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Out of sequence: a post from Beijing posted in Great Barrington

Bad blogging practice but sometimes it takes me a few days to catch up with myself. Here’s a post I wrote, offline, a week ago:

Visit to, BeijingBack to the hotel after several meetings. Our day that began with a big breakfast of dumplings and a wonderful soup with tofu (BTW, the tofu in China is so much better than at home) with Li Zhouhuan of, and I went on to lunch with Mike Wester of That’s Beijing at a vegetarian restaurant called Pure Lotus. After a meeting at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in an overheated office, I spent two hours walking to Tiananmen Square and through the streets north of the Forbidden Palace. I am happy to report that there are still many hutongs in Beijing; I even saw one being repaired.

The first thing I noticed as we drove in from the airport: the smell of coal fires. I told Liz this morning that I love this smell, in spite of all I know about the environmental problems associated with coal, because it reminds me of England. “How old are you, Karen?” she exclaimed, “I didn’t know you remembered Victorian times.”

Even in the ’80s, the smell of coal and hops, if you were in the right bit of south London, were part of what made London London. Here are some things that for me, in these early days of learning to love it, make Beijing Beijing:

  • Roses blooming in early December, dusty but determined, along the ring roads
  • Bamboo scaffolding on modern glass buildings
  • A white-brown drink that is called coffee and also reminds me of the ’80s in England
  • Rosy cheeks and smiling faces – even at the airport, the immigration person said to me “nice smile” when looking at my passport
  • English translations like the “uncomplimentary” products in the hotel bathroom
  • The hoarse Beijing accent of the taxi drivers, and the way Liz would imitate it

Liz Steffey at the Birds Nest in BeijingWhile I was walking by Tiananmen Square, Liz walked up to see the new National Stadium, the Birds Nest.  Here she is in front of it.

Now playing:
Ella Fitzgerald – I Love Paris
via FoxyTunes

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