Friday, March 5, 2010

Home sweet home, Beijing

I've been getting complaints about the long blogging hiatus--now that I'm settled in I'll try to blog more regularly!

I arrived here on Wednesday night, welcomed by a fireworks display near the airport as we descended--a beautiful and somewhat alarming sight to see from a plane!

I am staying in a traditional courtyard house in a hutong (one of the small alleys that still fill much of central Beijing). It's quiet (except for a yappy dog) and totally beautiful. Here is the hutong:

And here is my house:

My arrival coincides with the arrival of China's VIPs for the annual meetings of the National People's Congress and the National People's Political Consulation Conference, and there is a steady stream of black Lexuses and Audis with tinted windows pulling up to the 5-star hotels not far from where I live. Chang'An Jie is lined with volunteers in blue and white tracksuits--one every twenty feet or so--who must be freezing even though many of them are toting large hot water thermoses, as it's been blustery here. It's a bit unclear to me what they're supposed to be doing; I haven't seen any of them do anything other than stand, and people appear to be directing questions to police officers (also out in force) rather than to the volunteers. But it is an amazing display of how many people can be mobilized quickly here. If only we could do the same in the States and, say, send an army of (track suit-clad?) volunteers into underserved schools.

Noodles to follow.

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