Thursday, July 31, 2008

I Throw Like a Girl

Mike heard a rumor that the Goose and Duck Pub had Olympic tickets available. He's still operating under the de-lusion we will be able to buy reasonably priced tickets for events he actually wants to see.

When I found out we would be here through the Olympics, I scoured the resources available (well, the internet) trying to find some tickets.

To no avail.

But, I humored him, and went over to the G&P to investigate. We were given a phone number to call for an organization called Golden Tickets who will have some limited availability tickets for sale "some time next week".

So, we had dinner and played some darts.

We've been to the G&P many times. Too many times, if you ask me. But, it was surprisingly unbusy last night, and Jessie the manager was extremely welcoming (as usual, I think he's 50% responsible for the popularity of this venue. . . it SURE ain't the food!).

They have a baseball pitching cage. After a *few* beers, I decided to check the speed of my infamous fastball (I don't really have a fastball, in fact I haven't thrown a baseball in somewhere around twenty years).

First attempt? 37 mph. That is SLOOOOOOOW.

I finally peaked at 52 mph. I felt a bit like a girl.

Until Mike peaked at 51 mph.

And, this morning? My shoulder and back feel like I'm 108.

Which would have been a very impressive speed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

When Opposites Attack

It's no secret to me, or anyone else, FM and are head smackingly complete opposites.

For the most part, it works. We provide each other "insight" into a whole different world of thought.

Or something like that.

On a deep, psyche defining level, we're probably more alike than we know.

But on a daily living basis I sometimes think there couldn't be any two more different people trying to forge out a life together.

FM's quiet. I'm, well, NOT quiet. He's calm and rational. I'm usually some kind of emotional mess. He's gentle. I'm rough. He's water. I'm oil. Get it?

We have the small potential of a mini-break coming up. Our proposed leave date from Beijing and our proposed return date may be so close together it doesn't warrant hopping into the belly of the flying beast and returning all the way home.

So what to do in the Asia area for a couple weeks?

My proposal: A trip into Mongolia, down to Shanghai, through some other Chinese towns I don't know the names of but will research and figure out at some point, to the Three River Gorge (a boat trip, I'm thinking), onto Hainan Island (the Hawaii of China) and maybe a quick hop over to Hong Kong, for old time's sake.

Obviously, not completely thought out yet, but we HAVE visa's for China, visa's that allow us to stay for A YEAR, and pop in and out of the country as often as we wish. Shouldn't we take advantage of seeing more of this fantastically huge and varied country while we're here?

FM's response: Why do you want to see more of China? It's all the same. .. right?

Me: (shaking head in dismay) What do you want to do?

FM: A week in Tokyo and a week in Hong Kong.

Me: But, but, but. . . we've BEEN to both of those places. Several times.

FM: Yep.

Me: Maybe I'll go on a five day tour by myself while you're working . . .

FM: Okay.

Me: Isn't there anywhere in China you would like to see?

FM: Nope. But maybe Mongolia.

Me: Okay, I'll leave Mongolia out of my tour, and we'll do that together.

FM: I said maybe.

Not that I should be surprised by any of this. It happens every time we try and plan a vacation. I want the new, the different, the unknown. FM wants the tried, the true, the familiar.

It's the same with so many aspects of our life. Even eating. I want to try new places, FM wants to return to where he knows the food and service are good. I offer to make a ahi tuna with seasame and ginger, he opts for Shepherd's Pie.

Usually we find some kind of happy medium.

He did mention he'd consider Tibet or Nepal, in combination with Hong Kong. Well, that's someplace new and different. And even a place I would like to go. Just not exactly what I want to do, nor exactly what FM wants to do. Sigh.

When we go "my" way, it usually ends up, well, not so perfect. Partly because we approach new things differently. FM is cautious, more guarded. I'm gung-ho, let's walk across town! Let's rent a car and drive 100 miles! Let's see everything here!

For two people who have traveled together for 8+ years, we definitely have different styles. It works out okay, what with him working all day giving me the time and space to wander and explore on my own. But when free time becomes available? Whew. It's a clash of worlds.

He just popped back from work this morning to pick up his passport and said, "I just heard a rumor we can't work on X date and X date, due to the incoming visit of our illustrious leader."

Me: SWEET! Four day weekend! We could go to Mongolia! Or Hainan!

FM: I want a golf weekend. Bye! (running out the door before he can get a response)

Me: (banging head on the floor) ARGHHHHHHHH!

In his defense, I'm sure my itinerary of a China tour thrilled him in the same mind-numbing way a proposed four day golf weekend in the scorching sun of China thrills me.

Ain't love grand?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I'm afraid of my underwear now

At the grocery store checkout this morning I noticed this sign.

And now I'm afraid.

Are my belongings staging a secret revolt?

Will I wake up with my bra holding a knife to my throat?

Will they all just cry mutiny and skaddadle out of my apartment?

Has my computer already started the revolution and about to recruit my cell phone and camera?

What do the Chinese know about my belongings that I don't?

The horror. . . oh the horror. . .

Monday, July 21, 2008

Passing for Chinese

While enjoying a couple beers al fresco at Schiller's the other night we got to talking to our patio mates. We do tend to meet the neighbors. . .

They were diplomats from Burundi and have lived in Beijing for 2 years and speak fluent(ish) Chinese, English and whatever language they speak in Burundi (I could Google that for you, but nah).

They asked FM and I how long we'd been in Beijing, we replied, "Four and a half months, and we'll probably be here around seven or eight."

There response was, "And you don't speak ANY Chinese??"


Well, we can say "Straight", "Left", "Right","Hi", "Thank You", "How are you?" and count to five or so.

We are pretty comfortable not being able to speak the local language, obviously. It's the case most of the places we live. However, the absolute lack of English here in China has made things a little trickier and we've had to resort to very different avenues in order to get around and communicate over very basic transactions.

But the Burundians couldn't believe it was possible to live here without any Chinese language skills.

We talked about shopping, and they told me it would help if I bargained in Chinese. Now, I'm a pretty good bargainer, and the sales girls at the markets all speak good English, so I haven't really considered this.

However, I don't think they are going to mistake me for a local.

Or the guys from Burundi, either.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

One Hundred BILLION Dollars

Zimbabwe, in response to mind-boggling inflation of over 1000% per year, has issued a One Hundred Billion Dollar note.

Worth less than one US Dollar, and unsufficient to buy even a loaf of bread.

At least they won't need a wheelbarrow to bring their money to the market.

When we were in Korea, the exchange was about 1$ to 8000 Won. It's actually higher now, I don't know what's happening in South Korea to make their money worth LESS than ours, but that's another entry, I'm sure. . .

Point was, our rent in Seoul was 2.5 Million Won (sounds swanky, eh?), which equivilated to about $2200/month.

And we had to pay cash our first month. And the biggest bill they had is a 10,000 Won note.

Which meant we had to bring over three thousand 10,000 won notes to our apartment lease signing. And wait for them to count it. . . twice. We literally had to carry it in a garbage bag. Think about having $3000 dollars in one dollar bills.

Three thousand bills (of any denomination) is a lot. As an average American, I've never physically held 3000 bills.

Trust me, it's a bunch.

But at least you could actually buy something with them.

Here in China, we have 100 CNY notes, which equal about $14US. And sometimes it can be difficult to get change, from taxi drivers or small market vendors, which in itself can be a bit frustrating as the ATM's only issue 100CNY bills. I'm sure outside the major cities these bills are impossible to change and are generally stuffed into mattresses.

But two of them will get you a very fine meal and a couple drinks, or, as we found out yesterday, 2 VIP tickets to the movies.

About 2 PM on Sunday, in defense to a very humid and hot day, we decided to go to the movies. Sounds simple, yeah? I found a couple cinemas on line playing "Hancock" (I know, but there are only two English language films playing in Beijing right now, "Kung Fu Panda" and "Hancock" and we already watched the former on bootleg DVD).

The closest theater to us had many showings, and another theater across town was showing it on the hour. We tried the closer first, only to be told they were sold out until the 8 PM show.

After spending about 30 minutes trying to find a different theater in the SoHo plaza across the street (we never found it) we jumped the subway 8 stops across town.

Not a good experience. Like being a sardine in a can held over an open flame. Unexplainably, while we were waiting in the ticket line, the young Chinese dude in front of us BOUGHT our subway tickets for us. Just turned around and held them out to us. A whole 4 Kuai saved! I don't think we looked that down on our luck, but whatevs. Now we are responsible for performing a random act of kindness to someone else, you know, that whole pay it forward thing. . .

ANYWAY, we arrived at our stop, spent a few minutes getting oriented (unchartered territory over there), found the mall the theater was in, went upstairs and proceeded to try and buy tickets. It was now 4PM (yes, we'd already be gone long enough to actually WATCH an entire movie).

Next showing with available tickets? 6 PM.

In China, like many other countries (Japan, Korea, Greece, Hong Kong) when you buy your movie ticket you actually have assigned seats. They show you a computer screen mapping out the theater and you choose your seat. After laying out 180 Kuai she showed me the screen, which had 6 seats on it.


So, I chose our seats and we went back into the mall to waste two hours, wandering around, eating yogurt, looking at TURTLE SOUP (a whole turtle, shell and all, in a bowl, cut into quarters).

When we returned to the theater around 5:40 we were shown into a VIP lounge. Complete with it's own bathroom and BEER. When we were shown into the theater, there were 22 HUGE leather recliners positioned in groups of two around little tables.

We kicked our shoes off, reclined our chairs (with a remote control), got a couple beers and enjoyed a semi-private showing of a mediocre movie.

What a cool concept.

And we didn't even have to bring a bagful of money along.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dreaming of. . . BURT REYNOLDS?

This morning I woke FM and myself up saying, "We HAVE to find Burt Reynolds!"

And in my dream it made total sense. Burt Reynolds wasn't *really* Burt Reynolds, but something/one very important to solving a major problem we were having in my dream.

Disturbing? Yes.

But I dreamed the VERY SAME THING the night before, just didn't wake anyone up.

And I still can't figure out what the dire situation was that could only be fixed by finding Burt.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Try Not To Cry

In preparation for the onslaught of tourists to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics, the government has "encouraged" people to quit spitting, learn to queue, allow people to actually exit the elevator/subway/etc before trying to board, and to clap for athletes from competing countries.

The newest campaign? Remove dog meat from the menus of restaurants around town.

Although I've been known to eat some odd things (scorpions, beetles, ants, octopus) I'm quite against eating dog. I'm also kinda against eating food that was prepared in the same kitchen as dog.

In fact, I would just as well not know people eat dog. But that's a little like burying my head in the sand.

Regardless, if you're coming for the Olympics and have a adventurous palate, you probably will have to apply some extra effort to finding dog on the menu in Beijing. I, for one, am not heartbroken.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Let's see if I remember how to do this here. . . heehee

Apparently, my Chinese Censor Friends have decided to let us all use Blogger again, at least until the Olympics are over, so I decided to stop by and post.

And also try and figure out why I have two Headers (which may be just a Blogger goof, as that has been know to happen as well).

But what to post about? Hmmm. The crappy weather? The delicious food? The Great Wall?

Been there, done that at

Will stop back by when I have an original thought. See you in a while. . .