Archive for October, 2009

Things on sticks

Posted in Uncategorized on October 24, 2009 by jenniferautumn

Things on sticks are some of my favorite foods here. Probably better translated as “kabobs”, they are literally assorted food items stabbed with a stick and then cooked, ranging on the bizarre food scale from recognizable and delicious chicken to hearts to unrecognizable variations of tofu and meat to… drum roll please… scorpions. For real. I went with Ben to Wanfujin district yesterday – a district known for it’s giant malls, pricey brand labels, and weird things on sticks. Choices included beetles, seahorses, star fish, fetal chickens, sheep penis, and scorpions. The worst part is that the scorpions are still alive on the sticks and wiggle around to prove how fresh they are. For better or for worse, I did not bring myself to try them. I did, however, take photos which should hopefully be available on the picasa web album soon of another couple friends of ours who also found the scorpions and did actually eat them. Respect. The Chinese bring food on sticks to a whole other level.

Hold the bleach.

Posted in Uncategorized on October 24, 2009 by jenniferautumn

It turns out that my naive Coloradan belief that the closer you get to water, the more humid the air, is incorrect. Long story short, Beijing is actually dry and so is my skin. I went to the grocery store to try to find some lotion and it turned out to actually be a mini ordeal. Let me explain – apparently wearing long sleeves and pants to the beach on an 80° day is not the only way Chinese women keep their skin white. I encountered this a little at Qingdao when we went to a pearl store and they tried to sell me pearl powder I could rub on myself to make my skin lighter. Probably safe, but as I tried to explain to them, for my pale Caucasian self, unnecessary. Well, it turns out that they go one step further than pearl powder and fear of the sun. I found out that some lotions, I kid you not, have skin whitening bleach in them. The problem here is that I do not know the characters/words for “lotion”, “skin”, or “bleach”. Therefore, I had to avoid all lotions that had the word white anywhere on them. Sounds safe, no? Problem two: “white” is a very common character on beauty products, as to be white/pale is to be beautiful. It was impossible for us to distinguish if the lotions were safe or not, as I only found a couple that didn’t say white (not that that meant they were bleach free, but as I had no other way to guess, that’s what I was hoping) and those were of course the most expensive. I still have no idea if there were any with bleach or if they all just said white because it sounds good, but I didn’t really want to take that chance. To me, bleach is for serious cleaning, not for skin care. I, being my creative problem solving self, instead journeyed to the baby isle and found some baby lotion there instead. Because they wouldn’t bleach their babies… right?

Likes/Dislikes/Most Missed!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 21, 2009 by jenniferautumn

The promised and much-anticipated likes/dislikes/most missed follow-up entry.
It took longer to write than expected because I feel I can classify every day here in China as either a “love China” or a “hate China” day. While I give the benefit of the doubt in that if it is not overly abundant that it is a “hate China” day, I will classify it as a “love China” one, I can’t lie that there is still a fair share of each. I have long overcome my initial culture shock, but some things I fear I will not get used to in the four month time frame of this stay. Some things are just personal preference, like missing dairy, and others are inherently cultural, like my uncorrectable disgust at spitting.
What had to happen for this list to come into existence was a week of notes of what exactly it was that was causing me to love or hate China, instead of the broad only-internally definable sentiment. While I often joke on my hate China days that I may never leave the United States again, what I can say about this time is that it has opened my eyes to so many experiences of human existence that without which I would have remained forever ignorant. With that in mind, and in no particular order, we commence:

Likes:
Being finally able to distinguish some dialects of Mandarin
New subway line that comes right to Beida
“Celebrity” status – not a day goes by that I am not photographed by gawking strangers, stared at, or followed.
Internship – those who know me know that a well-placed semicolon may give me goosebumps, working as the copy editor at an international policy journal is pretty much perfect. Image design is fun too.
Street food – elusive but delicious, the various carts on the street selling anything from kabobs to Chinese pancakes are always a cheap culinary adventure. The only problem is that they are mobile, so you can’t ever count on them being there.
Being able to hold slangy English conversations about people in front of them – bratty but true, it is a little fun to know people don’t understand you 9/10s of the time.
Temples – repetitive but impressive. I love the small of incense and the giant golden Buddhas.
Cheap things – I am on a strict weekly budget that never be accomplished in the United States
Youku – the Chinese version of youtube, which is of course blocked. Youku may be even better though, since it is full of entire movies and TV series.
So many things to do/see all in Beijing – ensuring I’m never bored and never run out of things to experience.
Pass/fail status – thank you, thank you DU
Envisioning the perils of a zombie infestation in Beijing – perhaps more on this in a separate post, but I can tell you it would be bad.
Apparently endless unnecessary occupations – rain water sweepers, door openers, etc. It’s a little ridiculous, but at least they’re employed.
Not busing own tray – an extension of the previous entry, every restaurant/cafeteria is staffed with enough waitresses that you are actually supposed to leave your tray and they pick it up for you and dump it, even at McDs.
Classes – they are good for the most part. Sino-American Relations is my favorite, naturally, but they are all interesting. My Chinese professor is fantastic, also picked “Robust” as his English name, I believe thinking it was the long version of Rob, which makes him inherently awesome.

Dislikes:
Socialized medicine – we’ve already been over this
Beijing dialect murmuring – lots of r’s, very difficult to make out
Wind – yeah. lots of wind.
Spitting – mostly because they have to hack loudly, every time. disgusting. absolutely disgusting.
Guanxi, or lack thereof – if you’re not in someone’s social network, then they don’t care if you exist. only moderately exaggerating.
Stalkers – I’m absolutely tired of being followed for nothing more than being blonde.
Inefficiency of so many different cards, IDs, etc – every single thing has it’s own card: meals, transportation, school, laundry, IDs…
Inefficiency of buying things – you think you would just take your stuff to the cashier and pay, but no. Much like my clinic experience, you have to tell someone what you want, they write you a ticket, you go to the cashier and pay, they give you a ticket, you go to someone else and they give you your items, then you show your items and ticket to one more person before you leave to prove you just went through this ordeal and paid.
Tooooo many people – enough said.
People assuming i am speaking English when I’m not, no effort to understand me – no matter how hard I try, everyone assumes that white girl can’t speak Chinese.
Blocked internet – wahhh I miss facebook
Lack of whole wheat – it’s true, only refined white carbs dwell here. I long for a good slice of seven grain whole wheat bread.
Difficult classes – they’re not too bad, but it is so much new information for me! I’m not used to doing so poorly in classes. Thank god for pass/fail or I’d never even see Beijing!
Taxi drivers – they get lost, overcharge, act like they have no idea what you’re saying etc. Some are nice, but the majority gives me a nasty headache.
Feeling like godzilla – it is so hard to feel feminine in a country where you are at least 40 lbs heavier and a head taller than any other female.
Horns horns horns – drivers here believe their car horns are magic, and if you honk long enough and loud enough at anything it will move out of your way. Also, if you go more than five minutes without using it, your magical car horn will disappear.
Pollution – again, enough said.
Post office – the absolute most frustrating place here so far.

Most Missed:
Dairy
American food
Gym
Mountains
Coffee
English speakers
My car
Sink disposals
Clothes dryers

Ok, obviously that is not the entirety of my thoughts, but that’s a weeks worth of effort. I will make another list closer to the end of the term, after I have been here three months or so.
For the record, today was a “love China” day.

P.S. I was able to check my views counter today and saw that on average my blog gets around 40-50 views a post! It’s great to know so many people care about what I and my friends are up to here, or at least so does one very dedicated person who comes back 40-50 times. Either way, thank you for validating my blogging efforts, follower(s). 🙂

I haven’t forgotten you, followers!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 18, 2009 by jenniferautumn

I wanted to take a few minutes to right a quick blog to explain why I have been absent from writing for a week! Pretty much it can be summed up in one word:

Midterms.

Yuck. But they are over now, I know I passed at least two of the three. I will hear about the third on Thursday. I am so glad I am taking the classes here pass/fail! I have some friends from other schools who are taking them for grades and they have to put in so much more work to not mess up their gpa, they miss out a lot on little trips and dinners that we do. While I’m in China, my priority is more to experience China than to spend the whole trip in the library. Pass/fail is the best of both worlds – thank you DU.

A brief summary of what else I’ve been up to.
Old Summer Palace – I and my friend Lindsay had a frustrating experience in being foreigners in China when we went to the old summer palace, got lost for an hour, couldn’t meet up with a Chinese girl we were trying to because she was lost too, finally got into the gardens and spent another two hours looking for the ruins and never found them. Everything was in Chinese, but not even helpful Chinese – for example, there were sign posts that would say, peace and harmony area this way. Fantastic, if we had any idea what that was. Also, I’ve noticed that the Chinese are not fans of “you are here” maps, and when there are directions, the actual thing will not have a sign post so the only way you know you passed it is that one direction was north and then the next sign says it’s south. Oh well, we plan on trying again to find the ruins next week, and this time we will be smarter and bring a guide book and/or guide.
Beijing Zoo – i.e. PANDAS. I saw them for the first time live, it was great. I was so excited. The zoo overall is not in as good condition as the Denver Zoo (I don’t remember going to any others), but one of the panda cages was huge and full of play things. Second favorite animal there: lemurs. They were hilarious and complete attention hams. Least favorite: lions and tigers in tiny indoor cages. I definitely felt like they needed to have a better, bigger, more engaging habitat. Well, it was a lot of fun anyways, and I was a dork and got one of those panda umbrellas with ears. Teehee.
Lama Temple/Confucius Temple – we buckled down and did some touristy things ourselves and went to a couple temples in the middle of Beijing. The Lama temple is something like the only remaining active temple in Beijing I think. I definitely enjoyed it. It was clean(er), smelled of incense (possibly my favorite part), and had lots of old Buddhist treasures. Maybe the most impressive part was a massive 28m (about three stories) high Buddha which is in the book of records because it is carved from a single trunk of wood. I obviously didn’t take any pictures because it’s sacred but even if it wasn’t inappropriate I probably wouldn’t have because there’d be no way to convey it’s presence. The Confucius temple was interesting too, it had a nice little museum of the life and teachings of Confucius. We saw a couple students praying there, we were told later that they sometimes go to pray for good grades – wish I had thought of that before midterms!

Well, that’s all I have time for right now, even though midterms are over there is still so much work to do! I have three ten to fifteen page papers due in a couple weeks, a book to read and present on by Thursday, etc etc. Even my internship is busy – we are trying to get the next journal out either this week or next so I have lots of articles to edit and format, and have been put in charge of finding material to possibly be used for the cover. It’s exciting though, to feel like I’m actually contributing a little to something I site for papers back home!
I am in the process of compiling another favorites/likes/dislikes/can’t stands list for China two months in that I will post soon. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten my blog!

P.S. Happy Birthday Dad!

You know you’ve learned some Chinese when…

Posted in Uncategorized on October 8, 2009 by jenniferautumn

I got in a fight with a cab driver yesterday. And won. Kind of.
He was supposed to take us to a lounge we had read about, but didn’t know the exact location of. We knew the district though and it’s usually half an hour drive, about 40RMB. Well, he got lost. And charged us for the entire half an hour he spent figuring out where he was going. By the time he finally dropped us off in the middle of no where (the lounge was open, but had maybe 15 people inside and the entire street it was on was closed), the tab was almost 100RMB. Obviously, we did not have the intention of paying for him not knowing where he was going. When I arrived here, I perhaps would have just paid and pouted about it, but no longer. I handed him 50 and got out, which of course he was having none of.
Long story short (too late) I and Ben were arguing with him, in Chinese mind you, oh yes, for another half an hour on the street block, drawing a crowd of many bored workers who thought we were the most entertaining thing in town. I even got to use the new phrase I learned in class last week, which translates roughly to “You’re mad!”. Sometimes we would just looked at each other and start yelling in English since we knew he couldn’t understand, usually along the lines of “Let’s start yelling in English again to look angry!! I’m getting bored of this what do you think will happen if we just run!!! I don’t know, is that a new shirt!!! Yeah I bought it last week!!!”
In the end, we got away only paying 60RMB, which was still way too high, but probably some of our best bargaining to date. My first fight in Chinese!
And don’t worry, parentals. We would have booked it before the cops arrived. Kidding! We’re both blonde, they would have been on our side 😛

Injury Update >.<

Posted in Uncategorized on October 7, 2009 by jenniferautumn

Haha, for all of you terribly anxious to hear how my toe is doing 😛
I finally went to the clinic on campus, and it was so bizarre. I had to check in, pay a fee, go to one doctor, tell them what was wrong, go to the correct doctor, pay another fee, get an X-ray in a different building, go to another building to get them looked at, pay another fee, go back to the doctor to tell them what was wrong, then sent to pharmacy, pay another fee, go back to the pharmacy, get medicine, and finally leave.
Turns out I fractured my big toe. They tell me they can do nothing for it since it’s so small, and so we ask if I can medicine and they give me what I assume to be pain killers, and send me on my way. I have learned my lesson with unknown medicine though so I took it to the program directors and it turns out it’s just more anti infectants. So… I have a fractured toe, no pain killers, no ice packs, no shoes that fit, but hopefully no infections. I did limp down to the grocery store and in lieu of ice packs (which they apparently don’t believe in here) grabbed a bag of liquid yogurt and threw it in my little freezer, works pretty well.
I looked it up online, since I had been given no instructions for care, and turns out I’m correct on the icing and elevating. It did also say, however, that it may take six weeks to heal, so really hoping that’s a lie.
Ah well, we all know I’ve done worse!

Qingdao

Posted in Uncategorized on October 4, 2009 by jenniferautumn

Ok, made it back from vacation and after recovering for a bit, am finally back to blog for my followers. It has been quite a week. I went with my friend Lesley to Qingdao (青岛)for our holiday, which is double this year but it was not only National Day but also Mid-Autumn Festival, which is the vacation-family gathering-eating food equivalent to our Thanksgiving. Qingdao is a beach resort city about five hours away by bullet train.
The catch was that on the eve of our leaving, I, in my eternal grace, seriously jammed one of my little toes to the point where it was deep purple and giving me some trouble. Oh wells, suck it up princess and walk it out. It healed within a few days, more or less.
Qingdao was absolutely amazing; the temperature and weather were perfect for beach lounging, our hostel had a great rooftop lounge called the Mamahuhu with real Western style food (including coffee :’) ), we were right next to a market full of seafood, vegetables, moon cakes, etc, there was great shopping, kite flying, and lots of friends to be made. It was near-perfect day after near-perfect day. What more could you ask for than hanging by the ocean, flying a kite and eating seafood on a stick with great friends.
I had also appeared to have entered celebrity status, as not one day went by that I wasn’t asked at least once to pose with people in their pictures, or kept catching people stealthily taking pictures of me. We were even followed by a creeper for a few hours on our first day. I have no idea what it was, because I just don’t feel like I could be the first white girl they’ve seen. But it is a tourist destination, so maybe they come from small rural villages, or maybe it’s that my hair is both blonde and curly, or maybe they just thought we were hilarious as we attempted to get our kite into the air and wanted to document what dorks we were. I even had one woman walk by the restaurant we were eating lunch at, do a double take, pick up her toddler and hold him to the window to see me, and then call over her other child too. Lucky Lesley isn’t white like me, so didn’t have to put up with this so much, although when she told people she was American no one believed her. It is a little funny, their conceptions of what an “American” is. They wouldn’t let it go until she’d finally admit that her grandpa was Chinese.
Of course, since we were in Qingdao, home of Tsingtao beer, we had lots o beer. The best part was that the way you can buy it is from street corner vendors with kegs, and you buy it by the weight and they poor it into a plastic bag for you to take. That’s right, beer in a plastic bag. The epitome of classy. It was many times cheaper that way than from our excellent but slightly pricey Mamahuhu, and we could bring it back to get cups and ice if we ordered dinner. Needless to say, it was a nightly venture of ours.
On National Day we watched on TV a bit of the giant parade in Beijing that I’ve been telling you about. It was… I don’t even know what to say. I have never seen a parade of that scope in my life. There had to be tens of thousands of people involved, all with precision marching and choreography. If you have five minutes, I highly, highly recommend going to youtube and searching for it.
We met some people through friends of friends of a Spaniard who was staying in the same room as us in the hostel who invited us over for spaghetti for the mid-Autumn festival. It was one of the most delicious Western meals I’ve had since arriving, and even had, joy of joys, real cheese. We then wandered down to the beach, lit some lanterns, drank some more beer, and rode three person tandem bikes (whatever they’re called). It was going fantastically until we took a spill and I, either nobly or stupidly, decided to prop the bike up with my body so we wouldn’t all eat pavement. Of course, the bike stayed up but I did not. I injured the big toe on my other foot so badly that I had to limp to the nearest taxi and go back to the hostel to beg for ice. Yes, I do appear to be a bit accident prone. My entire right side is worse for the wear – aside from my not broken but extremely swollen and dark purple big toe, my leg looks like I got bitten by the bike monster because the chain took skin with it when I hit it, and there’s some road rash on my arm and side. Luckily, it was our last night there and in the morning we boarded our train home to Beijing.
Injuries aside, this trip was amazing. I haven’t heard from other people in our program yet, who had gone to Shanghai or inner Mongolian or other places, but I only imagine how jealous they will be when they see our tans and pictures 😛