How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE

Bejing at Last (Part 2)

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At last, we arrived at the hotel and were given an hour to freshen up before the welcoming dinner in the hotel dining room.


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The hotel is classified 5-Star and this is the lobby. Although splendid and attention-grabbing, it was not spectacular.

Table number 4, awaited, set for eight and covered with a red tablecloth. A three-foot diameter glass Lazy Susan (size approximate) adorned the center.

I heard neck vertebrae snap. Sue and I gawked at each other. The waitress attended to the men first. She shook out each cloth napkin and placed one corner beneath the dinner plate—smaller than a bread plate—with the opposite corner on a lap. Picture a square napkin held by one corner with points facing north and south and east and west. This placement also protected the overhang of the tablecloth, I imagine, should anyone slop while eating. Fallen food could s-l-i-d-e down the napkin and into your lap, but not on to the floor. What do you do with the resulting ‘leftovers’? Mash them into the napkin?

Recreation of place setting

Recreation of place setting

Did I hear the ruffle of rooster tail feathers? I bet the men in our party hadn’t felt this special since Momma kissed a booboo. This goes to show how different our worlds still are, and will in all probability never change, or I might be wrong. I giggled to myself and figured they might as well enjoy the attention.

Once everyone’s serviettes had been organized, the subject of drinks came up. Choice of beverage were water, a soft drink (Coke or ginger ale and never diet) or beer. Once the apportioned amount per table was used up, too bad. The waitress opened two small bottles of water but this wasn’t enough for all the thirsty visitors. Exchanges between soft drinks / beer for water were incomprehensible to staff; no substitutions and no flexibility. Our guide, Robert, offered to go to the store to buy more but the hotel staff wouldn’t allow it. (More on drinks later).

We were called the English Group 8. Another group followed us sometime later, a full busload called the French Group. Busy at our own table, I still overheard a loud voice call: une, deux, trois upon their arrival. Why were these adults being treated like children, I wondered but pushed the thought away.

 

First dinner in China menu (incomplete due to my befuddled brain)

Robert hung around to describe the platters of food (family style) as they were placed on the Lazy Susan before he left for the subway and an hour’s ride home.

  • Hors d’oeuvres: anchovies sandwiched between thin slices of pork (a guess)
  • Tiny cucumbers, about an inch long, (looked like beginning baby growths) served as a salad
  • Bean salad, French cut
  • Cabbage something (tasty)
  • Corn soup (no corn seen and no corn flavor)
  • Sweet and sour pork (most familiar taste)
  • Cauliflower
  • Fried rice with peas
  • Beef slices
  • Pork, thick slices of boiled bacon (boiled fat, ugh)
  • Raw pumpkin slices (unflavored not well-liked) and dates for dessert

Dinner over, neither Sue nor I now recall what time we called it a night. I imagine we collapsed into bed soon afterwards, thankful for a pillow and a comfy bed.  The unnerving thing is neither of us has any recollection. None. We can’t even embellish a story if our hands were shoved into fire.

Take a gander at this, our room:

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You’re going to scratch your head and we did as well. After finding this oddity, no-one we asked gave a straight answer. The wall between the bathroom and sleeping area is glass, floor to ceiling. A venetian blind  is in place to open or close. Here the bottom half has been turned down for privacy. Check out these links for comments:

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forums/asia-north-east-asia/topics/hotel-bathrooms-in-china

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/travel/05headsup.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

 

A few additional facts about China:

  • China has FOUR municipalities: Beijing (the capital), Chongqing, Shanghai and Tianjin
  • There are 55 nationalities, PLUS the Han People who are the majority at 93%
  • The rest are minorities
  • Mandarin is the main language, although written the same all over the country, the dialects are different. Everywhere.

 

Next Week: Beijing Part 3 (Day 3) – First Tour Day (coming June 6)

Previous related posts:

  1. /2014/05/02/day-1-getting-to-the-airport/
  2. /2014/05/09/day-1-contd-killing-time-at-chicago-airport/
  3. /2014/05/16/day-2-are-we-there-yet/
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Author: Let's CUT the Crap!

I'm getting a little LONG in the tooth and have things to say about---ouch---AGEing. I believe it's certainly a state of mind but sometimes it's nice to hear that you're NORMAL. I enjoy reading by the truckload. I'm a grandma but I don't feel OLD although I'm not so young anymore. My plan is to stick it out as long as I can on this lovely planet and only will leave it kicking and screaming!

124 thoughts on “Bejing at Last (Part 2)

  1. Startin’ ta look like you shoulda went to a nice place. Like North Korea.

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  2. Certainly some great pictures… 😉

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  3. It sounds like an interesting trip–and certainly something different from what you’re used to!

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  4. Were you with a tour group or were you and your friend traveling alone? Funny that they served the men first. Funny in an annoying sort of way. 😉

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  5. Certainly a new adventure. Yup, scratching my head. Thankfully your bed was comfortable.

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  6. Fascinating! Keep pup the travelogue. I’m traveling vicariously through you.

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  7. Reading your menu reminds me I was told ahead of time–don’t worry about gaining weight on this trip. You won’t. Was the furniture in your room smaller than what we are accustomed?

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  8. It is so very interesting seeing all this through your eyes. One thing I learned about some Asians, fat is good. The soft fat on a beef roast, the gristle at the end of a chicken wing drummette. Different taste palate, different culture. I once made southern style green beans – slow cooked with a nice big chunk of pork fat (streak of lean called down here, different from fatback, similar to what you were served) for a church dinner. the church is 95% Asian. I forgot to take the chunk of fat out of the beans, which I usually do. Lo and behold, the fat was attacked and the first 5 in line happily had pieces of the chunk sitting proudly atop the serving of beans. I was complimented on the good fat taste in the beans but told as a compliment, the fat was delicious and, not to seem ungrateful, but next time, please less beans and more fat. I nodded and learned my lesson.

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  9. Sounds like a lot of food for such a small plate. It does look like a nice clean place though. I would not do well as subservient. I’d be like, “Uh, over here please, I got this check.”

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    • I don’t like this old world thinking either, but it’s their country so you grin.
      The plate is out of my cupboard. It is a bread and butter plate (a facsimile). Some restaurants we ate had plates the size of saucers. It took a while to realize, but they don’t load up their plates like our part of the world. They take one course at a time.

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  10. I am thoroughly enjoying your blog. However, as a newcomer (aka complete stranger to you), I am a bit curious about context. Comments above say you were with a small tour group, but that you haven’t traveled much in 20 years. Did you just decide recently “I think I’ll go to China!”? Keep up the posts – I’m hooked!
    – Clare

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    • I haven’t had any interest in traveling for almost 20 years. A friend, who liked to vacation with her girlfriend, complained she had no-one to go with and nothing go look forward to. I asked where she wanted to go. She said Australia. I said, “I’ll go with you.”
      Long story short, she saw the ad for China, which cost only 1/3 of Australia trip and I wanted to pack my bags at once but we didn’t leave for five months.

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  11. Fascinating. Is this the joy of traveling, see how everyone else lives. I remain tinged green with envy.

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    • Jacqui, the trip wore me out. It was go, go, go all day long. It was a super experience but we were a tour group so didn’t really see the common people–well a tiny bit.
      I’m grateful I blog, which is forcing me to decipher my notes and actually process my experiences. I confess, either I wouldn’t have scribbled any notes or the notes would end up buried in a bookcase. ❤

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  12. Hubby and I left for our honeymoon two days after our wedding. We must have been completely wiped out that first nite in Cancun. I remember having dinner poolside. (No alcoholic drinks, at least for me.)

    We must have gone back to our room. Next thing I know, I was waking up, somewhere around 4:30 AM. Fully clothed at one end of a king-sized bed. He was fully clothed at the other end. Another couple could have slept between us. Doubt either if one of us would have noticed.

    BTW, our bathroom was fully enclosed, lol. That must not have been fun.

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  13. ‘We can’t even embellish a story if our hands were shoved into fire’….i love this line which describes the state of one’s brain following extended travel and sleep deprivation. Been there but can’t remember anything 🙂

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  14. This is too funny, Ms. Tess! Of course my nature is to analyze the windowed wall…is this a voyeur/exhibitionists’ issue, or is it some kind of edgy interior design trend…or is it just that the West doesn’t get East? I just love your account of this day!

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    • Look again. A picture inside the bathroom disappeared. Something someone commented this morning made me discover it missing and I re-installed.

      I won’t be recounting too much history because so much more caught my eye. Ha ha. Hope I don’t get boring.

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  15. My husband and I recently visited China — know what you mean about the special treatment reserved for guys. Outta the way first wife.

    Enjoy your raw pumpkin slices.

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  16. As I’ve always suspected, I’d starve if I went there! Keep it coming please Tess, it’s brilliant 🙂

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  17. I’m not surprised it was all a blur at the end after being awake so long! Sounds like a rather strange meal! Limiting people on drinks seems particularly strange.

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  18. The glassed bathroom wall would be reason enough, and so far the only reason, to never travel to China. I can understand differences in culture and food. But NOT any reason to want to view someone, or be viewed, in the bathroom. 🙂 I’m looking forward to more of this trip!

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  19. The ‘family’ dinning bit, yeah that is pretty common and one of my most despised parts of Asian meal service. Sorry, these are not my family and I do not wish to share my food with them. Weird, right?

    You got your first taste of cultural difference at dinner! Boys first, always.

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    • The boys preened like rooters. Because I had just met the people at our table (our English 8 tour group) I choked down my giggles. We all talked about it later. The women, that is, who felt betrayed. 😀

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  20. My ex told me about a fancy banquet he attended in China…featuring chicken beaks and claws. Your dinner didn’t sound great, Tess, but be grateful you dodged THAT particular bullet! Eat on…

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    • Ha ha. We weren’t served anything weird. They like fat, which we have learned / are learning to avoid. That fat piece of bacon was the worst, or almost.

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      • I shudder to think. And you don’t want to offend…I would be terrible at trying to swallow and pretending I liked it!

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      • Once I realized what the fat was I swallowed a small piece and almost didn’t keep it down. I make a practice of taking only a teeny bit of what I’m not sure of. It’s not we had a ‘host’ sitting down with us in his home so it was easier to leave stuff on the plate.

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  21. Having never been to China, and will not be going there, it is odd (to a Westerner’s mind) that the Asian areas of the world are not as modest about viewing the body. Their attitude is so different about many things. I visited the links you have at the bottom of your post, and was surprised to find that so many of the top-rated and newer-constructed hotels are designing their suites and rooms with the open bathrooms. Amazing!

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    • Supposedly they think this is chic. Ugh.
      There are so many of them, they haven’t known the luxury of privacy. I used to have Asian students who couldn’t stand sitting in their rooms to study. They never had a space to themselves and felt lonely. Wanted to be in the centre of things, not always a good situation especially when they studied out LOUD and you’re trying to watch a program on TV.

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  22. The lobby does indeed look splendid. I imagine the construction boom in China has extended to the hotel sector. Not sure how old your hotel is, but it looks relatively new or at least recently refurbished. I wonder how the Bejing hotel scene would have looked 20 or even 10 years ago.

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  23. Well, that was some information. Lol, thanks for sharing all this. Glad I wasn’t there though. Unfortunately, my very picky eating habits and my very specific diet wouldn’t have allowed me to eat anything on that menu. I suppose that’s why I’m a North American kind of girl. Oh, and that bathroom design, whoa! 🙂

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  24. Hi Tess,
    I have been eagerly awaiting the next episode. Your descriptions are wonderful, and you capture so many interesting details that I have never heard or anticipated, even after my son Eli went there for his high school trip.
    “Did I hear the ruffle of rooster tail feathers? I bet the men in our party hadn’t felt this special since Momma kissed a booboo.” And you do it with such style! What an adventure! Looking forward tot he next post!

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    • Once again, I thank you with heart in hand. You son at that young age had different things speaking to him, I’m sure. 🙂
      I’m interested in how people live and what they are like, not that we had much one-on-one because we 8 were with a tour but still, lots of interesting eye-openers. ❤ ❤ ❤

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  25. I told you that you’d end up with lots and lots of blog fodder. Traveling outside one’s comfort zone is great for blog material. As to the glass showers, I’m seeing more and more of that in American fancy-schmancy hotels as well–especially in beach resort locations. The last place I stayed in, the shower was all glass enclosed with a portion of it located in the garden, the top open to see the sky and the other side open so you could put on a show for your husband/lover in the bedroom. Hello! My post-menopausal body almost went into cardiac arrest. Good googlie-moo! Keep the pictures and stories coming. 🙂

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    • Ha ha ha. Since I’ve come back, I’ve come across a couple more articles on similar ‘exposures’. In Austria, I read in this morning’s paper, some seniors on a bus tour stayed at a fancysmancy brand new hotel, which had a glass shower cube in the middle of their rooms.
      😀 😀 😀
      The second link in my post mentioned a glass separation in a hotel between bathroom and room. I feel I’ve been living under a rock. ❤
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Nice to see you.

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  26. Coke or beer for dinner. I guess I’m spoiled and I’m used to more options. And after such a long trip, water is needed in my opinion. No corn or corn taste in the soup. That made me smile. Really curious about the rest of the trip.

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  27. The glass wall is um…interesting. And the men getting waited on first cracked me up. My hubby wouldn’t know how to handle that. I don’t think I’ll tell him either or he’s going to want to trade our trip to Ireland for a trip to China!

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  28. Well, I know where I’m not going on vacation.

    Aside from the beef and rice, I don’t think I would be able to eat anything on that menu.

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  29. Well Tess, this insight into a 5 star hotel in Bejing is fascinating. I’m totally intrigued by the glass wall between the bathroom and bedroom. The food? Hmmmmm…I hope it improved. Still, I’m sure for that first night you were more concerned about getting a good night’s sleep…even if you can’t remember a thing about it, lol 😉 As for the men being served first…as you say, I bet they loved every minute of it…
    Can’t wait for the next installment… ❤ 🙂

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  30. Hmm – doesn’t make me yearn to tour China! Are you glad you went there?

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  31. So that’s where you were. So very glad you had a memorable trip and thrilled you made it home safely. A little late, but….welcome back.

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  32. Those men must have felt really special. I must say that I was at a hotel about two years back in here in South Africa and the bathroom was enclosed with glass. I felt so awkward. There weren’t even blinds on the glass 😮

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  33. That is how I insist on having my dinner server every night!

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  34. Wow! Beijing? How exciting! Tell me more!

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  35. Tess – Dinner sounds positively awful and no comment on your accommodations. I had to ask myself when did I become so picky? I’ve always loved adventure and travel. The older I get, the more I seem to expect. Additionally, the more I spend, the more I demand for my dollar. I do love reading about your trip. Any thoughts on where you might like to go next?

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    • I didn’t go to bed hungry. What I did eat tasted good.I was slow on the draw writing the menu because I hadn’t planned on tracking our meals. Afterwards, I got the idea to do so to compare the most popular / regular dishes.

      I know what you mean about getting the best bang for your buck. I expect the same. No matter how I slice it, though, I believe this experience and the trip as a whole came at a bargain basement price.

      Thank you for reading and commenting. Hope you hang around for the rest of the ride. ❤

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      • I wouldn’t miss it, Tess. I’m never the first to read and comment but I’ll always show up.
        I like the idea of tracking your menus. It gives your travel an overall flair that we wouldn’t otherwise receive. It’s also a vital component for any one who might be considering travel via tour instead of on their own.
        I’m a firm believer that international travel is good for the soul and broadens everyone’s horizons beyond compare.

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      • One of the men in our tour group related a story about an aunt who wasn’t well . in her later years.He decided to cheer her up. You see, she used to travel and hate notebooks about her trips. He brought her some. The next time he visited, he asked if she enjoyed reading about them again. She shook her head and said, “Whatever was I thinking? Why did I write out all those menus?”
        I decided to write my own anyway. 🙂

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      • Tess, I think the menus are a terrific idea. Now, if we knew precisely the daily meals or even the holiday meals the typical supposed business class individual might expect. Would it be the same? I’d be interested in knowing if there’s any difference in what’s presented to tourist and what one might expect on the typical table without restrictions anywhere within the country.

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      • I did hear about s.o.m.e average yada yada and it’s coming up tomorrow. 😀
        I’m not sure, but I believe this fellow traveler was being helpful but I want to see a pattern during our stay. Notice I haven’t mentioned whether I have or not since it is after the fact. Geez, when did I learn to keep my lip buttoned? Ha ha.

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      • Now there’s a post. You do such a great job with those 100 word stories we all thought you were the strong silent type:)

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      • Believe me, Sheri, I am the silent type, maybe not strong but quiet and low key. 😀

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  36. Wow. I didn’t know whether to laugh about the male pandering or throw up in my pepsi. Maybe both.

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  37. Hi Tess! Your post brought back memories of my trip to China. The all glass doors in bathrooms can result in really awkward situations if you are not sharing the room with friends/family. My company brought a disparate group of customers (as a result total strangers to each other) and it took all our charm and persuasion to prevent an ugly scene once they discovered the bathrooms. 😉

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  38. I wonder if you can bring dry powdered water into the country?

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    • Powdered water? Hmm. Something new for me. Tell me more.

      Their sewer system and water filtration cannot do a proper job because of the population. Towns they call ‘little’ have no less than one million people plus. 😮

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  39. Strange about the bathrooms. I can see the attraction of having a bath in a big room, but not necessarily with people watching 😉

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    • Since that trip, I’ve read about weird shower, bathrooms set in the CENTRE of the hotel rooms. What’s with these architects? People of my age are complaining. Who wants to take a shower in a glassed shower, for example? No matter their counterpart is the same age. Ugh.

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  40. Wouldn’t the steam take care of the visual problem? Grin. Details, details, details. I think you are an excellent traveler, Tess! You seem willing and open to try foods you’ve never tasted before – and that’s a biggie when traveling. I have to say I love my creature comforts. Ummm, I’m wondering about your further tales re drinks – was my friend right?! We had thought it might be because she was a lone female w/in a tour group, though she liked striking out on her own. Can’t wait to read more!

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    • I only ever had beer (a tiny glass) at lunch and one at supper. It was light and thirst quenching. The rest of the day I drank bottles and bottles of water. I don’t know what that was about. Maybe all the walking.

      We weren’t served anything outlandish so I could EAT. 🙂

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  41. I lived in Kenya for two and a half years…out in the rural area teaching school….I think I should return to the letters I wrote my parents and review my observations—I find yours interesting—different approaches for different folks. Sounds like you had quite an experience.

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  42. My boyfriend is from Beijing and he has still some family there. In a year, we will have to go back there. I’ve never been in China, but I’m a bit concerned about the pollution.

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