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My Amazing Beijing Trip

Posted by on Sep 18, 2012 in Asian American, Books by Ed Lin, Ed, Featured, Journalism, Writing | 4 comments

Kids love me! I found these dudes near the parking lot of the Great Wall (visible in background).

I typically don’t travel much, but in April, May and June, I flew across the U.S. and went to Asia twice.

I kicked things off by spending a week in Taipei, doing research and pretty much eating every half hour. Then it was off to a bunch of readings and events in New York (the wonderful The Mysterious Bookshop, the incredible Museum of Chinese in America and the always dope The Asian American Writers’ Workshop), San Francisco (the amazing Eastwind Books) and Los Angeles (Mysteries to Die For — sadly since closed– and my third home, Giant Robot).

I had my first reading ever in Michigan at a super-awesome store (Aunt Agatha’s) and then caught a flight to Beijing via Toronto to give a keynote speech at an Asian American studies conference. Yes, I know. Asian American stuff in Asia? But it’s totally a thing there and in fact academics from all over Asia were there and the conference itself was all in English.
I wrapped things up with a reading at the super-fly dope Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine, a favorite town of mine for the awesome people, great food and beautiful blocks. A thunderstorm closed JFK the afternoon my wife and I were supposed to return, so that meant another night and afternoon in Portland. Win!

That brings us to late June and I’ve been in a cave pretty much since. Well, replace “in a cave” with “writing and editing a new manuscript” and you’ve got it!

Let me show you my Beijing trip!

I like to indulge in Canada’s other national language when I’m in the country or at a layover in Toronto Pearson International Airport. No matter how long the wait, gimme a cup of coffee and I’m doing great. (I think the translation is “The journal of champs.”)

C’mon, China, be communist, dammit! The assault of luxury ads hits you right after you get through customs.

One Ed Lin fan can’t be wrong! This is Nancy, a grad student who helped my wife and I get to the hotel (about an hour’s ride from the Beijing airport). Nancy is the first person I’ve ever met from the far-flung province of Heilongjiang and she had like the best accent ever when speaking English.

Our hotel. Back in the Cold War days, it was the only hotel foreigners could stay in.

You read that right: 50 yuan for a cup of coffee — that’s about $6.50! This ain’t no cheap Chinese hotel!

Our first and worst meal in China. We got to our hotel just as all the nearby restaurants were closing. These sad little chicken and vegetables entrees (served in upside-down Devo hats) were procured at a Kentucky Fried Chicken across the street.

Changing Boundaries and Reshaping Itineraries: An International Conference on Asian American Expressive Culture. Thank you so much, Elaine H. Kim of UC Berkeley and Kuilan Liu of Beijing Foreign Studies University for inviting me!

Elaine is to my left and the ever-awesome Fae Myenne Ng is to my right. Faye and I are answering questions in response to our keynote addresses. Man, when I talked a little bit about Taiwan and the power dynamics with China, the room of 200 or so people was so quiet, I could’ve heard a chopstick drop. Apart from that, the audience was pretty responsive.

Here’s the video to my reading portion. I start off by commenting on what turned out to be a tea bag in the shirt pocket of the fantastic poet Russell Leong. Then I launch into “Chinese New Year” — in China! Never thought that would happen.

Food in China is…amazing! Lunches were basically at one of BFSU’s cafeteria and the no-frills buffet food was incredibly tasty. The best were these sweet potatoes and the other vegetables. Even these weak-looking fries were like amazing.

Graffiti on a wall on the BFSU campus. When you read about China, you’d think it was a bit of a police state, but people are generally free to do what they want (even getting around China’s Facebook and Twitter ban is rather simple).

The first dinner was at a famous Szechuan restaurant in Beijing. The food tasted as incredible as they looked. I’ll just post some pics without further comment.

The woman on the left presented a paper on Waylaid while the man in the middle presented a paper on Children of Invention. Were they shocked to meet us in person!

Ed Lin books in the Asian American library at BFSU!

I’m in good company! Cindy highlights BD Wong‘s Following Foo book on the shelves!

Wow, it’s my grandfather’s bike! And it’s exactly where he left it!

During some down time, a bunch of us went to Purple Bamboo Park and rented a boat!

More down time? This is me on The Great Wall! Don’t let my calm and cool demeanor fool you — to my left was a drop of more than 100 feet!

Thousands of people walking by won’t stop Chinese people from plopping down right on The Great Wall pedestrian area and having a picnic.

How many red bastards do you count? Me funny.

More food!

This was the best soup I  have ever had. Nice and spicy and there were whole sprigs of peppercorns that added a nice crunch and taste burst.

Jeremy Lin and the Rockets could so take you guys.

We managed to squeeze in the Beijing Zoo a few hours before our flight home. I had screwed up my ankle two days before doing something really stupid that you don’t need to know about, so it was questionable up until the last minute if I could make it. Cindy displays the  disappointment we felt when we paid to enter the zoo but then had to pay another five yuan to access the panda area.

Okay, they were worth another 80 cents to see…

Umbrellas were a rip-off, though!

This big tiger sculpture seemed chock full of history…but we couldn’t find  any info on it in Chinese or English!

On a shuttle to the airport, I saw the only statue of Mao anywhere. Maybe there is a garden of Mao statues just like the one for Chiang Kai-shek.

Almost back! So close!

I know I’m home when I can dig into a matzah ball soup! The things you crave while in China!


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Superha

    So, how DID you mess up your ankle? 😉

    Thanks for a fun photo tour of China through the eyes of good food and literature. 🙂

  2. Ed Lin

    i couldn’t possibly tell even you, superha! i can’t afford to look stupid on my own site! 🙂

  3. Khanh Ho

    Cool beans. I love your pictures of food food food. It made me nostalgic for my 2 months in China. And it was funny to hear about Russell Leong–which made me nostalgic for other times and places. I just finished your first three novels!

  4. Ed Lin

    thank you, man. russell’s the best, isn’t he? yee-haw!

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