We've been in Beijing a little over a week now, and our hyper-paced sightseeing, hand-shaking, and volunteer obligations have left us with little time to explore or soak up the culture.
Still, on most days not long after the sun rises, I've been escaping to the campus' track and exercise courtyard to jog, observe the locals, and test the much-maligned air quality.
When I tear off for a run in the early morning light, the track is filled with elderly men, most wearing jersey-tops, loose cotton shorts, and slipper shoes. Some stretch out in the outside lanes, while others putt along, working up a sweat before the day begins.
A few women dot the area, mostly younger college students, who jump rope or power walk, while their mothers and grandmothers take up slow-moving tai chi or calisthenics in the nearby tree-lined courtyards.
Outside the track, and in front of nearly every apartment complex in urban China, is a concrete area filled with bright plastic exercise equipment that looks like it was stolen from a McDonald's play-pen. There are big, cherry-red exercise wheels, bright yellow monkey bars, shoehorn shaped abdominal devices, and 13 different types of parallel bars.
Unlike America, where weightlifters clunk around iron in a vain attempt to get ripped, it's all about healthful exercise and light resistance in China. A few pull ups, a push up or two, and some weightless squats.