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    I'm walking down a hutong, one of the small, winding alley-ways that Beijing is known for, over to a send off pizza and beer party for my new and soon to be ex apartment-mate.

    As I walk down the quietly bustling street, I’m enveloped by the smell of barbecued meats and flash fried vegetables.

    It is just before twilight and the weather is unusually good for Beijing, or so Angela (the apartment mate) has told me. Exceptionally cool for July. It has also rained for the past 4 days. As a result, the gray mist that seems to hang perpetually in the Beijing sky has parted for a bit, and the hour before twilight colors the sky a dusky pink grey blue.

    But I'm not looking at the sky.

    As my legs move forward, my eyes are drawn to the images - still and moving - all around me.

    Contrast, contrast, contrast is the refrain that beats in my head.

    Toiling workers shovel and pat down cement in front of chic boutiques, the contents of which I would certainly not be able to afford on my stipend. Three yards from the entrance of a high-end cocktail bar is a boy, who looks no older than 17, intently mashing a wooden pole (with a large flat end) onto individual soda cans.

    I can't help but wonder if this is the sort of work that Xiaoqiang did before becoming a member of the full time staff. I wonder if one of the men I saw, bent over and shovel in hand, also has a daughter at home, eating alone.

    As I wonder, my wandering feet lead me out of the hutong and back onto the loud, music blaring streets of Yonghe road. I pull out of my reverie to dodge left and then make a sharp right - weaving my way past the crowds of people. It’s easy to feel anonymous here. It’s easy to not see.



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