Tuesday, August 21, 2007

This Blog Is Closed

Thanks for reading, everyone!  This blog is now closed; no new posts will be added.  However, it will remain available for your viewing pleasure.  If you'd like to leave a comment, please do it soon, before I close comments. 

Please click over to my new blog, you don't have to read II (and if you have an suggestions for a better title, I'm listening).  There, you will find the vast majority of the posts from you don't have to read and China Trippin', as well as all the new posts from my new life in Shanghai, China.  This new blog will be easier for me to work with in China. 

Monday, August 20, 2007

Home Sweet Home

So landing in the US was kind of a trip. They showed some practical joke show on the plane right before landing, which eliminated landing anxiety for most people, but I hate practical joke shows; I manually turned my screen to black and looked out the window, to find we were already at treetop level and descending.

Passport control asked me why I was in China and what I was doing there. Not really much of a thing. Then, waiting for my bags, one of the Homeland Security Agents whose job it is to size up and intimidate the recent arrivals saw me waiting for my bag to come down the carrousel, and asked to see my passport and arrival document. Fine, man, I'm woose.

No 'good morning,' no 'sir,' no 'please' or 'thank you,' DHS is too busy protecting us from terrorists to bother with pleasantries.

HSD: Can I see your passport and arrival document?
me: Sure.

HSD: Where did you go?

me: China

HSD: How long were you there?
me: Six weeks.
HSD: What were you there for?
me: Studying Chinese.
HSD: So you speak Chinese now?
me: Better than I did six weeks ago.
HSD: Shay shay?

me: Ok, you're welcome... (are you kiding
HSD: (studying my response)
me: ... You said, "thank you."
HSD: Yah, ok I'm workin' here.

He looked at my documents for a few more seconds and I watched the bags come down the ramp. He handed my papers back to me with an "ok" and went to look for the next adult male who looked like he was traveling alone. Two minutes later, another agent, buffer and with a military haircut, came and asked me the same questions, only without the language quiz.

Once I got my bags, I stopped at last check point... and was diverted to agricultural inspection. My bags were scanned another time, and an older, more professional looking agent with better social skills confiscated my beef jerky candies, warned me about the $300 fine. After that, I walked out of the security area. They took my bags a second time, and I walked out to claim them on the other side.

My sister met me at the main baggage claim. Once I got home, it was gifts, shower, nap, lunch (Chinese food!) and then we went out to see the Simpsons' movie.

And that's it. That's how China Trippin' ends. I asked E to write a guest post, but he's a busy man, and I'm not holding my breath. So there I don't expect there will be much more at China Trippin'.

If you'd like to keep reading about my life, please don't hesitate to email me. If you don't already know it, I can send you the link to the semi-anonymous blog I've been keeping since 2003 (which I'm about to wrap up here pretty soon) as well as the new blog I'm planning to start as I fold up my tents in Seattle and start a new life in Shanghai.

For those of you that were reading in China, you no longer need to access through anonymouse.com, you can just use the plain old address.

So thanks, readers, for reading, and thanks especially for your comments (you can continue to comment on any post, I will see them!). I hope you enjoyed my time in Hangzhou as much as I did. If you were one of my classmates in Hangzhou, please don't be a stranger.

I'm home

I made it home, everyone!  Yay!  Now for a shower and a nap! 

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Cannot and Should not

So I'm watching a K-pop video now in the free internet lounge in the airport.  Just the other day I was walking down the street with C, talking about how K-pop videos are better than Chinese pop music in terms of interesing music, music production, video production, and even choreography.  C commented that the one Chinese pop song he could get behind, "Wo Ai Ni," he found out it was sung by a Korean dude.  Are Filipinos making flashy videos? 
So the guys at the hotel desk went home, their shift ended.  There was a new lady at the desk, and when I asked her, she said I could go out into the city, just ask information and then ask again at immigration.  Sweet!  That is so different than the 'yes, but you'd have to check out of the hotel' that the dudes gave me. 
(Remind me to learn how to say, "Please don't get up" in Korean.  Every time I pass the front desk they stand up to welcome me.  I wondered if it was my eye contact that was making them stand, but I'd rather learn how to say, "Please don't get up" than train myself to not make eye contact.)
So I went down to find immigration, and it's not easy.  Since they don't require transfer passengers to go through immigration, they've eliminated the exits from the terminals.  I would have to go downstairs if I wanted to go though immigration, and I don't know the hell to get down there.   
I asked at the information desk, and the lady gave me a recommendation:  I should not go out.  It would take hours just to get into the city, if you count the time it takes to get through immigration.  So I think I'm officially discouraged.  I know now that if someone says you can't, you should keep asking until they say you can; but if they say you shouldn't, that's a different story.  I'll go into Seoul in October.  Maybe I'll take two days, stay in a hotel in town. 
So for breakfast the information lady pointed me down the hall to a food court.  There was Burger King, KFC, Dunkin Donuts, and two Korean places.  I went to one of them, and saw that they have mool naeng myun, yah baby!  I'll have that for lunch.  For breakfast I had bibimpab.  It was awesome.  When I get home I think I'm going to buy some gochuchan. 
So now what?  It's 8:30 am, my flight is at 5 pm.  Hotel checkout is 4:30.   I think it's going to be like this:  eating, blogging, eating, tv, eating... maybe there will be napping.  Maybe I'll do a lap around the concourse for exercise.  I think this concourse is three miles long. 

I lived the dream

I think it's out of my system now.  After a couple years of singing "I Wish I Could Go Back to College" and meaning it, I basically did it.  I lived in a dorm, had a meal card, was even in a play (in a manner of speaking).  I even went out and bought a dry erase board during the first week, but then E took the pens, and I got a cell phone, so the dry erase board was more nostalgia than anything else. 
Before I came, I was never worried about the food, or foreign bathrooms, or getting sick; I was mostly worried about a) whether my roommate would be stinky/dirty, and b) my snoring.  Well, X was not stinky/dirty, and he insisted that I didn't snore that loud.  Really?  Remind me someday to write a post about the lady in a downstairs apartment who went insane and left an insane note on my door because of my snoring, which she could hear through the floor. 
Two things suprised me about my "return to college" experience.  One was that I became friends with people, something I had resolved not to worry about on this, my fourth study aboad experience.  In earlier experiences, I wasted lots of time with people I didn't really care about, just because I was too insecure to strike out on my own.  So on the third day, when E said he wanted to go into the city with me, I thought about saying, naw, man, forget it, I want to just go get lost on my own.  I had gone into the city the day before, and they had spent the whole time talking to each other instead of looking around and getting to know the place.  In that first week, I had a hard time walking and speaking Chinese at the same time.  Luckily, E was down for getting lost (and not a lot of talking), and we became friends after that. 
The other thing that surprised me about this "return to college" experience was how quickly I gave up on trying to learn for the sake of learning.  After the first week, once I realized how long the homework was taking me, I started doing it purely to finish.  At midterm the teachers cut back on the homework, but they cut back on some of the drill-type exercises and kept the exercises that were pedagogically problematic, and I was too resentful to spend any more time on that crap.  My chair was hard, the lighting was bad, people kept interrupting...  I stopped reviewing vocab, and just concentrated on knowing what I needed to know to to get my homework done.  Even on exams, there were times I didn't read the question, just scanned for the one key word that would eliminate three of the four multiple choices.  Bad student!  Bad! 
Oh well, I'll be back in China in a few weeks.  I will do ChinesePod.com and probably hire a tutor, maybe work out an exchange.  My prof from grad school learned Mandarin and Cantonese using tutors, told me she hated classes.  I think I was professionally against "hating classes" at the time, but at this point in my life I might permit myself to hate classes.  At the time I was worried; what if the tutor was no good?  She said, then you fire that tutor and get a new one.  At the time, I think I was too insecure to hear that, but at this point in my life, I'm pretty sure I'm secure enough to fire someone who's not doing what I'm paying them for.  I think those jazz guitar lessons are what sent me over the edge. 
Ha ha, I took jazz guitar lessons. 

Airport Bummer

So I got up early this morning to get ready to go into Seoul.  I went and got my boarding pass so I could get back past security, but now the guy at the desk is telling me I would have to check out of my room, which I don't want to do.  I'm sure if I had just gone past immigration without asking the desk, they wouldn't worry about checking me out.  But I'm not going to risk it if there's a chance I can't come back in.
Oh well.  I'll be back in Seoul soon enough, and I'll go sight seeing next time.
So now my plan is to eat airport breakfast, eat airport lunch.... probably eat an airport snack before my 5pm boarding time.  It's twenty minutes to 7am now.  I'll just put it on my credit card. 
I should mention that my hotel room number is 206; very easy to remember. 

Airport Hotel

So I'm at the hotel inside the security zone of the Seoul airport, and it's expensive and small and awesome.  I was going to make a list of all the things I like about being here in Seoul, but right now I'm a little annoyed at myself for leaving my ethernet cable in Hangzhou.  So instead of blogging from the privacy of my room, I'm in the business office. 

Oh well, later I'll go upstairs to the free internet lounge. 

For now, I just wanted to let you all know I made it safely to Seoul.  And I love it here so far.  Tomorrow morning I'll get my boarding pass, and then take a bus into Seoul to see some sights.  I can hang out in town until around three pm probably, come back to the airport, check out of the hotel, and get on my flight. 

I love unrestricted internet access!  So fast!  So much I can see!  No sneaky backdoors to bypass govt and university firewalls!