On Tuesday Manuel went off to a conference at the Chinese Academy of Science, which featured Chinese science dignitaries, a successful talk and a dinner with duck feet and donkey meat. (I’m vegetarian bound this summer) The kids and I headed for the infamous Chinese acrobats. The kids LOVED it although Eli did manage to fall asleep standing up during the grand finale. The acrobats were pretty stunning—like the Olympics meets the circus meets ashtanga series five meets slightly erotic dancers. Musically it was truly bizarre. It may just be that I’ve spent too much of my adult life learning to read musical signs of gender and sex or that I’m just too western classically ingrained to hear repeated thumped augmented seconds as anything but exotic. But the sound made it seem like something not totally g rated. (it was a family show, kids and groups of high school kids etc.) Everything the men did was accompanied by incessant electronic thumping with low drums and low pitches. The men all wore very few clothing and did a lot of chest thumping and grunting. The women on the other hand were decked out in flowers and pastels and performed slightly homoerotic contortions to high pitched slow melodies with chromaticisms thrown in all over the place. It was textbook western fantasy of exotic Asian-other music. But the audience was almost all Chinese. I don’t know enough Post colonial theory to know quite how to read the whole thing.
Meanwhile the kids and I had a long discussion about adventures and how sometimes when you’re traveling things are not smooth and that things that seem scary are just part of the experience. This all had to do with the cab rides which have proven much more hairy than the subways. I didn’t quite have the guts to deal with the subway on my own with the three kids so attempted to hail a cab. On the way there an elderly woman took pity on me and hailed it for me. She did this after looking at Eli’s hands and saying “dirty” “wash” which made me feel like a wretched mother. She then caught a cab in the middle of the street and motioned for the kids and me to make a run for it. I’m a little sensitive about being hit by cars so not entirely comfy standing out in the middle of a busy Beijing street where the drivers pride themselves on how close they can come to the pedestrians. Going home was even more special. We first spent about 20 minutes trying to hail a cab. Finally one stopped and the guy appeared to be very sweet; singing to the kids in Chinese. Then he started hitting his meter and announced, “meter broken” He had a woman in the car who told us she was his wife. He then asked me how much to take me to the hotel and proposed an astronomical price. At that point I said no way and hauled the kids out of the car. We got off on a side street and decided to find dinner and try again. This was a street with no food so after 45 minutes of again trying to get a cab on a very large road with me carrying Eli who was crying because he was tired, Rebecca carrying my back pack and Jonathan crying because he had to pee and his eyes hurt I found a hotel who hailed us a cab. (Rebecca kept saying I wish the boys would just behave) We walked home on the main street by our hotel—again a no food street. So we ran into our rooms, washed our hands, and zipped out to get the kids ice cream. They collapsed in bed and I had Cadbury eggs and Mongolian bagel for dinner. Mongolian bagel was left over from the night before and was actually more of a bialy—flat and salty. And apparently one eats it to store up for crossing the desert. Manuel arrived home cheerful but not too drunk to realize he should downplay how much fun he had being dined and feted and then driven home by the lab director’s chauffeur.