my journey through the pursuit of love & happiness

china musings

Pictures from Beijing Sites

Forbidden City

Summer Palace

June 22, 2010

One of the girls at the massage parlor is 19 and has been working there since she was 16. She’s from a poorer, more rural area of china and plans to move back around 20 or 21 years of age to marry. She doesn’t have a suitor yet, but when she is ready her parents will introduce to boys they consider good catches.

A traditional Chinese massage is a little more intense, like deep tissue massage — which I happen to really like. At the massage parlor you change into these really soft pajamas. They place a thing towel over the areas the are massaging you at the moment. You might think that massaging over a towel and pajamas may be less effective in intensity, I assure you, it is not.

I love street food. I have a firm belief that if it’s hot it is okay to eat. Especially here when you can see your noddle or rice dish being made in front of you. For lunch I have recently been eating, and loving, the noodle women. The come in their push carts and set up shop around 11 or so for lunch. These women park their carts in walking street and pick up and leave immediately if they see the police drive by. It’s this strange cat and mouse game between the police and the carts. I’m not sure if it is because they are in the streets or because they don’t have a permit. There are plenty and different various vendor carts on the side walk; I’m not sure if it’s the sidewalk and/or permit issues that is the problem here. They will pick up and leave in the middle of making your favorite noodle dish. However, the only move a few blocks –if that—away.

For a really good cheap noodle soup there is this soup joint just around the corner of our building. The soup is so tasty and spicy! When you enter the soup place you grab a basket and pick out your noodles, vegetables and meats and place them in your basket. Being able to choose exactly what I want in my soup is one of the reasons why I love this place. You pay for your soup and get a number. The first time I went here I made the mistake of getting spicy chicken and underestimated their chili powder. Some places here the chili powder has no flavor! So I added two full scoops. Tears were coming from my eyes and my hand was a little shaky but it was so spicy and so good! Drinking the broth sometimes a chili seed gets sucked to the back of your throat and that is when you are really in trouble. Forget water, you need a hanky or tissues to blow your nose and wipe your forehead.

Most of the soup places offer pork blood. It looks like a purple tofu. When my Chinese roommate told me what it was she said, “Why are you not more surprised?”

Xiao Long Bao is another one of my favorite lunch time treats. They consist of pork, usually but also other meats and veggies, with some broth wrapped in a thin dough and steamed. To make them it is truly an art and talent. To eat them you first bit a small hole and suck out most of the broth. The tricky part is to not burn your tongue. I also really enjoy dipping them in the vinegar, which is very different than regular vinegar in the states. They are so delicious.

Last night we went to a Chinese western chain restaurant where they served me cold pumpkin soup with lots of added sugar. We also discovered that the pizza has no tomato sauce.

More importantly the food proportions here are smaller. It kind of puts into perspective how much we as westerners eat.

Unlike Africa, it is okay to eat and walk here. What is different for to go food is that drinks are put into plastic bags, even if it is just one or two drinks.

June 18th, 2010

I just came back from spending the week in Beijing. Here are some pictures of the sites I’ve visited.  Will post more on China later! I promise. Camping on the Great Wall.

May 26, 2010

Yesterday we went to a famous dumpling house in old town Shanghai. We left our place about 6pm and grabbed a gab, feeling that we had plenty of time before they closed at 9pm. When we arrived we saw a very long line, this was the to-go line. It smelled really good! We went upstairs to the hotel and stared at the large dumpling pictures as we patiently waited for a table. Once seated we find out that they actually stop seating at 8pm and are out of a lot of things. We ordered a variety of beef, crab and beef & crab dumplings. One order comes with six dumplings, which themselves are not very large. It would’ve been nice if lonely plant shanghai could’ve given us the heads up on the time issue with this famous restaurant. Afterwards we walked through some shops and the old down town area. My roommate and I decided to head back using the bus. The government is currently in the midst of adding 12 more metro lines in the next ten years. The closet metro to our hotel is new and closes at 4pm everyday. It goes so many places we want to go! It’s very frustrating. We walked for about a half an hour to the metro and then hopped on a bus. The bus ride was really fast and dropped us pretty close to our hotel. Today we visited the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center. They had pictures comparing streets of now and 100 or even 30 years ago. It was really interesting and allowed me to imagine what it was like when my great-grandma visited shanghai nearly a 100 years ago.

May 24, 2010

Today was a crazy day! We went to a mall where they sell things that have fallen of the truck. I got a really cute pair of black flats for $5. I then walked with one of my guy friends to the Pudong district. We got lost. It was an adventure. But that’s what we were looking for. We somehow found our way to the ferry so we were at last able to cross the river. But we crossed before the bend, so actually we ended up being worse off. We jumped on the metro during rush hour. Sooo crowded. The metro was air conditioned and I finally got a seat three stops before we stop, which also happened to be the end of the line. Actually, we were on a different line than we should have been because line 10 just opened and therefore only runs until 4pm. This fun new way of getting home only added to the adventure. When we got off we took a cab to our area and then decided to eat. We walked down a busy street and poked our heads in a few places. Across the busy street I saw a crowded restuarant. I immediately inferred that this must mean they serve good food. After my friend says we would be crazy to run across this intersection and suggests that we go to the corner I ran across the street. They didn’t speak any english but the menu had pictures. I got lucky with my dish. It was flavorful and a little spicy. My friend on the other hand does not handle spicy well at all! All the chile peppers really got to him. I have to admit I ate one with a lot of seeds and I swear I could feel a few beads of sweat started forming. He wanted to be a little crazy so he just pointed to the first thing he saw on the drink menu and low and behold ended up with a sprite. What I love most about this story is that there were no pictures of rice or noodles! So we ate our dishes just as they came, which is completely fine, however, some plain white rice really would’ve helped tame the spicy meal for my friend. After his tongue fell off and our long journey walking around we decided to get dairy queen. Yes they have like five dairy queens within a very short distance. Overall, the dq wasn’t worth the price it is here; they barely put in any oreos in my blizzard. They did however, keeping with the universal dq nuances, turn my blizzard up-side-down. And now that finds me here, in my hotel room. Admiring my new shoes and purse. Gotta say it was a good day.

May 20, 2010

Tokyo Airport

I think on the plane ride over I got a sleeping hangover. I was in the middle of a nice deep sleep when they woke us up for breakfast. The breakfast sandwich was pretty good and the orange juice was sweet. I had an isle set and for the entire ride, the couple to my left never got up to use the bathroom. And the guy kept drinking coffee. The Tokyo airport is really nice. Very quickly I noticed that there are no arm bars on the seats—something that would have be very convenient when I slept at LAX. Of all the ghetto peace corps things I’ve done sleeping in an airport is definitely up there. I sat in a McDonald’s for a while, where I would have stayed with the other Mexicans working and listening to their music had they had outlets. Luckily there were a few other unfortunate people in my same situation. Unfortunately for me the airport is freezing at night. Also, LAX is kinda ghetto. And when I got off my flight sometime around 1130/midnight there was NO bar open. Damn them. Technically I had been traveling for over 48 hours. There’s definite trade-offs between being dirty in the developed world and traveling versus traveling in Africa. Because I only washed my hair in Africa every other day my hair didn’t get greasy as fast, but now… However, I’m definitely not as dirty. I haven’t had to cover my face while traveling so the dust and other air pollutants don’t get to me. I couldn’t help but feel like cattle when I was on the plane. The way we are all crammed in (though there was some good leg space) and being fed on timed intervals so we don’t get too restless. Immediately when I sat down on the third (of fourth) leg of my trip to Shanghai I felt a natural traveling high. I felt it again when I got off at Tokyo and suddenly had a resentful feeling for the past year and my settled lifestyle. Infact, I feel like I keep getting signs that I need to go to Singapore. In one of my many naps I dreamt that’s where I was going and got it stuck in my head and had to talk to myself so I wouldn’t accidently get on the Singapore connection. Also, the flight number for Singapore was 619—my home town San Diego area code. My signs of luck paid off when someone from the university was at the airport to escort me to the hotel. Thankgoodness. Of course, this bright detail was followed by confinscated contraband materials at customs. A China traveling book that my friend Nick gave me had a map on the inside flap. This map somehow highlighted Tibet as it’s own state. Grrreat. They took the book wrote down my passport number inside the book and made me sign it. I’m pretty sure I’m on some list somewhere. I arrived at the hotel at midnight. The whole city is very reminiscent of vegas, minus the air conditioning, in that you can smoke inside—this is something everyone seems to take advantage of. The weather is humid but not so bad. Definitely not as bad as d.c. in the summer.

Welcome Dinner & KTV

Friday night of our first week they took us out to dinner. It’s definitely interesting to see the differences of people who haven’t done a lot of developing world traveling. I thought the food was great. Of course there were things on the table that I don’t usually eat, like jellyfish, however, that’s one of the reasons why I came to this country. I’m currently on the search for anteater and we already found a place that has turtle, frog and snake. …

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"IF YOU CAN'T HANDLE ME AT MY WORST, THAN YOU DON'T DESERVE ME AT MY BEST" -marilyn monroe

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