Relaxed

My conference call was canceled this afternoon, and Sean and I had been a bit stressed out, so we took the afternoon off and strode out into the streets.

It was an excellent food-and-walking day. Google Maps clocks us at some 13 km, hardly hastily executed at some 6 hours, and in any event involving many stops, detours, tea and food purchases, bathroom breaks, and window-shopping interludes. Starting on a familiar route, we got Sean a chicken-and-potato bing; shortly we detoured for convenience-store pudding.

I don�t remember if I have ever before specifically desired Chinese pudding�more jelly-like than the American version�but once my wish was verbalized Sean was a man on a mission. In truth, the convenience-store pudding wasn�t quite what I had in mind, so we followed it up with a second pudding event later on. That second event took place at iTea at the mall at Wangfujing and went by the name Triple Pudding, if I recall correctly. It was guinea pig-colored, and it tasted like coconut, chocolate, and pseudo-coffee in a caramel-y sauce and was served as a beverage with a straw. Perfect.

The Wangfujing Oriental Plaza is a very mally-y mall, and we�ve done it before; no surprises there. We checked out the movie theater�I had previously noted that it had on offer an English-language film called the Echelon Conspiracy, which we are skeptical is marketed in the States. Something to look into, but we decided to give it a miss for today. We window-shopped at jewelry and bag stores, not because we need anything in particular, but just for fun�I have in mind a white patent leather handbag, and am in 0 hurry to find it. The hunt is more fun than actually owning it would be, unless�perhaps�someday�I can find that elusive Perfect One. As an additional benefit, the mall offered some relief from the area�s oppressive pollen. There�s something in the air right now to which I am miserably allergic. I�m going through a box of Kleenex a day. Gross-ba.

After heading back out into the humid summer air, we got a grilled corn, which Sean agrees is superior in texture to the simple boiled one, and watched and mingled with the crowds. We stopped to thoroughly examine a group that turned out to be comprised of international MBA students from Carlson, apparently visiting the Cheung Kong business school. I refrained from busting out the camera for them, but we were far from the only gawkers. In fairness, it took them a decently long time for them to get organized on some office building steps and figure out how to display their banner so their cameraman had a shot at catching it in the frame. I did stop to take a picture of a World Cup ad, though, which features fake crowds into which aisles have been blatantly interlaid, with the intention of making it look like a stadium event. Bwhahahahah. Fail.

In good time we found ourselves out of the crowded mall-and-office area and following a long park which runs between the two sides of a divided boulevard. The sunlight was golden. The trees looked almost tropical, and so many roses and other flowers had been planted (especially red and yellow ones) as to make me feel like I was back on campus. Floofy dogs also abounded, and we observed that the volume of the floof on the dog in the tricycle basket is proportional to the crappiness of the tricycle and the decrepitude of the adoring Chinese man pedaling it. As Sean often observes, this country is weird. We also saw some old men flying kites, which were pretty damn far away, high in the sky. How did they do that?

Night fell, and we reached Nanluoguxiang, tourist alley of tourist alleys. 15 kuai �mojitos� beckoned, and although I find it difficult to believe they actually contained alcohol, they were pleasant and sweet and welcome in the warm night. Further walks took us past adorable kittens (�Buy a shirt and get a kitten free!�) and the stand where they sell mix music. A police van came by the DJ just as we did; poof, and the music was off, the player hidden, and the crowd innocent. Two minutes later and it was all back to normal; we purchased three nameless CDs, hoped for the best and set off again home.

It was a good day, and a relaxed one. I get the feeling my relaxation is drawing to a close for a good while; June may be the end of it, and I�m cherishing this free-wheeling Beijingness while I can.

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