On this day in Beijing, China we made new friends and everything felt a little less touristy, less foreign, and more like we belonged, or at least could eventually find our groove when we choose to leave the US and make the move not across the pond, but across the ocean that is the Pacific.
This morning we began by going to the ‘dirt market’ – which is like the best sort of flea market imaginable. Considering that so many of the objects you find at flea markets in America were made in China, what better place than to go to the source. And oh did we clean up. Leah is a master at the haggle and brought prices down from as high as 350 yuan to 60. Like anyone who has lived outside of a western nation for any amount of time will tell you, haggling is an art, and it can be fun if you’re up for it. Leah fully enjoys the experience and the vendors always appreciate the game. She literally has them saying, “I’m afraid of you” by the end of the transaction – but they’re always smiling and laughing – showing how much they enjoyed her skills and the whole affair. Here’s a short clip, I didn’t even get the best parts. Of course, there are many other street markets in China and I’m sure I’ll get another chance to capture it.
This is Wang Da Wei – he was great and really helped us out.
I was searching for a pair of these metal claw-like gloves I had seen earlier and when Leah mentioned it to her new friend, he left us at his table to make sure no one stole anything while he went and acquired the requested merchandise from a stall a few rows over – Leah went all out and started selling – yelling out things like, “I give you best price” in her mandarin and with such style that the other vendors actually laughed and cheered her on!
We arrived a bit early so we went off in search of some food. Always looking for the best hole in the wall, dirty, and less english speaking spot we can find, we passed up some clean and obviously safe food for this place which we saw from across the street.
Actually, we saw the steam rising from these baozi (steamed bun) steamers and the appropriate volume of locals clamoring inside to sit down and eat. We did the same and after being sat, bowls of soup were brought out. The stuff was good and warm and it got us ready for our day.
The dirt market is quite awesome. Here’s a short clip of what it’s like to walk down an aisle.
798 Art District
We had arranged to meet up with a the renowned artist, Alonzo Davis. Currently based out of Baltimore, Maryland he is staying at an artist community on the far outskirts of Beijing but made the trek into town to hangout with us and show us an area that regular tourist never visit. The Art District of 798 which was once a government electronics factory until it closed and then later inhabited by artists. The whole area is currently under construction but that doesn’t stop any of the galleries, cafes, and shops from being open.
We had lunch with Alonzo and his handler/guide/interpreter/friend Claire.
We have met some great people so far and we’ve been steadily handing out our friend cards – but it’s always nice to meet people with whom you have some sort of actual connection. Alonzo is a good friend of Leah’s aunt, and that’s how we got in contact. Claire is a talented artist who is from the US, taught in Japan for a while and has been living here in China for the past year. It was good to spend some time with them.
After lunch we walked around the compound with Alonzo, talked about art, history, life, and anything else. There is a pretentiousness that you can find with many young artists, and young people in general. Considering that Alonzo is quite acclaimed, experienced and solidly making a living as an artist, it’s possible to think that there would be some amount of that quality present. Fortunately we found it to be completely opposite – and although he is completely serious about his art, his openness, kindness, and general manner of being was very enjoyable. I am happy that we met up with him an Claire.
So many photos, so little space, so much more ahead of us both.