Chinese New Year Chat

CNY

Happy Chinese New Year!

Lent has begun, and so has the auspicious year of the Ram/Goat!

🐑🐑🐑🐑

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The turning 23 consolation party is over, as is the Valentine’s chocolate binge-ing cry-fest, and all I have left are several empty, depressingly essay-less Word documents and a flabby post Christmas body. Seems to me like this horrible mixture of Lent and CNY is as good a time as any to make some resolutions to knuckle down and to work hard.

Have a good year folks.

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Dinner Party / Food Coma

ON THE MENUTaiwanese Dinner Yum

Just yesterday I caught myself starting a sentence with the phrase:
“When I was a teenager…”

😱 Cue internal screaming.

It’s probably because last Friday I turned the kind-of gross age of twenty-three that this feels particularly terrifying. Turning twenty-three is not an achievement. I’m not a sassy, Taylor Swift twenty-two anymore, and I don’t really want to celebrate the fact that I am now closer to twenty-five than my wild (not) teenage years.

The good news is, turning a new leaf and beginning my twenty-third year on the planet seems as good a reason as any to celebrate with a little dinner party with my lovely flatmates. Seeing as I’ve been thinking of heading back to Taipei this year, and I Iove any excuse to eat unholy amounts of Taiwanese food, we had a Saturday night feast of some of the easiest and nommiest Taiwanese dishes that you can whack together with a wok, minimal culinary skill, and a whole load of sticky rice.

Dishes 1-6

Taiwanese Dishes

One // Sticky Korean Sushi Rice
Two // Soy Sauce & Shiitake Mushroom Chicken
Three // Mangetout & Ginger Seafood (Kingshrimp + Scallops)
Four // Taiwanese Tomato+Egg
Five // TW BBQ Sauce Vegetables
Six // Stir-fry Broccoli

 I felt very mature and grown-up kicking my old age off with a dinner party (even if we voluntarily opted to have wine and red Schloer instead of wine). If you wanna make something like this, my cooking time in total was around 1&1/2 – 2 hours for a group of five guests, but boy is the result i.e. a mountain of steaming, delicious food, so totally worth it. Needless to say, if you live in a flat with said dinner guests, its almost impossible not to get help drafted in from all quarters.

Thank God.

PUDDING

Taiwanese Sago

I had the time to whip up a classic, super-easy Taiwanese dessert in the shape of Coconut Sago and Sweet Potato soup. It just requires a saucepan and those three ingredients – plus a healthy dose of sugar – which, according to my flatmates, is an exotic approximation of English rice pudding…. Though, if I’m honest, it wasn’t a real hit with the English.

But, I absolutely love this stuff. I think it’s even better after a night to stew to a thick porridge consistency, and the sweet potato has a lighter taste. I grew up with the stuff; folks you don’t know what you’re missing out on.

And, yes, I did eat it again for breakfast.

Nom.

TWENTY-THREE

How does it feel?
Different, actually.

I can feel the heady, impending threat and freedom of graduation just around the corner (yes, I’m one of those multiple gap/study abroad year oldies).  I know that real life, in all its delicious unemployment and assignmentlessness, calls with the summer sunshine.

Yes, I’m gut-wrenchingly sad that I think I’ll finally have to stop pretending be a hip (haha), baby-faced early twenty-something with a student loan… But maybe that means I get to level-up to a trendy, cool encroaching-on-my-mid-twenties-something who gets on with their parents and relishes the thought of starting a career.

But, I guess you’ll just have to watch this space and see how it turns out.

In the meantime,

Where’s that leftover dessert?

Signature

From Nanjing

nanjing trees

南京

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幾個月前我和幾個歐洲同學離開繁華的上海城市,坐了一個小時半的火車去南京過一個週末。南京那時候正是秋高氣爽的季節,所以我們這些外國人穿著大外套,看起來好像愛斯基摩人。

我們在紫金山待了一整天,我們选擇到南京紫金山遊玩是因為它的綠化好,也因為它的風景好,更因為它的空氣好。這座小山蓋上了一片厚厚的落葉,而且我們也在深綠樹林的擁抱裡,感覺像進了安靜睡夢山的夢幻境界一様。

因為南京那個礼拜六的气溫跟我的國家很接近,乜因為這些正在落葉的樹讓我想起童年跟家人在家乡附近森林一起散步的回億。

我眼前跟風飄的葉子好像池子裡又小又亮的顽皮金魚,看著它們輕輕地在小山的路上躺著,滿地的落葉鋪成金黃色的路。我站在冷風的樹下聽著那些顽皮金魚在一起唧唧喳喳,我身邊的微風好像了解我就像录野仙踨的桃樂絲一樣,渴望能走這條金黃色的路回家。

我突然听到有人在叫我的名字,而且是我的名字,但這不是我熟悉的父母的声音,這是我熟悉的同学的聲音,叫我 “快一点″!突然間我在想的白日夢都消失了,我的臉上露出了笑容,我這条路上還剩下许多等著我去嘗試的奇遇。

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nanjing

Interview: The Life of a Banana, PP Wong

The Life of a Banana

‘PP Wong has blazed a trail for future British Chinese novelists. The Life of a Banana is bursting with original and exciting flavours.’ – Ben Chu, The Independent

‘Life Of A Banana is so refreshingly distinct. Read it, and you will soon find yourself wanting more.’ – The Daily Mail

‘Revealing in its exploration of cultural and generational conflicts and moving in its optimism.’ – The Guardian

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This week I’ve caught up with acclaimed début author PP Wong, the first British Chinese author in the U.K. to secure a publishing deal, with Legend Press, for her novel The Life of a Banana. If you’ve not heard of it already, the question is why not! The book is a fierce and moving story of the life of a British Chinese childhood in London told by twelve year old protagonist, Xing Li.

I asked PP 5 questions about about her novel.

PP Wong

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INTERVIEW

1. When did The Life of A Banana begin for you? Was there a moment of inspiration for the novel itself?

When I was a child, I would max out my library card and have a stack of books next to my bed. I was a quiet nerd – so curling up with a good book was my idea of fun. It still is my idea of fun! I guess the only difference between me now and then is that now I don’t have such a bad haircut! I don’t remember reading any stories about Chinese kids when I was young. I did not have any Asian role models to look up to and in my imaginary games I would pretend to be blonde and white. I suppose The Life of A Banana was a story that I always had at the back of my mind. I had a deep longing to read a book about a British Chinese family – to have characters that I could call my own. I don’t think I had a specific moment of inspiration. It was more of a gradual process. The Life of a Banana was a story that was in my heart for many years. I suppose I hoped one day I would be brave enough to write it.

2. The Life of a Banana speaks candidly about modern-day racism in Britain towards ethnic minorities, what made you use a children’s novel, and Xing Li’s character in particular, as a way to approach the topic?

Even though the protagonist Xing Li is 12 years old, the novel was initially targeted at adults. However, the topics of bullying and prejudices are something many young people identify with too. My novel now comes under the “crossover” genre which means it’s for both adults and children. It has been wonderful seeing the positive impact The Life of a Banana has on readers both young and old.

I’ve spent my life moving between London and Singapore and am a mish-mash of two cultures. In this sense, my book is a mish-mash of opposites. I wanted to play around with darkness and light, humour and tears. The novel covers dark topics like mental illness and racist bullying but the light hearted and innocent approach Xing Li has balances the novel out. I like it that even though Xing Li goes through a number of horrible circumstances, she still retains her youthful, inquisitive nature.

3. You’re also the Editor-in-Chief for the website bananawriters.com, brilliant site! How/when did the site form, and did it coincide with your own experience of trying to get The Life of a Banana published?

It was difficult to get a UK publishing deal. After I signed with a publisher, I thought to myself, “There must be other Asian writers who are going through the same struggles that I’ve gone through. Maybe I should start a website?”

I did not know whether Bananawriters.com would be successful. But I felt that I could at least give it my best – even if I helped to encourage just one or two people it would be worth it. After the first couple of issues (and with many famous Asian authors being so supportive) Bananawriters.com started to explode.

4. Gudrun Jobst designed the cover for The Life of a Banana, did you have a say in the design, and what is your favourite aspect?

My wonderful UK publisher Legend Press included me in the publishing process every step of the way. They always asked for my feedback and were open to new ideas. Something I made clear was that I did not want my novel to have the generic cover that many Asian novels possess. For some reason, the cover of many Asian novels are red with Chinese symbols, cherry blossom or beautiful women with black, flowing hair. All that does is categorize all Asian authors in an “Asian genre” despite what topic or style the novel is written in.

I am glad that my publisher got where I was coming from. The cover Gudrun produced reflects what The Life of a Banana is – contemporary, dark, funny and quirky. My favourite aspect is actually on the back of the book where the tortoise is sitting on the ISBN number. Every time I see that, it makes me smile. I think the cover is like marmite – you either hate it or love it. But at least, the cover has an “opinion” and is not boring.

5. Finally, I hear Xing Li is your favourite character; Grandma is mine. What do you think Grandma would make of you?

She’d probably tell me off for not being too tidy and for my terrible Chinese with the British accent.

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I have to thank PP so much for featuring on Lose & Find,  The Life of a Banana is out in all good book stores and can be purchased for Kindle and Paperback:

Waterstones / Amazon / WH SmithBarnes & Noble

And of course, read more about PP on her website ppwongauthor.com.

But ’til next time folks, it’s bye from me

Charlotte xx

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Year Abroad: Hangzhou

杭州
Hangzhou

Shanghai Honqiao – Hangzhou East: 159¥

Sights:
West Lake,
Bai & Su Causeways,
JingCi Temple,
National Silk Museum
Dragon Well Tea Village.

After term ended in January I headed to Hangzhou for a long-weekend. It’s a short two and a half hour high-speed train journey from Shanghai, and if you choose your weekends wisely, a great break from the bustle of the big city.

Lakes, greenery and pedestrian and cycle paths that should be the envy of China, Hangzhou made a crisp New Year’s trip that’s definitely one of my China favourites.

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West Lake Hangzhou

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 MOUTH-WATERING TREATS.

I’m a simple creature, proximity to food is high on my list of priorities.

And Hangzhou’s slightly sweet and flavoursome style of dishes are a solid favourite out of my trips so far. If you’re down south, definitely try out these three dishes mains at the very least, Hangzhou did them perfectly: 红烧肉 Slow Stewed Pork, 家常白菜 Home Style Cabbage, 红烧茄子 Stewed Aubergine.

For speciality snacks, head down to QingHeFang St. on the west side of the lake where stalls selling traditional savoury snacks and sweet cakes line the narrow streets.

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West Side of the Lake

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Red Bean Tea Cakes in Hangzhou

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TRANQUIL SCENERY

If you stay away from the traumatising horror of major national holidays in China, even at the weekends, Hangzhou’s lakes and causeways are some of the loveliest.

Besides the gentle (read: wonderfully flat) walk around the lake, it’s also surrounded by a scattering of temples, pagodas and museums well within a walking radius. We managed to cover them pretty extensively over three days, and I wish I had had more time at the Silk Museum. I was taken rather grudgingly, given my sceptical opinion of how interesting a museum of a single fabric could be, but I (equally grudgingly) had to confess I was wrong.
Good choice, Peter.

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Leifeng Pagoda

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View from Leifeng Pagoda

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Peter at JingCi Temple

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GREAT PUBLIC TRANSPORT

At risk of being called a criminally uncool, I have to say, having travelled a fair bit along the main tourist routes of China by now, it is with no small amount of gravity that I praise the tourist buses in Hangzhou. All hail efficiency.

With managable timetables and English announcements at every stop, it’s an easy town to move about in. (And the fact that I still managed to lead us half an hour in the wrong direction by the bus is testament only to my poor understanding of North vs. South.)

We headed down to the lakeside to rent a cheap tandem and cycle the lake. Things were certainly a lot safer when I wasn’t steering, but that aside, it was a perfect way to enjoy the sunshine.
Su Causeway North to Hubin Rd. takes around 25mins.

Another plus of good transport is that we weren’t afraid to take some late evening strolls around the lake and watch the lights glow from street lamps and tiny wooden stalls.

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Su Causeway Stall Hangzhou

All in all, a great weekend.

再见杭州!

Charlotte xx

See you again, Hangzhou.