Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Whew! Already my tenth post this month and there should be at least one more before we get away for a brief holiday next week. We get a week off for Chinese Labor Day (that's what one of my Chinese coworkers called it), but Angela and me don't have all of our details ironed out yet. We thought about going to inner Mongolia, but have been warned against going there as it is still quite cold.

The bright, sunny weather here in Beijing has been fantastic, aside from the daily white-out which obscures everything. In the afternoons, it's quite calm and hot when I go to eat lunch, but by the early evening, the wind usually picks up and blasts across the city. By the time the sun goes down, taking the wind with it, the evenings are enjoyable enough to take a walk or sit outside and eat without the food blowing off the table.

I've been half-heartedly looking for another part-time job during the past month to make a little better use of my free time. I thought it would be relatively easy, but I've had absolutely no bites whatsoever. I have one private student who comes over twice a week, but that extra money in hardly noticeable, especially because, as I've been told, I'm charging too little. This is one reason why I will never be a businessman. Earlier this week, I thought I had found a particularly promising position at a local university, recommended by a coworker, which made me feel like I had a foot in the door, although I haven't heard anything. I guess I'll have to cast my nets wider. Unfortunately, as we're only a few days before a National holiday, it may not be the best time to find something.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Despite my recent knocks on the weather here, we've had two consecutive days of beautiful, sunny, clear weather. I hope it carries into the weekend even though I don't have anything special planned, aside from a softball game tomorrow. Accomodating weather would give Angela and me a reason to get out and do something together.

Yesterday, I went on a field trip with my students to the Beijing World Park, which is an amusement park in which there are many miniature recreations of famous places and things from around the world, such as The Statue of Liberty in New York, The Pyramids in Egypt and The Colisseum in Rome. Here's a picture of my third-graders and Ada, my Chinese assistant, waiting for their turn to go to the bus. It was quite an effort to keep everything organized as all of the primary school students went, as well as all of their teachers.

Here's a picture of me standing in front of the mini Moscow Red Square. The kids had a great time and I also had a great time keeping up with them and talking with them outside the classroom. We spent a few hours wandering around the park, running around a mini Stonehenge and crossing a replica of The Golden Gate Bridge, before stopping to see a live animal show with crocodiles and elephants. A woman put her head inside a crocodile's open mouth, which amazed the kids. After the animal show we found a nice place where everyone could eat before making our way to a 3-D movie theater. I think everyone was quite exhausted when we left after walking around in the sun all day. If you're wondering, I did cut my hair. Treated myself to a nice Summer buzz...

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Snagged this from Amy Unsworth's blog, although I've also seen it in a number of other places, and thought it was fun.
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence along with these instructions.
5. Don't search around and look for the coolest book you can find. Use what's actually next to you.
I guess some of you can do the same and just send me your results by e-mail if you don't have a handy blog in which to post things. I'm reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison right now.
On and on, passed from black hand to black hand and some white hands, and all the hands molding the Founder's freedom and our own freedom like voices shaping a deep-felt song.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Beijing is well into Spring now. The city has been turning greener, coming to life with blossoming flowers and trees. The streets are filled, and people are beginning to eat again on the sidewalks in the neighborhood. It would be quite beautiful if it weren't for the constant whiteout, my new term to describe the weather condition here, resting upon the city even when the wind blows. It's not cold, but with the fluff of cottonwood trees wafting throughout the city, it feels like a surreal, slow-motion blizzard.

I tried to find out some information about the air quality here by going to the website for the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, but the English link wasn't working. I'm suspicious, but I don't want to be paranoid. The best information I could find was more than one week old. The weather report at China Daily only revealed the temperature.

Unfortunately, we're also sadly lacking a good clean rain to rinse the city, as well as the air. I thought we would get what we were waiting for last night when a low growling thunder rumbled and lightning flashed across the sky, drawing people to their windows to look outside. It started to rain, but nothing much came of it as it didn't rain very hard or for very long.

Friday, April 15, 2005

A quick note to tell you that a blurb about my poem in a Canadian anthology, Jalapeño Diamond, can be read here. You can also read one of my poems in the new issue of Tamafyhr Mountain Poetry by downloading this PDF. I also have a poem in the new issue of Ghoti (pronounced "fish"). More to come...

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Taxes are due in a few days. I filed mine successfully yesterday evening, a few days under the wire, completing everything and also filing via the computer for the third consecutive year. For someone like me who lives abroad, it's incredibly convenient. The process still amazes me even though it's not my idea of fun.

I probably would have forgotten about it if I hadn't received dozens of messages, which, up until Monday, were resting dormant and unopened in my e-mail inbox. I was surprised that none of my coworkers had mentioned the coming deadline, but I'm less and less surprised at the disinterest (disawareness?) of other people. Their disinterest in not only the world and its happenings but also in me. There are more inspiring things to talk about than taxes.

After asking one of my coworkers if she knew that our taxes were due this week, she told me that she wasn't worried about it and that she would just file later, if ever. Seems like that would be more of a hassle, but then I don't always know what's best.

Fortunately, with the pittance I make in Beijing, I'm not in jeopardy of owing any money to the Motherland or my native California and for that I'm thankful. Vile responsibility that it is, tax time always makes me think about my life in a very positive way, and not simply about the economic status. It forces me to reflect, at least, on the previous year's happenings, which feel so far away now. I was still working in Japan one year ago!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Yesterday, as I mentioned in the previous post, I played my first game of softball in many years and had a great time on a beautiful Spring day. Actually, I can't recall if I've ever played softball before, but it was a fun way to spend my Sunday afternoon and I met some nice folks. I'm not quite as spritely as I remember and my arm strength, which was never really very good, was sadly lacking, but hopefully that will improve.We have another game next weekend.

Here's a picture of me digging in during the second inning, my first plate appearance of the day. The bat was too big for me and I ended up striking out. I didn't do too badly in the game, though, if I do say so myself, making a nice running shoestring catch in shallow right field and going 2-4 at the plate. Our team, which miraculously had the lead for the entire game, playing the feared "Renegades," fell apart in the final inning and we ended up on the losing end of things. None of us were too disappointed. We'll see how it works out next week.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Some Chinese medicine can seem a little quackish. We have our own version of quackery in the West, though, too.

Western medicine, in general, takes a more aggressive approach to recovery by shocking the body back to health with strong drugs. Chinese medicine tries to heal the body by using natural methods, via acupuncture or through the healing properties of herbs.

The benefits of natural remedies for an ailment are theoretically better. Generally, there simply aren't any of the horrific side effects which often accompany Western remedies and it's cheaper. Chinese medicine takes a more cerebral approach to recovery which relies, in part, on the patient's confidence in the rememdy. Mind over matter. This is a good thing, as it requires that the patient take a more active role, more responsibility, in recovery.

I had a cold sore a few months ago and fought a losing battle with the virus, partly due to maltreatment. One of the disadvantages of living in a foreign country. I have a lovely scar on the corner of my mouth as a souvenir. The symptoms returned about a week ago much to my displeasure. At the first signs of inflammation, I started drinking tea made from honeysuckle (Flos Lonicerae) which one of my coworkers recommended drinking when I was previously stricken, but the symptoms have not declined. I'm not sure if the tea helped before or if the virus had simply run its course, but I'm still using if for lack of anything better.

It's very stressful and uncomfortable. My chin and the corner of my mouth itch incessantly. I have a softball game this afternoon, and following the game, I'm going to a large pharmacy in the center of Beijing to look for something stranger than honeysuckle.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

I've given up on wieldy. I'm not very sad about it. As it is, the site has been neglected for months. I just don't have the time or energy to care about it anymore. Perhaps it shows my lack of a decent network among the type of people with whom I was hoping to communicate. Aside from that, I'm not a very good advertiser, publicist or public relations guy.

Nonetheless, I will leave it where it is in its cybergrave. One of the marvelous things about the internet is its ability to preserve everything indefinately. Unfortunately, most of us know that's just not true. Websites come and go and their content disappears with it. Such is the way of things when delete is a fingertap away.

With all that said, I'm also going to start posting my book and movie reviews, which I have been writing for years. Start reading them at reviewed and leave your comments, if you like. There should be no lack of content. There's only one review so far, but the pages should quickly fill in time.

Monday, April 04, 2005

I left school for the day, walking out into the almost hot early evening weather, a handful of spelling tests to correct in my hand, and noticed the strong smell of smoke in the air. Kids were enjoying their brief recess before dinner. I looked toward the horizon and could see that the mountains were gone, lost somewhere out there in the white distance. I didn't think anything was happening out of the ordinary and nothing was. Our school is located near some farm-like land and it's not uncommon to see people from the classroom windows burning refuse outside the campus.

As we drove home, we noticed how really unusually foggish and white it was all around Beijing today, although it wasn't fog. Fog simply has a distinct moistness and there was none of that here, and it was the air we were breathing. The usual Beijing air which, without much of a wind, was just hanging about, dirtying the windows and buildings. We didn't know what it was. Only smoke, perhaps, but would there be so much? Plenty of other industrial substances that were probably not good to think about came to mind. I had forgotten how bad the air quality could become in this city.

I stood outside and smoked a cigarette, my first of the day, and thought as I exhaled, that I was simply contributing to this whitening effect. I needed to get inside and out of this poison air. I threw my cigarette down, stamped it out with the toe of my shoe and trotted into the building.

Well, there's the good news that's not exactly good. Please, don't worry about my sanity. I'm not depressed, disillusioned or otherwise thwarted, but rather just trying to give you a feel for this place. If you don't hear from my in a while, then you have reason to worry.