Wednesday, August 31, 2005

a photo on

check it out...

My report will be up there by Weds. afternoon, I think. (Your time.) It is Weds. evening here now and I am finishing up my Tmac report to send it in.

The devastation in New Orleans is astounding and depressing. strange to watch it on CNN over here and feel so removed yet distant. Always one of my favorite cities.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hanging with Tmac

Good god I'm tired today. Trekked all over Beijing with Tracy McGrady and a bunch of Adidas reps yesterday. It was alot of fun and quite interesting. I'll throw a few pictures up here. To get the rest of the details, you'll have to wait until I write it all up. it will be posted on tuesday or weds. I'll post a link when it gets up there.

The other big news is I got my press certification today. I am the bureau chief for Slam's spanking new Beijing bureau. to deal with that, I had to come downtown. I am in the WSJ office right now, a ncie change from Starbucks, actually. I am going to come down here more often ocne we get a little more settled. But this is a big step. Now I can get a long-term residency visa, which b is in the process of finalizing now. Once we have those, we can get drivers' licenses.

more soon...

Friday, August 26, 2005

Jacob and eli in their "PE kits" -- pics added!

Here they are in their "PE kits," which they have to wear every day they have gym -- which is three days a week, which confuses me about the much ballyhooed reg. uniforms. but mine is not to wonder why...

A little update on Becky's job

Several people have e'ed me and inquired about how becky is doing at work. the answer is, fine. She has only been going into office for a week and there is a lot to work through. She is about to lose two senior reporters and it will take a little while to get the replacements in place, so the bureau will be short staffed but eventually she will have her own peeps in place.

She wrote a bylined article in today's paper for the first time in a long time, about pres. Hu's upcoming visit to the U.S. You can find it int here somewhere.

And a few nights ago, while editing her first front-page story from here, she was more or less up all night, on the phone for the 4 pm afternoon news meeting at 4 am.

Mr. Doh, the driver, is good. Anna asks for him any time we get in a cab. He had some work done on "our" Jeep cherokee, which he very proudly drove out today. We put anna's seat in and will be using that to take her to school every morning. Good to have her back in a car seat. Most of the cabs here don't even have seat belts! they actually remove them for god knows what reason. some of them have belts but not buckles, oddly enough.

Things are sort of wild around here in that way. You see flatbed trucks drive by with 10 guys in the bed. the other day in the city we saw a couple on a little motorcycle, the woman holding an infant. You see three people on one bike, kids on handlebars, toddlers in little baskets on the back of bikes. all kinds of stuff like that. and some of the expats def. go pretty native. There was an 8 or 9 year old kid zipping around the compound the other day on his BMX bike barefoot. and when leaving Starbucks yesterday afternoon (my helmet strapped on my head as I got on my bike), a kid on a motor scooter zipped by me heading back to the compound. couldn't have been more than 14.

Anyhow, we can't get driver's licenses until we get our long term visas, which hopefully be soon. then we will start driving, but initially will only do so out here. Driving into the city seems sort of nutty, not least because there don't seem to be any parking lots. people just park wherever. everyone who can afford one has a driver around here for a reason and it is not just sheer laziness.

we had to have some work done on the Jeep to make it legal to drive inside the fourth ring road (into town). I think it was a catalytic converter. they are really trying to cut down on air pollution here because of the olympics and promises they made in that regard. so our timing is good in that regard. hasn't been a really bad pollution day since we've been here.

I am having trouble posting photos at the moment, so it might have to wait until tomorrow.

Jewish news article on becky

Lots of classic stuff and except for the one error on my workplace, quite well done.

a little blurb on slamonline

check this out.

On Monday I am spending the day with Tracy McGrady and some Addias reps, following him around, including a trek up the Great Wall. That should be on slamonline on Tuesday. Might throw me off my blogging a bit.

Tonight, i am going to a tribute to Dimebag Darrell at a Beijing metal club, probably writing a small story on it. I am being accompanied by someone from a Chinese music mag who heard about my arrival and is very excited.

Slam and GW both have such hardcore readers. it is nice to be treated like royalty, even if it's by a small number of folks. all those years of writing these crazy articles actually did mean something! This Chinese music journalist nearly soiled himself when he heard I was here. He said, "you are longtime my favorite Guitar World Editor. I love your writing!" and he referenced several stories I had long ago forgoten writing. Amazing. Unfortunately, h elives in Vancouver now but is here for a few weeks more and very excited to introduce me to people. He can't go tonight but is sending an English-speaking friend nad fellow music journalist to accompany me.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Our guardian angel kathy Chen -- pics added!

..and her adorable kids, Olivia, claire and Andrew. they came over last night to celebrate E's birthday.

A bunch of pics

I don't have much time here because I need to fly out of Starbucks and pick the kids up off the bus in 30 minutes, but let me try to load up a bunch of pics and I'll comment more tomorrow. I'll start with a few of their beautiful new school, Dulwich Academy of Beijing, and two of Eli in his uni getting ready to board the bus yesterday, his fifth birthday.


Carrie wrote:
I just love your newsy posts. Please give Eli and huge hug and kisses from me, Nat, Dave, and a lick from Stella. I can't tell if you're going to get this emailed to you at your other site so you can read it or if it will just appear on your blog. Let me know. Love to all.

I respond:

Just to be clea: I can not see this page. I do, however, now get all of the comments forwarded to me as email, as above. So, when it seems appropriate I can respond as such.

To Yoshi: Glad to see you were here. If anyone else I don't know is lurking around here, please drop a comment or e me so I know.

More pics tonight.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Day 2 of school is Eli's 5th Birthday...

Day two of school seems to be going well. The kids were excited to get on the bus and go, which is always the best sign. They have had some kind of uniform fiasco and many kids do not have the right sizes, so they are optional for the first two weeks now. This was tremendous news to Jacob, but eli insisted on wearing his today. He looked incredibly adorable and I got some good pics before he boarded the bus, but Becky ended up with the camera in her purse so I don’t have them uploaded. Will post tomorrow.

Today is actually eli’s birthday. We forgot to le the teacher know and didn’t really know hw they handle such things. I popped into the school when I took Anna in and saw Eli on the playground with his little buddies, about half chinese. They were all wearing their insane little dulwich college sunhats. Adorable. The Brits are nuts. So much energy being spent this week on uniforms, shoes, PE “kits” etc. They said they would do a little ceremony and the teacher apologized profusely for not having compiled her birthday list yet. She said I could bring a treat in. Best I could scrounge up in the 90- minutes
anna was in school was some Chinese chips Ahoy from the little overpriced store in the Riviera clubhouse.

Their schools are right by the Riviera, where we will be living when our house is ready. Two days ago when we went over for orientation we went to see our house. Both it and the Riviera were nicer than I remembered, which is a nice and welcome imbalance. There is more work than I thought being done to the house. It is all painted and it looks great. Very colorful. We more or less replicated the color scheme from our house at home, with some exceptions, including a bright blue den. It looks nice. Can’t wait to move in. Living out of suitcases and in a 3 BR apartment with a kitchenette is getting old. It was actually kind of a relief at first because we went through such hell moving out of our house. Living in a hotel type situation was welcome. Because setting up a house takes as much energy as breaking one down, or almost as much anyhow. But it’s been a week and I am ready to settle down.

And speaking of moving out of our house, our tenant continues to prove herself to be an obsessive compulsive lunatic. Can one of our Maplewood friends please contact Colton Coreschi and offer him 20 bucks to let the air out of their tires. He can feel free to subcontract the job. These people are mentally ill. Apparently, they had an army of cleaners in there the other day and are trying to force us to reclean the carpets. Those of you saw the place know how deranged this is. I can not understand how someone with such insane standards could choose to rent. They can buy their own fuckin house and pit brand spanking new carpet ion if they so choose. Very odd. As long as they pay on time, I guess I shouldn’t care because we have maintained our end of the contract and tell them to shove it up their euro asses, but it’s hard to separate yourself so much from the house. I hate the idea of these creeps in there, so I mostly don’t think about it. I am trying not to take it out on the many Scandinavians I meet here. Apparently, the Riviera is a Danish hotbed actually. Make mine a cheese and raspberry please.

Several of you have raised the point of how amazing it is that our idis have fallen in to life here so easily and yes I am proud of them. Very much so. They are an inspiration to me, actually. I am also proud of us because after all t e parenting books and workshops and worries and Ronnie Stern meetings and conversations with eachother and others and people doubting Jacob and worrying about him, what better test is there of your kids’ adaptive abilities than to throw them into china and a new school and see how they do? And they are doing great.

Of course, I also keep thinking of what Amy Cohen told me about the first three stages of expat life. Stage one is euphoria more or less and stage two is a crash when everything starts seeming evil and stupid and broken down. I figure that will come sooner or later. I actually went to a coffee for new arrivals at the Riviera. Me and a bunch of wide hipped ladies from round the world. Actually, there was one other male “trailing spouse” (god I hate that term), a nice guy from seattle whose wife is here from Boeing. I spoke with him and a few others who have all been here 4-5 weeks and they all had tales of woe. Stuff hasn’t arrived, things don’t work, medical forms lost, visas delayed, etc. We have either had it really good or are about to run into a bunch of walls. Or both.

I also ran into theo Yardley there, our neighbor-to-be and wife of NY times reporter Jim Yardley. She told me it is really important to show my face often around the house so the workers know I am around. I went over there with her and did so. She is really nice and speaks decent Chinese so she did the talking and I trailed around. The boss wasn’t there. Maybe my appearance did some good, but it mostly just made me feel meek and helpless, having her do all my speaking.

Yesterday, I hung out all day with this guy Joe, a lifelong Beijing resident and slam fanatic who saw on Slam Online that I was moving here and emailed me through the mag. He was really into showing me around and it was a pleasure. He is 20 and a sophomore-to-be at Claremont College in LA> He si going back there on Thursday unfortunately, because he was a great guide. He came with me to buy a bike at the Giant store near the kids’ school. I got a nice hybrid bike, helmet and kryptonite type lock for about $140. They are supposed to deliver it at 5 today. Then his driver took us downtown. We went to the West side, where Beijing University is, and not much tourist stuff. He took me to this great traditional Noodle place. People were eating fried locusts and pork hoofs, but we stuck with the trad. Noodles and they were really simple and delicious. They brought out a huge plate of thick noodles, with 5-6 little dishes on the tray they then dumped it all in… sprouts, peas, a small dish of oily pork/chili paste, some other stuff. You mix it all up and gobble it down. Delicious and apparently classic traditional Beijing fare. We also had these fried eggplant puffs, tea, and a 40 oz. beer. Total bill was $4.50.

But then other things are really expensive. Like we brought our laundry in to be done at the little store at the compound and there as some miscommunication and they dry cleaned most of it. It cost $50 and we got Jacob and eli’s little Lands end shorts back on dry clean hangers.

I just had a nice little lunch at the small chinese restaurant at the compound. Steamed broccoli with soy/sesame sauce, rice and delicious spicy tofu with those cheesy, leaf mushrooms. They have great tofu here but it would be hard for real veggies because they always throw some meat in for seasoning. This had little slices of pork and the string beans are covered in ground meat of some sort. Before the winkelBecks visit, we have to learn how to say “No meat, please.:”

Talk to you soon.

About this blog, which I can write but not read...

Just to explain something: I can post and edit my posts, obviously, but I can not view this actual page because blogspot and blogger are both ip blocked in the PRC. It is a good reality check. That is why I have not been responding to any of the comments. Leah and Dave Gomberg were kind enough to forward me everything up there so I am up to date. I enjoy hearing from all of you and will definitely respond in a post when appropriate. I have now adjusted the settings so posts are automatically forwarded to me, including all these weird random posts, which I guess are some form of SPAM. We’ll see if they continue.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

First day of school

Yesterday was an intro day of school and they all loved it. the place is incredibly beautiful and brand new. in front is a great rock garden and an unreal playground. jacob and eli ate that up. I took pics and will get them up here later today.

Jacob's teacher is a tall beautiful blonde american woman. very californian and sunny and as far as you could get from a british school marm. i think we were all relieved. He has like 16 kids and two teachers in his class. Eli's teacher is also american. She also seems very good. They have about 20 kids, with the teacher and three chiense aides, who all speak good english and seem very on the ball. anna was thrilled to go to her school and never looked back for me once we walked in there. she is going to love it. Very sweet little place.

today the kids went off on the bus. It was quite a scene at the compound at 7:40 with everyone streaming out to the front gate. all the schools leave from there. They don't have school buses. they are regular your-style buses. jacob said, "these buses are so cool!" and ran on with great excitement. eli gave us each a big hug and soldiered right on. I promised him I would come say Hi when i brought anna in at 10:30. the two of them sat together and looked very happy. No uniforms till thursday. i will take pics then and post them.

so it all went well, especially that all of us except anna were up at 4 am. Becky actually was on the phone doing the afternoon news meeting in new york then. they ahd some big story break int he middle of th enight here. will be ont he front page tomorrow (Tuesday), which is already today here. go figure.

Monday, August 22, 2005

On to ritan park

from fun Dazzle, we took a cab to Xi He ya Ju Restaurant, on the edgeof Ritan park. it's a really niuce place, with a lovely outside area and inside, where weate, that features a huge tree, with branches stretching through the entire place. We had a delciious meal that included quick-cooked beef with ginger and scallions (eli and anna loved it), lemon chicken, delicious, light fried rice with pork and greens, spicy string beans with minced meat, "shanghai greens" (spinach-like) and dumplings. jacob ate a huge bowl of white rice with chopsticks very proudly and a huge plate of watermelon and cantalope-like melon, which he described accurately as being "like cantalope only more." the kids also had fresh-squeezed watermelon juice and becky and i had beer (they gave us budweiser despite our protestations) and jasmine tea.

After lunch, we went into Ritan Park, which is really nice and peaceful and beautifully landscaped. it was avery hot day, but 10 degrees cooler amidst the trees. There is an ancient sacrificial temple there from emperor days.

As we made our way to the "pleasure ground for children" we passed a rock climbing wall filled with a club blasting techno and hard rock and looking pretty good. Next to it was an exercise area, with machines for anyuone's use. They are all over the place in Beijing and jacob loves them. These pics are from there. jacob insisted on returning on our way out and bragged about how strong he was getting "from all this exercise."

We made it on to the kids' area, which was really raggedy and 1950s ish, but the kids loved it. they have these art things all over th epalce here, where they give you an outlined figure an a tray of paints and you squirt it in and creat a little masterpiece which they then bake in a little oven. the result is a little rubber thing that peels off and can stick on a window. eli has already done three of them and jacob and anna joined him yesterday, as shown.

ON our way out, we passed alitle field where some old men kept these beautiful songbirds in cages. eli was fascinated and he and I went to check it out. anna followed. The nice old man did not want us to go near some of them, but he loved the kids and I took these pictures.

A day in the city

We spent yesterday in the city and had a nice time. We began at the wonderfully named
FunDazzle, a kids' play area which has perhaps the largest ball pit int he world. The kids had a blast. The first few photos are from there. after running around for a while, Eli came up to me and said, "Dad, all the people here are Chinese." After a few days in the compounds, which are largely American and Euro, it was a surprise to him. Let me throw the photos up and then I'll continue the day in a new post.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Photos of our journey

The first shot if jacob and eli reclining in first class. The second is all of us with our luggage.

Everything's cool

Sitting in a starbucks on the wireless connection. anna is sleeping next to me. all is pretty much fine.

we've only been here three days I think and the kids are very accepting. we are staying in this compound which is like a little slice of america and the kids love it. it is like vacation to them. kathy chen, who is becky's deputy, lives around the corner from where we are staying and has three kids the same age and an incredible playroom. our kids have accepted them as their buddies and are very happy. eli said yesterday that he wants to "live in china for the rest of our lives."

we also made our first foray intot he city yesterday to chaoyang park downtown, which has a big amusement area. they loved it. there is a sense there of being in a communist country. the architecture is bizarre and the place was sort of abandoned. It felt like the ruins of a civilization that never existed. And the rules for the rides were bizarre. Everything cost 10Y (about $1.20) but you had to buy spearate, specific tickets for each ride. anyhow, the kids loved it.

monday is school orientation and the next day it begins for real.

will post some photos in a nother post here.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Eagle Has Landed

we landed safe and sound are relatively in decent shape today, especially considering that anna fell asleep at 7 pm and woke up at 11:30! she actually woke up for the night at 11:30 PM. Now that's some serious jetlag. Luckily, I went to sleep at 7:30 myself and Becky followed about an hour later after getting the boys down. Jacob woke up at 1 and eli at 3.

Becky and I took turns being up with them. Nothing like watching Finding Nemo at 3 am. By 4, I took anna for walk through the quiet streets of this very nice compound and se fell asleep. i assumed that would last a while but she was up by 5 and we watched our first Chinese sunrise together.

They all seem fine today oddly enough. I am over at kathy chen's house (she works with becky and has been really helpful.) B went into the office to make an appearance and rally the troops. Our kids are all off playing with Kathy's kids and others and being watched by ayis (nannies). The kids have adjusted like nobody's business. So far, this is like a trip to Florida for them. great playgrounds, a pool, lots of kids to play with. They love it here. We are staying in an apartment at kathy's complex... similar setup towhere we will live, about 15 minutes away. Hope to be in the house asap but we're told it will likely be three weeks. The kids will take a bus to school while we're here. The apartment is three bedroom and it's fine, but def. feels temporary. The Peets African blend I brought made it seem more like home.

The trip here was relativley uneventful, other than my getting sick and putting one of the four first class restrooms out of commission about halfway into the flight. I think I got food posioning from and egg and cheese sandwich I ate at A&W's in the Airport. I felt fine, then nauseous. threw up about a half hour later and felt fine again. Who knows.

we flew first class thanks to the weird fluke of a great special and buying one-way tickets. probably will be the only time we do so for our whole stay here and it was pretty damn nice. I think it was my first real time in the front of the plane and I kept thinking of that seinfeld where jerry is in first class and Elaine in coach. it really is a joke, being so pampered. and seeing Jacob and eli stretched out like kings in their fully reclined seats was pretty priceless. I have photos of this which I will get up ASAP. i'm on kathy c's computer right now. As soon as I get online on my own I'll post pics.

Coming in, we flew over the Wall and had great aerial views of it snaking through the mountains Northwest of Beijing. Quite a sight. i was sitting by the window with anna and I called the boys over. They came over and all four of us had our faces pressed against the windows staring out. jacob said, "yep, that is china all right." then anna kept pointing out the window and saying, "that china."

we needed two vehicles to get our 12 bags not including carryons and the five of us over here but no one blinked. And being here witout our stuff for up to three weeks, I'm glad we have all this junk, as absurd as it seemed while sitting in joan and ben's living room.

more soon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Working on the pictures thing

Let's see if this works. A pic of me playing with andy Aledort that's handy. Once I get it going, I will post some kids, etc.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

T minus 8 days

back home from our farewell tour, which was a lot of fun. Now slogging through the rest of the crap in this house. It is truly amazing what a family can accumulate and stash in a single house. Wading through the piles of stuff you have shoved into the deepest, darkest recesses of da crib is no fun at all. The final move is happening on Weds. We have to stay upright till then then we can sort of collapse for a few days before pumping ourselves up again. I think by the time we get onto the plane and the door shuts I will feel a huge sense of relief.

I feel like we've been saying good bye for a million years and that is getting sort of old.
It's just a bit draining to have so many big goodbyes. Two tearful moms in just three or four days is almost too much to bear.

Our party a few weeks back was a blast. I had a vision and it came off, after looking awfully shaky thanks to inclement weather. If I can figure it out, i'll post some pictures.

If anyone reads this, please post a comment so I know you were here. you don't have to say much. thanks.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Farewell tour continues

We are in Pittsburgh now, nearing the end of our farwell tour. We hit Kennywood today in 95 degree heat. always fun. last night a Pirates game. Beforee that, three days at the country house, skinnydipping and such. It's all been a blast. Heading home tomorrow via Carlisle.