The adventures of Bill in Beijing…
Not sure how to have descriptions for each photo, so figure that detail out for yourself.
This is the main plaza in my village and sort of ‘connects’ all the little sections together. Every morning dozens, sometimes hundreds, of people gather to do Tai Chi. I’ll often make some tea (it’s China, tea is a thing) and open the window to hear the music. They play music, classical Chinese flute arrangements (I believe Ming Dynasty arrangements are considered the cream of the crop) while they do Tai Chi. I’ve thought about joining them, but they are all synchronized and I wouldn’t know what I was doing. Plus, you know, it’s really god damn cold at 7am in January.
Say hi to Vinnie! He told me his real name, but I’m pretty sure it’s biologically impossible for an American to pronounce, so I went with Vinnie because I used to get bread in South Philly from a Vinnie. In the morning, between say 6am and 8am, there’s an entire micro business community that exists. They set up stalls, news stands, even make shift kitchens (some with small tents) to serve the early morning crowd. It ‘opens’ every morning and completely disappears by around 8am-ish. Vinnie here, he makes me my morning bread. He lays out dough and slices off sections he twists in the air (like the Chinese version of spinning pizza dough), tosses it into a giant wok and 90 seconds later it’s done. It’s about a foot and a half long and between a croissant and funnel cake in both how flakey it is and how sweet it is. The first time he charged me 3 RMB, probably figuring I was a tourist. Then it was 2 RMB. Now it’s 1.5 RMB. For those keeping score at home, $1 converts into 6.5 RMB. My morning bread cost me something like a quarter.
A block away, as we head to the tube, we stop by the McDonald’s rip-off (they have real ones too, and damn they’re really nice inside) for some mystery fried meat! Depending on who’s working, you can point to some fried meat of some sort and nod to indicate you want to know what it is. With completely unsmooth body language and a pause, someone obviously thinking of an appropriate animal to tell you says it’s beef, or chicken, in Chinese. One morning someone says it’s beef. A different morning and a different employee says it’s chicken. What is it really? Who the hell knows, but it’s fried so it’s good.
The important thing is we have the necessities: food, something to drink, passport, phone, wallet, monopoly looking money, camera, and a roll of toilet paper (oh boy, we’ll discuss that later). Yeah, you carry a bag in Beijing.
We’re off to see the sights!