Winding Down in Beijing

The final days of our tour and we are in Beijing.  No shows scheduled here so we’re chilling and doing things like—going to Starbuck’s and Internet Cafes, swimming and sauna.

I believe it was the third day when I suddenly realized I had fallen in love with this country.  The people: so genuine, focused, attentive, kind, polite, self-effacing.  Such a deep respect for the past.  And what an ancient, glorious past!  The Great Wall truly a marvel, but then everyone says that.  They are right.

  The Jade Buddhist Temple in Anshan:  astonishing!  I don’t normally do the tourist things, museums and all (there are exceptions like Reina Sofia in Madrid), but just walking around, getting something to eat, browsing the open air markets and second-hand stores—manuevering around this vast sea of humanity and gentility—it is consciousness-expanding, ultimately mind-blowing.

The food:  I LOVE IT!  Every conceivable vegetable cooked in ingenious, delectable ways.  Seafood, chicken, duck—I don’t eat beef, lamb or pork but plenty of that, too—great omelettes filled with something akin to spinach or chard.  Insane variety of regional cuisine.  A country of 1.4 billion people that love to eat.  Did I mention the baked goods or the lightly fried stuffed pancake, cream filled and not-too-sweet?  The stuffed dumplings?   Coffee not so good, hence my over reaction to the Starbucks.  The tea is, not surprisingly, very good;  their is plenty of good beer and I found an excellent, dirt-cheap and potent brandy.

The Ensemble Espanyol (sic, I can’t find the character to make the correct “n”) gave 4 concerts, 2 in Shenyang and one each in Anshan and Qinghuandao.  All were totally soldout with lots of people standing and many turned away or listening outside the hall.  Tremendous, heartwarming response.  Working with the other musicians was inspiring—I learned a lot!  The 2 other guitarists, Panzekito and Paco Fonta (both sang really well, by the way), are superb musicians and it is an honor to be with them.  I need to correct my spelling of the violinist’s name—he is Michael Gadzinski with an “i”—wonderful player.  Mick LaBriola’s percussion solo never failed to light up the crowd.

I have to mention something else I found extremely charming, as well as thought provoking.  That is the slogans that adorn roadsides.  Gems like:  Construct Harmonious Traffic with Kind Heart.  Or: Abandon Bad Habits–Embrace Civility.  Also: World Vision, Chinese Wisdom.  Then there’s the ubiquitous slogan of the 2008 Olympics:  One World.  One Dream.

Since living in India for 2 years in my early 20’s I have always retained a deep respect and regard for that place—another benevolent sea of humanity, but plagued with poverty, disease and malnourishment.  Here in China I reconnect with those feelings while marveling at this society as it clothes, feeds and attends to the needs of nearly everyone.  I may well be wrong but this is how I see it.