this Weebly version started.
Banquets sound great, right? Free, quality food, good company, no washing up, etc. Well maybe, but this term I’ve been averaging a banquet a day (including weekends) as a result of all the school visits I make, and they can sometimes be a real pain. The conversations can be all in Chinese for long periods, the food is often too spicy/bitter/sour or just downright odd (we had “tree leaves and crushed bones” yesterday!). There’s usually the toasting session at the end (being tee-total takes some effort in China) and there’s always a handful of men who see nothing wrong in puffing on their fags whilst others are still eating. However, I’ve become quite adept at pitching in to conversations, spotting the “dangerous” foods and avoiding alcohol without giving offence.
Here are my top tips for surviving Chinese banquets:
Although we are still largely confined to our neighbourhood, when we do occasionally venture outside, we are starting to see signs of restaurants, parks and museums reopening. Schools and university are still shut though as are half the shops. But the "Fried dough stick" snack bar down the hill from us opened yesterday, so there are definitely some signs of life returning to normal.
We spent yesterday wandering around Hanoi's Old Quarter, taking in the traditional French/Vietnam architecture. The highlight was a Water Puppet Show where various characters and animals are operated with underwater poles to perform little acts and dance routines. Very traditional and great fun. ...then noodles to round off the day.
October 1st is the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China - the country I currently call home. I was one of five teachers from the whole of Yunnan (pop: 50 million) invited to attend the Provincial Government's celebratory banquet in the swanky Green Lake Hotel. A very formal do. I even had to wear my one and only tie!
It was the usual affair. Men in black suits mixing with others from minority groups and nearby countries dressed in their ethnic costumes. A mercifully succinct speech extolling the glories of China kicked off the event. The food was quality over quantity, but more important were the various dignitaries going from table to table toasting each other. Then, after 90 minutes, it was announced that the reception was over and, within a few minutes, the fancy dining room had been vacated and people slowly drifted off home. All very Chinese!
But for all the cultural oddities, it is genuinely a really nice gesture to invite various foreigners along to what is, essentially, an event for patriotic Chinese to revel in the successes of their country. The respect and gratefulness of Chinese people towards foreigner workers can contrast strongly with the attitude to immigrants seen in many other countries...
We really enjoyed our day with the Sams today.
Aled is a qualified tennis coach and gave JD a free lesson at his club in the morning, and then teamed up with him at table-tennis in their garden in the afternoon. JD loved it.
A walk through the woods followed by an ice-cream and a delicious barbecue rounded off a terrific day.
What to do with a five-year old on a rainy day, with JiaJia in Shenzhen? Cooking! So JD and I planned what we'd need for our "dream meal", got our umbrellas out and headed to the market. JD can interact with the locals more fluently than I can these day (embarrassing!) so he did most of the bargaining. Then home for an hour of food preparation and 45 minutes of cooking. Voila! Lasagne, peas and corn, mushrooms, fresh home-made bread, gravy and orange juice. Very tasty. Well done, son!
Past blog entries