Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Dumpling Queen

 I got home last night, after a long day of traveling: Qingdao to Beijing, Beijing to Chicago, Chicago to Indianapolis. 

I loved every minute of the trip.  My traveling companions were fabulous company; the picture above is some of us at the Summer Palace on the north side of Beijing.  Our Chinese hosts could not have been more generous, organizing a guided tour for us to the Great Wall and the Summer Palace, booking our train tickets from Beijing to Qingdao and providing a Chinese-speaking/English-speaking guide to take us to the train station and put us directly into our first-class train car, and taking care of us throughout our stay in Qingdao.  But I have to confess that my very favorite moments of the trip were the moments I spent alone.

Each morning I would wake up before 5:00 and slip out of my hotel room, both in Beijing and in Qingdao, for solitary exploring.  It was already light.  I would walk and walk, for an hour or two or more, all by myself, to meet the city on my own terms.  On the very first morning in Beijing, I walked past fancy corporate office buildings on posh broad avenues and high-end shops of all kinds and then came upon one street with lots of little side alleys containing tiny hole-in-the-wall eateries.  I saw people at one table eating steamed dumplings, meat-filled little buns, from a round pan, so I pointed at some and bought a pan of my own for less than an American dollar.  They were so soft, and warm, and juicy, and filling!  So then, every morning, I made sure to find myself a pan of dumplings on my morning walk.

In Qingdao, I also discovered a walk from the Ocean University campus, where we were lodged, to the promenade by the sea, with a pier jutting out into the water. On another day I found a neighborhood with flights of steps leading down to the water.  And, of course, I found dumplings as well, over by the railway station.  My fellow travelers started calling me the Dumpling Queen, I ate so many. I loved each dumpling so much!  And I loved finding them all by myself, in a foreign city.

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