Monday, April 27, 2009

The Beans Play Host (or, Florence Tries All Manner of Street Food)

So, we got back from Shanghai last Friday and had a couple more days with Flo & Preston before they headed back to the states. The apartment feels so empty now without two extra bodies.

J and I passed out after dropping the kids off at the airport...almost a month straight of marathon hosting can really wear you out. But hey, that's how we roll. And between the fun of seeing family and good friends, and all the amazing food we've been eating, we really can't complain. :)

I thought I'd post some pics of our time with our guests here, but I should point out how funny it is that every group of people we host has very different ideas about what they "have to see." For my parents, it was random cultural or historical stuff (they'd been before, so no Wall or Forbidden City for them), and for Flo it was all about re-creating moments she saw on travel shows with Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain. Preston's non-negotiable was Shanghai. Hehe. Anyway, here are some pics from our adventures:

Part I: The Mais

We squeezed into three-wheelers.
From Beijing Dou

Then let my dad pretend to wheel my mom around.
From Beijing Dou

Took them to Houhai,
From Beijing Dou

where we fed them candied Haw on a stick (you know those little round flakes we used to eat as kids? These are the fruit they come from!).
From Beijing Dou

We ate lots of yummy food.
From Beijing Dou

Visited the Bird's Nest, of course.
From Beijing Dou

We took them to the zoo...
From Beijing Dou

Where they all saw pandas for the first time!
From Beijing Dou

Andrew, the budding filmmaker, captured colonial architecture in Tianjin.
From Beijing Dou

And of course, we took them to get foot massages...
From Beijing Dou

which I'm pretty sure was their favorite part. I mean, look at 'em.
From Beijing Dou

Part II: Floston

Preston had been to Beijing before, but this was Flo's first time on the mainland. So, we did some of the usual things.

Like take goofy pics
From Beijing Dou the Forbidden City.
From Beijing Dou

No pictures of the Great Wall, because I sent Floston on the Boot Camp Great Wall Tour From Hell. I'll save that story for another post. In fact, maybe I'll let Florence tell it as a guest post. ;)

In Shanghai, we walked the underground tunnels...
From Beijing Dou

to the Bund.
From Beijing Dou

And had dinner in an old train station.
From Beijing Dou

(Sorry, this is me playing with my crappy iPhoto effects, because the color of this photo was all out of whack.)

It was all good and fun, but we all know the real focus of their trip (besides the shopping) was...

Street Food!!!
From Beijing Dou

Flo was OBSESSED! So, we ate meatballs filled with more meat, and soup.
From Beijing Dou

Preston tried Josh's fried potato-egg thing.
From Beijing Dou

And Flo fell in love with these candied strawberries on a stick (same stuff we fed my parents, but with strawberries, which for some reason are especially sweet and juicy here).
From Beijing Dou

In Shanghai, we had little soup buns,
From Beijing Dou

and big soup buns,
From Beijing Dou

and everybody's favorite, STINKY TOFU!!
From Beijing Dou

We also had these amazing shengjian bao (fried meat-filled buns topped with fresh scallion and sesame seeds) that I'm now kicking myself for not capturing on camera. They were so YUM.


Anyway, so that's how we've been spending our time.

Now, who wants to visit?? :)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

One yuan, thirty seven seconds, and twenty one minutes

Shanghai was awesome. The four of us are all big fans of the affectionately dubbed 'XLB' (xiaolongbao for the unitiated), so we hit up a bunch of different places, from OG street style to fancy hotels. Sustaining plenty of mild tongue burns in the process.

Quick Only in China moment:

We were at a touristy street food area near the Yu Gardens and Cheng Huang Miao (City God Temple?) and I stopped to use the public toilet. When I got to the entrance, they were charging a fee: 1rmb! That's freaking highway robbery here. But I had to pee, so I paid it. I'm glad I did, because once I got inside, I noticed this:

They have timers on the stalls (有人 means Occupied)! At first I thought they were counting down, like 1rmb only bought like 5 minutes on the squatter, but they're actually counting up. Which kind of sucks for the dude on this particular squatting pan...

Not really sure why they do this, but I think it's because here in the Motherland, they don't line up in one line, but line up in front of individual stalls, so this way, you're well informed on which stall to start your stakeout.

Glad to see my entrance fees are being put to good use.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Up Sea

We've spent the past couple days being ShanghaiDou-s with our good friends Florence and Preston. They came to visit for a couple weeks, and since I had a few days off from work, we decided to take a short trip to Shanghai.

M had been through Shanghai a few years ago, but I'd only just flown into one airport and been bussed to the other.

We hit up a few of the touristy must-see spots, but mostly we've just been eating. And complaining about all the things that Shanghai has that Beijing doesn't. We're big whiners.

Hopefully we'll get around to a recap for y'all. I try not to blog too much while traveling; it makes me feel like a loser. Kind of sad, I guess, since one of my dream jobs is travel-blogging. But I guess if I was a travel blogger who blogged while traveling, I wouldn't be a loser...I'd be a blogger.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Telephone Pictionary

Since it was a holiday on Monday but they still had class with me, I decided to play a game with some of my classes: Telephone Pictionary. For the unitiated, Telephone Pictionary is a game where everyone writes a word or phrase of their choice on a slip of paper, and then passes that with other papers so that people take turns drawing and then deciphering until it returns back to you. With the right group of people, hilarity ensues. Most of the students were either extremely unimaginative or cheaters, so there wasn't a whole lot of anything going on (although one guy drew a turd on top of a stem instead of drawing the flower he was supposed to. that had some promise), until one of my students decided to write "Josh" for his word. The guy after him drew this:

Hmm...apparently to my students I look like a long-haired overweight...axe murderer? I tried to ask him, "Why is there an axe in my hand?" But he couldn't tell me why. Definitely cause for concern. I guess 2 out of 3 ain't bad though :P.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Bear Cat / Cat Bear

While M's parents were here, we went to the Beijing Zoo to check out the pandas. Unfortunately for us, we'd just missed the departure of six adorable panda cubs who were being sent back to their home in Chengdu the day before. I'm kind of glad we didn't go the day they left, though, because apparently there was a line all the way out into the street and winding through the park. I don't think I could have handled that. Me, lines, and Chinese people haven't been doing so well lately. In fact, as we were waiting in line at the zoo to buy our tickets, some Chinese dude walked up to the side of the ticket booth and shoved his money to buy his tickets. I was waiting for M's parents on that side, and they were next, so I got really peeved. So while he was waiting for his tickets, I kept nudging him and saying "Hey, get in line!" in Chinese. Then when he left, I thanked him sarcastically. I know it's petty of me, but I've been using the ironic 谢谢 a lot; it's the one thing that keeps me from flipping out on people on the subway, bus, etc. But, of course, I digress.

Most of the time the pandas were just sleeping on the rocks. But then one of them woke up and started eating:

Then we went outside and realized that some of the pandas were outside. One of which was pacing nervously: sells a shirt with a picture of a panda that says "Nature's Loser." Monogamous, slow, only eats an endangered plant in a very small locale which gives so little nutrition that they have to spend most of their time finding and eating it. And this is a national symbol? Well, at least they're cute.