The Day After a Night of Dumplings| May 30, 2013
Hello again. I was looking through some of the other international interns' blogs yesterday, and I realized I may have gotten a little blog-crazy. Most of the others only have one, if any completed. But I decided that although it may make me a bit of a nerd, I am going to use this blog as a sort of travel journal to make sure I write things down when they are fresh in my memory. I am not a world traveler by any means (many of the other interns have been all over the world, sometimes twice), so being in China makes me feel like I'm seven-years-old wandering down Main Street in Disneyland.
Okay, so last time I told you I was going to give you some examples of the "shocking" things I've seen. I guess by shocking I really mean "gross" by American standards. I've really been trying to keep an open mind (and really, there are amazing and wonderful things in Beijing), but I have to say: culture shock. I know, I know, this blog is probably supposed to be uber-professional (sorry W&M), but I can't help but (at least once) point out some things that you should prepare yourself for should you ever decide to travel 11,000 miles away (at least according to google maps -- which incidently is super hilarious to get directions from Williamsburg to Beijing. Apparently, if you're going to make the drive, you should expect toll roads and a ferry ride. Seriously, google map it).
So here goes:
(1) Baby diapers are often not used here in China. So what's the big deal, right? Well, what happens is that mothers run outside when they realize their baby has to go (how they know is beyond me), and they hold their babies over the side of the curb or a trash can. Okay, so I really think it's awesome that disposable diapers are frequently not used (I mean really, those things take about a thousand years to biodegrade), and maybe it would be fine if the mothers chose isolated areas, but really people, when I'm sitting down to dinner with my meat-skewer of unknown meat, I really don't want to see/smell that from three feet away. Yep. That happened.
(2) Eating. Of course, the food is delicious. I don't know the names of 90% of the things I eat, but man is it good. Contrary to most of the advice I received before I left, I've just been eating whatever I like, even if I have no idea what it is. Eh. I'm alive and my stomach hasn't hated me too much. However, the Chinese have a very...shall I say unique?...way of eating. It's loud. I've always been one of those really obnoxious people that gets super annoyed by anyone eating even remotely loudly around me (I seriously I think I have a problem; sometimes the sound of someone eating cereal next to me requires that I leave the room), so this has probably been one of the biggest (slash the dumbest -- I know I'm a jerk) adjustment for mean. I'm pretty good on the chopstick front, but there are lots of slippery noodles (one of the noodles I ate was made from a combination of sweet potato and soy beans -- it was almost translucent, so in a pile it kind of looked like jelly fish tentacles. They were delish by the way). Basically, you are forced to hold your bowl or plate really close to your mouth, try to lock some in your chopsticks, and slurp them up. It seems like a majority of people lean over their dish to do the slurping, but my back started hurting from all the leaning. So, I'm working out my issues, so to speak.
(3) And finally, the spitting. All I'll say about this is that there is a very loud clearing of the throat and a very loud spitting noise. It happens very often. Enough said.
Okay, enough of that (and I am making a scout's honor promise to avoid these types of graphic details in the future).
On another, completely different, note, I spent last night exploring a large area of hutongs. One word: AMAZING. I'm a super idiot and forgot my camera, but it was so beautiful and crowded and noisy and full of Chinese trinkets. I will explain these in more detail in my next post (because I just realized this one is becoming super long), but I will tell you about one thing I did. I ate way too many dumplings, both fried and boiled (and by way too many, I mean that I probably gained 10 pounds, but it was totally worth it). We went to a really famous dumpling place -- Mr. Shi's Dumplings -- which is apparently a big foreigner spot (the walls are covered in people's signatures, where they're from, drawings of flags, etc.). Oh. My. Gosh. They were so delicious. See http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g294212-d1964873-Reviews-Mr_Shi_s_Dumplings-Beijing.html
Stay tuned. More to come.