Joe against background of Beijing, circa 2009, on digital image
I’ve arrived in Beijing. So far I’ve been to the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and a lot of other places I can’t pronounce.
Melissa is happily living off of the money I brought her and plans to continue spending my money for the rest of my time here. Surprisingly, I don’t find Beijing to be much different from other major cities that I have been to. It has the same hustle and bustle.
Since I can speak to no one but Melissa, I haven’t been talking to anybody. Her friends are all very nice. I’ve been staying in a dorm room that belongs to two guys who currently have no need for it, which is very convenient for me.
The food here is really good. We had Peking Duck with Melissa’s tutee and his parents, which was goddamn amazing. The family was very nice and polite, and the restaurant was considered one of the best in the city.
I’ve been taking a lot of pictures and I’ll post them later.
I did not get quarantined, an improvement over Melissa’s experience.
It turns out that Melissa is pretty good at talking to people in Chinese, contrary to popular belief. She’s changed a lot from the stop-and-go, semi-retarded, incoherent Chinese which she used to speak, to an equally incoherent (to me) smooth-sounding Chinese, which other people seem to recognize.
I’ve been taking advantage of the time that Melissa has used to study by reading The Firm by John Grisham, which is ridiculously addictive. Don’t worry, Mom, the fluids test will be okay.
As many of you may know, I have finals after this trip. So at some point I will get some preparation in for those.
Meanwhile, I have been making sure to drink as much beer as I can, and have enjoyed getting lost in the backstreets of Beijing with my trusty translator and sidekick, stupidface.
I have also been raining questions upon previously-mentioned stupidface, who seems to have about one out of every eight or so answers. I have fallen back to reading the Wikipedia article and the Frommer’s guide to Beijing in order to find useful information and relevant context to the several sites that I have seen.
However, Melissa’s extensive knowledge of where to shop and drink has been extremely helpful for spending my money. She promises to ramp up these activities as soon as her finals are over, at which point I may convert the rest of the American dollars I brought into Chinese currency.
In other news, the first day I got here the weather was cold but clear, and the sky was blue, which Melissa exclaimed was a truly wonderful phenomenon, marking the luck of my journey. However, today, Beijing returned to its normal foggy, emission-wealthy atmosphere, leading me to question China’s sincerity in the Copenhagen talks.
However, while explaining to one of Melissa’s friends why nuclear plants are environmentally friendly, and simultaneously explaining to Melissa why windpower cannot power the entire country, I realized that perhaps China’s realism outweighs Obama’s hope.
Moving on. I have begun to get a grip on the possibilities of life in China and the nature of the systems at work here. I can see why the country has so much positive nationalism and respect for the Communist regime. However, there are limitations here which are subtle, but potent in the lives of the people. What is truly remarkable about the government is that they are able to operate successfully such a dumbfoundingly large population in an organized fashion, rivaling any other modern nation, all done with a government largely ruled by a small ruling class of nepitistic leaders. The question that comes to my mind is whether we can truly criticize a government that does one simple thing: work.
Over the next two weeks, I will see if this statement is at all accurate.
I will keep you posted as a guest blogger with exclusive control over this blog (I’m dictating here) for the next two weeks, because I’m damned sure that you’ve had enough of Melissa’s viewpoint.
- Joe (if you couldn’t tell)