Bak to Middle Kingdom
We already miss Kim at the Beijing Station: we dont know where to go. But i manage to find the metro station. They scan every suitcase and every bag, no matter if it is a train or a subway station. They dont do it in city busses yet, lets see how long that lasts. The metro is quite full, no matter at what time, altho compared with the Tokyo metro, where the securities push people inside until they become bidimensional, the Beijing metro is rather like the Gobi Desert. You’re not supposed to eat or drink in the train, as in ma ny western cities nowadays – the comfort and the cozyness are sacrificed for the security. Or to save money: they can save a lot of money if the cleaners dont have to work so much, which is important because kli ning personel is very expensive, especially in China.
The remnants of group B from Nordekorea meet at the Tien An Men, the Heavenly Peace Square, where 20 years a go me ni de mon strators attained unvoluntarily the heavenly peace. The place is all blocked, one sees soldiers marching everywhere, they’re celebrating some ding. Steffen and Enrico are the on li ones who come, we see each other but cant talk because of the crowd between us. Two yung chi nese girls are stan ding bi side me, one of them smiles to me, we start a conversation. They are quite spontaneous, look nice, they say they come from the kun tryside an ar tourists like me, and they stay for a week. They say they find mai ir ring cute. Eventually they ask me if i dont want to drink a coffee with them, i tell i have to meet my friends and i can ask them if we should make a bigger group. Den de ce le bration is over, we meet Enrico first but he isnt keen on the girls at all. Sorry girls, maybe tomorrow – they give me their phone numbers. Steffen join us, and Enrico shows me a text in his China guide that tells about chinese girls that talk to tourists saying they want to practice their eng lish an den dei take them to shops where the owners ask astronomic prices for “art” that isnt worth a banana. The group B, including me, goes to a night street market, where nearly every ding that moves is roasted, fried or cooked. Enrico ate already a scorpion once, he says it tasted crispy but not especially good. I just eat meat balls, hopefully not filled with scorpions – they dont taste bad, anyway, the meat balls. By the way, the prices are friendly, even if not so friendly as in the old times. One bottle with more than half a liter beer costs around one dollar, a meal costs something like 2 to 6 dollars, i mean of course what i eat – of course yu kan spend a lot of money in very little time, if you have it and you want to do it. And if your stomach has a bad time, there is a public toilet in almost every corner, so you dont have to sneak into a restaurant as if you were a thief. The toilets became quite better, they’re not a row of holes beside each other anymore, they’re real cabins with doors and all you need. For smokers the country is a real paradise: you cant smoke in the train station halls but at least on the platforms. You cant smoke in the train cabins but yu kan smoke in the rooms between the waggons an in de restaurant. You cant smoke in fast food restaurants, but everywhere else, even in places where there is a no smo king sign. And not few people smoke while they’re eating. Actually these bans arent a consequence of big pharma’s efforts to strangle its smaller competitor, the tobacco branch, these bans have been there since the communist times. The best i’ve seen was the sign in de hotel room sei ing that it is forbidden to smoke in de room, and beside the sign was an ashtray.
On the TV they speak chinese, always with subtitles – in chinese. I had never seen something like that before, but it is really necessary, because of the very different dialects.
Most foreigners believe that the chinese dont have R’s, so they pronounce them as L. But actually no sound is as conspicuous as the chinese R. It is like an english R, but more strongly rolled, they just dont recognize an italian R as R but as L. They loose their ability to tell non-english R from L at the age of 10 months. Complicated are the SH sounds: chinese with roman alphabet is called pinyin, and the C there is like a mix of DZ with SH. The CH is simmilar to english CH, but strongly aspirated. A D before I sounds a bit like DJ, almost like a CH, while J sounds like CH, and Q sounds like a mix of Z and SH, the SH sounds like a strongly aspirated SH, the X is like a mix of german CH (in the word ‘ich’, or a bit like the H in ‘huge’) with SH, and the ZH is like a DZ with a SH, but different of C. All these sounds are slightly different from each other, and foreigners can hardly notice the difference, as well as chinese from other regions. And then they have tones: MAO in the ascending tone means ‘west’, in the descending tone it means ‘cat’, in the descending-and-then-ascending tone ‘pubic hair’, etc (dont trust my tone descriptions!). So you should be careful about your tone when you flatter a lady’s cat.