Status update

Although it’s hard to say how many days we’ve been here, my LA clock says it’s almost 4:30 pm on Friday. I guess it’s Saturday morning, then. We’ve slept four nights in this apartment. I’m pleased to report that yesterday’s mosquito measures appear to have been successful. The vampires that have been biting us at night have been held at bay, although I hesitate to announce they’ve been conquered. After being eaten alive two night in a row, we woke at 3:30 the next night and waged a counter-offensive with toilet paper and a magazine. Battle lasted 45 minutes; the death toll was 15 or so, all enemy troops, although the human side had sustained plentiful injuries earlier. Still unsatisfied, yesterday we trekked via subway to Wal-Mart in search of citronella, bug-zappers, or Chinese remedies. We located, purchased, and triumphantly ported home a specimen of the latter, which consists of a plastic plug-in device and a supply of pressed-powder cards, all of it imprinted with characters we cannot read. Last night, I didn’t even have to wake up to swat (although I did have to reapply some hydrocortizone).

Good. One immediate issue resolved.

Another pressing concern had been the questionable comfort provided by our hard Chinese mattress. I think I’ve actually gotten used to it. (!!)

Yesterday also marked my first run in Beijing, a late-morning 5 miles around a nearby park. Sal tracked it, and I enjoyed examining its satellite map and record greatly. I walked to Yuyuantan Park, paid the 2 yuan admission price and entered without difficulty (it was also my first solo venture in China!). It was in the upper 60’s, a little humid, and overall very pleasant (and reassuring. I *can* run here!). The park was full of groups–some of them in the hundreds of people–practicing song, dance, and performance. I am guessing this is related to National Day, which is on Oct 1. Or maybe I’m wrong and this is just what people do on Friday mornings in Beijing parks. The park itself is beautiful, with bridges over lotus ponds and plentiful foliage. The run at first reminded me of the City of Angels half-marathon, with entertainment every quarter-mile or so; then it reminded me of Venice Beach, although some parts of the park are so stately and elegant I thought it might be like running in the Huntington in San Marino.

Until near the end of the run, I was prepared to evaluate the commentary as no worse than LA. Maybe as it got later or as I got sweatier it seemed more appropriate to old Chinese guys to talk to me. Sources were old and middle-aged men (incidentally, it appears that a tiny Speedo is considered adequate coverage for a male of any age for any purpose, including swimming, grunting calisthenics, or walking around talking to people…). Some old guys swimming in the lake all called “Hallo!” and waved, and laughed when I waved back. Some men clapped as I ran past and called out some words in Chinese, and I have no idea what they said and didn’t stop to try to find out. Some middle-aged guy followed me a bit as I left the park. I tried to be friendly but to indicate he should get lost. Perhaps he really was just trying to help me cross the street, but I found him creepy and took a detour on my way home so he wouldn’t know where I lived. By the time I made it back he was no longer in sight, so I think I succeeded.

The air seemed fine to me, although it did look hazy, and later when I blew my nose I produced some black dust. I wonder if this is the sort of thing that builds up and gets to you eventually. I am also somewhat self-conscious about my clothing: I wore my gray shorts with pockets (containing my passport, Sean’s cell phone, some money, and a hand-drawn map) and a dark FBI tank top, so more modest outfits could be imagined, but it was hardly indecent for US standards. Still, the only other girl I’ve seen running in Beijing so far wore long pants and a shirt with sleeves. Tank tops do not appear to be popular here. As Sean noted, however, the locals tend to wear far more clothing than we do and do not seem uncomfortable. We are always hot when we’re out and about. Perhaps we walk farther than they do? Perhaps they are just smaller people and therefore have more surface area to volume? Maybe they don’t care about being hot? I wore jeans on yesterday’s walking and subway tour, and by the time we got back they were moist, hot, and uncomfortable. Can I wear running shorts everywhere from now on? :D

I am worried that someone official will call after me, and I won’t understand it, and won’t know when I need to stop and listen to them. Sigh. Is there any answer for this? Better Chinese will help, but even Americans in America get taken in by false officials or merely assertive strangers in unfamiliar environments. My strategy of ignoring strangers who talk to me does have this vulnerability.

Later yesterday, we visited Sean’s mother’s apartment (sans mother, and itself a minor adventure) and his dad’s bar and grill. At the latter, I met another of his cousins, a business partner of his dad’s, and had a draft Beijing beer. I love beer on tap and enjoyed the chance to sit, visit, and chill. These landmarks help me get my sense of direction, if nothing else.

Sean and I had been going to do some tourist stuff today with one of his cousins, but the cousin is sick, so that’s off. My revised agenda for today includes setting up some trades and further researching language programs. I’m finding the idea of an intensive language program with extras appealing. I found one that includes culture and martial arts classes. Neat! Locations are still difficult for me to evaluate, however. This city is very, very big.

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sean | September 26th, 2009 

The magazine has been declared MIA. It put up a valiant effort last night to quash the remaining enemy forces and was last seen falling on top of an inaccessible piece of furniture. Honor its memory.

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