Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

i feel really bad. to get out of having dinner with my coworker, i made up a fake date. now generally, it's my policy not to lie about things. i mean this in the everyday lying sense of the word, obviously not like "i'm not having an affair" or "i didn't shoot your mom". my aversion to telling falsehoods has never been due to any sense of morality, but just because most of the time i think it's really lame. the most obviously lame thing is when people lie to make themselves sound cooler. i'm always really careful to avoid that, so i am usually painstakingly honest in recounting the details of an event. partially its because i'm worried that someone find out the truth, but beyond that, i would just think i was a kind of a jerk if i needed to lie to impress people. the bigger temptation is to lie about things you're embarrassed about. when people do that, i don't think they're a jerk, but i feel really bad for them. maybe it's one of those post-coming out phenomena that i appreciate being honest about everything, but these days i never really feel the need to be embarrassed about random shit.
so i also don't really like to make up random lies, but sometimes you get lazy. and this was another kind of lie, kind of like the younger sibling of the "i'm not having an affair" lie. a little white lie, if you will, though i didn't want to bring race into it. i did feel bad about it, but saying that my roommate had set me up on a date was a quicker way to get out of the meal than explaining the longer version, that i had told my friend i would make pizza with him, but then i didn't really think it would happen so i accepted her invitation to dinner, but then it was going to happen after all so i had to back out.
so i told this lie out of laziness, but it totally bit me in the ass because then i had to feign all this excitement, and tell her where we were going to eat, and then this morning i had to tell her that i didn't think things were going to work out because he wasn't that cute. that was like, a lot of lying. and it took a lot of energy, and i'm not that creative. and even though i didn't feel bad telling the first lie, each progressive one made me feel worse. it's like that tangled web shit.
so anyway, the point is, it's honesty from here on. and actually, come to think of it, i might have developed some morals. who knew.
so i just took the minutes for a meeting between my company and a foreign broadcaster. i bet i'm not allowed to share the details of it, so i won't. even though they were juicy. well, only if you're really interested in the goings on of the Beijing Olympics. but beyond that, hearing the developments in the meeting, it really is crazy how much the Olympics will mean for the press. Since forever, though particularly since 1949, China has always been extremely closed off, monitoring all media material to leave the country. And live international feeds? i dunno if they happened, but if they did, you can bet that they were restricted to whatever room the CCP was holding a press conference in. the olympics are really going to open the floodgates. there is no way Beijing is going to be able to control all the media activity that is going on, and i think it is going to be pretty hard to return things to the way they were before. so, sweet!
the other interesting thing i noticed at the meeting was that the amount of interaction between chinese businesses and foreigners not accustomed to doing business with the chinese is going to increase a lot, and that's going to mean huge amounts of misunderstanding. the chinese are really weird about business. okay, that sounds judgmental. i guess you could say, they follow really different rules. you have to do all this guanxi (relationship) stuff with chinese businesspeople, like spending a few days going out to meals and sightseeing with them, so they can decide if they trust you. foreigners trying to do business here have all had to learn, often the hard way, that they are going to have to do things according to chinese rules. but learning this takes time. and getting things done in china takes time. listening to the mounting frustration at the meeting, it was clear that there are going to be a lot of conflicts between chinese and foreigners trying to do business related to the olympics, and a lot of people are going to leave china thinking that the people are impossibly difficult. and i guess a lot of chinese over here are going to think that foreigners are impossibly rude. personally, i hope that the chinese learn a bit about how the rest of the world does business, because while i think a lot of their westernization is unnecessary, chinese business could really stand to take the stick out of its ass and work on equal footing with everyone else.

Monday, January 29, 2007

so, my eager readers, i know you are all thinking, what's up next for amanda? as i've got a lot of spare time at my job (which you may have noticed due to the frequency of my posts) , i've taken to pondering how i will spend my time when my job here concludes in mid-April. after thinking long and hard, here is my tentative itinerary:

april 12- the last day of my job. rejoice that i am, at least for the forseeable future, unemployed. no more having to answer to the man. get a mohawk.
april 13- throw a joint birthday party with my birthday bro Mike Hatch (i'm 4/21/84, he's 4/24/81. Yipes!)
april 14- hit the road with Dan-dan, bound for Yunnan. on the way we stop at a few choice locations, like chengdu and uh, some other places i'll think of after i peruse Lonely Planet a bit more.
april 21- my actual birthday, when i celebrate reaching the depressing age of 23. don't feel particularly depressed about it, but if i'm anything like the other people i know who have recently turned 23, will have to drown my sorrows in baijiu.
beginning of May- head down to thailand, laos and vietnam to check out what they've got going on. not sure if i'll visit all these places, but see what i can fit in. take that cooking class Carmen recommended.
mid-May- up to Xizang, known by you plebs as Tibet. join Richard Gere in the revolution and get a free "Free Tibet" shirt in the process.
early June- swing over to Xinjiang and gorge myself with chao pianr. do whatever else people do over there- as far as i can tell, wear funny hats and play spanish music.
mid-June- return to beijing, possibly by riding a horse bareback through the length of inner mongolia.
Late June-late August- Take language classes at BCLU. If i get one damn thing out of being here, besides fake asics, it will be a moderate proficiency at speaking chinese.
Early September- a visit from the 'rents! show them why i keep running off to china.

So that's it, my plan for the next eight months. i'm really excited about all this stuff, and i plan on returning to america in the fall an enlightened individual. and hopefully with a really hot tan. also, if anyone would like to be a part of my travels, let me know and i'll see if i can pencil you in.

Friday, January 26, 2007

ugh, another china frustration. rather than have a holiday during the christmas/new years time, Chinese workers get off work for Spring Festival, when basically everyone in the country returns to their hometown to celebrate the holiday. so anyway, we just got our office email informing us about our upcoming holiday. apparently, for a holiday that gives us the week of the 19th off, which would give us a 9 day vacation, we apparently have to come in on Saturday the 17th and Sunday the 25th. What is that? who has to work on saturdays and sundays? well, a lot of people no doubt, but it just shouldn't be the way in this kind of office.
also, to all the girls i have dated who told me, based on the picture i posted, that my haircut "makes me look like somebody's mom," but comforted me that it was sexy, i would like to say i find you disturbing, and i hate you.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

So, I took a picture of my haircut in response to the requests i have gotten from friends and family curious about the new 'do. wow, my hair looks really dark. i don't think it is that dark, i think its a trick of the camera. just like any other imperfections you may notice in the picture.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

the chapter i studied yesterday with my tutor was about confucianism's usefulness in modern chinese society. one of my teachers at swat (taiwanese, of course) had once mentioned that she hated confucianism, and i've always regretted that i didn't ask why. i sort of guessed that it related to the implication that every relationship is unequal, and that the person of lower status should always defer to the higher status, especially women. either that part of the philosophy, or the way that confucianism was utilized by the chinese government to keep society strictly structured, and not allow any kind of fluidity. whatever the reason, i know a lot of people today are down on confucianism, and i wanted to find out why.
so anyway, i brought it up with my teacher here, curious to see if she had any criticisms of confucianism and if so, what they would be. true to mainland form, she quickly said that she thought confucianism was great. i tried to suggest the reasons i guessed above, but she wasn't having any of it. she conceded that maybe confucius himself was a little off, but the mass school of confucian thought was good stuff. she said that the status distinctions didn't say that a person should obey whatever a person of higher status thought, but just that, for instance, you should respect an old person, or you should respect someone who knows more than you. anyway i don't really know that much about confucianism, i'm just thinking back to what i learned in eighth grade, so it was hard to argue.
trying to bring the argument back to something i knew more about, i suggested that maybe people had a problem with neo-confucianism, practiced by the manchurian rulers of the qing dynasty. i described a book i read in my Chinese history seminar that argued that the qing rulers utilized neo-confucianism to bring order to an increasingly disorganized society which had an increasingly large number of single, unattached men with increased mobility. the qing rulers tried to stress the importance of the family, and particularly subservient women, interfering in people's private lives to increase their power. i told her about how they told local officials to reward women for being loyal wives, especially for things like not remarrying or even committing suicide when their husband died. she was pretty unimpressed with the argument. but whatever, i think she's a bad tutor.
apparently some brilliant lady in amsterdam has concocted a beer for dogs. and it's delicious!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

It's things like this that make me wonder how china will fare with a huge international event. i mean, china's a blast and all, but part of the fun is the challenge, knowing that not everyone can make it here. for people who find things like using disgusting public toilets and being vomitted on during long bus rides (yay, Ben!) an adventure, china is great. but somehow i get the feeling that a lot of the people coming for the olympics won't find china's little "idiosyncrasies" as charming as the current expat community.
Happy Birthday to Ronen!!

.... who looks creepily like Harry Potter, I have noticed

But we love him more than we love harry potter!
this article reminds me of a book i read in my Early American & the Atlantic world class by Richard Godbeer, about the salem witch trials. he argued that even though it has been framed as the puritans all having viewed witchcraft as evil, actually spells and superstitions and things were a common part of north americans' lives, and they sort of compartmentalized the two so that they wouldn't see their every dayactions as being sacreligious. that was a tradition that had been carried over from England, and as this article explains, still goes on today. and i guess that same sort of tension exists, with science instead of religion. being superstitious wouldn't make you evil, but today it just makes you seem stupid. but despite how powerful the ideas of science and religion are, its interesting that people still keep relying on these methods for feeling like there is some reason for the unexplainable things that happen. score one for sarah jessica parker's outstanding performance in hocus pocus.

Monday, January 22, 2007

My most important job at work (my god i am unimportant) is to gather all the news articles pertaining to the Olympics- past, present and future and compile them into a document. this is a task that some people would find fairly entertaining and, I'm sure that many would enjoy staying up to date on the latest sports news. mostly i find it pretty boring, and some days i wish i had a job that related to something i'm actually interested in, like looking for articles about the newest david lynch or kristin chenowith's concert. sometimes i do get a kick out of reading the articles though. for instance, i am rooting for abuja, nigeria or peongchang, korea to be successful in their 2014 olympic bids (russia or austira would be so boring). imagine the olympics in africa! that'd be some crazy shit. crazier even than doing it in china, something that i still wonder at every time i leave my apartment. and the NBA's recent decision to team up with Mongolian milk as a marketing partner is golden, just golden.
i am also planning to start translating a young adult version of Outlaws of the Marsh into english in my spare time at work. translating, i have recently discovered, can be kind of a blast. i've started with the blog of the chinese girl who wrote Shanghai Baby, a racy novel that has bored most western critics, but having been banned in the mainland, has become extremely popular over here. her blog is pretty ridiculous, full of advice for girls looking to get a husband like "if a guy doesn't treat you to a meal he won't make a good husband" and "the woman should never ask the man out." i told my friend Dan-Dan that it was ridiculous and she said "no, this is important for chinese girls to know." well, i guess its pretty much like that book "The Rules," and American women seemed to think that was important for quite a while. anyway, it really makes written chinese come alive reading a blog rather than a dialogue in a textbook. my other great discovery was translation programs, which tell you what a character means when you put the cursor on it. because chinese is so effing hard, this only gets you about halfway there, and most sentences still require me to puzzle over them for 5 minutes. but it's a start!
my courteous boss informed us at lunch that his friend had told him that there was something wrong with the pork in Beijing right now, and we shouldn't eat it. That was it. No more information. No explanation of what was wrong with the pork, what would happen to you if you ate it, when it would be safe to eat pork again, nothing. Thanks, boss's friend. Now I am never going to be comfortable eating pork here again. And i've got this carton of leftover suan tai rou si in my fridge that had been thinking about all day. darn!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

i also want to say that i hate copyranter. i don't understand why gawker links to it every single freakin day. i mean, it really baffles me. i always click on the link in blogorrhea, then notice it says copyranter, then pray that for some reason it will actually be interesting today. every day it loads, and has a picture of some advertisement, and then a short paragraph full of snarky comments about the ad being stupid. why would that be interesting?
i am growing increasingly suspicious of a formerly communist country located to China's north. i have recently learned that this country's embassy, which i can see from my bedroom window, is the largest in the world. in the world! it has also recently come to my attention that the restaurant down my block, which is about 100 yards from said embassy, and serves the cuisine of that embassy's counry, has some sort of underground tunnel system that leads to all the surrounding buildings. my boss, who is friends with the owner of the restaurant, has seen it! my boss is british, so i think we can trust him. also, one of the women at my job says she's from "salt lake city," and has lots of childhood stories that sound like they came out of little house on the prairie, but i've noticed that whenever she talks to someone for a long time, her speech develops a certain accent that belongs unmistakably to the country i have described above. her name is like sarah jones or something, but i like to call her natasha. now, i'm not saying that we should return to a cold war mentality, i'm just saying be on your guard. they don't make shirts that say "KGB: Still Watching You" for nothing.
oh also, joking aside, the little store near my apartment can exchange money, and mandie and i have noticed that russian men (probably from the embassy) can often be seen exchanging large wads of hundred dollar bills. american dollar bills. if you can think of a legitimate reason why russian embassy men living in china would have lots of american hundred dollar bills, let me know. i'm stumped.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

my language tutor made me feel stupid the other day for insinuating that relationships in China are different from those in the US. specifically, for arguing that Chinese people feel pressure to get married earlier, and take relationships more seriously than Americans, often marrying their college boyfriend or girlfriend. "China is changing," she said. "it is much more liberal than it used to be." obviously, she was not totally off, and i'm sure that many more women are independent and happy to pursue their careers, etc, etc and not worry about catching a man.
at the same time, i've seen a lot in the time i've spent here that would imply the opposite. my tutor, in the first place, is not in a great position to judge as she herself married her college boyfriend. not that i'm judging her for that, of course its possible to meet the person you want to spend the rest of your life with in college (the very couple that brought yours truly into the world met their freshman year in college). but at the same time, i feel like she's watching it all from the sidelines. its like how i applied early decision to college, and so watching my friends get accepted and rejected from different schools felt more like a game. i didn't have to deal with the stress and fear that i wouldn't end up going to the school that i wanted.
i think women here who become chinese teachers are particularly of the type that has passed their "prime" and is a bit desperate for a husband. they tend to be between the ages of 28 and 30. My roommate Mandie, whose Chinese is so good that she was alone in the top level class when we studied abroad here together two years ago, watched a romantic movie one day with her teacher in class. afterwards, she noticed that the teacher was crying. not like "aw how cute" crying, but like "i'm never gonna have romance in my life crying." i have heard of several teachers (including one in my program) entering into relationships with their male students, and i think that the phenomenon relates back to this feeling of desperation.
i was taking the train home with a coworker the other night, a really sweet girl probably about thirty years old. she started telling me i should go to an english language corner, a weekly event often near a university where chinese people go to practice their english. i said that the only English-speakers who went to those were men looking to score a chick. she agreed, then said that she used to go to the english corner, but stopped when she never got any attention from the men there. i asked her how Chinese girls met men. "mostly in college," she said. "and then through friends of friends. we don't go to bars like westerners." i said that colllege and friends of friends were also common methods for meeting people in the states. "college was really the best time of my life," she said. i agreed that yeah, college was pretty fun, although i could tell she meant it in the depressing way, like your life has been downhill from there. "now all my friends are married," she continued. "i don't have anyone to spend time with. now i just care about getting married." yikes! i'm glad to see that in the states, more than 51 percent of women are living single.
From an email from my friend Nina, I thought it was funny-
i ran into annie yesterday at my job - she was interviewing for my old position! i got promoted to editorial asst recently from admin asst. it was so crazy - we were both staring at each other for like 5 mins. she was like, is that nina? i was like, is that katie holmes? (i seriously thought she was katie holmes for 5 mins before i realized it was annie, so my stare had less recognition in it than hers, i was more surprised that katie holmes seemed to know me. yes im crazy).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

i thought that maybe as an addendum to my previous post, i should explain a bit about the term losing face (丢脸). in china, it is extremely important not to lose face. doing something that compromises others' opinion of you reflects not only on yourself but also on your family. as China is much more community-based than the west, if you cause an embarassment to yourself or your family within the community, it is taken very seriously. losing face can occur to a private individual, or on a grander scale to a public individual, or even to China as a country in the face of other world powers.
take for instance, the time when my friend Ben Saller and I were travelling around China during a week's break from our study abroad program. In a small town near a mountain called "Huang Shan" (Yellow mountain), a very popular site for Chinese tourists but not so commonly visited by foreigners, we met a local who had somehow become fluent in english. he fancied himself as kind of a tour guide for all westerners who came through the town, and quickly attached himself to us. he had been written up in the Lonely Planet, so i figured we could trust him, but you always still have to be on guard when you're travelling. anyway the night we met him, he told us about some pictures he had painted and asked if we would like to see them, possibly to buy some. we followed him into the residential area of the town, and then he led us to a house. he told us that his apartment was upstairs, and urged us to walk inside. while he went upstairs to get things ready, we waited on the ground floor. it was extremely dark inside and looked kind of abandoned. here's where being a suspicious new yorker kicked in.
i got really freaked out, and said that i couldn't just walk into this random house. Ben understood, and so we sort of backed away and said that we weren't interested. at this, the man became really agitated and pressed us to come inside. that always makes me more nervous, so we started to walk faster.
he followed us, and begged, "please, please come look."
he had this kind of childlike air about him, so Ben tried to explain, "in america, you can't just walk into people's houses that you don't know. it could be dangerous."
"but it's me!" the man said, looking like he was going to cry. "you read about me in lonely planet. mr. chen. you know i'm a good person."
"yes," Ben said, trying to sound soothing. "but we just have to be careful."
"you don't understand," the man said. "i told my family i was bringing foreigners upstairs, and then you run away. i have really lost face, it is very embarrassing."
we felt bad, but i was still worried in case that was just what he said to people to lure them back to his apartment to kill them. so we compromised by going to his restaurant and eating his banana pancakes.
Face is also extremely important in politics, when a public figure tries to avoid losing face. the famine that killed millions of people during the great leap forward, for instance, could have easily been avoided. it was not actually even a famine, or not one caused by natural means anyway. the problem was that, first of all, the communists, rejecting "western science," engaged in really bogus farming practices that ravaged much of their produce. and then second of all, because each official was pressured to report falsely high yieldings, a majority of the produce was then shipped from the countryside to cities, or even to neighboring countries. there are other factors as well, but the point is that Mao knew about what was happening, and he could have stopped it before so many people starved to death. but because he didn't want to lose face by admitting that the leap had been a mistake, millions more would die. other high officials who tried to publicly inform him what was going on were quickly cast out. that Mao's attempt to save face was carried out to the point of giving other countries China's grain in order for the leap to appear successful to the world is unforgivable, but it really gives a sense of how important it was for Mao and China to give the appearance of success.
finally, i come to the loss of face for China as a nation. as the events in China during the majority of the 20th century left the country far behind the Western powers, when the country finally began to open its doors to the rest of the world, the Chinese were embarassed to discover where they now stood in world politics.
especially when you consider China's traditional political philosophy, Tian Xia, which organizes the world not as nations, but as spheres of influence radiating out from china as the center of the world. China's nearby neighbors, admittedly inferior to the most developed country in asia, gave a yearly tribute to China and were mostly left alone. when britain began trade with china, had it taken the prostrating attitude that countries like korea used in relations with china, things would have gone much more smoothly. an unwillingness to kowtow to the emperor for instance, caused the emperor to lose face.
back to the 1980's, as China found itself far behind the rest of the world powers in development, technology, and economics . the chinese do not like to be inferorior to other nations. which is why today there is so much excitement about China's steady advancement. the chinese, on an individual level, are proud that China will someday be a leading power again. as any country's citizens would be no doubt, but in china it is tied in with this feeling of embarassment or the loss of face, and the desire to regain the country's face.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

two stories about nationality-
yesterday when i was taking a cab home, i told my cab driver to take me to the russian embassy, as usual (my building is right across the street from the embassy). as is often the case, the driver assumed that i was russian, and so he asked me "you russian people, how do you say hello?" now normally, i would very quickly and huffily tell the driver that i'm american. but having just learned a few words in Russian, i decided to show off my new vocabulary.
"you say 'priviet'," i told him, which is guess is more like "hey" than "hello," but close enough. "pi re wee te?" i told him that was exactly right, although what he had said sounded more like pirouette. "ah, thanks, and also i wanted to ask..." at this point i got a bit nervous, because i actually only know four words in Russian. if he asked a word that wasn't one of the remaining three, i would have to either make up a word or confess that i had misled him into thinking i was russian. i hate correcting a misunderstanding that i have already allowed to continue, and it always ends up being kind of embarassing and confusing, so i decided i would continue the lie. i had started to think of russian sounding words as he continued this question. "... i knew a russian woman, she told me how to say 'your welcome.' is it [i forget what he said]?" "yup!" he seemed satisfied, so then i taught him how to say goodbye, and tried to find out what he thought of americans, but he didn't have much to say on the subject.
the second story is from earlier that day, when i took the bus with dan-dan to go buy some dvds. i have vowed to only buy dvds when in the company of chinese people from now on, because she saved me about 20 kuai bargaining with the seller. i bought scrubs, six feet under, and weeds, and i'm very excited to watch them. i gave her some recommendations- the sopranos and project runway. today she reported that she was already hooked on project runway. ah, what a great show.
anyway, i didn't have any small change when i got on the bus, so i told dan-dan that i could probably just avoid the ticket guy and wouldn't have to pay. she then told me a story about being in Holland and getting a fancy haircut with her friend, highlights and everything, and then finding that they had lost their credit card. "we pretended we didn't speak the language," she giggled. "first we told them we were korean, and then later on we told them we were japanese." i laughed too, then realized this didn't make any sense. "why didn't you just say you were chinese and didn't speak the language?" i asked.
"we didn't want to lose face for china."

Monday, January 15, 2007

i have an inspired idea. i think that the state of arizona should add another "i" to its name, thus making it "arizonia." doesn't that sound so much better? especially when you say it out loud. "arizonia." it makes it sound like a mystical place full of dragons and sorcerers, where people would go to have adventures. like if someone in their family was dying, and they had to get a cure, they would most certainly go to arizonia to find it. instead, arizona is just a really hot place that i don't know anything about. my chinese friend is looking at applying to school there, that's why i've been thinking about it. i don't think i'll tell her about the dragons.
i was not going to do a blog update, as my life as not been very interesting as of late. but i don't have much to do right now. so, my ravenous readers, i will satisfy your never ending (恒久)hunger to know all about my life. right now, most of the time i am scared. this is because i am splitting my free time between reading "the devil in the white city," a book about a serial killer during the chicago worlds fair (and an extremely awesomely excellent look at all the important developments that came from the fair like shredded wheat and that song "there's a place in france...") and watching "lost". this is literally all i do with my time when i'm not at work, because i've had this nagging sickness since india that i've been trying to get rid of by quaranteening myself in the apartment. now i know that "lost" isn't exactly "the shining," but if you are someone in my family, you know that i am just about the biggest ninny in the world and i get extremely frightened by anything remotely scary. i have taken to locking the door to my room at night, just in case a serial killer from the 1890s returns from the grave and crosses the ocean to get me, or the dinosaur or that guy ethan who wasn't on the roster finds their way off the island and into my apartment (yeah i'm right in the middle of season 1, don't ruin it for me). so even though this post is kind of boring and pathetic, i think i should get credit for even doing it, because no one on my durn friends list has updated in a long while.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

If you're in the Florida area, don't miss this! Jamaica, we got a bobsled team.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

although i have already added it as a link among my friends' blogs on the side of this page, i would just like to draw further attention to my friend carmen's blog. this is only in part because i promised her that my linking her would bring "scores and scores" of readers her way. it's also because i just read it, and it is really good. writing a blog about your travels, or especially just about living in a foreign country, it can be really hard to distinguish what facts are interesting to your readers, and what is just the maniacal ranting of a sinophile. i would like to commend carmen for doing an excellent job picking out stories that are both informative to those not familiar with the ways of china (and the other places she goes) and interesting to people who have lived here for a while. and kudos for using her own name in the blogs title, though i think the supreme prize for that goes to her boyfriend Philip (who i have also linked and whose blog is also excellent), for using his full name as the address of his blog. as he is heading out of china shortly, he will be safe from the viscious claws of the CCP, but either way, if he's offended someone they'll know where to find him.
in my life, things are looking up- we are going to get cable! cable cable cable! while this will mean a small monthly fee, it will also save me loads of money buying dvds that i'll prob just throw away after one viewing. also, i'd been feeling bad because i speak so much english with my new chinese friend dan-dan, but i discovered yesterday that she lived in holland for five years. as in, i'm not a complete dimwhit for not having chinese that is as good as her english. there's hope for me yet! and i'm going to an ice sculpture festival this weekend, which should be cold but cool.
lucky readers, two entries in one day! i've just been reading over imdb's memorable quotes from futurama, and i wanted to share some i like. now, i have tried an entry like this before and it was not very popular, but i don't care.

Hedonism Bot: We shall party like the Greeks of old!
[lowers voice]
Hedonism Bot: You know the ones I mean.

Amy Wong: You just have to give guys a chance. Sometimes you meet a guy and think he's a pig, but then later on you realize he actually has a really good body.

Soldier: This is the worst part. The calm before the battle.
Fry: And then the battle is not so bad?
Soldier: Oh, right. I forgot about the battle.

Captain Zapp Brannigan: You know, I find the most erotic part of a woman is the boobies.
an example of how small the beijing expat community is- the other day i was taking the train home with a french guy from work who's only recently arrived in beijing. as we exited the train station, i saw my friend mike hatch, who i was meeting for dinner that night. at the same time that i said "hi", the french guy also gave mike an enthusiastic hello. turns out that three weeks before, having just arrived in beijing and desperately in need of housing, the french guy had run into mike leaving his apartment and grilled him about finding a place to live.
more smallness with an added awkward bonus- we later ran into the french guy at the very restaurant where we had chosen to dine. but because i have terrible terrible face recognition (and to be fair, the guy looked really different when sitting down and not wearing a hat- because he was very short and bald) i didn't recognize him. he looked at me and said "have i met you somewhere?" in a tone that in retrospect was supposed to be teasing but just sounded like blatant hitting on to me. i looked at him to check if i did know him, but totally didnt realize, so i sort of awkwardly said, "no, i don't think so." then mike said hi to him, and i realized it was the same guy. i think i managed to cover it up by being very enthusiastic from that point on. although i think he actually is a little creepy, so maybe that wasn't the best idea. oh well.
oh also- the character for "constitution" (xian4) is composed of the radicals for eyes, heart, and harm/pierce. who finds constitutions dangerous? this guy (thumbs pointing at china).

Sunday, January 07, 2007

they're everywhere!
in other news, i just got my hair cut. i know that this should not normally merit being written about in a blog, but getting your hair cut in a china is a very nerve-wracking experience. i had actually never done it before, despite the fact that i've lived here for quite a while. i've just heard too many horror stories about people getting their hair cut here, or like my roommate who was getting a straightening treatment and ended up with 6 inches of her hair burned off. but i've lived here for over four months, and so i decided i couldn't avoid it any longer. anyway, i tried to prevent disaster in any way i could, despite having picked a mildly dramatic hair cut- i chose the hair dresser who looked like he deserved the title, and mandie and i found a picture of a cut that looked pretty good in one of those hair-cutting magazines. once i sat in the chair, three worrisome things occurred- 1) when we showed the picture to the hair dresser, he made a sort of shocked/appalled face. seeing that, i got a little worried, so i asked him if he could point out a pic he thought looked better. 2) he pointed out some pretty horrific hair cuts, ones that would make me look like a mix between a 20s vamp and a circus freak. i thought it better to go with my instinct, so i asked for the original cut. 3) he then said to mandie, "so she wants it really short?" now, i had chosen a somewhat short haircut, but saying "really short" is a totally different issue. "just kind of short!" i interjected, "like the picture." he then got started, and i sat there in my chair, very worried. mandie, who was sitting behind me, started to make shocked faces. i asked her what was up, and she said "you can't see the back from where you are, can you?" i said no, and she was like, "it's really short." i told her to be quiet and let him work his magic (or something like that) and the haircut turned out pretty nice. it's sort of short, not super short, but i think it'll be a nice change from wearing it up all the time. and the best part? the whole thing cost 30 kuai. that's $3.60, definitely the cheapest haircut i've ever gotten. did ya hear that, russian ladies in brooklyn salons? haircuts do not have to be fifty dollars. they just don't.

Friday, January 05, 2007

so courtesy of a post on gawker, i'd like to direct your attention to the wikipedia article about McDonald's Grimace. Best facts:
* Grimace also has a relative, Uncle O'Grimacey, a green-colored Irish-version of himself. O'Grimacey was a holiday-themed character used by McDonald's in the 1980s in celebrating St. Patrick's Day, in particular marketing its Shamrock Shake.
* In Brazil, Grimace is known by the name of Shaky. A record released with Happy Meals (McLanche Feliz in Portuguese) in the early '90s featured a song about Shaky called "La Venho Shaky" ("Here Comes Shaky"). In the song, Shaky puts his shoes on the wrong feet, which causes a lot of confusion.
also, read the thread where that helpful hint came from, about a Post article concerning a mcdonalds customer's homophobic outburst. i like it, check it out. and if you're inspired with a lead of your own, share it.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

cab driver from airport: how long you in delhi, one or two days?
me: 8 days.
cab driver: no, how long in delhi, one or two days?
me: 8 days.
cab driver: no, in delhi, one or two?
me: uh... two.
cab driver: and then to agra?
me: uh, sure.
cab driver: its too bad, there's so much to see in delhi, two days is not enough.

just got back from India! i figured i should try to post about it as soon as possible, because when time passes i always get lazy about it. and anyway, i find myself with an extra day off work because i got confused about the date of my 3 am flight home. so it was really fun, smita and i met up in Delhi, spent a few days there, and then went to Jaipur and Agra (where the Taj Mahal is). my biggest gripe with it was that i started to feel like when indians saw me all they saw was a dollar sign. it was probably because we spent all of our time in major tourist sights, but everytime we stepped on to the street we were greeted by a barrage of autorickshaw drivers who were not at all deterred by our constant "no's" and shouts for them to go away. it got really tiring and was pretty grating on the nerves. it also seemed like people, especially in delhi, had thought of a million scams to try to trick foreigners, and so you always had to be vigilant or you'd fall into some trap. usually, smita and i found, the person who seemed the friendliest and nicest were the ones with the best scam. that really messes with your mind, and then when we did meet some nice indians on trains or when we were out, we were always really guarded. like at the taj some families wanted to take pictures with us, i guess because they didn't see foreigners that often, and in every picture i'm clutching my purse for dear life.
but here are the scams we encountered in our journey, most of which we did not fall for.
Scam 1: This one hit me as soon as i reached india, when i arrived at the airport at 1:45 india time, 4:15 china time (2 1/2 time difference? what's up with that?) exhausted and scared being alone in a new country and not exactly sure what i was doing. i went to the prepaid taxi booth and paid, and then settled into my cab feeling comforted that it all seemed pretty official. a guy got in the cab and asked me where i was going. i told him the name of the hotel and its address, of which i knew only that it was on "p-block." he seemed annoyed and told me that that wasn't enough information. i had the number, but somehow it was short a digit so he seemed really frustrated and got out of the cab. then he told two other guys to get into the cab. they asked me where i was going, and when i said the hotel's name, they were like okay sure, and took off. this seemed a little weird to me since the last guy had been so annoyed at me, but i just kept asking them "you know hotel alka?" and they like, yeah sure. i figured they had an idea of how to find it. after a while of driving they told me that i hadn't given them enough information, and that they'd have to ask for directions. the guy who wasn't driving got out and asked a guard, then came back and said the guard didn't know. he said we could go to a tourist agency that would tell us where it was. so we drove to one, and then he and i got out of the car. when we went inside, the guys were very friendly and welcomed me to the country. they got out a lonely planet and found the hotel's number, and said they would call it and i could talk to them. at this point it started to sound a little like a scam mentioned in lonely planet, so i started to be on my guard a little. they gave me the phone, and the guy on the line asked me if i had a reservation. i said yes and told him my name, and then he said that they'd given away my room because i'd arrived to late. it was about 3 india time, 5:30 china time at that point, so i thought that might be right. but then he said, yeah we give away the rooms after twelve. having seen an email smita had sent to another hotel we were considering, i knew she had said that i'd be in after one. so i started to ask more questions, like "who made my reservation?" and "what's my name again?" he got huffy and said he was the night guy, that information had been given to the day guy. i hung up the phone, and the tourist center guy told me to sit down while he explained that delhi was very busy now because of an exhibition. i was tired and cranky and suspicious, so almost in tears, i said "i just want to go to my hotel. i want to talk to them." they let me go, and i got back into the cab. we drove around for another half hour, the guys saying they didn't know where the hotel was, and me saying "well you'll just have to find it." and then we pulled up to it. i still wasn't sure if the guy i'd talked to on the phone was for real. so i asked the cab guys to wait while i talked to the hotel people, in case i had to go find another hotel. the streets of delhi are really creepy and there are dogs wandering around everywhere (although they aren't rabid and don't attack people, i would learn) so i was terrified that the hotel would reject me and i would be stuck on the street. i went into the hotel and saw the night man, and said, in a shaky voice, "i have a reservation." he opened his book, and there was my name. "you have rooms?" i asked, and he nodded yes. i went back to tell the cab guys they could go (i'm not so quick on the uptake), but they had driven off, probably as soon as i stepped out of the car. it was now 6:30 china time, but i was so wired from the experience that i just lay in my bed till morning. this was a particularly bad start to the trip, and i think really put me on my guard with everyone from then on.
The Scam: Taxi drivers telling clueless tourists their hotels are booked, then taking them to expensive hotels where the drivers earn a high comission.
Outcome: Unsuccessful
Scam 2: Smita and i took our first train at 6 in the morning, headed for Jaipur, a cool Rhajistani town. When we got to the train station, we discovered that it was extremely confusing and there wasn't really any sign or authority-looking person. a guy came up to us and asked where we were going. we said jaipur, and he told us the platform number but said we first had to go to a tourist office across the street to get the stamp for foreigners. as we hadn't read anything about this anywhere and they hadn't said anything when we bought the ticket, we were skeptical. i asked "why?" and then he got kind of annoyed and was like, you just have to. we walked away, but before we entered the platform another guy came up to us and said the same thing. this made us pause, so we debated it for a little while, but decided that they probably wouldn't kick us off the train for not having the stamp, especially if good old LP hadn't mentioned it. We were right!
The Scam: Charging tourists for an unnecessary stamp on their train tickets.
Outcome: Unsuccessful
Scam 3: This one we fell for, and i feel pretty stupid about that because it was something i should know about from china. in Jaipur we got a cab driver to drive us around all day. we hadn't planned on it, but the guy seemed really nice and friendly (warning sign!) and showed us a book of compliments foreigners had written about him. he took us around all day, and mostly he was fine, but he took us to do some shopping at places that grossly overcharged, and since it was our first shopping trip in india, we fell for it. we were taken in by the charming guy who ran the textile shop and the fact that he gave us free pepsi. i've been to the same places in china, and i always knew how they preyed on clueless foreigners, but for some reason it slipped my mind. we each spent over fifty dollars at this place, only buying a few items each. we left the store congratulating ourselves on buying such nice stuff, and it was only when we reached agra and another rickshaw driver took us to stores that we discovered we could have gotten the same stuff for about 1/10 of the price. i hate when that happens, because you feel so stupid and you feel so silly about the stuff you bought, which you had been so proud of.
The Scam: Autorickshaw drivers taking tourists to textile or other production factories and then earning a commission off the high pricetags.
Outcome: Successful
Scam 4: This one smita and i were not really sure was a scam, but i like to believe that it was. waiting on line for the Taj Mahal, a pretty long line although standing in the women's line made for a shorter wait (sweet!), a guy came up to us and said he'd take us to another entrance where there were way less people. it didn't seem to make sense that if there were another entrance there wouldn't be just as many people there, so we continued to say no to him as he talked to us for five minutes about how he was official and he would help us cut the line for only a small fee. just then i heard someone say "hi!" and i turned to my other side. a tall white woman resembling CJ from West Wing was standing next to us, and i tried to think if i recognized her. "i just walked through the taj, and those guys are right." she said. "we waited on this really long line, and then there's another entrance that's easier." this sounded okay, but we were hesitant about leaving our spot on line. "whatever these guys say, you should do." she said. "how much are they asking for?" "one hundred each," the guy responded.
"yeah, that sounds about right." she responded. an autorickshaw to anywhere up to 15 or 20 minutes away only costs about 50 total, so this sounded bizarre to us, so we short of shrugged and stayed in the line. we never did find out if there was a quicker entrance, and maybe she was just trying to help us, but i like to believe that those guys had found a white woman to help them with their scam, living off the shared earnings tricked out of clueless foreigners. whatever, cuz the line wasn't that long.
The Scam: White woman parading as tourists to support the claims of fake officials, who claim to be able to help tourists avoid long lines for a fee.
Outcome: Unsuccessful
okay this post is pretty long so i'll write about the rest of the trip later. this post has been largely negative, so in the next posts i'll focus on more of the positives. and there were a lot, i guess i just had to vent about these things because they were so frustrating.
happy new years, dear readers!