Today felt like a week. It started at 3:50 AM, and at midnight, I'm still awake.
We got settled into our hostel and tried to use Facebook to contact Tim Quinn, a friend from home who is in Beijing and has studied abroad here. The Great Firewall of China turned a simple login and Facebook message check into a fiasco, but we finally got ahold of him. Before we met up with Tim, we went to breakfast and got our fill of dumplings and noodles for under $3/person.
At 11PM, the three of us and Nikolai met up with Tim and his friend Amanda at Qianmen Station. From there we wandered around chatting, and then took the metro to a major shopping area. We got some gifts and had a ton of fun haggling, using Tim and Amanda as great translators. Once our wallets (and stomachs) were approaching empty, we got some street food and took the metro to Tiananmen Square. We walked by the gate to the Forbidden City and then Mao's Mausoleum - enjoying the insane propaganda on massive TVs in the square - on our way back to the hostel. A few minutes of rest and a vodka shot later, we made way for the metro once more. We went to the area around which Tim and Amanda are studying, and wandered in the rain until we found this highly recommended hot pot restaurant. We ate and drank for a couple of hours - great beer (Beijing's local brand), and even better food. Afterwards, we bough a bottle of baijou (spelling?), a Chinese alcohol that tastes like absolute crap. A bottle of 1/3 full baijou in my hand, we took a cab home.
The amazingness of today cannot be captured in the recap of events... and it was not captured on camera - as we didn't touch them at all. Today will always be engraved in my memory - the sights, smells, sounds, ...smog. The food and drink here always leave my mouth in a state of blissful nirvana - I picture Buddha laying lotus blossoms on each individual taste bud as I exit an eatery or walk away from a street vendor. My excitement can hardly be subdued - everywhere we turn, our senses are overloaded with travel goodness. For those who don't know me well, I am a little obsessed with Asia - the culture, food, art , people, etc etc. China is the crux of the Orient, and thus my Asian obsession can be found bouncing off the walls of every alley way - if you can see it past the smog.
I <3 Beijing.
PS - What if, God forbid, a loved one died tomorrow? Would you be comfortable letting them go with the words you last said, or didn't say? Treat others like today is their last.