Thursday, August 11


We got in to Beijing this morning, took the subway over to Tianamen square, which is the area where my hostel is, and I got to check in. Walked through the square, did the Forbidden City (which apparently means something like purple palace in Chinese, so our Chinese friend laughed at the name), walked along the touristy commercial street, got lost in the traditional alleyways, ate in air conditioned McDonald's (nothing like that where I live!), and sweated buckets. I happened to meet one of the students from the university I teach at on the street. How random! She's here for the break, staying with relatives. She bought me some spicy marinated tofu at a place where you could also get four live scorpions on a stick. I suppose they fry them before they eat them, but I didn't get to witness anyone try. They also had skewered beetles (or maybe they were silkworm larvae) and seahorses for sale. I was so glad she bought me the tofu.

The weather is kinda strange. It's not really that hot, but you're just wet all day. In the middle of the Forbidden City today, a big white guy stripped his shirt off and then his son followed suit. The wife was already in a spaghetti strap shirt. Everybody around stared with googly eyes as he then put his backpack on his bare back and kept walking. Other than the fact that he was a big guy, I don't know why the Chinese had reason to stare, because the men here make a regular practice of lifting their shirt up above their belly when it's hot and walking around like that everywhere. Some also do the no shirt thing.

On my way back to the hostel this afternoon, two students walked along beside me and started talking. They invited me in to their student show and explained about Chinese artwork. It was all very interesting, and I realized that there would be a catch at the end, but I stayed. They did my name and a message in Chinese calligraphy at the end of the tour, and I expected to pay for that, but they told me it was free. They said, though, that if I'd like to support the scholarship fund, then I could buy some of their artwork. So, I did. I think now that it could have all been a ploy, that maybe they weren't even students, but it doesn't matter. I might not have gotten the best deal on the things I bought, but by American standards, it's a great price.

Well, the internet here is free, but we're asked to limit our time, so I am going to get out of my two day old nasty clothes and get as clean as possible in the hostel shower, then journal a bit and head to bed. I hope to get an early start, maybe to see the sunrise flag raising at Tianamen.

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