Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Beijing Images - June 2011

Beijing Highlights - June 2011

Sat next to two silly Thai girls on the plane ride over. They wrote me love notes in Thai that I still need translated.
Thomas met me at the airport and we grabbed cheap good food just around the corner from his apartment - one of those storefront restaurants which could double for someone's home kitchen.  There was a table of chinese guys next to us who kept getting up to pee on the wall across the street.  This in turn made me feel comfortable shooting food debris off my tongue whenever I felt so inclined.
The apartment we're living in is posh.  Might even cost over a million dollars.  I should carry around photos of it in my wallet like people do with their children.

note: The correct pronunciation of Beijing is "Bay-jing."  The way American newscasters say it and popular perception is a bastardized attempt at sounding foreign.  Blame the French.

On day one, I hooked up with 11 other people (I'm a slut, I know), some friends of friends, and we bused it to a village 1.5 hours outside the city nestled along sections of the Great Wall that haven't been refurbished.
We stayed at an incredible house. Went hiking. Ate elaborate meals. Drank plentifully at night.

Can't use Facebook, which is a massive inconvenience considering that’s how I conduct most of my correspondence.


Return from countryside retreat.  Eat dinner at a Korean bbq place where they cook the meat on a mini-grill in front of you.  It’s like having an uninvited guest at your table.  All the girls in this particular establishment have tattoos.  Thomas is automatically impressed by Chinese girls with tattoos. 
As for the bbq, I’m less than thrilled only getting to eat one piece of meat or onion every five minutes - the amount of time it takes for them to cook something and divide it up amongst the three of us.
At night, one of Thomas’ Chinese prospects comes over.  She looks cartoonish with her big eyes and small frame, but definitely pixie cute.  There is a tattoo on her wrist, so after Thomas confesses attraction for her and she responds that “It had never crossed her mind,” Thomas does not believe her.


Spend loads of time in the apartment reading and editing short videos compiled from pictures and vids of my trip so far.  Reading The Sheltering Sky, which is quick and easy prose that hints at greater heaviness.  Three Americans wandering around North African desert in the aftermath of WWII.  There is a love triangle and resonant theme of Americans in foreign land.  Talk of the Sahara makes Beijing feel not-so-remote.


Been eating loads of baozi and gong bao ji ding.  
Thomas' bike was stolen yesterday, even though it was locked up.  Somebody just picked it up and walked off.  So we buy him a new bike.  This time he gets two locks.  We ride the new bike down a ways, me sitting side-saddle on the back, to a market that sells dumbbells.  It is a massively arduous process getting them home.
I learn about “Beijing Air-Conditioning” - the phenomenon where Chinese men pull their shirt fronts above their nipples to cool off.   


Bike ride around town in the afternoon.  Thomas harasses me for not going fast enough on my rickety rental bike.  Wend through Hutongs, past Forbidden City and along Tianemen.  Feels great to be out and about.
Join Seb for Shabbat dinner at Chabad House.  Seb was on the group retreat to the Great Wall that first day.  Catch the tail end of services.  Can’t understand anything.  I only came for the free dinner and booze.  There are an assortment of different looking Jews - Arabs, Brooklyn Black Hats, Russians, nerds, etc. They all know their prayers better than me.  My kippah refuses to stay on my head.  A man behind me points out I’m in fact wearing two stuck together.  Even with just one, it keeps falling off.
There must be 100 people at dinner.  I’m seated with guys around my own age.  Wash hands for chamotzi.  There are loads of other prayers I don’t know throughout the multi-course meal.  The Rabbi continuously comes around to fill up our disposable medicine cups with nice scotch.
“They know how to party,” Seb tells me.  
The Rabbi makes some spiel about nepotism corrupting the world.  I am confused.  I thought the Jews were all about nepotism.