Today the sky is blue again, but I’m sure there are still a lot of pollutants in the air. A friend told us that a girl he knew who had been living in Beijing for a year went back to the States and had a check up—the doctor told her she should stop smoking (except that she was not a smoker). Matt read that spending one day in Beijing is the equivalent of smoking 70 cigarettes. In some ways, I think that if you are living in Beijing and like to smoke, you might as well because your lungs are going to be damaged anyways. Yesterday was my “I hate Beijing” day. As in “I hate Beijing because the air is appalling.” The air was brown and felt thick with smog. I’ve been fighting a cold and lately I’ve found myself wishing I didn’t have to breathe so much because I’m afraid of what’s happening to my lungs each time I took in a breath of air. It’s a fact that Beijing only has about 100 “blue sky days” a year. The closest the air quality has failed to come close to WHO standards. And this is all during a time when the government is supposedly trying to improve air quality for the Olympics. It’s sad it is taking the Olympics for them to [more actively] do something about it. Why wait until now when during non-Olympic times there are still millions of people who have to breathe in this sludge? Idealistically I pondered over the likelihood and effectiveness of the citizens of Beijing going on some sort of strike to get the government to do something more significant to improve the air quality. I never want to live in a place where the air is this bad. It makes me want to shun off all factory-made goods, wear environmentally friendly clothes—like re-made, vintage, thrift (I’m not going to go as far as Gandhi and start spinning my own threads), start a victory [over pollution and high produce prices] garden, and walk everywhere…or else get some roller-skates and make Matt pull me around. Anyways, my hatred of Beijing was justified this morning as Matt and I made another trip to the China-Japan Friendship Hospital. After passing oversized Olympic mascot stuffed animals at the entrance (those things are everywhere), I registered and went to go see a doctor where I got my latest diagnosis of the trip: bronchitis. Yay Beijing. If polluting the air and pooping in public were Olympic sports, Beijing would get the gold. Not only did I yet another dose of antibiotics (trick or treat—it’s like Halloween except for instead of smarties I get some type of -floxin and instead of being free I have to pay for it), but also the NASTIEST cough syrup I have ever had or could imagine. Matt says it looks like petrol. I think it looks like shoyu, and it tastes like it too…only way more salty and with a toxic medicinal aftertaste. What I really wanted was a nice little jar of cherry-flavored cough syrup with codine. But no, why make it taste like cherries when it can taste like fermented soy beans instead? Which reminds me, I am SO over savory. I just want a bowl of frosted mini-wheats and some strawberries. Ah California, two more days to go…but I hear the air isn’t so great over there right now either. I hope there are still trees left when I get home. On a lighter, non-illness or environmental note, with the help of Matt’s top-notch picture matching skills, we were able to catch the correct bus to take us to the Panjiayuan Market today. It’s known as an “antiques market,” but there are many different types of exciting things of the home décor and trinket variety that are not actually old. The absence of knock-off clothes and purses was refreshing, and Matt and I spent an hour or so poking around various aisles checking out the goods. There were many things I expected to see such as porcelain vases, tea pots, ceramic and metal figurines but other things as well, like fancy door-handles and playfully shaped pad-locks resembling animals. Other sections of the market offered jade, paintings, and custom seals, but my favorite sections were the ceramic and metal objects. Countless items caught my eye, but I found it hard to determine what I liked at first glance, as opposed to what I would actually like to have and use at home. In the end, it was just too hot and we were too hungry to think about what bowl or plate might look good in our “home” (which is currently spread across Northern California in boxes), and I gave up any hope of selecting anything for Matt and my own use. Fortunately, we didn’t leave empty handed though, as we were able to find some nice wedding gifts. I think buying a wedding gift can be tough. The dilemma of selecting a non-registered gift is that you want the recipients to like it; hopefully it will be useful, hopefully it won’t end up at their office’s white elephant gift exchange later this year. But just because you would like it in your home doesn’t mean they will. Of course, there’s always the registry, it’s easy—plus you know its something the couple wants. They already decided if they prefer Calphalon over Circulon and what color dish towels they want to use when they dry the x-brand china. It’s good to buy from the registry. But sometimes, it’s just nice to let the other wedding guests take their pick of the registry items while you see if you can find something else for the newlyweds. Besides, after opening box after box of things they’ve seen before, I think every new couple can appreciate a little surprise gift that they didn’t pre-select. Like a little turtle, or maybe some dried seafood from Qingdao. Anyways, I hope our friends like the his and hers Mao watches we bought them.