May 30, 2004

blogging contortions

so i've blogged myself to death. i've somehow missed the point of a web blog. instead of documenting things as they happen or as i think of them i've spent the entire day today composing blog entries for the past two weeks. i've known what all the entries i wanted were but i never got around to writing them so today i played catch up and created a bunch of antedated entries. now i'm all blogged out. the only break i've had today from writing this drivel your reading now was a short trip to see some chinese acrobatic theater.

me, anup, andrew, bev, and her daugher went to the wan sheng theater. we go overpriced tickets for 150 yuen (about $18 USD) that put us in the only row that had tables and vip plaques. there really was no real difference between our row and the rows in front of us or in back of us except for the tables and about 50 yuen. a'well.
i though the show was actually pretty good and worth the money. (it was _much_ better than the lao she teahouse.) it started off with lots of girls with lots of spinning plates on sticks. it was pretty cool because they were all dressed in white outfits with white plates and the show started with a dark stage except for some black lights, which gave a great effect. later they danced around and did assorted acrobatics while spinning the plates.
this was followed up by a troop of boys who were jumping though an assortment of hoops stacked on opposite sides of the stages. after that there was a girl who worked her way up and down to pieces of cloth hanging from the ceiling. one could only wonder if she ever accidentally tied herself into a knot that she couldn't get out of while practicing her act.
later in the show there was a woman that was pretty unhuman. i'm convinced she was either an alien or she had had every other vertebrae in her spine removed because no human should be able to do the things she did. (being able to fold your back and touch your ass to your head is not normal.) she did a very impressive act of contortion while holding stacks of shot glasses. there were eight separate stacks. one on each foot, one on each hand, one on her forehead, and three balanced on a tray that was attached to a mouthpiece. after contorting herself she proceeded to take apart one of the stacks and pour some water from one of the shot glasses to another.
the last act i really liked involved to large poles on stage where six boys were climbing the poles and jumping from one to the other.
k. i'm done here.

May 29, 2004

underground rock in beijing

today started obnoxiously early. i woke up at 8am to head out with anup, andrew, zhou yun, and yuan yi for a day of shopping... and i hate shopping. then the day in a cafe watching a indie documentry film about the underground rock scene in beijing. who'd a thunk it?

yes, i know it sounds strange. i agreed to go out for a day of shopping. but i figured that since yuan yi was driving us i could see all the shopping markets in one day and then i'd never have to go back. the start of the day was exciting because yuan yi had lost his drivers license and official id card the night before. this was particularly bad since he was planning on going to the us in two weeks. so after calling the restaurant he was at last night and a cab company we discovered that he had lost his wallet in the cab the night before and we made arrangements to meet the cab driver later in the day to get it.
once this was settled we really started of the day by going to a not-so-great dim sum restaurant for breakfast. this was a restaurant that really should not have had fish in the windows. one fish looked very dead and pretty moldy. there was also a lobster that spent most it's time on it's back. there was one live fish that kept trying to jump out of it's tank most likely in an effort to commit suicide.
once breakfast was over with we started the shopping. first we went to liu li change. this was a larger street in one of the hutongs. (a hutong is an older undeveloped are of the city.) we spent a couple hours here walking up and down the street. the stores had mostly chinese tourist junk. andrew and anup also bought souvenirs for people back home since they are both leaving in about a week. by the time we were leaving i was already completely sick of shopping and wondering why in the hell did i agree to go. but of course this was just the start.
we went to grab some quick lunch and then went to the panjiayuan market. this was like a low budget swap meet that was out in a large covered lot. all the vendors simply had their ware spread out on blankets that hanging on temporary walls they had propped up. (most the vendors didn't even have the walls propped up.) this market was full of junk and we left after about half an hour of wandering around.
after that we went to hongqiao market. this was essentially a huge swap meet in a large building. it was about four stories high and had lots of random things. you could buy watches, binoculars, place mats and chopstick sets, prada bags, flasks, etc. anup and andrew bought a few more gifts here.
then to finish things off we went to the xiushui silk market. this was an outdoor swap meet and there was no real silk to be seen. but there were plenty of cheap diesel and quicksilver t-shirts, nike shoes, columbia pants, north face jackets, etc. all knock offs and relatively cheap.
luckily at this point i received a call from kieth. kieth was a new bar friend i met while hanging out at platform (my local bar.) he told me that we had had a conversation about live music a couple night ago in platform (i didn't remember it) during which he told me about a documentary film about the underground rock scene in beijing. the film was playing at 8pm and i agreed to meet up with him. so i left the crew to their shopping and hopped a subway to get to sanlitan. i met up with kieth, lucy, and another friend of theirs. we headed over to a small bar on south street called hart. the film was plying upstairs. admission was 30 yeun (about $3 USD) and included a beer. we sat down upstairs with about 20 other people and they started the film up.
the film was call "the underground rock scene in beijing." it was very much a student film. from my best guess i'd say it was a little dated as well since in one of the music festival they were documenting in i saw posters with the year 2001 on them.
that said it was an interesting film. the first third of the film documented a suburb of beijing where all the rock bands go to live and rehearse. basically rent is super cheap there and the only people there are farmers and rock band members. there were all types of bands living there from blues bands to heavy metal bands. they practice there and once in a while catch a bus into town to play a show. the shows they documented were interesting in the fact that after playing a thrash metal set and inspiring a large mosh pit in the audience the band would tear down and then sit down at tables in the same bar order food and drinks and hang out all night with their fans before heading back home the next day.
the next interesting part of the film documented a music school that sponsors an annual music festival that is the equivalent of the chinese wood stock. lots of free beer (supplied by the school - go figure), weed, graffiti, and music. it was a pretty interesting picture of juvenile mayhem and partying.
but in the end the film did manage to portray a picture of a very active and energetic local music scene. i really hope to make it to check out some good live music shows before i leave.
after the film we grabbed some dinner and then i decided to head home while kieth and lucy were going to hit up some bars on south street. normally i'd never turn down an opportunity to go to a bar but tonight i just wasn't up for it. unfortunately my stomach was _extremely_ unhappy and i felt the need to be within running distance of a bathroom at any moments notice.

May 27, 2004

no more jailbait

i'm legal. it's official. i even have the paperwork to prove it... now i'll feel much better about wandering around outside my apartment because if i get randomly stopped by the cops i'll have something to show them.

so today maggie (the admin here) and i finally went to get this issue resolved. this was after two weeks of "tomorrow" we'll take care of it. (and if it's wasn't tomorrow it was always today until i never heard anything back and it became tomorrow by default.)
we first went to a management building at my apartment where we met some guy working there (let's call him bob) that had been authorized by the landlord to handle this issue. he took us to a second management office where we filled out a bunch of paperwork and i had to sign some forms. then we went back to the first office to pick up more paperwork. at this point bob realized that he didn't have his "official" chinese id card. this was a problem since he needed that card to do the registration on behalf of the landlord. so began the unfruitful quest for the landlord. after an hour we gave up on finding the landlord and decided to head to the police station to give it a try anyway.
unlike the last time when we were there (when the police station was deserted) the police station was a mob scene. there was a huge number of people there, all chinese, and they all seemed to be registering. this was lucky for us because the extremely unfriendly woman that refused to help us last time was there but she was busy yelling at other people so we managed to get a more friendly officer. (bob actually told maggie that he'd had lots of problems with the unfriendly woman before.) after about half an hour of talking with the friendlier cop it was determined that i actually could register. this took another half hour and i finally left the police office with a small sheet of paper the size of a check that indicated that i was officially registered. i quickly took this piece of paper to work and photocopied it so that i could carry the copy with me at all times.
i'm glad that's over.

May 24, 2004

all's well that ends badly

so it's been another _long_ weekend. this time we had a great three day trip to qingdao (also) in the shandong providence. qingdao is a beach city originally founded by germans. qingdao produces the standard beer (named qingdao) found all throughout china.

the trip was organized through the social group at work here. there was a total of about 17 people that went that included me, anup, andrew, zhou yun, yuan yi, and a bunch of other people from the office and some of their spouses. the social group at work organizes these trips via a tour company and then sun pays about 1000 yuen (about $120 USD) for each employee to cover expenses. unfortunately they weren't covering expenses for the US employees (me, anup, and andrew) but we still went along.
we left thursday evening at 8pm on a hard sleeper train. once again we were well equipped with whiskey and er guo tou for the trip. we arrived in qingdao around 6am and i was happily greeted by a fresh breeze from the ocean when we got out of the train station. we then proceeded to check into our hotel, grab some breakfast at a random hole in the wall, and start exploring the town.
we started off walking along the coast near our hotel. after a while we decided to go for a boat cruise, which turned into a giant waste of time (and no one ever set foot on a boat.) we first negotiated a personal boat for all of us with a guy on the beach. he put us on a bus to go to the boat, we paid him, and headed off. but once we got to the boat it was obvious that things were going wrong. the boat was designed for 50 people and they refused to let us have our own trip and wanted to wait for more people. so the group decided to cancel the trip and go back to get their money. of course this whole process took a couple hours, involved much heated arguing, the bus we were on ran out of gas _and_ oil, etc. me, andrew, and anup were fully prepared to just suck it up and take the boat cruise rather than waste hours arguing with people to get back a total of 300 yuen (about $36 USD) but apparently the concept of "time is money" has not made it to china yet.
one interesting thing i noticed while waiting to get gas for our bus was a elementary/middle school. first, the school building had a huge (about half the size of the building) neon qingdao beer sign on top of the school. what are the odds of seeing that in the states? :) also, all the students were standing in uniforms in the school playground being addresses by loudspeakers about the rules for the school and the penalties for violations (at least this was the translation i got from one of our co-workers.) as far as i could tell this lecturing went of for a good _few_ hours since when we passed the school later in a taxi all the students were still standing there in formation. i was wondering how many of them were close to getting heat stroke at that point.
after giving up on the boat tour we went back to walking around town. we turned away from the coast and headed into town. qingdao is interesting in the fact that it has two old churches, one catholic and one protestant. we went to the catholic church to take a look around. the church is actually a small cathedral and is _very_ plain compared to most european cathedrals. the most interesting part of the cathedral by far was all the plaques that had chinese and english explanations of all the religious icons present in the church. try to imagine someone explaining christianity in poorly translated english to someone who knows nothing about the religion. these signs were a good laugh. also a few of the chinese with us took this opportunity to take a quick nap inside the cool church.
after this we decided to wander around the streets some more in search of the fresh fish market. we eventually managed to find it and i though it was pretty impressive. there was a _huge_ amount of dried sea products of every imaginable type. there was also a huge variety of bins with different live sea creatures. walking down the corridors here you were liable to get water spit on you from many an unhappy sea creature trapped in the bins.
after this we went to lunch at a fancy restaurant looking over the ocean. before we got to the restaurant i thought qingdao was a small beach town. by the end of the cab ride i realized that qingdao was a huge beach town that we had only seen a tiny section of. lunch was a long affair that involved countless dishes of seafood. (think 17 people around a table all sharing dishes.)
after lunch we went to the beach. me and andrew went swimming and i'd guess the water was about 17 degrees celsius. there was also lots of other entertainment available on the beach like kite flying, kayaking, getting a ride on a speed boat, and renting jet skis. after swimming i took a seat under a large tent and ordered a few beers. it started getting cold when the sun was close to setting and we wrapped up the relaxation with a game of frisbee.
then it was off to dinner. another mad excursion since trying to get this many chinese people to agree on a restaurant is like herding cats. we did eventually manage to feed ourselves and then almost everyone headed back to the hotel. i say almost everyone because me and anup decided to check out a small bar that anup had spotted from a taxi about a block from our hotel.
it turned out to be a great hole in the wall and the staff was really friendly. the bar was very small but they had all sorts of cool little games and puzzles. (i dig that kind of stuff.) they also had more things like cards, dice, and instead of a dart board they had a small board on the wall and a blow gun. (the second night we were there the bar tender even took a bunch of time to explain the rules of their dice games to us.) so to show the staff our appreciation of their fine establishment me and anup drank all of their jack daniels and made a good attempt to drink all their jim bean.
the next day we got up bright and early to head to lao shan (a taoist holy mountain but not one of _the_ five holy mountains.) there was a temple at the base of the mountain which we explored. this was actually the _most_ crowded tourist attraction i have been to so far. these was a ridiculous number of people there. after this we went to the start of one of the trails up the mountain and climbed up to one of the more famous water falls. while walking up it started to rain but we kept hiking anyway since the rain wasn't too bad. there was one small artificial lake that we passed that was truly beautiful. it was nestled in the rocks and the water was an intense deep blue/aqua that must of been caused by some kind of mineral in the water. when we got to the water fall we managed to hike down to the pool near the base and it was so nice there a few of us curled up on some rocks and napped for an hour. we ended up leaving when the rain really started coming down. the rain pretty much canned the rest of the day for us and after slipping down the mountain we climbed into the bus and headed back to the hotel.
dinner was once again a fiasco. we ended up making countless phone calls to find a good restaurant (everyone was calling friends for recommendations) changing tables four times, and restaurants twice before we actually ordered anything. after dinner we walked down to the beach for a sort while and then most people headed home. but of course a few of us went back to the bar for a night cap, or two, or three...
the next day we began the final touristic assault of the city. we ran up the biggest hill in town that had three strange red mushroom like observation towers that you can see from all over town. the view was pretty good and it revealed a thick layer of smog over all the city that even the ocean breeze couldn't get rid of. :( we then went to the old german governors mansion and started wandering some more streets.
while doing this we discovered beer in a bag. what is it you ask? shops here have what looks like two kegs of beer stacked on top of each other. the top keg is somehow kept cold and there is a tap on the bottom side of it. then you basically buy the beer in plastic bags. what type of bags? imagine the ones you get at the grocery store when they as "paper or plastic?" there is a variety of sizes available from the personal bag to the super sized family pack. and you pay by weight. so at around 11 am me and anup ordered our first ever bags of beer. we were given two straws to go with each bag. anup quickly proceeded to accidentally poke a hole in his bag with his straw and had to drink half the bag on the spot.
so beers in hand we hopped into cabs and headed out to the navy museum. here we had a chance to walk through an old chinese diesel submarine, a couple destroyers, a hovercraft, and some navy patrol boats. (i made sure to take lots of reconnaissance photos that i can pass onto my sister later.)
after this we all headed out to lunch at a tiny hole in the wall seafood restaurant that was recommended by a cab driver. it was really cheap and really good. (a few people went back to it for dinner later in the evening.) after lunch we decided to chill out and just headed back to the beach. for me this mostly involved drinking beer and dozing off while staring at the ocean.
at sunset we all took off to head to the train. another hard sleeper that was supposed to put us back in beijing at around 6am. we loaded up on liqueur and decks of cards to entertain us and started planning for the next day in beijing where lot's of people visiting from SF and the UK would be stopping by on their way to sun network in shanghai (during the next week.)

May 19, 2004

working the corner

so today after a long and exhausing day at work me, andrew, and michael decided to go out to dinner. i was in a pretty grumpy mood when me and andrew were standing around on the street corner near our appartment waiting for michael to show up. while waiting there me and andrew saw some blatent pit pockets working the corner. it was about 6 guys aged 15 to 20. i saw them run after three girls on bikes who had purses slung over their shoulders and in each case they managed to lift the girls wallets from their purses without them noticing. even more surprising was the fact the the people biking behind these girls who could see it all going on were saying nothing. after getting the wallet they would go back to their group and rifle though it taking whatever they could.

at one point there was a girl who walked past us on foot with a backpack on and on of the thiefs ran up behind here and started opening her backpack. she was close enough so that when andrew yelled out the theif ran off. after this aborted attempt the group simply crossed the street to be on a different corner than us and kept working.
seeing this really sent me from a bad mood to a truly foul mood.

May 17, 2004

the stairs of enlightenment

so this weekend was another eventful and exhausting excursion outside of beijing to climb more holy mountains, see temples, and visit the birthplace of confucious. conveniently this can all be done in the shandong providence in china. me, anup, andrew, zhou yun (aka cathy), and yuan yi (aka kyle) all jumped into a soft sleeper train friday night at about 8pm to skip town. i was very glad to be getting out of the reach of the beijing police.

our train ride consisted of the usual shenanigans. drinking the english version of "hong cha" (aka, red tea, aka whisky) and er guo tou (a chinese liqueur that's 56% and usually sells for about $0.40 a bottle. you can't really go wrong with that.
our destination was tai'an and we got there around 5am. our first bit of excitement was trying to figure out how to get home. in china there is no such thing as round trip ticket. travel is all one way. when you get to your destination you can by a ticket for the next part of your journey. to make things more confusing, there are multiple places to buy tickets. at the train station you can only buy tickets for travel on that day. there is usually another place somewhere in town that you need to go if you want to but tickets for travel in advance. (and you simply can't buy them more than a week in advance.) when we got to this place we discovered that the only tickets available to beijing for sunday night were for hard seats. since an overnight train with hard seats didn't sound too appealing we decided to worry about it later.
we then headed over to our hotel to get checked in. even though it was 6am and a little before the standard check in time we did manage to get one room where we could drop our bags and freshen up a bit. we got breakfast at 7am when the hotel restaurant opened and then headed off for mt. tai (aka tai shan)
tai shan is on of the five holy mountains in china. the mountains has about 6660 steps and is broken up into two sections with the midway gate to heaven in the middle. busses available that can take you from the base up to the midway gate and from there you can take a cable car to the peak. but instead of doing this we decided to climb the whole thing. it turns out to be about about 4.6 miles (7.5 km) long hike with a roughly 4500 feet (1300 meter) gain in elevation.
the actual walk up the mountain itself is interesting. the surrounding forest is beautiful. there are also lots of little temples and tea houses on the way up. as you get higher up there are more and more chinese carvings on rocks and the mountain itself. i could only appreciate them as artistic scribbles (sorta like my own handwriting) since i have no idea what they were saying. of course by the time i was approaching the summit i was so exhausted i didn't really care anymore.
so unfortunately, aside from the natural beauty of the mountain there was the usual annoying and frustrating human stain that saturates every corner of china here too. there were _droves_ of people climbing the mountain with us (although, while looking around during the climb i realized that me, andrew, and anup were the only non-chinese people i saw climbing the steps. it's not peak tourist season yet but i was pretty surprised by this.) worse, there are tons of vendors trying to sell you junk throughout the _entire_ climb. we also saw beggars with leprosy and missing legs (which raises the question of how the hell they got up there) and some guys standing on the side of the path with dressed up monkeys hitting them till they danced. (this kinda pissed me off.) and the whistle
vendors... oh, they've earned their own blog entry.
in the end we eventually made it all the way up to see the temples and vendors at the top of the mountain. there were lots of beautiful blooming flowers there that seemed to support a huge gnat population which we tried very hard to ignore. after exploring the top of the mountain we bought some more er gou tou ease our aching legs and decided to take the tram and bus down the mountain. the bus ride down the mountain was supposed to be beautiful but the weather was really hot and i was a little sun burnt so i passed out for the whole ride down.
after getting back to the hotel, cleaning up, and taking a quick power nap me and anup decided to head over for some anmo (massage.) the hotel advertised that they had foot and full body massage so we decided to go for both (the full body massage we got was done with our clothes on and we didn't ask for the other type of massage although i believe it was offered.) the massage was administered by a couple of women with hands of steel who proceeded to beat us to pulps. when i walked out of there i felt like a bowl of jelly. all the pain, stiffness, and soreness had been beaten out of me. (unlike the last time i tried climbing one of these mountains and was sore for the next three days.) there was one surprising things about the massage process, and that was looking at the womens hands. their knuckles were actually bruised and swollen from beating the hell out of me. now i love getting and giving massages but i usually don't hurt myself in the process. this was the first time i had ever seen a masseuse inflict physical damage on themselves in the process of giving a massage. after the massage we had a good dinner and promptly passed out.
for sunday we had rented a driver and a van. we first went to dai miao in tai an. this is actually one of the largest temples in china. we wandered around the halls, courtyards, and walls there for a couple hours before climbing back into the van to head for qufu. qufu is the birthplace of confucious. the first place we went to was the confucian forest where we saw the mound that confucious was supposedly buried in. the forest is actually a huge cemetery with many mounds and tombs all over the place. we wandered around here for a while and also took a quick golf card tour that went past the more famous and/or extravagant tombs in the forest.
after this we went to a restaurant where we got seated on the second floor and were server mediocre food for too much money. this left me a little angry. there's another separate blog rant to be had here.
after this we went to the confucius mansions (home of the kong family of which confucius was the founding father) and the kong miao (aka confucius temple.) the kong family had been living in the mansions up till as recently as 1948 when the most recent descendant fled to taiwan. the mansion was really a maze of small houses interconnected by courtyards and passageways with a really nice garden in back. the temple dwarfs the mansion and we spent a while just wandering around the temple looking at the trees, colorful buildings, some beautifully carved pillars, and giant tablets resting on the backs of tortoises. (these tablets contain chinese writing are pretty common in temples in china. they also have a name which i can't remember right now.)
after this we climbed back into our van and headed to the capital of the shandong providence, ji nan. during the day we had paid someone to drive to ji nan and try to buy us train tickets from there to get back to beijing. luckily he was successful and we had gotten tickets on a hard sleeper that was leaving at around 8pm and getting into beijing around 6am on monday.
the drive was a couple hours long and involved a driver change in tai an. me, anup, and andrew picked up a couple bottles of er guo tou to try and make the drive more interesting. we had dinner in ji nan and then jumped onto the train so that we could drink more er guo tou and pass out. we finally got to beijing on time and i managed to go home to shower and nap for an hour before showing up to work.

May 14, 2004

moving on...

tonight me, anup, andrew, cathy, and her husband are catching a soft sleeper train to Tia an in the Shandong providence (south east of Beijing.) saturday should be a really long day since our train arrives there at 5am. once there we plan to climb our third holy mountain Tai Shan (there are five holy mountains in china) and see Dai Miao (apparently one of the largest temples in china). sunday we're planning an enlightening visit to Qufu - the birthplace of confucius. we're planning to head back to beijing sunday night and hope to get home sometime around 5am again. then if we're not totally dead tired may be we'll visit chairman mao before going into work. it's an ambitious plan and we'll see how it pans out.


i think i got caught in a drag net this morning. while walking to work a police officer stopped me and asked me if i had been to the police station to register. i told him no and he told me that i should have registered with the police when i first got here (within 24 hours of arriving.) so began my first experiences with the police in china and a day of fun...

the officer took me to a small room tucked away in our apartment complex where there were about four other westerners and about four or five police officers. luckily all the officers seemed to speak a decent ammount english.
i was informed that i had broken the law and was being given a warning. the canadian next to was busy writing and signing a statment which they later had me copy and sign. the statment basically said my name, when i moved into my current housing, the fact that i had broken the law because i didn't know about it, and that i was accepting the warning they were giving me. the officer also had to fill out about 10 pages of paperwork, all of which i had to sign and date (including the time of day.) i was then given one piece of paper and told that i _still_ needed to register with the police office... all this was just for the warning. they also told me that i could be fined for every day for which i was here and i wasn't registered.
i was never warned about this requirement by anyone at work. my co-workers from the us (who had been here for a couple months already) had also never registered. i spoke to michael (a canadian co-worker who has been here for quite a few years) and he told me that hr normally fucks this stuff up. he has had the police stop by his place a few times and he told me i should get registered asap. he also told me the fine is about 500 yen (about 60USD) a day. i would love to file an expense report for that...
the officers that detained me in the morning told me that all i would need to take to the police station was my passport and the warning they gave me. of course michael told me different. he recommended that we bring the lease paperwork for our appartments. it turns out that what the police are really interested in is figuring out who the landlord is and making sure they are paying a tax for us living in the appt. it seems that most landlords avoid paying this tax till they are taken to the police station.
of course it gets more complicated. the admin who arranged the appartments is on vacation this week. so i arranged with our other admin maggie to go down to the police station with me. andrew and anup also wanted to get this issue resolved so they wouldn't have any future problems. so at 3:30 we all headed over to visit the cops.
it was a waste of time. there was a woman behind the counter at the police station who really wasn't interested in doing anything except telling us to go away. she told us we need to come back with our landlord within the next 10 days. she said it was extra important for me since they now had my name and address on file. fun, fun. she didn't ask for any info on anup or andrew. (a good thing.) we also tried to get her to write down that we had been there just to have some proof that we were following up on this isse and she refused... she even refused to tell us her name.
i'm glad i won't be around during the weekend, but next week will be fun... i've heard michaels tales of the police knocking on his door.
when i woke this morning i was in a really grumpy mood and pretty upset with life. but with all the excitement that started the minute i walked out the door i quickly forgot about being grumpy and started thinking about what i had to do to stay out of jail. that's some great therapy and it hasn't even cost me anything (aside from time) yet...

May 12, 2004

sleep deprivation experiments

so i'm home from the local bar, platform. i've had one too many beer and i've decided to "blog from bed" (tm). it's been quite the night. i've met many new people and now i have to get up in just a few hours to meet and talk about _important_ lab issues.... ah the joys....

so i decided to go out for dinner today with michael. michael is a co-worker here in beijing (originally from canada) who has been living here for a couple years and has learned enough chinese to get arountd town and be a very effective flirt.
unfortunatly michael doesn't drink... so after dinner i dragged him to my local bar to watch me drink and play darts. while it was fun talking about work and chinese women, michael eventually got bored of my alcholism and decided to got home with his ex-girlfriend. (who met us to play darts and pinched his ass all night. not bad from my prespective.)
after michael left the entertainment (and serious drinking) really started. i met raymond, a chinese native eager to practice english, and he introduce me to his sister (lucy), his american friend from north carolina (kevin), and another lady friend (tiffany). shortly after the new introductions a large number of additional friends arrived and all of a sudden the bar was crowded and there were lot's of people dancing to latin music and hanging out. everyone was having a good time drinking and dancing till late at night. i talked to breifly to carolina (from dublin, ireland) and tamara (from canada.)
i also spent a quite a while talking to alan. alan was from mexico city and had been living in beijing for three years. he was studying martial arts and was also working at platform as a dj four nights a week. we talked about mexico, china, the us, and music for quite a while. i introduced him to Ozomatli (via my ipod) and he was really impressed and he worked it into his live mix on the dance floor.
finally, everyone was leaving and it was time to head home arountd 3:30am... a good idea since by then i'd had way too many beers to keep count and i know that i have a meeting tommorow at 10am. :)

texmex for lunch?

so i just got into the office after lunch. me and anup went to a mexican resturant down our street called El Nina. the food was better than i expected but still left a lot to be desired. growing up in california will spoil you like that.

it was a strange experience since our waitress spoke english to us when we walked in and we got a menu that had english on it as well. i had beef enchiladas with corn tortillas for 38 yuen (under 5 USD) and anup had three soft chicken tacos with flour tortillas (same price.) both meals came with spanish rice and refried beans fresh from the can. the food better than i expected, but i don't think i'll be back soon.
the interesting part was that the place was very obviously run by a tall meiguo ren (american). anup had ordered a margarita, and the presumed owner was yelling at one of his staff members asking if he understoon the difference between a shot glass and a shaker. i didn't understand it all.
once again, we were the only customers in the place up to the very end of our the very end of our meal, when one other person entered.

May 11, 2004

manequins mock me

so tonight me, andrew, anup, and eugina (anup's wife) went out for dinner to a korean resturant. it was euginas last night in beijing after being here for over a month. she has been our translator, tour guide, and friend while roaming around china for the past three weeks and will be dearly missed. dinner was great and afterwards we went to a new bar (club-X) near the resturant and it had the best selection of bottled beer i've seen since i got here. we were the only clientel there... aside from the freaks standing outside.

so this weekend we're planning an extended excursion out of beijing.
leaving friday evening and getting back monday morning before work.
stay tuned... more detalis are comming.

May 9, 2004

the madness begins

holy shit. i'm drunk in bed and i should be going to sleep now but instead i'm trying to make sure this stupid web log i've spent all day trying to set up actually works. sweatshop union is playing and i've had a dinner with 17 different course of meat at a brazilian resturant in beijing... damn... i need a spell check... screw it, i love atkins. well, let's see if this all works. g'night.

your teahouse is no match for my lao she style

tonight we (me, andrew, anup, eugina, and two of anups friends visiting from the states) went to the lao she teahouse.

the executive summary? it's kind of a tourist destination teahouse that has live performances. there were too many cat drowning (read singing) acts and a few really good acts. imho the last two were the best. a man juggling and balancing heavy pots on his head and a performance called "the changing faces of schesuan" which involved a man dancing around in tights, a cape, and wearing a mask. then he would flick his head (or hand) and reveal a new mask. visually pretty cool.

when we entered the teahouse we were first met by the specter of a life sized representation of ghengis khan sr (ie george bush sr.) after we recovered from our shock we noticed that the walls were covered with pictures of ministers, diplomats, and other "important people" from around the world.
admission cost 110 yuen (about 14USD) and included tea and snacks. a few of us were also starving so luckily they had a full menu and we were able to order shipin (food) and pijiu (beer).
the show started with some storytelling by a woman who was smiling like she hadn't quite recovered from a horrible accident during her most recent face lift operation. this was followed by dancing combined with mime like fighting to act out the story she had just told.
after this there were a few more good acts that were interspersed with the cat drownings. there was a decent magician who had the ability to pull live fish out of strange places. the most interesting musical act was one with four musicians and five instruments. it was interesting because all the musicians had their arms crossed and were each playing one half of two different instruments. the played two songs and for the second song they were also singing along with their playing... pretty cool.
the last two acts i mentioned earlier were the best. eugina had told us about in advance about the mask changing act and we were eagerly anticipating it. it didn't disappoint.