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China, May 18, 2000

Russians Love Yabaolu

Need a vodka break in China? Head to YabaoLu!

Whatever you buy, it better be in bulk, cuz she only sells by the 10-lot.
Bargaining in Russian too!
Next Week:  For sale on the streets of Moscow!
Bicycle or truck delivery
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.

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