Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hiatus

As you've probably noticed, the frequency of my posts here has dropped off since getting back to the States. Its title, after all, is "Andy In China," and I'm not! So at least until I head back to the Middle Kingdom, this blog is going to take a break. Whether or not I revive it next time I'm over there, we shall see.

In the mean time...

It's been good to be home but, of course, I'm looking for the next thing! I'm in the process of arranging a 2-month internship with a company called HCD Global in Shanghai, that should run from mid-August to mid-October. After that, we shall see! It's possible that either they or a related company will make me an offer, or that my networking in Shanghai will turn up something else, or that I'll come back to the States to take an opportunity here. Whatever ends up happening, it'll be an adventure!

So until/unless this blog gets reopened (maybe in just a month or two, if all goes well), I'll leave you with one final piece of China-related wisdom: An amusing Times blog has announced that the Chinese government has officially released its very long list of suggested translations for Chinese dishes in preparation for the Olympics! Ever wonder what those "three fresh things" or "eight treasures" are? Wonder no more. This should be required reading for everybody studying abroad in China. It almost (almost) makes me want to break out the ol' index cards right now!

Well, I think that pretty much completes my Fulbright blogging duties! So 再见 for now - I'll be sure to put the word out if I take up blogging here again!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Stateside!

5:00AM - 7:30, China Time: Head to the Chengdu airport and wait for my flight (2.5 hours of travel thus far)
7:30 - 9:30: Fly from Chengdu to Beijing (4.5 hours)
9:30 - 3:00: Layover in Beijing (10 hours)
3:00 China time - 5:00pm EDT: Fly from Beijing to Newark (24 hours)
5:00 - 8:00: Layover in Newark (27 hours)
8:00 - 10:00: Flight from Newark to Cleveland (29 hours)

But I made it! I'm now officially Home... for a few weeks, at least! More on my post-August plans soon!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Smoked Salmon in Sichuan

For Christmas, my parents gave me a whole lot of wonderful food to bring back to China and enjoy here. One thing they gave me was a no-refrigeration-needed smoked salmon fillet. I'd been saving it since Christmas, but today was the day! Whole wheet bagals from this awesome little pizza parlor run by the wife of a consulate employee, cream cheese from the import store, onions, and tomatos.



Bourgeois breakfast bliss.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Finally Finalized

Remember that whole "My visa expires a day before my flight home" thing? Well, it's finally resolved! I went to the PSB today and applied for a tourist visa that will cover me through July 3 (in case my flight is delayed, or whatever). So now I finally know for sure when I'll be returning!
  • Tuesday, July 1: Continental flight 88, departing Beijing at 3:45 PM, arriving Newark 5:30 PM
  • Tuesday, July 1 (still): Continental flight 425, departing Newark 8:10 PM, arriving Cleveland 10:01 PM

Definitely glad that's finally settled!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Anybody home?

I have no idea how many roommates I currently have. I'm pretty sure that at least one of them is moved out, and I'm pretty sure that at least one of them is still here, but I really have no idea about the third one! I hadn't heard he was leaving, but I haven't seen him in days.

One interesting thing about renting in China is that there's apparently no expectation that you'll leave the place in good condition - or even clean! When I was looking for a place back in September, every apartment I saw had debris left over from its previous occupants - even to the point of unemptied waste bins! (The point of this Interesting Fact being that I can't tell how many roommates I have by the amount of detritus left in their rooms, because that's just kinda how you roll in China!)

Ahh, well. Doesn't really matter, I guess! Everybody's paid up and free to go. Our landlord, for some unimaginable reason, let us use our security deposit as the last month's rent, so there's really no reason that any of us can't just wander off whenever we feel like it. Strange, though!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Good Idea/Bad Idea?

It's been a month since the earthquake, today, and I'm happy to report that life in Chengdu is pretty much back to normal. Shops are no longer sold out of water, the tent villages have shrunken to a fraction of their former sizes, and I haven't felt an aftershock in days. Of course, that's not to say that there isn't still some goofy stuff!

This is the car of a person who is afraid that, if he parks his car in his underground parking lot, it will be crushed when an aftershock collapses his building:



In the days and weeks after the earthquake, there were thousands of cars parked on the sidewalks, but the police have finally been going around and issuing tickets and getting them cleaned up. This is not just important because all the sidewalks were blocked; it's important because parking your car in places like this is a terrible idea. Let's take another look at that sign above the car, shall we?


For your safety, please keep away from the wall!


That's right. This man has, in fact, parked his car in the least safe place in the entire city. He's parked next to what I call a "Five Minute Wall." (So called because that amount of time is both approximately how long it takes to build them, and about how long they're expected to stand.) On top of the fact that unreinforced masonry is the least safe building material in an earthquake, these particular specimens are slapped together in an afternoon with broken bricks and adulterated concrete that's mixed by hand on the sidewalk. Let's take a quick trip through a broken part of this wall to see it from behind:



Some craftsmanship, eh? Sooner or later, these things collapse with or without an earthquake. When I went around the city looking for damage on the day of the earthquake, a couple of collapsed Five Minute Walls were all I found.

And yet – despite the sign clearly announcing that it's not safe to be near the wall, this guy is just one of a dozen or so people still parked under it. *shakes head in bemused disbelief*

I kinda wonder how long he'll stay there!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Scholarship Diplomacy

The Fulbright Program aims to bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs and thereby to increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship.
-- Senator J. William Fulbright

And, every once in a while, it even works. And that's pretty cool.

In addition to the U.S. Student Grants like the one I'm on, there are also Foreign Students Grants, that invite students from around the world to conduct advanced study in the States. Last week, there was a bit of a diplomatic uproar when the Department of State revoked seven Fulbright Grants awarded to Palestinians living in Gaza because it didn't look like Israel was going to let the students out to pursue their studies.

Apparently, this was a decision made at a fairly low level, by people who didn't want the funding to be wasted if the recipients couldn't use it. When word got out, however, muckety-mucks in both the Department of State and the Israeli government were all pretty alarmed. Fulbright has a great reputation worldwide, and the prospect of the retractions was bad press for everybody. Now, a week later, not only are the grants to Gaza Fulbrighters reinstated, but now Israel is reconsidering its policies regarding students from Gaza studying abroad, not just for Fulbright grantees, but for all students who have received prestigious foreign scholarships around the world.

In my opinion, giving Gaza's best and brightest access to the world-class educational opportunities that they've earned is absolutely essential to developing a generation of Palestinian leaders with the international experience and advanced education necessary to have a positive impact on their situation in the future. And it's pretty cool to see a program that I'm a part of being a part of that.