Steve's China Blog

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas in Maryland

Merry Christmas! I'm back in the US for the holidays. I had not posted anything for a few weeks since I was getting busy for my trip. There were a few things that happened in that time (besides work and packing)... One weekend I went out looking for some gifts to take back with me, but ended up spending too much time looking for Zhu Zhu Pets. A friend of mine named Angel helped me look for them, but we never found any.

Angel took me to see a movie at the theater in Wanda Plaza after our fruitless search for toys. We saw the movie Treasure Hunter, which has a lot of big name Chinese stars. The story was sort of silly, but the special effects were good. The next weekend I took Angel out for dapanji, and Reese and her boyfriend joined us. That was really good since I had not had dapanji in awhile. I took Angel out to dinner the evening before my trip back to the US. It was Dong Zhi (winter solstice), and most Chinese around Chengdu like to eat lamb, dog, and/or dumplings. Angel didn't want any lamb or dog meat, so we had fish hotpot. It was a wonderful dinner to have before going on my trip.

My flight back to the US left Chengdu at noon on the 23rd, and I had connections in Beijing and Chicago before landing at National Airport in Washington DC. The flight from Beijing to Chicago landed late, as we kept circling around waiting to land. After I got through customs I had to check my luggage back in, and I checked on the status of my flight to DC. since the flight to DC was scheduled to start boarding 10 minutes ago, I figured I was going to miss that flight but that flight was delayed too. I had to wait around Chicago airport for a little over 2 hours before our flight finally took off.

It was nice coming back into DC. The skies were clear and the city and surrounding towns were all lit up. It looked really beautiful. There was snow on the ground too, and I had not seen that much snow in several years, so that was nice to see. When the plane landed it was a little after 11:00pm, which was around noon back in Chengdu so I had been traveling for 24 hours. My parents picked me up and we drove back to their house. We saw about 5 or 6 deer outside my parents neighborhood during the drive. I wish I could have gotten a picture of them but it was too dark, and I wanted to get to the house and get some sleep.

Today is Christmas and I'm just relaxing today. My brother Jay and his son Nicky are flying up this afternoon from Raleigh. Can't wait to see them. This will be the first Christmas that the family has all been together in 5 years, so I'm really looking forward to it. You all have a great Christmas!

Friday, December 11, 2009

8 Trees

On Thursday afternoon I got a message from a friend of mine named Sophia who was wondering if I had plans for the evening. I told her I didn't have any plans, and she invited me to dinner. Later that evening I went and met her at a place here called 8 Trees Wine Bar for a dinner and wine tasting. This was the first time I had been to this place, and it was very nice. For dinner we had:

Garden salad, with La Jalle Rouge 2006 - Bordeaux Red
Chicken sauté et Provence style tomatoes, with Lacaze 2006 - Bordeaux Superieur Red
Cheese and fruit, with Remparts Figeac 2005 - Saint-Emilion Grand Cru

The food was very good and the wine was excellent. There were about 2 dozen people who showed up for the dinner. Most were from Europe. The people that Sophia and I sat with were from France, and luckily most of them could speak English so we had a good conversation all evening.

I think the 8 Tree is named for the trees that are out front. They provide a nice shady cafe-like setting when the weather is nice, and I'm hoping to go try that out when spring comes. The 8 Trees is also right next to the only Catholic church in Chengdu, and I was told that it was actually part of the church a long time ago.

When Sophia and I left we walked around to the front of the church, and it was very pretty. Sophia wanted to give me a ride home on her electric scooter, but it was too cold to ride on that so I took a taxi home. I also didn't want her to drive me all the way to my apartment, and then have to drive all the way to her home on such a cold evening.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Thanksgiving dinners

I was talking to a friend a few days before Thanksgiving about places that serve turkey in Chengdu, and he told me that the best place to go was Peter's Tex-Mex. They had reservations there for Friday night, and that I could come join them and bring a friend as well. I asked Kitty to come along, and since she had never had turkey before she wanted to go.

They had two dinner set menus for Thanksgiving. We both had the traditional dinner which included: hot mulled apple cider, pumpkin soup, waldorf salad, roast turkey, mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, sweet potatoes, gravy and cranberries, pumpkin pie or key lime pie, tea or coffee. It was very good! Kitty didn't care much for the turkey, but liked the rest of it.

On Saturday some friends called me and wanted to go out to the Cotton Club that evening. I decided to go with them, but couldn't stay out late since I was on call for work. We decided we wanted to go out some place to eat before going out clubbing, but where should we go? Well, Peter's has a place right near the Cotton Club, so we went there! ShiBun is from China and Michael and Al are from France, so they have never had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner so that is what we all had. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the dinner a lot.

After dinner we went over to the Cotton Club for a few drinks and some chatting. It was kind of funny... ShiBun speaks Chinese and Japanese, but her English is a bit so-so. Michael speaks French, English and his Chinese is ok. Al can speak French and English but his Mandarin Chinese is poor. I can speak English, but my French is poor and my Chinese is so-so. There was a lot of translating going on whenever anyone said something. It was a fun and very interesting evening.