China, May 18, 2000
Need a vodka break in China? Head to YabaoLu!
|The first time I heard about the
YabaoLu section of Beijing, I was still in Russia. It was on a train from Novosibirsk
to Krasnoyarsk, chatting
with a shuttle trader>, who
would travel once a month to Beijing to buy the goods she'd hawk in
Krasnoyarsk. She told me that there was a sizable Russian population in
Beijing, centered on the famous YabaoLu markets, and there I would feel as
if I was still in Moscow.
Well, once I arrived in Beijing, and the massive culture shock of being surrounded by 1.4 billion Chinese hit me, I had to escape back to Russia, even if just for a day. I went looking for this famous market, but to my frustration, it had fallen pray to the New China construction boom, and was no more. Luckily, even without the official market, the scene was still there. With Russian signs, sellers calling out in Russian and the distinct look of the people from that once-proud nation, I instantly felt at ease.
I quickly found one of the many Russian bars, and proceeded to chat with my fellow afternoon drinkers, about this odd land we were trapped in. They concurred, and with sly smiles, we stumbled on to a waiting restaurant. There, finding thick and juicy shashlik, I satisfied the insane craving for meat that living of noodles and hot pot in China gives me.
Now that I am back, after a sojourn to steak-loving Australia, I don't wander around YabaoLu too much. I do go back, especially when my Russian friends wanna drink vodka, but only to realize how much my Russian language skills are slipping away. Soon, like the original market, I too will fall pray to a changing world, returning to my mono-linguistic past.