Steve's China Blog

Monday, September 22, 2008

Beijing to Maryland

On Friday afternoon I caught a flight from ChengDu to Beijing to visit my friend Jackie. I have not seen Jackie in 17 months. She is originally from ChengDu, and was working for IBM in Dalian where we both first met. She transferred to the IBM office in Beijing about 2 years ago so we do not get a chance to see each other as much as I would like.

I arrived at her apartment that evening by taxi and then we went to a place in Beijing call Houhai, which is a pretty area around a large lake and surrounded by lots of restaurants, tea houses, and bars. We went to a very popular restaurant there and had roast lamb and roast duck for dinner. After dinner we went to a small quiet little tea house/bar and spent a lot of time chatting and catching up with what has been going on in our lives.

The next morning Jackie came by and took me to a little place near where she lived for a Chinese breakfast... rice porridge, some dumplings, sweet fried bread, and some soy milk. After breakfast we visited a nice park near where Jackie lives...

My friend Jackie by a little bridge in a park in Beijing

...and then after that we caught a bus and went to visit the area around the Olympic venues.

Birds Nest stadium in Beijing

For some reason no one could go out to where the Olympic venues were and we had to settle for seeing them at a distance.

Outside the Olympic venues area in Beijing

We then went to a place for lunch that served Sichuan food. It was very good, and Jackie said that this restaurant really made her homesick for ChengDu. Too bad I could not talk her into moving back to ChengDu... she really likes living in Beijing. After lunch I took a short nap at Jackie's apartment and then headed to the airport.

The flight from Beijing to Washington DC was pretty uneventful. My parents picked me up at the airport and we drove over to the Rio Grande restaurant in Reston, Virginia (now called Uncle Julio's). My friend Les met us there and we had a really nice dinner. I had the Cadillac Platter, which is half an order of fajitas and a 10 ounce lobster tail. It was a lot of food and I couldn't finish it all. It was pretty late when we arrived at my parents' house and I went right to sleep.

A nice quiet day at my parents' house

Sunday was nice. I woke up early and don't seem to be effected by jet lag any. The place where my parents live is very nice, and compared to living in the city in China it's like a nature preserve. You can hear and see all kinds of animals, birds, and insects. I enjoyed seeing all of the birds, squirrels and deer that run around the area. All the clean air and nature is a good tonic for the soul.

There are three deer in this picture. Can you find them?

On Saturday afternoon my father and I watched the Redskins/Cardinals football game, while my mother went to play golf with some frinds. The Redskins played pretty good and beat the Cardinals. It's so nice to be able to watch some real football, instead of that sissy football (aka soccer) we see all the time on TV in China. Haha! Next week the Redskins play the Cowboys and that is always an exciting game.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Almost ready

Trying to get everything ready for my trip. Tomorrow afternoon I'll fly to Beijing and visit my friend Jackie, and then on Saturday I'll catch a flight from Beijing to Washington D.C. That flight is around 13 hours long. Thank goodness for nicotine gum!

This coming Saturday we will be having our annual sports day at IBM, and since I will be traveling I will miss it. I am not sure what sports we will have, but the new addition this year will be cheerleaders!

Some of the Olympic cheerleaders from the Sports Illustrated website
Cheerleaders are sort of new to China and is one of the things about the Olympics that a lot of Chinese seemed to have liked (or did they?). Cheerleaders from the New England Patriots American football team were brought over to train 448 cheerleaders for the Olympics. I am not sure how the IBM cheerleaders are learning their cheers.

This afternoon there were loud air-raid sirens going off in ChengDu. I wasn't sure what was going on with that, but got an email that said it is to remember the September 18 incident... what they call the initial invasion of China by Japanese troops back in 1931. Actually, I've never heard sirens on any of the past September 18's. What's up with that?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Economic lessons

Found this interesting article about the Chinese economy a few days ago...

Flaws appear in the Middle Kingdom’s economic miracle from the Times UK

If you picked up a cigarette lighter anywhere in the world, there is an 80 per cent chance that it was made in Wenzhou. And if your job was at a cigarette lighter factory in Wenzhou, there is an 80 per cent chance that you are now unemployed. Anywhere else, such a decline in a local industry would be considered catastrophic, but this sprawling industrial city has always taken a brutally capitalist view of life.

Seen from the gates of the 100 lighter factories in Wenzhou that are still running, the 600-odd that have fallen silent in the past 18 months were simply the unlucky ones. The people of Wenzhou realised that, beyond lighters, there are bigger, darker clouds gathering over the Middle Kingdom. The raging debate is: how big, how dark and how badly will they hit property prices?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Singing, sushi, and stuff

Last Saturday I went to a karaoke place with some friends. It was a lot of fun. They did talk me into singing one song, and since no one became sick I'll take that as a good sign. Now we'll see if they ever invite me out to karaoke again.

After karaoke we went to a Japanese restaurant that had all-you-can eat. We had a lot of different dishes, and it was ok. The whole time I was thinking, "I'm eating raw fish in China. Danger! Danger!", but luckily I didn't get sick.

The weather here has started to get cooler and according to the lunar calendar it has been autumn for awhile now. We had a pretty mild summer. We were much better off than Shanghai which had very hot weather this summer. I will have to start wearing long sleeve shirts soon, and will have to unpack the sweaters when I get back from the US.

I went out and visited the US Geological Survey website that keeps track of earthquakes and noticed we are still getting aftershocks here. We had one yesterday afternoon that measured about 4.6 magnitude about 35 miles away, but I never felt it.

Yesterday was September 11th. Did you remember? I know a lot of people wish we would forget. Anyways, check this out when you get a chance... America Attacked 911. It's about 20 minutes long, but when you start watching you want to see the whole thing. Definitely worth watching.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

That's entertainment

I haven't posted much lately. Been busy with work and getting things ready for my trip to the US lately, so I have a lot of little things to post about. This upcoming weekend is a long weekend for us, since Monday is a holiday... Mid-Autumn Festival. I'm looking forward to the long weekend, but have not planned to do anything yet.

I'm really looking forward to my trip to the States since I am feeling like I've had enough of China lately. I get that feeling every 4 or 5 months now... China fatigue, I guess. It comes and goes.

A few years ago I saw a mini-series, of sorts, here on Chinese TV which I really enjoyed. I did not know the name of it, and the show is in Chinese with Chinese subtitles. Even though it didn't have any English in it, the acting and story were good enough that I could figure out most of what was going on. It was a very enjoyable series.

I was talking to a friend about it a few weeks ago, and she said she thought she knew what show I was talking about and that she might be able to find it on DVD for me. I didn't think she would be able to since I have only seen it on VCD in only a single store, but she found it! If you are in China and want to order it you can do so here. I still do not know what the name of it is.