July 31st, 2008

birds nest

July 31, 2008 - “Hutong” rickshaw ride, lunch at 7/25 restaurant, traditional medicine,

Originally published at Andy Does Beijing. You can comment here or there.

Rick-Roll — er, Rickshaw

Christina and I shared rickshaw #0076 Our morning adventure took us down to the commoner levels, through a “hutong” town. These towns were built around hutongs, or wells, which the entire town would use. The wells are less-used these days, so “hutong” has come to be associated with the narrow, winding streets common to those towns. We toured those streets in pairs on a fleet of rickshaws. They were, um, windy.

As we were in the commoners area, all the brickwork was painted grey; pretty colors are reserved, of course, for the royalty, as are opulence in architecture: in the door-frame of the front door are shown ceiling beams and, the more beams, the higher the class. Two beams are civilians, four beams are servants, eight beams are military, twelve beams are royal family. Or something like that.

Inside a traditional middle-class family householdAlso in the hutong town was a traditional family home, four small buildings with a courtyard. One room was the (ahem) wedding room; one area was the boy’s rooms (the east side, for the sun rises on them); one area, the girl’s (the west, naturally); and the parents lived in the larger building to the north. On the patio, we found a Chinese chess board set up, so Master Sun taught me quickly how the different pieces move. (Chinese chess is pretty similar to European chess except for a few differences in pieces, board layout, and starting layout.) The owner of the house, whose family (张, Zhang) bought it in the late 1940s, told us about his house through a interpreter from our rickshaw tour company. He also took a large calligraphy brush — a big stick with hairs on the end — and wrote in water on the courtyard stones: “something something 美国同学们 (welcome American students).” Afterwards, Sun 老师 took the brush and write “谢 (thanks)” on the patio.

Over 120 bars were on this lakeWe dropped by 后海 (Hou Hai), a.k.a. Bar Street: 120 bars, all on an large lake/river. Preeeeeetty sweet. While there, I hit a public loo. It was a little disconcerting: you turned a corner on a 5′ wall and there was a metal trench with a drain there, and then you went inside and there were four small porcelain tubs with holes. I walked in and met 王先生 (Mr. Wang).

Hen Hao, Mr. Hao

When we went to the restaurant for lunch on the 25th, we told Mr. Hao, our tour director, that it was hen hao (很好, very good). We like his taste in food. He brought us right back to that restaurant — but this time, we were upstairs in a private dining room, instead of on the ground floor in the public room. As we walked down the hallway to the dining room, we noticed the Chinese version of the dumb-waiter: a pass-through shelf cut in the wall with a door placed diagonally; the kitchen staff could place a dish on the shelf in the hallway side, then the wait staff could open the door and slide the dish through, ensuring the privacy of the diners. The place looked like a mafioso hide-out.

Best of Seattle

 Descrip We needed a little moolah, so we hit a bank and a dozen people went to get money. The rest of us wanted a little piece of America, so we migrated to the local 星巴克 (Xing bake), Starbucks. It was the first we saw, but it was just the same as an American Starbucks (even the prices) except with some Chinese. However, they didn’t have the green tea latte.

Bank lines in Beijing are horrible. We sat at the tables outside that Starbucks for over an hour, which was great to socialize in a low-key environment. Mike told us about his job as a lifeguard, how he usually just saves little kids and people who fall over in the deep water. Also, a lot of north Delaware people are on this trip, from Concord HS, Newark HS, etc. Turns out Karen Mandrachia went to Newark, graduated three years after me. Mad reppin’!

I yinned your yang last night

Following our caffeine fix, we suffered a little health care at a traditional chinese medicine school. (Oddly enough, slitterst, the lighting walking upstairs was an inconsistent mix of halogen power-savers, incandescents, and natural light.) One of the assistant professors gave us an introduction to Chinese medicine, comparing the American doctor and the Chinese as a mechanic, fixing after the break, and a botanist, maintaining a healthy garden. Also, the Chinese have a nifty system matching up elements (earth, wind, water, etc.), emotions (anger, grief, etc.), and sets of parts of the body. Go Chinar!

As part of our trip, we were given consultations by upper profs at the school on our personal health. As trained, experienced doctors of Chinese medicine, they can divine your state of health by examining your eyes (which are connected to the livers), skin (the heart), left wrist pulse (kidney), right wrist pulse (liver), face (general age, wellness) and other external indicators. I was told that I had a weak digestive system (legit), low circulation (except that I exude heat through the core and the extremities), and high stress levels (yes). Instead of being prescribed Chinese medicinal herbs, I was instead told to relax: go visit friends, listen to music, play games. Hooray!

Linda enjoying some traditional chinese medicine After the lecture and consultation, we migrated to a group massage room, where we were treated to foot and shoulder massages by students at the school. We started by soaking our feet in a wooden barrel with herbal water. The students dried off our feet after a quick soak, oiled them up, and kneaded (and tapped and pulled and popped) all the stress out of our feet. Also, the oil smelled nice. The shoulder massage was equally funky and pretty sweet, although it ended a little too soon for my taste. (Unfortunately, I didn’t pick up any interesting new methods to use for massaging.)

General Tso’s Brothers Karamazov

The preshow look for the Beijing Flying Acrobatics Show For our entertainment and astonishment, our next step on the way home: the Flying Circus. Not Monty Python’s, but Beijing’s! Well, technically it was the Flying Acrobatics Show, but either way, it was pretty awesome. I bought a DVD (original copy, I was sold) of two shows, should be sweet to watch.
The different acts were teeterboard, hoops (piled atop each other, to jump through), three girls doing h-to-hand on soapbox, Wheel of Death, girls with diabalos (devil’s yo-yos), three guys doing hand-to-hand / handstands on a dual platform, lots of girls on bicycles, and then the curtain call with mummers.

Lights — all moving lights, plus laser rig.

I’m glad to see that the theatre industry works the same world-wide: everything looked the same as it would as at home, but with slightly different costumes. Good show, good show.