Wednesday, May 09, 2012

welcome home

You know you are back in Baltimore when... have to do a corporate compliance endless online learning module thingy for your job at a city hospital and this is one of your end-of-module multiple-choice quiz questions:

9. Strategies that may improve Patient Satisfaction regarding pain management include the following:
a. Allow patients to purchase street drugs to supplement their pain management plan. 
If only they were joking. is raining and starting to get dark out and you are feeling tired and lazy and want to say screw financial responsibility and take a cab home and there is nothing to be found and you know if you called one it would take longer to get there than it would to walk home so you just walk home and get soaking wet. meet a friend for lunch and have a delicious seafood salad sandwich with Old Bay mayonnaise at an outside table by the water and it smells like oysters down there, in a good way. realize you don't have the key to your bike lock when you get to the restaurant down by the water and are so paranoid someone will steal your bike that you prop the bike next to the fence around the outdoor seating area and make your friend go inside and secure a table before leaving the bike for the 30 seconds it will take to enter the restaurant and make your way to the outdoor seating area.

I realize this is sounding mostly negative, but I'm mostly happy to be back. I missed Baltimore's gritty weirdness (although China was gritty and weird in its own special ways), I had a spontaneous hangout with four friends this afternoon, yesterday my friend found a custom-framed Pearl Jam poster in pristine condition discarded outside in my alleyway and gave it to me (he does not share my appreciation for Eddie Vedder, apparently), and during the car ride back from the airport I saw two people I knew walking down the street (and whom I was too shy to roll down the window and say hi to, of course).

Relatedly, one of my friends has this quote as her G-chat away message and I always pause on it:
A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it. -- George Moore
I think that's pretty beautiful. I also think that going to the other side of the world served as a reset button for my brain and I'm now able to see and appreciate my home in ways I couldn't before.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

bai bai

Today was my last day in Beijing. I did lots of things!

I visited the Great Wall, FINALLY. I had to go to the super touristy restored section, Badaling, because I procrastinated and did not do the adventurous Wall hike/camping trip I had envisioned, and it's the closest part to the city. It was still pretty awesome. There is an ancient cable car system that I became kind of obsessed with and now have dozens of photos and several videos of, Chinese tourists (the bulk of the tourists there) are a real hoot, and, also, it's the Great Freaking Wall. Here is my favorite photo from the trip.

I'm pretty sure this dude's (rather dangerous-looking) job is to clean up the trash that people throw over the side. N.B., not all trash made it over the side, such as the half-eaten chicken foot I also took a photo of.

I also got my last cheapo manicure and decided on a lovely jade color. Of course, I impatiently left the salon before it fully dried and now it's all smudgey, but whatever. Anyway, in addition to the cheapness, I love my nail place because it is in the back of a market full of stalls that sell junk souvenirs and knockoff North Face jackets and because the ladies that work there are SO NICE. They also wear some pretty awesome outfits. The last two times I went, one girl was wearing a t-shirt that said "Cogitation...arrive at beauty...silence." It looked something like this:

And I listened to the same song about 100 times. My unofficial guru of all things cool in Beijing (hi, J) turned me onto this Chinese indie-rock band called Carsick Cars and, because I am really bad about paying attention to song lyrics, I can fall in love with a song while having no clue what it's about. Turns out, it's about cigarettes. Or communism.

According to someone on the internet, the lyrics to "Zhongnanhai" are:

Zhongnanhai, Zhongnanhai… Zhongnanhai, Zhongnanhai
Zhongnanhai, Zhongnanhai… I only smoke Zhongnanhai
Zhongnanhai, Zhongnanhai… I can’t live without Zhongnanhai
Zhongnanhai, Zhongnanhai… who fucking smoke my Zhongnanhai?
 Zhongnanhai is a brand of cigarettes and also the name of the communist headquarters in Beijing. Carsick Cars opened for Sonic Youth in 2007 and they are young and adorable and you can read more about them here.

What else...I took a nap, had a nice American-ish dinner with my roommate at an outside restaurant at the Westernized Luxury Compound, said goodbye and brought unhealthy snacks (Snickers and Reese's) to the nurses I worked with in the ER, took a stroll under a full moon, and got an hour-long Traditional Chinese Medicine acupressure massage for $20 at 10 p.m. on a Sunday. I leave for the airport in about three hours (it's now 2 a.m.) and I haven't started packing.

I am going to miss this place.