1/21/10: Beijing, China
Stepping outside the Beijing airport after one and a half months of Southeast Asia sun was like rounding the corner of your gym locker room only to see someone’s naked butt in the air: not altogether unexpected, but still somewhat unpleasant. And though we had lots of cold and snowy days in Nepal, there’s something about the clean air of the Himalayas that makes it seem much less cold. That, and walking six hours a day really warms a body up. So after my aunt and uncle picked us up from the airport and took us back to their apartment last night, we decided to boycott the outdoors for a day. But that doesn’t mean we’re not getting things done!
Things that Kevin did today:
- watched Die Hard on the computer after attempting (and failing) to figure out how to work the DVD player in the living room.
- made (and ate) thirty bowls of rice.
- booked our hostel for Xian.
- booked our hostel for Tokyo.
- mapped out an itinerary for our remaining days in Beijing.
- washed our dirty laundry.
- hung up our (now clean) laundry to dry.
Things that I did today:
- ate three mini Snickers.
- napped again.
- played Scramble2 on my iPod.
I think this whole not-planning thing agrees with me.
Luckily, I do still have one use while we’re here in China, and that’s as mediocre translator. Though my accent is pretty good, my Chinese vocabulary is not very extensive. But considering the only thing I’ve said for the past ten years in Chinese is, “Yes, my mom/dad is home, hold on,” actually, I think my Chinese is pretty good! And even though Kevin took Chinese for three years in high school, his Chinese is about as good as my French (pas tres bien), so I was given the task of calling Kevin’s grandmother’s brother and setting up a time to go see him in Beijing. Kevin’s grandmother’s brother (great-uncle?) started off the conversation by asking me why Kevin doesn’t speak Chinese and why don’t I teach him, and then he proceeded to list every single one of Kevin’s aunts and cousins and to tell me whether or not they speak Chinese. “X and Y came to Beijing, and they used to speak Chinese, but I don’t think they remember it anymore. C and D’s kids don’t know Chinese. I never met A and B, but they don’t speak Chinese either.” We had a 10-minute conversation, and this portion of it was about nine minutes.
Mom and Dad, brace yourselves. Are you ready?
Thank you for making me go to Chinese school.
There’s nothing like the rambling conversation of an old Chinese man who is a far-off relative of your husband’s and whom you’ve never met and whom you will probably only see once to make you really appreciate your parents forcing you to study Chinese for four hours every Saturday afternoon.
Another realization: traveling and staying with relatives is a very different experience from traveling on your own. For example – to date, a hostel owner has never:
- Forced fistfuls of 100 yuan bills into my hands, insisting that it’s money my mom wants us to have.
- Made some kind of stewed pear soup/juice for me to drink because “it’s good for your cold.”
- Bought seven different kinds of Chinese medicines for me to take to make my cough go away.
- Called us (literally) ten times in an hour to make absolutely SURE that we did make it onto the subway safely.
- Emptied her entire closet to find things for me to wear, because my things “aren’t warm enough!”
My aunt, on the other hand – well, she’s done all these things and more.
Other notable recent events:
- The disappearance of my new elephant keychain friend.
- Found a hole in my backpack.
- The restoration of Mr. Turtle’s only-pet status.
- Received an email notification that one of my graduate school applications is missing a portion, but a) they don’t know or can’t tell me what it is and b) I am unable to log into their system and check for myself.
- Ate McDonald’s.
- Ate Popeye’s.
Come to think of it, I don’t think the first three events on that list are wholly unrelated. Very suspicious…
Picture of the Day: Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? Er, Zhou Zhang?