I'm home and hoping to return to daily remarks but for now I just can't believe that it's day when my body says it should be night. And it took me over a week to convince both mind and body the reverse just a few days ago. Hoping the return trip will take a shorter period, it did help to sleep in my own bed last night. However, the return to a stack of bills in the mail, an empty refrigerator and a hot August month in which to plan a very active September is a "Welcome Home!" to reality.
That, and the one hour wait staring at the "Welcome to the USA" sign at Passport Control at Newark Airport as I wound my way back and forth through the maze watching the same tired faces on either side of me as we would wind back to face one another every few disorienting minutes. (Did we fire all the federal workers while I was away? I do know we finally got past the debt ceiling issue; that was certainly a fascinating story to follow in China.)
It's impossible to describe Beijing, because it seems to be everything, all at once. Perhaps it's clearest to call it a city of contrasts, but that just sounds so weak (I mean, New York could be described that way, too, but if that's the base line, then Beijing is New York on an overdose of steroids). Nothing is moderate; everything appears to be at the most extreme ends of the spectrum - rich and poor, sparkling clean and filthy, crowded and peaceful, communist and capitalist, friendly and threatening, over-the-top luxury and squat toilets, 12-lane highways encircling the city and tiny "hutong" alley mazes.
Two consistent features, though, are the air pollution (which only seemed to clean itself to a bright blue sky after a solid day and night of rain) and the scale of everything, which is huge (and coming from a Texan, that means something). Huge multi-lane highways and streets abound, filled with everything (again, all at once - pedestrians, pedicabs, cars, pull-carts, motorized bikes, scooters and pretty much whatever moves). Crossing one of these streets is taking your life into your own hands.
There are so many things to say about Beijing, but maybe after a nap when perhaps day will turn to night and everything will begin to make sense.