I am sitting in a Starbucks in a mall which has an honest-to-Odin Walmart as an anchor. Of course there’s a McDonald’s here. There are at least two. One is right next door to the Dairy Queen and around the corner from the KFC. There’s another one right upstairs, in case the escalator was too far for you. Congratulations, you’ve out-American’d America. ‘MURIC–I mean, CHINER!

But I’ve had to go all over the place just to find a place with decent Internet.  I can’t load the Amazon Webstore interface from campus for some stupid reason or other, and the closest Starbucks wouldn’t assign me an IP.  I got here, and I’m pretty sure they’re blocking all non-Chinese DNS servers.  I managed to manually add the one everyone else was using, but it doesn’t give any responses for my VPN server (big surprise) so I’m still behind the GFW.

Nothing ever works quite right in this country.  The Internet sucks, my umbrella broke the day I bought it, and I am sitting on objectively the worst chair.  There is a spring slowly pushing through my sphincter.

This is one of those days where my love/hate relationship with China is solidly on the “hate” side.  Excuse me while I punt this screaming child through the window.

  • Author: krysztov
  • Category: Gripes

So last week I had to go to Shanghai to do some work.  Originally, I was going to take a train, but not only have they not yet built a high-speed line between Guangzhou and Shanghai yet (so the only option is an overnight sleeper train), but all the seats were sold out a week in advance.  Therefore, I had no choice but to book a flight online.

At that time, the only flight available that wasn’t at a ridiculous time or stupid expensive (I would be reimbursed, yes, but until then I have to float the costs myself) was a flight to Hangzhou, connecting with the high-speed rail to Shanghai Hongqiao Station.


Heroes of China

15 Jul

Chinese history is full of heroic figures, from the ancient founding emperors, to the genius strategies of Zhuge Liang in the Three Kingdoms era, to modern China’s George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Paine all rolled up into one–the venerable Dr. Sun Yat-sen himself.  One might think the days of such great figures are far in the past, but my experience on the Metro last night convinced me that the tradition of great heroes is still alive and well in China to this day.
At most of the Metro stations in Guangzhou, the floor in front of the doors to the trains are marked so that the area is divided into two or three sections, with arrows denoting which sections are for boarding the train, and which sections are reserved for people exiting.  This is pointless in light of the Ancient Chinese Traditional mindset of “Whateva, whateva, I do what I want,” and people will pile up in front of the door as densely as Chinese physics will allow, and of course trying to board or exit the train is in fact more of a contact sport than anything else.  Such was the case last night; although the station was less crowded than it often is, a group of ladies in front of me had started the crowd off by spilling into the exit lane as the train approached.
A young transit guard standing nearby decided he would have none of that.  He strode over the the women, who were starting to be joined by other scofflaws in the group, and although I don’t remember his exact words, they were to the effect of, “Please wait over there,” as he gestured for them to stand back and clear the area.  Of course, this had little effect, as a uniform of any sort in China has the approximate effect of an Invisibility Cloak.  But he persisted, raising his voice and advancing on the group while making little pushing gestures with his hands, and to my surprise, the crowd moved, vaguely conforming to the approximate shape of the denoted area.
The train arrived, and the wall of people inside appeared shocked and confused at the lack of a corresponding wall in front of them.  They stood there for a moment, still braced for an impact that never came.  “Exit the car,” the transit guard said, in the same mildly authoritative tone he had just affected.  The people in the train, bewildered, began to file out of the car.  The people outside waited until there was enough space, and then peacefully boarded.  It was a thing of beauty.  I didn’t even take an elbow to the rib or accidentally palm a fat woman’s breast in the process, nor did I have to frantically grab at my bag to keep it by my side.
I thought to myself, “Anonymous transit guard, when your shift is done, you should head to the nearest C-Store and get yourself an ice-cold 青岛啤酒.  You’ve earned it.

I would like to share with you one of my favorite new discoveries since moving to China–fried dace with salted black beans.  It sometimes uses fish other than dace, like sardines, and there are other things it can be canned with other than black beans, but that will be noted on the can.  You can’t read Chinese?  Well I guess that’s your own fault.  It comes in a can like this:



  • Author: krysztov
  • Category: Food

Here is last night’s dinner.

Fried rice with tofu, ham, and Shanghai greens.

Fried rice with tofu, ham, and Shanghai greens.

I had gone to the market to pick up groceries, but I still had some greens and tofu left over from Sunday’s run, and I wasn’t about to let them go to waste.

I had some rice in the rice cooker (the first step to most dinners I make here) and was ready to make something of it.  So I took the tofu, cut it up into little cubes, sliced up some small Shanghai greens (you may know this as baby bok choy), and opened up a sealed packet of ham that had been in the fridge for a while.  I fried it all up with some garlic in a tablespoon or two of oil, added the rice, mixed it all together, tossed in a splash of soy sauce and ground some pepper over it, and voila!  There’s dinner.  Cheap, easy, and good.

Midday Market

7 Jul

Sunday and Wednesday are the two days I set aside for grocery runs these days. After my morning Pilates teaching, I had stopped to get some things at the supermarket, but I save the vegetables and such for the neighborhood market, as they are fresher and usually cheaper there.


Knowing that everything shuts down around lunchtime and for a couple hours thereafter, I decided to wait until 2:30 to head out. The sun was peeking out behind just a smattering of thin clouds, but somehow there was a respectable drizzle coming down, heavy enough to dampen my clothes (but not my spirits!), but light enough that a careful eye could watch the air currents through the movement of the droplets. It took me around ten minutes to arrive. Alas, I was still too early. I was able to grab some potatoes, and some greens, and a block of tofu, but the produce I wanted most were all covered up and unattended. Naptime wasn’t over yet.


I waited around and got to watch the market slowly reawaken. The butchers set out their wares again and turned on the lights over their counters. Vendors filtered in and uncovered tables covered with produce. A middle-aged woman sat up from her worn reclining lawn chair, rubbed her eyes, and started putting her change box in order. As the market eased back into life for the afternoon, I finished filling my red Trader Joe’s bag with young Shanghai greens, cai xin, and a bag of lettuce for the rabbit, and began to walk back home.

The other day, I was out by the market near campus and I decided to explore. I found a nifty little road that led to the main road of the neighborhood, which I had been to before back when I had no idea where I was. Today, I decided to take my camera and revisit.

After lunch by the south gate, I headed towards the Park’n'Shop, ducking into the metro station to cover some ground away from the heat. I arrived at the corner, and that’s where this gallery begins.

More Meta: TODO

5 Jul

I’m screwing around with more templates. I’ve found a couple I like but they’re a little buggy and I need to fix the CSS so large images don’t overlap the sidebar, and then I have to change some images from the default because personalization is a nice thing.
But now, I sleep.

  • Author: krysztov
  • Category: Meta

So Google Analytics lets me see a lot of information about what kind of people visit my site, and there are a lot of other tools to help me target my site to certain demographics to get more hits, if I felt so inclined.  I check it often, because I’m a huge narcissist.  They have a tool that tells you what kinds of search results your site shows up in.  Here are the top ten:


Okay, I get it, I say “fuck” a lot, I guess, but what in the world is with that second one?  I don’t even.

  • Author: krysztov
  • Category: Meta

Well, it looks like Guangzhou’s stifling spring season may have passed.  After a brief burst of typhoony weather right before Rachelle left for the summer (she’s safely back in California), the mugginess subsided and for the past couple days we’ve had clear blue skies.  Well, as long as you’re looking up.  Look far enough down the road and you’ll still see some smoggy haze, and it’ll likely get worse if the rain doesn’t come along and keep it down every so often.  So, the air’s drier and cooler, the sun’s brighter, I’m done with classes, and Rachelle is away for two months.  Looks like there’s nothing left to do but explore!

But not today.  Yesterday I made a market run while the Ayi was doing her thing, and to kill some time I wandered along a road to see where it was I had gotten lost previously.  I found a lot of nifty things to take pictures of, and completed a nice big chunk of my neighborhood mental map, but the sun was pretty damn hot.  Even though I thought I had drunk enough water, the heat and sunshine caught up with me, and I stopped sweating and got a headache, and some nausea, and I went to bed early and woke up to my alarm.  And after breakfast and a brief Skype with Rachelle, I couldn’t stay awake and fell asleep again until noon.  But I’m feeling better, and when I went out to buy razor blades I was sweating normally, so by tomorrow I should be back to normal.  Hooray!

Oh, yeah, one more note.  There is a little switch on our bathroom wall which, when activated, turns on a water cooler.  If you leave it on, your electricity bill will skyrocket, but you do need it for short periods of time in the summer.  The water tanks on the roof get extremely hot, and I could not take a shower even with the hot water turned off until I had chilled the pipes for around five minutes.  Yeah, pretty toasty around here.

Happy Fourth of July to everyone back home!