Published 23 August 2009
Well, our time in China came to a close and I am sadly trying to adjust to life without excess dumplings and my daily dose of jian bing. I am enjoying traveling around the States, visiting friends and family, and consuming a lot of wine and cheese.
I have also been busy starting a new blog, thelocalspoon.com, which was borne entirely of my love of writing the Food, Glorious Food posts for stephoandcrank. I had such a great time writing about our food exploits in China, about new recipes we tried and restaurants we loved, I figured I had to keep it going stateside — thus thelocalspoon.com! Check it out and let me know what you’d like to hear about, I’d love to get your feedback!
We’ve been back stateside for nearly a month now and the repatriation process seems to be going well. We’re still in the process of figuring out what we’ll be doing next and where exactly we’ll be doing it. In the meantime, we’re getting some more perspective on our time and experiences in China. While we’re not yet at a point to put our truly profound and well-reflected-upon thoughts into articulately worded blog posts, we can entertain you with dance!
This video was shot over the course of our whole stay in Beijing, the first bit of which was for our newlywed friends, the Hoffmans. The Salty Dog Rag is a Dartmouth Outing Club tradition and Steph and I taught this frisky foxtrot to hundreds of incoming freshmen during the preorientation camping trips program. Interestingly, the native Beijingers and Dartmouth prefrosh had very similar looks on their faces when we first busted out our moves.
In a less-painful continuation of our fitting things in before we leave China, Craig and I moved on from cupping to visiting the ever-touristy Olympic Water Cube and Bird’s Nest. We’d visited the area before but wanted to check out the Cube at night so took the short subway ride over there on a recent warm evening. Watch out if you go, apparently they turn the lights off at 10pm sharp, which we only found out after getting there at 9:50. But it was enough time to fit in as tourists and snap a few photos! Here are a few from the evening.
With just a few short days left before we pack our bags and leave China, Craig and I have been busy trying to fit in all the stops we’ve missed. Yesterday this included trying cupping, a traditional Chinese massage practice that is supposed to remove the fire from your body and improve circulation but which mostly just left us with awesome circular welts all over our backs. For some reason Crank’s are a lot more badass than mine. Unfortunately for him, apparently impressive-looking bruises aren’t what the cuppers are looking for — they kept saying “bu hao, bu hao” (not good, not good) over and over to him while they were doing the cupping. We’re still not sure exactly what “not good” means, but so far he’s doing fine, aside from looking like he was savagely beaten with a baseball.
Cupping works by heating the inside of a round glass cup and then immediately placing it on the skin. There are a few different methods of heating the cups. Our therapists lit an alcohol-soaked cotton ball on fire and waved it inside the cup, briefly, warming the air inside. As this air cools it creates a strong suction against the skin that is supposed to be good for the health (I’ve heard it does everything from remove impurities to improve circulation to pull the anger from the body). An initial cupping is done on various parts of the back, and then judging by the color that your back turns the therapist will repeat the process and leave the cups on your back for a certain amount of time. The process itself is somewhere between painful and enjoyable, but I quite liked it in the end. Another exciting adventure, and something I would certainly try again.
About a month ago we strolled carefree down the streets of Kashgar, in China’s Xinjiang province, as happy-go-lucky tourists where this week the blood of dozens might have been spilled. We wandered the poplar-lined walkways of Idgah Mosque, China’s largest, where today Chinese authorities forcibly prohibited Muslims from worshiping.
Calla Wiemer of the Far Eastern Economic Review writes an interesting, if abruptly clipped, essay on the bigger picture of the Uighurs’ discontent in Xinjiang. Ethnic unrest is nothing new in China. Tibet is perhaps the best publicized victim of systemic ethnic repression in China but by no means are the Tibetans the only oppressed ethnic minority within the People’s Republic of China. Weimer writes in her essay that “Uighurs have a hard time getting visas and licenses,” something we heard our own Uighur guides say, flatly stating that Uighurs couldn’t get visas. This is the same story we heard from our Tibetan tour guide in Lhasa who was extremely hesitant to speak about politics but did tell us that it was nearly impossible for ethnic Tibetans to get papers to leave the country.
While these recent “ethnic uprisings” have been the “bloodiest in decades” for China, they are hardly new. Similar riots erupted in the province in 1996 and the Han Chinese government has responded with similarly harsh crackdowns. Looking back at my personal journal, I noted that while we sat in Urumuqi for an hour layover en route to Kashgar I observed several military attack helicopters perched at the end of the runway, waiting.
The above picture is from our trip to Muztagh Ata at a check point where our Uighur guides were scrutinized far more than we “wai guo ren” (“foreigners”). The photo shows the Han Chinese security forces changing the guard.
Last Friday was our last day of classes, so in this food post I thought I would give homage to our wonderful school where we’ve been learning these last several months. The school offers cultural activities every week, and a couple of weeks ago the activity was, to my delight, a cooking lesson. We learned how to make xi hong shi chao jidan, which translates to “stir fry tomato and egg”. This is a dish that is ubiquitous in China and is one of the few dishes I have seen everywhere, from our cross-country train ride to the local 7-11 next to our apartment. Crank does not happen to be a great fan, but I find it quite tasty. There is sugar in it so the final dish has a touch of sweetness that I think goes great with the egg and tomato.
Stir-fry tomato and egg
3 tbs vegetable oil
salt to taste
1 tbs white sugar
- Cut tomatoes into pieces.
- Beat eggs with some salt until smooth but not frothy.
- Heat 1.5 tbs of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add eggs when hot and cook until a thin film of cooked egg appears on the bottom of pan. Stir briefly and transfer to a bowl while eggs are still runny. Wipe out skillet.
- Heat the remaining oil in a skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add tomatoes and cooking, stirring occasionally, for 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle sugar and salt over tomatoes and stir. Return eggs to skillet and stir until eggs are just cooked through. Serve!