Balancing bird
Balancing bird


I have a goal to go to yoga teacher training. This has been a goal for several years now. In fact, if I wasn’t in China, I would be taking that training this year. Instead, I am taking time to cultivate my personal practice. I need to make it my own…everyday.  I have struggled with how “to do” this. Some days I’m drawn to the mat like a magnet, others I avoid it. Somewhere inside me I felt there was “a right way” that my practice needed to be. But really, there is no right way. Yoga is different for everyone. That is the perfect part about having a personal practice. When you teach, you don’t have class for yourself. You create a class that will give a little something to everyone. You adjust to the needs and the climate of the students in the room.
I am making “my” way on the mat, trying to get there everyday, even if it is for a short time. I like this curvy path I am taking to find my “true yoga self”. My practice is growing a little bit each day and each week. I went to a day long workshop recently by Donna Farhi. She is an American now living in New Zealand. I learned about 1 muscle. The psoas. This muscle is really deep in the abdomen, and most people don’t even know where it is, and therefore its incredibly tight. If you find it, and develop it, you will have a really strong core strength. I found it really interesting, because Cyndi, my yoga teacher in Raleigh (at Moving Mantra yoga) was always talking about the psoas and about protecting your back. Now I have the background information on all that Cyndi was trying to instill in my practice.
I am really happy with my yogic transformation over the years…from early days of practicing at the YMCA in North Dakota and North Carolina, to visits to Kripalu for R & R, to an Anusara class in California on my honeymoon, to NYC to practice with famous yogis. I love practicing with my children. They make it fresh and fun. Hollis likes to fly like an airplane on my feet! For the last two weeks, I have been experimenting with music. I don’t really have a set playlist right now, I just turn on iTunes and let the music inspire me.


Baby, its cold outside…

I don’t really have any quirky stories this week. Its getting really cold here. I thought that my trips to Wisconsin would prepare me for this, but I think it might be windier here. The mornings are in the twenties and if we get to fifty degrees during the day we are lucky. Brian tells me in another month or so we will have wind chills of thirty degrees. We have been blessed with sunshine and blue skies for the past several days, which makes it look warmer outside. I do drink a lot of tea…green and black in the morning and afternoon, and herbal in the evening. I was thrilled to find “Clipper” brand organic tea from the UK here in the Jenny Wang grocery store. This reminded me of my sister, so I bought the orange coconut flavor. 


I bought a little three foot tall live Christmas tree yesterday and some colored lights with eight settings. The girls were so excited to see the lights they strung them up all over the living room and put on a dance show for me. Sophie is practicing her Christmas carols on the keyboard. The flower market near my house has four Christmas stalls with all sorts of decorations. I don’t need much, because I brought our favorites from home with us to China. 


We do plan to celebrate Thanksgiving with some American friends next week. We will celebrate on Saturday, since Thanksgiving day is not a day off for anyone here. I’ve got a gluten free cornbread recipe ready to go, and Brian will make one of his famous pies. I miss some of my favorite fall vegetables: swiss chard, acorn squash, butternut squash….I’m still hopeful that I’ll see some of the squash in the store. I don’t think that swiss chard is grown in China. 

We were all discussing our Mandarin progress this week. Sophie thinks she knows about 200 words. Brian and think we’ve been exposed to about 100, but if I don’t use the words, I forget them, so I am probably comfortable with 50. Hollis comfortably speaks about 5-10 words, but we think she knows more than that. She and the ayi have a funny little relationship. Hollis humors her and repeats back what she hears like a parrot. I struggle to get my meaning across with her, because I think she speaks with a non-Beijing accent. Each week is a little better! 

Coming up next week: photos of our little Charlie Brown tree…




Haircut in the sun, anyone?

I think I can say that I’ve been in Beijing long enough that I’m not too surprised by “most” things I see. Image

I do still remember that when I arrived four months ago, I would ride down the street in the car with my mouth open, aghast at 

the odd things and appalling conditions. Now, when I see two barbers set up on the street like this, I just think, “hey, that’s a great spot 

in the sun to get a haircut.”  (Oh, also note the local riding the moped cart, or “tuk-tuk” with the hand warmers on the bars.)


This one I really like. This is my neighborhood. The guard is helping the gardener sweep up leaves with the stick broom. 

I think that the guard was bored and was really enjoying the beautiful weather. Or, it could be that this guy showed up drunk to work and needed help. I see this particular gardener getting help often. I have a favorite gardener, who is assigned to my street. He has the sweetest face and kind eyes. I will get a photo and write about him another day. 


Here’s a photo of the tuk-tuk carrying the recycling. I’ve seen this a lot, and I’m amazed at how much “stuff” the man fit on his cart. 

Sometimes, when we drive on this road with lots of speed bumps, you can tell they “overloaded” the cart, because after every bump, there is a little pile of bricks, or plastic bottles, or whatnot. 

Note the traffic here. This little one lane road is about five miles from our house. One block before the bridge is a BMW dealership, then all of a sudden, its a one lane road, with a block house where locals live. When it rains, this road floods, and people continue to drive on it. Today, there was a traffic jam, because the van carrying the boards probably made the tuk-tuk with the recycling get a flat tire. 

We have a pretty good driver. He’s learning to be aggressive from my husband, and he got us through after only a five minute delay. 


After the bridge, the farmers have their food trucks. Today we saw mandarin oranges and Chinese cabbage for sale. Just past those, a dog was scratching himself in the street. We narrowly avoided him. 

So that’s what was on the road today in Chaoyang district. 



Black Sesame Kitchen: A Hutong Adventure

Last week I went out with a group of ladies from the girls’ school. Our mission was to have dinner at Black Sesame Kitchen, a cooking school and dining experience for private parties. The “kitchen” is located in Heizhima Hutong in the Dongcheng district of Beijing. The driver dropped us off on a busy main road lined with shops. We walked through a crowded one lane road/alley with food vendors and street vendors selling all kinds of things from live rabbits to wool mittens. After a ten minute walk, we found this unmarked gate next to the Wiggly Jiggly Restaurant.  !???!


This is the entrance to the courtyard where we zigzagged past doorways and clotheslines. Finally, we found the kitchen/dining room  where Chef Zhang would prepare a ten course meal for us. (Slightly less for me, since I am a vegetarian. He was able to modify all dishes except for the pork ribs and traditional Kung Pao Chicken. Well done!) 

Dining room/kitchen with Chef Zhang getting the wok ready

The room had a special rectangular mirror over the galley kitchen, so that you could watch the chef preparing the foods. Originally, the founder, Jen Lin-Liu gave cooking classes in friends’ homes. In 2008 this kitchen opened up to serve more people. 

For me, the best dishes were the Five Flavored Eggplant, the Lotus Root, and the dessert, which was handmade Black Sesame Ice Cream and Candied Sweet Potato. All of the food was excellent, and if you can find the place, I highly recommend it!

Five Flavored Eggplant

Jen Lin-Liu has written two books, Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China, and On the Noodle Road, From Beijing to Rome with Love and Pasta