"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The China Journals, Home Sweet Home, Chapter 1

(I am at that time in my life when I want to rid myself of possessions and find that I am compelled to watch the TV series called , "Hoarders, Buried Alive"  for inspiration.  During every episode I want to rush home and fill large black garbage bags with stuff and haul them off to wherever.  Just get them and their contents out of my house.   Because I'm in Halibut Cove and unable to do that, I think about living simply, much like the homes in China and Tibet that I visited last fall.  Simplicity in the extreme.)

Beijing, China, Sept. 2010
Dining in the Hutong

The rickshaw man peddles us into a narrow alley, known in Beijing as a hutong, and parks along a wall.  Commerce bustles in the small shops interspersed with residences along this lane, which is wide enough for a vehicle to transit, but would cause consternation if two cars met.

We follow our guide into a narrow passageway, past mops hanging to dry, to the non-descript entrance of a small building.  We step over the high threshold that prevents legless ghosts from entering.

Inside we find two tables pushed together and set with Zen-like simplicity ̶ a small luncheon plate, chopsticks, and a paper cup in a plastic holder.   So far we have been dining in luxurious hotels and nice restaurants.  This experience is new to us.

There are 14 places set and we number 16, so the tables are separated to make room for the last two.   Plates of rice, duck, pork skin (delicious), sprouts, potatoes, cabbage, bok choy, and dumplings are placed on the table, all of which we wash down with beer.  We are learning that to request bottled water means receiving a glass of water, not the whole bottle.  Chinese beer, cheap and tasty and shared with others, soon becomes the mealtime beverage for many of us.

I focus on the room.   Mounted above a table is a flat panel television set.  

 Through a glass partition I see a stark room with a bed, extra stools, and a small cabinet.  It suddenly occurs to me that we are in their living room, not their restaurant.  The tables we occupy are the only two in the room.  

Later our Chinese leader explains that Road Scholar chooses dining places for its clients carefully, and this couple was located through word of mouth and more word of mouth.   They are introduced and we thank them for a delicious meal. 

On the way out, we pass their tiny kitchen.  It is about the size of an American closet, but the dishes that come from there are memorable.

Woman in side alley in hutong

1 comment:

  1. As always, your travelogs are done with such respect for the residents. The food looked delicious and the beaming couple was adorable. I admire their spirit and style.