Dateline: Sunday, 7PM, Beijing, China

Dear Fellow Cadres and Esteemed Ancestors:

Perhaps you are wondering why we haven’t blogged since our arrival in Beijing. The explanation is multi-faceted. First, there is a foot massage place less than 100 m from the entrance to our hotel, and they have no Wi-Fi access there. Backward! Second, we are too busy eating. Third, we are too busy shopping. Lest you worried that we aren’t touristing enough, we have left the sightseeing for the weekdays, under the theory that it will be “less crowded”, and the shopping for the weekend, under the philosophy of “the sooner, the better.”

On the topic of shopping, I have this to say: Every purchase is a new humiliation. Just when you think you’ve bargained the salesperson down to a nub, and you are swaggering away with your new “cashmere” sweaters, or singing Mao lighter, or painted scroll, or whatever, you see exactly the same thing at a different stall. Like a moth to a flame, or a driver rubbernecking at an accident, you can’t stop yourself from asking, “How much?” And the answer comes like a hammer. “X yuan”, which is always less than the price you just spent a proud 20 minutes haggling to get. Even I, schooled on the mean streets of the New Jersey malls, hardly have the stomach for shopping here. It is a full contact sport.

Despite the humiliation, the shopping has been really fun. Brad and I had some clothes made in Shanghai:

Here is the process for a qipao:

Brad goes Mao:

Off to dinner soon. For more about our trip, check out the continually updating Beijing photos on Flickr. Zaijian for now.