I’m just back from another day of adventurously sweating through the streets of Beijing, China. Heat takes itself to the next level on this continent, with even seasoned Beijingers looking flustered. The men like to hike their tops up to just above their bellies to let any form of breeze cool them down and the women wear lovely, loose-flowing clothes (I’m looking quite a frump in comparison) and short short shorts, skirts or dresses, which is all good because the women all seem to have great legs in this joint. For the most part, women in Beijing are lovely. They blow all the stereotypes into smithereens – many are tall and slim. I have put this down to all the walking everyone does. And the healthy food that makes up their staple diet. And all the sweating.
China has probably been the last place on earth I have ever wanted to visit. The thought of getting lost amid the sea of strange faces and foreign culture has always put me off. How narrow-minded of me! Although the Chinese population is immense and there are always people around (no matter the time of day), I am not pushing my way through crowds of bodies all the time, as I thought would be the case. The saving grace for all of this is that there is no such thing as African time around here (thank goodness!). No one dawdles, everyone is adept at weaving their way around – this includes taxis (often to be seen driving in the wrong lane towards oncoming traffic, so as to avoid pedestrians, bikes, scooters etc.), pedestrians weaving to avoid taxis and bikes/scooters and bikes/scooters to avoid everyone else.
What seems to be a designated pedestrian walkway is often not, so my mom and I are learning to dodging vehicles/scooters/bikes all the time too!
The best partof Beijing for me has been the food. Everything is a communal eating experience in this country, which is lovely. You can often cook your own food at your table (in a restaurant) as a family/group of friends. Simply order raw veggies such as cabbage, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and all sorts of green food plants I had no knowledge of, along with thinly sliced beef, chicken, tofu and grill it Mongolian style on the hot coals in front of you (with everyone cooking and grabbing as you go) or boil it in a Hot Pot of Tom Yum sauce. This makes eating quite an adventure. That and the chopsticks! Each meal is accompanied by rice noodles, plain noodles or rice and the yummiest of sauces. For Hot Pot you get sesame seed paste and coriander to dunk your lemon-grassy-spicey food item in, for the coal-grilled Mongolian spread a completely different sauce. Dunk in sauce or paste, place in mouth and let the flavours go BOOM!
People like to be around each other in China-land. In the evenings they congegrate in the city centre to learn Chinese-style line dances, or they skip with ropes to music, or they can be seen writing things on the pavement with long-handled, sponge devices – the point being for the writer to focus and relax more than anything permanent to be done because the water they use to make their mark evaporates within a few minutes. Jiang Wei tells me that many people in the city dont have the luxury of air conditioning, so they often take walks after dinner time to cool down and enjoy the night life.
All in all, it has been a positive experience so far…