Back from Beijing.

DSC_1021Sebastien fought jet lag and a serious lack of training to successfully run the annual Great China Wall Half-Marathon. The kids and I tagged along for the long week-end to enjoy the sights (including the faces of those who had decided to try the full grueling marathon)….. and the meals!

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Naturally we tasted some of the local delicacies – and of course this included Beijing/Peking duck.  We enjoyed the wood-fired duck which was carved in front of us and which we then ate on pancakes with cucumber, scallion and hoisin sauce. The duck carcass was then taken away and fried with spices before being returned to the table.The flavor brought back distant memories of Kentucky Fried Chicken (only better).

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We also tried a lesser-known dish from Beijing: zha jiang mian. This is a dish of cold noodles onto which the waiter adds a series of vegetables and leaves the client with a bowl of pork sauce to add and mix at will. Very yummy

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We visited the usual suspects: the incredibly immense Tiananmen Square and Forbidden Palace, but also this lovely Heavenly Temple which was set in the middle of a bustling park which – like many of the parks here in China -was full of performers. People flying kites, playing music, singing (from karaoke to opera), doing tai chi, ball room dancing….. whatever it is that their small apartments prevent them from doing at home.

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One of our favorite things in Beijing were the ‘hutongs’ which were composed of grey-tiled houses built around courtyards and linked by  alleys crossing each other.  It was fun to get lost in the ‘maze’.

Off to France next week for a family wedding.

‘Shanghighs’: It was somewhat amusing to hear the locals in Beijing criticize their compatriots in Shanghai (and vice versa).  Apparently the people from Shanghai are ‘selfish, superficial and rude’.

‘Shanglows’: mosquitos are back

‘Shangunusuals’: with less than a week’s notice we were sent this explanation for closing the school today: “We have just been informed that the government has declared a public holiday for schools and government offices on Wednesday, 21st of May, in Shanghai.  The President of China, Mr. Xi Jinping, will come to visit Shanghai. He will hold a meeting on that day together with other important officials.” 

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Now these are really public toilets!

Afterlife

In China when a loved one dies it is common practice to burn paper representations of objects that the will be carried with them to the afterlife.
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so that the defunct won’t be strapped for cash.  You can even find ‘bank notes’ in different currencies!  For those relatives looking for  a gift with a more personal touch there seems to be plenty of options out there including houses, Yves Saint Laurent accessories and food:
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Shanghighs‘: I was dreading last week – the second week of school vacation – without the grandparents nor husband around  but the weather and air quality were great (relatively!) and the kids and I had a wonderful time.  We went to the zoo, visited  local parks -including one with sand pit, went swimming and had a number of play dates.
Now I’m dreading a little this week as I launch back into some Speech Therapy after several years.
Shanghlows‘: Antoine falling from his scooter  with subsequent trip to the doctor (sound familiar?).  Unlike his sister, he didn’t damage his teeth, but his tongue.  Our driver Ben nearly fainted when he saw the deep gash. Apparently tongues repair themselves very quickly without any intervention and Antoine didn’t seem too upset when the doctor ‘prescribed’ ice cream (cold food) for 2 days…nor when Ben took photos of his tongue!
Shangunusuals‘: I’m house hunting again!  As much as I love this house, the neighbor below complains regularly and very aggressively about the kids running around (which we try to limit as much as possible).  All of the other neighbors have been incredibly supportive which is nice but it doesn’t solve our problem.

Sneezy City

All of the beautiful Plane trees lining the streets of central Shanghai have been gradually shedding their seeds and causing trouble: widespread sneezing and itching eyes. My mother complained that she’d never sneezed so much but I don’t think that she regrets for a second her return visit to China. She enjoyed an exciting mix of reminiscing and discovering and dad enjoyed the ride.

Before my parents returned to Australia they were able to appreciate many things such as their grandchildren, tasty food, beautiful greenery and ……crowds: Their first real experience was in Qibao – a pretty water town dating back 1000 years (which sold numerous snacks such as chou doufu (stinky tofu) which lived up to it’s name)…..

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Busy street in Qibao

…then again whilst waiting in the long queue to go up Oriental Pearl Tower to get a 360 degree view of Shanghai (where Antoine was quite reluctant to walk out onto the glass floor )

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…and finally whilst driving to Moganshan on a public holiday (we were warned not to travel on national holidays and the 3-hour drive from Shanghai turned into a 5-hour one).  The drive was worth it for the novelty value of winding up a mountain road clearly constructed before cars were invented with drivers who clearly had limited experience (except for our driver Ben who we believe is the best driver in Shanghai). We were also able to enjoy the bamboo – walking through it by day and eating it by night (as May is the season to enjoy this delicious shoot)

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Shanghigh‘: Watching both my parents and children blossom in each other’s presence.

Shanghlow‘: Munching on a chicken foot – which was… well… as good as it looks.

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Shangunusual‘: For those of you who know my father, you’ll be amazed to see that he has got over his 50-year-refusal to eat pasta/noodles…..with chopsticks no less!

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