Sunday, August 30, 2009

Xiamen food plans

Spiffiest bathroom in a Xiamen restaurant - The House 2, Coffee St/Yundang Lu, near the Marco Polo hotel. Note: the coffee was horrible (they may be using Illy but it tasted like dark dishwater).

Cutest hole in the wall: Planttime - an alley off Zhong Shan Lu, near the main port to Gulangyu island. After looting the stacks of dvds in the green door store, I walked down the alley and saw this verdant looking front door, found myself in a cafe that served vegetarian food, painted in soft pink, cream, and green. I felt like I was in a Chinese shabby chic cafe. Food was passable, and the service gently respectful. Points for not allowing smoking, and a general sense of ease and comfort throughout the place. A good place to rest between shopping sprees and the heat, if you can find the place.

Points off to McDonalds (not sure if it's all the McD's in Xiamen) which touts itself as 24 hours but was closed when friends went there for a 3:30 am snack. No way would that ever happen in the Pinas. I sort of miss the neverending food delivery opportunities in Manila, not that I had many 2 am munchy moments. It's just the idea that if you want something, it will be delivered!

Avoid in the future: any of the ground beef burritos/enchiladas at Coyote, along Yundang Rd, near the Marco Polo. I don't know why the beef tastes like it was dried and reconstituted but there's nothing palatable about it. I might ask for a vegetarian one if I ever go back. However, the service there is very pleasant, the waiter remembered how I like my bloody mary's even if I'd only been there once before. And I'll definitely splurge 25 RMB for a large plate of nachos before heading into the hinterlands.

Heading into my last week here in Xiamen, I'm cooking for friends on my day off (Wed): adobo (will toss in some roast duck from the market with the chicken), bicol express (lots of chillis!), and maybe pinakbet. Friend E has a jar of bagoong in his ref so I could use it, with the help of Marketman's recipe (it won't be over a woodfire stove, but I'll use a clay pot to toss the vegies in). I toyed with the idea of making a guava sinigang since there's a lot of guava in season now, but that will take too much energy to boil the fruit, squeeze out all the essence and add souring agents. Meh.

Speaking of soups, why are the free soups that come with set meals here so insipid? To the point of being just hot water with some vegies tossed in it, who wants to drink something without any flavor? The little veg cafe Planttime (above) is probably the only place I found that had a flavorful free soup, it tasted rather meaty for a soup that was made with vegies and mushrooms.

Overheard - there's a pinoy resto in town near the Pan Pacific Hotel, strangely named Tuscany. I shall check it out tomorrow night.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Wet and wooly

There's been a larger than normal amount of western food taking a detour down my gullet of late, and is probably the reason my clothes are feeling like they are a tad tighter than a few weeks ago. While Xiamen is as chinese a city as any other, the more cosmopolitan opportunities make it easier to slip into a cafe for texmex greasy food and a drink, or giving into one baked potato laden with sour cream. Walking is still required, but the heat and humidity push me towards getting taxis more if I'm going out of my way to a cafe. If I were to stick to my walk to work and back without a detour, my wallet would be fatter, and not my belly.
Another blackhole has been purchasing a lot of dvds to keep me "sane" when I don't have anything to do. Bad excuse, it just sucks time away from being "productive" and in terms of liquidity wastes money.
Walking around in the humidity is not just a physical drain, but it makes my head feel waterlogged/sweatlogged. Emotionally I feel less happy in this environment, and not even a dose of caffeine seems to lift the spirits. I suspect it doesn't help that I've been surrounded by a lot of grouchy, menopausal, and strange people. So much disappointment and disdain, a litany of complaints about everything and everyone, are they affected by the heat or is it something about the environment that pushes people to grumble non-stop?
At least the void of animals up north is not the same here. I see people walking their dogs often, everyday, and other than the little gray cat who comes to us everyday after work (and who I wish to find a home), there hasn't been a week where I've not come across other well taken of cats. Yesterday I spotted two rivals, one black with white mittens and an orange tabby, both far from each other but the black one taking a serious yowl at the other when they glanced at one another. The houseware store down from where I'm living has a lovely calico with big round eyes, reminds me of J's cats in HK, and who has suffered my attentions a few times, the closest it lets me come near is a foot away if I have some kibble. Mr. Grey however is the one cat that rarely fails me, he is a sweetheart (if only men were as easy), and I do hope someone with a good heart cares for him permanently. It will be hard not to stuff him in my suitcase in a week's time.

Monday, August 24, 2009

things we have to do for a job

here's the scenario: late sunday afternoon, three higher level students, with a better grasp of english. lesson topic: stress management; i printed out meditation exercises, one on breathing, one on muscle relaxation. when we got to the muscle relaxation exercise, one of the instructions was "clench your butt, relax. Do three times."
so first of all - chinese have no butts, or very few that are worth mentioning
second, we're talking of a part of the body they try to avoid thinking about
third - they're like teenage boys when it comes to anatomical parts like the butt. You say butt, they laugh nervously
so I try to explain, they titter, and struggle to do the exercise
i try to say they can do this while standing in line, good for the posture, core yada yada
one girl says to me "but it will look strange!"
I tell her and try to show them that (pointing to my ass) "see? can you see if my butt is clenched? Nope!"
i'm standing sideways mind you, and one relatively buff guy is sitting in front, his eyes now forced to look at his english teacher explain that her butt is clenching, relaxing, clenching, relaxing

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saturday eats

9 am: one peach, a bit too firm, and not too sweet. More for crunch and aroma. It hasn't been a good summer for juicy, eat-over-a-sink peaches.

12:30 pm: a plate of jiaozi (pork and chive dumplings), got the large plate - 20 dumplings, for $1.50. A cold bottle of Sprite, I should bring my own Coke next time. Satisfying, perhaps too much so. Comfort food at its best.

1:00 pm: a large glass of chocolate milk tea. I wasn't sure it would work, and I still prefer regular milk tea, but it wasn't a bad way to cap my midday meal.

Contemplating dinner options, nothing attractive. I may have to wait till after work, maybe get one of the roasted chickens from the street grillers.

Was hit in the nostalgic solar plexus to find that the row of stores and restaurants that used to border the gate of Xiamen University and Nanputuo Temple are gone. Two years of walking up and down that path, buying cds, eating in the little eateries, gone. All the memories no longer have a place. The Uni is probably on an expansion fit again, or beautification roll. I think it leaves the atmosphere a bit lacking. But that's China for you. Neverending change.

Walked around Xiada, students will be flooding in in two weeks, so this is the perfect time to visit campus. Relatively quiet, a bit too hot and humid, but a pleasant walk down tree laden streets, and enjoyed strolling around the park. Walked down to the beach through a hidden path I remembered and it was as pleasant as ever. Nothing much changed down that walk. I would love to go back after a rainstorm, when the paths are wet, and the leaves carpet the way.

Monday, August 17, 2009

the proxy ate my post

The big C over here isn't just the country, but also the censors, who create barriers we must learn to jump over - good for the butt all that jumping. So to the proxies we go, trying one here, one there. Found one today that I thought would work, but it gave me access without the ability to write anything. I've found another one that might work, and it is through it that I am writing this post, a few weeks into August. Let us see if this will go through.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies