Ashley Aratani- China Diary

June 18, 2006

The Huskies left for China on June 12 to kick-off a 12-day tour of Beijing and Shanghai, including four volleyball matches. Each day, a different Washington team member will write a diary entry and post a photo gallery to share her experiences with the UW community. Junior Ashley Aratani writes today's entry.

Today we started the morning with an awesome rickshaw tour. While on the ride, I kept thinking to myself, 'Poor guy. Not exactly pulling a light weight.' Anyways, the rickshaw was a fun way to go sightseeing- breeze on my sweaty face, people waving hello, and vendors riding their bikes along side the rickshaws, still trying to sell bags and other souvenirs. They just don't take no for an answer.

About midway through the tour, we stopped off at Xiaoshigei Hutong, a street lined on both sides with shops selling ceramics, tea, and other little nick knacks. Some vendors selling single-stringed instruments played 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' and other American tunes to get our attention. Others skillfully shaped pliable brown sugar candy into pigs and other cute animals. Interesting smells, both good and bad, filled the air. But my favorite place that we passed by had to be a bar called 'Shut Up Just Drink,' along with its specific set of rules in order to have a good time at this bar (see pictures).

From the busy streets of Hutong, a petite, old woman of middle class was kind enough to let us into her home and see where she lived. Her house consisted of a living room, bedroom, and kitchen area that were all connected by walkways that MY head barely cleared (by the way, I'm 5'4'). She lived in this house for 40 years along with her husband, son and daughter. She doesn't have the luxury of owning a car but instead rides her bicycle to get to and from places. Her family must also use a public bathroom shared with the neighborhood and use bed pots at night. It is amazing to see such a difference between what we consider middle class living and what they consider middle class living.

After the rickshaw tour ended, and my driver got a well deserved rest, we went to the infamous Silk Alley to do just a little bit of shopping. Even before entering the seven-story building, people came up to us selling 'Gucci bags' and dvds of movies that haven't hit the big screen yet. When I entered the building, I felt so overwhelmed with all of the people, both sellers and buyers alike, I didn't know where to begin. There are rows and rows of stands selling brand name coats, jackets, jeans, shirts, underwear, socks, and any other type of clothing you can think of. And that's just the first floor! Vendors are saying, 'Hey pretty lady, come here!' or 'This Dolce and Gabana coat. Good quality. Give you my best price,' trying to draw you into their web of assorted goods as they pull you into their stand. They literally trap you until you buy something from them. I saw Murph, our team statistician, being boxed in by two little Chinese ladies yelling '260!' as Murph yelled '240!' He finally got his way, but it was a tough battle.

With the end of a hard day's work of bargaining, I was ready for a mouth watering duck themed dinner with President Emmert, who was in Hong Kong before coming to Beijing. The main dish- Peking duck, one of my favorite Chinese dishes. The crunch of the crispy skin dipped in plum sauce. . .just thinking about it makes my mouth water. It was a little different from what I have had in the U.S. Instead of eating it with steamed buns, we ate it with something more like a tortilla. The most interesting part was watching the chef nonchalantly rip the duck's head off before adeptly slicing the duck meat. The dinner was wrapped up with a short speech from President Emmert about how our volleyball trip to China helps build a stronger relationship between China and the United States. It also puts Seattle on the map, especially since President Hu visited Seattle earlier in the year.

Sadly, this was our last day to experience Beijing. I have learned so much about the culture and history of Beijing that I will never forget. Tomorrow we are off to Shanghai and hopefully my luggage won't be over 44 pounds.



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