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the latest waddle:

good morning, wordpress - 10:36 a.m. , 2009-07-03

elaborate murder attempt - 2:56 p.m. , 2009-07-01

building a tractor in the basement - 10:42 a.m. , 2009-06-19

ask no questions tell just a few lies - 3:17 p.m. , 2009-06-09

my long lasting flavor really lasts long - 1:10 p.m. , 2009-06-04

2003-11-04 ... 12:39 a.m.

Hello! Happy November! Happy Halloween, a little late! And a very, very happy Elevator Safety Week!Let's be careful out there!



1. The flight over was just plain (plane! Oh me so funny) long, and it featured a crying baby, and I did my best to think charitable thoughts because that would be me, with the baby who would not stop freaking on the trans-oceanic flight, in just a few short weeks. I like flying on triple-sevens, because you have your own little TV screen in the back of the seat, and I can watch the "map" feature and get up-to-the-minute reports on altitude and such. However, on a long flight this can be bad and despair-inducing, when you realize that it has been four hours and you still seem to be hovering somewhere over the Sea of Okhotsk.

2. At the hotel in Beijing (which was way nicer than I would have booked for myself---thank you, adoption agency), we were upgraded to a suite, and then the next day immediately put back into a regular room. I guess the staff realized we were not deserving.

3. And what was the first thing LT and I did after arriving in Beijing, all scroogly-headed and goofy from the flight? Why, we showered, changed our clothes, and headed out to Beijing Noodle King on Mr. Ceglowski's advice. "Advice" is actually too mild a word. The man e-mailed me many helpful tips on visiting China, gleaned from his trip the previous year, but on the subject of Beijing Noodle King he was not exactly moderate. In fact, he grabbed me by my virtual lapels and jibbered about how I absolutely must eat there, how he would not be able to go on living if I did not, et cetera. We listened well, and taxied it over, and wolfed down delicious homemade noodles (mine with eggplant, LT's with salted pork), and drank delicious local beer, and even went back a few nights later. In your face, Helpful Boy!

4. All the usual Beijing tourist stuff was seen. The Summer Palace, where I forced LT to take a paddleboat around the lake and exclaimed, loudly and often, "We’re BOATING!" I also made him sing sea shanties. Tiananmen Square, where I was surprised at the sheer number of Chinese tourists. The Forbidden City, where we made many jokes about the Forbidden Bathrooms and the Forbidden Refreshment Stand. The Great Wall, obviously. (Nixon was right. It truly is a great wall.) Temple of Heaven and the parks surrounding it. We did a lot of walking, we ate a lot of good food, and we took the subway (so clean! So sensible!) just about everywhere.

5. Some small part of me expected Beijing to feel similar to Delhi, which makes no real sense except in a brute-force-geography, big-foreign-city-where-I-don’t-speak-the-language sense. Beijing is much cleaner than Delhi, and speaks less English, but also seems less freaked out by foreigners (none of the pointing and whispering OH LOOK THE WHITE WOMAN IS DRINKING A BEER that I experienced so often in India). In the realm of health care, I saw more obvious limb and facial deformities in Delhi, but the people in Beijing often had shockingly awful teeth. And of course there were more animals on the street in Delhi, while in Beijing I only saw a few pet dogs.*

*The Meat Anecdote: Later in the trip, in Chongqing, LT, Nora, and I were out for our daily walk and ran into someone who spoke English and wanted to talk. We were passing a meat stall, with one of those brutal but somehow charmingly straightforward Chinese displays of animal flesh---the ducks with the heads on, the whole hoof hanging from a hook, the skinned rabbits. There was some mammal-type thing that I did not recognize, so I asked what it was, and the guy said, "Dog." I played it cool but he must have suddenly remembered the Western prejudice for not eating Cute Or Cuddly Things because he quickly mimed stroking a pet and said, "No, not dog. Meat dog." I really liked that. Meat dog! Meat cow! Meat chicken! No Lisa, not a lamb...lamb!

6. LT and I had gone to Beijing early, ahead of the rest of the adoption group, because we wanted to see more of Beijing than being shepherded around on a tourist bus would allow, and also because we were frankly quite scared about traveling with a bunch of Americans. No offense, Vast Majority Of My Fellow Citizens, but you tend to not share my traveling style. The group arrived a few days later, and my fears were and were not realized. There was the time when I had to grit my teeth and politely say, "We'll take a rain check and catch up with you later," instead of shrieking "I would like to know what PLANET you are from, when you come to CHINA and then go eat dinner at the FUCKING HARD ROCK CAFÉ." But there were also times of cracking jokes with musicians, professors of comparative literature, and former Peace Corps volunteers. LT and I were by far the youngest adoptive parents in the group, and the most urban, and the most publicly irreverent about the whole parenting thing, which is just our way of dealing with nervousness but it doesn't always go over too well with a certain sappy-brained Cat Sweatshirt type. However, the pockets of camaraderie, and the fact that we were all there for the same reason, kept us from feeling too alienated.

Still, though, you really have not grasped the full "hell is other people" until a woman with way too much makeup walks into her first squat-toilet, hole-in-the-ground Chinese public restroom stall and asks in her beauty-pageant Southern accent, "My gawd, are they all like this?" Maybe it was mean-spirited of me, but I thoroughly enjoyed handing her a wad of kleenex and cheerfully chirping, "Yes indeed! Have a great time!"

---mimi smartypants invites you to read part two.


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