12 May 2004

Military Museums, Picture Food and Clandestine Taiwanese Talks

This morning I got up bright and early and hopped the subway to the Military Museum, a massive building filled with guns, tanks, armored vehicles, aircraft, missiles, ancient weapons, captured U.S. materials from Korea, the remains of the U2 spyplane and a pervasive smell of grease. In fact, looking at the weapons (many of the guns dating back to the guerilla war against the Japanese), they are ready to use anytime, the barrels simply plugged with greased rags.

It is a fun place to go, and gives a sense of the older, Cold War-era Beijing in its size, scope and displays.

Afterwards, I decided to stop for lunch at a little restaurant, where, unfortunately, there were no pictures and no one spoke English. So I communicated to the proprietor through drawings in my notebook (as I couldn't draw a cow, I went with a chicken). What I got was a large dish of Kung Pao Chicken (much better than the American version, which I am not all that fond of), a bowl of rice and a pot of tea (I pointed to one on another table) -- all for the equivalent of around a dollar and twelve cents. I also had some conversation with the owner through gestures and pictures. It seems I was the fourth foreigner to eat in his establishment, so I gave him a card to keep with the others, and he gave me one of his to add to my journal.

Very entertaining not only for me, but for the other customers as well, who took great delight in my visit and my interesting form of communication.

While heading here (Centro again) for my final emails before heading back to Seoul, I ran into another one of those students trying to sell art. I traded with him, he took my picture in Tiananmen Square, I went to see the art. During the conversation, it came out that am a business consultant, and look at politics, so he said he wanted to talk Taiwan. We went outside to a park bench, and he shared his thoughts (disdain?) for the actions (arrogance?) of the untied States regarding Taiwan, said he wanted to force Taiwan to be part of China (said several students shared his view) and expressed his dislike of the fact that the Taiwanese are called Taiwanese rather than Chinese.

All under the watchful eye of a soldier at his post nearby.

What a fun city.

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