Thursday Thoughts: Blogging from China

Like I ATTEMPT to do most Thursdays, I'm linking up with Jen from Ramblings of a Suburban Mom for Thursday Thoughts.

This Thursday is a little different because I'm in China.

That's us in the Forbidden City.  

Blogging from China is a lot more difficult than blogging from France was - for a number of reasons.  (A few people have asked me if I'm travel blogging while I'm here, because I haven't really posted anything)

First -- China has filtered internet access.  Which means I can't always visit the sites I want.  They even have a filtered version of Google -- and since Google hosts my blog, it's kind of a pain the neck to deal with working around the Chinese filters just to get to my blog.  

Secondly, we have been running ourselves ragged while we are here!  We had 22 or 23 days in France.  We didn't feel desperate to see everything in the first couple of days.  But we only have 6 total days in Beijing, so we are packing a lot into every day.  Most days, we are out of the hotel by 9am and don't return until 8 or 9pm.  12 hours of nonstop tourisiting every day is so exhausting.  I can compare it to going to Disneyland.  You want to see and do everything, so you are go go go all day long.  It's like that -- for 6 days.  We went to Disneyworld a couple of years ago and I was so exhausted when we came home from our vacation.... it's kind of like that.

That being said, I did want to write at least one post while I was here.  

It is really cool bringing Mike to China.  Living in and traveling to China is such an integral part of what shaped the person I became, it's nice to show him first hand what it's all about.  He won't ever truly understand the nuance of living here for a long period of time -- we are, after all, staying in a posh hotel in a foreign embassy neighborhood with a Starbucks around the corner -- but he understands some of the basics.  He's starting to see some of the culture and the general weirdness of being here.

Last night, we took a cab with a very old-school driver.  There seems to have been some improvement in general driving skills over the past decade, but this guy last night was everything I remembered about Chinese taxis -- traffic rules were mere suggestions to this guy.  He wove between cars, ran red lights, and had no qualms about running through a crosswalk full of Beijing school children.  He subscribed to the "I'm going where I'm going, all the rest of you get out of my way" method of driving that was so popular in China a few years back.  

I have introduced him to some of my favorite Chinese foods -- we have eaten dumplings and other dishes that I ate regularly.  Since we are in Beijing rather than southern China, the snack foods aren't the same -- but he's sampled some odd flavored chips and weird candies.  

And the con artists.  

While most countries with a market-economy have their share of ways to cheat the other guy - China really takes the cake.  I've been to a LOT of places with markets - Mexico, Italy, Africa -- but in China, there are actually a surprising number of people that take pride in being dishonest and trying to cheat you.  I understand overcharging tourists - that's kind of how Las Vegas works.  Ever try to buy a cocktail in a casino?  $20 is not unheard of.  I would not pay $20, but that's the going rate in high end places.

Here, however, they take it to a new level.  For example, Mike wanted to buy a bathrobe.  He picked out a "silk" (not silk) robe with some dragons embroidered on it - totally machine made.  Based on my experience, we should have paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 for it... and $10 was probably a couple dollars too much.  But, considering it would cost $30 or $40 in the US, $10 was great.  So we chatted up the salesgirl, picked out a robe and asked the price... She quoted us $250.  Not $250 CNY, (about $40), but 1600 CNY.  She CLAIMED this was actually a good deal, because she should charge us 2500 CNY (about $400).  We just tried to leave.  We didn't even want to engage in the bargaining process because the difference between 1600 CNY and the 60 or 80 CNY that we were willing to pay was just too great.  She tried to tell us it was a real silk robe with hand sewn dragons.  When we called her out on the blatant lie, she dug in.  That was when she explained that she should have actually charged us MORE and could get in trouble for offering such a low price.  We laughed and tried to go.  The girl stood in our way and refused to let her leave the shop.  Keep in mind, Mike is 6'2" and over 250lbs - a literal giant in Beijing.  This girl was probably about 5 feet tall and 120ish.  She physically prevented us from leaving.  We tried to push past her and she grabbed Mike's arm and bag.  He told her very loudly to let go and leave him alone, but she still held strong.  Finally we pulled away and left.  She followed us about 100 yards down the hallway yelling about how WE were dishonest.  Needless to say, Mike did not get a bathrobe.

Today is our last day in China.  We have a couple more things we want to check off our to-do list, and since it's a beautiful sunny morning (it's only 8am), we are hoping to visit a couple more temples and get some last photos.  I've posted a few on Facebook, but I'll post more once I get home and don't have to deal with the internet issues.

Until then -- Zai Jian!  


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