Hello from Vancouver! :)
I am not yet home, as our plane was delayed and we missed the last connection, allowing us to spend a night in a really beautiful hotel surrounded by friendly Canadians! We will go out to explore Vancouver later this morning (writing this at 3:45 am Vancouver-time, the jet-lag is intense), but for now I will catch you up on what was a crazy time in Beijing.
I think I last left off saying we were to take a train to Beijing, which we prepared for with lots and lots of snacks:
Earnestine was really into these little hot dogs, which ended up being interestingly delicious (you can see them in the picture in the red wrapping), and we bought these delicious rolls from Bread Talk:
We also got these big red bowls of ramen because that’s what everybody else was doing. The train had hot water just for that! The red packet is a “secret meat sauce” and it was interesting but delicious.
On our way there, we passed by the first and last (what I think was a) rice paddy I saw during my entire trip, but I had to snap a pic!
When we got to Beijing, we went to have lunch first (we were going to get Peking Duck, so we were super stoked, since Peking Duck is a Beijing specialty). I’ll post a few of the dishes that came before the duck as well, since one of them in particular was noteworthy.
Celery and bulbs of lily:
Fish in a spicy sauce:
And (drumroll) duck feet with wasabi and some other seasoning:
I am proud to say I tried them, and although they are not my favorite thing I tried in China, and this will probably be the last time in my life I ever eat them, they were cold, chewy, but very nicely seasoned.
After the duck feet (accidentally switched those two letters, but luckily caught myself from a potentially offensive mistake!) came the duck! It was brought out by a chef who carved it for us, and separated the pieces onto three different plates (just meet, just skin, and meet and skin together – last one is not shown):
So now that the duck was here, we were given these really thin tortilla (not sure if this is the right word because I can’t for the life of me imagine what a tortilla is right now) like wraps, filled them with the duck skin and meat, and added cucumber and/or this other thin green/white vegetable. We were encouraged to dip both vegetables into this really delicious soy sauce-like sauce.
Then we wrapped them up and ate them like mini burritos (you can see this really delicious bread thing in the background too – roti I think?)
Afterwards, we went to this amusement park called Happy Valley. I didn’t being my camera, but I got a few pictures from Grace, who brought her iPhone:
We went on one rollercoaster, because everything else was closed, but it was a lot of fun! I was feeling really congested and sick-like, so everything was a little hazy but I remember screaming a lot on the rollercoaster, and holding on for dear life because for some reason I thought I was going to fall off. I think the roller coaster was called Shangri-La?
Anyway, when we were leaving the park, we noticed all these paper lanterns going up, and when we went to investigate we found a whole parking lot of people setting them off! Apparently this lady bought a bunch online and was just giving them out for free!
We made some wishes and set it off, after patiently setting it up with the help of Earnestine’s mother’s father’s sister’s daughter (?!) or her aunt’s cousin I think? She was really sweet, and we had a great time with her. Pictures are again from Grace:
After the park, Earnestine’s uncle asked us if we wanted to get foot massages, so we were like “Sure, when in China!” Little did we know that we were in store for much more than foot massages…
We enter this luxurious spa, where we are given a private room, robes to change into, watermelon to snack on, and tea to drink. Then we each get our own masseur (Earnestine was once again translating), who first wash our feet in what I think was boiling water because I almost passed out the first time I put my feet in there. They threw in some herbal skin whitening powder as well because I think we are all too tan for Chinese standards of beauty, but it didn’t seem to work as our feet look to be the same color as the rest of our bodies. Anyway, they massaged our feet after soaking them, and then told us to turn over so that they could give us a brief back massage which also extended to my butt, thighs, and legs somehow. The entire time my nose was running and dribbling on their floor, but it was alright.
We were also watching the show about the Monkey King that Grace and I have come to like, so that was interesting!
After that, we gladly got dropped off at Earnestine’s aunt’s spare apartment, where we laid down to rest. That night turned into the night from hell, as we didn’t turn the air conditioning on (we were on the 6th floor too) and I woke up in the middle of the night with what I now thing was a fever, drenched in sweat, thirsty, and bewildered at what was going on. I fumbled around for Dramamine as I couldn’t go back to sleep, and then spent the next hour crying silently in fear and misery thinking this would be my last night on this earth. This sounds melodramatic, but I felt so alone and scared, and my head was swimming and I was so sweaty I couldn’t get comfortable for the life of me.
Needless to say I survived, but was feeling like death the next morning so Earnestine’s aunt recommended we have lunch, and then go to a clinic. This was supposed to be the day we saw the Forbidden City and the Bird’s Next (Earnestine’s uncle works there!) so I think I cried a little more but gathered my belongings and started what seemed to be another hellish experience as we walked for 45 minutes through what was definitely 99 degree weather to the lunch place.
We had some delicious food (steam buns – some fried- and this really sweet sauce were my absolutely favorite), and after that lugged our poor tired bodies to Earnestine’s aunt’s apartment, where her grandma met us and took us to the clinic.
Before I tell you of what happened at the clinic I want to take a moment to appreciate at the moment that Earnestine’s grandma saw Earnestine. Her face lit up, she hugged her really eagerly, and Grace’s and my hearts were warmed instantly. It was one of those Kodak moments that just move you to almost tears.
So Earnestine’s grandma took us to the clinic, where we were told to lie face down, and lift up our shirts. I went first, so Earnestine was translating. When I life my shirt Earnestine started reacting in a way that made me want to throw my shirt back on and run out of there all the way to home. She started saying he will be using needles (which I thought was acupuncture), and that it might hurt a little bit. The lady laying down next to me (getting acupuncture) told me it would sting. It hurt more than that, and after letting out quite a few anguished sound effects of my own, and asking “Will I be paralyzed?!” as he pricked my spine in two places, I thought the worst was over until I heard Earnestine exclaim.
She told me he would be using fire jars on me, which I thought “Hey, no big deal, my parents used to do this to me when I was a kid so this is not a problem.” So I sat there slightly calmer as he took little jars, waved a swab of flaming cotton inside them, and then placed them on my skin to suction my skin up and bring the blood to the surface, kind of like a little suction cup. My parents used to used this (called “banki” in Polish I think – spelling might be wrong) so I was like ok. All that happened is you got these little hickey like circles on your back, and then they were taken off. The jars are supposed to suck the toxins out of your body.
He left the jars on me and went to do Earnestine’s, during which Earnestine was making the most hilarious exclamations that my own jars were clinking together as I shook from laughter. My laughter stopped quickly as pain began to pick me back into awareness, and he came back to prick my fingers with a needle. Earnestine told me he was letting some blood out, to which I yelled “Why, do I have too much blood?!” Apparently I had a fever, and he was releasing some of it to give me relief. While this was happening, I tried calling for a tissue because my nose was running onto the pillow, and I was drooling out of fear, but I could not lift my head to receive the tissue, and just sat there with it stuffed between my face and my arm until the jars were removed and I could get up.
I thought it was odd that he seemed to be wiping something up when he took off the jars, but I thought nothing of it until I looked over at Earnestine and almost passed out. The jars were collecting blood from the pricks, which had not been acupuncture, but pricks to release blood! Earnestine’s jars had an inch or so of blood at the bottoms, ahhhhh!!
So before I had some kind of panic attack I looked away, but he was already directing me to lie with my back down on the table. It was painful but I did it, and he felt around the base of my skull for these little lumps, which he pushed down on. He then picked up my head, wobbled it around (searching for more lumps I thought) and then cracked my neck in one switch motion!! I was so surprised tears sprung into my eyes, as he did it to the other side of my neck as well. He also felt at the top of my spine, told me I had a crooked back, and cracked my back as well which also shocked me into tears. I got up, walked into the next room, and started bawling/laughing hysterically while Grace tried to comfort me by patting my shoulder and telling me everything was ok.
I don’t know why I reacted like this, but apparently I had a low fever still so I blame everything on that, and the language barrier. Earnestine apparently also cried (she cried into his hand as he cracked her neck) so I felt a little better about myself!
After both Earnestine and I were done, they gave us some medicine (like a battalion of pills) and sent us off on our way. My head did feel better (not as stuffy) but idk if that was from shock or from the fire jars.
Anyway, after that we headed to Earnestine’s aunt’s apartment, where we had dinner with her grandma, and received some really nice gifts! I will post pictures of them, she’s so sweet!
After that we headed back to our apartment, where we packed and slept (this time with the AC on).
We left the next morning for breakfast, followed by the Forbidden City! I still felt like death, which you can tell from these pictures, but I powered through:
Tinamen Square was first, as pictured above, followed by the Forbidden City (I bought a fan because it was so hot, and I was using it to hide the sweat stain spreading over my abdomen):
We walked through the Forbidden City quickly, as we had to catch our flight at 4pm that same day. A the end of the Forbidden City, there were really beautiful gardens:
And that concluded our stay in Beijing. Earnestine’s uncle drove us to the airport, where self-check in was not working for us, and Grace and I had to stand in line for Air Canada assistance for a while, until things were sorted, we ran to our gates (bought some tea in the mean time) and said a hasty goodbye. We parted with our snacks (which I later highly, highly regret) and got to our gate with time to spare. Our flight was delayed for 2 hours at the gate, and then for another hour or two on the runway, where the air conditioning system was not working, and I was ready to start crying again being in such close quarters with sweat pouring down my body. But I stayed strong and did not cry!
We got to Vancouver with 20 minutes till our flight left, and even though we got priority deboarding because of our transfer, when we got to the ticket check, he told us we would have to get a hotel overnight. So we waited in lines for another hour or two, and eventually got a hotel voucher, meal vouchers, and settled into our beautiful hotel (after we wolfed down a Wendy’s meal – FRIES!!!)!
Check out the view – you can see mountains!
Vancouver looks beautiful, and we are going to take a train in later this morning to explore a little bit before our flight. Can’t wait!