blogbury in china, part 3

Notes that are EVEN LESS STRUCTURED than usual:

  • AQI was middling yesterday and is pretty poor today; it’s like the weather or traffic or newspaper headlines most other places in the world: it sets the day’s mood across the whole city
  • Much like the old story that airplanes’ air quality was better back when they allowed smoking because they actually had to filter it, it seems like the places with the best air quality are the places where smoking is allowed indoors so the room has giant air purifiers. This includes the lobby of the Beida international students’ center next to our dorm (which has a no smoking sign but usually at least two or three people smoking, and two huge air purifiers of the kind that you only see in places that do allow it), every bar or club, and many restaurants.
  • Yesterday was orientation, which included meeting our language partners, a program-wide buffet lunch, and a campus tour.
  • Six of us went to dinner at an expat bar with good NY-style pizza (we can’t have Chinese food every night) then went to a KTV in Wudaokou (Korean area of Beijing east of Beida) for an hour (video karaoke in a private room; this was the last weeknight we could do something like that without it being at least slightly irresponsible)
  • Today was the first day of class; it turns out first-years are lucky to have one of our teachers (Zhu laoshi) carry over from the Stanford portion (the other levels have entirely new teachers) because we’ve established class structures and routines that work rather than having to adapt now to completely new homework patterns, etc.  I miss my whiteboard; practicing characters on paper will be annoying but I probably can’t justify buying a whiteboard here that I can’t bring home–similarly I’m debating buying a cheap, prepaid Chinese cell phone because my iPhone is carrier locked so I can’t just buy a SIM; it would certainly be useful to send and receive domestic texts here and three people have already asked me if I have a Chinese number.
  • We went to a Hong Kong restaurant immediately outside the Beida southwest gate for lunch; I’ve now been to three of the twenty or so restaurants in the restaurant cluster/strip mall there.
  • The internet: is absurd. IN THEORY: we have Beida network accounts and can pay RMB100/month (about $16) for access via ethernet in our rooms and wifi elsewhere on campus that includes international websites or RMB20 (or nothing, nobody is quite sure because it seems like we have domestic access without paying anything) for access to domestic websites only. IN PRACTICE: even without paying anything (and we haven’t paid yet because our language partners told us that the relevant payment period is the calendar month and we should wait until August 1) we have incredibly sporadic, but definitely real, access to domestic+international websites via ethernet.  That is, it’s enabled unpredictably for a few hours a day.  The wifi seems to be domestic-only until we pay, but in the lobby of our hotel there’s a different network that gives free domestic+international access. In any case, if and when we have international access we can turn on an inexpensive paid VPN service (mine is $9 for a month) and access websites like Facebook and Twitter that are blocked by the Great Firewall. This is established practice among the educated/cosmopolitan, and I wouldn’t be surprised if most Beida students have a VPN installed.

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One Response to blogbury in china, part 3

  1. Steve Bradbury says:

    Love your posts, James! Next best thing to being there with you. Seems like every day brings some exciting new discoveries. Enjoy! –Sgb

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