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Sunday Jottings…Schnauzers on Steroids, Obsequious Tour Guides, Best Things about Beijing in the Summer

A few random thoughts in no particular order:


Things which are awesome about summer in Beijing:

  • Spending 100 RMB and sitting all day by the pool at the CITIC Hotel out by the airport. One of the best telecommuting locations in Beijing.
  • Chuan’r. And Beer. Outside. The classics are classics for a reason.
  • Temple of Heaven Park at 8:00 am on a Sunday morning. Jianzi kicking. Red Song singing. Saxophone wailing. Folk Dancing. Orchestra playing. Wu Shu kicking. Tai Chi…ing. All under the trees in Beijing’s most magnificent park. Whenever I’m having a bad China day/week and the Cycle of China Funk has reached a new nadir, I head for a park and recharge. Temple of Heaven is one of the best, but any park on a summer weekend morning will do.


I spend a lot of time at Beijing’s more famous sites. There seem to be a growing number of tour guides who like to pat the horse’s ass (suck up to) of their non-US clients by bashing the US loudly and in English. Heard one guy telling a group of Middle Eastern gentlemen at the Summer Palace how he hated the Iraqi invasion and wished he could have fought the Americans himself.

(FWIW: He didn’t respond when I ran into him later and said “I’m your huckleberry.” He just looked at me strangely. Apparently he never saw Tombstone…)

Then a few days later, another guide, this time at the Temple of Heaven, was giving his elderly German clients a lecture on US race relations. The strength of his argument owed more to his volume and passion than his personal experience of US society.

Thing is: I agree with both of these gentlemen. I too opposed the Iraq War and deplore the state of race relations in the United States. It’s the obsequious use of this to suck up to their clients by spewing talking points from the Global Times School of Freudian Nationalism that gets tiresome.

Yes. I can speak Chinese. No, that doesn’t make me special. Yes, I look like a circus bear. No, that does not preclude me from communicating in your language.


Nothing like sitting at a packed Starbucks on a Sunday afternoon with everybody looking for a table and everyone ignoring the table right next to me. It’s like a meter away and empty. I really must change my brand of cologne.


Watching the Brexit meltdown has been traumatizing for most of my friends from the UK. They absolutely have my sympathy. It’s a terrible decision that will affect the whole world.

On the other hand, I have to admit it’s a bit of a relief to watch a country OTHER than the US (my place of birth) or China (my current residence) self-destruct as political arrogance, delusions of multicultural harmony, and good old-fashioned willful ignorance combine together and explode into a flaming ball of radioactive turd juice. I know this makes me a bad person but I can’t help it.


Mike Wester has a piece on the Beijinger blog on the Uber rating system. I have to say that I love Uber (or its Chinese clone Didi, which we actually use much more often) because fuck the cab drivers in this town. For my first 13 years in Beijing, I had to tolerate the poor service, rude behavior, mercenary pricing schemes, and geographic incompetence of the Beijing taxi fleet. No more. I know they are pissed off about Uber right now. Well, welcome to the (semi) free market, bitches. For the most part, using Uber/Didi has been one of the great improvements in my China life over the past couple of years. That said, I agree with Mike on most of his points, especially regarding the pick-up location.

If I am using the App. And you are using the same App. And both our Apps have maps and screens and pins which show exactly where we are down to the meter AND I have already input a specific address or location where I am currently waiting, WHY OH WHY do you have to call me and ask me where I am. LOOK AT THE FREAKING MAP. It’s not interstellar travel. I’m not standing on the edge of a wormhole through time or perched at the flashpoint between multiple parallel universes. I am standing at the West Gate of Beijing Foreign Studies University. You should be able to find it.


Three sites in Beijing that always awe me when I see them no matter how many times I go there:

  • The Colossal Maitreya Buddha in the Hall of 10,000 Happinesses at Yonghegong/Lama Temple.
  • The view on a clear day from the top of Jingshan Park. Especially at sunset with the light skimming along the porcelain rooftops of the Forbidden City.
  • The Great Wall at Jinshanling as viewed from the General’s Tower. (it’s the one with the small shrine to Ming Dynasty pirate hunter/wall builder Qi Jiguang on the top level.)


Funny moment while jogging in Beijing: Getting lapped by an elderly schnauzer. Twice. Although I’m pretty sure the dog was cheating/taking a short cut/juicing.


Actual conversation at a (yet another) going away party for an expat friend who has recently pulled the China rip cord:

What do you do for a living?
I’m Beijing’s most overeducated tour guide.

What do you do for a living?
I do educational programming and cultural exchange.
So, you’re a teacher?
No. Teachers have students.

What do you for a living?
(Pointing at my wife)

What do you do for a living?
I concoct elaborate revenge fantasies about the office which controls my Internet access. Most of these fantasies involve large quantities of molasses and an army of mutant fire ants.
(Other person backs away slowly)


I really, really need a vacation.