I arrived last Friday evening, checked into a hostel/2 star hotel before heading off to the Silk Market for some DVDs. The selection isn’t what it once was. Then I went to “Food Street” to take pictures of the exotic delicacies, starfish, scorpions, and whatnot. I’ll photograph them, but I’ve reached my limit for bizarre food with the pig intestines. Then I walked through some gentrified and not so gentrified charming shopping streets to Alice’s Teahouse.
Alice, whom I’ve mentioned before, speaks great English and runs a small tea shop near my hostel. She’s great to chat with to get the real scoop on Beijing and China in general. When I got back to the hostel I chatted with a young French guy who’s embarking on an 11 day tour of North Korea. I can’t imagine what that’ll be like.
Sunday I tried out a new café near the hostel and had carrot-ginger-beer cake for breakfast. It’s quite good. Then I went to the China National Museum of Art. It’s pretty small considering the country’s long history and huge size. They had some mediocre photos in one gallery. The photographer’s niche was blurred photos of geese and swans flying or paddling through water. The best art was an exhibit of ink paintings from four painters. Gorgeous landscapes and portraits. One artist, who fixated on cartoonish water buffalos, didn’t wow me.
Then I met a friend, Spurgeon, I’d taught with in Guangzhou. He’s now teaching AP calculus at a super high school. We went for a late lunch at a Persian restaurant. The food was great, though Middle Eastern food seems all the same to me.
Next we set off to find teal ties for his students’ school uniforms. Evidently he volunteered to procure them. There was a big market (for knock offs) nearby. Some had “silk” ties in every color of the rainbow, except teal. In the end he found one teal tie and got a weak promise that if he came back next week they’d have more. Spurgeon’s from Sierra Leon and has a good bargaining technique. I hope I remember his approach for my next negotiation.
I checked into a better hotel, the Novotel, because I needed good internet to sign on to my online course’s Saturday meeting. I thought the hostel wouldn’t have reliable service. What a mistake. I tried signing on for 2 and a half hours. Even with the help of the tech whizzes, I had no luck. Such aggravation! On top of that the bed was hard as rock and there was a nightlight that reflected off the fridge that kept me up all night. It was impossible to turn it off. God knows I tried. Around 6 am the neighbors started shouting at each other. I was better off in the $9/night hostel than in the $80/night hotel.