Thursday, February 26, 2009

Back up, now

Had the bright idea just now of putting copies of my picture files onto my little hard drive, even though they already get backed up through the little program... just in case I wanted to access them directly... aaand ended up deciding to delete most of the originals anyways. So basically if I ever lose this thing, years of my life will be going with it.

As I was doing this though, I discovered that I'm missing... all of my pre-Shanghai pictures from my '05 China trip, and Kim & Teddy's wedding pictures. And probably other random things along the way. I have no idea why I'd be missing those China pictures, but I'm assuming they're on my other external drive somewhere back home. The wedding pictures are a bit trickier since I don't think I had time to back any of those up before I left for Baotou. They should exist on a CD in my box of China stuff, so hopefully I can pull them off of that when I get home. The problem is, a lot of these things were entrusted to my desktop, which my mother proceeded to run into the ground for her own nefarious ends. That computer's a swamp now and anything that was on it is long gone. I'd thought that everything had been duplicated onto the other drive, but... yeah, guess there wasn't much depth to my thinking.

Meanwhile, my little drive gets more and more cluttered, but I managed to free up a lot of space just now by deleting all those photos. Actually, most of them are just chilling out in my recycle bin right now. All I permanently deleted was a bunch of fireworks videos that I just HAD to take at Disneyland (yeah...) and gave myself 2 gigs more of space, which is nice because I've been downloading music like the craziest person ever.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Train Schedule

Hey, I swiped a service guide from the high speed train last time I rode, so... For future reference of myself and any random others who may have use of this information:

The train leaves Tanggu at... (hits Tianjin at...) and arrives at BJNan at...
C2274- 12:14pm (12:36) 1:10pm
C2276- 1:44pm (2:06) 2:40pm
C2278- 5:04pm (5:26) 6:00pm
C2280- 7:59pm (8:21) 8:55pm

The train leaves BJNan at... (hits Tianjin at...) and arrives in Tanggu at...
C2273- 10:45am (11:15) 11:39am
C2275- 12:35pm (1:05) 1:29pm
C2277- 3:55pm (4:25) 4:49pm
C2279- 6:50pm (7:20) 7:44pm

Wow... I cut it kinda close a couple of times...
Besides those, there are a butt-ton of rides between BJN and TJ starting around 6:30 am and going to 10:45/11pm.

Other useful information:
Cars 1 and 8 are 1st/2nd class cars
Car 5 is a 1st class car
Cars 2, 3, 6, and 7 are 2nd class cars
Car 4 is the bar car

Not THAT useful... but maybe you could use it.

Where are we going with this

Having difficulty working this out through other mediums, so I figured I might as well try blogging about it. Haha. Blogging.

Anyways, my first little activities camp session is this Saturday. I screened through potential volunteers yesterday at the Polytech school. When they told me there would be "many" students who'd be interested in helping me, I thought "ok... like... 7?" But I ended up talking to 25 students yesterday, which wasn't everyone who showed up, since we had a few drift away as the interviews went on. Then were was like... a reserve classroom of another 40 standing by in case I didn't find anyone I liked in the first group.

I didn't have many questions for them, but just really tried to coax them into English monologues about anything. I need assistants who would be able to react to things in English and really encourage the students to be using English during our sessions. There weren't very many of those in the group, actually, which was sad, because a lot of these girls (and one guy) would be great for programs like this. They were all so willing to give up 12 consecutive Saturday afternoons (not that I've been able to determine that there's much to do out where the school is, but still... Saturdays were always precious) that I didn't want to turn them down.

Mostly I was impressed by the ones who kind of... were very convincing despite not having the level of English I was looking for. The girls who were like... "I may not be perfect for this, but if you give me the opportunity, I'd really try my best." Or, "No, I don't have any volunteer experience, or experience with anything like this, but this would be my chance to start."

Anyways, there were 3 sophomores that I picked out for their English ability and general demeanor, before some of my old students came in and blew me away. First, there was one girl who I'd forgotten pretty much played the assistant role in my class anyway-- translating back and forth and pumping everyone up for like skits and stuff. Then there was the girl who made me sing back in December (uuuugh) who blew me away by reading my mind during the interview. So that's a total of 5 ladies I'd like to take on, for 3 positions that I had in mind.

Then, what did I do? I thought, well that's too bad. I'd love to let as many of these kids help out as possible. Maybe we can just add more students! So I made a call and said that we could increase the class size... but since then I've sort of been thinking about it and... I kinda wish I hadn't done that. Haha. We'll see how many we're at at this point, but I think I'll cut it off this afternoon at whatever number it's at. I'll take all 5 volunteers and just... figure out a use for them.

I guess if this weren't starting THIS SATURDAY, I'd be a lot less anxious.

Anyways, the volunteers aren't a huge deal. I am having a hard time picturing everyone sitting comfortably in this classroom anymore. What I'm having issues with right now is the agenda for the first session, as well as like... the vocabulary worksheet that I'm not even really able to visualize right now. And the eternal question: Introductions first? Or icebreaker first?

Currently I'm thinking... sound-off names for me and the volunteers, and then play some introductions/name-game kinda icebreaker. Reconvene to go over rules and expectations and make little name plates. Then break up again and do rotating groups of name-centric games. At half-time, we'll all get together for snack and pass out vocab sheets for the book we're reading. Do any pre-reading activities. Then all gather on the floor to read this book out loud. Follow it up with Q&A and then move into the arts & crafts segment. Ah. At this point, would it be ok to break for skits again? There might not be a ton of time for that. It might be better to just play a big round of "Do you like your friends?" and save thematic skits for the next session. So we can review the story that way too.

That seeeeems like a plan, but there's that big hole in the first half where I say "name-centric games." What the freak are those supposed to be?

I guess I have until Saturday afternoon to figure that out. Before that though, I need to get this worksheet or whatever it's going to be banged out, since I actually need to get it printed... and probably a volunteer info sheet would be good to have.

Ok. I decided that instead of just defining all these vocab words, most of them can be illustrated. So we shall be illustrating them in-class.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

what might have been

well. i am really embarrassed right now. i've been in the process of archiving all my old e-mails, and as a result, a lot of older correspondence has come floating to the surface of my inbox. one unread piece has been bugging me for a couple weeks now, so i went ahead and clicked on it, with the intention of glancing through and then archiving it once and for all. it turns out that this e-mail was NOT what i've been thinking it was.

i guess last year i started filling out an americorps vista application, but i THOUGHT that i decided to hold off on finishing it. i guess... that was not actually the case? this e-mail, just over a year old, was an offer of a job interview with an organization that i probably would have been thrilled to work for. craaaaaaap! i feel terrible now, but the reason i never opened it is because i assumed it was a random americorps update that i wasn't interested in reading at the time.

last february... i was seriously looking for a job. if i'd managed to get this position, i would still be in san francisco now, just finishing up the year-long commitment. what on earth would the past 12 months have been like if that were the case? it's enough to make a girl wonder if she's really better off the way things are now.

oh well, there's a lesson for me: READ ALL YOUR FRIGGIN E-MAILS.

ok, correction: i would have been in concord, NH, not san fran, but that just makes it even crazier. i think i feel bad mostly because i never responded. like, i'm sure they contacted lots of people besides me, but it seems so impolite. and now that i look at the details, yeah, i would have enjoyed this immensely. alas!

Ok, I looked it up

Wikipedia's explanation is actually pretty cool:

re: yuanfen

I'm sure I've spoken about yuanfen before, but since I can't verify that [because I am too lazy to go through the archives], here's the "definition." Yuan is a Chinese concept, and when they tell you that there's no English equivalent to the word, they're probably correct. I haven't been able to find one yet. You come close with ideas like serendipity, fate, destiny, "meant to be," but all those are considerably inadequate. For one thing-- the way I understand it-- they're a bit too grandiose. And more importantly, yuan is more of a subcategory dealing with relationships, so these words actually have too many applications to be accurate.

Yuanfen is something that is possessed by two people whose meeting was meant to be. A lot of people mention it when they've met someone, compared notes, and found some element in the relationship suggesting that a higher power was somehow involved. In the same situation, I might say, "what are the odds," or "clearly we have some connection." Whether there is yuanfen associated with all of our relationships is not clear to me. I have just opened the wikipedia page and intend to read it, but after writing what I was ACTUALLY planning to write when I opened this window...

RE: yuanfen

Last Friday, I hopped a train to Beijing to start my search for housing in the spring. I'd been reviewing ads for the past week and trying to set up viewings for the cheaper, more conveniently located apartments even while they were being snapped up. I'd scheduled my trip for that weekend so that I could also pay a visit to Julie, but as apartments came and went, there was a point where I was afraid there wouldn't be anything to look at by the time I got there. Just before leaving though, I confirmed two apartment visits, and this is the story of those.

Friday the subways were uncharacteristically crowded for the early afternoon. I mean all 3 lines I rode from Liujiayao all the way to the Ag Exhibition Ctr. Even the bus from the train station was crowded. My train came in probably around 1, and I was rushing to meet this guy at 3. As I stood on the crowded subway and realized that I was just barely going to make it in time, it occurred to me that I probably wouldn't want to make this same trip twice a week every week until May. Anyways, I jumped off the subway at the exhibition center and checked my watch. And started the rush out.

I wasn't all that clear on where I was going. It was a 10 minute walk, and I plotted out what I'd probably have to do on the google maps satellite image of the area (the map image is... outdated? completely not what the area looks like at this point in time?) and checked it against the map in the subway, but I was positive I'd have to call him for directions at some point.

On the escalator out of the station, I ended up behind this guy. He turned around at one point and gave me the awkward "I'm on the escalator, you're on the escalator" glare, and I glared back until he turned around again. Uuh, maybe you know this look I'm talking about. If not, pay attention next time you're on the escalator and you mistakenly make eye contact with someone.

That would have been the end of that, but something about the way he was dressed sort of jogged my imagination. Striped button up, green t-shirt, old-Chinese-man cloth shoes... His face looked Chinese, but it was entirely possible that he was from somewhere else. I saw him check the face of his cell phone, which is what I had been doing, and thought, "Hm. Wouldn't it be funny if this is the guy I'm supposed to meet at 3." I mean, because he was supposed to be coming in from work or something. Anyways, we got off the escalator and he turned right. Well, I was supposed to turn right. So I started walking after him. Then he took the next right I was supposed to take as well. I thought, "So be it. I am going to tail this guy until he a) deviates or b) leads me to the Korean restaurant where I'm supposed to wait for the apartment dude."

Well, this wouldn't be a story that I associated with yuanfen if it was (a). Ok, no, I take that back, I'm sure it still could be, it'd just have to be a lot longer. He landed me at the restaurant, but then kept walking into the xiaoqu next door, which I thought could well have been where the apartment was located. After a few moments, I got in touch with the guy and let him know I was outside. You are only given one guess as to who came out to collect me.

So that was fun. The next day I had a little bit of a public transportation snafu trying to get from Julie's to the subway, but it was minor... (nothing a Y10 3-minute cab ride couldn't solve). When I found out that the second apartment was at Liujiayao, I got pretty excited. Turns out it's right by that northwest exit, immediately next to the bus that goes to the train station. As I walked up with the girl, I found out that she and her roommate are actually Baotou ren! I met her boyfriend too, and he went to college at the school by the Baotou train station-- I'm pretty sure that's where Linda was teaching. And then it came out that she and her roommate went to college in Yantai. She was born in '83, so that essentially means that we might have been there around the same time. Speaking of age though, I (born, if you recall, in '84) tell people that I am 24. Due to the Chinese way of doing things, she tells people that she's 27. Go figure.

Anyways, we had a good time sort of talking about Baotou, even though she's from the eastern half and I lived in the western half (they're practically 2 different cities), I decided I liked the place, and I put down my deposit for the room! I'm moving in at the end of the month... well sort of.

Monday, February 09, 2009

On closed doors

Apparently I don't exert enough force when trying out doorknobs on strange doors, and tend to conclude that they're locked when they really aren't. Recent manifestation: the door that stood between me and heat/hot water. It wasn't locked today and it wasn't locked two days ago. Sigh.

(and... it's not the first time)

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Ha, Facebook meme

Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You also have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to "notes" under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

Twenty-five random things about me.

1. As crappy as I am at it now, Chinese was my first language. When I first entered daycare at the age of 3, I (allegedly) spent all my time crying in the arms of one of the ladies there because I had no idea what was going on. I learned English by watching Disney's Sleeping Beauty on continuous repeat and singing along (I remember asking my parents what "familiar" meant, and coming away thinking that it meant "evil."). Then, when Arthur started using words like "dad" at home, I started doing it too.

2. When I was younger, my mom and I would watch cooking shows together CONSTANTLY. There was a lot of Julia Child, Yan Can Cook (love him, love him), and that skinny man with the beard. The Frugal Gourmet? We'd also go to the Union Twp Library and borrow videos on garnishing and cake decorating. These we would watch while I drank Crystal Light lemonade.

3. I got a bowl cut in the 1st grade, then started growing my hair out as long as I could. This lasted until, like, 6th grade? Anyways, back then, and then also in junior high, strangers would come up to me and demand that I never cut my hair. In the lunch line, waiting for the next roller coaster car, these girls would literally say, "You have such pretty hair! Please don't ever cut it, please!" Meanwhile, my dad was convinced that the weight of my hair was dragging down the right side of my head and resented it.

4. All right, I have a comic book collection. It is in the basement in a cabinet under the bookshelf. It is still being refreshed from time to time. Mostly it's X-men and its ilk. This is rounded out by the 4-player arcade game from the early '90s, original arcade cabinet. But if you're reading this, you knew I was a dork already, so whatevs.

5. I don't really enjoy shopping anymore. I am less and less a fan of the mall. That said, I still love perusing for trinkets and gifts in small shops, and sometimes a purchase can release some much-needed endorphins (just as making a return the next day allows me to feel like a responsible adult). None of this applies to food shopping, which I still approach with passion.

6. At birth (mine), the doctor apparently used pincers... wait... he was not a lobster. The doctor apparently used calipers to, uh, pull me out. My mom would look at my face sometimes while I was growing up and blame him for putting my eyebrows off-kilter.

7. You know the red Triaminic? I hated that stuff. I probably still hate it. You know when your doc told your mom that it's time for Triaminic and you went with her to the medicine aisle and prayed that you were getting the orange kind (for sinus trouble) but she always crushed your hopes by picking the red kind (for coughs)? That always happened to me! Anyways, as a result, I cannot enjoy cosmopolitans especially, and most drinks made with clear grain alcohol in general.

8. The single most-played song in my itunes right now, according to the program, is "Elevator Love Letter" by the Stars, by a surprisingly wide margin. My best explanation for this, other than that I do like that song, is that it topped one of my playlists for a while, so whenever I started it, that song would play first. But it's a good song.

9. I adore spicy food. The more tears and snot running down my face, the better. In fact, food like that feels like a gift from the universe directly to me. I date this back at least to mapo dofu when I was 7 or younger, though my most vibrant memory is of a PHENOMENAL bowl of beef noodle soup in some random little Taiwanese shop. Nothing compares, though these days a bowl of Lanzhou noodles with several hefty spoons of the available spices hits the spot. BTW, the best treatment for a sore throat is spicy food.

10. One summer, after spending most of one night awake in my dad's study finishing a history paper, I moved masses of blankets and pillows into the family room and set up a pretty comfortable bed for myself. I started brushing my teeth in the downstairs bathroom. My parents humored me, even though a) i was blocking the tv, and b) there was a giant bed in their family room. Then I came home one day at the end of the summer and it was gone. It was time. But I continued to brush my teeth in the downstairs bathroom until we moved some years later.

11. My parents played oldies in the car, always (ok, not counting long car trips that necessitated those friggin Chinese music tapes), and so this is the music I listened to until just before high school. I couldn't tell you song titles, and would have a hard time naming any artists, but if it was popular in the '50s or '60s, I probably know all the words to it.

12. At a company picnic once, when I was young and oh-so-precocious, I found myself standing next to this woman who was lighting up a cigarette. I tapped her on the arm and said, "Girls don't smoke." She looked at me a moment, then said, "You know, you're right." And she put it out.

13. I used to treat dishwashing as a privilege, spending maybe an hour on a stool in front of a sudsy sink pouring heady "beers" into dirty cups, but that was an extremely long time ago. It is now something that I do not enjoy doing, but in the end I'm the person I trust most to get things satisfactorily clean.

14. Once I got out of the cartoon phase (i.e. when they cancelled She-Ra), my favorite show as a child was totally Get Smart. It's tough to watch now, but I'd stay up until 9 or whenever to catch it so I was always the most tired child in the mornings at daycare.

15. I'll wave to people as I say goodbye to them over the phone. It's not conscious, and I wouldn't know about it if someone hadn't pointed it out to me.

16. The first thing I learned to cook was scrambled eggs, followed quickly by egg fried rice. I also took advantage of the after-school cooking classes in elementary school. I don't remember any of those recipes, but during an illness that kept me home for two days, my mom taught me basic soy-marinated chicken and pork chops. That's come in handy.

17. It's great to have large gatherings of friends, but more than that I like hanging out with people one-on-one or in really small groups. The exception is groups of 3-- too often I'll just check out of those conversations.

18. Why are there so many pictures of you on my hard drive? Well, I'm a very nostalgic person, so even though my short-term memory is godawful, I put a lot of value into the things I can carry with me long-term. Sometimes one of my favorite activities is to just sit down with a friend and go over fond memories. Bonus points if there's a related video in which someone is singing. (This is also why things rarely get thrown away unless they've somehow proven perishable.)

19. If you ask me a question, I will answer it truthfully. I can't ever bring myself to lie. I'm sure I could be pretty good at it, but I don't like to let myself. The exception to this, of course, is if you are one of my parents and I think the answer is going to really tip the boat over. But even that has rarely rarely ever happened (like, twice in recent memory, and I can't even remember one of the times). This also means that I can't take being lied to, which i's one thing that will make me truly angry. Caveat: this doesn't mean that I don't get a kick out of bullshitting, which I do with vigor. It's fun, isn't it?

20. I am uncomfortable in situations in which I have to bargain or fight someone over the price of an object or service. I mean, I hate getting ripped off in any case, but most of the time, it seems like I'm not the one getting ripped off.

21. Traffic sucks ass, but I love to drive. Given a reasonably open back road or highway and enough juice in my music player, I don't even care where I'm going. My dream excursion is a long road trip.

22. Around 3rd grade I entered a non-fiction reading phase, and one week I'd read everything in the library about dolphins, and the next week it was volcanoes, then killer bees, ants, poisonous plants, snakes, and so on. At one point I read every synopsis of old-school horror flicks on the shelves. That's how I know the plots of the various Draculas, Phantoms, Frankensteins, and so on, even though I'm still too chickenshit to watch them myself.

23. I really can't stand the smell of pollen or any flower that smells heavily of pollen (lilies, if you need an example). This smell was everywhere right after my grandpa died, I'm assuming from all the funeral flowers, and I thought I could smell it on all my mom's clothes. I associate it with headaches and dizziness, which I was probably experiencing at the time.

24. Meanwhile, I can't tell you how many buses I've missed in Berkeley because I got distracted by all the gorgeous flowers in people's gardens. It really is nice to stop and smell the flowers, photos optional. And yes, I have TONS of photos. And yes, this also applies to rocks, cool bark, metalwork, found notes and tickets, glass, parked cars, clouds, the moon, and most things that are shiny. My attention span is what it is.

25. Anything that makes me laugh wins. Not to be confused with an ironic chuckle or snort-- I mean laughter that makes me throw my head back, fall out of a chair, or pee a little bit. I can forgo sleep (and GOD I love sleep) but I can't forgo this.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Please prepare to get off

It's 9:10pm over here, as far as I can tell, and I'm going to bed soon without a shower. Yes, that does suck a whole lot, but there's nothing for it. I had a sense that this might happen, this being that my hosts are on their own vacation and turned off the heat for their absence-- it's happened before. This was back when I had to be over here to work on my essays every day, so I just wore lots of clothes during the day and froze my butt off during the night. This time, however, they turned the hot water off as well, which leaves me cold *and* dirty. Ah well. Technically there is another place that I live here, and there's plenty of hot water and heat there... but... I might as well admit that I don't like it there. I mean, the bed's comfy, I share the room with a nice girl but there's enough space, BUT the bathroom sketches me out. It's too bad that I have bathroom issues, but I have serious bathroom issues. Bathrooms are game-changers for me in just about every situation I can imagine. So the Baotou bathroom was grimy, but it was spacious. This too is grimy, but that's what sandals are for. What honestly kills it for me here is that to flush, the toilet fills with water almost to the rim before emptying. I'll leave the implications to subtlety. Oh it just freaks me out so much that I like to avoid it whenever possible. Ah well. Since I suspect that the key to the heating controls is sailing somewhere in the vicinity of South America right now, I'll clearly have to just let this one go.

Anyways, that's not anything like what I was planning to talk about, which was my return trip. Wednesday night, Sam stayed the night at my place and the two of us hightailed it to the airport at 5:30 Thursday morning. Roads were clear, weather was clear. Continental baggage policy is a little confusing, so I arrived thinking that I had 70 lbs clearance for my just-over-50 lbs suitcase. After being redirected to Delta to check in for my connection flight, I was informed that 50 was the limit. In the past, United and Continental agents have weighed a slightly overweight bag and just thrown the stickers on it, no questions asked. This gentleman suggested that I remove 4 lbs of stuff from my suitcase and carry it on my person. So... In addition to the load of books and laptop gear already in my carry-ons, were now even more books and also a pair of flip-flops. I don't think this backpack was meant to distribute that kind of weight that well (not to mention the satchel on my shoulder), so I actually felt, throughout this whole thing, that I was carrying something heavy. My back does sort of ache now, but that's also probably the whole awkward sleeping positions thing too.

We were a tiny bit late boarding the aircraft in CVG because of the security check, but since it was a small jet with few passengers, it didn't take long once they opened the door. They gave the security spiel and we started taxiing, when suddenly the plane stopped... and sat there. The captain came on to tell us that there was a maintenance issue, and we needed to return to the gate in order to fix it. They were expecting it to take about 10-15 minutes, then 10-15 for de-icing, and then we'd be on our way. I was a bit nervous at this point because I'd booked the flight with a decent window of layover time, but it was by no means very long. 10-15 minutes would have been ok though. Well, two hours later, we finally started taxiing out again. During those two hours, we lost several businessmen who needed to be in important meetings (at least one of them was going off to call in), we lost our first officer who timed out (whatever that means), we lost one of our attendants I think for the same reason, and our captain left the plane to bring coffee from Peet's for everyone. When the coffee came around, I declined, and this was because I was in the middle of what might have been a slight anxiety attack. It was being fueled by my recent paranoia for flight, and given that there was this mysterious "maintenance issue" that was "taking them longer than they thought to fix," there was a bit to keep me going there. Also was the fact that as time went on, the window for me to make my connection was narrowing, and I didn't know what sorts of randomness finding my gate would entail. Also, I just wasn't comfortable. I hadn't had much sleep the night before, and my morning was just very emotional-- leaving the house, the comforts of home. There was also never a moment that I just stepped back and felt, "Yes, I'm packed," or "Yes, I feel ready to go." So sitting in that cold airplane, staring at a collection of bleached dead insects trapped IN the panes of the window, wondering how the hell they got in there and whether or not the fact that they did was in any way a safety hazard, I just started losing my cool. There was a moment that I knew that I would never make my flight, and I started asking the attendant what I should do. One thought was that I could get right off the plane and deal with the agents at CVG and possibly just go home and delay until my folks got back... but she never really had a response for me. Just always "hmmm, I'll let them know" or something equally ineffectual. I asked her again at the hour and 45 minute mark, but was interrupted when they announced the completion of the maintenance work. She was just like "Well, enough said!" I'd been having this internal battle about whether or not to get off the plane, since I knew the other option was to end up having to deal with a missed flight in Newark, where I do not live. But then I figured, what the hell. Better to just see what happens this way. Well, maybe not. But whatever.

In Newark, I went straight to a gate agent to explain the deal, and a man came up behind me saying he had the exact same issue. One solution would have been to cancel and try racing over to JFK to catch a flight that we probably would never have made either. I... opted no for that one. The lady sent us over to Delta ticketing, which, in Newark, is... weird. Anyways, after standing there a long time while they tried to work things out with Continental, I walked off with a ticket for the next day, a hotel voucher, and two meal vouchers, and went looking for my bag. Lucky for me, a guy was JUST pulling it off the carousel as we got there. Unlucky for the other guy, his bag was nowhere to be seen. Also, Continental was giving some bullshit about his ticket. We ended up separating there, and I found out later that he was at the airport for a couple more hours. I got some lunch, which then became my dinner, and then went looking for the hotel shuttle.

The Wyndham Hotel by the airport is actually not too shabby. I was very impressed by their bath products, which were Bath & Body Works True Blue Spa. [Oh MAN I'm getting cold. Still can't see my breath though, which is all right]. Also, most of the people working there were really nice. I got in, got situated, and passed out until nightfall. It did me a lot of good, I think. At some point after I woke up, I realized I was sitting in a king-sized bed. I turned on all the lights, but still things seemed dim. I went for a spin, to get some ice and buy something to drink. I got some guava juice, ate the rest of my corned beef sandwich, and watched Family Guy and CNN. After a bit more time, I went to use my dinner voucher in the hotel restaurant. It was only $7, but after my sandwich, I really just wanted some soup. The split pea was pretty good. I then decided to follow it up with fruit, but the fruit salad didn't sound that great. The other option was melon, which, at this time of year, is cantaloupe. I ordered cantaloupe. I was presented with half of a cantaloupe and a steak knife. This was beyond my wildest dreams. I got it wrapped up and took it back upstairs. Back in the room, I watched a little bit of American Gladiators, and listened to my ipod through the alarm clock, read, wrote, figured out why the internet hadn't been working for me. I showered too, which was nice. Then... more sleep.

Everything went smoothly the next day, if you don't count me carrying way too much stuff everywhere. The passengers were sparse, so there was an empty seat between me and my rowmate. It was actually cramped though because the seat in front of me reclined to the point that if I sat up straight, it would have been on my forehead. So eating was ridiculous. The guy I was sitting with was nice, and before the flight ended he offered me a couple Reese's cups for the road. I finally got to see The Secret Life of Bees, which played on one of my SFO flights, but which I didn't watch then because you have to pay for Delta's headsets. It was good. I teared up.

So, obviously the multi-entry visa worked just as described. I'm presumably all set for the next 120 days. I'm going to be here less than 120 days. That somehow just made me feel a bit better. At baggage claim, I moved most of the books back into my suitcase. Then...

I wasn't 100% sure how I was going to get back to TEDA from the airport. I'd been told in the past that there was a bus, and I was hoping to just... ask a bunch of people and figure out where I could find it. FYI, girls working information at PEK don't really speak English. But one of them directed me out exit 11 to where the shuttle buses were waiting. I went to the end of the line to find the Tianjin stop and ask if there was anything anywhere going to where I was going. I am stating for the record right now, for anyone who googles "Beijing airport bus to TEDA," there is, as of February 7th, 2009, NO BUS from the airport to TEDA, or even Tanggu station. I asked what they suggested, but even if I took the bus to Tianjin, taxiing around there to get either to the light rail or just back to TEDA would have been way more than I was willing to spend. Also, I don't know Tianjin at all. Also, no way was I dragging my suitcase around any place I didn't know.

So... I turned around, and headed down to the Express Train to the subway. I figured I'd be able to make a train to Tanggu and maybe still avoid a population crush. For reference, our plane landed at about 2:45pm.

Took the express to Sanyuanqiao, and decided to just get off there. It seemed like it might be easier to navigate than Dongzhimen (where I got lost and annoyed last time) and would drop off higher up on the 5, and I wanted to get on that as soon as possible. This was not a bad idea, as it turned out, except some random girl cut in front of me to buy a subway ticket (and I HATE that shit) and I had to put all my bags through the x-ray (but one of the attendants helped me) and then one of the girls at the x-ray machine really wanted to see if she could lift my suitcase but never actually asked me-- she just took it from the guy and started carrying it away and I had to walk after her with this look on my face like "do you realize that I'm here to catch a train" and even when I finally got it back from her she didn't say a single word to me, just stared off into space with this vacuous smile on her face. Also, no down escalator in that station.

It was a bit weird on the train, this guy who'd been standing near me on the platform decided to strike up a conversation. He asked if I was coming from abroad, where I'd been, did I spend new years there, was it fun... I was like... this is not information that I feel comfortable divulging on the subway when I have so much stuff to deal with. Then came the typical "are you from the south" and I ended up just telling him that I was from the US. He complimented my Chinese, at which point I noticed a girl laughing. I have no idea either way, but I just had the feeling that she was laughing at this conversation. THEN he went and said that he felt comfortable talking to me? Like... you know when you first see someone...something something something, did I know what he meant? I said I didn't know. Cuz I only caught part of it anyways, and it just didn't seem like something I wanted to agree to. He said that I had a nice smile. And something about teeth showing. I said thanks and just... tried to avoid making eye contact again. I was really not feeling whatever this was that was going on. Anyways, as I was about to exit he started going through his wallet for his card, but, too bad, he didn't have any on him. Oh well! I rushed to transfer. No down escalator here either, but some guy behind me took pity and helped me get my bag down the steps. The train here was packed. It was on this train that I realized that I hate the general pushiness of the population here. Like... the people I'm ok with (for the most part... there have been a few so-called "customer service" agents I've wanted to slap), people you talk to are generally nice. But lordy the population, the pushing, shoving, cutting, yelling, and general disregard for others that you get at ticket counters, on subways, at crosswalks, pisses me off to no end. This is what I typically find myself complaining about at the end of a long day.

The whole subway trip from Sanyuanqiao took maybe an hour? I was so relieved to finally make it to Liujiayao, but was slightly apprehensive because I didn't know which exit to take. Last time I tried this, I took a couple different exits, and by the time I figured out which was the right one, I was completely muddled. The problem this time was that I was only giving myself one shot to get the right one. If it was wrong, the trouble it would take to either get my bags back downstairs, or across the street, or, heaven forbid, up the stairs to a skybridge, across the street, and down back to street level, would be more than it was worth to just take a taxi from any of the incorrect exits. But... man, I'm cheap here. I went with the Northwest exit. For future reference, THIS IS THE CORRECT EXIT. I chose it because it ran completely opposite to what my guess would have been. I figured I must have tried Southeast last time, and it turns out that was true. Turns out there's a part of the ascent from the station that involves stairs. There's a wheelchair lift, evidently, but I'm guessing I would have had a lot of trouble getting that operating anyways. But a girl coming up behind me offered to help. Again, awesome. Especially awesome because by this point my body had really almost had it.

When I got above-ground, my first thought was "CRAP." Then I realized that I was in the right place. Confirmed when I saw the big Suning building. Started making my way to the bus stop, and the 652 bus came right as I approached. I still had to bang on the door to get them to let me on, and at that point dragged my suitcase on like it was a piece of carrion, first heaving it onto its side, dragging it a few inches, then pulling it upright. Paid for 2 tickets-- one for me and one for my suitcase. It occurred to me that I would have thrown a tantrum if, say, the AC Transit driver demanded a second fare for a suitcase. But this did not faze me when it happened multiple times on my way through Beijing in December, and I didn't give a whit this time either.

The 652 made quick time to Beijing Nan, I got my ass up the escalator, through security, and over to an automatic ticketing machine. Hell if I was going to deal with an actual ticketing agent. It was 5:10. The only ticket available to me (or so it seemed... the machine wasn't very sensitive and I was really unfocused so I couldn't really tell what was going on) was 18:50, which I originally interpreted, incorrectly of course, as 5:50. I figured it out though. I sat around for an hour and a half, reading, kind of comfy, but slowly needing to pee more and more.

I discovered, upon boarding the train, that there was actually enough room for my suitcase in the seat with me. There was no legroom, but at least I could keep it within my sight and not have to drag it any further. So I grabbed the window seat, caused some confusion for the other two fellas in my row when they finally showed up, but no biggie. Stacked my things on top of one another. My ipod has now chosen not to play yet another one of my favorite songs. SIGH. After receiving my free bottle of Tibetan spring water, I just collapsed over my things-- basically wrapped my body around them-- and fell asleep for the ride. I woke up for a few things: the arrival in Tianjin, and several moments when the guy in front of me tried to recline his seat. Usually, whatever, but with my suitcase, he couldn't really get his seat back as far as... he would have liked it? I couldn't tell if he was just a flopper or if he was actively trying to push his seat back farther than I was letting him go. But every time he did whatever he was doing, my suitcase tilted, and world got rocked.

I was in a total daze upon exiting at Tanggu. I was also freezing. I just wanted to get in a taxi and get back to TEDA. The swarm of people grabbing taxis at the exit, though, was insane. In the past, I've either had the mobility to wander farther afield for a taxi, or have had to purchase tickets for another trip and so missed the mass exodus that I was at that moment being swept into. I'm actually not sure what happened. A man asked where I was going. I told him, and assumed that I'd be going with him. But then he asked another group of people where they were going. Then they asked him how much he was charging, and I was like, wait, I can't handle that right now. So I started walking the line, looking for the point where the number of people jumping taxis petered out. Then suddenly another man was in front of me, asking if I was going to TEDA. I'm still not sure how he knew. But he said what sounded like 10 yuan to go, and motioned me into his cab where two other women were sitting. He'd already whisked away my suitcase and I was trying to figure out in my head if I was getting ripped off or not. Well, not, I was saving at least Y1.40. I got in. Was slightly unsure if he knew exactly where he was taking me. We dropped one woman off first, then I got into the front seat and then remembered my thing about sitting in the front seat of Chinese vehicles with no seatbelts. I think I did not fasten my seatbelt. He drove me in to the complex as far as he could, I gave him a 20 just to see if he'd really said 10, and he had. I clambered upstairs, and about 5 and a half hours after touching down in Beijing, I was "home."