...in China! (...在中国!)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Trip to Xiang Shan.

Last Sunday several of us went to Xiang Shan (香山). Many Beijing natives go there at this time of year to see the changing of the leaves and to make the pilgrimage to the top of the mountain. Fall is the most beautiful time. The maple leaves are red and there is a nice cool breeze. Sadly we were one or two weeks late to see the reddest of the leaves. But we still had fun. We were in no hurry and we visited the tops of some of the smaller hills first. The we made our way up slowly to the top. We stop frequently for photos and snacks.

Two classmates from Chinese class and two of our Chinese friends. (From left to right: Chinese friend, Russian classmate, Chinese English student of mine and Japanese classmate)

This is a picture from the top. In the temple in the distance is a stone that is said to be so high that ghosts are afraid to go to the top. It was very lovely day. A bit chilly, but the climbing kept you warm!

And finally a picture of a yummy snack being made. Shan Dong Jian Bing (山东煎饼) Easiest way to explain it is "breakfast burrito", but there is batter layer, then egg layer, then Chinese onions, then some hot sauce, then a fried "tortilla" in the center, it is then all wrapped and eaten!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hot Pot...

Sunday night to celebrate a friends birthday we went to a nearby restaurant and had a famous Beijing dish. It is cold Hot Pot. It was quite yummy. Much better than the last hot pot I had. This time we had Lamp, Beef, Shrimp (More like huge ass prawns!) Vegetables and rice noodles. I opted for the spicy water. Imagine making a tea out of chili peppers and then using that water to cook meats and vegetables. The process is not entirely unlike Fondue, without the chocolate and the cheese. It was all very good and very well priced. (80RMB or $10) Sadly I don't recall the name of the restaurant. Some friends and I are going there tomorrow night to celebrate one of them taking the TOEFL. Perhaps in a few weeks we can do it again for the results, though we'll do Steak on that occasion.

Still having a few western cravings. I had a bowl of frosted flakes on Saturday. I must say that was quite wonderful. I just hung around the apartment watching movies etc. I watched "V for Vendetta" and the first 5 episodes of the newest season of Lost. So I feel a little caught up on the western world. I've not been able to track down Smallville or BSG yet. Just have to be patient. It will hopefully be easier with my switch to DSL in the coming week. And hopefully there will be less need for proxies!

Chinese lessons are going well. I'm told my pronunciation is getting better. I am still having problems here and there. Listening is a bit difficult at times. The clips are too long and too fast. They start us out on clips running at native speeds. No slowed down dialogs for us! Sink or Swim baby!

All else is well.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Cellphones are a very interesting topic here. As far as I can tell pay-as-you-go is the norm here rather than the exception like it is in the US. You buy a cellphone, at full price. Then you buy a cellphone number, which are not all made equal. 4's are bad luck so they make it cheaper. 8's are good luck and increase the price of the number. My number has neither 4's nor 8's so, like usual my luck is a wash. Voicemail is super expensive, so most people rely on SMS which is very cheap. I fit in very well, as I prefer txt's over talking.

My phone from the US works perfectly here. (Props to T-Mobile for unlocking phones!) But sadly it could not send or receive Chinese Txt's. So after about a month or so researching, I was able to find software on the internet for upgrading and modding (modifying) the Motorola RAZR.

I can now happily send and receive Chinese messages. This is good because the phone company will send you a warning when you're balance is getting low. The state also uses it to inform people of users of important things, like where not to go during some sort of diplomatic function. And finally it is another excuse to practice reading and "writing" Chinese.

Beijing Walmart....

I know it's not very exciting but here are pictures I took during my adventure to Walmart.

This is the store front. It is in the lower level of a large hotel, so I suspect Walmart just bought a pre-existing structure and changed the signs. It is a bit confusing to navigate inside the store. I bought 2 DVD's and you have to pay for them in the movie section before you leave to do other shopping. The lowest level is for groceries, but there is no checkout there. So I bought some household items, paid for them. Went downstairs to the grocery. Picked out some things. Took them back upstairs, paid, then got lost trying to get out of the place. I was in a basement level garage before I knew it.

This is how they do they poultry section in the grocery portion of the store. It works very much like the produce department. You pick what you want, bag it and they weigh it for you. The other supermarkets I frequent are the same. The meat is generally not prepackaged in vacuum wrap. The exception is at the occasional checkout aisle, where you will find vacuum packed preserved meats, not unlike beef jerky. The example that sticks out in my mind the most were the spicy chicken feet beautifully lined up in a roll in the package. (Note: Spicy chicken feet are tasty, but too much work for too little meat, I think it is more of substitute for chewing gum...!)

Sea food is fresh. I mean FREEESSSSHHH! You pick out the live critters you want. In the picture, you see a very blurry turtle type animal. You can even buy fresh/live shrimp. How's that for fresh? They had a decent selection of dried, cured and preserved meats. Some of which I could not guess the original animal, but they sure smelled good. I'd say the grocery portion of the store was laid out pretty well. Meats, Seafood, Dried goods, Produce, Fruits, Cleaning supplies, and Snacks all together. Fewer items in a seemingly odd places. And in an interesting bit of irony, western food is in the ethnic food area. Bizarro World! ;)

And Finally, I've not had a bowl of cereal since I got here, and was seriously craving some. I managed to find some Frosties (AKA Frosted Flakes!) Here is a short but non-comprehensive list of foods I crave, but have not found; Frosted Mini Wheats, Wintergreen Altoids, Cheddar Cheese (Swiss and Gruyere are available, but they are not Cheddar! And cheese is hella-spensive!), Oh and for the love of all that is Holy, there is NOOOO Root Beer here.