Fire Alarm Irritation, 8/27/13

The fire alarm starts up again this morning at 6:45 am.  I text Lisa, and ½ hour later, a UHN technician comes by.  He checks out the alarm, pulls out his pliers and cuts the wires to the alarm, solving the problem rather permanently.  I check in with my parents on Facetime, and then walk over to the wet market for fruit and vegetables.  I fill my cart and drag it home.  When I walk in, Courtney is calling on Facetime.  It’s still hard to believe how easy it is to contact family and friends.  The toughest thing is working around the 13-hour difference in time zones (9:00 am Beijing, is 8:00 pm in DFW).

I head back out to the train and ride to a station near Sanlitun, the “hip and happening” foreigner mall.  I find ink for our printer in Sundan (finally), the store where I bought the printer.  To reward myself, I find a Mexican food restaurant and order a carne asada burrito, called “Burrito Mamita”.  It’s really very good.  Check out the pictures.  I relax with some iced tea, and build up my resolve for my next stop, the Soushow Clothes Market.


Cantina Agave, in Sanlitun

Cantina Agave, in Sanlitun

Burrito at Cantina Agave, Sanlitun

Burrito at Cantina Agave, Sanlitun

We’ve been hearing about this place since we arrived, but this is my initial visit.  It’s four floors of very crowded kiosks, lots of counterfeit goods, and aggressive sales people.  When I say aggressive, I mean they will reach out and grab your arm if you show the slightest bit of interest in their products.  No prices are marked, and bargaining is expected.  We’ve been told to offer 10% of the asked price.  Most of the time I don’t get the chance to offer a price.  One verbal exchange at a place selling “North Face” parkas went like this as I walked by:

“Hey, you need jacket?  200y ($36 equivalent)? 150y?  You need two?

What color?  Two for 200y”?  150y?  120y”

They were still yelling at me as I went up the escalator.  I was almost afraid to come down the escalator later, knowing how much they wanted me to have one of their jackets.  It continued even outside the building.  One older woman tried to sell me socks, following me for over 100 yards, as I walked away, and I never looked at her.  If I’d made eye contact, she might have tackled me.  She was hollering at me “What you want, What you want?” as I crossed the street.  I don’t think she understood the phrase “leave me alone”.  I know she didn’t understand “no”.  I can’t wait to take Judy.  I’ll just need to make sure she doesn’t have any money when she goes in.

Judy was excited when she got home tonight.  She found a desk she could use.  Prior to now, all she had was a table, and everything was spread on window sills, the floor, and a tabletop.  She found a desk in another room, not being used, dusted it off, and dragged it into her room.  She is beginning to feel like a “real” teacher, with a desk, staplers, and everything.

Judy's new desk!  She's a real teacher now!

Judy’s new desk! She’s a real teacher now!

Fire Alarm excitement, 8/26/13

A boring day.  Well, almost.  The fire alarm started sounding off in the kitchen and on the main intercom at the front door of the apartment.  I was cooking nothing, so I assumed, since the main fire alarm was going off, there was a fire somewhere else or a false alarm, and it was time to exit the apartment.  I put together the things I thought were important, in case it was more than a false alarm, and headed out the door.  Several other people were on the elevator, and one had her dog.  When we arrived at the bottom, everyone headed out.  As we walked outside, everyone else seemed to head off to work, and the lady started walking her dog.  I was by myself.  Apparently there was no fire, or false alarm.

I went back up to the apartment, and the alarms are still going off.  I text Lisa, our agent, and she contacts UHN management.  The main alarm quits ringing about 5 minutes later, but the kitchen alarm is still going strong.  I check if maybe there is a battery issue, but it’s hard-wired.  Finally, an hour after it all started, the alarm stops.  Although no one came by, I assumed that someone figured it out, and hit “reset” somewhere.

I spend the rest of the morning sorting out issues with the travel company.  Finally, Paypal comes to the rescue and we’re officially booked for the river cruise.  Lillie, our ayi (maid), comes in the afternoon and gets the apartment in great shape again.  With Judy around, and Lillie working twice a week, I’m having trouble getting this place dirty.  However, I’ll keep trying!

I spend the time working on class ideas and watching some of the “Great Course” videos.  I’m beginning to put together a plan that should be fun to teach and might even educate / entertain the students.  I’m even learning a little bit myself.

When Judy gets home, we sort out the day together, swapping stories and enjoying the meal.  We’ve begun watching “Downton Abbey” on Hulu.  We’d heard a lot about the series, but never had the chance to get started.  It really is good, and Hulu has allowed us to start with Episode 1, and work through it all in order.

The Summer Palace, 8/25/13

We’re excited to do some sightseeing today.  We’re going to visit the “Summer Palace”.  It was the summer home of the Emperor’s family, and we’re told it’s a beautiful area.  Judy stayed up last night till 3:30 am.  She got on a roll with some of her schoolwork and lost track of time.  She’s tired as we head out, so we take a taxi.  There are two subway stations close to the Summer Palace, but a lot of walking and standing is involved.  Also, you can’t “see Beijing” from a subway tunnel.  There are some great views as we make the trip.

We arrive and wander in.  There is admission charged ($10 each).  An English-speaking college-age guy steps up and offers to “guide” us.  We decline, purchase our tickets, and start toward the gate.  Enroute, I notice a kiosk for digital audio players with descriptions about the “Summer Palace”.  We need to know something about the area, so it seems like a good idea.  I get in line, and here comes the “guide” again.  This time he convinces me he can give us a better experience than an audio player and the price ($25) for a private guide seems fair.  We head in.

Summer Palace.Beijing - 01 Summer Palace.Beijing - 06 Summer Palace.Beijing - 04

He does a great job!  He’s very personable and has good knowledge.  He presents the information well.  We see some wonderful sights and really enjoy the day.  One of the most interesting stops was  a “singing” area.  We heard singing in the distance and asked John (our guide), to take us to the source.  We arrived and there was a big crowd of older people singing in “full voice”.  There were some instruments accompanying (sax, trombone, trumpet, and a snare drum).  The most interesting part for us was the total enthusiasm everyone had for singing.  Someone had passed out books.  We shot video, but it’s too much for the website.  John said they were patriotic songs.  Those people were serious about the singing.

One very small section of the "Long Corridor". It's the longest wooden corridor in the world.  The Emperor used it to walk from one section of the Summer Palace to another.  Each painting is different, and there are over 10,000 of them.

One very small section of the “Long Corridor”. It’s the longest wooden corridor in the world. The Emperor used it to walk from one section of the Summer Palace to another. Each painting is different, and there are over 10,000 of them.

Summer Palace.Beijing - 10

We climbed to the highest point in the Summer Palace area that was accessible, over 200 stairs according to John (we believe him).  There are great views.  After we recover from the climb, we head down, and John puts us on one of the ferries that cross Kunming Lake.  The ferry pilot is constantly having to honk at paddle boats in his path.   The “Summer Palace” is one of those “WOW” spots with so much history and beauty, combined in one place.

Summer Palace.Beijing - 11 Summer Palace.Beijing - 12 Summer Palace.Beijing - 17

Over 200 steps to reach the "Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha".  It's a lot of steps, but we couldn't pass up the chance for the view.  It was worth it!

Over 200 steps to reach the “Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha”. It’s a lot of steps, but we couldn’t pass up the chance for the view. It was worth it!

Summer Palace.Beijing - 25

The view from the top!  Check out all the paddle boats on Kunming Lake, and the ferry at the bottom and on the right side of the picture.  The island is the South Lake Island.  It's connected to the mainland by the "17 Arches Bridge".  The island was built by over 100,000 laborers during the 1800's.

The view from the top! Check out all the paddle boats on Kunming Lake, and the ferry at the bottom and on the right side of the picture. The island is the South Lake Island. It’s connected to the mainland by the “17 Arches Bridge”. The island was built by over 100,000 laborers during the 1800’s.

It's the "Goddess of a Thousand Hands".  (the statue that is)

It’s the “Goddess of a Thousand Hands”. (the statue that is)

The "Seventeen Arches Bridge" connecting "South Lake Island" to the mainland.

The “Seventeen Arches Bridge” connecting “South Lake Island” to the mainland.

Summer Palace.Beijing - 27

We taxi home, and spend most of the rest of the day recovering from our excursion.  Judy finishes up schoolwork, and gives me a “Powerpoint” lesson, so I can begin to put together my first few days of school.  I head out late in the afternoon, looking for some ink for our printer.  I’ve been trying to find it for over a week.  Nobody carries ink?  I may have to order it online, and hope I can get our address correct for the delivery.  Can’t find an Office Depot anywhere.

Weekend, at last, 8/24/13

Our goals today are to finish as many home and school tasks as possible, so we can do some sightseeing tomorrow.  First stop, IKEA, and we’re heading out early trying to beat the crowd.  Success!!!  We get a bunch of stuff we need (rugs, dishes, couch pillows, picture frames).  The crowds haven’t arrived yet.  The bonus of the day is the IKEA special – ice cream cone, $.18 each (ice cream included).  YUM!!!  I wanted to buy several, but resisted the urge.

Home, and the unpacking starts.  Rugs hit the floors, new dishes stripped of sales labels and washed, and pictures are carefully added to the frames.  Now, the tough job of hanging the pictures.

We head out later to get Judy’s phone upgraded to 3G.  The usual language difficulties occur, but my gesturing has really improved.  Sept. 1 will be interesting if our phones really starting working with 3G.  That’s when the contract starts up.

We shop a little in the Capital Mall on the way home.  Judy gets some shoes and a blueberry slush.  Back at the house, she goes to work on her computer.  I start shopping the internet for an interesting place to visit the week we’re off in October (National Holiday, Oct. 1 to Oct. 7).  We’ve heard recommendations for Thailand, Korea, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Yangtze River Cruise.  I’m really intrigued by the river cruise, so my search narrows.  The website is a Chinese Travel Agency that is highly recommended by our Australian friends.  It’s in English, but it’s put together a little differently than I’m used to.  If you’re interested, check out:

I get us booked to fly from Beijing to Chongqing on Oct. 1.  We’ll catch a river cruiser, the M/V President Prime.  We’ll take the cruise to Yichang, and fly back to Beijing on Friday.  This should be a good starter for our Asian travels.

One adjustment I’ll be making while teaching at a Chinese school, holiday makeup days are Sundays.  We have makeup days scheduled for Sundays, Sept. 22 & 29.  They’re not sure if the days to be made up will be the days that I teach or not.  Guess I’ll find out later.  Judy’s school doesn’t use Sundays.

Another interesting thing I’ve noticed are the morning assemblies, many of the local businesses have.  It’s basically a small pep rally for the employees.  Several of the real estate companies with offices outside our apartment complex, organize their employees in lines on the sidewalks outside their offices.  Someone stands in front of the group, “firing them up”.  They sing some type of company songs, each group trying to be louder than the group next door.  Ive even seen some of the restaurants doing the same thing with their employees before they open.

Haircut Day, 8/23/13

My goal of the day is to get a haircut.  I have a little anxiety about finding a place that will cut my hair in a manner similar to which I’m accustomed.  I google “mens haircut in Beijing”, read through some sites, and settle on my target.  After a train ride, and a brisk walk, I arrive at the salon I’m looking for.  This is a little fancier than the “Great Clips” I’ve been visiting for years.  The shampoo is more of a massage, and the stylist is very meticulous.  At the end of the cut, I’m offered a 2nd shampoo.  It seems to be included in the price, but I turn it down.  The finished product is really very good.  I’ve got the stylist’s name, and I’ll be back when I need another cut.

I spend the rest of the day trying to find printer ink and upgrading my phone to 3G.  In my early rush to get our phones working and struggling with the language barrier, we ended up with less service than was available.  A “translation” app is no good if you can’t access it out on the streets, when needed.  I found a China Unicom service office nearby and ventured in.  An hour later I walked out with 3G.  It’s supposed to start on Sept. 1.  I guess I should reserve judgment on my success until then.

Judy has had a very full week.  Monday afternoon was the Passport Office visit.  Tuesday afternoon included a visit to the dentist, which I forgot to write about earlier.  The second day we were in Beijing, at the “BISS Peking Duck Dinner”, she realized a crown had slipped off.  She was able to salvage it, and carried ii with her to the dentist Tuesday. The dentist was very efficient and seemed to do a good job reattaching the crown.  Getting to the dentist was the problem.  Several taxis turned her down.  Finally, a taxi driver pointed at her phone, and Judy called the dentist.  She handed the phone to the driver who took the directions from the clerk at the office.  When she arrived at the very large building, the name of the dentist office was in a big sign on the wall.  There wasn’t an entrance to the dentist office on the outside, anywhere.  She had to call the office again and they sent someone out to the parking lot to find her and lead her in.

Wednesday was the faculty meeting, and Thursday was “Meet the Teacher”.  Judy’s ready for some relaxation.  We head out to meet some BISS faculty friends.  The taxi gets us close, but the restaurant, Homeplate BBQ (Burger Cup 2013 Champion), is located in a courtyard, in the middle of an old neighborhood.  I thought I had the walking route aced, but I was wrong.  I finally give up and we make contact for help.  They find us, and lead us in.  I would have never found it.   Dinner is great and less than $20.  It’s really fun to compare stories with the Australians we’ve joined.  We finish the evening with a taxi ride, and head meets pillow.

“Wet Market” Day, 8/22/13

I’ve decided today is the day I’m going to experience a “wet” market.  It’s the term everyone uses to describe the local outdoor market where any manner of fruits, vegetables, and even some meats are for sale.  This is where all the locals do their food shopping.  Prior to now, I’ve done all our shopping in the indoor groceries that are “foreign” friendly (have products recognizable by someone like me).

I walk past the Capital Mall, the kind of shopping I know, and cross the street to the “wet market”.  It’s row and rows of tables and stalls, covered with awnings.  There is lots of congestion throughout, tons of people.  I cruise the aisles, checking out the variety of items available and how the system works.  When I think I’ve got it figured out, I start my buying.  There are so many choices and so many vendors for every product.  I end up buying peaches, bananas, green beans (I think), corn, and cashews (I couldn’t resist).  I paid about $12 for all of it.  I roll it all home in my “mini Canton cart” for just this occasion.

The nearby wet market The local wet market

Fresh fruits and vegetables everywhere

Fresh fruits and vegetables everywhere

Now I have to buy something to cut it up with, cook it, and store it.  I don’t have any large bowls, large knives, or pots/pans for prepping/cooking the food.  I head out to Metro for the needed items.  I’m shopping cooking utensils, stainless bowls, and kitchen knives.  I’ve found most of what I need, and as I leave the housewares dept., one of the employees stops me and pulls the box of knives out of my cart.  After she realizes I have no clue what she’s saying, she pulls out her Chinese ID, indicating (I think), that I’ll need to be approved (or maybe not approved) before I can purchase the knives.  I show her my passport card. She takes it and disappears for 10 minutes.  When she returns, and after much more gesturing, she copies my passport card, and sends me off to do more shopping (without the knives).  After getting our weekly allotment of diet coke, I stop by the “knives” area.  She hands me the package of knives, and I’m escorted to the check-out area, where, after signing several documents, I pay and head out with everything, including the knives.

Back home, I haul all my “toys” to the apartment (I’ve overloaded myself again).  One of the gate guards has to help me get to the apartment elevator with everything.  I unpack, eat some lunch and begin my recovery (nap).  Lillie, our ayi, arrives around 2:00 and starts cleaning.  She washes all the new knives, pans, and bowls.  When she moves out of the kitchen, I move in, and start prepping the corn and beans from my “wet market” trip.  I’m determined to have fresh vegetables, tonight!  I get a few Chinese food prep tips, and it’s all coming together.

Tonight was “Meet the Teacher Night” at BISS.  Judy meets many parents, and has a new experience.  Because of the nature of the MYP IB curriculum, her 7th grade class is more classroom than music.  Not only is she welcoming parents into her music classroom on the 2nd floor, she also has to scurry upstairs to the 4th floor, and make a presentation to the 7th grade parents.  She has to improvise, not anticipating the “classroom” part of the evening.  When she gets back downstairs, another of her “favorite” surprises awaits her.  While she was upstairs, some wandering students visited her room and played on many of the instruments.  Of course, they didn’t put them back properly, and “THEY’RE ALL OUT OF PLACE”!!!  This would be punishable by death if Judy could administer justice.

When she gets home, everything is spic and span, and there are green beans cooking in a pot on the stove.  I’ve already cooked the corn and eaten most of it.  While Judy eats, we watch a little CNN, and talk about my “wet market” and Metro experiences.  The food is great (yes, a little self-congratulatory), and Beijing is becoming more comfortable.

Tuesday/Wednesday, 8/20-21/13

TUESDAY, 8/20/13

Our ayi (maid) is returning today, so I’ve got to get some supplies and make a decision about a vacuum cleaner.  It’s a nice morning as a head out.  I walk about a mile to an appliance/electronics store.  One thing I hadn’t been able to see from the road driving by was that the building was being renovated, so it’s closed.  I turn around and head back to Carrefour, the grocery/housewares store nearby.  I need a few groceries anyway, and they do have a selection of vacuums, and the blank cd’s I’m also supposed to pick up.

I settle on a vacuum, grab some groceries, and head home.  I get things unpacked and put away, and start duplicating 40 CD copies of the music for the BISS Elementary Choir before Lillie arrives.  She hits the door running, and the apartment looks great when she leaves 4 hours later.  Everything seems so much more like home when it’s really clean.

Judy comes in tired and frustrated.  She’s a “newbie”, and teaching is the easiest thing she’s done all day.  The technology and paperwork is confusing, and like most schools, finding who to go to when you need something, seems like you’re chasing your tail.  Pre-K is still not under control, but a few things “clicked” today in class that may work out for the future.

Dinner is sandwiches and chips.  I found some Tostitos and Ruffles today in the grocery, and we are “chowing down”.  I’ve got to quit buying chips (they sure taste good), and get back to a better diet.  More apples/grapes and fewer tortillas and cheese would be a great start.


WEDNESDAY, 8/21/13

I spend most of my day “pitching” ideas to myself about what I want to teach and how I’m going to approach the class.  About the time I’ve got a plan figured out, I get another brilliant idea or direction.  I basically have nothing by the end of the day.  Some calls and emails from BHS4, and I find out my classes will be Wednesday and Friday. I’ll be teaching two classes each day of 30 students each.  My ASA (After School Activity) will be Wednesday.  I’ve also requested speakers and some type of device to play the music with.  I’m not sure what I’m going to have in the classroom.

Judy had fun with her Elementary Choir at their first rehearsal today.  The students were excited and learned quickly.  They’ll have one more rehearsal and then perform at the assembly, Friday, Aug. 30.  The principal and a few teachers drop by while the group is rehearsing.  They are “over the top” impressed.  For Judy, it’s just “business as usual”.  Her day ends with a faculty meeting followed by more additional training for the newbies…….YEA!

It’s an interesting dynamic when she gets home.  I’ve been talking to myself all day, and need to bounce my ideas off someone.  She’s been talking music and teaching all day, and well into the late afternoon.  After the “newbie” meeting, she’s wants to “bounce something off someone, and she isn’t talking about ideas”. I decide I might get a better “read” on my ideas some other day, so it’s “CNN World” and off to bed.

Monday, 8/19/13, The Day of the Spiderman!

Fun stuff today!  I’ve got a long list of “fixes” for our apartment.  Lisa, our housing agent is back in town, and she’s going to be helping with the language issues.  She’s sort of a liason between BISS, the owner of the apartment, and us.  It can be a tough balancing act, as I find out today.

I call her around 9:00.  She has the cable guy here by 11:00, and he’s gone by 11:15.  Cable TV for English is four channels, CNN, Star Movies, HBO, and ESPN, and costs $5 monthly.  Everything is working but nothing is showing on ESPN.  I’m curious to see if anything ever comes on.

Lisa arrives at noon and checks out the rest of my list.  Bathroom mirrors are “taped” up, like they were glued up, held in place with tape, and the tape was never pulled off.  Bathroom door handle pulls off, and several others are loose.  She calls a apartment management, and they send someone over.  He fixes the door handles, and checks out the mirrors, deciding it’s safe to pull off the tape.  Of course, there’s nothing quite like “old” tape residue, so some fun lies ahead.

One of our air-conditioners isn’t cooling and needs freon.  She contacts an AC guy.  He arrives and can’t figure out how to get to the unit to load the freon.  There are no access panels anywhere.  Lisa checks with UHN, and finds out that someone has to “spiderman” out on a ledge, recharge the freon, and climb back in.  30 minutes later, the UHN specialist shows up with a long strap, a freon tank, and a long hose and gauges.  He opens the window and screen, ties one end of the strap to his waist, and the other end to a rail inside the room, and climbs out.  He slides toward the unit on an 8-inch ledge, ties himself to the unit with the slack, hooks up the charging unit, and lights up a cigarette, balanced outside the 25th floor.  The freon recharge and acrobatics cost $50, paid by the apartment owner.  That was some free entertainment!

I hope this knot holds!

I hope this knot holds!

It's a looooooooong ways down!

It’s a looooooooong ways down!

Spiderman 3

He is exceedingly calm for 25 floors up!

He is exceedingly calm for 25 floors up!

Front door lock specialist (our front door won’t latch) is scheduled for 6:00.  Around 4:30, Lisa shows up with the owner of the apartment, two-year old daughter, and the owner’s father.  We talk (some language difficulty).  I end up showing them some family pictures, and playing my clarinet (I’m killing 1 ½ hrs).  I didn’t get to my card tricks.  Boy, did I miss an opportunity.

The lock specialist tells everyone he can’t fix the lock.  The deadbolts have been bent (they hung up a few times, and I might have tried to force the door closed anyway), He wants to install a new one, which he just happens to have, and it’s only $500.  The owner isn’t eager to pay that much, and I think there is some discussion (in Chinese) about my financial responsibility in this matter.  The lock guy leaves, and we stand around trying to figure out the next step.  The owner’s father asks for my tools.  I’ve got screwdrivers, a small hammer, and some pliers.  We pull off the lock plate and start hammering and trying to flatten out the parts I might have bent.  By 8:30, the door is latching and everyone is able to leave, relieved that we’ve solved the problem.  The door doesn’t latch quite as smoothly as it did before, but we can live with it.

Judy had come in around 7:30 and moved into the bedroom to finish some schoolwork.  She had a long day of classes followed by a visit to the Passport Office to turn in the necessary paperwork for her Multiple Entry Z Visa.  She was bussed over after school and waited for two hours to get to the desk.  She had number 1387, but they were serving 1242.  Lots of sitting and twiddling of thumbs.

Taking a number at the Passport Office.  At the time, they were serving #1242.

Taking a number at the Passport Office. At the time, they were serving #1242.

She is ready to relax, but has several very pressing items to get in place for tomorrow.  I can even help with some of the “manual labor”.  Finally, around midnight, we sack it in.  We both finished our long lists.  Maybe tomorrow will be easier.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

It’s a beautiful day when we get up.  The sky is blue, and we can see as far as we’ve ever been able to see.  The humidity is down, and it feels good outside.


A clear Beijing morning

A clear Beijing morning

I think Judy is beginning to get ahead at school.  She’s found the time to start thinking about decorating the apartment a little bit.  We check in with family back home on Facetime, and head out to IKEA around noon.  Sunday in IKEA!  Can it get much better?

We pick up a few couch pillows and a bedspread and pillows for our 2nd bedroom.  The apartment is actually beginning to look a little like a home, and certainly more comfortable than it was.  Still need a few rugs.  IKEA didn’t really have what we needed, so we’ll be looking for other sources.  We order in Italian food from Annie’s, a well-known restaurant in Beijing (among the westerners).  It’s really good.  The phone # is going on my “favorites” list.

Haircut & “Burger Cup”, 8/17/13

Judy heads out for a haircut.  She’s been asking around, trying to find a good stylist, and settled on “Alex” at the Beijing Hilton.  She got his name from her middle school principal.  It works out well and we’re both relieved.  The interesting thing about this, and many other similar services, is that customers purchase a “card”, and load money on it.  Then each visit is deducted (at a discount price), until the card needs to be reloaded.  Today’s visit was free since Judy purchased a loaded card.

A BISS faculty friend calls Judy, and invites the two of us to accompany her and her husband to the “Beijing Burger Cup”.  When I left DFW, the Burger Championship was just starting up.  I read today that “Rodeo Goat” beat out “Chophouse” from Arlington.  I’ve tried both, and they are really good.  I can’t believe I’ve landed in Beijing during a similar contest (32 restaurants in brackets).  Today is the finals.  The final 8 restaurants are set up at BCIS (Beijing City International School) for a “cookoff”.

We meet Deb and Graham (from Australia), at the subway station.  Graham is a “trailing spouse” like me.  They’ve been here for one year.  Graham spent much of that time exploring Beijing, so he’s the leader.  We get off the train and start walking, arriving after 20 minutes at the school.  It costs $18 for two.  We each receive a ticket for a burger and a drink, and a ballot.  We’re early and the grills are just getting going.

One of the attendees - looking for a burger!

One of the attendees – looking for a burger!

I’m the first to try a burger (surprise).  I pick out “Tim’s Texas Barbecue”, and get a really big burger. It has cheese and a grilled Hatch Chili Pepper.  I would have a hard time finding this in Ft. Worth.  There don’t seem to be any Texans around, but the manager tells me the owner is from Seguin, TX.  He just happens to be on vacation.

I'm eyeing the Hatch chilies they're grilling, making sure mine gets the proper treatment!

I’m eyeing the Hatch chilies they’re grilling, making sure mine gets the proper treatment!

One of the sample burgers.  After 8 restaurants, a person could get a little stuffed!

One of the sample burgers. After 8 restaurants, a person could get a little stuffed!

I didn't see anyone eating this burger from "Flamme"

I didn’t see anyone eating this burger from “Flamme”

While we’re sitting, and I’m eating, one of the other burger spots brings over a burger cut into fourths, for us to try.  Now we begin to figure it out.  Each place has sample burgers, and if you want a really big burger, you can use your “burger ticket”.  By the time we sample all the burgers, we’re stuffed.  There is a blue-grass band performing, and we spend the evening eating, enjoying the beautiful weather, and listening to the band.  We wait for the announcement of the winner and walk out around 9:00 pm.

The end of the evening is getting close.

The end of the evening is getting close.

When we arrive at the area around the station, it has been transformed.  It’s a large concrete area with landscaping throughout, but now there are crowds everywhere.  We head across to the station.  We first observe some martial artists practicing, right next to a large group of older citizens singing what sounds like traditional music.  There are a two tenor saxes playing the melody, along with some basic percussion instruments., and the crowd is heartily joining in.  Nearby, around 40 people of all ages are jumping rope, following a leader, with music, in unison.  There, of course, are a few skaters weaving in and out of cones they set up.  Next are some traditional dancers (around 20) paired up and enjoying the evening.  There is a “hip-hop / breakdance” group working it out.  We’re almost swallowed up by 60 of more couples ball-room dancing.  I can’t remember any previous time I’ve observed so many people enjoying themselves in so many diverse ways, all at once..  None of it seems to be “organized”, but just a regular happening for the neighborhood on a Saturday night.  Very fun!

We catch the train, arriving home around 10:00 pm.  We are worn out and stuffed with burgers.  Probably no weight was lost today.