September 12 – Logistics

I woke up early again today, though only at 6 rather than 5. Got on the computer, and talked to some various online contacts. I still haven’t gotten source to continue on the website I’m working on, but the design piece is coming along well.

At about 8:15 I headed down to the cafe in the building to get some breakfast before the morning activities. The cafe reminded me strongly of that in the international hostile I was in the first time I was in beijing. It was clearly aimed at an international audience, and the food was not Chinese at all, but rather things like coffee and grapes were in abundance.

Everyone congregated at by 9:00 am, and Yu miao began our tour. We walked down the side of the university, past the main university stadium (which held the olympic pingpong) to the south end. At this southeast corner is a main tech. district in beijing, which we got pointed out. This was the first part of the city that had the huge towering buildings I remember seeing in shanghai. There were several of them a couple blocks off, but I didn’t get a long chance to examine them as we headed west just past the south edge of the university. The southern street was very gentrified, the university wall was to the north, and upscale shops were to the south. One notable find was that there was a CCB on this road, which I’ll be able to use to withdraw money in the future without an atm fee. We got to the west edge of the university and walked a block north where we were met by li jiao. (one of the program tutors I’ve referred to before). She took us south again, just a couple blocks beyond the university. Here there was another large rise of skyscrapers. To our right she pointed out a large bookstore (probably 6-8 stories within a larger hotel), and then had us turn back east. To our south was a large book district, with many smaller bookstores, but we continued a few blocks past a huge christian church to an even more ridiculously sized shopping mall. We walked in, and it had the normal collection of stores that are to be expected, but at the far end was a single store that was probably almost as big as the rest of the shops combined. It was apparently the largest department store in asia, and we walked through a couple floors, one filled with sporting goods and another that was a huge grocery store.

At the end she said she would head back to the campus with people who were worried about getting lost, but that the rest of us were free. I decided to take the opportunity to look around a bit, and run some errands. I headed back to the beginning of the store, not without some small confusion, and got to the watsons that I had seen there. Watsons is somewhat equivalent to the bartells of the US, and I wanted to get some deodorant and a razor since I’d forgotten those the first time I went out.

the purchase wasn’t a problem, I felt like the area was more gentrified that shanghai had been 4 years ago. all of the cards looked like they’d take credit cards, and it seemed like only official looking shops were in existence, the halls of the mall weren’t filled with smaller tables of clearly knockoff goods.

From the mall I headed back the way we’d come since I wasn’t sure how the connection would work if I headed straight north instead. (there was some huge freeway it seemed that our path had taken us underneath. ) I considered buying a subway card since the station was close to the southwest corner of the university, but decided that it could wait until the first time I needed to use it.

Instead I headed to the largest dianzidasuan (tech. store) avoiding the many offers for laptop computers I walked around until I heard someone trying to sell me an iPhone. I asked him what sort of sim card I needed, and got as far as that any sim would work with the phone and that wouldn’t be a problem. I couldn’t understand most of what he told me but I did hear “near mcdonalds”. On my way out, I noticed that the next building over had a mcdonalds on the ground floor, so I went in and walked around but didn’t see anyone selling sim cards. I figured I’d go back to the university and ask the booth I’d seen there before, since that might be a quieter environment.

First though I walked back to my dorm. I was quite sweaty by this part, and relaxed for a bit, showered, and shaved. The razor I got wasn’t great but it worked reasonable. I was starting to get ready to head back when Matt knocked on my door. It seemed that most of the others had already headed back, and he was feeling like he wouldn’t be able to get lunch since he didn’t know chinese. We walked back over to the campus to the cafeteria line, and went to the baozi cafeteria.

I’m guessing I’ll probably end up eating there a fair amount this semester, baozi are .5 per, which is quite cheap, since a lunch is probably only 3 or 4 of them. They also taste pretty good.

Afterwards I walked over to the department store in the university, which was where the sim booth was located. On the way over we got free cokes, for some promotion involved with the students arriving on campus today. We also passed a bright orange tent marked M-zone with a long line heading to it, I wasn’t quite sure what it was for. i started trying to read the broken english sign at the phone booth I’d seen earlier. The guy there led me over to another guy behind a similar M-zone tent, but without the line. He gave me a sheet to pick out the last four digits of my phone number from a long list of available ones. Then spent after we inserted the sim he spent a few minutes navigating through voice menus to set up the phone. I told he I’d like internet access, and he tried to determine what sort of gprs I wanted. I eventually gave up trying to have that discussion fully understood and just told him that he should do what seemed reasonable for me to have internet access. the solution was that 50 megs would cost 15 yuan, and it would be available next month. The total cost was 200, which was a bit higher that the 160 that was advertised, but I figured the discrepency was had something to do with extra money being added onto the sim because of internet access. (again there was limited communication here, but it seemed to work out.)

I stopped by the office before the afternoon session to tell them my new phone number, and then headed over to the classroom. all of the language tutors gathered with us for this session, where another explanation of the directed independent study was given. We got given some more pieces of paper, like the grading rubric for the studies and such like, and then went to play games with the tutors to get to know them. They all seemed like nice people, all research students at beida. The majority were sociology or anthropology majors, but there were a handful in economics and one lady who was doing fiberoptics under the electrical engineering umbrella. we chatted with them for a few hours and played various games.

Just before dinner, the director Prof. wang rounded us up to assign us with our language tutors and our classes. My language tutor is li jiao, who is very nice, and I’ve had the chance to talk to her already. Me and sergio are the two students placed in the third year, which is being taught by prof zhang (the assistant director.) We don’t have a text book, but will be doing lessons from a variety. The other two years have textbooks from the same series pomona used, although clearly ripoff versions with photocopied covers and such.

The last stop for the evening was dinner which we were having with all of the various tutors. we went to a restaurant outside the southwest gate of the university, that specialized in food from the eastern part of china. (i think) It was another large meal, but I really liked most of the dishes. They had pair dish that was just strips of pair in a citrus sauce that was good, there was something called mao’ao (i think) that was beef with mushrooms peppers, onions, and garlic that was really good. There was also a great eggplant dish, and a good tofu and pork dish.

Coming home I swapped numbers with several friends, and then went online. I found a great english guide describing how the china mobile plan works at http://www.mobilenative.com/shenzhouxing.php It turns out I got the correct setup, though a shame that the internet portion won’t activate until the first of next month. The basic deal is I have a standard sim card & such like, including data access. Data access will cost me .03 cents / kb, for now, but for oct – jan and beyond 15 yuan will be removed and will result in 50 free megs of download, with overage charged at .01 cents. It sounds fairly reasonable; not great, but still cheaper than the us plan by far. Other calls are also pretty cheap, for the $200 (=$30 us) about $15 was loaded on as credit, with the rest paying for activation (sim card / phone number).

tomorrow afternoon at 1 they’ll get a van to take us over to the olympic green, and there aren’t plans for tomorrow morning. I might be able to sleep a bit longer, and am planning to either take a walk, get my first week of math done now that it’s been essentially approved, or do some programming work.