Since we both don't work Tuesday morning, Silvy and I decided to wake up early and make it to the fabric market outside of the city center to pick up nice patterns for drapes. This friendly woman from Hubei province took us back on a bicycle rickshaw, something rare in the city center. We tipped her and asked for her photo.



Ariel posted a lot of photos of our apartment on his blog. Check them out and be sure to bookmark his page.



(On the lower left hand corner is a coffeshop. Near 苏州街 in extremely west Beijing)



From our north facing balcony on a particularly sunny day.
(Click to enlarge and pan)

I live in a 小区, or gated community, like the overwhelming majority of Beijingers. Most of these neighborhoods used to be 四合院儿 ("
si he you-are"), or traditional north Chinese four room courtyard homes. Our neighborhood is called 香饵胡同 ("she-ang are who tong") which means "fragrant cake alleyway." A hundred years ago, our alleyway was the place to get yummy steamed flour cakes, apparently.

--Address 房子地址--

Xianger hutong
5 hao lou, 11 dan yuan, 501 shi
Dongcheng district
Beijing, China




Yesterday Silvia, Xin, and I went to the newly opened Qianmen main street, a street with a long history but which had been neglected or bulldozed over the years. Construction hasn't been too long, or at least it seemed to have started a few months after we got to China, but the results are impressively impossible in the way that Chinese construction speed can be.

Although not totally finished, the street will soon be a great alternative to nearby 王府井 (wangfujing), which is the designated shopping zone for tourists only under the actual Communist era near the venerable, Stalinist architecture Beijing Hotel to the east of 天安门 (Tiananmen). Qianmen main street will focus on being a mostly historical recreation with famous tea houses, dumpling shops, hat makers, cobblers, silk qipao dressmakers, etc. while Wangfujing will continue to expand on it's Oriental Plaza, one of the largest malls in Asia, with less state owned eyesores and more Nike museums. (Really.) It's a very wise investment and helps to break up the hideous crowds that seem to focus on a few areas in what is the most visually impressive part of Beijing.

Besides the walking and light shopping, we also had Tianjin's famous 狗不理 dumplings ("Even the dogs ignore (him)" dumplings) in a Qianmen shop. The tongue-in-cheek name comes from one of two possible stories: it's ether the original chief's childhood name, which is designed to scare off spirits or illness that would attack him, or was a joke about his attitude or personal appearance.

The dumplings had been given an English name just in time for the Olympics: "Go Believe," which is similar in pronunciation, but lacks purpose, interest and undermines the colorfulness of the actual name. (Do they actually check any English they use anywhere here?) At any rate, they are deservedly famous; the ones we had were filled with shrimp, pork and sea cucumber and had a rich, fragrant, seafood taste.


正阳门 (Zhengyangmen), which is the traditional 15th century main south gate into the central walled city of Beijing. A huge archery tower, rebuilt with German elements in the 19th century, stands directly north of this entrance. The wall that now stands used to circle the entire central city, along with a moat, during the Medieval era.

A warm dog on a side street in part of the restored area.

The restored 前门大街 (qianmen main street) directly south of the 正阳门. The restored street is a copy of the same street in the early 19th century during the end of the Feudal era, and many of the original buildings on this street were left to decay once the Communists took over. It is brand new and starting to fill up with businesses, which is impossibly different from the surrounding 前门 neighborhood; all decaying state-owned businesses, abandoned buildings and hutongs.

Me with friend Xin, who I met in Vietnam.

Silvy in front of the resorted Qianmen main street. This would have originally lied outside of the main gates, so it would have been filled with shops, restaurants, banks, wealthy homes and businesses.



The trio plus our friend Ruby went to a party held at a friend's apartment. The place was really upscale with an actual bathtub and balcony furniture, things that are nearly foreign to me in my string of cheaper, Chinese apartments.

一个故事:A few days ago while riding the bus, I gave up my seat to a woman who looked really tired, who was clinging weakly to the bar above her head. We started a conversation very much in the mold of conversations I've had many times before: Where do you study? What are you doing in China? Are you French? (I get this one a lot) When I told her I was American, she asked which city. She didn't recognize Miami, but when I explained I was from the southern part of America she excitedly told me about a book she'd been reading about, as far as I could understand, the movement of Northerners to the South and a lot of loss in a family. She attempted the English name, which I couldn't understand, and so I handed her a piece of paper. On it she wrote: "Gone with the Wind" and 漂风, meaning something like "drifting in the wind." It was somehow surprising and cute.

My current life is a lot of studying, a bit of painting, and not spending my limited money. Tonight I'm heading to a German art event with my friend, Xin.