Today we left Tian and rode the bullet train to Beijing. A few quick thoughts. First, why in the world are we not using these trains in the US!? (I ask rhetorically, I know a big factor was Eisenhower’s influence on the road systems through our country). The ride was amazingly smooth, comfortable, and we moved across a large area in a third of the normal time. The train ran around 450km/hr (about 150 mph) and cut a 10 hour train ride to under three hours. It was sweet! Pictures of course were difficult to take of the countryside but I’ll toss a few sloppy ones up to get a feel. The countryside in this area reminded me of Ohio or Iowa, it’s very similar.

One word on the Chinese, why do they constantly cut in line? More comically, why does it bother American’s so damn much? It started out as funny at first, but now it is a mission to barricade our places in line with high elbows and big backpacks. Today as we were waiting in line to get through security, a guy threw his bag on the x-ray conveyer on top of one of my own, literally pushed me to the side, and walked through the detector to be waved down by Hermione (a Chinese version of the Harry Potter character waving her metal detector-wand). It’s still quite funny actually, but the introspection question is still valid, why does it bother us? Perhaps it has something to do with the value of equality or fairness so deeply engrained in the individualism American culture. It’s not ‘fair’ that someone is treated specially and allowed to jump in line, thus violating my individual rights to that place in line. This is of course ridiculous, coming from a society that has the ‘special’ 1% of people controlling 95% of the wealth in our country. We are in the enormous city of Beijing now, and at 23 million people, it’s three times the population of NewYork. From where we are staying it’s difficult to tell, the cloudy, smoggy air hides much of the large buildings so perhaps tomorrow we can get a better feel for the large city. Aside from the sewer smell as you walk past the street grates, the city is remarkably clean according to our Chinese friends, the safest city in China. I would believe that, after walking around some, there is a large police and military presence in most areas we viewed.

Tonight for dinner we had the famous Beijing duck. It was very good. We also had a little visitor that decided to take up a seat at one of our tables; he was very cute :).

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Hope all is well,