|pretty raw meats!|
|water lilies are edible! surprise!|
Somebody usually orders cow stomach (see?) and coagulated duck blood slices, and I will nibble on something of it partly to be courteous and partly to provide my Chinese friends with look-at-the-foreigner-gagging-on-food-we-think-is-totally-normal entertainment.
|I just… really hope they clean these things well.|
But then came the crowning event of the night….
|no caption can do this justice.|
oh yes. brains. pig brains. Now, I’m sure I’ve eaten brains in things before (let’s start–and stop–at sausages), but never a mouthful of pulsating, spongy brain. After it sat in the boiling broth for ~10 min to kill any parasites (wait… can that denature prions too?..) they pulled the ladle out and I ripped a chunk off with my chopsticks.
|open the grub gate!|
Sadly, it took me a few seconds to gather myself. When I gingerly popped it into my mouth, I chewed a few times and it wasn’t as chewy as I thought… I guess the other times I’ve played with brain was in physiology when it was fixed with PFA. But actually the feathery texture just made it worse so I swallowed it whole and willed it down my throat.
|imagine your teeth cutting into the frontal lobe…|
I stuck mostly to the safe grub for the rest of the night and thought frequently–while my sweet potatoes cooked in the spiced broth spiked with residual brain juices–of the blood, stomach, colon, and brain soup digesting in my own stomach.
It’s 11:30pm and I have to present in lab tomorrow. I have no slides completed. But I had planned on spending three hours tonight doing flow cytometry until my advisor told me that an alternative–and much faster/cheaper–method for determining nanoparticle uptake would suffice. So it’s like I have three FREE hours tonight –> I’m writing a blog post instead of finishing my presentation three hours early and actually sleeping tonight.
It’s Halloween! I’ve heard that eastern Beijing (the international part of town) actually has festivities, but at Beida, I haven’t seen so much as a fake cobweb. I don’t even love Halloween that much (though my favorite costumes growing up include X-Men’s Cyclops where I wore sweats and safety goggles, a homemade zombie outfit [it was awesome to rip up an old suit], the hiker guy from Double Rainbow, and “change you can believe in” where I glued coins to my shirt.) but it was a great opportunity to share a lil culture with my friends. and eat copious amounts of candy.
Kai and I rode bikes to the vast underground supermarket, Carrefour, in search of pumpkins. Not totally surprising, they had no jack-o-lantern-sized pumpkins, but just baby squashes for eating. Actually, at first we couldn’t find those and considered carving watermelons (which actually might be awesome/more delicious). I also raided the candy section and got gummies and chocolate.
Ok, I’ll just stop writing and just post the photos so that I can work on my presentation.
|Lemon cake. “But wait,” you say, “there aren’t ovens in China!” Well this is a microwave lava cake!!!|
|Room mate Bobby (yes, the 2nd Asian Bobby room mate I’ve had), Tanu, Lab mates Kai and Jie.|
|Lab mate Kai.|
When people make a to-do list for a visit to China, I think that the list goes like
|panda must hug prayer wheel!|
|panda loves cheesy Chinese poses (we actually did see this pose)|
|Not sure what I was thinking. Oh wait, I wasn’t thinking- THE HAT WAS CONTROLLING ME.|
|I guess my parents’d trade me for a panda any day.|
Just like my almost-was addiction to World of Warcraft, I was able to pull off the monster pretty quickly after this fiasco and returned to normal (for me).
|Exhibit A: Amazing Jump Pic abilities|
|this is a lil twist on the jump pic. think pairs’ ice skating.|
|okay, so sometimes our timing is off. but even olympic synchronized swimmers make mistakes!|
|These observers came over afterwards to look at the pictures.|
I love my iphone. That’s an understatement, really, considering how much we’ve gone through. Each generation has been my faithful companion, and the picture skills of the latest gen have really shone. However, well, sometimes there are limitations to the iphone. There, I said it. Although it’s better than any point-and-shoot I’ve ever had, I have no control over its camera functions except digital zoom and some focus.
|part of THE EGG|
Afterwards, I walked along the wall to the Forbidden City and got this shot.
and don’t worry, iphone and I are doing well. I won’t be sleeping on the couch tonight.
Update: Photowalk with Trey Ratcliffe of stuckincustoms.com a few days later. The sky was blue with scattered clouds (!) and I got some great shots:
A few weeks ago we held our annual faculty workshop for the joint venture in Bejing. As the program coordinator from the Atlanta side, I was fortunate enough to attend, and even more fortunate that the students allowed me to post a guest blog entry. Does this mean I’m famous?
The workshop began Sunday evening so I arrived in Beijing Saturday night. Fortunately I was on the same flight as Cheng, who knows just a little more about Beijing than I do. I spent part of Sunday in preparations for the workshop but also had a chance to meet up with Warren and Tanu, who by all accounts are taking the city by storm. They gave me a grand (but at the same time, abbreviated) tour of campus so I got to see their accommodations, one of the dining halls and Warren’s lab (apparently Tanu does not have a key to her lab yet . . . possibly because she is shady and untrustworthy?). While I was unsure exactly what to expect, their rooms did match up to the pictures we had seen in advance, so I found that reassuring. Where you live is such a huge part of your happiness in any setting, so I wanted to be certain we weren’t sending students to live someplace that would be completely unfamiliar and overwhelming. Both of them have single rooms, but Tanu is sharing her suite with 2 girls while Warren only has 1 roommate. Tanu also has an extra bed in her room which appears to be difficult to remove, but it’s a plus if she has any visitors. The suite bathrooms were absolutely “normal” by my biased Western standards and the main drawback to the living situation seems to be that there is no real way to prepare food in the suite, though it’s possible to keep a mini-fridge for a few necessities. I suppose with the average campus meal costing about $1, that’s not the end of the world.
On Monday I spent most of the day in the workshop, but Gilda and I were able to meet up with most of the Joint PhD students (the Beijing-based ones, of course, as well as Warren and Tanu) for dinner. We went to a restaurant inside a mall (I was trying to gauge if we were at the Applebee’s of Beijing) that was a definite experience, but in a good way. I think there were 16 of us total so we took up 2 tables, but we were nowhere near as disruptive as the large table next to us where several “kids” (probably college students, but they looked younger than that to me) were drinking heavily. (Sidebar: it turns out that we were in Beijing during the Autumn festival, so Monday was actually a holiday. By my unscientific observations, it seemed that most of the people who were out and about that night were college students which I attribute – again, with no factual backup whatsoever – to the fact that their families probably live too far for them to go home.) In any case, no one in our group ordered anything alcoholic, which surprised me a little, but not wanting to break any taboos I decided not to be the only one drinking and partook of some delicious plum juice instead. For a few of the dishes on the table, though, I could have used a beer to gather my courage.
When eating meals with the PKU faculty, we are somewhat sheltered because most of them were educated at exotic schools like “Duke” and “MIT.” By my sarcasm I’m trying to explain that the faculty are very familiar with Americans, what we do and don’t consider edible, and while there are always a couple of surprises on the table there are always a few things – like the cod we had eaten the night before – that even the most skeptical American eater can consume without fear. Going out with the students, I completely forgot — before food started arriving on the table — that none of them had been to the US before, so of course they had no clue what we would and wouldn’t want to eat. To be honest, most of it I sampled without asking about because I figured I might not want to know, but there were a few things I couldn’t get past. With apologies to Warren, I am stealing his photos . . .
After dinner Jialei treated Gilda and I to our first Chinese foot massage. It was, by all measures, amazing. And by the way, the foot massage is actually a foot, leg, hand, arm, head, shoulders and back massage. The three of us were in a room on our own with four chairs that were essentially a cross between La-Z-Boys and pedicure chairs (did I mention the hot foot soak?) and we each had our own personal masseuse. I think it was 90 minutes and, while I didn’t pay and my conversion of Chinese money isn’t that great, I estimated that it cost about $30. One thing I thought was interesting as we were walking around that night was that there were signs at several massage places advertising “blind masseuses.” Jialei explained to us that it’s a selling point because in theory, a blind masseuse would have a better sense of touch than the average person. Fasinating.
Tuesday brought lots more meeting time, followed by dinner with Cheng, Warren, and Tanu at a hot pot place. This was my first time eating hot pot and it was a lot of fun. Think fondue but slightly more exotic, and with many more options in terms of flavors. You select a couple of soups that cook at the table and then you dip everything else into those. So it was again a good meal for those of us with an American bias to fill up on the familiar (e.g. potatoes, shrimp) but still be able to sample some of the more unfamiliar dishes. Oh, and you can create your own sauce, not unlike when you go to Chow Baby in Atlanta and figure out what you want on your stir fry. (Yes, I realize Chinese hot pot existed long before Chow Baby. But not in my world.)
Wednesday was the final day of the official workshop and since the students and some of the faculty were busy with qualifying exams, I took the opportunity to go over to the medical school for the first time. The campus was actually really nice . . . very green and quiet even though it’s in the heart of the city. Dr. Pu was kind enough to show me around his lab and talk to me about the research he’s doing, which is pretty fascinating. After that I met up with Tanu and Warren for a little bit of souvenir shopping and a quick visit to PKU’s famous unnamed lake. (On a side note, the students happened to have an extra local cell phone for me to use during my visit and that was absolutely great. I’d recommend that anyone going over get a cheap local phone; otherwise it becomes very difficult to meet up. In fact, on that particular day we would have missed each other completely without phones because we were waiting on opposite sides of a giant street.) We wrapped up the workshop that afternoon and then went for a very fun dinner at Bai Jia Da Yuan, which was definitely a tourist trap but also pretty entertaining. I believe the idea was to feel like we were dining in the emperor’s palace, and there were lots of performances and photo ops throughout the night.
Thursday meant saying goodbye to Beijing (though several hours later than I’d planned, thanks to flight issues) and certainly I was happy to be heading back home. But it was a great trip and I’m excited for others to experience the city, especially our wonderfully enthusiastic students. They are lucky to have Warren and Tanu to show them the ropes!