Thursday, June 15, 2006

This is not necessarily what you want to read when you wake up in the morning in Beijing. It's not the first time this has happened -- I remember quite clearly sitting at the back of a bus headed in the direction of the Gaza Strip in 2003 and reading in Ha'aretz that intelligence indicated that terrorists planned to target Americans in the area. And I do not feel even a bit unsafe -- today we are going to be guests of the foreign ministry, so my guess is that we will be more than well-protected. Nonetheless, as we sit here in Beijing addressing security issues, this is a pretty stark reminder of the world we inhabit.

Meanwhile I am hungover to beat the band (does that even make any sense?). Went out for yet another great dinner last night with a large group. Then I went with my new Australian friend Kaz, who is teaching me as much about China as I could ever have gotten from a private tour guide, to a boistrous sidewalk eatery that had Chinese World Cup coverage on a precariously balanced television and drank our weight in Beijing Beer. The process was fueled by some chatty locals who interrogated me about American policies through Kaz.

Initially, the scene was a bit ominous -- we were sitting near a couple with a cute little dog. The dog was curious to sample the world around it, and the woman just started whaling on the poor beast. Kaz scolded her, (rightly -- people who hit animals and children always deserve to be called out whether in Beijing, Beirut, or Boston) which started a bit of a row. The man in the relationship just wanted to scurry for cover, and his only real concern was that I not become involved. Given that I can only say about ten things in Chinese, such intervention was unlikely as long as no one got physical.

Next thing I know, the woman and Kaz are chatting, she has pulled her chair up to our table, and the beer is flowing. Apparently the dog-slapper, who was really soused, owned the place, and since she only knew two words of English ("my friend") my sole interaction with her, beyond the interpreted inquisition, was when she used her phrase and poured more beer. Two wiry little young men joined in. The only words they knew were "Kobe Bryant" and "Los Angeles Lakers," which allowed me to incorporate "Yao Ming" into the conversation. They were the driving force behind my newly discovered role as ad hoc State Department Spokesman.

1 comment:

Rich said...

Fortunately a big lanky white guy with your stature doesn't really stand out in China.