Several more months of terrible air, bad publicity and one inspired brainstorm session with my friend Kyle convinced me that this was a movie that needed be made. Beijing right now is one of the most fascinating clusters of humanity in the world and yet it’s almost perpetually shrouded in a layer of physical and public relations pollution. I get that. I’ve read the history, I breathe the air, I eat the gutter oil, and yeah, that all sucks. But at the end of the day this place just has an energy that I’m in love with.
As a lover of home-made water crafts, I recently set out to build my own Beijing boat. The blueprint is simple, the supplies are all within striking distance, and the finished product unlocks a lot of free fun in parks, canals and places like Houhai.
It’s 8:40 pm on a Friday. We’re lined up at the China Eastern Airlines counter a full ninety minutes before takeoff, and I have everything I need for a great, just-quit-work weekend: passport, check; cleats, check; Frisbee, check; baijiu-Fanta mix, check. But just then, China decides to remind me where I am. Ahead of us in line, an argument begins to stew, froth, and bubble. The verbal combatants are an elderly couple, possibly from the countryside, and two overdressed, overly made-up, and apparently overconfident young women.
The initial dispute is over whether a luggage cart bumped into an ankle, but it gets ugly fast: one of the girls taunts the old man's ability to speak standard Mandarin Chinese. Airline employees break up the verbal sparring as quickly as they can, but the tone for the evening has been set. At the counter, a friendly but frazzled attendant tells me my flight doesn't yet have a gate, and I already have an idea of what I'm in for.
Normal expat whining is grating and graceless, but let’s face it: it has its roots in something that we can all identify with.
China takes a lot out of you, demands a lot of you at times. Sure, there are those skating by with an absurd income-to-work ratio, people to whom China is a paid vacation punctuated by occasional encounters with the indigenous people who for some reason haven’t learned to speak English. But in any expat experience, there are certain unavoidable facts of life: you’re often out of your comfort zone, ostracized or just generally unable to make things happen.
In many ways, it’s a story that combines everything that makes the Chinese media gush: pandas, tea, X-thousand years of culture, little children wearing cute costumes… And poop. Panda poop. That’s the recipe behind what some are calling the most expensive tea ever created. Selling for an eye-popping 440,000 RMB per kilogram (about $32,000 per... Read more »