My first night in China, I ate some Beijing duck. IN BEIJING. It was fantastic, tender and juicy with crispy fried skin, wrapped in really thin tortilla-like things and slathered in tangy plum sauce. Also, a stir-fry of black mushrooms and eggs, and some pickled cucumbers, and beer.
Another "not in Kansas anymore" moment: the restaurant menu had things like dog and pigeon. There was a picture of the pigeon dish. The pigeon was whole, complete with head, fried in its entirety and served with "special sauce." Thankfully, the picture of the dog dish did not include a head. One must be thankful for such small mercies.
Now, after a 3-hour train ride and a couple bumpy cab rides, I am in Jinan, hanging out in Ben's apartment with his lovely wife, waiting for decisions to be made regarding lunch.
The countryside from the train windows was remarkably drab and ugly. Granted, it's winter and everything is brown, but even the inhabited areas are just sad and run-down. The cities sprawl into the brown landscape with smokestacks and identical Communist high-rise apartment buildings, reminding me in the worst way of Moscow. Smog. Tired. One can only hope I feel better about my surroundings after getting some rest and getting over the jet lag.