Friday passed pretty uneventfully with the exception of my lunch — donkey liver soup with a side of donkey-jerky-filled bread. Sometimes I suspect that my coworkers enjoy my reactions to the stuff that they have me eat far more than they enjoy actually eating said stuff themselves, but you only live once so hey.

Saturday was one of the coolest days I’ve had in a while, though, until the end. Started, uh, dark and early at 6am, before sunrise. Every day there’s a big flag-raising ceremony in Tiananmen square that involves soldiers and thousands of domestic tourists; I couldn’t really justify living so close to the square and not going at least once, so I went to check it out. I got to the square by quarter past six or so, and it was already packed with people. Many of said people wanted to take pictures with me; there are few natural forces stronger than those that compel Chinese people to photograph themselves with random whiteys, and the pre-flag lull only amplified the effect.
I was able to convince one of the three or four people that I took pictures with to take one with my camera, too:

Looks a little photoshopped, doesn't it?

I’d heard from both my classmates who saw it last summer and my roommate that I shouldn’t be expecting too too much from the flag raising itself, so it’s only fair to pass the spoiler alert on to you guys now. That said:

Man, you know what this picture could really use? Another red flag.

You know, my brother once told me that a girl I was interested in 'raised more red flags than Tiananmen square.' Watching this, that's all I could think about

Heyooo

Now, to conclude, I’m going to offer up a Beijing-style sunrise. Said sun is trying feebly to struggle through the early-morning pollution, and it’s not a particularly pretty sight. It occurs to me though that I’m going to be jetlagged in Hawaii here in half a week or so; maybe my screwed up time schedule will permit me to catch a Hawaiian sunrise, in which case I’m sure I’ll appreciate the contrast –

~~~

Originally I was gonna go see Mao Zedong’s body after that but I wound up napping through the hours that it’s viewable. Went to the Silk Street Market instead, which is probably Beijing’s most well-known hub for counterfeit goods. I was going to see if I could find a friend of mine a fake ‘longchamp’ (is this even a brand? if this isn’t a joke / i didn’t mishear her I’m pretty sure that’s the worst brand name, like, ever. “Oh yeah, I’m carrying my longchamp today.” Who the hell could say that with a straight face? At least, like, ‘prada’ sounds classy. Whatever) bag, and failing that to at least pick up some souvenirs.

So multiply this image a couple hundred times over and you’ve got the scale of this building (it is indeed just a building, not an actual street). I was kinda curious how it operates from a corporate standpoint, so I bought stuff so as to endear myself to the workers to the point where I was cool with asking them about their commissions, boss structure, etc.

What I found out in a nutshell — although almost all the employees wear the same uniforms, they’re not affiliated with each other. Aside from your basic workers, there are three tiers of management, namely:

  • the senior staffer of a given stall
  • that staffer’s boss (who usually owns between 3 and 10 stalls out of the thousands in the store)
  • one big building boss who does things like set the dress code and charge rent.

The senior staffer, incidentally, is chosen not only by experience, but by number of languages spoken, which is something I didn’t really expect. You quickly see why it’s useful though; more than half the customers on silk street are white people, a huge portion of whom are from Europe. Each and every shop girl knows basic transactions English, but the better paid ones can switch to Spanish or German or French no problem. Oh, and also nobody gets commission at all, which means when you’re haggling with them they don’t actually have a stake in the game; all their anger is pretty much purely for show. I guess some of it can be fairly described as righteous indignation that ‘rich’ foreigners are haggling with them over a few kuai but still. It’s not like they get paid more for making better deals.

Speaking of Europeans, I saw this and couldn’t help but take a picture. Whoever said that dogs were man’s best friend had clearly never been to Europe, where the answer is undoubtedly the tracksuit. My poor roommate spotted this jacket and couldn’t help himself; it’s in his blood. I’m sure it’ll look good on him, but I just couldn’t stop laughing. Jakob, by the way, we’ve gotta get you one of these. If you don’t secretly have six in your closet already.

~~~

Later that night I met up with Kelsey and some of her friends and we went to a solid Thai place called ‘Serve the People.’ (Get it, get it?)
Wound up in Sanlituar, expanding my understanding of the phrase ‘喝醉.’ A little too much, mayhaps. Ooohwell.

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