Happy International Women’s Day! (Sorta a bigger deal here than in the US, nice!)

So a friend of mine recently left China, I bought her bike, and have been whizzing around town ever since! The weather has been sunny and relatively pollution-free lately, and it’s not freezing, so I have really gotten a kick out of biking to work and around town. Biking in Beijing is certainly more dangerous than in Tangshan, but I’m still amazed at how well bikers are accommodated in this city. I mean yes, you are biking on highways and sharing a lane with commuter buses, but there’s literally a bike lane everywhere and cars are always (ok, mostly) letting bikers have the right of way. It’s more efficient to bike than any other mode of transportation, and I already feel more productive and active!

Sunday night was quite a personal biking adventure. After work I had a planning meeting for International Women’s day, and had offered to supply dinner. You should’ve seen the sight. I had a backpack on my back, a bag full of donations on my left arm (that I kicked with each pedal) and a basket filled with salad and topped with a pizza box. I balanced biking with my right hand and held the pizza onto the basket with my left. Luckily the ride was a short one. Hilariously, no one batted an eye at me, since many Chinese balance a heck of a lot more on their bikes every day! My arm was sore the next day from the awkward position, but that’s a small price to pay for transporting so much precious loot.

Today I was quasi-off work and spent the morning checking out the progress of the first events email I sent in Beijing to highlight the different projects I have been promoting and managing here. It’s certainly not perfect, but I have received a lot of great support and feedback, and look forward to using this tool for additional promotion! Afterwards, I biked to The Bookworm’s literary festival to see authors Emma Donoghue (author of Room) and Christos Tsiolkas (author of The Slap) talk about the issue of taboo through their texts and life experiences. It was a great presentation, as the authors eloquently commented on issues like homosexuality, physical violence as a child-rearing technique, the family, and even the appropriate age to wean a child from breast-feeding. I felt particularly connected to Christos and his background, and had a nice chat with him after the presentation.

I then had an incredible meeting with the founder of The Library Project in China. (http://www.library-project.org/) A few people had mentioned that I should speak with Tom, as our charity interests are aligned, and I’m so happy he took the time to sit down with me. The meeting changed my perspectives on many aspects of charitable work in China, including the importance of working directly with the government instead of outside its control. Despite the fact that Tom is not fluent in Chinese, he has managed to set up a government-supported NGO that has donated over 150 libraries to schools and communities all over China. His organization is fully self-sufficient and doesn’t even solicit funds directly from its supporters! The most incredible thing, in my opinion, about The Library Project is that it has truly been embraced by the Chinese people. Tom worked hard to truly understand the cultural nuances of charity work in China, and at this point he has thousands of supporters from all over the country who consistently contact him to support the cause. What a motivating and insightful meeting!

After the bookworm I snuck in a yoga class at Yoga Yard with Jess, one of the best instructors I’ve ever had. (Did I mention that I splurged last week and bought a 30-day pass to this place? The prices are western, but it’s worth it.) Check out my review: http://www.thebeijinger.com/directory/Yoga-Yard
My back has been killing me from being on the computer too much, and now I feel better in every way. Jess also introduced me to my acupuncturist, is a musician, http://blog.jessmeider.com/ and looks like Sarah Jessica Parker. I keep meeting more and more incredible women over here.

Rejuvenated after yoga I biked to Jenny Lou’s where I picked up quite a few western essentials that have been lacking in our kitchen, and a handy “Healthy Chinese Cuisine, a Restaurant Ordering Guide” to balance my cultural halves! I would also like to cook more in general, so I think this will be a good tool to having a more effective learning experience in the markets. (I was recently taken to Sanyuanli market and I forgot how much fun it is to learn and practice Chinese in that environment!) Anyway, I made a dinner of sautéed onions and mushrooms over brown rice and a fattoush salad! Phew, what a fun past few days made much more exciting and effective thanks to my new (bright pink/Avon Walk would be proud) bike!

*If you are reading this from Beijing, please come to the Int’l Women’s Day Benefit this Friday at Yishu 8. www.intlwomensday.org

*Below are photos from a few weeks ago when I spent an hour as part of the Beijing crowd to be featured in the upcoming “Dancing Matt” video. If you haven’t heard about Matt, please watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlfKdbWwruY It brings tears to my eyes to think of how one spirited guy ignored the judgments of others and just welcomed cultures around the world to do a goofy dance together.
As one commenter on the YouTube so succinctly put it,
“I am utterly incapable of comprehending why any human being could possibly “dislike” this video. As a misanthrope through and through, this video makes my grinchy heart grow three sizes and creates an overwhelming sense of hope to me.”

I truly think Matt has united the world, in just a small way. He was also incredibly friendly.

*Also included below is my trip to Sanyuanli market, the meal I made after, and the Angel Mom charity dinner I organized at The Hutong.

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