• About Julie

    NJ native without the accent or the big hair. Currently residing in Beijing. Teaching English. Absorbing all things China. Exploring SE Asia.

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Illegal fruit

I had something happen to me twice this week that I haven’t had happen to me before.

In this area there haven’t been too many street vendors on the main roads since the Olympics, something about beautifying the city and whatnot.  They’ve been popping up more and more lately, although they aren’t as commonly seen as in other parts of the city.  The other day my Mom and I were sampling some grapes I was about to buy when the guy started pedaling away as fast as he could before the chengguan could get him.  The chengguan are a certain kind of police that give street vendors a hard time since, technically, street sellers are illegal.

Then tonight we were walking back to the school after our Sunday team meal and I was poised and ready to buy some cherries when the guy started up his motor and drove off down the street as fast as he could.  I guess the chengguan were on the way again.

Only one? Family planning in China

We hear a lot of rumors, and rumors of rumors, about China in the US.  Some of them are true, some of them are half-truths, and some of them aren’t valid at all.  China does have a one-child policy, although how it’s painted in the West may not always be how every city and cadre in China enforces it.  This post isn’t meant to be critical in nature, regardless of the opinions of the author or audience, but to be informational, educational, and offer a balanced viewpoint.  China’s one child policy, instituted in 1979, looks like this: 4:2:1.

That’s two sets of grandparents, one set of parents, and the child, which some refer to as the “little emperor.”  When that child gets married and his parents age, he and his spouse will be expected to take care of both sets of parents as they get older.

One child is more complicated than it might seem.  How would you answer the question “what is the weather like in the United States”?  Well, that depends on where in the US, doesn’t it?  The same is true of many issues in China – it depends on which part you’re referring to because different areas have different laws or enforce them Continue reading

Things I’ll miss about Beijing

In case you forgot, or never knew in the first place, 同一个世界 同一个梦想 (tong yige shijie, tong yige mengxiang) or “One World, One Dream” was the motto of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  I won’t miss seeing and hearing that all the time, but this post is about things I will miss.  “Things I’ll miss least about Beijing” will have to be another post for another day.  I will have lived in Beijing for three years in July when I planning on leaving, and here are some of the things I’m going to miss.

  • Cheap food. An expensive Chinese meal is 25-30RMB, which is $3.60-$4.40.  A really cheap meal is street food, like a bunch of chuanr, grilled meat on a stick, for 1-2RMB each ($0.15-$0.30), or a quarter of a pineapple on a stick, also 1-2RMB.  Or practice your chopstick wielding skills on a bowl of niu rou mian, beef noodle soup, for 10RMB ($1.46).  A meal at the school cafeteria is 9RMB ($1.32) for rice and two sides.  I can cook something with chicken and vegetables to last me for two meals for 6RMB ($0.88).  I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve lived in China for 31 months now and I’ve never had food poisoning.
  • Transportation. Beijing has buses (4 mao to 2RMB, $0.06-$0.30) that go everywhere and the new subway lines (with more on the way to make it the most expansive subway system in the world sometime within the next five years) can take you to most corners of the city for only 2RMB ($0.30).  It’s flat so you can bike or walk most places around your residence.  The most expensive taxi ride I ever take is to the airport for about 100RMB ($14.64).  Getting around without a car is super easy and convenient.
  • Travel. Like its food, travel in China is also cheap and easy.  The country itself has a massive railroad designed to move millions, Continue reading

National Firecracker Holiday aka Spring Festival

I arrived back in Beijing on the 21st, right smack in the middle of China’s biggest holiday – Spring Festival.  It’s a lunar holiday that fell on Valentine’s Day this year, and lasts until the Lantern Festival which is fifteen days later.  Its name might seem odd, since northern NJ seems to be getting snow right now, but spring is gradually coming over here and today it’s going to be 55 degrees.  Streets and restaurants are empty, but everyone comes out to play at night with explosions fireworks everywhere.  It’s lucky for me that I have no trouble falling asleep at 9PM because of jetlag, because otherwise they would keep me up until all hours of the night.  These same fireworks set an ancient city gate ablaze this year, and last year CCTV torched its own brand-new tower in its new complex.  These aren’t your town-sponsored fireworks at your local high school.  No no, this is everyone in the city buying and setting off their own ordnance at the same time – from the sidewalk, street, or out the nearest window.  Safe, right?  If you search YouTube you can find some pretty impressive video taken at night during the Spring Festival holiday.

Far West China lists the top five reasons to escape China during Spring Festival, given that you’ve stuck around to witness its celebration once before.

  1. You don’t fall asleep to the sounds of WWIII
  2. You actually have something to do
  3. You don’t have to stock up on a week’s worth of…well, everything
  4. You can walk the streets without fear of accidentally wetting your pants
  5. No need to sit through a TV program that never fails to get more boring every year

Foot binding: excruciating beauty

In the 10th to early 20th centuries, small feet on women were considered beautiful in China.  The foot binding started before girls began adolescence, and involved bending the toes under the sole of the foot, then breaking the arch and binding the foot and the ankle very tightly.  Each time the bandages were removed the bindings would be re-wrapped more tightly.

Can your shoes fit in the palm of your hand?

This hasn’t been practiced in the hundred years since it was outlawed, but my interest in the practice was piqued when I visited the Enduring Beauty Museum in Melaka, Malaysia last February.  The many exhibits depicted the ways women throughout time all over the world have sought beauty in spite of Continue reading

The PRC: one big family

What goes into making a coffee table book filled with pictures of China’s many peoples?  1 year, 56 ethnic groups, and 5.7 million photographs went into such a book, which is titled, “Harmonious China: A Sketch of China’s 56 Ethnicities.”  Each ethnic group is shown through a family portrait, its young and old positioned amongst indigenous food, traditional clothing, and native backdrop.

Take, for example, the Bouyei people of Guizhou province (and also Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, and Vietnam).  This minority group lives in south-western China, numbers 2.5 million, and speaks a Tai language.  The Bouyei are pictured here:

The majority of China’s population is ethnic Han.

You might recognize this ethnic group from western China because they’ve been in the news a lot this year as it relates to Guantanamo Bay.

Another ethnic group is the Dai people from Yunnan province.  There is a Dai restaurant about two miles away from my school; we eat there often and the food is delicious.

Check out all of China’s 56 ethnic group portraits here.  Don’t get scared by all the Chinese characters.  It’s all I see everyday here in Beijing and you’re really only looking for the pictures.  : )

PRC 60th Anniversary & National Day Parade: timelapse and slow motion video

I linked to some videos the other day of the parade, but then I found this which is a much better use of your time.  It’s a great 3 1/2 minute video clip of the highlights.

Also, here are some magazine covers from this week, commemorating the anniversary, by Danwei: