Looking for marshmallows and barbecue sauce near closing time at the Beijing supermarket was a doomed endeavor. Benyuan was doing her best, but the 25 people coming for an “American meal” would not get to experience rice cereal treats or bottled BBQ sauce in the end. Happily, the pasta salad and tapioca pudding turned out alright!
After we stayed in the hutong, we were invited to stay with another couchsurfing host-unbelievable! About the time I received this invitation, an article came out that said 95% of Chinese surveyed welcomed refugees to China with 46% willing to welcome refugees into their own homes. These were the highest percentages in the poll. I am impressed with this generosity, even more so after our family being hosted twice here ourselves. In addition to being lovely people in general, the Chinese are also among the most hospitable folks on the world!
As for us, Benyuan contacted us and mentioned a weekly party for travel-minded friends who would enjoy eating American food and hearing about our trip. We thought it sounded like fun and started brainstorming about what we might cook. We are (mostly) vegetarian and most of the recipes we make would not be described as American but rather Mexican, Middle Eastern, Indian, or just vegetarian. We considered burritos, lentil soup, and pizza before settling on pasta salad, BBQ tofu, French fries, marshmallow treats, and Fiercely’s tapioca pudding for dessert.
People seemed to like everything; the tofu and fries were especially popular. I’m pleased with the BBQ sauce I made myself. Marshmallow treats were not possible since we couldn’t get the cereal and the only marshmallows we could get had a jelly-like filling inside (they were also individually wrapped, by the way). The people at the party were fascinating to me- all spoke excellent English and had exciting lives. There were several involved in film, one scuba diver, a ballet dancer, and many travelers, including one (Kayla) who had recently been to Mongolia, our next stop. They were interested in our trip and especially curious about homeschooling. We did our best to answer questions and explain our travel and homeschool lives.
We spent the next day with Kayla, who had invited us to Xiangshan, ‘Fragrant Hills Park'(above). This is a hilly area west of town which used to serve as a countryside getaway for the king. There are a few traditional buildings with beautiful painted wood, and a paved path up to a lovely viewing place. It was a clear, sunny day and we enjoyed the breezes and stunning views of the city as we climbed up the hills.
The kids declined the opportunity to go to the very top (still tired from Nepal?) but I was eager to continue with Kayla and her friend Andrew. We went up some pretty steep steps and came to an area with many red ornaments hanging from the trees. Andrew said they are for couples and they are red for love, like valentines.
It was a beautiful clear day and there was a slight haze to the view, but nothing like the pollution we had expected from this city. It has been a little warm here, but otherwise nice weather and much cleaner air than Kathmandu or Varanasi. As for fragrance at Fragrant Hills, we did enjoy the pines and fresh air and we caught some nice herbal scents at one area. Apparently it is named for the appearance of the hills, said to be similar to incense burners. We have more Beijing adventures to report, coming soon!