What is the pollution today in Beijing?


Underneath this happy face mask is a frown; Beijing’s AQI is an unhealthy 200, with unearthly milky white skies. Not a happy camper.

I’ve run out of my usual 3M masks, and this one will have to do in a pinch. This post details what masks are best in Beijing and why (disclaimer: Dr SaintCyr works at the hospital I do, but this is one of the most comprehensive posts on masks I’ve seen).

Biking is one of my favorite things in Beijing, and I’m not going to stop anytime soon. But I’m itching to get a new masks that protects more than this flase smile.


What do women in China think of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In?

Meet Olivia

Meet Olivia

Let me tell you about my friend Olivia.

A young professional working in Beijing like myself, Olivia is a graphic designer. Originally from Hunan province in south-central China, she moved to Beijing for university where she went to design school and studied architecture. She is crazy talented, thoughtful, and generous. And while she does like the opportunities that living in a big city like Beijing provides, she loves the Chinese countryside, and would love to raise her eventual family in a less polluted environment.

I recently picked up a copy of Sheryl Sandberg‘s Lean In, and took it back to Beijing with me. I wanted to see what my Chinese girlfriends thought of the conversation started by Sandberg’s original TEDTalk and continued by the book, “the ways women are held back—and the way we hold ourselves back.”

I emailed her some questions about the book, she jotted answers in her notebook, and is graciously letting me share those ideas with you.

Notes in Olivia's notebook: "Equality between partners leads to happier relationships."

Notes in Olivia’s notebook: “Equality between partners leads to happier relationships.”

Overall impression

Sheryl’s a clever woman. Her words are easy to understand, and she understands others’ situations.

What had the most impact?

“It’s a jungle gym, not a ladder,” and “Make your partner a real partner.”

I know you had many favorite quotes–your favorites?

“There’s only one way to the top of the ladder, but there are many ways to the top of the jungle gym.”

“Equality between partners leads to happier relationships.” Relationships in Chinese society aren’t equal. Chinese men prefer really skinny,  small girls. They want to protect them and feel powerful.

What do you want in life?

To find the value of life–love.

What are the most important things (in life)?

Find your potential–your happiness can change the people that surround you.

Is career the most important?


What about for most Chinese women?

A husband–Chinese parents tell their daughters to find a man who can care for them (money).

Previously, you told me you were worried about finding a husband or boyfriend–you’re 26 years old. After reading books like Chinese-American former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles Joy Chen‘s Do Not Marry Before 30, you didn’t care as much when you got married, why?

I’ve been able to meet people totally different from myself. I have an American friend, and we encourage each other. We believe to try to be yourself, and you’ll find someone naturally attracted to you, for you.

Sheryl Sandberg talks about how important finding an equal partner is, that’s what I look for in a partner, equality. Most Chinese women look for money, appearance, a house, and a car.

What advice would you give to young women?

Don’t rely on your appearance so much. Real charming women have wisdom. They have an open heart, are open minded, and have a clear mind to situations, focusing on what’s inside.

Any other comments?

Why did I get into these books? The first one I read was Do Not Marry Before 30. It was introduced to me by my friend Zeng, who lives in America. She loves me so much–we are sisters. She also cares about my marriage. And when I still don’t have a boyfriend, she gave me this book, and said this time has not come yet. Enjoy life. How you live life alone impacts your married life.


I need to thank Olivia more than just letting me interview her–she’s been one of my best friends in Beijing since I moved here in April of 2012. We’ve done language exchange together, she’s helped me do my “Mandarin Check” videos, and been a great support. She’s a wonderful person, and I know she’ll have a big impact on those around her for years to come.

Why 30 is not the new 20: #TedTalks worth watching

In our 20s we often hear, “You’re in your 20s, you’ve got plenty of time.”

I’m not saying I disagree with this statement (What do you think?). But also saw a TED Talk that objected common sentiment.

“30 is NOT the new 20.”

Meg Jay, Clinical faculty at University of Virginia and Clinical Psychologist, discusses 20-somethings in her TED Talk, “Why 30 is not the new 20.” 

I took notes, in case you don’t have time to watch her video below.

The big 3:

  1. Claim your identity capital.
  2. Use your weak links.
  3. Choose your family.

1) Identity Capital: Forget about having an identity crisis, and do something that adds value to who you are.

My two cents: I personally think everyone should grab (or make!) an opportunity to travel, and if you can, abroad. It can help shape who you are, add value to your resume, and like Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice.”

2) Use your week links: The “Urban Tribe” is overrated. If you just hang out with like-minded friends, you won’t grow, you won’t find opportunity. That’s where opportunity comes from–those weak links.

My two cents: Exactly. Many of my jobs (including my current one!) came through friends-of-friends or those “weak ties.”

3) Choose your family: “You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends,” said one of her early clients who had a poor family life growing up. She countered, well, now is the time you can choose your family. Don’t choose that boyfriend that seemed like the best thing at the time when everyone on Facebook was getting engaged.

My two cents: Have been thinking a lot about the power of a true partner, like Sheryl Sandberg describes in her book, Lean In. You will need someone who will help you think through your decisions intelligently, who will share all the house/child duties equally.

Extra notes:

  • The brain goes through its final growth spurt during your 20s. If you want to change something about yourself, do it now.
  • “She may not marry this knucklehead, but she may marry the next one.” In a story about her first client Alex, her supervisor stood up to Meg about not being tougher about figuring out Alex’s relationship issues. Your 20s are prime time for picking your family, and your future.
  • We (society) have trivialized what is the defining decade of adulthood.
  • Client told her that in her 20s, dating felt like musical chairs. In her 30s, it felt like everyone was sitting down. And that she married her husband just because he was the closest “chair.”
  • In your 30s, your “mid-life” crisis won’t be about buying a red ferrari, but about you thinking, “I can’t have the career I want.” “I can’t have the child I want.”

Check out the video below, and let me know what you think (@GinnyTonkin)!

Looking for more on making the most out of your 20s? Check out the damn good blog Art of Manliness, and the series Don’t Waste Your 20s.

Huawei Announces “World’s Biggest Smartphone” at CES2013

This post also appears on MobiSights.

Chinese telecommunications behemoth Huawei announces the “World’s Biggest Smartphone” at the Consumer Electronics Show 2013 (#CES2013) with its Ascend Mate, sporting a 6.1″ screen, and its smaller sister the Ascend D2. The Ascend Mate is a clear challenge to Samsung and its recent success with the Galaxy NoteII, which measures 5.5″.

Huawei Ascendmate 6.1″ smartphone // photo Mashable

Samsung has powered ahead in global smartphone popularity, its Galaxy S3 becoming the world’s most popular smartphone in November. In a growing market where everyone wants a piece of the profit, wonder if we’ll see a rivalry sprout between Huawei and Samsung. Like Samsung and Apple. Or Apple and Google. Cause tech just loves a good rivalry.

Huawei has been battling to place a foothold in the US, where the government holds it in suspicion and the public just has a hard time accepting Chinese brands. It’s gotten traction as a low-cost competitor to Apple and Samsung, but still lacks connections with key carriers. Maybe it just needs to ramp up on decent marketing, like HTC failed to do and which Samsung continues to pour an enormous amount into.

Personally, I’d be excited to see how the Ascend models hold up to other smartphones, with a longer battery life and water resistent features. You can also use it more easily while holding gloves. Smart. We’ll see if Huawei will be able to rebrand itself in the States this year, and grow on its home turf in China.

Here’s to watching mobile’s battle of the brands in 2013.

Follow me on Twitter @GinnyTonkin.

Jetlag, AM running, and SanYuanLi Market

I am a huge fan of AM running. Clears the mind, primes the body, and gets you feeling ready to conquer anything that day.

This week, I had some terrible jetlag, including a night when I didn’t sleep at all. What better cure than to start the day early with an AM run.

Morning peaks over buildings by the Liangma River.

Just returning to the city after 12 days in the USA for the holidays, it was a nice reintroduction to my neighborhood. One of my favorite runs takes me past the LiangMa River, which is now frozen over. Although I suspect perhaps it was drained a little recently.

I also swung my my favorite market to see if I could snag my groceries for the week. SanYuanLi Market is by all accounts a god-send. Located north of the embassy area, they source and provide for many of the international restaurants in the area. When I normally go  shopping, I feel like I’m at a UN of sorts, passing shoppers from Africa, India, and Europe. After finding this place, I no longer go to the supermarket, as I can get most of my groceries here, even some obscure imported items, even cheaper than the Chinese grocery or specialty stores.

I can also get relatively inexpensive avocados. Bam.

I am by no means a professional photographer, and I definitely felt like a tourist, stumbling in early and trying to get close enough to the action to take a shot. But here’s to a fresh start for 2013.

Vegetarian in China: Red Roasted Pepper Hummus

Being a vegetarian in China…isn’t always easy.

Since moving to Beijing, I’ve had to tweak my diet, including ordering more meat dishes eatting out. Although I when I cook for myself, I’m sticking to my vegetarian fare. Below is my tried and true recipe for Red Roasted Pepper Hummus.

Red Roasted Pepper Hummus: Serve with veggies and a slice of avocado.

Asked for by coworkers, gifted to friends, this is truly delicious and pretty darn good for you, too.

Red Roasted Pepper Humus

  • 1 Can chickpeas
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1/4 C Tahini (Optional, but really tasty)
  • 2 T Olive oil
  • 1/4 C Water
  • 2 t Cumin
  • 1-2 Garlic cloves
  • Salt/pepper

It’s easiest to use a food processor, although in our Beijing kitchen, all we had was our soy bean milk extraction machine. Which, as luck would have it, makes a great mini-processor. Win! If you don’t have a processor, or a sweet Media like the one below, just use something like a potato masher. It’s better if it’s processed, but you get a unique flavor and consistency with a smashed hummus recipe (Smashed of course being a euphemism for “not enough resources to yet obtain a food processor.”

Media Soy Bean Mlik Processor: Makes a great mini-food processor!

  1. Roast the pepper. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F (about 200 degrees Celsius). Wash, core, and quarter the pepper, placing the quarters in an oven-safe container. Drizzle the pepper with olive oil. Roast for 20-30 minutes  or until the skin starts to brown and wrinkle. They key is to roast it so the skin is easy to come off, but not charcoaled. While pepper is roasting, prepare the hummus base.
  2. Drain and rinse chickpeas well.
  3. In no particular order, add the other ingredients to the processor. I’ve never really consistently had the same ratio of everything, although this is the one that I use most frequently. Add spices, including salt, pepper, cumin, and parsley if you’d like. Add about 1/4 cup of water to make the final mixture creamy. If available, add the tahini.
  4. I love garlic. If you’re not too wild about it, put in one small chopped clove. I use two big cloves, but prepare them into a paste before adding into the mixture to bring out the flavor. Dice the cloves, but then add salt over top. Using the side of your knife massage the salt into the cloves, mashing it into a paste.
  5. Add the juice of one lemon. To release the juice from inside the lemon, I roll the fruit against the counter. Then, slice it in half, and juice it into the processor.
  6. Once the pepper is done roasting, let it cool off for about five minutes before processing it. To make the skins come off like magic, try to pop it into a paper bag for about five minutes. The heat will help release the skin from the pepper, doing all the hard work for you.
  7. Add the red pepper, and blitz the mixture until creamy.
  8. Top with extra tahini, or some extra cumin and pepper.
  9. Serve on toasts, sandwiches, with veggies. My favorite is red roasted pepper hummus with freshly sliced avocado, which surprisingly, I can find for eight kuai at my local market.

Enjoy :)