Showing posts from 2011

Shanghai Farm Dream

A week ago this morning my neighbors graciously allowed me to go to their farm in the field across from our complex.  I have watched the evolution of farms here for over a year. Before that, it was a field of about 30 acres which will inevitably be developed someday. And unfortunately I can see some changes already happening.  But as for now, less than a quarter of this land is now small gardens.  This land was all farms not too long ago and the people who live in my "community" as it's called were the farmers who were given properties here.  I had been curious about who the farmers were:  the little farms are just far enough away it's hard to make out the people very well.  Now I know that the farm closest to my view is my next door neighbors'!

One day several weeks back I found out my next door neighbors were some of the people farming here, growing many kinds of vegetables like winter melon, bok choi, cabbage, garlic, cilantro, radishes, chillis and sweet pota…

Tianjingshan, Zhejiang Province

Mountain tofu
Twenty four hours on a mountain in Zhejiang, about 2 hours' drive outside of Hangzhou, my friend and I stayed in a cabin at an organic farm.  We watched tofu being made from soybeans grown there, soaked overnight.  Then, we drank the soymilk for breakfast and had some of the tofu during lunch. It was incredible to breathe some fresh mountain air and to experience the serenity & tranquility that only a mountain can provide. Thank you to the FC Club of Shanghai for organizing the excursion.
The top bit inside the cheesecloth gets thrown out. Underneath it became the hot soymilk we had for breakfast. There is a wood fire beneath the tofu.  There is another kind of bumpy liquid in the wooden vat on the floor which is put into a box and cooked over the fire after the milk is removed.  This finally becomes the tofu.


Ok, it has taken me 39 years and 51 weeks to figure out that I can make yogurt at home and wow am I excited about that!  I read several recipes for it on the internet and was not too sure about using Paul's milk imported from Australia, the boxed irradiated variety with no preservatives, coupled with an oven that lets me set it at about 42 degrees C but is hard to maintain for 6 hours.  Wow wow wow - so happy that it actually worked!  If you like yogurt I would encourage you to try it at home. The taste is very nice & they say you can incubate it longer if you like it more tart.  A lot of what I do in the kitchen in Shanghai is an experiment of one kind or another and many things get thrown out instead of eaten, but this is not one of those mistakes!!!  It is actually quite similar to the fresh yogurt we tried in Xining, the capital of Qinghai province.  I am totally sold on this now, except that it takes a lot of hours to incubate properly. At least it can last a few weeks in…

Qinghai, June 2011



The plot thickens. Some days ago the tour agent called me to say that because of the coming "celebration" our tour would have to end on July 25, when all non-Chinese are kicked out of the region.  A few days after that, another call, "I'm sorry.  We have to cancel your tour because no more travel permits are being issued."  After months of planning, sucking it up to go on an "official tour" and a sizeable deposit made...THAT'S CHINA.  Always a little ugly reminder rears up to let you know in no uncertain terms you are never in control.  (To be fair it is probably a much worse situation for all those tour operators trying to obtain permits for their foreign lovely it would be to be working there and suddenly, officially, most of your tours are cancelled due to human-forces out of your hands.) The plan now is to go to the Kham and Amdo regions of T!bet which do not require foreigners to carry permits and be "guided" to onl…

A Whopper

Last week I heard this gem from a student in fifth grade.  "Rock and roll guitar is dirty music. There are many scientific studies that have proven this."


Something tells me they don't really mean 'ass' manager and probably it isn't donkey either.  Not quite sure what it is supposed to mean.  / Hospitality 1 Photo Flight Centre is looking for Travel Manager/Ass ManagerFlight Centre Limited is one of the world's largest travel agency groups, with more than 2000 leisure, corporate and wholesale businesses in 11 countries.  After starting with one shop in Australia 30 years ago, we have enjoyed remarkable ongoing growth across the globe.Our rapidly expanding network now extends throughout Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Hong Kong, India, China, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.

Tea Village

This is one of the small streets of Meijiawu Village near Hangzhou. These are the local free-range chickens. Hey, they look healthy and act like they are happy. Picking the tea leaves.

Not Funny

I used to have a student named Kyung Sik.  He was fond of saying "Not funny," mimicking a teacher I am sure.  Well the following three *posts* if they could be called that, caused me to laugh out loud.  I hope one or two or all of them will do the same for you.  A good laugh counts for a lot. [Disclaimer: These first two come from the cheeky Shanghai community-ish website 'smartshanghai' - I had nothing to do with their composition. I am shamelessly ripping these off and reposting them here. The last comes from]

A shy gentleman was preparing to board a plane when he heard that the Pope was on the same flight.

"This is exciting," thought the gentleman. I've always been a big fan of the Pope. Perhaps I'll be able to see him in person. Imagine his surprise when the Pope sat down in the seat next to him for the flight. Still, the gentleman was too shy to speak to the Pontiff.

Shortly after take-off, the Pope began…

What I Did Today

Wake up.  The light is earlier and earlier, helping me rise with it. 

Make a cup of coffee.  Wash some spinach and create a ten minute breakfast of a spinach and cheddar omelette, a piece of toasted walnut bread and a sip or two of grapejuice to wash down some extra vitamin B complex and cod liver oil.  Morning Popeye power.

Take the bike to work.  About 5 near misses with people who cut me off or drive the wrong way in the oncoming lane, someone stopping in the middle of a lane with no warning and no apparent reason. 

Homeroom: 14 energetic middle school students playing guitars and hand drums, some doing homework and getting measurements for an upcoming fashion show assembly.

Block One:  plan for the Piano Class, First grade and Band Class today.  Decide an appropriate piece for upper school students to transition to listening and musical thinking.  Today: Piazzolla's "Autumn" for piano trio.  Hopefully it loads correctly for listening.  Students are preparing for a per…

March 1, 2011

Szechuan Spicy Wontons
Makes about 50 wontons (Feeds 6) Filling:
1.5 lbs ground pork (half fatty/half lean)
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Large pieces Woodear Fungus, soaked and chopped finely
1/4 cup green onion, chopped finely
Soy Sauce
Hoisin Sauce
Sesame Oil
Sugar 2 packs Shanghai Style dumpling wrappers, square kind
(they are white, as opposed to the yellow Cantonese-style wrappers) Dressing:
Chili Oil
Garlic, finely minced
1/4 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
2 stalks scallions, rougly chopped Combine your pork, shrimp, green onion and woodear fungus. I find that the best way to mix your filling is to lay it all out on large cutting board and mince it up with a cleaver. Incorporate the soy, hoisin, sesame oil, and sugar to taste. Mince until you have a fine paste. Place a quarter-size amount of meat in the center of the wrapper. Dip your finger in a cup of water and trace the water around half the dumpling, it will act as glue when you press all the edges of the wrapper together. Voi…

And people think Americans like it "big"

This is another famous dish from China's northwest Xinjiang. This is the "small pan of chicken" or Xiao Pan Ji.  It would feed about 4 people. I decided to take some "to go" boxes for most of it.It is made from hand cut noodles, potatoes, chicken, peppers, onion, carrot and various spices and sauce. It is not a fast food. It takes about 20 minutes to prepare.

Next Door Neighbors

Fourteen people squeezed in around the table for another round of Chinese New Year feasting. See what a basket of fruit can do to open doors? In short, my neighbors know how to cook. The eldest at the dinner were his brother and his brother's wife; 76 and 75 years old. Good thing I like jellyfish. It was both fun and torture simultaneously as 95% of what was said was in Shanghainese. Once in a while they would take pity on me and translate into Putonghua or the common Mandarin. And fortunately I was spared from the baijiu commonly drunk at such affairs as this family prefers red wine. They seemed pretty happy with a bottle of Australian Shiraz I provided, calling it "the good French wine" which to them was what they were drinking. I did not try the special dish of "small cat."

New Year Holidays

The end of another round of holidays looms in the very near future. I am off work for one week, but my vacation includes two weekends, so I am very grateful. Chinese New Year begins on Thursday, February third, ushering in the Year of the Rabbit. I am enjoying friends, parties, practicing, replacing strings, spa, hot springs, biking, cleaning, reading, reflecting, planning and taking my time: the perfect holiday to stay home and enjoy life at leisure.

On another positive note, my father who had pancreatic cancer, has undergone chemotherapy and the Whipple surgery and is now home recovering and eating like a horse. It bothers me that an oncologist prescribes more rounds of that detrimental poison for him when no trace of cancer can now be found. I guess if it were me, I would say to the doc, "Well doc, since we can't visibly see cancer in you either, if you take the same treatment as you are prescribing to me, I would consider it."  The problem is statistics and numbers d…


I just ordered a water delivery and the conversation went like this:

"Hi. I would like to have a delivery of water, please."
"Oh, you're the foreigner up there on Beidi Road?"
"Yes, that's right."
"Ok, sure, no problem.
"OK, thanks."

I may be this distributor's only customer where I live, and certainly I am the only foreign customer they have out here. Water that is drinking/cooking water comes in large plastic water bottles such as for water coolers. I have about three kinds of water. Water from the tap, which I only use to wash dishes, clothes and for bathing; water in the plastic big bottle that comes via delivery for cooking and tea, and finally bottled mineral water which I prefer for drinking.