New in Town

Heard you're in town, want someone to show you 'round
Well, no one knows this place quite like me
Well, I don't hang with the crowd, where I go we're dressing down
I'll take you where the music plays for free
-Little Boots

Two years ago, we spent about a week in Beijing with zero knowledge of the country's language. Thankfully we had friends who ordered food for us, told us what buses to ride, and got us a taxi to the airport. This time, we came with just a little more knowledge. We know numbers. We know how to ask “How much is this?” (if we get lazy and forget to use tones, this phrase is useless). We can say “Help me please”, “I would like beer” and “Good-bye”. The terrifying part comes when someone responds to the question or comment. Sometimes I guess what the meaning is, and about 99 percent of the time I am wrong.

Thankfully, for the last week we have been under the gracious care of Xialian, an American who has been living in China for the last two years. We sort feel like she has to babysit us. She met us at the airport, got us on a bus, took us to her home, and gave us her bed while she slept on her lopsided futon. She took us to an open air market with a dazzling selection of vegetables, fruits, eggs, meat and seafood. At that market, she hopped from seller to seller finding the best prices for dragonfruit. Everyday, she made us coffee and breakfast in the morning, and dinner at night. She told us where to go and what to buy (more on that in future blogs). So we spent our first week with Xialian, where we managed to eat a lot of food and watch the entire trilogy of “Back to the Future.”

The way we feel about being in Beijing may be best explained by our first night here. Yes, the sky was smoggy and the air had a metallic smell. We were among a sea of people bumping elbows and breathing on each other. But then we ate dinner. After an underwhelming selection of dumplings, saucy fried dishes, and a general lack of spice in Hong Kong, the Beijing food exploded with flavor in our mouths. Spicy braised tofu and dried chicken with an abundance the hot peppers, garlic, and onions. Yes, this place is home.

First Chinese beer, cost less than $1 USD
Garlic greens, spicy tofu, and chicken w/ peppers
A store for both ladies and gentlemen
Street food - BBQ Squid
Xialian makes awesome popcorn