Mama and Papa arrived Sunday night--their flight arrived an hour early at the old terminal (thank goodness for flighttracker.com!)--and we've been having a blast. More details to come when we consolidate pictures to post about our adventures yesterday. (Today, Alison and I are both working while they do a city tour, and we're meeting for dinner.)
To surprise Papa with his favorite drink (sparkling water) and to support Mama's love to eat hard boiled eggs for breakfast (I'd tease her, but Alison and I eat peanut-butter-oatmeal with a banana for bfast, so who are we to judge?), I went to Carrefour to go grocery shopping. They finally changed the music from this orchestral smooth Chinese-jazz muzak that makes my skin crawl, so originally I was super happy. Then I noticed the songs they were playing were all American pop songs. Granted they were random (My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion, Baby by the Biebs, New York State of Mind by Jay Z, etc), but it was definitely not Chinese. The people in front of me in line were buying all imported goods--bacon, Ritz crackers, Cokes, and Oreos--and the couple behind me looked like the Chinese version of Brooklyn hipsters, complete with the lense-less thick-rimmed glasses, ipod headphones in, and skinny jeans.
Mama had visited China in the 1970s as part of an invited tour for American female lawyers and has been noticing how Beijing is basically unrecognizable compared to when she came. Because she has mentioned this a few times already, I think I was more attuned to how China is westernizing while it is becoming modern than before. But it is true: for example, when we moved into our apartment, there was one western restaurant and one bar, but now, in 6 short months, there are 3 restaurants and 3 bars! But just when I started to think I was in the midst of some big socio-cultural change, I was jolted back from my thoughts into the check-out line when the cashier's shift ended, right when it was my turn to check out.
Cue an elaborate ritual where she counted the money in the register (the manager re-counted), counted the plastic bags she hasn't sold (the manager recounted), reprinted the receipts and put them in order with the originals, cleaned up her register area of the calculator, stapler, pens, etc, and put everything into her fanny pack...and then the next cashier did the same thing, but in reverse, to get ready. The entire process took 30 minutes (I timed it!), and seemed so old-school Chinese. As annoyed as I became, it also made me smile--you can westernize China all you want, but it will remain, fundamentally, communist.