Monday, November 27, 2006

Season's Greetings

It's been awhile. I haven't had much to say and on top of that I have been not in the cheeriest of moods. In the spirit of last week's Thanksgiving, I should be grateful for all that I have. But let me tell you this. . .there was not turkey. No cranberries. No, not in a country that doesn't have turkey or cranberries. In fact, the word for turkey in Chinese is "big chicken." I think the turkey is being misrepresented. . . Furthermore, there was no stuffing or gravy. I did get my hands on a sweet potato though. They sell them for 25 cents on the street during the winter months. I guess I should be grateful for that. My Thanksgiving dinner consisted of a plate full of sushi and also some raw squid (given to us as a free appetizer. . .hello, not appetizing) at a local Japanese restaurant. I have to hand it to one of my co-workers. He was more clever. He went to an Indian restuarant for his Thanksgiving meal.
There isn't much sign of Christmas in Beijing yet. I'll give you all the annoying details once there is. The Chinese don't know how to "do" the holiday season. They have some mutant strain of a holiday that hardly resembles the Christmas I know. Granted, Christmas in America has it's own issues. I personally can't bring myself to step into a mall after Thanksgiving. And I'm almost willing to listen to Linda Ronstad (the only cassette tape I own, one I listened to religiously as a little girl) in my car to avoid the Christmas songs on the radio. Now, what I wouldn't give to hear "Grandma Got Ran Over by a Reindeer" or "Feliz Navidad." I miss the sugar buzz of cookies and chocolates. There's no Christmas trees seen through windows. No department store fist fights over the hottest toys of the season. So next time you are about to scream while scanning that radio dial, think of me.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Back on American Soil (from 11.4)

*I posted this on Blogger last week, but somehow it appears to have disappeared from my former entries??

I made it onto US soil for approximately 45 minutes yesterday. Why did I return to America for such a short time? you ask. The answer is simple, although probably not the one you wanted: to visit the local embassy. Sorry to disappoint, but I'm not actually in the good ol' U.S. of A., although I almost felt like it when I stepped into the embassy district. It's so very unBeijing. There are no high rises and very few cars. There are trees and shrubbery for as far as the eye can see. But you know you are in China because at the gate of every embassy is a tiny little Chinese man (roughly 17 years of age, 100 lbs dripping wet) in an ill fitting green uniform. These security guards are a little hard to take seriously. First of all, it looks like they borrowed their older brother's clothes and a belt ten sizes too big. Secondly, they don't carry guns. Well, neither do the police here, but at least they look like actual grown ups.

You are probably wondering what I was doing at the embassy. Well, I found that my Friday afternoon class was canceled, so I decided to take a trip over there. I haven't received any word on the status of Ming's visa. The application made it to them, as they cashed the $170 check (the first of many to come, it pains me to say) back in August. I was able to talk to a more-than-helpful lady, a luxary you don't often find in China. I really love how kind my fellow Americans can be. In spite of her best efforts, however, she couldn't tell me much. Turns out they do all the processing for his type of visa in Guangzhou, which is in South China, near Hong Kong. Fat chance I'm going to be making a trip down there, leaving us with pretty much our only option-to continue to wait. Please cross your fingers for us!

With luck on our side the whole process can take about a year, but there is a good chance we will get rejected this first time. It's better for me not to even think about it!There's not much else to report. Although I would like to note that I got drunk off of one Ultimate Mojito at Friday's restaurant yesterday. There's nothing like having lunch solo and getting drunk at one in the afternoon while in a foreign country. I don't really recommend it.

The American Dream, in China

I'm not the most conventional of people, but I must say that I am pretty cliche in my hopes for the future. A husband, a couple kids, a dog, and a modest house in the suburbs-yes, the sterotypical American Dream. I can, however, go without the picket fence and golden retreiver. If (or should I say: WHEN) I come back to America, there is a good chance of eventually making all these dreams a reality. If (this is a hypothetical "if") I were to live my life in China, the chances of this happening are slim to none. The husband and dog will happen, the two kids-maybe (I'm not sure if I have to abide by China's "One Child Policy"?). The house, fat chance in hell.

Finding a house in China is not easy. I have never, with my own two eyes, have actually seen a "house" in the American sense. I hear that they exist out in the Beijing suburbs, but I've only seen pictures in magazines. The fact is, it's better for me not to think about it. I start to feel a little bitter because I know it's something that could never be mine. Same as owning a car here. Yeah, it's great not having to rely on a vehicle, but when the option is taken away from you, you start to feel a little resentment. Generally, only taxi drivers and those with really high paying jobs have cars. Keep in mind that the average yearly income in Beijing is just over US$2000. People live off of less than $200 a month, on average! Many people survive on much less. In that sense, I am incredibly fortunate.

Clearly, having a car is out of most people's reach. Having a house is even more so. Word is that the suburbian houses cost several hundred thousand US dollars. Not only that, one can never actually own the house because it's technically on 70-year lease from the Chinese government. That's communism for ya.

But things in China are changing. You've probably heard? Fastest growing economy, blah,blah,blah. I don't know all the details, but things are developing fast and the standards of living are changing. Chinese people want more, better, faster. Does this sound framiliar? I think many Chinese are hoping to find there own American dream. But can it happen? Let's hope not. And I'll tell you why. . .

I just recently read an article (an interview of Lester Brown, a famous environmental analysist, in case you were wondering) about China's future. It is predicted that China will reach the same income level as America in 25 years. If China spends it's money in ways similar to how American spend their money, there are going to be some problems, to say the least. I'm a girl who likes statistics and simple numbers. Sure, many of them are BS, but let's just entertain ourselves with some for the time being. According to this Brown fellow, if future Chinese consumers are anything like current Ameican consumers, the Chinese will consume twice as much paper as the world currently produces. Keep in mind that China, at present, has about 1.3 billion people. America, a country similar in size, has about 280 million. So what does that mean as far as cars on the road? By 2036, it is predicted that the Chinese will drive 1.1 billion cars. That's asking for a lot of traffic jams! At the moment, there are 800 million cars driven worldwide. What does that mean for oil? 99 billion barrels of oil a day for China ALONE. The world currently produces 84 billion barrels a day. So it looks as if the American Dream is not going to do China, or the world, much good. It will be a sweet time for car manufacturers though.

I have always been, more-or-less, as environmental conscious as the next guy. I seperated my cans from my papers, but was occassionally known to throw a cigarette butt out the window of my car. Living in Beijing has made me realize how much I took for granted. There is garbage lying everywhere here, although that's the least of my concerns. The air is thick and brown most days, with little visibility. I heard that living here is like smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. When will it get better? There will be a city overhaul for the Olympics, no doubt, but I'm a little nervous about Beijing's post-Olympic future. But by then I'll probably be living out my American Dream in American and blissfully clueless about life under the red flag.