Buggin' Part II

The buzz of love is busy buggin’ you
Well, they fly in the air as you comb your hair
And they’re splattered up and down
Your windshield and the headlight
-The Flaming Lips

Shortly after we first arrived in China, a local Beijinger invited us over for dinner and served up a savory fare of spicy ribs, noodles, and bugs (see Buggin’).  Recently I told our gracious host how much I enjoyed eating the cicadas at his home. A few days later he handed me a container of prepared cicadas, told me to stir-fry them, and said “Enjoy!” Well, I do enjoy eating strange food – but eating unusual food is not a solo affair. The experience must be shared, preferably with brave people.

Fortunately, San Franciscans Taj and Michelle were in town visiting their long-time friends and our neighbors, Xueshan and Zhiruo. While our out-of-towners weren’t busy—buying knock-off Ray Ban sunglasses, navigating traffic by bicycle, and wondering at Chinese girls’ confusing fashion choices—they were willing to experience Beijing culinary delights from street side chuanr (Chinese style kabobs) to Beijing roast duck to stir-fried cicadas. Ok, Taj partook of eating duck and the cicadas feast. Except for shrimp and bacon, Michelle is vegetarian.

Our guests imagined that the cicada’s exoskeleton would be crunchy, and its guts would explode into a gooey mess upon chewing. Their fears were unfounded. The entire cicada is crunchy and salty, and surprisingly edible. The consensus was: Cicadas are quite delicious!

Chinese word of blog: 虫子chóng zi      
English translation: insect / bug / worm

Zhiruo was the first to dig in
Oh snap! That good!
Xueshan says: Awwww yeah
A couple who eats bugs together stays together
Michelle says: Soooooooooooo nasty! You crazy!


Autumn Almanac

From the dew-soaked hedge creeps a crawly caterpillar
When the dawn begins to crack, it's all part of my autumn almanac
Breeze blows leaves of a musty-colored yellow
So I sweep them in my sack, yes, yes, yes, it's my autumn almanac
-The Kinks

Autumn has arrived! The nights are cooler, the days not so sticky hot, and the kids are back in school. While birdMAN is back to teaching English, I have achieved my lifelong dream of being a housewife. Even though I am jobless, I am by no means bored or unproductive. Now I just have more time to dust all that Beijing grime off the furniture and increase my Chinese speaking skills.

I have several methods for study:

  1. I listen to ChinesePod mp3s while running, cleaning, riding the subway or bus, walking to the store, etc. ChinesePod is great for oral expressions like “Wake up lazy bug!” (哎,懒虫,醒醒!) and “Whatever!” (放屁吧你!)
  2. I read English and Chinese versions of the same books and magazines. I then make flashcards of words I don’t know along with sample sentences. I carry these flashcards with me and review them whenever I have a few minutes. Example words in my stack include “romantic” (浪漫) , “good qualities” (长处) and “discreet” (睿智)
  3. I have an oral Chinese lesson book that I read aloud. I bought this book at a Chinese language school at which I plan to take classes. Maybe next week I will enroll.
  4.  I talk to anybody who speaks Chinese. Fortunately, Chinese people are everywhere! Hello, free Chinese lesson. Just muster up courage and go for it. People love to talk here, and they love foreigners.

The last method is the most daunting. It sort of goes like this: Me: “Hi, are you from Beijing?...Where are you from?...Are you a student?/What is your job? …Do you have any children?...Do your children live with you?...How old are you?...You look so young!...The air pollution is so bad today...I am from America…My hair is black because I am half Chinese…I don’t have any children yet…I have been in China for one year…I have been learning Chinese for one year…my Chinese is terrible...can you say that again?...what does that mean?...can you say that again?”

Asking a million and one questions is not offensive to a Chinese person. Also, Chinese people are extremely hospitable and proud of their heritage, eager to introduce China to foreigners. Occasionally, this means a dinner invitation to eat special Beijing food. A few times I found myself at a Chinese restaurant discussing all kinds of topics I don’t have the vocabulary for including American politics, guns, boyfriends, and the meaning of life. Meanwhile, I get to eat all kinds of delicious and not-so-delicious dishes that I would not ordinarily order.

So what is my autumn plan? Buy some more sweaters for the long, cold winter that quickly approaches, and of course, hit the books! And then hit the streets and find someone for a chat.

Happy studying!

Chinese word of the blog: 放屁吧你 (Fàngpì ba nǐ literally, “fart on you,” meaning “Your words are nothing more than farts.” Use with caution. This is trash talk and nice girls don’t say this.)

English translation: Whatever!

So are you from Beijing?
1 foreigner + 2 Chinese guys = Great Fun!
Chinese hospitality may mean you get to try cow stomach
Made friends with Lili's mom in a dishware shop
Home cooked Chinese meal? Yes, please
What's so funny? Come on girls, is my Chinese THAT bad?
These guys aren't talking