The guy who drove me to the Mataram airport had never been off the Indonesian island of Lombok. I tell him Barack's middle name is Hussein. He is overjoyed. "All Americns are rich, aren't they?" he asks.
Layover in Beijing. My friend works at CCTV, where her bosses were all called in to a meeting in the middle of the night when the Tibet stuff went down. My friend, an American, naturally was not allowed. Nor is she allowed into their more routine weekly meetings. "State secrets," she whispered loudly. Otherwise bare winter trees whose fingers interlock to suggest mist. We walk around robots spouting symptoms of political authority.
Think of the teenager hanging herself as a symptom of national consciousness, if you want the doctor's perspective, since it happened right around when Saddam was executed. The same doctor whose sage ridden property you watch while he's away. The same teenager you babysat, whose house you watched while she and her parents were away.
Beijing does not emerge flaunting color like the warmer climes. It just is, static. A faint haze of green in the subways. Beijing the reluctant.