Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Preparing for National Day...

Walking on campus today I passed by a group preparing to participate in the National Day parade.

The parade that I, as a foreigner, am forbidden to go near, but can watch on TV.

It is the biggest celebration in 60 years and with a population of 1.3 billion... I guess crowd control makes sense.

It would be fascinating to see the celebration up close, but I have a feeling the city will be a buzz no matter where I am that day.

I hope to shoot some video, but Tian'anmen is closed starting tomorrow until after the celebration. The fireworks are supposed to surpass that of the Olympics...

Monday, September 28, 2009

The toilet that swallowed my iPhone - Whole

How do you flush a phone down a toilet, you ask?
I had my iPhone tucked safely (I thought) in my back pocket... and went about normal business. However, in China things are a bit different - ladies.
It isn't as simple as 'hovering' - you have to squat and it takes skills. Skill can be measured by how successfully you get in and out of one of these toilets without peeing on your own feet, the floor, or making the mistake of looking down and running a high risk of being splashed in the face.

Points are deduced if you touch the walls for support, unless you are so, so very brave or have hand sanitizer by the case!

And GOD help you if you forget to have your tissue in-hand upon entering...

While in the midst of this tricky business someone did the unthinkable and upset the balance of the universe by trying to force into the stall. I was startled, violently shaken from my perfectly poised squatting stance and as I bounced up and the phone bounced out.

It was surreal.

I heard something hit the porcelain and looked down to see it slide into a dark, mysterious abyss. It took a few moments for it to register... I replayed it in my mind over and over, blankly staring at the hole.

Not only did I drop my iPhone in the toilet - the toilet swallowed the WHOLE PHONE as if it were some sort of sacrificial offering...

This is the note that my teacher wrote for the maintenance people.
I went downstairs, with this note in hand (my Chinese is not good enough to accommodate such circumstances) and they said it was impossible to recover. This was not a sufficient answer and my classmates - a few brave men, rolled up their sleeves only to discover why the maintenance people refused to help.

What we discovered was a seemingly endless abyss, at least over 4 foot long. Don't ask how we measured, but it is quite accurate. There was no bottom from the hole....down.

Alas, my iPhone is nestled somewhere near the center of the earth...and while they tell us it is forbidden to flush toilet paper, their plumbing can, apparently, digest an iPhone - whole.

It feels strange to say, but I have peed on it since...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Score! Chinese tutor and Veggie Bao all in one day!

Today my classmate, Nils, and I met at the University to study for class tomorrow. Yes, for those of you doing the math...we have class on a SUNDAY. (sighs)

Nonetheless, we were a bit of an attraction to our fellow classmates. Many people would stop, linger and then approach us wanting to know what we were studying and offered to help us with our Chinese practice.

One girl, TaoJing, was a particularly good match because she is Chinese and has been studying English for six years. She sat down with us at noon and after studying for almost 3 hours we left for some lunch and then had a nice chat over coffee. It works out well because about the time I become exhausted from questions, she has questions of her own, which are as elementary as what we are asking her. Elementary, yet absolutely critical. As you will see in the video when Nils trys to order another order of Bao and instead of saying 'you' it sounds like 'jio,' which causes the lady to giggle. THIS IS SO COMMON... us trying to speak and insighting giggles. :) So, Tao Jing will now be helping us as our schedules permit.
For those of you that heard about my other tutors...that is just going to have to wait until after the National holiday. So, stay tuned for updates on that.

We found a wonderful Bao place... Yummy. Nils is a vegetarian, which is fairly uncommon here. So, we found a great place for veggie bao right next to campus and conveniently located next to a coffee shop that serves excellent cappuccino's! So after filling our bellies with bao we moved next door for coffee and studying...

all-in-all, a wonderful day...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Swede and American on a scooter...

Today my classmate, Nils, showed me his new electric scooter 1700¥.
This was quite an adventure and helpful because I am considering
getting a bicycle for getting around campus.

How was the ride? Well, a bit like an episode of the Flinstones.
Nils started up the scooter and the (imagine Fred Flinstone) used his
feet to get the scooter moving. We didn't even make it off campus and
had a little crash with a bicycle.

Granted we can't compare what we call a crash in The States because
scooters here are in the bike lane, not with the cars.

So, a crash is not really a big thing like a motorcycle. What happens
is more like a little comedy... So today the Chinese were laughing at
two blondies on a scooter...in Beijing! :)

Here is a short video and little picture!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Celebrating my roommate...

My roommate, Antonella, celebrates her birthday today. This brought
to mind one of my concerns of being so far away from home during
special holidays...

We had tea from China, Korean cake with a French name, and I cooked
Cinese food for dinner.

Nothing replaces those who earn our heart and trust over the years, or
our precious and dear family, and yet - still, as relative strangers,
we can come together for each other - supportive and aware. When we
are far from home we recreate our world.

I feel very fortunate to have such a warm and kind roommate here in
Beijing. I am not accustomed to sharing my living space with others
and, in fact, I cherish both my private time and personal space.

Those that know me well might have bets out on how long I will last in
the dorms...well, we shall see, but thus far it is a wonderful
learning experience in so many ways.

My roommate showed me how to properly hand-wash clothes, my Indonesian
hall-mates taught me how to work the stove in the kitchen, a floormate
from Sudan shared food from his country and study survival skills, a
local Chinese police-official set me up with a language partner, and
the list continues...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Chinese military over Tian'anmen - video

Military display over Tian'anmen Square

Today I visited Tian'amwn Square and was impressed by the color
display of China's military air presence.

It started just after 11AM with aircrafts trailing a stream of Red,
Yellow, and Blue smoke. What followed was a variety of aircraft in
unique formations both plane and helicopter.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I notice your absence...

Not as a teacher taking attendance or the preacher estimating
tithings, but as a warmth.

So, Now I pause and consider if it is best to share this creative
expression on my blog and decided that I rarely let the inner working
of my playful thoughts and musings (creative writing some call it?)
out-in the rawness of words. Why not, then? There is delicateness of
words that only describe a feeling...easily judged or more often
misunderstood. Nontheless, I will post this and pray your heart be

A thought:

Some despise another's silence because their immagination gets the
best of them. Others avoid the concreatness of truthful words that
settle the matter.

Why prefer the former? Like seasons, ones' chill might thaw. The
latter is an enterprise that takes not only time, but great effort-
plus mutual humility...

Most humans can hardly endure their own foolishness lighty enough to
allow another the same. How little patience we have for some and more
for others.

All this?

Nothing but my thoughts...when met by your silence.

I can only conclude: it seems, somehow, I offended thee.

Well, I will not force the matter. I would rather stand at a distance
to your back and feel a chill than prompt you to close the door-
whereby surely I would freeze.

My friend, your open kindness is a fire by which I warm my soul.

But, in truth-we only meet one another in front of the fire, it is not
yours or mine. This house is a mansion with billions of fires, surly
I will stay warm, it is my nature to be met by the warmth of light.

But why do you stand in the corner? And why do I care? Meet me half
way, won't you? Neither silence-nor words, but an honest glance or a
simple embrace. But, true-you are not here.

Is your silence but wisdom?

Yes! I see! Only after this reflection.... I am guilty, of youthful

Grasping for a phantom! Describing, capturing, clinging to our
meetings and what we share-reducing it to words!

You! You are silent, not in distance, perhaps, but in wisdom?
Distant enough to witness.

I, on the other hand, sound a fool as I describe the moment when I
noticed I had not heard from you.

It is as if I am trying to report the detail of each
sensation...nuance and moment! I suppose, and I know it is futile.

I don't know why I try.

Oh, of course! I am doing it now! Damn! My imagination has filled
the silence...with words, with nothing-you are not here. Neither in
presence, nor- as silence tells me, in mind.

Strange, but I think in your absence I have attempted to relive the
intimacy of your actual presence only to fail, but all the while
willing! I do not say that my minds imagination of you replaces your
presence and if your silence alone has taught me anything, it is this.

If at the very least you see this as an amusing way to say that I
notice: You are not here!

Please, Be only flattered or ammused!

This dance of words was performed for my mind, in memory-of you!

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bicycles in Beijing...

National Center for the Performing Arts, Beijing - China

Today I ventured over to the National Center for the Performing Arts.
Only three subway lines from campus.

The center is located at Tian'amen West (subway stop) and sits
elegantly surrounded by water. It is truly beautiful. I can't think
of anything like it. To enter you must go to the South side and walk
underneath the water.

I purchased a membership and ticket for tomorrow's show, Lucerne in
Beijing. I'm looking forward to the performance tomorrow and future
performances of opera and Chinese theater!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mind, Body, Spirit - Lecture Series at CC Young

Wish I could have been there for this, I hear it was an EXCELLENT talk by Dr. Craig Powell. Insights into Alzheimer's...

The mind was willing, but the body was...

On the way to yoga last night I encountered a typical set of stairs
that one finds here in Beijing.

The first thought that came to mind when I saw the stairs was: "umh,
no". But more like "Oh HEL* NO!!".

Yoga class was fabulous and I met a women whose father just wrote a
book on the Development of China.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Only in China...

Now, I walked by these guys on campus today and the first thought I
had was: why are they shoveling sand to the second floor? What could
they possibly be doing?

Then I realized that they were shoveling sand...to the second floor -
by sheer brute force in a bizzare chain of effiency.

So, I watched in curious awe thinking: hmm, only here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

US Embassy in Beijing - an adventure

This is a photo of the US Embassy in Beijing...It looks something like
a Borg ship. I have to say that this was my first visit to a US
Embassy over seas and I was shocked to find that everyone working there was...Chinese. Umh?

No US Marines outside? Instead, Chinese military! Once you pass in
the gate there is a stream of people in line, VISAs I suppose?

It took 30 minutes to translate and get me to the right place only to
find out that I could have registered online. However, I am glad I
went there today because it is ALWAYS good to know where the embassy is.

So, they do not allow ANY electronics in the building. The guards had
a heck of a time with my Kindle. I told them: it's a book. They
said: electric box! You must leave it here! It made me giggle when I
caught the guards playing with the Kindle when I came back (I had to leave my stuff
with them). All-in-all today was exhausting, but so wonderful! I
discovered places I hand not yet been and the city is slowly opening
up. I look forward to the adventure!

BLCU registration gets an EPIC FAIL

I have spent over five hours trying to register and get my room. Oh, riiiight. I can't register yet because I must have a room number (makes no sense) but I can't get a room because they don't have any left. FAIL #1

I am a scholarship student, which means that the housing is provided
by the University. Others, without a scholarship, are dismissed and told to find a place. EPIC FAIL #2

I'm lucky, I have a scholarship. Two Italians lost their cool and were freaking out and some guy from, don't know where, yelled at the guy behind the desk, in Chinese - impressive.

I suppose it is easy to be cool when other people get to be "that guy" and I just watched the circus. I was first in line and the guy told me (and dozens traveling from around the globe: "sorry,
rooms are all full")

Umh, WTF? But, since I have scholarship they would help. (awkward glares in my direction)

Then they sent me over to a building next to staff dorms and told me
that it would be 25RMB a night. That is like $4 a night. I figured out the cost and was mildly annoyed, but (not fuming like
the Italians) So, I said: no problem that adds up to $500 for the term of the
semester. So, I go over there and they tell me that they have no
rooms. Umh, but they just sent me over there. Keep in mind it was
probably over mile walk.

I'm sitting here, back where I started, waiting for them to figure it
out. (ha)

I started surfing the net looking for apartments and they cost
starting at ¥6000, which is like $900 US. A month. Whoa. Two
bedroom is ¥8000 or $1100. That wouldn't be too bad with a roommate.
Not sure how this will turn out...

Pic of me now...do i look tired and a little annoyed? I feel pretty
zen inside...

Monday, September 14, 2009

First test-blog from China

I'm sitting in Starbucks enjoing a Red-Bean scone. Oddly enough, Red-
Bean is the blueberry of China. Granted, it is not a fruit...

I woke up at 0600 today, no alarm clock, and was pleased to find a
nice blue sky (see photo). I was worried when I arrived last night
because the air was thick and smoggy...brown and orange so
thick that it was difficult to see at any distance. As the taxi drove west
towards the university district - the air cleared.

My taxi driver managed to
avoid (inches) a major collision on the highway... the car in front of us clipped another
taxi and as they spun off the road-we swerved. Scary! I was on the phone during all of this and think I screamed or something.
My driver got a tip when we arrived safely.

I am on my way to the consulate to check in and am pleased to report
that I was only 20 yards out of the hotel when the spitting started (people spit EVERYWHERE) this was followed by a trail of
unique smells-ahhh, Beijing!

I am extremely thankful to have spent time here this summer. Why? It
feels comfortable and though my Chinese isn't great-I know the Subway
and can spot the English speaking Chinese fairly easily.

I am also glad to be staying at a different hotel. Why? Because I can
recognize the uniforms and see that there is a system - a subtle class/
role indication by how people are dressed. This is something entirely
instinctive back home. Here, everything is...similar, but VERY DIFFERENT!!!

My Kindle is a blessing-got 20 minutes of reading done on the subway
and a lot of stares, too. :)

Ok, this is a test post from Beijing! Hope it works!


(photo was taken outside my hotel down the street- check out the Blue

Friday, September 4, 2009

Testing the iPhone 3Gs video-to-blogger via email

Is this a typical peptalk before the lunch crowd comes in? I wonder.

Nonetheless, This video was shot on the iPhone 3Gs and emailed directly to this post. The time limit emailing the post is, apparently, 47 seconds. The phone clipped the video before it sent it. One con of the post from phone option.

I'm testing different ways to upload video from China.


Street Food? in Beijing, China, 2009

Well, one of the popular things to see in Beijing is the 'street market' - there are two right off of WangfuJing, an upscale shopping area near Tian'a men Square. This one is located smack in the middle of the shopping area that includes Gucci and other upscale brands.

Then, out of the corner of your eye you see a little side street...dark and glowing red. What is it? Night Market...

This video shows a Canadian eating some of the 'local' street food from the Market. Though I suspect it is as much fun for the Chinese to watch the tourists eat this stuff...seems like some kind of reverse joke. While some people in certain areas might eat: bugs, snakes, scorpions and even items like star fish, it seems that this is still relatively rare.

We asked our teacher (native Chinese) about it and she cringed at the thought and was grossed out at the mere suggestion.

So, who knows - maybe the joke's on....us?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lost in Beijing

This video was shot in July
while studying in Beijing.

My classmate, Stephan and I
took a wrong turn down a
Beijing alley while walking home
from school.

We almost walked through someone's
house to find our way out, but
eventually made it.

I am going to be posting a few
videos from my time in China
to figure out the easiest ways to
upload photos and video to the blog.

Wish me luck!