tasty bytes from China

February 2011
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Human Origami
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 3:58 pm


In the states, I only thought I did yoga. I only thought I knew what an upward facing dog was panting about. But then, we moved to China.

It took about five months to find this studio which is transforming my body into human Origami. I learned about it at That’s the cyber hangout for westerners, letting us know where to find necessities such as burgers that aren’t made out of yak meat and good doctors for when they are. One of the reason it took so long to find a studio was just learning how to navigate the city. It’s almost as difficult as the Ashtanga class. Forget googling the address on MapQuest. Street signs and bus schedules are in Chinese. The few maps that are in English use a font that’s approximately the size of an atom. For my initial visit, I looked up the Yoga studio’s website, traced the address with my best penmanship, 人民中路11号天浩大厦四楼 and handed it to a cab driver. Actually, I handed it to several cab drivers. They took one look at the address, shook their heads, laughed, and handed it back. Maybe what I copied down wasn’t the address of the studio, but something else entirely. Closed on holidays?  Possible side effects include nausea, stiffness and bladder control? I’ll never know. Finally, I did what all westerners do in translation emergencies. It’s handing the phone to the cab driver, speed dialing a chinese aquaintence, and having them translate one’s transit needs. Anyway, the yoga studio is cool and super girly. The instructor looks like a Chinese version of Angelina Jolie. Beautiful and buff. She, like all of the other students, is as flexible as a rubber band, getting her body into poses I didn’t know was possible. The instructions are in Chinese but I’m holding my own. I wear my Ting Bu Dong shirt (meaning, I don’t understand what you’re saying). I do want to learn how to say, “Ain’t no way I’m twisting into that position”. LionStatue I am also making a few friends. They are learning a bit of English from me, I’m gleaning a bit of Chinese from them. Namaste.

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Stone or Stoned Forest?
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 10:09 pm


Sometimes I wonder if Satan slipped God some acid during the seven days of creation.

That would give explanation to the zebra, platypus and Kunming’s Stone Forest looks. Or as I call it, the Stoned Forest.

This natural park is one of the trippiest places I’ve seen, looking like a life size version of the Silly Sand Kit I had in the Sixties.

Full of treacherous steps, crevices and rock formations, it’s not the place to wear stiletto heels. But of course, that’s what many of the Chinese Fashionistas wore.

We climbed up and down nature’s version of a Stair Master, waking up hibernating butt muscles. Some of the stairs wound through nooks and crannies smaller than you’d find on an English muffin.

We felt like we were starring in our own personal version of 127 hours.

Luckily, we didn’t have to remove any of our limbs. Only our hats.  .

Our pics say more than words. You can view more of “our words” at


That person in the Chinese hat is me. I had to turn my head sideways to fit through some of the narrow passage ways.



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SuperBowl Monday
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 8:15 pm


It just doesn’t have the right ring to it.

Anyway, in China, that’s what we celebrated, rooting for Green Bay, with festivities kicking off at 7 am Monday morning.

And yes, you can watch the SuperBowl in China. Well, sort of. There are many sites that streamline live sport events to the handful of Westerners in Asia. But, as soon as they pop up, they are shut down by Homeland Security, like this one.

Gee, I’m glad my tax dollars are being spent thwarting football fans in China instead of hunting down terrorists or other national threats.

Anyway, there are a handful of Packer fans that teach at my school. Rumor had it there would be SuperBowl party, showing the streamlined game on a big screen in one of the classrooms.

The price of entry to the party was a breakfast item that didn’t contain dog meat.

You could wear pajamas if you’d like.

Well, not only did I make homemade banana muffins for the occasion, I scored a bag of Big Scoop Fritos, in China, the weekend before Superbowl Monday.

Yes, there is a God. Don’t ask me how much I paid for the ultimate white-trash, SuperBowl-Must-Have snack.

So I showed up at school on a day off—at 7 am—with my muffins and my extravagant bag of Fritos.

But just like the kid who treks to school on a snow day, I showed for the party and no one else was there! So I walked the long five minutes home (mild Kunming weather), crawled back into bed, and streamlined the game with Jeff, crossing our fingers that the feds wouldn’t close down the site before the last quarter. 

Yes, we ate Fritos in bed. All of them.

And yes, it was fun.

So here’s to outsmarting homeland security.

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Chinese New Year. The morning after.
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 11:44 pm


If there is one word to describe China, it’s unsupervised. Unsupervised children crossing busy streets. Unsupervised dogs that have never seen a leash. Unsupervised toddlers pooping in the gutters. Unsupervised restaurant kitchens who have never heard of a health inspector. Unsupervised drivers honking their horns while speeding down the sidewalk. But nothing is more unsupervised than Chinese New Year.

Imagine a firework display going on from 7:30 pm to 3 am in the morning. Not just any firework display, but Disneyland’s on Steroids. Non-stop, sounding like a popcorn popper filled with M80s turned up a gazillion decibels.

Our apartment gave us a panoramic view of the spectacle including displays across Lake Dianchu, across the city, to across our residential complex. There was so much light from the fireworks, you could read a book.

Jeff was tempted to put on sun block.

While the skyline was crazy…the sounds—must were like a warzone. Kabooms of multicolor fireworks blossoming in the sky punctuated by car alarms, nervous dogs whining and whistling sounds of missiles.

The show wasn’t done by pryo-fessionals with city permits. The fireworks were launched by unsupervised everyone, including neighbors, kids and old ladies.

About 3:30 am, the sky show was over. But at 6 am, the firecrackers began, probably by annoyed neighbors who couldn’t sleep. It was unbelievable. The firecrackers are continuing today.

The smell of gunpowder fills the air like Lysol in a public john.

Our eardrums will never be the same.

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Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 4:34 pm

It’s the Chinese New Year in China. While officially 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit, I disagree. It’s the Year of Pyrotechnics. On every corner, fireworks stands line the street like the Great Wall of China, selling bottle rockets the size of Yule Logs.
Grape-fruit sized cherry bombs, foot-long sparklers, multi-color fountains, sizzling missiles, spinning wheels, poppers and other eardrum crackers.
They’ll allow this here, but not facebook?
We stopped at a stand, one with a fire extinguisher out front. Like that would make a dent in the explosion. The guy working the counter was smoking a cigarette. He borrowed a lighter from a four-year-old who was aiming his sputtering Roman Candle at street traffic.
Good thing the propane delivery guy had a day off.
While there were celebration strings, containing up to 5,000 firecrackers for five thousand future Miracle Ear customers, we passed.
Somewhere, we’ll find a stand that sells spares fingers.
Trying to escape the madness of the street, we went to Wal-Mart. Now If you think Wal-Mart is nuts in the States the week before Christmas, try going to a Wal-Mart in China the week before the Chun Jie.
Note: It was Jeff’s idea.
Special holiday displays included pyramids of gold foiled rabbits and fish (for luck) and gold chocolate coins. There were piles of traditional Chinese candies, including White Rabbit—their albino version of a Toostie Roll that tastes like a shoe string but will cause havoc on your fillings just the same.


We squeezed through the narrow aisles, our noses greeted by the smell of dried duck, shriveled sausage, salted fish, and withered legs of pig adorned with more course hairs than a neglected bikini line. There was Chinese liquor galore, otherwise known as turpentine in an ornate bottle.
We searched for the perfect Chun Jie gift–gold foiled wrapped earplugs. We couldn’t find any.
We don’t know if there’s a Chinese Dick Clark who will be dropping a big eggroll in Tiananmen Square at midnight. We’ll find out soon enough.

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