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Archive for January, 2011

Don’t ask about the research.

In other news, outside of my Chinese classes and reading, I’ve been spending a lot of time running, thinking, and meeting new people. I also cook for myself quite a lot during the week and have experimented with the ingredients in Chinese cooking. This week I even took a Chinese vegetarian cooking class at the Hutong, where I learned how to prepare dishes like 宫保豆腐 using all local ingredients. I attribute the success of the class to the 65+ year old retired teacher from Inner Mongolia who knows how to cook really well. I hadn’t eaten lunch yet when the class started at 2, and my classmates didn’t seem to mind that I consumed nearly the whole finished product on my own. When I make it on my own I’ll post the recipe and some tips–this is a very authentic dish in China that is so poorly made (especially in most other countries) elsewhere that it leaves a bad impression on some people who think it’s simply a plate of oil, salt, and veggies fried so badly they contain little flavor. I swear it can be made properly!

Probably the biggest news since getting back to China is that I’m actually consistently running outside again. In the winter, Beijing air is extremely dry (we’ve had 3 months with not a drop of precipitation) but the pollution levels have been tolerable compared to November. I’ve become friends with a group of runners associated with the Heyrobics team and we have two running sessions each weekend: Saturday morning we run for about two hours, including intervals and technique, and Sundays we share taxis or cars to drive to the mountains in 八大处 (outside the fifth ring road near the fragrant hills) for at least 2 hours of running. Although it’s been unbearably cold (think: -9-11 C at the start, maybe -5 C at the finish – and as a pseudo-European I’m starting to use C much more often than F these days), the views, trails, temples, and fresh(er) air make the running 40 minutes uphill at the beginning worth the effort. Yes, that’s right: 40 minutes almost entirely uphill at the beginning. Basically, it’s a damn good thing I trained in Santa Cruz for a few years, because I’m not sure I would otherwise be able to handle it so easily.

After running with the guys (well, mostly guys – I’m still hoping a faster woman shows up to run with me some day…), there are usually several heyrobics sessions run by the Swedes. Think: all-body workout (push-ups, stretching, crunches, some sprints and cardio) to Abba-like music. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had working out, and they’re now inviting music submissions. I keep thinking of what else would make good workout music and can’t think of anything besides Ace of Base’s “Don’t Turn Around”, so I’m pretty sure there’s an odd relationship between the workout moves and the way Swedish pop music sounds….

And finally, I’ve been going to spin class at my gym again, despite the temporary closure due to potential bankruptcy that quite literally happened overnight and lasted for a period of three days until some random dude(s) invested a boatload of money to keep it open. The front page of the gym website has also assured customers the gym workers will do their best to keep things going, all motivated by a less-than-inspiring and cheesy diatribe (c + p and run through GoogleTranslate…):

青鸟,我们在这里挥洒青春;
青鸟,我们在这里释放激情;
青鸟,我们在这里收获健康;
青鸟,我们在这里成就友谊;
青鸟,我们在这里忘记烦恼;
青鸟,我们在这里憧憬未来;
是你教会我们乐观向上,
是你鼓励我们迎接挑战,
是你锻炼我们意志坚强,
是你引导我们健康生活,
我们爱青鸟,我们爱这里,我们爱那充满活力的黄色手环!
在这危难的时刻,我们所有青鸟会员团结在一起,共同期待、深深祝福,愿昔日灿烂、辉煌、活泼、向上的青鸟坚强地挺过难关!
我们相信王者必将归来!

Nonetheless, I’ve also seen some signs that not all is well: the reception area is missing several regular employees, the nutritional supplements in the glass cases have been removed, and fewer classes on the fitness schedule. I’m not that worried yet because my precious 跑步机 (treadmills) are still there and will likely still be there if all else goes wrong, but I am worried about my favorite class 单车课 (RPM – spinning) getting canceled. I guess we’ll have to wait and see….

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