Monday, May 31, 2010


The time difference between New York and Beijing is 12 hours. It takes longer than a day or two to adjust to the time change.

Physical activity and sunshine help immensely, but I know from experience that it is possible to fall asleep while in the middle of an afternoon 3,000 meter dragonboat competition. Still, pushing through and remaining mostly upright until after dark helps move my wake-up time past 3am.

When in America...

There are things we take for granted in any country. This includes what passes for manners. When we go somewhere else for an extended period of time our norms change. I had to remind myself of this as I recently returned to the U.S. for several weeks.

When in America:
  • Tip the waitstaff in restaurants - in the U.S., restaurant waitstaff earn low salaries, tips are an important part of their renumeration.
  • Do NOT loudly yell 'fuwuyuan' when you want the server's attention in a restaurant. It's considered rude. Catch their eye and wave. Say 'excuse me, miss/sir' if you need to use your voice.
  • Used toilet paper should go in the toilet and be flushed, not placed in the garbage. Plumbing pipes used in the U.S. are wider and do not (usually) clog when toilet paper is flushed. Used toilet paper in the trash can is considered unhygienic.
  • Americans have and use voice mail. If someone does not answer their phone we can leave a voice message with the information we wanted to deliver and they can then call us back at their convenience.
  • People of European descent are not called 'foreigners', 'laowai', 'waiguoren' or 'foreigner'. Usually they are called 'American' or 'local', unless they are a tourist.
  • Most people understand English, whatever the color of their passport or their skin. Be mindful of what you say when other people are within earshot.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Springtime in Beijing

The snow and ice are gone, the temperature has changed from freezing to scorching in a matter of weeks, and there are huge white balls of fluffy pollen in the air outside of my window everyday. Springtime is officially here.

So far, springtime means bicycling through the hutongs, sitting at sidewalk cafes eating ice cream sundaes or slurping pots of Beijing yoghurt and dragonboating. Recently we've even had a string of blue sky days, perfect for bicycling across town and up through the university campuses in Haidian and looking at fountains in the park.

My plans for dragonboat paddling practice tonight were changed at the last moment - due to a spring downpour. Lightning and open water sports don't mix.