Monday, June 25, 2012

Beijing 2012 - Day 7 (The Italian Place)

Today's class allows us to delve into how Walter Benjamin would "read" a city. We wrestle with concepts (and pronunciations) - a surprisingly worthwhile struggle. As students depart with informal assignments to produce their own examples of Benjamin's flâneur prose, it's clear that we're all much more relaxed than we were after our Friday workload debate. Feeling good, and inspired by our collective assignment to write in a manner that drifts between contemplation and distraction, I enter the metro station with no particular goal in mind. The afternoon is all about wandering, getting purposefully lost, noting the details of places and people, and learning to read the meanings behind the signs and facades. 

Returning to campus in late afternoon, too late to grab dinner in my favorite cafeteria, I make my way the Italian place near the hotel, attracted by garish animated lighting and the promise of a consistent meal. I've already eaten lunch at "I Do" today and have to laugh when I spot a table filled with my students who have returned from their own journeys. It's nice to share a meal with these folks. Music swells with the show tunes or movie soundtracks, and our revelry is only occasionally interrupted by the THWAKK! of a bug zapper.

I smile at the restaurant's owner; he's the guy wearing the pink popped collar of a Beijing hipster. Before I can ask, he pours me a Tsingtao. Students and I have come to depend on "I Do" for comfort food, lots of carbs and starches, genuinely tasty Italian cuisine. The campus cafeterias are fine, really a good deal. But there's nothing quite like a reminder of home. And this place has plentiful napkins, a rarity in many Chinese restaurants. Only downside: I've picked up a "crud" - you know, low level aches and throat-scratchiness. Yuck. I'd better take it easy for a couple days...

Day 6 | Day 8

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