2014-Opera-10

Beijing Opera (京剧) Was Surprinsigly Pleasant

I have to admit, I decided to go watch a Beijing Opera show just because it’s something you have to do at least once if you live in China. Words like “ear-splitting screeching”, “high pitched moaning bitch” and other colorful descriptive attributes were the ones used by all my friends who chose, unsuspecting, to attend a performance.

Needless to say I was expecting to have to get drunk to enjoy it, and it is exactly the mindset I had when I arrived in the hotel-restaurant (!!!) where the show would be performed. Thanks to Theatre Beijing we managed to get heavily discounted tickets for the show, so we ended up with a VIP table, right in fromt of the stage.

Regarding the show itself, it was three little scenes, in what I guess is a version adapted for tourists and foreigners:

Two fighters, possibly blind or fighting through a very thick fog (maybe a take on what KungFu would look like if Beijing Air doesn’t improve?). I’m making that assumption since they were looking for each other, even though they were standing merely a meter from each other. Then again, I might not have the needed abstract mind to correctly grasp the codes of this particular type of art.

An enamored young lady chasing her lover and bartering her way down the river with a jolly old rower. She was indeed a “high-pitched moaning bitch” :-)

A monarch and his queen, entranched in their castle, surrounded by enemies and hearing the gloomy news of defeat after defeat, until eventually they have to flee, and the queen sacrifices herself to help (and maybe finally be over with) him.

All in all, it was a very pleasant night, and I didn’t even have to get drunk! I’ll definitely have to try a “regular” show though. I heard there’s having representations of the Farewell My Concubine spectacle, it might be worth seeing this one.

2014-GuiJie-6

A Stroll Through Ghost Street

Ever since we moved to the Lama Temple Area, I’ve been meaning to try the infamous “Ghost Street Hotpots”.Now “Ghost Street” (鬼街) is not the real name of the road. It is the part of Dongzhimen Inner Street (东直门内大街)that is leading to the Beixinqiao(北新桥)subway station.

The origin behind the nickname is actually quite interesting: during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) each city gate had a very specific use. Since Dongzhimen (literally “The East Gate”) was used for taking dead people out of the city, the graveyard was, at the time, located just outside the gate. As a result, the street scene was filled with coffin stores, and the area nicknamed “The Ghost Market”.

Nowadays the scenery is much more joyful, since only restaurants (serving hotpot, crayfish and lobster, among other delicacies) have set shop in the area. Incidentally, you can find two different writings for “Gui Jie”: 鬼街 and 簋街. While the first one literally means “Ghost Street”, it was deemed unauspicious to keep the Ghost word in a restaurant street, so they swapped it for the similar-sounding 簋, which refers to an ancient cooking ustensil, used to carry grain during sacrifical ceremonies. Much better!

How the French stick changed my life

This is what I miss the most in China.
Not Cheese, not Wine… We can find those in Carrefour, or at French Butchers (yep, they sell cheese here haha)…

But a crusty, pas trop cuite baguette…
The only baguettes I’ve found here are so-so at best :-(

FranceSays

Creative CommonsYou are looking at one of the reasons  we moved to France. Bread, aka le pain. It’s a quality-of-life thing: we figured that even if we had to put our careers on hold, at least we’d be able to enjoy fresh bread every day. Lovely, crusty, light-as-a-feather baguette right out of the oven. Sans preservatives, as I memorably informed my late mother-in-law.

There is a boulangerie on every street corner in Paris and at least one in every village. In thousands of mom-and-pop shops from Nantes to Nice, the baker is at the ovens in the wee hours every morning, and you can buy a warm baguette from about 6:30 a.m. Such unfailing devotion is encrusted* in the very fiber* of le boulanger.

One of my first challenges in France was being able to go into the local bakery and buy what I wanted. There…

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Anytime Workout

When I saw “Strengthens the Core” I thought it would be a very nice addition to my Runtastic Six-Pack Program, so I set upon trying it while brushing my teeth.

I didn’t feel it too much in the Core, but I have realized I have a SERIOUS balance problem. I kept wriggling on my foot, couldn’t stand still for more that 8 seconds, etc.

I still have to determine if it’s a lower body issue or a core one, but I definitely have to work on all this. This is now the position I’ll assume anytime I brush my teeth. Who know, maybe it’ll work my core as well, and I’ll see results from the Six-Pack Workout come in faster :-)

Cooking with Kathy Man

Exercise that Improves the Balance and Strengthens the Core

  1. Start standing on your right foot. Engage your right bum muscle to keep yourself stable.
  2. Place the inside of your left foot on the inside of your right leg, above the knee. Press into your right leg so that you engage your left inner-thigh muscles. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs and feet.

Source: The Globe and Mail

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Running in Beijing

And there I thought I had passed on New Year Resolutions… But as soon as I landed in Beijing, I started running again. At a very slow pace, and short distances at first, mind, but still it’s something.I had to do something about the excess of fat I gained during my 4 weeks spent in France. Foie Gras, Champaign and all kind of sweet pastries are not compatible with how fit I aim to be.

So I used Jet Lag and the absence of L, who stayed in France while her visa was being issued, to go running early in the morning. I was the first surprised, but it’s feeling good. I’m now at week 5 of a 8-week training plan to get myself to run 5K races (when is the Color Run coming to Beijing again, puh-lease?), and I’m proud to say that I’m lacing my trainers at least thrice a week.

But it’s not always easy running in Beijing. Most parks are requiring us to pay an entry fee, and the rare free ones are too small to be interesting. Hitting the road is not convenient, for a peculiar specificity of the Chinese traffic law: cars have right of way over pedestrians, how crazy is that?? And right now Winter has become quite harsh, with strong wind chills and sub-zero temperatures.
Today was not even too windy, so I cancount myself lucky

But the worst for a runner, cyclist, or whoever aims at exercising outdoor in Beijing is the Air Quality. Though it had been okay for the beginning of the year, with Spring Festival and the firework craze, it has become very hazardous to practice any outdoor activity at all. Even going to work and walking to the subway station requires me to wear a particle filtrating mask.
After all, who wouldn't want to run outside and experience SERIOUS HEALTH EFFECTS

All that combined, I don’t really enjoy running outside in Beijing, especially in our current neighborhood where the only available kinda green spot is a very narrow path alongside the Tonghui River, path only accessible for a mere 1.75 km… I can’t wait to move over to the Lama Temple area, as I’ll have access to the much bigger (but not free) Ditan (Temple of Earth) Park. Until then, I’m hitting the treadmill at the local gym, and dream of spring and clean air…

Beijing’s Central Business District – 国贸

Pentax K30, SMC-Pentax M 28mm F22, ISO 100, 30", HDR (EV -0.3, 0, +0.3)

We have a great view of the CBD from our apartment windows, but unfortunately we can’t open the windows completely. So I had -with the enebriated help of a friend- to break the door allowing access to our rooftop.
The view there was much better (7 stories higher) and it was the perfect conditions for a long-exposure shot (30 seconds) of the light show being offered.

A Day at the Temple (Weekly Photo Challenge: Everyday Life)

The Yonghe Lamasery (otherwise known as the Yonghe Temple or 雍和宫 yōnghégōng) is one of the best places to hang out for a restful time in Beijing, right behind the Summer Palace (颐和园 yīhéyuán) and the Temple of Heaven (天坛 tiāntán).

Yonghe Lama Temple - Grandmother and child

What’s beautiful with those scenic buildings in China is that you not only find annoying tourists (I plead guilty !) but also regular Chinese families enjoying a good time together. In the Yonghe Lamasery, you can come across regular people going on about their everyday life, ranging from supervising their free-roaming children to offering incense to deities or ancestors.

Yonghe Lama Temple - Praying