Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Stories from September

It's a known fact* that during the month of september, you can only post on days that end in 8. Therefore, you're only getting three posts this month. Here's the finale, lumping many small posts into one.

The New School
A middle school opened up in plain sight of our window. Every morning, i just after therese leaves for work, they start playing music over the loud speaker. I look out, and all the kids are single file, obedient and focused. The headmaster leads them all through morning exercises, which basically consist of marching in place. He is barking out instructions, or counting their rhythm (left, right, left, right?) and at a certain point, they all respond in unison. It's eerie. These kids are maybe six to nine years old and they are actually disciplined.

Again, if you haven't already enrolled your child in Chinese classes, it wouldn't be a bad idea to start.

The New Drum
I bought a little djembe in Lombok and carried it home. When we introduced this new artifact to our house, our cats were equal parts enthralled and perplexed. The spent the better part of 30 minutes just being near it. They smelled it, circled it, rubbed it, smelled it again, watched it, stalked it, and purred at it. It was all very cute.

The Window Cleaners
I wasn't feeling too hot one day and decided to work from home. From the couch, i have a view east, of hutongs, distant buildings, and the more of Sun City. I'm sitting there working or whatever and sense that i'm being watched. I was. By three guys in soldier's attire rappelling down in front of my window.

The Weird Food Street
After two and a half years, i finally made it to Wangfujing's famous weird food street where one can find live scorpians, starfish, and seahorses (among other weirdness) ready to be grilled and eaten. As this is a largely Beijing-centric blog, i will include the obligatory eww-people-really-eat-that-crap-eww-scary photo. Enjoy.

The Other Accident
About four weeks after therese's accident, i was visited by the accident fairy as well. This past friday, after riding home from a jam session with John, my AB,D! co-star, i got hit by a car. I was approaching a blind intersection where a small side street meets a main road. There are many bikes and pedestrians around. There is a large van blocking my view of the street coming from the small road. As i approached the intersection, i watched for cars coming. By the time i could see the car, i was in the intersection, and he wasn't stopping. He hit the front-right end of my bike hard, destroying the front wheel and frame, and hurling me over the handlebars into the pavement. All things considered, i landed rather skillfully, absorbing the initial impact with my two hands and wrists. I ended up with a scrape on my left arm, a pretty severely bruised right hand/wrist, and a little soreness.

So, i'm on the ground, feeling the sudden adrenaline rush in my body. I do a quick check of my vitals: head protected from impact, no bones sticking out, no pooling blood under the clothes, legs and arms work fine... that whole process takes about 5 seconds. I bounce up from the ground like a quarterback who has just received the cleanest hit the linebacker can deliver. I am focused and furious.

I tell this guy he's a stupid idiot. He tells me i'm going too fast and i ran into him. (Side note, even if that were true, it would still be his fault. It's ALWAYS the responsibility of the larger vehicle in China.)

We examine his car. The marks on the front betray him; he hit me.

A crowd gathers. I realize people are more interested in hearing the laowai argue in Chinese than they are in making sure i'm ok. Then again, i was probably pretty entertaining. A bystander tries to breach an agreement, and the driver offers to pay for my busted up bike. We settle on 200RMB, about $30. I know that's enough to fix my bike, but i still feel screwed. I want to ask for 2,000 RMB, but i know that will only make this more of a spectacle. I take the money, lock up my bike, and flee the scene, anxious to be invisible for a while.

That night, AB,D! played an abbreviated show to a small crowd of concerned, awesome friends. My wrist was in pain by the end of the first set, but i managed a three-song second set to round out the night. By the show's end, i was seriously questioning whether it was broken. However, i think it's just a bad bruise and after resting it over the weekend, i think it will be back to normal shortly. Plus, i have more proof that my bones are unbreakable. Which is nice.


*I made it up to justify my infrequent blogging. Hopefully next month will return to normal.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Accident

Hi everyone! I've still been lacking the desire to blog with any kind of recurring schedule, and i'm learning to accept it for the moment. Regardless, interesting or noteworthy things still happen. Here's a story from the week after we returned from Indo.

So, we come back from Indonesia and hang out for a week, still blissed-out from the awesomeness. The weekend rolls around and i'm off at frisbee practice while therese is with nina at the park. They too are playing frisbee, not far from their stuff, but far enough to get her iphone stolen from her bag. Which is a lame thing for the universe to do. But it gets worse for poor ace.

The next day, she gets hit by a car while riding her bike. It was his fault, without a doubt, and he was cool enough to give her all the contact info and agreed to cover any damages. He wasn't going too fast, but still hit her hard. She was lucky and not severely injured, nothing broken, a few scrapes and bruises, mostly pissed off and in shock. Here's what happened, courtesy of this.

The next day, he met her at the hospital to get some things checked out. Now, this guy doesn't speak a word of english, and therese's Chinese is purely for survival situations. Helen Lu (thank you so much!) had been calling the guy all day to ensure we would have no problems with him. At about 7pm, therese calls me and says the guy won't pay, and please come to the hospital. I get there and figure out the situation.

The guy is angry because therese went to a foreign hospital where they speak English, instead of a local Chinese hospital. He says he will only pay, at most 500RMB ($75) because that's what a local place would charge. His exact words were something like, "In China, we are accustomed to paying only about two or three hundred RMB for an accident like this." Therese's visit bill was 2200RMB, with another 3000RMB recommended for physical therapy. This is not a trivial amount to the average person in China; it's probably a month's salary, possibly two. The guy goes on to explain how this is all very inconvenient to him. REALLY? Oh no you didn't!

I get furious and have my first experience with being angry at someone in Chinese. Therese knew it, and the guy definitely knew it. I rattled off a rant to the effect of "You are not the one inconvenienced, it is my girlfriend who has been hit by a car, cannot walk, cannot go to work, and is in pain. None of this was her fault. It was YOUR fault. You did this. You are responsible for EVERYTHING." I was visibly and audibly upset.

He eventually agreed to pay 3000RMB, which i felt was fair, given that therese's insurance would reimburse her for the visit anyway. We could use that money for the physical therapy. Poor therese had been at the hospital from 4-9:30, and could have left at six had this guy just paid the bill. We rewarded our efforts with sushi and sake.

Now it's been about 4 weeks and she's basically recovered and the doctor says she can start running again soon. He just wants her to take it easy and not mess anything up before she's healed.

I think i can finally say my Chinese classes have begun paying for themselves!


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Post Vacation Oddness

Anyone who has been worried about the lack of updates here over the past, oh, say, 3 weeks: worry not! I am safe and in good health. But i suppose there's a pitfall with traveling to faraway lands and embarking on epic adventures... returning to work and routine lacks luster. I find myself unimpressed by the normal Chinese going-ons around me. I'm not unhappy, mind you, i'm just aloof and daydreamy, slightly on autopilot. I feel no desire to blog about shopping, or interactions with locals, or what the weather was like today. Even though the weather is awesome because it's fall. We get unreal skies like these:

One interesting emotion i'm dealing with now is my reinvigorated desire to study Chinese. Maybe after traveling Indonesia and being at the mercy of those who spoke English, i'm excited to once again commiserate in the local dialect. I'm still taking classes twice a week, 3 hours total, and this is certainly maintaining my ability, if not improving it steadily. Many of my friends study 10-15 hours a week and have improved far quicker, but i'm satisfied with my current level of progress.

I've been a bit preoccupied planning for fall travels as well. I've recently bought tickets to Singapore, Dalian, Pingyao, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, all trips planned in the next three months. After that, therese and i have to think about planning our trip home for the holidays. It's all a little overwhelming, but the bulk is already set in motion.

I'll leave you with the answer to a question no one asked: What's the easiest way to buy plants in Beijing? Answer: From a dude on a bike.

Just flag them down, negotiate a price, and he'll pedal it right to your door.