February 24, 2009

American Coffee from Nowhere

Climbing the stairs to my hotel's Nowhere Café, I realize that I am an idiot. While I've been drinking the hotel's complimentary watery brew for the past two weeks, there was decent coffee to be had a mere floor away. IDIOT.

It's not an amazing brew, but I do feel my brain and nerves tingle a little in response to a cup. Good to know that I have a nearby option for my remaining days here.

February 23, 2009

The Week in Numbers - #2

Personal stats for the past week beginning last Monday to Sunday:

cups of coffee* consumed: 13
pints of Tsingtao beer consumed: 3
smog masks purchased: 3
SMS texts received and sent: 126
real estate agents who tried to befriend me after unsuccessfully trying to screw me over during my apartment search: 1
times stray cats have ignored my "here kitty, kitty" overtures: 5

February 20, 2009

Don't mess with mother nature

"China's artificially induced snow closes 12 highways"

Seriously, what's with the shoving and talking?

Last Tuesday night I attended my first gig in Beijing and all I got was bruises. Okay, that statement was a bit dramatic but Yugong Yishan was packed with what seemed like every Scandinavian and English-speaking folk/indie rock fan in town. And with that many fans, there was much shoving and jostling to the bar, bathroom and front of the stage. I've attended shows in a few countries, but the amount of times my toe was stepped on without an "excuse me, coming through" was remarkable. Who knew folk fans here were more aggressive than fans in US, UK and Turkey? And talkative.

If you want a full review of the show, check this out. This does not dissuade me from exploring the live music scene in any way, shape or form though.

February 19, 2009

Americans' Real Creed

After a week of meeting folks from all over and trying to explain why
we do what we do, I've concluded that our new motto should be:
"Americans, we're not afraid to be stupid."

February 17, 2009

First snow joy

It's snowing here! I love snow. Well, I love walking in fresh snow but dislike the aftermath of gray slush that freezes and makes me topple over on icy sidewalks.

February 16, 2009

The Swedes Come Through

Next stop on the coffee search: Ciao Coffee Bar on Wangfujing.

I broke down and stocked up on canned coffee last week. It's crap stuff and not worth reviewing here. So when I spotted Ciao in the lower level of the Oriental Plaza Mall, I felt that I deserved splurging on what I hoped to be good coffee. A large cup, which is roughly the size of a Starbucks' tall (smallest size), costs twice as much as a small bowl of soup noodles at a fast food joint. It better be good!

Sipping their "favored in the South of Sweden" Skane Exclusive, I finally felt that lovely rush of caffeine. Sweetened with just a touch of sugar, this dark roast hit the spot. Oh my, oh my, real coffee tastes so good after a week of hotel coffee and whatever that stuff was that came out of a can.

You bet I savored my first cup of damngood coffee in this city. I sipped slowly out of that paper cup for an hour while reading and watching people browse the shops around me. Draining my cup, I skipped outside into the freezing sunny weather satisfied and properly caffeinated.

The Week in Numbers

Personal stats for the past week beginning last Monday to Sunday:

cups of coffee* consumed: 11
pints of Tsingtao beer consumed: 3.5
restaurant walls I've graffiti-ed with a pink Sharpie: 1
Canadians I've met: 2
books purchased: 2
subway tickets used: 6

*"Coffee" covers everything from crappy Nescafé to coffee from a can (I got desperate).

February 15, 2009

My Semi-Lucky Number

Buying a mobile phone number is a bit more complicated than opening a cell phone account in the US. While phones and numbers are purchased separately here, one number is not considered equal to another. When I inquired about buying a SIM card, the salesperson presented me with a binder full of mobile numbers with different prices attached to them. Some were priced for 450 RMB, others for 550, another for 860 RMB. Hmm.

"What's the difference?" I asked.

She explained that certain numbers are considered luckier, and such are priced according to demand. Those with rows of 8's, 6's and 9's are favored over those with 4's, which in Chinese sounds similar to the word for "death."

My US cell phone had two 9's in a row and one 8. I guess it brought me luck -- I'm of sound mind and body (well, I'll know for sure in a few days when I get the results of my physical from the Beijing Health and Quarantine Bureau). Pushing reason aside for superstition (when in Rome...), I purchased a somewhat lucky number in the 500 range without 4's, but a few 6's and an 8 and 9. May good fortune rain down upon me! Or at least get my new Nokia phone to work properly.

Coffee, Pretty Please

I have one addiction. Coffee, that sweet dark ambrosia, kickstarts my day with a lovely rush of caffeine and helps bring the world in focus for me. Well, it did until I moved here. My access to good, strong coffee has been severely curtailed since touching down in Beijing.

Air China's coffee tasted like weak instant Nescafé. The hotel where I'm staying serves marginally better coffee, but my body fails to register that delicious click of awareness that coffeeshops back home serve me. It looks like coffee. It tastes like weak coffee. But three shot glass-fuls later, still no effect. What gives?

While I know the local Starbucks will have the dark roast which I love, it will be a fun challenge to see if I can find nearby options that can compare to that international chain's offerings. The search continues. Wish me luck.

February 14, 2009

Yes, it's another blog by an American in China

A month before I left New York, I promised myself that I would not add to the proliferation of Americans/Canadians/Brits/etc transplants to China blogs. The world does not need another "gee, things are so different here in Beijing!" post. But during the weeks leading up to my departure friends kept asking and prodding me about keeping some sort of record, so I broke my promise. Plus it will be amusing to read this years from now when I no longer have the means to travel because Social Security funds have dried up.

Four days have passed since my Air China flight took off from JFK. During those four days I got lost in the streets of Wudaokou, spent a combined nine hours talking to China Mobile and Nokia customer service representatives because my fancy new mobile phone doesn't work properly and have yet to recover my appetite from jetlag.

In case you're wondering, I'm a Brooklynite by way of Long Island and Hong Kong. The title of this blog was inspired by one of my favorite blogs from the old 'hood (thanks for "letting" me borrow it, FIPS!)