August 8th, 2008

birds nest

Friday, August 1 - Class, Steak and Eggs, and Olympics tickets


Clear skies Another class session this morning. We're packing it in between touristing and the Olympics so that we can get it done and not worry about scheduling it around various Olympic events. Lunch was at the hotel, then another hour and a half of class. (Incidentally, our professors grant us about 30-45 minutes in between meals and class times, so that we can take showers or walk to the market or wash laundry or write journals or do whatever pleases us most.)

Incidentally, the weather was quite nice today, almost no smog! I could see almost as far as a good day at home. Sorry, China =p

Best Taste of Beijing

A little slice of home, on the town Steve, while feeling homesick yesterday, found a listing of Western-style restaurants in Karen's Lonely Planet guide book for Beijing. We decided to go to "Steak & Eggs," allegedly an authentic American diner experience. Sounds delicious!

Getting there was half the adventure. We were a dozen, so we walked down to the main drag in our neighborhood and hailed three cabs. Unfortunately, The address we had for the place, which was downtown, was only in English and American-style, and the cabbies had issues when they called the restaurant. After about ten minutes of conferring in between all three cabs with the cabbies and us, they finally decided to drive to a nearby hotel with English-speaking bellhops and ask them for help. They helped us figure out that 5 Xiushui Nanjie was xiushui 南街 5号。 (Basically, S. XiuShui St, #5.) It took a lot of effort, but it worked out in the end.

Burgers and pancakes, part of your traditional Chinese dinner Our cabbie dropped us off at the wrong end of a one-way street, so we paid him (20 kuai, about USD $3) and walked up the lane to Steak & Eggs. By the way, the Beijing taxi system is very similar to the New York system, where they have an initial fare, a per-mile rate, and a per-second idle rate. Each taxi has a machine installed in the dashboard which displays your idling time, distance travelled, and fare, and prints out a receipt. Also, the cabbies have their taxi license mounted on the glove comparted in a plastic sleeve. (Sometimes, we have skeevy guys in random cars try to get us to come ride with them as if they were taxis, but they're a little too shady for us.)

Anyway, Steak & Eggs was the second place on the street, which also had "Grandma's Kitchen," an Istanbul restaurant, an Italian restaurant, and, at the other end, the "Mississippi Steak House." When we asked Paul, who owns Steak & Eggs, he said the only thing Mississippian about it was the name =D Anyway, Paul's this great guy from Canada who lived in Daytona Beach, FL for a few years and then moved out to Beijing five years ago, when he opened the restaurant. It was very traditional diner, with breakfast all day and seltzer water on the menu. The only thing off about it was the Chinese wait staff and the Chinese on the menu. Nonetheless, the wait staff was charming and spoke pretty good English (although one couldn't pronounce "diet" -- she kept saying "diert" -- it's a Chinese thing). We ordered burgers and buttermilk pancakes. The food was great, real buttermilk pancakes, burgers dripping with juice, a real genial time. (The only fault I had with it was that my stomach had a few issues with the buttermilk, since it's been a week or two since I'd had cheese or anything with dairy.) Paul was also great, the kind of guy I'd expect to see in a diner after playing chess in the park on a Sunday, pepper hair with a big mustache, very genial. He chatted with us about Beijing, the restaurant, and even told us we should order the Chinese bottled water (which was more water for less money) than Evian water, if we weren't picky about it.

Ice creamy goodness
The only other problem was tracking down the rest of our friends. They spotted us looking for them; apparently, they were so famished when they get out of the cabs (at the other end of the street) that they saw the "steak" in "Mississippi Steak House" and went straight there instead. Way to follow through with plans, guys, way to go. The food there was also good, Angus steaks and salmon plates and whatnot, and great prices compared to a comparable American restaurant. Nonetheless, it was definitely a theme restaurant with a very eclectic theme. The English there was also pretty good and the manager dropped by and offered to get us American television stations if we would come back. Rich, my roommate, said sure, we could come back to watch the opening ceremonies for the Olympics! We have their card, so it may be a deal. I may go back to Steak & Eggs though, since their owner was a real cool dude with good priorities on his menu.

 Descrip After dinner, we walked around the corner and ran right into a Baskin Robbins, another taste of home, so people got ice cream. Then, we tried to hail taxis to drive us home. Tried, and failed miserably. We split back up into our three groups and got taxies separately and it took us twenty minutes, maybe more, to first find a taxi that didn't have a fare and then to flag them down, as some Americans. We eventually caught one, but he didn't really know where our hotel was, so we got to the right area and then got bogged down in the wrong neighborhood for 15-20 minutes. After we got back out to the main road, we just called the hotel on my cell phone and the cabbie asked the front desk for directions. Another 10 minutes of driving down the road and we finally got home, with a cab fare three times that going out: 60 kuai.

By the way, driving around, I noticed an awful lot of really sweet buildings in downtown Beijing. Nice architecture.

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

We expected to be a little late for a wushu class, but instead walked right in on pure, unadulterated, batshit madness. Some ticket scalpers local businessmen who had purchased tickets early in the year had brought a batch by to sell to us, for handball, field hockey, boxing, and a few other sports. Handball is a sport created for the soccer off-season, to be played on a basketball court. We looked it up on YouTube and the game looks pretty groovy, challenging, fast-paced. That pretty much describes the ticket-buying experience, too, everyone down in the lobby trying to figure out what tickets they wanted to buy personally and sorting that all out. Even when we came back upstairs, all the athletes had caught the Olympic fever and frittered away the rest of their evening looking up the competition listings on the web. It was a bit intense for me, so I withdrew to a less psychotic area, where we had already bought our tickets and ceased to care for the night. Craaaaaaazy athletes. It seems that most people came on this trip to attend the Olympics and seeing China was a nice side benefit. I say China's pretty cool to visit, good food, good people, and that the Olympics are here sure sweetens the deal. Other than that, though, hanging out with all these athletes is a good time; they're all pretty positive, welcoming kids, and we still have a mixed bag (psych, women studies, theatre, etc.) of students.
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August 2 - Class, accupuncture, pool hall / market / going local

Mm-hmm, sho nuff

Vanna White likes lotus, too Class again. Lunch at the hotel again. More class. Dinner. That was pretty much the whole day.

Interspersed with this was the little things of life: checking the emails, laundry, walking down to the market, all that shebang. One of the big little things: lotus was served at lunch! It's thick and flat, crunchy, holey, and a pretty cool vegetable to eat.

The cake is a lie Today was also Dr. Goodwin's birthday (we have an awful lot of July-August birthdays in the class), so Mark, Lauren, and I went down to a bakery at the market with Master Sun to get a cake for him. It was a two-tier cake with a frosting dragon on it, very cute; also, it came with a lotus blossom slash fireworks topper, very cute: first it put out a 6" flame, then the leaves opened up, and finally it played "Happy Birthday" like a gift card.

Poke -- but not on Facebook!

Our treat for today was an accupuncture demonstration. A professor of accupuncture and her assistant, who spoke English, came from the same school of traditional Chinese medicine that we visited two or three days ago. The professor was a bright-eyed, older women, sporting white hair but an ageless face (as I'd hope from someone who works daily with TCM). Her assistant discussed the concepts of yin and yang with us, the two opposing and balancing forces in the universe, and then put it in terms of accupuncture.

Amanda has about twenty pins in her stomach and a washbasin to cover them Yin-yang is a concept from daoism, the Eastern philosophy of the universe. They are two opposing forces and each thing can be characterized as one or the other (or a mixture of both). Yin consumes yang; yang consumes yin; through balance of the two is harmony. Yin is cool, closed, dormant, female, the lower portion of the body, and found in cool fruits like grapes. Yang is warm, active, male, the upper portion of the body, and found in "warmer" fruits like bananas.

Accupuncture works on the basis that the human body, which has 365 pressure points across it, also has various channels connecting these points; and that these channels should be opened to allow circulation of blood and energy through them. Specific points are pierced with the needle to open the channel; certain points and channels are chosen depending upon your malady: earache, backache, and so on. To demonstrate, the professor used Amanda, who had some lower back pain, and pushed about a dozen needles into her abdomen. Then, Amanda laid down on a portable cot that was brought in for the demo for a period while other people were given accupuncture treatments: in the head, in the arms, in the legs, in the knees. Everyone felt better after getting poked!

If we we were interested, we could each get a one- or two-pin sample poke, since the women wanted to go home after a long day's work. I took a pin to the shin, which opened a channel going down to the muscles in the in-step of my foot. As soon as I was poked, I felt a tingling and a warm sensation travelling down my shin to the instep. Curious, groovy, and rather nice.

On the Town

After accupuncture, a handful of people went down to the billiards hall to play some pool and cards, then down to the market. I learned Vegas-style blackjack, where you can't look at your face-down card, but the dealer has all his cards out. Curious. Good to know, though.

In addition to meat on a stick, I ate chicken feet Down at the market, we hung out and played Up the River, Down the River. Also, a few girls were eating at the next table over and they ended up chatting with Rich, my roommate. I ended up sitting with them for a while and chatting; two of the three spoke pretty good English. They both work for a Dutch company which has been in China for nine of its last thirty years, teaching "soft skills" -- interpersonal relationship skills, instead of the typical hard skills, like craft and technical skills. Their training pretty much boiled down to three things: be cognizant of other person's needs; be cognizant of your own; and assertively (firmly but politely) find a middle ground that works for everyone. Definitely a Dutch concept, not a traditional Chinese one, where you bend over backwards to get the job down, even if it's to your detriment. I was impressed that such a company was working in Beijing; I'd hope to see such training in the U.S. as well!

In addition to chatting about the girls' work, they also fed me some chicken feet (where you eat the skin, since that's nutritious but there's no meat to speak of) and grape tomatoes (which I tried despite warnings against street food). Apparently the water and street food is clean enough around here, since I'm writing this a while after eating those and I feel perfectly fine. Hooray! The girls liked this particular part of town where we were because it wasn't too slummy, but it was casual enough that you could just throw chicken bones on the ground and nobody would bat an eye. Anyway, my roommate got their business card, so we may call them up to go hang out sometime or we might run into them again at the market. Good times in the city.

Bad times, though: I took my camera out to photo some little kids playing around on the pool table and dropped it on the pavement! Now the darn thing won't turn on, which is a shame since it's served me well for a year, year and a half maybe. (It's just as well, though -- it had a few faults and was starting to get kinda buggy, so now I have a good excuse to get a nice, shiny, new one.)
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Sunday, August 3 - Wushu class, Tian'anmen Square, Wangfujing Street, Mississippi Steak House

Monkey see, monkey ... sit?

This morning brought us another wushu (martial arts) class from Master Sun, where he introduced us to tai chi, a form of martial arts which focusses more on yin-yang (dynamic balance in opposition), breathing, "internal" martial arts, and humility. Rather than engage us in learning the style of martial arts, Sun laoshi gave a lecture on the material and then performed three forms; one, in the traditional style of tai chi and two in the more modern style popular world-wide.

Many Happy Returns

A typical camera store After class, we were released for a free day, so we all (students and teachers alike) fanned out across Beijing in small groups. I joined up with a group of three taxis' worth of people: Anthony, the Asians (Mark, Lauren, and Kevin), Hailey, Karen (the younger), Kim, and another four who broke off to walk faster: Brittney, Kelli and Laura (the pole-vaulters), and another.

First stop: back to Tian'anmen Square (天安门广成). It was still pretty big and empty. There were fewer people today than before, but they were all grouped around the Olympic flower display, which was still under construction when we saw it last week but is now complete in preparation for the games (five days!).

Heroes of the revolution Before we went to the actual square, though, we stopped by a camera shop for my benefit. Since I dropped my camera on the ground last night, it looks like it really did bite the bullet and quit working for me. From the selection available at the store, which was a variety of brands and qualities, I found a comparable camera from a Eurasian company, Brica: a DigiArt Z830. (For the camera buffs: AF optical zoom lens, f=5.8-17.4 mm / 1:2.8-4.9; 8.0 megapixels max.) It also takes videos (better than my Olympus did), plays music, and allows a bit more control than the Olympus (but with an equivalent auto mode). Best bit? It's a mini-boombox! It has a little speaker which is actually pretty loud for its size and it can play back music stored on the memory card. I picked up a 2gb Kingston microSD card for it, which is plenty enough for me.

Chinese people sure do like their parasols Thus equipped, we took on the Square and were duly unimpressed. It was about the same as the first visit: a moderate number of people in a very large, open space. However, the Olympic flower display, which was still under construction when we visited last week, was completed, and many Chinese people were amassed in front of it to take touristy pictures. You done good, Chinar, real good. Funniest part of that was trying to find the two Asian-Americans in the crowd of Chinese people ... and then finding Anthony, the tall, broad, white guy wandering around taking photos.

While you were out ... shopping

After stopping to smell the flowers, we set forth to 王府井街 (Wangfujing Street), a pretty commercialized area with good shopping, no cars, and plenty of people.

Both Karen and Chinese kids dig the characters We found one of the officially licensed Beijing 2008 Olympic stores, which shared space with a variety of other vendors selling watches, flasks, food, and other tourist necessities. The Olympic merchandise is all variants on the logo for the games (the running man on a red field), models of the Olympic venues, tourist attractions, and an awful lot of the five animal characters for the games. Five creatures, each representing an element from Chinese philosophy, are the representatives for the games: a fish (water), a panda (earth), the Torch (fire), an antelope (metal), and a phoenix (green). They're made into keychains, cell phone charms, and plushies: little plushies, medium plushies, talking plushies, and 3'-tall plushies! (By plushie, I mean stuffed animal.) They scare a few of the Americans, but a lot of us think they're really cute. I picked up a keychain with the phoenix on a field of green and Lauren, on my recommendation, chose the antelope to take with her on runs.

Wangfujing Street En route to Wangfujing, we hit a public bathroom, which was a curious experience. There are a number of public bathrooms in the city and in quite a variety. None of them charge, as they do in London, so I suppose they're all government-supported. This one was pretty clean and had a large anteroom with several people selling goods: watches, tourist junk, drinks, etc. The whole structure had tall ceilings and a number of sinks, urinals, and toilets (Western-style, I imagine). The entrance had large strips of plastic hanging down to walk through, like some other doors we've seen in stores, restaurants, hotels, etc. A pleasant experience for all.

Our first stop on Wangfujing St. was a mall, which turned out to span what looked like an entire block. It was two floors and had five or six separate zones, each of which had probably one or two hundred stores. We saw a lot of American brands, such as Nike, BMW Lifestyle, and Dairy Queen, and a lot of European brands, which I don't remember because they're European, and a decent number of Chinese stores. It was definitely a mall, that cosmopolitan ubiquity of commercialism, with nice AC, food kiosks, food court, expensive stores, moderately expensive stores, and everything well-packaged. We got ice cream at Sprinkles, which looked like a competitor to Coldstone Creamery; I picked up a bubble tea. Nummy!

Nike does a good job of promoting China Also in the mall were Olympic displays, which I imagine were put there by Nike and other sponsors. In one area, a mock track was put up with mannequins in various racing positions, wearing uniforms from various countries (all supplied by Nike). China was always in the forefront, of course, beating Americans and Ethiopians on the track and, in another area, USA vs China in basketball. Incorporated into the displays were explanations of the technology used to create the uniforms in Chinese and English.

Beautiful indoor decoration supplies
During our stint as mall rats (and getting shooed off the steps of an entrance to a upper-class club, where we sat down for a rest), we were approached by a college student who was looking for foreigners. Sure, we said, what's up? Turned out her name was Wang Xue, she was an Olympic volunteer, and she works part-time for an "indoor decoration supplies" company and was trying to attract attention to the store; the location was inside a hotel, without a street-facing front, in order to save rent. They also had a brochure in Engrish with standard press photos of their wares. Anthony and I were up for an adventure, so we said we'd go visit while our compatriots looked over the 4-story bookstore next door. It was a small store-front, but filled with beautiful traditional jade, ceramic, and metal handicrafts: room separators, painted dishes, jewelry, but especially jade flowers. Crafted by retired Chinese artisans, they had very realistic-looking plants and bouquets made all of China and bronze, very beautiful! Our hosts were also very gracious and served us jasmine tea while we looked at the wares, took pictures, and chatted with the other college students working there. The owner, an older woman (maybe late 50s?) asked us what kind of market she could get in the U.S., if people would buy these. We told her that we certainly wouldn't, as college students, but our parents and grandparents would; as for the jewelry, there was plenty of beautiful jade things, but we recommended that she show only the smaller pieces to American girls. In addition to examining the store, we played with Wang Xue's hand-held translator, a pocket computer that was a Chinese-English dictionary with quite a variety of words. We looked up "lefty," because one of the boys noticed I was left-handed ("ah, you are crafty!"), and turns out that that the British usage is short for "leftist," politically speaking. Anyway, Wang Xue gave me her email and her cell phone number and invited us to call her if we wanted to go out around Beijiing.

生日快乐 (Happy Birthday!)

 Descrip Since yesterday was Dr. Goodwin's birthday, we planned him a surprise birthday dinner out at Mississippi Steak House. Instead of taking a cab from Wangfujing Street, we decided to walk the 2-3 miles. (After all, we're all athletic folk.) I forgot how long 2-3 miles is when you've been wandering around all day anyway =p Nah, we managed, but it was a bit of a long walk. Downtown Beijing's not too bad to walk around in, though. Over the major roads were pedestrian overpasses, nice wide walking bridges. Along the way, we saw an awful lot of big commercial buildings, banks, hotels, etc., some with groovy sculptures or flower displays out front.

Lauren missed the memo, but I got my salad! I was entertained again by all the stores near Mississippi Steak House: 7-11, Baskin Robbins, Sappori d'Italia (an Italian place), and lots of Russian establishments. The food at the Steak House was good, though not authentic American; my chicken caesar salad was artfully, but oddly arranged, and they neglected to put tomato sauce on the spaghetti with meat. Nonetheless, good prices ($12 for a grilled salmon, $8 for a 150g steak), good drinks (Carlsberg Chill and Watson's Mineral Water), and definitely good company.

Also, catching a cab home was nowhere as hard this time! We got two at once, but neither of them knew how to get our neighborhood, so we had to play tag-team follow-the-leader getting home. Fortunately, I had the runner in my car, so they knew the neighborhood a little better than our compatriots in the other car. We used the universal language: point and wave!
birds nest

Friday, August 8 - More tickets, McDonald’s, Starbucks, opening ceremonies at Steak & Egg

Originally published at Andy Does Beijing. You can comment here or there.

I woke up this morning to an all-call from Goody: “If you want Olympic tickets, go downstairs!” Tiffany had just gotten a call with more tickets to offer us, so we all assembled like good little children in the lobby to sign up for the offerings. It was reasonably well-organized chaos: first she read off all the events available, times, and prices; then we raised hands to sign up for them. If too many people were interestesd, we drew names from a hat, which worked out reasonably fairly. It was still a touch silly to have thirty-some students crowded about two tiny people taking names in the middle of the hotel lobby. Whatevs…

Taste of America

Stuck in downtown traffic Today was a work day, since we had no class, no events, and no tourism until the opening ceremonies. So, to Starbucks it is! I sought free wireless, but the non-coffee drinks there are okay. Mostly, we were just looking for a place to work and drink coffee; unfortunately, at American prices. Dinner and our opening ceremonies party was at Steak and Eggs, the American diner, and there was a Starbucks around the corner, so we went to that.

Before Starbucks, lunch was in order. We would’ve hit up the 7-11 around the other corner for subs or burritos, like hoofing it college-style, but they were closed — probably for the ceremonies. Next door was a T. G. I. Fridays, so some of our party branched off and ate there. Britt and Chris and I walked another block or two to find McDonald’s. I was curious to see how Chinese McDonald’s stacked up compared to American.

The entrance to the McDonald’s was at street level, but you immediately walked downstairs one level into the dining area. We were greeted by a uniformed girl who smiled and handed us a map of Beijing with all the McDonald’s locations marked with a golden arches icon. After that, we were guided into a line at the counter for a server that spoke English — they wore little tags that said “English” to mark them. In addition to the standard menu above the counter, we were handed a laminated menu to order from; one side was in Chinese, the other the same thing in English. I asked for a #3 (?) combo, the spicy chicken filet sandwich with fries and a Fanta (焚达, fenda). It was pretty much the same thing I’d get in America

Meeting Chinese Ronald McDonald The seating was pretty typical, plastic and metal, benches or chairs set at small tables throughout the dining area. The walls were covered in a college of Americana: Elvis, Marilyn Munroe, other famous American figures strewn about the walls. It was a little intimidating, actually. They also had a big-screen TV tuned to the CCTV (China Cable TV) news, which was showing traffic coverage or something; barely anyone on the highway.

Of course, Micky D’s (aka McDonald’s, if you’re not hip with the hep) had the requisite token, Ronald McDonald himself! This was no plastic statue, mind you: it was Chinese Ronald himself, in the flesh (also, heavy makeup and a silly outfit). Chris was practically having a shitfit, he was so excited to see Ronald. The clown made the rounds and came over to say hi to us, take photos (on their camera, and I used mine), and hand us a little pack of Ronald trading cards with Olympic stuff on the back face. He spoke very good English to Chris and Brit, since they were obviously American, but he spoke Chinese to me, since I’m obviously from east Asia. (Maybe I initiated in Chinese; I didn’t notice. In retrospect, it was probably because I said “谢谢 xiexie” instead of “thank you” when he handed me the cards.)

The food tasted pretty much the same as American, though there was something interesting in chicken. It may just have been the spices, but it didn’t taste exactly like at home. Then again, I haven’t eaten at McDonald’s at home in about six years — just Wendy’s — so I’m not the best judge. Good fries, though. Oh, and the best part of eating American fast food? I got a little stomach-ache from all the grease.

A Starbucks, like many others That foray past, we went back to Starbucks and hung out there to enjoy the wireless and upload the past two weeks’ worth of photos, since I hadn’t had the opportunity beforehand at the hotel. It was a Good Time. We stayed there and drank coffee (and green tea lattes, which were interesting but OK, and mango coolattas (?) which were really just smoothies). The crowd was pretty international, with a few Chinese people, but the majority being Delaware students.

Dinner was scheduled to start around 5-5:30pm, so I called Master Sun at five to see if they were over at the restaurant yet. He was rather surprised to get a call from one of his students; I guess he forgot (A) he gave me his number last week when we went out to the bars and (B) that I bought a China Mobile SIM card the first day. Ah, well, he has a lot on his mind, making sure everything’s taken care of. The group was indeed there, so we packed up and ditched Starbucks to walk around the corner to dinner.

Opening Ceremonies

Happily awaiting dinner, slash the ceremonies We’d scheduled wtih Paul, the owner of Steak and Eggs, to eat dinner at his place if we could watch the opening ceremonies to the Games on his big-screen TV in English. He has a satellite feed, so we watched a Filipino broadcast. This had one drawback: commercials. The Chinese TV stations were forbidden from interrupting the broadcast with anything under fear of heavy fines, but the Filipino station that picked up was apparently under no such obligation. So, during the theatrical portion of the ceremonies, we were blessed with English-speaking announcers describing the scenes and cursed by commercial overlays and the occasional commercial break. Thankfully, they waited until the athletes’ procession to show most of the commercial breaks. (That’s when I always get bored, so I logged on to the restaurant’s wireless and did some work, chatted with Nicki.)

I’m sure you all saw the ceremonies, wherever or whenever you were. (I understand that the American stations time-shifted them so you could watch at 8pm local time.) I actually wasted 15元 to call home and see if my parents were watching it live on the telly, but to no avail — nobody picked up and the restaurant was too noisy for them to understand my voicemail. Ah well. We did have in the restaurant with us some other Americans, volunteers from Missouri and Ohio. They were cool kids; some of them got to see the rehearsal with the green men the other day at another venue.

The spectacle and variety of the show impressed me plenty, especially when I realized that they were flying massive set pieces (i.e. the scroll painting and the Rings) in an open stadium. (Really, that’s not that hard — it just meant the rigging was a little more interesting — but it was still pretty sweet.) Great design, amazingly well-rehearsed, SO MANY PEOPLE. I was a big fan of dancer-painters, the huge corps of drummers, and the men in boxes forming characters and designs. (Having also seen replays of the ceremonies on the subway and on TV, I realize that there were some other awesome bits we missed because of the damn commercial breaks. I’m hoping I can watch videos on YouTube once I’m back in the U.S. or maybe a copy of the Chinese broadcast in a torrent.) I’m also a big fan of the whole swirly cloud design motif characterizing Beijing 2008, so the Torch made me happy. Also, China has a bit more cultural history recorded to offer than most other modern civilizations, so the whole history review was groovy.

The order of the countries in the athletes’ procession confused us for about ten minutes, though. Since we’re accustomed to seeing the countries appear in order by the English alphabet, we didn’t understand why England came after Germany. So, obviously not alphabetical by English name. Maybe alphabetical by Chinese name? Nope, Meiguo came before Deguo. Finally, those of us who take Chinese language remembered that the Chinese dictionary is ordered by radical, which are ordered by number of strokes. Much more sensical! (Quickie review of Chinese writing system: ideograms, the Chinese written characters, are formed out of radicals, which are smaller, simpler characters. There are about 200 basic radicals upon which are built most of the 2-3000 characters needed for standard literacy. Each character, as it is drawn rather than spelled out by letter, can then be broken down by brush strokes, since there is an established system of brush strokes and the order in which to draw them. Thus, if you’re familiar with how to write a character — the strokes and their order — you can find a radical in the dictionary index and then find the full character by looking through that radical’s section. Thus is the Chinese dictionary organized, using this drawn alphabetical ordering rather than a letter-based one.)

After the broadcast was over, we went out to the street hoping to see some of the fireworks at Tian’anmen Square. (We were on a straight shot down the road from it, about 5 kilometers.) No luck, though. Also, the Americans were irritating me because they’re loud and abrasive and, to put it frankly, rather bitchy at times about the differences between China and America, so I walked around the corner to check out the locale. This block of town was a rather international area, featuring not just American food, Istanbul and Italian, but also Chino-Russian. I imagine that’s a holdover from the USSR days, but I wouldn’t really know. I was still surprised, even after seeing signs in Russian for stores, to hear several racially Chinese people speaking Russian on the street.

That was the end of our day, though. We ditched the very end of the ceremonies, because they were boring and just a big chorus singing. I think some people went out to the bars, but I just went to bed. Good Times, Good Times.