The GoGlobal Blog

Category: China

Summertime at the Summer Palace

Summertime at the Summer Palace

Miami. Chicago. Beijing. I am definitely a girl that enjoys the city life. The hustle and bustle always motivates me to get out and join the pleasantly pushy people party, as I now like to call it. Whenever I am feeling down in a city it is nice to be able to look around and realize how much is going on. It makes it easier to not sulk and worry about the small things. My love for cities will always be strong, but a calming break every once in a while has its advantages. I enjoy jet skiing in Miami, barbecuing on the beach of Lake Michigan, and now relaxing on dragon-shaped boats at the Summer Palace.

Secluded and Serene, the Summer Palace is the ideal escape from the ever so active and populated Beijing. It truly amazes me how it sort of hides in plain sight. It is a little piece of paradise in the middle of the chaos. For lack of a better term, I will admit I was feeling a little “body of water” sick and this haven was definitely what the doctor ordered.

Once I was inside the grounds of the Summer Palace, I immediately thought to myself that the Qing emperors really knew how to enjoy themselves. The place gives off the feeling of actually overflowing with palaces, pavilions, temples, and beautiful landscapes. These gorgeously constructed attributes are perfectly placed around a peaceful lake. Exploring the buildings can be challenging at first, due to the uneven steps and rocks, but it definitely made me feel more adventurous. And of course it made the boat ride on the lake an even bigger reward. The ride across the lake allowed for some really great photos.

I could definitely not complete this post without acknowledging one of the impressive parts of my experience, encountering and admiring a certain group of Chinese women…the heel-wearers. Climbing up and down the steep stairs presented itself as a challenge to me in my Toms. I kept thinking to myself, “Why didn’t you just wear your sneakers? Come on Allison.” But then those once obvious thoughts became a little less obvious and more confused when I started noticing the sheer number of Chinese women in heels exploring the uneven palace. I lost count. There were the occasional ones who were dressed up for some sort of modeling shoot, but that was the minority. Chinese women really do commit to the idea that pain is gain in fashion. Props to them!

Two down, Two to go!

Two down, Two to go!

你好! I have officially been living and studying in Beijing for two weeks and have two more weeks to go! I have to admit that I can’t believe it’s already the third week, it really has flown by. I have looked forward to going to China for as long as I can remember and thanks to China Encounter it was made a reality. These weeks have been filled with fun and fascinating trips to popular tourist spots, restaurants, and “real Beijing” locations.

My goal before coming to China was to really dive into Beijing. This is my first time travelling abroad and I really wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. Whenever I am out and about in Beijing, I always think to myself “People, Places, and Food!”. Yes, this thought may be broad, but whenever I get a little overwhelmed and a feeling of culture shock comes upon me, I remind myself that I want to learn, see, taste, and really enjoy everything relating to the Chinese culture. So far I believe I have succeeded! Although I wish I could spend all day discussing everything, I know that would make for a not so enthralling blog so I have decided to make a few entries with some of my favorite highlights. I will start off with one of my favorite food experiences.

Food checklist: Peking Duck and Hot pot. In preparing for my arrival in Beijing I made a very small food checklist. Of course I knew I would try many different meals that I haven’t heard of, but Peking duck and hotpot were a must do, well actually a must eat. As of now I can check one item off the list: Hot pot! I will admit, I did have high expectations for hot pot, but this experience completely blew me away. Last week, a group of us headed to a hot pot restaurant a few blocks away from campus led by some UIBE Chinese students. I was excited but did not realize what would come next. The host greeted us at the door and took us up the elevator and into the restaurant. There was a room next to the restaurant, where guests were welcome to partake in FREE MANICURES! The service was top notch. We were even given aprons to wear and ziplock baggies to protect our phones.Two boiling pots of broth were placed in front of the twelve of us, and then we dug in. The assortment of food included: shrimp, beef, lamp, potatoes, noodles, tofu, and a few more items that were very tasty, although I am still not sure what they were. I definitely let my adventurous side take over. We all gathered around the pots cooking our food while being entertained by masked dancers and noodles throwers. This was definitely an experience I will never forget.

Hot Pot!
Hot pot!
The Beijing Center
The Beijing Center
Donkey Sandwiches

Donkey Sandwiches

There is always that local place that you love to eat at. Back home in Cincinnati I love to go to my neighborhood Skyline Chili. In Chicago I really enjoy going to a place called Ghareeb Nawaz before or after I head into work for the day or in the harsh Chicago winter to Pho 888 a few stops down the Red Line to reminisce about Viet Nam over a bowl of steamy pho, remembering the pho restaurant I frequented everyday down Alley 18 so that by the end of my semester in Saigon, I could just say ‘the usual’.
I was looking for a nice place to eat here in Beijing, that little restaurant that would become ‘my place’. I technically can cook for myself but the public kitchens on each floor of my dorm are not the most sanitary. There was once instance when I went to fill my metal and clay thermos with hot water to make a warm green/oolong tea and when I turned the level to the spout of the hot water heater, a half dozen roaches scurried out of the grille of the machine. Besides that the kitchens are not always open, and when open are usually occupied by Thai, Indonesian, or Vietnamese exchange students. They seem to have a monopoly on the kitchens while the American, Korean, and Japanese students seem to have resigned themselves to eating out. Is this a cultural thing? Going to supermarkets around UIBE have also led me to believe trying to cook here would be more expensive than just eating out. It would also be a waste to buy all the utensils to cook and then just leave them behind at the end of the semester. Thus, I searched around for some good (and cheap) local restaurants. My adventures around campus and a few streets slinking away from the university yielded interesting results, none could compare to the glory that is… DONKEY!
My first week in Beijing was a whirlwind of Orientation. During that time, one of my good friends Tyler was just getting ready to head back to the States after spending the summer in Beijing. Tyler had also been in Beijing two semesters prior on the same program. So, for the first week before I headed out on the Silk Road excursion, Tyler helped out with some useful things, including finding some good places to eat. Of all these places, none come close to the ‘Donkey Restaurant’. The exact translation of the restaurant is something like, “Little Donkey Restaurant”. It is a cozy little hole in the wall a block from campus down a little side street.
The first time when I went with Tyler and his girlfriend I was a bit skeptical of how good donkey could be. He ordered some sandwiches and I was hesitant to bite into mine, but once I did I was hooked. The sandwich itself is made of a kind of flatbread they make in a big iron press in the back of the restaurant. It is so warm, oily, and flaky on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside. Stuffed into the flatbread are strips and chunks of donkey meat surrounded by minced green peppers. The meat is like beef, but a bit more chewy and sweet. The green peppers are juicy and mildly spicy. On the table red chili pepper paste and Chinese vinegar are available. I usually put just a dash of vinegar on the sandwich, gently slather on the red chili pepper paste with the tiny metal spoon, and then I add my own ingredient: Maggi Sauce. I carry a little bottle of Maggi sauce with me whenever I go to the donkey restaurant because it adds a little extra flavor to the already awesome sandwich. All in all a great meal, and all for just 5 RMB, which is close to 1 USD.
There are other great things to eat at the donkey place- like donkey rice, donkey jiaozi (potstickers), and donkey soup, hotpot, and fried green beans. The rice is nothing special, but the donkey jiaozi and soup are quite good. The soup is a kind of thick egg-drop soup with the shredded donkey and peppers from the sandwich thrown into the mix. It’s a great winter food- warm and spicy with lots of flavor. It always comes to the table in a large ceramic bowl accompanied with lots of smaller bowls and a large ladle, a family style soup. The jiaozi are packed tightly with tenderized donkey meat. The jiaozi from the donkey place seem to be more filly than other comparable jiaozi of pork, beef, or vegetable that I’ve eaten in other restaurants. The fried green beans are served with peppers and taste a lot like French fries. The hotpot is a whole meal in itself- a large bubbling pot of donkey chunks, tofu, mushrooms, noodles, cabbage, and peppers.
Going to get donkey has become something more than my little hangout, but has become a sort of ritual of my friends and I. At least three times a week for dinner or lunch we all decide to go to get donkey. A slang has come up “Lets go do the donk” or “let us partake of the sacred meal that is donkey” We have a little joke amongst ourselves. I’m sure you can guess what it is… Anyway, our little donkey excursions have been a bonding experience and the meals are always great. The workers in the restaurant know our faces and whenever we deviate from our usual meal they become surprised. One day we decided to try a donkey hotpot instead of sandwiches, and they were very surprised!
I never thought of donkey sandwiches as Chinese food, but I have found them to be one of my favorite dishes. I was talking with a professional photographer from Russia over a donkey sandwich one night after a photo shoot and he actually told me on his flight to China all he could do was think about eating donkey, at a different restaurant, but still- donkey. Who would have thought?
Sitting in the restaurant in the little orange tables and stools looking around at my friends, its so funny. It isn’t how I imagined China, but it’s great. I found my little place, I have good friends to share it with, and according to Chinese Medicine- donkey is a yang stimulating meat (heat producing) and so will be great for this winter. One of the Chinese students told me that there is an old saying that the finest meat in heaven is dragon, but that on earth the finest meat is donkey. I would have to agree. I’m going to miss eating donkey when I get back to the US, but for now I’m going to enjoy it while I can. Anyhow all this talk about donkey is making me hungry and it’s about lunch time, so I better call some friends so we can go eat some ass.

The Night Before…

The Night Before…

I am packing.  I despise packing, but i guess the fact that i’m packing for something awesome makes it okay.  I’ve always been a notorious over-packer, and so packing light for China (and traveling once i’m China) has proven to be somewhat of a struggle.  okay, that was a lie.  it’s been a huge struggle, and the fact that i’ve left most of my packing to the day before doesn’t make it really any better.  I’m quite sure i’m going to forget something, but at this point, worrying probably won’t make anything better.  Not that that will stop me…

I have a 13 hour flight which leaves tomorrow at 1pm and lands in China at 3pm the next day.  Beijing (and all of China, since they only have one official time zone) is 13 hours ahead of us, so i suppose it all makes sense.  This is the airport (of which i haven’t seen yet…but i’ll take some pictures of it with my camera when i’m there):

Look at all the pretty lights!!!

And that airport looks pretty freaking cool.  I’m excited to be landing in it soon.  This program i’m going with (ChinaGreen) is on it’s maiden voyage!  not that it’s a ship.  or a boat.  or a plane.  but you get my gist, no?  It’ll be cool to see all the sites and meet all the people and eat ALL the food.  I still don’t know exactly who i’m going with, since i think i’m the only one from LUC, but i’ll be fun to meet my classmates.  although, if they get in the way of me and my food, my opinion of them might go down.

just saying.

Okay, i really must needs return to finishing packing and getting myself together for my imminent departure!  I just wanted to test out this blogging site and stuff before i find myself back in the motherland (of sorts).

See ya’ll on the flip side.