You’d think, with one of my kids in school now, I’d have more time to write, not less. But somehow the days fly by, and I never finish half of what I start.
This weekend was all about churchgoing and restaurants, but even that lends itself to a bit of strangeness in a foreign land. So I’ll tell you the story.
On Saturday we went to the “underground church” at the clubhouse. We’re Catholic, and as you might know, the Chinese Catholic church is actually separate from the Pope’s Catholic church. The Chinese government does not allow the Pope to select his own bishops or make other decisions regarding the church here in China. So we don’t attend local Chinese Catholic churches. Instead, there is a priest who comes to the clubhouse here at our housing complex. Only foreign passport holders are allowed to attend, and they check you at the door – though somehow you wouldn’t think I’d need to prove that I’m not Chinese. Still and all, I like the idea of an underground church. It conjures images of secret handshakes, smoke and mirrors.
After church, which wasn’t at all secret handshaky, and was actually rather like services everywhere else we’ve been, we met up with another churchgoing family for dinner. We hopped on our new bikes and rode over to Pomegranate, a little bar about a mile down the road. Kyra rode behind me; Aidan behind Bart. Shay hopped in a car and drove with some friends. We rode down the main street, then turned down an alley into the area where the Chinese live. It was dusty, bumpy, cramped and crowded – just the opposite of the crazy villas where we live. The juxtaposition is rather startling. Little dogs roam the alley next to locals on creaky bikes. Toddlers in split pants play in the dust in front of their houses. Through one window we could see a group of men eating noodles off of tin plates – apparently that was a local restaurant. Then, before I could get a really good look, we pulled into a courtyard and found a table at Pomegranate, which caters to foreigners like us. In fact, rumor has it that it was started by a group of teachers at Shay’s school.
Dinner was fine, dinner was fun. On the return ride, the road in front of the bicycles was black, and we resolved to get headlights and reflectors for our bikes.
The next day, we met up with two other couples and their children for the 40-minute drive to the Village View Resort, near the Great Wall. We had a big Chinese feast: tofu, shredded snow peas, eggplant in sesame sauce, green beans, fried rice, Beijing-style fried bread. They brought enough food for 6 adults and 6 kids to eat their fill. The grand total for our outing: 278 RMB – less than $40. The kids played on the playground equipment, then we had ice cream and toured the facility, which included Chinese courtyard houses that you can rent. After all of this, we returned home, without even going to the Great Wall – the other two couples have been here for years and had no interest in going. In addition, the air quality was so bad yesterday, even in the countryside, that we decided it was best to head back indoors and huddle around our air filters. So: lunch was fabulous, the resort was nice, but we were both a bit bummed to be so close to the Wall and not see it. Hopefully, we’ll rent a car and go back that way some weekend soon.
And that’s it. I’ve spent most of my free time trying to figure why I can talk to my parents over the computer, but can’t make the connection work with my in-law’s Mac.
I’ll try to come up with something more interesting for my next post. But here’s my dirty little secret: even though I’ve moved across the world to this exotic place, I’m still the same old boring me, with an uncooperative computer, kids who whine and a husband who works too much. So I’ll have to search out adventures, I suppose. Even here in Beijing, they won’t just head my way without some effort.