feels like home
Beijing feels like home; not maybe my 1st home, but definitely my second home (Manchester has been relegated to third -especially since so few of my friends live there any more). It is great to come back here and see friends; weird to have not seen them for 3 whole months. Beijing is (as you may have seen in the news) hosting an African-China Summit, and huge swathes of Beijing are promoting the event: billboards, bus stops, flags on the street, flowers and all kinds of things. I'm not sure of the purpose: to greet the 50 or so African leaders who came here, or to tell Beijingers what is happening.
If it is the second its not working: During one of the traffic jams caused by the event (none of the leaders are staying in the same hotels, so they have to close off all the roads to all the different hotels a lot of the time), I was sitting in a taxi right underneath one of the many billboards; but my taxi driver had no idea about the event and was confused as to the traffic jam. I suppose taxi drivers don't normally have time to look up at billboards and there are so many 'special visits' leading to the flower thing it must be normal (i.e. when the Olympic Committee pop over, or any Foreign President, or a CEO Conference etc). I wonder if the owners of the all the billboards are being compensated for all the lost advertising. I also wonder if the Africans in Beijing remember their country as full of beautiful mountains and wonderful wild animals everywhere.. or whether they know a few more unfortunate truths about Africa.
Since saying good-bye to my cousin and uncle in Cleveland (where they took me to the Orchestra -one of the top 5 in the World -and even tone-deaf me was impressed) and thanking them for their hospitality (and to Nighttown for their wonderful beer and bar-tenders) I flew for many hours to (2 days later) venture into the northern suburbs of Beijing for some eco-tourism project we are involved in. After being force-fed Baijiu at lunch with the local tourism bureau I spent a delightful 2 days under blue sky and millions of stars. Never before did I ever see so many stars when just 150km from a big city! This area of Beijing is my favourite: I've been there about 10 times to escape down-town. Now, after several catch-ups, a night in the Hilton (as a mystery shopper) and too much alcohol in a russian restaurant; Now I am back in xi'an. woo hoo. At least I can knuckle down and try to start achieving something at work.
Meanwhile you can draw your own conclusions about whether China's trade with Africa is good or bad. There is evidently a very selfish motivation to access key natural resources; and that may involve supporting dodgy governments, but if it equals more trade and more investment for Africa, it hopefully might be a good thing.