It sounds obvious, but my favorite thing about China is the food. Breakfast is to die for. Even though I wake up at 5 a.m. from jet lag, there are already street vendors busily cooking piles and piles of food to add to their already towering stacks. Breakfast here is no bowl of cold cereal or a simple slice of toast. It is a full meal with a variety of porridges, fritattas (sweet or salty), tea-boiled eggs, wonton soup and more.
People here think of meals in a different way than we do in the US. You probably already know that meals are shared family style, and chopsticks are the main utensil. But meals seem to signify more than just eating.
When you take someone out to eat in the US, generally you finish eating, and then go somewhere else for coffee and/or drinks, and that is where you chat. In China, people continue nibbling on dish after dish, during which time they hold their conversations.
On Saturday, we had been at lunch for over an hour when the waitress came over and said the buffet would be closed at two. It was barely one o'clock, and she seemed surprised when we told her we were just about done.
If you're wondering why the people in China are not morbidly obese, it's definitely because they do so much walking. Even though more people have cars now, most still walk/bike to school, walk/bike to the bus stop, walk/bike to work, the supermarket, the subway station, or a friend's house.
My footwear of choice, the flip flop, does poorly here. Yet, I see 75 percent of the women tromping around in high heels! It slightly confuses me... but they seem very comfortable.
On Friday night, my aunt and uncle took us to a Mongolian restaurant. It was more like a park than any restaurant I've ever been to. Instead of one building where everyone eats, there were many tents like round teepees which were like private dining rooms. Mongolian ethnic singers and dancers went from teepee to teepee entertaining, and the specialty of the house was gigantic roast lambs. The entire restaurant and its 69 teepees were so spread out that waiters typed orders into mini phones which transmitted to the kitchens, and bus boys brought huge platters of food on bicycles.
Afterwards, we were served a tangy orange drink made of Goji berries. It was meant to cut the taste of lamb.
Yesterday, we went to Tianjin, a city on the northeastern coast of China, to visit my cousin. We rode the famous bullet train that travels between Beijing and Tianjin in barely half an hour! It goes up to 350 kilometers per hour, which is like 200 miles an hour.
It's actually nicer to use so much public transportation because the driving here is absolutely insane. Here is an example of my experiences:
My little sister Emily: "Do you think you have to pass a driving test to get a license here?"
My mother: "Yes, I don't see why not."
Emily and me together: "But there's no point!"
As if to prove our point, a motorcycle suddenly comes barreling toward us going the wrong way in the lane.
It would have been funny if it wasn't so scary. But I have to remember that no matter how mad I get at those crazy drivers, I still need to get out of their way; my indignance is not going to make them drive more carefully. Besides, I'm convinced now that you wouldn't get anywhere if you did not drive like a madman. Everyone else would just cut you off and pass you by.
Next week we are going on a guided tour of Yunan, a province in southwestern China. It's supposedly beautiful and springlike year round, which will be welcome after the incessant heat here in Beijing. I'll tell you all about that!