Friday, September 30, 2005

Biking through Beijing and Mongolian Hot Pot

I spent the afternoon with Jack, the great tour guide we met last April through our friend Arlene Stein. We did a bike tour through Beijing, for a story I'm working on for the Journal, actually. I did a similar your with him in the spring and I wanted it to be somewhat different. The first time we started at Behai lake and cycled south and up to the Forbidden City. You can’t take a bike in there, but went to the front door, then all around the perimeter. It was very memorable. Today’s was in some ways not as good, but it was fun.

Riding a bike in Beijing is pretty wild. If you’ve ridden in NYC at all, you could adapt pretty quickly. If not, it’s an adjustment for sure. The streets are very crowded with cars and buses –it’s not like the old Beijing pictures you see of huge avenues filled with bikes. Certainly, there are a lot of bikes as well as pedestrians, but that just adds to the insanity. Also, they have right on red here but “come to a complete stop and then…” does not seem to be part of the equation. Also, the bikes you rent are pretty wobbly. Last time my pedal fell off and the seat fell off of my friend Andrew’s bike. No such problem this time, but these are definitely the Yugos of bikes.

We went in and out of streets and drove through the hutongs – the old, alleyway houses. It is narrow but quiet and peaceful and cool in there. No cars. Apparently, all of Beijing used to be covered by these, but they are all being torn down. In the drum tower neighborhood where we were, there are still plenty and they are nice to ride through.

Close to the lake, they are pretty crowded with tourists on “hutong tours,” however, many of them zipping around in the back of pedicabs. The most interesting thing was when I was waiting for Jack near the bike rental place, a line of pedicabs came by, each of them ferrying Western parents holding their newly adopted Chinese babies, who were probably 8-10 months old. There must have been 12 or 14 in a row. You actually see this all over Beijing. After you pick up your baby you have to stay in Beijing for a certain amount of days to get the paperwork done or whatever. So couples are touring around with their new babies. It is quite remarkable to see the mothers giving them bottles, the fathers carrying them in Baby Bjorns. It’s nice and a little weird.

We stopped for lunch at a Mongolian Hot Pot restaurant. I hadn’t had that yet and it is really good. They bring out these big cauldrons of broth, filled with big ginseng roots, huge garlic cloves, leeks, nutmeg (big balls), things that looked like buckeyes and all kinds of other crap... we got one hot, which was similar but also blood red from the myriad chili peppers. Jack pointed to it and said, “It is very much like traditional health soup.”

Then they light a flame and the thing starts bubbling in 5-10 minutes and they bring out whatever you choose and you start dunking. We opted for beef and lamb over things lik e brains and, for a few extra quai, sheep penis. We also got some noodles (def. fresh made) and a big plate of vegetables that included tofu, lotus root, three or four kinds of great mushrooms and some big wide noodles I think were made of bean curd. You also choose a dipping sauce and jack suggested sesame, which was excellent. It was all delicious. When we were getting towards the bottom of the platter, I came across a brown block about the size and texture of the bean curd. I picked it up and asked Jack if it was a different type of tofu. “No,” he said. “That is goose blood. Very good for health, especially the lungs.” I didn’t want to seem like a wuss, so I dunked it and ate it. I figured that I have to start getting over queasiness over what I eat and the sooner the better.

Truthfully, you could have put a piece of tire (or sheep penis, I suppose) in there and dunked it in the sesame sauce and it would have tasted great. The goose blood didn’t hold up to the heat too well though. The beef, tofu, mushrooms and wide noodles were the best. And it will be a while before I try the sheep dong, especially if I have to pay extra for the honor. Of course, this whole feast was only about $6.

There was a fish tank behind us containing worm-like things, which I am going to assume were small eels, probably 5-6 inches long. I didn’t even notice them until a guy came out of the kitchen with a net and started fishing them out. He walked back in the kitchen and a few minutes later came out with a big platterful for the couple behind us. The woman grabbed them with her choppies and went to work.

After lunch, we rode up to the lama Temple and Confucius Temple. Bikes are not allowed in either so we just checked them out and moved on. On the way back, we rode down a street with a lot of little music stores, filled with guitars. I had not seen that yet and was excited. We stopped and I went into one and it cracked me up – just like an American store, except tiny. There were two surly, long-haired guys sitting there. One was smoking a cigarette, the other was playing a PTS-type guitar through a high gain, thin-sounding amp and playing classic weedly weedly highly technical bad shred. I took a quick look and saw you can get a Chinese-made guitar for about $120 and a Chinese decent looking amp for the same. The latter could be important to me because I think I blew mine up. I’ll go back and try them out at some point. American made stuff costs a fortune, but all the lower end stuff at home is made here anyhow. I just wasn’t sure if it’s also available.

Yankee fan? Are you kidding me?

Ok. I knew I was wading into some choppy waterby admitting I was rooting for the Yankees. DP fires the first shot.

A Yankee's fan. Are you kidding me. The next time tickets become available for a Bucco's playoff game (I know that may be never) you get last dibs after this admitted conversion. All the years of sweat and toil, reading the weekly Bucco q and a, suffering through Dale Berra, Kip Wells, Armando Rios, Dereck Bell... and you are giving up hope. The fruit is ripening on the vine and you are too impatient to wait. You must repent now or later suffer the consequences.

By the way, you make reference to why Jacob likes going to school but it is also insightful as to why you took your 36th trip of the month to the great wall. Parent teacher night anyone?
DP


Wait a second. I am not giving up on the Bucs and in the unlikely
event of a Yankees/Pirates World series, there is no question about
which side of the fence I will be on (think maz).

Is it totally unkosher to have a B team to root for during your team's
trek through the wilderness? (Which I believe is one year away from a baseball record for most losing seasons and only about three from the record for all major American sports, by the way.)

As proof, I just read the entire Brewers/Pirates scouting report
and a lengthy story about the possibility of the Bucs' having an all
lefty starting rotation next year on postgazette.com. If you are a fan of one team, can you never root for another? This question is open to any and all.

As for Mrs. Cameron, no comment.

Could I actually be a.. gulp, Yankees fan?

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself anxiously jumping on ESPN.com in the morning to see if the Yankees were winning. They were still a game or two behind the Sox and I was surprised to realize that I was really pulling for them. I was even rooting for that goonish thug Giambi to smack one. Now I have not been a full –fledged Yankees hater over the years – and , in fact, always find myself rooting for them in the Playoffs and series despite myself, usually because I am watching with Uncle Ben.

Still, it’s hard to explain but I have always been more a pinstripe hater than lover. And when I was a kid, I always liked the Bosox as my AL team. Not sure why – partly because Fred Lynn and Jim Rice were cool. Partly because that “B” was always attractive to me (similarly, I always had an affinity for the Tiger’s gothic D). Partly because my best friends Evan and Gregg Michaelson had an aunt in Boston and went there a few times and came back with BoSox hats and stunning tales of the beauty of Fenway.

But now, here I am half world away and I find myself rooting for the Yanks. Clearly, this is partly because I just miss home and the Yankees are so emblematic of home to me at this point. It is also partly because I have developed a true hatred for the Patriots which has spilled over to the Sox and all Boston fans. I see Bill Belichek and his ugly turtleneck and headband in every Boston athlete now and I can’t help but wish them pain (emotional only, of course).

I confessed some of this in an email to Uncle Benny last week and was ready to come out of the closet publicly, right here. Then I got this response from His Honor:

“Another Yankee fan!!! I never thought you could be seduced to the Dark Side. But I guess I should have known from your Costco Conversion and your recent DVD capitulation that there were some weaknesses which the Dark Lord Jeter could exploit. Welcome.”

And just like that I turtled back inside my shell, reminded of why we hate the Yankees and their smug, mookie fans. But now more days have passed and I am on my knees. I must capitulate to the Dark Lord and admit it; I am rooting for the Yankees. Forgive me, Roberto. Grant me understanding, Wilver Dornell. It’s still Chicken on the Hill time in my heart. And this is still my favorite recently discovered website, courtesy of Rip Citron: http://www.al-oliver.com/index.htm. I am on board the campaign to get Scoop in the HOF. The Pirates are in my blood and in my heart, but the Yankees are receiving my cheers for now. And I admit it.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Jacob's field trip to the Great Wall





I have a host of great pictures, but for some reason I can't post them today. It took me a bunch of tries to get these three up. I posted them at Kodakgallery.com. If you want to see them, send me an email and I will send you over there.

This picture is Jacob with his teacher, Jacqui Cameron and his frined Michael. You can see why jacob is so excited to go to school.

I accompanied the Dulwich College Year 3 classes to the Great Wall yesterday.

In short, it was great.

I mean, think about it. These kids are 7 and taking field trips to the Great Wall. Where did you on your elementary school field trips? We took annual trips to the Fort Pitt Blockhouse, with occasional forays to the Incline. And we loved them, too, by the way.

We loaded up a few buses and headed off. We went to the Mutianyu section, same place I went last month with Tmac. It’s only about an hour 20 from here. And it’s a nice section; if you come visit, we’ll probably end up there. The area is very pretty – mountainous and country feeling. There is a fair amount of commercialization and people hawking stuff, but it is all at the bottom of the hill, far from the Wall. I guess in some sections, the schlock goes right up to the Wall. I have not seen that.

Anyhow, we trekked up the hill past all the stuff to the cable car. The kids loved that. Some were quite scared. Jacob was not, having skied often.

It’s not really worth going blow by blow… Once we were up, all the classes gathered together and the kids sketched what they saw. Then we took off by class. It is really tremendous up there. Even the kids who have lived here a long time and been there a million times were wowed and having a blast. The wall close to the cable car is pretty smooth and well maintained. And it stays that way going down to the right, which is what I did with Adidas and Tmac. Apparently, if you walk about an hour that way, you come to an alpine slide, which is a 10-15 minute ride. Maybe one day…

But we walked the other direction and it doesn’t take too long to get a little crumbly. Not enough to be unsafe for the kids, as some more remote places are, but enough to start getting a sense that you are on an ancient structure. We climbed up a watchtower, which was the only part that was a tad scary, with a couple naughty boys trying to climb up the wall when we were very high. Of course the higher you go the more you can see, even on this relatively foggy, smoggy day. And then you can get more of a sense of being on this massive structure. It is almost 5,000 km long!

We walked some more, then stopped for the kids to record their observations, writing on clipboards. Walked some more and had lunch. Then headed back.

Jacob loved it and watching him it struck me that he is ready for a camping trip. You can actually camp on some sections of the wall and I am going to get in touch with our guide friend jack Zhao and look into it. We might have to wait for spring now.

Ding dong the witch is dead

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/28/AR2005092800270_pf.html


Okay, I know he's not really dead. And I know that this probably doesn't change a thing, at least immediately. But it is still worth popping the corks over. Notice how Delay absolutely refuses to back down or admit anything at all. Complete lack of shame can take you far.


And, hey, maybe the GOP can pull the Daily double and have their senate leader indicted as well.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/27/AR2005092701185_pf.html

http://yahoo.reuters.com/financeQuoteCompanyNewsArticle.jhtml?duid=mtfh12268_2005-09-28_20-31-25_n28463798_newsml

And this is a classic boondoggle... can you imagine the pigs lining up at the trough for those Katrina billions? Buy some stock in Halliburton stat.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/27/AR2005092701960_pf.html


Please think twice before sending the Red Cross a donation. there are many other groups doing good work. I have heard really good things about Mercy Corps -- www.mercycorps.com

http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050928/ap_on_re_us/katrina_red_cross_hk4

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Why you need word verification now to post comments

Simply put, to stop the idiotic, machine-generated SPAM comments you must have noticed. Thanks.

Answering your mail -- starting with Mr. Rosary

Delaware Dave is back:
Great pics of the kids in Tianamenn. The kids look happy. It sounds like they are getting into the adventure of it all.

You will be happy to know that Holy Rosary took down Mr. Aviat from Elkton, MD this weekend. Scott, the head coach, was at the Eagles game and handed over the reigns to his trusty assistant Delaware Dave. After tweeking the starting lineup we dominated the Maryland girls and won handily. Emma served flawlessly and passed the ball with precision. It was obvious that her blood line included a father who was MVP of the 1980 Taylor Allderdice men's team and an uncle who later started for the Dragons. We have a tough match this Sunday against Immaculate Heart of Mary (no joke).

Coaching girls is different than boys for many reasons. The boys focus on winning and meltdown if they screw up. Especially in baseball. They put a lot of pressure on themselves and you can see big tough kids crying at shortstop if they make an error or strike out. The girls are concerned about what they are wearing, who is on the other team, who is watching.... At some level they care if they win but not as viscerally. Although they have more fun if they win, they really just have fun playing and it is more of a social event for them. There instincts are also not as strong. You really have to coach them to go after the ball, they are too polite thinking that someone else will probably get it.

DP
PS: a pic of the holy rosary team to follow in a few days


Hey, that picture goes straight up here, no questions asked. I have not seen that level of intensity in my coaching career yet, but Jacob is only 7.5. We did have one kid burst into tears when he allowed a goal last week. His porcine father was standing right next to the goal, staring over at him. That didn't help. Parents in general are much more mellow here, however. That guy was american.

And a host of questions from Dan Cohen

Has Jacob really stopped watching TV?

Yes. For now. Really wild. And there has been no discussion of it. It is like a four-pack-a-day smoker just suddenly stopping without mentioning it to anyone. I just found out we actually don’t have Cartoon Network here, as they do at River Garden, where we were living. But he hasn’t tried to figure that out. And we do have Nickelodean.

Why do the locals seem to be more obsessed with Anna than your other little blond children?
Good question. They are also really into Jacob and Eli – especially Jacob’s hair. But I think Anna is just so little and cute, she looks like a doll. I discussed this with a Chinese teaching assistant in Eli’s class and she said, “Of course. She looks like a Barbie doll.”


What does your chef do on the other nights, and can he make me some food and fed-ex it here (only after you guys are well-fed of course)?
He works for other families. He’s good, but he’s not that good – you live in New York, Danny. Jump in a cab and got o Bayard St.


Now that you can drive, what happens to Mr. Dou?
Are you kidding me? First, we don’t have our licenses yet. We are just in progress. Second, driving here is a contact sport and there is no parking downtown. Driving will be key for going to soccer games, grocery stores, playdates, weekend outings, etc. But Mr. Dou is an employs of the WS Journal. His job really is just getting Becky to work and back and to any appointments. He drives other reporters, etc. too. (Or will when there are some.)

What's your address? I have a present to send you.
That’s what I’m talking about.
Villa 62A
No. 1, Xiang Jiang North Road
Chaoyang District. Beijing
100103, China.

Or if it’s really important, send to Becky’s office.

Wall Street Journal
Full Link Plaza Tower A, Suite 2001-2004
No. 18 Chaoyangmenwai Ave.
Beijing 10020
China

I thought dixie doc had hired a publicist

...when I saw this email in my in box.

79 year old mountain man makes debut solo album...


Then I read this...

"79 year old country music journeyman Cast King hails from a small spot in the hills of Alabama between Heaven and hard luck called Old Sand Mountain where he has been distilling and refining original country music tunes for the last 6 1/2 decades.

Saw Mill Man is his debut album and it’s a revelation of self penned murder ballads, heartbreak songs and some of the finest drinking numbers you’re likely to hear."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Four more photos






Now these pictures crack me up. As I've said before, these public exercise things are all over beijing and the kids love the, especially jacob. There were a bunch of peopl ereally using them hard on Sunday, including an old lady and the young workout guys. eli and jacob plopped right down between them.

More pics from Tiananmen Square





Tiananmen is surrounded on two sides by big government ministries, including the place where the politburo votes 2,000-2 in favor of things. They have a big countdown to the Olympics clock there. It is also, essentially, a countdown on our stay in China. It is about 1,000 days right now.

The bottom picture is a shot of two of the many people who asked to take a picture with Anna. She must be the screensaver on 200 beijing phones by now. I'll get back to that in a minute...

Jacob asked us on Friday why we hadn’t been to Tiananmen Square or the Forbidden city yet, which shamed us into going to the former on Sunday. He is studying China right now. They are doing a survey of the world but starting here and he is really into it. He asked me to find “China landmarks” on the web the other day. So we figured we should strike while the fire was hot and headed out. Tomorrow (Weds.) I am chaperoning the dulwich college Second Grade trip to the Great Wall.

After a lunch at the restaurant on the edge of Ritan Park and yet another run around there – our third time already – we jumped in a cab. Tiananmen Square is, as you can imagine, huge. I mean, it’s really big. The biggest public square in the world and it feels it.

It’s a little confusing to figure out how to get there. It is bounded by a very busy street, which you have to cross under via a tunnel. We did so and were immediately accosted by vendors. We displayed a tiny interest in a kite – big mistake – and the guy followed us all around. It was interesting to hear the price drop form 150 RMB to 45. It was a nice kite. Maybe when Ruth comes, we’ll get one. In the meantime, I had to "booyah!" him away.

We strolled around, drawing attention all the way. There are a lot of tourists from other parts of china there and I think we are even more of a novelty with them. Any time we stopped for a minute – to take a picture or eat or whatever, we got a crowd around us and someone wanted to take a picture of or with Anna.

Needless to say, there is no marker of anything ever happening there. Not even the “On this date in 1989, absolutely nothing happened here” sign they had on the Simpsons. But when you’re there, you know.

There were many thousands of people on the square and it was getting towards sundown, when they have a changing of the guard ceremony. Thousands were lining up at the Northern end to see that. Across the boulevard is a huge, many stories photo of Mao. Thousands more Chinese were lined up there to watch. Many held little Chinese flags which were being sold all over the place. It was quite moving.

Pictures from Tiananmen Square






The story will be in another post, with more pictures. Jacob was really into being here. He drove the whole trip. Eli was a little whiny. Anna is always just Anna, wherever she is. In China it is like walking around with Marilyn Monroe, the way people stare at her in awe. Really wild. Maybe even a little extra this day thanks to thaty adorable shirt, courtesy of Carrie Wells. The old women pictured at the bottom were giving our family the thumbs up. There are a lot of tourists from other parts of China in Tiananmen. Notice the one woman's batik clothes and headband. That is traditional garb in the Nanjing area.

Monday, September 26, 2005

About that Internet crackdown...

"China Tightens Its Restrictions for News Media on the Internet"

Yes, I saw this article, so you can stop emailing it to me. And no, it has not had any effect that is noticeable to me, at least not yet. I copied the headline above from the NY Times website. People have told me that during the SARS fears a while back, CNN. NY times and other sites became blocked. I'll have to wait and see. that would be a real bummer on any number of levels.

Along the same line, to reiterate for those of you just tuning in and have asked me recently – I can not see this page, because blogspot is IP blocked here. Due to whatever quirk, I can get on the back end and edit and post, no problem. That’s communism for you, I guess. And I do see the comments, because they are emailed directly.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Delaware Dave responds

My brother David responded to my prevous post about his Holy Rosary coaching duties.

"Thanks for the great press on the blog. It may be worthy of the Delaware paper. Coach Recognized in China. I actually enjoy the coaching, CYM league aside. It's been fun and coaching girls is a whole lot different than coaching boys. You also can't believe the shit I had to go through to prove I'm not a child molester in order to coach in the catholic league. I'll be sure to tease you about bike riding with a bunch of women when I start my Delaware Dave Blog."

Fair enough. I'm glad Emma and her friends are benefiting from your coaching prowess. They deserve it as much as the boys, But she should really be in singing or acting classes. That child can sing like a bird – it is shocking to me that someone with such a close blood relation to me could sound like that. I think the church is screening the wrong people. Also, I am curious to hear HOW coaching girls is different from boys. I will discover for myself one of these years.

Jacob and eli's soccer is going well. I am t e head coach for eli, along with another guy. he is kind of lame, but organized, so I gladly let him run the practices. They are at 8:30 Saturday morning and I am pretty happy just to get E there in his uni. I am an assistant coach on Jacob's team. Head coach is a nice guy but a total nut. I do all the subbing because he forgets about it and is constantly running on the field, sprinting up and down and giving instructions. Jacob is pretty good. very solidly in the second tier of players, beneath the one kid who really gets it and scores all the goals. He is also really setting an identity as an athlete and carries himself like a jock on the field, the way he runs in between plays, with his head held high, upper arms sort of stiff, elbows bent and barely swinging, looking cool.

Ingrid, a very nice Austrian woman who is the mother of Eli's best friend Maurits said to me, "Jacob is very sportif!" And she's right. It is an interesting development over the past year, which I would not have predicted. He just loves being a part of a team.

In other sports news, my brief fall softball season ended Saturday when the mighty Papa Johns lost to an Chinese team with a 14-year-old girl shortstop by about 10-4. I was about 3-4, even after pulling my quadriceps on my first run out of the batter’s box (the girl threw me out that play). But they were all up-the-middle singles. Solid, but no power. We were missing four of our best players, including the two organizers, who are on holiday in Malaysia. They put Krishna in charge. Worried we wouldn’t field a team, everyone brought someone and we ended up with 15 players and no one in charge. People were coming and going at will, with each inning a confusing mess and the batting order an unwritten disaster. Krishna was too soft-spoken and too interested in his Marlboro Lights while in the dugout to take control.

It was interesting playing the Chinese guys, who bowed to the ump before each at bat. Apparently they picked that up from Japanese baseball. And just before the first pitch of each inning, the pitcher tuned around and raised his hands in the air. The whole team did the same. Then he threw them down and shouted “AAYYYY!” and the team did the same. Then the same procedure one more time and “OOOOOHHHHH!” then he would slam the ball in his mitt and commence pitching – lobbing them about 15-20 feet in the air, illegal in any league, I think. I asked a Chinese speaker n our team what they were saying and he shrugged and said, “Ay-Oh!”

We went to Tiananmen Square today. I will post pictures and a full report tomorrow.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

More pics from the bike trip and some politics






I included a picture of our newly purchased, delivered and assembled patio furniture. Delivered just in time to host our first gathering on Saturday night.

And now for my daily political links. Do you guys like these or is anyone getting sick of me and my soapbox? Let me know.


Good news: our stoic and determined, even Churchillian commander in chief will not cut and run from New Orleans. Does he know it is part of the country? Remember, he is the guy who asked Brazil's president, "You've got Blacks, too?"

http://www.salon.com/opinion/blumenthal/2005/09/22/iraq_katrina/print.html

All ethics aside, if you wanted to run for President don’t you think you would be very careful about even the appearance of insider trading on a family business? I'm sure Danny cohen can provide us with a perfectly reasonable explanation.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/21/AR2005092102065_pf.html

Biking in the countryside







I went for a bike ride today through the countryside around here. There is a group of ladies who go a few days a week. Theo sometimes joins them and she invited me today. Their kids go to a different school and leave earlier on a bus so I couldn’t be ready to leave. Becky offered to take the kids to school but it wasn’t worth the extra juggling and hassle. So I zipped up to Starbucks directly (about 5 miles away) while they meandered through the countryside. I met them there, had a cup of coffee, then rode back.

We rode up a river road, then crossed it on small dam (pictured here). The is the river where the rowing events will be held in the ’08 Olympics,. They have their hands full cleaning this puppy up. At least it flows. Some of the tributaries in are so viscuous they just sort of ooze in. Fro there, we rode a small dirt path up a hill through some fields, including water lily fields, where they apparently raise the bulbs which are commonly sold around here.

All of these pictures were taken on the ride either there or back and all are within a few miles of our compound. It is harvest time right now and on all the backroads, there are rows and rows of corn. Some of these pictures are of that and then the big courtyard full of corn was taken in a little village nearby. The corn looks pretty hard and they just shuck it and stack it on the ground. I am fairly certain it is feed corn, not people-eating corn. They have to feed something to the 800-million pigs they slaughter every year in China. That is the figure someone told me last week and I believe it. The word “meat” in Chinese means pork. Beef is meat of the cow, lamb meat of the sheep, etc. Speaking of which, we had some phenomenal barbecue pork at a Cantonese restaurant downtown last Saturday. I thought it was duck at first and I was thinking, “God this is the best duck I’ve ever tasted, by far.” Eli was sitting next to me and he and I were practically fighting over the last pieces, so we ordered another plate. That bbq was as good as any in Texas and I don’t mean to slight Texas bbq.

Last weekend, we drove up to River Garden on this same backroad pictured here and we were passed coming the other direction by a tractor pulling a wagon, which must have had 50 people in it-- just practically hanging off the sides. Jacob and Eli cracked up. Also down that road are a bunch of big rectangular man-made fishing holes. They were quiet today but on the weekends they are packed. I guess folks pay to drop a line in there to catch God knows what. Chinese people seem to love to fish. In every urban park with a little pond there are guys fishing, often with long bamboo poles with no reels. Guess it’s not hard to yank up a coy – they’re no marlins.

And back to meat, Theo’s cook proudly brought her some braised, marinade dog meat yesterday. She decided to give it a try and said it was ok, that she never would have known it was not beef if she hadn’t been told. I also saw someone selling dog pelts at the big Dirt Market downtown yesterday. It is a big open air flea market type of place. As I think I said before, however, it is a delicacy and very expensive so there are no worries about getting it accidentally. It is much more commonly found in Southern China than up here.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Holy Rosary Volleyball and more...

With all this writing I’ve been doing about my life and the humor I and many of you seem to find in it – thanks for all the feedback, peeps – nothing is as funny as this: My brother David is the coach of the 10-year-old girls Holy Rosary volleyball team in Wilmington, DE. Yes, Delaware Dave has given up his own athletic career to stalk the sidelines of dank church rec rooms all across The First State. In case you are not laughing yet, I will repeat: My brother is the coach of the 10-year-old girls Holy Rosary volleyball team in Wilmington, DE.

Moving on, one of the great mysteries of our life here is that Jacob has not turned on the TV since we moved into this house, nearly two weeks ago. There is not a whole lot he would want to watch percentage-wise, but we do have his beloved Cartoon Network as well Nickelodean, which is all he watches at home anyhow. Also, he was watching plenty of tube in our temporary apartment, putting us in our normal situation of having to police him and time him and force him to turn it off.

Since we have been in the house, the only time he has sat in front of the TV at all is to watch a DVD of Robots, which we did as a family last weekend. He has been really into playing computer games, which is, I guess, almost like TV, but it is more interactive and he comes and goes from it, as compared to the TV which just sucks him in. so this is a great development and we are interested to se how long it sticks. He is also thrilled with the freedom he has here and spends a lot of time riding his bike around the compound, exploring, playing board games and chasing after a few different girls. Thee don’t seem to be any boys in his class or to play with in the immediate vicinity but several cool girls, so that is who he’s hanging with, happily. He spends a lot of time with Olivia Yardley, who lives across the street and is the daughter of Theo and Jim Yardley, NY Times reporter.

Next Weds. he has his first field trip – to the Great Wall. I will be chaperoning. Should be fun. The section we are going to is the closest one, about an hour away and featuring a cable car.

Our excitement yesterday was Eli getting stung by a caterpillar on the playground. It was only a little red, but as the evening went on, he became more and more agitated and was up a bunch of times during the night screaming and clawing at his leg. I thought he was having nightmares (which he may have been since in the morning he said with relief “the big brown thing is off my leg, dad.”) But I spoke to several people today and these things are pretty well known here. Apparently, they have hairy spines, which get under your skin, literally. Theo said her ayi says you should immediately put tape on the area and yank it off to pull them off. So if there’s a next time… Otherwise, Eli is doing well, though he has his fit-throwing moments, more than anyone else. He is taking gymnastics after school Thursdays and playing soccer on Saturday, as is Jacob. They are both going to start an art class on Monday. Eli is on fire with drawing.

He is also really into girls and there are a few around whom he becomes noticeably different and starts playing the clown, goofing around to get attention. I must say they are all really cute. He is already setting his standards very high.

Speaking of DVDS, as some of you know, they are cheap and plentiful here. China’s refusal to adhere to international trademark and copyright laws is a real problem for us and for anyone who makes their living in a trademarkable fashion. I really believe this, but how many of you would be strong enough to not buy them for less than a buck? I admit I do not. There is a guy with a bag full who is often hanging out outside Jenny Lou’s, the supermarket. He is very friendly but I always wave him off. Yesterday I took a look and ended up buying Madagascar, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Kill Bill. Total: 22 quai, or less than 3 bucks. Definitely bad news for Blockbuster and Netflix, not to mention studios, writers, directors, actors. I know that and believe it and yet… Would any of you stand on principal and not buy them? Be honest.

And now I leave you with a few links to stories that have caught my interest today…
This is incredible – and it’s your money being stolen in Iraq.
Key sentence: “Large-scale corruption in Iraq's ministries, particularly the defense ministry, has led to one of the biggest thefts in history with more than $1 billion going missing..”
http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/09/19/iraq.corruption.reut/index.html?section=cnn_latest


Here’s another classic, about FEMA waste.

The key line line: "It will cost close to $1 billion in trucking for $2 million worth of ice.”
http://www.ecnnews.com/cgi-bin/05/gtstory.pl?-sec-Pageone+fn-fn-gice2-20050921-

I’ve always felt like Ivy League Schools were fluffy. You’ve got to work so hard to get into them, they hold our hand through everything you do and seem to figure if you’re brilliant enough to be there, you deserve an A. Here’s proof.

Key line: “Roughly 41 percent of the grades given in Princeton undergraduate courses last year were A-pluses, A's or A-minuses, down from 46 percent the previous year and 48 percent the year before that.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/20/nyregion/20grades.html?ex=1284868800&en=1f956c4bc36c2b5a&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Anna in her PE kit and more photos...




Anna wears her "PE kit" on Thursdays. I have no idea what two-year-old PE means or how it differs from any other running-around day. It's a very nice Montessori school and they are very into kids doing things for themselves, which is a good thing. Anna is pretty independent anyhow and has really taken to that. They also have this British thing since Dulwich College took over. Who knows what's going on but it seems good and Anna loves going to school and loves wearing the same special clothes as her brothers.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

More pictures, from Ritan park






Ritan Park is a beautiful, peaceful place smack dab in the middle of Beijing. We went there Saturday for the second time, with Kathy Chen and her family. The kids all had a blast. That’s Anna with Olivia Moy (aka "my friend").

Kathy was a little spooked by the attention our family gets. The kids were all rock climbing around this big beautiful area with Kin (Kathy's husband, not a typo either) and the three of us were in this little clearing with Anna and Olivia. One by one, we gained an audience of about four men, just staring at us, or Anna, to be more specific. One guy had followed us over from another pagoda area (where eli is pictured), which was pretty bizarre. At home, it would be completely unnerving, but this guy had a sweet smile and just seemed genuinely fascinated by us. Once it got up to four guys sitting on their haunches eyeballing us it did feel like time to move on.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Pictures of the boys




Jacob and Eli love riding their bikes to school and are surprisingly proud of their uniforms. Note the black socks. Wait until you see Anna in her PE kit -- tomorrow!

Getting our driver's licenses, part one

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The Beijing Driver's License Bureau


We continued the process of getting our driver’s licenses today. We had to report to a hospital clinic for an eye test first. But before you can do that, you have to all your paperwork/applications in order. Luckily, Mr. Dou already took care of that for us, turning some stuff in last week, so we had the papers with us. You need three or four photos, like passport photos only smaller. Lily brought them (she scanned our passport photos and prints them out when we need them, which is often, for club membership, residence cards, visas…), But when we got there, they said it had to be a white background and we had blue backgrounds. So we had to go to a Fuji photo place down the street and take them and wait 20 minutes to get them.

Then we walked back, photos in hand and entered the clinic, which was like a 1950s US hospital. Maybe 40s. There were several rooms, marked Opthamology, EKG, Blood pressure, etc., each of which had a line of 8-15 people sticking out into the hallway. We were the only non Chinese. Lily told us this place was only for driver’s license exams. Maybe they make Chinese people take more extensive tests. We only had to do eye. We waited in line and entered this little room with a nice old man Doc sitting there with one of those big things on his head… a headband with a large silver disc sticking up. I don’t know what it is, but you’ve seen old pictures of docs in them, Dixie probably wore one in Alaska. I wanted to take his picture and he was very friendly, but I wasn’t sure and Lily didn’t seem to think it was a good idea.

We presented him the forms and filled them out. We had no idea how many centimeters tall we were. Lily wrote her own height in for Becky, adding a CM or two, because she is really petite and I wrote 190 in for mine, thinking of my old, pre-shape skis. This made everyone really laugh. Apparently, I was way off, turning myself into Yao Ming or something, though I know that’s not true. The doctor changed it to 176. Then we had the exam.

We had to look at a book with multi-colored designs and read the letters in it. To check depth perception and color awareness, I guess. Then we sat on a metal stool, covered one eye and read an eye chart in a mirror across the room. The kind with the W-type symbols where you just point up, down, left, right to indicate which way it is pointing. It was hard, to be honest. The mirror was sort of dirty and distorted. Becky had no idea. Mr. Dou was standing next to me, giving her the hand symbols. Hilarious. The doctor couldn’t have cared less.

So we both passed, and then Lily said we had to go to the Beijing driving bureau. We got back in the car and drove and drove. It was South of town, a huge, hulking bureaucratic building. To the left of the main door was another entrance that said “Foreigner License.” We went in there. We sat down in the waiting area and Mr Dou and Lily went up in line and filled out a million papers, gave them all our many pictures, called us up to sign a few things. Then they asked us when we wanted to come back to take the written test and we said next week. Te following week is a national holiday all week and we wanted to get it done first. Lily came back and said that the next available appointment was October 11. And you need an appointment to take the test. So we are set for October 11. We have a book to study 100 questions, 20 or 30 of which will be on the test. We do not have to take a driving test, as licensed U.S. drivers.

We haven’t even looked at the book yet but we are told it is pretty hard and we definitely have to study. Our neighbor Theo Yardley told me one question was “If you come upon an accident and see body parts on the highway, you A) Pick them up. B) Go back to your car. C) Call the police. Or something like that. The question is real. I forget what the actual answer choices were except for A – that is true.
Anyhow, no one-stop shopping and no immediate licenses in China. Everything is sort of complicated and bureaucratic here. For now at least it’s okay because it is all sort of funny and interesting. I do realize that will wear off. Sitting and waiting and waiting, I thought of my dad and the hissy fit he threw when taking me to get my driver’s license when I was 16, how he screamed at the state police guys there when they told him he had to get his license notorized because he had written on it. “A notary is just a pencil geek with a rubber stamp!” I think that kind of shit would land you in the pokey around here. Actually, it’s just inconceivable for all but the deranged.

Monday, September 19, 2005

FAQs About Our Life in China

Hey, thanks for all the emails. I really like hearing from all of you. Remember, I am not reading a blog about your life and I enjoy hearing about what you are up to. Since so many of you are asking so many of the same questions, I now present to you…

FAQS ABOUT OUR LIFE IN CHINA

Do you miss anything in particular?

Well, in the big picture I only miss people. (That would likely include you, if you’re reading this.)
Other things I miss include:
•Newspapers, especially outside my door. Anything printed in mainland China is subject to censorship, so nothing of note is. It is all shipped in from Hong King or elsewhere, so it’s sort of old news by the time we get it, given our online-ness. I still grab the Asian Journal and the Intl herald Tribune like a fat man grabbing a donut whenever I go to the Journal office.
•My coffee maker. I just can’t get a perfect pot of java brewed up, despite my four pounds of imported Peets.
•My internet connection, though I think I’ve finally straightened that out. I never ever thought I would miss Comcast.


Isn’t Becky ever going to write an entry up here?
Probably not. Yes, she has opinions and they are quite interesting. And yes, she can certainly write a sentence or two. But she is not so keen about posting her thoughts in a public forum given the sensitivities of where we are and her rather public position. But she would love to hear from you, so drop her a note: Rebecca.Blumenstein@wsj.com

Okay, okay. Well, how is the job going? Is she ever home?
She is doing well. They are still really understaffed. Three or four people have left. Two people have been hired and will be here in the next two months. Another job is still open. Plenty of candidates. It is going to take a while to sort out. In the meantime, it is a big job but she feels good and finds it interesting. She is home plenty. More than before, really. But the schedule thing is so weird here, with the time change. It’s a bit of a 24-hour day. So she is often working late and early. But she has always done a great job of separating work and home and still is.

Is the A Team really still on Chinese TV?
You better believe it, sucka!


Do they show any NFL games there?
only Sunday night (monday morning) and Monday night (Tuesday morning). But this year that gives me 5 or 6 Steelers game. Go Willie Parker, go!

Is the Chinese food really awesome in China?
Yes! Especially the Szechuan. And the dumplings you can buy frozen and throw in a pot of water are better than any dumplings you’re likely to get at a restaurant at home.


Can’t you just call it “food” now?

Not really. There is such a wide range of stuff here, it’s insane. There are a dozen or more widely available Chinese variations alone. We have not tried them all. Also lots of Thai, some Indian, Malaysian, some Vietnamese. Western food is usually a little off – except for Italian and Mrs. Shannen’s bagels. The pizza is surprisingly good. That really surprised me. There are several pretty good places, with fresh pies, probably because everything is made fresh around here. Not to mention Dominos, Papa Johns, etc, which we try to avoid, as we did at home, but they are fine – taste the same or better. The best thing about restaurants here is that many of them have children’s play areas. It really rocks. You order, the kids run off and play happily, you have a glass of wine, the food comes and they come back and eat (or not).

Is Chinese wine any good?
No. Not any that I’ve tried yet, but they have Italian and Australian and New Zealand stuff all over, pretty reasonably priced. Besides, the TsingTao is cheap, cold, delicious and omnipresent.

Could you please make the pictures up here bigger?
Nah. They take a long time to load and I use the “medium” setting. If you want to see something better, click on it.

Can you really not see this blog?
Really, I can’t.

Okay, that’s it for now. I will do a Part Two one of these days, but more pictures are my next priority, along with a little tale about the Chinese moon festival and how we took the kids out on a boat right in the middle of Beijing Saturday night and lit and launched all these little floating candles.

Friday, September 16, 2005

the mechanics of the move



This picture in no way does the move justice. it is actually from our first, small air shipment. In the rush to get here on time for the big move, we forgot our camera.

I never really did get into the mechanics of our move. One of the amazing things about china is the staffing of everything. It’s where you really feel the huge population. They are doing work on a house across the street and there is a crew of 20 guys over there. You drive into a parking garage and 20 people are working there, including three standing erect all day at the front in a sort of show of order or force. So, of course, when the movers showed up, they had a huge crew. They worked very efficiently and politely and neatly. First thing they did was tape cardboard on to evey door frame. Such a simple and effective thing to do. Has anyone ever seen this done at home. I don’t recall it. Second thing they do is boot little paper booties over their shoes. Third thing they do is commence working their asses off.

They bring it all in, and after the truck was empty (for the first time – wait till you hear) they start unpacking. They put everything wherever we tell them, very nicely. Then they neatly fold up all the boxes and packing material and remove it. We had seven big crates full of stuff. The truck held three. So they unloaded them, then took a lunch break. It was getting really embarrassing as they brought in box after box labeled “toys.” We got rid of so much stuff and still filled a playroom, though a lot of the boxes were actually these Ikea containers. When they came back an hour or so later, the crew had doubled. They were doing another move in the compound and had finished, so they brought that crew over. The chief said to me, “we heard you had a very large mattress so we brought extra men.”

Before leaving, we went and got a new mattress, which got shipped directly to the dock (saving us sales tax) so we hadn’t even seen it since we purchased it in a blind haze in those final crazy days. We needed a new one and were told mattresses here sucked. (Remember the earlier post about Jacob’s bunk bed.) So we went to the store and somehow zeroed in on the most plush, expensive thing there. Jacob fell in love with it and kept saying, “You have to get the King Koil” and we basically thought, “oh hell, we’re moving to china. let’s get the most luxurious bed we can.” So we did. Now, we have a king size bed and this thing is just insane. They determined it would not fit through the doors an dup the steps and they rigged up this crazy system and basically raised the back tail of the truck, with the mattress on there and a bunch of guys and a bunch more came up here to the balcony and they raised up as high as they could, then shoved it up and in, with much grunting.

So they get the King Coil in and put it on our bed and it’s like the princess and the pea. We practically need a ladder to get in bed, and we are laying improbably close to the ceiling. Eli checked it out and said, “How am I going to get in your bed?” ha! It is very comfortable, I must say. It’s like a really firm, thick mattress with a foot of soft memory foam (Tempurpedic style) on top. Jacob ran in and laid down and declared that the king coil was his bed. We cut a deal where he can sleep on it one night a month. And that turned out to be last night, because went out for dinner with Janet markel and Barry, good friends of my folks who were in town. We were at this fancy joint downtown when my cell rang, about 10 pm and I hear this scratchy little voice asking, “Dad, when are you coming home?” it was Jacob. They just were not going to bed with Ding Ayi. We got a cab and a half hour later, phone rang again. Eli: “Where are you, daddy?”

We got home about 11 to three awake kids. Had to get them down as fast as possible, so we dispatched Jacob to the King coil. They all did surprisingly well today though eli completely fell apart about 8 pm.

In the morning, we have our first soccer games. I’ll let you know how it goes. Have a great weekend. And drop me aline if you’re reading, because there are too many of you lurking. I need to know!

Mr. Lee the cook debuted last night





Here's mr. Lee, in an old picture, from our first visit. Same kitchen but it looks a little different now. The girl is Claire Moy, Kathy Chen's daughter and in my estimation one of the cutest kids in the world not related to me. She's total riot.

Our three-day-a-week cook Mr. Lee came over for the first time last night. We had no idea what to expect, when he would show up, when we pay him, what he would cook or anything else. He brought a big roast and a bunch of fresh vegetables and basically made us steak and potatoes. And it was damn good. Everything was well seasoned and he cooked the roast medium rare, with ginger, garlic and other spices, which were subtle. He made really delicious pan seared taters and nicely cooked carrots and broccoli. Jacob pretty much refused to even come to the table. He had already eaten but it was really one of his first moments of bad behavior since we’ve been here and it only lasted about 20 minutes. Anna and Eli loved it.

In fact, eli has been getting hot lunch at school everyday and he asked If he could bring it in today because he wanted to have leftover meat and potatoes.

When he was done, he very neatly wrapped up all the leftovers (I too had it for lunch today) and cleaned the whole kitchen. I’m telling you, you can really get used to this lifestyle, even if I do often feel like an English colonel sipping gin and tonics in a pith helmet while Gunga Din fetches water. The power structure here is really interesting. I’m told that all the help loves to work for Americans because we tend to treat them better than the Euros not to mention Chinese. At least for now, we’re just so blown away by this level of service that we are practically kissing them all.

On the weather front, we had a couple of glorious late summer days after that one horrible bonfire pollution day and now it suddenly feels like fall. Much cooler today and it rained for the first time since we’ve been here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Two good articles and some classic pictures

The links are long, but you can just click on them, I do believe.
You have to do a free registration, but you should all be registered at the wash. post anyhow.
i really can't believe Bush won reelection. How lame does kerry seem in a bit of hindight? shockingly so to me.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/12/AR2005091201433.html

And this from the WSJ.

http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB112648366967837577,00.html?mod=politics%5Fprimary%5Fhs

Guess who's getting katrina rebuilding contracts? Brownie is probably already registered as a lobbyist for some construction companies.

and have you seen these Photoshop classics?

http://politicalhumor.about.com/library/images/blbushguitarsuperdome.htm

http://politicalhumor.about.com/library/images/blbushfishingvacation.htm

I am now a sports columnist...

I just took a gig as sports columnist for That’s Beijing. It’s an English language monthly that seems to be quite well read by the expat community. It’s basically like Time Out for you New Yorkers except it’s monthly, not weekly. You can see it a bit at www.thatsbj.com. I met the restaurant editor at a party last Saturday and we chatted and she told me they needed a new sports columnist, I emailed her on Monday. She passed it on to the editor. We met today and I got the gig. It doesn’t pay much but I think it will be good for me to establish a profile here and get out there and start doing some reporting, which will give me ideas to use elsewhere as well. I am looking forward to hitting some badminton and table tennis tournaments. No, really.

On other sports fronts, I played my first softball game here last Sunday and will be coaching my first youth soccer this Saturday. I am head coach of eli’s team and assistant coach for Jacob’s. Several friends from the compound encouraged me to coach, saying Chinese dads just expect the Westerners to do it and Korean dads never show up at the games at all. It should be interesting and hopefully fun. I’d be doing the same thing at home, anyhow.

Softball was quite funny. I played for the mighty Papa John’s pepperonis (I made up the nickname, but we really were playing for the pizza chain Papa Johns, which has four joints in Beijing). We played the US embassy and they pretty much killed us, all the while heckling us to the tune of “You guys ate too many pizzas.” It’s never a good sign in softball when you have a lot of non-Americans on the team, but here we were with at least one of the following: Aussie, Brit, Dane and Indian. Pregame the Aussie was explaining things like this to the Brit: “You can’t run when on base until the ball hits the ground” and “it has to be hit to the inside of first and third base in order to count.” I must say he was remarkably good for literally never having played. He did get thrown out at third base, after sliding in beautifully and beating the throw, only to get up and walk away. He had no clue he had to stay on the bag and the 250-pound Marine CO with the barbed wire tats around his massive biceps tagged him out, with a laugh. All descriptions here are 100 percent accurate, too.

Our second basemen was Fiona, a third grade teacher at one of the International Schools (hello, Amy Cohen) who said she hadn’t played in four years because she just moved from Sri Lanka, where her glove rotted away. She was quite good, too.

I pitched the first five innings and it was very difficult. High arc. Had to go up at least six feet. Balls and strikes were determined by whether or not the pitch landed on a mat, about the size of a front seat floor mat for a car, extending back from mid plate. I guess it’s easy to be an ump in china. So the strike zone was the same for the 5-4 female marine guard, with the Corps insignia tattoo staring at me from her left bicep and the 6-6 skinny guy who followed her. Hard to get used to. I did okay, though I badly missed with several attempted ephus pitches, scratching the clouds. I only had three walks, two to a fast-talking black dude with dreads who totally broke my concentration. I don’t know what he did at the embassy, but def. not a Marine. They had about four of these huge, muscle-bound guys pounding the ball pretty far. Everyone else was normal-sized diplomat and staff types. After five sweaty, exhausting innings I asked if anyone else wanted to pitch and Krishna, the chain smoking, rather portly Indian guy who works for Marriott Courtyard said he’d like to try. He shut them down and I’d say I lost my gig. I think I can play left field better than ol’ K anyhow.

Our defense was porous at the beginning, but we came together. I ‘d say we outscored them about 3-1 the last three innings, which brought the score to a relatively respectable 14-4 or so. That felt good after being down about 12-0.

This is a three-week tournament, capping off what I am told is a pretty active regular season which runs from April –July. I’m all over that, next year – and should be able to get at least one column out of it.

The field was hilarious. It was at Cathay View, a chinese style compound still under construction very close to Riviera. I rode my bike there in 10 minutes. The field looks spectacular. Well-manicured outfield, glistening brown infield. Waiting to play I remarked on that and one of the guys playing before us said, ”Wait till you get out there. It is like playing softball in a sandbox.” And indeed he was right.

My first at bat, I hit a pretty hard shot to third and took off. First step felt good, second one, I stumbled and barely avoided falling on my face. I was thrown out. I ended up with a couple of hits, but nothing too spectacular. The infield had 2-3 inches of loose, very soft dirt on top. I think they looked at a picture of a baseball field, but never actually stood on one. The other thing that was interesting was between innings, people ran in to sweep up our dugout trash, getting rid of water bottles, beer cans, candy wrappers, cigarette butts, etc. You start getting used to stuff like that pretty quickly here, which is a little scary. But that’s a whole other post for another day, when I can tell you about our ayi Yoo Ying ironing Jacob and Eli’s underwear and scrubbing J’s soccer cleats.

That’s all for now. I am at B’s office and she is having her chinese lesson. I need to make my way back to the burbs. Same as at home.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Settling into the crib -- pics corrected, I think







I tried to go around the house and take pictures with Anna in the foreground, but was only partially successful in capturing the house. But it looks great. Our stuff fits in well and for the most part we did a good job in terms of what we brought and left. Only a handful of "doh!" moments. I will take some room by rooms. In the meantime enjoy these and nobody tell j I posted a pic of him playing computer games in his underwear.


Well, we are in the house. Getting ready to go to bed for night two as I write. The house has some quirks, which I will get to sooner or later, but it is very nice. Mostly, though, it just feels really good to unpack and settle in. We have been living out of suitcases to some extent or another since June 29, when the movers first came. And the turmoil began before that as we frantically tour our house apart form top to bottom.

Then we were camping out in our own house, unsure of what we had and where it was for a few weeks. And then we were traveling all over the country and then we were absolutely killing ourselves to move out and prep our hosue and then we were living at Joan and ben’s and then we were moving and then we were living in our temporary apartment for three weeks. So it‘s been a long time since we were whole and settled.

As good as it feels, it is also a little bit of a double edged sword, because there is a certain beauty to the more minimalist life and you dorealize how much of this crap you just don’t need, on any level.

We had a good day here yesterday finishing our move in but it was long and tiring and the kids were at a birthday party all afternoon and then we went to dinner and by the time we got here hteyw ere tired and ragged out. Jacob was intitally very excited about having abunk bed, but then he climbed up on top and felt the mattress and said, “No way am I sleeping on this. It’s way to o hard.” And he’s right. Chinese mattresses are wack -- very thin and attached to a piece of plywood, which is exactly what they feel like. There was only one of them in our temp apartment and Eli slept on it and never said peep.

It was actually the first bed I checked out there and I sat on it and wondered what the hell was going on. It felt like something was wrong, like you should remove a piece of wood. Anyhow, Jacob immediately moved into the extra room across the hall. No surprise, especially since we had his old bed in there. And he started calling it “my room.” I figured that was it and the boys would no longer share a room, for the first time. Tonight he really surprised me by saying he was sleeping in the bunk bed. He took this new cozy fleece blanket and this new fuzzy pillow and set up camp up there, with his four or five favorite stuffed animals and talismans positioned in each corner. Hey Danny Rosen if you are reading this, one of these is “wolverine Danny” the little UM football teddy bear you gave him years ago. That’s up there with the dog he won at Coney Island and the Tiger he won at Fantasy Island in Beach Haven and the ‘travel dragon” from his first grade class that Mrs. Greenberg bequeathed him on the last day of school ‘since he was traveling the world.”

Itdoes make me a little nervous to have him on the top of a bunk bed a floor above us, but he is excited. (And since I am finishing this 24 hours later, I can report that he slept all night along with all the kids. There could be some advantages to a floor separation, but we’ll see.)

Yesterday, we had a full day here and the kids were very happy. Anna loves her new room, which is beautifully set up. Eli is very pleased that Jacob has returned to his room – only being exhausted allowed him to fall asleep alone last night since he has always shared a room. The boys are also thrilled that they have their own bathroom (which is rather absurdly palatial), which even has a shower with a seat. They call it their space ship and love firing it up to take off for parts unknown.

They also love riding their bikes around here. Jacob zips around a little too fast and Eli plods along a little too slowly, needing actual pushes every once in a while – the guards will rundown from their posts to do so, prompting e to remark tonight, “good thing they have guards in china.” Eli also tends to cruise right down the middle of the road and look all over the place. I watch him and see exactly the way my dad has always described my own dreamy spaciness when it was scaring him or driving him bonkers. I see that and laugh, but I am also scared. I have nearly 40 years experience in recognizing my own tendencies and adapting survival instincts. Eli’s still need to be honed.

Responding to comments...

Not sure how many of you are reading the posts, so I thougth I would post a cpouple wiht replies ( remember, I can not read the blog or comment directly there). the first one comes from becky's sister beth, who is a family doc in eugene, OR. the rest speaks for itself.

I returned from Houston yesterday (on sept 11th) after spending 6 days volunteering at the Reliant center arenas (the astrodome and the other 2 centers). When I arrived on monday, 12,000 evacuees were housed in three buildings which altogether were served by the medical clinic where I worked. It was an incredible experience. After all that these people have been through, they were appreciative and so patient. Missing parents, children; all worldly belongings in a few donated bags underneath their cots. I have great respect for Houston-they have their shit together. I saw everything from people needing their meds refilled ("you know, the the little white pill")after losing everything to infections related to the water to emotional decompensation. I was not there for the initial arrival in Houston, but heard from another doc that many people could only crawl off the bus after the Superdome experience. Angel, a little 5 year old, told me her mother was taken away in the water and eaten by an alligator. There should be a tribunal for crimes committed against humanity. Glad to be back in Eugene- I follow this blog fairly regularly. You guys sound good. Love, Beth


Hats off to beth. i'm sure being there was difficult in many ways, but so many of you have commented how frustrating it is not to be able to do anything. Well, she did something. My dad volunteered but I believe was turned down due to his age. They don't understand his grizzly adams ness. Tood bad for everyone involved Dixie didn't make it down there.He would have delivered great medical care and come back with great stories. and I'm sure some people would have been comforted to hear him toot "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans." what a song that is these days.

And from Carrie Wells,
Oh My! All I can think of after viewing your palace is "How we gonna keep them down on the farm, now that they've seen Paris?"
The house looks fabulous!!


Thanks. It is nicer than I would have imagined for sure, but it certainly doesn't quite feel like home yet. Granted, it's only been two or three days but maplewood never has pollution days where it smells like there is a huge bonfire is burning around the corner. that would be today.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Some pics of the house and car...




Still far from the best pictures, as we settle into our new house. But here are some long-awaited images (at least by some of you), including Mr. Dou with our Jeep Cherokee. We will get our driver's licenses soon, which will be quite liberating,even if we don't drive out of our little burb world, which we won't, for a while. We had to get our permanent resident visas first. B has hers and mine is in on thursday. The other pic shows the entrance to Riviera and the clubhouse and then our rather palatial home. More pics of the interior on the way.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Some going away pics from home...




A lot of you have been hammering me for more pictures. We've been too busy to take many lately and we forgot the camera on our crazy zoo trip. I'll be back on it, soon, But in the meantime, here's a few from our final days in Maplewood. One from The Last Supper, at Joan and Ben's house.

And two from an almost-final good bye with the Mera family. It wasn't our last day together, but close to it. we were all standing outside and the ice cream truck came and the kids had ice cream together and we took these pictures.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

To answer your questions...



This is the photo on my Chinese press pass. Glad I like it. The shot on my Riviera ID card was taken in our final, sleep-deprived 100-degree, stress-filled days at home and you can see all that in my baggy, bloodshot eyes and bewildered expression. That's the one I have to look at every day. Oh well. i can pick what I share with you all.


I am still just blown away by New Orleans. I am glad to see the NBA and players seem to be stepping up to the plate pretty well. I would be rather disgusted by anything less.

I want to address a few issues which several people have emailed me about.

First of all, I've only just begun to pursue more work. I figured that I needed some time to get settled and it was waste of time to send pitches to anyone in New York in the final pre Labor Day weeks anyhow. I've sent a few out today, so we’ll see where that leads.

Right now, I'm really enjoying being unencumbered and not having anyone looking for me except my four family members.

We have been living in temp. housing in a little apartment and my only reliable online connection is Starbucks, where i am right now. Tomorrow, our big shipment arrives and this weekend, we move into our house. Then things will really settle down and I'll have my DSL line. I think considering our limitations, we’ve been doing great and I’m really happy with this blog because it has made me write every day and kept my chops sharp.

I am also considering taking a 1 or 2-month extensive Chinese course, five hours a day five days a week. I think it might be my best shot at getting somewhere with the language.


That brings me to another thing many of you asked about -- no, I can’t really understand local reports on the hurricane, but Becky just had her reporters here do a story on local reaction and in short they are disgusted and appalled and disillusioned, actually. Because a lot of people here hold us in high regard and think we have our shit together and this has exposed so much of what's wrong in our society. i think for some here, it makes them really doubt where to turn for inspiration.

When we went to the aquarium last weekend, there was a TV playing news in the lobby and their coverage of katrina was more graphic than what I saw on CNN. They were showing closeups of people shaking, looking glassy eyed, clawing for some water. I could only imagine what the announcers were saying. What can anyone say? The images speak for themselves and what they say is not pretty.

So now the digging has begun and one doesn’t have to go too deep top nsee that w turned FEMA into a gathering of good ol’ boy cronies. Surprise, surprise.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/wn_report/story/344004p-293718c.html

But, hey, let’s not “play the blame game.” This is an unbelievable thing to say in the face of such absolute fumbling. They impeached Clinton for NOT fucking an intern. But no one’s supposed to “play the blame game” for fucking up this disaster.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/09/20050907-2.html

(go about half way down and see the question beginning, “Q Scott, does the President retain…”)

At least, the horror of this mess finally woke up the snoozing press corps, even forcing FNC reporters to quit being “fair and balanced.”

http://www.tompaine.com/articles/20050906/the_medias_labor_day_revolution.php

I clicked through and was able to watch this link and I retract my “at least I can’t see Fox News” statement. Shep smith and Geraldo were heroically honest, blunt and gripping. This made me cry again. Great reporting and they deftly and effortlessly resisted Hannity’s every attempt to spin in “the Calvary is coming.”

I'm sure a lot of you saw this, but tom Friedman's column was really good at connecting the dots of how bereft the admin has left us.


http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/07/opinion/07friedman.html?incamp=article_popular

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Another little story on Slamonline

.. except it's just a version of what I posted here yesterday. Nonetheless,... http://slamonline.com/links/09052005/

Didn't have time to finish the zoo story today because our first shipment arrived, via air... the big one comes on friday. We unpacked and put away everything with the help of our home ayi, yoo ying. very nice lady. The house looks great and very inviting. Looking forward to the move, which will come this weekend. The kids are actually going to miss their little world here. Especially Jacob, who has more of a posse of homies going than eli.

It was nice to see some of our stuff. I literally kissed my peet's coffee, and was thrilled to see my computer and my guitar. I tuned it up and it sounded good as ever. I love that guild. Bashed out a few tunes. empty hosues have great acoustics.I think Yoo Ying was a little surprised. wonder if she knows any Dylan tunes.

I promise more pics soon.

Best reply email of the day comes courtesy of my brother, DP, who said our story of the zoo reminds him of the Amish in Philly.

And a big shoutout to young squire Jesse Paul as he prepares to become a man on Saturday after a lifetime of being The Man. We mis you, dude, and wish we could be with you. Just remember to think of us when you put on that tallis and if you get nervous, think of dixie doc in Pinsker's Judaica store, when we bought the thing. it was everything you could imagine it would have been.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Our trip to the Beijing zoo -part One

We went to the Beijing zoo on Saturday. We had a nice time but it was pretty odd in a few ways. First, it was probably the most “Chinese” thing we’ve done here, with almost no tourists or other Westerners in sight. It was really crowded and just getting tickets and getting in was sort of a trip, with tons of people in your face hawking stuff on the street outside. They hold their goods out and try to thrust it in your hands and Eli kept thinking people were giving him things so he took the Power Rangers balloon, he took the bottle of water, he took the long ladybug whistle with the blowout thingies… and we had to take each of them out of his hand and give them back. The hawkers get pretty relentless, especially upon seeing fresh white meat like us, so you have to step up your own aggression, saying “Boo Yah!” which more or less means, “No way, get away” and cracks me up every time I say it.

But as soon as you walk in the gates of the zoo, it is very peaceful and park-like, amazing off t=of this busy, nasty road. And the people who worked at the zoo were really nice. We bought a ticket for Eli because we had no idea what 150 cm is (under that is free). We stoppe din a tourist office inside to try to get a map – noone there spoke English -- and in there took out a tape measure and checked E out – he’s only 112 – and ran back to the box office to get us a refund. I don’t think it would happen here.

The zoo is pretty archaic and the animals look quite sad. Sort of ike zoos were at home when I was a kid, only worse. Tigers and lions looking forlorn in little cages. Monkeys in fetid little cages. That type of thing. They do have four Pandas who live in relative luxury in something approximating wide open, modern American zoos,.But even these national treasures are not in really modern facilities. Of course, the kids noticed none of this and were happy to see even the pathetic polar bears in the sweltering heat, sitting on cement and looking for some peanuts – which people toss like mad, along with whatever other food stuff they have in their hands.

But the really wild part of the zoo is that our kids were as much of an attraction as the pandas or any other animal. People told us this would happen but it really hadn’t yet. Maybe because we have mostly done stuff in Eastern Beijing, where there are more foreigners. Maybe because we hadn’t really been in a Chinese crowd quite this big yet, because it was really big and swarming with people. I could see people staring at us from the start and noticed several folks pointing at Anna, talkig to each other and smiling. At a few exhibitions, people reached out to touch Eli on the hand and once on the face, which he oddly didn’t even seem to notice. A couple of people wanted to touch Jacob’s curly hair. Pretty much all of this was accompanied by smiles so it wasn’t scary.

Then we stopped for ice cream. We were sitting on this low wall eating, with a fence behind us and a family came by and the father was totally taken by Anna. He stopped and was calling over his family and friends to see her. Laughing and smiling. He asked if he could take a picture of his daughter with Anna, by wildly gesticulating with his hand, cigarette clutched between his fore- and middle fingers, speaking loud and fast Chinese.. Sure. They took it and thanked us and walked away. Then two other ladies came up and asked the same. They spoke some English and were very nice and excited. We did two pictures with them. All of that was enough for a crowd to gather around to see what was happening. We were what was happening, suddenly surrounded by a growing ring of people, all of them pointing, looking, smiling, talking to each other about us. Eli thought it was funny. Anna was a little sheepish but didn’t really care. Jacob was starting to freak out, not unreasonably. He came up close to me and said, “Let’s get out of here.” So we stood up and waved and smiled and nodded and walked away, with everyone watching us the whole time.

Later, as we were trying to find the aquarium, we stopped at a big map and were trying to figure it out. They don’t have big red X “you are here” markings. An older guy in an army jacket tried to help, though he really wasn’t or couldn’t. I guess my fish pantomime wasn’t up to snuff. He looked over at the kids and counted on his fingers, 1-2-3, then gave me a big smile and thumbs up and shook my hand warmly and vigorously. I guess having three kids is a big an attraction as the blond, curly hair and blue eyes. I was trying to explain that to the kids.

As soon as I said, “In China, people are only allowed to have one kid,” Eli’s eyes got really big and fearful and I immediately realized he was worried that we were going to have get rid of him and Anna so I said, “That’s only for Chinese people, not people visiting from other countries.” He was reassured but Jacob looked a little puzzled. I wasn’t sure why but a few minutes later he asked, “where is andrew’s family from?” A perfectly good question since his friend Andrew, Kathy Chen’s son, is the eldest of three Chinese Americans. They are all fluent in mandarin so Jacob regards them as Chinese.

to be continued tomorrow... I have to run home from B's office now...

"I very like Slam"



To do anything official in china you need a seal or CHOP, whatever that stands for. Gov't issues it and you need to place it on everything and anything you submit. Here is the new, official SLAM CHOP.

I have already suggested to the magazine that we hold a contest and the first person to have this tattooed on themselves gets a free lifetime sub.

I got this and some other papers making the official and my status official at a big gov't ministry/police headquarters. it was packed with people --foreigners getting visas, Chinese getting passports. all manned by uniformed police. you can imagine the scene. Lilly, the WSJ office manager and my guide through all such things, hands the cop all the paper work and he begins very officiously going through them, only to stop, look up at me and smile and say, "I very like Slam."

He goes back to work for a while, then stops again and looks up and asks, "Who do you think is the best Chinese basketball player after Yao Ming?"

"I can't say yet. That is what I ma hear to find out. Who do you think it is?"

He thinks for a while and says, "I much prefer the NBA, actually." then he names a few other Chinese players, whose names I more or less immediately forgot, but I got the gist of one guy, a 35-year-old shooting guard for the Army team who is a three-point gunner and scores 35 a game. He also told me that next week is the big inter-police hoops game and he was practicing a lot.

Monday, September 05, 2005

One last katrina rant

I’m still seething and amazed about new Orleans and this whole fiasco. It didn’t immediately strike me that when Bush left the ‘ranch” last Tuesday it was not go to Washington or the Gulf but to fly to California to make another insane speech comparing Iraq to WW2. Not to mention the head of FEMA holding a news conf last week – Weds, I believe, at Grand central station about… home-preparedness for terrorist attacks. Duct tape anyone? The CNN Int’l anchor was dumbfounded. They broke away to go there, assuming logically he would be addressing Katrina, which he did with one meaningless sentence at the end.

Speaking of which, one advantage of living here is we don’t have Fox News (sorry Dan and Jeff). I would surely be throwing things at the TV if I had to listen to Hannity and O’Reilly twisting themselves into pretzels to explain why this is really a triumph for the admin.

Let a brain dead vegetative woman in Florida come off her respirator and Bush flies back to DC in the middle of the night, no questions asked. But one of the great cities of the world is looking like a grade C Kevin Costner flickr with thousands of people rotting and festering and he’s got other matters to attend to. And when he finally got down there, he was joking around on the airport tarmac about the good times he used to have down in Houston. This while corpses and writhing patients were practically moving behind him on luggage belts! You can’t make this stuff up. It’s beyond satire.

Actually, I’m not sure any of these people really exist. I think W is really Peter Sellars who faked his own death to take on the role of a lifetime, a perfect mix of Dr. Strangelove and Inspector Clousseau. He may be doing one of those multiple-role things he loved so well – he is really Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove as well. These people can’t actually be real. He may even be condi.

And as a big thank you for screwing up the world, W gets to remake the Supreme Court for the next 30 years. Rove is no doubt combing the Federalist Society database as we speak, seeking a 38-year-old Black Judge from Mississippi who has called for beheading looters. A sharecropper background would be an added plus.

As usual, Frank Rich is on point, if you haven’t read this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/04/opinion/04rich.html?incamp=article_popular

I will now return to our regularly scheduled Chinese programming…

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Two new pics -- Look, they're Here Now!



One is an attempt at a self portrait with new bike. Didn't get much of the bike in there, though.

The other is just the street nearby, to give some rough idea what it looks like. I will take much more, better shots soon. This photo is the big street in front of Mrs. Shannen's bagels, where I am sitting right now.