Xander’s Overseas Log Day 14-26

Okay, so I missed the last two Fridays… I’ve been procrastinating terribly with stuff these days. Summer lull, you know? It hits even in China. Note that everything recorded here occured two weeks ago. That said…

Foreign Student
Dormitory Zijing
University, Beijing
Day 14 – 6.09 – 8:50 PM

[1 year anniversary day! KsQ <3]

I’m beginning to miss home dearly…

Entry 008

Foreign Student Dormitory Zijing
Tsinghua University, Beijing
Day 23 – 6.18 – 2:35 PM

I’m sitting in my room, wearing new robes purchased here. I sat down, looked at my Xanga, and remembered that I was supposed to write an entry on Friday. Hah, oh well. I have a lot to write about to update on this past week, but it’s all so much of a blur… where to start… Oh, I know! I’ll start a week and a half ago…

World Cup!

International Beer Town

The most popular major sport in the world kicked off in Germany earlier this month, and people here in China have been crazy about it since. We watched a game at the International Beer Town, definitely one of the more “international” places by campus. We watched the England-Paraguay game, and there were Brits singing “God Save the Queen” and chanting in English. It was great. I left early to email SQ, but others stayed. Charles came in many house later, heavily drunk, and puked his beer and lambsticks (he was in the bathroom: [puking noise] “…ooh! Lambsticks!”). The Korea-Togo game was a great watch, 2-1 finish made for happy viewing. I don’t get why the World Cup isn’t big in the U.S., because it’s huge everywhere else in the world. I’ll have to say though, with scale of the World Cup, it’s like taking the energy and thrill of the whole Olympics and concentrating it into a single competition. Two-three billion people watch the games—those who don’t are missing out!

But of course, the World Cup isn’t everything. Another major activity while in China: shopping! Now to note, the sellers here will will start at an insanely high price—though still cheap for American standards. Ripoffs were rampant too, especially for merchandise not worth the price offered. Especially the foreigners, most knew that they could walk off with under a third of the asking price (or a sixth if you’re good), but quite a few got ripped off terribly. I also learning something else: Russell Peters knew what he was talking about. I heard all the trademark phrases:

“I give you best price!”

“This is Grade A quality! Genuine leather!”

And a typical response to my bargained price: “You are crazy!”

At Silk Street, we saw all the crazy stuff, shopkeepers grabbing foreigners and pulling them into their shops, foreigners thinking they got a great deal. There was this one white dude, who went into a shop, and with a big smile, kissed the shopkeeper’s hand, and was like “Can you give me a good deal? See, I kissed you now! It’s not a big deal–” (kisses his own hand) “–I kiss myself all the time. Now let’s see what you have.” Very odd, I’m not sure what he was trying to pull.

At another shop, I was looking at belts, and the conversation progressed like this.

Shopkeeper : “Ni hao?”
Me: “Ni hao… wo ke yi kan ma?” (hi, may I look?)
Shopkeeper:  “Ke yi.”(you may) “Ni shi han guo ren ma?” (are you Korean?)
Me: (I considered saying no but…) “Dui, dan shi, wo lai zi me guo.” (I figured I just set myself up to get ripped off)
Shopkeeper: “Ah, me guo! Is there something you want?”
Me : (I reverted to English… my bargaining language) “Yeah, I’m looking at belts.” I looked around and saw a black Armani belt that looked nice.
Shopkeeper : “Oh, this is good belt! Best quality. Genuine leather.” She pulls out a lighter and proceeds to expose it to a flame. “See? Grade A quality.”
Me : “Zhe ge duo shao qien?” (How much for this?)
Shopkeeper : “For you, I give you special price—er bai ba shi yuan!” (280 yuan, about $35)

In America, that might have been a decent price for a leather belt, or even a cheap  price for an Armani belt. But here, hell no…

Me : No, that’s way too expensive. Tai gui de!
Shopkeeper : (handing me a calculator) “What’s your price? What is your best buying price?”
Me : (I thought for a while… examining the quality, it wasn’t too bad, it would last at least the duration of the trip. But I appeared to be disappointed—and typed a number into the calculator) “Twenty.” (about $2.50—it seemed a little low, but I thought I’d give it a shot. I had no idea how much these were worth anyway, but I figured if I could get it for under 40, it’d be a good deal)
Shopkeeper : (looks shocked, and laughs) “Oh no, this is joking price! Give me your best non-joking price.” (hands the calculator back to me)
Me : (I type in 20 again) “This is my price. This isn’t genuine leather.”  The shopkeeper laughs again, and this time, goes to the other shopkeeper and says something.
Shopkeeper 2 : “Mister, you are joking! If I sell for twenty, I lose money! I can’t sell for twenty.” (she takes the calculator from the first shopkeeper and gives it to me.)
Me : (at this point, I was beginning to lose patience) “Okay fine, you want a real price?” (I type in 25 into the calculator).
Shopkeeper 2 : Oh no no, you are joking. (she takes the calculator and the belt away from me and starts putting it back on the shelf). I can’t sell.
Me: (well… I thought. I still needed a belt) “Okay fine, what’s your best price?”
Shopkeeper 2 :
“Okay, best price. One hundred twenty!” (about $15).
Me : “No that’s too much.” (oh well, I thought to myself. I figured it was worth a try, and I started to walk away, glancing back one more time. The shopkeepers were looking at each other).

After I got about 10 feet away, I heard the shopkeeper from behind.

Shopkeeper: “Hello? Hello???” (she runs up to me from behind) “Okay okay. Fifty!”
Me : “No, I don’t want it.” (I kept walking).
Shopkeeper 2:
“Forty! Okay okay. Thirty!”
Me : (at this point, I stopped, and turned around) “Twenty-five.”
Shopkeeper 2 : Wo bu ke yi! (I can’t!)
Me : “No?”
Shopkeeper 2 : (she seemed uncertain…)
Me: “I’m not going any higher.”
Shopkeeper 2 : Okay okay. Er shi wu. (25)

We went back and I got my belt.

Shopkeeper 2 :
(she didn’t seem so much sad as disappointed, obviously because she wasn’t getting another fool’s money) You are strong bargainer.
Me : Xie xie! Bye!

As I left, they were chattering again, and I was happy enough to have gotten my “Armani” belt for just over 3 dollars. Similar deals followed, except for a wallet I bought for 60 with Frank. We later decided that we probably could have gotten them for 40. And really, even then it isn’t that much—60 wasn’t even 8 dollars, and for imitation Coach, that wasn’t too bad at all. Of course, to an expert accessory carrier, the counterfeit would be obvious, but hey—I didn’t come to China to buy real stuff. Others got similar deals, and we went home happy at not having been ripped off. More shopping stories later!

Saturday, we went to Yiheyuan (the Summer Palace), which was also undergoing heavy renovations. It seems like every major tourist site is being redone for the Olympics, gotta show off the best of China, right? The Summer Palace has an amusing (though tragic) history: in the 1860s during the Second Opium Wars, the original Summer Palace was burned down by the Anglo-French army. After several other defeats against the British, the French, the Dutch, and even the Japanese, the Emperor and his advisors decided that the Chinese “navy” (essentially a swarm of junks) needed to be modernized, and allocated a large sum of capital for this purpose. After his death however, his successor, a woman (Queen? Empress?)
took that money, which would be the equivalent of about $20 billion and had the summer palace rebuilt (1885?), ensuring additional defeats for China in the years to come. What vanity… and that is what we went to visit.


Our Summer Palace adventurers

Vanity aside, the place was HUGE. Several thousand acres at least, including a gigantic man-made lake and several huge structures. Admission wasn’t cheap, but it was worth it. We walked around a quarter of the lake, and then decided to go in. I also tried to lose my farmer tan by losing the shirt, but was largely unsuccessful. In two of these babies:

Pedal boat 1 — The other boat, right before Charles sprayed a large quantity of water onto them

Pedal boat 2 – Our crew—and me sporting ma new F’Oakleys

Summer Palace

We wandered around the small ponds in our boat, navigating under bridges, and around concrete structures. Finally, we got to a dead end… just before realizing that we had 15 minutes to get back and return our boat! Then the mad workout began! Charles, Frank and I got a pretty damn good workout while at it—pedaling madly and pulling off 5 MPH… but it was fun. We spent the next few hours going around. Fun times!

I had some major bike troubles this week. While I was biking from class, the front brake got lose and caught on one of the front wheel spokes. Havoc ensued. The brake tore off the front, ripping away the brake handle that it was on. The wheel guard, which was connected to the same bolt as the brake fell forward, and got caught on the tire, and as I was going pretty fast, it spun around with the wheel. Now, as it was anchored at the axle, as it spun, the supports got twisted and shorter and shorter… until it was too short, and ended up crushing the wheel in. This obviously popped the tire, and caused the bike to come to a rather rough halt. Somehow, the bike was still standing; I was stunned. I had never seen such self-destruction in a bike, and yeah, my bike had problems before… but this… this was a little much. People that were walking by slowed to look at the damage as one would look at a severe car crash in the U.S. Yeah…

Oh well. Fun times. More later!

Entry 009
Foreign Student Dormitory Zijing
Tsinghua University, Beijing
Day 26 – 6.21 – 7:20 PM

I’m still a little behind, but catching up rapidly. We went to Qianmen shopping district some time last week. Bought some more clothing, as well as a North Face jacket for myself. Cost 90 yuan , which Elaine bargained down from 350. It was funny though, because as we were about to pay, this white dude came into the store,
and the owner pulled us to the back, smiling, and put the jacket into a black bag. Obviously such a great deal couldn’t be given to everyone…

After shopping, Charles said he heard of a great Peking Duck place, so we set out on foot to find it. Along the way, a street peddler tried to sell me a Beijing 2008 hat for 5 yuan. I got it for 3 (about 38 cents), and walked on happily. The rings might have been sewn backwards, and the material might be flimsier than my underwear, but still! It was cheap and I wanted a hat!

After some 30 minutes of walking, we finally arrived at the behemoth of a restaurant…

The place seemed a little classy… but we went in anyway. We figured it couldn’t be *that* expensive. As we walked in very well dressed people greeted us. And as we entered the elevator, we saw in big letters (Tourist Restaurant 2F). We entered the dinning area… sat down…

…and then saw the menu. About 200 per person (a typical dinner here was around 15-20). After a small debate we decided to stay, and ordered individual dishes instead of the group packages—came out to about 100 per person. We got tons of duck. Lots and lots of duck. Anubhav would have loved it.


Five chefs came out to cut out portions of the ducks for us, and pile them onto our table. The food was great … at
first. But after the third or so duck, it was beginning to be a little too much. There were hardly any drink, and I made the mistake of getting duck liver (which was also pretty good for the first few bites, then got geometrically worse). By the forth duck, I was trying to stuff it in (we paid so much for it!); and then the fifth duck had to stay on the table. Disgustingly huge amounts of duck. As we left, I vowed not to have any more duck again.

A few days later, I met up with an a friend—Jason’s sister Julia and her family were also all in Beijing, so Julia being the Beijing expert took me shopping. And of course, I bought lots more stuff, including a white purse for Sq! I think I overpaid for that one (100), but they started at 450, and since Julia had taken it as her prerogative to suggest 120, I found it difficult to back down and go even lower. I also got yelled at by one of the shopkeepers because I spent five minutes bargaining for a pair of crap shoes (actually I had just wanted to know how much they’d sell it for), where she said stuff like “are you crazy? Why did you bargain with me?”. Oh well. There were other good deals around, so I did get shoes from some other place. Ah but beware; I tried to buy a belt there—a brown one to supplment my black Armani belt from earlier. This one place refused to budge below 80 yuan, so I moved on. I found another place selling belts, and began the bargaining process over again. It was greatly amusing because when I had told them that I bought the belt I was wearing for 25, they laughed and said I must have been joking. But after 5 minutes, I managed to get a Diesel belt down to 38 (I didn’t know Diesel made belts, but here they apparently make shoes too). It seemed to be of better quality than the Armani belt (and it was still only $4.75) so I agreed. Until I put it on. Somehow during the time between pulling it off the shelf, and putting it on, it had started to fall apart. The “velvet” backing, which the storekeeper had used as a selling point earlier was held on by some nasty brown glue, and it was stretching and coming off the belt! The storekeepers apologized profusely and I found another belt, bargained lower to 30. This belt also fell apart as I put it on, and I made a show of anger at their poor quality. I ended up getting another belt though, for 28. And this one, I made sure didn’t have parts that could fall off. Towards the end of the shopping session, I had run out of money, and had to borrow some from Julia. But I DID get a watch, which I’m *sure* was a ripoff for 60 yuan. But whatever, I wanted the watch. It did however turn out to have a defective “date” mechanism, and the glass face cracked fro a six inch fall. Mleh.

For dinner, I ate with the family at this amazing hot pot place called Hotpot Paradise. The food was *amazing* (I <3 hotpot!) and cost about… 90 yuan per person. $11, had this been America, I would have offered to pay, but it seemed more of an insult. After dinner, I was dropped off by taxi to the nearest subway station, I said bye to the family and headed over… it wasn’t until after I got to the stairway that I realized that I had NO money. And that I was halfway across Beijing. And that
it was 9:10 and the last train leaving the station was at 9:30.

I stayed calm, and took out my wallet. I had 2 yuan, and the ticket was 5. I could also take the long way around and pay 3 instead. I went through my jacket and found 2 jiao. I also had $1.25 cash as well as $300 of cash that I had hidden Not
enough. I spent about 10 minutes looking for an ATM of some kind, with no luck. Finally, I just went into the station anyway, but while meticulously searching the ground for any loose change. No luck. I went to the ticket booth, and tried to buy a ticket with my 2.20 yuan. It failed. The ticket person said something including “bu ke yi”. So I went back, looked at my new watch. 9:20. It was kinda sad… I had nearly 400 yuan worth of stuff with me, and I don’t have 10 cents that I need to catch a train back home. After seeing the train leave, I began to worry. There were probably maybe one or two trains left; I had to catc the next one. I considered jumping over the ticket checks, but that could have ended worse. Finally, I went back to the ticket booth, and tried to talk. I showed her all the money I had and told her I didn’t have anymore—but I did have American money (wo you me guo qian!). I took out the heart that Bernice had made, and I explained that the quarter was worth 2 yuan. She asked why I was using American money in China, and I just shrugged. Finally, she asked to see my wallet, and she looked through, and finding no more money, just took what I had, gave back the $1.25 and gave me a ticket. I thanked her profusely, and ran to the last train.

I had to take the long way around, which took me through bufu northern Beijing—and then was almost at Wudaokou when I realized another thing: I didn’t have the 2 jiao needed to get my bike back. 2 jiao—about 2.5 cents. This was beginning to be ridiculous. I started combing the train back and forth looking for 1 jiao coins or notes. Not much luck… I briefly thought abou “finding” 2 jiao from the beggars around Beijing, but thought better of it. That would just be evil… And then! as the train was pulling into Wudaokou, I saw on the far corner of the train, a crumpled up yi jiao note. I was ecstatic! This was the equivalent of jumping and cheering after finding a penny on the ground. Halfway there! But then Frank called, and I got the last 1 jiao from him, got my bike, and went on home…

Entry 010
Foreign Student Dormitory Zijing
Tsinghua University, Beijing
Day 26 – 6.21 – 7:20 PM

Not much more to say, we went to a Beijing Hyundai Factory, which was rather pointless. The ride there was an hour long, we took a 40 minute tour, and then it was time to ride back. I was more disappointed than most because I was actually
looking forward to the visit. The stupidest part, was that our TA person demanded that we dressed “professionally”. So I took the one shirt that I had, and put on black pants. Of course, I completely forgot that I was wearing tennis shoes, so in the next picture, don’t bother looking down… mleh~

And then last Saturday, we went to one of the most famous clubs in Beijing, called the Banana. Despite its fruity implications the club was actually pretty damn good! No pictures though; they actually confiscated everyone’s bags and purses and wouldn’t let anyone take a camera. The cover was 30 yuan, which wasn’t too bad… but drinks were INSANELY expensive. Comparable to American city prices—at about 30 yuan for a beer, 40 for a sexonthebeach, and 55 for a Long Island iced tea. According to an online review, it was the place for “richie locals”. I put down nearly 300 yuan that night—not much by American standards, but
given the prices of local stuff here, it was HUGE.

We started with the goal of getting to the stage (the place was so crowded!) and then we got there for a while,
and I found glowsticks on the ground, and started waving them around. And then someone had the idea that we should go up on the stage. So we did!

Now that was awesome—I got my glowsticks and started doing random things with them—spelling I-L-L-I-N-I for one, trying to get Frank’s attention.

I went to the bathroom once, where some dude “helped” me wash my hands by squirting soap and handing me towels. He then pointed to a plate on the table where there were some 20 notes, and held out his hand demanding cash. ‘Wtf?’ I thought, and gave him a 10. Next time I’ll wash my own hands. Before we left though, we went to the bar one more time, and ordered a vodka and “Blue Bull”. Tasted pretty good. Got a Heineken and a round of “screaming orgasms”. Good stuff! And then we left at around 2:30. The driver got a kick out of my tipsy attempts to speak Chinese.

I realize that I haven’t been writing much about my classes… but they’re really getting monotonous. Learning a set of vocab words every day, practicing sentences, learning some songs, watching movies… that’s pretty much it.

Finally, yesterday Karaoke… but I’ll get to that in my next update. Probably Friday.


As of this writing, I’ve realized that I’ve put down nearly $50 worth of Skype money :D. If only everyone (SQ!) had Skype on their computers.