March 25, 2008

Resident and Tourist Part 2

Xi'an Soldiers
Classes were canceled on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week and it didn't take more than a few minutes for my roommates and I to decide to travel together. Our destination was Xi'an, the home of the famous Terracotta Warriors. With limited time, and even more limited money, we put together the cheapest and fastest trip possible. We left Beijing Monday afternoon at 5pm, on a 13 hour overnight train that put us in Xi'an at 6am. The train ride was eventful- Diana and I played rounds of Speed, we befriended a great young woman, and I spent the remainder of the evening talking to a Chinese professor who's top bunk sleeper bed was directly across from mine. Our conversation ended when an old Chinese woman reprimanded us in slurred Mandarin and told us to fall asleep. We silently laughed, but immediately obeyed her. The elders rule this country- respect!
Some local friends picked us up from the train station and took us to their home for showers, breakfast, and lots of coffee. By 9am, we were on the road- bound for the warrior's archaeological site. The area was split up into 4 different discovery sites, each with specific significance. The most impressive were the layers of soldiers protecting the Emperor's Tomb. They stood with weapons and chariots prepared to symbolically defend their leader in the afterlife.
The highlight of the 2 hours walking around looking at human and horse pottery was when I (with a great concerned face) told Diana that I accidentally dropped our giant China Lonely Planet book into the tomb and broke a clay soldier. Amazingly funny, I got a video of her reaction. Seriously though, the Warriors were interesting, but I couldn't help but think of dozens of ways to improve the museum. I think Chinese museums have more of a "look from a distance" approach. There is no interaction/experience component, no video component, just poorly translated informational posters. I've learned to visit a Chinese museum after I've studied the contents beforehand.
After the Terracotta Warriors we explored the vibrant Muslim Quarters for the reminder of the afternoon and then made our way to the train station for another 13 hours on the train back to Beijing. As I climbed onto my hard-sleeper bunk that night, I definitely didn't need a Chinese grandma to tell me to go to bed.

Resident and Tourist

I live in a rich culture, one I do not claim to understand. And although I'm in my second year here, I sometimes approach my daily surroundings with a renewed sense of awe and amazement. When I see a sidewalk haircut, or an extremely crowded subway, I'm reminded that I am, indeed, a foreigner.

The last couple months have afforded me the amazing opportunity to be a tourist in this giant city. I can't really describe the sheer size of Beijing, but trust me when I say it's BIG.


In small clusters all around Beijing there are 'hutongs' which literally means alleyways. These alleyways thread together to created a unique tapestry of traditional Chinese homes. Four homes face inward toward a center courtyard, where meals are shared and people relax in community. My friend Katie and I spent an afternoon navigating these one of these preserved communities. Many hutongs are being replaced by more profit-making high rise buildings.

Padres Baseball

Major League Baseball made it's debut in Beijing on March 15th and my friends and I were there to witness it! Most of the game's attendees missed the first pitch- in fact most of the first inning had empty stands due to a bottleneck at the security check. We took it in stride knowing that this was just a kink that needed to be worked out pre-Olympics (when much more is on the line). The most fervent Padres fans (besides yours truly) were a group of Korean and Japanese exchange students that chanted just behind us. Parellel with the 3rd base line, planes took off and landed at Beijing Airport. The wind cut through every layer of clothing, and the blue sky glistened up above. I've said nothing of the Padres performance, which wasn't exactly exemplary. I think the real joy of the game came from the overall experience of baseball in China. Watching young Chinese boys shove a hot dog into their face, hearing baseball chants in other languages, seeing Fox News cover the event, and contemplating the use of cheerleaders in baseball were much more entertaining than the Dodgers and Padres 2nd string players. The final score was 3-3.. a collective and ultimately very appropriate, I suppose.

March 24, 2008

the The's

Lately, there's been quite a bit of wedding talk in China...
The Ring, The Vows, The Reception, The Honeymoon.
I'd like to this opportunity to publicly congratulate my peers on their recent engagements! It's looking like a summer of weddings ahead!

Ryan and Amanda
Jev and Rachelle
Dan and Jenny
Peter and Shannon

A huge congratulations! I'm stoked for your lives together! Also, Emily Chernekoff and her recent engagement in California!

March 13, 2008

Padres in China!

I've been excited for this game for weeks! The Dodgers and Padres will play the first professional baseball game in China, this weekend.

Today the players, staff, families and media of the Padres climbed the Great Wall at Badaling. They couldn't have picked a better day. The sky was cloudless and deep blue, air quality was excellent, and the sun was really shining. I read on a blog that the Friar mascot confused Chinese tourists at the Great Wall. I must admit, the bald, robed, double-chined Friar is a bit strange without context.

Six of my closest China friends are making the 12 hour journey to Beijing on an overnight train to spend the weekend with me! We're going to the game together on Saturday afternoon and then the plan is to celebrate Michael's and my birthday (we're just a day apart in age).

With no real "home team", I wonder if AC/DC's "Hells Bells" will come on in the 9th when Trevor Hoffman gets on the field to close the game. And I wonder if anyone will be with me to stand and cheer?

March 7, 2008

Shiny Black Shoes and Crickets

I go to a gym in China. I'm the only foreigner that goes, so I don't need to show my membership card, everyone knows who I am. I basically stick to the treadmill and elliptical because I'm also the only the girl that goes to this gym. I wonder if it's males-only and they just didn't have the heart to reject me in my broken Chinese? Or, perhaps they told me and I just nodded and smiled? I wonder this mainly because this week I saw something really funny.
On the treadmill I was rocking out, when a businessman walked in, in a full suit. He started to work out.. suit, tie, shiny black shoes and all. He was building up quite a sweat so he left for the locker room. He returned wearing only his long underwear and shiny black shoes! He continued to work out (through what I'm assuming was his lunch break). When he got on the treadmill next to me, I moved to the elliptical, I just couldn't do it. I could feel the laughter rising and knew I wouldn't be able to stop if I started.

This week I rode the bus to Beijing to meet up with my new (awesome) friend Katie. On the bus I sat in the very back row with two old couples. I wish I had a picture of us. 5 of us crammed into the back, me in the middle, with a couple on each side. Every time my iPod lit up (changing a song, turning up the volume) they'd lean in to see my gadget. When my phone rang they unashamedly stared as I spoke English. When I hung up the nearly toothless woman on my right nodded and said "hen hao, hen hao" (translated very good, very good). The only annoying thing about the ride was there was this consistent sound coming from the left side of the bus. Every time we hit a bump it would stop and it'd only start again when the bus slowed down or got stuck in traffic. I couldn't place the sound and even looked around to find it's source. The mystery was solved when the old man on my left fell asleep and his jacket popped open. Inside was the source of the noise..his pet cricket in a small wicker cage. The sound is apparently soothing to the ear and a source of good luck and entertainment for the older generation in China.

I love China. Today I'm exploring the hutongs of Beijing with above-mentioned Katie. We're collaborating on a Beijing Bucket list, there's so much to see in this city.

Mighty to Save

I love Hillsong's "Mighty to Save". It's my jam! Download it from iTunes, it's worth all 99 pennies.