August 9, 2008

Change, Change, Change...

For the former Beijing laowai's out there, I have some news...there's been changes in just the last month, that might leave you feeling lost in a city you once called home.

Here are some changes that I've noticed:

1. The absence of grandma recyclers. You know, the old women that encourage you to polish off your 1/4 bottle of water so that they can crush the precious plastic and stick it into their rice bag. I miss their little frames, big grins, and even bigger love for our Earth. ;) There must be a law, because the entire city is a recycler's dream.

2. Dongzhimen Station has been transformed. The long distance buses aren't formed on the street, instead there's an indoor bus terminal. (It's the large building that many hypothesized would be a parking lot.) And it's organized with signs! In addition, the much anticipated Airport Express has been opened, it's amazing. It's just like Line 5 (with the Hong Kong inspired glass doors). Don't worry, it still has it's Beijing charm, the entire place is lacking escalators. Travelers clad with 50 pounds of luggage, on their way to/from the airport, have to lug their bags up and down dozens of stairs. Good ole China, looks alright at first sight, but poorly built. Don't be mistaken, instead of spending the money on the escalator, there's a security guard being paid to help passengers struggling up the stairs. Why pay for technology when you can the hourly wage of 2RMB ($0.33/hour)?

3. Taxi drivers wear uniforms! Every Beijing taxi driver now wears the same light yellow, short sleeve, button up shirt with a navy blue/yellow striped tie. It's endearing to see the old men wearing their uniform, yelling "Hallo", and honking their way through the crowded streets.

4. Kro's Nest pizza has closed their Bei Da (Peking University) and Worker's Stadium locations! We eventually found their new location in an area of town that I'm not familiar with. I'm not sure why the Bei Da location closed, but the Worker's Stadium location is closed until the 26th because their location was within the Stadium's security area. We talked with the owner a bit, had a dance off, and my 10 year old cousin Daisy challenged a 40 year old Olympic cameraman to a split competition. Such a great atmosphere, no matter how many times it's moved. Not to mention, great pizza.

Some things haven't changed a bit: The vendors at Silk Alley are still grabby, the toddlers still wear split-bottom pants which makes for questionable puddles, and everyone still 'cuts' in line. Old men still read their newspapers on their fold out seats on the sidewalk, and the "mei you" (don't have) are still abundant and just as frustrating. The "yu xiang qiezi" (fish-flavored eggplant) still sounds questionable, but is as delicious as you remember it. Stop salivating, I know you are.

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