End of tour plus one day

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Jul 31, 2011

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Friday, September 10, 2010

I spent the night at my dorm room with my rock hard bed. The mattress is literally thinner than the size of your finger, it's very thin. I had unpacked my belongings into my drawers and cabinets the previous night. I was then met with the realization, this will be my room, my life for the next several months. My roommate was still here, except during my brief time away from the dorm, he had taken advantage of the mini refrigerator and stuffed it full of kimchee.

Sam the tour guide came to assist me with my registration again. This time we were able to find out more information on my status. Apparently, I also needed another health examination to extend my visa before it expires. We were instructed to go to a state operated health clinic in the Haidian area. Now Haidian district is huge, we took a taxi on a freeway for nearly half an hour away from the city. It was nearly the countryside when we arrived at our destination. There were many other foreign students from different universities. I entered the building, filled out the application, queued in line for payment and processing. After several "medical" exams including body measurement, eye coordination, chest x-ray, EKG and a blood draw, I had completed my health check list of items for the clinic. I would later return to pick up my results so I may submit the information to extend my visa. I also met two English speakers while queuing in line, one from England and another from Germany. We agreed to share a cab to retrieve our results.

After finishing with my health exam, Sam and I went to lunch in a courtyard garden setting. It was very impressive as the owner of the restaurant went to great lengths to replicate the Chinese courtyard feeling. The atmosphere and the ambiance was quite tranquil and soothing. It removed my sense of the busy bustling world of the Chinese capital. We had two dishes and ordered a pot of tea, the bill was quite excessive as you were primarily paying for the experience of eating in a Qing era courtyard with attendants in traditional costumes.

We took the subway to our next destination, the Nepalese Embassy. Sam had previously arranged to pick up his visa so he may visit Nepal for several days in October. By traveling to more countries, Sam may eventually be approved a visa to visit the United States. It was interesting to interact with the guard outside of the embassy. He was very stoic with his gaze continuously scanning the perimeter for potential threats. In a brief and short breath, he asked for ID, which then I present my passport. He then asked why I specifically needed to enter the embassy. I really had no business there, but I was allowed entry to see Sam receive his passport with his Nepalese visa. Since I did enter the embassy, I was technically on Nepal soil in Beijing, a very unique feeling. While in the embassy, there were artifacts from Nepal including a dagger which Sam hopes to obtain one day, a kukri.

Our afternoon took us to the art district of Beijing of Qijiuba (798). Originally a factory compound, it has been successfully converted into a magnet of art galleries, a forum for art presentation and a destination for art lovers. I thoroughly enjoyed my time here as there were many pieces available to examine and to ponder about. The artwork often times showed the artist's inner ideals and was presented through the medium. A Statue of Liberty structure was welded over and over again from several smaller models to create a singular item for presentation. Many interesting items were around each corner, some were minute in detail but had a large impact on me.

After observing a large fat statue, the corner of my eye was attracted to a statue clinging to the roof of the factory. In fact, it was the design of an Western angel who had fallen from heaven due to his small wings. An angel had fallen and is now clinging to a former Chinese factory made the gears in my brain churn and ponder. Other exhibits included photo galleries, freedom of bodily expression including nudity, some exhibits contained a political theme. I ventured into the "Art Gallery of North Korea," much of which was propaganda with images of a dominant North Korean soldier defeating a cartoonish American character. Others were displaying dissent of a contemporary Chinese setting centering around limitless wealth and lack of happiness. I truly enjoyed this area of Beijing and will plan to venture back out to this location as many exhibits change every couple of weeks or so.

My day was not yet done, I still had some time and made a journey to Wangfujiang street. My previous attempt several nights ago ended in failure as the bizarre snack market was closed and much of the neon lights were shut off for the night. This time I had arrived at 7:30PM and walked up and down the glitzy, light filled street. Many foreigners were present as the stores did cater towards a Western audience. I went into the Wangfujiang bookstore and indulged myself into the books available, I primarily scouted out the photography section in an attempt to improve my photos.

After filling my mind with more techniques and knowledge, I had to fill my stomach as it was near dinner time. I persuaded Sam to allow me to try the bizarre foods with Andrew Zimmern had tried on the Travel Channel. Indeed, there were many bizarre food items from scorpions, beetles, silkworms, to deer meat, squid, octopus, and stinky tofu. I prepared my stomach by eating 3 sticks of lamb meat before attempting the scorpion stick. The 3 sticks of lamb meat cost only 10 RMB, it was very flavorful and very delicious. After digesting and drinking some Oolong tea, my stomach was ready for the scorpion. I was unsuccessful in bartering down the price from 15 RMB to 10 RMB, so I gave in and purchased one stick of small scorpion. The bigger scorpion was much more intimidating and appeared less appetizing. The scorpion was very crunchy similar to french fries, lacking much in flavor as it was an exoskeleton of a creature. There were three little scorpions to the stick and I finished them within the minute. Sam, after viewing me eat the possibly unclean and unhealthy street food headed on over to a local noodle soup and treated me to a traditional beef noodle soup. This was not similar to Vietnamese pho, but it did fill me up after eating quite exotic foods from the street market. We then called it a day and I took the subway back to my dorm.
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