Expat Experience

After an unfortunate (for all involved) mistake on the part of our Super Funky Hotel for our last night in Beijing, we “landed” at the Four Seasons a few blocks away from the US Embassy in the northeast corner of the inner-ish city (Third Ring Road out of six so far). We are surrounded by other western and western style (Kempinski?) hotels, High Fashion boutiques (Rolex, Tudor, Chopard…) in glossy shopping malls, and large boulevards.

Last night we met up with Michael and his wife (Dee) and co-worker Hao at a real micro-brewery for draft beers, lamb burgers, onion rings, and bbq chicken wings (the day before I was munching on spicy pickled chicken feet in a Chengdu market). The crowd was WAY expat with a sprinkling of hip locals, and the talk was about today’s China and how we each related to it.

When we got back to our 23rd Floor room at the ‘Seasons, I said to Alison, “it’s too bad that we aren’t going to be able to experience the ‘real’ Beijing on our last day.” And then, looking out the window at all the office towers, apartment towers, flashing advertising, and bumper-to-bumper traffic, I realized I was wrong. This experience — a westerner in the Four Seasons in this commercial and diplomatic district — this WAS a ‘real’ Beijing experience, just as much as exploring the hutongs in the Dongcheng district, visiting the landmarks, biking the streets, eating (and making) dumplings, and climbing the Drum Tower to watch the twisting pigeon flocks orbit their home roofs. We were still in Beijing where nothing and everything was changing.

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