My hiking group celebrated five years together and I made a video of still photos from my sixteen months with the group as well as other photos from the past.
I feel more at home daily. I buy groceries. I cook for myself. I still explore the city. Heck, I explored Austin, Texas after having been there for well over ten years. The education continues forever. I happen to be in a city that holds a forbidden city, a very old brick wall, an underground city, a summer palace, a temple of heaven, shopping for a lifetime, a wonderful subway system, fantastic food at reasonable prices, and more.
My super friendliness continues towards new folks as I slowly become a bit pickier with whom I share my time. In the most recent three weeks I have officially dropped three people. I find it very necessary. Folks come and go in life and every so often I find time to drop some deadweight. Sixteen months into my Beijing life I still hand out business cards like I always have. I don’t actively solicit information from others unless I really really think I want to see them again and even then my follow-up is not as enthusiastic as it was eight months ago. I have a new chapter of work that begins soon so that will consume me more than work has consumed me for the past several months. I also need to plan several Asia trips because I am here. I know that I will have an exit from this city. I don’t know if I’ll leave next year or during the next US presidential administration. This city, like every other city I may stay in for a few years in the future will (and has) allow(ed) me to grow and improve myself. I have and I will continue to get a better grasp of Mandarin Chinese. My study habits make it difficult for me to learn quickly. I prefer to do anything else besides study. Step one is identifying the issue. I have done that now.
My next visitor arrives Saturday and I am quite excited about that!
Last August Craig arrived for a sixteen day visit. We enjoyed ourselves. September welcomed Suzy and her one week stay. The time flew by, the space we stayed in seemed small. We enjoyed ourselves and visited new places that Craig did not experience. During the Chinese new Year, Ari came over for a week and then left after four days. He saw important tourist sites and enjoyed his quick trip across the world. Now I describe my most recent visitors and their most amazing week in Beijing:
This is an email I sent to Reid and Jenn. It has been slightly edited and pasted here:
Your trip included six full days plus the first Saturday night. Your schedule included the following:
Saturday night arrival – Midnight taxi ride from PEK airport to Taiyue Suites that took less than 30 minutes. We dropped your bags in your apartment suite then headed across the street to have a quick dinner consisting of tofu, greens, and small portion of meat. We spent less than $7 total ( I think) on the food.
Sunday morning we slept in until 9am before preparing for a normal Sunday hike to the mountains north of Beijing. We traveled by foot for 15 minutes to a subway which took us from line ten to line 8 underground where we came up for sunlight, a view of the 2008 Olympic stadiums, and a 12 minute walk to a hiking group meeting place. On our short walk from the apartment to the subway we stopped at a 7-11 and picked up local breakfast foods that we shared on the walk. We waited for a pair of German friends (Felix & Janna) who met us at the subway for the travel to the hike and the hike itself.Some of the items included hard boiled eggs, chicken, some other meat, and tofu. Once we arrived for the hiking meet-up we met friends, realized that our mountain hike would include a section of the Great Wall (Black Dragon Mountain.) You met Yan Ma, Jiannan Zhang (from Plano) plus many others. One cute couple of doctors gave us a ride after dinner. Don’t forget the huge dinner and Reid purchased a long sleeved Playboy shirt. We went to sleep by 10pm I believe.
Monday (rest day) included a leisurely morning of oatmeal, hot tea, coffee, and showers! We got our nails did, a massage, ate lunch with Tracy, saw the Village, Ya Show, and then met Amara at the Village Starbucks before traveling by taxi to meet Justin for hot pot. After hot pot we met Crystal and friends at Joy City for KTV(Karaoke) until midnight.
Tuesday, the three of us traveled by subway form Line 10 to Line 1 and to Tienan’men square, a museum, and then you two toured the Forbidden city and got HUNGRY. I met you both back at the Village area, across a street from 3.3 building, fed you a sandwich, introduced you to young Peggy, Chris from NY, then met Ying for Beijing duck. We made it to bed at a reasonable time.
Wednesday, we trekked with anticipation out to the Beijing zoo subway stop. We ate some serious street noodles, meat on a stick, egg something, then went inside the massive shopping mall for clothes, a purse, and lots of looking. With anticipation we then journeyed to Wudaokou for the night street market. After we arrived early we checked out some stores, a massage place, a Charlie Brown coffee shop, and some more street noodles. We also ate tacos and drank beer at La Bamba before heading back home without visiting the night street market. It did not happen that night.
Thursday we ate the egg pancakes on the street and taxi’d to Nanlouguoxiang – I left y’all for a Houhai, Goulou dajie, Nanlouguoxiang trifecta. You ate Shinjiang (Muslim) food in Houhai and did a bit of shopping. You took a rickshaw ride around Houhai where the driver pointed out homes of famous people. You checked out the bell tower also. Y’all taxi’d back and met Ping before we walked to the Chaoyang theater for the Acrobats show with Crystal. We ate some 7-11 food on the way to the wonderful performance. After the show we ate Hong Kong food at the Village.
Friday I left early for work at Shang Di. Y’all slept in and went (all by yourselves) to the Temple of Heaven on subway line 5. You ate fast food hot pot and then met me back at the Silk Market for a watch purchase as well as some souvenirs. We walked across the street to the original silk market for a Gortex jacket purchase before heading to Justin’s subway stop in the rain. We walked in the rain to meet Justin for a most wonderful dinner that included souvenir beer glasses and more Beijing duck. After dinner y’all went home to pack.
Saturday at 5:35am you left for the airport.
The apartment was tight but not cramped. We made it work. Y’all walked, traveled by subway, taxi, and private car. You ate many different foods. You negotiated prices for many different items. You learned how to WALK AWAY. You navigated the subway system alone. You made new friends and (hopefully) realized that you’ll be back here. You learned a few Chinese words.
Remember- WALK AWAY- The price always drops when you WALK AWAY.
Saturday in China turned out to be a work day because of the holiday. I missed my hiking like a crack addict misses his crack pipe. I found a fix! Sunday hiking group…… It’s similar to my Saturday group. They’ve been hiking a bit longer. I found out the the Saturday group split off from the Sunday group because a few people preferred to get out on a Saturday versus a Sunday. The best news of the whole thing is that I now have the option to go hiking every Saturday and/ or Sunday depending upon my mood and schedule. The folks welcomed me as one of their own almost immediately. I believe that these hiking groups will see to it that I never ever ever leave China for more than a few weeks at a time. Photos can be viewed from some of the Sunday scenery by clicking this link. We drove in the snow for nearly two hours to our destination. We arrived at a remote area near the Great Wall of China. The hike up the mountain to the wall took over an hour in the snow. The snow made the trek a bit more adventurous than normal. The trip down included a few short slips and only one short fall on the slippery trail.
Ari’s trip was short and fairly full. My friend Ari and I first met way back in college when I was 18. We have stayed in touch ever since although he moved away from Austin for graduate school, residency, a job, more graduate school, more residency, a job, and then back to Dallas where he currently lives and works. Since I arrived in Beijing for good in late April 2010 many friends have shown interest in visiting. I welcome everyone. My adventures here never cease. Ari’s work slows a bit in February so he booked his flight and made his way across the globe. We enjoyed visiting the obligatory sites that include the Summer Palace (via subway) as well as Houhai. We also visited Nanluoguxiang Hutong, Tien’anmen square, at least one grocery store, a hospital, a pharmacy, Hooters, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and a few other places. We enjoyed Beijing duck (in Beijing, China,) pulled noodles, fresh dumplings, Beijing beer, and some (out of this world) green beans called Ganbiandoujiao.
I believe that the ski lift cable car up to the Great Wall came in a close second to the toboggan ride down from the Great Wall for Ari. The trip to and from the Wall included three public buses, a subway, and a private car ride. Ari arrived during the Chinese New Year celebration. That means that many fireworks punctuated our evenings every night of his visit. Now… I am ready for my next visitor!
I imagine that most folks do not know the meaning of the words on their shirts. I have one very intelligent, English speaking friend, Morgan, who wore my favorite shirt yet. What makes it so special to me is that Morgan knows English! It is a good looking shirt and Morgan is an extremely attractive young lady. The shirt represents only a tiny portion of the excitement on Saturday. It’s only fair to start the weekend on Thursday.
The networking event Thursday night occurred near Guomao subway stop at the Kerry Center. That means- bike ride. The participants – forty something different people all live in China and hail from Vietnam, (mainly) Canada, Germany, England, the U.S., France, and Sweden. I imagine there may have been one person I did not meet. I made a few new friends, and possibly gained business contacts. I met a dentist, a guy in logistics, a couple of gentlemen from a legal/ accounting firm. That can only help me. With each networking event I seem to get invited to another. That suits me well. I left the camera at home. Next week there appears to be a larger networking event with even more people that I will attend.
Friday turned (like most days here) into an adventure. I ventured to a subway stop on the blue (Line 10) line that I had not been to before. I headed north towards the airport, landed, walked, walked, walked, and then walked some more until I arrived at a large convention center full of audio, lighting, and dj stuff. I made a few great finds and am now waiting for follow up from potential new vendors. It’s so great being right here where most things are made. I believe I found my newest big humongous snow machine as well as a very impressive foam cannon. Photos and video to follow. The walk back to the subway from the convention took about 12 minutes. I arrived back home around seven, in time to eat, clean up and head out to a cocktail reception at an art gallery, on to Xiu bar for a little dancing, one glass of wine, and then off to Vic’s for one margarita and some more dancing with Yolanda from Port Arthur, Mary from Beaumont, and Chris from Austin. That’s correct- all the way to Beijing for Beaumont and Port Arthur! My bike gets a workout even when I go out dancing. I needed to be home before sunrise as the Saturday hike gathering took place right after 11am.
Saturday morning I forced myself to sleep past 6am. I made it til right after 7 and then prepared for a journey by subway to the meeting place near the bird’s nest for the hiking group. Once I climbed to the street level it was clear that there was a solid mile more to get to my location. For the first time I hired one of those buggies on three wheels.
About half of the folks at the hike were new to me. It’s getting very comfortable with this group. By far these are the most wonderful new folks I have had the pleasure to meet in my travels here. The diversity in the group is most wonderful, refreshing, and exciting. Everyone appears to work so hard during the week and work even harder at letting loose on the weekend and especially around their hiking companions.
We drove for a little more than two hours outside of the city into the mountains. The peaceful scenery makes the hustle of city life seem so far away for the time we spend in nature. The great big bonus for me was that we walked to the Great Wall.
After the hike we drove back to Beijing in just about two hours for dinner at a SPICY Chinese food restaurant and some more fantastic ice dessert at Bellagio. The evening for David, Ping, Danshing, and me still had several more hours in it. We left (in our hiking clothes) the dessert restaurant, cabbed it to the Village, found a club, and danced til 2am. For me it was a very long, tiring, and exciting Saturday in Beijing.