The Day Of Dirt

Those strong winds last night brought their fair share of dirt into Beijing. It’s not as bad as people have previously described the combination of dirt and pollution here – far from it – but it has certainly reduced visibility.

And it’s cold. Well, not as cold as the temperatures I experienced earlier this year in Sweden, but I’ve needed both a light pull-over and a jacket. The forecast says it’s likely to continue this way for a few days, so I guess I’ll head back to the multi-floor clothing market I mentioned the other day.

Today started with a visit to the very large “Dirt Market”, not far from the Jinsong subway station. As you get off at the station you keep wandering down the main road, until finally it curves around and then you enter through the gates.

The first thing I noticed was the crowd: there was obviously a high percentage of local Chinese people, but there were also lots of people from different parts of China, highlighting the ethnic and cultural diversity of the country. There were significant numbers of Muslims, as well as people speaking languages which sounded like Russian. There were also lots of lots of Western tourists (with a high proportion of “the gays”). If it’s a Sunday morning, you’ve gotta shop, eh?

There’s a lot of things at the market which held little interest for me: I’m not interested in pots, jewellery, trinkets and so on, especially as much of it looked as though it was the mass-produced variety I can find only a few kilometres from home in Sydney’s Chinatown.

The things which interested me were the second hand books, the personal items (including photographic albums), stamps coins and so on.

I also sat down and had a bit to eat from one of the stalls there.

After lunch, Kate and I met at Red Gate Gallery where there was a performance by a pair of artists from Australia, brought here as part of the Year of Australian Culture in China. Their performance work consisted of taking apart a building-block-like structure based around the Red Gate building (part of the original town wall around Beijing) and then playing percussion on it. All very modern.

There were drinks and a launch associated with it, which we stayed around for. While there, I chatted briefly to a Dutch guy who has a six month residency in Beijing, and to a woman from Sydney who was also visiting. She’s very interested in the area of agricultural/water/land sustainability, and described for me – with passion – a visit she had make to a place called “The Donkey Farm”. A fascinating afternoon.

From there we went to another arts-related, an exhibition opening of the work of architect Frank Gehry. I was particularly interested in this, as I’m soon going to have a Frank Gehry-designed building outside my window back in Sydney, when his planned work at the University of Technology goes ahead.

A bite to eat, and it was time to head home. But not before I stopped in for a drink at a local bar.

As I wandered past one bar, a bloke came up and said… “You want a girl bar?”. No, I told him. “I like men”, to which he replied “Come with me in a taxi and I’ll take you to boy bar. You can dance. Have fun.” I politely told him no, and made my way home towards a good night’s sleep.

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