My brothers Mike and Rich (the oldest, Dave, didn't make this trip) were betting whether or not there was a Taco Bell in Beijing. In the end, we agreed that one likely exists somewhere among the KFC, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, and other corporate-owned restaurants, but were content never to find it. It's bad enough that lurking mere blocks away from Tiananmen Square is an all-white, life-size statue of The Colonel himself.
All things considered, a visit to Taco Bell in Beijing would've been just another surrealist experience among China's dizzying culinary array. If we encountered horse penis on any of the menus, I remain blissfully ignorant of it. On the other hand, I can now say that joke you hear about dogs is true. By the way, the other reason you never see strays is because it's extremely expensive to get a pet license. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Wednesday 5 June I arrived safely at the Beijing airport, but had no idea how I was supposed to find my family. The problem becomes more serious when you realize that I had just landed in a country where 1.2 billion people look exactly like me. Amazingly, our guide Molly found me in the crush of airport pedestrians. Note to self: this should have been my first clue of just how easy it is to spot American Born Chinese in China. Molly escorted me to the Beijing Friendship Hotel.
The hotel was built in the '50s to host China's visiting comrades. So naturally, every room is bugged. My husband Brian has stayed at the Friendship before on business and learned a neat trick. He noted the small closets between each room and decided they were listening rooms. As an experiment one day, he said out loud to nobody, "Gee, this tea is great! I wish I had six bags instead of four!" Magically, the next time housekeeping came through, there were two extra tea bags on his table. Mike and Rich tried the same approach (with bath towels instead of tea bags) but to no avail.