Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Shit On A Stick

The drive from the airport into the city is like a drive through upstate New York. It is lush, green and relaxing. Once you get into the city, the foliage transitions into modernity, cleanliness and bright lights. Beijing is a wonder.

Bustling during the day and quiet by night, the dragon gets a good night's sleep. Our first day here was spent at the Temple of Heaven, a giant park in the middle of the city that truly earns its name. The Zen-like atmosphere was only interrupted by the occasional outbursts of local vendors peddling their wares. Temples and trees create a sense of calm that cannot be matched. During our visit, art school students asked if we wanted to visit their gallery within the park. Although our first instinct was hesitation of being sucked into another tourist trap, as is common here, it turned out to be a fortuitous adventure. As we entered the gallery, the overwhelming treasures undiscovered by so many other tourists made us feel fortunate to be there. The vibrant colors of Chinese culture lit up the gallery and ensured that we would not leave empty-handed. Four oil paintings later, we already feel like the trip has been a success. Not only did we see the paintings, but we met the actual artist who shared his soul and vision with us. My only regret is that our house is not big enough to house all the paintings that we saw.

We spent the evening at a traditional Kung-Fu show, which was nothing short of amazing. Words cannot describe the skill and art that the Chinese have mastered for the past 5,000 years. I couldn't help but think during the show that the Buddhists are really the ones who have it right. The spirituality and God-like sense that comes from their mastery of the human form illustrates the emptiness of the three western religions.

Feeling adventurous, we went to the night market for a late-night snack and in search of an active night life. We found some insane foods, that I was too queasy to even photograph, to which we affectionately refer as shit on a stick. I am beginning to think people here will eat anything that moves. So, my advice to you, if you venture to this wonderfully strange land, don't move in any odd ways, lest you be fried and have a skewer shoved up your ass like the poor scorpions and non-descript insects that were displayed so prominently.

Wound down the evening at a local hostel, sipping on a Corona and Beijing Beer.

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