Out of the Well: A Frogs-Eye-View of China and the World

Random Jottings on China, History, Culture, and Life as seen by an American student in Beijing.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Fear and Fun: Two sides of the Beijing Coin

This week provided two big things to worry about. Number one was a posting on the US Embassy's web page that warned that there was evidence that terrorists may try to bomb five star hotels in Beijing this week trying to target Americans. While I am not myself a frequent patron of five star hotels I have just recently discovered "Grandma's Kitchen" a lovely restaurant which serves not only the best damn Hamburger I have had this side of the pacific, but also delicious, mouthwatering apple pie. You can even get Dr. Pepper or A&W root beer. To quote an Irish girl at the table next to us "I thought I was doing well with the Chinese food, you know? That I didn't miss any of this stuff. Now I know I am an Irish girl through an through." This discovery was an emotional experience for everyone involved. The only problem, Grandma's Kitchen is located downtown near all of the Five Star Hotels. To complicate maters further a day later the Chinese Police said that there was no such threat, that it was a hoax. I am left with the choice of believing my government (which has a track record of lying to me) or the Chinese government (ditto). I think either way I am going to Grandma's for Thanksgiving, at least by then President Bush will be back in the states and we will be less of a target.

While I was lackadaisically rolling the possibility of horrible fiery death around in my cranium I received news of a even more horrible possibility for my imminent death Qin Liugan (the dreaded Avian Flu). It is not to say that there is anything new about the avian flu. In fact for some weeks the only thing separating me from the hordes of recently culled birds was about as much land as separates Boston and northern Maine. What really gave me the creeping horrors was an email I got from our program director encouraging us to stock up on water and non perishables in case we get quarantined in our apartments. Try that one on for size, quarantined. We were also instructed to keep our belonging organized such that we could pack anything we wanted to keep into suitcases in case we had to be evacuated. Evacuated. Quarantined. These words connote relative seriousness in my mind.

So that is what we have done. Yesterday American-Roommate-Jed and I went to the grocery store for Water, Oatmeal, Raman, and canned fruit. I also got myself a nifty diaper-like face masks (see picture below) to ward off both the smog and the possibility that the air itself could be poisoned with birdborn illness.

So how does one deal with this sort of horror in their daily lives? I did what any red-blooded American would do. I ate a fantastic meat based meal and then got drunk. I accomplished this last night with the help of American-Former-Reedie-Friend-Jenn, and one of my Chinese teachers, Li Laoshi (laoshi is her title, it means teacher). Li Laoshi first took us to a fantastic restaurant where I was presented with a bare Sheep femur with delicious meet at either end. From my limited experiences with animal anatomy I believe I was eating sheep ankle and knee, and do you know what, I loved it. As we were avoiding eating things with wings we also ordered a whole rabbit, which was placed so that I got to look into his cute little face. (Pictures forthcoming).

With our bellies full of animal protein and greenbeans, Increasingly-Fantastic-Teacher-Li Laoshi took us to a little bar that was astonishingly close to my house. For 35 kuai for me, and 25 kuai for them (their double X chromosomes entitling them to a discount) we were allowed to drink as much as we wanted from a list of about 14 choices. For twenty kuai an hour we were also given a little room in which we could sing Karaoke. This may in fact be my new favorite place. At around two thirty in the AM I returned with my fears forgotten, at least for the moment.

I will try to write this blog more frequently, that is unless I am done in by a bomb, the flu, or massive liver failure.


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