Sunday, December 23, 2007

Inside Beijing

Our second day, we spent going to church and then eating and shopping in downtown Beijing. Inner Beijing is a completely different experience than here in the village. The stores here in the village have furniture for sale that looks like they were salvaged from the dump. As you walk along the muck in the street (we immediately remove our shoes when we get back to the apartment), you see chickens being slaughtered, bicycles loaded down with food on a stick, you get the idea. Downtown Beijing is nothing like this (at least the part we saw). After church, we ate at a Xinjiang (Western Chinese) restaurant. It was completely different than any Chinese food I'd ever had...and probably the best. I've chucked over my non-meat diet for this trip, so I feasted on lamb on a stick, nan bread, fungus in flavorful sauce (the name on the menu), homemade yogurt, spicy noodles and pumpkin. The lamb didn't taste strong at all, very mild. But, I still preferred the non-meat dishes. The fungus (like a mushroom) was delicious in a sesame sauce, and the yogurt was so good. It was more the consistency of sour-cream and tingled on your tongue like it was carbonated. The noodles were the absolute best. I've never had any so good.
After lunch we had to walk off all the delicious food. So, we headed for the flower market where it smells like heaven. The orchids were amazing. Huge and colorful. If I lived here, my apartment would be full of greenery and bowls of goldfish.
Chris and I learned the basics of Chinese enough to ask how much something was and the standard reply: that's too much! Westerners are an easy target for price inflation. They know we can spare the money. So, you have to negotiate. And that usually takes some time.
At the American food store a mother sent her little boy up to us to beg. Apparently I am the weakest link because he followed me around, stepping on my shoes, bumping against me, and generally just following me like those little fish you see stuck on a bigger fish. One of the girls that speaks great Chinese found out that this mother makes so much money begging that she sent her oldest kid off to college. They told me to ignore him. But, he followed me so closely that I'd have to walk around tables and separate from the group in order just to walk. I finally begged Chris to help me. He was the dirtiest child I'd ever seen. I really felt sorry for him, but also had to breath a sigh of relief when we crossed the street so he couldn't follow.
It was a great touristy day. Tomorrow we will be going to the foster home.

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