A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: agregg

Amanda's Beijing Impressions

Before arriving in Beijing, I had very little interest in China, even when understanding its economic importance. Now that I've seen big, crazy Beijing, however, I'm much more interested.

The contrasts between Moscow and Beijing are the first things that struck me. In Beijing, you can smile at strangers and it's not creepy. There are restaurants, bars, and general activity everywhere. Everything is CHEAP. There are SO MANY people! In Moscow, streets are often empty, and it's hard to find a reasonable restaurant you can afford.

Beijing still has many obvious problems. There are very poor people everywhere collecting trash and harassing Americans. Many people are trying to sell you something, but it's really more like begging. The city is very dirty, and it's been making me a little sick. My lungs feel clogged, and bug bites are turning into really nasty problems.

Furthermore, much of the development in preparation for the 2008 Olympics is somehow disturbing. The government is bulldozing much of "old Beijing" (read: the real Beijing) and replacing it with Western-looking structures. They've repainted the Forbidden City and other culture attractions, which makes them look more like Disney World and less like a serious historic artifact. I will be very interested to see how the world perceives Beijing during the Olympics. I have the feeling that the Chinese government will not be able to hide every problem.

The economy here confuses me. I see a lot of activity in Beijing, but the train ride through the countryside revealed a deep poverty right below the country's shiny surface. When I get back to the United States, I'm going to do a lot of reading.

Posted by agregg 21:39 Archived in China Comments (0)

Amanda's Moscow Re-Impressions

It was good to be back in Moscow! Since I spent some time there last summer, my "first impressions" are slanted all over the place.

Anyhow! The city is large, fairly austere, and at first glance very unfriendly. No one talks on the metro, smiling person = foreigner, and there's no "please and thank-you" in everyday conversation. Evidence of inequality is everywhere. There are drunk school kids riding the metro next to professionals in $2000 suits. It's a harsh reminder that Russia has a lot of developing to do.

Despite all that, however, I'm still charmed by the city. I love the parks, the bizarre Soviet architecture, riding the very efficient metro, and short to-the-point conversations like:

    "Young lady, what do you want?"
    "A sausage."
    "This one?"
    "No that one."

I was even starting to get used to the hilarious "old lady knows best" culture: "Young lady, you don't want sausage. You want this one." And of course they're right. It was, however, pretty hard not to get irritated when Ilana was told not to sit a certain way. Yikes. It's hard to keep your pride tucked away THAT much.

Also, I'm glad to be shedding my "translator" duties. Few people in Moscow really speak English, so getting around can be a little rough. But we made it.

I'm nuts. I can't wait to go back.

Posted by agregg 21:25 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

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