Monday, April 11, 2005


Beijing. Chili. Toga.

I ask you enlightened and clever readers, can you find a way to put these three words together in a sentence and have it make some kind of sense?

(taps foot, whistles, flips quarter in the air).

Right, I couldnt do it either, until Saturday.

That was when I took a 45 minutes taxi ride out of Beijing to the Yosemite Estates expatriate townhouse community. This residence complex is mostly inhabited by oil industry expats from around the world working on a nearby oil exploration and drilling operation.

My dear friend Simona, who is an Italian woman from Rome who moved to Beijing five years ago to start and run a garment business, has a great network of friends in Beijing and some of them work in the oil businesses.

Well, Saturday they held their annual Chili Cook-off and party. Better still, the theme for their booths was, the Sino, Texan, Israeli, Italian Chili Joint Venture.

So, there were Dan, Joel and Gal dress in yarmulkes and side curls, Barbara and Sharon in full Texas regalia, Chao Ben and Wo Hen in tradition Chinese dress, and Simona and yours truly in Roman toga and head adornment.

And there I was, under the Beijing sun, eating chili in my toga.

We finished the night at a place called The Souk, a Middle Eastern style club and restaurant frequented by locals and expats alike.

Lesson learned. Dont ever try to imagine what the future holds for you.
Because your imagination is not that twisted, or expansive.


I spent the early part of my day walking and exploring in Behei Park, the old royal gardens and parks located behind the Forbidden City.

Its a spectacular expanse of land with a large lake in the middle and an island in the rocky hill about 300 feet high in the middle. On the island you climb a series of steps that take you through Buddhist temples and at the summit is the white pagoda.

From this perch there is a wonderful view of the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and North Beijing.

After the park I went to the Li family home. My partner Lilys mother and fathers house.

We spend the afternoon talking, eating, listening to music and reviewing Mr. Li magnificent collection of framed 12x24 photos that he has taken all over China and Europe over the last 30 years.

There were real works of art, professional quality the lot of them.

Tonight I am writing from the city of Yiwu, which is near, NOTHING. I am in the middle of nowhere but have some important business dealings down here for the next five days.

I have decided against going to Vietnam at the end of the trip. Instead I am taking a cruise down the Yangtze River, through the spectacular Three Gorges.


This time next year one of the great natural wonders of the world will be gone forever. The gorges will be a memory once the lake that is created by the Three Gorges Dam project is completed. More on that later.