Posted by on May 8, 2011 | 1 comment

Restaurant Banner Closeup

Neighborhood Buildings

Water Cooler at Bank

Sidewalk Construction

Smog Soup 1

Smog Soup 2

School Practice

School Practice Closeup

Lili Douhua Restaurant

Brian at Lili Douhua

Yu Xiang Rou Si

Shu Cai Juan Bing

Neighborhood 1

Neighborhood 2

Neighborhood 3

Neighborhood 4

Neighborhood 5

Neighborhood 6

Neighborhood 7

Neighborhood 8

Neighborhood 9

Newsstand

McDonalds Is Everywhere

New Building Construction

Colorful Chopsticks

Sashimi Plate

Sushi and Salad

Sushi Hand Roll

Salmon Head

Japanese Dessert

Chinese Breakfast

Tea Nice

20 April 2011

When I woke up on Wednesday morning, I was feeling miserable. My lungs were burning and my nose was running. I was thinking that I had come down with a cold, but I didn’t feel any of the aching that would normally go along with a cold. I just felt like the air quality was so bad that my body was fighting back against it. When I looked out the window, that explanation made more sense. There was a greyish-brown haze over everything. I call it smog soup. Hopefully you can see what I mean in the accompanying photos.

Across the way from our building there is a school, and every morning the students are out marching and playing sports. You can hear someone counting “yi, er, san, si” (one, two, three, four in chinese) through a megaphone, with some kind of marching band music in the background.

I didn’t feel like doing much of anything in the morning, but eventually we left home to get some lunch at a nearby restaurant called Lili Douhua. We had passed by the place before on our way to the grocery store, and it looked promising from the outside. When we first went inside we were pointed to a table on the first floor, right next to another patron who had just lit up a cigarette. There were thick clouds of smoke making their way over to our table. That was the last thing I needed, given my present condition. Yuan asked them to move us somewhere else, and the next thing you know we were heading upstairs to the second floor, and into a room that was almost completely empty, and seated at a nice big table. This was such a huge improvement, and I literally breathed a sigh of relief.

Lunch was delicious as always, and included a dish called Yu Xiang Rou Si that contained fried pork strips and veggies and had a very distinctive sweet-spicy-garlicy sauce, and another dish that was like an omelette stuffed with veggies and served with thin pancakes.

Yuan had some bank business she needed to take care of, so off we went after lunch to find a bank branch that was fairly close to home. We walked along down the city street, while I took photos of the neighborhood. The whole area seemed very run down and neglected.

We made it to the bank, and had to pass through a security screening to get inside. While we were sitting in the lobby, waiting for our number to be called, I noticed a really interesting water cooler with a Chinese landscape drawing on it. I managed to snap a photo of it, but when I lifted my camera to take the picture, the tellers started yelling at me to stop, because photography is not allowed inside the bank.

On our way home we stopped in a drug store to get a couple of things. It was crowded and way too hot inside the store. There seem to be many stores in Beijing that have no air conditioning or proper air circulation. I was dying in there, and the line of people at the checkout was moving so slowly, I thought we would never get out alive.

That night, I didn’t feel like doing anything, but we had to eat. I felt that I might be able to handle some sushi, so Yuan set out to find a place for us. Unfortunately the first place we went (where she had been before) no longer existed. Finding an alternative wasn’t easy, but she managed to come up with with another idea (a place where she had taken clients in the past), and off we went.

Dinner was great, and included an order of salmon head, which I have never seen on a menu in the U.S. It was some of the most tender fish I have ever tasted. Yuan likes to say that Americans miss out on a lot of great experiences because they are so squeamish about certain kinds of food (like scorpions on a stick, perhaps? So tasty and nutritious!)

21 April 2011

The next day, Thursday, I was still feeling awful, and the weather looked rather gloomy. We stayed home so I could rest and work on the blog. It rained during the day, and cooled off a bit. In the evening we headed over to a different part of town (by taxi) to meet with DouDou and have dinner. Her office is in the Commercial Business District (CBD), and we walked from there to a shopping center that was very upscale and impressive. The place we ate was in a food court and specialized in Beijing traditional noodles. Unlike the image we have of food courts as purveyors of junk food in the U.S., this one was very high quality and the food was excellent. Unfortunately I was still feeling really bad and had no energy, and I didn’t manage to take any pictures while I was there.

After dinner we went up to DouDou’s office for a while. It was on a pretty high floor and had a great view out over the city. One of the great things about the Beijing skyline is the way the buildings are lit up at night. The whole side of a building can become a giant animated work of art, and some of the displays are very imaginative. It makes you want to work late, just so you can stare out the window for a while longer.

While we were at the office, DouDou offered us some nuts to snack on. I didn’t recognize them at first, but then I realized that they were pine nuts, roasted in the shell. In all the years I’ve been eating pine nuts, I didn’t even think about the fact that they had a shell. I just buy them in the bag with the shell already removed. The same is true of sunflower seeds. Everywhere I go in China I see people eating sunflower seeds by first removing each individual seed from its shell. Such a lot of work, for such a tiny reward. Americans are used to having all the work done for them ahead of time, so that they can sit down and shovel a whole mouthful of nuts or seed into their mouth at once. It’s no wonder that Chinese people tend to be much thinner than Americans.

Happy Spring Festival

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