Well, I turned 32 (hex) yesterday. Was an absolutely great day. Started with talking with my mom (via Skype), then a red envelope from the wife’s mom, followed by an iPhone 6 from the wife. Also, had some great birthday wishes on Facebook.
After breakfast, we bundled up the gang and headed out to Chaoyang Park. Strolled around most of the morning, including a trip to the petting zoo, and then headed over to the Paulaner Bräuhaus for a great meal with fantastic beer.
I’ll post more pictures of the day tomorrow.
I took the above picture soon after we arrived at the park. I saw some folks blowing big bubbles (in an effort to sell the bubble makers), and thought it might be interesting if I could catch a reflection in one. Took a few shots in quick succession, and here’s the best.
Yesterday, we circulated back to Lao Lao’s side of the family. This time, meeting with her and her two younger sisters just inside of the South Fifth Ring Road. We had a great time at San Yi Lao Lao’s house, and then headed off to an absolutely huge restaurant for lunch.
One of the main dishes was doufu (mostly known in the West by the Japanese name of tofu). When the waitress brought the doufu out, it was covered in four flaps of cloth. She gingerly pealed back each flap, scooped out a small piece with a spoon, and laid it on top of the dish.
btw, San Yi Lao Lao means the third daughter born to Shanshan’s maternal great-grandmother. Which is to say, the youngest of Shanshan’s maternal grandmother’s two sisters. Yep, this time of year also means trying to keep the names in the family hierarchy straight.
To make things more fun, in relation to Chong Chong, she’d be San Yi Lao Zu. Enough.
Yesterday, we had lunch with Nai Nai‘s side of the family. She lives in one part of the siheyuan pictured behind Shanshan and Chong Chong. The siheyuan is located inside the East Second Ring Road.
There used to be a village of such dwellings. But, over the last few years, the others have been torn down to make room for a shopping mall, and an upscale hotel complex which is under construction… you can see one of the many boom cranes in use in the background of the picture.
The families living in the siheyuan have served the government in one function or another. So, at least until they pass away (which will hopefully be a long time from now) it should be safe from demolition.
btw, we had lunch in a restaurant located in the nearby mall; the meal was primarily of Western food.
A traditional Beijing hotpot in the restaurant I posted about yesterday. It is made of brass, with a coal-fired chimney. The damper at the top of the chimney is used to control the heat. Underneath the lid is a moat which is filled with broth.
Taken two days ago outside our closest traditional Beijing restaurant.
It is snowing right now. In a few minutes, we’ll be “trekking” the long block or so needed to get there. Lao Lao and Lao Zu have gone ahead to get seats.
I like it when it snows during Spring Festival… a nice juxtaposition of snowfall amidst the din of firecrackers.
We went to the neighborhood square yesterday. It was emptier than usual, but still had a fair amount of people there doing the customary activities: dancing, playing cards, romping around with their children and grandchildren, and just enjoying a wonderful blue-sky day.
Part of the culture in the square is that the children share toys. Balls, tricycles, carts on strings, etc, are just left around the area. There are definitely times that a child will get territorial, but the adults will work with them on changing this behavior.
Chong Chong has been favoring sweet bread lately. So, when a family took a break to eat some pastries, he decided to join them. (We were a bit embarrassed, but they were extremely nice about it.)
The couple that run our neighborhood bodega have gone home for the Spring Festival holiday. This is a migration that they, and perhaps half of the 20 million people who reside in Beijing, undertake each year.
There is a palpable change to the city during this time. In many respects, it slows down… becomes more like the city many older Beijing people remember from their youth. Areas which are prone to traffic congestion during the rest of the year are suddenly wide open. Usually crowded spaces can be quite barren.
Well, with exceptions like the Temple of Earth, which I visited once during this period long ago, and vowed never to do so again.
Since most of the family lives in Beijing, we spend the holiday bustling around to lunches and dinners with them. Tonight, with the fireworks and firecrackers that mark the start of the new lunar year, is a nice lull for us. Chong Chong is asleep (at least until around midnight), and the animals are settled-in (except for Leo, who will be my shadow tonight, as has been for every lunar new year he’s had in Beijing).
Tomorrow, our trek inside of the north capital of the middle kingdom begins…