Finally Settled.

14 09 2010

Wow, a week without a single post. Contrary to what some have suggested…yes, I am still alive and my organs have not been harvested (knock on wood). It’s been a really hectic time here in Beijing, mostly because…


Yeah, finding an apartment is difficult in any metropolitan city, but here in China, there are certain elements that make the process that much more miserable.

1.)I guess first and foremost, we decided that we wanted a pretty legitimate China experience, so finding an apartment in the center of the Central Business District (where future roommate Ben Roth and I work) would certainly prove to be difficult. It’d be easy to shack up in a sterile, expat driven apartment complex, but there’s something to be said about playing cards with your shirtless fat neighbors outside at 1 in the morning that you can’t get in that environment.

2.) With that having been said, there’s no need to sacrifice some of the most basic of creature comforts. I hadn’t had a hot shower for an entire month until last night. The idea of living in a hutong was appealing at first, but then you realize that you’d have to cross the courtyard to use the communal bathroom at night, which during the winter, gets to be somewhere around 10 degrees.

3.) There is no rhyme or reason, or anything closely resembling better business practices, when it comes to real estate here. You want to charge me money just to show me a place? You want me to pay…a year’s rent upfront on the spot? Wait, you’re not giving me the apartment because we’re…from America? The ACLU would have a fucking riot with some of the stuff we’ve had to deal with.

But anyway, Ben and I finally found the apartment that I will be calling home now for a very very long time. Recently refurbished with brand new appliances. Arguably in the top 20 cleanest apartments I’ve seen here in China. It’s not but a 10 minute walk from work, and there are at least a dozen restaurants downstairs that feature all sorts of cuisines from all over China, and I gather that most of them stay open until a solid 3 in the morning. I’ll add pictures to the next post, as I’ve yet to officially move in all of my stuff yet.

But this is phillipinbeijing, so of course there’s going to be at least ONE picture. Behold, the world’s largest high definition television.

The next two weeks are going to be absolutely wild. Comrade Michael Horrell will be coming from Seoul to spend a few days here in Beijing, and then we’ll both be returning to Seoul where I’ll be for about five days. Afterwards, we hit Chinese National Holiday, where we’ll be taking a 3 days excursion to ________ in China (tba), then up to Tianjin for a United Nations climate conference, and then down to Shanghai to see family/good friend’s wedding. I give myself a 30% chance of survival. Until next time.




16 08 2010

Oh Beijing, I hate to admit it, but you’re growing on me. It’s a city that I don’t think you can immediately fall in love with. Paris has the soft lights and romantic notions. And there’s something about fall in New York. But Beijing is smoggy, its crowded, and I’m pretty sure that all my neighbors can see me showering during the day. But its a city with a whole lot of character.

By 2025, over three hundred million migrant workers will have moved from the rural countrysides of China to large urban metropolises (roughly the population of the United States). This place is bursting at the seams with colorful people from differing provinces and various Chinese minority groups. The constant stream of people can be claustrophobic… but when things do slow down, there have been few things as enjoyable as skewers of roasted meats, cold beer(s), and precarious bike rides through ancient Beijing back alleys.

The revolving door of visiting friends has finally seemed to stopped. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a handful of good friends already, some old, most new, and the idea of spending multiple years here becomes less and less daunting. The contingency of Ben Roth, Lucy Brady, and myself have already begun planning a myriad of weekend trips. First up? Woodstock at the Great Wall?!

Anyway, I still miss home. And family. And friends. And to a lesser degree, Yale. Robert just started his first week at college, and here’s wishing you the best buddy. Only one picture today, and I know its a little too easy…

but Doctor Ma(h) Baby Swimming! Until next time.


Braised Pork Belly and Yale Lightweight Crew in Beijing

3 08 2010

First and foremost, a big thank you for all the positive feedback I’ve been getting on this. We’re looking at close to 150 hits a day, and I hope you guys enjoying reading it as much as I enjoy updating.

It’s been a busy few days around here, and to avoid writing too much, I’ll just touch on the more interesting experiences. On Sunday evening, dear friend Aaron Reiss had a potluck dinner for his last night in his beautiful hutong. For those of you who don’t know, the hutong is a very traditional Beijing living quarter, with rooms surrounding communal kitchens and a beautiful courtyard. Rapid urbanization has destroyed most of them, but the ones that remain, my god are they charming.

So I decided to try my hand at the infamous red braised pork belly. It’s a slow cooked dish that consists of arguably my favorite cut of meat; with layers of striated fat and tender meat, the belly simmers in a mixture of soy sauce, cooking wine, star anise, and a bevy of other goodies for a few hours. I’d eaten the dish thousands of times, but have never actually handled the meat itself. The lovely lizzie (pictured below) took me to the local open air market next door, where the meatlady literally pulled out an entire underside of a pig, and cut me off a savory sliver on the spot. The evening really was fantastic, new friends were made with beer and sweet potato chips aplenty. Being shirtless and cooking and covered in pig blood, I didn’t have any opportunities to take pictures of the actual food per se…but I’ll find some eventually for this.

I guess the next big thing is my actual job…which started yesterday. So I’m working with the Natural Resource Defense Council here in Beijing through a Princeton in Asia fellowship. The office is in a really nice high rise on the 16th floor, not but a short ten minute walk from my apartment. There are a lot of little food stands with some strange offerings on the way, so I’ll try to go through most of them on my way to work in the morning. As of now, I’m responsible for helping organize two conferences in September for mid-level government officials on low carbon smart urban growth? Exciting, I know. But if anyone’s interested, you can read about some of the cool stuff we’re working on

Lastly, I had a surprise visit from the Yale lightweight crew team last night, as they were finishing up a race here in Beijing. It was good to see Grunky and Jhop again, and the rest of the team proved to be really fun as well. A trip to the Silk Market was an exercise in patience and haggling prowess, and once again, Phillip Yang emerged victorious. Purses, shoes, shirts, ties, scarves, even a leather jacket (none of which was…actually purchased by me). All haggled down to a quarter of asking price. Just exhausting.

Afterwards, we walked down to Wangfujing, the night market area of Beijing where street vendors will literally cook anything that moves. Again, I couldn’t grab pictures (but i’ll steal some from the crew boys later to post), but last night’s menu included scorpion, snake meat, starfish, lizard, and sheep testicles. And to wash it all down, some of the local moonshine, innocently known as baijiu (or white liquor). It’s firewater swill.

The otherwise fantastic evening came to a sobering conclusion with a stark reminder that, yes, this is still China. In front of myself, 12 some six foot tall crew boys, and a crowd of other foreign tourists, a homeless man was dragged along the floor from the alley by his collar by two men and shoved into a giant police bus. And I kid you not, proceeded to be beat with nightsticks in the bus as it drove away. And as if that weren’t the most upsetting part of it all, we were the only ones in the crowd who seemed to be bothered by the whole disturbance. My guess is that he was being homeless in a touristy area, and refused to leave after being asked by authorities to do so. Fucked up yeah?


Struggles and Adventures Galore

31 07 2010

Oh wow Beijing, you’re really giving me mixed signals. It’s been a roller coaster of a 48 hrs with varying results.

Day one was strange. Jet lag has been kicking my ass, and so early mornings and the 8 PM collapse of all bodily functions has been difficult to deal with. There are a lot of things that bother me already about the city. It takes literally forever to get anywhere here, whether you’re walking, busing, or; the latter two being an issue of over crowding. I didn’t think it was possible to be physically touched by so many people at the same time, but rest assured, it is. The air quality is as advertised, terrible terrible terrible. Every day is a different shade of gray, and as death cab for cutie as that may sound, the skies have been as varied as pavement to steel. And of course, the adjustment period that comes with moving to a new city post-college promises a degree of isolation (unless you moved to New York…). And while I had tried to prepare myself to really deal with this, it’s the combination of loneliness and absolute lack of personal space the city allows you that has me frustrated.

But anyway, I was resolute in fighting the oncoming doldrums, and decided get to some of the sightseeing business out of the way to remain active and upbeat. So at 6 in the morning, I hauled my ass out of my  apartment, and took the bus (yes mother, the bus) to Jingshan Park. This turned out to be a GREAT decision, because with it being both ridiculously early and a Saturday, I was able to catch one of the greatest spectacles China has to offer. Old people in the park. It’s a veritable summer camp for the geriatrics, and the activities are many. For your viewing pleasure, I’ve compiled my favorites into a little video below* with short explanations to alleviate any confusion.

1.) The Swing your Arms and Yell station. Reserved for only the laziest of the elderly, I wish I could say this was the most abrasive of them…
2.) This guy was actually the sweetest. The Chinese version of the hackey sack is three coins tied together with a giant feather on top. It requires a lot less Phish, and a lot more ballerina legs.
3.) Singing in unison while walking in a circle. I was invited to join in, but my inability to do both at the same time would have shamed this collective.
4.) Know your face station. This one’s all about self-discovery.
5.) Listen, I can’t explain this. And neither can you.
6.) And last but not least, the harmonica orchestra? Armed with microphones, a two man percussion section, and the dancing queen in the middle, you could literally hear them on the other side of a multiple acre park.

Below, stock photos of the parks.

Afterwards, I met up with Comrade Aaron and Comrade Gang, both of who will be shipping off soon to Anhui China to teach the glorious language of English to the countryside. After visits to the clothe making emporium and arguably the world’s largest bookstore, the eventful and exhausting day is winding down. I’m fighting the jetlag with all of might, but I think a back massage is in order. Until next time.


*note: this was very difficult, because it is China. And they still hate youtube.

Touchdown in Beijingtown

29 07 2010

So after 20 hrs. of travel, yours truly is finally in the heart of Chinasty. The flight over was fairly uneventful, had an entire row to myself to sleep on. Watched a Zac Effron movie. Needless to say, I already miss the comforts of home and the family. Below is a picture that should’ve been taken months ago, but was put off until hours before I left.

Also, skymall has pointed me to my next christmas present. 8 ft. tall Anubis statue? Yes please.

I arrived here close to 11:30 in the evening. In someways, China is like Texas with things being on an unnecessarily large scale. I had to take a commuter train from my gate to the baggage claim in the airport. Even at 1 in the morning, you get the overwhelming sense that this a huge fucking city.

For the next month at least, I will be staying in the apartment of a friend of a friend. Everyone has been extremely nice in helping me settle in, but have you ever had a 80 year old roommate? Another check off the bucket list. He was asleep by the time I got in, but rest assured, there will be plenty of wild times and all night ragers thrown here…

As of now, my digs. Simple, i know. But you what you can’t see is the calendar of Chinese calligraphy depicting two squirrels fighting over a nut. From 2008. Bachelor pad much? That and they were nice enough to lay down some bamboo bed slats, because you know, its 105 degrees here in Beijing.

I suppose that’s all for now. Jetlag is kicking my ass, but no worries. I have a date with some duty free Chivas Regal to help me with that. Also, for those interested, my China cell phone number is 13520092810, just in case any of you happen to be in Beijing or want to make a long distance skype call. Until next time.