Wednesday, May 8, 2013

April 29th, taking care of myself in the midst of the unknown and unfamiliar, Beijing

Today started out tough!  I woke up to the sound of the repetitive speaker outside my room again.  That was rough.  I tried to drown it out by thinking of other things and tightening the earplugs more, but I needed to get up anyway, so eventually I got up, hearing that sound plus cart wheels rumbling over cobblestones and cars and people outside as well as doors slamming inside.  I was overwhelmed before I got out of bed.  I got up and showered and prepared to head to Dylan's.  I stopped in the lobby to call Chris - I was feeling in need of a connection with my love.  It was very helpful.  I started crying almost right away - I think I needed the release.  I find that when I travel I sometimes get overwhelmed by the huge number of stimuli and new experiences.  I'm so used to my creature comforts and to having a lot of solitude and quiet that when I don't have them, I eventually don't respond so well.  It would be easier if I weren't so sensitive, but oh well!  Apparently I am!

I came over to Dylan's after the phone call with Chris and told him I needed to rest and recuperate.  I was wanting to spend time on the internet so I could download a couple of books and write a blog and catch up with friends on FB.  Instead I lay down on his bed and fell asleep for almost 4 hours.  I think what happened is that jet lag finally caught up with me.  I did the same thing after about three days in Paris.  I felt MUCH better and much less tearful when I woke up.

Yes, m&m's!  and Hershey's kisses and Dove Chocolate
Dylan was so sweet.  He suggested we go eat at a cafe where they have Western food.  We both had spaghetti Carbonara - yummy, if not healthy.  I simply needed something familiar and what my body was used to eating.  It was very comforting.  Then we went to a grocery store which has a lot of Western goods.  It was good to see things I recognize. I also saw plenty of unfamiliar, interesting things, or familiar things in new packages. Dylan said it isn't a good example of a typical Chinese grocery store because it caters to foreigners,sort of like shopping at Tan-A in Richmond which caters to Asian shoppers. But it had its lovely effect of soothing me! That's frankly all I wanted.

I was fascinated to see some things straight off American food store shelves, especially nuts from

Cheetoes, Lay's chips, etc.

Oreos of many flavors.  Dylan said they're pretty terrible.
Costco! Kirkland almonds and walnuts, etc. fascinating. They were more expensive in Beijing by about $4/bag, so $22 rather than $18 or thereabouts. They also had Cheerios, but Dylan said they are a different creature here - more like puffed rice round thingies rather than what we think of as Cheerios.

I saw some peaches or nectarines which had Chinese writing on them. It looks like some sort of sticker had been put on them when they were growing, then the lack of sun on that area caused them to turn a different color than the surrounding area so the image stood out though there was no sticker on it anymore. It seemed like a lot of work for a single piece of fruit.

There was also multicolored fruit with hairs growing out of it, long hairs, about 2 inches long. They were very pretty. Dylan bought something called Dragon's Eyeballs, also fruit, a bit larger than a very large grape with a skin about the color of a kiwi, but easy to peel like a clementine. They were mildly sweet and chewy gelatinous.

chicken feet, anyone?
 Dylan told me he hoped he had helped expand my palette some - isn't that role-reversal? I thought parents were the one who were always trying to get kids t eat more different stuff. Dylan has certainly worked hard to achieve his goal! I'm not sure I'll go out of my way to eat ducks' feet or dragons' eyes, but at least I can say I've eaten them!  That's step one. Right?!
I was tempted to get one of these just to explore and try to figure out how to open it, how to eat it, etc., but we didn't...  I still wonder what it's like.

These cherries, in their beautiful little baskets, were 120 Yuan or about $20.  Honest to goodness! 

I've seen these for sale in the US but have no clue what they're called or what to do with them either.

Some of their bakery treats.  Dylan says they're not very sweet or chewy or satisfying compare to American deserts.

These look like American cereals, but apparently don't taste like them.

what I was drawing.  Many people stopped there to have their pictures taken because the blooming trees were so beautiful.
one of Dylan's favorite stores - Happy Lemon - where they serve milk tea.
After the grocery store, we went to the lake at the university where we went the first day. Dylan did some reading - Life of Pi in Chinese - while I drew. What I drew wasn't particularly good, but it felt great to simply draw. A lot of folks came up to watch me draw and to see what I was doing. They were very friendly and kind and used their limited English with me. I loved the contact with others. It is so isolating to be so completely unable to comprehend a thing, By the end of the trip, I learned to say hello, thank you, and let's go. That's it. Hard to connect with just those words, though easier than without them!

In the evening, Dylan went to play Magic (a card game), with a friend, leaving me delightedly nhis commuter where I oiled access facebook and email with ease. The day was a lovely dose of ease in the midst of the stress of the unknown.

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