Looking back at our second day in China, and first day in Beijing, I remember all of the fun and exciting activities that we have done. However, it wasn’t the activities that struck me as the most interesting for today. Sure, we visited 天安门 (tiān ān mén) square, one of the most interesting and fascinating places I have ever been to, but it was the food, specifically how different it was from American food, that interested me the most.
To start of the day, 寇叔叔 kòu shūshu, our group homestay ‘uncle’ made us some of what is now one of my favorite breakfast foods, 饼 (bǐng). It was grilled crust and dough, somewhat like a quesadilla, but without the cheese and other fillings. Rather, it had flavored dough inside that made it taste better than anything I’ve ever eaten before.
One thing that I’ve noticed while in China is that meals consist of love and warmth towards the others at the table. While at lunch, we sent the ‘Camels’ out to go purchase water for the group. In their absence, the restaurant brought out the food for all of the tables. Out of courtesy, we didn’t start eating until they had returned. I asked Mark, our Dragons leader, about this and he confirmed that this happens with most if not all families in China, something that I do not think most people in America do.
After Tian An Men square, the teachers allowed us to explore the busiest part of Beijing by giving us an hour and a half to buy dinner. The area that we were in is considered to have the most exotic food in Beijing, and I can confirm that it is very, very different to America. This food was located in a network of alleyways located along 王府井大街 (Wángfǔjǐng dàjiē, WangFuJing Street), with small stands selling different foods. The first stand that we saw was selling 蝎子 (xiēzi, scorpions)，pierced by a kebab. On one side, of the stand were the fried scorpions and the other had them unfried, and still alive. Eating these was truly a feat, as it was so far out of my comfort zone.
Other than the food, these alleyways were in themselves different from anywhere I have been to before. I don’t think there is anywhere in America, at least not New York, where you have as many as a hundred shops all selling different exotic foods in a carnival like way.
One thing that this day helped me accomplish is to come out of my comfort zone. I am the pickiest eater I know, and my friends at school agree. They try to get me to try new foods every day at lunch, but I refuse because ‘I know I won’t like it’. One of my goals going into this trip was to try new foods, specifically so that I would come back less of a picky eater and be able to eat more different kinds of food. While I ate these exotic foods today, I definitely had one foot in panic zone, but I have since come out of that and learned something from this experience. I am excited to try more new foods tomorrow!
-Austin Simpson 孙卓