Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day 9, Wednesday, July 14

Morning: We arrive back in Beijing at 7:30 a.m. and decide to walk back to the subway station near the military museum to kill some time. We couldn't check back into the hotel until that afternoon. Again, it is cloudy, warm and humid. This was the third day we’ve been in the same clothes. They felt like they could walk to the subway all by themselves.

Lots of people were rushing to work. The sidewalks and streets were crowded and sidewalk food vendors offered their breakfast menus. We stopped at one interesting cart offering what looked to be some sort of omlet. The lady offered us samples, and we each bought a square to munch on as we walked. The subway was crowded. We decided to go cross town and wait for the Silk Market to open so I could complete my shopping. Via cell phone, I checked in with Brandon to let him know we were safely back in the city.

The Silk Market opened around 9:30. A handful of people waited with us. Not all the shops were open when we entered and it seemed that the people staffing the shops that were open were not quite up to speed on their aggressive salesmanship. I spotted one stand with the flower print scrolls Mary Ruth had requested. We traded offers, then I moved on to the next stand with the same scrolls. There I was given the “first customer of the day” special treatment and my offer was accepted. My wife had suggested I get something for us. Ceramic Chinese opera masks had caught my eye that very first visit to the market, so I started looking for them again. I found what I wanted and bargained successfully. After Joe had purchased a T-shirt for a co-worker, we headed back to the hotel on the subway.

Afternoon: Brandon had suggested that we visit the Temple of Heaven the afternoon of our return from Xi’an. We decided to follow Mary Ruth’s plan the day she returned from that long trip and just rest in the hotel room. Both Joe and I knew we had colds by this time. Mine was working its way up into my nose. Bed rest seemed like a good idea.

Before I settled in for a nap, I e-mailed Mary Ruth for some ideas of what I might bring back for our youngest son, Michael. Joe and I caught up on some other e-mail, turned on the TV to get caught up on the latest Mel Gibson scandal on the Larry King Show and fell asleep.

Late in the afternoon, Joe said he needed a snack to tide him over until dinner that night. We found a bakery in a mall across the street from the hotel. I selected a ham and cheese deep-fried sandwich. Joe picked up the same plus some sort of a chicken-laced bun. We were pleased with our purchases.

Evening: Dinner that evening was at The Middle 8th Restaurant, a modern looking place on the corner of a back alley featuring YunNan cuisine which is a little more spicy than typical Beijing fare. Layla was going to join us at the restaurant. When we arrived, Brandon checked on the waiting time. Twenty minutes, he was told. One hour and twenty minutes later, Layla asked again. Twenty minutes she was told. I don’t mind being told that the wait is going to be long if the food is really good, but just don’t jerk me around, not even in China.

Well the food was well worth the wait. Brandon and Layla ordered. It was fun watching them. Brandon ordered what he always ordered when he went there – that’s how he is. He locks on to something he likes and he sticks with it. Layla suggested that they experiment this time. They reached a compromise and ordered several familiar items and a few new ones. What I liked in that little scenerio was seeing that they are beyond superficial niceties and that they can work together to compromise. Such is life.

This may have been the very best meal we had while in Beijing. My chopsticks were working well. We had a fabulous mushroom dish prepared in a large leaf, a potato and meat dish, shrimp, French bread and noodles instead of rice. Eating noodles with chopsticks is a hoot. The beer was on the warm side. Perhaps they had been so busy that night that the beer flew out of the coolers before it had time to cool.

We talked about our final day in Beijing. Joe and I would visit the Temple of Heaven and walk around the Summer Palace. Brandon requested that we have our farewell meal at the Outback Steak House near the People’s Stadium. Unfortunately, Layla would not be able to join us due to her work schedule.

Before going back to the hotel, Brandon walked us around a nearby popular tourist area complete with an Apple computer store and many high-end shops. Music poured from the many bars along the street as people hustled along in the warm night air. Somewhere along the line I misplaced the folding umbrella I brought along that evening. It became the only casualty of the trip.

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