April 27, 2015

CHINA: The Food

The food in China is quite different, but not shocking like you might think.  Rice, veggies, lots of cucumbers (who knew?!), meat, mushrooms and lots of cilantro.  Cilantro? Really?  I thought that was only the plague of the Tex Mex variety.  Apparently they love it in China and put it in everything.  Particularly awesome when cilantro tastes like cleaning fluid to certain taste palates. Um, me.  

(lunch time with the nannies.  so much YUM)

I actually really liked the food in China though.  I miss lunch with the nannies at Morning Star.  The nannies and MS’s driver would make lunch for everyone, and it was so delicious.  For those of you that are wondering... NO, real Chinese food is not really like American Chinese food AT ALL.  It's so much better.  Surprisingly so.  It is less, how do I explain this….fast foody?  All I can say is that their food isn’t neon orange or breaded and fried like pretty much all American Chinese food.

Oh and let’s talk about the wonder of Bubble Tea.  I had my first Bubble Tea in China which seemed very appropriate.  It’s available in the US, but not popular where I live, so I was still a Bubble Tea virgin.  Verdict:  YES.  More please.  I chose the milk variety.  Cold.  I want more right now.  Oh my, it is delightful.  

(Green beans in the center, come find me in America.  I miss you)

I also had the most delicious green beans of my life at the restaurant in Meredith’s neighborhood.  They were cooked with lots of garlic and tiny bits of port and some other magic deliciousness.  I need to figure out how to make those beans.  Yum.

The only hard thing about food in China is the water.  You can’t drink the water, which means you shouldn’t technically eat fruits or raw veggies that are washed in the water.  I did both and didn’t get sick.  But I also bypassed a few things that I probably would have tried if I wasn’t scared of getting sick (Hello, world’s most sensitive digestive system. You are so annoying.  The end) I did throw caution to the wind a few times and was so glad that I didn’t miss out on the deliciousness.  

Wrap up:  
#1  If you go to China, you won’t die of starvation if you don’t like Chinese food.  

#2  Go to a restaurant with photos of the food since you can’t read the menu.

#3  Don’t drink that tap water.

#4  Always say yes to Bubble Tea.  Always.

April 23, 2015

China: The Forbidden City

My sweet friend was kind enough to be my personal tour guide and take me to those places a good tourist goes when they are in Beijing. I mean, she's been too many times to count and yet happily toured me through the Beijing subway all the way through the Forbidden City.


And right across a super, busy highway from Tiananmen Square (children of the 80's like me, can you picture that photo of a man standing in front of tanks when I say those words? There was NOTHING marking that event in history. Like it never happened.) It's weird to have a giant historic landmark on the side of a highway. Kinda ruins the whole magic of the experience at first.

It really is quite a sight to behold, this Forbidden City.  Pay the money and check it out if you are ever in Beijing.  It’s what you think of when you imagine China of days gone by.  

And the old, old trees in the back section are so fascinating.  Tim Burton trees, I call them. They almost look like cartoons.

Side story:
Before we headed to the Forbidden City, we did the extra fun task of exchanging my American dollars for Chinese Yuan.  ONE HOUR, 5 copies of my passport, 10 red stamps and 4 signatures later I had cash.  And no, that is not an exaggeration.  #becauseChina  The struggle is real.  Let's all say a prayer for foreigners living there.  Good gracious.

There is so much more still to come.  The babies, the Great Wall, food, Morning Star and a million tiny moments.

April 21, 2015

China: All the Thoughts

So, China.

That happened.

It isn’t a dream or a wish any more. It’s a living, breathing place in my memory full of people and smells and foods and more people.  It’s real and there is a sky there and the sun and even some stars.  The same ones that are over me right now.  There are stories there and families and normal everyday things like making lunch and grocery stopping and walking up and down stairs.  

Sometimes I feel like it's easy to think that certain places are only real in movies or stories because they seem so far away.  But it’s only 16 hours on a plane, including one very long continuous “we’re never going to get out of here” 14 hour stretch.  Step off that airplane and the language is unfamiliar, the food is different and people look different too.  It’s kinda crazy.  Our world is so much smaller than we think it is.

China surprised me. In a good way. I was expecting to feel overwhelmed by it. I wasn't. I'll give my friend 100% credit for that because she interpreted everything for me and basically let me follow her around like a lost puppy. I really did. I was no help AT ALL. None. But I could follow along like a champ.  Give them this amount of money....got it. Take the #5 train...okay. He's asking you if you want your bubble tea warm or cold...oh, um...cold? (btw: definitely the right decision. Officially addicted now).

But back to China. It's so different. I've been lucky to travel to quite a few places on this globe, but China wins the prize for the being most different from home. I kinda loved it for its vast differences. Now, some of those things are super annoying and I was ready to leave them behind when I got back on that plane, but overall I couldn't believe the wonder that is this place called China.

I've been writing for days. Trying to get my thoughts out of my head and into words. It's hard. So much of this trip will live inside me. It's changing me. There will be things I can't explain #becauseChina. (I swear that hashtag is truly the only explanation for some things. Things like Chinglish signs or squatty potties) There will be things that I'll realize 3 years from now that will all come back to this trip. But for now, I'll do my best to be brief while giving you a peak into this trip of a lifetime.

I leave you with this photo...

...this is the garbage truck in the neighborhood where I stayed.  This is 2015, not 1890.  Like I said #becauseChina.  No other explanation.

More, oh so much more, to come.