Beijing is home to one of the largest shopping centers in the world, no joke. It’s incredible. I walked through the bottom level for no less than 20 minutes and when I got to the end, looked up and realized that I had only covered one of 7 floors. Escalators and elevators zig-zag across, over, up and down the floors taking people from one floor to the next, skipping some floors and going to others (express). It’s absolutely out of control. Overwhelmed, I stepped outside. The sun’s heat, of course, smashed into me and I squinted past the Mc Donalds and hundreds of other stores in the courtyard and saw an alley. It looked like a market. I walked towards it.
An art student came up and introduced himself to me. There are lots of art students in Beijing. We meet 20 a day. They say hi and want you to come take a look at their work and give them your opinion. You know how art students are. Ohhhh, and then they try to sell it to you after you tell them you like it. Imagine that. You know how art students are.
“Sorry, I meet friend now. Big hurry!” I say apologetically, pointing to my watch. It works every time. It’s funny too, you start talking like them when you talk to them to make it easier. “I go here.” “You no have good price!” “Me go now!” I think I’m becoming fluent.
And with that I made it to the entrance of the market. I stepped through the threshold. The familiar stands lined the alley walls. The familiar hawkers begged you to come take a look. But this place was different.
Is that really…It is! Scorpions hanging on sticks. Some alive, some skewered. Beetles, starfish, seahorses, snakes and various other critters stood solemnly at attention with the help of their own respective skewers not far from the scorpions.
“You eat! You eat! Scorpion!!” said a lady, touching and flicking the scorpion to show that it was alive. We all know, of course, that I wouldn’t give her the time of day were the scorpion not alive.
“One yuan, one yuan!” she said as I edged near. I took a picture, which she quickly prohibited when she realized I wasn’t going to buy anything.
Scorpions on a stick. What will they think of next. But then again, the Chinese seem to be really into eating crazy things. At the restaurant outside of the hostel, they fill trays with foods which you can pick out, have cooked and enjoy on the tables close by. As a few of us enjoyed some 2 yuan beer (USD 20 cents for about 32 ounces) and played chess at the tables, I noticed that some of the foods were a bit far out. Chicken feet was one of the selections. Five yuan for 6 feet. Rasmus (my Danish friend) and I ordered some. We nearly vomited as we forced ourselves to eat it (when in Rome…). It was all skin and there wasn’t much meat. We also ate skewered frog. But didn’t get a chance to try the pig tail, pig feet or duck bill (which I couldn’t even begin to figure out how to eat).
The menus also provide an unlimited source of enjoyment. Jeep fried duch, anyone? How about mixed assorted dish? Or maybe some fried rape would tickle your fancy. Lots of people say they hate the food here, but I think they aren’t being very fair. The problem is that you never know what you’re ordering and don’t get a description so you can figure out if you’ll like it. I’m sure the menus are very descriptive in Chinese, but by the time they get translated, insignificant details (like that insanely spicy pepper sauce on your “Fried Chicken Noodle”) get left out. Instead, you just pick and hope for the best. If it’s crap, you paid a dollar for it so try, try again.
One night, Rasmus and I were feeling particularly adventurous so we went out to a local restaurant a few alleys away from the hostel. We made the decision to just point to a bunch of things on the menu just to see what we would get. We stumbled in and the lady brought us the Chinese menu. Everyone in the restaurant looked at us, waiting to see what we would do.
“wang chang wang chang wang chang?” (insert real Chinese here)
We pointed at 4 different things and I said the word for beer and she was off.
We invited two Chinese guys over to talk with us. In two hours, we managed to get their names, their ages, and the fact that they were brothers out of them. They practiced some English and hugged us alot. They were pretty drunk. We tried to teach them very important western things, like how to make that popping sound with your finger in your mouth from the “Lollipop” song. But to no avail. We also ate dumplings with mystery meats in them. I wonder if any had chicken claw in them.
We also visited the Beijing acrobatics show. It was insane. It’s like these people are made of rubber. You sit there in awe the whole time at some of the stuff they do. Balancing spinning dishes while dancing and bending into crazy positions, swinging on ropes, flipping around…it’s just crazy.
I also got a new job. I quit the old one the day after I got it, despite the fact that I hadn’t even started yet. On the day I was supposed to teach, I called to confirm with the girl and she said it was canceled and maybe I could teach Friday, but maybe not and it all sounded a bit dodgy. What were they doing sending an inexperienced guy in to teach the next day, anyway? So I went online and applied for more jobs. After all, I have time here. I can choose my battles. So anyways, within two hours I was called by an English lady from Berlitz language school. She wanted me to come down that day and talk with her. I warned her that I wasn’t dressed for the occasion (I was already downtown to return a shirt) but could show up within the hour to have a chat. While I returned my shirt, I bought a “polo” shirt for 30 yuan and put it on. Good as new. I walked down to Berlitz and talked with Val. After our chat, she assured me that I had a job and would call me the next day to give me a time to come in and review material. I go in Monday at 9:30 and I’m pretty excited. Berlitz is just about the biggest language school in the world. She said that if I did well there, I could conceivably teach in many other countries as there are offices all over the world. She was concerned that I would keep applying to other jobs but I assured her that I would be happy at Berlitz. It’s funny because I forgot to mention on all my resume that I had tutored math for over a year. Pretty significant teaching experience, no? I think it was the glasses that got me the job. It’s gotta be the glasses. So yeah, the pay is pretty good. Between 80-100 yuan for 40 minutes of class, which translates to about $14-18 USD an hour. Not too shabby, eh? Cab fare to class included.
And that’s all for today. Stay tuned for more crazy adventures in a few days.