“BEIGEING”: The local Chinese man’s efforts in protecting others from germs, the driver’s efforts in getting us to the Great Wall, and my efforts towards drinking/staying awake.
Keep reading, it’s a new word. You’ll figure out what I mean:)
It’s been due time for this blog about Beijing! I’ve been a bit of a procrastinator…It’s safe to say I’m a little bit lazy lately!
Our final weekend getaway took us to Beijing, and it has been a really great experience being able to balance work with travel life. Ryan and I have continued to work full time hours, but were still lucky enough to spend our weekends away. And thank goodness for these weekends! Breaks from China are definitely needed. It ends with us being a bit tired at work on Mondays, but it’s not regrettable at all! Plus it’s even better being able to spend time with familiar faces from home (that’s a given). I’m pretty excited for that one day my parents decide to visit. My dad’s reactions and facial expressions to everything in China will be the highlight of my days, every day (and I’ll be sure to blog about them).
As you know, our first weekend getaway was in the lovely Japan, followed by South Korea, and our last stop, historical Beijing! I was pretty excited to climb a different section of the Great Wall, and I couldn’t wait to see what Jess and Zack thought about it too. This was my third time going, which is crazy to say I’ve been that many times. But every time I go I feel like “WOW”. The views never cease to amaze me and I feel truly happy that I’m there. I mean, I think I get this way from hiking in general: the mix of endorphins from doing physical activity, having fresh air, great company, sunshine…ahh. It feels good to hike!
I think maybe my summer thus far (until these weekend getaways), I’ve felt like a bit of a hermit wanting to stay indoors and do nothing. It’s honestly too hot outside to do anything here in the summer. Seriously, I used to be someone that LOVED summers and tanning and being outside…and I still do. But not in China. Any time I have stepped outside, the humidity hits me like a wall and I can almost feel my asthma wanting to act up. A 5 minute walk anywhere and I can feel the sweat dripping. I’ve become used to the heat, and accustomed to myself sweating profusely, it’s just not always comfortable, SO I try to avoid it when I can. I mean the pollution helps block out the sun a bit, so it’s not extremely hot. But the humidity really gets ya!
ANYWAYS… At this point Sandra and Jim had already left to go home, and Jess and Zack were getting their last weekend of travel in China. We had made plans to meet up with them in Beijing, where we decided to take a 5 hour train ride to make things easier for us (less stress/lower cost), but boy did it feel like forever! I think Ryan and I were getting accustomed to our 1.5-3 hour flights; we started to forget what longer travel times felt like! Aren’t we in for a treat when we visit home…
Ryan and I got to the station a bit early so we enjoyed ourselves some lunch and grabbed snacks (not necessarily the healthy kind…but so worth it) for our train ride. Unfortunately the train company decided to sit Ryan and I apart from each other even though we booked the tickets together (which makes NO sense to me…but hey). Anyways we sit in our spots; Ryan’s beside his Chinese friend, and I’m beside mine. We then start hearing the lovely noise of mucous arising from the deep, dark depths of this man’s throat…only to hear it pass through his nose (I don’t know how I know that…but I do)..and only to hear him cough and swallow and hack away at his persistent brigade of mucous for the next 5 hours….and he’s not protecting anyone from ANYTHING.
I mean it’s a germ war, and Ryan’s getting the full attack (being the fact that he’s sitting right beside him). Of course, he can’t take it anymore, and I don’t blame him! So as soon at the train reaches its next stop, we move up a row and sit together, to get away from this noisy man. Unfortunately we don’t know whose seat we’re taking in the process, but luckily the people who board the train at the next stop understand that we just wanted to trade seats. We can still, sadly, hear our germy friend, so for the rest of the ride we put in our headphones and blast our music to avoid listening to any more bodily fluids.
To be fair, we’ve all had those days when we’re riddled with germs, and sound like we’re dying, but yet somehow need to function in public. I myself have had a few coughing attacks in public, and they are the most embarrassing. BUT to paint the picture a bit more clear…nothing appeared wrong with this man. He didn’t have a runny nose, or red eyes, and he in fact seemed quite chipper despite the fact that he was creating rather appalling noises. So it was just a tad confusing that this persisted for about 5 hours. So although he sounded germy, it was probably more just some sort of condition he had going on. Ryan and I were finally able to relax when we moved rows. We were also able to relax once we finally got through the subway station and made it to our hotel! Jess and Zack were both waiting for us and our adventures of Beijing could begin.
That Saturday was our adventure of climbing the Great Wall of China! We arranged for a driver to pick us up from the hotel, which surprisingly, Ryan and I recognized from our last time in Beijing 2 years ago! He recognized us too which was really nice…but when I say us, I mean Ryan. He held out his hand for a handshake from Ryan, and when I went to do the same thing as well he either didn’t notice or didn’t care, and began to open the car door for us. Ouch…But this isn’t the first time I’ve felt ‘subordinate’ to Ryan in China. Although a handshake is hardly a way to determine this; but in general it seems like most people cater to men here. Or maybe just foreign men (or just Ryan: women swoon over him!). To be clear, before I list things off: I’m not upset about these things! At home I feel like it has just become so normal that “women come first” (even with all the feminism going around), that it’s just interesting to how China differs.
- Being seated:
- When we sit down to have dinner, the host that takes us to our table will pull the chair out for Ryan before, or instead of doing it for me. Gosh darn, I have to pull out my chair by myself??
- Being served:
- In most situations, Ryan will be asked first what he would like to eat or drink, and will be served it before me as well (although the serving part varies. In China food usually comes out when it’s ready, not in the proper sequence: main course before appetizer is a common occurrence).
- Going out for drinks:
- When we go out for drinks, sometimes the servers will only ask Ryan if he wants more to drink…not me. Excuse me? I’m not done drinking! Ryan has to point them towards me to get them to realize I’m alive too.
So far, those are the main things I notice in terms of treatment. I think most people in China see a white man (Ryan) and they think he has a lot of power, and think I am just the woman that happened to ‘cling’ on to him. Believe it or not, I think many relationships in China are based off of status (aka MONEY). This is why Chinese women love foreign men: for their money! Sorry guys, probably not your charming personality… Ryan could probably tell you several times that he’s been asked by Chinese women how much money he makes, and if he could take them out shopping. And I can tell you that she didn’t get to know him before she asked that…that was one of her first 5 questions!
Fun Fact: We found out that Chinese men here can have multiple girlfriends, but they basically have to “pay them” to keep them quiet about it. Women in China are drawn by money (I’m sure not ALL of them are), and know this ‘girlfriend’ fact, so they will find a man that has money, and will put up with his other girlfriends for a price. New sports car perhaps? Designer clothing? Shoes? Bags? Every time a woman in a sports car, I don’t really have the best thoughts about them…but I guess they’re happy?
**Like any generalization about groups of people, I’m sure this isn’t always that case. But this is what we were told. I apologize to any Chinese women reading this that feel offended.
So WOW do I get off topic sometimes. Back to the Great Wall; our drive took what felt like forever, and involved me asking our driver to pick up the pace. The drive took about 3 hours, when it should have taken about half that time. We were wondering if our driver had recently been in some sort of accident, because Ryan and I didn’t recall him driving this slow last time. I can sometimes put things a bit harshly, so I had to harness my inner sensitive side to ask him to speed up. Seriously every single car was passing us or honking at him to speed up. He was going 60kms/hr….and we had a far ways to go. Everyone concurred that I asked politely enough, and he sped up for me! Yay! I mentally gave myself a pat of the back.
And so, getting out of the car with stiff legs, we could begin our climb to the Great Wall! The first thing we noticed was how quiet it was; the last time Ryan and I went to the wall it was loaded with people! This time around we were just shocked, and extremely happy, that this was not the case at this section. We think its distance from Beijing has some correlation to the amount of people that will go: the closer it is, the busier it will be. This section was quite the drive.
The wall was beautiful!! Stunning views, and obviously, a lot of steps! The only unfortunate thing about the wall in general is that there are hardly any original parts of it left, to keep it safe for tourists. I mean not too many people want to walk the wall if it’s falling apart; but if it were possible to somehow at least see the true original section of the wall, I would love to see it.
Here are some photos we took of the Great Wall:
We walked as far as we wanted, and we could have continued for hours, but we decided to turn back a bit earlier so we had enough time to drive back (since who knows how long that would take), so we could make it to our hot-pot reservation. Jess and Zack hadn’t tried it at that point yet, and when you’re in China is absolutely necessary to try it! It’s like going to Korea…you have to try Korean BBQ. And if you go to Italy obviously you have to try the pizza.
When we finally arrive back at our hotel (and it did take forever), we were all pretty smelly so we decided to go to the pool for a swim. Jess had told me before we left to bring our swimsuits because of how amazing the pool was. We weren’t really quite sure just how amazing a pool could get…it’s a pool. But she was totally right! It was amazing! They basically simulated the look of a tropical oasis, but inside the hotel.
Unfortunately, I only noticed leaving our place in Wuxi, that I had forgotten my bathing suit, so I had to sit out. But I was totally okay with it to be honest, and I wasn’t necessarily in the mood to go swimming. Lucky for me though, Ryan got in his bathing suit, found an Asian-style robe in our closet, and wore it to the pool. I think I caught a few people looking at him funny, which created some great entertainment. Most people decide to go for the towel-type robes because they are more of a wicking material. But Ryan was feeling adventurous, harnessing his inner Asian yet again! I wish I had the picture to share with you guys…but this is sort of what it looked like:
That night we walked over to the mall which contained the very popular hot-pot, recommended to us by the hotel. Unfortunately, due to language barriers, we didn’t understand that a reservation really meant no reservation, and included waiting for about 45 mins for a table. But it turned out to be totally fine. I think Jess standing up to stretch her legs made it look like we were about to leave, so they were pretty quick in finding us a table at that point.
The food was delicious, and we even got to have the entertainment of a ‘noodle dancer’ to watch. This was my first time seeing something like that before, but basically this guy walked around the restaurant playing his techno music, while flinging and stretching the noodles around his body in a dance form. Maybe a hint of resemblance to people who dance with ribbon, just less graceful and more up-beat. Turns out Jess and Zack enjoyed the hot pot! Sometimes it can get rather spicy, but luckily this was an okay amount of spice.
For anyone that doesn’t know what hot pot is: basically you choose what you want to eat, usually meat and vegetables, and you cook it by yourself in the pot in front of you. The contents of the pot is a mixture of oil and water, and is extremely hot. The meat is cut very thin, so it only takes about 10 seconds for the meat to cook. The vegetables take a bit longer, so you leave them in until they’re ready; this includes mushrooms, tofu, lettuce, noodles, dumplings and things like that.
After the food is cooked, you dunk it in your sauce bowl, which you make yourself with the selection at the ‘sauce station’. Some of the options include sesame dressing, soy sauce, BBQ sauce, salt, pepper, garlic, green onions, peanuts, chili peppers…and tonnes more. So, you continuously cook your own food and eat it! You can spend hours doing this if you want to, depending on how hungry you are. I would say it is the most popular thing to do in China; so far anyone that I have met that lives here asks me if I’ve tried it. It is quite delicious though!
Since it was our last night together we thought it would be a great idea to stay up and drink together and have a good time. We went to the little store near our hotel, bought some beers and brought them to our room. I unfortunately, could not keep up my reputation from the previous weekend of drinking. Alcohol was not doing it for me, and I could not keep my eyes open any longer. When I am tired…I’m tired. And since I was in the comfort of my own room, the likelihood of me falling asleep was really high! And so, with Jess and Zack in our room, I decided to get into bed, and fall asleep. Sleeping for me was inevitable at that point, and so I chose for the more comfortable option, rather than on the couch. I apologized for my horrible behaviour, but at that point the president could have been in the room and I would still be okay with falling asleep. My contribution to the conversation was dwindling bit by bit, and I didn’t want to ruin any of the fun. So I left the 3 of them to continue on with their drinking.
The next morning was a bit of a rush…Ryan I think was still drunk and we had to hurry to make it through the subway and to our train on time, but also leave enough time to say our goodbyes to Jess and Zack, and check out. I’m pretty glad that at this point that I didn’t end up drinking too heavily because one of us needed to function normally. Luckily, I made a good choice with checking out before Ryan was finished getting ready (he was taking too long to get ready). By the time he got to the lobby, I had checked out and we had to book it to the subway. It was a particularly warm day, which didn’t make running around any easier. By the time we made it to the train station, people were boarding and we were really running at this point! I think Ryan was sweating out the remnants of alcohol in his system.
Looking for the entrance to our train was an issue because for some reason they had different sections blocked off; so it took several tries to get access to go through. Then finally, we got to the right one! Ryan got through before I did, waiting for me on the other side. The girl looked at my ticket and says “Passport?”. In my mind I’m like ‘Are you kidding me, the train is boarding, we don’t have time for this’ but also ‘Why didn’t Ryan get asked for his passport?”. I knew it wasn’t a requirement, and I had never been asked before during the many times I’ve used the train. So, I just said “No” and pointed at Ryan, indicating he’s through, so I should be okay to go. Also, how many people does she know with the last name TOFFOLO? I mean I would understand her request if my ticket said “Qin” or “Wang”. Anyways, instead of complying with her request, I just pushed through. I was NOT going to miss that train. Plus, I wasn’t going to try get my passport out when I was surrounded by a hoard of people.
And so, with sweaty shirts, a bit of panic, and elevated heart rates, we made it onto our train! No mucous man to sit to this time…just time to relax and wind down. Nothing like a little bit of stress to start off the day!
Oh, just in case you didn’t figure it out:
BEIGEING: What appears to be a lack of effort, but there’s probably some other reasoning behind it. Relates with the seemingly bland colour of beige: somewhere in between white and brown; it doesn’t really try to be part of the colour spectrum. It just is, we don’t always understand why. Just like me, not really trying to be a normal human sometimes. I’m beige-ing. Not even I understand why.
COMING UP: PORTUGAL!!
In about a week, Ryan and I will be leaving for Portugal with our good friends Ryan and Lexie! Since we have yet been able to sit outside in the sun, we’re looking forward to beach days, sunshine, drinks and great laughs. Stay tuned for some funny blogs, there’s bound to be a few!