The year of the dragon is almost upon us.
We’re going to have dinner with Daniel’s parents, which should be interesting as they don’t speak English, and we don’t speak Chinese. Daniel will enjoy being our translator, I’m sure. He said we were in charge of cooking steaks. I’m not sure why steaks should be on the menu, other than apparently they were what Brett served to Daniel the first time they hung out. Daniel arrived bearing a bottle of wine, a custom he observed from Friends (a show he’s watched in its entirety about thirty times. I’m not exaggerating.)
Apparently the steaks made an impression on him as a typical American dinner dish. I’d assume this is the reason he wants us to prepare them for his parents. Daniel always thinks about details. He said his mother offered to cook them, but he said, “No. You can cook dumplings.” Apparently his mother’s cooking skills are not renowned. However, neither are our steak skills. Steaks and dumplings. A strange pairing, but we’ll keep the wine flowing and I’m sure it’ll all go down fine.
The days leading up to the new year have been quiet. Brett arrived home on Sunday night. We celebrated our reunion and five-year anniversary (holy wow) with rose Moet. A splurge, but the occasion justified it, I felt. I love a nice cava or prosecco for everyday drinking, or even a cocktail party. But I’ve been wanting to try this Moet for awhile.
It was delicious. Dry, crisp, and…yeah, my sparkling wine descriptors are a bit limited. And it was three nights ago. Fruity? No, I don’t think it was fruity. It was fancy, OK?
Keeping in the fancy vein, we had some Hilshire Farms summer sausage Brett brought back. He got a little carried away and brought three big rolls of it. Apparently he’s really into H.F. cured meats. With it we had saltines and a Laughing Cow variety pack of cheeses. Individually wrapped cubes of blue cheese, cheddar, and original processed cheese. Yeah baby. If I’d thought ahead I should have arranged a picnic to match the champagne, complete with pate, baguette, and good French cheese from Le Fromager du Pekin. However, Hilshire salami and Laughing Cow are delicious in their own right.
Winter hibernation has settled in in earnest. I’m on holiday for Spring Festival, and I’m sick, again. Also the past three days have been swathed in a thick and shrouding pollution. The city is obscured in white. Even if my throat wasn’t raspy and my nose not alternately dripping and clogged, I wouldn’t go out to breathe hard in that muck. I can feel my muscles atrophy as I type, but it’s a question of exercising my heart while destroying my lungs. I just don’t feel it’s worth it.
B. and I are trying to decide what to do after this summer. Should we return to Beijing, or no? Factors like the current weather situation lead us toward no. But there are other things as well…
We’d miss Daniel. And I’d miss our little apartment, in which I’ve spent many a lovely lazy morning like this:
Beijing has become home, in a way. I’ve had my first real job here, if you can call teaching English in China that. I mean I’m employed by a major company and I earn my keep, more or less.
It’s a place of extremes. I’ve had wonderful moments here, and adventures. I’ve loved trying the cuisine. My knowledge of and love for Chinese food has grown exponentially. I know there’s so much food I’ll miss and crave when I leave.
And maybe we aren’t leaving yet. Maybe we’ll stick around for a little while yet. I certainly hoped to introduce a few friends and family members to my Beijing. It would be a shame not to be able to.
But essentially, for me, Beijing is not a sustainable place. I mean, it can’t sustain me, personally. Maybe no place can…maybe…maybe I should start quoting Dylan or some other ballad about drifting souls and wanderers.
I certainly know some can and do live here for long periods of time, or lifetimes. They weather the icy dreary winters, the bitter winds, the spring sandstorms, the summer humidity, the white fog pollution. And perhaps their bodies and psyches aren’t too damages by it all. The city certainly has other charms (dumplings, anyone?) to balance out the harshness of the weather and grime.
But other cities and landscapes beckon. Maybe even clean American cities, where I’ll pursue the old American dream, before it crumbles…try to slice off a bit of that pie (apple, naturally) before it’s gone.
In the meantime, I’ll brave the cold and go into the city to meet friends and eat delicious food and soak up the crazy eastern charm of this old city.