Moments in Beijing

Beijing is one of those interesting places that has one foot in the future and one foot in the past, deftly (or not so deftly) straddling subsistence level living and crazy technological process. Imposing modern architecture, break-neck paced development, wrinkled little farmers with horse drawn carts selling cabbages. Wrapped up in work in the central business district, with a dense ex-pat population, there are times when I can almost forget that I live in China. And then, sometimes there are moments that remind me firmly of where I am.

I didn’t feel like biking, so I attempted to get a cab to work this morning, and as I walked along the sidewalk, I heard a weird grumbly noise. A door that is usually closed was ajar, showing a small open courtyard. A man wearing a little white cap was carving slices from what I assumed was a lamb carcass hanging from one of several meat hooks. That wasn’t really so surprising. What was surprising, was the small cow, legs tied together, ear twitching, but otherwise lying placidly on its side, legs lashed together. Was it really necessary to make it watch you butchering the lamb basically on top of it? It was a sad scene to start my day.

There is a Jamba Juice-esque smoothie shop near my office (that has blatantly ripped off their name and color scheme and menu) that we often frequent for mid afternoon pick-me-up smoothies. Today was one such day where a few of us decided to embark on a blended-ice-and-fruit quest.

We walked in and no one was there. No staff, that is. We checked behind the counter, no one at all. We decided to wait for a few minutes, perhaps they had all gone to the bathroom or something.

About seven minutes later, we heard some stirring noises, and from underneath the counter unfolded a young man, who had curled up out of sight inside the counter for a nice nap. He stretched, started at us sleepily, and very slowly proceeded to make our smoothies with the foggy precision of someone who is not fully awake.


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