The bonding trip

The author Hal Vaughan of Coco Chanel’s Secret War notes, after Coco

was lured by a million-dollar fee to spend a few weeks in Hollywood in 1930 .. she found herself compelled to run straight back to England, so that she could wash away her brush with vulgarity in “a bath of nobility.”

Never mind that Coco was born poor and an fierce opportunistic social climber. Although this book review was on a French fashion designer who’s once a Nazi agent, however her attitude toward the vulgar New World is very much common sentiment shared by her fellow Europeans. Perhaps it’s more of culture differences? Or perhaps it’s the jealousy of used-to-haves-but-don’t-have-much-nowadays vs the freshly-minted-haves or the go-getter-who’s-going-to-have-it-alls?

When I visited Beijing this past summer, my first thought was, 我的北京那里去了? where’s my Beijing? The Chinese capital of 2011 looks and feels more like any big town in America. Only more crowded, more smokers, more nose pickers, more spiters, more noise in the noodle restaurants, more rude drivers, more loud talkers in public, more skyscrapers, more copied-TV shows, more traffic jams by BMW/Benz/Cadillac, more people wanting to make more money … Are those reasons for the developed world to look down on China the way USA was belittled by the Europeans? Or those are simply the culture differences? Or natural progression? Look nowadays the American influence has on the world, not just in Europe; waning might be but undeniably still holds sway.
Last year I didn’t get to visit Beijing, feeling being short changed. Early this year, I began to lobby the kids to go to China. Unexpectedly, Pumpkin said yes. I WAS really surprised.
After 60th anniversary celebration on August 7 in 2010, many classmates (Class’80) from Renda Fu and obviously from Er xiao (Class’75) too, resumed socializing by converging on QQ. So it’s another incentive for me to go to Beijing.
Jiujiu and Jiumu planned to go back to Beijing for few months in the summer, so were their two daughters. I haven’t seen my cousins for a long time. So another motivation.
I haven’t seen Xiaoyi and Yifu since 2003. One more reason to go.
Bonding seems to be the right word.
Beijing is my home town.
Hmmmmmmm ….
Where should I start?
Right off the airplane, step into Beijing’s spotless airport. Wow, it left our JFK in the distance, like the third world. AND the luggage carts are free and abundant. Who’s decision to charge the cart at the major airport, such as JFK? Oh ya right, every soul in the world carries our Greenback. Very convenient and user friendly, I assure you.
My Xiaoyi and Yifu came to pick us up. The parking lot felt like any garage out here in Long Island, Porsche, BMW, Benz, Audi (dah), Jeep, Cadillac .. and sure the majority is Japs and local makers; but the prosperity is clearly fuming.
Xiao Yifu paid the garage and exited. Then few moments later, paid the airport fee (the usage fee or what for the highway?) and left the booth. Then he stopped car right there. got out. went to the truck. took few bottles of water (for us).
It’s about 9 pm. The high way in front of us wasn’t busy but there were cars. There were cars coming out of the booth behind us too. No one honked. I was bewildered; he didn’t even bother to pull to the side to do this business. Never mind that we said we weren’t thirsty. IF I knew this stunt, I’d scream my heart out to assure him we were properly fed and watered by Cathay Pacific.

Beijing is full of shopping malls. The department stories are identical to those at home here. There are Century 21, Gap,, .. Yes, the online electric site opens in China. Not to mention Tiffany, Coach, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Bvlgari, Harry Winston, Hermes .. every other block has 1 to 2 KFC or McDonald and in China, they deliver. Big city, big monumental buildings, big cars, big apartment, big mansion and big boobs. Hmmmmmm I thought Chinese considered large cantaloups are unsightly. But guess I’m a dinosaur, a frog in a tiny well.
One thing that didn’t get upgraded, perhaps is their teeth? During my entire stay, I only saw one kid with dental brace. From Joes and Janes to many TV celebrities, their teeth are just painful to watch. Don’t they feel embarrassed? Not sure who’d clinch the top prize of having the worst teeth, the Irish or we the Chinese.

China is full of contradictions; they make the rules but lack the will or power to enforce them.

It’s amusing seeing all the imitated TV shows, from Judge Judy, Dancing with Stars, someone Got Talent, soap opera, cooking, game, comedy, police show, reality show, every genre imaginable. I like their dating shows where the contestants aren’t beautiful and handsome: they’re average people off the street, trying to meet the one. The eco/business news, the daily news .. the hot topic in China was, if and when will the ugly cheating Americans repay China. hmmmmmm…. no one forced any one to buy the t-bill, why the commotion? Ok, US got downgraded. So what? IF t-bill isn’t safe or wasn’t seem to be the best vehicle, would any one buy it? Only tax and death is guaranteed. Wise up people.

The 10th anniversary of 9/11 is approaching. The sentiment in China was, well, 9/11 was horrible but they couldn’t conceal their glee for the recent tsunami/earthquake that hit Jap and wished it happened sooner, like during the Second Sino-Japanese War 1937-45.

I spent near a month there, only saw couple of blue sky days. Everyday, it’s gray.
and more gray
always gray.
I miss the crispy blue skies.

星巴克. Starbucks
It’s everywhere. Not just in the Forbidden City. They are never empty. Most times, there wasn’t any empty seat.
30 RMB a tall latte. [SBUX likes to use Tall, Grande, and Venti to indicate the sizes which is small, medium and large.]
The exchange rate on August 16 is 1 USD = 6.38680 CNY/RMB
The Starbucks in New York is US$2.99. Sales tax included.

The gross domestic product (GDP) by the International Monetary Fund for 2010 listed
#1: USA at US$14,657,800 millions
#2: China at US$5,878,257
However, GDP – per capita (PPP) by Index Mundi
#1: Qatar at US$179,000
#11: USA at US$47,200
#13: Hong Kong at US$45,900
#124: China at US$7,600

Do your own math.

Many people put off by the New York Second. Do you really think that’s too fast? The New York Second would seem an eternity on the road in China: drivers are always 分秒必争 seize every minute and second not a millisecond is to be lost. Drivers cut off pedestrians on zebra crossing. Drivers cut off other drivers on the road. Drivers merge into the main road at their own will. Drivers make left turn at their own will. IF a driver decided to stop, s/he can, and will park anywhere, on the road.
I think this not-a-millisecond-is-to-be-lost mentality is due to their penchant to catch up with the top dogs, regain the lost three decades under Chairman Mao?
It’s fun to live in China for the past few decades, witness the fast pace 日新月异 – change with each passing day, in contrast to the saturation of the developed world, like USA where everything is under control; every law has been erected; every aspect and every citizen is well protected.
I’ve been saying China was the new wild west for the past 20+ years, and it still is.

It must be the comparable hardware – living standard to the USA, that made the software – the people the more of an eyesore.

Oh .. the provincial migrants.
I shouldn’t be harsh on the people with accent since I left my hometown when I was only 18 years old – that means I always speak with an accent, either a dialect or a foreign language. BUT I was really fed up impatient with them. They are EVERYWHERE. Unavoidable. They staff the restaurants, they man the shops, they jam the public transportation .. they probably also built up Beijing. BUT I felt they made Beijing looks hicky 乡下, 老土, uncouth.

I rejuvenated my love with bath house. Pump loved them too.

During the 魅力江南八日游 South of Changjiang Tour, the tour guides all uniformly muttered the word, 宽容 tolerant/lenient and 耐心 patient: they’re asking for understanding and time to catch up with the rest of the world.

Cerulean New York skies are indeed bluer and water tastes so much better. But Beijing is always Beijing, my most favored destination, no matter what.

Over all, I feel the communist party has done wonder for China. Who else could manifest such dramatic turnaround with such huge population in such short time? I wish the world could see and experience first hand what China has accomplished. Not through the distorted lens. China isn’t perfect, neither USA.

About The Kibbitzer

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