Monday, February 27, 2006

A big week

This week I:

--Bought a new cell phone and got it set up.
--Bought a new bicycle (finally since my apartment is big enough to bring it inside) and joined a mountain biking group.
--Started a yoga class (it's suprisingly strenuous. AND it's all in Korean, so I'm having a hard time following.
--Prepared a syllabus and handouts since the semester starts Thursday.

Yeah, good times. Good thing I like to be busy.


Friday, February 24, 2006


The first thing you'll notice about my pictures of Beijing is the haze over nearly everything. That's not due to poor picture taking. The city actually looks that way. It's smoggy all the time. So much so that even standing on the tallest part of the Great Wall, you can't see the horizon.

Beijing is huge. We seemed to drive for hours and never leave the city. But oddly, the traffic isn't that bad. People ride a lot of bikes and walk a lot. You'd expect a city of 15 million to be more crowded, but it wasn't too bad. I think it's because the city is pretty spread out.

The food would probably have been good if I wasn't vegetarian. All I had to eat were veggies and rice the entire trip. They seem to slip meat into everying, so I was glad I had my interpreter to tell them to make me something special.

The interpreter came in handy quite a bit, but he DID stop me off at four seperate tourist traps. See, his travel agency gets a kickback for taking tourists to places. The interpreters drop them off at these little factories and retail outlets, and the travel agency gets 5% of all sales. I sat through boring, barely English demostrations at a pearl factory, a pottery factory, a jade factory, and a tea house. My interpreter was surprisingly up front about it, though. I asked him if that's what he was doing after the pearl factory, and he said it was. He said we had to stop in at a couple more along the trip so he could make his quota, but I didn't have to buy anything if I didn't want.

I bought plenty elsewhere though (and I did actually buy tea at the tea house): a couple pieces of art, a jade dragon, a Go set, some pottery, and a few little trinkets.

The sites were great, as you'll see below. I hit the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, the Ming Tombs, and of course, the Great Wall. All of which were swamped with tourists. And with the tourists came people trying to pedal cheap crap. All of the vendors knew at least a few words of English, and most of them would yell it out:


Oddly, that's really what it sounded like. Some the accents were so bad, though, that the only word I caught was hello as I walked past.

Chinese vendors were much more aggresive than Korean vendors. They'd walk right up and take your arm. They'd try to stick things right in your hand. They'd follow you around. And if you showed even a hint of interest, they were your best friend. Near the Great Wall, I got a little lost and accidently walked through an out of the way market with no customers. There were only about 15 vendors, but they all stood up as soon as they saw me. The chants of "hello" as I walked past here almost deafening.

China's not Korea, and it's not Japan. It's dirtier. It's flatter. It's scarier. But honestly, I really enjoyed the trip. Korea's got a special place in my heart, so it's no comparison, but I enjoyed my China trip a lot more than I enjoyed Japan. Four days wasn't nearly long enough.


Building. Posted by Picasa

Part of the city. Posted by Picasa

Building. Posted by Picasa

One of the many buildings being built for the 2008 Olympics. Posted by Picasa

An illegal taxi. These are supposed to be used by family to cart around the elderly or handicapped, but people really use them for taxis. Posted by Picasa

Some nice Chinese kabobs, including bugs, scorpions, squid, and octopus. Posted by Picasa

My first view of Beijing from the airplane. Posted by Picasa

There were lots of people riding on the backs of other people's bikes in Beijing. Posted by Picasa

No car bombs here! If you have a car bomb, you damn well better park up the street. Posted by Picasa

It's good to know that no matter where you go, you can get Skittles. And Pringles. Skittles and pringles. Posted by Picasa

My hotel room. Posted by Picasa

A church in downtown Beijing. Posted by Picasa

Part of the acrobatic show. I took some video of it too, but I can't post that. Posted by Picasa

Monks going for a walk in the shopping district. Posted by Picasa

People. Posted by Picasa

The curtain for the acrobatic show I went to. Posted by Picasa

Part of the stage of the acrobatic show I went to. Posted by Picasa

Scorpions and sea horse on kabobs. MmmmmMmmm. Posted by Picasa

Beijing is so crowded that they don't just car pool, they bicycle pool too; the more, the merrier. Posted by Picasa

This is part of the city wall that used to surround Beijing. Posted by Picasa

Buildings. Posted by Picasa

Building. Posted by Picasa

Dragons on the wall of this restaurant. Dragons are EVERYWHERE in China. Posted by Picasa

Ancient tea horse. Posted by Picasa

Fish in tanks: check. Tied up crabs: check. Weird smells: check. Now we've got a chinese restaurant. Posted by Picasa