Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Election Party

I have been quite busy over the past month. I gave a talk at the Fulbright Alumni conference, a talk at BNU and traveled to Chongqing to give a few talks at Southwest University. One of the highlights of recent weeks was the election party held at a swanky hotel by the embassy. There was a large crowd of people from all over the globe and CNN was being broadcast on two huge screens. The crowd was varied but I think mostly hoping Obama would be the next president. Several people got emotional when Obama gave his speech and this historic election finally came to a close.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Back in Town - The Great Wall

I did not drown in the Yangtze or disappear in the labyrinth of Beijing. .. I am back. Although I am working through my second cold. This one is run of the mill sniffles but please keep your fingers crossed that this will be the last for a while.

The weather has turned a little chilly and we have had some beautiful blue days. One of those lovely days I spent at the Great Wall.

I went with an enormous group of Beijing Normal students (about 14 buses) and one of them is a really sweet girl whose western name is Emily. The bus ride took about two hours and I did not bring enough snacks to eat so I paid way to much for a banana on top of the Great Wall. Emily is a good sport who tried to teach me some Chinese on the ride.

Of course the pictures convey very little of the grandeur of the experience but it is better than nothing.

Can you see little me up on the parapets? Just one over from the last one on the right.

This is probably one of my favorite pictures.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

On Hoilday

The entire country takes a one week holiday so I will be going on a Yangtze river cruise with some other Fulbrighters. I will be back in touch after October 3rd and classes will resume.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I am sorry to say that both Olympics have ended which is a little sad. The Paralympics were fun to watch on the TV and especially in person. Also, all the really helpful volunteers will no longer be present to answer questions. They were a very reassuring sight and even if they did not know where such and such was they sure did try.

I went to three different events. The first was Judo which was picked rather randomly with the tickets that were available. It turned out to be a great choice becuase it was at one of the smaller venues and we got to see the medal ceremony. The atheletes were visually impaired and the goal was to get your opponent on the ground.

The event was especially exciting because we were next to a group of French fans who had to out shout a whole stadium full of people chanting CHINA! The female gold medal match was between France and China. Very exciting!

This man was posted to keep the rowdy French contingent in line. He was not entirely successful and is watching the match on the huge screen above our heads.
None of my pictures of the actual atheletes came out very well. They just sort of look like people shaped dots. So I decided not to post them.

The next event was on the Olympic green which (guess what) is enormous. I mean humungous. The tennis courts were at the top of the green and there were several preliminary matches going on simultaneously. The atheletes in their special wheelchairs were fast and powerful.

The last even I attended was in the Bird's Nest. Would you believe it is smaller than it looks on TV? Well, if you believe that then I have a bridge I would love to sell you. It is like a cathedral of smooth steel. The vastness of it is breathtaking.

The family pictured is at the very base of the Bird's Nest which gives you a little idea of the size.
The cultural awareness for people with all kinds of disabilities was heartening. I am not sure how the infrastructure will permanently adapt to these changes but at least it is a major start. For instance machines in subway stations to move wheelchairs up stairs and brail on handrails. The covereage was also quite extensive and interesting.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Some Tourist Spots

Well. there has been a break in my blog updates but I have a good reason. No, I have not been teaching classes yet, instead I was sick with a virus. The symptoms were different everyday like a not fun surprise every morning. But I think I am on the mend (knock on wood). Seriously, I am superstitious and need good thoughts so I don't get sick for a while.

Before I got sick I visited a Bhuddist temple and the Forbidden City. This is a very lovely series of temples (Yonghe Lama Temple) and many people were burning incense and praying. The street is lined with stores selling incense and other Bhuddist items.

The approach to the Forbidden City which was the residence of the Emperors. It was first built between 1406 and 1420 and remained off limits to any commoners for 500 years. This is basically a city within a city. I know I keep saying that everything in Beijing is big. But really, this is absolutely enormous.

This is just one of many buildings that make up the central axis of the Forbidden City. There is a long walk once you pass under the huge picture of Mao and before you get to the gates of the palace. It is hard to say how long the walk is because you are maneouvering around about 5 bazillion other tourists and dodging "helpful" tour guides. ie scam artists.

The picture of the rooftops is the closest thing I came to an "artsy" shot. The tiles on the roof glinted gold in the weak (although very hot) sunlight and contrasted nicely with the scafolding in the murky distance.

Just one of the many galleries contained within the complex is a clock museum. These amazing objects are covered with jewels and all sorts of precious objects but this one was my favorite. Please read the description below. They had a few clocks that they would wind up twice a day so you got some sense of their movement and sound.

I went with some Fulbright friends to a restaurant that was really very lovely. None of my outdoor pictures came out well in the dark but the complex of buildings was once the home of a high official and there were many little gardens and red lanterns. The waitresses and waiters wear "traditional" clothing and the whole effect is impressive if also kitschy.

As many of you know I have been a vegetarian for about 20 years but I was really tempted to return to being a carnivore with these tasty items on the menu. (I really hope the Deer Dish is an awkward translation and not what it says in English)

That wraps up this installment. I spend half the time, while putting the blog together, trying to line up the text and picture. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. Any tips?

One of my classes starts on September 22. So keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Beijing Metro

When you see this map I bet you say, "Wow, this looks like a piece of cake!" Actually the subway is the easiest thing to navigate in the city. (Much easier than the grocery store) I put an X approximately where Beijing Normal University sits between lines 2 and the brand new line 10. To walk to the train (Jishuitan) takes approximately 15 minutes at New Yorker speed. Or you can wait for a bus. Everything in Beijing is bigger and more spread out than you could imagine in your wildest dreams

The trains are all marked with a map of the train route and usually a voice reads out the stops in English and Chinese. There are also video monitors that repeatedly play what I would characterize as Olympic music videos.

You can cross from train car to train car seemlessly.

There is of course much subway advertising geared toward the Olympics. NOtice how the Coke mirrors the atheletes event.

Here I am in one air conditioned station. I have not gotten lost yet on the train but the trouble starts when you try to decide which exit to come out of. They are typically marked A, B, C, D. And if you get out at the wrong one then good luck becuase the intersection is almost always criss crossed with eight lane highways that you cannot see around.

Anyway, Blogs to come are the Paralympics and the Forbidden City.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Beijing - Getting settled

Well, I am gradully learning my way around. This post is mainly to show some pictures. On my second day I went to Ikea. And I love Ikea. The apartment was in sore need of some color.

This is an absolutely random appearance of the Transformer icons. I took this while I was lost and trying to find a vegetarian restaurant. After asking several people I never did find it but stumbled across another cafe.
The Paralympics start soon and I am going to try and get tickets to among other things Wheelchair Rugby aka Muder Ball.

The cafeteria in Ikea. And yes they do serve Swedish meatballs at this Ikea.

I like the air quality sign. Although the effort is appreciated I am more worried about the air OUTSIDE. Although on my second or third day there was a nice rain storm and after that the air smelled relatively fresh.

So here are the results of my shopping excursion. (The fun items anyway) There were also things like pots, pans, hangers, extension cords etc. .. Notice groovy lamp and pillows. And of course no home of mine would be complete without a box of tissues.

I got together with another Fulbright family and we had a really lovely day that started with Western style brunch, included a trip to a beautiful park (Ritan Park) near all the embassies, and ended with a hectic trip to carre four which is next to wal mart.

Yum! Steak and Eggs. They had waffles.

This is me riding a horse that would be an excellent exercise machine. It really works the thigh muscles.

This is a subway sign. I am so glad we can import the VERY BEST of our culture. I also passed a Hooters at one point but was too tired to take out the camera.