Saturday, October 17, 2009

The banquet

I didn't expect to see you here. For the past week, I was not allowed to get to my own blog. You see, there are things that aren't allowed from certain countries... present country included. Facebook is one, and... so is this blog (any blog on blogspot, actually). So I don't think they'll mind if I find a way around their stoppage.

I'll tell you how after I get home.

If they're thinking I'm going to say something bad about their country, they can think again. I like it here. I mean, it's not home, but if you gotta travel, China is a great place to go.

I'm reminded of something that I forgot. Chinese food in America... is not Chinese food.

We sat at a big table and a lazy susan the size of.... let's just say susan didn't miss any meals lately.... circled food around in front of us. Lot's of stuff. Good stuff. But prepared... differently. Like the fish. The whole thing was there. You just cram your chopsticks in and tear off pieces of meat... while it watches you... staring blankly up with gray eyes. "Eye" rather, it was on its side.

There were the usual meats, like beef ribs where the meat just falls off the bone. And eggplant with cuttlefish. Oh yeah and these tortilla shaped riceflour crepes - the kind they make in the market. A guy sits Buddha-like with his hot pan and slings rubbery rice dough at it like a big white loogie, as it taps the pan the residue heats and peels off as the crepe. I learned tonight that you put pork or pressed duck in there with bamboo or cucumber and some huisin sauce and eat it like a burrito. And finally, there was that pile of chicken meat...amidst the bones. And just off to the side, the skull and beak.

It's not bad food. In fact, it's great. The presentation, however, in America would shock the poor culinary wimp who would likely send the whole plate back to the kitchen and leave with a vendetta to tell everyone in their neighborhood what a lousy restaurant that one is.

"oh dahling, let's have Chinese tonight..." Better be careful what you ask for. The duck-blood jello cubes aren't nearly as interesting to eat as the chicken's feet. Neither of which were served by the way at tonight's banquet put on for we 20 or so Americans. They only picked out the food they considered to be "westernized".

Now that I can get in... I'll try and write again soon!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Flashback to a time before my birth...

I was tempted to not hit the cell phone "shutter". A little embarrassed, I felt like a tourist in 1950, boarding one of the old DC birds. But... it was kind of a personal moment, though a small one. Last time I was out of the country was 2004. Africa, to be more precise.

This pic was taken on the jetway stairs today in Sacramento, the first time out of the country after losing semi-vital organs in 2006. Laying in the Trauma Unit I do recall writing off any future international travel.

In some ways it is poetic. The documentary I've been co-writing with Melinda and producer, John Northrup is about, in part, the life of the American missionary, Nelson Bell. He, in 1919, stepped onto a steamer bound for China. We have seen some of the 8mm home films of the Bell's work in Tsingjiangpu, and (finally some poetry...) the footage includes films of later excursions aboard DC-somethings. Back then, it was expected that you'd take pictures of the massive aircraft on the tarmac. There was always somebody filming as the brave passengers boarded. No strict security back then. Innocence dictated a now long-gone trust.

Then there were the pictures of the interior of the planes. Bell and his wife, Virginia, waving as they are seated in what looks like the back seat of a big turquise Chevy (complete with wings - over the tail lights.)

No real bravery needed today, just a personal moment there as the line backed up to get inside the turboprop plane bound 40 minutes to SFO. Now I'm at the gate in San Francisco hearing the calls in Japanese and Mandarin for other flights. The one bound to Beijing is not mine, though Beijing is my final. I go through Narita, Tokyo.

There was just an announcement in choppy English about arrivals in Beijing. They are apparently screening people's body temps as they move past "sensitive equipment". If they detect a rise over normal 98.6, they will, according to the voice, quarantine the person. The swine flu is the fearsome monster.

Feeling my forehead and reminding myself to not drink hot tea just before deplaning.

Next stop Narita... and Beijing. I'll most likely write along here as I go for the next several weeks. Stay tuned.