07 February 2007


I awoke to these words being yelled at me by the train attendant at 6:30am. Luckily it was actually the morning. You see, no matter what time of day it might be "Good morning" is always the greeting of choice for foreigners and at 6:30am those are two words I just don't want to hear.

For whatever reason train systems worldwide feel the need to wake passengers up an hour before arrival by turning on the lights, loudly emptying the trashcan and yelling "Good Morning! Zaoshang Hao!" What am I going to do on a train in my 4-foot box for an hour at 6:30am? There's no food. There's no movie. All I have are my thoughts and the three other people sharing my cabin who have yet to say a word to me. In fact, no one said a word to anybody for the entire 12 hours. I didn't mind. I mean, I had some work to do, a few episodes of Desperate Housewives to watch and Peter Hessler's newest overdramatic inaccurate account of China to read.

At the minute I'm sitting at an internet cafe on the southeast corner of Tianamen Square. Out the window I can see the Forbidden City, The 25-foot portrait of Mao's head, The Memorial to the People's Heroes of the People's Republic of China, Mao's Mausoleum, and the 5,000 people or so who are currently lined up to see his body. Unfortunately I'm unable to upload pictures at the minute, but just imagine...

My first overwhelming thought upon arrival was "wow, everything is so low." I have yet to see a single building over 10 stories tall, which is exactly opposite of Shanghai, which boasts hundreds of forty and fifty-story skyscrapers! There is a relaxing calmness thus far, and I'm enjoying the enormous boulevards, pristine streets (ready for the Olympics) and different accent. They acentuate the R here in Beijing. For example, in Shanghai "where" is nali. Here, it's nar (with a really really long R).

I have a new friend. Well, I had a new friend until I found out he really just wanted me to buy some calligraphy. "Jack" and I walked and talked (in Chinese) all the way across the square. "Shanghai is exciting, Beijing is beautiful," he said. Then he asked me if I wanted to buy his stuff. I said no, he told me to "have a nice life" and that was that.

Now I'm off to the Friendhsip Store, the only place foreigners could get western goods before 1990. Then to the airport to pick up Robin. She beat the snow in DC by about an hour! Woohoo!

More soon...

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