27 April 2005

Chapter One: Everyone, Let's spit!

Dear All-

Ni HAO! A big hello to everyone from China! I just arrived here
three days ago after taking the ferry from Japan. Literally, the slow
boat to China. First impressions- what's with all the spitting? But
besides that, it is freaking awesome! I love this place. After the
reserved nature of the Japanese, the Chinese seem positively insane in
their screaming at each other, pushing to get on the bus and butting
right in front of me to buy a train ticket. Day one in China I almost
get punched in the face trying to buy a train ticket when I blocked
this guy who was trying to cut in front of me. Cultural understanding
is good and all, but I had already waited in line for an hour. Two
more minutes was longer than I was willing to wait. That said, the
Chinese are really helpful, and for the most part friendly and always
laughing at things (might be laughing at me, but to be honest,
watching me charade "I want noodles" is pretty damn funny).

The first day we went to see the forbidden city, which is where the
emperor spent his days with his concubines being the son of heaven.
Also walked through Tienamen Square (I am sure that is not spelled
right), with Mao's mausoleum in the center, bordered by The Communist
Party headquarters and the People's Hall on the other, all constructed
in the socialist style of "we like concrete a lot". It is pretty
impressive, and I cannot imagine the number of students it must have
taken to fill it. The next day we went out to the suburbs to the
summer palace, where the emperor and his empress went when being the
son of heaven just got to be too much work. It is set on a gorgeous
lake in the first mountains outside of Beijing, and we did a lot of
climbing and then laying down panting after the climbing. The bus ride
was long, but the Summer Palace was worth it. Today I have been
riding my rented bicycle around Beijing trying to understand what it
would be like to live here and enjoying the benefits of the People's
Republic of China. For example, I ate many delicious things, such as
the People's Steamed Dumplings, and tried the People's Pineapple Beer.
I also biked down the People's Bike Lanes with many of the people
themselves. One of the fun parts of being in a communist nation is
using their own propaganda: try it. Just add "the People's" in front
of anything and it becomes more fun. "The People's Can Opener"
Doesn't that just bring to mind how much that can opener had to do to
liberate itself from being the blood that oils the capitalist machine?
But I digress.

Tomorrow we are leaving Beijing and going up north about two hours to
hike along The People's Great Wall of China (I'll stop now.). We are
going to do some hiking on the wall, and hopefully camp in one of the
watch towers and spend the night guarding china against the Mongols.
actually, the Mongols have better food, so they are welcome under my
watch. It should be amazing to watch the sunrise from the top of the
wall! The next day we are hiking down and traveling back to Beijing
and then catching a night train to Pingyao (also incorrectly spelled I
am sure). It is one of the last well preserved Han towns in China,
looking much the same way it did two hundred years ago. Then we are
going onto Xi'an to see the terra cotta warriors.

Sorry about the mass email- please excuse the impersonalness of it
all- its just the only way I can talk to everyone at once. Hope to
hear from you soon!


Beijing Central Station
Doors are the heart of a nation. Or something.

Communism? Yes, but that doesn't mean we gets no ice cream.

Careful, careful.... I think that one is misspelled.

Little do you know there are 235,000 people in this picture.