Living Abroad in China

I arrived in Beijing on February 24th and moved into the Seasons Park apartment building. Luckily, this happened to be the same apartment that Mo lived in so ofcourse we convinced Ow to live there as well.

This was the view from my 16th floor window. Unfortunately, on the very first night in my apartment I forgot which number I lived at and had to find an English translator to communicate with the leasing office to figure it out and let me in!

The inside of my studio was cozy and nice, except for one strange architectural decision...

...that curtain you see is actually very thin and draped behind a piece of glass separating the bathroom from the studio. Under the right (or wrong, really...) lighting you could pretty much see everything happening in the bathroom.

The Andrews had not yet arrived for my first week in Beijing so I took the time to do some solo sight seeing.

These is the famous Bird's Nest from closeup.

And this is the inside of the stadium now being used as a snow park / indoor skiing venue. Unfortunately that is the real color of the sky.

The Olympic Park area is pretty empty now except for tourists who mostly arrive via subway.

Although I missed the main Chinese New Years celebration I did catch the tail end with some fireworks in the street 15 days after new year. They were going off everywhere and it basically felt like the city was being shelled by... the North Koreans?

This place was called "The Place" in English, a place for shopping. It had a huge Vegas-style LCD screen. The name of the place being The Place ensured lots of confusing conversations about where to meet when coming here.

Ow and I were grateful to have many gracious hosts in Beijing, including Jean's cousin Fei! Can you see the resemblance?

If not, at least check out those big thick framed black glasses. I think they look pretty cool and were apparently very in style around Beijing.

Are we in Japan or China? I don't know.

Another host was Xiao Dai who was our office manager at work. She invited us on a Great Wall Hike.

I paid about 80 US cents for "insurance" on this hike on Xiao Dai's recommendation, as she said there had been a few people who died previously on the trip. Really. Unfortunately the 80 cents didn't make me feel much better.

This was the rest of the engineering team at Seravia. Needless to say lunchtime with the co-workers was often a quiet affair for me. Luckily the other half of the company (mostly lawyers) had many more expats.

Karaoke (or as they call it, KTV) is really popular in China among all ages. What is particularly cool is that the songs feature the real music videos - like this Michael Jackson video.

About a month into being in Beijing Ow and I went on a weekend trip with some new friends (three expats and a local... can you guess which is which?) to Pingyao where the movie "Raise the Red Latern" was filmed.

We arrived early in the morning before the crowds were out.

We parked our bikes for about an hour and toured a historical site. When we came back, one bike had a nail in its tire. Coincidentally a bike shop to fix such a problem was about 2 steps away. Suspicious.

This had to be one of the best meals the entire trip. We were starving from biking out in the fields and had excellent soft, plump, Shaanxi Province style noodles (the big bowl in the middle).

Notice the difference between this photo and the one taken early in the morning. Pingyao is quite a popular spot for locals to visit.

Somehow someone thought it would be a good idea to dress up in costumes and make funny poses.

For me the costume did have the advantage of several girls coming up to me and asking for a photo. After the third request, I replied "3 bucks" in Chinese and got quite a reaction before I waved my hand and said "joking."

Even without the costume I think being tall and white (and somewhat attractive if I do say so myself...) garnered requests for pictures.

Back in Beijing, this was a frequent lunch spot. These surgeon-looking folks are assembling mass quantities of "biaozi" or steamed dumplings.

There's the finished product - they were good! (and cheap - about $1.50 for 15)

Getting some food before heading out to a club with friends.

Mo made me take this photo in front of the Temple of Heaven, a historical site in Beijing.

I enjoyed the view of the city on one of the nicest days there during my two months. The sky was pretty clear and temperature perfect after weeks of cold and snow.

Not sure what I was going for here... but I do enjoy ruining an otherwise good photo.

Mo's caption for this photo: "Jonathan! If you can't see the camera, the camera can't see you!"

Mo's caption for this photo: "Dude ... can you look any more awkward?"

Final take

Chaoyang Park

Overall, a great time in Beijing for 2 months. Learned some Chinese, worked for a great company, met a lot of new folks and had fun with old friends - I couldn't have asked for more.