Friday, February 20, 2009

White Beijing

There's been a bit of fuss around here lately about a drought here in Beijing and surrounding environs. Apparently it hadn't rained in over 3 months, so when it finally rained last week, it was a bit of a relief. But I was a bit suspicious. Especially when it snowed for a couple days after that.

So when I read online that the rain (and snow) had been seeded, I wasn't so surprised. My theory is that they used up all their fall rain by shooting their rain-making missiles in the summer, so now they have to get a rain advance on their spring rain.

I don't mind the snow so much, although apparently a few of the highways around had to be closed. Hopefully the cold has refrozen the lakes so we can go icechairing again!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Kungfu Valentine

I'm not too big a fan of celebrating Valentine's day, but I've learned from past experience it's just better to play along than to take a stand. I wasn't expecting much out of the nation of China; however, apparently young Chinese couples go bonkers for Valentine's day here. People were all upons with flowers and chocolate and what have you.

Which made me feel a little bad that I had to work and hadn't really planned any festivities for the Missus. Some of my classes were canceled on account of my students going back to school this weekend, but I still had a few ones. Unfortunately for M, I was scheduled for class from 6-8pm.

I spent most of my Valentine's Day (poorly) drawing bad puns on the board for my students to mimic:

Yes, that's a sad sad attempt at a panda. I had forgotten how the black/white pattern goes.

M and I met during a break in the afternoon; we walked to a nearby mall and encountered this bad boy:

This stage was set-up in the middle of the mall for an amateur fashion show, audience karaoke competition, kissing game, and more. We stuck around just long enough to watch this guy get his groove on and listen to a couple crowd members croon the latest Chinese love songs, before we decided to move along.

After I finished class, M and I had a nice Indian meal at a restaurant called Ganges. They have great food, but I'm not so stoked on the name since it calls up mental images like this Google image result (which I consider pretty tame as far as shots of the Ganges are concerned):

Sunday, February 08, 2009


Last Sunday, our friends (we'll call S and C) wanted to check out the 北大 (Peking University) campus. Unfortunately for M, she was sick at home with the some kind of strange stomach virus, which took her out for a few days, so she couldn't go exploring with us.

We started at the East Gate of the university and worked our way in, stopping only to play a bit of hackey-sack on the steps of a somewhat imposing library facade. As we wandered, we noticed arrows pointing out the way to a lake, and we couldn't resist. We did get lost a few times, but we found it eventually. The lake was (mostly) frozen over, and apparently in China when lakes (mostly) freeze, swarms of industrious businessmen and women flock to peddle their wares. Ice skates, carmelized haw on a sharp stick, books, etc.

But what really got us were these badboys:

Old school (as in kindergarten circa 1985) chairs nailed to planks of wood atop two rusty runners, throw in a couple metal spikes with which to get around, and you've got yourself a winner. Not until after I picked it did I realize that my chair didn't have a back, just two posts of a wood with a couple passes of packing tape across the back.

Next to the icechairs, they had real ice skates for the same price, but ice skating is out, chairs are the new skate.

(I have a sneaking suspicion they were invented for Chinese grandparents who want to keep a watchful eye on their budding ice princesses and ice princes.)

The icechair vendor had a tandem chair set, but he charged extra, so S and I decided to rent our own. C opted to walk out on the ice, although when tempted, he caved and rode a chair for a bit.

10rmb ($1.50) for as long as we wanted out on the ice, which ended up being about 20 minutes. S and I raced a couple times, but my chair was more defective than his, so whoever was in my chair lost. It was pure adrenaline weaving between the bumbling kids on ice skates, fellow icechairers, and the occasional suspicious-looking-burn-marked pothole filled with firework scraps.

We haven't really been keeping up with the Only in China posts, but I'm pretty sure this counts as one.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Back to the Grind

After almost two weeks of a ghost-town, Beijingers headed back to work this week. Unfortunately for me, I'm among the group. I have an exciting couple weeks ahead, since I'm working English camp during the week while still working my usual weekend classes. It shouldn't be as bad as my crazy camp schedule over the summer, though.

The past two weeks we had a couple friends in town, so there were 3 of us guys and M all crammed into our studio apartment. I think M felt like a mother hen as she prodded 3 guys, all staring at their computers unresponsively. We also learned that our little toilet wasn't built for 4 :P.

On the Spring Festival front, the firecrackers have slowed a bit, but they'll be back for a finale on the last day of the festival. Apparently, after the Lantern Festival, no one will be able to light off fireworks, so everyone will be lighting off everything they have left. I'm hoping that all the fireworks stands, which are on just about every corner, will light off all their unsold stock. I'm sure they could pass it off as an 'accident'.