Saturday, September 03, 2005


Random Thoughts on China

McDonalds in Beijing

Personal Space: People in China have a smaller "personal zone" as you would imagine from a country of 1.3 billion people. This is evidenced in the way they push into elevators before you get a chance to get out and get in front of you in line if you are too slow to advance. When you are in line, they are pushed right up against you, waiting to pounce into the next position at the cash register, hotel desk, bank, etc. We have dubbed this phenomenon "the Chinese Shuffle".

Driving: If you take the personal space thing and apply it to driving automobiles, busses, bicycles and motorcycles, you end up with the vehicular version of the Chinese Shuffle which is like a cross between road warrior and grand theft auto that Jesse has named "dodge-bus".

Water: It blows my mind that even the locals cannot drink the water here. They all drink bottled water and boiled water. At first you are paranoid to open your mouth when you shower or touch your mouth after you wash your hands but after a few days you start to be a little less paranoid. We still drink the bottled water of course and don't even try to drink the boiled tap water but I accidentally used tap water one day to brush my teeth in a kind of groggy morning lapse in judgement and I didn't get sick. Reidar and I swam in the pool and we were fine despite the fact that it didn't smell or look very chlorinated.

Food: I love Chinese food (the American kind) and I'm adventurous when it comes to trying new foods but I haven't been really excited about any of the authentic Chinese food here which is surprising. I thought I would be in heaven but the hectic pace, change in time zones, and stress of the trip have left me wanting comfort food like McDonalds and Pizza Hut (which they have here) more than what they serve at the hotels. Tiana and I have lost a few Kilos since we got here.

Drinks: I would pay $50 for a 64 ounce Big Gulp of Diet Coke and ice. We were able to get coca cola light in Beijing and it tasted pretty good but the province of Wuhan does not believe in coca cola light unless it has lemon added which tastes just as nasty as the American version. We can't get ice in our drinks because we don't know where the water for the ice came from which gets really old after a while and the Chinese only refrigerate their drinks to about 5 degrees cooler than room temperature. Even the fridges in our hotel room barely cool off liquids. I tried to get a Sprite from a street vendor and all they had was some funky Asian version called Sprite Icy Mint which is like drinking Sprite while smoking a menthol cigarette. I also tried an ice tea (with "mint action") which also had the menthol cigarette aftertaste. I tried a menthol once, just so you know I'm on the level with my analysis. So we drink a lot of bottled water and warm regular pepsi or coke. I love the Chinese tea and the coffee in the hotels is good. First order of business when we get to Chicago is to get a real diet coke. The good news is that a Tsing Dao beer in Beijing at the hotel gift shop only cost me 5 Yuan which is about 63 cents.

Shopping: Everyone is shopping like crazy because the prices are so good. We have bought shoes, clothes, toys, game boy games, silk items, leather purses and a ton of souvenirs (actually Tiana bought most of this stuff). I will say that I bought a power converter here for less than $2 American and one of the guys in our group paid $80 for his back in the U.S. The McDonalds is about 1/2 price compared to the states. The local food place in the shopping center was super cheap. Two of the little Hubei girls split a huge bowl of congee which cost about 25 cents and they only could finish half of it. The rest of the food in the food court was also only a few Yuan. We could have fed our whole family for a couple of bucks. We went to the arcade at the department store plaza also and a Yuan plays the same as a quarter, so you get a video game for about 12 cents. Reidar had fun schooling a local Wuhan kid in air hockey and Jesse and I drew a crowd playing the basketball shoot-off. Its expensive to get here, but once you do, you can find anything you want to buy and its very affordable.

Finally! Yea! Been checking. She is a peanut, a very darling peanut. It's wonderful to see the pictures---the whole family look proud.
I am picking up your Dad today (Saturday)in TC Tiana. His surgury went well---he will be staying here tonight at least...not certain after that. Beautiful day for the beach with Dan/Cindy and children.
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