Today was quite the marvelous day. It started off with a trip to the Forbidden City to meet with Lee Satterfield (a U.S. government official, who is part of Hillary Clintons group to China right now.) My host family was the only family with all members present, which they were shy and uncomfortable about, but was fun nonetheless. Like at most tourist locations we Americans attracted a lot of Chinese people with their cameras raised, and flashes snapping. Sage in her turbaned head was a big attraction to middle-aged Chinese women; Abby and her curly hair were a magnet for split-trousered toddlers. After the sweaty tour of the son-of-heavens expansive living-quarters, several Americans, my host sister, and I went by subway to the only restaurant in 北京 (Beijing) that serves 饺子(jiao zi) in brightly colored skins. We ordered meat in purple, shrimp in orange, and vegetarian in green.
After lunch, my host sister went home to study, but we continued on to Sanlituaner (pronounced San-lee-twar) a very international, and rich, section of 北京。We almost did KTV (karaoke) but the waiter was annoying and trying to over charge us, so instead we got mango milkshakes!
We strolled to the center of Sanlituaner, slurping our milkshakes in the glaring sun. In the main plaza there was a huge photo shoot for Converse, with flashing lights, a mammoth screen projecting the going-ons, and many beautiful high-tech cameras. Normal, street walking people were lining up, donning clean black Converse shoes and having their photo taken for the big campaign. Sage and I hopped in line, signed the permission forms and waited as the line slowly crept forward. About 5 minutes in, a worker came over to us and told us to follow him. He led us to the front of the line and told us to change our shoes. Both Sage and I were really thrilled, but we both thought that giving foreigners special treatment is not a good way of furthering Chinese-American relations. After the photographs they gave us a free t-shirt and bag that say “I <Converse symbol> 北京.” Sage and I immediately pulled ours on and a street fashion photographer asked if he could take our photo! Today was a day full of snapped photographs in all directions.
For dinner we went to “First Floor,” where I ordered Salmon Pasta. Cheese! The fish was fresh, pink, and moistly flaky. As we were wandering side allies we bought a little jar of yogurt. It tasted exactly like the yogurt we make at home, sweet, tangy, and runny.
As it was getting dark we went to The Bookworm, a cozy, two-roomed café with pink walls, dimmed lights, a piano for open use, and shelves and shelves filled with glorious books. At a glance I saw Neil Gaiman, Shel Silverstein, Qiu Xiaolong. On the shelf of books by authors who had visited The Bookworm was “The Joy Luck Club!” Amy Tan visited The Bookworm! We sat in the back reading Shel Silverstein poems, many of which were surprisingly morbid (but painfully true.) A personal favorite:
She had blue skin.
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
Then passed right by –
And never knew.
Since I had never gotten home on the subway before, and the nearest subway stop to my house is still quite far, I decided to take a taxi. Unfortunately, the taxi driver did not think my written address was enough, so he had me call my host mom twice, which she was very gracious about. Once arriving at my apartment I realized I didn’t have enough money to pay him, so my host mom came down and paid for me. Needless to say, I was absolutely mortified, but again, she was sweet and laughed it off.