Internet In Starbucks

Ever wonder how everyone was getting online at Starbucks? I know I did. Here’s a short how to for the expats.

Starbucks Welcome Screen

You’ll see the welcome screen above. Whip out your cell phone and enter your cell number into the first box. Then enter the code into the second box.
Wait a second…. you’ll get a text message. Look for the two alphanumeric sequences and enter one into each box.
The service isn’t free, but its cheap. Just make sure that if you have a specific city plan you’re in that city.
Now your online, enjoy your coffee.


Chinese Cordon Bleu

I watched Julie and Julia last night, a movie based on the book of the same name by Julie Powell who wrote about her year cooking her way through Julia Child’s entire Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and also based upon Julia Child’s memoirs My Life in France. For me, it was a fantastic movie because it was about me – a young, intelligent woman approaching 30, with a fantastically supportive husband, whose talents and dreams have gotten sidetracked just by the minutia of living, and by a lack of focus and discipline. The two marriages, both Julia and Julie’s, are so lovely and I feel like they kind of reflect my own. We love watching movies and reading about ourselves.

The next day, I had a cooking lesson planned. My colleague Tom’s wife, Debbie, had already come over once to show Matt and me how to cook Hong Chao Qiezi (Eggplant) and some other vegetable dishes. This time, Ellen and Meryl, two colleagues from the English department, also came over, and we had a girls’ day of cooking, focusing on Jiaozi, or boiled dumplings.

As the four of us stood and sat around the table, rolling out the flour-and-water dough into logs, pinching off little round balls, and banging them into circles to fill with the minced vegetable filling, making small talk, laughing at little jokes and stories, I felt like I was in one of those chic lit novels or movies – you know, like The Friday Night Knitting Club, where women of different generations come together around a craft they have been charged with for centuries, but now do as hobbies, and bond. I thought to myself, how is what I’m doing any different from Julie or Julia? Like Julia, I’m living in a foreign country, struggling with the language, occupying my new found free time with baking and cooking. Like Julie, I’m nearing thirty, unsure of the next step in my life, content in my home life but unsure of professional goals and trajectory – a writer, at the top of my class, another “Most likely to be a famous author” that never quite made it to the publishing stage. And like Julie, I have a blog.

The blog has been stagnant in the past few months, yes, because of the censorship in China, but in all honesty, also because of my uncertainty of what I’m doing here. I did my year of immersion in another culture. What now?

Perhaps this new focus around food, around cooking, will at least give the blog a new direction. My idea is, in addition to learning how to cook Chinese (that is, Nanjing cuisine, not American Chinese), I can share my challenges as I try to bake Western food in my little China apartment.

Talking with some of the other women teachers, there’s interest in learning how to bake and how to cook Chinese. I’m thinking about starting a kind of cooking club, maybe twice a month, switching from baking to Chinese lessons every other meeting, and inviting both foreign and Chinese staff. It will be a kind of cross cultural experience for all of us. Next meeting: Pumpkin Muffins.

I Have a Dream for the Next Generation

I’m tutoring Matt’s colleague’s thirteen year old daughter on Saturdays, practicing oral English. She’s entering an English speech competition and just sent me her speech to review.

As Thanksgiving this week has me in a very American mindset, I found myself thinking, gosh, this sounds so much like Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech. This is the dream of the next generation of global citizens – in America and in China.

I Hope for a Childhood Which My Father Had

Ladies and Gentlemen:
Last summer, my father brought me to the countryside where he was born and grew up. It was such an unforgettable memory to me. My father pointed out to me so many places where he had a lot of fun in his childhood, the creeks in which he caught fish and crabs, the pond in which he swam, the green grass land where he chased butterflies, the trees under which he enjoyed the beautiful singing of cicadas, the potato field where he dug out potatoes, baked the potatoes with the simple oven he made together with his childhood friends, the small hill where he watched the wonderful moments of the sunrise and sunset, the vast open field where he appreciated the beautiful moon at night! The place where he picked icicles from the gutter of houses! What a happy time! What great fun!

Looking at my city life, I live in a forest of cement, a place with no creeks to catch fish and crabs, a place where I have to swim in the swimming pool in sterilized water, a place where green grass lawn is forbidden to step on, not to mention chasing butterflies on it, a place where there is no singing of cicadas, a place where I have to endure the noise of cars and the machineries on the construction site, a place where sunrise, sunset and moon are blocked by skyscrapers or hidden in fog. What a different childhood I have!

I hope that one day I can have a childhood which my father had! I hope I can live in the countryside one day enjoying all the wonderful moments my father had! I hope that all the beautiful memories of my father will come into my real life one day.

However, when my father heard of my hope, he asked me to take a close look at the creek, the pond, the land, and said to me sadly: those days are gone! Not only you, a city girl cannot have the happy childhood I had, a countryside child in the local place cannot have it, either! Because there are no clean creeks for fish and crabs to live in, there is no clean pond to swim in, all land or field are farmed or developed, and there are no icicles because of the warm winter and global green house effect! What a shame! And what a pity!

I hope that one day those happy times will come back again for you and me, and for our next generation! We must do something! Yes, we can do something! I hope that with your efforts and my efforts together we can recover those happy times! I hope that one day we can recover the happy childhood my father had and pass it to the generation behind me! Make it happen! Yes, we can!

A Funny Thing Happened at The Gym

No, this isn’t another naked story – though I have plenty of those if you want one.

And I’m not going to document Chinese women’s choice of work out attire. (This month’s highlight – a purple lace miniskirt, with knee high socks and matching heels, perfect for riding the stationary bike.)

Today, in the morning hours of the gym when there are only a few members around, I huff and puff on the stationary bike, hoping to bring my stamina up for the May Triathlon. The volume of my I-pod is pumped high; the music in the gym is a little annoying and redundant. In the background, I hear an alarm. At first, I don’t think much of it – China is a noisy place to live, and through the music it sound like the alarm could be outside. No one on the elliptical machines seems to be bothered. I look to my left – large metal doors are sealing off the corridor, Indiana Jones-style. I rip off my headphones – they’re locking us in?

I dismount the bike, though I’m only at 11 km, 1 km away from my goal. The hallway behind me is already sealed shut with a metal door. I start walking quickly toward the door that is slowly, mechanically sliding down. The Chinese man on the other side of the door waves at me to stop. Stop! If there’s a fire, I’m to stay in here? I have a meeting at 12:30! What’s my excuse – I was locked in the gym?

I wait by the imposing metal door. One Chinese staff, probably a trainer, comes by and says, “Don’t worry.” I sit on the rowing machine. There’s no way I’m going to take a shower here. What set off the alarm? Is this just a regular drill? Why isn’t anyone concerned? When is the door going to open back up?

What is the alarm for? To protect all the heavy exercise equipment from looters? To keep people in, or to keep people out? What if this security system is inadvertently activated during a fire?

As soon as the door started to lift, I bee line for the locker room and grab my bag. I notice I left my cup at the bike. Dare I go back? And be trapped for how much longer? It’s a really nice cup. As I turn the corner to exit to the reception area, I see another metal door has the back area cordoned off. I’m still trapped. I power-walk back to the bike machine to rescue my cup. Eventually, the door to the reception area opens up. But the door from the reception area to the exit is still sealed.

Thankfully, one of the reception ladies points me toward a secret exit. I hit the elevator button, then think, have I forgotten my elementary school safety rules? Taking an elevator in China while there’s a fire alarm? I take the stairs, hoping that the bottom door will be unlocked – they like to lock doors. I hope also that the exit will be to the pavilion outside, and not to the parking garage below.

Luckily, it’s unlocked, and I exit safely in my stinky gym clothes. To add insult to injury, as I take a shower back in the relative safety of my home, the water slows to a trickle, leaving me with only one leg shaved.

Oh, China. What a crazy country we live in.

Nanjing Halloween Part Deux

With the help of some other resident teachers, we hosted the now second annual Nanjing Halloween Party.

To really appreciate these photos, however, you need to understand that Halloween is a uniquely American holiday. Very few costumes can be found; what is available is for children. So everyone at our party had to use their creative juices.

Prize for most creative, hand crafted: Washington, as a tube of Crest Tooth Paste.

From Halloween 2009

The prize for the most authentic goes to Julia, as a Chinese Police Officer, using her father’s uniform, and complete with accessories: a badge, walkie-talkie, and a suction dart gun.

From Halloween 2009

The best mustache was a tie between Julia and Matt, our spacecowboy.

From Halloween 2009

Here’s Lucy showing how it’s done American style, with James showing some British Harry Potter pride:

From Halloween 2009

We also had Dracula and a pair of twins:

From Halloween 2009

Sometime during the night our space cowboy became a green-tongued vampire cowboy:

From Halloween 2009

Some very last minute costumes:

From Halloween 2009

It would not be a Chinese Party without games! This is called: shoot and pop the balloon.

From Halloween 2009

Tina takes a turn:

From Halloween 2009

Ellen, our resident belly dance instructor, showed us how witches like to party up:

From Halloween 2009

Jason broke out the cricket gear early for his costume:

From Halloween 2009

Scottish Matt as the Grim Reaper warning Harry of Voldemort’s plans:

From Halloween 2009

Hope you all had a very Happy Halloween!

From Halloween 2009