Wednesday, September 21, 2005

New Arrival

I've now been in Beijing for a few days but haven't seen much for several reasons, the main one being that I've been running around trying to get my Pakistani visa sorted out. When I first turned up they insisted that I get a letter from the British embassy. Upon turning up there though the staff were rather perplexed by the request and had to call up the Pakistani embassy about the nature of the letter. Apparently it needed to state that I was, in fact, a British citizen. ? Something that evidently is not proven by my passport. Anyway, today, armed with my letter, I arrived at the embassy bright and early, hoping to get the application out of the way, and then they told me that I would have to attend an interview at 11am, thereby taking up my entire morning. The interview itself was a farce and I might just as well not have been there. But such are the bureaucratic hoops that one must jump through when travelling.

Anyway, my time in Beijing has been marked by the arrival of my brother Mark who will be accompanying me on my travels for the next 3 weeks (if we can stand each other for that long!). I've also met up with one of my former pupils, Reg, who is from Beijing, and so I've been lucky enough to have a local, knowledgeable guide. Apart from showing us around the Summer Palace he also answered many of my random questions about China, its people, their habits and politics that I'd kept pent up waiting for someone to unleash them on. For example, he gave me a good explanation as to why Oriental people prefer to squat, when waiting and generally loitering, rather than stand, like Europeans do. It's true, you see them everywhere: waiting for buses, chatting together or munching on a dumpling, they'll usually be squatting on their haunches. But apparently, according to Reg, it's because Orientals have slightly bowed legs and so standing up straight is rather uncomfortable for them whereas squatting is no problem. So there you go, another one of life's mysteries has been successfully solved and you can sleep peacefully now.

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