The Long City Beneath My Feet

The last few weeks have been busy, hot and fun.  I am quite tied up on weeknights with Chinese lessons on Monday and Wednesday and the new Beijing Debate Society meetings on Thursdays.  Tonight is our inaugural beyond-the-core-members debate.  This leaves Tuesday as my only “free” night, and it is usually packed with whatever I can’t fit in elsewhere during the week.

I went to Hangzhou a few weekends ago with Jon, Sara, Jerry and Richard for an AIESEC reception weekend.  It was a lot of fun and Hangzhou is beautiful, but the barbecue the LC threw for us on Sunday made us all ill.  I find that the longer I am in Asia, the more resilient my stomach becomes to these incidents.  If had this food when I first arrived, I would have been bedridden for a week.  Now it is just an uncomfortable inconvenience.

Jeff and his buddy Kyle came over from Seoul to visit me for several days in the latter half of last week.  They arrived Wednesday evening and left Sunday morning.  Amid gorging ourselves on delicious Da Dong duck and wandering the hutongs of this mysterious city, our best day was Thursday, when we hiked 12km on the Great Wall from the Simatai section to the Jinshanling section.

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This required getting in the car at 06:30, and Charles and Kathy were kind enough to drive us all the two hours it took to get there.  But why would they drive all the way up there for us?  Perhaps because when we descended from Jinshanling, we changed from our sweaty shirts into the clean alternatives we had packed and headed into TEDxGreatWall.  This was the first TED(x) event I had ever attended.  I have to say that the talks were somewhat lackluster in comparison to the ones online for the official TED event, but hanging out on the Wall afterward, drinking champagne and watching the sunset before eating a nice dinner and jumping over a fire was quite nice.  And free.  Many thanks to James for letting me know about the event.

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Part of the TEDxGreatWall event on the Wall itself, just before the sunset, was to ponder and record either a map or a haiku about where we are with our personal walls.  I came up with this, related directly to my anxiety about finding a job in DC:

A sea of ideas

My ship is seeking dry land

When will Spring begin?

On Tuesday evening, Adam organized a gathering to eat local, non-“restaurant” food in a hutong alley, just to hang out and enjoy some food and beers and to contribute money directly to locals.  The hutong we visited wound up being the most “authentic” hutong I have seen in Beijing.  It is long and bustling and full of Chinese people eating and selling and drinking, and there is not even so much as a print ad for something foreign, much less any McDonald’s or restored areas.  Even more amazing, it is just north of the wall of the Temple of Heaven park, and just south of a subway station.  How has this place not been Qianmen-ified?  If you ever come to Beijing, do give Ciqikou in Chongwen district a fair shake one evening when you feel like ambling with no purpose but to fill your eyes and your belly.

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Preston

Agent of Change, Former of Entropy, Seeker of a Stateless World.

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