As I got off the plane in Beijing, having never traveled internationally before, I was over the moon giddy.
Although I must admit, it was a little nerve wracking watching that video from the Chinese government stating that if anyone seems sick that they will be reported to health officials and automatically quarantined and given a shot of something from an overly happy, smiley nurse with an overly ginormous needle.
So naturally as the video ended I started stating to the person beside me (in possibly – maybe a little louder voice than normal) that my continuous sneezing and nose blowing is purely allergies from the plane of course! Oh gosh no, I don’t have a cold or sinus infection. I couldn’t be more healthy!
I quickly take the pile of used crumbled tissue balls and stuff them into my bag, making sure to hide the tylenol cold medicine under my book. As the plane descended into a smoggy abyss I refresh myself with a good teeth cleaning, hair brushing and mascara applying. I feel ready to embark into China.
Slightly anxious that I will be quarantined and given shots.
Customs was miraculously a breeze. Hardly any lines. The Chinese really do have it down to a science. Very easy to maneuver around. My smile was undoubtedly bigger than usually as I was going through the process of getting approved to enter the country.
No I am not bringing any diseases into your country (sniffle).
No I did not download a VPN so that I may use Instagram (they don’t really ask that).
WeChat? Never heard of it (truly they couldn’t care less)…
I had always pictured myself walking onto a new land, setting my bags down and inhaling a big breath of this distant lands air. After all I had been dreaming about going to China since I realized it existed…
No. No no no no. In fact try not to breath at all. At first I thought, oh man – so much exhaust. But then soon realized that the smog content of the air was unlike anything I had ever experienced. It was almost tangible. Like literal grit in the air.
I was parched and that’s when I realized I was not in Kansas anymore. Nobody, I mean nobody spoke a lick of English. Not even at the help desk (that had an English sign that said ‘Help Desk’). So I show the sweet, young lady behind the desk a yuan and tried desperately to make the water sign which was basically me pointing to my mouth and looking as thirsty as possible. She takes my yuan and goes to, what I believe is a vending machine and points to a large bottle of clear liquid and I nod. I don’t care what it is-I need to drink something. She inserts the money and voila! Water. That is the first of so many experiences I had with the Chinese peoples. They are nothing but kind, helpful, happy beings. What a privilege it was to meet so many lovely new friends.
Back to reality which was standing in the middle of Terminal 2 at the Beijing International Airport. The extent of my Mandarin is “Do you speak English,” “Thank you” and “I speak a little Mandarin.” My friend made it clear that I am to stay put. She will find me. So when my long distance on my phone was not yet warmed up, I did as I was told. She knew my airline, the time of arrival and flight number. I tried to stay out of the way. I felt invisible. People rushing by me. It was like a blur as I stood there. I was in China. I knew no one. Didn’t know where to go and if my friend would ever find me.
Forty-five minutes later I see her. She is like a glorious angel calling my name. She is twice as tall as anyone there so I couldn’t miss her. I started yelling back.
It was like a romantic novel ~ two people running toward each other with such vigor and passion. I don’t remember a time I was so happy to see anybody in my whole life.
And then we get on the road with her driver and I experience Beijing driving and suddenly ~ growing up in Southern California with all of it’s amusement parks and tourist driving – makes all the sense in the world.
Stay tuned for China: Episode 2…
While in China, and while my friend was working I decided to take some cooking classes in an old-style housing called a Hutong. It was beautiful and a blog in of itself. While there I made many delicious, simple recipes. Here is one of them. If you can’t find a green pointed (tiger) pepper I feel that an Anaheim chili would be a great substitution. But I encourage you to go to your nearest Asian Market. They are so much fun.
Happy woking friends!
2 large green pointed peppers (or Anaheims)
1 spring onion (or green onion), white part only – finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
2 Tbsp water
The pressing of the peppers to the wok is very important. Here is the chef showing us technique.
Cut tops (stem-side) of the peppers off. Remove seeds by tapping on the pepper and having the seeds fall out.
- Heat wok over medium heat and add 1 tsp oil. Swirl oil around the wok. Reduce the heat to low and add peppers, skin-side down. Keep pressing the peppers in the work. Pan fry until the pepper skins become golden in places and peppers all become tender. This may take several minutes.
- Place peppers onto the sides of the wok. Add another teaspoon of oil. Add garlic and onion. Cook until fragrant. Push peppers back to the middle of the wok and mix well.
- Service hot.