I’m in a hotel lobby in Beijing. The desk I’m at has a bust that reads “Vice Manager of Datang”. I asked for a computer and they showed me a big room full of PCs. Then I tried one and couldn’t get on the internet. They said: “Oh, you want international computer?” I noticed everyone else around me was playing a video game. I nodded yes. The internet would be nice.
Now that I’m on the internet, I’m a bit surprised by how many sites I cannot access. BBC and wikipedia I can’t access, though FOX News and NPR come in just fine. I wonder if they like their news as exaggerated and full of it as their governmental news, that way the whole world looks insane together.
There are a few things I’ve neglected to mention about my stay in China, foremost being the people that make up Beijing. Last night I saw an old lady getting beaten senseless, and when I mentioned this to my traveling companions I got a host of stories I wasn’t prepared for.
“You think that’s bad, just last night we saw twenty or so Chinese guys kicking around what looked like a dead human carcass…”
And so on. Most of the travelers could only respond with the same menacing sneer and lunged out gut that we had given when we were confronted with such violence. I’m not sure what to say about it, except one thing is for certain:
In the daytime, there are police and army personnel EVERYWHERE. They stand beneath large umbrellas with their noses held as high as their rifles. On every city block they’re keeping watch, looking professional and making you feel the displeasure of living in a one party state.
But then at night, they all disappear.
Well that’s kind of the opposite of what you want in a civil society, isn’t it? I wondered then if they just faded away like a mystical mirage when the sun beams ceased, or if they turned into Chinese dragons and went into the countryside to hunt for virgins. I contemplate this while people are getting their heads bashed into brick walls.
But the people here are usually nice, caring, though perhaps subservient, citizens. Many of them show physical scars of either some skin disease, lung disease, cuts along their necks or shoulders, deformaties in their face, or they have a missing limb. I’m absolutely serious about this. I have seen an incredible amount of disabilities since I’ve been here.
But it’s alright. China seems to be growing out of their own scars that came with such things as the cultural revolution, the long march and everything that happened in 1976.
At the train station I saw a man with no hands begging out of a can he held tied to his nubs. Everyone felt pity for him and gave accordingly. Sometimes people smile when I smile at them, though it’s willless, and I wonder if I’m torturing them by making them do it.
I’m in Tianjin right now, the third most populated city in China and also one of the most god-awful places I’ve ever visited. The polluition here reminds of how the preachers used to describe hell. Everything is tinted rust and the people live in the dirt.
The haze of pollution in Beijing is increased three fold here, and I can barely make out one of the dozens of skyscrapers that make up this city. But the more I find it putrid and disgusting the more I think about how this still is the third most populated city in China, and how millions of people call it home and have to deal with it every single day.
I begin to wonder how they put up with it. If they go to worship a God that will save them, or if they read from ancient texts, or perhaps rebuild one of the millions of Buddha statues that their fathers destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, or perhaps they look at their beloved Chairman on their currency and that gives them purpose.
Now it’s occured to me that I’m as clueless about China as I was about Japan a year ago. Nothing that happens here makes sense to me, though I’ve read the Nobel Laureates from China and attended “Asian-style” parties…there’s so much that’s impossible to comprehend.
So I leave you with the facts I’ve observed.
North-East China is badly polluted. It makes me sick. I’ve only eaten two meals since I’ve been here and after each one I wanted to puke. The Great Wall is hard to see because the toxins make the air thick. I’m reading a post-apocolyptic novel right now, where everything is black from ash and the sun never peaks beyond black clouds. A world like that seems all too possible when you go to China. It feels like a post-apocolyptic war zone. On the train, I began looking out the window but soon closed the blinds for the rest of the ride. There were bags in front of me to puke in, like on an airplane, but this was a smooth train-ride. The bags weren’t for traveling sickness, they were for looking out the window at the God-awful descent of humanity kind of sickness. Everywhere are squares, the color brown and gray, dirt, things broken or crumbled. It’s a mess.
By the way, I’m staying at a four-star hotel tonight for only $23 USD, and until now I stayed four nights at a hostel for about $8 USD. Beer here costs 26 cents a bottle.