Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Beijing Stuff, and more pictures from week 1

If I blogged like this and this, do you think I'd get more hits?

I'm not an attractive girl, so that will hurt my chances a little. Still... question remains.

Thank you, Beijing Stuff, for absolutely nothing. I really can't think of a better way of expressing my thoughts on that.

Actually, a few more thoughts. BJS seems like a small 'Net community, which means, inevitably, there will be poachers. Male, usually. Actually, always. If you spend enough time surfing BJS, you'll find a sort that's -- how do I put this -- promiscuous. Slimy, even. Which makes me wonder: is this really the best way to go after women? I mean, yes, probably, if you're English-oriented and lonely and outgoing. But should it be? And -- totally for blogging purposes, of course -- would you be interested in reading about me turning into one of them?

The young women of China all have very nice figures, due, no doubt, to a healthy diet (the Chinese are very health-conscious, balancing their foods, eating three meals, making sure to eat fruits, etc.) and genetics. This makes them all very... ah, there is no other way of expressing this, so excuse the expression... fuckable. This is actually a very bad thing when you haven't had sex for a long time.

More pictures:

View from Jiujiu's fifth-floor apartment, which is currently my home base (though I'm shifty).

Beihang, which is Zhang Peng's workplace (he's a manager in the IT department).

Luis Scola is one of Li Ning's spokesmen, so he's rather popular around here. He also plays on China's adopted NBA team, the Houston Rockets.

No country for old men? Not here. The Chinese treat their elderly very well. (And I'm sorry for how I introduced this picture, but I would lay down my pride for Cormac McCarthy any day of the week.)

Little kids sitting in front of the Beihang Sports Complex, which will host the weightlifting event during the Olympics. China's first gold medal might be won in that building (the one on the left).


POSTSCRIPT: This is a really addictive site, and these photo galleries will ruin your workday. Proceed at your own risk.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dramatis personae and glossary of terms

Guide to pinyin here. Really helpful pinyin table here, with audio.

Terms defined, people identified:

ZHANG FAMILY (mother's side)
Laoye: grandfather
Laolao: grandmother
Jiujiu: uncle
Xiaoyi: aunt (I'll commonly refer to her as simply "aunt")

TAO FAMILY (dad's side)
Yeye: grandfather
Nainai: grandmother
Gugu: aunt
Shushu: uncle

Jiuma: Jiujiu's first wife (Zhen Yi)
Xiao Wang (name of Jiujiu's second wife)
Gufu: Gugu's husband
Shir: Shushu's wife (Tao Yu)

Zhang Mingyu, 18 (12th grade)
Zhang Peng (sometimes referred to as Dapeng), 29
Tao Yuan, 16 (11th grade)
Fang Fang, 1
Fei Fei, 1

Uncles (2) and aunts (2) underlined
Cousins italicized
Men: black; women: red

Quick note: my dad is seven years older than my mom, but they're both the eldest of three children, and I am their eldest (only) child.

  • Qiu wa(er): Go fuck yourself
  • RMB (pinyin: renmenbi): Yuan (Chinese currency, worth approximately 7x less than the dollar)
  • Zhajianmian (paste noodle): A noodle dish involving a dark meat paste, served with thin slices of cucumbers, green onions and other toppings.




Fang Fang and Fei Fei playing fetch

Fang Fang and Fei Fei are Jiujiu's (uncle on mom's side) twin sons by his second wife. They're a year old and bundles of joy when not crying and annoying their dad.

Train crash kills at least 70

This just happened while I was typing my previous post:

JINAN, China - A high-speed passenger train jumped its tracks and slammed into another train in eastern China on Monday, killing at least 70 people and injuring more than 400 in China's worst train accident in a decade.

Authorities were quoted as saying that human error was to blame.

Sort of sickening. More details to come when I wake up tomorrow.

Picture tour of Changan Jie

In interviews, occasionally I'm asked, "How would you describe yourself?" Next time I will answer: "Let me give you an idea of the things I think about. I was standing in a public restroom in Hebei -- that's "North Lake," just north of Beijing -- looking down at a row of three squat toilets -- no walls separating them, mind you -- two of them just about overfilled with mounds of feces, when I wondered, just before doing my business -- No. 1, not 2... thankfully -- whether I should be regretting that I don't have my camera on hand to snap a picture. You know, to post on the Internet. I would be that sort of employee, too: mindful."

I would be hired on the spot.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Toilet humor should always be deferred.

Yao Ming and Jingjing (its real name) welcome you into Beijing.

Here are some pictures I took while my uncle (pictured right) drove down Changan Jie after picking me up at the airport on Wednesday. Changan Jie, or Eternal Peace Avenue, is the main thoroughfare in Beijing, a East-West street on which you'll find a bunch of foreign embassies, Tiananmen, the Forbidden Palace, Beihai Park and more foreigners than anywhere else in the city, with the possible exception of Houhai, a bar district, on Friday and Saturday nights (more on this later).

A hotel frequented by important Canadian officials, like Terrence and Phillip. You can barely see it, but there's a Canadian flag on that flagpost.

That hotel, however, pales in comparison with the Beijing Hotel, which is to China as the Mayflower Hotel is to the U.S.:

This next one I have no idea.

Central Government headquarters are located behind the gate in this next photo:

Cars are sort of an infestation these days in Beijing, but that doesn't mean bikes are out of style:

This is the National Grand Theater, which isn't very popular among the Chinese for various reasons, but mostly because it's ugly -- and uglier when the sky's gray, which is to say 345 days of the year, as it sort of blends into the enveloping smog. It's designed by Frenchman Paul Andreu, who tried to create a forward-looking structure while preserving the city's past -- the thing's next to Tiananmen Square, after all -- except the thing evokes nothing of the past and might even be an affront to it. Nonetheless, I will say this: it shimmers, it does look futuristic, and it's gigantic. The titanium was a nice touch; without it, China's imperial theater would just be a gaudier version of Assembly Hall in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.

Later that first night in town I went out to dinner with Jiujiu (uncle on mom's side), his wife, his wife's mother, his twin sons, an old family friend named Zhang Wei and two of my three other first-cousins, pictured below:

Me, Zhang Mingyu (Jiujiu's first son from a since-divorced wife), Zhang Peng (cousin on father's side of family)

This was taken at Shaguoju, one of the oldest (and best, partly because it's not overpriced) restaurants in Beijing.

And finally, here are Jiujiu's twin boys, and lots of food that hopefully makes you jealous.

Fang Fang is the older one -- he's got the bigger head -- and Fei Fei is the younger; "fang fei" in Chinese means "let fly."

POSTSCRIPT: There's a reality show on Beijing TV called Dragon's Protege, where contestants from around the country compete in various grueling contests to become Jackie Chan's protege. For the record, "dragon" is not Chan's nickname... it's a stand-in for martial artists everywhere (Dragon, however, was Bruce Lee's nickname; he's called Lee Little Dragon ("Little" does not mean diminutive here, as Allen Iverson can tell you)). Anyway, when I say "grueling," I don't mean complete-a-dress-in-12-hours grueling. I mean leg-breakingly grueling. That actually happened -- a contestant broke his leg in one of the events. Also, a girl was grappling along a horizontal cable when her glove got caught, but instead of dropping down into the sand below, she continued on, and by the end welts covered her palms. I can't wait for Survivor to make its way into China.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The art of haggling

Backdated entry, written May 6, 2008, 7:49 p.m.

Today Jiuma picked me up and whisked me into the car of her friend, Zhang Ting, to go to Golden Key International Furniture Plaza in Hebei, about an hour and a half away from Beijing. If I had known I was being taken to a furniture store to buy a bed and cabinet/desk combo for Zhang Ting's two-year-old son, I would have protested furiously.

Let me note here, for the record, that I don't like Zhang Ting. She's in her mid-40s yet acts about 12. Her mannerisms befit someone who hasn't figured out the world doesn't revolve around her, and while her diction is slightly more sophisticated than that of valley girls, her style of delivery is exactly that of a bratty prom queen wannabe on MTV. She's not afraid to speak her mind -- to offend, in other words -- yet I doubt she's expressed an informed opinion in her life. She's also judgmental and sort of a prude. If I were a different person and this were, say, a G-chat conversation, I'd call her a cunt.

She has the potential to be helpful in the near future -- she's Jiuma's best friend, and as a favor to Jiuma said she'd get me an interview with one of the Beijing Olympic Committee's bosses (I did not ask for this, by the way) -- but after spending one day with her, I've had just about enough. I can tell she's full of resentment, for Westerners in general and me specifically, and thinks nothing of my abilities. I wouldn't put it past her to sabotage this future, supposed meeting. She's deduced that I hold liberal, anti-Chinese ideas and comprehend nothing of Chinese culture, all because my language skills are, in her words, "this pathetic."

(Actually, the exchange went something like this while we were in the car driving up to Hebei, me completely unsuspecting that we'd be in this car for nearly two hours:

Her: "So, is your Chinese really this pathetic?"

Me, daring her to challenge me again: "Pretty much.")

At dinner in Hebei, at a supposedly famous Chinese meat-pancake place, Ting said, "Your Chinese is inadequate. You may not like to hear this hard truth, but there it is. People are going to resent you." I wanted to reply, "Like who, you?" I bit my tongue instead.

The bed we decided on, after a few hours of shopping, was priced at 10,500 Yuan. That's when Jiuma went to work on the poor saleswoman.

I should point out that in China, even in gigantic retail stores, you can haggle with almost anyone. Every salesperson in the store, I can assure you, has been trained rigorously in this art. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a school for just this sort of thing, where you'd be required to take classes on both the affirmative and negative. No one, however, would be able to beat Zhen Yi (my jiuma).

"What brand is this?" she asked.

The saleswoman explained it was from Austria. "Let me speak honestly," she said. "On any of these four floors, you won't find a more authentic wood than this."

Zhen Yi, not missing a beat, told her all about Austrian wood and, politely but firmly, said she knew exactly how much it was worth, and it wasn't worth that much.

"Is that so? Have you been to Austria?"

"I have. Stopped by once for business. Was there a week, and had a bad experience. Let me tell you, I don't much care for Austria," then proceeded to rattle off a list of complaints.

"Is that so?"

The talk went on, politely, for another minute, at which point the saleswoman pulled out her trump card. "Let's stop bargaining... let me give you the lowest price: 10,500. And we'll throw in those covers."

I thought that'd be the end, but Zhen Yi didn't budge. "How about 9,500?" she offered.

This opened up the talks anew, and I don't know how, but over the course of the conversation Zhen Yi suggested to the saleswoman that she sell us this set -- bed, table, cabinet, plus the covers thrown in -- for 9,200. The salesperson wouldn't budge, and so we got up to leave.

Walking behind the three women -- Zheng Yi, Zhang Ting and the saleswoman -- I got the sinking suspicion that Jiuma would get her way. I didn't feel good about this, because I could see the gears churning in the poor saleswoman's head, the specter of defeat trapping her in a corner, forcing her to sell the furniture at a price much lower than she possibly could have imagined or risk losing these potential customers and not selling anything at all.

We came out of the display area and had the elevator in sight when Zhen Yi spoke. "9,200 and we'll take it. We won't have wasted a trip, you won't have wasted your time." Zhen Yi and Zhang Ting shared an exchange where both agreed you could get cheaper furniture in Beijing, which was an absolute lie that no one believed... except the saleswoman believed they believed it.

"Let me ask my manager, she's standing right there," the saleswoman said. And that's when I knew it was over.

The manager looked over the numbers on the clipboard. She looked at us, knowing this was their last chance. "We'll consider this a holiday price," she said, and Jiuma spun around with the slyest smile.

There was one last adventure, however. They wanted all the money upfront -- store policy, the saleswoman said -- and Zhen Yi and Zhang Ting wouldn't do it. Would not budge an inch from the 1,000 they were willing to pay now, rest when the furniture gets delivered. At this point the talk got heated, though manners were still in place. "Let me speak honestly," the saleswoman said, digging into her same bag of tricks. But she could say nothing to change Zhen Yi's mind. The conversation, starting and stalling, sputtering fumes, went on and on.

"You have your policy, we have ours," Zhen Yi said.

And so, for the second time, we walked to the elevator, and this time we pressed the button. Just as we were about to enter, it was the saleswoman who spoke up this time.

"Let me call my manager."

"It's like this," she said into the phone, "if we make them pay everything upfront, they're going to leave, and that's that. If we let them pay just 1,000 for now, they'll take it."

I think you already know who prevailed.

I pulled Jiuma aside during this process and asked if it was really necessary to demand that we don't pay upfront. She assured me that in China, even at the equivalent of Nebraska Furniture Mart, a company could pull a fast one on its consumers, deliver fake wood, that sort of thing. And so it was.

Later in the car, Jiuma was positively giddy. "I was thinking, 9,500 and I'll have won, 9,200 and I'll have made a profit."

"Did you ever think you'd lose?" I asked.

"Nah," she said. "They couldn't possibly have let us walk out."

And so it is. In China, a country in transition, it appears to still be a buyers' market. The consumer still has a lot of the power, and skilled hagglers can squeeze lemons out of lemonade.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Blogging schedule

So I don't forget, quick synopses of future posts:
  • First impressions. The Chinese people are a gregarious lot, each supremely comfortable in his or her skin and wholly unbashful when it comes to speaking one's mind or calling to attention oneself in order to get one's way. This is a generalization, of course, but if I may generalize some more: cultures that have evolved out of a 4,000-year history with hardly any miscegenation tend to be this way, like one big (gigantic) happy (sometimes) family.
  • Things I could take a while to get used to. Foremost: lack of toilets in public restrooms. The whole squatting thing utilizes muscles I'm just not used to flexing. For those who did plyos with me during winter conditioning: it's like wall sits, except without the wall. Oh, and it's BYOTP. You can figure that out.
  • Nainai (grandma on my dad's side) and that part of the family (Thursday).
  • The Dalai Lama (Friday lunch with Jiujiu).
  • The twins.
  • Moutai (baijiu): the liquor that saved the state (Friday dinner).
  • Basketball: there are some players with offensive skills, but if you think there's no defense played on America's playgrounds, you'll want to scream when you hear about the Chinese's idea of defense.
  • Waking up at 7:30 a.m. every day, a testament to biology.
  • The sweetest condo I've ever seen a friend of a friend (i.e. someone real) own, and offer to let me stay in whenever I want.

That'll keep me occupied throughout the week. Bedtime.

The reason for the name of this blog

Setting aside the metaphors for a moment, I want to show you where I'm staying in Beijing relative to the 16 million other people in the city. Here's Beijing Shi (City), laid out on an uncle's ping-pong table:

Enclosed in the red square is the center of the city, which I've so poetically labeled "Heart of City." Inside that area you'll find Tiananmen, the Forbidden City, various Central Government buildings and Beihai (North Sea) Park, an imperial garden with a thousand-year history that has all the grandeur of a popular tourist attraction yet has retained the elegance of a living monument. (It was originally built for Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis. This Kublai Khan.)

Zooming in, you can see the water of Beihai next to the Forbidden City. The east-west street indicated by the red oval is Changan Jie, which I've seen translated fairly accurately as Eternal Peace Avenue. Tianamen Square -- not to be confused with Tianamen, i.e. Gate of Heavenly Peace, which is that building with the gigantic portrait of Mao -- is just south of Changan Jie.

And now we zoom in some more... I live inside a quadrangle (in Chinese: siheyuan, meaning literally "four-sided courtyard") marked by the yellow star, within walking distance to Beihai.

Not bad, huh?

My family owns three units inside the quadrangle, which was originally built to house government officials and their families. My grandpa on my mom's side -- laoye (as opposed to yeye, which means grandfather on one's dad's side) -- who's since passed on, was a notable combatant during three wars: World War 2, the Chinese Civil War and the Korean War. It's been said that his head was worth several pieces of silver to the Japanese during WWII, as he was the leader of a guerilla platoon. Eventually he settled into office life within the Central Government, performing tasks that no one in our family can quite tell you about. "I never pressed him on that matter," my uncle (jiujiu) told me.

One of our units inside the quadrangle is currently leased out, while Jiujiu lives in a downstairs unit with his wife and twin boys, who are yearlings, and his wife's mother. I live with one of my cousins, Zhang Peng, on the fifth floor of a separate building.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Deranged thoughts of an otherwise sane man on an airplane

What follows was scribbled with pencil in a notebook during my 13-hour flight from New York to Beijing. I reproduce it not as an exemplar of writing but as a glimpse into my state of mind. The bracketed, italicized parts are my present-day additions.

12:58 p.m. ET: 13 hr, 8 min flight - announcement

1:15 p.m.: Today is the best day, of spring dresses

[On Thursday, April 10, the first true day of spring, with a sun that was at last unafraid, I was running errands along Broadway in the area of Columbia University when I found myself utterly dazzled by the vast array of spring dresses on shapely young women, most of them, I assure you, of age to be ogled, and even desperate to seek that attention from eyes which wandered like hound dogs cut loose. Flowery dresses and varicolored dresses and plain white dresses with black crisscrosses and dresses with curved lines and jutting lines and patches and of all lengths, some to the ankle, others mid-calf, still others exposing the smooth richness to which we'd bow. That day I composed a few lines of poetry in my head, then promptly forgot about it until 1:15 p.m. on the airplane, when I realized I couldn't recapture that initial feeling, at least not with that toddler wailing like a banshee.]

You get to know yourself on a 13-hr flight. Not that you didn't know yourself before, but every thought, every piddling idea, every reflected glare in the seat-back's black screen, gets your attention -- undivided, at times. This is nothing new for me, a typically hyper-self-aware individual. But I can imagine the horror others may associate with this realization: that perhaps we don't control our thoughts after all, and, in turn, we control nothing.

2:27: The meal they served came on a flimsy plastic tray, but the contents were surprisingly good. My "steak" was juicy, the salad was fresh, and the roll went down easy. The portion was just right, too. Afterwards I stuffed a fortune cookie and chocolate brownie in my jacket's inner-pocket, feeling like the main protagonist in Alexander Solzychkin's [Solzhenitsyn] One Day in the Life of Ivan Deninsovich [Denisovich], who would tear pieces of bread from his breakfast ration and go through meticulous motions to save it for later in the day. Life in the gulags. Life on an airplane. The similarities are apparent.
(Now back to The Orchard Keeper)

3:26: Gonna try to sleep for a bit. Guy to my left is snoring.

6:10: Just ate the brownie. It was delicious.

6:25: Shuffled my iPod and the 2nd song to play (3rd - skipped Bach's Concerto) was Modest Mouse's Shit Luck, which begins with the singer screaming acapela [a cappella], "This plane is definitely going to crash!" [The plane is definitely crashing]

Between her tongue and his teeth they try to find music - or something like that, from Neutral Milk Honey

8:01: Served breaded chicken - Pierre Creations
amazing taste
watching The Great Debaters

11:10: -Fine-tuned supersonic speed machine

I have to relate lyrics from my iPod to keep my mind functioning. I napped an hour and a half on the plane and slept about a couple hours last night, which means I'm gonna have a hell of a time staying up through this day. My energy is fine, but my poor mind is not. They speculate sleep allows the brain to sort through the day's events and choose which to commit to long-term memory. I guess this means nothing I do today will have lasting consequences on my conscience, lest somehow I do a thing for which my punishment is delayed, or prolonged.

In other parts of the my quickly fading mind, I'm a little upset I missed (am missing) Spurs-Suns today. Maybe they'll rerun it on CTV. Actually, I'm betting they will. [They didn't.]

Was reading Lolita a little earlier - that narrator is one flawed dude.

[Next I tried composing a sonnet but, with horror, realized I forgot how the rhyme scheme goes. Turns out I had it right -- abab cdcd efef gg -- but I couldn't bring myself to polish the final two lines because I wasn't sure. Anyway, the poem is reproduced below, with a final couplet.]

Sex-as-pleasure did not itself sire;
The concept rose out of human genius,
Innovations like agriculture, fire;
Before that, language; later, the census
To track who has sex with whom and how soon
Hungry mouths emerge to devour our food,
Consume our time, eviscerate the boon
Times when our sex came and went with our moods.
What must our ancestors above have felt
Watching us roll in knolls like bonobos?
They sent us Catholicism, sin, guilt --
Dispossessing us, recasting our mold --
Giving us doubt, then dogma, then pretext,
Misdefining the very meaning of sex.

11:45: Writing a sonnet and forgetting the rhyme pattern. What was it?

I wonder if anyone is reading over my shoulder, this light alone casting me under a halo amid tilted heads in dimness.

Another poem to come.

[This one's a little underdeveloped and needs a bit of revising...]

As fairy tales go, it was a pretty good one,
absent of cynicism while bustling
with good intentions and an earnest, fresh-eyed innocence
that children possess, which makes us envy.
I'll try my best to recall, but I warn,
it's been a while.

There was a princess
who alone could make the prince love.
He was a narcissist who spent his days
raising his eyebrow in front of the palatial mirror,
eighteen feet tall by thirteen feet wide,
and occasionally pursing his lips
as if the mirror could reciprocate.

The princess was a striking beauty,
5'9'', golden-red locks of hair bouncing shoulder-length,
deep-set blue eyes under curvaceous lids, a nose
that defies description, lips
which enriched the air passing through.
She could sing, too, but that's another story.

They met - as they do in fairy tales -
at a joust, with him sitting on his future throne and she
atop a mighty white horse galloping at murderous speed
towards her overmatched opponent.
"Who is that magnificent creature?" the prince asked.
And within three days they were wed in the court's chapel,
attended by all the regulars - you know them,
the talking frog, the fashion forward pelican,
mice that walk on twos, even the fox, the good one
who saves chicks (he is, needless to say,
an object of shame to other foxes).

She taught him to love.
I don't remember the details of how it happened,
and the ending's a bit fuzzy, but I do remember it ended
not with happily ever after but the mirror,
scorned, alone, withering before our eyes like those tricked into a witch's spell,
its poor old heart broken as it beseeched the cold, empty room,
"What, oh but what, did I do?"

12:10 p.m.: Last time I sat in an international flight I met and sat next to an absolute godsend of a beauty, a 30-year-old Ukrainian-American who I took for being 21 - and she insisting more than once in a flirty voice that she acts much younger than her age, promise. When she looked at me I felt the most gut-wrenching pressure to say something witty or world-shatteringly insightful. [I was also overcome with the most helpless feeling of knowing I wasn't good enough.] Those eyes - she felt they were too yellow, but I could only focus on their size, almost disproportionately big on her small face, as close to a cartoon drawing as you could get. "I might have some Genghis Khan blood in me," she said when I revealed to her that a quarter of all Asians probably descended from Khan [APOCRYPHAL!]

This flight I was not so fortunate. I did not stay awake for all 13 hours (close) and wish the flight would never end, that we could be told to keep a holding pattern so that this immense beauty, this succulent creature [I just shuddered reading this], might fall asleep on my shoulder. [Barf]

The Great Debaters was actually very good, for what it was. As a former 4-yr debater, my only problem w/ it was the truncated speeches. Oh well. 8/10

12:21: Just cracked open my fortune cookie: "You are given the chance to take part in an exciting adventure." Lucky numbers: 3, 4, 6, 8, 44, 45.

12:44: Breakfast was very good.
Another poem:

When I was 12 or 13 I fell deeply in love
with a distant cousin of mine when we were
in China. She was 18, or 17, and when she left
(before I left) I must have been on the verge of tears.

As the years passed, I convinced myself she was waiting
for me to turn her age. At 16 it was not the car
I celebrated but the indisputable knowing

that I was that much closer. At 18
I felt I could represent ____

[I wanted the blank to express the breadth of the world, so big nothing could encompass it. Alas, I couldn't find the right words to pull it off. (Notice the time stamp).]

1:00: The excitement just set in. Soon I'll be filling out paperwork, then meeting my uncle at the airport and shuttling into the city, place of my birth.

1:28: Begin descent into Beijing

1:38: The plane's having a rough go of it. First (or second) turbulence of the flight, except it doesn't really feel like turbulence... the plane's simply dropping in altitude by literally dropping, horizontally. It's like a bad roller coaster ride. They might want to fucking stabilize this before someone pukes. [The guy behind me would eventually puke, or at least dry heave.]

1:54: Toddler WAILING
has to be a conscious decision on his part, his mis-developed brain having convinced itself crying will get him what he wants. I blame the parents.

Tiring of his own exertions. Going from hoary, high-pitched screeches to tired, painful, constipated sighs that are almost

Few seconds before 2: Landed. Roughly.

First entry

Well, this comes overdue. I've been here three nights now, so there's some catching up to do. Apologies for that, but I have some pretty good excuses on hand. My sleep pattern, for example, was entirely out of whack the first few days, namely because there was no pattern. Look at this hour-by-hour sleep chart, with red indicating not sleeping and bold=sleeping:

Monday, April 21: Overland Park, Kansas, USA
9 a.m. Central Time: sleeping
10 a.m.: not sleeping
11 a.m.: not sleeping
noon: not sleeping
1 p.m.: not sleeping
2 p.m.: not sleeping
3 p.m.: not sleeping
4 p.m.: not sleeping
5 p.m.: not sleeping
6 p.m.: not sleeping
7 p.m.: not sleeping
8 p.m.: not sleeping
9 p.m.: not sleeping
10 p.m.: not sleeping
11 p.m.: not sleeping
Tuesday, April 22
midnight: not sleeping
1 a.m.: not sleeping
2 a.m.: not sleeping
3 a.m.: sleeping
4 a.m.: sleeping
5 a.m.: not sleeping
6 a.m.: not sleeping
Continental Flight No. 2208 to New York
7 a.m.: not sleeping
8 a.m.: not sleeping
9 a.m.: not sleeping
10 a.m.: not sleeping
Newark Airport, Newark, New Jersey
noon Eastern Time: not sleeping
Continental Flight No. 89 to Beijing, China
1 a.m. Beijing Time (GMT+8): not sleeping
2 a.m.: not sleeping
3 a.m.: not sleeping
4 a.m.: sleeping
5 a.m.: not sleeping
6 a.m.: not sleeping
7 a.m.: not sleeping
8 a.m.: not sleeping
9 a.m.: not sleeping
10 a.m.: not sleeping
11 a.m.: not sleeping
noon: not sleeping
1 p.m.: not sleeping
Wednesday, April 23: Beijing, China
2 p.m.: not sleeping
3 p.m.: not sleeping
4 p.m.: not sleeping
5 p.m.: not sleeping
6 p.m.: not sleeping
7 p.m.: not sleeping
8 p.m.: not sleeping
9 p.m.: not sleeping
10 p.m.: not sleeping
11 p.m.: not sleeping
Thursday, April 24
midnight: not sleeping
1 a.m.: sleeping
2 a.m.: sleeping
3 a.m.: sleeping
4 a.m.: sleeping
5 a.m.: sleeping
6 a.m.: sleeping
7 a.m.: sleeping
9 a.m.: not sleeping
10 a.m.: not sleeping
11 a.m.: not sleeping
noon: not sleeping
1 p.m.: not sleeping
2 p.m.: not sleeping
3 p.m.: not sleeping
4 p.m.: not sleeping
5 p.m.: not sleeping
6 p.m.: not sleeping
7 p.m.: not sleeping
8 p.m.: not sleeping
9 p.m.: not sleeping
10 a.m.: sleeping

I was a little tired.

There's also the matter of government censorship thoughtfulness at this critical juncture in the country's history, where an emergent society whose access to technology -- the great soapbox of the 21st century -- has the ability to recalculate the boon of economic success in terms of human costs, threatening to turn every marker of "progress" into a referendum on human rights. Ah, that's a matter for another time. More on point: originally I wanted WordPress to host this blog, but I couldn't ease it past the Great Firewall of China no matter what I tried. And trust me, I tried everything. If you want to know what the government censors, Google it and then let me know, because Google's censored. As is, of all sites, Xanga, which is populated by Asians (wHo ArE aLl So HiP) -- talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

Anyway, expect a flurry of posts in the coming couple of days. In fact, by the time you read this -- seeing as how it's 4:17 a.m. in New York right now and I'm still going strong -- I'll probably have a second entry up. We'll settle into a more leisurely pattern in the coming days and weeks. And months. Shit. Is it really months?