"Ladies and gentleman. Welcome to Beijing. Please remain seated while health officials board the aircraft for inspection."
Nervous glances are exchanged as a sea of masks fan out through the cabin with Star-Trekesque stun guns. I look down at my visa and notice that the NY consulate helpfully placed my visa directly across from the passport stamp from my recent trip to Mexico. Shit.
A masked woman reaches me and takes aim. She looks menacingly at some data on the back. SHIT. SHIT. SHIT. Can you get a temperature from a hangover? Did her machine reveal that I lied about having a headache? Finally she shrugged and then shot my father. Neither of us were hurt, but we both found ourselves warming to totalitarianism and utterly unable to form the words "pollution" or "smog" for our entire first day in the country.
This was the first of three swine flu airport screenings we encounterd, each involving increasingly impressive techno gadgets--infrared cameras, another shooting contraptions that looked like a speed gun, and a metal-detector-esque entryway that could apparently take your temperature as you passed through. There were also lots and lots of masks.
After we exiting the airport we found little evidence that normal Chines give a shit about swine. Noone wears a mask on the street. And pork is still large and in charge on most menus.
Our hotel is located in a sprawling designer mall complex with exotic stores like Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs. There are lots of high-rise condo developments going up with slogans like "Live emotion and sexy love style. City fashion in apartment." Last night we had dinner in the mall's dim sum outlet, dubbed Golden Tripod Attic. It was located in the basement.
The complex is located on the site of a former electrical plant. The first attraction we visited--the 798 Arts District--was also on the site of a former electrical plant. Which begs the question, if they're shutting down all these electrical plants, what could possibly be causing that beautiful grey palor that blankets the city? Also, how do they continue to produce enough energy to power the laser light show at the building across from us? So many questions, so few answers!
We did other stuff yesterday involving rickshaws and chopsticks and pandas, but I'll spare you the play by play. Suffice to say that we're swine-flu free and loving life.