Thursday, June 30, 2005

Beijing can assault the senses in a variety of ways, particularly the olfactory sense. This from, supposedly, one of the more modern cities in China. It's much worse outside the major city centers, where the lifestyle is less developed, environmental disregard is happenstance and there are fewer outsiders who generally make a stink about these kinds of things. None of the Chinese really seem to mind.

There is a small underground grocery store near our apartment. It's a little depressing for a variety of reasons, but we usually buy our milk there as it's just the closest place to purchase some our necessities. I don't like to go there unless I absolutely need something. The entire store simply carries a strange smell. Angela thinks it's the bakery.

The smells in the bathrooms here are pretty bad, too, including the bathroom in our apartment, which regularly emits its licentious odors. It's just something we have learned to live with. Public restrooms are notoriously awful, and now that it's hot and humid, the scents have taken on a riper edge.

My coworkers live near a dump. I guess that's the best word for it. It's more like the neighborhood's trash depository. Like nearly every structure in this city, it's concealed behind a dirty brick wall. Walking past it, unrecognizable fluids can be seen bubbling out of pipes and holes in the wall. Dropping them off one day last week, I was struck hard by the smell in the air which seemed to float over everything; a rotten, humid, cooked-up garbage smell. I was immediately thankful that I lived on the sixteenth floor, far removed from such a place.

Finally, riding the bus home yesterday and, while waiting for the light to change, I was again accosted with the strong scent of garbage. I looked out the gaping windows and saw what must have been a garbage truck next to the bus. The bus was under attack. Holding onto the bar above my head, I tucked my nose into my shoulder like a duck and tried to filter the air through my shirt. The air was so thick with the smell I could almost feel it and closed my eyes.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Relatively mild weekend. Angela has been a little sick, nursing a bad cough, but I think she's nearly past it now. We looked at a beautiful apartment yesterday, because we thought we wanted to move, but we decided against spending the extra money. It would be nice to live large here, but we really need to save every cent right now. We expect to travel quite a bit during the next twelve months, and we have those matrimonial plans some of you know about.

It has been very hot and humid over the past few weeks. Our apartment feels like an oven. We often go out in the evenings, after the sun goes down, to have a walk in the nice park near our apartment and escape the heat.

Me, Susan and ParentsEnjoyed a great meal with my student, Susan, and her parents on Saturday night. They are Korean, and they prepared a fantastic Korean meal for both Angela and me. The dinner lasted a little more than two hours, and we had a good time talking to each other. Susan's father is studying here in Beijing and they will return to Korea for the summer in a few weeks. We promised to make them a meal after they return.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Hutong Pizza - Stefano & AngelaA former Italian coworker of ours from Osaka, Stefano, arrived Saturday morning. Here's a picture of Angela and him at Hutong Pizza here in Beijing (notice the beautiful ceiling and wood in the background) on Saturday afternoon. Stefano has been traveling around China and Southeast Asia for the past two months or so. He's on his way home to Italy and he's going to make the trip by train. He departed for Mongolia this morning after a brief two-day respite with us. Although it was short, it's always nice to have visitors when living so far away from family and friends.

We all attended a great event on Saturday evening: the Rencontres Trans Musicales festival from France, held in Chaoyang Park, which focused on techno music. It was a two-day festival featuring musical acts from about 3PM to 10:30PM each day. Most of the acts were DJs, which I generally don't pay to go watch perform unless it's up in a club, but the ones we saw were quite entertaining and I wasn't disappointed. Digicay, in particular, added flourish to his set by strapping on an electric guitar and jamming over his mix.

Gotan Project, which headlined the day's lineup, performed their brand of techno and tango to the delight of everyone. I have really never seen anything like it in a live show. Opening behind a giant translucent video screen showing images of a woman's face and dancers, among other things, it was not difficult to see the backlit band mysteriously playing behind the haunting images. After perhaps five songs, the last of which showcased a dancing couple in front of the giant screen, it dropped to the stage and they played the rest of their set unmasked.

Aside from sneaking our beer, masquerading as bottled water to avoid metal detectors, inside, we had a fantastic time. Our only regret was not purchasing a ticket good for both days of the event.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Writing is exhausting work. I've never thought of myself as a natural or something like that as it has always been difficult for me. Simply writing a long e-mail message to a friend can wear me down. It has become important to me, though, which is one reason I continue to add content here regularly.

I wake up early and stay up late to write. I try to do it every day because it feeds my desires to communicate and be creative. I'm not only talking about writing e-mail, which can be an overwhelming black hole in itself, but also my poetry and blog entries, which are all quite different modes of expression. In one sense, these different modes just help me continue to handle and use language in different ways, to practice. For someone who considers himself a poet, this is a necessary process.

It can be difficult to find things to write about. Some would call it writer's block, although I've luckily never consciously felt such a mysterious feeling in relation to my poetry. My ideas for poems or creative text arrangements may be silly or academic, but they have never lacked possibility. It's more difficult to fill the pages of this blog, for instance, although I don't keep a strict schedule and generally add content when I am compelled.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Writing-wise, June has been really good to me so far. I have forthcoming work in the Hamilton Stone Review and Dusie. Right now, you can read a new poem at Zafusy.

Additionally, an artist living in Australia named Jason Nelson, who is making some great webart, published an interactive site/installation (I believe he referred to them "creatures") based on my e-book Geek, which you can view here. Finally, Ron Silliman published an article based on a message I sent him about the state of print and online poets, which I'm tickled about.

So check out the goods and stay tuned for more exciting stuff. Wish me luck! I'm busting my chops right now and, although no one is paying me, it's as good as gold.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Angela invited some of her Italian students to our apartments yesterday to enjoy a shared meal; the Chinese made jiaozi (pronounced jow-dzuh) and Angela made pasta Bolognese (penne rigate noodles with meat sauce). Jiaozi is kind of Chinese dumpling filled with various combinations of ingredients such as pork, mushrooms, celery and tofu. Here's a picture of Angela's students beginning to fill the dumplings. A small lump of dough is pressed into a thin circle and a dollop of the filling is placed in the middle. The dough is then folded over and pressed closed, like a kind of big, crescent-shaped ravioli. After preparing the dumplings, they are boiled in water and then served hot with vinegar. Delicious! We had a great time getting to know each other while preparing the meal together.

After we finished eating and cleaning up, we learned to play mahjong, a Chinese tile game. Usually, four people are needed to play a game and we paired up with each other as there were so many of us who needed assistance. Angela's students taught us the game and we played for a few hours before deciding to wrap-up our evening. During the course of the game, when one team had been deemed the loser of a round, a thin strip of toilet paper was draped over the ears of those players. Our Chinese guests found it quite amusing and I guess it was a form of humorous humiliation.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Seems like there's nothing much to report today, although I feel impelled to do so as I have a little spare time to kill before my student arrives for her lesson. It's been somewhat rainy all week, but not cold, and I guess we've reached the rainy season in Beijing. It was nice today, aside from the usual whiteout.

Bad morning at school today fighting approaching-weekend-restlessness among my students, which is the usual Friday malady. The afternoon improved slightly and I'm glad, as always, to have made it this far again. I will look for something interesting to do this evening when I finish with this entry.

One bright spark in my week was my appearance in the school's newspaper. They were highlighting my dedication to the job by showing me teaching my students during my lunch hour, which was nice. It doesn't even matter if the picture is about as small as a passport photo. It was also great, at least, to get some good PR for our department, which is not the most popular of departments at the school. The reasons why our department is not in the highest favor, fortunately, predates my arrival.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

At 7:30AM, my fourth-graders, who are always a pleasure to teach, handled their test well and then disappeared for a special event at school. In between classes, I tutor a Korean teenager and the lesson actually went along quite smoothly for once. Teenagers aren't my preferred students. I had to strong-arm my third-graders in the afternoon, but they handled it well and we met our goals for the day without incident. After work, me an Anna, one of my coworkers, jumped in the van and headed to the recording studio. The studio was hot. I felt sleepy and kept closing my eyes and forgetting what I was doing. We finished up a little early and went home, although there was more than the usual traffic and we ended up waiting 45 minutes for our ride. So much for getting home a little earlier. Now I'm sitting here dabbling away at the keyboard, listening to the wind batter the screens, and watching the sky blacken as the rain begins to streak the window.

Finally got my comments turned on again so y'all can leave me messages without the formalization that e-mail hangs over you. What?! You don't know what comments are? At the bottom of this message you should see a link with a number next to it, which looks like this: 0 Comments. As people add comments, the number should change. If I get around to it, I'll post the first one and break the ice.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

10 Good Things About Beijing

10) Homelessness - There are panhandlers here, which I heard were essentially franchised out by the panhandler's pimp to work particular areas, but you almost never see people sleeping on the streets or in the parks. Amazing, really, considering that this is one of the most populated places on the planet.

9) Dancing - In the early evenings, almost every day of the year, people are out on the streets and sidewalks in droves, doing what they love. In fact, there is a large outdoor dance-court near our apartment which is packed nearly every night.

8) Expenses - Back in the states, I couldn't even pay my rent with what I'm earning here. Aside from that, my job pays for my housing.

7) Taxis - All of the old cabs are being replaced. They're everywhere and they're cheap. It's about the only way to get around after 9PM when the subway and most of the buses stop running.

6) Food - Lots of great Chinese restaurants and food shops everywhere.

5) DVDs - They're cheap, they're fake, they're everywhere and I can't watch them fast enough.

4) Culture - Beijing is a creative center. Many artists live here and the city is full of sculpture and beautiful relics to observe. There are also many festivals and events here.

3) Socializing - Aside from the dancing (see number 9), Chinese people love to socialize in the evenings. People can be seen walking around in their pajamas, eating on the sidewalks, exercising in the parks and squares, playing games on small tables outside their residences surrounded by onlookers.

2) Greenery - On a clear day, Beijing is a quite beautiful and green. There are many parks and beautiful trees everywhere and The Fragrant Hills along the western horizon.

1) Beijingers - They're incredibly proud of their city and they have a genuine character. They're not afraid to be themselves, which takes foreigners some time to get used to.