Saturday, May 31, 2008

Weird dreams...

I've been going to bed late & getting up late... lately. And having weird dreams. The past few days have had hurricane-like wind but with no rain. It was SO WINDY I couldn't sleep. It was loud, and some windows were shaking, a car alarm would go off outside, etc. And you know how external noises can enter and affect your dreams, right? Like if you fall asleep with the TV on, etc?
So, my dream....

In the dream, I looked out the window (someone else was in my apt with me) and saw the trees blowing really hard (they really were in real life). I commented on it, and they started not only blowing so hard but moving past, faster & faster. I then realized that the building had started spinning... and going up. Everything was in black & white, and I felt the whole building being lifted into the air as it was spinning really fast. I thought, "Oh I get it! This is like the Wizard of Oz! Soon I'll land in a colorful world with a yellow brick road and go see the wizard.... Nah, I'm not really in the mood for that." And the dream changed to something else. Cool. I'm not really a "Wizard of Oz" person. That would have been an annoying dream.

I also had a dream that I forgot to feed my hamster for a few days (don't really have one) and found it dead, arranged neatly on display in this toaster I found a picture of online the day before for a different purpose. I think my brain just didn't finish thinking about that toaster; I wondered some things about it but dismissed it; so my brain went back to it in an effort to give it completion, like a bad relationship. Don't know where the hamster came from... random weird pairing.

(you can only toast one slice at a time? and it needs to be a certain thickness? The glass must get hot, so would you burn your hand if you bump it? And how do you get the toast out, poke it out sideways with a knife? Ahh, so it's ok to stick a knife in THIS toaster? The heat must escape from all sides; that seems inefficient. I don't think I want this toaster. Ok, I think my brain's done with the weird toaster.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Weather widget, paying bills

Ok, I thought it would be interesting for people who are not in China to see what my weather is like here. So I searched for weather widgets. Many put up the current weather, which is dumb because if you see it while I'm sleeping, it'll seem nice & cool here, when in reality the daytime was just 90 degrees or something. Finally I found a simple 5-day forecast where I could choose colors, layout, etc, but it's too big and gets cut off. So I chose "transparent background" and changed the width from 250 to 200, a lucky first guess, and it turned into a 4-day forecast. The 5th day is hanging in oblivion somewhere, never to be seen. That's also why the words "Beijing, China" aren't centered.

It will now live in the top right corner, I think.

This is the one I wanted though; I thought that shade of red would be striking.

Oh well. I'll leave it here and visit it in the future just to bask in its glory.


In the US you get bills for everything. I hate bills. My usual way of dealing with them was to let them pile up until I HAD to do something about them. Maybe that's one reason I feel less stressed here. There are no bills. NONE. It's lovely. Convenient. Stress-free.
So how do we pay for things? It varies between cities & even parts of cities, but here are the ways I pay for things:

Electric & Water:
A lady who works in the building goes around once every 3 months or so, checks the meters, knocks on your door and asks for the money, then gives you a receipt. If you're not home or don't have the money at that time, they'll catch you at the front door sometime over the next 2-3 days. (there's a guy there at all times, I call him the door guard for lack of an exact word)

Each meter has a swipe card that can be put into the meter. You bring the card to the bank, stick it in a machine & press some buttons (they still do that part for me), bring it to the teller, pay her, stick it in the machine again to give the card the credit, then go home and stick it in your meter again. You do this in advance - when you see the meter getting low you go buy more before it hits zero. Easy for gas company, no bills, pay in advance as much as you want or can afford. You can buy months & months worth if you know you'll be living there a long time, and just forget about it for a while. Nice.

Today I'll go buy recharge cards from the CNC joint down the road. It's 120yuan/month. I could buy several month's worth in advance if I wanted to, though I don't. I'll dial 2081 or something, hear my balance, and go buy cards accordingly. Then I come home, scratch off the silvery stuff covering the pin number on the back, dial it in over the phone, and it's credited immediately. If I don't have 120 in my account at midnight the last night of the month, the internet cuts off. Then I go buy the cards and call them in. There is no penalty if that happens; it's my own doing, that's all.

Cell Phone
Pay in advance. You buy cards ANYWHERE, at little newsstands, convenience stores, etc, and scratch off the back, call in the number, and your phone gets credited.

A lot of "pay in advance". I like it. No one can be late with their bills, can't mess up your credit. If you can't afford it, you can't get it. If you forget, you don't have it and you feel dumb and make sure you don't forget next time. And you know how much you use. I've found that enlightening. I can see my water meter spinning when I do laundry, I can see how much gas I use in a week. I don't overuse things or waste things because I am always aware of how much I am using and the fact that I will be paying for that. It's in front of my face, not hidden away, only to feel the stress and obligation of a BILL in my face every month. I am in charge, not them.

At least, that's the feeling I get.

I like it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

New photo albums added

I added a few new photo albums in Picasa, the link is to the left.

Oh, I meant right. I guess I was talking as if I was in the computer looking out at you, like I am in the pictures. Sorry, I get confused sometimes.

Some of the captions are quite bulky, like tiny blogs of their own.

Here are some samples to entice you.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Day in the Life of Me (maybe long & boring, but now you have an example of a whole day)

I had a really nice, mild day. Got up at 8 to go to a meeting at work at 10am, which was actually kind of fun. Because it was early and a few of us wouldn't be teaching until evening, 3 of us showed up in jeans & sneakers, one guy with huge holes in the knees and a baseball cap & scruff.... I've only seen him before, for months, looking all sharp & professional. And no one told us in advance we'd each be getting our pictures taken. So it was a slightly giggly-meeting, with us younger shabby-looking teachers sitting in the back row where the shabby-looking students usually belong. The baseball cap guy colored in all the holes of the letters on the agenda (a,b,d,g, etc), as any good back-row-sitting student should. Got a free lunch afterwards.

I took the bus home, which I like doing if I get a seat. On the bus I can look out the window, which I really find fun and interesting, and daydream a bit or practice Chinese in my head. Walking home from the bus I stopped into my neighborhood market & bought 2 kinds of tofu, vegetables, some fresh handmade noodles, and yogurt (total=15yuan, or $2, or $15 if we put it back into proportion; it's only cheap if you earn a US salary).

At home, wasn't sure how to spend the next 3 odd hours before going to class. I did a load of laundry, got online a while, then started feeling really antsy, not sure why, and didn't really know what to do with myself. Played my drum a little, but that didn't help because I was too worried about bothering the neighbors in this new 1st floor apartment as opposed to the top floor one I was in before, where I could go out on the roof and actually feel alone. I miss that. Here, I know the doorguard & elevator lady would be able to hear anything loud in my place. I lifted my son's dumbbells for a bit (after taking off the heavy plates; I'm weak) and did some couch-pushups (because real ones are just not in my repertoire) then finally decided to try a new yoga dvd. It's awkward following a video (the first few times) because you're supposed to be facing other directions, or hanging your head down, but you have to keep turning to see what they're doing - "[peeking up]... oh, head should still be down... [peeking up again...] nope, heads still down... [now...?] .. oh golly she's standing up now in some crazy pose, how'd that happen?"... Ended up sweating and feeling pretty good.

Early dinner was leftover broccoli & ginger and brown rice from a little buddhist restaurant, to which I added two eggs, all mixed together. It was really good.

Rode bike to subway, running late even though I had that free 3 hours. Go figure, but that's me sometimes.
My class was great. We didn't use the book at all. The 4 students who showed up were relaxed casual friendly ones, so we just talked the whole time about all different topics. I learned the chinese version of "speak of the devil!", which includes the name of an emperor, not the devil, and sounds funny because it rhymes. Theirs is better, sorry to admit. (shuo1 Cao2cao1, Cao2cao1 dao4) They also asked me lots of personal questions, like who do I live with, and about my son & "husband" (I just say "we're not together anymore" avoiding the words married/divorced, since those never got around to happening and I really hate lying)... my lifestyle is not exactly traditional for this country, but I like explaining it to people who are genuinely interested because then they learn something... like being a single parent isn't a BAD thing, and there are reasons, etc... and they already know me & respect me, so they actually listen and see another view.

Riding home from the subway was REALLY nice - the air was the perfect temperature, and riding a bike gives that nice little breeze that makes me want to stretch my arms out (but don't worry, I only put one out) so I rode around my apartment complex a little extra before going in. (confession: I often sing while riding my bike. Pedestrians will only have to bear a moment of it as I quickly pass, and they'll never see me again, so it's safe)
The kid was unexpectedly home (a bit after 10pm) and we talked a lot and didn't end up playing a game like we said. I let him go online without bugging him (rare for me) and dozed off on the couch daydreaming... which turned into real dreaming I guess. Woke up at 2am and went to bed for real.

There you have it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Can't see my own blog; Little jobs; Earthquake donating

Ok, it seems impossible to find a blog I like that isn't blocked in China. I was able to sign up for this one, get it all prettied up, write this... I was so happy... but I CAN'T SEE IT. Correct. You just clicked on that link and you're seeing my blog, right? I can't do that. Well, not without being sneaky, I discovered. But I'll keep it because I like it, and continue being sneaky.

My Latest Mini-Job
I'm transcribing an hour and a half lecture on Advanced Energy Efficiency (in industry; by Amory Lovins). It's tough. It's taking me and my poor typing skills a LONG time. I realized (again) that our brains really do like patterns. When the guy says some layman-type sentences, I can remember a half or a whole sentence, pause the video, and type it out. When he uses big words like "axially mounted" and "therefore as in naval propulsion you can do what’s called virtual trail shafting".... well, a whole sentence takes a really long time to remember and type. I'm not going to admit how long it took me to transcribe 5 minutes about gas turbines. Yikes. This is not the career for me. (almost an hour)

I also recently did a little proofreading and will probably do more. They translate from Chinese to English, then I fix it up and make it sound comfortable rather than like a dictionary-robot.

I've been really good at everything I've been doing in this ... field? I hated English class in school, yet here I am proofreading it, transcribing it, teaching it, even helping with a study on it... no, English is not "my field", teaching is. If I know something, I can teach it. It's handy to know what you're good at and not good at. Me: good at teaching, seeing things, solving problems. Not good at math, typing, playing the xiao (vertical bamboo flute).

Earthquake Donating....
I donated blood about 1.5 months ago for no particular reason (I have "panda blood" they call it, the most rare, most wanted) and agreed to be put on a list for emergencies in the future, so I won't try again so soon; they'll call me if they need me. People with normal boring blood are being turned away. There are too many people donating; they're literally overflowing. (...? don't think about that too much, just go on...)

Some people said their companies are MAKING them donate money, and telling them how much to give. I don't think that's right. And I thought about it today as I donated at my very own apartment. If my boss told me I MUST donate 100 yuan, I'd feel.... well I wouldn't feel like I was donating, that's not really donating.

But at my apartment when I came home tonight, there were two big blackboards (every complex has them for notices) with lists of names on them and an amount next to each name. I figured out what it was right away, and chatted with the door guard, elevator lady, and a neighbor about it for a while. (pic above) They told me the other 2 foreigners' names and like a good student I searched the board and found one of them. Then they taught me some new words, which I already forgot.... (oh, I remember "donate" from giving blood) and it felt REALLY GOOD to write my name on that board with my neighbors' names. Really. It was all heartwarming, especially the way the old doorguard guy (in the picture) said "谢谢, 谢谢你, 谢谢" (thank you). In that situation, I felt GOOD giving, and would've felt bad not to. It was really nice.

See? You can pressure people leaving them resentful, or pressure them leaving them feeling good, and thinking it was their idea.

Funny, I didn't click the orange OR the blue buttons... but while I'm here, let me experiment a bit....

Ah, I can add pictures! woohoo! This is one of my favorite roof pictures, when they messed up my hair color last year and I yelled at them in really bad Chinese and stormed out the door crying (how a real Chinese girl would handle it). It grew on me by the time I got home and I had fun with it after all. Go with the flow...
"I can pretend this is a famous quote, but really it's just me...."
  • and i can use these handy bullet points to list what i bought at the store:
  • 黄瓜
  • 豆腐
  • 鸡蛋
  • 巧克力牛奶
  • are you getting bored yet?
Ok, that's enough, we'll see what happens tomorrow. I'm REALLY going to bed now, I swear.
Ok, the entire environment for dealing with this blog behind the scenes for me is in Chinese. It's taken WAY too long and I should be asleep now. But I made it to this point, writing in a box. Then I'll choose either the orange button or the blue button below and see what happens.

If I can figure out how to get back to this spot again tomorrow and write a NEW post, I think we're in business. Wish me luck.