Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Today marks 4 weeks in and I feel like I'm floating. A routine is beginning to develop around classes, lunch with classmates, studying and finding language partners, but I'm still waking up each day thinking, "Is this my life?" It doesn't feel real or maybe it just doesn't feel normal yet. I'll let you know as time goes by.

In any case, there has been amazing scenery and experiences around every corner. Trying to explain index cards to the swarm of salespeople at the store was interesting. It involved being lead over to the electronics section where the electronic translators were pulled out to ask me all sorts of questions, such as "What are they used for?" How do you explain "flashcards" in Chinese when you don't actually speak Chinese? That trip was unsuccessful.

On the other hand, I can successfully navigate my way around the city in taxis. This involves showing the driver where I need to go either on a map or in a guide book that has the address written in Chinese. I then make my way back home with the crumpled up piece of paper that has my address written on it. I need to get that laminated immediately. Only every once in a while am I shooed away for who knows what reason...but there is always another taxi to be found. When it is clear that the driver is asking me what route I'd like him to take, I just say, "Dui." "Right." This works pretty well.

Here are a few of the latest shots:

Closing up the market:

A Doorway in traditional Hutong neighborhood:
A fork in the road:

Near the Forbidden City at Sunset:

Inside the Forbidden City:
Just outside the walls of the Forbidden City:

Friday, March 16, 2007

First China Pics and Barbara in Beijing

So I figured out how to adjust the picture size so that I can upoad them on this slow internet connection. In any case, I have so many wonderful pictures already and it has only been 2 weeks. My friend Barbara (from high school) is living in Korea right now and she had to leave the country in order to get a new visa, so she came to Beijing. Just two weeks in and I already had a visitor. It was great. Here are a few images from our adventures.

Lamb kebas, yummy! Our neighborhood at sunset:
Sea Urchin anyone?
Wangfujing, otherwise known as crazy food on a stick place:

Barbara eating a locust. I tried it too, the shell just kind of gets stuck in your teeth.

So many bikes: Picking Barbara up from the airport, this was the scene on the departures level:
This is the Toll booth, very decorative:
Temple of Heaven:

Out to lunch with our crazy, awesome Landlord (she only speaks Chinese):

My first two fake bag purchases, one Gucci, one Chloe:

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

And we're back...

After more than a week sans internet, I've been feeling a little disconnected...and many of you have been wondering where the hell I am. Unfortunately, the internet connection here in China leaves much to be desired and I am unable to upload any photos (as of yet) but luckily I've inserted links to a few videos that Stephanie and Adrian have taken. So here we go, a first look at China...

The packing process was arduous. Trying to determine what to take for an 18 month sojourn in a far away place with no real knowledge of what to expect there was challenging. In the end, I said, "The heck with it, I'm taking an extra bag." The $85 charge was well worth it.
Although, my original flight was canceled due to snow in Chicago, I arrived in Beijing one day later with no problem. We were met by the Abroad China staff (basically our liaison on the ground) and driven to a comfortable hotel near our school. It felt very luxurious compared to my other international adventures which involved arriving in a foreign place, haphazardly navigating my way into the city only to sleep in a shady little dive. Perhaps those days are over.

The first night we randomly chose a restaurant close to our hotel called the Big Wave and it turned out to be an amazing meal...the first of many. The next day China Abroad had made arrangements for apartment viewings and by the end of the day we had secured the most beautiful apartment I've ever had. I was waffling between a lot of different options until we saw this place...Stephanie, Adrian and I snatched it up immediately. It was amazing to find an apartment on the first day. God Bless agents and the fees we pay them. Check out this video, directed by Stephanie...

The rest of the week was spent making trips to Ikea on Friday and Carrefour on Saturday (which I would not recommend. Shopping on a rainy Saturday in China proved to be more than I could take...people were everywhere. It was a bit overwhelming. I vowed never to go shopping on the weekend again.) Here is the proof:

Here's an interesting story: On Saturday morning, after a long night of dancing (and therefore drinking) I woke up to a muffled banging. I thought, "Is that someone at our door?" I got up to check and in fact, there were a few people knocking. As I struggled with the door (we have two front doors?) Adrian got up as well. We opened the door to find three Chinese faces staring back at us, speaking loudly in Chinese. Remember we were in our pyjamas and a little hungover. Luckily, Stephanie heard the commotion and got up to assist us. We quickly learned that the older lady was our landlord and she came in. We all thought she was there to handle some last minute details and then she would move on. In fact, she had a lot more information to impart, including, but not limited to, an 8 step process for improving and maintaining our health, which brands to buy, when we should go to bed, not to use hair dryers, the list goes on. She also demonstrated her flexibility by doing a split on the floor and performing an entire Tai Chi routine...she is 70 years old. Before we knew it, she had been there for 3 hours. The next day she took us out to lunch and demonstrated how to eat a pigeon head.

By Tuesday, we were on our way to get our residence permit with our landlord. This was an interesting process that involved accompanying our landlord along with someone from the management office of our compound to the police station. Everything in China is a matter of "guanxi" or personal connections. So this trip involved going to see someone's "friend" in order to obtain residence permits without the landlord (or us) having to pay taxes. For us it was just another outing. Here is a video of the exercise machines that can be found all over the city. For us Westerners, it's a playground for adults and I love them.

That's all I got for now. I hope to update more often and add a lot of photos. At this point, my first impressions of China are the scent of diesel and cigarettes, skyscrapers, cranes and construction alongside horse drawn vegetable carts, 15 minute taxi rides that are cheaper than one subway ride in NYC, my new fake Gucci bag, street side lamb kababs for 1 kuai (about 12 cents), more food than you can eat at a very nice sit down restaurant for no more than $10 per person, babies in split pants and women doing Tai Chi in the courtyard downstairs.