Sorry I basically did not blog in Beijing. I was moving around a lot, and although I wrote a little, I was not in the "wireless area" if you will. This raises a point I learned from only blogging from wireless. Most cities have wireless, but secluded to a certain region. There are certain areas that will tend to have it, and certain that don't.
Although this seemed somewhat correlated with wealth, It seemed more correlated to foreigners. Areas with many wealthy Chinese (like some parts of Changed) were fruitless. They occasionally had internet, but had some distant concept of wireless internet. I also dealt with a lot of misconceptions of wireless. sometimes I would ask do you have wireless internet, and they would say yes. Later, I would discover they meant wired internet, or a small computer lab.
As to Beijing, I found the city primarily very well. The sites were cool and plentiful. In fact, there were many I did not get to, and will have to go next time. the best site of Beijing, and one of the best on the trip, was the Great Wall itself. i did a tour of the "Secret Wall," and to my surprise, the wall was pretty secret. I went with all foreigners which was a first time, and cool because of the internationalism and a preview of going back to the states (where I am going to get reverse culture shocked upside the head).
The wall itself was truly secluded and without any repairs. Many of locals had been nabbing stones from sections to build their houses. As such, areas where remarkably well maintained (where it was very high and out of the way) and some areas had been picked away at (lower sections). The hike was a bit hard, although short, and it was definitely wild and beautiful.
The company was really great as well. I hung out with a couple of Canucks teaching English and learning Japanese in Japan. We talked a lot about language and culture, becoming good friends for the next couple of days. I also spoke a lot with the Americans on the trip, which was very good, but it served as a scary reminder of how much stuff I am going back to when I hit state side. In some ways, I am not ready.
the other main site I saw was the palace of Heavenly Peace, which was in much the same vain as the other sites in Beijing. A lot of thinking about the logic behind restoration, and how they should approach it. It just seemed weird to be slapping red paint onto a few centuries of history. At the same time, throughout that history they have done this. it seems like every hundred or two hundred years these buildings all get rebuilt, repainted, renamed, or occasionally built down. As such, isn't restoration now apart of these buildings' history?
i started to consider the restoration process a sort of communication between the culture and these buildings. The governments have changed a lot, the culture has changed at least some, but they still have this form of communication with their history.
on a far less cultural note, one of the most involved activities in Beijing was shopping. Beijing has huge markets where they throw down to get your business. Entering their was like going into a huge gauntlet. Walking the aisles you get grabbed and constantly yelled at. At first I absolutely hated it. I thought the approach was disgusting and the whole thing repelling.
The average foreigner walks by a store where the clerk yells at him to come have a look, or to buy shoes. guy walks in, picks a pair and asks how much. The store clerk says "for everyone else," and types some outrageous price that is more expensive than the US retail price like $125. 'But for you," and she puts something like $50.
Occasionally I hear their are foreigners dumb enough to call that good, and buy immediately. Most however, yell "too expensive!" The clerk responds, "o, then how much you pay?" The smart customer writes something like $5 and the clerk (pretends?) to get very upset.
Then the two basically fight. People yell, and the clerk says things like "this my lowest price" or "what is your highest price.' They of course lower their lowest price all of the time (though I have a policy of never, ever, raising anything I call my "highest price').
The first day I just hated it. By the end of the day I had gotten a bit into it, but for the most part I was left dry on the whole experience. I bought a pair of "Timberland" boots because I needed them for the wall. Since then, I discovered that they simply rock as shoes. They are great boots so far, although i don't know how long they will last, they made that wall much easier, final price: $12 (and I had to kill for that).
I went a second time because I needed to get gifts and such, plus i had a friend from the wall who wanted to come. That day, I had studied Chinesepod's podcast on "bargaining" which helped a lot because it taught me a lot of really hilarious vocabulary to throw around during negotiations like "don't try to trick me!," "that is highway robbery,' and my favorite, "i am a smart buyer.' Despite my Chinese, I still often got some bad prices, however it gave me all kinds of tricks.
One trick was to spy on prices given to locals. Locals don't get harassed at all. They typically go in, find something, point it out and saying "how much?" The clerk gives them a reasonable price, with no more than 30 or 40 yuan worth of bargaining room, and then the Chinese person leaves. If they buy something, they often do without even negotiation or with the bare minimum.
So I would often listen to a price be given. Then start, in English, asking about different shoes in the store, at one point including what the other person asked. if they give me a reasonable price on the one I had heard, I have somewhere to start. In that way, I started learning prices for things.
I did get cheated on some things in retrospect, but never by much. For the most part, I bought a lot and did well. That said, unless you are meeting me in Colorado, you are very lucky, or you got married, don't expect anything. i can buy stuff, but sending stuff is a whole new problem.
i was really happy with some of the stuff I got. So far the shoes have been some of the best part I have had in a while. Also they had fake Zegna ties, which I simply could not resist. Now, after a trip to Zegna, i have found that they are of eerily the same quality as Zegna ties (and straight up the same designs). The only difference is that the real ones don't have a tag on the back.
I also did all my negotiating for my friends, again fast and furious stuff. I got them a lot of good deals that I am proud of. I often talked to Chinese people to confirm the prices that i got.
PTI: I am back into the US, and they are all eating. I looked around for what I noticed, and that was the first thing. Burger king, Bugles, M & Ms, Starbucks, everyone is eating. A kid across the way from me is reading Moby Dick with a cowboy hate on while he mindlessly munches down Bugles.
PTI: Comment next to me, in a Minnesota accent, "There is going to be an Ocean's 13 I guess..." Her husband, "wow."
I really am not ready for this. I understand all the conversations again, without trying, they seem like voices in my head, and somehow, they are way stupider than I would hope. The only people I see reading Newspapers are Asians, the rest are reading things like FHM, People, and US.
PTI; A white person reading a newspaper spotted, small sigh of a relief (for a bit there I thought it would not happen).
Despite all of the latest news, security was kind to me. i mean that seriously, they were very nice to me. I even got bag checked and it was no problem. Everything was fast and easy. I had no problems at customs, which i was a bit afraid of (not much, but I figured China might raise flags).
Most people were very cool about the China thing. My bag checker saw a nice Chinese notebook I bought and she called it pretty. One of the security gate people actually knew, and said to me, hello and thank you in Chinese, which I thought was pretty cool and random. Outside of one jerk, all smiles coming into the US, which was nice. But seriously, these people are big, and they look so serious when you are accustom to their faces.
My biggest fear is not going into US culture, but going into my own. The difference is that US culture is an absolute statement of existence, but "my own culture" is relative to me. If I am in China and something bad happens, I can push it away. I can say "that is not apart of what I was raised with." I can say "in my society, that does not happen."
This is a good advantage in china because a lot of stupid stuff happens, and it is easy to push that away. When you are in your own home, that is much harder. I can't argue that dumb people just had a different upbringing. I have to look at what raised me and think about how those influences can go wrong.
PTI: I heard my old cell phone ringer, which was disturbing enough, worse yet it made me think: Oh yeah, I need to get a cell phone. Do I? Do I NEED a cell phone. I think what bothers me is I think I do, but what a stupid thing to need! The problems are stuff like going to someone hows house and needing to call to get in, get directions, or things like that. I barely used my cell phone in Taiwan, but when I used it, I really did need it. I think I will hunt for a pay as you go plan (can you get one that receives calls for free like Taiwan?) and that should save money.
Money is another issue I don't know about. I loaned out a lot of money, some of that money is living expenses, how do I get that? In Taiwan my goal was "set everything up for next year" and then the plan was to think about when I got to the states. Well, now I am in the states, I have to start thinking. Am I going to get a huge lot of money dropped into my account from my NYU account?
PTI: That last question is now answered, and I am back in CO hanging out and relaxing with the last chance I have.