Archive for February, 2010

Parlez vous Francais? Non.

Posted in Study Abroad China 2009-2010 with tags , on February 28, 2010 by foundmeinchina

This winter break has been more like a summer vacation. I have been through three continents in as many months–China, America, and for those who didn’t know, Europe. I took a trip to France to see Claudia. I ended up seeing how beautiful a country France is (Paris and Versailles, anyway). The French still suck, but the land they occupy is amazing. I spent ten days there, and I must have taken two hundred times as many photos–even after distilling them down to my favorites, I still have almost 180. Therefore, I’ll try to keep this succinct. One thing I will mention is that I had a bit of a cultural shock adjusting from China to Paris–between the French cultural norm of greeting everybody to waiting for people to get off the subway before getting on to being glared at after hawking a lugee, going to Paris really showed me how Chinese I have become. Also, this post is going to focus heavily on food and Claudia, because let’s face it–in order of importance, those were the two reasons I came to Paris.

Roll “cliches”:
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Do I Count as a Jet-setter Yet?

Posted in Musing, Paris, Photo, Study Abroad China 2009-2010 with tags , , , , , , on February 16, 2010 by foundmeinchina

I have been on fifteen airplanes from seven different airlines in as many months. Many of these have been domestic flights within China, and several have been international flights. The days of excitement and anticipation of boarding a plane, possibly getting a chance to meet the captain and see the cockpit (though in fairness, it was 9/11 that took that anticipation away from me), and even the anticipation of the chicken-or-beef meal gamble, have all long since faded. Flying now is like taking the subway, except you don’t have to fight for a seat. All of my recent air travel has taught me one crucial lesson, however–American-run airlines, at the very least United Airlines, are more outdated than all but the Wright Brothers’ Wright Flyer.

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新年快乐!年年有余!恭喜发财!And All of the Other Cliche New Year Sayings…

Posted in Beijing, Photo, Study Abroad China 2009-2010 with tags , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2010 by foundmeinchina

The past few weeks back in China have been so exciting. Fresh off of my New Year’s resolution to not waste any time sitting idle in Beijing, and with an inordinately long winter break to take advantage of, I have done more in the past two weeks than I did in months last semester. School has been out for me since December 22nd of last year, and I do not start back up until registration takes place on February 27th. I am planning a trip for the remainder of the vacation, much to the chagrin of my bank account, since it is the last time I am going to have a break until I come back from China. I will keep a travelogue, pictures and all, and this time it won’t be too backdated, I promise.

This entry is exceedingly difficult to write, as Beijing is currently being shelled. By its own people. Shrapnel hits my windows in regular intervals, and the room is lit up from the strontium, chromium, and potassium reactions taking place thirty feet away from my head. It is, after all, Chinese New Year.

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Delicious History

Posted in Beijing, Photo, Study Abroad China 2009-2010 with tags , , , , on February 13, 2010 by foundmeinchina

The Olympic Park has long since been vacated of all things Michael Phelps. Left are the Olympic buildings, as well as random sculptures like this.

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The Olympic Park is now used for various events or exhibits, from car racing to concerts to a Winter Wonderland snow park. Most appetizing, however, is the World Chocolate Dream Park, located in the middle of the Olympic Park area. This park, as per its name, is dedicated to chocolate, and I believe on another level dedicated to China’s newly-acquired wealth and taste for decadence.
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New Semester is Kicking Off

Posted in Beijing, Musing, Rant, Study Abroad China 2009-2010 with tags , on February 13, 2010 by foundmeinchina

We were introduced through our old friend Jia Rong to Damien, who grew up in Beijing but went to high school and college in our great Northern neighbor, famous for hockey, weed, and Terrence and Phillip, Canada. Damien is great because he speaks very colloquial English, and understands and uses American slag perfectly. I am not sure how he knows American speech patterns so well, but he does. He is also a huge metal fan. This Beijing native is into harder, more brutal music than even I am into. Also, he loves football (although he is a Colts fan.) Can’t win ’em all, I guess. In fact, we met him because we bought a Redskins shirt for him while stateside, at Jia-rong’s request.

Damien and his friend Li Xiao Quan (also a huge death metal fan) took us out to get some Beijing grub. These guys know how to eat. For under $30USD, we got clams, oysters, chicken wings, skewers, snails, fried rice, and enough beer to keep everybody jolly. Once again I have learned just how crucial it is to have a Beijinger as a friend, and how much better it is if that friend is male. I don’t mean that chauvinistically, it is just that, in my experience (with a few exceptions), the men are a lot more outgoing and willing to have a good time. I am also glad to have met Damien and Li because the bulk of my good friends from last semester have all left Beijing. Kate, the posh too-cool-for-school Cambridge girl has gone back to the land of posh, too-cool-for-school people. Lee, the soft-spoken unless drunk Korean friend I missed by a matter of hours arriving back in Beijing. After talking to him once we both arrived at our respective final destinations, we figured out that we probably passed one another as he was heading on the first floor departure tunnel, while I was going the opposite way on the arrival tunnel directly above.

All but a handful of EAP people went home (Kyle, the token Jew, thankfully is still here), and saddest of all, my best buddy/roommate Benny is gone. It is bittersweet, however, because he left Beijing to take a job in Shanghai, and for that I am very happy for him, plus he is only a quick flight away. Bob and Sharky, the only other British people in the whole sixty person SOAS program that I can stand for any extended length of time, are still around. The rest of the foreigners I have met here seem to have vastly different goals than I do in coming to China. Maybe not in theory, as everybody here talks about becoming fluent and making money, but nobody seems to understand that just saying it only wastes breath and makes it easier for the people who put in the work to get ahead, because the self-confidence gleaned by constantly telling oneself of coming prosperity without working towards it only serves to pacify the hunger to get ahead. So many of the people I meet, the people I share class with (when they decide to show up) are so much more focused on scoring sleazy Chinese club tail that they are flunking out of the classes that are supposed to be the very reason for their being in China. I actually find it very sad and pitiful that a school as specialized as the School of Oriental and African Studies has produced a class of short-sighted, immature juveniles whose only skill is pissing away their parents’ money, and much more to the point, pissing away time that I paid for in class because they show up unprepared and disrupt the class.

Starkly contrasted to these morons is Robert, my roommate from first and second year. Robert moved to China in October, initially to learn Chinese through pure immersion. After realizing that his Mandarin would improve exponentially faster by taking classes, he moved up from Zhuhai, Guandong province, up to Beijing, where he will be attending class at BNU. Robert got in yesterday and is crashing at our place until he can find a room, preferably with a Chinese family so he can learn even more Chinese. Robert and I have a lot of history, mostly all of it good, but the one thing that I will always give him credit for is that he is a very driven person. If nothing else, I am glad to have him in China for the sole fact that he poses a foil to those that surround me currently.

Who is John Galt?

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

I am going to take a personal day off from the vacation days I have been spending on this blog. I have a date with a Ms. Ayn Rand in the sunroom (where there is sun for the first time since I came to Beijing), now that it’s not 40 degrees inside our apartment. Check back sometime later tonight–I’m sure that reading enough about Dagny Taggart will motivate me to write some words of my own.

Just to give you a taste of what’s to come though, here’s two photos, plus the obligatory preface.

One of the most fascinating and unique things about China is its history. As a country, China is unique in that virtually all of the conflict and turmoil up until the 17th century originated from within the country’s borders.  Unlike European countries, who throughout history had to defend themselves by protecting their from their surrounding neighbors, China’s biggest obstacle was controlling the people within its borders.  While this extended isolation ended up hurting China after the West landed on its shores, for millennia China was the largest and most prosperous country known to itself, bar none. The internal struggle that stemmed from various consolidations of power and borders interspersed with periods of glorious prosperity and extravagance have given birth to such things as the Forbidden City, the Terracotta Soldiers, and most famously the Great Wall, built more to keep the Chinese in than foreigners out. These monuments have made China’s history as rich as, well, the chocolate that these reproductions of them are:

I'd Much Rather Be Guarded in Death by These...

Great Wall of Chocolate

我终于回来了!

Posted in Beijing, Photo, Study Abroad China 2009-2010 with tags , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2010 by foundmeinchina

Landed in Beijing a little a day ago. I found it interesting that I had more of that excited-to-visit-a-new-place feeling stepping off the plane in LAX than I did stepping off the plane in Beijing International. It feels like Beijing is more of a home to me than America. I got to my apartment with no problem, and was greeted by my English buddy Sharky, who was house-sitting for us, as well as those two mangy ratcatchers 烤串儿 and 哥们儿, the house kittens. Although it seems like they’re only going to be kittens for a short while longer.

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