During the first week of orientation, a couple of my new friends and I heard there was a street in the center of Beijing where vendors sold strange snacks, such as scorpions, out of food stands. We all agreed to try them together, however bad weather, the cold going around our dorm, and other scheduling conflicts forced us to keep postponing our trip. This past Saturday we were blessed with the first under 100 AQI day, free time, and good health all around so we decided to accomplish our self-imposed challenge.
With the exceptions of my many allergies and hatred of ketchup, I'm a pretty adventurous eater. I'll try almost anything once, but scorpions are probably one of the most obscure things I've tried. For the record, they tasted like really salty potato chips at first and had a sort of dark-meaty duck-like aftertaste.
The commute to Wangfujing was faster than we had expected, but once we arrived we spent the first hour and a half trying to find this alley where other IES students had tried scorpions. Just as we were about to leave in defeat, we saw a small opening into an alley crowded with people. Of course that's exactly where it was. The entire street was packed with food vendors corralling visitors into a slow moving line. As we shuffled through, observing all the new smells and sights, our defeated spirits were quickly lifted. We decided to warm-up before trying scorpions by trying some sort of skewered bird (I think it was a quail, but don't quote me on that). I also tried a candy-coated fruit stick I'd seen children eating throughout the day. While we waited for our scorpions and birds to finish cooking we made friends with one of the cooks on break.
After we tried our new foods, we visited some of the shops, bargained for gifts, and took in all Wangfujing had to offer. It was, in all honesty, a perfect day. We made the most of the good weather, had new experiences, and made it back to campus before the rush hour on the subway. On our way home we stopped by one of the fruit stand vendors because he was squeezing fresh pomegranates into juice. (It was delicious, even at room temperature). Though I didn't appreciate it fully then, reflecting on it now made me realize how special the friendships I'm making here truly are. Even though I'm in a foreign country, taking classes and studying tends to make the days blend together. It's easy to forget how refreshing a Saturday spent out and about can be, but I can be sure this past weekend isn't one I'll be forgetting anytime soon.
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<p>My name is Kelly Cunningham and I am a Chinese Studies and English major at DePaul University. I love everything about languages-reading them, writing with them, speaking them, etc. I'm studying abroad to improve my Chinese and learn more about the culture.</p>