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.