Sunday, December 31, 2006

Beijing - Dec. 28, 10:24 pm

When I turned nine, my parents had a big party for me. I think it was at their restaurant in the City, but I’m not really sure. What I do remember, and what I’m here to write about, is how I felt afterwards. That was probably the first time in my life that I had food poisoning. I woke up in the middle of the night with the chills. No matter how many blankets or sweaters or pairs of socks I put on, I could not get warm. And then the nausea hit, rolling around my full belly like a snake slowly swallowing and digesting prey ten times its size. Finally, sweet, sweet, relief came in the form of me running hurriedly to the bathroom and depositing a clump of undigested food in the sink. I don’t remember who cleaned it up, but I went back to bed and finally fell sound asleep.

Well, here I am, my first night in China, and I am similarly afflicted as I was when I was in third grade. Only this time, instead of waiting in bed for the illness to be too powerful to hold down, I am systematically shoving my finger down my throat trying to dislodge whatever is unholy in my belly. My last deposit was pretty good and I’m hoping I’m done. In any event, as I’m nursing this Mirinda orange soda (the closest thing to ginger ale in the mini bar), I’m lucid enough to write this blog...

...which I won’t post for about another week. That earthquake that hit Taiwan on Dec. 26 knocked out the T1 connection so it’s nearly impossible to get online. Not that this hotel room has a connection, but I tried from the “Business Center” downstairs. Anyway, I’m not complaining. People died in that earthquake, even if there was, thankfully, no tsunami.

Besides the devil’s baby inside me, I’m having a fantastic time. Today, after landing at 5:45am local time, going through customs and checking in to our hotel, I managed to walk around the neighborhood. I saw the train station, evaded yet still stepped in countless loogies, was pushed and shoved by many of my people, and went into a few shops but quickly left after being hovered over and followed as soon as I stepped foot inside. Then we had lunch (which I think was when I swallowed Satan’s spawn), then we walked for a few hours in the frigid air around Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

Oh my God. Tiananmen Square was this vast, paved space teeming with tourists and people trying to make money off of tourists, including government sanctioned souvenir and concession vendors. Then there were the soldiers standing guard, freezing their asses off, bearing very loud and staticky walkie-talkies. I took lots of pictures and will let them speak for themselves.** And of course, there was no mention of the protests and massacres in 1989, and that famous picture of the lone yet powerful person facing off against a tank. But it was in our minds.

Then we went through an underground passage, so we didn’t have to ford what seemed like 14 lanes of traffic, and came out in front of Mao’s portrait in front of the south gate to the Forbidden City. Again, I will let the pictures speak for themselves.** But I MUST see The Last Emperor when I get home.

OK, I think I feel fatigue setting in again, and since it’s a calm amidst the storm, I think I will try to rest.


** Because of the wonky internet connection, I will have to post the pics at a later time. I will post a few for the time being.

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