I realized that while I’ve written several blog posts recently, few have detailed what actually is happening in my life here in Rebgong. So without further ado, here are some highlights/memorable moments from the past several weeks.
- Going on an absurdly beautiful hike up the local sacred mountain and down the other side into a beautiful forest where the foliage was exploding from the trees.
- On the weekend of Brooke’s birthday, I arranged for four friends from Xining to come down and secretly set them up in a beautiful valley up in the mountains not far from town. I had told Brooke that I would take her to a little restaurant in a village that I’d found while on a run the week before. I brought her up to the valley and, arriving on foot to find four friends and a rather lush picnic set up in a high remote valley, shocked the shit out of her. Great afternoon, all told.
- I got into my first-ever-in-China conversation about penis size with a local. Or, to specify, with a sixty-odd year old Tibetan man. In the square in front of the monastery, next to a statue of the goddess Tara (Drolma). Within two minutes of meeting, he had decided that I should marry his daughter because “your salary is too low, and she can help you.” But then he decided the match may be unsuitable because “foreigners’ gagas are too big for Chinese women to handle”. And off we went from there…for nearly a half-hour before I was rescued by Brooke.
- Last Saturday was a Wednesday, for no apparent reason. We found out late Friday night. I’m sure the school, being knowledgeable about American culture and sensitive to my Judaism, wanted to prepare a shabbat surprise for us.
- This past Wednesday was the “歌手大赛” or, to translate the gist rather than the exact meaning, “Huangnan #2 Nationalities Middle School Idol.” Through what has been described as “a painstaking process” of in-class auditions, each class selects one to two students to represent them in an all-school singing contest. What ensues is basically glorified KTV, on stage with an elaborate light system and earsplitting musical backup emanating from the speakers, which, due to their extreme volume, seemed implanted in my ears. As the students have been practicing on their own (without the benefit of KTV), many are singing to the beat in their own heads rather than the beat of the accompaniment, with the result that most of these Idols are off-tempo within the first few bars. It can be painful to watch everyone from some of your favorite, most earnest students to swaggering, strutting self-proclaimed school Idols singing confidently two bars and a half-step off from the blasting soundtrack, but that’s just what we, embedded deeply into the audience to prevent our escape, had to watch – for two and a half hours (and on our only weeknight without a night class). To be fair, some acts were pretty good. But leave your musical ear at home.
- I got a strange stomach ninja virus this week. But don’t worry, I roundhouse kicked the shit out of it and it’s now gone away to find others.
- I went on a particularly long and memorable run deep into the mountains that resulted in me getting lost (and found), partially covered in mud and mildly hypothermic on the twilight descent. But it was stunningly beautiful and strongly recommended – just start earlier than I did and bring warm clothes.
- The snow line has been creeping slowly and steadily down the mountainside; this morning, it was immediately above town. But now that we have heat (at select hours), we will be able to weather any storm. Although heat and running water seem for some reason, to be mutually exclusive.
- I bought a massive yet beautiful Tibetan jacket! It is amazingly warm and I am extremely excited (though a bit self-conscious) about wearing it.
- Brooke and I have been experimenting in the kitchen, and thinking about creating a cookbook entitled “Experimentations: Western Cooking in Rural Western China”. I’ve also been thinking about opening a gourmet baozi restaurant in some American city and continuing in the country’s proud tradition of transforming cheap, quotidian, working-class eats into extravagant, gourmet-and-Wall-Street-financier-only-priced delicacies. Our recent creations include chicken curry empanadas (with challah dough), tortillas (homemade), quesadillas, chocolate-pear cake, and (best of all) chocolate baozi. If you have not tried chocolate baozi, go home NOW and make them. They are spectacular.
- And lastly, also on the cooking front, local/Hong Kong wild lady Sybil, who is connected to two rather delicious restaurants in town, left for Hong Kong several weeks ago but reminded the world in a mass email that Brooke was to be making her pear tree’s 2nd annual batch of pear brandy. So last weekend, Brooke and I went to the Gu-chu cafe (one of the restaurants) and loaded up a vat with sixty chopped pears, sugared water, and four bottles of 95% medical grade alcohol (bought from the 西宁医药业有限公司 Xining Medical Supply Company, Ltd.). Apparently, they used the same recipe last year and it worked fine. We’ll see after two months…
That’s about it. Lastly, please vote for my pictures on the Lonely Planet Lost in Translation Engrish sign contest! Any of the photos labeled “Deenah L.”, “Walt C.” or “Jonas C.” are mine. And while I’m not even sure if the contest is vote-based, I’d really like to win the ipad – those gadgets are great for studying Chinese and Tibetan.
That’s my little bit of advertising and greed for the day. I will update again soon with something less concrete and more wishywashyquakerjewhippie than this.