ximen: (blah)

Today was a special day: the day I managed to acquire sheets. My Fulbright stipend hasn’t started yet, and the guy who handles these things have been on vacation for the last two weeks, so I’ve been reluctant to spend money on anything other than food, rent, and the various administrative fees involved in getting my residence permit. Since moving in, I’ve been sleeping on top of an old bedskirt draped over the mattress, one that keeps sliding off and also doesn’t feel very comfortable. I don’t think this is why I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately, but it has made the insomnia even less pleasant than usual. But today Bing and I went to buy an indoor air purifier from a grad student who is leaving the country this week, and he threw in some old bedding for free. So now there’s a case on my pillow, a fitted sheet on my mattress, and actual sheets on my bed. I finally feel like I live here!

I should probably explain where “here” is. Right now I am living in a two-bedroom apartment in Minzu University staff and faculty housing. Minzu University is China’s special University for the different ethnic groups in China. Chinese policies about ethnic groups are way too complicated for a blog post about my apartment, so for now I’ll just note that more than half of the students at MinDa are from non-Han ethnic groups, which is unusual for China. This has a definite effect on my neighborhood. There are a lot of different kinds of people around– foreign students from Europe, North America, Korea, and Africa, and Chinese minority students from Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Tibet, and Southwest China. I get stared at way less than anywhere else I’ve been in China, because everyone is used to foreigners here.

Another nice thing about living in a diverse neighborhood is the food diversity. There are lots of different kinds of halal restaurants around– pulled noodles, Xinjiang restaurants, and cafeterias that serve halal versions of more standard Chinese food– plus lots of Korean and Mongolian restaurants, a Dai restaurant, and a bunch of pizza places for the westerners. There’s also a plethora of Chinese food choices in the area, from Shanghai soupy dumplings to Sichuan noodles and hotpot, to Beijing roast duck. And more than six bubble tea stalls within a block of my compound gate. There’s also a supermarket, some bakeries, and several other universities nearby. It’s a very lively area.

Inside the residential community, things are much quieter. (If anyone reading this blog hasn’t read Sushu’s China Comics, you should go read this page to better understand the residential community concept.) Because this place is ostensibly for staff and faculty of MinDa, most of our neighbors are families with young children and grandparents. The noisy students we pass by on our way to dinner all live on campus and don’t come inside here. The only noise comes from the small children outside Bing’s window, playing on the outdoor exercise equipment there.

I liked this residential community almost at first sight. It feels very much like its own tiny city. There are tall buildings that are clearly newer construction, and look like they’re quite nice inside. There are middle-class buildings like mine– 3-6 stories, no elevator, but nice enough. And there are one and two-story rows with tin roofs held down by bricks, often covered in vines growing gourds or veggies that the owners will sell for extra income. A few of these places have been turned into the run-down, un air-conditioned convenience stores I talked about before. There’s also a larger (but still pretty run-down) convenience store inside the gates, as well as a halal cafeteria, a Mongolian restaurant, and a tiny noodle place.

At the same time, the area has a very isolated feel. It’s a little overgrown in places, with vines and bushes and tall grass covering up columns and cobblestone pathways. It’s clear that this was designed to be shiny and impressive, and the overgrown bits give it this feeling of abandoned ruins or a very gentle post-apocalypse, like something out of Laputa or Last Exile. The shorter buildings with their tin roofs and the pumpkin vines growing over the window bars contribute.

This mixture of lively and quiet, what Sushu called the “Yang and Yin of city life” makes an afternoon bubble tea run feel like an adventure. I know this will fade a little as I get more used to living here, but for now I am enjoying it.

Cross-posted from Archives and Stuff.

ximen: (apple!)

Today was a special day: the day I managed to acquire sheets. My Fulbright stipend hasn’t started yet, and the guy who handles these things have been on vacation for the last two weeks, so I’ve been reluctant to spend money on anything other than food, rent, and the various administrative fees involved in getting my residence permit. Since moving in, I’ve been sleeping on top of an old bedskirt draped over the mattress, one that keeps sliding off and also doesn’t feel very comfortable. I don’t think this is why I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately, but it has made the insomnia even less pleasant than usual. But today Bing and I went to buy an indoor air purifier from a grad student who is leaving the country this week, and he threw in some old bedding for free. So now there’s a case on my pillow, a fitted sheet on my mattress, and actual sheets on my bed. I finally feel like I live here!

I should probably explain where “here” is. Right now I am living in a two-bedroom apartment in Minzu University staff and faculty housing. Minzu University is China’s special University for the different ethnic groups in China. Chinese policies about ethnic groups are way too complicated for a blog post about my apartment, so for now I’ll just note that more than half of the students at MinDa are from non-Han ethnic groups, which is unusual for China. This has a definite effect on my neighborhood. There are a lot of different kinds of people around– foreign students from Europe, North America, Korea, and Africa, and Chinese minority students from Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Tibet, and Southwest China. I get stared at way less than anywhere else I’ve been in China, because everyone is used to foreigners here.

Another nice thing about living in a diverse neighborhood is the food diversity. There are lots of different kinds of halal restaurants around– pulled noodles, Xinjiang restaurants, and cafeterias that serve halal versions of more standard Chinese food– plus lots of Korean and Mongolian restaurants, a Dai restaurant, and a bunch of pizza places for the westerners. There’s also a plethora of Chinese food choices in the area, from Shanghai soupy dumplings to Sichuan noodles and hotpot, to Beijing roast duck. And more than six bubble tea stalls within a block of my compound gate. There’s also a supermarket, some bakeries, and several other universities nearby. It’s a very lively area.

Inside the residential community, things are much quieter. (If anyone reading this blog hasn’t read Sushu’s China Comics, you should go read this page to better understand the residential community concept.) Because this place is ostensibly for staff and faculty of MinDa, most of our neighbors are families with young children and grandparents. The noisy students we pass by on our way to dinner all live on campus and don’t come inside here. The only noise comes from the small children outside Bing’s window, playing on the outdoor exercise equipment there.

I liked this residential community almost at first sight. It feels very much like its own tiny city. There are tall buildings that are clearly newer construction, and look like they’re quite nice inside. There are middle-class buildings like mine– 3-6 stories, no elevator, but nice enough. And there are one and two-story rows with tin roofs held down by bricks, often covered in vines growing gourds or veggies that the owners will sell for extra income. A few of these places have been turned into the run-down, un air-conditioned convenience stores I talked about before. There’s also a larger (but still pretty run-down) convenience store inside the gates, as well as a halal cafeteria, a Mongolian restaurant, and a tiny noodle place.

At the same time, the area has a very isolated feel. It’s a little overgrown in places, with vines and bushes and tall grass covering up columns and cobblestone pathways. It’s clear that this was designed to be shiny and impressive, and the overgrown bits give it this feeling of abandoned ruins or a very gentle post-apocalypse, like something out of Laputa or Last Exile. The shorter buildings with their tin roofs and the pumpkin vines growing over the window bars contribute.

This mixture of lively and quiet, what Sushu called the “Yang and Yin of city life” makes an afternoon bubble tea run feel like an adventure. I know this will fade a little as I get more used to living here, but for now I am enjoying it.

Cross-posted from Archives and Stuff.

ximen: (horo)

Mid-Autumn Festival (zhong qiu jie) is a Chinese holiday for getting together with family, and eating yummy food, and drinking tea, and looking at the moon if you can. It was too cloudy for moon-gazing, and my family is all across the ocean, but I got the rest of the experience tonight.

One of our neighbors is a friend of my roommate’s family (which is how we ended up living in this neighborhood, and is a story for another post), and he and his wife invited us to their Mid-Autumn Festival party. They are super-nice people, so there was no question about going, even setting aside any thoughts of social obligation. And it was definitely worth it to go, because it was a wonderful evening.

The party was Chen Laoshi and his wife Ms. Yang, their 10 year-old daughter and her best friend, and Peipei, a recent college graduate whose mom was a friend of Ms. Yang’s. Bing and I showed up and were promptly treated to fancy Chinese tea, something Chen Laoshi loves to make. After a pot of green tea and a pot of oolong, we had dinner. Dinner consisted of clams steamed with bitter melon (I only had two pieces of the latter), fish with scallions, scallops, bok choy, special wood ear mushrooms from Fujian, Chinese beef stew with carrots and potatoes, and some salmon sashimi. Once we’d eaten enough that we could clear more space on the table, they brought out takeout Beijing roast duck from a local restaurant. While we ate, we talked about politics in both the US and China– Bing and I trying to explain American gun control attitudes and the student loan crisis, Ms.Yang and Peipei talking about their childhoods in Xinjiang and the changes in Han-Uyghur relations since they’d grown up, all of us talking about Bo Xilai and corruption. After a while the conversation sort of trailed off as we all got a little depressed, which was when Chen Laoshi said, “Okay, time for mooncakes!” We were then treated to six different kinds of mooncakes, plus another three different kinds of tea, and we talked about language education, and compared educational systems, and how Bing and I handled teaching Chinese history, and why UChicago has a holiday called Suicide Prevention Day (they all thought this was hilarious, which just goes to show how wrong the “Chinese people don’t have a sense of humor” stereotype is). Ms. Yang also has an older daughter, who showed up halfway through mooncakes and joined in the discussions. She’s studied some Japanese and a semester of Manchu, so we got to talk about that, too. The party finally ended when we finished the fifth pot of tea, and realized it was quarter past midnight, and time to go home. Bing and I said our goodnights and thank-yous, walked back to our building, and now I am writing this.

Aside from the delicious food, it was also fun and encouraging to get to have such a wide-ranging series of conversations, all in Chinese. The first few days I was here, I could only understand pretty simple things, and just doing that took up enough brain power that I had none left to form coherent responses to anything I did understand. Tonight I understood almost everything anyone said, and while I was a little quiet and sometimes had some trouble with specific bits of phrasing, I was able to contribute to the conversation. I was starting to worry that I had lost all my Chinese and would never get it back, so this was not only fun, it was also necessary reassurance.

This morning I was sick and this afternoon I had a bunch of frustrating paperwork hassles, but an evening of tasty food, good tea, and interesting discussion more than made up for it.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival, everyone! I hope you all get to spend the day eating mooncakes and talking with loved ones!

 

Cross-posted from Archives and Stuff.

ximen: (happy)

Mid-Autumn Festival (zhong qiu jie) is a Chinese holiday for getting together with family, and eating yummy food, and drinking tea, and looking at the moon if you can. It was too cloudy for moon-gazing, and my family is all across the ocean, but I got the rest of the experience tonight.

One of our neighbors is a friend of my roommate’s family (which is how we ended up living in this neighborhood, and is a story for another post), and he and his wife invited us to their Mid-Autumn Festival party. They are super-nice people, so there was no question about going, even setting aside any thoughts of social obligation. And it was definitely worth it to go, because it was a wonderful evening.

The party was Chen Laoshi and his wife Ms. Yang, their 10 year-old daughter and her best friend, and Peipei, a recent college graduate whose mom was a friend of Ms. Yang’s. Bing and I showed up and were promptly treated to fancy Chinese tea, something Chen Laoshi loves to make. After a pot of green tea and a pot of oolong, we had dinner. Dinner consisted of clams steamed with bitter melon (I only had two pieces of the latter), fish with scallions, scallops, bok choy, special wood ear mushrooms from Fujian, Chinese beef stew with carrots and potatoes, and some salmon sashimi. Once we’d eaten enough that we could clear more space on the table, they brought out takeout Beijing roast duck from a local restaurant. While we ate, we talked about politics in both the US and China– Bing and I trying to explain American gun control attitudes and the student loan crisis, Ms.Yang and Peipei talking about their childhoods in Xinjiang and the changes in Han-Uyghur relations since they’d grown up, all of us talking about Bo Xilai and corruption. After a while the conversation sort of trailed off as we all got a little depressed, which was when Chen Laoshi said, “Okay, time for mooncakes!” We were then treated to six different kinds of mooncakes, plus another three different kinds of tea, and we talked about language education, and compared educational systems, and how Bing and I handled teaching Chinese history, and why UChicago has a holiday called Suicide Prevention Day (they all thought this was hilarious, which just goes to show how wrong the “Chinese people don’t have a sense of humor” stereotype is). Ms. Yang also has an older daughter, who showed up halfway through mooncakes and joined in the discussions. She’s studied some Japanese and a semester of Manchu, so we got to talk about that, too. The party finally ended when we finished the fifth pot of tea, and realized it was quarter past midnight, and time to go home. Bing and I said our goodnights and thank-yous, walked back to our building, and now I am writing this.

Aside from the delicious food, it was also fun and encouraging to get to have such a wide-ranging series of conversations, all in Chinese. The first few days I was here, I could only understand pretty simple things, and just doing that took up enough brain power that I had none left to form coherent responses to anything I did understand. Tonight I understood almost everything anyone said, and while I was a little quiet and sometimes had some trouble with specific bits of phrasing, I was able to contribute to the conversation. I was starting to worry that I had lost all my Chinese and would never get it back, so this was not only fun, it was also necessary reassurance.

This morning I was sick and this afternoon I had a bunch of frustrating paperwork hassles, but an evening of tasty food, good tea, and interesting discussion more than made up for it.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival, everyone! I hope you all get to spend the day eating mooncakes and talking with loved ones!



Cross-posted from Archives and Stuff.
ximen: (blah)

As I said in an earlier post, I’m going to be in China for a total of ten months. Although I’m hoping to make some research trips (and maybe one or two fun trips!) while I’m here, the vast majority of these ten months will be spent in Beijing, where I happen to be right this minute. For those of you who have not had a chance to visit this city, or who haven’t visited it in a few years– Chinese cities change quickly– perhaps this post will help you picture it.

I’ve visited Beijing twice before, but I’ve never lived here. It’s very different from Shanghai, the other Chinese city I’ve lived in. Shanghai’s growth has come in waves, where Beijing’s has been steadier, without quite as dramatic a growth explosion, so it feels older and a bit grungier than Shanghai. There are tons of new buildings, and a bunch of old hutongs were knocked down for the Olympics, but there’s still way more old construction around than in Shanghai. One example of this was the apartment listings Bing and I looked at before arriving– way more Beijing apartments listed still have squat toilets. Another example is convenience stores. Everywhere I went in Shanghai, there would be a shiny convenience store– Family Mart, Lawsons, etc– if I needed soda or ice cream or a tea egg. Here in Beijing those are a lot rarer, and if I am suddenly in need of a coke (Chinese coke is made with sugar, like the Mexican coke that’s super-popular back in the US these days), I’m more likely to go to one of the little stores run out of a family’s living room. This has some disadvantages: shorter hours, and no air conditioning (so I can’t get chocolate). Even larger convenience stores usually don’t have AC, and they’re not as well-lit or clean as the chains.

There are also the more obvious differences. Beijing food is saltier, and it’s easier to find spicy food (Sichuan food is trendy right now). There’s more wheat and potatoes around, too. Beijing people tend to be taller and heavier than southerners, though I am still a bit tall and quite fat by local standards (and my feet are huge). And the Beijing accent is taking some getting used to– practically every other word ends in “ar”.

Of course, if you’ve never been to China, none of this is very helpful. If I were going to compare it to an American city, I would probably say Chicago, with a little bit of DC thrown in. But that’s still not that descriptive.  So let me try again.

Beijing is big, and crowded, and dusty, and busy. Streets are either four lanes wide and filled with cars and trucks and taxis and motorcycles, or they’re narrow and filled with all of the above plus pedestrians, cyclists, produce vendors, and snack carts. The air is usually hazy and horribly polluted, but sometimes the smoky smell is overridden by the smell of lamb skewers grilling over charcoal, which is quite nice. Other times the smell is overridden by the local stinky tofu cart or durian cake stall, and that’s less nice. People don’t stare at foreigners as much as they do in smaller cities, and when they do, they tend to just quietly watch, instead of pointing or shouting. In general people seem a little more aloof, which matches the stereotypes I’ve heard of northern China. The subway is new, but not very reliable (it’s been mysteriously delayed or stopped three times since I got here, and was delayed so long this morning that I gave up on going to the archives today). The bus network is quite good, but the buses rarely run AC, so on hot days a crowded bus can start to smell a little like the stinky tofu cart. There are signs up in red and yellow reminding you to “uphold the spirit of Yan’an!” and similar bits of Communist encouragement, and all the pedestrian bridges are hanging banners asking everyone to be civilized and polite, for the pride of the city and the local district. There is a definite sense of civic pride in Beijing, though it doesn’t stop people from smoking, spitting, and littering everywhere.

That’s really all I can think of right now. It’s a city, there are people, they do their thing. If the subway starts working again and my lungs can hold, I think I will like it here.

Questions?

Cross-posted from Archives and Stuff.

ximen: (Default)

As I said in an earlier post, I’m going to be in China for a total of ten months. Although I’m hoping to make some research trips (and maybe one or two fun trips!) while I’m here, the vast majority of these ten months will be spent in Beijing, where I happen to be right this minute. For those of you who have not had a chance to visit this city, or who haven’t visited it in a few years– Chinese cities change quickly– perhaps this post will help you picture it.

I’ve visited Beijing twice before, but I’ve never lived here. It’s very different from Shanghai, the other Chinese city I’ve lived in. Shanghai’s growth has come in waves, where Beijing’s has been steadier, without quite as dramatic a growth explosion, so it feels older and a bit grungier than Shanghai. There are tons of new buildings, and a bunch of old hutongs were knocked down for the Olympics, but there’s still way more old construction around than in Shanghai. One example of this was the apartment listings Bing and I looked at before arriving– way more Beijing apartments listed still have squat toilets. Another example is convenience stores. Everywhere I went in Shanghai, there would be a shiny convenience store– Family Mart, Lawsons, etc– if I needed soda or ice cream or a tea egg. Here in Beijing those are a lot rarer, and if I am suddenly in need of a coke (Chinese coke is made with sugar, like the Mexican coke that’s super-popular back in the US these days), I’m more likely to go to one of the little stores run out of a family’s living room. This has some disadvantages: shorter hours, and no air conditioning (so I can’t get chocolate). Even larger convenience stores usually don’t have AC, and they’re not as well-lit or clean as the chains.

There are also the more obvious differences. Beijing food is saltier, and it’s easier to find spicy food (Sichuan food is trendy right now). There’s more wheat and potatoes around, too. Beijing people tend to be taller and heavier than southerners, though I am still a bit tall and quite fat by local standards (and my feet are huge). And the Beijing accent is taking some getting used to– practically every other word ends in “ar”.

Of course, if you’ve never been to China, none of this is very helpful. If I were going to compare it to an American city, I would probably say Chicago, with a little bit of DC thrown in. But that’s still not that descriptive.  So let me try again.

Beijing is big, and crowded, and dusty, and busy. Streets are either four lanes wide and filled with cars and trucks and taxis and motorcycles, or they’re narrow and filled with all of the above plus pedestrians, cyclists, produce vendors, and snack carts. The air is usually hazy and horribly polluted, but sometimes the smoky smell is overridden by the smell of lamb skewers grilling over charcoal, which is quite nice. Other times the smell is overridden by the local stinky tofu cart or durian cake stall, and that’s less nice. People don’t stare at foreigners as much as they do in smaller cities, and when they do, they tend to just quietly watch, instead of pointing or shouting. In general people seem a little more aloof, which matches the stereotypes I’ve heard of northern China. The subway is new, but not very reliable (it’s been mysteriously delayed or stopped three times since I got here, and was delayed so long this morning that I gave up on going to the archives today). The bus network is quite good, but the buses rarely run AC, so on hot days a crowded bus can start to smell a little like the stinky tofu cart. There are signs up in red and yellow reminding you to “uphold the spirit of Yan’an!” and similar bits of Communist encouragement, and all the pedestrian bridges are hanging banners asking everyone to be civilized and polite, for the pride of the city and the local district. There is a definite sense of civic pride in Beijing, though it doesn’t stop people from smoking, spitting, and littering everywhere.

That’s really all I can think of right now. It’s a city, there are people, they do their thing. If the subway starts working again and my lungs can hold, I think I will like it here.

Questions?

Cross-posted from Archives and Stuff.

ximen: (default)

I was going to write a post talking about Beijing, but I am tired out from my morning trip to the health clinic. The Travel Health Clinic is outside the 5th Ring Road (more on that when I get around to that Beijing post), and getting there took me nearly an hour, with subway, bus, and walking all taking about a third of that. The best part was when I overshot the clinic by half a block and started to walk into the police barracks instead– the half-asleep officer on duty took one look at me and nearly jumped through the window to ask where I was going.

As far as I know, I am perfectly healthy, or as healthy as anyone can be breathing the air of China’s 9th most polluted city (note to self: order those respirators soon, even if they do make you look like a cyborg). So why was I getting up early to take my perfectly healthy self to the doctor? Because China doesn’t trust us dirty foreigners not to spread disease around its fair (if polluted) cities. So anyone wanting to study or work in China needs a health certificate, which means spending a morning and 400 RMB (about $65) getting poked and prodded by various nurses. This morning I had a chest X-ray, an ECG, two blood draws, an eye exam, a fever scan, a blood pressure test, and some random poking that I assume produces valuable medical data. I’ll know in a week whether I am healthy enough to stay.

Despite my grumbling, and the long commute, I don’t really mind this requirement, but since you’re not allowed to eat on the morning of the test, I was pretty cranky and somewhat dizzy by the end of it. So I decided that I had earned a good lunch that day, and tried out the tiny dumpling place right next to my housing complex. It was not an ideal time to do so– the place was juggling multiple large delivery orders, and clearly isn’t really geared toward lunchtime. The selection was limited to pork dumplings with a surprise veggie, which turned out to be some kind of greens that tasted like dill. The dumplings were frozen, not freshly-wrapped, but the filling was good and they had clearly been made by hand. Plus it cost me 8 yuan (~$1.50) for ten dumplings. Afterwards I had a matcha shake with some red bean paste added.

That evening, my roommate and I spotted a 生煎包 place. Shengjian bao are cousins to the more popular xiaolong bao, aka soupy dumplings. Xiaolong bao are steamed inside a delicate dumpling skin, while shengjian bao are wrapped in a more bread-like exterior and pan-fried with sesame seeds. This makes them crunchy and chewy on the outside, with a soft pork filling and the same broth inside that make xiaolongbao so delicious. Both kinds are southern specialties, so I wasn’t entirely sure if a place this far north would do them right. Fortunately, they did. We got two orders of jian bao, and two steamers of xiaolong bao, and both were great. The xiaolong bao weren’t as good as the ones I’ve had in Shanghai, but the shengjian bao could hold their own even down south. We will definitely be back! And if any of you come visit, I’ll take you there and you can judge for yourself.

Cross-posted from Archives and Stuff.

ximen: (Default)

I was going to write a post talking about Beijing, but I am tired out from my morning trip to the health clinic. The Travel Health Clinic is outside the 5th Ring Road (more on that when I get around to that Beijing post), and getting there took me nearly an hour, with subway, bus, and walking all taking about a third of that. The best part was when I overshot the clinic by half a block and started to walk into the police barracks instead– the half-asleep officer on duty took one look at me and nearly jumped through the window to ask where I was going.

As far as I know, I am perfectly healthy, or as healthy as anyone can be breathing the air of China’s 9th most polluted city (note to self: order those respirators soon, even if they do make you look like a cyborg). So why was I getting up early to take my perfectly healthy self to the doctor? Because China doesn’t trust us dirty foreigners not to spread disease around its fair (if polluted) cities. So anyone wanting to study or work in China needs a health certificate, which means spending a morning and 400 RMB (about $65) getting poked and prodded by various nurses. This morning I had a chest X-ray, an ECG, two blood draws, an eye exam, a fever scan, a blood pressure test, and some random poking that I assume produces valuable medical data. I’ll know in a week whether I am healthy enough to stay.

Despite my grumbling, and the long commute, I don’t really mind this requirement, but since you’re not allowed to eat on the morning of the test, I was pretty cranky and somewhat dizzy by the end of it. So I decided that I had earned a good lunch that day, and tried out the tiny dumpling place right next to my housing complex. It was not an ideal time to do so– the place was juggling multiple large delivery orders, and clearly isn’t really geared toward lunchtime. The selection was limited to pork dumplings with a surprise veggie, which turned out to be some kind of greens that tasted like dill. The dumplings were frozen, not freshly-wrapped, but the filling was good and they had clearly been made by hand. Plus it cost me 8 yuan (~$1.50) for ten dumplings. Afterwards I had a matcha shake with some red bean paste added.

That evening, my roommate and I spotted a 生煎包 place. Shengjian bao are cousins to the more popular xiaolong bao, aka soupy dumplings. Xiaolong bao are steamed inside a delicate dumpling skin, while shengjian bao are wrapped in a more bread-like exterior and pan-fried with sesame seeds. This makes them crunchy and chewy on the outside, with a soft pork filling and the same broth inside that make xiaolongbao so delicious. Both kinds are southern specialties, so I wasn’t entirely sure if a place this far north would do them right. Fortunately, they did. We got two orders of jian bao, and two steamers of xiaolong bao, and both were great. The xiaolong bao weren’t as good as the ones I’ve had in Shanghai, but the shengjian bao could hold their own even down south. We will definitely be back! And if any of you come visit, I’ll take you there and you can judge for yourself.

Cross-posted from Archives and Stuff.

ximen: (why?)
  • Number of times I’ve seen other foreigners on the street: 11
  • Number of times my roommate Bing has pointed out other foreigners by saying “Look, more of your kind” with well-feigned contempt: 5
  • Number of times a Chinese person has told Bing that he’s practically a foreigner himself, what with the 10+ years he’s spent in the US: 1
  • Number of times I have made eye contact with a foreigner and smiled: 9
  • Number of times one of them has smiled back: 3
  • Number of times one of them has hit on me: 1
  • Number of times one of them has tried to get me to accept Jesus into my heart: 1
  • Number of times a foreigner has given me a death glare instead of smiling back: 6
  • Number of times a foreign has hit me with their bike: 1
  • Number of foreigners who have apologized for hitting me with their bike: 0

I have theories about this, but I’m not sure my Typology of Foreigners in China is ready for publication.

Cross-posted from Archives and Stuff.

ximen: (confused)
  • Number of times I’ve seen other foreigners on the street: 11
  • Number of times my roommate Bing has pointed out other foreigners by saying “Look, more of your kind” with well-feigned contempt: 5
  • Number of times a Chinese person has told Bing that he’s practically a foreigner himself, what with the 10+ years he’s spent in the US: 1
  • Number of times I have made eye contact with a foreigner and smiled: 9
  • Number of times one of them has smiled back: 3
  • Number of times one of them has hit on me: 1
  • Number of times one of them has tried to get me to accept Jesus into my heart: 1
  • Number of times a foreigner has given me a death glare instead of smiling back: 6
  • Number of times a foreign has hit me with their bike: 1
  • Number of foreigners who have apologized for hitting me with their bike: 0

I have theories about this, but I’m not sure my Typology of Foreigners in China is ready for publication.

Cross-posted from Archives and Stuff.

ximen: (happy!)

Things I have done since arriving in Beijing two days ago:

  • Gone to the airport twice
  • Served as a Japanese<->Chinese translator for a Mongolian woman and a Chinese shuttle bus driver
  • Met my landlord
  • Won the non-car bed in an epic rock-paper-scissors battle
  • consumed a lot of tea
  • eaten Beijing roast duck
  • registered as a foreigner at the local police station
  • got a sim card for my phone

And now I am going to lie in bed for the rest of the day and read novels. You?

Cross-posted from Archives and Stuff.

ximen: (Default)

Things I have done since arriving in Beijing two days ago:

  • Gone to the airport twice
  • Served as a Japanese<->Chinese translator for a Mongolian woman and a Chinese shuttle bus driver
  • Met my landlord
  • Won the non-car bed in an epic rock-paper-scissors battle
  • consumed a lot of tea
  • eaten Beijing roast duck
  • registered as a foreigner at the local police station
  • got a sim card for my phone

And now I am going to lie in bed for the rest of the day and read novels. You?

Cross-posted from Archives and Stuff.

ximen: (happyfox)
Beijing, to be exact. Further updates as events warrant.
ximen: (default)
I've tried all my other social networks, but I forgot about LJ. My friend Bingyu desperately needs a place to stay for the second half of June and first half of July (we're both taking Manchu at Harvard). Does anyone have a spare room they could sublet out? Or a couch they could loan out? Or know of someone who does? Bing's nice, and very quiet.
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(If anyone cares)

School!
My general exams/quals are this April, so I am finalizing my major and minor field reading lists. My fields are going to be: Qing history, Anglo-American legal history, and Early Chinese literature. Hopefully these will meld together and turn me into someone who can confidently fake her way through China studies and legal history talks.

Also, I'm learning Manchu. Which is just awesome.

Matriarchy!
I'm the historical consultant for Ben's game (which has awesome Sushu-art, btw). We just started alpha-testing, which is fun in the "poke things until they break" sense but not yet in the "play this game" sense. Fortunately I like poking things. It's in Kickstarter-mode right now, so if you have spare money and you like social games, Chinese history, or awesome Sushu-art, you should give us money. Or you can just watch the video to see the awesome Sushu art and to hear Sushu and me ramble about why we're working on the project. Which I find impossible to listen to, because it's weird hearing my own voice recorded. But I guess that's true for almost everyone.

Projects!
I was learning to play the erhu, but I stopped practicing when I left Taiwan and have had trouble getting back into it. It's hard to find time to practice, and when I do, I get so stressed out that I might be doing things wrong that it's hard to continue. Does anyone else who has tried to learn musical instruments as an adult (without much prior musical experience) have any advice on how to overcome those problems?

I've returned to working on my companion cube plush. I have three sides completed (all save the little gray tabs between each corner piece). The other three sides have their gray circles, their hearts, and their pink lines, but lack the gray corners. Once I have the corners sewn on all six sides, I will sew the sides together so that I have one large flat piece, then sew on the little gray tabs, then sew the remaining sides together into a cube. Oh, and stuff it. the cube itself isn't going to be that big... maybe six inches on each side. And it's going to be slightly lopsided and asymmetrical, because it was mostly hand-sewn and because I'm not that good at sewing. But it will have been made with love! And now that I have a better understanding of what each part requires, and also a sewing machine, I'm thinking of making a full-sized one, for use as furniture.

Stuff!
I've been watching The Wire with my friend Bing. It's pretty awesome.

I've been playing the online game Glitch. It's basically Harvest Moon the MMO, and I find it scarily addictive.

I'm living in Newark. I have a two-room studio all to myself (well, me and the cat) and I love it. Come visit! I have a spare futon!

I was in Atlanta for five days. I got to see [identity profile] bakeneko.livejournal.com and catch up. That was pretty great-- I got to reconnect with an old friend, and it turns out that we still had things to talk about (possibly more now, actually), and also I was happy to see that she's doing well and making really cool masks. And that was she was nice enough to spend over an hour just answering all my random questions about her artistic and business process. Thank you for indulging my curiosity, Jyn!

I've started posting everything on Dreamwidth and cross-posting to LJ. But Dreamwidth doesn't yet have good mood icons, so that's annoying. Also it seems like everyone else has switched to tumblr, Google+, Facebook, or Twitter. I do check G+ regularly, but even though I have accounts for the other three, I can't seem to adapt. Facebook is too crowded, I hate twitter's new interface, and tumblr just has problems. It doesn't really handle comments well, and when people respond to each others' posts, you end up with the same post being repeated three or four times on one page, often just with one or two lines added at the end. And since you read the newest ones first, what you see is the entire conversation, followed by the conversation minus the last few lines, followed by the conversation minus the last two exchanges, and so on. On the other hand, there is a lot of cool art, so maybe I'll just start using tumblr to look at pictures of hungover owls and funny cats. But I'm sad that most of my friends no longer post page-long rants and updates on their lives to LJ. How am I supposed to know how you're doing? I'm scared of the phone and not very good at IM. Oh well. All things come to an end.

I should really get off the computer and tackle my to-do list. It is long. And it's 3 PM and I'm still in pajamas. But it's so hard to so do anything on a rainy day... *whine whine*

Anyway, that's me. How are you?
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I'm in town. Anyone want to hang out tomorrow (Thursday) or Friday? Email/text/call me!

Back!

Sep. 4th, 2011 02:29 pm
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I am back from Taiwan! If you asked for a postcard and gave me an address, you will probably get one in the next couple of weeks.

I miss Taipei already, but it's also good to be back. How was your summer?
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I am in Taipei. It's mostly awesome. If you've called or texted me this month, I haven't gotten it.
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Today was another good day. First, I filed my visa paperwork, which was stressful but seems to have been accomplished. Though I won't know for sure until tomorrow, so fingers crossed. Then, I worked as the barista in my friend Grace's coffee shop while Grace went to her job interview, which was relaxed and fun (plus her mom made me lunch!). Finally, I went to have dinner at Tony and Farida's house, where I had delicious food (tiny fluffy Danish pancakes!) and got some amazingly cool presents.

Cool present 1: Two of Tony's dungeon maps.
Tony Dowler's dungeon art is weird and funny and interesting, enough so that he's been invited to show it in a couple of coffee shops now. Next up will be at the Verite in Capital Hill some time in the fall. I hope I am able to make it. Anyway, he had some extra dungeons, so I was allowed to go through the stack and pick one. I saw one that felt oddly appropriate to being in grad school, and another that seemed perfect for Isaac, so I was trying to decide which to take. Finally, I asked Tony if I could have one for myself and another for a friend, and he said yes. And even gave me a frame for mine! Score!

Cool present two: best earrings ever.
Last Christmas, my friend Karen gave me some excellent earrings she had made with model clay. That same night, one fell out. I was heartbroken, and walked several miles combing every inch of sidewalk trying to find the missing one, but never did. Karen promised to make me a new pair, but didn't have time before I left Seattle, and I had kind of given up hope of ever getting new earrings. Fortunately, not only had Karen made me new ones, but they are even better than the last ones. )
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The owner of the @Cafe on Rainier Ave had a problem. She had an interview on Thursday for her dream fashion job, but her only employee had to work elsewhere that day and couldn't cover for her. Enter the Wayfaring Barista, mysteriously in from the east coast, and able to run a coffee shop for an afternoon. The Barista showed up today at quarter to one, immediately understood the operation of the cash register and the espresso machine (but not how to make smoothies, because who needs those). The Wayfaring Barista asks for no payment other than free coffee (and maybe matcha lattes, because yum), but will graciously accept a free panini. At 6 PM, the Wayfaring Barista will wander off into the sunset (or north to the Central District for dinner and tabletop RPGs). Perhaps your coffee shop will get a visit from the Wayfaring Barista?

(Yeah, business is slow and I'm bored, and I've already had too much caffeine. But it's fun getting to work at a coffee shop, especially just for an afternoon).