My mom turned 80 on Sunday, and she was here in Beijing to celebrate. She and a bunch of other people. In honor of this special occasion, I decided to host a week-long “Birthday/Vision Tour” for any family and friends willing to make the trek across the ocean. 11 showed up! We spent 8 days seeing the sights, meeting friends, getting a feel for the work I do here, laughing, and of course eating! The laughing and the eating came together especially well one night when my mom suddenly held her chopsticks high in the air and said, “why are both ends of my chopsticks dirty?” The waitress brought her a fork.
We also had fun singing Happy Birthday to her everywhere we went. At the Temple of Heaven, we got a group of senior citizen tourists from Qinghai to join in. And whenever we sang to her in a restaurant, everyone would join in and then the manager would suddenly show up with a bowl of long life noodles.
Yesterday I had one of those conversations that reminded me of how very differently Chinese and Americans think about some of the fundamentals of life, in this case hometowns. I was chatting with a taxi driver and asked him if he was a "lao beijing ren" (old Beijinger). He replied that he was, but then clarified that since he was a member of the Man minority (Manchurian), his "hometown" was in the northeast of the country. I asked him how long his family had been in Beijing then. "Oh, about 350 years," he replied.
As I was walking up the alleyway to my apartment building after work this evening, I spotted a darling little girl, maybe 3 years old riding her tricyle with grandpa trailing behind her. As I looked at her and smiled, she looked up at me with big eyes and said at the top of here lungs, ‘WAIGUOREN!’ (FOREIGNER!).
In this era of rapid globalization in China, I wonder if there will ever come a day when toddlers won’t shout that.
Just when we thought we might have seen everything in the "Getting Ready For the Games" department, a story like this comes along. It seems there is a gentleman in Beijing who is doing his part to clean up the city for the Olympics by buying flies. He hangs out near the entrance to a city park and pays 2 yuan (about a quarter) to anyone who brings him a dead fly.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, "Silly Season" is in full swing and we still have 490 days to go before the opening ceremonies.
On the way out and back to Kashgar last weekend I had to make connections in the airport at Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Province. Flying domestically in China has its own set of unique features, but one that is particularly annoying is the lack of “interline” (or intra-line, for that matter) connecting, where you can check your bags all the way through to your final destination. It took me four flights to get to Kashgar and back for which I had four separate tickets and had to check myself and my suitcase in four separate times. I landed in Urumqi, grabbed my bag from baggage claim, ran upstairs to check in, then headed to the gate. Never mind that the plane I was getting off and the plane I was getting on were sitting right next to each other on the tarmac, and that the two airlines (Hainan and China Southern) are actually both wholly owned subsidiaries of the same parent company, the Chinese government!
Oh well, if I hadn’t had to claim my bags in Urumqi I would have missed this wonderful sign in the baggage claim area!
I’m sorry, but I thought one fattened UP, not DOWN.