Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Absence of Christmas

It's getting interesting here in Beijing now that it's nearing the winter time and the pollution days are becoming ever more frequent. Waking up to ashy grays looming on the horizon on a regular basis, its making me try to remember what green looks like. I'm not complaining really, just stating fact. I knew it would be like this, so I'm not surprised in the least. It was inevitable, Mr. Anderson. Add the fact that Christmas is rapidly approaching, and I couldn't be more oblivious to the fact. The stark absence of holiday cheer is quite interesting. While it would probably be a bummer to most, I find the existence in a society in which Christmas is just the faintest murmur among the few foreigners peppered throughout Beijing just one of those life-enriching moments.

Classes are going just fine, and it's weird to actually see kids growing. There are alot of things that have really surprised me about spending all this time with kids, that being one of them. But memories of myself being that age are actually coming back pretty strong. When I see a kid in class sort of talking to himself and speaking gibberish (not Chinese, I swear) it reminds me of myself when I was that age. And some other things, like I don't remember loose teeth in my own jaw freaking me out as a kid, but seeing another kid with a tooth that's about to fall out really makes me cringe for some reason. It's pretty shocking to me that I reacted that way. Either way, it's staggeringly impressive to see just how far the kids have come with English. They're geniuses. I dote, I dote. But here, not only are they smart little tykes, but they're staggeringly cute. Just take a look at these two pictures.











That's Rain, wearing Annie's glasses, and Kaylee, daydreaming about something. They've set the bar pretty high in terms of how cute kids can be. The worst part is that they know it, so they can work an angle to get away with being little bastards sometimes. Us softy teachers are so easily manipulated.

This, contrasted with the shocking spectacle of the bizarrely (yet aptly) named "Beijing Acrobat Macrocosm" show that Laura Kavazanjian, Lauren, and Laura's friend from home went to. I thought about that whilst watching little kids bend around in shocking ways and flip around like... I don't know, like some sort of supernatural flippy creatures. I mean, these kids are going to have some serious bone, muscle, and body issues. When you are able to bend over backward and balance yourself with the sole power of your jaw muscles, I'm pretty sure that's one thing that wasn't really intended for the human body to do. Just take a gander


Yeah. Ouch. Not alot of room for error there.

I've been spending alot of time away from home. Everything is pretty surreal because of it, I'm used to copius "me" time, and I'm being more of a socialite than I've ever been ever ever. It's all fun and good, especially since recently some of this quality hang out time has been at the absolutely beautiful location known as The Bookworm that lets you play the absolutely divine piano there and is one of the very few places that has Guiness and Bass. The only problem is that all this action is making me really exhausted. But I'm becoming accustomed to it relatively quickly, and it's great to have such a variety of things to do now in my life. Plus, when you go out, you can come across such awe-inspiring moments as these:


"The policeman remind," I will ruin your life if you commit all sorts of crime. He's so jovial looking. He derives much pleasure in punishing you severely. Now you see how they work here in China!

Well, I'll end this rather anticlimatic e-chron with a picture of me chilling with my homie Santa:


Yo yo yo! Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

UPDATE!! OH MY GOLLY!

I know, I know. Not a lot of updating going on recently. I'm a slacker. Mainly it's the difficulty inherent in apparently doing anything internet related in China. And I don't care how much guff I give them now, they must understand that the over censoring is pointless. The people you probably don't want finding things out on the internet know how to circumvent it, so it's a losing battle in my opinion. Just let the free love of the internet flow. That's what I always say. And by 'always' I mean, you know, just in that last sentence.

I've been doing some serious socializing as of late. Whether its via the new part-time style jobs or just going out more, I've been exposing myself to some seriously high consecutive hours of intense, social activity. Almost like the Ironman of hangin' out. It's intense. For me at least.

During one such marathon social occasions, Annie, Lauren, and I discussed the idea of originality and how it feels to have some things of your own copied or outright stolen (such as piano songs and such). And how much I don't really care. In the midst of this, I mentioned my desire of what I call an "Aerial Burial". That is, that I would very much enjoy this method of burial post-mortem (definitely not pre-mortem though). Much to my chagrin, I've learned that the name "Aerial Burial" was not wholly original. What I thought was a clever and original title to something that didn't exist, I find that they do indeed offer similar services to those who wish to go out in a blaze of glamor. Although I think I might still have dibs on the concept of my aerial burial, in that your remains are fired out of a canon in a spectacular display of extravagance and grandeur. I can think of no more an apt, 21st century American tradition than to be blasted out of something upon death. I'd even be keen on donning my body with an American-flag helmet.

I bought a smashing new camera. I spent too many hours being wishy-washy, but laying down that kinda kuai makes me jittery. So I had to be absolutely sure that I was buying something that I was happy. Though in the process of such, I'm a little ashamed to admit that I gave in to the cute. I purchased not a super zoomy camera with all kinds of bells and whistles, but a small James Bond style camera more suited for looking awesome. Ultimately, I was won over by the fact that the camera had not one, but two, lenses built right into it. One is for normal picture taking, the other is for wide-style. It makes for some easy framing, I have to say. And like I said, its small and cute. Like Dad's camera. And cute things drive the ladies crazy here in Chinaland from what I understand (or from what's going on in my mind at least).

With said camera, I've been seizing the opportunity to make many such photos. All of which I can assure you are of the highest quality. And there are some videos as well of the classes that we teach at Carden. In the near future, you will see just how impossibly cute the kids are capable of being. I mean, there's regular cute, and then there's the dangerous cute. Cute that transcends any preconceived notion one might have about the definition of cute. Cute that redefines the term in an intangible way, one of those "you don't know it until you see it" kind of ways. It's that cute.

But, and there's always a but in China, uploading at this point is painfully slow. So I'm going to try again tomorrow when the planets are aligned, the temperature is just right outside, and when the bell tower chimes at half past 3 o'clock, because that's what it freaking seems to take to get the ever-elusive "fast-internet" connection that has only been spoken of in old wives' tales.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Wrinkle in Time


This past weekend, I went with Lauren, Cory, Katie, Laura Kavazanjian, and Seth to a bluegrass show. In friggin' Beijing. Of course, it wasn't so Beijingy inside the club. It was mainly other whiteys, although its doubtful that they were redneck whiteys. But by golly, they were redneck for the night. It was the Sparrow Quartet, with Abigail Washburn (pictured here in a hilarious juxtaposition with some Chinese military guys).

It was interesting though; listening to bluegrass in Beijing and what not. What made it especially disorienting was the fact that Bela Fleck was playing with them. For a brief moment, it seemed that the fabric of the universe opened up and the bizarreness of the situation was fully realized: I have seen Bela Fleck play 15 minutes from my home in the country and seen them in the capital of China, the farthest I've ever been from my home. The bizarre situation created what Katie described as being "A Wrinkle in Time", her theory being based on some obscure book that I'm sure no one has ever read.

Watching the performance, I couldn't help but be thrust into nerd-think again. These thoughts always creep in when I least expect it. I'd like to think that I let these emotional moments impact me in a way that I can't put into words, but I couldn't help but thinking that the music would have been awesome in this sci-fi show called Firefly that I'm in love with. The show is supposed to be a "Western-style sci fi", in which the future implies that the predominating two cultures on Earth were the Chinese and American/English. So... the fact that Abigail Washburn was singing bluegrass songs in Chinese seemed to scream to me that it would have been awesome in the show. Oh well, too late.

Speaking of nerd-think though, although I couldn't be more happy about some news back home regarding certain political parties and a certain Secretary of Defense, I can't help but be pissed off vicariously through Nicole. I am astounded by video games and the industry today. Nowadays, it seems so... tainted. I'm not talking about tainted in the sense that Grand Theft Auto is turning today's children into carjacking, prostitute killing, drug dealing, gang banging, misogynist, volatile sociopaths. I'm talking about how greedy and bizarre the game-makers of today are. Its just so weird to think of the new ways companies are cheating their customers by exploiting the features of online service and the addictive nature of the customer base. I mean, it sounds like EA games are going to start charging people 10 to 15 dollars for offering things that have already been available to gamers for free since there ever were games. Not only that, but game systems are so freaking expensive nowadays. The PS3 is 600 dollars I think, and that's if you don't want to shell out the moolah for the "cheap" system (500 dollars). This is getting way out of hand. Not to mention the fact that when you "reserve" the systems, you aren't even guaranteed to get them after they're released! That's the whole freaking point of a reservation! It blows my mind. These absurdities of American ways of life -despite the fact that some are avoidable- are the types of things I really don't miss about the place, and are the types of things I really, really don't look forward to when I come back. What a strange place. What strange ideas. And to think of how they try to spin the things they do to put themselves in a positive light. Or at least in a slightly less sinister light.

Ok, I've pissed myself off. I'm going to go and think of something positive for a bit.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Me: 1 China: 0

So with the help of Cami et al., I think I've beaten the system. I have a temporary non-Chinese IP address, and with such, I can post this message. We'll see if it works. I'm hopeful though.

Finally, a chance for an update. Alot has happened since I was slapped in the face with the Great Firewall of China, so it will be difficult to post much. So I'll just go with what I was just thinking about.

First of all, I'm totally stoked. It isn't because of anything major. In fact, that I'm stoked at all about what I'm stoked about is a testament of how easy it is to stoke me. I have live bookmarks on my browser, which allows me to browse my addiction-satisfaction sites much more quickly, leaving room for doing more valuable things with my time. Like glancing around my room and deciding not to clean. I have the most important stuff up there, such as video-game based comics, pointless news stories, short low-quality animations, and a real news source (just so I can kid myself). In addition (whoa, I almost accidentally wrote "addiction", which is probably more applicable), I have a site that tells me what words to say to stay hip with today's fly youngsters. I think the definition of "kthxbye" is extremely funny though, which is what this paragraph was getting to in a very circuitous fashion.

This past weekend, all the teachers banded together and went on an adventure in an agrestic area just outside of Beijing. We all had a chance to bond surviving the elements as we climbed up a gradually sloping, yet vicious, mountain and braved the unforgiving, placid waters of a giant lake in our duck boats. Later, we all bonded in the only way we know possible: By drinking, playing pool, bowling, and "singing" songs on karaoke. These poor songs never knew what was coming. It would be nice to say we(I) butchered them. Yes... less butchering, more torturing. I tortured Simon and Garfunkle's "The Sound of Silence".

The next day, Xiao Gao (Only the most awesome driver/repairman/organizer/partyplanner/sage/mentor/genius that's ever existed) put together a game for us to play. Since it was difficult to explain the rules of this totally made up game in both Chinese and English, it resulted in alot of us just running around bumping into other people. Which, to be honest, was a lot of fun anyway. I've never played a game and felt so incredibly out of touch with reality at the same time.

More updates. My camera... she is still broken. I was trying to find some way of fixing it for cheaper than 1600 yuan, but its not possible. So I don't know what to do. I have to do something though, I need more pictures.

Ok enough for now. Eating time.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Viva la revolucion!

Warning: This E-Chron is one of the least interesting thus far, I just felt like typing whatever I wanted to. Don't blame me if you are bored with the banalities of today's nonsensical ramblings. This isn't self-deprecation. I write a whole paragraph on how sad it was to lose a stick of candy...

Today is a day to remember... Today marks the day that the E-Chronicles are officially banned in China. I heard the news this morning, and wanted to see for myself. Sure enough, I typed in that simple, yet appealing url "echron.blogspot.com" and lo and behold I got the "This Page is Not Available". Upon discovery of this information, I was surprised to find that my feelings were not an ominous sense of paranoia, disappointment that it will be more difficult for some to read the blog, or fear that my site will be taken down. Nope. I felt elated. Even a little empowered. I wasn't sure at first, until I spoke with Annie:

Drew: "Annie, my blog is blocked. Isn't that weird? I don't think I said something anti-China or anything."

Annie: "Whoa! You were blocked! That's so cool! You're like a revolutionary!"

Drew: "Yeah! I kinda am!"

It suddenly became clear. I was elated because I was proud of the fact that maybe - maybe - I was well-known enough to be singled out and blocked! Maybe even I could photoshop a Che-like poster of myself! I found out later that, in fact, all blogger.com blogs are blocked... not just the e-chron. Bummer.

So I think I'll start a new section entitled "Scary Stuff that Moms Should Not Read". Things happen in Beijing, like the mystery people that got into my home a few days ago, or being ripped off, getting ill, being offered live chickens for dinner, etc., that seem to be the bane of all people who read this and may have loved ones travel abroad. So, I had to post this little article on the 10 things that could be improved in Beijing. I most certainly agree with these. And that leads to my first thing that Moms shouldn't read: Counting tonight, I have technically been hit by a bus and a car. I think the Xi'an thing was when I was "hit" by a bus... as in, I apparently wasn't crossing the street at a red light fast enough, so a bus decided to creep up and nudge my backpack a little. I looked at the driver, and he knew what he was doing. And then, tonight, I was nudged by a car on the way to my most favoritist Muslim food restaurant. It seems that they enjoy doing this most when they are under the inconvenience of having to let inferior bipedal humans cross in front of them while they're at a stop light. The nerve of those people who think they have to walk in Beijing!

The other day, I was walking and eating this fruit skewer they have here. Its like candy apples, but candy everything. I mean, they just take whatever fruit that exists, stab it with a long stick, and dip it into some sugary... something. So I had one with oranges on it. I ate two as I was walking across the footbridge. When I started walking through the path to my building, I did the unthinkable: I dropped the skewer. There were still probably 6 or 7 orange slices left on there. This is the random thought I wanted to post though, and I've thought this before. How come, when you do something like that, you actually stop and survey the damage for a few seconds, when it is clear that there's nothing you can do. Its kind of like when you trip, and you know you just tripped on your own clumpy foot or something, and you still look back and try to assign responsibilty to some blade of grass that jumped up and tangled itself in your shoelace.

I stopped and stared at the catastrophe heart-broken. But idiotic fleeting thoughts rushed through my head, as if I would be able to actually rectify the situation somehow and salvage what I had lost for further consumption. Why? Why would I think that. Sticky, syrupy, candied oranges fell straight into dirt. There's no 5-second rule. There's no turning back. So I just had a moment of silence for the loss and tossed the skewer in the refuse bin, and walked away, head lowered in shame and pondering where I went wrong. It was quite a defeat, I can assure you.

Ok, this has been a pointless e-chron, but I don't care. Not everything that happens over here is adventurous and epic, no matter how I much I try to exagger... I mean, tell the honest, unquestionable truth about everything that goes on in China.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ill... that says "ill" with a capital "i".

I'm sick. Well, sickish. I woke up this morning to the sound of my phone ringing, which sounded like it was miles away from my bed. My throat was killing me. I had to /spit quite a lot, which makes me concerned that I'm becoming more and more like the citizens of Beijing with each passing day. Ich bin ein Beijinger!

But! My sickness benefits you, the ever-faithful E-Chron indulger! Due to my ailment, I stayed inside today and worked on the E-Chron more! Now the E-Chron is cooler than ever, with a YouTube enhanced intro movie/song! Now the E-Chronicles of Drew are 80% more epic! It took way longer to make that video than it should have, but who cares? Not me, I'll tell you that right now.

Ok that video took alot out of me, time for some pocky.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Xi'an, among other things.

Well, there was some good news today. Dork news, but good nonetheless. China apparently has lifted its blocking of the super-subjective yet incredibly handy website of Wikipedia. This makes me very happy. I'm sure that their concerns as a nation are legitamate. After all, anyone can post pretty much anything they want on there about any topic. So, imagine what kind of "biased" information must be on there about... things that have happened in the past. You know... with certain "4-sided geometric shapes" in the center of Beijing, if you catch my drift.

Also, yesterday we were learning how to make the "Ch" sound, as in the word "Cheese". After saying "Cheese" about 50 times, I started really missing some Western foods (i.e. pizza). So I got some Papa John's last night and doused that fire as quickly as I possibly could. I hadn't had cheese in a very long time, and I haven't had milk since I've been here. And, AND... I haven't had a single burger or burger-like sandwich either. Its shocking. I had a submarine sandwich, but it was kind of gross... mainly because they put mayonnaise on it. Mayonnaise... on a friggin pizza sub. But I think that mayonnaise in the eye's of the Chinese people is more like "America sauce". So its like, its the condiment that American's eat. So slap it on anything you want and presto! Instant Western-style food!

One more thing, I've been valiantly staving off the marauding barbarians of sickness for the past week. Its not working too well. I feel like crap right now. And I hate that I feel like crap, which just makes the crap-feeling that much more crappy. Because the weekends are usually the best time I have to hang out with Cami and co. and have fun times together. But today when I went over, all I could do was dwell on the fact that I felt like crap. So I took some medicine, which made things worse due to the groggy repercussions.

The day didn't start off so hot either, as I was jolted from sleep to consciousness from the sound of a loud banging on the front door. There were some Chinese people out there who said alot of things in not-English and then came in the house. This one guy with blue plastic bags rubber-banded to his shoes opened the kitchen cabinet and mumbled a few indiscernable things to himself, marched right back out and said really quickly, "Si bai wu shi wu kuai". This translates to, "That will be 455 yuan". I understood that much. But what the hell? He didn't do anything and then started barking to me in mumbly Chinese (and yes, I can now discern mumbly Chinese from clearly spoken Chinese, in case you were following the progress of my language acquisition) about how much out of the tush I was supposed to fork over to him. Then this collectively acrimonious lot kept saying the price over and over and holding out there palms for me to commence forkage. So I lied of course and said that I didn't have that kind of money, what do you think I'm made of Mao bills? I think not busters... and bustette! So I called Ms. Wang and several others in a desperate attempt to get someone on the phone to tell them to leave. I failed at this, since it was around 8 AM and were asleep. So I got them to leave the only way I knew how: I knew how to say "go" in Chinese, and just repeated over and over. They could have been legitimate repair folk or something, but how the hell was I supposed to know? So, I just said, "Tso! Tso! Tso! Wo bu kuai! Wo bu kuai!" I'm sure this way of saying "I have no money" was totally incorrect. But it got the point across. I think they claimed they would be back later, but I fled the apartment before I saw them again. Now I'm back and there's no sign of breaking and entering, so everything must be square. Ms. Wang called back and told me, post hoc, not to give money to strangers. Good advice.

So... back to Xi'an.

I just realized as well, that post was completely lost...

This is a huge bummer, I hated writing about the bus ride down there. Oh well, here it goes...

We got on the bus in Beijing around 5:3o-ish and made our way to Xi'an. Once we loaded on, I knew instantly that I was in for a major treat. A sensory Dante's Inferno, if you will. Filled with the sights, sounds, and smells of what must have been equivalent to the nastier parts of Dante's little trip through hell. The floors were wet with some sort of... liquid. And to make the deal even sweeter, we had to take our shoes off at the front of the bus. So if the goal was to see how many bacteria could be soaked into each passengers' socks by the time the 15 hour ride was over, they most have broken some records. The mattress provided also featured an array of several mysterious human stains of some sort. The whole bus could have seriously given even Gil Grissom a run for his money.


So anyway, lucky me, I was on the top-middle bunk. I actually went to sleep around 10 pm. Poor Laura Kavazanjian and Annie barely got any sleep though. They were on the bottom bunk. Around 7 am, I was awakened to a cacophany of lung-hacking, guffawing, snorting, and coughing, accompanied by the aromatic smell of about 10 lit cigarettes in a poorly ventilated environment. Plus, according to Laura, someone spilled a bottle of pee. People were up and playing cards and having a wee of a time laughing and often saying, "Mei guo!" again and again. They were talking about us, like Chinese people seem to like to do. It's like Americans are celebrities and performing monkeys at the same time often in China. So, to add to the excitement, our bus broke down several times along the way. A few times even, a festooned officiall-looking fellow boarded the bus and poked around in a curious fashion. That was definately comforting. I took a peek, and then pretended to be asleep. For some reason I was worried that they might throw me off the bus for being American.

So.

What should have been a 15 hour trip, became a 19 hour trip. It was nearly unbearable, and I can tolerate a lot. I really can. This was one of the first times I've had to just concentrate as hard as I could in order to block out all the bad. It worked, I didn't flip out on anyone. But then again, it wasn't a position I'd really enjoy being in again any time soon.

This is the only picture I have of the horrid thing.

So... we arrived at Xi'an and burst forth from the stinking husk that was the remains of a thoroughly defiled sleeper bus. Then we continued on to find our way to the hotel.

We made it to the hotel, it was a beautiful sight. I indulged myself in what was, perhaps, the most rewarding shower I've had in my entire life.

More to come...

Increasingly better experiences too.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Ok maybe not that bad...

I have been trying and trying to find a place that can fix my super-cool Canon S2 IS, with people offering wildly variant estimations of times and prices, ranging from 200 yuan in one day to 1600 yuan in 3 days. Of course, the person who offered the 200 yuan in one day was someone who looked at the camera briefly and said, "I don't know what's wrong with it, but I'll give it a shot." Adam went with me to translate, I don't understand Chinese well enough to know that that is what he said, if thats what you're thinking. Adam also informed me that some freelance, rogue camera repairmen will gut the poor contraption, take out all the good parts, and replace them with crappy parts, then sell the good parts to other people. I didn't like the sound of that. So we took the camera to the official Canon repair place.

The gentleman there informed me with complete indifference and torpor that the problem can only be solved by replacing the lens, and since my American warranty doesn't apply to China (and really, why should it?), it would cost 1600 ($200) yuan to fix. He wholeheartedly recommended that I ditch the camera and buy a cheap, no-brand camera until I go back home and can cash in on the warranty there. I, of course, could not capture this instant (or any other things I do for awhile) on camera, so here's the best representation I have to offer:


Apparently, this "E18" Canon problem is one that is rampant among customers. So much that there is an entire website registered to the victims of the affliction, and a impending class-action suit against the fine folks of Canon Inc. Apparently, according to Canon, you CANNOT touch the lens as it is moving... EVER. Similarly, thou SHALT NOT power the camera on if it's close to having dead batteries. If you do, the camera will swoon and faint under the pressure of having to do too much work. Its funny too, the Canon shop had photos on the wall taken by Canon users. Things like, rambunctious tykes or galloping gazelles taken in extraordinarily hazardous-looking conditions. And yet, the S2 IS seems to have the structural integrity of a dainty little flower. I'm sure they used some super Canon camera... either that or they took 20 s2 IS' to Africa and used them like disposables.

So... I don't know what to do. I was this close (right now I'm holding my thumb and index finger extremely close together) to shelling out the dough for the fix, because I so miss the camera. I could take photos like this one of a darling little chinese youth so easily.




And yet, who's to say if I did pay for it how long I'd have a working camera for? I could shell out the cash-money, use it for another 2 weeks, and graze the lens as I take off the lens cap. Then I'm out 200 more dollars and even more disheartened.

Anyway, until I do something, here are some more photos of things some of you have wanted to see in the only way I can make them for now:


This is my 1st grade class. Aren't they cute?

My apartment. What a comfy couch!




Friday, October 13, 2006

How frustrating

I typed a post this morning about the Xi'an trip, and I guess didn't wait long enough for it to upload before I closed my laptop. I thought I had waited long enough. I could have sworn it. But obviously I didn't. We're going bowling tonight, but tomorrow there will be an update. I promise.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Somehow...

Somehow, the three of us, with our tenuous-at-best grasp of the Chinese language, one dog-eared copy of The Lonely Planet, and a lot of bleary-eyed wandering about, managed to make our way back to Beijing. Don't ask me how. And we did it all and only cut 2/3rds into our 3000 yuan budget. We could have done it even cheaper, if we had gone the hostel route. But still, all that for the equivalent of just over 200 dollars is pretty darn good in my opinion. We even got bamboozled a couple of times.

I bought two souverniers, one for Mom and one for Laura-Blythe. I bargained for them too, which is one thing I never thought I'd be able to do. One more thing that I thought I'd never be able to do was done on this trip. I'll give you a hint: It involves Chinese public restrooms and... well, me. Yay for quadraceps.

There is a lot to write about. A lot. And I'm going to write about it in chronological order, instead of from recent memory. Which sucks because I don't like the first part. I want to pretend it didn't happen. And the last part is my favorite. I may have found peace and enlightenment on Mt. Hua. If I did, I forgot what it was all about after playing the Nintendo DS on the bus ride back for a few hours. Oh well, I'm sure it will come back to me. So anyway, expect the next few posts to be all about the trip.

Anyway, this one doesn't count. This one is the post to say I'm back.

I'm back.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Xi'an so far

In Xi'an right now. At the hotel, but can't post much because I'm borrowing the manager's computer. Just got ripped off and had a taxi driver cackle at us. We payed 20 yuan more than we should have. It wasn't much, but still. So, I'm kind of pissed. Otherwise, things are going well. Lots of pictures/video.

Ok gotta go. Update in a few days.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Leaving for a week

This weekend is the Lunar Festival, which marks the commencement of our weeklong October break. For the duration of such, Annie, Laura, and myself will be travelling to Xi'an to see some statues or something. I plan to eat lots of Xi'an Jao-zi (which Xi'an is apparently famous for) and link to as many things as possible.

My point being is that I will be gone from Sunday night (October 1st) until Saturday morning (October 7th). Which means a whole week on no update goodness (unless I stumble across an internet cafe, and can pop in for a second to update). Please don't stop reading though. This blog is like Puff, the Magic Dragon. When people stop visiting him, E-chron will cease his fearless roar, green html code will fall like rain, and E-chron that Magic Journal will slip sadly into his 404 (file not found) cave. Damn, that came off more guilt-trippy than I planned, my bad.

Before I leave, I'll be making one more post to further delineate my exact plans (Laura put together an itinerary). Then whomever so chooses could get a rough idea of where I am at all times during the trip. Furthermore (and this one goes out to all ya'lls out there who worry even slightly about my safety), Ms. Wang insisted and insisted that we take her phone number (which I was planning on doing anyway) so that in case of some emergency, she can get us back no matter what. Gotta love safety nets. Aside from the fact that she's looking out for our well being, I can understand her standpoint on the business end: If all buses became booked and we were stuck for whatever reason (unlikely), she'd be out 3 teachers for the beginning of the week. That would suck.

I really do like the set up we have going here at Carden China. They take good care of you. I highly recommend it to people who might want to teach in China. I wonder if you could find this blog now by searching "Carden China" on google...

I told myself I'd start using some GRE words in the e-chrons to help me study a bit, but I'm too dilatory tonight. Hehe.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Great Wall AGAIN?!

Ok just a little tidbit that I haven't added before that I think some of you might appreciate, or be appalled by. And yes, the same thing can enduce both reactions (e.g., The Great Faux-Jewish Escapade of 2002). The first day of training, the TAs came into the classroom to help us prepare. After going over the material, Eileen gave me a list of the children. Almost half had English names, the other half were nameless. So I was given the duty, nay, the privilege of assigning them their English names.

Did I name them something close to the sounds of their Chinese names? No, of course not. Too easy. Did I name them after friends, relatives, or other loved/respected ones? No, of course not. My brain wasn't thinking that way. So, how did I name them? After characters from Star Wars, Firefly, and video games, of course. This was stranger than I imagined, as kids started looking and acting in my eyes like their counterparts (I'm sure some of you will know these). I now see Luke as being sort of the one that will come into his own and be a powerful person one day. I see Han as a rebel mercenary type kid who's too cool for school. I see Kaylee as a quirky, cute little ball of optimism. And so on. There's also a Jane, but I couldn't get away with naming a boy "Jayne". Its funny though, cause she's tough and stubborn just like her counterpart. Oh well. Others that were turned down as too out there or complicated were Mal, River, Simon, Chewie, Jabba, Boba, and almost everyone I used to play WoW with. Hehe, I'm kidding... mostly. While I think that Boba Fett is less of a stretch than some of the names they actually give (such as Smile, or a boy named Sunshine), I guess I would have been crossing some line there. But, Celera came damn close to being one of the girls. That name was very well received (Sorry Cel!). There are also two exceptions: I named one of the kids Dan, because I knew he'd be dedicated just like Mr. Hubball, and one of the kids Jack, because I got tired of thinking of weird names.

Ok onto the Wall.

After coming back down, we walked further to the east. The sun was setting quickly, but we were interested in seeing if the wall continued further to another town (that has good Jao za, if thats how its spelled). We kept walking until we approached another impasse. We technically could have crossed, but that area was a little too rugged for our liking. Plus there wasn't 100% certainty that it was the right way. So we about-faced back to a decent camping spot we found.

We "set up" camp, which consisted of unfurling a sleeping bag and mat, and Cory cooked some fine - damned fine - pasta. It was a very cold, but clear, night. I had not seen the stars since I'd been here. It was very nice to see them. Very nice. I even caught a glimpes of a shooting star here and there. And, as I drifted of to sleep sans glasses, I peered through my sleeping bag up at the stars and thought for waaay too long on why one star was significantly brighter than the others. I erroneously concluded that it was a different part of the world, so maybe some stars shine more vividly than in America. Yeah, it was the moon, dumbass. I'm a sharp one, I tell ya. Anyway, after some intense crossword puzzle playing, we "went to sleep". I say it like that because it was hard to. First, I wasn't very comfortable. Second, it was pretty darn cold. Third, I couldn't get over the fact that I was freaking camping on the Great Wall of China.















So after a full night of tossing and turning and rolling down hill into a bush a few times, it was morning. I poked my nose out the top of my sleeping bag to get a whiff of cool, fresh air. The dew was glistening on the sleeping bag, and... the air... was so fresh. Sorry, when you live in Beijing, you really get a kick out of clean air. It was funny to wake up to a symphony of digitized camera shutter clicks, start up sounds, and Cory, Katie, and Laura all whispering, "Wow, its so beautiful!" Really, how could anyone sleep through that? So I got up to see what all the fuss was about.



Yeah, I thought in my sleeping bag with the cover over my eyes wanting to get some sleep, "Its just a sunrise. They're ooing and ahhing over nothing. I've seen the sunrise a thousand times. Its always the same. The sun comes up, lights things up, makes things warmer, and eventually decides to go back down. Nothing special. What is special is sleeping. That's where its at." Good thing this was a temporary thought.





So after we took several thousand photos of nearly the same scenery (I'm not exaggerating... I think between us it was that many), we started back down. By the way, if anyone wants the full size image of the sunrise, alls ya got to do is ask. Its really much prettier than the super-compressed version.

Once we got to the bottom, we conversed with the locals. By "we", I mean Cory and Katie. I just sat there and played with a puppy, wishing that I knew what was going on in the Chinese conversation world. We eventually got a ride to another section of the wall, the touristy section, where we were constantly screamed at such phrases as, "Hello! Water!" or "Hello! Coke!" or "Hello! Water! Coke! Hello!". It sounded hilarious, as if they were thinking that my name was Water or Coke. I wanted to shot back, "Hello, Pepsi! Hello!". I'm not a jerk though.

The touristy wall was much easier to access, with a chairlift and everything. It was much more restored, but not any less cool. Just cool in a different way. In an easier way. I liked to challenge of going to the ruins. You had to hike through the wilderness to get there. At touristy wall, you were ushered around. There's nothing wrong with this. In fact, after getting such little sleep, I welcomed it. But I'm very glad I did the challenging part. Touristy wall was fun though, because when you were done, you got to ride a sled down a metal slide to the bottom. Just like in the old days...

So... thats it. Finally. I'm done. No more Wall Talk until I get back home and it is casually brought up in idle banter. Its one of those things that is difficult for a guy like me to talk about. By which I mean, I'm so unenthusiastic sounding about everything. Laura Kavazanjian, Cory, and Katie were all so enthusiastic about recounting it, telling the experience in detail. When I was asked about my wall trip at school I replied in a very "my Dad" way, "It wasn't too bad." Or "Yeah, it was pretty neat". Internally, I'm thinking, "This is the coolest thing I've ever done!! Oh my god!! The Great Wall!" It just doesn't come out that way.

Anyway, I'm done. Which is good, I'm going to Xi'an in a few days. I need to get caught up so I can write more! Thanks for sticking through the story till the end! Luke, the story is over. You'll have to wait for season two now. And there were no cliff-hangers. Where is the incentive to keep reading, I wonder?

Bye bye.


P.S. That peak back there is where the neat tree was. To quote Mitch Hedberg, "That tree is far away!!"

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Great Wall

Lets get this started on the right foot...

I'll teach those kids a thing or two...

Ok now thats out of the way, I can continue my epic adventure story (By the way, epic is my recent favorite word. Yesterday, I ate some epic dumplings).

So we got out of the wild, and onto the wall. I was pouring sweat already, as it was hot as the dickens (which I hear is pretty darn hot). I used the Dad turban trick and confused the local Chinese folks into thinking I was some sort of Chinese-Muslim-American hybrid with my red-star shirt, turban, and rugged, old-fashioned American good looks. Of course, there does seem to be a big Muslim population in China, so maybe its not too far-fetched.

"Derka Derka Derka"

The view from this point was instantly amazing. The wall was unlike I had imagined it, as I said before. It was quite narrow, there were whole sections missing, alot of it seemed to disintegrate underneath foot and hand. In the distance, there were other people climbing the wall. It looked like they were having a wonderful time, so we set off in that direction. Katie stayed behind, but Laura, Cory, and I set forth determined to make it up to the summit that was in our immediate view.


You can't see the summit from this shot, but it was coo

Close to where we started out, there was a point in which the wall had crumbled into a pile of debris (not while we were there, fortunately). This was the first major obstacle we faced. It wasn't really that bad, but considering the fact that I had decided to lug my camera around for the sake of capturing this wonderous moment, it made it hard. But thats how I do things. I like to make even the simplest thing as difficult as possible. So I started free-climbing the first part. Left arm, put camera down, right arm, pick up camera, left arm, etc. I moved in threes like that all the way up the wall. It was dusty, precarious, and maybe a little dangerous. But damnit, I was going to get a picture from up top.

This is steep, trust me.

I was being so careful with my camera. I was almost certain that "Climbing the Great Wall of China" was in the list of things for which Best Buy will void your warranty. That little fella was a trooper too. Getting little bits of dust and pebbles kicked on him and whatnot. I was so proud. The further we went, the more ominous the looks on peoples' faces were coming from the direction we were going. One person proclaimed sincerely, "There is a big challenge ahead". I thought it was just a cute slight Chinese skewing of the English language. I'm pretty sure he ment it though.

Masked by an expression of delight, an overwhelming sense of terror washed over Drew...

I was getting what I hoped for: Some very neat pictures from a very high angle. I could see Katie far below. The perspective was overwhelming. I'm sorry Grandfather Mountain, but this area has your mile-high bridge for breakfast.

In the mist, in the very far right-hand side of this picture, you can see our future campsite. And the little jut-out section of the wall about 1/4th the way up the photo is where we first started the ascent.




Snakey

Finally, we made it to the peak. It was an amazing sight. Although heights bug the crap out of me, it was worth the trembling, the terror, the wanton camera abuse, and the tearing of my jeans at the ankle.







"Yee haw"









So after achieveing enlightenment via oxygen deprivation at the summit, we began our descent. It wasn't nearly as scary as I was dreading it would be.




"Weeeeeeee"

We met up with Katie and continued hiking.

I can't believe I'm going to do this, but I'm going to leave the rest for tomorrow. I can't believe this freaking story is taking me three posts to do, but I've been working on this one for an hour. I have to trudge through painfully slow DSL. Oh well, I can't complain I guess. You aren't allowed to complain here.

More soon. I promise it will be soon.



Thursday, September 21, 2006

Intermission II: The Return

I'm still working on the final installment of the Great Wall trip. I got the photos from Laura Kavazanjian (whose last name I didn't have to type, but its so awesome that I felt compelled to), many of which are alot better than mine. So I wanted to upload them as well, in order for you, the reader, to get the fullest effect possible.

But I'm at school early today, and kind of bored, so I wanted to post again.

I walked to school today. For me, it seems that in order to actually be able to understand where a particular location is in the world, I have to physically go there myself. I can't just tell a cab driver. Anyway, it only took 30 minutes, which is only slightly longer than it took for me to walk to campus in Boone. It wasn't too bad of a walk either - minimal stinky spots and very few instances of car dodging (exaggeration, don't worry Mom).

I "sadly" have missed my chance on taking the GRE in China. Here in this part of the world, they only offer the paper test. This version of the test is offered only twice a year, and the deadline for applying was two weeks ago. Oh well. I've wanted to go back and get a Ph.D now more than I ever have, which is good I guess. My chances of doing such are slim-to-none though in my opinion, since I'm sporting dreadfully low GRE scores as it is. I e-mailed Dr. Hindman recently to ask about Labor related programs, and he strongly recommended Cornell university. I looked into it, and it seemed to really kick ass. I'd be all over it. Ominously, they don't even have a GRE minimum requirement. That probably means that technically, its pretty high.

Then again, all British schools don't have a minimum requirement for GREs. In fact, they don't ask for GRE scores at all. I've been giving a lot of thought to applying over on that side of the ocean, but I have no idea what they require. Its really difficult to tell what research they do in some of those schools. I think I need Dan to translate and help me fight my way through the rhetorical quagmire on some of these websites. I just need to find out what the hell they want from me.

I've been given work to do, so I'm off for now.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Intermission

Just a quick post for intermission. Something I've thought about since a few days ago but I haven't posted.

I was so terrified that I was going to get constipated or sick or messed up in some way by the food here. But just the opposite has happened. Even though I have eaten some foods that broke some of the rules I read about (I ate an unpeeled apple and plenty of raw vegetables), I've had excellent... umm... processes.

I think I know why...

Back home I was (even though I didn't want to admit it much) eating waayyyy too much fast food and otherwise unhealthy foods. I haven't had anything like that hear except for once (McDonalds, which made me sick).

So...

I think the year here will be an excellent time to shift over to a permanent anti-fastfood kick. I don't even miss Chik-fil-a. At all. I don't miss sweet tea either thanks to green tea.

Of course, I'll look back at this post in a few months when I'm going through the throes of home-sickness and edit the sweet tea part out. I just know it.

EDIT: I didn't mean this post to sound like an epiphany I had all by myself. A lot of you have pointed this out to me on several occaisions that I eat that stuff too frequently. Its just that I think I had to see physical evidence on the counterpoint myself to be sufficiently shocked into self-awareness of the problem. I am especially thinking of Laura Blythe pointing that out to me. I was defensive about it cause I was embarrassed, and ignored it somewhat, but thanks for pointing it out.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Great Wall

Ok I'm awake and ready to rock. Had an awesome night's sleep, had some vivid and crazy dreams (I always seem to the night after camping somewhere), and I woke up at 7 sans alarm clock. Shao Gao picks us up at 9:15 so I'm going to try to type fast. It might be a two-parter.

We left Beijing early as heck on Saturday morning. We didn't really even have time to eat if we wanted to get some serious exploration in. It didn't really matter though because Cory, Katie, and Laura came very prepared with various food and such. We took a taxi, subway, bus, then van. So it was a long trip. The van ride was pretty hair-raising actually, due to the fact that everyone in China seems to drive like bats out of hell. Worse, blind bats out of hell... who are incredibly impatient. So we took a few questionable turns and eventually made it to some remote looking area in the countryside. I constantly wonder sometimes if cab drivers just drop you off in random places because they are tired of trying to communicate with people who don't speak Chinese. But we were in a place, with Great Walls involved, so it was right enough.

So we started walking in the general direction of the wall. It wasn't your traditional national park, with signs, forest rangers and safety and whatnot. It was just out there. As if it were completely untouched (which it definately wasn't). We walked for awhile, saw and heard bugs I've never seen/heard before. I was definately out of shape, which seems to be a nearly permanent state of being for myself. But I definately had some serious sweat practically blasting out of my pores at break-neck speeds. I'm sure you'd love to see a picture of a sweaty version of me, so here you go. You're welcome.


After climbing for awhile, we eventually get to the point where we could see the wall, and to be honest it was a lot smaller than I expected. I later found out that the wall is various sizes at different places, and I don't blame them for making the wall smaller at this particular location. Its hard as hell to get to. Plus, this wall isn't nearly as restored as the other wall we went to later, which was like a theme park (with chairlifts and tobogan rides and everything, you'll see later). So it was pretty cool to see an overgrown, ruins-like Great Wall. It was pretty hazy that day, so the wall just sort of snaked away into the mist, which was an impressive sight.



So after resting for awhile, Cory and Laura got gung-ho about climbing the steeper side (the one that wasn't toward the way we were planning on descending). I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I didn't go. So we started our ascent...




Did Drew climb the steep part of the wall or did he crumble like a little pansy?! Did Drew set up camp that night and survive without eating Chick-fil-a or Twix candy bars?! Find out, in the next installment of...

THE GREAT WALL!

Great Wall Almighty

I'm back from the Great Wall overnight trip. It was so cool. I have so much to write about, but unfortunately I physically can't right now. I hate to do that to you, but I need sleep. Big time. While it was amazing to sleep, actually sleep, on the Great Wall, it wasn't by any stretch of the imagination comfortable. So I barely slept.

I could write a bunch of stuff this instant, but I can't do that until I can post photos. I can't post photos until I can upload them. And I can't stay awake long enough to upload all the ones I want to include. There will be a big update tomorrow though, maybe even in the morning when I wake up. But for right now I'm going to crash.

I'll leave one last thing though. Luke and Laura, if you come, you have to go to the wall. To the real wall, not the tourist one. The one where the rocks crumble underneath your feet as you walk up stairs it and where you have to actually climb parts because the stairs are too steep to actually walk up. I will take you there, and I'd wager good money that you'd love it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Perpetual motion

I seriously need some "me days" soon. I've been doing stuff non-stop since I got to Beijing. While I like every single thing I've done so far (with exception to breaking off the key in my door and having to sit outside my apartment for a few hours), I can still tell that pretty darn soon I'm going to crash. And I'll wish I had done my laundry first.

Today we went to the Bookworm again, which is where Bob Marcacci (The Carden program... director? I think?) hosts his weekly open mic poetry reading. While the Art Institute of Atlanta has undoubtedly made me very cynical to most all things art related and has made me think that most "artists" today are so paradoxically narrow-minded when it comes to what they classify as "art", I'd have to say that this group seems pretty darn genuine. There are lots of people from many different parts of the world who come there and read poems and such in their own language. Its really neat actually. It won't stop me from making fun of art and artists (especially the narrow-minded, pretentious kind), but at least now I'll make somewhat of an effort not to generalize my mockery to the entire community. Only that aspect which demands specific attention.

I got home tonight, trying to think of a poem I might be able to write about next week's theme: Color. What I thought might happen, happened: I came home, wrote about 3 sentences, became physically ill at how trite and cliched my effort was, quickly deleted it, played video games, watched Carnivale, and ate some M&Ms. Now I'm writing in my e-chronicle about how lame a writer I am. Oh, by the way, thanks for reading.

Tomorrow will be another fun-filled day. More bestowing my awesome command of the Southern-American-English language to today's Chinese youth (to which today I said allowed in class, "Holy crap" when some of the students started telling me their birthday was after September 11th - them's is some young uns!), and then probably preparing my bad self for a weekend of overnight watch duty on the Great Wall. So don't try anything funny, Mongolians.

Once again, I'll leave you with one, no... two hot new pictures fresh from the Canon (the first one is at the top!). Its from this fancy place called the "Old Summer Palace", where the emporer used to go after a arduous week of copulation with his 100 wives. They had it rough in those days.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Internet action

I'm now fully operational again, and ready to interact with everyone via the internets.

Lots of things to say though, I tried to write everything down that interested me in some way, but I've been doing lots and lots of things. Last night we went to a Beijing Pop Festival and listened to various bands from around the world (like Norway, UK, China... I don't think there were any American though) that were all pretty interesting. Some were emo-ish I guess, one was a strange electronic style thing with the most hilarious boy band "dance" I've ever seen. Anyway, the park was awesome. It was a beautiful clear day, and the wasn't half-bad. Either that or my lungs have now become immune to the airborn particles of evil. But the park looked loverly, with a few people here and there flying kites in the gusty wind. Too bad this rendered frisbee use almost entirely impossible.



As I said though, the concert was pretty fun. I kind of drank alot of rum, which I wasn't used to, but damn if Capt. Jack Sparrow isn't a role model (Way to freakin' go, Disney!). Corey and Sam did an excellent job reinacting the boy band dance too.








I also met a guy named Seth, who just so happens to be from the great state of North Carolina, and has also enjoyed the delicious burritos from an upstanding establishment I like to call Flaming Amy's. He even has the merchandise to prove it!




I was a bit worried at first, because it was really windy, and starting to get really cold. Though I had a jacket and everything, I was unprepared mentally. Oh well. As it got later into the night, the temperature got much more tolerable. Once again, a big part of that might have been the rum. I may have just stopped caring. It was an awesome time though, I couldn't be more convinced that I landed in a great job in a great location with a great group of people. I'm one lucky bastard.











Even the guards were having a wonderful time





I have some pictures from the flight over that I have to put up on this E-chronicle. The ice caps were surprisingly sparse. I thought it would be icier than it was. Of course, I'm sure it wasn't a tropical paradise down there or anything, but it does look pretty obvious that it might be breaking up. Its sad too, they were so good together.











Then there was Syberia, which wasn't a freaky as I originally imagined it would be. Just... a whole lot of mountains... Like, many.

Ok so there isn't much text to this entry, but I had to post images and figure that crap out. I doubt the alignment is going to come off very pretty, but I'm sick of posting for the moment. More to come later... for now, I'll leave you with these crazy mountains:



Monday, September 04, 2006

Still here

Just making a quick post to say that I still exist. First day of classes today. It was awesome. The kids... they're just too cute. I have to go now though, won't have internet until Wednesday it sounds. I'm about to die without it though, so maybe I can create a sense of urgency.

Bye bye now

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Made it

This is going to be short. I made it to Beijing. I'm sort of half asleep though. Kind of just meandering around in the haze and all. I'll definately write more once I get some sleep... and some food... and some sleep.

It was an awesome flight though. No hitches. Neat views of Syberia and the North Pole. I took pictures too, Luke. Earth is running out of ice, we need a refill.

I got to Beijing and stood in line for customs for a loooong time. Then I walked out front, had a bunch of people yelling at me, "Are you Daniel? Are you Peter? Are you David?" Finally I got an, "Are you Drew?". That was very exciting. So then I got a big gulp of Beijing air, and rode with Ms. Wang n' co. to the apartments. Fun.

Anyway, time to go. I don't have internet yet, I'm using a internet cafe. Should have it in 3 days though. I'll try to call later on, Mom, but Ms. Wang is taking us out and all. I'll try to figure out the card when I get back.

I'm out.

Friday, August 25, 2006

There and Back Again

My brother and I just got back from Washington D.C. about 24 hours ago. We drove 10 hours there, spent the night at a campsite sans tent, drove to D.C. in an ethereal cognitive haze, acquired my Z-visa at the Chinese embassy (which took all day), and drove 10 hours back. It was one of the weirdest trips I'd ever been on. On the surface, it would appear to be the type of trip one would do for sight-seeing. But the only sight-seeing we did was for filler in order to pass the time from 11:00 in the morning until I had to pick up the visa at 2:30.

As some people know, I have trouble sleeping. I often wake up several times a night. Typically, when I sleep 8 hours, it feels like I slept 8 hours. Not in a good way either. After arriving back from D.C., I slept like a baby. Better than a baby. In fact, babies were at my bedside all night taking notes in order to figure out how I sleep so effectively. Therefore, I've arrived at a conclusion: In order to get a full night of regeneterative sleep, I have to drive 10 hours, sleep for 3 hours on dirt and rocks, and drive 10 hours again. Its the only way.

The visa acquisition process was awesome. They were incredibly efficient in there. It makes me highly optimistic about Chinese bureaucracy. I got my ticket, number 181, and the first number called was 172. Granted, I didn't have long to wait regardless, but they got to me in less than 10 minutes. The line moved so fast that I thought I was on a roller coaster. I almost threw my hands up in the air screamed, "WoooooAAAAHHHH!!!" as I got to the booth. I'm not sure if that kind of thing is grounds for immediate visa denial though.

The waiting area was home to a plethora of interesting characters as well. Most of the people there were Asian. I would say Chinese, but I'm not bold enough to make a judgment like that yet. They could have easily been Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Mongolian, or NORTH Korean. Of the people that weren't Asian in some way, shape, or form, we had a healthy mix of older folks who may have been there for vacation purposes (or possibly for adoption, maybe?), creepy-looking single fellas who had "karaoke" bars and "massage" parlors written all over them, pretentious-looking single fellas who looked like their entire goal for going was to accumulate bragging fodder, and whatever category I fall into. After talking to Luke for a bit about it, I began to have the scary feeling (but likely erroneous) that the purpose of my traveling might actually be for comedic value. I have to look within myself and ask, "What inspired me to go to Asia in the first place: A valid learning experience and personal growth or Most Extreme Elimination Challenge?" I sincerely hope that I don't find a lot of American arrogance (Amerogance?) in Beijing like I did in the U.K. and France, even if I do find it secretly hilarious.

I got my prescription medication ready though, everything needed to combat the gastrointestinal devils that will likely possess me once I start eating and drinking in Beijing. So that is exciting. All thats left to do really is pack and prepare mentally for the flight over thats approaching at dangerous speeds. I leave on Tuesday. And despite the fact that Luke hates the term, I really can't wait.

...

I'll rub that in some more.

I can't wait, Luke. I refuse to wait. It is impossible for me to wait any longer. I'm so totally excited about going that my body cannot function because it is being forced to wait while I clearly can wait no longer.

I was a jerk 5 years ago, I guess I still am.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

*Hack* *Cough* *Wheez*

Late last night I was searching for more information on individuals' experiences in China, mainly Beijing, and was surprised to find how much the air pollution was mentioned. Well, I was sort of surprised. I had heard long before I even accepted the teaching job out there that Beijing had notoriously bad air quality, but still the degree to which these posts were lambasting this particular aspect of the country was astounding.

Some of the claims sounded like gross exaggerations, and I dismissed them as being just that. For instance, some posts said that Beijing was the most polluted city in the world, by something like 100 times. Which sounded ridiculous. I also heard stories of people leaving their house in a white shirt and coming back a few hours later with a dark grey shirt. I took these accounts for what they were, someone ranting about the pollution that existed there and possibly blowing it out of proportion to make the rant seem more justified.

I mean, I used to hear how horribly rainy the UK was before I went. That it was like constantly being in soup or something. When I got there, I was surprised to see that it really wasn't that bad. Sure, it was overcast often, and it was pretty chilly most of the time, but it wasn't nearly on the scale of what people made it seem.

Another example was how people were saying that Kansas was flat and extremely bland and boring. People were saying, "If you are driving out west, avoid Kansas like the plague. Its nothing but flatness and cornfields." But when I went through Kansas, I'd have to say that only about 30% of the area we drove through was flat and cornfieldy. Everywhere else I looked it was beautiful green hills and staggering, gee-whiz inducing, cumulonimbus cloud formations. It was anything but boring and bland.

People seem to have a tendency of blowing the negative aspects of certain areas out of proportion it seems. I'm not saying that I think that I'll enjoy the pollution in Beijing, but I definately don't think it will be as bad as I'm imagining. I don't think that the winters wil consist of month-long inversions and weekly sandstorms. I don't really think that I'll be hacking up a lung constantly and suffering through carcinogens equivalent of years of smoking, thus shortening my lifespan significantly. I do think it will somewhat difficult to adjust to the air though. If I had a coughing problem in Boise, with its dry air and all, I'm sure that I'll have a sore throat after being out and about in Beijing for a bit. But I think I'll get used to it, just like my brother did.

I just better be prepared to drink a lot of green tea, and sport my surgical mask when things get especially nasty.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Annoying Lucas

Me. Brother. Two hours of video compressed to 1 minute of annoying behavior by yours truly. See post below.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

I was a jerk 5 years ago

SEE VIDEO ABOVE

While organizing my stuff this weekend in preparation for the trip to China, I happened upon my old Digital Hi8 tapes from 5+ years ago. Mostly video from 2001 when I went to the UK, France, and Italy. About 2 hours of video is me walking around with the camera, operating it like a simian with Parkinson's and murmuring soporifically into the microphone; making stupid, stupid jokes (I have no idea when to use a semi-colon, but it just felt right, ok?). When I'm not boring my non-existent audience with wise-cracks about the testicles on a lion statue, I'm making fun of my brother, annoying the crap out of him. I mean, its funny to pester people sometimes, especially family members. But there's funny annoying, and then there's too far. I went beyond too far, into the realm of O'Reilly-esque jerkitude.

The sheer number of times I say, "Luke!" or "Luke, its Scotland, aren't you so amazed?" or "Luke, stop being a jerk, the Beatles were advocates of peace. You want to ruin their dreams?" or something to that effect. You'd just have to see/hear it to believe it. I'd hope that I've dejerked some over the years, but then again I don't have the objective ability like I do now of seeing myself behave from the third-person's perspective. I just would have to take other peoples' word for it. And I don't people (maybe a snapshot of the reason I was/may still be a jerk, who knows?)

But its very informative to see these old videos. I wonder if I'm still that boring sounding today. I know I'm droll, but that might be giving myself too much credit even there. Its just that I severely lack outwordly expressed enthusiasm, or as my internship boss once said, "Professional Tenacity". I know it troubles some people when conversations go like this:

Girl: "Drew, I got engaged!!"
Me: "Ok."

Guy: "Drew, this might come as a surprise to you, but I'm gay..."
Me: "Huh."

Guy: "Drew, I got fired from my job and I have no money"
Me: "That sucks"

Sometimes I wish I could express emotions when its necessary, and not sound fake about it. I'll be posting these videos, which I've been vehemently downloading to my laptop, as soon as possible. They're great...

No really... completely...


totally...

...

great.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Raintastic

At 4:53 AM (I think), I'll be 25 years old. So I think that means that in some states, it will be ok for me to rent a car without having to pay more? Not sure about that one, but I'll be damned if it isn't landmark birthday in my book! After this its the decade ages, the prime numbers, the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything age, retirement age, and the year I was born age. This is, of course, assuming they don't come up with head-in-jar technology during these years. Come on Futurama! Predict the future!

Right now, I'm operation on the wonders of dialup internet. Using this archaic technology, it almost does invoke the imagery that the internet is, indeed, not just a big truck. That its a series of tubes!

That said, it will be exceedingly difficult to spice up this vapid E-chron with hilarious and/or meaningful pictures or videos. So right now, whoever may be reading this (and I've created several alternate "members" of blogger.com to create this illusion) will just have to deal with words. Fancy words. Like, euphamism... if thats even spelled correctly. Who knows? Definately not me.

Ok, on to the rant portion. This part is intended entirely for my own cathartic pleasure. It will be astondingly uninteresting I think, but still I have to say it. The charming and lovely staff at Footprints Recruiting has been very tolerant of my daily calling and panicking about actually getting to China. I have to leave on the 29th of August. The documentation needed for acquisition of my Z-visa will be arriving here on the 23rd, if all goes well (and I really, really hope that all goes well). Given that, this means that I'll have to send out the documents, with passport, to some agency like "mychinavisa.com" or something to have it expedited and sent promptly back to me. This will take another 3 days if I'm lucky. I can't believe that I might have to do this, but I may be taking a road trip to Washington D.C. just to go to my nearest China Consulate to have my visa taken care of. Its way more stress than I'd like. But, this isn't entirely my fault, for reasons that I don't care to mention here.

END RANT.

I know, its a mess. But things are going to work out, because things do that. They better. Or else.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Undeniably Pretentious

Let me go ahead and just get a few things out of the way...

First of all, I despise the word "blog". It really does sound like an onomatopoeic word for the act of violent regurgitation. I mean, just imagine it... "BLoooooooooggggg" Thus, for my own devices, I've decided to rename this internet phenomenon "E-Chronicles" or E-Chron. Trust me, its better for everyone.

And that just leads dandily into my next statement, just so we're all on the same page here. There is, in my opinion, something inherently pretentious in the very idea of starting your own blog... er... E-Chron. I mean, its kinda sad really. Especially if you're under the impression that you actually do have a loyal viewing audience. But then again, I'm probably 75% pessimistic... or maybe thats 75% pragmatic. Either way, I know what I'm getting myself into.

The point is, every once in awhile there is an extremely probable chance that I'll write in a way thats overtly eruditious. Even to the point of physical discomfort. If you're willing to put yourself through it, then by all means. But let me give you a taste...

1.) I may, every once in awhile, write a poem. The quality of the poem will undoubtably be quite insufficient to the standards of, well, almost everyone. Nonetheless, I'll make it seem as if I'm the most insightful, artistic, and original writer there is.

2.) I may, if I see it fit, post a drawing. I will most certainly use my one-year stint at the Art Institute of Atlanta for justification of my artistic prowess, however, the drawings will likely be amateurish and crude. But I won't let that stop me from claiming that it will communicate some deep feeling or moment of spiritual clarity or something fantastic like that.

3.) I most certainly will post photos while I'm in China, of China. This photos will come complete with "Thumb in Corner" sophistication, or "Mystery Lens Debris" added for that sense of realism. This will be highly intentional to the statement that I'm making, just to make you feel like you were there! Thus, these faux pas will actually be part of my uncanny photographic ability.

So there you go. The undeniable pretention will be there. And what would be an E-Chron without that?