August 22, 2008 (b)

Beijing, Day 7 – Minutemen Meatpuppets Descendants Angst

(The above was written on a woman’s purse, showing the trend for nonsensical English writing; the opposite of Americans wearing t-shirts with nonsensical Chinese characters.)

Today we decided to go get Dad his duck. We went to a place called DaDong Duck restaurant, where some famous chef specialized in cooking various parts of the duck, as well as Peking duck. I ordered a veal with shallots that was quite good but not very Asian tasting (yesterday we went to a great Sichuan restaurant where everything had tons of hot peppers), and Dad finally got the duck. He was invited into the kitchen to choose which specific duck he wanted, and then they finished cooking it, delicately sliced it, and put the slices back into the shape of a duck breast. I tried some but didn’t like it. He also had a fried rice with sea cucumbers. While he was ordering I tried to tell him that it had sea cucumbers, but he seemed to be ok with it. It was only after he had finished half of it that I explained what they are – apparently he thought they were just a different type of cucumber.

After lunch Dad decided we should get massages at a very clinical-looking place next door. This turned out to be a very bad idea, a it was definitely the most unpleasant massage of my life. The place was sort of an Eastern-medicine clinic with antique-looking medical equipment. The “massage room” was also the acupuncture room, so the massage practitioner kept running away to go put needles in people. (There appeared to be some sort of bodily fluid stains on the rock-pillow I had.) However, it was actually better when he ran away to acupunt people because the massage was sort of like what would happen if you combined CPR to the back and an old massage chair set on “point” and “vibrate”. For some reason he thought only my right lower back needed work – perhaps he wanted to cause real kidney damage. He also tried to crack my back by stretching me sideways and to pull my head off my neck. The latter was during the sitting-upright part of the massage, by which point other people were waiting in line and laughing at me wincing and trying to tell him no (failed attempt. I couldn’t get the message across). It was actually counterproductive because now my back and neck hurt. Dad enjoyed it. I would really like another massage to correct this one, but I’m now refusing to let anyone touch me. Also, they should understand that my bones don’t crack, nor do I want to attempt their cracking, nor should this be a part of massage. Also, did I mention the unrelaxing atmosphere? It smelled like a hospital, the acupuncture-removal process made a popping noise and involved fire, and, most of all, people laughing at me. I was so desperate to get out of there I decided to wait the next hour until we got to the Summer Palace to use the bathroom instead of going there.

The Summer Palace was all the way (further than) the end of the subway line we usually take. It was the summer residence of the emperors who lived in the Forbidden City. It’s really more of a park, though, and they gave us a handy little map. We followed Haruka’s advice and climbed over the hill and found some nice ruins (19th-century) to explore. The whole thing was sort of like the Forbidden City in that it was rather uninformative, very large, and not many things to look at besides the buildings. We eventually wandered into a sort of shrine-type building with statues of the Buddha and a bunch of other people. One of them was holding a baby dragon in one hand and, understandably, recoiling in horror and making a face that reminded me very much of Ramya. Unfortunately, there was a no-photography sign.

We went from there to Olympic Green and stood in a ridiculously long and crowded line for McDonald’s (again, unfortunately). Highlights of the games were Bolt and Jaimaica’s world record 4×100 relay, watching the decathletes running the 1500 (they’re sort of made for short distances and throwing, so they struggle with it), and Steve Hooper breaking the Olympic record for pole vault. (I love pole vault. When I was a pole vaulter for a very brief time, my record was about five feet.) They played “Land Down Under” over the speakers.

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