Archive for August 18th, 2010

Gonna keep with this theme of multiple posts per post till I’m all caught up.

Today: we slept in till one (kinda gross. Usually like to wake up by noon at least, but Ben Segal isn’t here to make that happen, unfortunately), then proceeded to sell four of our classmate’s bikes for a total of 260 kuai. Each of us took a hundred and then we bought lunch at Xiabu Xiabu — good call, Loren! — with the other 60. It’s like a personal hotpot joint, and is always packed with Chinese people for good reason. Dan went off to get his suit fitted, and I recovered some whiskey from the drying room in building 18, did some laundry, and sold off another bike for 80 kuai. Coulda gotten more but made a stupid bargaining mistake. Bah. Met dan eventually in SanLiTun (known colloquially in room 206 as ‘fuckin sanlitun‘ because we’re both sick of going there, but are often for various reasons compelled to), and used the 80 to buy dinner at a pizza place by the worker’s stadium near vics called the Kro’s Nest which was pretty rad. I’ve missed mozzarella sticks. Nothing too much else to note yet, because we haven’t gone out for the night (if that even happens at all, anyway… it’s pretty rainy and gross out).

Ooh except this one little kid on the subway who was grumbling about waiguoren (foreigners). As the only foreigner around, I assumed it with me and told him “zhege waiguoren tingdedong hanyu” (this foreigner understands chinese). He was pretty embarrassed but his parents seemed thoroughly amused; it’s funny to me that in America I tend to assume that everybody understands English, but in china people are perpetually surprised when discover that they can’t talk about you right in front of you. Relatedly, I hate being accosted in English by shopkeepers, and have on a number of occasions told them that i can only speak spanish and chinese (first in the former language, then the latter). I’ve yet to find one who knows any spanish, so this is generally pretty effective at stopping them from reverting to english the second your chinese stumbles at all.

Also, purely for the sake of good record keeping,  both Dan and I have agreed to a now-till-40-years-old total Vics tally. We both figure we won’t be completely done with Beijing for a long long time, and one night of each subsequent Beijing visit will probably wind up at Vics somehow, as nights are wont to do. So we’re gonna keep a big freakin’ tally of how many times this transpires between now and 2030 or something. And now for something completely different…

July 31st: Pretty cool day altogether. We started at the antique market, which was crowded and rather humid. Note when I say rather humid, our teacher would prefer I said “apocalyptically sweltering” or something. Both Zhang and Gu were actually freaking out the whole time about the heat, and were constantly checking to make sure nobody had heat-stroked out in the middle of the market. Granted I’m from Austin and was walking around with a Floridan and a Caribbean Islander so perhaps our group was a bit biased, but honestly we thought the weather definitely was tolerable. Anywho we saw a bunch of cool statues and artifacts, and I got some calligraphy done of my name (牧 克文). The calligrapher himself was really friendly, and let Andrew and I practice lots of Chinese with him and his family.

After that we went to the Temple of Heaven, which is where the emperor would come to pray, if I recall correctly.

I’d write more about this, but honestly when you don’t blog right after something happens, you lose almost all of the little details that make it interesting or funny. So really you’re just as well off going to wikipedia or something. Suffice it to say it was a neat historical site. I do remember that in one of the courtyards leading up to the temple, there was a spot where one could ostensibly speak to the entire universe. I learned this once we had already passed it, however, so I didn’t get to deliver any message onto all that exists. That’s a lot of pressure when you think about it. Wonder what I shoulda said.

Anyway the day didn’t stop there, but this blog is about to, because as ever I am sleepy. We went from the temple to the pearl market, which is shockingly a place where you can get real pearls on the cheap. I didn’t. I did get this awesome “Armani” belt for 30 quai though which has served me quite well. I think I also picked up some shirts or something there, but again, details fade. I do remember Ashley eating a big green tea blizzard though, notable because she is allergic to milk, so by the time we got to the acrobatics show, her throat was starting to close up, which was more than a little worrisome. The record can reflect that I told the girl not to eat it, but ooh well. She made it through the show ok.

Chinese acrobatics shows, incidentally, are every bit as impressive as you might imagine that they are. Among other things, they juggled twelve year old girls on to and off of a totem pole of people, put literally twenty girls onto a single bicycle, and did some tricks with diabolos that I can’t really even describe. Suffice it to say that the whole show was awesome in the true form of the word. Awe was inspired about every forty-five seconds. Absolute craziness.

Lama / Confucius temples

I actually went to these temples yesterday, because today’s (the 17th) post header wouldn’t have been particularly exciting. “Suits and sandwiches,” I guess. But yeah, picked up two tailored shirts and two suits from YaShow today (Alright listen. It’s YaXiu. 秀。 Xiu. Wade-Giles can go to hell for confusing me so much and making me unable to pronounce things properly. anyway–) for US $300 even, which is pretty incredible. Oh, and Dan got one measured, so when he goes back for fitting tomorrow I’ll be busy hawking my schoolmates’ bikes (shoutouts to andrew, david, ashley, anna, lauren, and chrissy for leaving me their keys) for lunch money in wudaokou. Also, mainly for my own benefit later, as a note to self I need to go back to Bocata and eat their local beef, bacon and cheese sandwich as frequently as is feasible. Holy god.
Also around Yashow, we saw a male version of a romper and a 70 year old woman wearing a polo clearly emblazoned with the playboy logo. Both pretty excellent. Both made me regret not having a camera on me.
Right now i just got back from City Mall, having seen a movie entitled “city under seige.” I was under the impression that this movie would be subtitled into english, mainly because A) it was an international theater and B) Dan told me that it was subtitled into english. In actuality it was indeed subtitled, but only into chinese. The film was absolutely terrible but the plot was simplistic enough so that I could follow it pretty well with the help of the subtitles; the forty quai ticket was almost worth it for the confidence boost that the experience of understanding at least 2/3rds of a movie in a different language bequeaths.

One of many Buddhas. Two stories tall. Shouldn't have taken this picture, but it was just too cool.

The temples yesterday were each awesome in their own right. The Yonghe / 雍和 / Lama temple is an operating Tibetan Buddhist monastery, and people there take things very seriously. They’re also making a racket on incense sticks, because in order to properly show respect to a given Buddha, believers or tourists are prompted to first burn three sticks of incense in their honor outside. There are at least thirty, maybe more Buddhas in there; the temple happily sells you the opportunity to be sufficiently devout. They also sell white people the chance to ring a bell obnoxiously in the middle of the courtyard. Every time this happened, the white person in question would grin like an idiot and the Chinese people around would generally throw him disapproving looks, at which point he’d either ring it again or hand it to the next 白人。 很好玩

The Confucian temple was cool enough, but weird for a couple reasons. First, it was pretty empty, relatively speaking. Normally anywhere this pretty would be packed to the brim with various chinese tourists, but I guess ol’ 孔夫子 isn’t quite as popular these days.
Second, it doesn’t make much sense conceptually, because Confucianism isn’t really a capital R religion so much as a set of social guidelines intended to inform how people ought to approach different relationships. It’d sorta be like building a big shrine to Rousseau or Nozick or something — it’s hard to find a Western parallel. If you have a better one, feel free to comment.  Third, ok this isn’t weird so much as funny, but Dan tried to buy a coke with a torn bill and the shopkeepers had to chase him down as he was leaving.  He has been trying to foist this bill off on people for forever, and it doesn’t really work. Upsets people even more than trying to pay for bus fare with nothing but dimes, which is a new favorite hobby of mine. Screw the Jiao, dude.