Saturday, August 8, 2009

Arriving in Beijing

After 11 butt crushing hours with Air Canada we got to Beijing safe and sound. It's funny to post about the airport, but it was very impressive. With a minimum number of walls and pillars, it is modern, grand, and imposing.  I felt immediately like I had arrived at the world's up and coming Super Power. Two sets of health stations manned by nurses in 1950's uniforms and surgical masked scanned us for signs of the flu. English signage was everywhere and the subway was a snap to use. We were tired, but we were even more excited, so as soon as we got to the hotel we headed out for some food. We randomly entered a restaurant and made the universal hand signal for opening a book. That got us a look at the menu. It had pictures, prices and limited English descriptions, so we nodded and were taken to a table. There was a big hole in the table with a propane element. Geoff said "Cool. The food gets cooked here." We flipped through the 12 page menu. I point to the picture of thin slices of lamb. The waitress nods and says, "Soup. What-ah soup?" I said "Oh, no soup thank you." Then I point to the Hong Kong *urinates* meat balls." I think it was supposed to read "marinated", but the typo cracks me up, so I point to the picture because I have to have them. The waitress nods and adds "Soup. What-ah soup?" I said "Oh, no soup thank you" and point to the picture of the spinach leaves. The waitress nods and says "Soup. What-ah soup?" I had no idea why the soup kept coming up, but what the heck. I point to a picture of one of the soups, add morel mushrooms to complete my order.  Minutes later a busboy shows up with a huge tub of "soup" and sets it in the hole in the table and lights the propane burner. Now I really have no idea what to do. I motion to her that I have no idea what's going on, and she shows me how to cook the raw ingredients that are placed on the table, fondue style. She even found an egg timer to set on the table, so I would know when the longer cooking items would be done.  She takes the time to do this despite the fact that the restaurant is packed. What a nice person! It turns out that we had wondered into a Hotpot restaurant. A dish from Sichuan that I'm told is available all over Asia. It was absolutely delicious and fun to cook. I'll be looking for it again.

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