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August 23rd, 2003

Beijing, China

Thembi and I arrived at Beijing's biggest market in the mid-morning. It was an open-air market, though orderly, each of the four sections being devoted to a different aspect of the arts. I found the selection and variety to be uninspiring, to the point that I didn't find a single piece that was worthy of a bid. Thembi, on the other hand, dove in with enthusiasm, and despite her modest shopping intentions walked away with a purse-full of souvenirs.

After a walkthrough of the nearby silk market, we said our goodbyes -- with only one day left in Beijing, I wanted some solitude to both sort through my bags and reflect on my past and future. "How will I know when to stop travelling?", I had long ago asked the crab sorceror, and at some time in the past few months the answer had come to me. It wasn't an answer that could be easily formulated into words, it was simply a feeling that the next stage of my life wouldn't really begin until I was settled and living the type of life that I had been impartially observing for the last seventeen months.

I spent the afternoon at Tiantin, a serene park where the Ming and Qing emperors performed their rituals to worship heaven. It was then that I realized that I had overdosed on Chinese architecture -- none of the fine temples and buildings had any effect on me, and I could only do a perfunctory pass through the park. When the journey is over, the journey is over.

Not being too eager to head out in the evening, I ate dinner in the hotel room while watching "Scent of a Woman" and "For Love of the Game" on the tube.


Photos:
Detail at Tiantin Park
Locals playing cards
Impromptu concert
Blue-rooved temple
Three-tiered temple
Entrance to Tiantin Park
Many gates


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