Thursday, July 24, 2008

An Adventure in Beijing

So, I traveled to Beijing this past weekend to see friends and experience first-hand the feverish Olympic atmosphere.


I was lucky because the Yale Club of Beijing was having a BBQ for alumni and students that very weekend. Eating free food, seeing old friends and meeting new people - three of my favorite things in life.

The Yale Club booked a rooftop bar called Kokomo in the Sanlitun neighborhood. The sun was out (a very rare event in Beijing), the food was good, the drinks were flowing, the company was fun.

I also met up with a few good friends and teachers from my last summer in Beijing. That was probably the most fun part of the weekend. Chatting and eating with them really brought back some good memories of some really great times we've had together.

One of my favorite places in Beijing is the 798 Art District. It's a place where young and hip artists can put up galleries with some really great works.

The gallery that really caught my attention this time was one where they displayed traditional Chinese landscape paintings.

Well... from afar anyways. When I first glanced at it, it didn't seem so unique. I've come across many such works, with it's really oriental mountains and trees with a typical temple somewhere. However, when I took a second glance, it was actually quite different.

What had appeared as beautiful green mountains were actually piles of dirt and rock covered with a green wrap. What had appeared as morning fog and clouds were actually smoke and dust blowing from the factories. The lakes looked beautiful far away but was actually extremely polluted up-close. What was this artist trying to say about the current state of China? Hmmm...

Here's another set:

Beijing's Facelift

It is as if the entire city went to a plastic surgeon and got a face lift. The city has changed so much from my trip last summer!

The most obvious difference is the landscape of the city. For example, last year, the piece of land in front of the university where I stayed at was all shacks and small restaurants. The sidewalk was filled with locals and college students streaming in and out. There were fruit and vegetable carts, soup carts, and carts selling items I can't even describe. Furthermore, you would only have to walk a block further to eat at the jiaozi stand, where you can order 10 dumplings for 3 kuai (>50 cents).

Fast forward to this summer: the area in front of the university has been cleared out. There is a very nice and modern high-rise in place of the shacks. The sidewalks have been completely rebuilt. The carts? All gone. The jiaozi stand? Shut down.

Now, multiply that by a gazillion and you have Beijing.

The change is more than just visual though. You can feel it. The atmosphere is suffocating. The feeling comes from the city looking too... sterile and clean. It's just not like Beijing. I'm not talking about the trash on the sidewalks, but more of the previously mentioned small family businesses that use to crowd the streets. Also, the addition of a million security officers throughout the city doesn't help. You see them everywhere (so carry around your passport)!

Furthermore, the addition of countless new and absurd regulations might have contributed to this starchy mood. For example, you have to be a student at a college to be allowed on campus. For me, that means I could not step foot on any of the colleges in Beijing because I didn't possess a student ID. This made things really difficult because I had planned on staying with a friend who is studying at Beijing Language University (I had to lie every night to the guard to get in. Bad.).

The stadiums built for the 08 Olympics are pretty sweet. I haven't seen anything like the Bird's Nest or the Swimming Cube. Amazing works of architecture.

The atmosphere isn't that great though. The reason? It is (surprise!) the extreme security measures. Ordinary public was not allowed to get close to the stadiums, which is ironic because many of the Olympic architects had the theme of "openness" in mind.

The government really screwed up on this one.

They decided that cars with even-numbered license plates would drive one day and those with odd numbered license plates would drive the next. I thought this was a great idea. It would get rid of the infamous traffic jams in Beijing and, even better, help out our environment.

However, then, Beijing decided to also close down almost 1/3 of its major roadways and designate a lane on the remainder just for Olympic-affiliated cars. Talking to the taxi drivers I met, these regulations have made the traffic situation worse than ever. Taxis are forced to take detours on small roads that were never suited for high traffic volume. On two lane roads, one lane would be jammed as far as the eye could see while the other is completely empty (because the Olympics were still 20 days away!). Every once in a while, while I would still be crawling or not moving at all, I would see a car just fly past me on the Olympic lane, nothing in his way to stop him. Hate.

In the name of security, Beijing has closed down some of its best clubs. Vix, Mix, Propaganda... the list goes on.

What are foreigners going to do at night?

Getting back to Shanghai
My friends and I missed the train. Seriously. It was a terrible experience.

An hour before the train was to depart, we tried to get a taxi. However, no one would take us! Why? Dunno...

So we thought about the subway. However, the stop at the railroad station was shut down for security (see a trend here?) precautions. So, we ended up taking the subway to the nearest stop and run (with all our luggage) to the railroad station. Hot, tired, sweaty, and sore... all for not.

We ran around for another while trying to figure out who to contact and what to do to get out of Beijing. Somehow, we ended up on the last train out. On hard seats. The train was extremely uncomfortable, but it was taking us back to Shanghai!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Bunny Funerals and Bike Rides

So two weeks ago, a couple of my friends fell in love with a little bunny that was being sold on the side of the street. They bought it and named it Pepper. A couple of days later, they bought him a companion and named it Caramel. 

They were very tiny and cute, and they provided a lot of warmth and fun... for two weeks. 

A couple of days ago, I went over to my friend's apartment to pick up some pirated DVDs she had bought for me. Instead of DVDs, I found her lying next to a convulsing Caramel. His head was in a really awkward position, and he would jerk his legs every once in a while. I think he airways were blocked, so we actually tried bunny CPR. Nothing worked; the jerks slowed and then eventually, they stopped. Traumatic experience, to see it die and feeling helpless.

We buried Caramel under a tree in the Serenity Club Garden, right behind our apartments.   

A couple of days later (Yesterday), Pepper passed away as well. He died while everyone was work, so nobody experienced his passing away. Did he succumb to heartbreak, or did he die of similar causes (horrible diet before the sale, bad genes, any more ideas?) 

Pepper was buried with his favorite bowl under the same tree as Caramel.

The graves were shallow, so I hope it doesn't rain for a few days...

Lesson of the Day: Don't buy bunnies off the street in China. 

Biking Through the Countryside

This past Saturday, I went biking with other Yalies through the countryside. It was hot, humid (90+ weather), and FUN! 

Then, we spent the rest of the day at a watertown next to Shanghai. It was like a small scale, Chinese version of Venice. Very lovely.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Shanghai Adventures

I have been in Shanghai for a month. 

Here are some of my humble thoughts and experiences:

Shanghai is like New York City with dumplings
Okay, so maybe not to that extreme, and not always or everywhere. But seriously, walking around the city, I sometimes forget that I
 am on the other side of the Pacific. 

Yes, the people around me are constant reminders, but even they are much more hip and up-to-date with their fashion and dress (compared to, say, the dwellers of Beijing). 

Also, the architecture of many city districts has a very Western flavor, further contributing to my periodic disorientation. 

I have met several expats in Shanghai who, despite having lived in the city for several years, do not know any Chinese. Usually, their excuse is that they really don't need it, which I can totally see to be true.

A Brief Break from Skyscrapers
I visited an art district in Shanghai with a bunch of fellow Yalies a couple of weeks ago. It reminded me much of 798 district in Beijing. This time, I was able to get my hands dirty with some on-spot painting.

There were shoes and shirts and tires and walls to be painted! All items were auctioned off and proceeds were to go to the recovery of Sichuan after the earthquake.

Chaos in the Subway
I thought that my experience last summer with the public transportation system in Beijing will have me more than prepared for anything Shanghai can throw
 at me. However, my experience yesterday proved my assumption wrong...

Because I found the normal route too crowded and too tedious (I have to go through 3 different subway lines), a friend suggested a different path. He said that although the trip might take a little longer, it would be much more comfortable and I would have a seat. So, convinced, I decided to try that out yesterday. Mistake. 

The moment I stepped onto the train, I was pushed to the back of the cabin and squished. Squished for an hour. I couldn't move or breath. Sweat and stench everywhere, not a pretty place to be. People were overly aggressive- grown men pushing younger children, each person for himself. To top things off, the girl next to me passed out. 
That part was scary because she wasn't moving at all. 

Great way for the day to start off, yeah?

His Own World
Every morning on my way to the subway station, I pass by major highways and basically huge, brutal, imposing slabs of concrete. In the midst of all this, there is one small patch of grass. Every morning, despite the incredible amount of noise and distractions around, there is always this man practicing taichi on this patch of grass. It is almost as if he is on his own island, in his own world. He is able to block out everything around him. The juxtaposition of two not only different, but conflicting, worlds. Incredible.

What? Your son still lives with you?
On the same Saturday I took a trip to the Art District, I also went to observe parents advertising their (grown) children at the park. That turned out to be a cool experience. Expecting only a handful of parents to be there, I was surprised by a packed park. The parents would write their child's name and stats (age, height, weight, occupation, car, apartment, education, basically anything that would sell). It's quite a scene.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


It's not my fault! Really!

I haven't updated my blog for the last couple of weeks because I haven't even been able to sign on. Every time I tried, my internet would stop working. Struggles...

However, do not fret, I am back! It's working! I can sign on! At the U.S. Consulate, anyways... Yay!

So, you are probably wondering what I have been doing for the last couple of weeks here, right?

Well, let's start with my job...

I'm enjoying it! Yay! The atmosphere has not been as stiff as I had anticipated, which is great. In fact, all my co-workers are really laid back. Everyone is on first-name bases here.

Anyway, I was placed on the team that covers transportation, environment, construction, and energy. I have been doing a lot of research on various topics, mostly focusing on environmental protection technologies. There are others, but I should avoid mentioning them on this blog (in fear of being blocked, again).

Also, right now, I am writing a speech for the Consulate General. About what? Industrial Energy Efficiency. Yeahhh... I don't know anything about that topic...

Screwed? :/

It's for our huuuge conference next weekend where giant corporations, such as G.E., are coming and showcasing their most advanced technologies. Streeeessss.

Speaking of that speech... I should keep working on that since I am at work right now...

But, I promise I will update later about life outside of my job.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Highs and Lows

High: I have an apartment to myself! Since I am the only occupant, I have a larger bed. I have a living room, kitchen, and bathroom. Everything is thoughtfully furnished. The staff is very accommodating and incredibly nice. By arriving at past one in the morning and not being able to sleep, I have already made friends with several of them. I can see the Pearl Tower and the Jinmao (Grand Hyatt) from the patio. There is also a very nice, good-sized private garden in the back. Creeks and oriental trees and ponds, you know, all that good stuff. Definitely important for the overall fengshui.

Low: The day took a turn for the worse. I was out scouting out my job site and its neighborhood (both of which, btw, are amazing!) when an enormous thunder/lightning storm came through. Caught without an umbrella, I stood underneath a small canopy for an hour before I was able to flag down a taxi who was willing to take a miserably soaked man.

I return to the apartment to find my patio door was left open (so stupid) and that my room was pretty much soaked. Bed, carpet, table, and computer. It didn't help that my patio also flooded, leading more water to enter the apartment. The staff was great and cleaned up everything and fixed the problem with the patio. I dried my computer and let it sit overnight. Now it works just fine (I'm writing this post on it!). Gosh, I love Macs. So hardy. My poor Macbook Pro has taken and survived so much punishment from me over the past few years. Works as if it was new.

Also, my cellphone stopped working all of a sudden. I don't know why, but it won't turn on or charge. Hmmm... gonna have to fork out more RMBs... =(

Friday, June 6, 2008

Flying Blues

After 30+ hours traveling and the plane breaking down twice, I am finally here.


Hungry, tired, and not sleeping. Hm, what's on TV...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Just Missed Him...

So I'm flying out of Bristol tomorrow morning, bright and early at 7:16AM.

However, guess who's coming to speak at my local high school later in the afternoon?



Anyway, away I go. The next time I sign on, it will be from another continent!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Deadweek, Graduation Stress, Sunsets, Rib-offs!

After two semesters of hard work and endless stress, it was such a welcomed change to have all the time in the world with nothing to do. It got to a point where I had to schedule in fun activities just so I wouldn't waste the day away by being lazy and sleeping all the time. Determined not to allow that to happen, I made an Excel sheet (yeah, don't judge) with time in one column and activities in the other. Each hour of the day had to be filled in. Movies. Dinners. Hikes to East Rock (see picture below). Siestas. Hehe, it was glorious.

Cornell Graduation
So in the picture, we look like a normal family on a graduation day. The parents are proud of their son, the siblings of their brother. The day is as perfect as it can be... warm, sunny, clear.
It is a happy day.

But not. Stress, anxiety. Familiar? Yes.

This past weekend is the first time the ENTIRE family was together in.. months? Years? Seriously. I had forgotten how hectic it could be!

I now sympathize with the military generals who have to mobilize entire battalions... I couldn't even mobilize the few members of my family! One brother didn't bother to check the pants he brought with him. It ended up being khakis from years ago... way too small. The other brother forgot his clothes at another apartment. My mom was cooking even though the ceremony was set to begin in less than an hour. My grandmother, thinking that we were heading home right after the ceremony, was packing busily. Oh my, indeed...

While all of this is happening, the parents of my graduating brother's girlfriend were saving seven seats in a very coveted section in the stadium. They had been sitting there for more than two hours, fending off the masses who attempt to take them. My family showed up one minute before the ceremony started. Yeah... O_o

Now that I'm thinking about it again... this probably is the typical family, yes? Hehe...

Afterwards, we went to a Thai Restaurant called Thai Cuisine. If you are ever in Ithaca, NY, do NOT make the mistake of going there. Enough said. I have warned you.

With all that said, I want to congratulate Yi for successfully graduating and, for the last four years, resisting any impulses to inflict self-harm. Bravo!

Lake Erie
After my sister went back to med school and my family went back home, Yi (the grad) and I embarked on an expedition to find an apartment in Erie, PA. We looked at everything from townhouses to lofts. My favorite was this loft located downtown. Huge living room, big dining room with a bar... very trendy. Plus, it's on a corner of the building with massive windows overlooking the neighborhood. Super sweet. However, a group of girls put down a deposit for it a couple of hours later. Sadness.

Two cool experiences while at Erie: The sunset by the beach on the lake and the city's Rip Cookoff. We had planned on going to the peninsula to see the sunset, and it was absolutely breath-taking. I don't think I could ever get tired of seeing the sunset. This is a photograph my brother took of me taking photographs of the scenery.

I had not planned on going to the Rib-Off. In fact, it was purely by luck that I happened upon this wonderful event. Tired after having been woken up way too early by Yi, I was in dire need for coffee and programed my GPS device to lead me to the nearest Starbucks. About a couple of blocks before we were suppose to arrive, there was a roadblock. Rather than trying to drive around the roadblock and risk getting lost in the endless number of senseless one-way roads (think New Haven), I decided to park and just walk through the roadblock. Best decision of the week! Viola- stands after stands of people perfecting their ribs. Ribs galore. Let's just say, lunch was delicious.

Fame - Continued.
Kelly was very fast in letting me know where to find the guide used by Light Fellows regarding blogs. So, here is the portion with my blog:

Thanks Kelly!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Fame and Sophomore Year Reminiscencs

So apparently Kelly and Adam (administrators over at the Light Fellowship) created a guide on how to use this blogging website.

To demonstrate how to add friends to your blog, they chose mine as an example! Hehe, my fifteen (or fewer) minutes of fame! Sweet.

I will post a picture of the guide if I find one to scan.

Annnyways, sophomore year of college has finally ended. Looking back on it, I've realized I've traipsed across almost the entire east coast, from the cold, New England town of Providence, RI to the warm, tropical city of Jacksonville, FL. I've logged tens of thousands of miles on my lovely white Mazda.

Fresh from an entire summer in Beijing, I rushed head-first into Fall semester of my second year at Yale in September. New Haven was just starting to become colorful as the leaves on the trees turned into the many splendid shades of red, yellow, and orange.

The picture above are my friends Sannya, Lily, and Adrianne, all lying in the leaves!

As the air turned crisp in the Have, I married. Twice. Yes, I now have two wives and four kids. =)

Before any nasty rumors are spread, let me explain. These "families" are part of a program headed by the Chinese and Taiwanese student groups on campus. Basically, upper-class students pair up and "marry," then adopt a couple of freshmen to take care of throughout the year. I am raising a family in the Chinese organization as well as the Taiwanese. It's like having a family in the United States and another one in England or something, right? Perfectly legit.. yes? No? Oh. Hahaha...

These "families" really were a significant part of my second year. I frequently dined with them, played games (Speed Scrabble - so much fun!) with them, and even went out with them.

Here's a picture of my CASA family at one of my favorite places in New Haven- Lighthouse Point. Besides having the lighthouse, this park has a beach, a carousel, a large play ground (with swings and slides!), and a field of green grass to frolic on.

The families really had an impact on my experiences this year. I got to know people whom I wouldn't have met otherwise. I learned about different places in the United States and internationally. They introduced me to new books, new movies, and different outlooks on life. I grew. My mind grew.

And, oh yeah, most importantly, I received the excuse to dine at restaurants where I would never have been able to convince myself to visit.

Compared to my freshman year, I was definitely more excited to go home during breaks, and when I was home, I enjoyed myself much more. Why? I'm not sure... Perhaps it was because in the first year, I was just thrilled to be in college and away from where I lived for most of my childhood. The new experience negated any homesick. Or, maybe it was because this past year was more stressful, and the inviting atmosphere of home was just too tempting.

I missed my parents. I missed my siblings. I miss my grandmother. The breaks seemed so short. I felt like I was missing so much that was going on in my family. When did Devon grow past my waist? Jie is starting to look at colleges, reeaally? Sigh...

I also took my first long-distance roadtrip this past year. For Spring break, a couple of friends and I decided we were going to drive down to Florida. Sun, beach, and alligators... what more could a guy ask for during Spring break?

Coolest part of the trip? Space shuttle launch at 2:27 in the morning.I don't remember the last time I was that excited for anything. Sitting 12 miles away in the dark and waiting for the countdown to the launch, I felt like something big was about to happen. And it did. The flames from the rockets lit up the entire sky like it was day. Space shuttle Endeavour was a ball of light shooting into the sky, disappearing into the cloudy night. The rumbling of the launch was felt only moments later.

The entire experience only lasted a few seconds I'm sure, but it felt like time was frozen. This is definitely a memory I will tell my grandchildren. Yay!

Anyways, although the year is over, I am still living on campus for "Dead Week." Dead Week is actually the two weeks before commencement, where there is no classes. I will update on my life once Dead Week is over.

Until then.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Return of The Blog

Wow, I have not updated my blog in almost a year. Failure.

I will try to be better about it. I will.

Anyway, my 2008 summer plans are set!

So far, this is what it looks like:
May 12............Last day of final exams
May 12-24........Staying at Yale to work for Davenport College
May 24-26........Going to Cornell for brother's graduation
May 26-Jun 4.....Home!
Jun 5-Aug 16.....Shanghai, China
Aug 16-Sep 1.....Home again!
Around Sep 1.....Back at Yale!

Finals Week Apr 27-May 12
Four final exams.
Three term papers.
Two weeks of stress.
One unhappy Gang.

It is not going to be fun. Bring me food.

Graduation Week May 12-24
I will be working as a master's aide during this time. I don't know what exactly I will have to do, but it probably entails planning/running events for seniors and their families.

If you are staying as well, give me a call and we'll keep each other company. I will probably be bored a lot. If you are in the vicinity, please pay me a visit! (NYC is only a $14, 1.5 hr train ride)

Cornell Graduation May 25-26
Congratulations to Yi! Majoring in electrical and computer engineering, he has (so far, knock on wood) survived eight very intense semesters at Cornell.

If I have financial troubles in the future, I am banking on him bailing me out. =)

Home - A Good Place to Live! May 26-Jun 4

Home = Bristol, Virginia!
I know I have been away for a while, but
I really am coming back!

Let me know if you are in town so we can meet up!

Shanghai, China
Jun 5-Aug 16

I am going to be working for the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai, China. I am soo excited, even though I don't really know what exactly my responsibilities are yet. I can't even imagine what the atmosphere in China will be like. The Olympics are creating such a commotion and generating a lot of buzz, both positive and negative. Therefore, I am bracing myself for something big happening...

This summer is going to be fantastic! I finally get to see a sibling graduate from college (I was in an econ final when my sister Jing graduated), I finally get to stay at home for an extended time, and I get to travel abroad!

I will (promise!) be updating this blog regularly, especially during the summer. Adventures and thoughts will be posted. Please check in once in a while. =)