Sunday, August 13, 2006

Here and there

I'm sitting in an internet cafe typing this out. All the links are in Chinese. I'm just guessing and going from habbit.

I was up at 4:45 this morning to see the flag raising ceremony in Tienanment Square. At the crack of dawn a group of soldiers march out of the Forbidden City to raise the Chinese flag. I thought I was getting there early to grab a good vantage point. By 5 am there were probably a thousand people waiting at the barriers. This is where being a tall foreigner in China comes in handy. I just peered over all the heads. THe soldiers march out in perfect unison at 108 paces per minutes, with 75 cm per pace. The flag went up, they blasted the national anthem out of speakers located all across the square and then it was over.

I'd decided to change hotels to save some cash. After all the "service charges" the old hotel was getting too pricey for me at around $140. Then I got my bill for a small load of laundry they did for me. 50 bucks!!! anyway, through expedia i found a place half the price in a more sterile location west of Tienanment. The upside is it's actually a one bedroom apartment, with a kitchen and washing machine!! And a pool to boot. I walked over and checked in, then went back to my old hotel and grabbed my stuff. That's when I found out the Internet in the new hotel doesn't work with my computer for some reason. (Hense the Internet cafe.) With a cheaper hotel comes an equivilently lower level of English among the staff. How do you say "I need a proxy address" in Chinese? I'm able to Skype out, but not surf the web. Hopefully it'll get fixed tomorrow when the "engineer" comes to work.

Rather than waste time at the hotel I hit the road and decided to check out a weekend market I'd read about. Of course, I forgot my travel guide and map in the hotel, so I had to go by memory. I actually remembered a short series of Chinese characters from the book and when I saw them at the right subway station I knew I was on track. I grabbed a bus that looked like it was going the way I wanted to go. (A single bus ride here is 1 yuan, or 14 cents.) After a longer ride than I'd expected we passed the market so I hopped off to go and hone my pathetic bargaining skills. There were all kinds of knick knacks, a lot of it passed of as antiques. There are company's in China that create counterfeit antiquities, like Chinese coins, vases and figurines, complete with cracks and scuff marks, like when jean companies started pre-fading jeans. That seems wierd to me. I bought a few souvenirs. probably paid too much but it's all relative.

I needed to get some stuff from my e-mail account like numbers and such, so I set out in search of an Internet cafe. My travel guide had warned me that most Internet places have been shut down in Beijing. No kidding. I grabbed taxis and went from place to place, only to find empty spaces where buildings had once been. Then a Beijing monsoon started, or it feels like it. The Chinese are so entrepreneurial. On hot days they hawk ice cream bars (don't ask me how they keep them from melting when all they have them in is an open box) and water. Then the second the rain falls, they switch merchandise and it's umbrellas and rain coats.

While jumping puddles I saw a barber shop. I've been getting kind of shaggy because my sheers won't work over here. I got a cut, which if I think about it was probably my first professional trim since high school. I forgot how great it feels to have a stranger wash my, my scalp. I got them to use the zero setting on the clippers. That really got 'em excited. Eight employees gathered around my chair to watch. Hair cut: 40 yuan or about $6.

I asked them about an internet cafe by miming someone typing on a keyboard and they pointed me here. Nice place. Serves beer. Some cool Chinese songs playing. But there won't be any pics until I get my laptop hooked up.

Tomorrow I'm going to visit the Great Wall. Very stoked about that.
All for now, ciao.

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