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Sunday, November 7, 2010

2 firsts: Silk Market and "adult store"

I'm going to a party on Wednesday night that requires we wear a Tang dynasty shirt. I had no idea where to get one, so I headed to the Silk Market. It's one of the biggest tourist sites in Beijing, with 1700 vendors and 60,000 visitors per day on weekends, but I'd never been there because I had heard it was such a tourist trap.

But now I needed silk and had no idea where to find such a traditional outfit, so the Silk Market seemed to fit the bill. It lived up to its reputation for crowds, pushy vendors, and outrageous initial prices (though the prices sound good to people just off the boat). It's known for its knock-off clothing and accessories, but the one thing the Silk Market had very little of was silk. I finally found a place that had what I wanted and the woman asked for the outrageous price of $800. I countered with $100 (which still may have been too much--I don't know) and after a fun negotiation dance, I walked away with it for a little more than $100.

Afterwards, while exploring the area, I saw one of the "adult shops" you see all over Beijing. I had been curious for a while, and decided that today was the day to check it out. It had condoms, lubricants, stimulants, fake breasts (for straight men's enjoyment) and not much else. What was surprising was the attendant: a woman in her 60's wearing what looked like a nurse's uniform from the 50's: white dress and white nurse's hat. I suppose that's to give it a sheen of medical necessity. I actually did feel more comfortable there than if it had been some skank in their 20s, so I guess it worked on me.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Judge and jury

One of my classes this week was on the American legal system --just the spare basics of what happens in a trial. Almost all of the students thought that, as in China, the judge decides who is innocent or guilty. They were fascinated by the idea of a jury - average people making this decision? They aren't experts, so how can they make the right decisions? How are they picked? What if they don't want to do it?

They were all incredulous that the jury decision has to be unanimous -what if one person is an idiot? One student, whose name is "Sunny Bright", said "maybe that's why the crime rate is so high in the US." Another asked, "Doesn't this make the jury susceptible to bribing?"

I explained that this is one of the most basic of rights in England and the US, going back 700 years, but they didn't seem to be impressed. The unanimity part really bothered them.