Friday, August 28, 2009

Fall is Upon Us

I haven't mentioned the Ultimate Frisbee Summer League yet, but it just ended this weekend. My team went into the tournament #1 out of four teams. We lost our first game, won our second and finished ranked #3. No worries, it's just summer league. But the end of summer league also heralds the beginning of fall, the most pleasant season in Beijing. Frisbee golf in Chaoyang park, early evening chuar and beers in the hutongs, drinks on rooftop patios, mild bike rides through the city, and that perfect temperature you cannot feel with your skin. From mid-August through October, Beijing is delightful. It's upon us already with temps hovering at 80F all week.

Saturday was a raucous evening, the Summer League Party. We rented a party bus, went for dinner, gathered at a friends bar for further drinks, and checked out The Redbucks, Chris Boehner's bluegrass band. Jim wins the award (as usual) for "Wildest and Most Frequently Nude" person. Jim's a funny little guy, a constant bundle of energy. Here are four reasons why Jim reminds me of a little puppy: he IS a source of entertainment, he's always happy, you rarely see him sitting still and he's usually the center of attention.

Presenting: JIM

Body shots off Jim. Notice he's already not wearing pants.

Jim crammed into the overhead compartment on our bus.

Jim coming down from the compartment.

Joe's personal goal of the night was to make strange faces in as many pictures a possible. Here's a selection:

That last one is just plain scary.

Speaking of Joe, this weekend Joe and I will be guiding our first trip as employees of Back Country Beijing. We'll be taking 7 people (including Ace!) up to Jiankou, the section of the Great Wall we've been camping on. More details on that after it happens.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Singapore Recap

A few weeks ago a took a much needed and rare vacation to Singapore. Trips revolving around a Frisbee tournament are not usually much of a vacation. It involves a late Friday flight to miss as little work as possible, two days of ultimate, a crazy Saturday night party, beer on the fields Sunday, and a late Sunday flight. I might not get to sleep until 3 am Sunday night. I was allowed to take one day of vacation on Monday, which allowed me free time to actually enjoy the city.

My impression of Singapore: not at all what i expected. I always thought it was a modern, clean, spotless land, one where people would be caned for spitting, a paradise loaded with beaches and exquisite cuisine. I found the food to be incredible, but the rest was a bit underwhelming. I ate Indian food four times in three days, although we were staying in the district of Little India. I sampled the famous Chili Crab and Singaporean spicy noodles, both of which were great. We had Dim Sum on the Monday i was leaving, also fantastic.

So yeah, Singapore equals amazing food. And the tournament was pretty sweet too, although it was crazy hot (in the 100's) and we didn't play so well. Our combined Beijing-Shanghai squad went into the tournament ranked #2 overall, and finished #9, meaning we finished first in the B pool. Anyway, we had fun. The party theme was "Freedom", and being the China United Ultimate Party (CUUP), we decided to go as "Oppression". Here's what i came up with(from Tao's photos):

The party itself was tame by Ultimate Frisbee standards. I hung out with Pia and Kat, a few of my Filipina friends, and mainly stayed out of trouble. A side note about that dart gun in my hand: Ken Su bought all the costumes, the hats, the shirts, matching flasks, and dart guns for some people. I learned that if you liberally apply saliva to the dart before hand and if you're a decent shot, it will stick to glasses. It took a fair amount of convincing before Jeff would allow me to try it out though...

The other highlight was Singapore's world famous Night Safari, which i did Monday night before my red eye flight. It's an open-air zoo that's only open at night, allowing visitors to observe nocturnal animals when they are active naturally. It boasts an awesome Bat Mangrove, a tram ride that takes you through areas of uncaged wildlife, and "award-winning bathrooms". The two best attractions for me were the bats and the cats. There's no glass separating you from the bats, so you could actually touch them if you wanted to. But they are huge. You do not want to touch them.

I also bought a new lens for my camera, designed for better low light photography. So far, i'm pretty happy with it.

Another interesting fact about Singapore: they have adorable little children.

In closing, Singapore: it's really hot and has great food.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Larke's Cavalcade of Indian Delights Goodbye Dinner

A Group Hug. (Left to Right: Larke, Ace, Jehan, Lauren, Me, Margaret, Brian, Talia)

Saturday night was Larke's goodbye dinner. These events have become very common in Beijing, as no one seems to stay forever. People come for a summer or a semester and then return to their roots. It takes a special kind of person to leave the comforts of your home and experience a foreign land... a free-spirit, an adventurer, an open-minded individual. I'm drawn to this kind of person. I've made some amazing friends here, some of the best in all my life. But everyone leaves. Including me. I've got another year here, maybe a little longer. Such is the life of a transient community, wonderful, beautiful people come through, but no one stays forever.

This brings us to Larke, the perfect example of someone who comes, makes a lasting impression on everyone she meets, and then resumes "life". Ace and i hosted her goodbye party for 14 people, an indian feast. Larke is a fantastic cook and i, as her apprentice, studied the secrets to indian food. I also inherited all her spices! Go team!

So the food was delicious, the beers were plentiful, the mojitos were strong, and the company was filled with love. Onto the pictures:

Alica, Larke, Helen

The Wu Crew. Notice the W's.

Weirdness against the glass wall.

Andy attempting to catch a fish to feed to the turtles. Although he thought it was just a game to catch fish. He was sad when the turtles dismembered it.

Feed Me!

Lauren doesn't drink, but since perfecting my mojitos, people find them hard to resist.

Margaret gets a free haircut from Hsing-Hui.

A lovely couple.

Another lovely couple.

Jehan and Lauren making nice.

So much Love.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Good People Are Awesome

Today on the way back from the airport, i lost my wallet. I was on a red eye, exhausted, groggy from a sleeping pill (thanks ace!), beaten from a weekend of ultimate in Singapore (separate post later), burnt from the scorching heat. Confused. But, Great flight! Flight ontime. Food edible. Side note: i recommend the chicken noodles on Air China from Singapore to Beijing. Slept most of the 6 hours, window seat, empty aisle seat next to me.

Another side note: i was this guy the whole flight.

Anyway. Arrived ok. Got my bags. Got on the airport subway express (used wallet) and headed back home. Yet another side note: the airport subway is awesome and comfortable. Always.

So. Arrived at Dongzhimen. Gathered up stuff/self. Tried to leave subway. Realize i don't have my wallet. Freak out.

Fly down the escalator and manage to get back aboard the same train, now bound for the airport. Drop things. Frantically search every possible location. Ask everyone if they found it. Nothing. Dispair sets in.

Get off train. Call ace, try not to weep from fatigue. Change trains, head back to Dongzhimen. Endure longest 7 minute subway ride imaginable in luxurious, air-conditioned airport subway car. Ask the nearest Subway Helper-Dude if he's seen a wallet. He hasn't. Glimmer of hope when he goes to ask someone else. SHD disappears. Alone. Waiting. Sweaty, filthy, exhausted, mentally drained.

SHD reappears, maid-lady in tow. She beckons for me, i go, reluctantly, asking in wild-eyed Chinese, "you have it? you have it?" She says she does. I only half believe. Can't allow myself to be crushed again.

And then, back in the little office, i sign the forms that return my wallet to me. It had been found by one of the workers in the car. They wouldn't tell me who. All the money still in there, the equivalent of $200 USD. It would be small fortune for a woman who works as a subway maid, but she wouldn't even get the reward if i gave one to her. She'd have to offer it up to her supervisor.

It can be trying to accept all the people who want to rip off a foreigner, but moments like these remind you there are good people, everywhere. And those good people are awesome enough to make the bad ones seem insignificant.

I think i just fell in love with Beijing again.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Golden Pineapple Youth Hostel

Ace and i went into the youth hostel around the corner to ask a few questions. My parents and brother are coming to Beijing in October and my parents are planning to stay there. Ace an i went to check it out, ask a few questions, ensure there are no problems, ensure it's parent caliber. Here's a transcript, more or less, of our conversation, all conducted in English:

Me: Hi. My parents are coming for a week in October. I'd like to see a room please.
Her: Ok, which room do you want?
Me: (scanning the choices) I guess a king room or a standard.
Her: (without consulting any books) Those are all booked right now. I only have a Deluxe to show you.
Me: Ok, let's look at that.

---climbing two flights of stairs and snaking down many hallways---

Me: This is a great room. How much is it?
Her: It should be at least 300RMB.
Me: Um... the price downstairs said 580.
Her: Yes, that's before the discount.
Me: Oh. Ok. So how much is it again?
Her: At least 300 RMB.
Me: At least 300?
Her: Yes.
Me: So how much IS it?
Her: 300.
Me: It's 300 per night?
Her: Yes.
Me: Hmmm.
Me: (pause)
Me: Do all rooms have bathrooms and do you take credit cards?
Her: Yes and Yes.

---back downstairs---

Me: Ok, we want to make a reservation.
Her: Great, i think it's best if you come back 1 week or 2 days before.
Me: Wait, what? Why?
Her: We need to make sure it's available.
Me: Why would it not be available?
Her: There might be another reservation.
Me: But! I want to be that other reservation. When can I make a reservation?
Her: You should come back 1 week before.
Me: How about two weeks?
Her: I think that's also ok.
Me: One month?
Her: Ok, that's fine.
Me: How about right now?
Her: Ok. But you need to pay a 100RMB ($15) deposit.
Me: Wonderful.


Her: Which room do you want?
Me: The King Room.
Her: That one has no window.
Me: That's ok. How much is it?
Her: At least 260RMB.
Me: (sigh) So it's 260RMB?
Her: Yes. But it has no window.
Me: I understand that. Ok, we want that one.
Her: Ok. (Writes receipt for "Booking King Size Room No Window).

Reservation made. We found it very interesting that these people seem to be actively NOT wanting our business. They just have no process for planning ahead or scheduling. So odd.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Lan Daotian

My musical experience in Beijing has just reached new heights with my first concert since arriving. On top of that, we have three more scheduled in August alone.

Tuesday open-mic night has become a regular part of my week. I hit up frisbee from about 8-10, then hightail it to sanlitun to jam. A few weeks ago, i met another band who was actively searching for a new drummer. In general, good drummers are hard to find, and, not trying to boast too much, i'm still playing at a pretty high level these days. Certainly above average for a musically adolescent city like Beijing.

Anyway, Lan Daotian (Blue Sky Road?) has gigs lined up, but they've been through 6 drummers in a year. I'm number 7. With only two practices together, we booked a small show at a little bar in the hutongs, just to get our feet wet. It was amazing. A bunch of my friends came out to support and i think we played an incredible set.

A few videos, courtesy of Tao:

Probably the hardest thing about leaving Boulder was Jiva Train, my band with Derek and Satyen. We were fresh off some of the best gigs we'd ever played. I was booking shows with ease throughout the Colorado mountains, sometimes playing 3 consecutive nights. We were hot, and our music was blowing people away. Leaving was a hard decision to make, and i'll never know how high we could have climbed. But man, i've caught the bug all over again. Playing for a live audience makes the adrenaline pump, yet is uniquely calming at the same time. It's almost like meditation, where you stop thinking about all the other problems in the world, deadlines, bills, arguments, schedules, and you just lose yourself in the moment.

It's nice to have music back.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Fantastic Post

Ok Tao, you may have won this round. I was going to post about this weekend, but i didn't have any pictures or videos, and you beat me to it with this fantastic post. With further ado, i submit for your viewing pleasure:

Yes, we are all very much into Settlers of Catan now. I've been playing with my family for years, but it just caught on here. The first time we played was on a tiny travel set at my house. Since then, it's been madness. We've been going to a board game cafe that has all the versions and expansions available for rent. I'll buy a set shortly. Tao even found an online resource where you can play for free against people all over the world. It's easy to use and you can make custom boards set up however you want. Pretty cool... here are some examples other people have made that are available to play:



Four Islands

Fifth Resource

For those who have never played one of the expansions, most of these boards includes a sixth resource: GOLD... which allows you to take one of any resource you want when it's rolled.

Catan! What a great game.