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Higgins: Q&A with a mirror

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | JULY 06, 2015 5:00 AM

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Chris Higgins is a DI staffer interning abroad at China Daily for the summer.

BEIJING — Recent questions, still unresolved:

Q: Couldn’t we have just taken the rickshaw?

Just an even 20 kuai (not even four bucks in U.S. currency), according to one of the many drivers at the helm of one of the many motorized rickshaws outside Summer Palace, straight to the nearest subway station. Heat exhaustion is cool and all, but so is zipping down the street alongside sports cars and past similarly exhausted tourists.

Just kidding. Sightseeing-related exhaustion is almost always a good sign: in this case, clambering past Opium War-era ruins at the old Summer Palace and up a mountain pavilion at the new. Boats abound at both locations, especially at the vast Kunming Lake on the other side of the mountain. The sky, luckily, was a clear blue as usual.

The theoretical trudge back to the subway (just follow the rickshaw) was more of a stroll, a way to reflect on the National Geographic article coming to life. I just hope my own photos can do it justice.

Q: Where can I find such a place in the U.S.?

Probably quite tough to find, at least not for that price: $16 for unlimited alcohol at a pulsing, flashing club that 2007-era Paris Hilton would have more than approved of. Maybe something a lot pricier in Los Angeles.

Simple economics would prevent such a concept from being sustainable in Iowa City, but it’s fun to think about how such a spot would cement the university’s status as No. 1 party school. Tailgate one fall Saturday morning and party like a Beijinger until the sunrise the next day.

I was a bit jarred when I first stepped out into Beijing life. I planned to see historic sites and eat amazing food, but it would never have occurred to me that I’d get a taste of tabloid-style nightlife as well. Of course, perhaps it’s best that it remains a taste.

Q: Where is the best place to find shoes my size in Beijing?

My two years of studying Chinese has come in  handy so far, whether to order popcorn chicken on a stick or find my way home.

However, one thing they did not prepare me for was how to deal with emotional anguish of flitting from store to store, mall to mall, only to discover that the largest shoe size available was, like, a 9. I can barely squeeze into 11s, and I was having a footwear emergency.

In other words, with my toughest problem being shoe-related, my time in Beijing continues to be smooth. Even the more uncomfortable moments — perhaps the language barrier or a poor sense of direction — I view positively as a way to learn some Chinese or explore a new part of the city.

Staying comfortable isn’t comfortable at all, and breaking free of that zone has been exhilarating, but not terribly difficult. It helps that two other interns have joined me to try on this Beijing thing together, including one who has studied Chinese right next to me, preparing for this very same summer.

By the way, I was able to find some knockoff Kenneth Cole sneakers at the Silk Road Market in my size. Haggling the price down felt strange, and hopefully, I’ll grab a more reasonable price when I set out on the journey for hiking shoes this week. There’s a Great Wall to hike.


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