Monday, August 27, 2007

Some credit, please

Upon arriving home, I have discovered that it's somehow become so much easier to use someone else's credit card to pay for random shit. I feel like fool. At CVS, at Border's, you know, I just stand there waiting for the credit card slip, ready to dive for the pen to show that "oh yeah, this customer's with it" but actually no, they don't need me to do that anymore. Not that the old way really did that much for security in the end anyways... for years I signed with a signature that in no way resembled the one appearing on the back of my card, but seriously. Damn.

Friday, August 03, 2007

And as for Beijing...

So what have I been doing with myself here anyways? Haha, eating, mostly, just... snacking.

At China Care, I'm kind of the assistant to the volunteer coordinator, Jeremy, a nice fellow whose dry sense of humor really confused me for the first week or so. I live on-site in a dorm-like situation (apartment with bunk beds) within seconds of the 4 children's homes. It's a very convenient location for volunteering, but not really for anything else. It's not *quite* in the boonies, but it's definitely not central or anything. We're about 20 minutes from the airport, but only because the road there is so loopy. I'm sure that a straight shot would put us much much closer. On the other hand, that means that we're about 45 bus-minutes from Beijing-proper, if the traffic's good. While this isn't the biggest deal actually, it's functioned as a pretty strong deterrent thus far against many more excursions into the city. I generally take one trip in a week and stay the night with friends. I might visit more often if it weren't for an actual sense of duty and the fact that the buses stop running after a certain time and cabs are like Y100.

I do like spending time at China Care though, so it all works out. The area here is what you'd call suburban, but there's surprisingly little in the immediate vicinity in terms of cheap, quality Chinese food (in the Baotou sense). All store fronts appear sketchy, and there are few of those anyway. Which is shocking, because you should see the sheer number of apartment complexes hereabouts. There is one park down the block, which is extremely pleasant and which I enjoy very much... except for the over-abundance of mosquitos. For about Y20 each way, you can get to a plaza with a Starbucks, a very delicious Italian restaurant, and a grocery store called Jenny Lou's. This place is like a crib sheet for the Western gastronomy. The first time I walked down the aisles and saw shelves of Campbell's soup, I thought... "You shouldn't be able to get this here! This is cheating!" I mean, after months of rationing a single box of Easy Mac packages, what was I supposed to think? I don't like to go often though, cuz just getting there is so expensive and then you're just spending money on expensive stuff while you're there. The restaurants do delivery though, and sometimes I just sort of feel that urge to let the food come to me of its own volition.

Ok, this is just gonna have to be part 1. It's been sitting unpublished on my desktop for the past week, so it's about time I guess.

Leaving Baotou

Well, I'm not really sure why I haven't been updating this more frequently.

Anyways, I'm in Beijing! I got here... several weeks ago. The day I left Baotou, Julie called to say that she had to make an emergency trip with one of the babies, and so would be coming along on the same train. She needed to trade her ticket for a bottom bunk, so we thought it would be best if we could just trade our tickets onto the same car.

I actually finished packing mid-afternoon, and rather than ponder my fate in the sweltering apartment, I went out for a last chat with my fruit friend.

Alice came home, and we loitered for a while until Emily, one of the volunteers at the children's home, came to help with the move. Then the three of us loitered around until Linda and Alice's mom showed up, and we started to carry things downstairs. We found Helen's dad waiting outside the gate, and he went up to wrestle the large suitcase down the stairs and into the backseat of his car. Then we all piled into the two cars, and drove off.

We got to the train station just about on time, but Julie was late! All of us went onto the platform and finally got onto my car. There was some difficulty in this choice because we had originally planned to trade everything into the car they had. It's difficult for me to explain now, but her ticket was for a top bunk while mine was for a middle bunk, and bunks are valued and priced based on their vicinity to the ground. Extremely fortunately, Mr. Bao knew the family of the girl in the bottom bunk of my berth, and she was really nice anyway, so they traded right away. Then I went out as Julie came busting down the stairs with a bundle and a kind of harassed look about her.

We still needed to trade me into the car with all my luggage though... while it wasn't entirely necessary, I preferred it that way. After much ado and random flusteredness and bartering, everything worked out fine, the train rolled away, and I waved byebye to my Baotou friends.

A lot of times I think about going back up for a visit... though mainly to see certain babies and eat certain foods. But I think I'm mostly finished up there, it was a good year, but it's seriously just time to move on.