Saturday, January 26, 2008


I moved out of my friend Frank's on Wednesday and into a place near Dongzhimen. It's working out really well since a friend happened to be leaving for a month in the Philippines, so I'm paying for his rent for a month and staying in his room. I'm living with a French guy and a Chinese girl. It's a really nice place, it's incredible what you can get when you split the cost with housemates. I took some pictures but I'll have to post them in a few days since I left the USB cable to my camera at Frank's.

Although this isn't quite as close to the center of the city as Frank's, it's still pretty good. We're right on the loop line. It's hard for me to get oriented, since I'm so used to being way out east near the fourth ring, and now I'm right on the second ring, and it's confounding that I have to go east instead of west to get to some of my old haunts. It's almost absurdly luxurious.

I registered with the local police station, as I'm required to do as a foreigner. It was a bit of trouble, since the guy whose room I'm taking over hadn't registered and he's been here for quite a long time, and they didn't have the apartment in their database and I couldn't explain why. They also assumed that I had arrived a week earlier based on the date stamped in my passport, and gave me a warning for not registering within 24 hours. I was thinking of arguing, since actually I did register within 24 hours of moving in, and theoretically I could have been staying at a hostel for the last week, but I figured it would be best to just shut up and leave. Now I have a fancy little warning with a red stamp on it, hard proof that I am bad.

I'm trying to be patient about gigs coming my way. I've been meeting everybody I could and telling everybody I'm back and available. My friend Shauna actually got me invited to interpret on screen for some Holland film crew who were going to go around doing some travel documentary in the city on Friday, but the invitation only lasted for about 5 minutes, until the director realized I was white, and then they called me back and apologized for the misunderstanding. My boss from the Kite Runner, Ken, might be coming back in a couple of months for some shoot, but he's not sure yet. A bunch of people are going down to Shanghai for a movie with Gong Li and John Cusack, and I sent my resume in for that. I also talked to the production manager for some Australian production shooting north of Beijing for 5 weeks, but I was feeling particularly exhausted when I met him and didn't really make an effort to be impressive or enthusiastic, so that's probably not going anywhere. Anyway I'm sure something will come around soon enough.

I am paying a lot for food though. Inflation is really quite something. And I'm getting a good deal with this room right now, but everybody is talking about how the landlords in Beijing have gone out of their collective minds this year with the Olympics coming up, and somehow imagine that they can either quadruple rent prices in August or kick out their current tenants to make room for the onslaught of foreigners that will be coming through. I just can't imagine that there will be that much demand. And how are they going to get people to stay in these apartments for two weeks? Are all of the landlords of Beijing going to swamp the international airport terminal waving laminated flyers like the cheap hotels around the train station? The thought makes me nervous. But it's still a while until August.

I think I'm going to transfer my blogging efforts over to my website at, which is not censored in China. It has a handy little RSS feed which you can subscribe to through your browser or other favorite RSS reader so you don't have to have your inbox clogged with my spam. Look there for my next post!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Day One in the Jing

Originally uploaded by arewethereyet
My first day back in Beijing was blessed with beautiful blue skies. I posted some pictures on Flickr, although there seem to be some censorship problems with the site for me so I'm not sure if I'll keep using it. But then again my blog is also still censored.

I was very productive on my first day. I got a new phone number and a bank account. Liu Shaochun (the special effects props guy) called me and said that Ken was talking about coming back for some production in February or March. Xu Ke (my old roommate) invited me to spend the spring festival at his family's in Hunan. By freak chance, I ran into the behind-the-scenes cameraman from the Kite Runner on one of the new subway trains (what are the odds?), and he gave me his card and said he'd be in touch. I met up with a bunch of other translator friends for dinner. It's been a long time since I ate in a smoke-filled restaurant. Quite a different feeling.

I ate a beautiful breakfast in one of these alleyway hole-in-walls, of steaming baozi, soy milk, and hot salted radish. I wanted to take a picture but couldn't quite bring myself to take out my camera.

Today I'm having lunch with Andy, who I think will be able to get me some day jobs with his production company. I feel pretty good, I think things are going well.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

j/k lol!!!!111 (a brief update)

So, I'm not going back to China just yet. I got a job for a little thinktank in Harvard Square, thanks to one of my classmates from Oberlin, who I ran into completely by chance when I went to play wiffleball down the street one Tuesday night, because kung fu was closed that week. Go figure. I'm writing a paper on journalism in China, which isn't particularly exciting for me, but which is exciting for my bosses, who are paying me, so that's good enough for me. Hopefully once I get through this paper, I will think of a more exciting topic, and maybe, perhaps, will genuinely enjoy my job. At any rate, I'm looking for another apartment. I was thinking of moving out to Allston with my friend Pat, but it's too hard to find a two-bedroom apartment for a reasonable price, and on second thought, it's actually pretty convenient being out in Davis on the red line. I'm scouring Craigslist for available rooms, and this time I will make extra sure to check for pee-stained mats in the bathroom before I sign a lease.

Kung fu has been going really well, which is mainly the reason I'm trying to convince myself to shutup and stay here. I got promoted to brown belt, which means I get to lead exercises, help teach, and learn the secret touch of death. I also came back from China with the most uncomfortable tension in my legs, which I felt was making me walk funny with my feet turned out, and I seem to have finally worked some of that out.

I still feel pretty lame about hanging around here, and I'm a little concerned that secretly harboring such pent-up hatred for my housemate for such a long time is causing me to become schizophrenic, but God works in mysterious ways and whatnot, so until next time, it's cheese and ice-cream and hotdogs for me.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Essay: Why Am I Leaving Again?

It's been a month and a half since I lost my job at Diesel, and I've decided to return to China.

When I came back to the States, I didn't really know what I would do, but I figured I most likely wouldn't come up with any ideas, and just go back to Beijing. But I decided I wanted to try sticking it out for a while and seeing what possibilities I could explore while supporting myself in the States. When my friend Sarah recommended I come work at Diesel, I thought it would be a good way for me to get out of the house and meet some fellow Americans, and get an idea of what kind of jobs would be worth pursuing around here. Well, actually, I don't think I even really wanted to think that far in advance. I just wanted to take a bit of a break from thinking and just make coffee and sandwiches for a while. Of course that was cut short, so I've been forced to reconsider my future at a bit of an accelerated rate.

What I've decided is, I'm ready to go back. I know I wanted to prove to myself that I could make a living for myself in the States, that I'm not a hopeless expat who's just running away from home. But I also wanted to experience living in the States, not being special, and being poor, so that I could appreciate China better when I went back. Being unemployed and living in this apartment with two strangers has certainly given me that. And when I look at what other people my age who stayed in the States are doing, for the most part they're either in some tedious office assistant or research assistant job, and are mostly looking at going back to school already. Of course I love all of my friends here, but I don't envy any of them their jobs. Except for maybe Masha, who lives in magical Google-Land. And there is no way I am ready to go back to school.

Then there are my few friends with China backgrounds who are working in the States. They live in D.C. I wouldn't mind living in D.C., and I've certainly applied to enough jobs with various government agencies.

My job search strategy has essentially consisted of two tactics: I look through Craigslist for any job in the Boston area that catches my fancy, or I search through a number of forums and locations on the keywords Chinese, Mandarin, or China. Lately I've been thinking, though, I don't actually particularly want to get a job in the States that uses my Chinese, because using my Chinese just makes me frustrated at how bad it's become, and makes me wish I were back in China. But other than a China job, I can't think of any one thing that I really particularly want to do here.

Last month, my family was generous enough to buy me a trip to this aptitude testing center. The results basically said that I would be very good at and enjoy foreign language, journalism, and consulting. They said some other things too, but if I just look at these suggestions, they basically tell me to go back to China and pursue writing opportunities and take another look at market consulting firms. I had already been looking into these fields in my last job search in Beijing, so I think I was on the right track.

Of course, I still completely reject a careerist view of life, and by no means am I talking about committing myself to one of these two fields. I'm interested in taking any interesting opportunities that come to me, so I'm going to go back to Beijing, where interesting opportunities come to me.

The immediate problem is next three months' rent, and how to save up for a plane ticket, my cellphone cancellation fee, a visa, and still have enough for cushioning for a month or so of settling down in Beijing. I'm signed up with one temp agency who hasn't offered me work in the past week, and I'm waiting to hear from another agency that provides temp services to Harvard. I still have a wad of Chinese cash sitting in a safe deposit box that I can change in an emergency, but hopefully I can at least keep myself afloat so that I can hold on to that money for when I get back.

It's nice to have a goal. And I'm trying to remind myself to enjoy the air and the grass here in the meantime.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Going home

So yesterday morning I met up with the 4 American special effects crew on this new movie and got in a van with them to go to Yi Xian, which is where they will be shooting. I explained to them up front that I had not signed on for the whole shoot, and was actually hoping to meet them first and see what I was getting into before I decided. Anyway, we passed through the town of Yi Xian, which was a complete dump, and then continued on to the middle of nowhere, which is where the shooting locations and housing are. The housing they had arranged for the foreign crew was this miserable little tourist resort, which was the best you could get in the area, and which was not even as good as my hotel in Kashgar. When the special effects guys expressed their dissatisfaction, the location manager suggested we take a look at the accommodation for the Chinese crew, in order to gain a greater appreciation of their high class treatment.

Then we drove around more dirt roads to look at 3 shooting locations, and while we were in the van to the second location, the head of the special effects crew asked me what I was thinking. I told him I was thinking of going home and fixing bikes for a while.

Long story short, they found another translator to replace me immediately, and I got back to Beijing that night and went to the wrap party for Kite Runner. Today I collected my pay for my one day of work, and bought a plane ticket home. I will be flying into New York on the 18th, where I will be staying with Seb and Jenny? Then I will come home for some Hannukah/Christmas fun. I'm thinking maybe of going to the DC area around New Years and visiting more people around there, and then maybe ending up in Virginia for MAGFest on the 4th? Jared?

In the meantime I am going to party all week and try and figure out what I'm doing with all of the things sitting around in my apartment.

Monday, December 04, 2006

My next project

So, now The Kite Runner is almost over and I seem to have agreed to join on with another movie, starting immediately. My original plan was to take a well deserved break, hang around in Beijing until the 20th, fly home and then decide what I want to do next. But the special effects crew for this movie is coming over for a scout starting this Friday and will be here for a couple of weeks, and I thought I should at least meet them and see if I like them. They will be going home for Christmas, which will allow me to at least take a break for a couple of weeks, and then I can decide if I want to stay with them on the movie when they come back or not.

I'm leaving for a town a couple hours away from Beijing soon to finish up the last two shooting days on Kite Runner, after which I am scheduled to come back and immediately travel to Hebei with these American SFX guys. I will not pass go, I will not collect my pay, and I will not attend the China wrap party. But whatever, the thought of getting onto a movie with all my favorite Hong Kong stars is too tempting, even though I know it will probably only be fun for about two weeks.

Either way, I do plan to be home starting on the 20th, I just have to meet these guys first and see whether my ticket will be one way or round trip.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Some photos

Take a look at some pictures Dagan took at my flickr account.