Day 96 in Beijing: River Walk, Part 1.

Weeping Willows cover most of the walkway.

Weeping Willows cover most of the walkway.

The roundabout stage.

The roundabout stage.

I live in a slightly suburban part of Beijing.

Actually, closer to the truth to say I live in an area of Beijing that doesn’t seem to have a lot of expatriates living in it.

Fishing for dinner.

Fishing for dinner.

Below the hustle and bustle of the city.

Below the hustle and bustle of the city.

I like this because it allows me to feel like I’m living in a foreign country and forces me to expand my boundaries and take risks.

I enjoy smiling at people, saying “Ni hao” and having small conversations that are full of gestures because of my misunderstandings each day.

A peaceful meeting.

A peaceful meeting.

A bridge not too far.

A bridge not too far.

I’ve started to walk along the Yuandadu Chengyuan Ruins Park, and the Xiaoyue River that flows through it, and document my daily excursions.

There are always new people, new interactions and new visions to see.

I feel incredibly lucky to live in Beijing.

I am able to work at a job I love.

Live close to my brother.

Travel to parts of the world I’d probably never otherwise visit.

Meet people I’d never meet.

And have experiences I’d never have anywhere else.

I often forget how easy it is to travel and change your viewpoints on life.

I get stuck thinking that one way is the right way and travel allows me to remember that there isn’t actually any correct way of living.

Everyone has a right to live a life that is their own and be in control, as much as one is able, of their own destiny.

Choice is always an option and it is up to each of us to make a choice and then deal with the consequences.

Consequences meaning the results.  Those can be good, bad or an infinite amount of results in between good or bad.  In fact, I don’t really know of any definitively good or bad results.  They are all learning lessons and help me to accept what I can change and accept what I can’t change.

And them make choices on how I want to deal with those consequences.

 

Day 82 in Beijing: What a Difference A Day Makes.

84 degrees at 10:32 PM.  Hot and humid.

84 degrees at 10:32 PM. Hot and humid.

"Very Unhealthy" at the Embassy.  "Heavily Polluted" closer to me.

“Very Unhealthy” at the Embassy. “Heavily Polluted” closer to me.

Especially in regards to weather and pollution in Beijing.

I took this screen shot of the weather and the Air Quality Index at 10:32 PM on August 16th, 2013.  The temperature was 84 degrees at that time and the humidity was around 95%.  It was rough.

However, that wasn’t the worst part.  The index showed 204 at the Embassy and 235 closer to my location.

Walking around felt like I was walking through a smoke filled room with no reprieve.

 

"Good" at the Embassy.  "Excellent" closer to me.

“Good” at the Embassy. “Excellent” closer to me.

Dry heat.

Dry heat.

There is only one benefit of incredibly hot and humid weather and pollution of this level being combined:

The next day is usually gorgeous because the rain removes all the pollution from the air.

There were taken almost exactly 12 hours apart.

It was perfect, gorgeous and a breathing was easy.

Such a rapid change and a delight not to have to feel like I was living in a smoke-filled room and going to die.  From what I’ve been told, this is nothing compared to the winters in Beijing.

Interestingly, the Chinese government has recently promised the equivalent of 375 BILLION U.S. dollars over the next few years to help reduce pollution and help the environment.  This has been mostly ignored by the Western media even though it is twice the Chinese military budget and China spends more money on environmental causes than the rest of the world combined.

Day 66 in Beijing: HBO and Cinemax

 

This is a bit embarrassing but I end up watching television sometime here in Beijing. I have to say, HBO and Cinemax in China are really strange. It is like America exported every movie that was made for VHS or Betamax, not even cable, straight to China.

I’ve seen movies I’ve never heard of, with utterly forgettable actors in them.  These are mostly American movies so it isn’t like I’m watching foreign films from Europe and these are actors I’d know if I lived there.

Some movies have very famous actors in them but the movies are unheard of in America.  These were their flops that they want to forget every making.

Average ratings on IMDB: about 4.5. These companies are making massive money on the worst movies ever made. Don’t blame Communism.  This is capitalism at its finest.
Here are a few to give you an idea:

Invader

Torque

Dracula: Dead and Loving It

And,

of course,

no week would be finished unless you have a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie.

And, we do.

Assassination Games

 

Day 62 in Beijing: Fixed Gear Bikes. Juggling. And Bananas.

Sort of says it all.

Fixed Gear Bikes, Juggling and a Banana.  It is so obvious.

Fixed Gear Bikes, Juggling and a Banana. The connection is so obvious.

This is Beijing.

Where fixed gear bikes and juggling go hand in hand like the latest fashion and a Hutong.

This store is actually located in a Hutong near the Lama Temple.

It is a bit of Beijing, and China, that is sadly disappearing.

The Hutongs have been destroyed so that more high rises, office buildings and apartments can be built.

Time marches on and it is crushing most of the Hutongs.

Luckily, the people of Beijing are starting to realize how precious and culturally significant Hutongs are and are starting to save them.

People are moving into them and rent is rising because it is more historic and fashionable to live in one instead of massive high rises with every modern convenience.

I love the clay shingle roofs of the Hutongs and the bricks walls.  They seem so sturdy and grounded.

The Hutongs also have a main plaza where all the living quarters are situated around.  This leads to a communal type of living and support system that encourages people to connect and help each other.  The garbage cans are in the middle of the plaza so you will see your neighbors going out there daily and can greet them and find out what is happening around the area.

Being that I used to juggle and perform with my brother, David Sohigian, I decided to check out this store.  There were lots of very stylish fixed gear bikes and a bin with juggling stuff.  I still don’t really speak any Mandarin and no one seemed to speak English so Jill and I just walked around, smiled at the absurdity of it all, and left.

Next time I stop by, I’ll ask to pick up the juggling pins and see if anyone wants to pass.

Just like in the Hutong plaza, community and connection is everything.

 

Day 60 in Beijing: 6 for 60. My 6 Most Popular Posts.

These six posts were the most liked, shared or commented on either on Facebook or on my blog.

In no particular order.

Click the title to open the link in a new page.

1. Day 36 in Beijing: Larvae, It’s What’s For Dinner

2. Day 24 in Beijng: Please Stan Fur And Hold The Hand Ru!

3. Day 21 in Beijing: 48 Bucks For a Haircut?  Are You Kidding Me?  Nope.  They Are Dead Serious.

4. Day 26 in Beijing: “Hi! Hello!” rather than “What The Heck!?! Holy S#&t!!!”

5. Day 22 in Beijing: With My Money On My Mind And My Mind On My Money.

6. Day 23 in Beijing:  Connolly.  Bruce Connolly.

 

Day 58 in Beijing: You Can Never Go Home Again.

   Day 58 in Beijing for me is Day 1 in Beijing for Jill.

I wanted to show her the neighborhood.

We were going to visit a restaurant that Nurai, my friend, introduced me to 4 days ago.

When we went, it was packed with Chinese Nationals.and the food was incredible.

Nuria and I  shared 10 different delicious dishes, a 500ML beer, and it cost 52RMB.  A grand total of 8 US dollars for two people.

 

As Jill and I walked up, I looked around and checked the location numerous times.

I felt lost and confused.

 

The building had been destroyed with barely a hint of the previous occupant.

This is life in today’s Beijing.restaurant2

Restaurants, clubs, bars and anywhere else people connect seem to alternately rise, and disappear, in the wink of an eye.

Beijing is growing so quickly that landlords increase rents about 15-20% every year.

A prime location’s rent can rise much more than that.

Consequently, businesses that were thriving only 4 days ago, vanish.

 

Looking down from above,

Thomas Wolfe sighs knowingly,

You can never go home again.

 

 

 

Day 54 in Beijing: Blind Minstrel and Wife

Beixinqiao Station.  Just around the corner from the main street.

Beixinqiao Station. Just around the corner from the main street.

 

Beixinqiao Station.  The stop where I get off to go salsa dancing and one of my favorite places to walk around and just people watch.

 

The light between the brick walls is a restaurant  on the other side of the entrance to the subway.

 

 

This is a major street loaded with Chinese Nationals and very few expatriates.

 

Most are waiting for dinner and sitting outside on little stools until their names are called.  People seem to wait for hours to get in.  I just walk and enjoy the atmosphere.

 

 

The ministrel is singing and playing his instrument.  His wife is bland and following behind him.

The minstrel is singing and playing his instrument. His wife is blind and following behind him.

 

As I walked around the corner from the station, I heard a man singing and playing his instrument.  His wife had her hand on his shoulder and was following him.

She was blind and he was leading her around the street.

This is a fairly common sight on subways as people that have disabilities will get on the subway and sing for donations.  I am not sure if there is another way for people with disabilities to find work or be able to survive.

 

I walked behind this couple for a few minutes and just let their song enter into me.

I also enjoyed the lanterns hanging down, the people talking and walking, and all the hustle and bustle of this street.  Everything is alive.  And just one block away is a classic Hutong where only Chinese nationals walk down and is quiet, calm and dark.

 

Yinyang.

 

Day 37 in Beijing: Pssst, Hey Buddy, You Want To Buy Some Bumf?

Pssst, Hey Buddy, You Want To Buy Some Bumf?

 

I was shopping at my local Wu-Mart and trying to buy some laundry detergent, dish washing liquid and other household goods that I needed.

This is a simple exercise in America.

I spent about 20 minutes wandering around becoming increasingly confused.

Some of the attendants tried to help me to little or no avail.

In reality, there are about 30 attendants that constantly ask you to buy pretty much everything they have in the store. It is customer service at its finest.

Here’s the problem:

I found laundry detergent but was unable to find dish washing liquid.

A nice attendant could tell I was confused and stopped to help me.

I started to pantomime what I needed.

I grabbed the laundry detergent and pointed to it,

then I took my clothes and pretended to wash them.

He nodded his head and smiled in understanding.

Then I pointed to some dishes and he thought I wanted to buy them, not clean them.

So maybe he wasn’t smiling in understanding.  Maybe he was smiling because I looked totally goofy.  Couldn’t blame him either way.

This went on for about 10 minutes with about 15 people arriving to help and no one able to speak English.  And me not able to speak Chinese.

That is actually a bit of a rarity.  I’m impressed with how many people here have a limited, or more extensive knowledge, of English.

I’m also incredibly thankful for it.

Anyway, after we decided we can’t figure it out, I just decided to keep roaming around and noticed the signs in the aisles.

We have signs in grocery stores all over America so I have no idea why I didn’t think to look at them in the first place.

This was going to be easy!  The products were placed on the shelf accordingly.

 

Everything your little shopping heart desires.  Easily accessible.

“Laundry Care Products” in easy to read English.

 

I thought, “Ah ha!  I can just look for the aisle I need!”

 

No such luck.

 

That being said, I did find the laundry detergent.

 

Scarily enough, it was right beside the industrial strength bathroom and kitchen cleaners.

 

 

Honestly, I’m a little afraid I will be using acid on my dishes.  If this is my last post, Dear Readers, then you know I made the wrong choice.

 

As I filled up my cart I strolled down another aisle.  Looking up, I noticed the sign in the aisle.

 

Everyone needs a little more Bumf in their lives

For that special time when you just need a little more “bumf” in your life.

 

 

 

Bumf.

 

Yes,

 

Bumf.

 

 

 

 

 

After thinking about it,

and this being that this aisle had only toilet paper,

maybe Bumf was actually a misspelling of the British word for behind, which is “Bum.”

As I pushed my cart to the check out line,

I just kept wondering if one of the 30 or so attendants ever asks,

 

Pssst, Hey Buddy, You Want To Buy Some Bumf?

 

Day 34: Is That A Turtle On Your Head Or Are You Just Glad To See Me?

 

I was walking to work today.

Just minding my own business.

A gorgeous day in Beijing.

The sky was blue.

The sun was shining.

People were smiling.

 

I was stopped dead in my tracks.

Stunned at first, I broke into a huge smile.

And watched as she walked by me.

With a turtle on her head.

Read that sentence again.

Just in case you don’t want to,

I’ll repeat it.

With a turtle on her head.

 

Nothing to see here. Move along.  Just a turtle on her head.

Nothing to see here. Move along. Just a turtle on her head.

 

I stared, ran after her, and asked her for a photograph.

 

There were loads of people walking by and they all started smiling and laughing.

 

The strange thing is that they were smiling and laughing,

 

at me,

 

Because I was taking a picture.

 

 

Day 24 in Beijing: Please Stan Fur and Hold The Han Ru!

 

Trust me, lady with the sweet and kind voice, I’d love to, “Please stan fur and hold the han ru” but I have no idea what you are talking about.

Let me back up. The lady with the sweet and kind voice isn’t real. Well, I guess she’s real because she recorded this message and it is now played in subways all over Beijing from 5:30 AM to 10:22 PM.

You noticed that interesting fact, didn’t you, dear readers.

10:22 PM.

The subway is incredibly clean and convenient.

The subway is incredibly clean and convenient.

That is the exact time the subway shuts down, at least for line 5, where I get off to go to my new apartment. I have no idea why they shut down at 10:22 PM instead of 10:30 PM but they do. I’m guessing that is the exact minute the final train passes through this station on the way to its final destination but that could also just be my logic and totally incorrect.

Most likely, as I’ve learned in my 22 days in Beijing, I’m probably totally incorrect.

And for that, I’m thankful.

Being incorrect, in a way, is exactly why I moved to Beijing.

I wanted to try a new life, a new place and a new culture. I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and there is a large contingent of Chinese people there and I’ve worked very closely with social workers and therapists from China at my previous agency, Family Service Agency of San Francisco.

I’ve always enjoyed the people and the culture and then a job appeared that would allow me to move to China, and Beijing, in particular. This is, in no small part, because of my elder brother who has lived in Beijing for about six years now. I owe him a great deal.

And something I’ve noticed about Beijing is how incredibly kind and open they are to American visitors.  There are so many ways that Beijing is set up for English speakers to succeed it is wonderful.

From what I’ve been told this is in large part because of the Olympics.  The city was transformed during that time to help people get around and a perfect example is the Beijing Subway system.

Every single stop has Chinese and English.

All the announcements are in Mandarin and English.

Many of the video screens on the subway run information in Chinese and in English.

 

I’m truly lucky to be in Beijing at this moment.

 

However, as I’m standing in the subway, listening to the lady with the sweet and kind voice, tell me to, “Please stand fur and hold the han ru” I realize what she means and start to laugh at my own confusion.

Now, if you live in Beijing, you are probably already laughing at me also because you know exactly what she is telling me to do.

This nice gentleman is Standing Firm AND Holding the Hand Rail.

This nice gentleman is Standing Firm AND Holding the Hand Rail.

“Please Stand Firm and Hold the Hand Rail.”

Obvious enough.

One would think.

However, the person they had record this has a pretty strong accent and it is quite funny to listen to her say these words over and over again. This tape runs about every 30-45 seconds and I continue to get a chuckle every time I hear it.

My lady with the sweet and kind voice is protecting me.

Except, not today she wasn’t.

She went totally off the rails and started having some type of mental breakdown.

I’m a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California. I know of what I write.

To be honest, she reminded me of NOMAD from the classic Star Wars episode, The Changeling.

For some reason, the recorded voice started repeating itself about every 10-12 seconds and often cut itself off and interrupted itself.

And it didn’t stop. I was waiting at my station for about 10 minutes and she seemed to be having an inner battle and ego destroying confrontation with herself.

I actually wanted to give my lady with the sweet and kind voice some therapeutic advice if she would have let me.

It would have been this,

“Lady with the sweet and kind voice, I would like to help you. Would you be willing to accept some advice?”

My hope is she would and it would be simple.

“Don’t fret! Everything will be alright. I will make sure you are safe.”

She’d start to cry in a very mechanical and pre-recorded kind of way while nodding her head up-and-down to signify her answer of, “Yes!”

I’d continue.

“It is simple. There is really only two things you need to do to be happy and free of this pain. Can you guess them?”

Sadly, she shakes her head side-to-side and tells me “I can not. Please help me!”

I look at her with empathy and understanding.

I respond, “It is quite simple. John Lennon and The Beatles sang, “All you need is Love.” However, for you, their prescription was incorrect. What you need, my lady with the sweet and kind voice, is for people to do something for you. Can you guess it?”

She sits there, robotically looking bewildered (Can a robot look bewildered? Sure, why not, dear readers, this is my story).

As she hears my answer she quietly cries and then smiles in joy and acceptance.

The answer was so easy and she says just as I’m about to say it.

“All I need to do is let go of my need to have everyone please stan fur and hold the hand ru!”