Friday, May 30, 2008

Trotect Skins with Sunbonnet!

Mario, a friend from Trimble, was in Beijing this week visiting us to check on some of our projects. He wanted to buy some visors for his wife. I guess she would wear this massive hunk of plastic hat whilst on a bike ride. Or welding. The other great part is, i don't think this creatively worded label is intended to be removed.

Thanks for the suggestion, trusty sunbonnet. My face skins will very much need the trotection next time i'm out for a grip.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

International Intrigue

I started tracking this blogs visitors by country with It's pretty cool; it doesn't tell me who is checking it out, just where they are from. So, below is a snapshot of everyone who's visited my blog so far. Sweet.

I'm pretty sure I can account for the visitors in the U.S., Britian, Spain, France, Sweden, New Zealand, Beijing, Brazil, and Chile. But, I don't think i have any direct contacts (yet!) in Southern China, India, Nepal, South Korea, Japan, Argentina, Indonesia (Andy?) or the Philippines.

Who are you people?

And welcome!

p.s. I've also fixed it so Anonymous users can post comments.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Language Lessons

The title of this post was poached from a great scene in Better Off Dead (one of my all time favorites) when John Cusack finishes the big ski race down the dreaded K2 and the two Japanese dudes waiting at the bottom ask him how he was able to accomplish such an amazing race but since they learned how to speak English watching Howard Cosell they can only speak in sports vernacular....

Moving on- the point is I've been really fascinated with learning Chinese lately. It helps that I have a strong motivation to learn. What with the blank stares and awkward silences and all. I've been learning plenty on my own but I also beseech lessons from all my friends, chinese or american. I had so much vocabulary floating around in my head but didn't know how to put it together. Well, I'm starting to figure it out.

In some ways, Chinese is actually a lot easier than I expected. If you've ever learned a second language, Spanish, Italian, German, etc., you know that verbs are a nightmare. Trying to keep the different tenses separate is brutal. Chinese is really sweet that way. There are no verb tenses. Once you learn the word for "eat", it's the same everytime. The way you denote the tense is with time words. I eat yesterday. We eat right now. He eat already. Sweet. What took me years to accomplish in Spanish has taken me all of 1 month to figure out in Chinese.

[Disclaimer: If you actually speak Chinese, I expect you are cringing at the way i've explained this. I understand your pain. It's ok. Realize i've only been studying for a month.]

Unfortunately, what the language gives in grammar simplicity, it more than takes away in pronunciation. Holycrapchineseishard! Clearly the hardest part is that Chinese is a tonal language. One word can be pronounced 5 different ways and each one means something different.

ma - turns a statement into a question
mā - mother
má - hemp
mǎ - horse
mà - curse

You can imagine how hilarity ensues when I ask someone if they can ride a mother. Or if they want to smoke some horse.

Anyway, it's all pretty interesting and it's really cool now that my meager attempts to communicate are being understood. Special thanks to my amazing tutor, Kelly, pictured below. I really like this self portrait, not least of all because my amazing camera chose to focus on Sir Barebelly and his sidekick in the background.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

More gānbēi photos

I had so many pictures from that night, i have to post more. These are mostly random shots of friends from the dinner. Also, the Chinese-looking dude in several of the pictures is Tao. Check out his blog on life in Beijing too. He's even posted a couple of my photos.

UPDATE: The aforementioned Tao has a lengthy post about this very night on his blog. Looks like i was fortunate to leave at midnight, because things got rowdy in those wee hours.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Gānbēi! (Now with 50% more photos!)


More frisbee last night followed by the obligatory group dinner. This time, however, it was weeknight pick-up which ends at 10pm. So, we added a significant amount of beer to the mix as well. We found this great restaurant with sidewalk seating, which was absolutely necessary given our sweat-drenched clothing. I busted out my new-fangled camera and everyone's eyes lit up. There was much gānbēi-ing (toasting- lit: drain your glass) and tons of great food. I got a few good pictures of the lady who was BBQ-ing shish-ke-bobs on an open fire pit inside the wall next to our table. Here's a smattering of pictures from the dinner. I look ridiculous in this first picture. But, I was really excited about that beer.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Please Don't Worry

This is classic.

Mario, Fredy, and myself discovered this on the back of the hotel doors when we were here in November for work. It's hilarious and this important message still rings true to this day.

Point profess the what now? Actually, I think that's right about the time i'd have to start worrying.


p.s. If anyone is on Skype, my user name is reitz.kevin

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Getting Settled

Yeah, so...
life is plugging along. Everyday I get a little more comfortable in my environment here. I can now navigate the buses and metro with ease. I can order food (or at least point my way through the ordering process) and I can settle a bill. I can tell the taxi dude where i'm going (Wǒ yào qù Wanshoulu dìtiě) and recognize when i get there. I've got a cell phone (15810852889). I've arranged a tutor for 2 hours per week to learn Chinese.

But i'm still a long way from being comfortable in traffic. Until yesterday, i could only cross a street huddled among locals. Traffic is chaos. I'm pretty sure street lights are just suggestions. Also the painted lane lines. Cars will often straddle one until one side opens up. And cars seem to come at you from very odd angles. Everyone gets cut off by everyone else, always. But there's no road rage. In fact, the only indication the drivers are even paying attention (other than the infrequency of actual accidents) is the blaring of horns. No vocal complaining or cursing, just horns. Excerpt from a typical autoconversation:
  • Car 1: Honk! [I'm merging in exactly 1 second.]
  • Car 2: Honk! Honk! [Unacceptable! Unacceptable!]
  • Car 1: Honk! [Done.]
  • Car 2: Honk! [Thank you.]
  • Car 3: Honk! [Honk.]

Think about it... if someone in The States honks at you, your mind immediately tries to comprehend what a colossal dick that guy must be. But here, it's just part of driving, like checking your blind spot. Which, they actually don't do. Also: bumpers are actually used for bumping things quite frequently.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Where to begin?

Hello fantastic you!
Kevin's made it safe and sound. He's pretty overwhelmed by the prospect of blogging, but he promises to work through it. It's actually fairly complex even getting a blog going here. Mostly, China doesn't want you posting something that other Chinese can read. Anyway, kev obviously figured out how to get around it. So, here it is. If you're looking for news on Kevin, you've come to the right place.

So where to begin? Probably just get the housekeeping crap out of the way. Arriving was uneventful and the flight was long. Jet lag was harsh but we pushed on through. The hotel is decent but the beds are hard. One thing you notice immediately is the abundance of waitstaff. Everywhere. There were a half dozen assisting with check-in, another few to accompany on the elevator, four more waiting at the top, and three in the room. And they wouldn't leave. Just kept demonstrating all the gadgets, of which there were precious few. TV on, TV off. Phone? Check. Lights? Check. Phone again? Got it. I'll give them one thing: China knows how to keep it's people employed.

So, work has been really, really, good. It can be pretty challenging, but holy crap it's interesting! I work with lot's of bright young people who are eager to contribute and are really hard workers. And, being in my first people management position, that certainly helps.

The food is absolutely incredible. Maybe i'm just getting lucky, but i've had some of the best meals for a mere pittance. Last night was 20 Kuai for all the food and beer, and at 7:1... that's about $3. Also, i'm delighted to report one can find the following kinds of food: pizza, thai, indian, mexican, sushi, american, and, um, a crapload of chinese. However, you still must order in chinese.

What else? The Ultimate Frisbee scene is sweet here. I played saturday and sunday, and met a good 20 people. More than half are ex-pats, and most of those are American, although there's lot's of chinese, etc. I arrived at a good time, as saturday was rung in with a trio of birthdays and a chartered bus to cruise the bars. Also, the China Nationals Tournament is two weeks away here in Beijing. I've secured a spot on the team... #50.

Anyway, my chinese is horrendous but improving. My orientation is pathetic but i'm learning. Hotel food is still tempting but i'm adventuring. At least I've figured out the bus, subway, and taxi situation. Oh yeah, and I went skydiving in California before i shipped off. I will DEFINITELY do that again.

Last- my visa situation is tenuous at best. We've got all the best and brightest mind in the country working on it, so i'm sure it will be fine. Yesterday was a 3-minute moment of silence for the victims of the earthquake. Here's a shot of the office.
I'll make sure to rap at ya soon. I have a lot more to talk about, but don't have the time at the moment.


p.s. thanks to my super witty sister for a moment of shining brilliance that gave birth to this blogs title. That's a good joan.