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December 25, 2014
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Beijing


We get dressed up for the Beijing leg of the wedding—a party in one of the fanciest apartments I’ve ever been to. The view overlooks the modern 2008 Olympic Park. I am struck by the clash here between the upper and lower classes. It’s far more pronounced than back home.

The next day, we visit Tiananmen Square. It’s raining and it feels a bit surreal. A security detail searches everyone trying to enter, though when our guide shows her badge, we are waved through. There is no memorial, no mention of the 1989 protests. Mao’s tomb is in the center and large photos of him hang.

There are cameras everywhere and huge video screens showing sweeping wide shots of the countryside. Words like “honor” and “country” flash in big letters. Compared to the Great Wall, there are very few non-Asian tourists. Our guide takes us to the center of the square and points up at the flag waving in the wind. She explains the five stars on the red Chinese flag. She tells us about a beautiful ceremony in the morning and urges us to come back sometime to see it.

In this moment, I realize that this is probably the most foreign place I’ve ever been to. I am a bit shaken.

That night, back at the hotel, I see the “Made in China” tag on my shirt in a new light.