There's a saying that if you go to China
for a week, you can write an article. If you stay for a month,
you can write a book. But if you stay a year, you won't be able
to write anything about it at all.
Well, I've been in Beijing for almost
a week, so I better get this down in a hurry.
My business travels have brought me here
twice in the last month or so, and its like nowhere I've ever
been before. Not even that nude beach in Corfu where well, never
First of all, Beijing is where the 16th
century meets the 21st. Some people carry state of the art cell
phones permanently clamped to their heads, and others pull theirs
out to a table in the street and charge a few cents to neighbours
who don't have one in their own homes.
If they knew the joy of telemarketers,
they wouldn't be in such a rush to get one of their own.
Next to Tiananmen Square, right next
China's main government buildings, I walked by a guy sitting
a few feet from the sidewalk. I thought he was waiting for the
bus. As I got closer I realized he wasn't waiting for a bus -
or wearing any pants. He was answering nature's call - and I
don't think it was an emergency, since he was reading the paper
and for all I know doing the crossword.
The roads in Beijing are wide and the
cars move fast, and its not unusual to see a brand-new Lexus
at a stop light next to a horse cart. Cars have replaced a lot
of the bicycles, and there only seems to be one rule of the road
- who will flinch first. Every lane change and merge basically
comes down to a game of chicken, with cars and bicycles competing
on equal terms, although I've yet to see any good solid contact.
In addition to the McDonalds you see
every five blocks, the symbol of how much things have changed
in China is in the middle of the Forbidden City. Where at one
time only the Emperors were allowed to roam, today in the center
of the Forbidden City is a new place of western worship - a Starbucks.
You can't go to China without seeing
the Great Wall. Apparently the billion or so people in China
had the same idea on the same day, because they were all there.
I didn't really get a good look at one of the seven wonders of
the world because it was so thick with people that it looked
like a giant human snake.
A stand off to the side of the Wall had
costumes for rent. For four dollars you dress like a Chinese
Warlord, get your picture taken, and even sit on a very annoyed
looking camel. I passed on the camel, but I can't resist a guy
in uniform - namely me.
The outfit was obviously not made for
even medium-sized Westerners, but I wiggled into it and scowled
for the cameras. This was much to the amusement of the crowd
of elderly Chinese tourists who had gathered on the Wall, who
were laughing, waving and even saluting.
Things sure have changed in China. After
all, what's the world coming to when a warlord doesn't get any