Papa’s in Town
Today’s treat for wushu/taichi class was a visit from Prof. Min, Master Sun’s old martial arts teacher. Min laoshi waas even better preserved than Wu laoshi: at seventy-two years of age, his face still looked ageless and his knees were in better condition than some of the kids.
To come: copious amounts of notes
This study abroad is 20% lecture, 15% touristing, and 65% Olympic Games. So, our profs made sure to finish with most of the former before the latter started. Opening ceremonies are the 08-08-08 at 08:08, so today was Goody’s day of class. (Barlow needs a few more hours for movies and lecture, so he’ll spill over into tomorrow — oh dear!) It was same ol’ discussion-talky-talks, nothing too fabulous. Also, he handed out the questions for the final, which will be due on Monday in whatever form you prefer: paper or text document on a memory stick. I haven’t written on a single piece of notebook paper yet this trip.
After class and din-dins at the hotel as usual, a group of us walked down to the local officially licensed Beijing Olympic store. These stores dot the landscape, sporting the ubiquitous running man logo and offering various commemerative Olympic items: t-shirts, polos, shorts, backpacks, fanny packs, umbrellas, scarves, keychains of various sorts, pins (both singly and sets), coins, plushies (stuffed animals) of the mascots, mugs, replica torches, models of the new venues, and so forth. Asia is great at the merchandising and they’re taking full advantage of it. OF course, each store only has a limited selection, so you have to hit ‘em all to get ‘em all if you’re looking for something specific.
Since this is China, there’s some minor issues with copyright infringement. The major issue is that it isn’t, really; China has nominal copyright protection laws, but they exist mostly to pacify other countries for trade agreements and are very poorly enforced within the country. Hence, we can buy plenty of great bootleg DVDs and very few legitimate ones; when we’re offered DVDs at theatres, the vendors specifically point out that they’re original productions. To combat the flagrant piracy and ensure quality, all of the officially licensed merchandise has a tag denoting that. It’s a pretty high-tech dealie, pretty aimilar to our tickets: same color scheme, similar small print on the back, and a ticker of holographic material. The tags even tell you how to determine if a tag is legit. A little ridiculous, but definitely in the vein of the games.
Suffice to say, I did indeed get a few pieces of Olympic merchandise. There’s some pretty snazzy polos, which I’d get if I wore sporty polos, but I don’t, so I instead bought a white tee with the Beijing Olympic logo on the back and on the front a picture of the Temple of Heaven, which figured into the torch relay around the city. (This came in handy when we wanted to go see the torch at the Temple of Heaven — I just showed my shirt to the cabby!)
The store was about half an hour’s walk from our hotel, out of our neighborhood and into a slightly more expensive neighborhood. It was on the main road, so near bigger hotels, more bus stops, commercial drags, etc. On the way, we saw haircutteries which blasted music onto the street, athletic gear stores, restaurants (medium and small, indoor and outdoor), and lots of street vendors selling fruits and vegetables out of carts. There were plenty of people just chilling out on the streets, hanging out, socializing, getting their hair did.
Oh, the haircutteries! I didn’t go to one, since I don’t trust people with my head. It took a while to grow out this mop and I don’t know enough Chinese to say “just clean up the split ends.” Anyway, the haircutteries are many and marked like any old barbershop, with a spinning spiral barbershop pole out front. (Instead of the traditional American white and red one at head height, though, Chinese ones sit on the ground and come up to about chest height to show off black/blue and white stripes.) The girls who went to get theirs cut tell me that they spend twenty minutes lathering up your head with shampoo and water (no sink), rinsing, then they spend a half hour or two playing with your hair, then finish it off with a relaxing twenty-minute scalp massage. The haircutters are all chic, trendy-looking twenty-somethings, an even mix of guys and girls. Rachel was shampooed by a girl, got her hair cut by a guy, and head-massaged by another girl. The girls all came back with cute, trendy haircuts — definitely artistic endeavours by the guys on hand. All that and a bag of chips for 25元 — except for the chips, that is.