Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This Week in Drama

Life isn't always happy sparkle fun time living in Beijing. Sure, there are hutongs, parties and great food; frisbee, live music, and awesome friends.

But sometimes, like this week, life is difficult. In particular, the last minute preparations for getting Therese approved to live with me were very trying. It all worked out, and without going into specifics, i guess it could have been worse. Above all, the language barrier and unfamiliar customs create very difficult situations and negotiations. The end result is that after about three weeks of chasing down smokescreen problems, i learned the root cause last night. I'm happy to regale you with a story over beer, but i don't want to ramble the details here. Now the problems are alleviated and the celebration can begin. She arrives in two days. (!!!)

Otherwise, it was a pretty typical week. A recap:
  • Twin Party on friday night (maybe pictures later)
  • Jamming with the band, dinner and some live music on saturday
  • Frisbee and badminton on sunday
  • More frisbee on monday
  • Open-mic on tuesday
  • And more jamming tonight
Life is good. Regardless of the difficulties i mentioned earlier, i can't complain. I even tried, but i guess it all needs to be in perspective. All that crap was just a learning experience for me.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Chill Out, Balmy Beijing

Beijing had a nice little heat wave last week, when temperatures climbed and highs peered into the low 50's. It was swell, and then tuesday it snowed. It was also the first snowfall of this winter, and we were blessed with another round today. I felt a strange mix of feelings: surprise, longing, and disappointment. Surprise, because i never actually expected any snow in Beijing. Longing for the incredible, awe-inspiring snowfalls in Colorado. And disappointment, because it literally could not even be measured in millimeters. It was a dusting, one that would not last until lunch.

I can hear Colorado saying in a Crocodile Dundee voice, "You call that a snowstorm? THIS is a snowstorm." (... also this. Boulder was hit by a cumulative 56 inches of snow in two consectutive weekends in 2006. My flight was delayed 3 days.)

Here is the view out my window in the morning. It is not as impressive. They use brooms, not shovels, to gently shoo away the snow.

This was taken from the 19th floor of a vendors office in far East Beijing.

I love this... it looks like a devastating stampede of wild apartments stopped dead in their tracks after stumbling upon the quiet and charming herd of gentle hutongs.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Drink up, Thirsty Beijing

It rained in Beijing on Thursday, which is not normally a huge deal. But with more than 100 consecutive dry days (tao says longest in 38 years, and i have no reason to doubt), it's certainly worth mentioning.

So rain it did, and it rained hard. Which was annoying for me since i was flying back from Shanghai. The flight was awful and turbulency. Still, nothing compared to flying into Chicago, like, anytime. And I didn't realize before (not that i'd thought about it) but the Chinese are not very good fliers. I can't recall witnessing one of those airsick bags in use. And i certainly haven't seen a dozen cases on one aircraft. Until yesterday. The worst was a guy who ended up wearing it all down his back. Apparently this lady behind him "spilled" her "filled" bag on him.

I don't know why i quoted that. She spilled her filled bag. Horrifying.

Speaking of quenching thirsts (and changing the subject), Friday night was a delightful dinner party. Seven of us gathered on the west side, which is my side, although not the cool side of Beijing. But it is not without merits. There are cheap hole-in-the-wall bars and restaurants with character, but sometimes you have to adventure to find them. This particular place in Xidan has great, cheap food, is quiet and clean, and has great chuar, or kebabs. We played dice and drank beer from 8 until roughly 1 am. And the owners are quite generous. They gave us a few extra dishes for free, and at midnight, we ordered a few more beers, but they brought us 6. We were already drunk but the 4 of us pushed on through.

I've also temporarily rejoined the League of Clean-Shaven Gentlemen, for at least a week. It's a nice place to visit, but i never stay too long.


p.s. Therese arrives in 12 days!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Listen Beijing: I'm leaving you

... unless you quit with the fireworks already. Yes, i understand that 15 days is about how long it takes for your citizens to fully appreciate the new year. I get that, really. And sure, i was warned that the 15th day of the new year is another massive celebration. But if you don't stop this insanity by tomorrow (which you will), i'll be forced to leave you (which i won't).

Today is the Lantern Festival whence families gather and eat rice balls. I, on the other hand, had breakfast for dinner: hash browns with three fried eggs and a grilled cheese sandwich. It was incredible. But i digress. Today we were sent home from work early and i went out exploring with two colleagues, Sky and Cindy. We wandered hutongs, learned about tea and water color painting, and enjoyed the beautiful spring day. It was actually a really, really great day.

Sky and Cindy

New megaplexes looming over ancient hutongs.

In other news, tonight will feature the the roundest moon in 52 years. So, um... hooray!?

And i'll leave you with this image from the hostel in Kunming...


Saturday, February 7, 2009


I took a quick trip this weekend to Kunming... a late evening flight brought me two days of ultimate in fantastic weather in a vibrant, interesting town. This place will become one of my favorite weekend destinations. As i write this, i'm sitting on the rooftop patio of our hostel overlooking the city and watching the sunset. The air and streets are cleaner than Beijing, the vibe is more relaxed, and it's 6000 ft elevation. It reminds be a bit of Colorado. I'm vaguely entertaining dreams of moving here after my stint in the Jing. But that's a long time from now,
and we all know what can happen in a year.

Me, caught mid-rooftop-blogging.

Evening view from the rooftop.

Deserted alley near the fields.

Random picture from the airport.

This shop has 8 employees. And one customer. What unemployment problem?


p.s. Therese arrives in 20 days, and she already has a job!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

At what point are we using technology too much?

When two people can literally see each other, but use the phone instead. Amazing, they could actually just turn their heads and speak to each other.