Friday, August 22, 2008

I'm leaving for America today. Beijing has been very busy, and I regret not posting more often. Regardless, my blog will take a bit of a hiatus until I go abroad again or decide to write something. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

798 - part 1

798 was originally the name of a secret military weapons complex, but in recent years cheap real estate has attracted hundreds of young Chinese artists, who live, paint, and set up shop in and among the mostly-abandoned warehouses and machinery.
The complex covers many city blocks that would take days to cover thoroughly. I am very impressed at how, in the face of serious consequences, passionate Chinese artists have managed to penetrate every crevice of this complex, like determined ants descending on a hollow insect carcass. Every artist represents himself in a different way - some own track-lit galleries, others rent dingy studios in converted second story factory worker dormitories, some are content to paint aerosol murals on factory walls.

Friday, August 15, 2008

photos from the temple of heaven

Singing on a Saturday afternoon in a park.

Friday, August 08, 2008


The Olympics opening ceremony starts in two hours. The city is super-saturated with anticipation; it seems impossible for any expectations to be met. The streets were eerily quiet today - thousands and thousands of cars and highways have been blocked from use. My usual Friday test was postponed until Monday. Get ready for the country's coming out party.

Monday, August 04, 2008

birthday recovery

After surviving my 21st birthday, I set out with some friends to wander among the Beijing hutong, the traditional courtyard houses martial arts movies have familiarized you with. Like many medieval European cities, hutong developments have narrow, winding streets and high walls. The only unobstructed views are down alleys. Many of the hutongs have been renovated to attract tourists, their insides stuffed with Italian espresso, Indian curry, and Belgian beer instead of Beijing families of less money and more tradition. Still, given Beijing's track record, the revamping has been remarkably unobtrusive and tasteful.

After a 2pm breakfast of ricotta ravioli, Chimay, and surprisingly good espresso, I felt inclined to a massage. My more experienced friends suggested a medicinal massage clinic a stone's through away, and I paid the equivalent of $7 for a thirty minute foot massage - what seemed like the safest way to test the waters. My therapist was quite friendly, and we gossiped about Beijing in Chinese while he scraped the dead skin off of my feet with a chisel. Most of the massage was below my pain threshold, but about twenty minutes in the guy's fingers hit the mother of all nerves on my right sole. My therapist immediately looked up and, through a mixture of infant Chinese and impromptu sign language explained that my unnaturally sore sole was a result of tension in my shoulders. He suggested cupping to ease the tension. He was insistent. My comfort zone was in need of stretching, so I decided to try it out. Two minutes later, I was face down on a table with flaming glass bowls sucking on to my skin. I'm sure this is old hat for lots of you, but I had to try hard not to whimper. Fortunately, though, the glass parasites were removed in a few minutes and I limped home in one piece. My shoulder should be pretty loose now.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

ge gong

One of the most heavily touristed areas in the city, ge gong is still lots of fun. What you don't realize from photos is that the palace is very long - this is a photo of the central courtyard, but many other gigantic courtyards open up after each consecutive gate. The effect is dreamlike, since you can easily lose your bearings, and many courtyards look deceptively similar.

Red walls run everywhere - shutting out, keeping in, guarding, supporting. They are kept up pretty well, but sometimes peeling paint livens them up a bit.

Monday, July 21, 2008


I'm on a one-week vacation in Hainan, a former place of exile for disgraced Chinese officials. Funny though, because it's a tropical island paradise. Hainan was on of Deng Xiaoping's first special economic zones, and the development here is just incredible. Thousands of apartment buildings and complexes are being built around the coast. This is my first dose of southern Chinese culture, and I'm loving it. People tend to speak Hainanese first, Cantonese second, and Mandarin third, so moving within Chinese accents has been interesting. I think it's good for my listening comprehension though. Ok, only 20 minutes left of my hour of internet. See you soon.