Sunday, December 30, 2007

It's Snowing! (well that's what it looks like)

Beijing has an overdose addiction to cheap disposable lightweight plastic bags. Beijingers like to toss shit out: sometimes in the garbage, but often not. BJ can also be tremendously windy. Put these factors together and we sometimes get the most picturesque "snow"storms whereupon magnitudes of cute baggies fill the nether regions of the sky. It truly is a sight to behold.

In other weather news, here's a note on the "fog": It's not fog.

According to the State Environmental Protection Administration, the brown haze that descended on our fair city hit a whopping 421 on the Air Pollution Index today. To put that in perspective, on a good day it hovers between 50-150. On a bad day, we're looking at 200 or so.

In fact, today's smog is so bad that the American Environmental Protection Agency rates it as Condition Maroon - or Hazardous. They even go so far as to advise "AQI values over 300 trigger health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected." Doctors recommend not undertaking physical exercise outside, and limiting exposure to the pollution.

According to the Pollution Index, 25 is safe, and some say you shouldn't go outside if it's up to 150.

Ok ok, i know i said earlier the pollution's not as bad i thought it'd be. It's true that you do see blue skies maybe 50% of the time, and thankfully you can rarely smell or taste the "fog". So usually it's pretty livable.

Last Thursday was superduper "foggy", but you know something's up 'cause it's not moist. Did i really feel a bit dizzy or was it just my head? That day i felt particularly disturbed 'cause it struck me that the air quality of the day isn't the issue at all. Because it's not like the factories were working any harder on Wednesday than usual. In the big picture, that shit is being cranked into the air 24-7, and going indoors is a pretty pathetic solution to the problem at hand. I feel like we're all gonna deal with this in the long run.

Also note that it's a scary time and place to get knocked up, according to the stats on birth defects.

On that note, i gotta get move on. Time's running out on 2007, and i have to be all positive and optimistic to ring in the new year. HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAPY NEW YEAR!

Saturday, December 29, 2007


Shanghai is a very big city. 20 million peeps, all squeezed in nice and snug. The sidewalks are sometimes so packed with hurrying people that the entire road becomes a pedestrian walkway, and cars just avoid the area.

SH is notably more cosmo and modern than BJ. Faster paced, with consumer goods coming out of yr ass, in that classic NuSchool Chinese way.

H and i went to see some experimental electronic music act a tiny obscure venue. But after being assaulted by horrendously loud screaming and feedback for 30 minutes or so we decided we couldn't hack any more of the opening acts.

This year i completely skipped my Christmas Dinner in exchange for a nap. Heather had some crackers. Then we headed out to a couple bars, where we met up w/ a couple french dudes from the night before. We all got pretty drunk, along w/ their chinese contingent of friends.

Then it was a 10 hr ride bk to BJ on the new fast train, for a rather hung over xmas day. Shit, is this a recurring theme or something? Geez.

ps. You can't quite tell from this post, but SH is really really cool, and H and i really had a good time. Though i was a bit sad, 'cause i could tell that H liked it way better there than the outskirts of BJ.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

One Word Before Departure

Tomorrow after school, Heza and i hit the train to Shanghai. Bk teaching on boxing day. There's no room or time for xmas in my head, but i'll say Merry Xmas anyways. Just 'cause i know it's un-PC, but you can get away w/ that sorta thing in school around here. And Happy Hannukah to Eli and any other readers of the jewish faith. And i don't think i have any Kwaanza partiers in my readership.

Question: If a school w/ no jewish or african students celebrates Hannukah and Kwaanza, isn't that tantamount to cultural appropriation?

Peace and Harmony Out,

DON'T Take the Money and Run

In my defense, It's been about 15 years of drill and practice where Good Ol' Western Design has ensured that the ATM can and will not give you your desperately and impatiently awaited cash, unless and only unless you first obligingly remove your bank card (and optional receipt) from the humming slots. It's for your own good!

In China, Good Ol' Western Design hasn't caught on w/ quite the same fervour. Hence bank machines will give you what you want: cold hard cash. They will then contemplate the inequities of life for a minute or 2 before they sluggishly expectorate your card.

That's ok, except that i am still totally programmed into grabbing and dashing.

It has now been (count 'em) THREE times that i've lost my bank card in China. That's roughly losing a card every three transactions. Despite assurances to myself that i'll pay more attention the next time.

But this has been the last time. Really. I can't handle dealing with another bank employee telling me, "but we already gave you your bank card."

Anyhow, hopefully all you in the civilized world can thank GOWD and praise GOWD for the many tiny gifts you don't realize you constantly receive.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Oh Jesus, it's Christmas

Fair enough, there's xmas trees and Santa pictures all over. But the only version of christmas that's made it to the people's republic, is the one that came on barges returning from Walmart.

So all my students know is there's "the Christmas man" who gives presents, and that they get presents from their capitalist-brainwashed parents.

Seriously i was this close to teaching the kids the nativity story so at least they'd recognize that it's an unhip religious holiday, and not just the xmas xtravaganza sale of products (all made here anyways).

I do wanna teach a bit of xmas material, so i dug up an easy version of The Elves and the Shoemaker. But do you know this story? It's kinda dirty. But at least i have the chance to ask questions like these:
  1. After the shoemaker had become rich from the elves' hard work do you think that the shoemaker gives a big enough present to the elves, with a few clothes?

  1. Why do you think the elves helped the shoemaker? Why did they work for him for free, if he was rich?
Yeah, i know it's kinda smart assy, but how can i resist?

As for xmas itself, H and i are hittin' Shanghai. We got a 4 day wkend, so after school Friday, we're hoppin' on a sleeper train in search of the Christmas Spirit. And everyone says that Shanghai is great for shopping!

"Sorry: no meditation for you, buddy"

News Flash! statusq is denied entrance into a meditation course!

Drat the luck, but i guess that's what happens when you continue to believe that honesty is the best policy. when applying for Vipassana meditation courses (the by donation 10 day intensives). i've never held back when filling in my applications. i gave roughly accurate accounts of any and all substances i'd indulged with, and the list had been on the chubby side at times.

Filling in the block about Other Spiritual Practices, i didn't hesitate to mention that i once got attuned for reiki level 1, and that i do continue to use it on occasion. Just to chill out fish who are dying in the meat market aquarium, or maybe on an overused underloved photocopier.

Well this never goes over well, but i've been getting used to the serious talk they give me before a course starts, 'cause reiki and Vipassana are not happy bedmates. Reiki people can get fucked up in Vipassana courses, as their whole underlying philosophies jar.

But hell, my reiki's been next to nil since forever, and lately my Vipassana's been far from steady too (though Heza and i have started semi regular short sits).

Anyhow, over a few wks my application made it up the ranks until i was finally told no. Boy, all those courteous emails for this?

So as it stands, in Feb i'll take Heza down to the Hong Kong outskirts to drop her off for her 1st course. Then i'll take my rejected bum on the road for 10 days to see what sort of trouble i can get into. i'm surprisingly totally cool with it. It'll be good for me to have some solo time, good for H to focus more on her course, and i can also try sitting 2 hrs/day to get more balanced out myself.

Monday, December 10, 2007

BJ Bike Thefts: Totally Hot!

BJ's bikes are getting safer and safer by the minute: this year the Beijing police have cracked 329 bicycle theft gangs, nabbed 3,686 suspects, smashed 774 hide-outs and confiscated 18,825 bicycles so far this year, according to the ministry.

But i guess that's good considering that FOUR MILLION bikes get ripped off in China annually. i typed out the words for emphasis, as well as to ensure that you didn't think the last zero was a typo.

Anyhow, that makes this a good place to ride an ol' beater that doesn't get a 2nd look from anyone, right? Definitely.

Well the logic is there, but the fact is that my beloved ol' bike mysteriously went AWOL maybe 3-4 wks ago. That was a bummer, though after feeling sad and mad for a couple hrs ago, it was officially dealt with in my head and heart.

i am now the proud owner of a virtually identical bike, which i got off some other ol' dude at the morning market. It took a fair bit of TLC, but it's now a sweet ride.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Gettin' In With the Locals

Ok, enough requisite post-NaBloPoMo slacking. Just in case you wanted to hear what's up.

Here's what's up.

Yes, here, or rather, in the sentences below:

Wkend's are great. I don't even end up spending long days at school anymore. "Now that's progress!"

On Friday i hung out w/ this guy and girl in a cramped bedroom recording studio, and they helped me record guitar and vocals for a track of mine. Well the guy recorded it, and the girl translated. "It sounds really good." i said to the dude. "It'll sound a lot better when it's mixed down," he replied. I'll finally figure out how to post onto that my Myspace page that i never use, so you can chk it out later on.

Saturday i met up w/ a Sco'ish (Scottish) lad to jam. That was ok, though he's way more gung ho than me to kick start a band. i'm thinking "dude, you/we need some songs first." Um, i admit i'm a bit lackadaisical on this project, but we'll see what happens.

Saturday night we hit our 1st BJ party, as invited by the aforementioned woman above. Not that she herself planned to go, but still... H and i didn't know what to expect except that it was some some sort of Iron Chef style party.

So i called up the hostess to get directions, and she spoke decent English and was quite happy to give a perfect strangers directions to her home.

Not that directions matter much when you write 'em dn wrong, go to the wrong subway stations, walk in the wrong directions, etc etc. So 1+ hrs later we arrive (and H is unfortunately cranky by this time. Oh well, it happens).

We arrived just in time to see 2 people kissing for 30 seconds while the gang shouted the countdown. This was the climactic prize/punishment for best dish or something. (i didn't quite follow). It was way too grade 7 for me, but hell, maybe that's what happens when society is doing its damnedest to make up for time lost to Reap-Russhian and Sins-Or-Ship.

Still the gang turned out to be pretty caj. About 1/2 of the were Eng speaking foreigners. All of whom spoke an impressive amt of Mandarin. And the Chinese gang spoke impressive amts of Eng.

That was about all the socializing i could take for a wkend, so i spent Sunday feeling cranky and antisocial, but i did have a wonderful long bike ride which got almost got me into the boonies. Yay bikes.