Santa’s Kohanic Chinese Reindeer

Fulbright Holiday Dinner

Farewell until Jan. 3 and wish us luck…It’s a 27-hour soft-sleeper train to Chengdu in Sichuan. After pandas & local sights, plan is 4 days on the Tibetan plateau, in villages &, if all goes well, a homestay with nomads where we are told the kids can help herd the yaks. If they (or I) get altitude sickness, up above 11,000′, we’ll do day trips from an “edge” town lower down.

Holiday Peking duck dinner (with the kohanic children and Fulbrighter Mark Hursty–RISD/Brown!–a glass artist at Alfred, doing the Fulbright at Tsinghua U, promoting collaboration in studio glass blowing with Beijing’s burgeoning contemporary Chinese art movement) was at Yan Can Cook, owned by the chef with the tv show. The slow-paced, family-style turntable service was, again, impossible for the kids to withstand (spinning, grabbing, impatience), even though it must’ve been the 99th time, incentives & punishments were in place, lectures had been given beforehand, and I didn’t send them in hungry. People seem to be getting used to them, I guess. The educational-exchange official who once commented, “Can we get them a padded room?” was there and thank god, the “padded room” line has at least turned into a running joke.

Mark and his wife will housesit our apt & I look forward to a deeper understanding of the art scene here, through him, this spring.

A very merry Kohanic Chinese Christmas to all.

Hanukkah

Class lunch. We talked a little about the Wukan demonstrations.

Frozen lake. The light is so different now.
Latkes & sufganiyot at Beijing’s Israeli restaurant. It’s impossible to find sour cream, applesauce, baking powder; thanks to Avi, owner of Bite A Pitta. (We talked with his son Bar, who attends Princeton).


Kids’ first-night gift: chops (signature seals).

So clear we saw stars tonight for the first time in China.

A Pesonal Summary Of Me (in Chinese Characters)


Nǐ hǎo wǒ de míngzì shì kěn ní. Wǒ lái zì měiguó. Wǒ huì jiǎng yīngwén. Wǒ zhù zài běijīng.
你好我的名字是肯尼。 我来自美国。 我会讲英文。 我住在北京。
Hello my name is Kenny. I am from America. I speak English. I live in Beijing.

Wǒ yǒu yīgè xiǎo de dìdì li sēn. Wǒ xiào zài běijīng wèi yīngguó xuéxiào.
我有一个小的弟弟李森。 我校在北京为英国学校。
I have a little brother Ethan (Li sen). I got to school the British School of Beijing.

Wǒ de māmā shì yīgè zài běijīng wàiguóyǔ dàxué de lǎoshī. Wǒ bàba shì tǒngjì xué jiā. Zàijiàn
我的妈妈是一个在北京外国语大学的老师。 我爸是统计学家。 再见
My mom is a teacher at Beijing Foreign Studies University. My dad is an actuary. Good-bye.

Beijing in Blue 今天北京蓝色


By Ethan

This blog is in Chinese.

今天北京蓝色

我们去东辰的鼓楼和钟楼

从塔的顶部,我看到我们住的地方

在胡同里,我们买了一个旧算盘

我们去的胡同,看见一个湖泊

Today Beijing was blue.
We went to the Drum and Bell Tower in Dongchen.
From the top, I saw where we live.
In the hutong, we bought an old abacus.
From the hutong, we went to a lake.

Lambie liked the blue day in the Beijing hutong.

NOTE: Thanks, Google Translate!

Chinese Santa

We know Santa Claus is 中国 (Chinese). We met him in a hotel, hunting for food in the Olympic Park ghost town. (I blew a week’s food budget on bar snacks. At least Santa gave out dessert). We were in the area for a big charity concert at the Indoor National Stadium celebrating Chinese-American educational exchange, with Black Eyed Peas Will i am and ap.l.de.app — didn’t know he was Filippino. Also soul singer John Legend, Chinese pop stars Coco Lee (who intriguingly stood in for Fergie) and pop chanteusse Shunze. It benefitted APSA, Americans Promoting Study Abroad.

And because America cares about minority rights noncontroversially, Chinese ethnic/folk minority artist Sa DingDing opened. A stunning Mongolian who sings in Tibetan and Sanskrit while banging huge drums and whirling like a dervish — I loved her.

Fulbrighters got tix, to treat our students. Between acts, videos about young Americans who’d studied in China — all African-Americans from either projects or poorest rural America, transformed by the experience. Clearly Obama/Hillary’s “100,000 Strong” initiative, to send that many Americans to learn in China, means to take a new sort of student overseas.

Along with Motorola, Jackie Chan sponsored, but didn’t show.

Another cultural celebrations: my school’s journalism department awards ceremony. My incredible student Yilei performed a 20th century composition on violin. We love him, on and off the stage. With his roommate Vince, the boys’ tutor.

A few other Chinese cultural moments this week, now that the boys are done & I”m playing hookey a bit. Dancers on a winter’s day, with live musicians, in Beihai Park in the heart of Imperial Beijing. The Party is the new emperor and the Party elite’s ultra-exclusive housing, beside the Forbidden City, is the new palace, my kids reminded me, but I also need to remind them: remember China in recent years lifted 600 million people out of poverty.

Dancing at a Beihai Park pavillion on lake

The same winter’s day, taich’i practitioners nearby; Ethan tried joining. He knows a couple dozen characers now and using them, read enough of a restaurant receipt to figure out what was missing from our order. I almost fell over.

This picture is in every Beijing tourist’s photo album; the large white Tibetan temple in the middle of Behai Park’s lake is covered in ceramic Buddhas. I hope more American exchange students, and teachers, of all races, come here and get to take this picture.

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Visit to the Traditional Chinese Medical Clinic

Sick of being sick, coaxed by Betty & Geri, I let my student take me to the campus clinic. First came payment: 50 cents U.S. That’s full price, as I hadn’t brought proper faculty ID. Seeing the doc NORMALLY COSTS A DIME.

The door sign read “Traditional Chinese Medicine.” The doctor was sweetly round, about 65. She felt my wrist pulse a long, long, long time. She looked at my throat with a conventional plastic flashlight, and checked out my tongue. We discussed my bowels (embarassingly with my student translating), even though my problem is a deep cough.

Rx: Forgoing life’s 3 staples: Coffee, chocolate, spicy food. My lungs are imbalanced–too hot. Counterintuitively, I must drink hot water. And 2 or 3 times a day, take my Chinese meds: A ping pong ball that pops open, Pokemon-like, to reveal a gooey bitter black ball of Yangyin Qingfei Wan. Then I drink 2 tiny tubes of coal-ish, herby lanqin. And 10 ml of a sweet syrup, Qiangli pipalu.

A bit curious (what would Dr. Rosenberg say?), I consulted the National Institutes of Medicine’s great PubMed archive, the National Library of Medicine. At least one widely-cited immunology study mentions lanquin–being tested in mouse pneumonia. More conventionally, it’s used for laryngitis, which I have. Yangyin Qingfei Wan, the nasty chews, are being studied in Asia for preventing lung infection after lung cancer radiation. Its made of figwort root, licorice root, white peony root, dwarf lilyturf root, raw rehmannia root, wild mint herb, moutan bark…etc. Roots & barks. In short, it’s for coughing. Which I’m doing. It’s used here for people with tuberculosis.

Finally Qiangli pipalu–papaverine–a respiratory antiviral, has been tested in the U.S. in infants with RSV (a bit too toxic), as well as against HIV. There are lots of publications. It’s a phlegm eliminator effective against bronchitis.

In a word: Excellent.

ParkGiant Pandas! Bamboo!

Our overseers, the university’s Foreign Experts Office, hauled a busload of us to a holiday kungfu show. The performance was underwritten by the municipality of Beijing. World champs displayed snake style, drunken style, monkey style, swords, strung together with a search-for-elusive-panda plot. The stage backdrops were computer-generated, floor-to-ceiling projections of flying through a futuristic, neon Beijing…eerily emptied of cars and people.

Impossible not to think for a moment this post-neutron-bomb scenario enacted a fantasy/dream wish-fulfillment for the sponsor (city hall). It can’t be easy running this place…

Afterwards, the ritual we’ve grown accustomed to: big posed group photos, here with the martial artists–some of whom managed their gravity-defying moves in giant panda costumes. That can’t be easy, either.

Purple Bamboo Park, old bridge

Just outside the park

Bamboo grows in city as well as forest. So we learned walking in a direction we’d never gone before–sideways, on the Third Ring Road. After 15 minutes of overpasses and skyscraper vistas, we hit a scruffy, slouchy, century-old red Buddhist temple on a canal (dwarfted by modernity, a Chinese “Little Red Lighthouse”). Behind it, well hidden, was Purple Bamboo Park–lake, pavillions, bridges, and many large stands of bamboo. Bamboo, said a sign quoting a classical Chinese poem, symbolizes

“Uprightness, imperviousness to flattery, and the ability to emerge unstained from filth.”