798

Posted in Uncategorized on November 7, 2009 by jenniferautumn

Yesterday we took a trip over to 798, the modern art district.  It was awesome.    The area was, of course, as everything is here, encircled by a guarded cement wall.  Inside – the first sign we had stumbled upon something wonderful – was graffiti.  And giant sculptures.  Of disgusting, warped, crazy things.  There were  about a hundred galleries and, even more impressive, dozens of legitimate coffee shops.  Like, they had Tilly expresso (i.e. real coffee).  So great.  Proof that angsty artists and their followers are the same on every continent.

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Disillusionment

Posted in Uncategorized on November 7, 2009 by jenniferautumn

Remember the snow I was so excited about last week?  Well,  we have all been manipulated and lied to.

http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2009/11/02/beijing-snow-man-made-in-china/

Though, I have to question if this really works as well as they say, or if it’s the Chinese going “look!  it snows because we communists tell it to!”

Registration frustration and Halloween

Posted in Uncategorized on November 3, 2009 by jenniferautumn

Well, apparently Colorado had a time change.  Long story short, I thought I was supposed to wake up at 3am to register for classes, but it is actually at 4am.  So I am playing on my computer waiting to register, which would be fine except I am supposed to wake up for good and go to work in four hours.  Damn it.

Good news for you though, I finally have a way to post some pictures here.  And since the question of the week from everyone is Halloween, I will discuss.

No, the Chinese do not technically celebrate Halloween.  But due to the “high” volume of foreigners here who do, it seems like every bar/club/venue in Beijing was having some sort of party.  We went to a big wearhouse party in the old art district.  There was a DJ, lots of costumes, about 3000 people, lots of alcohol, lots of dancing, etc.  And on our way home, it started to snow (apparently even in Beijing I can’t escape snow on Halloween lol).  So overall, a fun time.   Costumes were a bit hard to find without a lot of creativity, which luckily as Americans we possess in volume.

Sinicization

Posted in Uncategorized on November 2, 2009 by jenniferautumn

IMG_0734I think I’m turning Chinese I think I’m turning Chinese I really think so.
Here are some of the signs:
Due to a large unfortunate rip in one of my only two pairs of jeans, I am now the proud owner of a great pair of cut off shorts. Fortunately, the fashion here is to wear jean shorts over leggings. I’m not sure if I could get away with it back home, but I fit right in here.
I have actually started to crave Chinese food instead of just all the food I’m used to from home. Now, when I’m hungry for a mid afternoon snack, I sometimes think jianbing instead of turkey sandwich.
I have starting bringing pack lunches to work. While it’s only slightly cheaper than a tiao of dumplings down the block, it makes me feel like I’m getting the hang of China. Also, their equivalent of ramen noodles is wayyy better than ramen noodles.
Spice tolerance – I may actually have own now. I have been slowing acclimating myself and now willing put peppers into my dishes. No one else thinks it’s that spicy, but since I started from zero, it’s still something. My daddy will be so proud when I come home and fight him for the packets of pepper flakes for our pizzas.
I now think in terms of kuai instead of USD. I actually get indignant when shopping and anything is over 20 RMB, despite the fact that that is equivalent to about 3 dollars.
The insane markets that I wrote about previously no longer faze me. I still feel like I’m a terrible bargainer though. Mostly because all the shop ladies tell me I’m a great bargainer.
I have held entire conversations in Chinese and have been understood.
While the fear of death by insane drivers here still haunts me, I am no longer traumatized every time I have to cross the street. I may die on return though, since my crossing-the-street method is to just walk and hope nothing hits me. Which is in fact the advice I was given by Chinese people when I complained about the traffic.
I have more or less given up on coffee. It sucks and I hate it, but it is not to be found easily/cheaply and I can’t justify spending 25 kuai on coffee when I can get a month’s worth of tea for 11. Best believe I will drown myself in it when I get home though.
I found the underground metal music scene and have been participating with my friend Julie. There’s a great small bar venue called D22 that has local bands play live and has college metals nights every couple weeks. It’s fantastic. There’s moshing and everything. I didn’t think I would find my people here. However, the Chinese do not seem to understand metal that well. On a non-metal specific night, they were actually putting up rock on signs and moshing to, I kid you not, Coldplay. I wanting to cry or punch something.
And last but not least, my Halloween costume was *drumroll please* a panda. Indeed, I could only be more Chinese by wearing a qipao.

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). 🙂