Beijing, or "What am I doing here?" June 1999.

I'm here. After medicating the hell out of myself, and sleeping through most of the flight, I arrived Beijing on Saturday afternoon. My dear friend Carol (Chen Jing Jing) and her boyfriend Ralf picked me up at the airport. She DeQing, one of my masters from the Shaolin Temple, was with them, which was quite the surprise. First stop, a Chinese wedding, to which we had all been invited. Well, at least Carol was....

The big bald ugly American, dressed in karate pants and a t shirt, made quite the impression. Hell, the rest of my little group wasn't dressed up either. But everybody else was. So much for American class and decorum. I was quite the hit there, as the stares and sudden quiet when we walked into the room testified to. Guess they had never seen anything like me before. But they all rapidly warmed up to me. I didn't get to kiss the bride, but I did get to squeeze her shoulder.

That was definitely fun. Probably will end up being my total female contact in the next two months that I am over here.

Oh, and I also made quite the hit when I toasted the bride and groom. "May you lead a long and happy life together".

"And have many beautiful children." In a country where one is allowed.

So much for making an impression....

Pictured in the photo gallery is an image outside the train station entrance. I had captioned it "the bike station, outside of the train station. Kind of like the old "park and ride" concept. One shudders to think what Beijing would be like if all of these people had cars...." This was back in 1999. Well, now, a lot of them do, and the traffic is a veritable nightmare.

Also pictured is some construction on the Wang Fu Jing area. I had captioned it "Construction goes on all night, and all day, and surprisingly, mostly by hand. Heavy equipment is rarely seen; most of the labor is down with the help of crude implement. No such things as air hammers, or large digging machines. Just shovels, picks, sledge hammers and the like. Occasionally, for the really big projects, there will be some heavy equipment. Manpower seems to be the key here. This road is being completely rebuilt, with hand laid granite and marble paving stones, for a pedestrian walk area. This street, which I can't pronounce, is in the middle of many "westernized" shopping areas."

Many photos of the late 1990's can be seen in the photo gallery below. Click to open.

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