March 10, 2007

Day 19 :: Notes on Beijing

Day 19 - Beijing

- What fortune. We arrive in Beijing the same week as the Chinese New Year. Besides the festivals and bonus attractions, the constant fireworks are what really makes it special to be here. Literally, day and night, fireworks (big and small) are being set off by locals all over the city. It's quite a trip to hear firecrackers all day long. (Sometimes I imagine we're in Sarajevo while it was under siege in the late 90's.) The exploding firecrackers are a sign of forgetting the past and welcoming in the new. I say bombs away.

- Nothing like a 5 star hotel, right? Well, not exactly in Beijing. An unusually large number of hotels here are a 5 star - because their actually is no standard for the rating. A room with a hole in the ground for a toilet? 5 Star. Hot water for four hours a day? 5 star. I keep thinking about the rich couple who come here for the olympics and end up squatting to go to the bathroom. Oh, the joy.

- The best thing about Beijing? Bike lanes. Every non-expressway road has bike lanes designed only for bikes and scooters. How's that for being accommodating? For the first time in China, we cycled without fear.

- It's hard to imagine that for two weeks next summer the world will be thinking about Beijing every day. The arrival of the Olympics will change any city, but maybe not as much as it is changing Beijing. Taxi Drivers are learning basic English. Factories are being shut down for the sake of the environment. Historic sites are being renovated. New subway lines are popping up all over the city. New signs that include English are being put up every day. Even new laws are being passed. Get this - In light of the Olympics, it is now illegal to give bad customer service in China.

- And finally, it takes Kari twenty minutes to use the bathroom. And not because the lines are so long. No, lines don't exist here. It's push, it's shove, it's do whatever it takes to squat and go. And when you add the fact that Kari is small and white, well, it's like she has a sign on her back that reads, "Don't mind me. I'm just here for the ambiance."

A few more photos can be seen here.


kerry said...

Hey, Josh and Kari, thanks for doing a great job posting the photography and stories. It's fun keeping up with your trip!

Josh&EmStokes said...

Great blog Man!! I love all the insights into the culture. Makes me feel like I understand what you guys are going through. Keep it up.

Dad said...

Wow - would love to be there to share a bit of your world for the week.

Missing you heaps - love you so much!


David Drury said...

loving the videos!

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