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Published: August 12th 2007
You gotta have a picture of ths . . .
I've unfortunately had to come back to this blog retrospectively, so I will do the best to recant what we did. This is also before the time of my digital camera and so photos have to be scanned, I will do my best to make this happen.
As the title vaguely alludes, this blog will focus on Jennifer's visit in December of 2000 and January of 2001 to China when I was living in Beijing since September 2000, studying Mandarin at UIBE in Chaoyang District (among other things).
This is the only time I was in Beijing that was not covered by the hundreds of pages I wrote in my paper journals during the six months that I was there, so I'd like to do my best to tell the story of a time that might not be so long ago but will describe a China very different than the one that exists even a few years later. I've read other bloggers on here essentially relate that Africa is where you can expect the unexpected and the more ridiculous it is, the more likely it is to happen there. China in 1999-2000 was not quite there anymore generally-speaking (though
On the first day of Jennifer's visit we went to the cradle of Chinese communism . . . er . . . if you really believe China is communist.
the French Expa-terrestres told different stories of the countryside), but there were still some interesting experiences to be had and these will be less and less prevalent.
I lived in a freshly constructed 5-story housing block designed essentially for foreign students. When I say something about China I always mean it in the frankest sense, meaning that for most of the time that I lived in this building it was still under construction, my roommate Stefan and I being woken to the sound of tractors too many mornings. Fortunately at the end of the first semester Stefan had gone off with Marcus on an exploration of China by train which I regrettably did not join them, first because Jennifer was coming to visit and second because I intended to complete an internship with the now-defunct Strategic Intelligence in their recently formed Beijing office. This group was established out of Singapore by ex-Economist Intelligence Unit managers to provide Advisory and Research services to deep-pocketed multi-nationals. This was the time of mobile network breakthroughs and this was the topic of conversation during most of the month's time that I was at this business. The progressive nature of the evolution
The Emperor has lost his yellow garments, but has nonetheless allowed himself to be photographed in front of the palace's gates . . .
of this building would lead to an interesting coincidence on the very night that Jennifer and I would be returning from the airport . . . more on that later.
The Impermanence Anecdote
My favorite anecdote from living in China comes on the day that Jennifer was set to arrive in Beijing. I had prepared everything and was fresh off of the visit of Kathleen and Heather a couple of weeks before and now everyone was back in their home countries so it was going to be nice to at the very least see someone familiar - China can be a very lonely place! My Christmas had consisted the previous week of a celebration with the French who did not go back home at Sophie and Hakan's apartment which was very nice. We all did Secret Santas, I giving away a bottle of French wine from Carrefour (very prized in my mind) and receiving I am not sure what, but it was not wine.
On my way to grab a taxi I decided to stop by the flower shops that lined the Chinese-Japanese Friendship Hospital immediately south of my school only to discover that what I had
Wan Li Chang Cheng
This was the third location Manny visited (the first and only for Jennifer). Juyongguan is a major fortified pass in the wall and was of course extraordinary under the snow fall.
just walked past the night before had been levelled completely to the ground with only a trace of foundations remaining. In the matter of half a day they had cleaned every flower shop out without a trace of their departure in the name of progress (still not sure what that progress was). I spoke Chinese quite well at this time and there had been no previous indication that these dozen or so little shops would be going by the wayside and something tells me the shop owners didn't know with much more warning than I discovered it myself. That's China. It's not communist, that's the biggest fallacy that Americans (especially) believe; it's just the Chinese way. Without apologizing for some unsavory rulers in China's past as well as contemporary, this is simply a means of dealing with a large population and getting things done. Sadly the Middle Kingdom has been one of the world's greatest civilizations and suffered for its peace and prosperity at the hands of unscrupulous foreigners from the Japanese to the Manchurians and the Huns to the western powers of the Opium Wars. So I at least partially forgive the culture
for its way of thinking as
Yonghegong Lama Temple
On the way to the city center from UIBE, this was arguably the closest famous classical structure to the campus and a first stop for guests, even before Tiananmen Square.
history has not rewarded it for the other options it has attempted. I am still sad I was not able to get my flowers though.
I still want to tell the story about our night out in Sanlitun drinking a street vendors one-room home/store as well as our barring from entering my housing block the first night after a new fence had been erected (also without notice) and we had to go crash at Sophie's friend's apartment.
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