YOU THINK YOU'RE TOUGH, BUT THEN YOU LEAVE YOUR HOUSE
(more photos here)
Beijing is pretty awesome. And even though it seems like everyone I run into is trying to get me to hand over money in some way or another, I have found most people to be really nice and friendly. Even if it's just how they smile at me as they step on my toes, and then hock up a big one and shoot it just past my leg. It's all part of the package. As is this little run down catching up from the last post:
- Sometimes the tourists are more interesting/entertaining than the attraction.
- Eavesdropping on a conversation about Chinese philosophy (If bad things happen to good people, can there be a god?).
- Selling random stuff in the pedestrian underpasses, including newborn kittens and puppies.
- Getting lost every night in the murky depths of another hutong (old neighborhood).
- Meeting a really friendly group of people on the street one night in a hutong, spend the night discussing history and politics as they all practice their English.
- Having a "Brazil flashback."
- The Chinese definitely have a problem with spitting. It seems almost like something you're supposed to do with finesse, like smoking a cigarette. The part I like is that sometimes you'll be walking down the street and suddenly hear someone loudly choking to death, only to turn out to be an old woman getting ready to hock a loogie.
- The pollution in every city I've been to is horrible. You can see it at night in the street lights and headlights. During the day it can sometimes be a foggy hazy day, even though there aren't really any clouds.
- I keep seeing Jay-Z's face in my mind, mainly because two common phrases in Chinese, "this one" and "that one" are pronounced "jigga" and "nigga."
- Getting chased away from construction sites for the new Olympic stadiums for taking a photo.
- Spending a while watching people take photos of their kids and friends in a park where all the trees were blooming.
- When they play Dylan in the cafe it's soothing. When they play the Shins I get homesick (and I don't even really like the Shins).
- There are little balls of puff in the air all the time. Kind of like a dandelion meets a dust bunny, they are everywhere. On the highway the other day it looked like it was snowing. However they also tend to blow into your food.
- I had a driver one day who wanted me to pay for tolls on top of the pre-negotiated fare. When I refused he found a way to beat it anyway, tailgate a bus at the toll booth and just roll on through behind it.
- Passing a crashed van with the driver being physically held upright just outside it. He was being supported because he was too wasted to stand. This was at two in the afternoon.
- Watching a dubbed version of House of Flying Daggers with the English subtitles also turned on. The dubbing was really good, the subtitles were plain awful, like a fourth grader wrote them.
- Spending a day getting totally lost out in the middle of nowhere looking for a town near the Great Wall.
- The Chinese seem to have a lot of hometown pride. So when they ask about the "Ohio" in my tattoo and I tell them it's where I was born, they're into it.
- Getting taken out for a fancy dinner by two Fulbright scholars.
- Watching as a teenager nonchalantly walks to the corner of an alley, pulls out a folding bed from behind some trash cans, opens it up, and goes to sleep.
- All the stray cats seem to look the same (longish white hair), so every time I see one it seems like it's the same one following me.
- Watching road crew workers digging a hole in the street at night, in total darkness. I could barely tell how many of them were in the hole.
- The diagram on the subway doors in Beijing for "Keep your parts clear of the doors" is a hand pointing a finger with falling blood drops.
- The Chinese also seem to be very into conserving energy, they are really good at turning off any lights not totally necessary (see construction worker example above), but I've found that this also leads to a lot of really really dark tunnels at night.
- I have seen a fair number of disfigured/amputee beggars in the subway, the thing is ALL of them have backpacks with amplified speakers and mics. They seem to do a combo of begging and singing, although the line between to the two can be a bit blurry.
- I had a strange altercation one night. I was wandering in a hutong taking photos, and at one intersection I came upon a young guy selling various meat/shellfish on a stick. I stopped to have some at the aggressive behest of one of this guy's (drunk) friends. Everything was fine, and then an older guy came over and started yelling at me and poking me. I told him I didn't understand Chinese. So he started grabbing at pockets on my jacket and at my backpack. He would point, grab, and yell. So after grabbing at one pocket, I took out the Chinese-English dictionary that was in it and offered it to him. He pushed it away and yelled some more. The other people around were laughing, but seemed a bit nervous too. So then he reached into his jacket, as if he had a gun, shouted and made quick movements toward me. Then he pulled out his hand in the shape of a gun and pretended to shoot me, all the while yelling (of course). People didn't seem to find this as funny. Then he reached back into his waistband and pretended to pull out another gun and shoot me with his finger again. I was kind of sick of this guy at this point, so I pretended to reach into my waistband, pulled a notebook out of my back pocket, flicked it open and read out "I don't understand Chinese" loudly at him. This got people laughing again, although angry dude was clearly pissed. I just ignored his yelling and focused on the meat sticks and eventually he went away.
• Peter And The Wolf - Safe Travels
A band's place in myspace.