The air is thick, tangible, visible. Like I could reach out and grab a handful. I try and tell myself it’s just fog swirling in front of my eyes. The mountains that are normally a dark smudge against a burning red horizon have been obliterated; I can barely make out the buildings on the end of my street. An old man crouches on a street corner, tossing one of the nearly worthless coins on the ground for his trained finch to pick up and bring back to him. The streets are full again, the only remnants of the spring festival the red paper rounds of firecrackers littering the gutters. One bare, dry, frigid hand is wrapped possessively around my glass tea thermos, the other clutches my gong-fa-bing, steaming hot scallion-pancake-esque street food filled with a spicy meat based sauce, as I wait for the buses to creak by. The strong sweet tea will have to do as a kick start for my day, since the hot water ran out thirty seconds into my shower, and the stove wouldn’t turn on, so it’s been a sleepy, slow, grumpy start.

Today I was paid to sit and watch Disney movies with 9 year olds. Sheer awesomeness. I left work right as the lunch exodus was starting, and the first elevator that stopped at my floor was jam packed with Chinese men. As the doors opened and they saw me waiting, three or four of them simultaneously said “Oh hello.” I smiled and walked away to wait for the next one. The next elevator ended up not going down, but up to higher floors. Three of us decided to stay on anyways since it could be ten minutes until there was a reasonably empty elevator. We hit several normal offices, but then, at the highest floor, the doors opened to reveal gold beaded curtains everywhere, shiny fabrics festooned on all the surfaces, and a stern faced security guard standing forbiddingly in front of a set of wide shiny doors. I’m not quite sure what sort of establishment it was, nor am I quite sure I want to find out. It strongly reminded me of an accidental foray into the “Lotus Club” in Taipei, where several of us were seeking out a specific place and ended up getting off the elevator at the “Lotus Club”, and being strictly told by angry security and flustered, qipao-clad receptionists that we had to leave, right now.


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