It wasn't fear, nerves, or even excitement. It was just complete, all encompassing sensory overload. Beeping from the cards swiped into the Metro line, street sellers shouting the prices of their goods, people shoving past you--nearly through you--, linoleum floors lit up in garish light that stung your eyes, and the air so dirty you could nearly taste it. Beijing.
With a great deal of pride, I navigated my way to my hostel in a historic Hutong District. Think of the alleyways you see in old movies; red lanterns, small dumpling stands, the whole nine yards...just ridiculously modernized. Carefully preserved rickshaws were outside of McDonald's. A historical pharmacy had neon signs. Modern China dancing around ancient China while tourists helplessly stare, not sure what to think.
After living in China for a year and becoming thoroughly versed in the country's contradictions, I have learned not to question a lot of things and to simply keep exploring. So that's what happened in Beijing.
The first adventure was in Beijing's night market, full of strange and unexpected snacks. Think of unusual meats, animal shaped dumplings and, best of all, bugs. I was joined by a group of guys who had all decided that they would also snack on some creepers with me, and thank goodness, because I really needed some moral support to even get to the market. Turns out, though, that all these tall, broad guys from all over the world were outdone by none other than yours truly. Each one backed out and, while I did a bit of squealing and even garnered a Korean audience that laughed and took pictures as I snacked, I downed a few crunchy, scary scorpions.
So I said goodbye to the idea of being alone and spent my time with a little tribe of travelers that I found in my own hostel. A veritable UN of a community, full of people from every corner of the globe, we met over a few beers and traveled for a few days.