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.

Dont Panic!!!

Don't panic was the overriding thought yesterday morning as we boarded the shuttle bus to the airport.  Cindy's wallet was missing containing her credit cards and we needed to board a plane to Vancouver in an hour and a half.  Cindy was convinced that she had left it at the restaurant that we had eaten dinner the night before.  They would not open again until later that night and we would be winging it over the pole by then on our way to Beijing by then.

At the airport it was impossible to find a helpful airline employee and after a brief call with Orbitz we decided to continue on and deal with the fall out later.  People lose their credit cards all the time while travelling. …. RIGHT?   Not an auspicious start to our trip but hopefully we were getting the bad luck out of the way early.

11 ½ hours later, we arrived, bleary eyed and feeling gob smacked.  We are used to a great deal more difficulty working our way around the labyrinth of a new airport in city we have never been to before but the Beijing airport was surprisingly easy.  We jumped on the subway found our stop started walking and somehow found the way to our Hostel.  It was amazing how quickly the old travel reflexes kicked in.  We had been waiting for this day for over a year and I believe that it's going to be another great adventure.

We received confirmation from the restaurant this morning via email that they indeed had the wallet.  Whew!  Let the games begin.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Washing away the desert

Portland has been a breath of fresh air after spending 2 and a half years lving in the litter box. Funny but we we couldnt wait to leave here when we left for Kenya a few years ago and now that Im back, I am in full appreciation mode of what this city has to offer. Its such a vibrant friendly place where everyone smiles and asks how you are when you meet them. Cars stop and let you cross the street. You can walk anywhere or easily hop onto a network of trolleys or busses. Bikes, skateboards and dogs are ubiquitus. Green growth is everywhere. I know that for the locals the sunshine and warmth will last only a few months before the rain sets in again but its been a great launching pad for our next adventure allowing us to wash off the dust and dreariness of Phoenix and feel whole again.