Shopping and Scorpions
When the tour company laid out the daily activities, they designated the day after our arriving flight as “sightseeing on our own.” This was a polite way of saying they weren’t going bother with a tour guide when they knew we were just going to fall asleep in the middle of the day anyway due to jet lag.
We did try valiantly at first. We woke up at 4:30am and then waited two hours for the breakfast buffet to open at the hotel. It was lovely. By 7:30, the girls were splashing in the hotel’s pool. It was lovely too.
We left the hotel mid-morning to go sightseeing. The map available to us has landmarks, but no names on any of the streets. It would make little sense to put them on the map because it would be impossible for us to decipher the ideographs anyway. We also could not get our bearings by the sun. The city is muggy and the sky is perpetually ashen think with smog, so there is no way to determine the position of the sun at any time.
Chris had determined that nothing was within walking distance except for shopping. The girls’ stomachs were sufficiently jet lagged, that we gave them Häagen Dazs before lunch. We walked a nice, wide pedestrian street surrounded on either side by malls and street vendors. We passed by a couple of dancing water fountains. I like the one that was choreographed to classic music better than the one with easy-listening music a half block down.
It is easy to save money when shopping in China. Katie was enamored with a fake jade bracelet and I got a chuckle over some tacky corrugated 3D posters of horses, bunnies, Chairman Mao, and Scarlett Johansson. When Chris or I showed even the slightest interest in anything with a glance or a finger point, be it at a mall or a trinket from a street vendor, a saleswoman would immediately appear next to us and pre-fondle the item before handing it over to us and stare while we examined the item ourselves. She would then hand us similar items of her choosing to examine. I know they are just trying to be helpful, but Chris and I were so off-put by this invasive sales approach that our wallet stayed in our pocket and we saved the money. This happened every time we paused to browse. It didn’t help that the salespeople always outnumbered the shoppers. Just to be safe we expressed no interest in the scorpion shish kabob on “Food Street.” My normally quite independent Claire, reached out for my hand when we walked that alleyway.
Although I believe it is not an issue in our current city of Beijing, Chris has warned the girls not to drink tap water for fear of Chairman Mao’s Revenge. Katie has taken this to heart and every other conversation is morning was about worms. I told the girls if I heard one more word about worms, I’d make the daughter who brought up the topic eat a scorpion. The next topic was “How do animals itch?”
We crashed mid-day and took a nap back at the hotel. Mid-afternoon, Claire announced “I’m hungry but I don’t want a scorpion” so we ate at Babela’s Kitchen in the Sun Dang An mall mostly because it had a huge picture menu and we could order by number. (Some of those numbers were in the nine thousands.) Still more Western food, but I’m hoping the girls will get more native as the vacation progresses.