...now from Seattle

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Welcome to Xian Posted by Picasa

The obligatory photo looking out my hotel window Posted by Picasa

Terra cotta soldiers Posted by Picasa

The center of Xian Posted by Picasa

A quick stop on the tour... Posted by Picasa

At the Goose Pagoda, one of the first monasteries in China. Its leaning quite a bit because of the subsidence caused by the overusage of the local aquifer...with Swiss Greg and Tatsu Posted by Picasa

The Muslim Quarter of Xian Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

staying indoors

Trying to stay indoors and away from the choking dust of Beijing. Last night was really bad - really strong winds and a light yellow dust infilitrating everything. My teeth are feeling gritty...everyone is sick, the pollutions sucks all your breath out of you. So I posted a few more picks from the weekend.

Ridiculously steep climb Posted by Picasa

Trying to stay warm while eating breakfast Posted by Picasa

The entire group at the highest point on the Great Wall Posted by Picasa

Our dusty campsite Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 17, 2006

A day at the beach!

A nasty sandstorm hit sometime last night and gave us a special Monday morning surprise. And with another 500 API day and paint fumes encapsulating the apartment building, I think I will take up smoking cigarettes, because at least they have filters.

First big sandstorm! Posted by Picasa

The sun peaking through pollution and sand Posted by Picasa

A bit dusty Posted by Picasa

Sunset at the Great Wall

The highlight of the weekend Posted by Picasa

Hot Pot

Dinner for fifteen in one pot Posted by Picasa

Sleeping on rubble and in 30-40 degree weather Posted by Picasa

This is why so many people died while building the Great Wall...they needed some better engineers Posted by Picasa

Straight down Posted by Picasa

The highest point on the Great Wall, we hiked from just before it turns to the right in the distance Posted by Picasa

Straight up Posted by Picasa

Very scary, the first step is missing and its straight down underneath it! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Beijing spring dust storms, supposedly the weather will be like this for the next two weeks.
EDIT: The day I took this the API was 500!
Posted by Picasa

At the Thai New Year Festival. It was almost shut down by the police because of the political problems in Thailand. Really good Thai food and a water gun fight. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Changing weather

It rained today for only the second time since I arrived. A very muddy rain when it mixes with the sand in the air.

Use the following link in an RSS program to get an email when I update my blog or add a live bookmark in Firefox (to avoid the extreme disappointment you experience when checking the site and find out I haven't updated it)


Thanks to the computer guy in Madison for this tip

Sunday, April 02, 2006

blah, blah, blah

Another week, another set of photos...
First, to explain the Wal-Mart photos, I don't know why but I was fascinated with the idea of a Wal-Mart in China. There's supposedly a Sam's Club somewhere too. I wonder if all the great stuff made in China is shipped to the U.S. and then shipped back to these stores? Unfortunately I shopped at this store, now I really despise the Walton family stores when I'm in the U.S. but there were a few things I needed. I know that some of the other Chinese chain stores are having problems competing with the U.S. chain...it is surprisingly clean and upscale, although prices aren't rolled back as low as some markets around here. Wal-mart despite its many devilish deeds does not seem like its going to put any of the family run small stores around here out of business. I guess I let go of morals when it comes to dental floss, paper towels, and Oreos. Oh, I set off the security alarm and got searched because of an errant pack of gum! To be fair, I've been buying as much as I can from a family store downstairs from my apartment that is run out of their home. Only a blanket hanging from the ceiling separates their TV watching from the storefront in a small shack-like brick structure.

I guess one of the reasons that spurred me to go to Wal-Mart was being tired of the frustrating process of shopping at some of the markets. I went to clothing markets twice last week to try and by some summer clothes, one other markets was geared towards foreigners, the other for students - both were bad experiences.

I don't know if you've bargained before, but for me its not fun. I like to shop in peace. Here is the usual bargaining exchange with a vendor:
Me: How much for the pants?
Them: 600 (RMB, 8 RMB = 1 $)
Me: They're fake, cheaply made, how about 60
Them: No, this is high quality, very good, made right here in China, 400
Me: Exactly, its not very good, how about 70
Them: Ok for you my friend, I give you a special deal, don't tell anyone, 250
Me: No, I don't like it that much, 80
Them: Looks good on you, very pretty, 200
Me: My friend bought one just like it for 90
Them: Sir, this is very high quality
Me: Nevermind, I'll go to someone else (begin to walk away)
Them: Ok sir, I give it to you for your price.

Its almost exactly like this every time, sometimes the vendor puts on a show and gets really upset and pretends to be insulted. Almost always the final price for a piece of clothing seems to be around 80-130, a shirt maybe 30-50. But I always feel ripped off and annoyed. It's alot easier if I bargain in Chinese, cause then I just say a price and wait a couple minutes until the price is lowered. Also, the cheap shit just falls apart after I wearing it once. Anyway, that's why I went to Wal-mart...

I posted a pic of some of the massage cards we've been getting every day now. Someone ratted us out as westerners living here, so they figure we're looking for some cheap action. oh, I started walking the 5 flights of stairs because the elevator girls gossip about all of our comings and goings. Security investigated because they thought we had extra people living here. There is definetely no privacy here, your business is everyone's business, thats the way of life in a communistic country.

I've been playing alot of basketball, I'll try to get a picture of the courts here. It's amazing, every Chinese guy must be required to play basketball or something. There's always a group of at least 16 or 20 courts together and every single one is packed with too many players. The style of play here is very polite and non-contact. I don't like playing too much because I worry that I'm too rough. Usually my only skill is being tall and able to rebound. I played with some friends yesterday and we had a basketball "guru" coaching us. An elderly gentlemen who used to play serious ball here and coach. He was really into our pick-up game.

A lot of old guys here are into flying kites. I guess you'd say its cute, I dunno...

We've been going out quite a bit with some friends that party pretty hard. The usual group is from Hong Kong, Canada, US, China, and France (the frenchies). There's quite a nightlife here, with big danceclubs that bring in djs from around the world and stay open all night. Felix da Housecat was here last Thursday and I think Tiesto is coming soon. There are also some more unique, artsy hangouts that we're going to start checking out because the usual places are getting a little boring. Plus, we're planning on starting some heavy sightseeing now that the weather is nice and the trees and flowers are starting to blossom. I didnt come this far to spend my time in a bar that you can pretty much find anywhere in the U.S. or Europe.

My Chinese is getting better now, I can manage to get around on my own now, although there is still alot of pointing and "ughing"...
Check out another Greg's website (Swiss Greg), he takes some really good pictures.

The Walton compound in Beijing Posted by Picasa