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Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Butterfly Dream

Back from three weeks in the Middle Kingdom, completely vague about what day it is. I left Beijing on Saturday and passed through Gate 61 at Narita, and as I write this, it is still Saturday.
Liushiyi men, (Gate 61) how cool is that?
My hotel (the Hong Run Business Hotel in SE Beijing) thoughtfully changed a little rug in the elevator every day, like a calendar (or those little-girl underpants I never had but actually would be useful for traveling).  Now back in the Islands, it is still Saturday, although the Saturday I left seems like a lifetime ago, a dream. And it was, really.
Xingqiliu (Saturday)
Dear reader, I would have posted, but the intermittent wifi access with the VERY COOL 3G iPad was not the real problem.  My blog, along with my YouTube account, was blocked by the Great Firewall.  Highly privileged persons (the Wizard, my son and my office) did get some email updates, but broadcasting my musings was not possible.  And I was unable to download my photos daily, but I blame Apple for that--I was not able to get a camera connector for the VERY COOL iPad before I left.  Attempted USB workarounds failed (the proprietary connector apparently triggers the application). On the other hand, it gave me the opportunity to buy two (cheap) 2G memory cards for my faithful Casio EXILIM in Chinese department stores and geek shops.  I was able to do it speaking Mandarin.

So, now home, after a glorious nap in the soft Hawaii breeze on my heavenly Tempur-pedic (why the Chinese make these wonderful fluffy quilts only to sleep on rock-hard mattresses I will never understand), I have downloaded nearly 2,000 photos through which I must sift to correlate with my various notes (recorded both on the VERY COOL iPad and in a little Moleskine notebook).  Categories are organizing themselves: Chinese old and new contrasts, ubiquitous doting grandparents and indulged grandchildren, a theme of China then and now. Food. Kung fu. Televison (I LOVED watching TV in Beijing: CCTV has whole channels devoted to Chinese opera, martial arts dramas, and cultural studies).  Confucius, politics and image. Taoism and Buddhism. Food. Cute Chinese men and annoying young Chinese teens, Little Emperors at puberty. Air and water. Living Chinese painting scenery. Did I mention food?

My last night in Beijing, where I magically connected for a few precious hours with a friend from Scotland on her way to Wudangshan, (a sort of Taoist yin/yang arrival and departure moment) we dined in a lovely little restaurant, well away from but near Wanfujing, distinguished mostly by being next to a public toilet, catching up over many pots of jasmine tea, laughing hysterically over a menu (with photos) that included:
  • Trepangs with elbows
  • XO sauce explodes squid
  • Pineapple money cattle
  • The young acupuncture needle of boiler fertilizes a cattle
  • Pig hands with chili
  • Stir fry a rape completely
  • The egg stir fries a garlic bolt
  • The shelled fresh shrimp fried the Chinese yam
Or perhaps this was the plot of a Peking opera. (These dishes were even more extreme than the "arrogant chicken" on offer in a restaurant in Hangzhou.  Dish made from very elegant cocks only, I guess. Perhaps there is a Chinese government bureau which names dishes to entertain, or mock, Westerners.)  Still we lingered over our truly wonderful slow meal of Mongolian leg of lamb, a garlic eggplant better than any I have ever tasted, a meat thing in wrappers, rice, the endlessly delicate jasmine cha, and all conveniently next to the public toilet. For 140 kuai, about 10 USD apiece.  I can easily spend that on mediocre plate lunches in Honolulu, without the tea, the charm and the toilet accessibility.  It was so good, my friend has already advised me that before her overnight train to Wudang, she went back for lunch.  She did not tell me what she ordered.  (Not likely a completely stir-fried rape.)

So, stay tuned and bear with me.  There's lots more to digest, so to speak.


The Rambling Taoist said...

Well, welcome home! If you get a chance, please send me a Pineapple money cattle with a side order of pig hands. :-D

baroness radon said...

Aloha, didi...I don't think they're vegetables. I tried to get take-out, but couldn't get through customs!

Kittie Howard said...

Welcom home!I devoured your blog! What an amazing trip you had. And you speak Mandarin...this is super wonderful for you can blog about those sublities so important to a culture. I checked your blog several times so figured the Chinese govt had blocked your blogging because there was more about their efforts on the news while you were gone. Rest up!