In which terrible slowly evolves into edible.
Afternoon and Evening, 4 June
In a startling advance in meal service, we’re now allowed to go down to the dining room to select our food choices, have our meal boxed, and then return to our rooms to eat. I thought this would make a difference in my culinary satisfaction. But, it turns out, the names of the dishes are much more appetizing than the actual dish. The food is nearly inedible. I’m not a picky eater. Those of you who have seen me eat (and if you have ever seen me, I was probably eating) know that I will consume all types of food in large quantities. The Hotel Q does not provide palatable meals. I rushed down to dinner at the first possible second, mainly because I wasn’t exactly busy, and selected the best looking dishes: sauteed cucumber and carrots (labeled as celery and mushrooms?), sweet and sour pork with pineapple, chao mien (American translation: chow mien), and a dish of sliced fruit. The fruit was the only edible portion of the meal. The “hot” dishes were room temperature, tough, old-looking and tasteless. Where is this food being cooked? When? By whom? I’ve lived in China for two years, and I eat Chinese food with great frequency. I eat at the school canteen for at least lunch everyday, in cheap restaurants in the village several times a week, and in moderately priced restaurants all over the city. I am not new at Chinese food. This food surpasses the canteen meals in poor quality by quite wide margin.
I am using my unlimited personal time (that is, the time that is not taken up by body temperature checks) to devise a plan of attack regarding a complaint. I have finally identified which of the pink-coated and masked ladies is in charge of ensuring that the “guests” don’t mutiny. She’s the one constantly surrounded by Betty and Louise Tourist who have worked themselves up into a froth trying to reschedule their tour and insisting they need deliveries of their medication and favorite nutritional fruit juice from home. (Yes, this is why they tell you to travel with medication for double the number of days you think you’ll be away from home!!)
There is a bulletin board near reception that informs us of that day’s weather and tips on staying healthy. One section informs us that, because of the warm temperatures, it is permissible to wear “frivolity clothes.” Someone bring me a monokini, because I am NOT about to miss out on this opportunity!!
Early morning, 4 June
Word is that we get the results of our throat swabs today.
Thank you immensely to all my family and friends who have called, emailed and texted!! Your thoughts, jokes, pictures, stories, questions and silliness made yesterday go by quite quickly!
In a shocking twist, breakfast was edible!! I had French toast and scrambled eggs and coffee and yogurt. It was all distinctly better than yesterday. Yay!! I made sure to tell the Chief of "Guest" Satisfaction that I was happier with the food. Oh, how they fuss over you when you go to pick up your meal: suggesting what you should have, spooning a little at a time into your portioned plastic try until you have exactly the amount you want, wrapping your coffee cup in napkins so it's not too hot to carry, tying your plastic bag just so for the short ride up the elevator!
New "guests" appeared in the breakfast line this morning, including a group of students from New York who were here to study Chinese, and my seat mates from my flight. My neighbors, a mom and her little boy, were just picked up last night. The students flew in on an Air China flight the same day I did, and spent two days touring Beijing before being taken away - and were expected to account for every personal interaction they had in those 48 hours!!