Dogs are Everywhere 恶心了

Dogs are everywhere
Almost everywhere
That I go
They have too much and then

One night on my way home, I saw an elderly couple walking a cute, furry Chow Chow. Then I noticed that the cute Chow Chow was dropping a deuce right on the sidewalk. Like any good dog owners, the couple waited patiently for Chow Chow to finish his necessary business. Like any bad neighbor taking no personal responsibility for neighborhood upkeep, the woman used a plastic bag to pick up the doo-doo and chucked the bag and all off to the side.

This is a cute Chow Chow, but not The Cute Chow Chow

I stopped and deliberated for about two seconds. Is it my place to correct an older couple? I decided, yes it was. Toting around a curious toddler has made me particularly sensitive to seeing people letting their children and dogs use public areas as latrines. Also, people tell me all the time what to do. Don’t give your kid ice cream because it’s bad for her stomach. She needs to wear more clothes or socks. Since your baby goes to bed so early, you should teach English at night and make more money. Shave her head so her hair grows faster. The list seems endless.

Don’t I too have a voice? Don’t I too have the right to tell people what to do? I’ve no qualms about telling people to not smoke in restaurants and to wait in line. Is this situation much different? Isn’t public health at stake here?

My blood boiling, I flipped around and said rather loudly, “Disgusting! You can’t do that!"

The old man cocked his head toward me, a cigarette pinched between two fingers and his scraggly eyebrows furled. He was clearly dumbfounded. Well, of course, more explanation was needed. The idea that tossing dog poop and trash around was wrong probably never occurred to him. Meanwhile his wife and Chow Chow had continued their jaunt down the street, leaving the man alone to deal with the crazy foreigner.

“You can’t leave dog poop there. Children walk around here. They might touch it. That’s disgusting!"

Another pause.

So I continued making my case, “There’s a garbage can right over there.” Literally, about five steps away was a garbage can. “It’s really no added inconvenience to you to throw the dog poop away.” (Just so you know, my Chinese does not sound so well-spoken as this translation into English.)

He looked at the grassy area, mulling over a response. Ah! He had it. He raised his hands as though encompassing the expanse and said, “Oh, but this whole area is a garbage can.”

Oh no he didn’t! This is our neighborhood. This area, even though not beauteous, is where literally thousands of our neighbors--babies and groceries in tow-- pass through every day. Our neighborhood! Isn’t this communist China? Communist as in community? Don’t we--as a community--all share a piece of responsibility for public health? And does this man think we all want to deal with his Chow Chow’s excrement because he is too lazy to take five steps to the nearest garbage can? Does he think we all want to live in a garbage dump?

Exasperated, I heaved, “Do you like your place (as in location)?” I admit, this sentence really showed my lack of Chinese fluency. I wanted to say, “Don’t you care about your neighborhood that you live in?”

Despite my awkward Chinese, the elderly man got the point. He chuckled, “You are right.”

I shifted my weight and crossed my arms. I wasn’t leaving until I witnessed proper poo disposal. The elderly man leaned over into the grassy area, extracted his Chow Chow’s filth, walked five stops to the nearest garbage can and chucked it.

Satisfied with the poo disposal, I emphatically shook my head uttering out loud, “Disgusting!” as I walked away.

So what did I accomplish? At least one additional poop was properly disposed. Perhaps, just perhaps, the elderly couple will think twice before leaving their Chow Chow's doo-doo in public places.

Unfortunately, even if this one couple forever change their ways, their change is like emptying the ocean one bucket of water at a time. There are about 20 million other people that need sanitation reformation. I can't tell you how many times I've watched children and dogs pee and go #2 in the same vicinity as crawling babies and playing children. I haven't mustered up the courage to tell a grandma to have her baby pee in a bush instead of on the floor two feet from where Dumpling is playing.

But I might soon enough.

Chinese Word of the Blog: 恶心了! Ěxīnle (literally, evil heart)
English Translation: Disgusting!

Where the offense happened. Does this look like a garbage dump?

Where the children play and pee.


I'll Never Find Another You 青梅竹马

There is always someone
For each of us, they say
And you'll be my someone
Forever and a day

-The Seekers

Our marriage is like green plums and a bamboo horse. No, I'm not talking about under ripe fruit and animal statues. I'm talking about love, baby.

I first laid eyes on my husband when I was thirteen years old and he was fifteen. birdMAN was wiry, sporting a 90s skater look, reminiscent of Leonardo DiCaprio as troubled preteen in 80s/90s sitcom Growing Pains. I had frizzy long hair and wore long hippy skirts. We were just two green plums.

A few years later, we ran around with the same circle of friends. We went to movies (You Got Mail and The Wedding Singer come to mind), bowling, snowboarding, or just hanging out at our houses. Just innocent fun, like a child rocking on a bamboo horse.

Fast forward a few more years to September 30, 2001, the day these plums got hitched. We were barely old enough to (legally) drink alcohol, but according to the state of California, old enough to say "I do". Seventeen years! If we had kids earlier, we could have a teenager. Instead, we went to school, worked full-time, bought a house, sold a house, moved to China, and then had a baby. Now these green plums have gotten a bit riper, softer and purple.

So like I said, our marriage is green plums and a bamboo horse. That's love, baby. Seventeen years of marriage done and done. Only forever to go.

Chinese Saying of the Blog: 青梅竹马 Qīngméi zhúmǎ (literally green plum, bamboo horse)
English Translation: childhood sweethearts that grew up to became a couple

A picture for every year. Watch us go from green to purple plums.

I do! September 30, 2001
2002 A picture of a picture. This is before the
days of digital cameras.
2003 This is the only picture of us at my sister's wedding. Why
did the professional photographer not take a decent picture of us?
2004 Fairfield, California
2005 - Kona, Hawaii 
2006 Disneyland, California. birdMAN vowed never to go back
and we never did. But if Dumpling has her way...
2007 San Diego, California
2008 Ashland, Oregon
2009 Napa Metric Century
2010 Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan, China Our first trip to China.
We had no idea we would end up living here for so long. 
2011 Sausalito, California
2012 San Francisco, California
2013 Chiang Mai, Thailand
2014  Great Wall at Gubeikou, China
2015 Lombok, Indonesia
2016 Beijing, China and pregnant with Dumpling
2017  Beijing, China
2018 Atlanta Georgia. Three's a party!
2018 Dumpling celebrates with a fried bread stick
And a ricotta and mozzarella stuffed concoction at our
favorite Beijing Italian restaurant, Bottega
We love food!
Seventeen years: the Cheesecake Year


Up Above the Daily Hum 九月份

When is this all over
When does the next one begin
Happy on the pull of the past
Just before the future comes
Hoping for the rush of some experience
That could elevate me
- The Flaming Lips

This is definitely not Beijing

Beijing’s September started off with a bang. And when I say bang, I mean it started off with rain. The fall season has thus begun. People are wearing light sweaters and the children socks. Body odors aren’t so repugnant, and the sky breezes pollution free and blue as a gleaming sapphire.

The cooling temperatures are a welcome respite from Beijing’s muggy summer. We heard that July in Beijing was particularly insufferable. Rain poured for two weeks straight during which the sun refused to show up even once. Additionally, the heat and humidity were so intense that nobody left the sanctuary of air conditioning.

While Beijing cooked like a baozi (dumpling) in the steamer, California charred like a Kalua pig in the BBQ pit. Devastating wild fires ripped throughout California, leaving thousands homeless and the skies shrouded in soot. It was here in California’s dry inferno, the three of us spent the summer. My brother-in-law joked that California’s air pollution made us Beijingers feel like we were right at home.

We did feel right at home--but not because California air pollution was on par with Beijing’s notorious pollution. (Side note: smoke is waaaayyyy worse than car exhaust air pollution.) We felt at home because 1.) California is our home and 2.) we stayed at Moomoo’s house, and Moomoo makes you feel at home.

As if the nightly gourmet dinners (e.g. beef bourguignon), daily delectable breakfasts (blueberry pancakes), and King-sized bed with a private bathroom, weren’t enough, Moomoo scheduled another week in yet another Magnificent Beautiful House in Lake Tahoe. Seven grandchildren ran amok throughout the house. Dumpling was besides herself surrounded by her cousins and endless bounty of Haagen dazs ice cream, avocado and corn chips.

Otherwise, we did what we always do when we summer in California: we catch up with friends, ooh and ahh at how the kids have grown, swim, and eat lots of cheese and barbecued meat. In addition, we squeezed in a few side trips: one to Georgia to visit my sister and her husband, and one to beautiful Monterey Bay with Yaya, Pop-Pop, and cousins Caden and Zephram.

And just like that, just as the smoke began to clear, our summer elapsed into the clouds. We said, “See ya, California!” once again, and said “Hello, Beijing!” Yep, back to steamy Beijing. Back to air drying our clothes and towels until they are stiff as boards. Back to hand washing every single dish. Back to speaking Chinese as clumsily as a carsick clown on a tightrope. Back to reality.

While I ached for American conveniences like a dishwasher, Dumpling eased right back to her Beijing life like Cinderella’s foot in her glass slipper. She gleefully ran around the apartment rediscovering her toys. She skipped around Merry Mart waving to the workers like they were old friends. She perfected her slide skills with as much finesse as a Cirque Soleil acrobat.

So here we are more than halfway through September enjoying blue skies and mild temperatures. We’ve stopped dreaming about leaving China. We are back to our Beijing life, and we are OK will it. birdMAN is again teaching high school math, and I follow Dumpling around and talk to ayis at the park. Life is functioning at a comfortable normal. And we still have plenty of room to drastically improve our Chinese skills. Maybe we’ll stick around a little (or a lot) longer.

Perhaps, just perhaps, Beijing is home.

Chinese Word of the Blog: 九月 Jiǔ yuè (literally, nine month)
English Translation: September

Grandma makes us dinner. We're not in China, but we still get Chinese food.
Eating good at Moomoo's

Dumpling can't believe her eyes. California has so many french fries.
We only dare to wear white, pretty dresses in California. Here you can wash with hot water and use a dryer.
Hi Lake Tahoe! Our old friend.
Cousin Sabella's excitement is contagious!
Post nap grumpies. She slept through ice cream time.
California = Haagen Dazs heaven
Ohh and ahhh, how the kids have grown!
Good times with our long time friends.
Dumpling feels at home
Checking out Monterey Bay Aquarium
Keeping cool at the California coast
Sacramento Zoo excursion
Back in Beijing, and the weather is fine!


Southern Nights 南部

Southern nights
Have you ever felt a southern night?
Free as a breeze
Not to mention the trees
Whistling tunes that you know and love so
-Glen Campbell and the Philharmonic Orchestra

Two years ago, my sister and her husband accepted an assignment down yonder where sushi is still called bait. This year in their Georgia home, they was busier than a pair of moths in a mitten. Recoverin’ from a three week Israel stint, preparin’ for RCs and RP school, and secular work amongst numerous responsibilities, fixin’ a trip to California at the same time as us was gettin’ as messy as eatin’ a soup sandwich.

The prospect of no sister time this year was makin’ me feel a bit blue. So when birdMAN asked me if I reckon’d squeezing in an extra trip down yonder during our seven week long US summer sojourn, I said, “Is a bullfrog waterproof?” Butter my butt and call me a biscuit, birdMAN bought round trip plane tickets from dry as a popcorn fart Sacramento to steamy Hot-lanta.

My lil’ sis and her sweetie been acclimatin’ well to southern living. They say, “Yes ma’am,” and “'scuse me, sir.” They snack on boiled peanuts and drink sweet tea. They don't mind the swelterin’ humidity or the evening hum of cicadas. But a cat can have kittens in the oven but we ain't gonna call ‘em all biscuits. G&J are still bred n’ raised Californians. They miss tacos, sushi, and California sized wages. They can't wait for a reason to go to Atlanta and side trip over to Trader Joe’s.

The five of us bred n’ raised Californians did what we do best: we ate and ate till we was fat as ticks. Admittedly, we steered clear of the greasy dives (eg Waffle House) and opted for the highfalutin varieties of southern cuisine. As a visiting Yankee who loves make-your-tongue-slap-your-face good food nearly as much as life, I had a hankerin’ for samplin’ the local fare.

Didn't make here... Maybe next time
At the trendy Twisted Soul, while I admired the Will and Jada Smith lookalikes and their equally purdy younglin’s, I savored my first ever chicken and waffles. My oh my! This trademark dish of the South made my heart sing a thousand banjo strings! For you Californians that don't know (like I didn't) that breakfast and dinner can be combined with such beauteous harmony, chicken and waffles is exactly that-- savory and sweet married like peanut butter and jelly. Twisted Soul’s version was seasoned fried chicken sittin’ pretty on top of a golden waffle, with a side of Bourbon syrup and cardamom butter.

Food adventures continued at the uppity Dovetail in downtown Macon, where the local folk don their Sunday church attire and enjoy spirits and grits. We showed up Sunday at 12:30 pm, the golden hour after which alcohol may be served (we in the South!). Dovetail dabbles in fusing California fresh with southern staples. I had me the shrimp and grits. The shrimp were far from shrimpy; they were fat, juicy, seasoned prawns. The grits were traditionally creamy and drizzled unconventionally with olive oil and arugula (arugula is originally Mediterranean). I was as happy as a dead pig in the sunshine.

Besides eatin’ ourselves blue in the face, we got plenty of jollyin’ around like local folk and a lick of touristin’ around like touristin’ folk. We cooled off swimmin’ and kayakin’ in Lake Tobesofskee (that's a mouthful), swattin’ away at the mosquitoes, and explorin’ the Las Vegas of captive fish life: Georgia Aquarium. You oughta see it! Y’all go hogwild for the whale sharks, manta rays, and beluga whales swizzling around in the Big Whopper of fishbowls.

Our five day southern sojourn was long on eating but too short on parlayin’ with my lil’ sis and her suga’. Our gracious hosts G&J was as sweet as pie. Our wine glasses never went dry, and the AC never turned off. But good thing we left when we did. All’s that Georgia fried chicken and beer gonna turn my body broad as I is tall.

Well, that's the whole hushpuppy. We all lovin’ that southern hospitality. Hope to be back sooner than a minute!

Y’all hear?

Chinese Word of the Blog: 南部 (nánbù)
English Translation: the southern part; south

Need to brush up on your southern talk? Click HERE

Good BBQ makes your tongue slap your face
Aunty gives Dumpling a present

It's hotter than a goat's butt in a pepper patch
Life is just peachy

Finger licking good
The Georgia Aquarium

Penguin encounter
Dumpling misses out on shrimp and grits, bless her heart
Is this what Southern big hair is supposed to look like?