Halvah by any other name

A couple of weeks ago, the Sunday I discovered it is not a good idea to go to ‘the Sunday Market’ on a Sunday, at the Dashanzi bus stop I heard a voice say, ‘Lady, look’… if you have been in Beijing for a while you know to resist those words with all your will. But then the voice said, ‘Halvah’. Oh,  word i recognize. I turned around. Propped up on his bicycle  was a long piece of plywood with a 36 inch slab of  heaven. It was beautiful. He said, ‘Halvah, try. ‘ I said ‘Woa bu yaow’ (Don’t want it)out of habit as well as principle.   He raised his sharp and alarmingly large butcher knife and sliced off a sliver for me to taste.

halvaCROPI looked at him: middle-brown, hair, narrow face, behind his glasses -light brown, heavy-lidded round
eyes, long nose. I said, ‘Hao’ (okay), though normally, I’m not a halvah fan.
OH MY GOD!!!!!!  this was the most delicious food I have ever tasted – so much
better than chocolate. So I said, ‘Doe shaow chien’ (how much money) he
looked puzzled . Then he said ’20 kwai a kilo’.  Not knowing how much a kilo is I said, ‘Ee guh’ which means ‘one’. He sliced it, he weighed it, he wrapped it up and handed it to me. I said, ‘xia xia ni’.  He looked a bit puzzled again.

As I sat on the 998 bus going home greedily picking off pieces to nibble I pondered what an odd looking Chinese person he was and how strange that this Chinese street vendor should be selling a Middle Eastern treat. I was back at the studio before I occurred to me that the man hadn’t been Chinese (Han, anyway) at all. AND that I hadn’t even occurred to me to speak English to him even though he spoke it to me.

October 23, 2007

The Bus: Beijing

Bus Stops are easily moveable. Just because the 944 stop on this corner today doesn't mean it will be there tomorrow

Bus Stops are easily moveable. Just because the 944 stop is on this corner today doesn’t mean it will be there tomorrow

The bus is so crowded with bodies I wonder how any more can squeeze in but they do and the small attendant with the harsh high thin voice moves through. She always knows who has paid and who has yet to pay. I hold on tight to the high rail as the bus wobbles back into traffic, the driver laying hard on the horn to let others know to make way.
Other vehicles /cars, motor bikes, three wheeled motorized-and non motorized carts, bicycles/ honk in reply.

Whenever a driver (bus, auto, other) pulls into traffic on the narrow road an accidental death is a possibility.
In Beijing traffic you only pay attention to what is ahead of you. Drivers are constantly being cut off and worse. but every body honks or beeps to make their others aware of the ensuing action. The roads are kind of noisy.

As the bus travels west, or maybe it’s east, we pass miles of
garrishly colored, shabby shops wth laundry hung out on the fences that surround them, and women in doorways squat to scrape vegetables for lunch.

Fairly often in the long line of shops you will see an ornate metal gate thats wide enough for 3 or 4 cars to pass through. Inside, around a parking lot you see more small shops of the same type as on the road.

The road is two lane blacktop, more or less. we cross a small canal, then a rail road , then a forested area. Beijing is heavily forested.

What’s odd about it is that the trees are of the same age and type,and  planted in rows. they all appear to be 30-40 years old. I have read that, during The Great Leap Forward, all the trees were cut down to fuel the furnaces to melt ore (and household pots and pans) for steel. So these are about the right age to have been planted after that disastrous time.beijing forest

September 2007