cooking, dessert, entrees, huzhou, mysterious ingredients, out and about, Shanghai

Pura Vida

06.23.09 | Comment?

It hasn’t been a particularly photographic past week or so, mostly due to a heat so oppressive that the act of scratching one’s mosquito bites produces sweat amounts so copious that really, there’s just no point in showering anymore. Really the only thing anyone wants to do is sit or lie around complaining about the heat. There are only so many variations on that photograph.

Instead, join me through a photographic retrospective (cue the touching music) of my eight months here—almost long enough to have a baby. And if I accidentally repost something I’ve posted before—well, I don’t keep track THAT closely. If you do, well, I’m flattered.

Step back in time with me, back to November 1, 2008, when the giant laowai returned to the Middle Kingdom.

~Dodododo dodododo dododod dodododo~

You may recall that my too-large apartment had a little in the kitchen. I had no choice but to make do, so I, the Squatting Cook, made Eggs al Floorno, courtesy of the electric hot plate that the school provided.

Sadly, I had not yet mastered the electric stove Fahrenheit-Celsius thing, and, well. My eggs were a little burned.

Nothing says “Welcome to your new home” quite like charred poultry.

The problem has since been (semi)remedied, as the school gave me an extension cord/surge protector, but now I have a bundle of cords stretching across my floor. I trip over them all the time. Safety first!

In my first weeks here, I ventured to Shanghai.

And got a taste of Shanghai fashion.

Nothing says “Welcome back to China” quite like slaughtering poultry in the street.

I met some other foreigners. One night we all got together for poker at TJ’s.

I do NOT understand poker. No matter how much TJ writes out the hierarchy of flush versus full house or whatever, I still just don’t get it. So I just took pictures instead.

I also learned how to play pool. And by learned I mean, I tried to play twice.

Please refrain from making comparisons to Paul Newman in “The Huslter.” I know I am as devastatingly good looking and blessed with pool and acting talents as he is, but I’m getting really tired of everyone pointing it out.

I made friends with a PE teacher at our school, who later turned out to be strangely trying to date me. But before that, he took me out a few times with all his friends. One night, we had a huge dinner, went to a teahouse with different friends and ate tons of snacks, and then went out for late-night hotpot.

I thought I’d share this photo solely for the look on this slightly-beer-enhanced guy’s face [this is not the teacher from our school]. Please feel free to caption this photo in the comments.

I did plenty of exploring around and familiarizing myself with Huzhou, from the ground

and from above

and at night.

I ventured to Shanghai many more times. On my most recent trip, I stumbled across the recently-opened Shanghai Barbie flagship store.

There was a lot of pink.

The grown women (such as myself) seemed to enjoy the store much more than their daughters.

Ah, I remember so fondly the days when I could play naively and blissfully with a doll of such unattainable and semi-insulting proportions.

The pressure really got to this teddy bear.

I made more Chinese friends. This is Shen Jianying, who is a wonderful lady.

She even took my parents out for lunch while they were here. [Sadly I haven’t seen her since. I think we both suffer from acute Phone Aversion.] She took me out for hotpot and ordered pig brains.

Actually, they’re quite tasty. Kind of like really soft tofu.

And since this is Plate of Wander, I’ve eaten my fair share of delicious food, as well as some strange things. Pig brains, fertilized chicken egg, cow head, live shrimp, blood soup, duck tongue, duck head, duck throat, and of course the tame ‘weird’ foods like frog, snails, rabbit, fried beef covered in mayonnaise.

My cooking has ventured beyond burnt eggs, including but not limited to a full Thanksgiving dinner, my first whole chicken in a from-scratch curry, a cake made with fresh strawberries in the batter for TJ’s birthday, a carrot banana cake for mine, gnocchi, two versions of arroz con pollo, pizza, two apple pies

(if at first you don’t succeed, pie pie again),

a yummy mixed salad a la Erik,


and French toast on Easter.

I’ve been to KTV, of course. First with some students

(Yuring made me sing Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’ three times in one night because she loved the way I sang it. I may be Paul Newman, but Rihanna I am decidedly not .

And most recently, on Cinco de Mayo, Erik, TJ, Jennifer and I went for some spur-of-the-moment, post-arroz-con-pollo-and-arroz-con-leche KTV.

It’s a lot more fun with foreigners, mostly because there’s no through the endless Chinese pop drivel. At least you can understand the American pop drivel.

Jen got really into it.

As did TJ.

The city changed a lot while I was here. The city center used to look like this:

Now the only trace of such destruction is the shiny underground pedestrian walkway. Things go up (or down) here fast.

And now the summer is bringing afternoon/evening thunderstorms that move in quickly. Foreboding.

I’ve had a lot happen in just these eight short months. But what keeps me here and happy are the strange little things in everyday life, whether it’s someone in the supermarket approach me to model for her clothes-making business, a taxi driver asking me if I’ve found my prince charming, buying things in the supermarket and having all the female workers in the vicinity circle me and interrogate me (kindly) about my life, or simply waving hello to my students as I leave campus.

Pura vida.

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