Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Nelson’s Olympic day

Nelson, a young American from Texas Airline, came to Beijing this time with the solitary goal in mind—Beijing Olympics 2008 Women's Field Hockey: USA Vs. Argentina. He was wandering aimlessly in the street when I met him nearby the Tibetan Mansion in Chaoyang District on August 10, as the competition would be held that evening and he appeared to be walking around to kill the time. So I went up to him offering to work as his tour guide and show him around, as had been instructed frequently during the Olympic days to be a helpful Olympic volunteer. He grinned to me and agreed.

Stop 1: China's vegetable market

It was Nelson's choice entering into a small-sized and cramped vegetable market, as is often seen in any neighborhood with fresh farm produce and seafood on display. But in Nelson's eyes, it is a Chinese-style super market, and what interested him most is that no price tag available here, and you have to ask price for each particular item, and of course, you can bargain on your shopping. I seldom go to the markets of this kind myself, as the strong smell of sea food vying with the mixed odor of garlic, onion and Chinese leeks, together with the blood smell from fresh pork, mutton and beef, always drives me away. But Nelson seemed quite intrigued with anything on offer, and he said to me very seriously that the ordinary Beijing citizens would rather come here for daily necessities than go to the more standardized super market. 'It is more practical shopping here, because you can bargain and there are more alternatives,' he said.

Stop 2: Sichuan restaurant

It was approaching noon, so I suggested having lunch at a nearby Sichuan restaurant, as I thought Sichuan flavor is unique and attractive to many foreigners. In the past seven years of the preparation for the Olympic Games, the related authorities have rectified and standardized the English names for almost all the Sichuan dishes to facilitate foreigners staying in Beijing, and Sichuan food has since become more popular among the foreign visitors.

I ordered Mar-Boh Tofu and spicy fish for that day's lunch, as I thought both dishes are typical Sichuan food. Nelson told me that he had tried Mar-Boh Tofu before but had no idea of that fish. So he put a big piece of fish into his mouth, and shouted immediately, 'fire, fire, my tongue paralyzed,' and the extremely hot and spicy fish quickly made his eyes run over with tears. But he could not put down his chopsticks, even though I saw sweat steaming down his cheeks.

Stop 3: Nei Lian Sheng—the oldest shoe store

After lunch, we took a taxi to Qian Men area in downtown Beijing. The area is well-known for old and famous shops and businesses, and we entered into Nei Lian Sheng, the oldest shoe store founded in 1853, the Qing Dynasty. Staffs in Nei Lian Sheng have mainly made cloth shoes named 'shoes with thousand layers' for centuries. The beautifully designed cloth shoes impressed Nelson so much that he bought a pair of Chinese Gongfu shoes without hesitation, as he said the shoes reminded him of a Chinese Kongfu star Li Xiao Long ,whom he admires most.

Nelson, of course, didn't forget buying some souvenirs for his family and friends when touring around the renovated ancient shopping center in Beijing.

Farewell at the subway station

We spent the whole afternoon roaming in the vicinity of Qian Men area till I suddenly thought of Nelson's long-coveted hockey match when it was already 5'oclock and it was drizzling. We hurried to the subway station, and at the entrance, when I waved him good-bye, Nelson suddenly blurted out, 'next time, it will be my turn,' and seeing bewilderment on my face, he quickly added, 'I mean that spicy fish.'

Source People's Daily Online

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