The guy behind Matt took off his shirt partway through the meal.
We successfully ordered a hearty meal at a new restaurant using a combination of hand motions, pointing, the phrasebook, and our pitifully small Chinese vocabulary. It was simple—BBQ pork, rice, salad, beer, and flat bread. (Did I mention it was a Muslim restaurant? In many places they won’t serve pork or beer but I guess there is always an exception) Only the salad was a surprise, since I had thought I’d ordered a cooked cabbage dish. When it arrived I winced in dismay as it simply looked like a pile of chopped lettuce. It was the first dish to arrive however, and, being hungry, Matt dug in for the first bite. Apparently there was dressing on it, so I decided to try a bite myself. It was good. Each of us separately figured that since we’re both currently on some form of anti-biotic, a little raw lettuce that may or may not have been rinsed couldn’t hurt. The dressing tasted like apple juice and vinegar (probably some of the well-known vinegar from the North West region of China) and the lettuce was crisp. We ate slowly, discussed random things, and toasted to a good year of traveling. Things at the restaurant began to wind down as we finished our meal. The once packed dining area had begun to empty. It was about 9pm as we left and exited out to the street to walk back to our hostel. Despite the late hour, the sidewalk was still lively. People were sitting on little stools in front of their shops talking with neighbors. A father and daughter were eating a feast of a dinner off a small card table on the sidewalk. And a pair of toddlers rolled playground balls back and forth. “I’m going to miss this,” I thought to myself before saying it out loud. Matt agreed. Even if we don’t want to see another temple, and we’re tired of breathing Beijing air, there is something about China that seems like it will always be wonderful: the community of people.
Who knows, maybe it will change as things are apt to do, the way urbanization and then suburbanization changes the way people relate with their neighbors. But for now the little communities spread throughout Beijing, and China for that matter, are just wonderfully simple yet rich things to behold. Extended family members sitting outside the family grocery playing with the baby. The group of old men who gather on the bench alongside the main road at the end of the day. Ladies stopping to chat as they pass in the street. There’s the group of boys whacking each other with Styrofoam boards while an old man watches and laughs. And of course the neighborhood exercise station used as a drying rack for blankets during the heat of the day, as a social hangout for kids in the late afternoon, and exercise in the early morning. Most people seem to have their own routine, just as Matt and I have our own set of things we do each day: go to breakfast place, buy some juice (me) and milk tea (Matt), go see somewhere, eat at one of two lunch places, get some ice cream, return to hostel and pump the ac while we write (or nap), figure out where to eat…I’ll miss Beijing, but I am ready to go visit my own little hutong of sorts back home.
evening social hour
front of our hostel