Me and 王海燕 (or Anna) studying characters and practicing English.


Just got finished eating roast duck with a variety of people, including Saul's mom. (His parents came to visit and his sister is coming soon, so I'm horrendously jealous.) We ate near Dongsishitiao in the ancient granary where there is now several bars and fancy restaurants. There is even a salsa club there and we briefly walked in and saw several Chinese dancing to loud Cuban music. (A strange, amazing sight.)

Nothing else to report. Otherwise a quiet Saturday. Tomorrow I teach Toby and I haven't seen him at all last week since it was his 11th birthday and class was canceled. I've got to plan something for him.



This one is much bigger, 60x40 cm. There is a common type of signage in China that features animals that you are about to eat blankly staring or frolicking on a huge plane of grass and forest. If a restaurant features dog there are dogs with their tongues wagging, if they have chicken hot pot as well as lamb, both animals are bonding on a pixelated green field. They are most popular at 串 (chuan, grilled meat on a stick) establishments, but are really ubiquitous. Everything is copy paste, artificial looking, deeply strange. The sign here says "grilled deer meat" and was taken loosely from a picture of a vendor during Spring Festival.


Thanks for all your encouragement! I really feel better today.

Yesterday was dragon boat festival, so I went after work to 后海 (Houhai) which is a historical hutong next to a very old artificial lake. Walking in there were about 300 people ballroom dancing to music played off of crackling speakers, and in the lake there were dragon boats, impossible to see in the darkness except for the lanterns hanging off their sides. When I see things like this I realize how much I completely love this place, so deeply. This area is a promenade with a million restaurants and trendy bards with a smallish man singing Thai love ballads and an Arabic woman on stage in one place furiously belly dancing. (Chinese women seem to really love bellydancing.)

For the festival, everyone is supposed to eat these triangular rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves filled with dates or dry pork. Delicious. I had plently.

I have a couple other paintings I will post soon.


What I'm missing.

想家 Homesickness is setting in bad. I want to overcome this. I'm doing the best I can, but I think I'm getting out less than I had before. The cycle of work, home, work, home is taking it's toll and I can't stop thinking about Miami. I'm not seeing Masa anymore. I'm lonely. Maybe the trip to Yunnan in summer will help.



It's a bit out of focus, but this is a recent painting. (around 9 by 11" oil on canvas) All 35 fruits are copied from a local ad from this tremendous supermarket nearby. The ad had Chinese underneath, but I left it out, maybe thinking of these as vague objects... some are distinguishable, some not. This feeling of not really understanding things, general confusion about the use of nearly everything makes even a visit to the supermarket a deeply puzzling experience. I'm in a sea of unfamiliar things.



Silvy might take work at The National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts, teaching English to acrobats and opera singers. It sounds incredible, but it would require she move to Fengtai district (on campus) in two months. We'll see what happens, although I wouldn't mind living someone other than Wudaokou, but I don't know exactly where I'd live. Maybe a more Chinese neighborhood with less Korean groceries and seedy clubs.

I'm being given a legit work visa, meaning I had to get a physical yesterday. I was led into various room, blood was drawn and I was given a chest x-ray. The staff was very friendly, everything was clean and designed for us picky, money-to-burn foreigners. Hopefully I'm completely healthy. This full work visa is a very big deal; it means that I can come in and out of the country as often as I'd like for as long as I'm hired by the company and gives me the option to apply for a Chinese green card. (not sure if I'll do that...) It also gives me a lot more protection in case things go wrong. Most English teachers, especially younger, barely qualified ones like me, work on F visas, which are not legit, but are usually not scrutinized so heavily.

I'll never be able to pronounce the Chinese "r" or speak like a native Beijinger. I'm owning my strong American accent.

We hired a maid, or an 阿姨 (a yi, or "ah ee") which is what Chinese called maids, which actually means "auntie." She cleans our place ridiculously well for a ridiculously low amount of money. I feel like a real imperialist.

Last week I saw a very funny man with a long beard and a traditional Chinese men's jacket with knot buttons near the wudaokou subway station selling bootleg DVDs, but only extremely arty ones like Pasolini, Derek Jarman movies, and lots of bootleg albums. He also sold banned stuff like the BBC documentary on China (with Chinese subtitles) and certain art films that would never pass the censors here. I bought some stuff from him and he told me to come back the next day, but he wasn't there and hasn't been there since. Hope he's okay.



死花 on my windowsill


Gallerie urs Meile (located in a hutong)

The actual reality surrounding Galerie Urs Meile (burning trash pile a couple steps outside)



Things we would do together:

* 清华美术学院 (Tsinghua Art school) I just saw this place yesterday yet it's a 10 minute walk from my house. It's tremendous, housed in a very attractive, very new building with giant wooden panels and red ropes running across the center of the atrium. You can see Chinese students studying surprisingly Soviet-realist oil painting, or mixtures of saluting Mao statues, dragons, and giant red fiberglass contemporary-ness all mixed together in the sculpture garden. Very pleasant with a cheap cafe on site.

* 胡同 (hutong neighborhoods) Crumbling ancient buildings with slope-eaved roofs together with cheap construction efforts and white titled supply stores, noodle carts selling jiangbing pancakes, old men walking their cages birds, questionable massage parlors, Xinjiang men with wool caps grilling skewered mutton while shirtless construction workers drink qingdao beer and smoke strong cigarettes. The soul of north China.

* 草场地 (Caochangdi) This really goes along with 七九八 (798 Art district) and is the darling of the contemporary art scene in China. 草场地 is the more serious of the two, with a recently moved in Dutch gallery with fortress like walls right inside a rather serious hutong. 798 is more drama and cafes, lots more tourists and 10x the size.

* 饭! (food!) This is countless and beyond description, and the food scene here is incomparable and very cheap, even for high-end restaurants.

* 七彩大世界 (Embassy market) Not sure of the English name of this place, but it's near 女人街 (Women's street) This market has an impossibly random assortment of revolutionary grenade launchers and espresso machines, cell phones and counterfeit dresses, used furniture and old records. The whole area around it is terribly strange with a kosher and African themed restaurant on the same street.

* 钟鼓楼 (Drum and Bell tower area) A solid strip of nice restaurants, DVD and anime shops, traditional candy and toy stores, Yunnan bars, mellow music coming from cafes, incredibly real hutong, etc. surrounded by the most beautiful setting in the entire city, with the ancient bell towers visible from everywhere in the area, trained pigeons with whistles attached buzzing overhead and enough places to see and walk around to occupy the whole night.

* Besides this, there are more obvious tourist sites in and around Beijing (great wall, ming tombs, Tiananmen, Forbidden City...) plus dozens of smaller or unnoted places. I'll keep up with the posting, and everything is fine with me here! A little homesick still, but managing to do well here.


Today I had a great day at 七九八 (798) or the 大山子 (Dashanzi) area, which is Beijing's major art space. Saw a few decent shows, particularly interesting photography, met and had tea with one of Masa's gallery owner friends, witnessed the throngs of imported 外国人 (foreigners) entering via tremendous buses, heard incredibly terrible Chinese from a group of Italians that helped improve my self-esteem, bought little gifties, etc. etc...

Small victory story: I went with Saul to eat dumplings in a tiny place near the Beijing language school amidst flower-printed aluminum mugs and extension cords and I struck up a conversation with an older Korean lady. She told me her husband works in Beijing University in some computer field, she's lived here for the same amount of time that I have, she had a giant birthday and an equally giant cake the week before with lots of her friends, (of which come from all over), and she talked a bit about Korea and her family. The small victory part is that she didn't speak English at all, so we used our Chinese, which is poor on both ends, but we managed to actually communicate and somehow I knew nearly everything she told me and somehow she knew nearly everything I told her.

Sometimes it feels just so impossible that I'm here.

Pictures below.

International Children's Day

Work of a Dutch photographer at 七九八

Incredibly faint projection at 七九八.


Near the embassy district

fashion at 女人街