Saturday, March 3, 2007

Restaurants, "Face" and Landlords!

Thursday, March 1

For dinner, we were taken to a welcome banquet at HuaJian YiYuan, a very good restaurant that had already been recommended to us from a native Beijinger in the states. We ate everything from pork to beef to chicken with cashews to Beijing duck to a crazy fish dish. When we ordered it, the guy returned in a little while with a live fish flopping around in a bucket. After our table approved it, he went off and prepared the dish. This is pretty standard and you can always see many fish tanks near the entrance of most restaurants that serve seafood. This was also the group’s first experience with Baijiu or China’s white liquor. It is between 50 and 60% alcohol and, in my opinion, should only be used as a disinfectant. The dinner was altogether amazing with great conversation and a very fun crowd. The funny thing is, that whole meal, with all of those different kinds of meat, probably only cost $5.00 per person, and that is pricey for China! We can’t wait to go back to that restaurant again…
The way home was a great example of the Chinese concept of “face.” After we ate at the restaurant, Claudia fully described the location of our apartment to the taxi driver and he verified that he knew where it was…only for us to get down the road and he had no idea where he was going. I asked him, “So do you know where it is,” and he emphatically said, “No.” But he had previously nodded and agreed…not wanted to lose face with Claudia. This was funny because we had been warned about this very thing only a couple of hours before during orientation. I think the lack of the “I don’t know” phrase might prove to be a little frustrating for us, but at least we understand where it comes from culturally. Knowing is half the battle…

Saturday March 3

This morning was the craziest morning yet. We had all been sound asleep late into the morning because we had stayed up late the night before. I woke up to hearing Sarah and Adrian sounding confused with a random Chinese voice. I ran out of my bedroom to find them at the door with about five people all very confused and about to walk into our apartment. It turns out that it was our landlord from Guangzhou and she had come to visit us. But she had knocked so many times that it disturbed all the doormen and neighbors, so they came too. We were all looking bad, only dressed in pajamas, but she came in and made herself at home. She was such a character. She arrived and it took us a few minutes to even figure out who she was. I might have understood a lot of her meaning, but only about 40% of what she said. We talked some business, but she constantly went off on tangents. Her tangents involved things like taiji demonstrations, philosophical comments about fate and friendship, information about herself, the importance of exercise, reflexology, and demonstrations of all of the above. Within the first 15 minutes of knowing her, we knew that she was almost 70 and she did a split on the floor followed by a yoga position where she held her foot up by her head! We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. I waded through the difficulties with the Chinese while Sarah and Adrian just tried to figure out what was going on, but we truly soaked up this Chinese experience. She ended up leaving us three hours later with an invitation for lunch tomorrow, the possibility of finding Olympic tickets for 2008, all the information we ever needed about Chinese exercise, and some good bus routes and names of restaurants and good dishes. As she left, I expressed that we were extremely happy to meet her, etc. and she said that it was fate that brought us together and we were all good friends. There is no need for such gratitude between friends! When we closed the door, we were starving for some lunch or breakfast, (because it was now 1:30PM) but we took a few minutes to sit and digest what we had just experienced. How random and cool can you get during your first week in Beijing?...
We finally recovered and got ready and made our way to Carrefour to buy some stuff for the house around 3PM. The store was jam-packed with Chinese people shopping on a Saturday afternoon and people were yelling promotions on every aisle adding to the noise. We bought everything we needed including cell phones, irons, pans, food, tea kettles, etc and only ended up spending about $35 each. Amazing. Getting back in the cabs was complicated with all of the stuff so we had to take two. This was the first time that I left anyone that didn’t speak Chinese by themselves, but Adrian and Sarah actually beat Adam and me back to the apartments with his GPS thing and even taught the driver how to use the defrost on his car!
For dinner we all went out to eat Hotpot at this place that Adam had seen in passing. It was a little showy, since the restaurant was in the bottom of a hotel, and the service was definitely the worst we have had thus far in China, but at least the idea of what Hotpot is and how you eat it was conveyed to the first-timers. We had lamb, beef, some weird stuff from the sea, veggies, tofu and seasonings to put in our pots with different sauces. Very tasty, but also our most expensive meal yet.

2 comments:

The "Me" in Mexico said...

Steph! I am soooo jealous of you guys right now. I would love to experience that with all of you guys! I know you will be having an awesome time and I am sure to keep in touch with you as time goes by. Please make sure to eat some delicious food for me and then brag about it. I will make it there eventually, so this will give me a list of "Must Haves" for when the time comes. I miss you sweet pea!

Anonymous said...

Stephanie,
We are loving reading about all of your excellent adventures in China! It sounds as if you are having a blast and from the description of your apartment, I think your stateside decorators would approve! Can't wait for the next installment!
Angela