Saturday, September 24, 2005

Bu chi rou
(don't eat meat)

The concept of vegetarian doesn't exist in China. Since the concept of vegetarian doesn't really exist outside of California, I'm used to people not understanding my dietary needs. Anywhere else I can usually explain that I don't eat meat and that fish and chicken are, in fact, meat. Even in other languages limited words and ridiculous gestures get the job done. No meat, no chicken, no fish. Yes, thank you, I'll just have the bread.

Dinner last night proved that finding vegetarian food in China isn't going to be as easy. I can't speak Chinese, which is an obvious problem, and I can't find anyone who speaks English. People also don't understand my gestures, which is really making it tough to get around. Apparently, pointing at oneself no longer means 'me.'

I had friends here to help me order food last night. But I'm leaving Beijing today, and my bilingual buddies aren't coming with me. I think my veggie options include hiding at a Budhist monestary for the next two weeks or getting by on a lot of rice. This is a bit of a dissapointment, since China is said to have great veggie food. Sigh...if only I knew how to order it.

Aside from the veggie challenge, my inability to communicate with people has been a bit of fun. Devin and I skipped the expensive cabs that American tourists take from the airport and opted for a public bus. We missed our stop, only to hit the streets of Beijing on foot and realize that we had been on the wrong bus. We found a cheap cab and a driver who knew where we were going, and wound up in the right neighborhood with no clue what building to enter. We were rescued by Jin's boyfriend Cameron. He doesn't know us, but found us wandering in an open street market after Jin had sent him to look for two lost Americans.

First impressions of Beijing: Bicycles, smoking, smoke-related spitting, and people are abundant. The best dressed people in town wear crisp government uniforms. People seem to have far less than in the U.S. (big suprise) but I have seen no poverty and no homelessness. Everything is dirty, and the air quality makes L.A. seem like a conservation paradise. Otherwise Beiling is much like what I expected: a major city in a big country, with noticeable similarities to any other big city in any other big country. In Beijing, I can buy Pizza Hut pizza and get eel as a topping.

Today, we're planning our trip to Chengdu, where we'll catch a cruise down the Yangtzee river. Plans may change if Jin's agent can't help us, but we need to get out of Beijing as soon as possible. National Holiday begins this Friday and lasts for a week. Which means that just about all of the14 million people in Beijing will be headed out of the city on vacations of their own. We're told that crowding may get bad enough to prevent us from leaving the city. So we'll visit other parts of the country now, let the people of Beijing celebrate the founding of China's communist government without us, and return when it isn't as crowded.

After managing the veggie food dilemma, my next challenge is connecting the digital camera to the computer without the cord that was left in California. I hope to start posting photos soon.

Right now, I'll leave you with the first lessons that a American needs to get by in China. Don't drink the water, don't eat the fruit, always choose the hotel upgrade, and beware of those who can speak English and are trying to sell you something. They're trying to rip you off.


  • At 11:19 PM, Blogger michelle said…

    Your trip sounds amazing already!

    You should try eel pizza... I heard it is tasty. ;)

  • At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Again, worried that you were not getting enough healthy nourishment since you are a vegan. Such a worriwort I am. You will get a laugh when you read this.
    A Friend


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