about We are Akila and Patrick. Our minds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
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1.3 billion people
and beijing

Hutong in Beijing

Hutong (an alleyway with traditional homes) in Beijing

One point three billion sounds like a big number.  Heck, when you write out the numbers --- 1,300,000,000 ---- there's a lot of zeroes.  Well, we are here to tell you that 1.3 billion is an awful lot of people.

Playing cards Forbidden City
Forbidden City People playing cards at the Temple of Heaven

People playing cards and hanging out near Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven

It's not that we saw all 1.3 billion people in China when we were in Beijing but, sometimes, it sure felt like it.  Everywhere we went, whether in the middle of the night or the early morning, there were people.

Fishing near the Forbidden City

Men fishing near Forbidden City

At lunch time, the men take their shirts off and play cards and fish and, most importantly, smoke. Here, 70% of the male population smoke and the airports give away cigarette lighters when you exit the plane, which makes Dr. Sarah England's attempt to educate the Chinese public about tobacco use all the more impressive.  [In general, pack Claritin for a trip to Beijing; the combination of pollution and cigarette smoke wreaked havoc on my lungs.]

Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven

On the first morning that the smog cleared, we headed to the parks at the Temple of Heaven.  Old women crowded on the bannisters of the outer edges of the temple and played cards.  Younger men and women kicked shuttlecocks to each other or played musical instruments in the outer lawns.

Umbrellas at the Temple of Heaven

Umbrellas at the Temple of Heaven

Masses of Chinese tourists followed the flag-toting tour leaders as the leaders shouted through megaphones or microphones.  On sunny days, the Chinese pull out their umbrellas but, on the rainy days, they don't worry about sloshing unprotected through drizzles or downpours.  We're still trying to figure that one out.

Temple of Heaven Temple of Heaven
Forbidden City clock museum Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven and clock museum at Forbidden Cit y

Despite the sheer masses of humanity, we do not speak to anyone.  We walk around the city, surrounded by people, but unable to communicate.  Very few people know English; Mandarin, a tonal language, is nearly indecipherable to us and the Chinese do not understand anything we attempt to say in their language because we cannot hear the tones.

Lama Temple Lama Temple
Lama Temple Lama Temple

Lama Temple

We are two in 1.3 billion.