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谢迈克在中国 » 2008» July

谢迈克在中国

Mike Shecket Goes To China!

A radical decision

July 31st, 2008

He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man.

Mao Zedong

I’m coming pretty close to deciding to skip the Great Wall.  I have a number of good reasons to not go, and a few bad reasons to go.  First off, who is Mao to tell me whether or not I’m a man?  He’s dead, among other things.  Next, it’s at least an hour and a half on the bus each way, depending which section to go to.  My general rule of thumb is that I want to spend at least as long at the place I’m going as it takes to get there and back.  And what am I going to do at the Great Wall for three hours with all the heat and humidity?

Next up, I’m not really into old stuff.  There’s a lot of relatively old stuff in the US that I could have seen.  There’s stuff from native cultures too that’s even older.  But it’s just not what I’m into.  I like new stuff…contemporary culture, art, music, architecture, technology.  If I’m just going to go somewhere and see something just because it’s famous, the sort of place that keeps coming to mind for me that I’d want to see would be Abbey Road Studios in London.  Go back fifty years and it basically has little or no significance, but it’s enormously significant in modern culture.

Probably the biggest thing is that I feel like from Mao to the guidebooks, I’m being pressured to do something that I might not otherwise want to do.  To be told it’s a “must see”, or that going there determines my worth as a human being, kind of inspries a kind of “Oh yeah?! See if I care!” attitude.  It almost seems like an opportunity to assert my uniqueness.

Lastly, I imagine that when I tell people that I went to China, they’ll always ask if I went to the Great Wall, and I’ll have to explain why I didn’t.  But I’m going to have to explain to people why I was in Beijing in the summer of 2008 and didn’t stay for the Olympics.  Not to mention why I decided to uproot myself from the US and live here almost a whole year.  So if people want an explanation, who cares?  I can give them one or not.  It’s not, in itself, worth the time, expense and inconvenience to do something that might not even be fun.

I came to China to get to know the language and the people, and I’ve done that.  I didn’t really come here to look at walls.

A nice day

July 29th, 2008

There was a thunderstorm last night, and today it’s cooler, and though it’s cloudy, I think the smog broke up some.  I’m hoping for more of the same in the coming days…I’m supposed to go see the Great Wall sometime soon.

Oh, and I finally got a haircut!  They really did their darndest to keep those little hairs from getting everywhere, but as always, close but not quite.  It was nice, though, to get both a before and after shampooing.  Total cost: 38元, or about $5.60.

Smog

July 28th, 2008

I feel bad for the people who are trying to get this under control, and hope they succeed, but if I still can’t see the sun after a week of half the cars off the road (although not really, since many people will just substitute their travel that they would have taken one day to the other day), then I don’t know how it can really get any better in the next 10 days.

The smog doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the heat and humidity…I really don’t feel like going out without an air-conditioned car to immediately get into.  It makes me realize just how to used to that lifestyle I am, even though I haven’t driven a car for nearly a year.

And I haven’t seen any data to support this, but nowhere in China have I experienced pollution even close to that in central Guiyang.  It was absolutely oppressive.  It made me feel like there just wasn’t even enough good air to breathe.  In Beijing, it’s clearly not that bad.  It looks bad, but you can breathe, at least if you’re not running around.

Two more weeks

July 25th, 2008

It’s really hot in Beijing, and it takes a long time to get anywhere.  Did I already mention this?  My plan, more or less, is to do the Great Wall, and then I’m not going to push myself to do any more touristy things if I don’t want to.

I’ve already had a whole bunch of “wow, I’m in China” experiences, seen a ton of things, learned a little of the language (not much at all, really, but enough to make me happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish) and made some friends.

I’m pretty much ready to go back at this point and start figuring out what to do next.  I was looking at pictures from my mom’s house back in Worthington the other day, and it looks so cozy.  There isn’t a single piece of furniture here or in the last two places I stayed or in my apartment in Guiyang that’s as cozy as about five or eight chairs in her house.

That’s a big choice, isn’t it?  You can have a settled, cozy, domestic, but potentially boring life, or you can have an adventurous, mobile, risky, but sometimes…itchy life.  I think it’s much easier to move from the latter to the former, though…it’s hard to imagine planting myself in a home and filling it up with junk only to sell or throw away the better part of everything I own again and take off and go vagabonding again.

And on the other hand, I think so often about adopting cats…but can I really commit to living the same lifestyle, or even in the same country, for 15, 20 years or more?

Maybe when I get back, I’ll stop wondering and worrying…maybe I’ll kiss the ground and realize that I never want to leave again.  But I don’t think it’s likely…I think this stuff will take time to figure out.

Clearing the air in Beijing

July 18th, 2008

Starting Sunday, only half of the city’s cars will be allowed to be on the road each day, based on the last digit of your license plate. Tip of the hat to the first person who can explain why this certainly won’t work quite as intended.

July 15th, 2008

Today, I saw Dead Chairman Mao (still dead) and the Big Old Empty Place…once again, I have been forced to contemplate which I dislike more: sunburn or sunscreen.  Meanwhile, I have completed two-thirds of my Beijing-area tourist Duty.  I never have to do those things again unless I really want to.


As usual, after I’ve had a blog for a while, it tends to become a chore instead of a diversion…especially when there’s a lot of monotonous steps involved turning cool and interesting photos and videos into something that can be seen online (cropping, resizing, file conversions, uploads…ugh).

Generally speaking, however, I have done the following things lately:

  • Seen the pandas in Chengdu and Great Buddha in Leshan
  • Climbed up and down a lot of stairs and went–that’s right–ice skating in Chongqing (actually, I think you can go ice skating other places in China…Beijing for sure…but it still blew my mind)
  • Arrived in Beijing, got set up in an apartment
  • Managed to figure out the neighborhood and the subway system
  • Found an Indian restaurant and took a walk around Beida (北大), also known as Peking University

Maybe I should have set my camera to take web-size photos (except I want the big ones for archival purposes), or maybe I should have bought a camera that makes videos that properly upload directly to YouTube (although again, I wanted to also be able to make DVD-quality video).

Meanwhile, I’m gearing up for the big kickoff of my test prep business for when I get back…my non-compete agreement is finally up as of about two weeks ago, and so I’m getting my website, craigslist postings and Google ads ready.

Copyright © 2007-8 Michael H. Shecket. All rights reserved.