Ends and Beginnings

21 08 2011

My life has been moving at a breakneck pace over the past two weeks. I feel a bit scattered as to how the best way to go about explaining the series of events, but I guess the best way to start would be chronological. It’s worth the read through, I promise, as it all comes together for the big reveal…

So our journey begins in Shenzhen about a week and a half ago as I had another visa run to take care of. Shenzhen is literally a footbridge walk away from Hong Kong, and crossing the border meant not getting deported, fined, and hassled. I’d only planned on staying for a day, and the plane ride back was exorbitantly expensive. Instead, I opted to take the 23 hr. train ride back to Beijing, which would’ve proved taxing as is. But…I had to get a last minute ticket, which meant no seat. Yes, no assigned seating for a 23 hr. journey. I boarded the train, and quickly claimed myself a tiny, 3 ft. by 3 ft. nook behind a swinging door, and nested myself down amongst traveling farmers and migrant laborers.


Crowded is an understatement. Huddled masses sprawled across every available square inch. I went 23 hrs. without eating or using the bathroom, as leaving your seating area would guarantee you a miserable, standing remainder of the trip. The cabin was poorly ventilated, and like everywhere in China, there was always a contingency of squatting Chinese guys chain smoking in the corner. In my tiny nook, I had two fellow travelers at different points in the evening: Mr. Ma and Wang Peng.

Mr. Ma was traveling back to his hometown in Changsha when he asked if he could squeeze into my seating area. It’s funny how quickly you’re willing to share life stories when cramped into such a small area with a shirtless migrant worker…Mr. Ma used to be a pig farmer until the 2004 Swine Flu Epidemic saw 3,000 of his pigs slaughtered by order of the local provincial government. Two years later, the government (forcibly) bought the 6 hectares of land his family had owned for over 200 years for a measly 300,000 RMB (less than 50k US). He now travels from province to province finding odd jobs to pay for his wife, 2 kids in college, and 4 parentals living with him. When asked if he thought the government had treated him fairly, he just kinda shrugged his shoulders and said, “That’s life in the Middle Kingdom.”


After Mr. Ma got off at Changsha, a big 6’3″ Wang Peng came stumbling in and asked if he could share my sitting area, to which I reluctantly said yes. The already tiny compartment became almost suffocatingly small, but luckily, he turned out to be wildly entertaining company. At this point, we were ten hours into our trip, and I was slowly becoming delirious from dehydration, exhaustion, and stress. But the cheery Wang Peng was a character…Guy was obsessed with Harry Potter, and would recite lines in a terrible English accent from the movies. His love in life was Peking Opera, and had a real dainty showmanship characteristic about him. He was extremely opinionated, and had a general deep running distrust of anything government related. He was so distressed by the recent train fiasco that he got one of his engineering friends to make him a universal train key that could unlock all doors on any train (it worked…)

Anyway, I made it to Beijing in one piece eventually. It’s hard for me to say that there was any positive aspect from that train ride, as it was easily the most uncomfortable experience of my entire life. But my god it makes for a great story. And it was an opportunity to see and experience the China narrative first hand. An hour before this epic train ride, however, I got word that I had gotten a new job in Shanghai.

I’ll be working for a London based carbon credit trading firm called Climate Bridge in Shanghai for at least the next year (possibly two). I’ll primarily be occupied with researching and identifying potential clean and renewable energy projects here in China for European based firms to buy and invest carbon credits from. I’m super excited to be getting back to the pearl of the orient, as its been 2 years since I’ve spent any real significant time there. But I’m super sad to be leaving Beijing behind, and all the friends and memorable experiences that I’ve made as well. It’s been one hell of a year, and I can’t imagine having a better first post collegiate experience than the one I’ve been given. I’ll be back every now and again, so its not a forever kind of goodbye. Until next time…

Oh, and I’m not changing the name of the blog. I like the ring of it.

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Phillip Yang and the Interrogation Room of Despair

12 07 2011

I want more than anything to write about the awesome things that have been happening over the past three weeks. We had a rave on a decommissioned Soviet aircraft carrier. I had a beautiful visit from the Menchaca family from Shanghai. And I recently spent an amazing 72 hours in Tokyo. But that’s all going to have to wait and take a back seat now, because we’ve got more pressing issues. I’m interspersing the storytelling with unrelated, happy pictures, so as to alleviate the ridiculousness of the situation being presented.

So let’s not go into too many details or too much finger pointing, and just call it like it is. A few weeks back, I found out that I had overstayed my Chinese visa by a whole 12 days (again, no finger pointing, but I promise it wasn’t my fault). After being reprimanded many many times, and having to deal with weeks of interrogations and trips to the visa bureau, I was finally allowed to leave for my scheduled trip. When I say interrogations, I’m talking basic background screenings, windowless rooms, and plenty of “without law, China is nothing” rhetoric. My excursion to Japan was beautiful, fantastic, weird, and a much needed vacation. I promise that an extensive account of the trip will follow extremely soon.

But upon my return to China, I realized that my visa nightmare was just taking a little vacation, and came back to kick me really hard in the ass. Essentially, without informing me or properly giving me the appropriate notices (again, not pointing fingers…), the visa bureau decided to void my running visa while I was in Japan. Meaning…I essentially arrived in China without a functioning visa. And of course the Middle Kingdom’s response?

Get out. Now.

Yeah, I got deported. Straight up, shameless, get the hell out within the next 12 hrs. They wanted to send me back to Japan, but I somehow got them to let up a little and send me to Hong Kong instead (cheaper ticket, cheaper standard of living, faster visa response). So having left Tokyo at 7 in the morning, I arrived in the muggy, humid Hong Kong evening more than 14 hrs. later. It’s good to have friends across the world, and luckily Saint SpencerSherwin was able to house this poor soul and be kind enough to even show him around. This will get sorted out, and China will have the laugh for now. But without sounding like a vengeful hooligan or an amateur terrorist, mark my words. These slights against me will not be forgotten, and they certainly won’t be forgiven. I am alive and well, however. Don’t be too angry mom, love you.





How Kenny Rogers Saved THANKSGIVING

29 11 2010

I love the holidays. There isn’t a thing I don’t love about the holidays. Thanksgiving just so happens to be my favorite of holidays, so much in fact, that it’s often referred to as YANGSgiving. Unfortunately, this is the first Thanksgiving I have ever spent away from home and the family. And as such, I was going to do everything within my power to have a proper one away from home, and there was really nothing that was going to stand in the way of me doing so. Not even the great nation of China. This is a story of trials and tribulations, of blood and sweat, and of heroes born from the most unlikely of places. This is the story…of Thanksgiving.

So there were a few very big obstacles China decided to throw in the path of our successful Thanksgiving experience. For starters, there were no days off allotted to us, as the government demands that every day be a day of thanks to modernity of the Middle Kingdom. So there had to be intensive prep work done to get dinner started in a timely manner. Secondly, the Chinese don’t particularly care for the turkey bird, as I’ve been told they are convinced that the turkey is only as large as it is because it has been genetically modified to feed all the fat Americans (no joke). This means I had to sprint to what arguably might have been the last market with turkeys left the night before because my butcher thought I just wanted a really large chicken.

The last of said obstacles was to be the hardest to overcome. There are many things that the everyday Chinese household still lacks: drying machines, dishwashers, a general conception of personal space, and ovens. For you see, the Chinese don’t eat freshly baked cookies or grandma’s casseroles, let alone whole 16 pound turkeys. There are a few who have had ovens installed, but in utilizing one of these rare ovens, I would have had to share my Thanksgiving with an English satellite friend, one who is nice enough, but has terrible friends. So what were we to do…? In comes my saint.

This is Kenny Rogers. You might know him as one of America’s most beloved country singers, the man behind 21 hit number one singles, and winner of the 1986 USA Today  “Favorite Singer of All-Time” award. What you might not know is that Kenny Rogers is also the father of an extremely successful chain of rotisserie chicken restaurants all across Asia. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Yes, that’s right. We somehow convinced Kenny Rogers Roasters to allows us to slow roast our turkey in their giant rotisserie oven. How? That sounds ridiculous? That’s because it is ridiculous. That’d be like me walking into a Boston Market and asking them if I could use their oven to roast my Peking duck. They’d be like, take your raw duck and get the hell out of here. BUT KENNY ROGERS IS GOOD PEOPLE. Oh and it came out fantastic. We managed all the other dressings quite well, but the turkey was beautifully done. All that you see below was done by your’s truly (except the beetcake, that was Roth).

Never give up on Thanksgiving, because Thanksgiving will never give up on you. Next time you’re in Beijing Kenny, hit me up, I owe you one. Until next time.





Asthma from the Future and the Return of DRE

20 11 2010

The past few days have been pretty wonky. I’m still fighting off the illness that refuses to die (although it seems to be reaching its tail end at this point), which hasn’t helped me in getting over my now week long battle with jetlag. Life is funny when you sleep in…four hour increments for a week. It’s helped to rediscover what it feels like to be a hermit, developing strange daily habits that can really only come about by living by yourself for a period of time. Like ordering McDonald’s delivery at 6 in the morning and you’re starving and there’s nothing in the house to eat and its too cold to take your sickly corpse outside to forage for food. Strangeeee indeed.

On a side note, my australian counterpart, Nick Bartz, kindly pointed out that the new Dre album is dropping soon. And while he’ll claim that he “called it”, there’s really no doubt this album’s going to be huge. I Need a Doctor has leaked, and its really good. “Get up Dre, I’m dying, I need you for fuck’s sake.” It’s a sentiment we’ve all shared slim.

We’ve also had a tiny little preview of what the post-apocalyptic world will be like here in Beijing, with air quality and pollution indexes jumping out the roof. We’re talking a thick layer of smog that you can smell, taste, and visibly see surround you. It was so bad that it permeated the subway, making it a veritable underground asthma chamber. Beijing’s tallest building is the Fortune Plaza, sitting at a modest 63 stories. Usually, from our corner of the street, you’d be able to see it looming in the distance no problem . But during smog-pocalypse, it was nowhere to be seen…

And how does one go about dealing with this pollution? The simplest option is to just not go outside. Granted, we don’t have a nice sharper image ionic breeze air purifying system here, but at least the windows are closed. Eventually, however, basic necessities force you out. Like food. Or bodily movement. Or just social interaction. So you resort to looking like this to prevent from sucking too down much particulate matters.

No, I am not sent from the future to assassinate Emperor Morimoto. I just wanna breathe.

Thanksgiving is slowly approaching, and celebrating my favorite holiday in China might prove challenging. For one, there aren’t ovens here, so recreating some of the staple favorites will take a level of creativity. That and Chinese people don’t really dig turkey, as they find it bland, tough, and flavorless. But I’ve already talked to my butcher downstairs, and he says he can get me a good live one the day before so all is well in that department. Regardless, tradition and holiday spirit shall prevail in one tasty, fell swoop. Tune in next time for the festivities.

 





My Fingernails are Spicy

12 08 2010

We’re reaching another exciting weekend here in Beijing, and things are starting to look up for Phillip (in Beijing). Routine is the comfort of life, and there’s a degree of normalcy that’s starting to exist. Between work (which is great), eating (which is consistently awesome), and downtime (how fucked up has true blood been lately?), I’ve had a bevy of friends passing through town from time to time. Showing them around has been a great opportunity for me to learn the city, and seeing familiar faces is always welcome.

After spending the past few days cavorting around Beijing, my friends Karlin and Mari-e spent their final night in Beijing with me before they shipped off to vacation in Shanghai. I took them to Wangfujing (street food night market), but this time, came away with some pictures to show you what we’re dealing with exactly.

Afterwards, we went to go and get some proper food on Gui Jie, or GHOST STREET. The whole street is covered in hanging red lanterns, so its kinda creepy I guess. What’s scarier are the throngs of 400 pound chinese gangsters with mohawks and call girl arm candy that frequented the street….but anyway, we ended up going to a place that serves up spicy crawfish. That’s right, crawfish in China.

You have to put these little surgeon gloves on to make sure the spicy doesnt rub all over your hands and stuff (fail), and there’s not enough meat to warrant the effort…but it’s a food that goes well with friends and beer. After some hugs and goodbyes, it was back to the apartment to tackle the next big hurdle in the China experience.

Laundry. Luckily the apartment has a washer, but dryers in China are far and few between. I was warned that the side of the building my window is on is often frequented by black birds who like to shit on everything, so hanging my clothes out the window seemed to be…not worth the possible repercussions. So this is what I came up with.

Yes mother, I sent my dress clothes to a cleaner. No mother, I don’t care if my clothes dry funny and wrinkle in strange places. Until next time.

phillip





This is your (immediate) future

6 08 2010

So I’ve officially been here for a week. And its been a hard week, full of little victories and continuing defeats.

Victories:

– After a few slow days at work, I finally got some actual, tangible work. The people in the office are extremely nice, and its been great walking around the area and sampling some of the eateries around here. *UPDATE!* here

– I’ve managed to somewhat figure out the subway system, to the point where I don’t stand there staring at the map trying to figure out which direction to go for a good 15 minutes.

– McDonald’s is half price off after 10 PM and is open 24 hrs.

Defeats:

– Being alone really sucks. I guess it inherently sucks, but it sucks even more here in China. I’m not even talking about the fact that you’re constantly surrounded by people you don’t know, or the how strange it feels not to be able to talk to someone in English. But like, for instance, meals here in China. After a while, you get tired of eating noodles and dumplings, and you want to order actual dishes. But there’s NO WAY you can finish more than one by yourself, and eating just one defeats the whole purpose of Chinese food. It’d be like having just french fries for dinner.

– The internet is a constant battle that tests both my patience and my steady hand not to destroy everything around me. Whether or at work or at home, the internet, while existent, is ungodly slow. Forget watching movies online, if I can check my email with reasonable timing, then that’s a good day.

– Like, seriously China, the staring has to stop. It’s turned from a novelty to kind of irritating. Yeah, I’ve got strange hair. Ok, my jeans are a little tight. No, I don’t want to lift up my shirt because it’s hot and my belly needs to breathe (no joke). But really, get over it. Using English on a subway car is like being in some weird post apocalyptic dystopia, and you’ve just alerted the hive mind that you’re not one of them by showing emotion. Or something.

Anyway, enough complaining for now. Beijing has been clear and sunny for the last two days, and that should be something worth appreciating. My FOOT leader and his girlfriend are coming to visit China…tomorrow, and so that will be a nice reunion of old friends. Oh, and for pictures, I’ve managed to get my hands on some pictures from the aforementioned pot luck below from Lizzie. I can’t promise you that this will be the last time I will appear shirtless on here, which may or may not be to your benefit, depending.

Also, if you need some new frequencies to listen to , I’d highly suggest the new Arcade Fire album, The Suburbs. It’s been on heavy repeat here for me, and probably my favorite album of the year. First track posted here. Until next time.

phillip