Sunday, September 10, 2006

Beijing #3

48 hours in a strange city and it starts to feel like home: Navigating the subway's a snap. Landmarks start being familiar. Even the nasal singsong speech begins to sound normal.

The city is different from my first impressions. It stretches on out forever, with medium and highrises, all at least newish, neither too plain nor too fancy, neither invigorating nor depressing. Amazing how far a country can get selling the world cheap clothing and outdoor swing sets.

Foreigners are a tiny minority, but there are still far more than I would have imagined. Surprisingly, especially given the sorts of places where I usually end up, the largest subgroup seems to be American.

Speaking of which, it's when you get outside of the US of A that you realize what a pathetic paranoid delusion our fixation on 'terrorism' is. After all, I recall a statistician pointing out that, even factoring in 9/11, one has a greater risk of being killed by an asteroid. The rest of the world's people seem to have figured that out; baffling that we can't.

Then there's our fixation on 'democracy' and 'freedom', especially ironic considering that these days we have one of the most dysfunctional governments in the world. There's no way you could guess walking down the street that present day China is 'communist', and I don't see any of the people here looking any more oppressed or any less individualistic than anyone back home.

Well, enough about politics. One of the great things about hitting the foreign road is that you don't have to see the American news, or any of the other news, either, and somehow you're still able to function...

Today we decided to spend Sunday in the park. Specifically, we headed out to the Summer Palace, which these days is a large city park with an even larger manmade lake about 8 miles from downtown. You're told to avoid the weekends and the large crowds, but we thought it would be more enjoyable to enjoy it all with the natives.

So we walked around through even more pagoda roofed pavilions, took boats across the lake, sat on park benches, and ate snacks.

Then we turned around and found our way back. A stop at the market to stock up on food for the next couple of days, and then upstairs to an early bed.


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