A Bohemian Traveler

Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page

Departures

In Personal Update on April 30, 2011 at 9:24 am

I just watched a wonderful movie called “Departures.”

The Japenese and English covers

It’s a Japanese film and it touches on themes of fate, life, death, relationship, family and departing this earth. It really was a touching film, I had been wanting to watch it since it won the best foreign film award a few years ago. I picked it up for a little over a dollar here in China, and this afternoon I was in need of a movie relaxing moment and this was the perfect choice.

When traveling for some time, it is good to have those moments where you remember who you are and remember what your country is like, friends, or family. Yesterday I phoned a good friend of mine in Oregon just to chat and it was very refreshing. I’ve been on the road now for over three weeks, and I’ve been finding myself eating some western food, calling a buddy, and watching a movie. It’s due and why not? It’s the International labor day weekend in China, so I’ll take a labor day myself. :)

Yesterday I visited the DiTan hospital in Beijing. Specifically, I was welcomed and given a tour of the facilities of the Infectious Disease Division. Here is where physicians treat patients who are in advanced stages of AIDS. As I walked the corridors, I glanced at people who were in bed, looking tired and worn, sometimes with a family member next to them. Many of these patients come from far away provinces, as DiTan hospital is one of the best facilities in the country to treat infectious disease.

I was given an audience of the Chief Physician of the ward, along with two other Doctors. For some time, we discussed all topics relating to AIDS, prevention methods, Government policy, treatments, history, sexual behaviors, research and other stories. It was a very fruitful meeting and I was glad to be able to make friendships with the physicians of this ward, who everyday, serve the individuals who are stricken with AIDS.

I am contemplating visiting more hospitals and clinics in China. Thailand should provide some interesting experiences relating to AIDS work, when I make my way to Bangkok next month God willing.

Thank you for your prayers and thoughts of encouragement as I trek around. “Fate” is evident in my day-to-day life, and I have met some great people and been guided so to say. It’s always a peaceful feeling, when it happens, because you know you are where you are supposed to be at that very moment. And that’s beautiful. I truly believe that this happens more often when you have a community of people praying for you. While I cannot measure it, I have seen many times how my life changes when I send an email to a group of people committing to pray for me everyday while I travel. It’s actually one of my “secrets” you could say. Try it out sometime, see what happens. :)

Well, Beijing is good, food is good, life is good. I think I should do a post just on the food. It really is amazing. Especially the Beijing Duck. Quack.

mmmmmm......duck

Ciao for now

Shawn

Updates in Beijing

In Travel on April 28, 2011 at 3:56 am

Greetings from the internet cafe, would you like an update?

Welcome to Beijing

Well here it is. I am in Beijing still and plan to be here for another week. I’m visiting local hospitals to learn more about the infrastructure of how AIDS is approached and also meeting with local Chinese who have been involved in education and prevention. I’m also continuing to meet people where I can learn more about how younger people think about China, the changes and their perspectives on charity. If China does indeed become the strongest economic superpower in 25 years, will they be open to give? They don’t really give too much now when it comes to disasters, so….whats up?

I should be off to Korea in a week, gonna visit a friend.

Weather is good overall, mostly around 25 degrees celsius. That’s 70’s in fahrenheit. I’m meeting all kinds of people around the world, and some really inspiring ones. Here’s a story for ya :)

So I was on the 6th floor of my hostel at the lounge looking out at the view of the Forbidden City and Tiananmen sqaure. As I was chatting, I noticed a guy sitting along in his wheelchair. I was curious how he got up to the 6th floor because the elevator only went to the 5th floor and he didn’t have any handles on the back of his chair. In fact, his wheels looked pretty custom and this is China, not the most easiest place to navigate with a wheelchair. I was curious, so I approached him to shoot the breeze.

OH MY GOSH, this dude was cool. I come to find out this guy is Peter from the UK. Peter,who‘s in his mid twenties,was in a motorcycle accident 5 years ago and lost his feeling from the waist down。 But this is not limiting him to travel the world and that‘s exactly what he’s doing。 He‘s traveling all over Asia in his chair,(which is custom by the way, hard rubber tires, easy to take off spokes etc) and setting an example for any other person who may be a paraplegic。 He was such a nice guy!

As we talked,he told me of his time in Bangladesh。Bangladesh!That‘s gnarly people,think about riding your chair through traffic crazy with cars, buses that dont stop,taxis,motorcyles, bicylcles,pedestrians。 Wow!Then he went to bring in more chairs to Bangladesh and educate about how to have a community that makes things handicap accessible!He was able to arrange chairs for people and set up vocational training for those who have similair injuries in their country。Such a champ!After his three months there,he trekked to India, Nepal and Tibet and went to Taiwan,Korea,Japan and now he’s in China, going to the Northwest to Kazakhstan, Krygestan, Azerbaijan,across the Caspian sea , Georgia, Turkey back to Europe and the UK!Go Peter! Yeah man, if you thought it was hard to travel,look at this mate! He is doing this on his wheelchair!

I saw him go down the stairs, BUMP!BUMP!BUMP!Straight up man, just rolling down。 I watched him get in and out of his chair and I actually asked to try it out myself to get a feel for it。 It pops up pretty easy,but man, I gotta say I love to meet people like Peter in this world。He‘s traveling to be an inspiration for those who may be bummed after an injury or never had the chance to walk, and he’s raising awareness to countries where it is difficult to be a person who is `handicapped。` Godspeed Peter!

check out his blog,he calls it `Rolling back Home`, loveit。PS。He wants to be the first paraplegic to skydive SOLO in the Northern hemisphere~!YEAH!!!



Working in China

In Travel on April 25, 2011 at 3:11 am

Did you know….

That China is the most populated country in the world? 1.3 Billion, yes. Well I’ve been noticing all KINDS of jobs that Chinese citizens do. Besides all the shops, finance, government and construction jobs, they clean most everything. Buildings, subways, streets, alleyways, every night, even street asphalt arrows, so that keeps a number of people in work. There are a lot of people selling their goods, whether that is a couple toys in the subway station, fruit, Chinese flags, socks, candied apples, electronic t shirts. There are a good many jobs in this city of 15 plus million.


As I have been here, I have been talking with the Chinese about their work situations, dreams and goals, and their level of happiness basically. So far my findings are this: The Chinese work very hard. On average, a person who is working in their twenties, will work everyday of the month, be paid monthly and get one day off. If they want another day off in the month, they need to work a double shift, so they’ll work a 16 hour day. Technically their official time may say they worked 8 hours, but this isn’t the case, they work longer than they have to, and they really can’t complain about it, because if you do, you lose your job, and that means no money coming in. And you don’t have much money in the first place, so you’re in a tough position. The solution is to work your ass off, take what you get, and hope for more money. Good luck~

This way of working isn’t a new revelation for me. All over the world, I have seen people working their tails off for peanuts and they have to, because this is what feeds their family.

Coming from the United States, it is good to have a global reality check. This is why I like to travel. I see the world in a holistic perspective, not as just as an American. There is a lot more work freedom and options in the states as opposed to China and many other nations. It’s encouraging to see things in a holistic way, to see things all over the world in one’s thinking, because, the world is coming together faster than it ever has in human history, and as we continue to live together, we will be making more decisions together, communicating more, trading, sharing, thinking, loving more. Well I hope we love more :)

So, you can read all the papers and books and watch all the video, but to really get that perspective, you need to go. You need to talk to others about their journey in life. Where they’ve been, how they were brought up, what sort of education one received, and so forth. Talk about your life in return, a relationship has been formed, World Peace is on the way! Just kidding, but understanding each other is a helpful part to avoiding conflicts and hatred.

Right, so what are the Chinese thinking in terms of goals or dreams? Most of what I am hearing is we want to get money, make more money. Yeah, I understand, who wouldn’t want a little extra cash?

I was in the Shanxi History museum last week, and back 4,000 years ago, the locals used seashells as a form of currency. This was because seashells of this type were hard to find, and so people traded with it. Gold was just used as a form of a gift, and I saw these stacks of gold pendants that were previously used. Well, Gold has a different use now than back then. Money has a different value to each person respectively.

As I live here in China, again on the road, already having traveled, I am not as stimulated as I used to get when I was a college student having my eyes opened to this vast world. Now I am a professional seeing things differently. What I am seeing is many similarities. People want to make a living, people want to provide for their family, people want the best for their children, people want love.

Something I noticed again while here, is peoples universal love for children. I was in a market and this family from the Middle East came walking through, and the women were fully covered in their burkas and there was a little baby boy being carried. All these young Chinese women, who were the vendors in this market, were all smiles and talking Chinese baby talk to this little Arab baby, taking photos and touching his hand, all joyful. As I looked at the small eye opening of the burka of the Arab women, I could see their eyes were smiling. And it was lovely.

Well, Thats enough for now. My sis is gone, and I’m off to do some research.

Peace

shawn

Work Hard Chinese Poster 1972

Dumplings, Terra Cotta and…Ping Pong?

In Travel on April 21, 2011 at 10:42 am

So the journey continues….

We have had just an amazing time in Xi’an, the former capital city of China and
also the region where the famous Terra Cotta army is. If you do not know what
the Terra Cotta army is, look it up here :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terracotta_Army

We took an overnight sleeper train to Xi’an, which was pleasant. There are four
beds in the room and we both slept in the upper bunks. As we trained West, I
had a nice conversation with a young Chinese man who spoke english and also
an elderly Chinese man who had been pushing educational reforms in the country
for seven years. It was nice to have a discussion about the educational system
in China and looking forward. This elderly man told me that China would have
been stronger if it were not for some of the wars and history under Mao. He says
they are on the path to prosperity though and is continuing his projects.

We arrived at the hostel, and it was nice. It was an old courtyard building very
close to the south gate of a city wall that surrounds the city. I love staying in
historical hostels. One time I spent a night in a 900 year old building in Austria.
This building is probably a few hundred years old. Though there is traffic on the
street 50 yrds away, you couldn’t hear any of it inside.

Throughout our few days, we met some very nice people. This is why
I love hostels, they bring people from all over the world into a shared space.
You start a conversation with a simple question “So what brings you to China?”
or “Where are you from?” and the conversation blossoms into this shared inquiry
about each others culture, history, family, hobbies. For my sister, it was one
of her first real hostel experiences, for me, well, I’ve had a lot, even working at
a hostel for 9 month of my life.

We met some very cool Israelis, who I chatted with about the history and conflict
that exists today, a Finnish guy who worked in building schools in Tanzania with
support from the Finnish government, Chinese travelers from Beijing, American,
British, German, French and Cameroon english teachers, who congregate at the
local pub, which is conviently located below the hostel for expat companionship.
(Some of these english teachers teach far out, so for them getting together on
Sundays and Mondays is the happening thing to do once a week) Italian students
who are learning Chinese in Shanghai, the list goes on~ We actually met a person
from our neighboring hometown! Considering there are only 7,000 people in these
towns, this makes the world very small ! But I love it. I always make so many
friends in hostels around the world. After you meet, you may meet again in life if
one or the other travels to the places you live. It makes life exciting, don’t you think?

You don’t even need to share a dorm with people, I’m almost getting too old for
sharing an 8 bed dorm with a bunch of guys. I’m content with a 4 bed dorm, or a
private. Conversations can happen in the restaurant or lounge as opposed to ones room.

Ok, so I don’t need to tell you how much hostels are great and that everyone at
one point in life should stay at one when traveling. Back to China~

The Terra Cottas were fascinating to see, I’m not going to write a lot about them,
just go if you make yourself out here. If you want more of my perspective on the
Terra Cottas, then read my previous post on the Great Wall, and substitute Terra
Cotta Warrior tomb for the Great Wall. It was a pleasure to see and my sister was
in awe of the whole spectacle. She really was the one who wanted to go, and I’m
glad we did. Take a tour if you do go, its worth it. 220 RMB= $33 USD

PING PONG

So at the hostel on Wednesdays they have a ping pong table downstairs and a
teacher who comes to play and teach students. I had to participate seeing how
China dominates Ping Pong. To say it lightly, I was humbled.

I come down to the basement and I meet the "Master." A man wearing a blue worn
blazer, dark slacks and a sweater. He motions me to the other side and hands me a
paddle. The paddle was the stickiest one I have ever held (not literally sticky, but
a sticky that adds to the spin of the ball when hitting) and we start rallying each other.

EVERY ball I hit back to him flew high over the table. At first I thought it was my
paddle, and then I realized that this guy was putting so much spin on his serves
that no matter how I hit it, it would fly way off the table and I thought "holy s***,
this guy is good." As we played for the next thirty minutes, we practiced and I became
"student." I'm a decent player by my american and friends
standards, but this guy was on ANOTHER LEVEL. I decided to show my respect by
listening and heeding his sharp instructions to me. We would hit back and forth to
each other as he would count in Chinese. The first time we hit 30, then we hit 155,
then he would come and grab my arm and hand show me how to point the paddle
a certain way and how to swing, enforcing what he was saying in Chinese, even though
I don't much understand the language, I was picking up what he was laying down.
I was BLOWN away how much my game improved.
I thanked the Master afterwards and went to grab dinner with my Sis. I know my
Dad would of cracked up seeing this lesson happen between student and Master
as we are a family that can appreciate a game of Pong. Jeez!

Dumplings.

I have to mention this one night a few of us hostellers went to get dumplings.
It was a lovely night, where 8 of us got together from all different countries
and shared on the round table of eating dumplings. It was great, so go grab some
one day in your local Chinatown or in China. amazing meal. It’s meals like these
that are shared by people from all over who get together for one night, and will probably
never see each other again, that makes me love life and all it’s variety. I’ll post
a cool panorama shot my sis took later.

OK! Lots more words, so thanks for reading. I am back in Beijing.

Photos!

In Personal Update, Travel on April 18, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Family time at the Temple

In Personal Update, Travel on April 18, 2011 at 12:28 am

It was Saturday and the day was free for most Chinese in Beijing.

Something I have come privy to while here is that the Chinese work very long and hard everyday. Sometimes they don’t get a day off for weeks. They work most everyday and while their hours may technically be 8:30am-5:30, they end up working till 9pm. I have seen many people who I am becoming friends with tell me the hours they work. They do not get paid hourly, but rather monthly. The money isn’t all too much from what I gather, though I haven’t asked for exact numbers, as I have always considered that a rude question.

Charissa and I decided to go to the Temple of Heaven. The Temple of Heaven was a place that the Emperor would perform the annual prayer for a good harvest. It was a huge event that would take place.

The Temple of Heaven was located in the middle of a fairly large park, and as Charissa and I were walking, we came across many Chinese enjoying the park on a Saturday like most any human would. Freedom from the city, get your Zen on.

It was a fairly organized park, with lots of benches, small flocks of birds I had never seen before and trees that were a foot in diameter and about 40-50 ft (15 metres) tall.

As we approached further, we came across a cool looking temple with a large moat around it. A moat is a ditch around the building that is filled with water. The building itself looked lovely with green tiles and we came to find out this was a place the Emperor would “fast” at for three days prior to the ritual. He would abstain from food, drink, women, and the stately affairs.

Then when the day came, he would perform the ritual of praying for the good harvest in the Temple of Heaven.

The Emperor was considered a “Son of heaven” and a person who was considered divine. He was a part of earth and heaven. The colors sybolized this through Gold, Blue and Green. The colors of heaven, earth and the mortal world.

As we trekked around, taking photos, doing our tourist thing, I noticed how many families were around. It was so sweet to see three generations together spending time with each other, loving the young children, walking around. There were also a number of couples who were enjoying each other on the benches and walking.

Family is important and while in China public displays of affection may not be as common as in other countries, the feeling exists and it was nice to see it in a peaceful setting like a park.

We just took a sleeper car to Xi’an and I am staying in one of the coolest hostels ever. More to come~~~!

Xie xie,

Xiao En (Chinese name)

“Let’s go see Mao”

In Personal Update, Travel on April 15, 2011 at 10:49 am

“Let’s go see Mao.” My sister said to me today as I woke up from my room.

Mao Zedong, the communist leader of China, who reigned from 1945-1976, whose face is on the front gate of the Forbidden city and every piece of currency in the country.

Some call Mao a dictator, some call him a savior, some call him a most unjust man, whose policies killed millions of people, who took away Tibet. Some call him the one who united China, who brought China to the greater world. Whatever he is to whoever, he is still honored around the country, and in the center of Tian’amen square is a Mausoleum with Mao resting, cryogenically frozen and lifted up for display to the public every day except Monday.

Back when I came to China in 2002, it was 10 USD to come see him. I heard the body might be fake, so I decided not to walk through the Mausoleum. Now that I am back and it’s free, my curiosity is asking “what the heck does this look like??”

It’s kinda creepy to have a body of a man, a leader who died over 35 years ago and whose leadership was controversial still be honored and revered. I recognize the amount of propaganda the Chinese received throughout the past 60 years and after Mao died, though his policies were reversed and his strongest opponent, Deng Xiopeng, succeeded him, he wasn’t burnt, or had his face removed from all public arenas. His statue did not come tumbling down, he remained a figure. Fascinating.

Some would say his ideals and figurehead kept a nation of over a billion people together. I mean, what WOULD happen, if China as a whole fully rebelled and sought new ways of living, new ways of freedom and dare I say justice? I’m not an expert nor a Chinese historian, so maybe unleashing China could be chaotic, hurtful and many could die. Whatever could happen is a spectulation, what is happening, is that tens of thousands of people come every day to see his body in the
Mausoleum.

It was like Disney on crack. There were thousands of people in line, all moving at a moderate pace, as you cannot sit and stare at the resting place of Mao. You cannot take any photos, no lighters, no heavy objects, no weapons. You can purchase a white flower for 3 quai (50 cents) to lay down at his statue before walking into the room where he lays.

What a trip. My sis almost didn’t want to go once she saw the spectacle of this massive line wrapping around the building with people in suits and white gloves holding mini megaphones telling you how to behave yourself and what not to bring in as you go in. You need to show valid ID, you cannot bring in cameras, etc…

As we walked in, many laid down these white flowers at the statue. From my eye, i’d say 1/6 of the masses of the people were buying these and then as they entered, they would do a short bow and lay a flower at a flower cart before a giant white statue of Mao seated. People of all ages were doing this. Parents were bringing their children. Was my perception and information of Mao wrong and false? Had he not killed millions of people during the Cultural Revolution from 1966-76? Had he not unjustly taken Tibet in 1959? There could still be a lot for me to learn..

As we walked in the Mausolem room, there were two guards in the front of a glass enclosed room. In front of the room was two fire extinguishers. Guess somebody tried to set this place on fire at one time. In the glass room was another glass case with Mr. Mao laying down, an eerie orange light glowing down on his face and a red flag with a sickle and hammer laying over the casket. As I looked closely at the face, I recognized it had to be a fake. I’ve been to wax museums before, and if this body has been preserved for 35 years, his face would most definitely be sagging a lot more. It was a weird scene.

My sister and I concluded that it couldn’t of been the real Mao under the casket. And if that were true, then WHY is China deceiving all these millions of chinese that come in every year to see his body?? Deception is a part of life here in this country, but I didn’t think it would be on this scale.

Maybe it’s an ideal to live up to, maybe it’s to continue to have his legacy live on. Maybe it’s to keep the powers that be in power, and keep a nation intact. I’m sorry, but I don’t have the highest respect for this man after reading my history. Is my history true? Please comment~

I think it would be difficult to allow this Mausoleum removed, though the mausoleum does say it is a place to honor former leaders of China. Who knows? Maybe someone else will replace Mao in time.

I think I will ask some locals what they think of Mao yesterday and today. What about the youth? This still is a communist nation with secret police, so I’ll be sensitive. But this nation is changing and in a way “awakening.”

Ciao for now~

The Great What?

In Travel on April 14, 2011 at 4:07 am

Well Day 4 here in Beijing, and it was time to see The GREAT WALL.

Wedding picture on Great Wall

Contrary to popular belief, the Wall cannot be seen from space. This was confirmed by Chinese Astronaut Yang Liwei in 2003.

The Wall stretches out for some 5000 kilometres, and kept most armies out from the North. Especially those barbaric Mongols. Now today, there are multiple areas one can visit the wall at. Yesterday, My sister and I decided to go to the Mutianyu location. We met at a local hostel, was provided with a choice of either Swiss or American breakfast, (we chose the swiss, which included muesli, toast, butter, jam and a cheese slice. some scrambled eggs too) and jumped on a chartered bus, capacity 20 to head to The GREAT WALL.

It was a pleasant drive for most of the way. Some horn honking, which is a bit more commonplace than say, New York city, traffic in this city is pretty all over the place. While it isn’t the most craziest driving I have participated in, it is not as linear and straight as the United States is. Lots of bike, taxis, buses, carts, bicycle carts, pedestrians, scooters. Go when you can, watch out.

I will post pictures, very soon, but the Wall was great. We hiked on and around it for a couple hours and enjoyed reading about its history. The views were nice as we were in a mountainous area. I recommend each person to see this wall at least once in life, maybe twice like me. :)

Many many people from all over the world congregated here. I heard Portuguese, French, English, Aussie English, German, Dutch, Fillipino, Japanese, italian etc. It was neat to experience a unique part of the world with all these different cultures.

As I surveyed the wall again for the second time in life, I was reminded of what I truly find beautiful in this world. While visiting the Pyramids, Taj Mahal and Great wall were all a pleasure to see and to appreciate how humans built such structures at periods of our history, they don’t give me that feeling of Wow, this is amazing as much as say, a waterfall, an ocean, mountain, forest or animals in the wild might.

It is something to visit this wall. To think that it was built over hundreds of years. For what? To keep others out. Many people died building this wall and i’m sure many died trying to scale this wall. It is an important part of history and how life was in this time.

In future travels, I see myself seeking out natural wonders of the world, and hopefully participating (from a distance) some of the unique migrations of animals that take place. There is so much to see…

Pictures will come! I promise!

Sunrise on the Jinshanling Great Wall

Much Love, thank you for praying~

Louboutins and the Art of bargaining

In Travel on April 12, 2011 at 10:09 pm

Shoes shoes shoes, and purses, wallets, belts, shirts, more wallets, purses, shoes, shoes, shoes and some sunglasses. Welcome to the Silk Market!

Christian Louboutin shoes

Welcome to China, land of the “knock off” designer brands. The real stuff is made here, and so through the connections of people and so forth, very VERY similar styles are created. It is amazing how close they look, and for a fraction of the price (think 1/40) then you can score some very stylish get ups. My sister couldn’t wait, she jumped in and I assisted her as a good big brother experienced in the “art of bargaining.”

I’ve been to markets all over the world, my first experience in bargaining was found in Mazatlan, Mexico back in 1995. Since then I have bartered in the Caribbean, India, Egypt and China. This market for those who know bargaining I would rate on a scale as a 6.5~

The chinese weren’t overly aggressive and would be quiet if you weren’t interested and you can get a good bargain. I drove hard bargains all over, typing in numbers on calculators and playing the game. My sister, being a first timer to bargaining, was blown away at the whole escapade of the bargain and how crazy people can get. The Market!

We had a successful day of shopping, and picked up some purses and shoes. While I would of advised not to acquire so much in the beginning of a trip, it’s not too much of a hassle and it’s not like we’re backpacking around mountains or anything.

Today we go to the GREAT WALL. It’s a little after 6am and we’re off soon and then a train to XI’AN.

Much love~

Shawn

Running around with Charissa

In Personal Update on April 11, 2011 at 9:40 am

Map of Subway in Beijing~ If you’re in the city, it’s a convenient way to get around.
      Beijing subway map

Running around with Charissa, my sis. I picked her up at the airport yesterday and already we are having a ton of fun running around the city.

Last night we had some amazing grilled lamb that was done right in front of us at our table. Similar to the korean style of cooking, we had a myriad of different lamb cooked at our table by an assistant. The grill got replace after every course of lamb, of which there were five, and we walked out paying a whopping bill of $15 USD. This meal would probably be around $50 in the states.

We went to bed early and woke up early, right around 530 this morning, ready to tour the city. First stop, Tiananmen Square. Already by the time we arrived, there were many tour groups of Chinese, but we were the only foreigners. Many citizens of China come to Tiananmen as a sort of pilgrimage. Similar to how many US citizens would visit Washington DC. I saw some elderly Chinese walk around in reverence as my sister and I enjoyed the warm sunny morning taking photos of the spectacle.

We were keen to see the embalmed body of Mao, which I don’t know is for real or not, but we have to wait as it was closed on Monday. We opted to walk around the southern part of Tiananmen through some alleys, pick up some Chinese donuts and then make our way to the Forbidden city.

This is my second time to the Forbidden city, and I forgot just how massive this palace is. It is pretty crazy to think that this city existed for 500 years, never being invaded or infiltrated. Looking how high the walls were, it would be humanly impossible to scale. At least 50 feet high.

It is a beautiful sight. To see the intricate decor and engineering put into this palace is amazing. One can lose sight of the detail in the midst of hundreds of tourists in the courts, but it is there.

We trekked though, and made it to the park beyond the palace where we caught a very nice view of Beijing and the city. The markets got our attention after the park, we enjoyed some japanese fare for half the fare you would pay in the states, and saw some neat artists, vendors and culinary items (think snake and scorpion) for sale. Charissa got a Louis Vutton purse wallet for $10 that looks exactly like the real one that goes for $600. I almost bought a shirt that is digital in that it lights up to music beats. I think I will get one.

Beijing Beijing. The city has changed and maybe all of China has changed. It is definitely more expressive than in 2002 when I was here last. More variety of hairstyles, fashion and what is “cool.”

I remember being hounded all the time as a foreigner and wanting my picture taken back in ’02. But it seems like locals don’t care too much as they are familiar with foreigners. Everything changed after the Olympics. I have yet to still see the Birds nest stadium. I’ll make it up there soon.

Things are good, no one is sick or jetlagged. It is a smooth transition. Even though I am halfway across the world, it doesn’t really seem that far. I guess when you hear Justin Bieber in the restaurant and Gaga ringtones in the bank, it almost doesn’t feel like you’re so far from home. Plus, every chinese loves to wear some form of clothing that has some english on it, whether the english makes sense or not. I guess it looks cool to them as opposed to the characters they are familiar with in their script. But this isn’t that big of a surprise to me, I saw this all over 10 years ago too.

What is more is individual expression. What is less is, the china of old, the communist garb worn by everyone in the old days. A few old timers still rock the garb though. If it was all you were used to, why change now? :)

I’ll try to post some pictures soon.

Ciao

Shawn

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