Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Elelator Go Down the Hole

There are a dozen things that I've thought "oh, I've got to post about this..." but I've been so busy with work that I haven't had a chance to. Plus, we just moved the past couple days, into our new place! Pictures are coming soon.

Right now I'm at an internet cafe near one of the schools I teach at; I'm surrounded by World of Warcraft players...haha. I've been teaching at English summer camps like crazy. Most days last week I left the house at 7:15 and didn't get back until after 10.

Saturday, I taught my usual classes in the morning, and then summer camp in the afternoon. After my first class, I had a 40 minute break so I went out to the lobby to buy a bottle of water. (I had been by the school earlier in the week and while waiting for a meeting, I watched 10 Chinese guys try and move this vending machine into the corner. Needless to say, there was a lot of yelling involved.) But the water at the vending machine was 2 yuan (about .30 cents). I figured I could save myself 1 yuan by going downstairs, so I headed out to the elevator.

On the ride down, I was the only person in the elevator, which is unusual. We went down about 4 floors when suddenly the elevator lurched--that is to say, dropped, about 3-5 feet. The lights went off, and I was left standing in the dark. After about 30 seconds, the lights flickered back on, and the LEDs indicating the floor changed from 5 to JU. I'm still not really sure what JU means, but at the time, it didn't sound good. After a couple minutes, the doors opened onto the 5th floor. At this point, the water upstairs sounded mighty tempting, so I headed back up.

Looking back on it, I feel as if I went through some kind of strange urban Chinese rite of passage. And I passed, since the whole experience was really quite run of the mill for me. I guess I just wasn't that surprised that the elevator would randomly malfunction and just perfunctorily drop me off at the next floor. It all happened so fast; I just shrugged and went back upstairs. Ahhhh...China, how we love you.

By way of news, we're doing well. Last night was our first night at the new place, which was exciting. Since Marilyn's done with her class, I'm counting on her to post up a nice 360 degree virtual tour of the place. English camp has been interesting; some of the students are angry when they find out I don't speak Chinese...but I've had some really neat chances to naturally share with the students some of my own story. I'm working up a rhythm on how to get the students interested; I've never played so much hangman or 20 questions in my life...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

On Loneliness

So, I (Marilyn) actually wrote this post 2 weeks ago, and hesitated to post it because I thought it sounded too melodramatic. But, Josh says I should post it, so here goes:

Josh left for his second day of teaching this morning at 8:30am. As I lay in bed trying to decide whether to go back to sleep or do something productive, I got the urge to read Genesis, starting, well, from the beginning.

There's something about Genesis that really gets to me. Maybe it's the thought of such monumental things happening to such small (groups of) people. Or maybe it's the idea that God would make Adam go through and name all the animals before bringing him Eve, the only being he could talk to and listen to. And then there's the fact that everything just keeps getting messed up, even if it started at perfection. As I read the first several chapters, I was struck by a sense of loneliness that seemed to hover over the narrative, like dew over the world's first grass.

I'm never sure where the loneliness is coming from: Adam and Eve? Cain? Noah? Maybe the Lord himself? Does God get lonely? yes and no...?

Since Josh and I have been moving around a bunch since last May, something about the loneliness in Genesis was resonating with me. Funny thing is, most of the time I don't realize that that's what I'm feeling. There have been tons of things to think about as we've dealt with all the changes we've been floating through: grad school, tuition, student loans, housing, visas, healthcare, income, thesis, career, family, community, food, cold, hot, mosquitoes...to name a few.

Underneath this mess of concerns that are pretty simple to take care of in the broad scheme of things, sits a little knot in my stomach that I've had a hard time untangling. And now, I'm pretty sure I know what it is: I feel like a very small, insignificant person in a very big, overwhelming place. And most of the people I care about (and who care about me) are very, very far away. Thus, I am lonely.

I guess this is where I stopped, because I felt stupid. It does sound a little melodramatic, doesn't it? But, I've been thinking about it a lot and I've decided that sometimes loneliness is a beautiful thing. I'm glad there are people in my life that I love so much it hurts to be apart from them.

And I'm proud of Josh and myself for being vulnerable to this sort of pain, even if we are moving around a lot. I guess we could just close in on ourselves and not bother making new friends because we know we're leaving soon. Instead, like the little fools that we are, we keep falling in love with new friends knowing we'll have to miss them in a short while.

Maybe this is a good time to post this because the Beijing Film Academy program I've been part of is now ending. We started some good friendships here, and hopefully we'll be able to keep in touch. But I'm a little sad that the Beijing we were getting to know for the past month is now dismantling, and as we move to our new apartment it will be yet another transition, and we'll have to make new friends all over again.

I hope I don't sound like I'm complaining. Josh and I are really grateful to have this opportunity, and excited about life here and the adventures we'll have over the next several months. Sometimes I just get a little mopey and sentimental is all. But you guys knew that about me already. :)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Eaten...A List

Here's a list of a few of the things we've tried so far:

Not bad, actually. A stringier version of beef.

Bull Frog
For those of you well acquainted with French cuisine, frog must be nothing out of the ordinary for you, but I, on the other hand, do not see food when I look at our amphibian friend. Marilyn says it tastes like chicken and fish; for that is what it is. The frog was served in a mini-wok on top of a flame, but somehow I picked up the piece on top which was both anatomically unrecognizable and cold, an extremely unpleasant combination.

Congealed Blood
I've always thought this particular item was a terrible idea for food. I can think of choice few foods that would benefit from 'congellation,' and blood is certainly not one of them. I actually didn't know what this was at the time, and we were at a nice dinner with family friends, so as it kept appearing on my plate, I just ate without asking any questions. It looked like the Sichuan style fish served with all the peppers and oil; except it had the texture of...well, congealed blood.

Assorted Livers
I'm sure some of you paté-philes out there have no qualms whatsoever about eating all manner of liver. But, again, the texture really gets to me. It looks solid, but you don't so much bite it as smush it around in your mouth.

Cow Tongue
Ahh...the food that tastes you back.

All in all, it's actually a pretty tame list. I've avoided most insects, arachnids, and larvae, and would prefer to keep it so. There's some people in the program who are interested in trying dog, so I may go with them. I've had it before and it tasted like spam, but other people who've had it tell me it's actually quite tasty. I'll try and update the list as we try more exotic stuff.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Only in China II (A Real Estate Story)

Since Marilyn and I have to move out of the dorms on the 27th, we've been frantically looking for a place to live for the year. However, with the shadow of the Olympics loming overhead, finding a decent place to live has proved quite difficult. Thankfully, yesterday, with the help of a family friend, we might have found something, but first, the bad news.

On Sunday, Marilyn and I saw our first place. We met the realtor at the subway station and then walked over to meet some of his realtor friends at a highrise. When we arrived, the place was clearly still under construction, as workers were busily coming and going with planks, drywall, etc. We stepped into an elevator that was still lined with wood. The apartment was a small, supposedly brand new, studio for about $440usd. As we walked in, another realtor was lying asleep on the bed (most apartments in China come furnished). When one of the 4 realtors standing around kicked the sleeping realtor's foot, he groggily sat up and stared blearily out the window. We didn't want to be too picky, but the place was clearly put up in a hurry, as the floor wasn't done properly, and the bathroom seemed like a bit of an afterthought. Our real estate warned us this was the best he could find, but we left, deciding to hold out for better.

Needless to say, the process thus far had been a bit traumatic for us. So, when we had dinner that night with one of Marilyn's parent's friends and his family, they offered to help us look. After dinner, as the daughter (who we'll call Jiejie) and her husband were walking us back to the bus stop, we passed a row of real estate shops. I made the mistake of checking the listings in the window; a realtor was immediately by my side rapidly speaking to me in Chinese. Marilyn, Jiejie, and her husband stopped and came back to ask the realtor some questions. After some discussion, the realtor offered to take us to a place nearby. We arrived at a decent looking, albeit poorly lit, apartment complex. One of the realtor's coworkers dropped off the key on his bike and waited downstairs as we headed up. We step out of the elevator into almost pitch black darkness. Apparently, all the hall lights in apartment buildings are on a roughly 3 second motion/sound sensor, so you play this game of: dark, stomp/clap/dance, light, dark, stomp/clap/dance, light. Anyway, so we're stomping and waving our arms while the realtor puts the key in the door. Immediately, from inside the apartment, we hear someone banging on the door yelling, "Who's there??????" An older Chinese lady opens the door, grabs the key, and starts yelling at the realtor, who yells back. I have no idea what's going on (later I find out that the old lady says she's the owner and she never left her key with the real estate office), but Jiejie quickly herds us back into the elevator and we leave. As we're leaving, the realtor calls Jiejie's cell phone and says it's okay to come back, it was just a misunderstanding. However, when we get back, the lady's gone and no one will answer the door. The motion sensor's going on and off, the lights are flickering, and we're peering down a dark staircase, with no idea what just happened. As we leave, the realtor runs to her coworker on a bike and tells him, "Did you see an old lady come down the stairs??? Go get her! She took the key!"

We're still not really sure what happened, but we think that the old lady might have been a squatter or an evictee or something, pretending to be the owner so she could take the key back...

The whole experience was cinematic and surreal, like some kind of episode out of the Twilight Zone. I'll let Marilyn tell you about the place we did like, but for now, you get the crazy Only in China real estate story.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Head, Shoulders, Knees, and...a Job

Well, it certainly looks like the Only in China series will be a popular one. For those of you who've been to the Big Red, feel free to submit your own by email. We'll give you due credit if we add it to the list.

So last week I had an interview with one of the top English training centers. During the course of the interview, my interviewee asked me to pretend that I was teaching a class of 6 year olds. She put her head down on the desk and began complaining that she was tired. The role play was a major crash and burn, with my brief lesson on tall animals being boring and underwhelming. She gave me another shot, so I awkwardly sang "How much is that doggy in the window?" to her. As I left, I was pretty confident I'd never hear from her again.

When she called earlier this week, I was shocked. Maybe I hadn't crashed and burned as badly as I'd thought. Hmm, or maybe no other foreigners can't get visas, so I'm all they've got. Either way, my interviewer informed me that I'd be meeting with her supervisor and should prepare a demo again for her and some of the teachers. I racked my brain for something to demo, finally coming up with: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. Except I couldn't remember how it went. So I went to Youtube to do some research. The first video I pulled up was The Wiggles, but kept freezing. Maybe the 'Great Firewall' was too creeped out by the pychedelics.

That's when I spotted this little gem farther down the list:

Cartoon Bono did a wonderful job of reteaching me this classic tune. Duly armed, I proceeded to my interview, humming the tune so I wouldn't forget it. When the time came to sing, I ended up accidentally changing the rhythm, but they seemed to like it. Though, I was worried, since they already knew the song, so I didn't have the the surprise factor I was counting on. The rest of the interview seemed to go well, though, so I thought I might have a chance.

Yesterday, I got a call from the supervisor. She asked me to come by the center to talk about scheduling, so I went, not sure what to expect. When I arrived, she handed me a schedule with classes starting the following day (today!) and asked me if I could start right away. I was slightly taken aback because I'm used to a little more communication when accepting a job offer, that and some training, but I agreed...

So I taught my first three classes this morning! It was a little rough; the students were a bit shy. But, I'm looking forward to the experience. And I can't wait to teach these kids the U2 version of Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes...these kids have no idea what they're getting into!

PS: One of the boys in my first class had chosen Harry Potter as his English name. Another had chosen Nemo. hehe.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Only in China...(I)

So, we decided that there is so much amazing randomness in China, we must document it diligently for our loyal readers back home. That's you!

Thus begins an intermittent mini-series in our blog that will be titled "Only in China..." We will follow each title with things you can really only find in China. What kinds of things, you ask? Oh, you'll see.

We'll start with some easy ones. Here goes!

Only in China...

can you buy puppies in a box on the street.

Yours for only 200RMB (less than $30USD, which I might remind you is also just a starting point for bargaining). It's so tempting...

And only in China can you buy "baijiu" liquor (one of our friends here described it as vodka's gangster uncle) in a plastic bag. Looks kind of like an IV bag...

Yours for only 3.5 RMB (that's about, oh...5o cents USD).

How anyone would have the courage to drink this stuff, I don't know.

Exciting stuff, huh?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Raised From Dust

Since we've arrived in Beijing, I've watched 8 feature length fiction films, 2 full length documentaries, one digital experimental short, one narrative short, a number of animated shorts, one live play, and a partridge in a pear tree. Hah. Just seeing if I still have your attention. :)

Never have I watched so much of anything, let alone Chinese media specifically. Some of it I've really enjoyed (for all its lush, sentimental aesthetic, I was a big fan of Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love), some of it has been good but hard to watch (it's become a running joke to warn one another that the next movie we're watching will be long and depressing because--joke's on us--all Chinese movies happen to be), and some of it is just not very well done. This brings me to the subject of my current post.

Yesterday, we watched this really long, drawn out movie called Raised From Dust. Set in a rural village in the Henan province, it tells the story of a woman and her daughter trying to make ends meet while Dad is sick in the hospital from breathing in too much brick dust. One of the major (and surprising) themes of the film centered on the village's very active Christian community. Sometimes, the conversations between believers seemed so hackneyed that I couldn't for the life of me figure out what kind of commentary the filmmaker was trying to make. Aside from that, the shots were incredibly long and boring--which is not always bad, except for when a director is doing it just to be artsy, in which case I find it pointless--and he chose to use no music whatsoever, aside from the bad rendition of "Here Comes the Bride" the congregation played for a wedding.

Part of the reason this movie was so hard to watch is because these Christians' conversations were so jarring against the main character's weary life. Not to spoil the movie (since I know all of you are running to your neighborhood Chinese independent film purveyor to get your copy right now), but the poor woman's husband dies toward the end after spending the entire movie coughing in a rickety hospital bed tucked into this awkward alley in a rundown building. Meanwhile, the believers are talking about praying for him, and hope, and how Jesus makes everything easy, and...I don't know, it just didn't register to me. And believe me, I wanted it to, because you know, I'm a fan of faith and all.

Anyway, the producer of the movie came and spoke to us in class today, revealing that the director himself is Christian (and reportedly quit smoking, quit gambling, and got married as a result). Apparently, the director wanted to respond to all the issues in the Henan house churches (sects splitting, aberrant theology, etc.) by picturing a normal, peaceful Christian life, which I guess explains all the "perfect" Christian dialogue. (That's so cynical of me, right? Like there's something inherently suspicious about Christians being too nice...)

One of the cool things about this program is that because we have Chinese directors or independent film curators come speak to us, it gives us extra perspective into the films we're watching. Turns out the director took this piece to Henan and held screenings and Q&A sessions in a few churches, and even filmed these events to record audience reactions. All very interesting stuff... according to the producer, most audience members wanted the filmmakers to shut up so they could analyze the film on their own. I found that endearing.

So, if any of you actually stuck it through this entry, I entreat your graces. To make it up to you for having to read a long entry that's really just my sorry excuse for processing the academic mumbo jumbo that goes on in my brain, here's a picture of my latest mosquito bite:

I used a blue pen to mark the circumference around the swelling. That's where my skin begins to rise higher than where my leg normally is. The whole red area is kind of hot and stiff to the touch. Basically, that side of my leg now feels like a very firm ruby red grapefruit. Yum. Meanwhile, my hand is there to provide some perspective on just how big this magical welt has gotten. People have started staring at it, and this afternoon in class it became the center of a 5 minute long discussion. Makes me wonder if I should start shaving my legs...

Monday, July 07, 2008

Beijing Urban Planning Exhibition Center

Saturday, we took a mini-field trip to the Beijing Urban Planning Exhibition Center near Tiananmen. The Urban Planning museum is basically a lengthy ode to the Beijing 20 year plan and the rapid transformation of Beijing into the truly metro/cosmopolitan urban space we've all come to know and love.

When the Taxi first arrived, however, we were confused by the giant elliptical waterfall etched with British Columbia Canada Pavilion. Hmmm...had we taken a drastically wrong turn and been teleported to that exotic land known as Canadia??? Apparently not. Instead, we'd only wandered into a monolith of a commercial meant to improve trade relations between China and British Columbia (plus, the 2010 Winter Olympics are in Vancouver).

As we entered, the guide at the front desk proudly proclaimed that the wood floor was imported maple from Quebec. The guide at the exit told us that the Pavilion would only be open from May to September. *needle falling off record player* Wait, what? You imported maple wood from Canada for 4 months to convince Chinese business men to do business with you? Hmmm...well I'm no economist, but the whole scheme sounded a bit shaky to me. Plus, even though the Pavilion is "free," the only way you can get in is to pay $30 yuan to get into the Urban Planning center. Again, I'm no economist, but that doesn't sound like free to me...

The upside to this whole deal is that Marilyn and I entered to win a VIP dinner with Da Shan, the self-proclaimed most famous foreigner in China. Which would probably make him the most famous Canadian ever. Other than maybe Alanis Morrisette. Anyway, Da Shan is this Canadian guy who has been studying Chinese in China for almost 20 years, so his Chinese is impeccable. His face is used to sell anything from personal translators to cars.

Here's an interior shot of the pavilion, with some strange Canadian creature peeking out of the wood(s):

After wandering through the Canadian Pavilion, we headed to the Urban Planning museum. The best part about the museum is the miniature model of Beijing:

Here's a closeup of the miniature of the new CCTV tower designed by Rem Koolhaas (they've been studying Koolhaas and his urban space theories in Marilyn's class):

(look closely and you might be able to find another creature...)

The most amazing thing is how different the Beijing cityscape is now, compared to just a few years ago. This museum's basically a tribute to that fact.

Anyway, sorry for dragging on. I spent most of today online in my underwear (my usual custom when looking for work), so I figured I'd make up for it with an extra long post...

Oh, and one more thing, I've been listening to this sweet mashup album: 2.0, by Audiobytes for Autobots. It's a free download, so you should check it out.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

When it Rains, it Pours. Or, what Marilyn & Josh did on the 4th of July

Hi everyone! I (Marilyn) apologize for not writing sooner. Since we got here last Sunday evening, I've been thrown into a blur of lectures, discussions, and film screenings. It's been pretty intense acclimating to new bacteria (mostly unsuccessfully, just FYI), finding our China legs (as Josh has so colorfully expounded upon in previous posts), and fighting jet lag in a dark air-conditioned room with a Wong Kar-Wai film flickering.

Needless to say, I've been kept pretty busy, so it was no surprise that the week just fleeew by. Friday came upon us and the prospect of an open night with no wake-up mandate the next morning was both eerily unfamiliar and delicious. One of my program-mates here, Liz, invited us to have dinner with and meet some of her friends. But that was planned for 8, and we got out of another full day of class at 5:45, starving. Really, there was nothing to do but pre-eat! Luckily, some of our other classmates were planning to grab food at this Shanghai eatery about a 10-min walk from our school, so we tagged along.

The food totally hit the spot. See, my stomach's been doing somersaults for at least the past 5 days now, so comforting broth and starchy buns from a relatively clean place were a welcome change of pace from the greasy cafeteria food we've been having. Meanwhile, we're busy stuffing our faces and we notice that there's pretty much a monsoon going on outside. We're hoping it'll subside by the time we're done with our meal.

Sure enough, the rain gave pause so we finished up our food and headed back to campus. We're maybe 2 minutes away when someone in our group (*ahem, Derek*) had a bright idea: "Hey, let's 'cut through' the park!" Maybe there was crack in the xiaolongbao we all just ate, because no one remembered that we were under the tenuous graces of the rain gods (also known as the "government-sponsored cloud-homing weather missile thingies"), so we all trooped along.

I'm told posts without pictures are boring, so here is a picture Josh took of a creature he saw on our detour:

Looks like all is well, right? Sure, the air is a little opaque, but nothing too alarming. Literally 3 minutes after (which I'll remind you would have been plenty of time to get back to the dorms, safe and dry), it felt like the heavens had opened up a new waterpark and were offering free admission to the first 15 million customers. No joke, these were the fattest raindrops I've ever felt in my life. I can safely say that each individual drop had the volume of an OtterPop. Except in this case, they were Wotterpops.

(Word on the street is that the government has been firing these weather missiles into clouds to create rain in a desperate attempt to clear the air for the Olympics. I came to Beijing with that in mind, expecting clearer skies for it, but no dice.)

Okay, so back to our story...at this point, we start cantering through the park at a much quicker pace, but by the time we leave the park to go down this alley back towards campus, our canter is significantly halted by the huge muddy puddles riddling the ground. At some point, they stopped being puddles and were just downright nasty floods of putrid Beijing streetwash. I had to use my iron will to almost physically redirect my brain cells away from thoughts of what might be dwelling in the water that was now sloshing about in my socks and shoes.

I have to admit, at some point it became funny and strangely liberating, running through the streets soaking wet with a group of near strangers (let's face it, I'd known these people for all of 5 days) + husband.

We finally got back to campus and this is what we looked like:

Notice how the fabric of Josh's Hong Kong shirt clings to his belly. That's fierce.

And then there's this one of me from behind, looking like one of those baboon guys.

So, aside from standing around to take pictures, we raced to the showers before the acid rain could do any (more) harm.

After that, we were tempted to stay in, but Liz had already promised her friends she'd meet them, so we were all troopers and made it out to hang out with them, albeit 2 hours late. This time, I wore sandals so as not to soak another perfectly good pair of shoes in Beijing street juice.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Glorious Snack

Yesterday, we went to the National museum to see this New Media art exhibit, which was really well put together, although it had a number of extremely creepy pieces. Since we had some time afterwards before going to a play nearby, we wandered over to the tourist trap that is Wangfujing street. On the way out we stopped by the snack stands lined up just outside Wangfujing. That's when I stumbled upon this:

(image from http://www.ducktastesgood.blogspot.com)

At first it looked like some kind of strange fried crab or starfish, which wasn't an unreasonable assumption. However, upon closer inspection, I realized it was a fried egg with french fries sticking out of it. Extremely awesome. After buying one (5 yuan, about $.80) and biting into it, I discovered there's also some kind of hash brown/diced potatoes underneath the egg. To top it all off, they refry it for you when you order it. The vendor handed it to me sandwiched by a couple napkins which were quickly turning translucent. While the snack itself is delicious, at least for a few bites, as your heart beat slows, it quickly becomes unappetizing, so it's best not to eat it all by yourself. Next time you're at Wangfujing with a couple friends who are into that kind of thing....just do it.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Victory! (of sorts)

(I've always liked the phrase "of sorts," although less so after my AP US History teacher in High School called me out for having "the revolution of sorts that occurred" as the crux of my thesis statement during a mock test.)

It took me 3 1/2 hours, but I made it to the interview and back with no major loss of life or limb! And technically I have a job now (more on that later). So the subway station I was supposed to go to (Xizhimen) also happened to be the closest (a new station opens 100 yards from the school on Saturday!), and it looked like it was only about a kilometer down the road we live on, so I set out to walk to the station. About 20 minutes in, I saw a sign that said "Xizhimen 2.5 km," which I thought was weird, but figured I'd find the subway station before then. 45 minutes later, I was still walking...and still walking...I finally found it, but had some trouble locating the bus I was supposed to take. Then I got on the bus going the wrong way, so I had to get off and cross the street to head back the way I came. Then I got off on the wrong stop! I finally made it, though, and found out that the "interview" wasn't so much of an interview as filling out paperwork. Which really does mean that the company is only slightly semi-reputable. Basically, I think they'll just put my picture up and some info about me and if anyone wants to hire me as a teacher they'll let me know...we'll see how that goes. I've got a few more leads, so hopefully something real will pan out.

By way of contrast, though, looking for work in China so far is much more enjoyable than looking in Michigan. Most of the companies I email get back to me the same day; most of the companies in Michigan I emailed never emailed me back.

So anyway, I retraced my steps and this time I got cocky and took a bus back instead of walking the 2-3 miles. When I made it back to the school, I ran through the gate, pumping my arms and grinning triumphantly. One small step for Josh, I guess.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Virtually Lost

Thanks for the comments! We miss you all.

Since Marilyn's so busy with class, you'll have to get used to me posting for a while. Plus, I got the internet working in our room, which is a dangerous thing to have when unemployed.

I've got my first interview lined up with a semi-reputable English teaching company. Rather than get lost again, I spent an hour today lost in virtual space online. It was surreal, to say the least; almost the same feelings as being lost yesterday, except I was just staring at maps in my room. We'll see if it does any good. I'll probably still get lost and you'll get to read about my adventures here tomorrow.

I should probably backtrack a bit with a couple anecdotes from our trek here. Since it was only $20 more, Marilyn and I booked our tickets here with a 2 day layover in Hong Kong so we could visit some of my family. It was Marilyn's first time visiting Hong Kong, so I'll let her recount the tale, but we had a great time exploring the city. Marilyn got to meet my mom's mom. We were prepared for the worst, but it was actually mostly uneventful. My grandma has pretty advanced Alzheimer's so she's forgotten most of her kids and started talking to my grandpa, who passed away about 10 years ago. I was never really close to her, since she only speaks Cantonese, but it's still really sad to see her in this condition. In spite of the dementia, she was really sweet to us.

On Sunday we flew from Hong Kong to Beijing. For no apparent reason, our flight was stuck on the tarmac for over an hour. I didn't mind so much at first since we were watching Kung Fu Dunk, a Shao Lin Soccer rip off starring none other than the Jay Chou himself. When we arrived, however, since the flight was late, the plane couldn't taxi to the gate right away, so we had to wait on the Beijing end too. I got really antsy and started annoying Marilyn (a little something I like to call "bothering the beadle"...long story); a pretty regular occasion in this marriage. Mostly it was because we were so close to finally arriving in Beijing and here we were just sitting on the tarmac.

We finally made it off the plane, got our luggage, and took a cab to the Beijing Film Academy. I'll pick up from there in a bit. Marilyn's on lunch break and we're going to rock the shi tang (cafeteria).