Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tao does it again

I don't know where Tao gets the time and energy to take on projects of this magnitude, let alone see them through to such impressive results, but if he ever finds a way to harness this energy for the powers of evil, God help us all.

Last Saturday, Tao previewed at Wiggly Jiggly (confirmed: worst bar name ever) the Beijing Ultimate 2009 Slideshow. It's pretty impressive and hilarious, even if you aren't in the community. I suggest you grab a beer and popcorn, huddle the family around the computer, and let yourself be entertained for the evening for about 23 minutes. Or longer, if you have a slow internet connection!

Click here for links to all three parts of the slideshow.

If you need further entertainment, as an encore, i would suggest checking out Tao's previous work: The Jim Show.

The Jim Show disclaimer:


Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Beijing Pirates

No, The Beijing Pirates is not the name of a local soccer team. Although, it probably should be.

In Beijing, everyday is Talk Like a Pirate Day. Dialects and different accents of major languages can be found in every corner of the globe. In Spain, they speak with a lisp unfamiliar to North Americans accustomed to Mexican Spanish. And more specifically, in Galicia they speak Gallego, a Spanish-Portuguese blend. In Ghana, i heard an English spoken that was unique and pleasing to the ears, not unlike Pidgin English. And if you live in China, you are certainly aware of the Beijing accent, and if you live in Beijing, you likely speak it. I know i do.

In Beijing (and Tianjin), the locals add an "er" (儿) to the end of many common words. The result sounds to foreigners like "Aaarrr". Examples:
  • Curmudgeonly taxi drivers chew their way through directions - on the right - "zài yòu biān'er", 在右边儿.
  • Waiters, known as fú wù yuán'er, 服务员儿, sullenly bring you beer and lamb kebobs, yī píng'er pí jiǔ hé yáng ròu chuàn'er, 一瓶儿啤酒和羊肉串儿.
  • Playing some ultimate frisbee is wán'er yī diǎn'er fēi pán, 玩儿一点儿飞盘.
My initial year in Beijing was pretty worthless for Chinese. I listened to Podcasts and picked up a few things along the way. But, if i arrived as a one, i only improved to a two. However, since i started taking classes at That's Mandarin last May, i've progressed to a five. Sure, i'm making this scale up, but whatever. I'm now proficient enough to get myself through any everyday situation, can communicate on the phone, and can read a Chinese menu. I'm a long way from being able to really read, but that hasn't been my goal yet. This year, maybe it will be.

Oh, and jokes! I've learned about six jokes in Chinese, from my new teacher. Of course, none of them are actually funny, per se, but i learned them!


Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Wall as never seen before

Well, at least, nothing i've seen in my six previous trips to the wall. Do yourself a favor and click on these pictures below.

I can't stop staring at them. I even entered them in a photo contest. Pictures sometimes don't do a place justice, but these seem to capture the winter wall in all its white-washed, frozen glory.

The hike up this past Sunday was pretty easy, as the path had been trampled sufficiently to allow for easy passing. And without 40 pounds of gear slowing you down, we made it up in record time, probably 25 minutes. The five of us, jim, joe, hilco (cool Dutch dude), therese and i, summited at roughly noon.

At the top, we were actually warm. The wind was mild, there was occasional sun, and we had just worked our asses off climbing a freakin' mountain! The views were stunning as always, but somehow, this time was even more majestic.

Maybe it was the fresh tracks we laid...

... or the untouched patches of beautiful snow...

... or the dose of adrenaline from winter hiking.

We were happy.

We visited our usual tower.

... And introduced it to jim.

Hilco faced his fear of heights.

And, as the only aptly prepared one, joe blazed trails through deep snow for everyone.

Therese and i chose to head down about 30 minutes early, to get warm and relax. We retired to our usual family restaurant. However, we learned they do not usually operate in the dead of winter. Still, they recognized therese and i and invited us in immediately. They offered us hot tea, noodle soup, and egg tomato... all hot and all very delicious. We spent the time chatting with the little 6 year old boy and he showed us his comic books.

Therese tried to read him Winnie the Pooh and he tried to read her Mogulfat the Space Trotter, or some crap. Neither were too interested in the other's book. But it was great fun anyway.

And i learned that i don't quite yet have the Chinese proficiency of a 6 year old, but i'm really close.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Beijing on Ice

It's been interesting watching Beijing mobilize to deal with the recent "blizzard". As i said before, they don't get much practice. The few storms i've seen before cleaned themselves up in either minutes, hours, or, at most, maybe a day. I suspect the authorities were waiting for the natural snow removal forces to swoop in and clean up the city. However, temperatures have remained very low since the storm, and as a result the city has dispatched China's awesome manual labor force. On the fourth day after the storm.

Everyone from the Midwest or the mountains knows if you don't shovel in the first day or so, you risk having to shovel a rock hard slab of ice later. Apparently, no one told Beijing. Four days had made the city messy. I must have seen six accidents in as many taxi rides during the first few days.

On my way to work on Thursday, i saw dozens of workers with shovels chipping away at the thick ice rink outside. They must have worked pretty fast though, because when i returned with my camera, all i found was the debris.

Fat little Chinese snowmen.

This lady couldn't even bear to ride her bike in this mess.

The clear, blue skies sure make a impressive backdrop for the billowing fumes, don't they?

Oh... and it's supposed to snow again this weekend.

In other news... i got older! Thanks for all the birthday wishes! Therese surprised me when i came home with a becandled pumpkin pie accompanied by a lovely rendition of Happy Birthday (sung in her sultry, bluesy style) before taking me out to a killer dinner at Mosto.

Man, why can't everyday be my birthday?


Monday, January 4, 2010

Winter Wonderland

No, that's not Denver after one of its weekly storms. That is Larry and Scarlet's patio on Sunday. Beijing was pummeled for roughly 16 hours, totaling 8 inches of snowfall. That's nothing to a Colorado resident. That is, quite literally, expected every week.

This is all pretty amazing, though. To put it in perspective, check out this China Daily article. Lowest temperatures in half a century, heaviest snowfall in decades, 3,500 schools closed. Beijing did not know what to do. According to wunderground.com, Beijing averages about one inch total, in the months from November through March. Last year we had about a quarter inch all winter.

Today, Monday temperatures dropped to nearly 0°F and winds were steady. Couple that with Beijing taxi drivers' relative inexperience in snowy conditions, and the result is a long, slow, unpleasant commute today. None of that really matters though, because i'm still really happy.

For our part, therese and i had an awesome weekend. We wrapped up a long holiday

weekend, in which we celebrated our one year anniversary amid the New Years Eve celebrations. Dinner was incredible, spent at the Spanish-themed Saffron. Later, to Ellen's party to ring in the new year with friends. That was just Thursday.

The rest of the weekend, three more days, were spent relaxing, shopping, sleeping, hanging out with friends, playing epic games of catan, watching movies, playing with cats and massages.

It was one of the most perfect weekends in recent memory, and a spectacular way to start the year. I think this one is going to be amazing.


Friday, January 1, 2010

The Adventures of Flat Peter

A few weeks ago, my sister sent me a request. Her son, Peter, has a project for his 3rd grade class and needs my help. He's supposed to make a flat version of himself and mail it to a friend or relative in a faraway place. Flat Peter then tours the city and checks out all the cool stuff. Flat Peter came to Beijing; Therese and i were his tour guides.

Flat Peter made it to Sanlitun, Ya Show, Nan Lou Gu Xiang, the Pink Party, and sampled many of Bejing's celebrated restaurants. Always cheerful and smiling, Flat Peter is a delight to have around. Also, he fits nicely into my pocket.

Flat Peter enjoying a few of Beijing's unique modes of transportation.

Flat Peter having dumplings on Gong Ti Bei Lu, and sushi at Hatsune on Christmas Eve. Side note: Hatsune is mind-blowingly good.

At the pink party.

Two of the colorful locals he met along the way...

Shopping for clothing at the "Fastest, Best, Bargainest" tailor in Ya Show.

Although Flat Peter must now return to his home, he will not be forgotten, for the lives he touched along his journey are many, his good deeds countless, his flatness two-dimensional. In Beijing, Flat Peter's legend will live on. Godspeed, little buddy.