Sunday, June 29, 2008

Only good things to-day.

1. I had a great run on Friday, and then watched No Country For Old Men, which I liked a little more this time around.

2. Although I was running late Saturday morning and missed the good train (meaning I had to kill 2 hours at Carrefour and a delicious Japanese restaurant where I ate delicious thin-sliced salty beef covered in onions and a goopy, runny, uncooked egg), I made it into Beijing unscathed, and read the most delicious un-letter I have ever received (yes, letters can really reach me, so send them often).

3. I went to the Confucious Temple after registering at my hostel. It was lovely, most notably for the overwhelming presence of trees: the road that leads to the road that leads to the temple is populated by hundreds of incense and temple-worthy brass knick-knacks. The road that leads to the temple is shaded by a canopy of trees wrestling with one another (and, in some trunks' cases, themselves). The temple area itself is filled with old firs of many shapes and sizes. Even if I've seen this building structure tens of times before, they never cease to amaze me. I'm not even "into" the "Oriental" "aesthetic," but I'm still amazed by the architecture, the detailing, the magnificence of it all every time I visit such a site.

4. In the week leading up to Pride weekend (why did I capitalize that?), I've been feeling rather sad, since I've moved from a place where I couldn't swing a feather boa without hitting a fag (and, moreover, a place where I was a member of the majority) to a place where being queer is treated like anything but a normal way of life (and where I'm in the minority in so many ways). Forget China--even my teachers, all of whom have thick, woody Christian roots, dance around the topic (I had a pronoun-less conversation about my relationship with Theo this week. Exhausting.). Although being queer isn't something to be "proud" of, per se, it's nice to have a day in which we get to celebrate being recognized as humans who deserve the same modicum of respect and care as everyone else.

That said:

I was invited to a party that evening by my friend Eric, hosted by an elder-gay who owns a glass factory a few hours outside of Beijing (and subsequently, a massive apartment with a great outdoor patio). I had a "fabulous" time, meeting many Beijingers from Paris, Poland, Pennsylvania and beyond (and, of course, China). I even met two separate guys from Chicago, one of with whom Facebook tells me I have four "mutual friends." It was really, really, really nice to slip back into my outgoing, first-meeting-with-like-minded-people suit. I'm just glad it still fits.

5. I visited Mao's "body" this morning. After checking my bag in a separate building, waiting in line for a security check, and then in 2 other lines (one of which passed by a booth for people to buy flowers for Maoers), I finally walked briskly by China's answer to Jesus. In a small room (inside of his massive mausoleum), behind two layers of glass and a red blanket covering everything but his face lies a yellow (literally, not racist-ly) shell of what once was an incredibly powerful man. I'm fairly certain it isn't his real body, either--how could they have preserved it for this long?

6. I took a trip to Ikea to pick up a few housewares I haven't been able to find in Tianjin afterwards. Prices in China's Ikeas are apparently quite good. I bought a lamp for $2, and many other seemingly-pricey things for under $70. It's odd, because although you're thinking, "well, of COURSE everything's cheaper; there's a shorter distance between the factories and stores for these goods," most of the things I picked up were made in Eastern Europe.

7. I met up with Terna for a last farewell. One of her friends from Manchester (HINT HINT) is visiting her (HINT HINT), and the three of us went to the "silk market," which was all kinds of disastrous. Imagine: booths upon booths of women yelling "buy a purse," "I remember you," "pretty jewelry for girlfriend?" and so on. After awhile, the inherent value of these goods is tarnished by their sheer over-abundance (the market is something like 7 floors high). Terna did well, though, scoring quite a few goods for about as much as I spent on housewares.

8. As I missed the 5:17 train back to Tianjin, I decided once again to pay an extra 20RMB and take a private van back, instead of waiting for another 2+ hours for the next one. It was another hair-raising experience, with several near-misses (I, of course, was "sitting bitch" between the driver and a woman who was visibly afraid of me touching her) and no seat belts in sight. On the highway headed towards Beijing, 95% of the vehicles were enormous trucks hauling things into the city--dirt, concrete, wood, other trucks (one had a stack of 1 dozen mini-trucks as its load). I'm still highly dubious about everything being completed and shiny for the big day(s).

9. I practiced Chinese so much this weekend! I'm starting to think I'll get the hang of this crizz-azy language after all. I bargained over a street vendor for cigarettes (for a friend! of course!) successfully and animatedly; I no longer need to really think when someone tells me the price of something; I even had an 8-sentence conversation with my greengrocer-woman (who taught me the word for "banana," although now I cannot remember it). Even a few characters are getting thrown into the mix--I can recognize about 15 now? 20?

10. This will not be a week filled with good things, I know. But, at least I can reflect upon the weekend I've had as an advance consolation prize.

11. (Pictures.)

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