Wednesday, November 10, 2004
We are in Beijing right now. Got here last....something, no problem, and have enjoyed our time here. Our first couple days were very low key as we were waiting for R's friend Michelle to arrive (Monday? OrSunday, I forget). And we didn't want to double up on sights (overculture is as bad as underculture, you know). So we sat around. Nothing to report on that except:
Saturday, we were sitting in the common room of our hostel in an attempt to write in our journals. We ended up talking to a Canadian family for a couple of hours (he is yet another ex-engineer whose path we have crossed. We can't get away from engineers!!), which was very nice. For the most part. The conversation took a brief foray into politics. Basically, I mentioned that the one english speaking station here barely talked about the US elections, though all the Chinese ones seemed to have constant coverage. This was the wife's opportunity (very nice woman) to go on a rabid anti-US bashing session. Here's the thing-it was personal. Her comments were 'examples' of how fat, lazy, ignorant, self-centered, gullible, and not truly-free or happy everyone in the US is. Mind you, she knew where we came from. It was insulting, and I simply looked at the floor and thought about jell-o. Rachelle finally had enough and did an excellent job of letting her know...that she was wrong. Nice work, R. Her and her husband were very much into conspiracy theories (and were very adamant that they were truths the US public is too stupid to realize) and name calling. And guess where most of her 'info' came from? Yupper-Michael Moore. She said so. Hm, so Moore, an American citizen who made his millions FROM Americans, is leading the rest of the world to form the above mentioned opinions about us. Forget the accuracies of his 'documentaries' (he is one hell of an entertainer who knows how to capture an audience, I will not deny him that compliment) and his hypocrisies. Do you really want to support someone that gives the international community (I am talking to rabid Moore fans) that opinion of you? It was ridiculous.
Back to fun stuff. Later that night we ended up chatting the night away with a bunch of blokes from the UK, a couple Denmarkians, French-folk, an Aussie, and had a rabbling good time. Swapped moree mails, hooked R up with a connection in Aussie-stralia, and misbehaved a bit. Good fun.
Next day we walked across Beijing looking for a hotel closer to the action (the hostel I think was located in Siberia). Walked acrossTiananmen Square (so surreal to picture the square and the immense roadway in front rumbling and crumbling with tanks and military might and blood and protests...crazy stuff. The area was filled with cops and army dudes and undercover policioso. Neat stuff.
Michelle arrived and met us at our fancy hotel (more on that in a second). We sat around that night and talked, and she was telling us about advice she'd gotten from people and basic words to say, etc. It was thru her that we found out that if you mispronounce 'thank you' (in the Chinese vernacular), you might be mistaken as saying:"die-horr-ee-a". Early in our trip, occasionally people would laugh when we'd say thank you. We figured it was because they thought it was cute for the funny white foreigners to be speaking Chinese. Turns out, it may have been because they found it funny that we'd break out in'poop talk' when getting our change. Ooops.
The hotel-shitnchiggers this place is nice! It's not as cheap as would be better (though it's still not bad), and I doubt we'll stay anywhere as nice again (though you never know). Why is it so nice? Here's why.We are used to small rooms, 2 twin beds (it'd be like returning to college only for 3 years I slept on a unpulled out shorter than me futon and not a twin bed), not all that nice and unheated. This place has 2 bedrooms (and 4 twin beds), a parlor type thing with a couch(!!!) and 2 nice-ass chairs, a kitchen sink, random tables and heat.It's very nice. And to cap it off, the shower. Oh mama! It's got the detachable shower head on a cord (standard here), but you can swap the spray out to an almost 1' diameter shower thing in the ceiling, there are 8 little nozzles that will spray straight out, and what I think is a foot washer thing (I don't know. It pulls out of the wall [it's a boxy thing] and sprays a couple streams and there are rolls of pokey make yur foot feel gud rollers on both sides). It's amazing!! We feel so fancy (for now). Aren't you jealous?
What else has been going on...not much. It's cold as balls here right now. Tomorrow we are planning on heading out to hike a section of the Great Wall. Should be colder since it's further north and higher up. Hold on!
Last night we met up with my buddy's (Nate) bro Jason. A redneck been living in Beijing for at least 4 years. Met he and his woman for dinner. Great time. It's always impressive to see a westerner speaking Chinese, but when it's a guy from down on the farm in a town with 3 houses and a silo, even more so. Great guy, great girl, we had a great time. It's been a while since I've seen Jason, so it was cool to hang out. And it was nice to get a meal ordered for us so that we could eliminate the "point and pray something good comes out" process we usually go thru. It was a 'hot pot' meal, similar to fondue in the States. And FYI-if you boil hot peppers in oil for a long period, it gets spicier. Late in the meal I pulled out a large leaf of lettuce.Pushed it into my mouth and bit down. What happened? 30 gallons of scorchingly hot liquid burst forth and filled my mouth (hot hot and spicy hot), torching my taste buds into oblivion. Owie. It was a greatmeal though.
Dang, I thought I had a lot more to say! Yup, here it comes....
There are many hutongs here. A hutong is a narrow alley with courtyards in places. They are all over China and are very dilapidated and miserable to live in looking, but have lots of character? LonelyPlanet makes sure to tell people to go see them because in Beijing most are being torn down and replaced with big buildings. At first I agreed with LP that this is bad and a 'cultural icon' is being destroyed. But wait, I walk thru them and get to go elsewhere. There are public toilets all over (no such thing in the houses in these hutongs). The buildings are in horrible shape, leak, don't keep out the wind (trust me, it gets very cold here), and are not nice places to live. So who am I to be disgusted with their destruction.
Supposedly the govt provides money to the displaced and at times gives them places to stay in the new bldgs. But there is corruption (of course), between the govt and builders and amongst themselves. So many of the displaced basically have to move out of the city because they can no longer afford the area in which they are living (Beijing reallyIS being westernized! The 'kick the poor out of our city' phenomenon so popular in the States is catching on here). So it can be either a bum deal or a huge step up. Regardless, I'm done griping about such an 'icon' being destroyed. I wouldn't want to live there either. Unfortunately, these are the places that help us to realize that we are in Asia, and not in a big city in the states. That, and they are great places to get great (unwesternized) cheap food.
What else....walked thru the Forbidden City (old home of the emperors in the Ming and Qing dynasties, in which none of the public was ever allowed. Now it's a tourist place). Very cool. Very interesting to hear the history (as recited into our audio tour earpieces by RogerMoore himself) and see the incredible structures. Me likey.
Sorry for the infrequent posting. As far as we can tell there is no internet site close to our hotel. I'll try to be better! Maybe
Monday morning we leave for Thailand. It'll be nice to get out of the cold (I won't think about returning to even colder weather), though I am sad to be leaving China. I've really liked it here, and am excited to come back and see more (and very different?) parts of it.
Spinklety spinklery doo, my foo has turned to goo.
Be good y'all. Or not. Up to you