After 2 days of sifting through spectacular and disgusting apartments, Alison and I have locked in on a beautiful new home—96 square meters of hardwood floors, 2 bedrooms, 1 western bathroom, TONS of natural light, etc etc etc—in an oasis of an apartment cluster complex. The apartment complex has a large park ringed by the buildings and a fence, is very safe (you need a key to get to the park and a different key to get in the building), and is between the subway/fancy mall area and the new art district. For those who know Beijing or who want to look it up, we are in the Pingod neighborhood near the Shuangjing subway stop. We are SO excited and can’t wait to unpack our suitcases and get settled tomorrow.
It wouldn’t be a day in Beijing without some sort of hysterical “mishap.” Right before we signed the contract, we invited our English-speaking realtor to lunch at the restaurant of her choice to discuss our top two apartment choices. She asked if we wanted authentic Chinese from the province she’s from (don’t remember which), and we said, of course, so we went to a little hole in the wall place she knows. As we sat down, we asked what type of meat they’re serving, because it seemed to be that the only menu option is variations of the same meat. As in, mystery meat soup or mystery meat taco-like treat. She replied, “Oh, I don’t know how to translate it. The combination of horse and donkey.” Alison and I looked at each other and I said under my breath, “I wish she hadn’t told us that.” But, low and behold, when our food came, we learned that MULE TACOS are delicious.
We also braved Carrefour, which is the French equivalent of Walmart, and a 7-minute walk from the Casa de Two Mushu Jews. Once again, I was amazed by how many people can be crammed into one space. Another Chinese twist to shopping at Carrefour is that, as soon as you stop walking, 3 or 4 employees start hounding you to buy whatever you’re looking at or suggesting more expensive versions. Since we don’t understand a word of Mandarin, it’s easier to keep walking.
However, being illiterate and non-communicative is usually not an asset like at Carrefour. We are entirely dependent on the linguistic abilities of other people and unable to do the most basic of tasks (for example, at dinner tonight, we asked for water and the waitress disappeared and came back with spoons). So, every little thing we do is an adventure. Luckily, we have friends who are bilingual, including Ben, who was born in China and moved to LA when he was 9. So, after a delicious dinner last night in a really cool Hutong that we will take all visitors to, Ben wrote out in Mandarin characters, “I am very allergic to shrimp.” Now, at least, I have a card to show the waiters and don’t feel that I’m playing Russian roulette with anaphylaxis every time we eat out. I also think we are lucky because we are white and in a country that respects, or at least tolerates white people. So, when we stand up and point to the water jug at the neighboring table because we are thirsty, people laugh and don’t seem insulted. I couldn’t imagine how much more difficult it’d be if we were Chinese moving to the US, because if I were eating at a NYC restaurant and the Chinese couple next to me started mooing to make sure they were getting beef, I would definitely not be too understanding of their perspective.
Off to sleep. Hope everyone has a wonderful Sunday!
PS We’re having trouble loading pictures at the hotel. Will upload a bunch once we get settled in our apartment, including pics of the apt and neighborhood!