- 9/1/2007 11:58 AM ET
Wonderful yarn! I guess you do whatever you have to to get ideas across!!! (re: chicken breast) Like your uniform use of tips at the end of each dialogue... :)
|A NOVICE TRAVELER IN BEIJING
I told Jesse I wanted to see his house, where he shopped and how he lived. I didnít just want to spend all my time doing tourist stuff. Jesse and Iris came to the hotel that morning to pick us up. It was Dave, Kilah, Judah and I. I wanted to find some silk to reupholster our couch. Jesse said he knew of a place he could take me to. We parked the car and were walking near Tiananmen Square when all of the sudden I felt something wet on my leg. I looked down and it was poop. I told everyone in my group that someone threw poop on me. I took out my antibacterial wipes from my purse and cleaned it off. Iris was embarrassed and Jesse was angry. We looked around and Kilah said it was this man sitting on a mat by the street. She said he was calling to us ĒHey foreigners come here.Ē He had empty plastic bottles around him. I was always carrying a Coke bottle. Kilah said he probably wanted my bottle. In Beijing if you have an almost empty bottle people will approach you and motion for you to finish your drink and give them the bottle. I have no problem doing this. I just did not see the man or hear him. Just like in Michigan the poor people also go thru the trash for bottles. It is obvious a lot of people there are poor but I donít think there are anymore than any other big city in America.
Jesse stopped to report the incident to a police officer and his reaction was ďWhat can I do?Ē Jesse was angry and said that before the Olympics this kind of thing would have to be stopped. Iris was still embarrassed and apologized to me. I told her not to worry about it that it was no reflection on her or her country. I was not really upset at all just surprised. I said donít worry about that poor man was already living his karma.
We never did find the silk store so we went to the bank next to exchange the travelerís checks. I was worried that we would have trouble with the travelerís checks but it was no problem. It did take some time and I had to show my passport. Iris took the cash and put it in her purse. I was nervous about that. There were many warnings about pick pockets and people who would steel your purse but we never encountered any of that on our trip.
Next we went to Jesse and Irisís apartment. There was a guard at a gate to let us in. The apartments were high rises. There were a lot of them. They lived on the 13th floor. It looked a lot to me like the projects. We got on the elevator and there was a woman in a light blue shirt and navy pants operating the elevator. I asked Jesse why they had an elevator operator and he said it is because they have to find work for people in China. I had seen a lot of people sweeping the sidewalks and doing other jobs around Beijing in the same blue shirt and pants. He said it is not hard to find a job in Beijing.
When I got in Jesseís apartment I noticed it was kind of small. The floors were white tile, not ceramic just the square kind of highly polished tile. The walls were white as well. They had were no decorations on the walls. He had a couch with a white slipcover, a plasma TV and a kitchen table and chairs in one room. His bike was by the door. It looked to me like a college apartment. There were two bedrooms, one for Chen Chen and one for Iris and Jesse. Iím not sure where Andora slept. The Kitchen was a small galley kitchen. There was no oven, just a stovetop with a wok on it. They also had two small narrow rooms that looked like porches. One had plants growing in it and the other they used as a computer room. The bathroom thankfully had a western toilet. Jesse told me they donít flush the toilet paper down the toilet though. It has to be put in a wastebasket. There was not a separate shower in the bathroom; there was a showerhead and a drain in the floor and no shower curtain. It reminded me of a camper bathroom. There was also a sink and a stacked washer and dryer in there.
We stayed at his apartment for a while using his computer to check email and do some checking on my banking account. I found our withdrawal of five hundred Yuan at the airport had only come to sixty-two dollars and some cents.
Next Jesse and Iris took us to the mall by his house. We also went to a baby store. Kilah bought some split pants for our three-month-old grandson Dane. These are what the babies wear when they donít wear diapers. There is a big hole where the bottom is so the babies donít soil their clothes when they go to the bathroom.
We had dinner in the food court area again. We all chose Kentucky Fried Chicken and Jesse and Iris got something else. At KFC they had menus that you could point to what you wanted. I wanted a chicken breast and did not see any on the menu. They had wing meals or buckets of chicken. I tried to tell them what I wanted and finally to the horror of my daughter I pointed to my breasts. I got my chicken breast and it was delicious.
In the mall was a supermarket. I wanted to see where Jesse and Iris shopped. It was fun seeing all the groceries there. It didnít look that different than our supermarkets. I found my Coke and stocked up. We also bought some bottled water and some potato chips for Dave.
I did want to go to a Wall Mart just to see what it was like but there was not one close by. My husband is morally opposed to Wall Mart and objected anyway.
Then they took us to Irisís parentís apartment. The building had several stories but was not a high rise. They also had a gated entry with a guard. There were beautiful plants and flowers growing everywhere outside. Irisís father proudly showed me his vegetable garden. I could tell that they were well off before I even entered the apartment. The apartment had the same tiled floors but was decorated tastefully. It was larger than Jesseís also. They a larger living room with a light blue leather sofa and love seat. It had a dining area combined with the living room with a proper dining room table and chairs. There were two bedrooms; one was used as an office.
Jesse had given me a huge list of people to give gifts to. I had some maple syrup and a small box of pancake mix. I also had some toffee-buttered popcorn that said Kalamazoo Crunch on the label. I was embarrassed when they showered us with gifts of tea, a tea set, silk and many other things. I just accepted the gifts graciously deciding next time I wonít be so cheep.
Jesse and Iris took us back to our hotel. We saw Daveís family in the bar. Thatís where they liked to gather each evening. Most of the family decided to go to an Italian restaurant. Dave doesnít like Italian food so we decided to go to Hard Rock Cafť. Kilah wanted to buy some T-shirts. They had a Chinese band playing American rock music. The food wasnít really like what you get at a Hard Rock Cafť in America. Most of the food in China is different even when you go to an American franchise. I canít say what is different about it though. The food just doesnít taste the same.
It was dark by the time we left the Hard Rock Cafť. We had to catch a cab back to our hotel. You never know what you are going to pay for a cab ride at any given time. It was Kilahís turn to pay for the ride home because we paid for the ride there. They tell you not to use the black cabs with the shaded windows because the government does not sanction them, but that is what they use at the hotel. There were five of us including Judah. We had Judah sit on Kilahís lap on the way from the hotel and that only cost us twenty Yuan. When we approached the cab driver he told us it would cost eighty Yuan. My daughter said emphatically No that was too much. So we proceeded to find another cab. We found one of the cabs with the yellow on it sanctioned by the government. They all have meters and you pay according to the miles on the meter. When we got into the cab the driver in the black cab started yelling at our cab driver in Chinese and our cab driver kicked us out of the cab. He didnít speak English so it took us awhile to know what he was saying but we finally understood and got out. So we stopped another cab and he refused us. I finally told Kilah I didnít care how much the ride was I was going back to the hotel in the black cab. The driver spoke English and told us it is against the law for a cab to take more than four riders. He had tinted windows so no one could see how many were in his cab. Also it was bigger. He had threatened the driver of the other cab that he would report him, which would have cost him a fine of three hundred Yuan. He was laughing at us in a good-natured manner and I was joking with him about my cheep daughter. Daveís sister shared the price of the ride home with Kilah. All and all it only cost about ten American dollars.
We got back to the hotel safely and in one piece and at that point thatís all I cared about. It was another busy day and I was exhausted. I did watch some Chinese TV in bed. We had HBO and some English channels but I found it entertaining to watch the Chinese TV. It appeared to be some kind of talent show like American Idol. It was a good way to wind down for the night before falling asleep.
Tips from a weary traveler;
Donít be cheep with your gifts unless you want to be embarrassed
Late at night just take whatever cab you can get. By American standards an expensive cab in Beijing is still cheep.
If you can, get away from the tourist area and see how the real people live
Donít watch English TV in China you can do that in America
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