Sunday, October 2, 2011

September Sabbatical

The month of September was both amazing and largely uneventful. My September needs no photos to describe it and offers few insights into Chinese life (except for meeting Esther's parents). I didn't do much out of the ordinary. Conversely, i did ordinary things, everyday. Many of my days went like this:
  • Wake up at the reasonable hour of 8:30.
  • Have a simple breakfast or cereal or smoothie, plus coffee.
  • Go to the gym.
  • Have lunch.
  • Work for a few hours in the afternoon from a nice coffee shop or comfortable restaurant.
  • Meet some friends to toss a frisbee in the afternoon, lay in my hammock in the park, or enjoy a beer with a book.
  • Have dinner.
  • Do nighttime stuff.
September is unquestionably the nicest month in Beijing, due to the mild weather and more frequent rainfall, resulting in plentiful "blue sky days". I decided to take the entire month off work as a 1-month sabbatical. As a side project, i spent many days working on US/Grant's Quality Manual, and was able to make wonderful progress on it.

I also spent the second week in Hangzhou visiting esther. We both technically had some work, so we didn't do all the touristy things Hangzhou has to offer. But that was fine, we spent time entertaining each other. We played pool, walked or biked the city, played frisbee, ate good food, and smiled a lot. We went jogging in the morning by the canal. I met a few of her friends and had dinner at her parents house. I even taught her dad how to throw a frisbee.

Meeting the esther-rents was surprisingly easy. They speak not a word of English, but are very nice people, although pretty shy. They seemed to regard me with careful interest: careful to not seem too interested, but interested enough to not ignore me completely. I later learned this was a conscious decision. They were friendly, but treated me as though i were just another person.

Here's a picture of esther from long ago. Awww!

Their house in Xiaoshan, which is technically part of Hangzhou, but it's not near the city center. It's is also home to the nearest airport, the same one that closed for two hours in July 2010 because of aliens. See this and also this over here. So, yeah. Their house is a massive 4 and a half floor detached dwelling, with 5 bathrooms, 12 bedrooms, a finished basement, and an unfinished top floor. Her parents live there alone. Apparently, this is just what people do. All the neighbors have similar houses that could comfortably accommodate four individual families, while only actually using 30%. They could probably rent the top two floors out to, like, two whole families of aliens.

One day in Hangzhou, Esther and i attended the weekly frisbee game and a film crew came out to record everyone. A TV station from Hong Kong is endeavouring to produce a travel show chronicling each province in China. Their plan is to sell it worldwide (possibly to BBC or Nat Geo) and they were in Hangzhou working on Zhejiang province. They somehow found out about the Ultimate Frisbee scene and came to check it out. After the game, they bought us beer and interviewed four of us in a local bar. The producer was pretty pleased with what she got, and we'll probably have a five minute slot in the episode, whenever it comes out.

Esther and i also went to the tea fields one day and walked around. That was the extent of our tourism. It was a completely wonderful trip.

Back in Beijing, my days were normal, relaxing, and very productive. I never lost my motivation and i always seemed to get things done. I probably would have blogged some, but i was without computer for three weeks.

One day, i got to play tour guide for the Sales Manager of US/Grant and his friend, who were both visiting. Taking advantage of the perfect weather, i took Wayne and Yulia to Jingshan park, Hou Hai, Nanlouguxiang (and Great Leap Brewery), and finally Sanlitun SOHO. We walked, took cabs, and even took a bus. We got lost in hutongs, we drank delicious beer, and we ate scorpions. It was a perfect day with good friends. I rarely do these kind of semi-touristy things on my own, so it was nice to have a reason.

And today is October 1st, the first day of the fall holiday, so i get another week off. But i also get esther. She'll be here for 9 days.

I could get used to this.


P.S. It's been a while since i've seen a more terribly dressed person than this (note the flesh-colored panty-hose socks):

... or a dog as cluelessly happy as this one.

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