Saturday, September 30, 2006

yeah, everybody's watching flavor of love. if you haven't watched it yet, go out and watch it. and if you have watched it and you didn't like it, watch it anyway. for me. what time is it? it's time to get buckwiiiild.

Friday, September 29, 2006

my first writing assignment for city weekend was to write a piece on the top five places to find halloween costumes in the city. it really made me appreciate how much easier it is to get things like that done in a country where everyone speaks english. not only that, but chinese people don't even know what halloween is, making it very difficult to communicate that you are looking for halloween costumes. i did manage to find five places, although some of them were stalls in clothing markets that seemed to sell witch and ghost masks on a whim, without really having an idea what they're meant for.
another interesting thing i came across on my journey was a "Nightmare Before Christmas" store. Yes, we all thought the Nightmare Before Christmas was a thing of the past, a movie that came out when we were pretty young, and the occasional whim to watch it notwithstanding, it has receded from our lives. i guess this is not so in china. the entire store was filled with nightmare before christmas products- shirts, bags, and posters. i simply cannot imagine why someone, when pondering the theme for their store, would decide that the nightmare before christmas is the one to go with. but more power to ya.
my search for halloween stores also brought me out to shunyi, a district by the Beijing airport. i find shunyi fascinating, because it is the closest thing you'll find to american suburbia without actually being in america. and really, when you're there, you sort of forget you're not in america. the people who live there have decided that although they have chosen to live in china, they would not actually like to have to live in china. this really seems odd to me; its not like i'm a nazi about living out the chinese experience, but even in the middle of the city you can still have some of the comforts of home. it just seems like you must really have to hate china to decide to close yourself off from it that much. but i guess, live and let live.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

i have now been here for three weeks, and i feel like i'm really starting to settle in. The first three weeks were fun, sure, but that was just the romance and the adventure of being in a new place. now, i've got a job (well, an internship, but it's a reason to wake up in the morning) and i'm starting to fall into a schedule. i'm even going to join the local beijingers in buying a bike, something i'd avoided during my previous times living here. i'm very excited about this, as it will make my commute much easier, saving me about 10 kuai while giving me a nice workout. i'd always worried that biking would be tiring on my embarassingly weak muscles, but since i've discovered that beijing is about as flat as middle america, i'm not so worried.
next week is october holiday, a vacation shared by all residents of china. it's a time when a huge number of people are mobile, traveling to all sorts of vacation spots. unfortunately, i didn't get around to planning anything in time, so i'll be hanging around beijing. which is probably best, although i thought a trip to yunnan would have been killer.

Monday, September 25, 2006

there's an area in beijing that is named "MOMA," because its developer was so struck with the area where the museum is that he decided to model his own designs after it. i don't know exactly what this means, because it's not like the design of the buildings in MOMA's neighborhood have anything to do with MOMA itself. but either way, take that New Yorkers, Beijing can do anything you can do.
the next time you're watching MTV China and you think you catch a glimpse of my face, don't worry. your eyes aren't playing tricks on you. last saturday my friend nester and i took up an offer to be in a music video for MTV China. we mostly did it for the experience, and i must say that it was an interesting experience. now before you picture us scantily clad and dancing on a beach, i have to remind you that chinese music videos are not like western music videos. as far as i can tell, the plot of the music video was this- the singer is an expert at making chinese paper cutouts, which are like much fancier and awesomer versions of the paper snowflakes we make in elementary school, and nester and i are westerners who have come to china to learn how to make them. we find her, and she teaches us how to cut them. but she's only an expert in the music video; in reality, we discovered that she's about as shitty at making them as we are. why would they pick this as the plot for the video then? we have no idea. also, apparently this singer isn't a regular singer. she's an army singer, meaning that she's on the army payroll, as was the entire crew of the movie. my guess is that this would mean that she's not that good, but i don't know because we never got to hear any of the music. everyone was really nice though, and even though we only got paid 300 kuai for about 18 hours of work, it was worth it. also, one of the assistant directors told me i looked like an actress named Deborah something, who she had seen in an old movie called Pigeon something. I'm still trying to figure out if this is a compliment, so if anyone has a clue what actress or movie she's talking about, let me know.
anyway, despite my high hopes, i don't think i'm going to develop much of a career out of this. although who knows? maybe the song will become a huge hit and nester and i will be swarmed by chinese youths wherever we go. we can only hope.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

i just had a visit from some friends from my school, which was really nice. it made me notice how much i've come to take for granted about china. well not exactly take for granted, but just no longer pay attention to. for first time visitors to china, everything is novel. everything is a story, from the way that the vendors haggle in the markets to people playing "go" on the streets. in a way, i'm sad that i'm past that point. certainly, i would find more to write blog entries about if i could find all the encounters of my day worth telling people about. but at the same time, its nice to know that for me, china no longer has the edge of strangeness and foreignness that it has to newer visitors. walking down a street in beijing is just like walking down a street in new york. it really is home, and although i know that nowhere could ever be home to me in the way that new york is, i do feel at home when i'm here.
there was one thing that happened during my friends' visit, though, that did strike me as worth writing about. we were out at a Uyger restaurant, which serves the cuisine of the muslim inhabitants of Xinjiang, in china's west (one of my favorite types of chinese food, for those of you who have never heard me talk about it). we were eating our food, when all of a sudden a chopstick hit my friend mandie in the head. we were understandably confused, and looked over to see where it could have come from. at the same time, one of my friends pointed out that the chopstick's partner had narrowly missed hitting me. we spotted the only group in that area, a large-built man sitting across from a pretty girl. both looked vaguely eastern european, and mandie later pointed out that they were definitely muslims. the man was facing away from us, and did not look in our direction as we stared inquisitively at him. i think we had all figured that he could not possibly have thrown the chopsticks, since he didn't seem to be aware that we were there. but then, he stood up and sort of turned toward us, and said "America" in a really angry voice. the girl sort of rushed over to him and tried to calm him down, and then he turned away and they left. this was pretty scary, because the guy was a really big dude, and if he had further pursued the matter, it could have ended badly. it sort of made me glad that i've chosen china as the foreign country i live in, because the majority of chinese have no beef with americans. at the same time, it was scary, because we realized that there isn't really anyone over here to intercede in matters like that. the chinese philosophy is generally to keep out of issues that don't concern them. for instance, there was a waitress standing right next to the man for most of this, but she didn't say anything.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

the eternal question: to teach english or not to teach english. in planning to move to beijing, i was of course asked countless times whether i planned to teach english while i was over here. i've always been sort of snobby about it. i thought that teaching english meant that a person was not really attempting to interact with their new country. this was probably heightened by the fact that so many people who do not know any chinese are able to come over here through programs for teaching english. i've studied the language, and so i had always thought that teaching english was a crutch that i shouldn't have to fall back on. i'm totally rethinking this.
first of all, to be practical, teaching english is definitely the best way to make a decent living without a huge investment of time. almost everyone over here has some sort of big scheme, their plan to make a bundle through fulfilling some need to the expat community, but those take time, often don't pan out at all, and require way more connections and know-how than i've got. teaching english, one can work on an hourly basis, and can get paid up to about 22 US dollars. even in the US that wouldn't be bad pay, over here its great pay. there are a plethora of opportunities, and you can totally set your own hours if you work it right.
second, to really cut down the holier-than-thou attitude i'd had about teachers of english, my language skills are not really good enough to get most jobs that rely heavily on language skills. i may have studied chinese for 2 years, but i'm essentially in the same boat as the non-chinese speakers in terms of employment.
third, i've rethought my previous judgement that teaching english was not a worthwhile means of employment in getting to know one's new home. it's a great way to make friends who can help you work on your chinese. and, as i've learned from my chinese language teachers, you can ask all sort of questions about your students' culture, satisfying your own curiosity while you help them flesh out their language skills.
the verdict? no, i'm not going to try to get a job teaching english right now. i'm going to try to see if i can find something more along the lines of my actual employment interests, so when i go back to the states i can have something to show for my time over here. but the point is that now i would teach english. i've got nothing against it, and so i know that if i need to, i could do it without having any qualms about it.

Monday, September 11, 2006

i've been meaning to post more frequently since i got here, but you know how it can be moving to a new city. so i've been continuing to settle down, going to beijing's ikea to furnish my room and buying loads of dvds. oh, speaking of dvds, check out the description on the back of "Singin' in the Rain," which i recently purchased. It's funnier if you know the plot of the movie, but amusing either way.
"Lamen and Loke are silent movie actress. Audiences think they are a very good silver screen lovers. Along with the talking film rise, He sink intoed the enormous predicament. Although she owns beautiful face and round body, she says like miaowing. While taking talkie, she is very embarrased, Loke introduces Cathy to join the film producer troops. She becomes Lamen's dub the actor. In the process of get along withing, Loke has loved Cathy. Because his right and wrong is often proud, people didn't like him, Cathy become a star who is liked by people. She get married Loke."
still working on getting a job, although if all else falls through, i recently came up with a plan to start producing fortune cookies in china. i think the chinese would love them.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

well, dear readers, i hope you're ready for the "i'm in beijing" blog entry. i know you've all been sitting at your computers, constantly checking my blog while simultaneously biting on your fingernails, praying that nothing had gone wrong with my flight and that no other disaster had befallen me. well you can rest easy.
my flight was fine, although i did learn a valuable lesson. after my last flight to beijing, where i was annoyed to discover that american airlines had those kinds of personal tvs where the movies are screened for everyone at the same time and only restarted when all the other movies have ended, i decided that i would never fly american again. i guess i was thinking that all other airlines would be like the fabulous japan airline, which i took when i came here to study abroad. wrong! air china did not have any personal tvs, and the one big screen projector in my section was broken. not that it mattered much, because when i walked through the other sections, i saw they were screening some random chinese movie. the air conditioning was also broken for the first half hour of the flight, meaning that there were a lot of sweaty people on that plane. other than that though, the flight was fine. my roomie met me at the airport with minimal difficulty, and we hopped a bus back to the apt.
the apartment is really nice, great location, only a fourth floor walk-up (two better than where i lived last summer), wireless internet, i've got a tv in my room, and my window looks down on a middle school track and basketball court. not that that is particularly exciting, but it's sort of amusing, especially because all chinese students have to do morning exercises before class.
so i got up at 6:45 today (oh, the jet lag) and decided i'd walk around the neighborhood to get a sense of things. first i went to our closest grocery store, to check out the offerings there. it's actually a russian store, because we're right next to the russian embassy. i can also see that from my window. i was a little annoyed, because i'm like, i came to china, not russia. but one look through the store changed my mind. there is a massive variety of cheese (which can rarely be found in chinese groceries cuz they just don't eat it), extremely cheap vodka and lots of other food i'd actually like to eat. but get this- i looked into one of their refrigerators, and what should i see? hot dogs! so there, all you smug new yorkers chomping away on your frankfurters. it might not be any grays papaya, but it's there. they also have pickles. i'm never going back to ny.
so more of my day. i went into lots of chinese supermarkets to look at the food (i always get a kick out of that, they eat such crazy food). then i took the subway over to the silk market, one of the most famous places to buy knock offs. on the way there, a few people tried to speak english to me. last summer i was really snooty about this, because i always distrust chinese people who come up to foreigners to speak english at major tourist locations, but my uncle made me feel really bad about that when he visited me. so, turning a new leaf, i responded in a somewhat friendly (if not warm) way. i was repaid by the fact that both people who approached me asked me to go look at their calligraphy, something i learned the hard way means that they are going to take you to a gallery where they will work intensely hard to scam you into buying some mediocre art. oh well, so much for niceness.
at the silk market, i somehow ended up buying a pair of fake asics for about 18 US dollars from a woman who thought i was scandinavian. even if you have no intention of buying something, it is nearly impossible to leave that place empty handed. then i went to mcdonalds and got a hamburger (don't judge me! it's the easiest thing to eat on the go). i tried to go to ikea to get some furniture for my room, but the cab driver couldn't understand where i wanted to go.
i know that none of this is super exciting, but it should give you all a sense of what an average day in beijing is like. well hopefully i'll get a job and then that'll be part of my day. you gotta make money to spend money.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

i also wanted to let my concerned readers know that Jeremy Cristol did get his wallet back. this actually totally blew my mind, but i was actually standing next to him (at the righteous party thrown by the J's) when UCB called to tell him they'd found his wallet. it was weird, because it was almost a week later. but he got it back, with money and everything. hooray for there being some honest people left in this godforsaken town.

Friday, September 01, 2006

i was recently sharing my amusement at the fact that there is a street near city hall that has aptly been given the beautiful and poetic name "People with AIDS Blvd," and i realized that not everyone has the same sense of humor as me. Other things that never fail to make me laugh: the term "pulling an Annelise," which is when you queef and it comes out a baby, and the facebook group that i had always intended to start but never quite got around to, "She Bangs, She Bangs" (a group for girls with bangs). I guess everyone has their own thoughts like this that they can pull out whenever they need a good laugh, and everyone's are painfully specific to their sense of humor. But, you know, I think it's good to appreciate them, cuz it's just like something you can always keep with you.
In other news, with less than a week left before i leave (flee) the country, i've come down with a cold. this is terrible for many reasons, the top few being- it has taken away my sense of taste, meaning that all the remaining hot dogs in the city will have to go unscarfed; it's made me very tired, meaning that i am unable to maintain my usually pattern of partying all night; it's made the intake of both legal and illegal substances particularly unenjoyable; and it's vastly decreased my chances of getting anyone to make out with me.
but nonetheless, please come say goodbye one last time at "The Magician" on Rivington St. on saturday, by which time i will have hopefully kicked this blasted cold, making it possible for me to engage once again in the aforementioned activities.