written/non-written things by me (from 2005-2008)

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Meandering through Wangfujing Dajie and the Moat Garden

Wangfujing Dajie is the over the top fake-o-rama shopping plaza a little east of the Forbidden City. Its not all fake, there are a few real fancy stores mixed inbetween. There are maybe 3 "chopstick stores" within 100 feet of each other. I bought a little turtle to set my chop sticks on. I had tried to have lunch in large glitzy mall with an elaborate food court with a myriad of delicious looking (clean looking) asian cuisines. I say tried because I bought a little spinach (different than American spinach, much bigger with fatter stems) and a palm sized chinese spring onion pancake, seemed simple enough in my pansy state of food sensitivity. I couldn't even finish it before I started burbing up terrible things. So in need of nourishment I bought a dry piece of sunflower bread and ate it walking down the street.

A spasm inducing mega-tron

Some chatting bike cops, they look cuter and more cuddlier than ours.

Cop walking along the gate of the Forbidden City.

Imperial City moat garden blanketed in snow. This garden is being spruced up for the Olympics. Amazing there were not more people here; just to the left of the bridge is the Imperial City wall, and beyond the wall are about 100, 000 Chinese people walking about, yet here it is quiet. Must be the delicate balance of the landscaping...or some such.

I love that the man who took this photo did so at such unconventional angles.

The moat itself and the Forbidden City gate in the background.

Bird cage delivery bike.

The sickness

After my relatively leisurely first few days, after being swept to elborate dinner after dinner, and on one occassion cajoled by 2 of my British collagues to drink ba jiu (Chinese "white whiskey") in a steamy and filthy little restaurant near the school as they filled me in on all of the outrageous gossip about the school directors, leaving me very sick to the point where I missed a kindergarden class the next morning (I was supposed to observe it, not teach it), well eventually I started teaching classes on Saturday. I teach 6 classes on Saturday and Sunday and 2 classes everyday during the week, except for Tuesday (today) my day off. The first few days of teaching went great. I have a class of 4/5 year olds who are adorable and constantly frightened by my big strange face in their face saying incomprehensible things. My other classes are 8-11 year olds, of decent english ability. I work with a Chinese teacher in the class, who
explains most of the activities and exercises, and meanings of words. Her name is Memory, odd no? Memory speaks english fairly well, but I think a lot of my meaning is lost on her. I am not sure she is telling the kids what I am really saying. Another of my Chinese teachers is Lily.

Apart from being extremely busy with these classes, I have been very sick with nausea and lethargy. I believe my stomach is over-whelmed with the food here. On Saturday night I was feeling great. I went jogging (my first jog around the neighborhood drew many doubletakes and stares), I played on the adult playground and had lots of energy. Then we ate dinner. Haiyan had made pork tongue and cauliflower dressed with slices of gelatinous pure pork fat that she brought back with her from her hometown (nearly 3 weeks ago!). I had begun to eat before I had asked her what it was. It didn't taste that bad, but when she told me, I knew I would feel the affects. The next morning I ate a small bit of walnuts and oatmeal, then almost immediately my stomach expanded so much that I could barely button my pants. Worried and dismayed by this condition, and with the whole day ahead of me, I set off for class. I started my 8 am class with tons of energy and fun, despite my turbulent stomach
(<---From one of the many student-teacher dinners this week: chicken stew topped with chunks of blood gelatin)

and being rather uncomfortable in my pants, and the students were happy and eager. Then by the last period I could not stand up without being hit with a wave of nausea. Despite the fact that I had told her I wasn't feeling well, Lily had not shown up to the last class opting to catch up on paper work, so I was left struggling to explain the activities in my sick, desperate state to children who probably found me incomprehensible. I had the kids read random things from the book for the last fifeteen minutes. I don't know if they knew the difference, but it was a very bad situation.
(something with chicken feet and beaks in it)
So I came home and slept from 5pm to 12 oclock the next afternoon. Woke up, vomited, felt a tad better, and went to teach another class. A day later, I am feeling better, my stomach is normal sized, but I have zero appetite, which is rather unusual. I took a stoll in a little shopping district last night. There was a food market with fruit and nut displays in the front. So tempted to find something I could tolerate, I headed in, but was soon struck by the putrid smell of blood (like a room of wet coins). Beyond the fruit stands was a huge hall of red glistening flesh and organs splayed out on tables being picked over by the locals. Blood and liquid was dripping from the tables to the concrete floor. I nearly vomited right there. If I had not already felt so sensitive, I think I could have taken a look around the meat room just for eccentricity of it, but I had to bolt out of the door. It will take me a while to get my stomach back where I can be adventurous with food again, but I will be nibbling dry baguettes for a while, unfortunately.

Its difficult to isolate oneself from smells in this town. Though I believe the air in ShiJingShan is rather clear of the *smell* of pollution, everywhere on the sidewalks food is being cooked in large barrels: sweet potatoes, sugar popcorn, sticky candy, corn on the cob. And though these smell really good to me usually, in my current state any food smell is offending. But there is one smell I truly despise, even when healthy. On a few occasions, smack in the middle of the sidewalk, I have come across a homeless and/or extremely poor person who has set up a little grill made out of a paint can. Right on top of these very industrial looking coals they have placed slices of "thousand year old" eggs and very very cheap and smelly weiners. Thousand year eggs are basically hard boiled eggs that have been injected with salt and pickled in a potent black vinegar for so long that the color of the yoke and flesh turn into a swirl of turqoise and dark grey. They are truly foul. The sight of these poor peddlars trying to sell these disgusting snacks is rather sad. No one buys them, and they sit there sizzling until the peddlars themselves eat them.

Well, today is my first day-off. My stomach is about 60%, but it is snowing outside, so I should make my way slowly to the subway and spend the afternoon padding around Beijing. Maybe (most likely) popping into the foreginer district near the embassies to perchance get a drink of pepto-bismal.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


I took a few hours before class today to pop down to Beijing to see Tian'anmen Square. Haiyan had recommended a traditional culture exhibit at the National Museum, but I spent most of my time wandering around the front part of the Forbidden City looking at the people looking at the Forbidden City. I didn't go in yet because it is an all day affair and I only had an hour or so.

No eave and corner of Tian'anmen architecture is unmajestic and under-whelming
The first gate of the Forbidden City (Imperial Palace), which is the most popular site on the four corners of Tian'anmen Sqaure (Gate of Heavenly Peace).Now I have my own Lion Head with Mao in the background shot.
Before entering the main gate of the Forbidden City you can dress up like Qing Dynasty empresses/ors. These girls giggled as they tripped about on the crazy platforms that the royal ladies once wore. They look like fat ice skates. People gather around the photo set up to laugh at those that get their pictures taken in costume. The robes are only front facing, so when the wind blows you can see their blue jeans. That's the rearend of a really gooofy looking horse dummy. If your a boy they wheel it out so you can straddle it in your picture.For some reason there were many astro-turfed basketball courts in front of the Forbidden City. These soldiers kept queing up, then getting out of que, then slapping each other around, and most of them were laughing and being very un-soldier like.
All babies in this city are by law to be over bundled even when its not that cold outside and to the point of immobility.

Looking South to the Monument to People's Heros, which I didn't get to before being overtaken by 2 female English students from Xi'an outside of the National Museum. They smiled and asked me where I was from and charmed me into conversation. Then they ushered me into a art gallery gave me jasmine tea in a dixie cup and showed me every single piece of art and explained thoroughly its relevance to Chinese culture. The art gallery was empty when we went in. But after awhile I turned around to find I was not alone. Other students had found other foreign tourists and were showing them every piece of art work as well. I bought a silk painting of 2 Peking dogs (Its the year of the dog, they stand for honesty and luck (I notice that nearly everything stands for luck)) for my grandma's birthday (she has a hundred dogs). Its cool though, I got the girls mobile numbers and an offer to see the district were they live. I think this was because I will be living here instead of passing through.

So all that was in the span of an hour!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Rare Clear Day

I awoke to a view I was told by the foreign teachers I wouldn't see for weeks, a **clear** blue sky. I should know not to listen to them. I have read and have heard from Haiyan and Mr. Li that in autumn the Beijing sky's blueness is described as "tall". I can only think think that this tallness assumes the color's proximity to the deep blue of the upper atmosphere, reaching closer to space. The spring sky at its best, according to this rare day of clarity, is pale and gauzy and fleeting. As I type this now at 6pm a haze is diseminating over the city. But at least for most of the day I was offered a glimpse of the mountains
Today was my first day of observation at Aihua Academy. I headed out at 9:30 am. The school is tucked in an alley behind a wall of apartment complexes. On the other side is a howling thorough fare teeming with buses, cars, bicycles, tricycles, scooters, peddlers selling steamed yams out of charred barrels, magazine and paper peddlers, and the Subway line that I will be taking to school everyday. Its amazingly only 1 stop from the apartment. 3 RMB per ride, which is about 40 U.S. cents.
My first time to behold the Morning Exercises in the courtyard of Aihua. All Chinese students have morning exercises, which range from calistinics, to aerobics, to simply forming up and marching in place. Here the students are in "Military Training" which is just a discipline exercise of standing in lines and intermittantly thrusting ones arms out straight and turning directions every 3 minutes while in between listening to the leader yelling commands. Its not a very vigorous exercise. Occasionally, the leader told the students to shake out their legs in between long sessions of standing like ramrods. So the kids reluctantly wiggled a little bit.

I observed 3 classes today participating a little bit to lead a memorization game called "What has Finlay's brother got?" The kids yell "HEllo!" at the top of their lungs when we walked in. Some adorable little girls ran up to me a put their bundled up arms half way around me. I could not stop smiling during class it was so cute!!!!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I'm looking out "my" window....

...Upon a six lane highway. It's almost 10 in the morning. Squat trucks and cars are passing. There is a ferris wheel and some amusement park roller coasters in the hazy, smoggy distance, endless clusters of 20 story apartment towers, there are some faint outlines of mountains very near. I am very surprised to see the mountains. They are as tall as the Catalinas in Tucson, but a little closer to me. Everything is rendered soft by the haze. The sky is a dull white.

This is a paper cut on the parlor window, decorations from the New Year. There is a basketball court down below. I watched a lady jogg slowly around the tower, a promising track for running.

My breakfast: oranges, dumplings, bok choy, tomatoes, and my favorite sesame oil chilli sauce. (I actually made this) Haiyan leaves to catch the train at 7 am.

My room. I really like the hard flat Chinese style bed.

The beautiful office (Haiyan's bedroom), from where I type this. I am using Robert's pretty fast PC, but all the script is in Chinese. I have to guess at the right prompts. Haiyan is going to stay in this room now. That's her little bed. She gave me the bedroom, which is rather spacious. She would have it no other way.

Even the laudrey-hanging room has an amazing view. With all of the changing flights hysteria in the states I never got my luggage (2 huge suitcases and my bike!) I will probably be wearing this shirt and socks for a while.

This is the court yard/parking area in between the apartment clusters. I walk towards the green building to get to the street.

Here is the fairly busy street I live off of. Haven't really been out yet expect for standing outside waiting to be picked up by Aihua to register my foreigner status at the police station. They didn't arrive because they thought I was sleeping in. But at least I got to people watch, and be watched by people. They like to look slyly out of the side of there eyes. When I smile they in turn light up, or shyly giggle. I am trying to say "Ni hao" without actually thinking "Hello"

Here is one of the many three-wheeled motorcycle taxis. This one was rather shiny looking. Others were a little raggedy and clunky. I can't wait to crawl in the little space inclosed in the back for a ride. There were many heavy duty bicycles too, some of which had huge carpeted pallets attched to the back.

bonus: Some scenes from the journey...

The route from San Francisco to Beijing skims the continents of the Pacfic coast, along Alaska, across the Bering Sea, over Siberia (shown here) and across the vast ice sheets of the sub-Arctic ocean. This was an astounding sight. This planet is unbelievable, I spent hours looking out that window.

The frozen Bering Sea

Shiny Beijing Airport people mover. This was the glitzy part of the terminal. Standing in line at the less glitzy, more solemn customs and visa checkpoint, I wanted to take a picture of the mega screen with red scrolling English text that stated the rights of the "State Organ" to prevent foreigners from compromising the frontier, which might result in the "disposal" of said foreigner...but I was too scared.

We walked out of the airport and I was immediately hit with the smell of burning of various materials, ranging from tires and plastic, to food. I was going to ask what's that smell, but then I realized that would get me laughed at, because that's the smell of Beijing.

The van ride on the Ring Road freeway was brisk, we passed clusters of skyscrappers rendered sci-fi through the smog. And stanger-- along a stretch of the highway there were some, I am guessing, open-air factories (?) were men in helmets and protective gear torched big pieces of metal and bustled about under a fountain sparks.

Well, that was the first 20 hours. I will now brave the unknown and go for a walk, hoping not to get lost before I must be picked up to go to the Police Station, where I will under go a medical examination and other procedures that according to Finlay "scare the hell out" of you.

Tonight, there is a banquet with the school Directors. I suspect they will try to get me drunk, as is the tradition at banquets. It's rude not to join in on the toast, but I hope they will go easy on me because I want to be concsious to meet with Haiyan's friend who will be visiting and sleeping over later tonight.

I hope to write about Haiyan more later. She was a very accomodating host, very sweet. Upon entering the house she gave slippers and promptly made me tea. Later, she made me a fried egg (best I have ever had) and warm soup with chinese greens. She apologizes for her English, but I think it is very good. If I need to slow down or use different words she kind of indicates that she is confused with her expression. I am so lucky that she can help me get things sorted out here. I would be baffled without her. We have tiny difficulties communicating, mostly giggling.

(Hope this blog post turns out alright. I can only post. I myself can not access the website to see what it looks like, for reasons I haven't yet figured out.)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

My View

I've done some biking and walking and train riding around Dallas, but for some reason hardly ever with my camera. Meandering through pretty neighborhoods and coming across parks, empty but no less inviting, I never quite felt as if this were a place I was to get comfortable with if only for a month. For the most part, in my head, I have spent my time here like one might amble away a couple days of an extended layover trapped in the inconsequential hospitality districts surrounding an airport. Content with the amenities, but unconvinced that this in itself is apart of the journey. No one really relishes there idle time in places of transition, besides those more connected to the present than myself. And I suspect this has little to do with the immediate environment being inherently dismissive, and more to do with the person being in a state of dismissive-ness.

My time spent here in the pretty college neighborhood of Highland Park, Dallas I have spent convincing myself of my rapidly approaching departure from it. I have frequented a coffee shop over and over, yet still refused the repeated buyer’s punch card on the grounds that “I won‘t be here long enough to get the free coffee.” I haven’t really tried to make friends with my work acquaintances at the bookstore telling myself time would be better spent studying Chinese or reading a book about China or riding the train to no particular place and walking around with no particular intention, as if just to exercise the mentality of traveling. All together not a bad way to pass the days and I have really enjoyed it, despite my eagerness to get on with my adventure. And perhaps a time of social distance was called for before moving to China, like weaning me from the dependency of easy communication.

The world outside my immediate window is loud with traffic and people talking underneath the trees, the occasional church bell and stadium noise, but I feel very quiet here. I get lost on the freeways and I don’t know how to get to places that everyone else is familiar with, like the mall and Target. The office parks and shopping plazas are hazily set off by the bright blueness of the central Texas sky as if everything had the reflected waviness of deck furniture by a pool. On my rides on the bike path from Highland Park to the Downtown, the trail skirts the backsides of the office parks, trendy shopping districts, and new fangled sky rises whose careful facades face the freeway. The scenery passes like weightless projection on a white flimsy screen. Everything I ever wanted to take a picture of, but didn’t, were those shots that hint at the traces of people in places where people are supposed to be but aren’t--the empty overly lit parking garage, the single office whose lights left on floating squarely in a wall of black windows reflecting only the orange lamppost light outside, empty rappelling rafters left by window washers on the backside of a mini-skyscraper. But if such shots, if ever taken, were to say anything about human beings, the most they would say would be about their photographer, whose eyes were excited by temporary emptiness and quiet and who found themselves enticed to be on the backsides of things, in the after hours, before they lit up again. And of course those shots that I didn’t take might reflect the leisureliness of this transition, the idle transiency that I feel here.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

STORMPAY: A Friday Night.


Ate a few bites of salmon prepared by my mom on a George Forman Grill, which was surprisingly sumptuous.

Downloaded and played a vocabulary flashcard game off the internet.

Applied Epi-Otic, a veterinary analgesic for dogs, on my ears

Pretended to read the Dallas Observer while standing extremely close to a group of middle-aged women reviewing a film they had just seen starring Dame Judy Dench.

Declined an enormous and free ice cream cookie sandwich.

Thought about and decided that since I am a bad daughter I would have to name my adopted Chinese baby girl Sandra after my mom, but that I would pronounce in San-jra, as if it were an Indian name.

Bought two hot pink pocket bibles.

Sat in front of a unintelligible arguing black couple on the train and actually read the Dallas Observer.

Loitered in front of a Hispanic news team hoping to get interviewed.

Found a flyer on the ground that said “CONDRADULATIONS! ” with an image of several huge sacks with money signs on them. Of course, intrigued, I squatted down to read it (as it was taped on the ground) The flyer asked me if I was “Ready to have [my] own ATM machine in [my] home receiving $10 bills daily for the rest of [my] entire life?…Let me introduce to you A FULLY AUTOMATED INTERNET CASH MACHINE that makes real money for real people, the ONE AND ONLY……….VENUS AND MARS LIFETIME INCOME CASH MACHINE……..

Saw my cash machine in action at

Friday, February 03, 2006

"Hobbies" ke

“You like dance?"

"You do?! I dance at Dallas Ballroom. Since I odor no man likes dance with me.” She laughs at herself. “I too good. Too strong for them to be leader. But it's bor-ring with no partner. You just sit on chair. So I,” she laughs and begins to tap me after every sentence, “I bring best two or three girl with me. I leader!” Smiling, I repeat what she says adding a tinge of incredulity. “Yes, I always leader!”

Does your husband dance too? I ask in broken Chinese. She shakes her head as if shaking out confetti, her hair crazily batting her face. Then stopping, she looks me straight in the face and tapped me just once on the shoulder. “Hey,” as if I were not paying attention, then begins to tap me on the shoulder more pointedly, “Hey….Hey” And as soon as I begin to think I asked something I shouldn’t have, she smirks just slightly tilts her head plaintively, “Husband not same. Husband different…This correct? Different?”
Yes, different. “Husband does not like dance. He likes only sleep. He likes swim only at 24 ow-wa Fitness.” This I had already surmised. Apart from the rotary phone on the toilet, a mysterious assortment of plastic bottles filled with pale-ish liquid, the shower stalls and door knobs were draped with at least six small swim trunks and bright floral one-pieces. Seeing as this is the only room other than the pot plant crowded foyer I have seen of Cindy’s house, and the unruly and unmatched manner of its contents, I think it is safe to surmise a few things about the Chen’s, their a fairly typically suburban American middle-aged couple.
We sit shoulder to shoulder during our lesson in front of a huge window which over looks a busy residential boulevard and a Blockbuster Video. “You have so many clothes in closet, he says. Why you buy more. I think since odor he more Chinese. I more like American. I like to go shopping, find good sale. He only like save.” She snapped her hands on her lap as if giving up to the un-sameness of it all.
“When he young he like dance, tiao wu shr da….” She interrupts herself haltingly, points to the page of pinyin and we return the lesson….“Hobbies.”

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Message contains cash prizes.

Haven’t written perhaps this is one loafing about individual. Truth be hollered (so that this one can hear) I am afflicted by an infection. Perchance to dream, without earplugs, lest these plugs deliver the ear to a scaly pinkish itchy moist condition. The infection allows itself a respite all along the spiraled infrastructure of my outer ear, though mercifully not adventuring to the deep down bellows where the drums are sometimes stroked and many times hammered. Haven’t sought medical attention. Haven’t yet swallowed the notion that my ears could seal up of their own volition. Mom forwarded me some internet content on the subject. Talk of loss of hearing, talk of facial paralysis. But these I surmise are of some wretched caliber of infection, and I believe the ear plugs, of which I have grown dependent upon to sleep for more than a year now, were cast haphazardly by my waking self on a contaminated surface, just so landing on a microscopic host of specific potency, whose collective microbial desires were awaiting a non-inanimate object, such as my ears, to take up new residence.

Have been reading blogs that were translated into English from Chinese by merely right-clicking. The affect of a search and replace program upon language is stupendous, and the affect also inspiring. Here is my friend Zhao Haiyan (whose pen name is “Thinks White”) writing about her return to Sichuan, containing a small anecdote about not remembering a high school friend who happens to remember her. Haiyan means “huge mythical bird”:

Returns to one's native village the prelude
Goes home buys the ticket several passes through the troubles, including completely thinks had the assurance the airplane ticket all " flies ". Yesterday morning sat when drank with difficulty the lower pharynx red bean gruel outside the plot dining room, in heart also a little cool cool think, actually is which lovable vehicle can me bring to hometown street corner, ate that red spicy spicy rice noodle?
Sat in the home without stopping, ran the unit, to on-line grasped the ticket, unexpectedly exceptionally smoothly spend 500 big oceans, bought 24 sleeping berths. Takes the ticket on the way, with hires the driver speaks endures without stopping oneself son " ha ha " happy, he leans takes a look me: " Were you the ticket which attained goes home?" I " " ate as soon as am startled. 过心 inside again slightly does not have the self-satisfacation: I have the hometown, some remote places may read think, your person from Beijing always does not have? This time also endures without stopping to look like Arab League Q equally feels buoyantly superiorly gets up.
Attains the ticket on one after another start working overtime. Several days overtime pays may struggle to get free my lovable vehicle ticket price, thinks is full on working zeal. Evening when working overtime as soon as releases directly for the Zhao huge mythical bird low and deep music, also thinks relaxed, is not that tired. What feeling just before leaving do the time always some sheds have not, to say what not well is, very infers Beijing one side good friend, also did not have the time. Is just about to 伤感, the hometown schoolmate made the phone call comes, inside the warm sound immediately pulled me returns my hometown to go.
Is their three one what place dining together, in the telephone everywhere made noise, thanks just pulls class leader the manner sound says: " We all very think of you, here has the Jiang fine jade, the poplar sturdy pine tree, Du.... Who do you and speak?" Does not have " elects America " with enough time, already one each one answered the telephone and I says, the heaven, until laid down the telephone, I all did not know spoke in and whom, more than 10 years did not see the high school schoolmate, I listened to the name to respond only came, had to to make excuses, very exaggerated say: " You?" Actually does not know is who, is called them there to leave a good name in class leader, I go back slowly recognize. (Which schoolmate if looked my, left " considers densely " yo, ha-ha)
In family's telephone also one day several. My mother already gave me arranges very to pay a visit 三姑六婆 eight maternal uncles' matters, the elder sister also arranges to see this friend, that teacher, was because I good spoke, saw the daddy the relative also pulls me, mother's relative also was I accompanies, returned to the brother-in-law including my elder sister the native place, I all with. But the advantage is, may eat hundred foods, which families all have the oneself adept vegetable.
The computer head of a li in sings " this Lyu island, looks like one ship, in the moonlit night swings swings......" Had one ship must bring me to go home.
Already very was late, should go home. Goes home has a dream.

My name is Hannah Pierce-Carlson