The first picture was taken in Jining, CN with Li Shuang’s family. The rest are in chronological order.

First we arrived in Beijing. We found a great cheap breakfast spot, but not before paying four times as much on lukewarm beef soup at one of the tourist traps near our hotel. Food here is remarkably inexpensive for USD.

The next pictures show Tiananmen Square. The structures are impressive. The area is much vaster than any city square I’ve seen, and full of Chinese tourists. Non-Chinese tourists are few and far between. American flags were flying in large numbers in honor of Trump’s visit. If our flight had arrived in the daytime, we would’ve attended the welcome ceremony that was held where these photos were taken.

We walked South Luogu Lane, a famous historical street that is full of shops and people, stretches a long distance, and has a Starbucks. I can’t remember if it was in the high speed train station or the airport, but I saw a giant Starbucks logo for a location in Beijing that must’ve been 12-15 feet in diameter.

After Luogu Lane, we went to Lake HouHai to look into an important part of Beijing’s music scene. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. One small music venue after another, lining the water. Each venue had it’s own flair, but still managed to have no sense of individuality. It was as if Beijing needed a place to put all the extra music venues and dumped them at Hou Hai. Even the smallest venues had a stage big enough for a full band, and the onstage equipment was like the Hou Hai bars’ live music uniform. Almost all the performers were young; probably in college. Much of the music was more like glorified Karaoke.

After three days in Beijing, we traveled by high speed train to Jining, CN, where we were met and picked up by Li Shuang’s parents and cousin. So commenced the week of endless eating. Considering how thin much of the Chinese population is, I was surprised at how much they eat. I’m just over 6ft tall and 200 lbs, and can’t hold a candle to the amount some of these wiry fellas over here can put away.

For a week straight, I was treated to dinners and lunches with new family members daily. We ate at nice places in private rooms. The dishes are brought out individually, fresh, and served family style on a rotating platform that covers the center of the table. In just about every meal, there would be a point at which so many dishes had been brought out that I’d think there is no way any more food was ordered. Moments later three of the biggest dishes would arrive. I’ve never had a more difficult time eating delicious food. Saying “no more” or “full” was often met with a family member placing a new food for me to try on my plate.

Li Shuang’s family has been very kind to me. They have helped make my transition to life here very easy. I have access to a gym and public bicycles. I have a place to stay and practice music. Jining reminds me quite a lot of the lifestyle in Buenos Aires. So many different places are within short walking distances. There are lots of street vendors serving delicious and inexpensive food.

And I have to mention the traffic, which is insane, though I have yet to witness a collision. There are tons of people on electric bicycles and truly miniature cars, everywhere. Some of the street worthy vehicles here are quite funny. The main road is designated for real cars. There are lane-less roads running alongside the main roads that are designated for the assorted mobile electric things. The people on electric whatevers can go wherever they want, basically whenever they want. Lanes aren’t really that important to anyone. It’s basically a big game of chicken and the the one law is don’t hit anyone (not don’t get hit, which people are fearless of). There are traffic lights and they are adhered to by the real cars. It takes some getting used to, but there is some sense to the madness.

I am starting to acquire very very basic mandarin. Not as much as I aspired to, but hey, it’s a start.

I’ve been practicing music and I miss regular performance outlets. An uncle is working on getting an opportunity for me at a very cool restaurant venue with multiple mezzanine private viewing rooms here in Jining. I will try my hand at busking somewhere soon.

And one last thing. Facebook, Google, Instagram, YouTube, and many other websites are blocked in China. I have to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to access these sites.

End of status report!