And I feel like maybe I did, today. (Another plug for the Wolky's - brand new pair, totally comfortable all day long.)
We met Meng at the zoo this morning so Miss O could see the pandas -- I hadn't even thought of that (it was Meng's suggestion) and she loved it. She then dragged us to the aquarium so we could look at a million fish. You all know how I feel about the fish-looking... Fish eating? Fine. Fish peeping for fun? Notsomuch. But whatever, she was happy.
Speaking of fish: I am going to leave here about 10 pounds heavier - I keep eating and eating and eating. Lunch was at a famous noodle house. It was the kind of place I'd be intimidated by if I were on my own: Noisy, hectic, no one spoke any English, and the food was unrecognizable even in picture form because there just are no equivalents in the US.
Meng ordered a bunch of delicious things and I ate until I could eat no more. At the end of the meal, the waiter brought a cup of hot liquid. Tea?, we asked. Nope... it's the water the noodles were cooked in. Good for digesting the food it was used to cook.
We spent the next three or four hours wandering around the old city. It's amazing how you can be in so many parts of Beijing and see only the tall, modern buildings and then suddenly you run smack into a piece of the old city -- a city gate or wall, or a palace, or the hutongs. It's like two completely different Beijings.
Meng took us to Nan Luo Gu Xiang first and we just walked and walked through the old city neighborhoods/hutongs. We saw bugs on sticks, old men swimming in the still-frozen lake, the hutong equivalent of a food court (the Juimen Snacks hall, tucked away in a building I never would have discovered on my own), and incredibly beautiful buildings. The hutongs felt a lot like P-Street, actually - people living close together and forming a family of sorts, with the kids all playing together and the adults pooling their patience and friendship and communal courtyards.
Dinner was roasted duck at QuanJuDe with a bunch of people from the IBM Beijing lab that I've worked with over the years. It was absolutely amazing to finally meet the people behind the emails and conference calls and sametimes - they are kind and funny and generous and I felt really honored that they would take the time to have dinner with us. They presented Olivia with a beautiful strand of pearls at the end of dinner - she couldn't have been more thrilled and I couldn't have been more surprised. Taking a group photo was hysterical - Wen Chao had actually brought a tripod and a remote and there was much moving of tables and general mayhem as we tried to get everyone in the shot.
I'd never eaten roasted (peking) duck before - I mean, everyone HEARS about it, but I just never managed to eat it. Oh, the yum. There were pancakes to wrap up duck and vegetables, there were platters of veggies, and there were also platters of every duck part imaginable. John had a tutorial in how to eat the head ("What do you think the duck's last thoughts were?" Miss O asked, as John grasped the brain in his chopsticks. "Not happy ones.") and we all ate the knees (I didn't even think ducks HAD knees). There was duck heart, duck stomach, and then these cute little pastry ducks that were filled with who-knows-what but were absolutely delicious. We had a debate over whether it was better to eat the head or the body first. I went with the head, Miss O went with the butt, and everyone else went with the body, proving that there is no wrong way to eat a pastry duck.
I am forever spoiled now by the food here. There's no way I can go back home and order some General Tso's chicken from Tai Pei. (Aside: They were all baffled by the concept of the fortune cookie, so now I feel like I should send a bag just so they can see what crazy things Americans are being taught about Chinese. Tee hee.)