BootsnAll Travel Network

The Best Of Amy’s Blog

My youngest son, Josh and his wife Amy are living in Beijing. Her entries are best read from the bottom up.

Nov 25, 01:45 AM
The first week I was here Josh had a huge dinner to put on for the Chaine Society. Originally founded in France as one of the first guilds for goose rotissieres, the Chaine Society is now a world wide society though now less focused on rotissieres in favor of hoteliers. Since Josh hosted a dinner he was invited to the next gala event – a black tie event for which neither one of was really prepared. Rather than getting a tux, Josh had a custom Chinese formal suit made – dragon brocade, Mao cut and all! I wore the one black dress that I have in China with completely inappropriate shoes and spent the night hoping that I didn’t run my pantyhose cause they’re the only pair I have! Still, I think we looked pretty good all things considered!

But what was really hilarious was the “decorations” that Chaine members wear – collars made of brass plates and fake jewels with their names on them decorated with different colored ribbons signifying their position (ie. hotelier, GM, chef, etc). I forgot to take a picture of the real thing (Josh was monopolizing the camera taking pictures of the courses) but just imagine the necklace sort of thing that foreign ministers wore in Elizabethan England.

The food was underwhelming but the people watching was great! Read more…
The White Skin/Colonialism Redux

Nov 25, 01:40 AM
When you walk around in Beijing (before it got cold and cloudy about a week ago at least) many women carry umbrellas – in sunny skies, on windy, but clear days, etc. Light skin is a prized possession here – the fairer the better. Hence their stares at most Westerners – the blonder the better! From what I understand from friends, Westerners with children should be prepared for stern admonitions from any and all Beijingers to put some sunscreen on that kid! Cultural norms are hilarious – lots of Westerners (at least in the States) cook their skin in tanning booths to signify their wealth and leisure. Hell, when will we see the corsets, the mint juleps, and the swooning?! Read more…
The Worst Blogger in the World

Nov 25, 01:21 AM
Yes, I admit it. As my friend Frega contends, I am, indeed, the worst blogger in the world. However, I have a few defenses. First, my blog disappeared (at least in China). I posted several times and they never showed up. After some help from the friendly Blogger people they restored it – but it was missing the old posts and no one in the States could access it. So … after three weeks of back and forth it seems to be up and running again – albeit without the stuff that I added in the meantime. So, I will give an overview and then reconstruct some of the posts I added that none of you could look at. Apologies and I hope I haven’t permanantly ruined my credibility with you all.

Getting settled here has been more difficult than I had imagined. Beijing is a tremendously bizarre city. Desperately seeking to be first world, but hopelessly restrained by third world realities. The nouveau riche of Beijing certainly are seen and felt throughout but that doesn’t change the fact that that minimum wage in Beijing is 560 RMB (about $70 USD) – and that is relatively high compared to the rest of China. The average per capita income for Beijingers is 2,700 RMB (about $337 USD). No wonder they see Westerners as rich, regardless of their circumstances! But even more than the skewing of the wealth is the notion of Beijing as this vastly, rapidly constructing metropolis. Yes, there is constant construction, taking place throughout the city. But often it is not a new project, but a refurbishment of an old, decrepit building. And what that means, by Beijing standards, is that the building was put up about 10 years ago – quickly, shoddily constructed – and now they are modernizing it, or bringing it up to standard (I’m not sure exactly what those standards are). They recycle all the re-bar (hell, they recycle small pieces of rusted old iron that don’t look like they should have been used the first time). The result is that all this new construction is usually poorly contracted and poorly executed – especially because there will be a building hiatus for the Olympics. The recycled iron and bricks are moved by individual laborers are their bicycle powered cowered carts. The produce throughout the city is delivered by donkey cart. The side walks are laid one brick at a time rather than poured concrete. The massive construction is fueled by manual labor – their is no need to modernize production because of the unlimited pool of labor. I feel like I am witnessing parts of the robber-baron modernization of America in the late 19th century!!

And then, of course there is the language. Nothing prepares you for this difficulty. I am getting to the point that I recognize words (and I am damn good with the numbers) but the words are actually meaningless without the context. I am still struggling along and will be starting an intensive language course in January to try and put my diffuse knowledge into a more coherent practice.

Josh is doing great – he works all the time – the Hilton does tons of special events and he is always coming up with new menus or preparing a wine dinner. I think he is really enjoying being in charge of his own kitchen but is still coming to terms with the corporate aspect – all those purchase orders ARG!

Happy Thanksgiving to all … will reconstruct and add some of the old posts in a few minutes. Read more…
The Garden State
Sep 16, 06:25 AM
Had to add this image. Not suprisingly, this is a city with a lot of cycles … usually bicycles or mopeds, but there are also a lot of motorcycles with side cars – and they are much more prevalent than motorcycles on their own.

Josh has threatened to get one just so he can entertain the notion of me in a sidecar! But, you must appreciate the fact that outside of the door to our apartment building is a motorcycle with sidecar sporting New Jersey plates.

ALP Read more…
1st Anniversary
Sep 9, 04:28 AM
Well, this is certainly a new one. Being the only historian in the family (and by that I mean both sides of extended family) I am usually the one that remembers all the dates, names and numbers: birthdays, old phone numbers, addresses, historical events, useless facts … that sort of thing. Josh has certainly one-upped me this time. He remembered our first wedding anniversary – and I didn’t. I’m thinking of using the “the first anniversary of the first wedding? what about the second wedding?” defense, but I have the feeling it will be useless. So … readers and friends: Josh is right. I admit it now, in this instance at least … we’ll see what happens in the future.

He’s at work, of course, doing a party for 90 people with choreographed lighting (don’t get me started). He has a wine party for 30 tomorrow and the restaurant is opening for lunch beginning Monday – ARG!. After that, he’s taking a few days off and maybe we’ll go see, I don’t know, the Great Wall of China or some equally outlandish thing. Living in Beijing is bizarre. Read more…
Inital Lessons Learned and First Impressions
Sep 7, 10:26 PM
Ahoy All.

I’ve been in Beijing a week today – I’ve encountered a few technical difficulties with the blog – but I think (I hope) they are ironed out. I’ve also been alternately enthralled, overwhelmed, and exhausted by the city, by the language, by the jet lag, by …. well, I could go on and on.

So … first impressions and intial lessons learned …

(1) Yes, the traffic is bad. And yes, the drivers adhere to the “there are no rules, and if there are rules, they do not apply to me” school of driving. If coming from some sparsely populated remote backwater … like … Kansas (see previous post) it would be terrifying. But 5 years in NYC playing chicken with yellow cabs prepared me well. The only strange thing is that none of the cars are dented – they are immaculate. Every day walking down the street there are people out washing, waxing, detailing the very cars that they drive so reckelessly. Interesting.

(2) If on foot, never, never , NEVER, think that there’s a quicker return route based on a street you briefly glimpsed on the way there that SEEMED to be going in the right direction unless you can (a) find it on the map; (b) actually see your destination; or (c) are prepared to walk for 4+ hours with a backpack full of recently purchased household goods from IKEA. Yes, my first full day in Beijing – it took by 1/2 and hour to get there (I was so proud – I am and excellent map reader – or so I thought, later) and 4 and 1/2 to get home … an important albeit humbling lesson. It reminds me of the American equivalent – which I’ve also learned the hard way – if you are low on gas, don’t get off the freeway unless you can acutally see the gas station even if they say there is one there!!

(3) Beer is dangerously cheap. 4 big bottles of Tsing-tao is 8.40 yuan (about $1.05) and that includes the recycling fee. Thank goodness I’m not driving …. but that makes me think a little more about comment #1.

(4) Being the “other” is weird. 30 years as a white person in America doesn’t prepare you at all for the stares – some curious, some resentful, some dismissive, some jealous, some full of yearning for the West. On my jaunts numerous Chinese call out ‘hello’ or ‘hi’ and break into a broad grin when I respond in kind – as though they were now a member of a secret club just by exchanging greetings in English. The women stare much more than the men – and they focus on two things: my hair and my wedding ring. The first is an unfortunate reality – while, I’ve always tried to avoid broad generalizations, here’s one I think is valid: Asian women got screwed when it comes to hair. It’s flat, it’s board straight, it’s thin, it reacts badly to perms, it’s always black. The curly, no maintenance hair that I have is even more delightful now that I am in China. As for the ring – Chinese rarely wear jewelry (at least not as I have observed as of yet); if they do, it’s very simple – I wish they knew that my diamonds came from a grab bag lost and found and a pair of 25 year old earrings. Ha! The real issue is being identified as a rich Westerner … it is fascinating how definitions shift so quickly … in the US, Josh and I are of middle class background, living that through debt and image (in NYC at least), yet here, the tables are all turned. I have more to say on this but will think more about it first …

(5) Getting things done …

Josh told me the first day I was here that I would have to get over some aspects of “Western convenience.” As he put it: “It took two weeks and a guide to figure out how to get a cell phone.” Indeed, I am not one with an endless resevoir of patience (wow, that’s putting in poetically understated!!) – and China has it’s own mechanisms and paces. For example, you have to pay the phone bill at the bank. Josh told me that – and that I needed our landlord’s, Jeffrey’s, name in Chinese in order to access to the account. BUT, if you don’t want to spend all day there you better be there early – meaning before the bank even opens. I thought this was a little ridiculous but figured I better go with it at this point. So … I got to the bank (The Industrical and Commercial Bank of China) at 8:45 – there was already a huge line and I was the only Westerner. We waited … the bank opened promptly at 9:00 and there was a bum rush for the door (I got #24 and was pretty proud); we vied for seats with a view (especially important for me since I only know numbers 1 through 10 and probably wouldn’t know those a sentence like “next is up is number 24”). Then it got really interesting as the late-comers that were in a hurry tried to cut … hovering behind those that were at the window or plying the next in line with who knows what … apparently it is a prerequisite for working at a bank that you can shoot down attempted line jumpers – there was a lot of high pitched screaming to say the least. At this point, my hands were sweating (would someone try to finnagle their way in? would they even know what I was doing there?) So my number gets called and it takes all of about 45 seconds – I gave her the landlord’s name in Chinese (clearly, it was written down, I’m not speaking Mandarin at this point) … she gave me the bill for two months of phone service – 27 yuan … all of $3.50. Told Josh about it when I got home and his only reponse was: “it’s about damn time after paying out the ass for phone bills our whole lives.” A fair point, indeed.

So … that’s enough for lessons and impressions as of now. Our apartment is great (Josh did a fabulous job choosing a place all on his own). I have some pics of the apartment to put up, but, of course, Josh has the camera at work. I’ll send them soon.

Speaking of Josh’s work …. saw the restaurant and met the big boss. He has a ton of responsibility and is meeting every expectation. The restaurant is gorgeous – no big billboard yet, but the Hilton just put out its new info booklet for the rooms and there’s a pic of Josh in there sauteeing something … if I find a scanner I will put it on here.

This is about the last place that I expected to be at this point in my life – and yes I am overwhelmed and a bit anxious. But I think of it this way: a friend’s sister was recently in Beijing … she left early, noting that that she didn’t really like China – except for the shopping. My sister put it best, I don’t really like to shop and I’ll love Beijing.

I’ll keep you all posted.

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3 responses to “The Best Of Amy’s Blog”

  1. my email isn’t right in that last post it is

  2. To JOSH AND AMYnrHi GUYS!!nrI was looking on how to get in touch with you and came across this site on google! How are things, well I read to blog a bit, sounds like things are good. Please give me an email sometime, when you have time so we can chat it up.nrwhitney@bonmelangecatering.comnrTalk to you soon.nrWhit

  3. Brian Williams says:

    Hi Amy, wow you guys are in china!!! Hope you remember me (lived with Josh in Brooklyn) just wanted to touch base with the two of you and see how you are doing. My wife (Jeannine) and I are still in Chicago and are happy to be taking care of our 9 week old son Oscar!! I would love to hear back from the two of you please tell Josh that I was looking for him.
    Brian Williams

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