Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Great Wall, Great Shopping, Great Food, Lousy Traffic

Today was a myriad of different activities. It began with the 2 1/2 hour drive through Beijing to the Great Wall. The Wall is indeed great. Unfortunately, I have to admit that my favorite part of the experience was the toboggan run you can take on the way down. So much for my cultural side! After that, we were driven into town to a 4 story building full of shopping. The first two floors were stuffed with "name-brand" clothing. Perhaps if I lived in a different city other than tiny Sandia Park, I would envy a Yves Saint Laurent bag, but I don' I haggled for touristy stuff. As it turns out I am a poor haggler, but at least I have fun.

The absolute best part of the day was the massage. For a mere $9, I purchased a 30 minute upper body and 30 minute foot massage. Can't beat that. The girl told me I had good skin like the Chinese (all of this by my massaging my foot).

There are so many things here that are different that I forget to mention them, but as the girl is massaging, she sits in this tiny chair (similar to ones we would buy for small children), I've also seen people in restaurants cut vegetables this way. Instead of standing up, they sit down in a very small chair and bend over with their head over their knees and peel and chop. Not very ergonomic.

In case you think we are living it up over here, getting massaged and shopping, you should know that we walk everywhere, and the van that transports us to and fro to Beijing has broken seats that make you feel like you are being folded over. We constantly smell like campers as they burn their trash here, and the smell clings to your clothes and hair. It is difficult to feel really clean. The beds have two inch thick mattresses, so my back hurts all the time. Of course the natives would probably consider us quite lucky. They burn coal to heat their homes and some live in tents.

Back to the day: we were hungry after all that work, and went to Asian Star, a restaurant that is not nearly so Asian as it is Indian. It was delicious. We sampled a green papaya salad that was so spicy my lips stung. We had milk tea. Then curried shrimp, curried spinach, tandoori chicken (the best I've ever had), and naan bread and potato bread. I'm not sure why the Chinese don't have a reputation like the Europeans for bread...theirs is amazing! I also don't understand why Chinese food in the states tastes nothing like it does here.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the night involved our drive home. Jacob and Carrie and Caroline, the three people who speak the most Chinese, do not know enough quite yet to converse fully with the driver of the van. So, we essentially put all our trust into this stranger. This is OK, until you take into account the horrible traffic conditions here. We are literally putting our lives into his hands! On our way back home, traffic was backed up on the freeway, so the driver makes a U-turn in the middle of the freeway and heads the wrong way down the on ramp. If my dad could only see what kind of mess we are traveling in without seat belts on! This isn't just his bad driving, everyone else was doing the same. Which makes it all the more fun! Sometimes I just close my eyes waiting for the big crash. Other times I just have to laugh. And pray. Really hard. Which was what we did tonight as there was a fog so thick I couldn't see the road. I guess our driver could, because we made it home. It really is indescribable the risks bikers and walkers take on these roads...even without the fog.

Tomorrow we go back to the home where I am supposed to be helping Carrie with some reports. I didn't get a chance to see my little Megan today, though, so I'm pretty sure I will be making a stop by the nursery.

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