Buddhist Vegetarian resturant

Short act of 京剧



*We now have a very cheap, very cute avocado green couch.
*Spring is here and everything is really blooming. I think I'm going to the Botanical Gardens today.
*Two of my regular students canceled this whole week, so I haven't had much to do. Scary. I must be careful about money.
*I haven't touched coffee in a long time. I'm drinking tea very regularly.
Let me know what is happening in Miami, or the US of A in general. Post, post!

I cooked yesterday, which felt nice. (It's been a while.) I was also really successful! I made twice cooked pork, marinated cucumber, sweetened dragonfruit and rice. Recipes below. You'll have to pay a visit to a Chinese market to find some of these ingredients, but they should all be available. To be very Chinese, serve with jasmine tea and cheap beer on the side. Also, serve altogether since there is no dessert concept in Chinese cooking, only combinations of sweet, bitter, spicy, cooling.

回锅肉 (Sichuan twice cooked pork)
1-1 1/2 lb pork belly cut in bacon strips
1/2 head of Chinese cabbage, diced
2-3 diced green peppers
1/2 red onion, diced
3/4 cup diced scallions/green onions
bulb of ginger
around 10 dried whole red chili*
vegetable/canola oil
A few heaping tablespoons of Chinese chili flake oil (look for the brand with the picture of a grandma on front. Should have peanuts inside and be VERY red and filled with chili flake)
About one cup fermented black beans (whole beans, not paste)

Bring a wok filled with water and a few chunks of ginger to to boil. Add belly. Cook until belly turns white, around 10-15 minutes. Strain, put belly aside. Replace wok on stove, Add a few teaspoons of oil, just enough to coat the wok. Add red onion and peppers, cook for a minute or two, then add cabbage, belly, dried chili and chili oil. Cook for a few minutes, moving the meat and vegetables constantly, then add fermented black beans. Keep cooking at medium heat until the belly is very tender and all vegetables are coated in black beans. Slice a thumb sized bulb of ginger very thin and add at the last few minutes of cooking. Taste and adjust accordingly while cooking. When cooked, place in serving bowl and top with green onion.

凉拌黄瓜 (Marinated Cucumber)

4 large Chinese cucumbers (these are spiny on the outside)
About a cup of aged vinegar (in Chinese markets; it's very dark. Don't use white vinegar.)
many diced cloves of garlic (around 5)
1 tb roasted sesame seeds
1 tb sesame oil, or to taste (careful: this goes a long way)

Peel cucumbers with vegetable peeler, then dice up. Put in Tupperware-type container along with all other ingredients. Close top, shake and try. Adjust to taste. Place in fridge and serve cold.

Sweetened Dragonfruit

1 dragon fruit, cut in halves
1/2 cup sugar
around 7-8 chrysanthemum flowers, crushed

Scoop out dragon fruit and mash in a bowl. Add to a pot on low heat with sugar and flowers. Cook until sugar is incorporated, around 3 minutes. Remove from heat and scoop back into fruit halves. Serve very cold with a spoon.


Aunt Linda sent me Easter candy! It was delivered right to my door, which means if anyone sends me a package (not a letter) I don't have to got pick it up at the post office. Thanks Linda! Love you! 谢谢阿姨! 我爱你!


Silvia bought flowers.
798 or 大山子 (dashanzi; "the big mountain") is Beijing much praised art playground, covering an incredible amount of territory with literally hundreds of galleries, restaurants and shops. Yesterday I paid a visit after I was done tutoring and was completely impressed. Its endless; I only saw a fraction of it and I was wandering for hours. The feel is kind of like Chelsea, where galleries are tightly packed and you can hop around for hours. The whole area is in an old munitions plant, with huge pipes and exposed machinery laying amongst Yunnan teahouses, cafes and arthouse bootleg DVD shops. Good art, too.

I saw a gallery devoted entirely to art concerning the Long March, some rather strong anti-Mao stuff, a show of painting from students in North China, an opening of whatever painting that featured some surprisingly good free Chinese wine, etc, etc. I'm certainly going back next weekend to try to catch things I missed.

One of the less populated avenues. Some French gallery around here.
Cafe in a used bookstore
A large painting of the skyline in Beijing. Accurate, eerie and amazingly painted.

I actually live by this building; it's the Beijing Aeronautical School. It's one of the few buildings in this city that actually still has a tremendous Mao statue at the entrance.


Today I bought some books at 王府井书店 (Wangfujing bookstore) for a couple of my students. The English language section covers an entire floor of this building; literally thousands of books. There is even a series of books that feature the characters from Friends teaching grammar and colloquial English, which, I'm sure, is not officially licensed. Also, prices are low enough that I can easily afford to buy whatever looks like it might be of some use.

Silvia bought a bootleg collection of just about every movie (around 30 films) every made by German director Rainer Fassbinder. For some reason, this also includes "Water Drops on Burning Rocks," which is a Francois Ozon film incorrectly labeled and just thrown in the box set.

Blogger is still blocked in China, folks. Hopefully this will just resolve itself.


The latest in my China saga; my blog is blocked on the mainland. I'm not sure if this is temporary or not, but blogger pages are not accessible. Someone on this site got in some sort of trouble, I imagine, and now the entire site is blocked off.

It's easy to tell if a page is blocked; type in a URL for something that you cannot see in China, e.g. NPR.org, and a page will instantly come up saying the site cannot be accessed and give you a generic error message. Not all is lost, however, as I've found a slew of free sites that break firewalls, so I can now see and access my site using one of these services, not to mention the BBC, Wiki and the aforementioned NPR. However, never post anything on my page that in anyway criticises the Chinese government or post any kind of provocative Chinese info, otherwise I will delete it right away. I don't want trouble, that's for sure.

Chad: Good luck with your doctor's visit. Please keep me informed.

On a lighter note, this is a picture of my sweet new ride taken right outside the front door of my building. (It's the silver one, dead center.)


干杯! (gan1 bei1, a Chinese toast meaning "empty glass") We went to this restaurant last night, this one above, where the entire floor, furniture and staff where covered in bright, red, eye-melting floral patterns. We were actually looking for some trendy, arty bar near the Old Summer Palace, but couldn't find it at all. This was obviously a better choice. Nothing goes better with Tsingtao than vinegary fried peanuts.


Yesterday the team went to Happy Valley to celebrate our friend Blake's b-day. Happy Valley is an enormous, strange, otherworldly Chinese theme park on the Southern outskirts of the city. Completely amazing. It's home to some of the scariest rides I've ever been on, although it might of been me worrying about Chinese safety regulations while I'm being hurled into the sky that really scared me.

Some pictures:


"Shangria-la" (Tibet)

"Ant Kingdom"

Terrifing ride in "Lost Maya"

"Aegean Harbor"


Yesterday I went to the 中国美术馆 (The National Fine Arts Museum) to see the 美国式美术三百千 (literally translated as "American Fine Arts Three Hundred Years") exhibition, which was organized by the Guggenheim. Seeing my country as something totally foreign was new to me, and I felt possibly the most "different" I ever felt in my life, seeing as though I was the only Western person in the entire building. There were a lot of Chinese art students furiously taking notes, and in general it was a large turnout for some random Thursday afternoon. I really enjoyed this Catlin painting of an Indian chief, which achieved this inanimate, stoic quality with what looks like folky finger painting.--->

Oh, and there was some contemporary stuff, but mostly the greatest hits. (Kara Walker, John Currin, etc.) It was strange to see bewildered, seemingly random Chinese people watching The Cremaster. The general collection was filled with obnoxious, Communisty art that looked like a sort of generic Picasso/Living room Modern art meets China or, worse yet, oil paintings of peasants. (A few of the contemporary scroll painting were interesting, especially one in particular of a fire in a forest in which the ink was REALLY just like smoke, but mostly everything was dead.)


This is from today's lesson with my big boss student, Michael. The conversation was meant to illustrate some of the idiomatic "American-isms" that we had been dissussing along with a host of new ones. It's a bit forced, I'm aware, but I think it works. It took an hour of conversation just to get through half of it, so this will spill over to tomorrow and then a review after that.

Margo: Hey, it's Margo.

Linette: Hi Margo, it's been a while.

Margo: I've been meaning to call you, but I hadn't been able to get around to it. I've been swamped at work; my boss never lets up and I've about had it with him.

Linette: What's he got you doing now?

Margo: It's the same old, but now we've got this new guy who can't figure anything out. We all
have to pull extra weight while he gets training, so in the meanwhile we're stuck with all
the work. You know how my boss is, if you're nice he'll make you carry the company. I don't know, maybe it's time I move on.

Linette: Listen, I can make a few calls and help you out. I've got some friends at this advertising company who owe me a favor and I can twist their arm. Just give me the word.

Margo: Um, well, I don't know... It's been a while since I've done advertising work. Anyway, you can't take me seriously. The stress is gotten to me and I just need to blow off some steam already.

Linette: It's fine, don't worry about it, that's what the weekends are for. How's Paul doing?

Margo: We're getting along pretty well. Everything has been getting better since he's started working less. Anyway, I'm hogging the conversation, how've you been?

Linette: Nothing interesting to tell you, really. I'm taking it easy, not doing much. I've been reading more and watching movies, trying to figure myself out. I got burned out with work myself, so I suggest you tell your boss to stop riding you so hard otherwise you'll have a nervous breakdown.

Margo: Yeah, I'll do that. We'll just have to make a comprimise, and I'm sure he'll understand. I've been a loyal, hardworking employee for too long for him not to understand, anyway.

Linette: Sounds good. Anyway, listen, I gotta go. Let's check up later, and tell me about something other than work.

Margo: Promise. Thanks Linette.

Linette: No problem. Bye!

Margo: Bye!


As well as learning how to read menus, receipts, bank slips and store signs in Chinese, I'm also learning a bit about my own language and how we Americans actually speak. I'm tutoring this head of a software company named Michael that makes online games that are popular in Asia, but so far have no market in America. (He obviously wants to change this.) The lessons he wants are simple enough: American colloquial English and idiomatic phrases, and not to emulate us, but to understand the way we talk and think. Ultimately, he wants to do a lot of business with Americans.

English is required in Chinese schools, but many Chinese cannot speak English; they can only read with little sense of what anything means or answer grammar questions. There are only a few English language proficiency tests that even require spoken English and none that really focus on American/British culture. So, in turn, Chinese do not understand phrases like "Sorry, I didn't get around to it"or "They have a lot of sense, I'm gonna go with them" or "I'm about ready" and instead they're stuck with "How do you do?"and "I'd like to pay you a visit" or phraseology we no longer use. It's a difficult situation, since a lot of the colloquial English books on the market are woefully outdated or freely mix casual language from multiple eras and American sub-cultures, which offer no real context and are therefore useless.

Even though I've just started with Michael, he likes my lessons enough to bring up the idea of somehow marketing teaching English within a more cultural context. It seems like if you're tenacious, you could somehow make some money with Beijing's English teaching racket.


A page of notes that my nine year old student Toby took during our lesson. He welcomed me when I came to the door and had a little dry erase board above the table that read "Mr. Ross Harris, welcome to my home!" He's a very bright and excitable kid who loved me instantly.

Saturday we all trekked to literally the middle of nowhere to this small village in Chaoyang (still in Beijing... this city is tremendous) to see an art show and meet a friend I'd been e-mailing back and forth since before I'd come to China named Wei, and we also met her friend Blake, an American who speaks incredibly good Mandarin. She had a few drawings in the show, and as a whole the show was decent, but hit and miss. Afterwards, we all ate pickled chicken's feet skin, spicy cold tofu, radishy salad, stewed pork and baby eels in a cavernous restaurant and then drank whiskey at Blake's house until the wee hours.

I'm swamped with tutoring jobs, so I'm no longer worried. I have five students already, and one I am meeting Tuesday through Friday. I have Mondays off, but work a little bit every other day. I want to start taking classes soon, and there is a local school that provides incredibly cheap Mandarin lessons. I might do that along with hiring a Chinese tutor.


Today I met two new students: a 13 year old ballet dancer girl whose favorite city in America is "Disneyland," and a 16 year computer nerd boy who wants to go to MIT. I really like both of them, and let's see how it works out. Tommorrow I have three students; I'll be busy all day.

Anyone who wants to send me something, try this address. It has nearly every bit of information I can think of. You don't need to worry about writting characters, this should work, just make sure the spelling is exact. The neighborhood in which I live is called "Wudaokou," and is pronounced like woo dow (rhymes with cow) coe.

Ross Harris
Dong Wang Zhuang #22-3-502
Haidian (Wudaokou)
100083 BEIJING



Ruins of an 18th c European style Palace

Restaurant in the home of the Dowager Empress' brother

Yunnan guava fish

Two hours later... I had my first student earlier this evening, a friendly young lady named Angelina. She works for a garment company that sends designs to be made for Adidas and is going to give a factory tour to some American clients in a month. She has a substantial way to go, but I had a lot of fun with her and the time went by very quickly. It was odd; she came to my apartment and paid me in cash when the lesson was over. It felt strangely sketchy, which is, in turn, incredibly Chinese.

Other highlights of the day: eating a chicken club sandwich at a Korean cafe, getting overcharged to make a couple of copies, and spending two hours to open a Bank of China account. Good thing is, I have a Chinese ATM card now.

Thanks everyone for your comments. I read them all and feel less lonely, even though I couldn't possibly be further away. I haven't forgotten about postcards.


So, I've been hired by another tutoring company, but the difference is students come to my apartment and I already have two students scheduled to come meet me tomorrow, so I have to plan some sort of lesson even though I know nothing about their English level. What I really love, however, is that I get paid per class in cash, so I don't have to worry about non-payment or sketchy payment policies. This company seems to have a much larger student base than the other schools I've signed up for, who actually only got me one interview. My boss is this charming guy named Milton, an older Beijinger who chain smokes, is highly opinionated and drives on the sidewalk. He's great.

I might also have a job teaching police officers English in preparation for the Olympics, although I will know for sure tomorrow.

Silvia and I ate Yunnan food yesterday; incredible. Floral tea served very sweet and infused with teak and woody flavors, fish in guava, chicken sausages wrapped in banana leaves, eggs scrambled with some sort of crunchy, pale green flowers...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/silviaelena/ <--- Oh, and pictures from Silvia, lots and lots.


Updates: Silvia is not working for the Korean Kindergarden and is instead working for this local school called Great English and is teaching fourth graders part time. She's going to do tutoring work for the rest of her weekly hours. I've been hired with two tutoring companies and have possible high school teaching, but it's not final yet. I tried out for Silvia's school, but I was told that I needed to be more animated to teach 10 year olds, which I assumed meant that they were not interested in me, but I was called in yesterday for "recruiting," which I was paid for.

Okay, so recruiting is apparently when parents rush to sign their kids up for extra English classes at various schools. All the private schools are sitting behind are huddled in the main lobby of a primary school and kids and parents visit the booths. Its a ZOO, and I was led in there with no clue of what I was supposed to be doing. Turns out I was already doing it; I was this gigantic, pale big nosed foreigner in a room with only Chinese. I was expected to really just talk to this kids and try to get them to sign up for Great English, and the kids were adorable. I met a cute, tiny five year old girl dressed all in red who, went I asked how old she was, blurted out "My English name is Lilly"almost on cue. I also met a few little boys named "Bob" and another little girl named "Mickey" who was also wearing a Mickey Mouse jacket just to drive it home more. It was actually a lot of fun, but odd and completely confusing. (But I got paid for it!) In the meanwhile, I have no idea if I'm even hired with Great English.