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Interested in: reading, music, cooking, cats, scuba diving, travelling, art, history, trivia, board games, card games. Guilty pleasures: watching tv in my pj's, spending a month's pay on books, really good chocolate

Updated: 2016-05-19T11:45:21.074+08:00


What a difference a day makes


Sunday and Monday were not great days, the former seemed to be a perfect example of when things go wrong, they will crash bang hit the skids go wrong. I stayed home on Monday and avoided interacting with people, but some emails seeped in more bad news from people in my life and I knew I should just hide from the outside world for the day.
Today on the other hand was a pretty good day. I went off to piano class in the morning, had a productive hour or so, then went to have a healthy but stomach busting lunch, and walked home with a bag full of tableas and goodies from a store.
As I put what I thought to be a sweet potato in for a quick boil, I discovered that it wasn't just any tuber, but ube (purple yam), a rich, dark ube that called out home to me. Ube jam! Pulled out the recipes from trusted online sources, thanked the grocery gods that I had all the necessary pantry items, and made a small batch of ube jam for myself. Wow, if there's anything that makes me wish I were home, this definitely is one of the top 5. Nothing like a lucky accident to make me feel like life's not so bad after all.

Following tradition


Day one of the new year/decade, I shall follow a family tradition that was burned into the nuggets of my brain cells: be out of the house, travel, and the year that follows will be full of travel. Or at least spent out of the house. I'll be on the bus for a couple of hours, then on a plane to the frozen north. By evening, I shall be cavorting with friends, and spend two more days in the wintery capital, before heading back for more work and sober reflection.

Tonight, not much happening around these parts. Not a whisper of firecrackers popping, no feasts laid out, no champagne to guzzle. If there was a place to consider the past year, and lay plans for the future, this is it. Zero distractions. Instead, I think I shall make some strawberries with mint and vanilla and watch some Monty Python. Silliness is good for the soul.

The girl in my life


Gabi is not too far from my mind, but she is at my parent's home. Ebi, no longer the puppy, is also there, domiciled and giving my mom some needed pet love. I wasn't expecting to take on another pet while in China, but the opportunity arose, and I have a new feline in my life, a kitten, calico, and I've named her Loopi. She is probably the first kitten I've raised in over 20 years, so her playfulness, her acquiescence to my moments of overwhelming need to cuddle her, her demanding mews, her high spirited antics, her never ending motor of a purr, her dog like devotion which includes sitting between my feet when I'm on the throne (er, does she not understand the need for privacy in those moments? How would she feel if I bothered her while she was eliminating?), and her tiny warmth on these cold nights, how wonderful it is, how exasperating, how sweet and loving (or is that just me, anthropomorphic as ever?).
She is fearless, lets me rub any part of her body, rarely attempts to squirm away, and enjoys giving me love nips. I feel bad leaving her all alone so much of the time, but she hasn't started acting neurotic. On Christmas, I had four guests over for a long brunch and she ended up playing with everyone. A kitten definitely makes for easy conversation starters.
May she live long, purring her way through a good life.

Tableas, Nutella and sticky rice = champorado in China


Christmas is a week and a half away, it won't be much of a celebration over on this side of the Pacific, but we're going to make the students do a song and a dance and a play at some celebration outside of school, and then I'm going to go home to cook up some champorado for the other Filipino teacher, perhaps invite the other teachers to come along too. I did a bit of online research to make sure I got a decent recipe, and have improvised with the materials I found in several local stores. The amazing find was tableas, straight from the grinding stones of La Resurreccion in Binondo! I've made several cups of tsokolate eh (or ah), and am ready to make some chocolate goodness for a few guests. The one addition I've made is putting a dollop of nutella into each bowl before ladling some of the chocolate rice pudding in, since I've found that makes for an extra layer of chocolate-ness.

Champorado with Nutella:

1/2 cup of sticky rice
1/2 cup of short grain rice
whole milk (3 cups)
5 to 6 tableas, preferably grated or chopped into small pieces as they dissolved faster
sugar and evaporated milk to taste

Add the rice, the milk and the grated tablea chocolates in a pot over medium-low heat. Stir constantly. It takes about 20 minutes to get the rice tender. Put one tablespoon of Nutella in a cup or bowl, ladle the rice pudding into the bowl and serve with evapoated milk. Add sugar if needed.

Along with the champorado, I plan to serve some fresh strawberries (they're in season now), bread, cheeses, and a selection of jams. A student gave several of us a lot of good tea, but my only resort for coffee might be the instant stuff. Or I'll just make them drink tsokolate eh. A double dose of chocolate never killed anyone I think!

A day off


Autumn chill, layering and head gear, it's November.
A student who also teaches me piano invited me up to her place to have chinese dumplings with her family. I watched her mother fill the wrappers ("pi") with the pork and cabbage stuffing, and she tried to give me tips, but all the ones I attempted to fold were hideous. I did much better rolling out the pi after a few tries with the rolling pin; her mother was quite proud of me. We ended up eating and talking for four hours, which was mirrored by a two hour dinner with two other students. This has definitely been a belly busting day.
My student/piano teacher also introduced me to my first Chinese foodie, one of her students who has a keen hand at stove (and can sing Mozart arias!) and a keener interest in finding good eats all over town. I'm so going with him one of these days on a food trip around the city.
It's always a good sign when a fellow foodie suggests living next door to one another so he can cook a meal for you, in return for english lessons. If he finds me an apartment with a large enough kitchen, then I don't mind a wit.

Transition phase


Six days in Wenzhou, two weeks in Quanzhou, two weeks in Fuzhou, and perhaps eventually settling down in Quanzhou if the big boss can make a decision for good. Teachers are shuttling around, some have left, new ones are entering into probationary periods, and I, as the understanding, flexible one, am being asked to hop around the different centers till they can figure out which center needs me more. Which means I also have to make decisions about what to bring, so I don't end up short on underpants.

If there's anything I over pack, it's the undies. Bras, panties, have to have enough. More than enough, I found out I brought pretty much every six pack of Hanes I had bought from Landmark or SM in the last year. About 6 packs of them, which meant, I wouldn't run out of clean whites for over a month. But it's remarkably bulky, undies. As I go through the large bag of undies I had in storage while I was away for two weeks, I realize I've got to cull. Undies are stubbornly unwilling to be tossed though. It's hard enough to find a t-shirt here that looks normal enough to wear, not to mention the right fit, what more cotton whites? What will I do if I can't find them? I pack all the undies away again and cast a glance at some of the clothes that I don't wear often enough.

My wardrobe is as boring as heck these days, and I'd love to toss the whole caboodle into a recycling bin, if not for the fact that they are still serviceable (hideous word) and there's no reason not to wear the blasted things. I give thanks for fall and winter as it lets me pull out my scarves which will add a bit more pizazz. I might give in and start buying some pieces of jewelry to stave off my lack of adornment. Or one of those cute knitted bonnets with crocheted gewgews on them when the silly mood strikes.

I'm looking forward to the changes, but they don't come without some sacrifice. Lack of a proper kitchen for at least 5 weeks, dragging my suitcase all over the place, and the cost of finding new digs after all this hullabaloo is over. Just discovered that hullabaloo only has three l's. Good to know.



First one I remember seeing on this topic was Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant; this year another book on the same theme, What We Eat When We Eat Alone, pursued the idea of what sole diners munch on, and now famed editor Judith Jones has released a book The Pleasures of Cooking for One. The idea of eating solo is nothing new, but for three books in a matter of two years to focus on it, seems to highlight the fact that there are more lone diners out there.
Over the last few weeks, I've encountered more people, men in particular, who pointedly spoke out against eating alone. "I hate eating alone." They're grown men, so perhaps they just feel that dining alone is a social anomaly. One of them seeks company out for lunch no matter who he can corral. Let's just say I've avoided the opportunity to watch him masticate.
I've eaten alone too often in my life, and I don't mind the quiet. I also like to read when eating, sometimes not a good idea if it contradicts the eating and focusing on what I eat. But I prefer the company of a good book over a noisy companion. And many of the meals I've posted in this forum are just that, meals eaten solo. I don't need anymore books to tell me that they are pleasurable in themselves.

In hindsight


"How could you stay so calm?" he asked me. To be honest, I replied to him, thinking back to the events of Saturday and Sunday, I really can't say why I wasn't freaking out. Probably because there was little I could do, so in the face of a lot of craziness, you either let things roll or fight it so much you lose track of what's important.

Most people have their share of stories about facing difficult moments. The last weekend will definitely generate enough to fill volumes. Mine tends to be dependent on whether I'm alone or if I have to take care of people, and Saturday and Sunday was about the latter. The first case came when I was asked by two travellers to help them get to their hotel or as close to it as possible. I was willing to do as much as I could, but I also knew it could be a difficult situation for everyone. I didn't really know the extent of Ondoy's fury and the floods that were killing so many people. All I knew was that roads were blocked, traffic was hellish, and that I was lucky to have use of a vehicle. My temporary guests were kind enough to chip in for gas and I made sure everyone was fed and watered. We didn't get them to the hotel, but they got through with some fortitude, a willingness to brave EDSA on foot (once we got to the corner of EDSA and Macapagal, all was at a standstill), and the MRT (thank goodness for the light rail!). I was not so lucky, as my driver, my dad's secretary and I were in for a long night. We got dinner first, then attempted the roads leading into the heart of Manila. All routes were blocked by the high water. We chose to take shelter at a Petron gas station, which wasn't perfect, but it had lights and a bathroom. Having to wade in a foot of water deterred me from needing the bathroom, and thankfully I hadn't gulped down gallons of water. Sleeping in the car wasn't ideal, but the winds made it cool, and the location was safe. I did a few rows of my knitting project for good measure. But most of the time I was dozing, watching the shadows and light, and thinking how my two companions wished they didn't have to be where they were.

By early morning, the water had subsided a bit, we tried a few routes again, but traffic was still too much. Having been in the same clothes for 24 hours, I needed at least a shower, and we searched for a hotel that would have any occupancy, resorting to going in Victoria Court. At the back of my mind, I knew my dad would have a conniption fit if he knew we were there, but it was a far better choice than staying out on the streets. A few hours of sleep, hot water, clean toilets, and food, and we finally made it home around 4 pm. All of us had been on the road since 11 the day before, so it was a welcome relief to not be in a plane or a car.

Under different circumstances, I'd probably have been less stoic, but living in a country so full of natural disasters has its advantages. You learn to live with the punches, and you face the downturns with more grace. Sometimes you give up too fast, and expect less than you deserve. I sometimes know that I shouldn't be too fatalistic, but I think I'm getting to a point in life that it makes little sense to keep beating my head against a wall. So, perhaps my sense of calm starts from having given up control over everything. I'm still learning when to fight, and I still misjudge matters, but I'm still alive, I've still got a chance to be better, and I'm not going to get hysterical about it.



Ondoy has left us to spew further damage on the Indochinese peninsula, but a new set of storms are in our waters. The first one, int'l codename Parma (I can't help but think of it as a large leg of ham), is blowing in at 150 kph. It may lose strength and head out into oblivion, but there's also the possibility that it will howl straight at us, and then veer back on itself. The remaining days of my vacation may all be about staying dry.

Went to Manila Ocean Park today with a friend, the aquariums are much nicer now, less fake corals, and the sharks look so sleek, like siamese cats in color, not to mention that sharklike grace. However, I wouldn't recommend the mermaid show at all. Beyond tacky. I think I'll try to go catch the jellyfish show before I head north.



I have five days left before I leave for my long journey home (given the bus trip down to Xiamen and the two hour plane ride home, it feels like I'm travelling as far as Hawaii for such a short distance), my main objective this week is to store my things with my friend M, and dispose, use up everything else, particularly anything edible. I've kept grocery shopping to a minimum over the last three weeks, and haven't cooked a great deal. I have two packs of dumplings to eat for lunch and dinner tomorrow, but I have been keen on making japanese curry for some time. I have a packet of the curry paste, and an apple, so I trotted down to the supermarket to get some vegies, chopped them up (one onion, a head of garlic, two medium potatoes, two carrots) and began the layering in the pot. First rough chopped onions fry up in oil, letting it caramelize for added smokiness, toss in the garlic, and a splosh of fish sauce since I am out of salt. While those flavors start creating a heady aroma along with a bit too much pepper, I rough chop the potatoes and carrots, and don't forget the apple. They go in, one by one, letting the potatoes soak up the flavors first, then the carrots, finally the apple chips. Crumble the curry paste into the pot, and let it envelope the vegetables before adding broth (I used vegetable broth), about 3 cups of it to make the sauce thick enough once it cooks on low heat for at least thirty minutes. One of the other things I had leftover in the kitchen was some corned beef that I had cooked two days ago and not wanting to waste it, I've put it into the curry for some meaty tastes.
The plate lying next to me reminds me of some japanese ramen place in HK that serves a mound of rice, some meat (usually tonkatsu but I must make do with the dried corned beef flakes), and the curry sinking into the rice. Comfort food, Sunday night, it's a perfect pairing.



I made my weekly call home and was sad to hear that my mom's longtime feline companion has died. I met Mika when she was given to my mom by a Japanese client of hers. She was 2 or 3 years old at the time, and that was in the early 90's. She continued to terrorize any other animal throughout her reign as queen cat, making it seemingly impossible to bring in another animal. Through events outside her control, I eased the dog and my own cat into her domain last year and early this year respectively. Needless to say she probably didn't think too highly of me at the end of her life.
She died quietly, my mom found her by the bed, in perpetual sleep. RIP.

Acoustic evening


Crash! Boom! Drip! There's a concert outside my window, no musical instruments, none of the traditional kind anyhow. It's Mother Nature, water cascading down from the clouds, at times intense, climactic, currently, softer, tender, with irregular beats. The aria sung by the thunder, this is no clapping, sharp staccato. This is rolling, moaning then intense. Reverberates through my shelter's walls, long beats, bass sounds. Boooooom.

First love


The car - a white Porsche (methinks a Carrera), parked in front of a gate. The boy - about 4, walking behind his dad. He sees the car, walks close to it and peers through the dark windows, perhaps hoping to see the interior detailing. He continues to walk towards his dad, but his head is swivelled towards the car, gazing it at its curves, lines, low to the ground body. He's transfixed. "Hey!" his dad shouts at him. He has nearly walked right into the street, in front of traffic. He's smitten.

Tater tots


Around the corner from the school lies a street without much too brag about, as ordinary a street in this city as any other. However, it does have a good assortment of streetfood carts, and being less than 5 minutes away, a good place for a local snack. WZhou isn't a big streetfood place, not much of what I'd call an indigenous food culture about, so most of the food carts tend to tout either Sichuan style or Fujian style food. I'd had a few bowls of the cold noodles over summer, heavily spiced, and a bowl of their dumpling soup (shui jiao, tang) with tidbits of dried shrimp. One of my favorite choices late in the day is the spicy flatbread, freshly heated in the tandoori-style coal oven. For three renmimbi, a wonderful and slightly oily snack. Today, I think I may have found my other new favorite - a bowl of fried potatoes mixed with onions, coriander, shredded cucumber, and chilli. Oh my, another 3 rmb wonder. Just never get it less than 15 minutes before a meeting or class as it should be savored. It's too fiery to gulp down anyway, spearing each tater, blowing on the tongue searing edges; it would be perfect with an ice cold beer.

Times are changing


Dark at 6, gusts, a certain nip, yes, autumn is not far. Rain this late afternoon/early evening, cool enough not to need the airconditioner on till later. I know I must prepare for winter, is this why I feel the urge to eat? Am I being bearlike and preparing for hibernation? I can't escape for months till spring, although at times I wish there was such an option.

It's a seller's market


The landlord of my current apartment is in the process of selling the place, and there are regular visitors everyday to view the apartment. This means in the mornings when I am usually doing little of no value, I end up welcoming the real estate agent and prospective buyers to wander at will around the rooms. However, I prefer not to be around when they show up, as it feels odd to be something of the human dummy showcasing what it looks like to live here.
The real estate market of this city is something to behold. Old and new apartments are priced beyond what one would expect of a second rate city, but that has a little to do with the general assumptions for the national housing market according to what my students have told me. The value of owning an apartment is rather high among newlyweds, absolutely imperative for a new couple to have one before the wedding, and parents cough up their savings to buy their children a home. Financial crisis or not, apartments are a good commodity over here, resale value of this place made me do a double take. I look at it with a critical eye, consider how much the new owner will have to spend to update the facilities, particularly the bathroom, and wonder if they notice all the cracks and concerns I see. That large-ish line running down the first third of the master bedroom, I would definitely want to know how that's going to work out. The flooring needs to be ripped out, redone, hopefully with real wood or tile, not the cheap pseudo-linoleum crap placed there in the first place.
I was also curious to hear that the current landlord had no interest in selling off his furniture. "I don't have space in my current home, so I'm throwing away everything here." I'd suggest he do a garage sale, but remembered that this is China, most people don't seem to go for second hand things. Maybe he figures reselling all of it would be more difficult, not to mention hauling it down the flights of stairs.
As for my next abode, I will wait till after I return in October. Why fork over three months rent and deposit now when I don't know the exact date of my return? I'm viewing neighborhoods on my free days to see what areas I would prefer to live in, and how long it would take to walk to work. Am certain that neighborhoods east and south of the office are out, as the issue of safety is paramount. North and West are familiar, and now that I found out I am a mere stone's throw from the cult status moon bar, I might not want to leave the district.

Bits and pieces of my 9/11


Morning fight with a colleague. Bitchy me comes out and makes the other person mad. He says "you're not in charge here!" and threatens to quit. Er, what a baby! Plus he should change his cologne, he reeks. The issue I raised (his gf hangs around the teachers room the entire day using the computers and telephone) is unresolved, he has her sitting there again in the afternoon, and the lady in charge is a putz so she can't put her foot down. He makes nice later, saying let's be friends. The other person I butted heads with two months ago left, not sure why though. At least that one was doing his job. This one, ugh, a dom, smelly one too.

Head to the neighborhood Korean resto for bibimpap but get sidetracked by what looks like interesting noodles with seafood. Unfortunately I should have stuck with the bibimpap, the noodles are gloopy with some bean based sauce, the squid is tougher to chew than leather.

New impetus to go to Shanghai in a week, two friends will be attending the edu fair there. How to figure out my schedule though....

Raised my flagging spirits by watching Avenue Montaigne, fluffy French movie, lit in bright colors, about music, love, art, the passage of time, youth. Charming lead actress, chirpy and "a ray of sunshine", with the requisite Roman nosed leading men. One character is supposed to be a classical pianist but he exudes raw peasant energy. Strips down to his shirtsleeves in the climactic concert scene, now that's how they should all look if they want us to attend concerts. Well, maybe not all of them. The only line I will remember "never do anything for nothing" - spoken by Sydney Pollack (who gets mistaken for Martin Scorcese).

Withdrawal symptoms - nothing to read, worse when I'm having a meal and need a book to take me away from my surroundings. Regret not having raided M's library before leaving Xiamen. Two weeks to go before home, so must control myself till then.

testing, testing


Lay's potato chips in China is available in a lot of flavors. Plain (here called American style), barbecue, roast chicken, and I've come across one that looks like it incorporates chilli peppers and tomato. But the most mindboggling are the fruit flavors. Today at the supermarket, I took a serious look at the offerings. Mango, cucumber, lime, blueberry, cherry tomato, and out now - lychee. I could have stuck to the basic plain which is my go to comfort food of late. But my hand strayed, and thought why not? I don't think I'm ready for blueberry potato chips, but the lime doesn't sound too bad.
The flavor of the product is citrusy, a bit too sweet for me, but not all together horrible. I could see myself making a spicy salsa to go with this.
When I go home, I shall pack a few bags for a shared test taste. Who wants in?



I am thankful:
1. for a roof over my head, even if it meant waiting for over an hour for the landlord to figure out which keys go with which lock. So close to a toilet and a wash, and yet so far.
2. for clean clothes, especially upon finding my stash of clothes that I left in the closet missing, along with the suitcase I had put it in. My shoes were subsequently found in another closet, but my two wrap dresses, my Indonesian batik, my favorite jogging pants, my new sheer white kimono, and my winter coat, gone. Who took it, why, I have my suspicions, I have no proof, but who else I ask myself. In the meantime, I'm thankful for the remaining pieces I do have.
3. for friends, colleagues, and kindness from strangers.
4. for not being in a war zone, or on a ferry in my own country
5. for water. Cold, refreshing. For washing the white dust from my travel bags. For making me feel human again.
6. for distractions; I miss downloading and listening to podcasts, and I finally got to update my itunes list. Thank you for Garrison Keillor, poetry, humor, All Songs Considered, Splendid Table, The Moth....
7. for a phonecall from someone who wants me to join them in Shanghai in a few weeks. Tempting, very tempting.
8. for a good connection, for the internet
9. for the ability to see beyond the mess
10. for finding my nail clipper.

Xiamen food plans


Spiffiest bathroom in a Xiamen restaurant - The House 2, Coffee St/Yundang Lu, near the Marco Polo hotel. Note: the coffee was horrible (they may be using Illy but it tasted like dark dishwater).

Cutest hole in the wall: Planttime - an alley off Zhong Shan Lu, near the main port to Gulangyu island. After looting the stacks of dvds in the green door store, I walked down the alley and saw this verdant looking front door, found myself in a cafe that served vegetarian food, painted in soft pink, cream, and green. I felt like I was in a Chinese shabby chic cafe. Food was passable, and the service gently respectful. Points for not allowing smoking, and a general sense of ease and comfort throughout the place. A good place to rest between shopping sprees and the heat, if you can find the place.

Points off to McDonalds (not sure if it's all the McD's in Xiamen) which touts itself as 24 hours but was closed when friends went there for a 3:30 am snack. No way would that ever happen in the Pinas. I sort of miss the neverending food delivery opportunities in Manila, not that I had many 2 am munchy moments. It's just the idea that if you want something, it will be delivered!

Avoid in the future: any of the ground beef burritos/enchiladas at Coyote, along Yundang Rd, near the Marco Polo. I don't know why the beef tastes like it was dried and reconstituted but there's nothing palatable about it. I might ask for a vegetarian one if I ever go back. However, the service there is very pleasant, the waiter remembered how I like my bloody mary's even if I'd only been there once before. And I'll definitely splurge 25 RMB for a large plate of nachos before heading into the hinterlands.

Heading into my last week here in Xiamen, I'm cooking for friends on my day off (Wed): adobo (will toss in some roast duck from the market with the chicken), bicol express (lots of chillis!), and maybe pinakbet. Friend E has a jar of bagoong in his ref so I could use it, with the help of Marketman's recipe (it won't be over a woodfire stove, but I'll use a clay pot to toss the vegies in). I toyed with the idea of making a guava sinigang since there's a lot of guava in season now, but that will take too much energy to boil the fruit, squeeze out all the essence and add souring agents. Meh.

Speaking of soups, why are the free soups that come with set meals here so insipid? To the point of being just hot water with some vegies tossed in it, who wants to drink something without any flavor? The little veg cafe Planttime (above) is probably the only place I found that had a flavorful free soup, it tasted rather meaty for a soup that was made with vegies and mushrooms.

Overheard - there's a pinoy resto in town near the Pan Pacific Hotel, strangely named Tuscany. I shall check it out tomorrow night.

Wet and wooly


There's been a larger than normal amount of western food taking a detour down my gullet of late, and is probably the reason my clothes are feeling like they are a tad tighter than a few weeks ago. While Xiamen is as chinese a city as any other, the more cosmopolitan opportunities make it easier to slip into a cafe for texmex greasy food and a drink, or giving into one baked potato laden with sour cream. Walking is still required, but the heat and humidity push me towards getting taxis more if I'm going out of my way to a cafe. If I were to stick to my walk to work and back without a detour, my wallet would be fatter, and not my belly.
Another blackhole has been purchasing a lot of dvds to keep me "sane" when I don't have anything to do. Bad excuse, it just sucks time away from being "productive" and in terms of liquidity wastes money.
Walking around in the humidity is not just a physical drain, but it makes my head feel waterlogged/sweatlogged. Emotionally I feel less happy in this environment, and not even a dose of caffeine seems to lift the spirits. I suspect it doesn't help that I've been surrounded by a lot of grouchy, menopausal, and strange people. So much disappointment and disdain, a litany of complaints about everything and everyone, are they affected by the heat or is it something about the environment that pushes people to grumble non-stop?
At least the void of animals up north is not the same here. I see people walking their dogs often, everyday, and other than the little gray cat who comes to us everyday after work (and who I wish to find a home), there hasn't been a week where I've not come across other well taken of cats. Yesterday I spotted two rivals, one black with white mittens and an orange tabby, both far from each other but the black one taking a serious yowl at the other when they glanced at one another. The houseware store down from where I'm living has a lovely calico with big round eyes, reminds me of J's cats in HK, and who has suffered my attentions a few times, the closest it lets me come near is a foot away if I have some kibble. Mr. Grey however is the one cat that rarely fails me, he is a sweetheart (if only men were as easy), and I do hope someone with a good heart cares for him permanently. It will be hard not to stuff him in my suitcase in a week's time.

things we have to do for a job


here's the scenario: late sunday afternoon, three higher level students, with a better grasp of english. lesson topic: stress management; i printed out meditation exercises, one on breathing, one on muscle relaxation. when we got to the muscle relaxation exercise, one of the instructions was "clench your butt, relax. Do three times."
so first of all - chinese have no butts, or very few that are worth mentioning
second, we're talking of a part of the body they try to avoid thinking about
third - they're like teenage boys when it comes to anatomical parts like the butt. You say butt, they laugh nervously
so I try to explain, they titter, and struggle to do the exercise
i try to say they can do this while standing in line, good for the posture, core yada yada
one girl says to me "but it will look strange!"
I tell her and try to show them that (pointing to my ass) "see? can you see if my butt is clenched? Nope!"
i'm standing sideways mind you, and one relatively buff guy is sitting in front, his eyes now forced to look at his english teacher explain that her butt is clenching, relaxing, clenching, relaxing

Saturday eats


9 am: one peach, a bit too firm, and not too sweet. More for crunch and aroma. It hasn't been a good summer for juicy, eat-over-a-sink peaches.

12:30 pm: a plate of jiaozi (pork and chive dumplings), got the large plate - 20 dumplings, for $1.50. A cold bottle of Sprite, I should bring my own Coke next time. Satisfying, perhaps too much so. Comfort food at its best.

1:00 pm: a large glass of chocolate milk tea. I wasn't sure it would work, and I still prefer regular milk tea, but it wasn't a bad way to cap my midday meal.

Contemplating dinner options, nothing attractive. I may have to wait till after work, maybe get one of the roasted chickens from the street grillers.

Was hit in the nostalgic solar plexus to find that the row of stores and restaurants that used to border the gate of Xiamen University and Nanputuo Temple are gone. Two years of walking up and down that path, buying cds, eating in the little eateries, gone. All the memories no longer have a place. The Uni is probably on an expansion fit again, or beautification roll. I think it leaves the atmosphere a bit lacking. But that's China for you. Neverending change.

Walked around Xiada, students will be flooding in in two weeks, so this is the perfect time to visit campus. Relatively quiet, a bit too hot and humid, but a pleasant walk down tree laden streets, and enjoyed strolling around the park. Walked down to the beach through a hidden path I remembered and it was as pleasant as ever. Nothing much changed down that walk. I would love to go back after a rainstorm, when the paths are wet, and the leaves carpet the way.

the proxy ate my post


The big C over here isn't just the country, but also the censors, who create barriers we must learn to jump over - good for the butt all that jumping. So to the proxies we go, trying one here, one there. Found one today that I thought would work, but it gave me access without the ability to write anything. I've found another one that might work, and it is through it that I am writing this post, a few weeks into August. Let us see if this will go through.

Milk walk


There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, perhaps in the dairy department. Last year I overdid ice cream "tastings" in DC, and yesterday I might have matched the intake of all things that can come from a cow. Two containers of full fat Fage yogurt (isn't that a healthy thing???), a double scoop of Mado Turkish ice cream (now that I think of it, that came from a goat), double cream brie on crackers nibbled at the park, and then I had to go have hot chocolate at agnes b (they have some delectable looking desserts but all I wanted was the hot c).

How to offset all that milk? I decided to take a long walk, specifically from Tai Koo to Causeway Bay. I estimate that long course was around 4 km, and following the tram/bus routes, King's road all the way along the northern front of the island, it was a good tramp through some of the least touristy bits of the city. I finally finished my walk at the Central Library, with it's 9 floors of learning a comfortable beacon for my feet. It may also have the best bathrooms that side of the city.

I took to the streets again this morning to have a Cantonese version of diner food. Why go to McDonalds or Starbucks when there's egg fry ups with butter bread accompanied by a large bowl of shredded abalone and ham with macaroni? Add a steaming cup of milky tea, and I'm set to go. I decided to pick up two large buns at the restaurants bread display, a cha siu bao and an egg bun, as part of the provisions for my trip back up into the border. Comfort food aka defense against the elements.