Day 6 - Four Generations Under One Roof

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Saturday, February 13th, 2016

Smog Level: All 3 Mountains

Again, I wake up early. My nap carries me over to 8 hours total over the past night. I realize that I haven’t written the festival at all, prompting me to drag myself out of bed to write. If this keeps up, it will be quite strange because I’ve never consistently kept a normal 12-8ish sleep schedule.
Fireworks are still going off at all times of the day, which are only allowed during this week because of how bad they are for the environment. Last night, it was like they were shelling my building. Each morning, I am treated to the sounds of early Beijing. Old men loudly whistling tunes foreign to any westerner, strange bird sounds, and lots of running water. I can often hear Chinese yelled through the walls, which I find entertaining.

The smog has been pretty bad here lately. It’s been a few days since I could make out any of the three mountains, though I did pick up a mask just in case it gets bad. It may be in my head, but occasionally my lungs will hurt. It’s probably in my head. I hope. Today, however, I can make out all three mountains! Good day!

Shimou had plans to meet up with some of her university friends at a restaurant called Si Shi Tong Tang (four generations under one roof). It’s another traditional Chinese restaurant with an impressive menu and even more impressive atmosphere. After today, Shimou said we’re done with the traditional stuff. Fine by me.

It's about to BLOW!
Her friends, Laura, Yen, Stella, and Stella’s date, Fei, met us at the restaurant a little after noon. The place was packed, taking a while for us to actually get in. I later found out that Stella and Fei had arrived TWO HOURS before us. This place is happenin’, probably because it’s fairly new.

We ordered a variety of food, from ox intestines (not my favorite) to beef tripe (stomach) to peking duck. Good luck ordering here if you don’t read mandarin because they do have english translations, but they often don’t say what they are. Example: braised ball with flavor. Sure, but what the hell is it made of? I tried everything, including the chocolate “bomb” that was filled with not fudge, not ice cream but… potato salad. Potato salad?! Imagine my letdown when they place this bomb in the center of the table, light the sparkler, it winds down and splits open to reveal something so lackluster. 

...with disappointment
I mostly spoke with Fei, as the girls were largely shy and/or not confident in their English skills. It seems that I give two common impressions to the Chinese people I meet: I’m somewhat intimidating/off-putting, and, eventually, they think I’m “clever.” Mixed bag, but it’s better than all bad!

Fei and I talked about his job in the government and how he didn’t feel they paid that well, which was why he is currently in-transition with his career. We talked about the difference between China and Canada, and how the Canadian musicians that foreigners know are the same ones we’re often embarrassed of. I’m looking at you, Nickelback, Avril Lavigne, Justin Beiber, and Celine Dion. I mentioned the ones I’m more proud of, being Drake and The Weeknd, but they remain unknown. I also learned that Deadpool, an upcoming Marvel movie, will not be screened in China because it’s too violent. They will, however, have Batman vs Superman.. so at least that’s something.

After the meal, I struggled to stay awake while we sat in horribly uncomfortable chairs and the coffee wore off. The jet lag really hits full force somewhere around 3-5pm, and their lack of english conversation didn’t help. I helped give Yen an english name, and offered to help Stella, as Shimou had picked “Stella” for her without her agreeing to it. Yen liked Alicia.

Tasted like a sweet pea soup
We moved to a cafe/restaurant in the mall so that I could wake up. I pulled out ye olde deck of cards and we played a full game of Golf, which Shimou and I won. Playing this game is where they usually see that I’m not a complete idiot. One thing I’ve noticed that seems to be universal among people: if your language skills are low, then people think you’re dumb. You could be a genius, but if you can’t speak well.. SOL for you.

Shimou and I said goodbye the group, and bought a bag of rice as a gift for her mom. Yes, I’m going to meet her parents. I figure it’s going to happen eventually, so we might as well do it now, even though the trip is meant to be a brief stop-over to grab some Shimou’s things.

Mini City
It was pretty cold due to them, which prompted Shimou to hire a small motorbike-turned-cab from the subway to her mom’s place. This thing is not safe and would totally never be on the road in Canada. Imagine a 3-wheeled, motorized bike with a sheet metal box built around it. Now imagine that getting hit by even a small car. Even a smart car would destroy that thing and come away with superficial damage. They’re legal on the roads in China, but illegal as cabs. Good luck catching all of them, though.

Her mom and step-father were both very nice, and generous. They kept offering me various snacks, such as grape tomatoes, orange slices, sesame treats, and this rice krispy-like treat that isn’t made of puffed anything. Pretty sure it’s flour, but who could say. We sat there and haphazardly spoke to each other with a rather extravagant New Year celebration playing on the television.

That 3 wheel, sheet metal death trap!
From what I could tell, they were very generous and had a similar sense of humor as Shimou. Apparently, I had bowed slightly when I had said “nǐ hǎo,” though unconsciously. It’s not common to bow here, but I guess it came off as a sign of respect. Her mom’s English was good enough to allowing us to have very brief exchanges. I thanked her for something, and she responded “not at all,” which was the response they had been taught in school. It feels like British Aristocracy to me. Cute.

After Shimou finished packing her stuff, and her mom kept trying to give us stuff, her step-father drove all of us to the subway station. At the apartment, Shimou prepared some of her Dad’s dumplings from the day before, and I passed out early.

Editing Music: A Belle to Remember - Hayley Kiyoko (sitting in starbucks)

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