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Robert: Snakes and a plane…

December 20, 2009

…And then I was done.  We had a round-up of all our host families, teachers, and friends before flying to Beijing.  A really great meal with a little bit of talent show to it, Napoleon-Dynamite-esque tai-chi-qian performance (which includes a broadsword), and an erhu performance by yours truly.  As long as folks still love their revolution-era folk songs, I will continue to play the hits.

Unfortunately, I was on day two of trying to expedite a lower-respiratory infection vis-à-vis amoxicillin.  It worked faster on my intestinal bacteria than my esophagus, and I spent most of the late night hovering over the sink in my bathroom– an inevitability that I had managed to skirt the entire time I’ve been here.  So, after sleeping for about three fragmented hours, we boarded our plane to Beijing, crossing the tarmac as the sun came up.  I spent the rest of the day on a plane, in the Beijing airport waiting for Ellen’s flight to come in, or in traffic in Beijing.  For better or worse, it’s really hard to find strawberry yogurt at the airport, so I had something to occupy my time as I hobbled through the terminal.

https://i0.wp.com/www.robertskoro.com/wp-content/gallery/beijing-etc/IMG_2598.jpgBeijing had a little subdued feeling to it, consequently.  We hit all the major attractions:  the Great Wall, Summer Palace, Tiananmen, and the Temple of Heaven.  The experiences themselves are definitely variations on a theme (Center of the world!), dumbed down by the constant encroachment of personal space by hawkers. After a couple days, my stomach and Ellen’s jet lag subsided and we had one epic day of traversing the expanse of Beijing to troll through panjiayuan and the pearl market for gifts to take home, a slightly ostentatious meal at a Uighur restaurant, complete with giant vases of beer and a belly dancer with a snake– never mind that Xinjiang is home to the largest Muslim population in China.  This was followed by a trip to a mall-sized club that left nothing to be desired if you like American Top-40 from 2002.

My friend Danny accompanied us prior to the absurdity that was our club experience.  Smart enough to know better than to put himself in a situation where one must choose between inane dance clubs called Mix and Vicks, Danny is in Beijing on a one-year contract working for China Radio International, China’s answer (figuratively and literally) to the BBC.  This is an ambitious undertaking for a radio station in China, considering the difficulty your average Chinese person has getting a visa to leave the country.  God bless copy + paste, I guess.  Thankfully Danny just showed up with 1.5 terrabytes of everything from Soul to New Wave to everything/anything Pitchfork would get behind, ready to alleviate the youths of this culturally sheltered nation from the incessant flow of horrendous/obscene/driveling/inescapable shit that they call popular music here.  Seriously, it’s that bad.  If I ever go on a murderous rampage, it will be to Chinese Pop, blaring through my headphones.  Thankfully the man has a pretty impenetrable attitude and twice the square footage of any Chinese person’s apartment in his danwei.  He can manage a year.

Yesterday I said goodbye to all my classmates and ended my participation in a truly collegiate lifestyle (I am an anthropologist, after all).  Back to trying to be an adult.  I had a wonderful time getting to know my classmates this semester, and look forward to seeing them in the future.  Some of them are going to do really amazing, amazing things in the near future– everything from pilgrimages to Nepal to translating for the CIA to continuing to listen to Afroman in Ohio.  I look forward to seeing you down the road.

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