Archive for September, 2009

T.I.C.

Posted in Beijing, Rant, Study Abroad China 2009-2010 with tags on September 27, 2009 by foundmeinchina

It’s been forever since I’ve updated this. Mostly because school’s started up. That previous sentence has vastly different implications to Westerners in Western schools than it does to Westerners in Chinese schools. I have never had so much trouble trying to figure out HOW to attend my classes. I felt like one of those people forced to break up bedrock to dig their own grave. As I’ve grown fond of saying, ‘T.I.C.’–This Is China (Thanks Leo DiCap for that Blood Diamond reference)

I had this wild idea that the BNU Fall/Year program would be decidedly more organized than the Shanghai Summer Intensive Language Program. I thought that maybe, just maybe, the Shanghai lack of preparation/management/professionalism was just a fluke, and that Beijing, being a city full of scholars and gentlemen, would have its proverbial shit together. I was wrong.

Scott and I spent the first few weeks running around like foreigners in a country whose language they cannot speak. The bureaucracy in China never ceases to amaze me–EVERYTHING needs a red stamp on it. You need to hold on to each and every receipt and piece of paper that anyone EVER hands to you. I guess the bureaucracy provides a massive source of jobs, though. People to make all that paper, all that red ink, all the drawers to store said paper forms in, construction of the massive furnaces to destroy said forms after serving their purpose, etc.

Anyway, we had absolutely zero contact with the UC office throughout the whole registration/placement test process, which made it exceedingly difficult and confusing, because every time we waited in the massive lines and got to the front, we were told that since we were california students, we had to do everything differently. How differently, nobody seemed to know. Very unnerving. Like I’ve found in China, though, things just kind of worked out. We took got registered, got our student IDs, our other student IDs (the Chinese have multiple ID cards a lot–they have to carry two or three different passports–bureaucracy, ’nuff said), and we took our placement tests. Since I was running around for three hours before the 9AM placement test, I hadn’t eaten any breakfast, so instead of finishing the placement test, Scott and I both left the last portion blank and got ourselves some baozi. Turns out, we got placed into a class that, honestly, is too easy. At first I was disappointed and was going to move up (which is very easy to do), but then I realized how great it feels to be at the top of your class. It tickles my loins. Plus, I get an easy A and a nice (and much needed) boost to my GPA. And mom, dad, don’t worry–the actual words we learn in class are on the whole completely new to me, it’s just the speed at which the class goes that makes it stupidly easy. And I hang out with mostly Chinese people anyway, so I get more than enough speaking practice.

That’s enough about school though–nobody cares about that. On a much more interesting note, CLAUDIA came to visit during this same registration time period, further adding to the confusion. Honestly, who the hell wants to deal with school and Chinese bureaucracy when they can spend the day with their girlfriend? The Chinese probably would do the school thing, but good thing I didn’t inherit that part of the culture.

Claudia and I didn’t end up doing too many Beijing things, much to her (my) chagrin. That being said, she got to do her requisite shopping. I am not sure how she got it all home, because she somehow managed to bring a full duffle and a huge carry on for a four day stay. Such a girl.

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Settling In…

Posted in Beijing, Study Abroad China 2009-2010 with tags , on September 14, 2009 by foundmeinchina

So far, the new place is pretty cool. It definitely needed a lot of cleaning to bring it up to the bare minimum  of American standards of cleanliness. It’s amazing how much we take for granted in America things like not having piles of dirt in the corners of our rooms, or years of hair collecting in every crevice of the bathroom. Attention to cleanliness is simply not a priority here. It’s all good though–our landlord loves us because of it. He walked in to collect rent a few days after we signed the contract and I am pretty sure he pooped himself a bit. We also got three two extra roommates–they’re pretty cool, pretty quiet, but they’re total freeloaders. No they’re not Chinese slaves, they’re KITTENS. Our little buddies Kao-chuanr and Ge-menr have quickly become the most popular roommates in our apartment. The third was a turtle given to us by the aforementioned weird girl Lucy, but he looked miserable and was constantly tortured by the cats, so we let him go in the park downstairs. That, and he was just plain boring as hell.

We got the kittens from this outdoor pet market that would make PETA cry. Hordes of adorably pathetic, half dead dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles–anything you would want to make a pet–were all crammed into cardboard boxes or tiny little cages. Each pet container had a Chinese salesperson standing over it smacking the animals’s cages (or their heads, depending) with a gatorade bottle full of stones. I’m not quite sure what the point of this was, because it just made the animals look more dejected and pathetic. If anything, it encouraged sales because people wanted to rescue the poor animals from their assholes salesmen.

In any case, we ended up picking up the two healthiest kittens and got the hell outta there. Photos to come.

Out with the Crappy, In with the Awesome

Posted in Beijing, Study Abroad China 2009-2010 with tags on September 12, 2009 by foundmeinchina

I am currently spending the first night in the new place.

I Have A Dream…

Posted in Beijing, Musing, Study Abroad China 2009-2010, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 11, 2009 by foundmeinchina

DSC00087

…and for once, I will actually be able to see it through. This is dedicated to Zhou Laoshi, the only teacher I have ever had the pleasure of being a student of that is worthy of mention.

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AmUHRica!

Posted in Beijing, Rant, Study Abroad China 2009-2010 with tags , on September 11, 2009 by foundmeinchina

Well, I finally had the (dis)pleasure of hanging out with Americans other than Scott. Like most things in China, the most eventful nights happen when you’re in your pajamas. Two nights ago was one of those.

Let me first say that these past few days have been insanely busy. I have lost my debit card, got some gnarly virus on my computer, rented out an apartment, decided I am going to stay in said apartment for a year, found my debit card, and found that I have some pretty god damn good friends in Beijing.

Back to our normally scheduled programming: I was in my pajamas because I had just come back from renting out an apartment in Beijing. The place we have now (though I am still writing this in the pink jail cell–the Chinese bureaucracy does not let us move out from the old place till we register at the new place, which requires that we have our passports, which [ironically] another part of the Chinese bureaucracy is currently processing) is awesome. Minus the bathroom, but honestly, how much time do you actually spend in the bathroom? Anyway, high on life (not for lack of trying to locate other stuff, however. Kidding.) filled with every intention of moving in the next day, Scott and I were doing our laundry. Fortunately, that did not quench our thirst for the celebration of our purchase, so we decided to go out and celebrate in good ol’ Beijing style–by getting kao yang chuanr (烤羊串儿) and beer. Kao yang chuanr translates, pretty much verbatim, to roasted lamb skewers. They are about 1yuan/skewer, and are freshly cooked to order. You just have to trust me that these things are amazingly delicious. There’s nothing like having your chuanr seasoned by wood coals and the smoke of liquefied fat from chuanrs kao’ed long past, with the final touch of sesame seeds and spiciness added right before serving. I think we have gone to this same restaurant for at least one meal a day for the past two weeks, but the food is always so damn good that I never take a picture. They are open from something like 6-2, and that’s AM to AM. Gotta love the Chinese. This particular night, we headed over, ordered our requisite 20 chuanrs, with a side of kao mantou and shui jiao (not ‘sleep’, silly, ‘water dumplings’), and two beers. We turned around, and much to our chagrin, the only seats open were next to two white people.

Let me digress quickly (though pretty much all of my writing tends to be one digression after another; bear with me)–there was a time, long past, when I would have been excited to see a fellow laowai in China. Seeing a fellow whitey would mean a sharing of experiences, a little nostalgia of home, some legit drinking,and other general Western buttsniffing. Not anymore. Beijing is filled with Americans. Virtually none of them speak discernible Chinese. If I sound like a pompous ass, it’s because I totally am–I have found maybe one American who speaks enough Chinese to get around and deal with the shit that inevitably hits the fan when in a foreign country, and that’s me. Scott, for the most part, gets it done as well. Now, while I probably should stick my foot in my mouth and admit that I don’t know even close to how much I think I know about China, its language, and its culture, I have to admit that, as far as I’ve found, Americans’ Chinese is significantly worse than I expected it to be.

10/4/09 EDIT: When I started this entry almost a month ago, I was originally going to go on a rant about the displeasure of hanging out with Americans in China, but after meeting several of the 50+ University of London students who are studying abroad at BNU as well, Americans are a well-received respite from those pompous pricks. It’s no wonder we declared our independence from (and subsequently handed their asses to) them. According to the English, Americans are all ‘sepos’. After distilling the ‘douchebaggery’ out of that term, you are left with ‘septic tank’, because according to the English, every American is full of. The redcoats aren’t ALL bad, but I swear if I have to sit through one more unprovoked, backhanded insult to America or American culture, I’m going to dump all of their tea in the ocean. Again.

Guess What?

Posted in Beijing, Study Abroad China 2009-2010, Uncategorized with tags on September 7, 2009 by foundmeinchina

We now have an apartment. For a little bit more than we are paying for our pink jail cells, we can now live like kings. Parents, do not fret–it was worth the money. I will prove it to you with pictures.

The Accident of Birth

Posted in Beijing, Musing, Photo, Study Abroad China 2009-2010 with tags , on September 4, 2009 by foundmeinchina


Read: The Power of the Green Card.

So far, the only guanxi I have made in Beijing have been women. On our first venture on to the BNU campus a few days ago, we asked two girls for help finding an internet bar so we could check our email and track our luggage (which, as of 9/4/09) have not left Shanghai, as far as I know. I have been living off of four days’ worth of clothes for the past three weeks, but eh, it could be worse. At least I have underwear, and the washing machine costs $7.00 for ten prepaid washes. Anyway, the two girls, 李佳融 and 韩芯谊,helped us find an internet bar, and being the gracious Chinese that they were, they gave us their phone numbers and told us to call them if we had any trouble.

We did.

That night we introduced the girls to gin and tonic.  For a country that has no drinking age limit, it seems like the average American in my generation has infinitely more experience with alcohol than any of the Chinese people I have met. It was very reminiscent of eighth grade, the way they acted with a little sauce in them. Cute, though.

Speaking of alcohol, one of the most disappointing things I have found in China is the beer. Chinese beer tastes like soda water. Whether it’s Qingdao, Suntory, Haerbin, Taiwan, they all taste roughly the same–like nothing. That was until we found the Tube Express Bistro. Thank God and all that’s holy for this little piece of America. Located right across from the BNU campus’s east gate, this place serves everything from schawarma to philly cheese steak to roasted eggplant to black truffle mushroom pizza. All of that pales in comparison, however, to the fact that they serve an AMERICAN MICROBREW. Rogue Brewery’s Dead Guy Ale is proudly served (for a reasonable 25RMB/bottle) at the Tube, imported all the way from Oregon.

Anyway, We have been hanging with Jia-rong and Xin-yi quite a lot; they have introduced us to a nice selection of what Beijing has to offer. Houhai, where the expats hang out, as well as some of the historical sites, as well as shopping. All in all, fun girls to hang out with.

My buddy Scott and I spent the next day hanging out with two new Chinese girls, Lucy and Linda. The story of how we met them is actually fairly funny, in a somewhat self-deprecating way.

Scott and I do not get too much ass in China. I have some prior commitments (Hey Claudia), and Scott–’nuff said. Needless to say, we do a lot of babe watching. During our wait in the Chengdu airport on the way to Beijing, we happened to sit next to this gorgeous Chinese girl, completely decked out in a traditional Chinese qipao. It was kickass. Couple that with a Canon XSi and an 18-270mm zuperzoom, and you get some lurker-style photography.

We spent the subsequent hour and a half making lewd comments, taking not-so-subtle photos, and generally just making her super uncomfortable. Woe to her when she ended up sitting next to us on the flight. Anyway, after a while we lost interest (for about ten minutes, till she shifted her legs and opened up those qipao skirt slits. To all the female readers– I know. ‘Ugh, men…’) Props to her for dealing with four hours of what in the good ol’ states would be considered overt sexual harassment.

At the end of the flight, she stood up, turned to us, and handed us both her business card. Then she grabbed her stuff and high-tailed it the hell outta the fuselage and into the abyss that is Beijing Int’l Airport pedestrian traffic. Scott and I laughed, slapped hands, and proceeded on our merry American path of destruction. A few days later, I get a yell from Scott, saying how we are going to meet Lucy from the airplane at Houhai in a few days. Scott, the dog he is, got it done. A few days later, we went to meet Lucy.

Lucy, like most Chinese girls, look way hotter in traditional Chinese clothing. Forgive me for sounding chauvinistic (or don’t–whatever), but there is something very sexy about the qipao and the status of women time period when it was popular dress. If every girl in China still wore the qipao, the world (and especially a certain niche genre of a certain industry in the Valley) would be a happier place.

Long story short, Lucy is still a very pretty girl, but looks significantly less eye-catching when she is dressed like a Japanese middle schooler. Lucy took us around Houhai as we finally shared our first exchange of words. Turns out, part of the attractiveness of the qipao is that it adds an aura of sophistication, because Scott and I had both pegged Lucy as 25+. Turns out, she is a few months younger than both of us. Also, fortunate for us, Lucy does not speak virtually any English. That takes care of the things we said about her at the airport, but I am sure the photos were not as lost in translation.

After walking around and getting to know Lucy (who reminds me a lot of a Calabasas girl–carefree, fairly dimmer than I care to associate myself, and no concept of the object of money. Good thing she didn’t speak enough English to completely fit the stereotype, and was funny and cute enough to quash that snap judgment quickly. After an hour or two of getting to know Lucy, we met up with her friend Linda. I ended up chatting with Linda for most of the rest of the day, as we toured the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower, North of the Forbidden City. They took us to eat chao ganr, which is a goopy, sludgy looking soup with pork liver and intestines. Evidently it is a traditional delicacy. Honestly, I’m pretty open in terms of what I’ll stick in my mouth. If it wasn’t so damn hard to find, I’d try dog. But I just don’t understand whose idea it was to butcher a pig, squeeze the shit outta its intestines, boil it with some garlic, and munch down. Pork is so damn cheap in China, I just don’t understand why they eat the organs that deal with the end-products of the digestive system. Needless to say, I ate the whole bowl. When in China, right?

We walked around with the girls and let them shop some more, and I took some photos of them. Then we parted ways.

Barely two hours later, Scott and I are both inundated with texts from them saying how handsome we are, how awesome our Chinese is, and if we have considered them as girlfriends yet. Like this post is so aptly prefaced, “The Power of the Green Card”.

I’ll fill this up with the corresponding photos as soon as I get off on my lazy ass and sort, upload, edit, link, and post them to this post. If you were wondering why the hell it takes me six days from when I start writing an entry to when its actually posted, that’s why.

Love you all.