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15 June 2005
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KLB - Beijing (3)



I've had three misconceptions about Beijing already:

1. Internet. I thought it sucked. Wrong. It was my friend's 5-year-old Mac that was the problem. I've got my computer running now and the net is fast, pretty much as fast as in Korea. Still, it's a serious bummer that I can't see a lot of sites blocked by the government...

2. Pollution. The day I got here, the temperature was in the mid 90s and the sky was a strange white color. Stifling and depressing. I figured it must always be the same. Well, over the last few days it rained a little, a cool front came in and tonight I saw the prettiest sky I've seen in 5 years. Pics to come. Everything just cleared right up and it's like I'm in the middle of American countryside - except for the gigantic apartment complexes, wait until you see.

3. Dangerous. It seemed awful seedy when I first arrived. Hanging out with Jake, who I must say can speak Chinese far better than I ever imagined (he argued on the phone today for 30 minutes with his internet company) I got to realize it really isn't so bad. In a year and four months, Jake has never once been in a fight or robbed or in any trouble. Jake said the Chinese go to jail for fighting, maybe up to 5 years if they fight or otherwise harm a foreigner, so they don't bother him. Still, I haven't seen a single police officer myself. Wish they would enforce the traffic laws. The streets are crazy and dangerous to cross.

I've been having a blast, to be honest. In addition to just relaxing when my friend is at work, exercising, studying Chinese and Japanese, playing a lot of guitar, I've also been experiencing Beijing, China every night! It really pays to have a friend who can speak the language and who has been here for over a year. I'm not much into touristy places. Seriously, I've been happy just diving right into the local life. That's where the real experiences are anyway. So, I'm living like the Chinese do. Well, like the Chinese who aren't poor do, that is. Or like the Koreans who live around here making their riches off the Chinese. They're kind of snobby, says Jake.

There are construction workers working next door 16 hours a day or more on some new building and they live like slaves in "worker housing" with no running water. They make, according to Jake, about $50-$100 a month. They look damn haggard and tired when you pass them on the street. Really makes you think about how lucky you have it, in comparison. That's why I never fret about taking it easy in life and living like I want, working when I want, etc, because I am lucky enough to be able to live as I want, thank you America. I've been watching them and feeling a lot of pity but also appreciative for what I have and happy that I never had to suffer, nor chose to make myself suffer when I didn't have to just because everyone around me thought that's how you make it. You know what, I'm doing just fine in life. I'm the luckiest and happiest person I know right now. I'm very rarely depressed, compared to how often I felt miserable in America, ironically, going to work feeling like a schmuck in an office every day.

It takes a first hand look at real destitution to realize I have everything I want, everything I need, and, don't forget, chances - always chances. A lot of people in this world have no chances - or they buried their chances without realizing they even had them at all. I have so many chances, and for that I am truly grateful. That's why I can't denounce my country entirely, though I despise Americanism and most of what comes with that. We are given a lot of chances, no doubt about it, back there, lots of chances to get out and see the world, and that's where we are lucky. If you're Chinese you can't get out of China, unless you're rich or have connections. If you're a Chinese man, you really have to suffer. You don't have to as an American, that is, if you use your head a little.

Anyway, as for the "rich" American - I've had some excellent local cuisine including authentic Kung Pao chicken, some kind of delicious carp (who ever thought carp would taste delicious!) lamb on a stick (sounds gross but it's just as good - if not better than chicken on a stick) and shrimp and broccoli stir-fry which I made myself. A big bag of shrimp only cost me around $2.50. Eating here is dirt cheap, especially if you eat street food.

I had a lot of pics to go along with this post, but I just got connected today with the internet and now I'm getting tired. I just wanted to get this update out there for now to let you know how I'm making out here in China. Well, so far I love it. Stay tuned. There is so much to write about.

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