Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pickled Peanuts: Beijing in a Nutshell

Hey everyone!  Alex here, reporting live from glamorous terminal 3 of the Beijing Capital International Airport.  I'm soaking in everything this fine facility has to offer including lunch from a forgettable Chinese fast food restaurant humorously named Flavor Tang.

After arriving here late last night, I'm already on my way again after barely 12 hours.  Beijing is an amazing/weird/crazy/huge/awe inspiring place and I'm sad I can't stay and explore, but Shenzhen beckons.  Despite having very little time to see much of Beijing, my hosts (Collin and Gao) made sure I had good time.  Collin was nice enough to let me crash in his hotel room which, quite frankly, puts my Portland basement chateau to shame.  If my living arrangement is anything like his, I'm in for a pretty comfortable two months.

It being too late to venture too far from Collin's place, we walked around his neighborhood until we came upon a haphazard arrangement of plastic tables peopled by raucous young Beijingers.  This sort of joint, called a Xinjiang after the western Chinese who often own them, are common in Beijing and cater to locals on the late night.  They specialize in beer and snacks - we ordered Nanjings and some pickled peanuts with Szechuan peppercorns - and don't close until their last customers leave.  I'm not actually convinced that they ever close because when we left at 3am, there were still people showing up.

In the morning I got to meet some of the other CAUPD interns and experience a week-old tradition that Collin invented called "Coffee Time."  Pretty much exactly what it sounds like, the interns gather in Collin's room to drink freshly-brewed Portland grind before heading over to the office.  It's nice to see that double L is representing one of Portland's finest exports 5,000 miles away.

Before I sign off, some initial impressions of Beijing after my 12 hour visit:
- There is a lot of wealth in this city.  Luxury cars and designer handbags abound.
- Buildings take on a massive scale here and make you feel like you're in Blade Runner (minus the replicants)
- Air quality is a serious problem.  Even on a cloudless day like today, the sky is a pale blueish grey and visibility is a mile or two at best
- The extent to which western fast food has permeated the Chinese market is frightening.  I mean seriously, KFC and Kenny Rogers Roasters next door to each other?  I worry for the collective cholesterol of the Chinese people.
- People are happy, friendly, and don't care if you're a clueless foreigner!


Raymond said...

Wait a minute, designer handbags, I hope you brought yours to represent! A Queen Bee perhaps? It is fun experiencing a little bit of China through your posts! I look forward to future posts and I want to host a slideshow when you all get back!


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