Friends: During two days of periodically scrolling through the thirteen stations available to me on the TV in my hotel room, only twice did I come upon an American production. Both were movies, one dubbed and one not.
The dubbed was something with Nicolas Cage and Gary Sinese that I did not recognize, nor did I care to stick with long enough to try to figure out what it might be. The movie with English actually coming out of the mouths of the actors was "Behind Enemy Lines," a Bosnia war movie from 2001 starring Gene Hackman and Owen Wilson. My ears weren't so desperate for English to keep me tuned to that for very long either.
Instead, I preferred to periodically channel surf as I read, hoping for a glimpse of Obama arriving in China. Oddly enough, programs didn't necessarily end and start on the hour, so I couldn't be on heightened alert for a news program when the minute hand on my watch pointed north.
Still, I kept perusing, curious to what I might see. At least two, and at times more, stations were devoted to animated fare. I wasn't surprised, as I'd just read a story about the popularity of animation in China, though not necessarily of that originating in China. A survey of teens revealed that of their twenty favorite cartoon characters, only one was Chinese. The rest were Japanese. A Chinese producer commented, "This is a very thought provoking phenomenon." No further analysis was offered. The Chinese though are putting resources into developing a huge studio devoted to animation to capture their share of the market.
One of the TV stations was devoted to demonstrations of various products for sale. Song contests were a popular program. The only other foreign show I saw, beside the two American movies, and perhaps some Japanese animation, was an Australian adventure show searching out and taunting snakes. The dubbing made it impossible to watch. There was a Chinese version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" and a wide assortment of melodramas and an occasional documentary and news show. I kept hoping to find some basketball, but the only sporting event was a soccer match.
I caught a glimpse of a weather forecast with single digit Celsius temperatures for highs around the northern two-thirds of the country. When I sign on to yahoo it gives me the local temperature. Right now late in the afternoon it is 40 degrees. I only lasted an hour this morning in my further exploration of the city. I couldn't ride hard enough to generate enough body heat to stay warm. Among my discoveries was a market devoted to animals, some as pets and some as food--there were pigeons and parakeets and dogs and cats and fish.
I still kept hoping to find an English newspaper. But not even a four-floor book store had any. They had an assortment of books in English, including a full table devoted to Obama. One was a collection of presidential inaugural addresses. The Chinese censored several paragraphs from the broadcast of Obama's speech, but I don't know if the book was similarly censored. Besides the usual classics, there were also quite a few books relating to business. One was authored by Warren Buffet.
The weather for tomorrow promises to be no better than today's. The predicted high is 36 degrees with rain and snow. Its actually warmer in Beijing, 770 miles due north. It won't be the best of conditions to start my riding with Stephen. He arrives at eleven tonight by train. I'll be hoping the sky will be less moisture-filled as we head north away from the Yangzi. Each of my days here has been misty, no doubt effected by the huge body of water flowing past.
The cold could be a shock to Stephen's system, as he didn't make it too far out of the southern part of the country. He got bogged down in the karst region in the first province he came to after crossing from Vietnam. But Stephen has ridden in such cold temperatures at the start of this trip in the U.S. last October and November and then in Spain and France last winter. We'll have so much to talk about, we may not be aware of the cold at all.
The question now is where we will end up meeting. Will Stephen track me down at my hotel tonight or tomorrow morning, or will our rendezvous take place at the nearby McDonald's? And will we head straight out tomorrow or will be go shopping for an extra layer or two? Or might we rethink the advisability of heading north to Beijing. My original plan was to fly back from Hong Kong and flee the cold. But when I learned I could switch my return flight from Beijing for less than $150 and have ten days of biking with Stephen, that was an opportunity I could not resist.
I nearly bought another wool sweater this morning from a sidewalk vendor when I thought the price was seven dollars. It was actually three times that. Maybe tomorrow that will not seem such a bad deal.