birds nest

New photos in the photo gallery!

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

I uploaded a lot of photos last week when I was at Starbucks and I just imported them into my photo gallery. Go check them out at

I may or may not reorganize the photos by event at a future date, so if you make any bookmarks now, they’ll probably break when I clean up the gallery. Nonetheless, you can download any pictures you like at small, medium, or original (huge) resolution. If you repost, please to credit me by name!

I’ll try to get to a Starbucks and upload lots more photos and blog posts this weekend. Do yous care if I post text sans photos? Using the wireless by my hotel, I can post to the blog easily, but uploading pictures means I have to go to a Starbucks or somebody else’s computer.

Also, soon to come — an alternative access point for this journal to people in China, since the Great Firewall of China blocks Livejournal.

birds nest

New photos in the photo gallery!

I uploaded a lot of photos last week when I was at Starbucks and I just imported them into my photo gallery. Go check them out at

I may or may not reorganize the photos by event at a future date, so if you make any bookmarks now, they'll probably break when I clean up the gallery. Nonetheless, you can download any pictures you like at small, medium, or original (huge) resolution. If you repost, please to credit me by name!

I'll try to get to a Starbucks and upload lots more photos and blog posts this weekend. Do yous care if I post text sans photos? Using the wireless by my hotel, I can post to the blog easily, but uploading pictures means I have to go to a Starbucks or somebody else's computer.

Also, soon to come -- an alternative access point for this journal to people in China, since the Great Firewall of China blocks Livejournal.
birds nest

日记 -- 八月 旗号 -- Thursday, August 07 - Tianjin: Shopping, Dog Who Wouldn't Come, Olympic Soccer (x2)

Tianjin -- 天津

Entering the tourist area As China used to be four separate provinces, each with an autonomous ruling hierarchy, each region had their own capital. Tianjin was one of those capitals and it remains one of the larger cities. Some of the old charm still holds in the antiquity district, a tourist shopping area. In addition to keeping that charm, the city also contains two Olympic venues, one for golf and the other, right next to it, for soccer and track. We sought the former; also, the shopping.

Going shopping Within the tourist shopping area could be found a variety of 东西 (stuff), the highlights being the scroll paintings, one of China's famed creations; the weaponry; the tea sets; and other traditional Asian wares. Many of the girls went for the paintings and jewelry straight off; the boys, to their swords. Oye. I looked over everything with an equally avaricious eye and ended up finding a ring with mother-of-pearl inlay, a multicolored jade ring (munao), a dagger with Mao Zedong on the sheath, another dagger with a fish-eye on the hilt and its body on the sheath, a scroll painting, a few souvenir flint-and-steel match sets, a variety of other small things, and the best bit: friendship bracelets! A couple of women on the main drag were sitting around doing macramé, so I sat down with them and got an Olympic-ring bracelet (like, actual ring design in the colors) and asked if I could buy some string from them (since I'm running low). They said sure, so, while they counted off my string, I sat and worked on a friendship bracelet of my own. They were duly entertained by both my poor Chinese and my handiwork, so the one woman gave me another bracelet (the Olympic colors, in a zig-zag / straight-across pattern) as a friend. 新的中国朋友 (New Chinese friend)!

The outskirts of the tourist shopping The majority of the tourist area was pretty well-populated by stores, booths, and tables; also, tourists. However, in the farther reaches, I found a few courtyards full of books laid out on the ground; and, in another set of courtyards, old coins, other antiquities, and beads to make into bracelets. Quite curious!

That Dog Don't Listen

Tianjin also had standard, modern shopping Lunch was to be had at a famous restaurant in Tianjin, 理不狗 (gou bu li), the Dog who Wouldn't Come. The story behind the name is that a man, who was nicknamed Gou (Dog), ran a very popular restaurant; but it was so popular, he couldn't tend to all of his customers at once! So, when a customer wanted a service, they would call for him: "Gou! Gou!" but Gou would be too busy, and he wouldn't come over. Thus, the restaurant was renamed to Gou Bu Li, the Dog who Wouldn't Come. From this story, we expected Good Things (namely, food).

The restaurant was inside a nice hotel Due to a little mix-up, we actually went to two Dogs: the first one we visited, which was the first one built, was indeed too crowded for us! So we walked a few blocks across town to another one, which was inside a hotel. Verra fancy! They took us up to a banquet room with several large, circular tables, and heavy lazy susans mounted upon them. Then, they served us appetizers (a variety of meat slices and vegetables), pork dumplings, shrimp dumplings (marked with a red dot on top), broccoli dumplings (yellow tip), and some rice porridge. Ye typical Chinese dumpling meal, they brought out three circular trays of eight or nine dumplings each to the table at a time and laid them out on the lazy susan for us. Also, jasmine tea! Finally, watermelon for closers, as in all the restaurants. The food was delicious, although some people found themselves unsatisfied. (Some people also haven't been eating other Chinese food, anyway.) I found it yummy and now want to go out for more dim sum, maybe later in the month.

A Sporting Type

The golf arena, right next door to the soccer field

Approaching the soccer stadium

The stadium was epic after the smog settled in
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Wednesday, August 06, 2008 - Taichi, Olympic Torch runner (not), Restaurant nearby

Wednesday, August 06, 2008 - Taichi, Olympic Torch runner (not), Restaurant nearby

Life at Home

Breakfast at the hotel was the usual: fried pumpkin mini-patties with characters embossed on them, boiled eggs, yellow empty-dumplings, rice sponges, warm drinks.

When we arrived, not many people were there After breakfast, a few of us watched the Olympic Torch relay on TV, because the Torch is running around Beijing at the moment (of course). We looked in the newspaper and found out that the Torch was supposed to run in to the Temple of Heaven at 3:50pm, which is relatively close to our hotel, so we voted to go see as a group. Master Sun held an abbreviated taichi class so that we could get to lunch and then head out to go see the Torch. Since it's kind of a big deal, we wanted to get there early to get a spot; some of us took taxis to the north gate right after lunch on Liz's suggestion (since she was a volunteer at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics) and then walked around to where we found the crowd at the west gate.

Several thousand people ended up showing up We got there around 1:30, 2pm. It wasn't too bad, several hundred people. By the time 3:50pm rolled around, there were several thousand. Chinese crowds are pretty sedate, compared to American or European crowds, but they still had plenty of national spirit: ZHONGGUO DAQIAO! ZHONGGUO DAQIAO! (Go China! Go China! except I don't know how to spell it properly). The cops came out to make sure the crowd didn't push too far and swamp the streets.

The Beijing police showed up en masse to protect the streets Unfortunately, ultimately we only ended up seeing a Coke truck, a Samsung truck, a van with the Olympic torch runners, busses full of athletes and workers -- but no lit torches. An awful lot of build-up for not much at all! but seeing the crowd was cool. Also, I met some internationals in the crowd, a German tourist who was heading to Australia after the games and a Norweigian TV reporter gal who is living in a media hotel. The former was quite tall and had no difficulties taking pictures over the Chinese people; the latter went through security every time she entered or left her hotel, along with the rest of the reporters. Besides them, I saw families, singletons, and what looked like one gay couple. (Yeah, I know -- cultural norms are different between East and West, but they actually looked together rather than simply being comfortable with closer physical contact.)

No room to see, so people hopped in the trees After the lack of Torch ceremony, all the locals dispersed and the Delawareans were left with a conundrum: hotel food, Pizza Hut, or find a local restaurant? Most of the group branched off to do their own thing; about a dozen went to Pizza Hat; and Linda, Victoria, Davis, and I stayed to find somewhere nearby to eat. While we were asking around, a college-aged couple (Gordon and Carol were their English names) offered to help us find a restaurant. Their English was OK, so we said sure, thanks! They walked with us and asked some locals about where to eat, then walked us down to the restaurant. We enjoyed chatting with them -- they'd only been dating a few weeks, over the summer, and were both undergraduates in nearby universities, cute kids. The restaurant where we ended up was also pretty cute; it was decorated inside-out, with the ceiling painted in blue with white clouds, picket fences separating the tables, eaves hanging inside from the walls, and fake trees growing up into the ceiling. Groovy effect. We had a little difficulty ordering food, but with the help of the manager (who doted on us a bit) and a dictionary (which had the word for "chicken"), we managed to ask for a few plates and something to drink. It all worked out nicely and ran us under 100 yuan -- USD $15 for the whole table. The food was delicious, typical Chinese stuff; chicken with peppers, sweet and sour chicken, beef and something else. Plus we got take-out!

Cab home and done my day!
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008 - Hockey (women’s), Lunch at Restaurant, National Museum, Netcafe, &#

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


Today started early, but not quite early enough. Breakfast started at 6:30am so we could manage a 7am departure to the women’s field hockey games we had tickets to for 8:30am. People are typically done eating breakfast in twenty minutes anyway (the people who actually still come to breakfast), so that was no big deal. We were a little slow loading the bus, though, since we started getting on at 7am and didn’t leave till twenty after. Our bus took us to a bus stop a few kilometers from the venue, but couldn’t get any farther, so we had to hop on a Beijing shuttle bus.

In typical Chinese style, the bus was packed — not just by the fifty Americans, but by Chinese people who just kept getting on and off. A bunch of the Americans were pretty boggled by the Chinese concept of personal space — or lack thereof. As long as nobody pickpockets me on the bus, I’m happy; and we haven’t had any thefts yet on the trip, so yay Beijing! The shuttle bus ride was maybe another half hour and it dropped us off at a bus depot next to the stadium about ten to nine. Brittney power-walked her way into the stadium — she loves her field hockey — while the rest of us enjoyed the scenery

We walked in about halfway through the women’s Argentina-Great Britain game. The stadium was pretty full except for a huge block under the press box, a few hundred seats, oddly enough. When we walked in to our section, the Olympic volunteer I talked to just told us to sit anywhere, really, since that’s what people were doing anyway. (That became a small problem later when a British girl showed up for the second game and raised a stink about some Chinese people in her seat. The Olympic volunteer came over to officiate and asked the Chinese people to move, which they did pretty quietly.)

Women’s field hockey is definintely a different game from men’s. The ball moves a lot more slowly, not as many hard hits, they don’t always run after the ball to keep it in-bounds. I also feel that the women teams we saw were less skillful in their ball-handling than the China men’s team, who were pretty technical about their ballcraft. (No, mom, that’s not an official word.) On the other hand, the GBR girls are hella fierce! Their offense girls chased after the ball every time it got near (and plenty it didn’t). Go G-B! We sat behind two Briton girls who were way into the game. Also, over one section to our left were the British hooligans with the white bucket hats.

The second game was Spain vs Australia. We weren’t sure which side to cheer for, so we asked the G-Bers with us. They informed us that Australia is not on the best terms with Great Britain, so we cheered for Spain. (I’m also planning to study in Spain next spring, so I’m a little invested.) The Chinese people in the stands were split about half-and-half; I could hear them cheering “Go Spain” or “Go Australia” in Chinese and, of course, when they scored. Unfortunately, Australia whomped Spain by 6-1, on both penalty corner goals and regular goals. Not so much, girls, not so much.

Menage a Bus

After the game, turns out our bus driver managed to get our tour bus up to the bus depot by the stadium, so we loaded up in there. It also turns out he picked up three birds in a cage and two crickets (huge — 2″ long!) in their own cages. The crickets are part the Chinese character for good luck, so we had them (even though they were pretty noisy). The birds chirped now and then, too, it was cute — but the crickets were bigger than the birds ^_^

We lost a few kids for a little bit, too. Turns out they went back to the meet-up point, at the bus stop, instead of into the parking lot. Go figure!

Mr. Hao found us a nice restaurant to lunch at. In addition to the standard Chinese stuff, there was hot cabbage, cabbage and mushrooms, peanuts and chicken, mystery meat which somebody thought was bullfrog, beef (very tender) and potatoes, rice, noodle soup with seaweed, and a fish plate! The fish plate was something else, straight-up China style: the fishmeat was cut into funky sticky-outy things, breaded, and fried, then covered in sweet-and-sour sauce. That wasn’t the weird part. The weird part was the Chinese tradition of putting everything in, to show that the kitchen staff didn’t eat any of it: the head and the tail were artfully displayed on the corners of the plate. Funky! I hear it was delicious, though, but I’ve been avoiding cooked fish around here. Other seafood is OK, like the jellyfish and sea urchins and shrimp from massage night.

To the Country’s Home

The National Museum of China (the Chinese word for National being Country Home, 国家). It was a pretty impressive building, four or five floors plus a basement area, great architecture. Unfortunately, all the text in the museum except for the headers was in Chineses, so we just wandered around and tried to absorb the national cultural history. I thoroughly enjoyed my group at the museum today: Ma, Rachel Young, and Tiffany. They’re all of the slightly more … mature mindset, as opposed to the girls I was hanging out with the night before, who talk like they’re fifteen. (They’re also a bunch of Young Lifers, WASPy christian youth group kids. Oye.) The more I hang out with legal, mature adults, the more fun I realize they can be. Hehe.

Chinese-style dioramas are cute, but they have one curious feature: furry monkeys. Instead of making little anatomically correct people for models, they wrap monkey fur into a bod and give them cockroach (?) legs for limbs. It takes a second to notice, but it’s pretty ingenious and they look quick to make.

Internet cafes pool

A few of you might have gotten email from me around 6 yesterday. (That’s 6pm China, 6am Eastern.) After the museum, we were bussed to our next tourist attraction (a theatre), dropped off, and told to get find some food and be back in an hour. Right next door to the theatre was a netcafe: a hole in the ground, leading to a counter with a woman selling ramen, drinks, Ritz crackers, and time on the computers. The computers were down another set of stairs in a long row filled with rows of tables, upon which were the computers. The place was full of Chinese teenagers, twenty-somethings, and some security guards coming home from (or en route to) work. A lot of them were playing video games like World of Warcraft, real-time strategy games (like Risk in a fantasy land, on the computer), or CounterStrike (a first-person shooter). I bought my hour of time, took a card with an login ID and password (which was 123456), and was walked down to an open computer in the back. The girl sitting next to me helped me log in, since I don’t know the Chinese word for “username.”

The computer had a lot of crap installed on it, including the netcafe application, which first made you log in to use anything and then was a portal to other things. I just booted up Internet Explorer and went to check my mail and hit Facebook. It was fine to use, since everything is the same except for the language, but I did have a little trouble (A) using the mouse, because it was worn out and (B) typing, because I accidentally hit the “switch typing method” button a few times by accident and started typing in Chinese. When I did want to type in Chinese, I couldn’t figure out how to use their input method, since I’m used to using my own computer. Ah well, I managed for an hour’s worth of email. (I also managed to come out smelling of smoke, since a few people had lit up cigarettes inside. Oh, Chinar.)

Meet me in the Red … Theatre

Our travels for the day took us to the Red Theatre, which housed “The Legend of Kung Fu,” a spectacular kung fu showcase. (I mean spectacular in that there was fog, bubbles, moving lights, all those trappings. I wandered around the balcony a little and photo’d their front-of-house positions. On the front corners of the balcony were two ladders of lights and next to them, two followspots; and in the air above the balcony, a variety of specials and moving lights. Also, they use an Avey (?)-brand light board from England. Just downstage, hidden in the walls, were more standard fixtures and above-stage were specials and a fair number of moving lights, plus ballet lights on booms in the wings and in a flat that stretched across the stage, mounted about 6′ up.)

The show apparently catered to the Western crowd. They had a red LED marquee mounted on the proscenium, on which they rolled the credits in Chinese and English and then showed translations of the dialogue; also, scene titles in English and Chinese. All of the dialogue was in English except for the songs; they showed the Chinese on the supertitle. All of the music and dialogue was pre-recorded, of course; the whole show was all tracked, the music synthesized (but well-composed and well-synthesized).

The show itself was a narrative, told by an abbot to a new boy who was nervous about leaving his old life and becoming a monk. The abbot told the story of Chun Yi, who came to the monastary under similar circumstances but became a great disciple of kungfu until his ego got the better of him and he fell. Nonetheless, he persevered and won over his ego, going on to become a great warrior monk; eventually, the abbot of the monastary, who had taken Chun Yi under his wing from the start, gave over his staff to Chun Yi and went to light his funeral pyre. Chun Yi, great warrior and enlightened monk, became the new abbot — and this was the narrator’s story.

The story was conveyed through this narrative form, with introductions to each section and interjections from the abbot and the new boy, and by kungfu, ballet, and modern dance. Pretty snazzy! Cool technical details: fog, bubbles, people flying just below the proscenium, and dancers hanging from suspended sashes. The show featured a dancer couple, male and female; the man was very tall, quite slender (so much so that you could see his ribs), long-limbed, and graceful; his partner was equally graceful, feminine, a lovely dancer obviously trained in ballet and modern. Occasionally, they swapped out the male dancer for bulkier guys, when they needed to lift the woman from the sash; and back to the slender guy, when she held him up.

The show was composed of several segregate scenes, each of which was a full story within itself. Although this was an interesting approach to the show, I felt that it lacked forward momentum in between scenes; at several points, I found myself expecting the end and then the show dragged on. (That sensation passed pretty quickly, but it shouldn’t have been there.) It definitely came off as a $40-ticket spectacle, just so.

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Monday, August 11, 2008 - Men’s field hockey, Lunch at the Malls at Oriental Place, Sanctions

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

“Are you excited yet?” Oh, wow, Brittney. Britt’s a big fan of field hockey (almost as much as she likes water, since she’s a synchro swimmer back at her college). So, we hauled our patooties out of bed at five in the morning so that, with the front desk staff’s assistance, we could walk with one of the guys down to the bridge on the main road to catch a cab to the subway so we could take an hour’s ride north across town to walk to a bus stop hub for the special Olympic lines so we could get to the Olympic Park, so we could walk across a plaza to the actual field hockey pitch. (Yes, they call it a pitch, like in cricket.) Incidentally, the busses here are either hybrid or totally electric; I didn’t notice if they have tail pipes, but a lot of them run off of power lines mounted above the street and, to our amusement, there exists an “Electric Bus Recharge Station” near the hockey field. Ballin’!

Men’s field hockey was pretty groovy. We saw two games in two different styles. The first game, China vs somebody, was very technical, lots of skilled sticking and short passing. The Chinese crowd is great, of course, with cheers of “ZHONG GUO JIA YOU (中国加油)” (let’s go, China) off and on throughout the game. One guy behind us sported a Chinese flag for a cape and led most of the cheers in our section, which was behind the goal (the equivalent to the south stands in the Bob).

By the way, that guy who was leading the CHINA LET’S GO cheer during the first game? He started that up at the top of the second game, but he forgot that it was GB, not China. Our whole section turned around and giggled at him =p He was joined this game by a group of British hecklers, who wore white shirts advertising some traditional British meat product, Pukka Pies, and white bucket hats with the British flag on it. They yelled an awful lot of fancy British cheers and, by fancy, I mean off-tune drinking songs. Cool guys, them. Their team played about the same, a lot more hard sticking and fast passes than skillful, a bit more violent (befitting the Scottish heritage of the game).

Managing foreign terrain: Chinese food court

Since the venues don’t really offer any substantial food (although they do have cold hot dogs in a bun with ketchup smeared on top, all in a plastic wrapper), Britt and I hit up the food court at the Oriental Plaza malls. (It’s really the Malls at the Oriental Place, but that’s a really awkward translation; also, it’s literally “East Place” instead of just “Oriental” but I guess linguistically they’re equivalent. Anyway.) The food court here was similar to where I picked up noodles last week; you buy a debit card at the front, then swipe the card at individual food vendors. While I put 50元 on a card ($7.50), Brittney scoped out the food selections to see what she liked. She settled on a chicken plate — just chicken with some vegetables, double serving, no rice: 20元。 I went for something a little more traditional: chicken in teriyaki sauce with vegetables in a big bowl of rice. Biiiig bowl of rice, like twice as much as I can eat. 18元,plus two drinks for 5元 each more.  (I had a litle trouble with paying for that, since I think the card takes a 10元 deposit; I ended up paying for the drinks in cash, since I ran out of money on the card.) So, lunch for two? USD $8. Holla!

I’m .. Going Home

Catching a cab home was interesting. We queued up at a taxi stand outside the mall for a cab, but the cabbie we got didn’t know how to get to the area around our hotel. (That’s a little odd, because we have a map with one of the highways marked.) He cussed about it for a little bit when we asked if he could just get us to the off-ramp from the highway until I offered to take another cab. “Could you?” he pleaded. He didn’t even have a cell phone to call the hotel and ask for directions, and my phone was dead. Yeah, sure — so he let us off and we stood around for about ten minutes until we caught another cab. This one did okay — he knew East 3rd Ring (东三环), that highway which we live closest to — and we chatted a little about how we are American students, here for a month to see the Olympics. That about exhausted my supply of Chinese, so we admired the scenery for the rest of the drive back. I wanted to pick up some food, so I had him drop us off at the market and Brittney walked home to nap while I picked up some ramen and munchies.

Laying Low

When we got back, Dr. Goodwin gave us an update on the security sitch: when we leave the hotel, we’re to take a hotel car to meet the taxi (which will probably help with giving directions). Our hotel manager has been personally charged by the local police with keeping us safe, so the hotel is being super-cautious that nobody gets hurt. It’s simultaneously irksome, as an American, and appreciated, as a stranger in a potentially dangerous area. We’ll see how things shake down in the next few days, but we’re allowed to go out on small excursions if we’re conscientious about it: no getting wasty-face on the streets of Beijing, don’t make a scene, avoid tourist traps, etc. Shouldn’t be too hard, I don’t think, though we did get a little stir-crazy locked up in the hotel yesterday. (That may be part of why they’re still letting us go out.)

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Sunday, August 10, 2008 - Nothin’ Much, Stir-Crazy Movie Night

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

Yup … Nope.

I slept in till 10am. It was glorious. I set the alarm for 7:40am, to see if we wanted breakfast. Rich didn’t even turn over and he’s a pretty light sleeper. So, we reset it for 9am. Rich got up. I opened my eyes and said to heck with it. Around 10am, though, I couldn’t keep my eyes closed, so I woke up and grabbed a little breakfast.

After waking up getting out of bed, I wandered around a bit and socialized. Socialization is fun! That seems to be my mainstays; when I’m home, I do work, I read webcomics, and I socialize. Here, I don’t have any work, so I just socialize. Works for me! Theoretically I’ll learn 象棋 (xiangqi, Chinese chess), and mahjong, and play those in the hotel … but that just doesn’t seem to be happening. Maybe when we’re cooped up again because we can’t go out on the town.

If you missed the news, there was an single attack on a pair of Americans and one was killed, so we’re pretty much under lock and key here at the hotel unless we’re going out to see the Olympics. That’s way too many kids adults students to have cooped up. So, yeah, we all were going a little crazy by the time 8pm rolled around. Solution: movie!

Movie Night

It was ridiculous. We borrowed Dr. Barlow’s projector and Court’s iPod speakers (which have a little robot that dances to the beat attached — wack!) and hooked up my computer to them. We made a projector screen by hanging two towels on the doors to the fire escape. Nina brought out her mattress. A coupla people brought out their comforters and chairs and we all piled up at the end of the hallway and watched Finding Nemo.

Afterwards, the kids wanted to order food at 11:30pm, since we couldn’t walk out and buy any. Okay, where can deliver? Hutong East Asia Pizza — nope, closed at 9:30p. McDonald’s? Nope, not this late. KFC? Nah. Anything else? Hmm … Amy, one of the front-desk girls, told them to go buy ramen from the hotel store. That’s what they did. Suckas.

Instead of ramen, I went to sleep.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008 - Free day: Hongqiao Market, Subway, Massage, Dinner at Restaurant, Small

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

We’re Freeeeeee!

Since nobody had any Olympic tickets for today, nor any lecture notes, today was a free day. The whole crew (at least, all of them that were awake by that hour) meandered down to breakfast and bummed around the hotel for the morning, watching the Olympics on TV or sleeping. I did my laundry! This whole hand-washing thing is a little overrated, but it gets the clothes clean … -ish. Around twelve, the whole crew (more of them were awake this time) hit lunch downstairs, where we had a change of scenery to the other half of the dining room and no rice. It was a sad story, but the food was still decent.

Back to the … Market

I teamed up with Mark and Lauren (Asian and Asian) and Anthony to head downtown for some shopping and massages! We caught a cab to the Hongqiao Pearl Market, which was a bit awkward; we didn’t know the name in Chinese nor the address, but Anthony had a photo of it from the highway on his camera. So, we told the cabby that it was near the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan) and showed him the picture and he figured it out. Yay, cabbies!

A nice little old lady I bought stuff from At the Hongqiao, we were slightly less overwhelmed this time, it being our second visit. Much savvier this time around, we cruised the lines up to the Exquisite Pearl floor, where Lauren sought pearls for herself and friends and Anthony got something for his sister. The boys played fashion consultants to Lauren’s jewelry exhibition; i.e., we helped her pick which pearls to buy =D The pearls are amazingly cheap around here: we pay 10 kuai (about $1.50) for a pair of single-pearl earrings with gold posts which would probably run us about USD $15 at home and 200 kuai (USD $30) for a single-strand pearl necklace. Hmm!

In addition to buying pearls, I mad rocked out the Communism today; at the market, Anthony and I picked up Mao Zedong / Communist propaganda posters and, at the other end of that floor, I bought a messenger bag with Mao Zedong’s face. We haggled! We probably could’ve haggled harder, but it was OK. There was also a variety of other cool things. (I had to resist the urge to buy all of the pretty counterfeit electronics. The pearls weren’t as tempting, though.)

This girl probably still overpriced the bag When I was haggling down the Mao Zedong bag a few bucks, the sales girl noticed the Olympic rings friendship bracelet I had on and asked if she could take it — with her hands, trying to take it off my wrist. Nuh uh, kiddo, I paid for this one and I want to keep it. Instead, I sat down, pulled out my embroidery string, and made her one then and there, which attracted a fair bit of attention from the other sales girls right there. We sat around and chatted about making bracelets; one of the girls said she made them in class all the time. (I still do.) After I worked on it for a little bit, the one girl I was making it for told me, “Oh, I can do that one, but I want you to do it too.” (It came off as more sweet than snotty.) I finished it a few minutes later and, voila, a Chinese staircase for her to put upon her wrist — using thread I had bought in China with a Tiffany clasp I had bought downstairs two weeks back =D

Mind the Gaps

Waiting for the train To get to our next destination, we decided to ride the subway (fun and new!) rather than walk (too humid) or take a cab (too expensive). There was a subway entrance right by the market and we had a picture of the map to the place, so we showed the map to a subway worker and she told us which lines to take. (Incidentally, we rode the #1 two stops and then transferred to the #2, which we rode for 5 stops. I figured this out entirely in Chinese.)

The new Beijing subway system, which was built for the Olympics, is superlative. It’s really clean: no graffiti, well-kempt, new materials, clear markings, nice wide areas (even inside the subway cars), fancy indicators indicating the current stop on the route, etc. Pretty cheap, too; a single fare is 2 kuai (30 cents USD) instead of the $2 you pay in New York. The cars were interestingly designed; in between cars, they had only a shifting plate, but no door, so around curves you could watch the whole way down 6 or 7 cars taking the turn. Groovy! And the Engrish in the subway area wasn’t too egregious, either. A very enjoyable experience, although not very crowded; we were confused, since we were riding about 5pm, which should be the top of rush hour. Odd.

That's hella sponsorship We had to take the pedestration walkway to the 13 line to put us closer to where we were going; as we walked into the line 13 station, we were bombarded by Coke ads eeeeeverywhere. Every billboard in the one hallway was Coke and, in the room upon which that hallway opened, all the columns showed Coca-Cola advertising. Daaaang.

Trying to come up to street level, we learned that some things are not as easy as straight-forward as familiar to us as the New York subway system. To leave the station, apparently you run your card through the ticket reader, which then opens the mini doors out. We just walked through two of them and then they denied the other two exit. Oopseeday!

Magical Massagery Tour

As we took the pictures, Lauren's masseur got up from reading the paper and walked inside A couple of the girls went to a good massage parlor a few days ago and they gave it a good recommendation, so we decided to hit it up too. We had an address, we had a map, … we had to ask six people how to get there. In the subway, we asked one of the workers how to get to the subway stop and then confirmed at the next station which line to transfer to; and a coupla people on the street, how to get to the road and the actual place. A college student who was standing around walked us over the block and helped us find it by asking a few other people, pretty nice of her.

When we walked in, the receptionist guy immediately pulled out a one-page sheet in English for us, the “VIP List.” There were four choices, including Chinese massage, oil massage, and the Tree of Life. We dickered over it for a while, then decided on the 60-minute Chinese massage, including a vertebral column massage. They took us downstairs through a labyrinthine set of stairwells and rooms to a pair of rooms with two beds each; Anthony and Mark split off into one room, Lauren and me to the other. Our masseur and masseuse came in and we had an awkward two minutes while we tried to determine whether or not we should take off our clothes in favor of tunics. No, no, clothes are fine.

Our tiny little massage room; but the door had a porthole The massage was glorious. Full-body, from face to crown to neck to shoulders to upper back to arms to hands to lower back to thighs to calves and back up to the back. Then we sat up and got some traditional upper-back massage sitting up. Oh yeah. And it ran a sweet 238 yuan: USD $35, holla holla!

We chatted a little bit, the masseur and the masseuse and I. Lauren doesn’t speak any Chinese (so she was kinda excluded), which was one of the topics of discussion. She’s half-Chinese, which I told them, and we were classmates here in Beijing for the Olympics, but only two of us spoke any Chinese. They were entertained. They also taught us a new word: tong (仝?)– to hurt. They asked “tong bu tong” — does that hurt? Since I didn’t know what the word meant, I asked. She pinched me. Oh. q_q Otherwise, they were very genial massage folk.

Hot-Pot Paradise … Lost

然后 (afterwards), we sought sustenance, for we saw a few restaurants and a little bakery while looking around for the massage parlor. We saw some chic-looking place, the Hot-Pot Paradise (real name!) and walked over to check it out. We looked in; it was pretty classy-looking, food in big pots at each table, about $15 out of our price range. Then, a bellboy opened the door to greet us and we realized it was about $20 out of our price range. Soooo … back down the street to the 30-kuai plate restaurant (which was still a little nicer than we wanted, but OK).

While the restaurant we ended up at was pretty straightforward, but when we asked for some water, he looked at me for a minute and then poured four tea-cups of hot water. Ummm … kay. Lukewarm, sure. Hot? Hmm. Could we have some tea? He brought over a drink list. Can’t read Chinese, dude! Well, I saw a bottle of water at the next table, so I asked for four bottles of water. More hot water in the tea cups. Whatever.

Since I really can’t read a lick of Chinese when it comes to food words (except for chicken, 肌肉 (jirou), we just looked through the menu and picked pictures that looked yummy. We ended up with a chicken plate (yummy) and a … seafood stew? Yup. Sea urchins, jellyfish bits, shrimp, tofu. Curious! Surprisingly tasty, too.

On the way out, Mark noticed a few Korean guys who walked in wearing blue baseball hats with “K” on the front. He’s been looking for some Koreans to translate “runner” (as in “a person who runs track”), because he wants to get it as a tattoo. (He’s adopted from S. Korea by two white parents, which confuses a lot of Chinese people around here.) So, we asked them to write it down for us. Yay internationals!

While you were out

We rather liked the architecture where we were (plus night had come while we ate), so we decided to catch a cab home and look out the window. We were apparently pretty close to home, I think on the west side of town, so it only ran us 25 kuai to get home.

When we got back to the market, we ran into about a dozen Delawareans chilling there and heard some crazy news: one American killed, American wounded, both related to the US volleyball coach; and the attacker (Chinese) killed himself afterwards. (An article online said that their Chinese tour guide was also wounded.) So, everybody was flipping a shit and the hotel staff came to fetch us from the market. Rich played the fool and sat watching the CCTV (Chinese Cable TV) news for half an hour, trying to hear anything about the attack. He seriously thought that he’d find that kind of news on the Chinese news during the Olympics. Communist fascist state with heavy censoring, anyone, anyone, has anyone here read 1984?

Anyway, we’re all OK, of course. I doubt anything will come of it; but for now, they’re keeping a close watch over us to make sure nothing happens and we’re not allowed to walk around the neighborhood alone. A little ridiculous, especially since if we have individual tickets for Olympic games, we’re responsible for getting ourselves there. Whatevs… on top of that, we’re supposed to avoid public transportation and big tourist groups.

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.