Sunday, July 23, 2006

After a smooth 14 hour flight I landed in Beijing. I was a bit wobbly
the first day and a half but got my sea legs soon enough.

Some funny moments already.

Most Chinese people working in the business or service sectors adopt
English names. Often names that haven't been used in decades or centuries.
Some are words that aren't normally used as names as all.

When I checked in the young woman behind the desk had on a nametag. Her name was "Fancy" her surname was Xu. Pronounced "shoo." I got checked in by Fancy Shoe.

First night's dinner, the menu included "Braised Big Cock." Hmmm. I
wonder how they harvest those. Same menu had Smocked Salmon. I never saw a fish in an apron before.

Last night I had one of the strangest dining experiences of my life. My partners insisted that we go to a "western" style restaurant. I suggested a very good Italian place near my hotel. "No" they said. We have a place in mind. I agreed to go where they wanted to go.

We arrived at the restaurant and it had signs in Chinese and in Russian. It
was called "Keisling." They explained to me that the original restaurant opened in Tianjin in 1949 and that this branch opened a year later.

The crowd definitely skewed old(er). The food. Ahh yes, the food.

It was like nothing I had seen or tasted before. As I began to eat it
all came together for me.

Older crowd, cyrrilic letters and 1949 was the year The People's
Republic of China was founded by Chairman Mao. That same year Russia sent many
advisers to their newly minted Communist ally.

The food. Imagine Stalin-era Russian peasant food Chineseisized. A
fish buried under mashed potatoes topped with melted cheese. Borscht with
chinese vegetables. A beef stew and a milky mushroom soup.

It wasn't great, it wasn't terrible, it was definitely interesting.

Tonight will be better. We are once again headed to one of Beijing's
best "Beijing Duck" restaurants.

Business is going well. It's good to be "home."

My partners and I

Smoking a Hookah on the San Lu Tan Road