Monday, September 27, 2004

On Friday night, Angela noticed the red squares with characters for good fortune on either side of the entrance to our building, and she commented that there would be a wedding the next day. It happened a few weeks ago in the building next to ours, but we couldn't see any of the goings on. We could only hear the firecrackers. As this event would occur in our own building, we thought we would do our best to watch when the time came.

On Saturday morning, while we were enjoying our coffee, we heard the firecrackers and quickly ran to our window. Great long red strips of firecrackers had been placed on both sides of the entrance to the parking area and were lit at the arrival of the newlyweds. More firecrackers were going off outside the entrance to our building, where the revelers and family members were congregating. Angela told me that the firecrackers were lit to scare away bad spirits.

A black limosine followed by a number of other shiny black cars entered and stopped outside the entrace to our building while the remaining firecrackers exploded. The newlyweds emerged and some of the attendant celebrators, holding large red mini-bazookas, attacked the couple by firing their salvos of confetti and streamers upon them. The bride had a bouquet of orange flowers, which I thought unusual, but they were otherwise wearing what you would expect. The groom in a tuxedo and the bride in a white wedding dress. After a few moments of celebration, the groom lifted his bride and carried her up the steps and into the building where they were lost from our sight.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Sill fighting, on a daily basis, unusual internet activity.

It would be easy to blame it on China, but I won't. I'll just say that there are unexplainable barriers to our daily ease of use of the cybermedium. Often, pages simply don't load, which is frustrating. Sometimes, pages take longer to load than you might expect to wait if you were using a dial-up connection, but we're supposedly broadband. Some pages load quickly, some don't load at all. Pages appear, but the objects are broken, incomplete or in disarray. I've ruled out problems with my increasingly aging laptop, as I've given it a thorough once-over and I've reinstalled the software in question, such as those always suspicious Microsoft products. We've just come to accept it as the new increasingly fickle nature of the internet.

This kind of unresponsive surfing has turned the internet into the cybertedium, hearkening the days of booting the computer and then leaving to make a cup of coffee while the geekbox clicked and whirred to life, although now we're waiting for the websites to materialize.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

My friend, Dave, called this my "blotter," rather than blog, which I approve of completely. One of two people who read me with something close to regularity so he can call it what he likes. It's a nice description of the writing process for me in this medium, anyway. I suppose anything is better than "diary," which would probably turn the stomach of any of the other self-prophesying cyber-writers out there. I'm just tickled that he mentioned it at all.

Nice, charming, blue-eyed, nigh cloudless, fairy-tale weather upon the city today. At least it seems so from the bedroom window where I sit, pajama-clad, impervious to the actual conditions of the world. I say this because the weather had turned cold.

Last evening, after nearly a week of rainy-ish and hazy weather, Angela and I decided, while we were literally chilling on the roof of an outdoor Thai restaurant near the lake in Houhai (the food a nice change of pace from our usual neighborhood sidewalk fare as well as a nice spicey complement to the cooling weather), that Summer had left and it would continue to get progressively colder.

The rain was nice, though, if only because it felt like it washed, if only temporarily, the dust and exhaust-layered world with which we have become so accustomed. Things smelled fresher, even if it was colder and my shoes got wet.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Beijing. City of smells.

When we had settled into our apartment, we noticed a strong smell coming from our bathroom. Now, it's not the kind of strong smell that you would naturally associate with a bathroom, although it was definately from the same family of scents. Our bathroom has a drain in the floor which emits the foul odor. The room next to the bathroom, where the washing machine sits, has a drain of the same type. The smell is not present during the day, but at night, it seems to act up. Roger, the ex-husband of my boss, suggested putting damp towels over the drains. My coworker, Carol, mentioned that their were no traps in the pipes, which allowed the noxious fumes to waft at leisure. Anyhow, we're still fighting it.

Outside the apartment, at the end of each hallway, just past the elevators, there is an outdoor balcony where we put our trash as the need arises. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, we may be lucky enough to catch a hint of what everyone on our floor had eaten on the day before. The location of the trash balcony is the same on every floor, which happens to be directly above the front entrance to our building.

It's really not as exagerratingly bad as I'm making it sound, nor is it so far from the truth.

Out in the world around our apartment building, we are surrounded by construction, massive high-rise construction projects, which seem to keep a constant cloud of dust circulating in the air. You get used to it. It's also pleasing to think that when the construction is completed, the neighborhood could possibly be quite nice. Take a stroll to the vegetable market, which houses vendors of many other types of goods, as well as many small restaurants, and enjoy the potpourri of animal, vegetable and mineral odors.

You learned, in my previous post, that I have a personal driver. As he is a smoker, there is often the smell of cigaret smoke in the car, which is not pleasing to all. The ride to school and back, completed during morning and evening rush hours, also carries its attendant smells. As you would expect, the profusion of exhaust is ripe and nauseating as we swim through the stop-and-go traffic. It's not rare to see a three-wheeled vehicle or truck belching smoke as it rambles down the road.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

I have a personal driver here. He takes me to work in the morning and takes me home in the evening. He also takes me grocery shopping on Friday afternoon. It's nice. My boss said she was responsible for my well-being here, which is fine by me, thus the personal escort. It sure beats scrabbling for the bus every day. And the traffic here is terrible.

The first driver, Mr. Nan, only shuttled me around to training meetings and such before I started working. He smiles often, flashing his gold and tobacco smile at me in the back seat, but otherwise doesn't say much. One time, he picked me up and took me across the street to eat lunch, but I thought that was a little excessive. Out on the open stretch of road that leads to my school, he has a habit of shifting into fifth gear after getting up to about 10mph, which makes the van rattle tremendously.

Once the semester began Mr. Gau took over. Mr. Gau (I don't know if that's a correct representation of his name, but it's as close as my phonetic ragamuffin Chinese gets me) is the second driver I've had, and he's trying to learn English. He references his phrasebook on a daily basis. He can say "see you tomorrow" as good as any native speaker, but after that we're rolling dice. He offers me cigarettes every morning.

Whatever unique characteristics the two drivers possess, they both have one in common. They lean on the horn as much as possible. Try honking at a bus in America and see how far you get. Never fear! What's a horn for, if not to sound off. Let folks know you're coming!

They both honk when they arrive at my building, even though I live on the 16th floor. They honk for no reason, which scares me. They honk at the cars in front of us when we're stop-and-go in morning or evening traffic, and they honk when we pass people walking or riding their bikes along the side of the road. As a matter of fact, almost every driver in this town seems to use the horn in the car as often as possible, which is a nice complement to the alarm clock ringing in the morning...

Sunday, September 05, 2004

It seems I haven't had the time to do any serious writing lately, but I'm trying to get back on track. Since my job has started, teaching English to 3rd and 4th grade Chinese boarding school students, I've been preoccupied with learning the Carden Method and preparing my lessons. Fortunately, the kids are great and I enjoy the work, which is pleasantly challenging. It's good to be working again after almost three months of vacation.

On an aside, if you're still after me about foiling your terrorist activities in a previous post, this post has narrowed your possibilities for locating my whereabouts quite a bit. Although you may be able to waltz into countries like America and Spain, China may pose more of a challenge. The school is quite well guarded, the front gate being monitored by a uniformed gentleman who stands under an umbrella. He wears athletic shoes which, I'm guessing, are easier to run in then boots.

Moving away from the workplace, here's a nice picture from our balcony, which not only demonstrates the amount of construction happening all around us, but also the height at which we live. The air is very dusty, but it's an otherwise nice, safe, developing neighborhood with many cheap restaurants and a nice vegetable market nearby.

We're not too close to the hot nightspots, but we don't seek that kind of entertainment too often. Hopefully, I can get to a poetry reading tonight. I want to get involved in some kind of literary performance activity while I'm here, but I just haven't found the time to begin the necessary research yet. The information I have may also be outdated. I suppose it's not the best place to read Poetry in English, but I'm going to try it. I met a Chinese sculptor last night, a friend of one of my coworkers, who may perhaps know some folks who dabble with the word. As you know, I will keep you posted.