Saturday, July 14, 2007

I forgot to mention my quick jaunt thru Beijing-

Beijing, by the way was great. Very crowed, very bustling. I'd say it offers some serious competition to NYC. I arrived in mid afternoon and transited overnight there after my 13.5 flight from Newark. Determined to see more than my hotel lobby, I ventured out into the city for the few precious hours I had. I stayed pretty close to the city center and felt extremely safe. I stopped by a small art exhibition and learned about calligraphy art and rice paper, saw three versions of "the four seasons," and tons of drawings of horses! Since I was born the "year of the horse" I'm well versed in how lucky the horse is meant to be. Adjacent to the exhibit, at about 6pm, the steps of the Catholic Church were filled with skate boarders and crowds watching, and at midnight the streets were still full. They have a snack market that lines the streets from about 8pm onwards and instead of pretzels, cotton candy and hotdogs- they have dumplings, fruit kabobs, noodles, every other kebab you can imagine and stall after stall of vendors selling Chinese trinkets. (People could not understand why I couldn't be persuaded to by a fan or a jade budda!). Like Canal Street in NewYork there were tons of fake Gucci, "prados," coach bag. The vendors thought I was crazy when I said I would only consider buying a non-designer purse WITHOUT any labels. I think it was the first time they heard such a request!

Ironically MANY people have complimented me on my "Men in Black" watch. I don't even know if they wore watches in that movie, but basically the day before I left the city I realized I didn't have a watch or my travel alarm clock. I picked up a massive rubber strapped digital watch with a huge face and an alarm clock that was sitting at a store near my office, about 70 percent off—calling my name. It looks like it does a lot more than I'll ever know -perhaps transmitting messages to the aliens. Thanks to Jesse, our outreach coordinator, in about 2 minutes he figured out how to use it and 30 seconds later I learned how to work the alarm clock. Lucky for me the time difference between NYC and Mongolia is exactly 12 hours so the time is still correct! Anyway- the watch is a BIG hit here, and apparently I'm on the cutting edge of fashion. Ha!

I made it to Tiananmen Sqaure just as they were taking the flag down at sunset. As you walk down the road, the classic black and white street suddenly transforms to walls of deep red. It very powerful to see the crowds of people and I felt an air of freedom. The Forbidden City closed at 3pm, so I only was able to see the outside. The gardens surrounding the city and square were beautiful as you'll see in the pictures. I never used to bother walking through Boston Common and I rarely spend time in Central Park, but I longed to have a couple more hours to spend in the Emperors garden. It funny how easy it is to take for granted the parks and historic landmarks we have access to daily. BTW, a historical moment: I passed "Mango" at the Oriental Plaza en route to Tiananmen and I kept walking. I missed the Mozart Museum once; I wasn't going to risk missing the Square!

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