**Pictures added 1/22**
Yesterday was fairly mellow. We worked out in the morning in the fancy gym in Chi-Chu's condo complex (it seems that only Westerners like to work out, the two times we've been there, there have been no other Chinese-looking people there), and then went to get Hong Kong style dim sum. It was basically the same as what you'd get in NY, but at this restaurant there were no carts being pushed around, you just ordered by checking off a checklist, which would have been really challenging if Chi-Chu hadn't been there, because I couldn't read most of the menu. I did manage to locate Xiao long bao (soup dumplings), but that wouldn't have helped because it turned out that they didn't have them that morning. But Chi-Chu ordered for us, and we stuffed ourselves as usual. Then it was off to pan jia yuan, or as Eveline called it, the Dirt Market. It was basically a huge flea market with antiques, silk, jade, and various other interesting objects, like reverse Chinese characters for a printing press, old Chinese instruments, scary looking ancient weapons, old silk scrolls and robes, etc. I helped Grace bargain for some stuff--it's fun to bargain when it's not my money!
Then we tried three times unsuccessfully to use a payphone to call Chi-Chu--the payphones were fairly decrepit looking, but I found out later that the reason the call wasn't going through was because I was dialing the wrong number. Oh well. Then we went across the street to a McDonald's (or as they say in China: Mai Dang Lao) to warm up with hot chocolate and coffee. I love seeing the different things they have on the menu--we got pineapple pie (they also had taro) and a cup of corn.
The cab driver on our way back to Chi-Chu's place was hilarious. He asked us where we were from and started chatting with us, pointing out buildings, correcting our pronounciation. "Di tie" with a deep 3rd tone on the "tie" (subway). He asked what we were going to see, and I responded "Da Chang" forgetting how to say "Great Wall." "Da Chang" he repeated, perplexed. "Wei shen me?" (Why?) Jen tried to explain in Chinese, and then he said, "Chang Cheng! Bu shi da chang!" and proceeded to make us repeat after him a few times. He told us that he was "Old Beijing" not "New Beijing" and that he had lived here his whole life, that his father and his grandfather were also from Beijing. Beyond that, he didn't know. He told us to all find jobs in China. He was an adorable old man, and at the end of the ride, refused our tip (China is not a tipping culture).
That night, Chi-Chu, Grace, and I went to Ding Tai Fong for dinner to get the xiao long bao we missed at lunch. So good. I loved the one in Taipei (before it got too crowded) and have never had the chance to go to the one in LA. They need to open up one in NY!
Back in Shanghai, we ended up getting a referral for a tour guide here in Beijing, Nicole. She's picking us up around 9 am to take us to the Summer Palace and the Great Wall. The Great Wall is the main reason I wanted to come to Beijing, and I'm excited. I think it'd probably be best if it stopped snowing by the time we got there, though...not sure if we'd fare well with a slippery climb.
To be continued...