Local Local Challenge: Week 3
Days 1 and 2 of Week 3 were a complete local failure. In a very expatty style I went to yoga, had a lunch meeting at Flamme, bought vitamins and protein powder from the World Health Store and attended an 85 Broads Event at the Royal Smushi House. Luckily I’m only losing this challenge to myself, and I got to hear May Xue (recently appointed CEO of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art) give a talk about her one-woman charge to try and officially register UCCA as the first foreign NGO in China. Go May!
Back on track. While grocery shopping I made it my mission to explore the nooks and crannies of Jinkelong, really trying to read packages and understand the contents of mystery jars instead of just assuming that I wouldn’t know the ingredients inside. To my surprise, I could understand more of the pinyin on the packaging than I imagined, and in general the aisles felt a bit more familiar than when I first arrived to China. I bought ingredients for a big stir-fry, but still find it hard to produce quality Chinese meal without significant amounts of processed carbs like noodles, rice and bread, which isn’t the best diet for running. (Hence the WHS trip.)
I finally checked out Baoyuan Jiaozi restaurant with my co-workers from The Hutong, and was impressed by the décor and colorful dumplings! (I also went to a talk given by the founder of Heyrobics, and had a work dinner at Carmen.)
I spent a good bit of the day biking around in attempting to collect my wallet because it was (miraculously) dropped off at a hotel near Dawang Lu, and the management called my apartment complex when they saw my swipe card. Wow, complete miracle! I then headed with Chef Sue Zhou to check out some local spots in Tuanjiehu. She showed me a great baozi place called BaoRong Xing BaoJer, where I tried huluobuo fentiao (carrot and starch noodle) baozi for the first time. Sue tells me that more and more restaurants are adding starch noodles as fillers, because it’s a cheap way to fill up the baozi. I also tried another bun with a surprise quail egg inside, very tasty! We also went to a typical Chinese pudding shop, where we had warm coconut and red bean pudding. Red beans are just about my favorite dessert, so it was the perfect snack.
Typical Chinese-style lunch at school, otherwise not much to report.
My friend Aveleigh and I checked out No. 8 Hot Springs Resort at Chaoyang Park West gate. These types of resorts are quite a foreign concept to westerners, but it’s definitely a must-have experience in China. First, the staff gives you silk pajamas before eating at their unlimited buffet. I get a kick out of seeing a whole room of adults sitting around in their pj’s eating food and relaxing. Next, it’s off to the spa! For RMB 198 (including food) at No. 8 Hot Springs you can relax all day in the hot springs pool, sauna and steam rooms. The spa also offers other services at an additional cost, and I made the mistake of requesting a “peeling” thinking that this would be similar to a facial. Um, no. I got a somewhat painful full body scrub that polished every part of my body except my face… Overall though I felt like I was living in a fairy tale with pink silk pajamas, unlimited food and lounging!
My bike lock broke on my bike, and I pushed it on its front wheel through the hutongs to the shop where I purchased the piece of junk. The owners smashed it off with a hammer in about thirty seconds and gave me a different type, no wonder so many bikes are stolen in Beijing. Then I met up with colleagues at the new U-Town Blue Frog for dinner.
I wonder if the local local gods are spiting me because of all the Western food I have been eating. First it was a bike crash, then wallet stolen and finally a broken bike lock …
Well gods, I feel guilty enough about my non-local choices, so I don’t need the reminder! This week I realized more than ever that I do still work in expat circles, and many of these mealtime meetings were just unavoidable. Maybe it seems like I have failed this challenge, but every week I have managed to have had new cultural experiences and I’m developing a more clear picture of why it is tough for foreigners to integrate into local culture. Don’t count me out just yet!