Sunday, May 30, 2010

Learning to bargain (and getting ripped off!) & Wangfujing

Yesterday since I was feeling better and it was a beautiful day, blue skies, and great air, we decided to take a walk around our neighborhood. We are discovering that our neighborhood is pretty awesome & close to a lot of really great restaurants and other cool spots. We made our way over to Xiushui Market to do some browsing.

In China, you are supposed to haggle to get the best price. We know this. But, we aren't used to doing it. I feel cheap doing it.... LOL. Its sort of awkward... but I know if you don't, you'll get ripped off (which we did). We bought a 100% silk table runner. Its pretty, I didn't fall in love with it or anything but part of the fun here is using our Chinese, and bargaining with the shop owners in Chinese is pretty awesome, so we ended up buying this table runner, and a scarf, just for the heck of it, not because we particularly wanted them or anything. LOL! The table runner we were totally ripped off on.... she started at an amazingly high absurd price, so when we brought her down 70% we felt like we had done an amazing job of bargaining... unfortunately she does this for a living and knows we'd feel like we did a good job, so, we still overpaid by about $15... hahah! Its all part of the learning experience.

This is the table runner we were ripped off on.. its 100% silk, navy, with embroidered flowers.

And this scarf I actually haggled quite well, paid less than $5 for a 100% silk scarf. It has a really pretty pattern on it, but you can't really see it in these pictures.

And here I am with the two girls who sold me the scarf... we exchanged contact information for the future.

And how gorgeous is this painting? We love it.

After the market, we decided to take the subway to Wangfujing. When we were studying Chinese in the U.S., they always used Wangfujing Da Jie and Wangfujing Shudian (bookstore) in our dialogues, so we got a kick out of seeing it in person & sent pictures to our teachers back in the U.S. Its an extremely modern area.

The hubby "reading" a book (upside down) in the bookstore... sending it to his teachers for a laugh.

We bought a few movies in the bookstore... they were only $4 (US). I know intellectual property rights is a big deal, and that is why we bought these DVDs from a 100% legit store.

Wangfujing is the street where everyone goes to eat the weird foods... contrary to popular belief, I've only seen this sort of food sold on this street, I have yet to run into seahorse, or starfish, or scorpions in a grocery store...

We did not eat any of that interesting food, btw! After Wangfujing, we took the subway back home - stopped at a shop for some fresh flowers, made a stop at Beard Papas for some delicious fresh cream puffs.. and that was our day!

And the gorgeous view from our apartment!

Tonight we are going out with our new Chinese friend again - to the park where the Olympics were held - he says its beautiful at night, all lit up! pics to come.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chinese & their English names... 很好笑!

With the influence of the West, as well as the important business relationship China has with the West, etc., more and more Chinese people have English names in addition to their Chinese names. Its sort of interesting because how do you get a name in a foreign language? Often there is no equivalent, especially from English to Chinese and vice versa - so you either have to be 1. given your new name, or 2. pick your own name. My Chinese name is Hao Danni (郝丹妮)and my Chinese teachers in the U.S. gave it to me. But, if no one was there to pick your name for you, you'd most likely pick it according to whether or not you think it sounds good. In Chinese language, you hear them say that sort of thing a lot "很好听“ or "it just sounds good."

We were looking around our new apartment's gym complex when I was reminded of another video by Sufei that I watched a couple years ago. It was pretty hilarious and covered how names get lost in translation. Anyway, we were talking with one of the gym's personal trainers whose English name is, and I kid you not, ROCK. I guess he thought he should pick his English name according to what he does for a living. Regardless, we thought it was funny and it reminded me of this awesome video by Sexy Beijing.

Again, I know a lot of people (myself included) tend to not watch videos when they are posted... but this is REALLY funny and its pretty short!

Hilarious, no?! LOL! Oh BTW its funny because you see that guy walking around with his shirt up and his stomach showing? They totally do that here! Its hot. And they just want to cool off. But, its funny to see. Lots of men do it!

I love Sufei! I keep hoping maybe I will run into her on the subway someday... hah. Or Smacker! Meeting Smacker would be even cooler. Sufei went back and interviewed Smacker in a couple more videos that are also really entertaining.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Completely and utterly RANDOM

This post is. Its a total hodge podge of random things. I'm still feeling a little bit like crap, but I went to the doc today and apparently its 一般的感冒!Just a regular old cold! But, ugh.. feel like poo. Hopefully the cough syrup drowsy stuff he gave me will help me sleep tonight!

So, anyway we moved into our place and I thought it was so cool because they had flowers on the table, and a tray of fruit, and fresh orchids in the bathrooms... just little things like that make it feel more like home!

Ok this made me totally happy because its a built-in jewelry box! How sweet is that?!! I didn't bring anything like that and was wondering where I'd put my stuff. Problem solved! yay.

And this? We are on the the 29th floor and this is one of those cool things I've only ever seen in the movies... its an intercom-I-can-see-your-face-buzzer-upper-thingie! Sweet!

And trying to do laundry with a Chinese washer! Sure some are totally easy, especially if I know the characters... but, the one with the hand? That I THINK is for hand-washing? The characters mean WOOL. I think you hand-wash wool... right?! I mean, there IS a hand... washing.. so it should be hand-washing. I hope.

So for this next picture...
A little Chinese cultural tidbit - what number is missing here?

....4! In the U.S. our bad luck number is 13, so we often won't have a floor number 13 or room numbers at hotels with the number 13... in China, the bad luck number is the number 4, because in Chinese it is pronounced "SI" which also is the way the Chinese word for death is pronounced.

And skipping around again.. before I moved to China I ate WHATEVER I wanted because I knew I wouldn't be able to in China and would probably lose weight. Yes. I have lost about 6lbs already! I need to get eating STAT! Its just that I eat so much more delicious veggies here, and less meat for some reason... look at these veggies, they are SO delicious, soaked in garlic... oh yum...

And another word on the food... I ordered a normal wonton soup and my husband ordered a soup with "beef balls" in it. We assumed there would be beef in the wontons.. apparently not. After taking a few bites, my husband said... "Do you think this is actually... beef... BALLS?" And looking at the texture and shape... um, they looked like they COULD be! He kept on eating it (I would not have been able to! LOL), while I googled and found that Asian meatballs are just really different in texture than how we make them in the U.S. - they are sort of bouncy and chewy... lol.

And lastly, my husband went to a market the other day and picked me up some of these pretty bangles... they were dirt cheap but I love them! pretty. They are called Jingtailan and are made with a unique combination of sculpture, painting, porcelain making and copper-smithing that is said to have originated in Beijing during the Yuan Dynasty.

I started language school this week, and I love it, its a great refresher! But funny because we are in the intermediate books and our level is definitely way higher... which is ALSO funny because the school I originally went to focuses so much on higher level stuff (for example, I can listen and understand to dialogues or speeches or tv shows about the economy and the political situation and opinions...) .... but throw us in a restaurant and we are honestly somewhat lost! There are so many different names for dishes, and just other colloquial words and sayings that we don't know... so this school is perfect for learning those everyday things & right now refreshing what we already do know!

Alright, off to take my medicine that will make me drowsy and enable me to hopefully sleep through the entire night, and also let me wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed (yes I just said that) for class tomorrow!


Monday, May 24, 2010

Ai yai yai!


I wanted to do a cool post for you guys, but I'm beat. I've had a sore throat for the past 3 or 4 days, and now I have a cough, and a sinus headache, and I can't smell anything, and, I know I had another symptom I wanted to write but I FORGOT!!! ... and I just don't have it in me to do a proper post! Must.go.lie.down.

I will hopefully be better soon & have a post for you in the next couple days!! don't go anywhere! ;) Wishing I had some tylenol cold & sinus about now... its in our big shipment which we won't receive for another 1-2 weeks... sigh.

Power "please-get-healthy-because-its-no-fun-to-be-sick-especially-in-CHINA"-vibes are greatly appreciated :)



Saturday, May 22, 2010

Matchmaker Matchmaker in Beijing!

In my other post I mentioned that my husband stumbled upon the dating market in the park, where the parents set up booths as a way to hook up their kids. Well, tomorrow we are going out in search of this phenomenon... but in the meantime, since I think you guys found that pretty interesting... I remembered watching this episode of "Sexy Beijing" (her twist on Sex and the City) a couple years ago... its really entertaining and so interesting, also from a foreigner's perspective. Check it out! You will definitely enjoy it I think.

The main part when Sufei goes to the park starts at 4:07 if you would rather skip straight to that part... there is English as well as Chinese, but also English subtitles. Its actually really entertaining!

What do you guys think? Isn't Sufei awesome?

I am on my way out the door - our first Chinese friend is taking us all around the city today to show us his favorite spots, non-touristy shopping areas & his favorite Chinese restaurants! How fun!


Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Summer Palace & Beihai Park: In Pictures

The day before yesterday we went to Beijing's 颐和园 - pronounced yiheyuan. For many years it served as the summer getaway for the Chinese imperial family. Its built up in the hills and the views of Beijing are beautiful!

To get to the summer palace, we had to take a 40 minute subway ride... even though the summer palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Beijing's most popular historic sites, the subway was, for once, super empty. I took a picture because its crazy that there was hardly anyone on there and I somehow doubt I will ever see it that empty again. Usually there is barely standing room let alone open seats!

I just thought it was a cool shot

Gorgeous view!

A respite from the heat

Our "taxi" back to the subway station. With the way they drive around here, I was scared... but we made it unscathed!

A close-up of the pretty door from my other post. Here you can see the Buddhist carvings really well. It was really interesting because there was a woman who would bow in front of things like this. At one altar, which we weren't allowed to take pictures of, she would donate money, but first would lift the money up in front of her and present it to the statue, then put it in the pot and bow again. It was really cool to witness this cultural aspect & religious display.

Yesterday was a beautiful day, clear skies & sunny, so we took a taxi to 北海公园beihai gongyuan, or Beihai Park. Beihai Park is an imperial garden that was originally built in the 10th century. The structures inside were built to replicate famous sights across China.

I loved all these pretty red lanterns.

These were hanging in the trees, its the Chinese character 福, or fu, which is a symbol of fortune.

She was practicing her calligraphy. People do this periodically throughout parks, usually away from crowds, and for their own practice, not for money.

These pavilions were so cool, they were packed with Chinese people playing traditional Chinese music and singing Chinese songs. It was so much fun to catch a peek into this aspect of their culture.

And my favorite picture of the day, because there is just something so China about it - this is no longer in the park.

A couple more tidbits:

1. I used my first Chinese toilet. I felt like this was somewhat of a hurdle and I am proud to say I have my first use out of the way and it wasn't so bad! You don't have to touch anything in the stall so its actually really clean. I promise I will stop talking about using the bathroom from now on.

2. Eating here is so, so cheap. We can pay a little over a dollar for about 12 baozi - a delicious steamed bun, usually with meat or veggies inside. But, I also paid 1.50 USD for 1 mini-size snickers bar. Going to have mom send me some.

3. Speaking of baozi, I ate at my first not-quite-street-food-yet-not-really-a-restaurant. It was delicious, and I didn't get sick (fingers crossed!)

4. Taxis here are SO cheap. We spent at least 35 minutes in a taxi yesterday and only paid 5 U.S. dollars. Imagine that in New York! Not to mention hailing a cab is 1. totally easy and 2. extremely fun.

5. My husband stumbled on a "dating market" the other day. He was shooed away before he could get pictures. Chinese parents go to this park, set up booths "advertising" their son or daughter - their sex, age, educational background, hobbies, etc. - and set them up on blind dates with the children of other parents who are there. Its a really interesting cultural phenomenon - can you imagine your parents going to a park to do this in order to find you a match? We are going back this weekend and I will get pictures for you guys!

6. We are planning our first trip within China. Next month we are going to Inner Mongolia and Mongolia. I know this is probably a long shot, but have any of you been? If so any recs? At first my husband had me on an overnight bus... I told him he has to break me in slowly since this is our first trip, and to a somewhat remote place at that! hah. We are going to stay in a Mongolian Yurt for a couple nights. Wish me luck.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures!


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Doors Across China

I have this habit of taking pictures of doors. No, really. My husband laughs at me. We have pictures of doors from every country we have ever been to!

Something about a door is very alluring to me... I wonder what is happening behind them... who lives there, what kind of life do (or did) they lead? So, I decided that as I gather pictures of various doors from my travels, I'll do a post... because doors are just so pretty, and intriguing, and for me, thought-provoking.

I already have at least 10 pictures of doors across Beijing, but chose these three because they all happen to be red! In feng shui, a red door symbolizes positive energy.

The Door, by Miroslav Holub

Go and open the door.
Maybe outside there’s
a tree, or a wood,
a garden,
or a magic city.

Go and open the door.
Maybe a dog’s rummaging.
Maybe you’ll see a face,
or an eye,
or the picture
of a picture.

Go and open the door.
if there’s a fog
it will clear.

Go and open the door.
Even if there’s only
the darkness ticking,
even if there’s only
the hollow wind,
even if nothing is there,
go and open the door.
At least there will be a draught.


Speaking of doors, I am going outside mine today to enjoy the beautiful clear blue skies! What a treat! Air quality is "good" today according to the embassy (and I can tell just by looking out my window!)... so I am going to take advantage of it.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Benefit's "Legally Bronze" Review, New Mac Eyeshadows, & some fun J. Crew purchases!

A couple weeks ago I told you guys about how I purchased Benefit's Legally Bronze kit.

Its all sold out at Sephora now, but there are some new ones on Ebay if you are interested. Its a really great deal & I am happy I bought it, because I seriously love the Hoola Bronzer & Highbeam! The Gilded highlighter is also very pretty, the only thing I am not crazy about is the Bad Gal Lash Mascara. I think the Mascara is really sticky-feeling! I've never felt such sticky mascara - not a huge fan, not the worst mascara I've ever used, but I won't be purchasing that again.

Hoola Bronzer and Highbeam, on the other hand... I can see these becoming holy grail.

The Hoola bronzer is matte, it doesn't have any shimmer or sparkle to it, and it provides a truly natural looking bronzed look to your face. I love it! The color is perfect, not orange or muddy or dirty looking. For a comparison, I have NARS Laguna Bronzer, and I highly prefer Hoola.

As for the Highbeam - its the first time I've ever used a liquidy-sort of highlight on my face, but its surprisingly easy to apply. I just dot it where I want it and then make sure to blend it well. I feel like this stuff provides a really pretty glow that looks like it comes from within, and not just from some product sitting on top of your face. I guess they call it "supermodel in a bottle" for a reason! I read a review that said it may be too icy looking for those with yellow undertones - I have yellow undertones and it works really well on me. Like I said - its extremely pretty, and Benefit knew what they were doing when they put these products together because they work beautifully together, very natural.

Next up, some MAC Eyeshadows. I know a couple people posted their top 15 eyeshadows, so I totally took notes then FORGOT them when I went to purchase! I still really like the shadows I bought.. I think you'll notice a trend... I love browns, bronzes, and other natural shades.

The knight divine is a little outside of my box, because darker colors scare me, as in I tend to be afraid that I won't be able to work with them.. BUT... I'm really glad I bought the knight divine - its a really nice color and easy to use, blending is key of course. I like to use it with naked lunch all over from lid to brown bone, patina and/or woodwinked on the lid, and knight divine mainly on the outer corner and into the crease - and naked lunch again used on the inner corner to brighten. Wish I had a pic for you guys but I cannot get these pics to come out for the life of me! I think the hubby is going to have to help if I ever want to do it.

I've also been using naked lunch, woodwinked, amber lights and antiqued together. Amber lights is a really pretty, peachy sort of bronzey color.

I have yet to use the Indianwood paintpot but I will say it has SERIOUS staying power!! Its a very rich color and will be great base, also will help the shadow to stay longer. All I know is I put the swatch on my arm, used soap and water and it still didn't totally come off.

I know you can barely see the Vex on that swatch... but its a nice color to use with knight divine - thats the only way I've used it so far.

And finally - I took advantage of J. Crew's 20% off by purchasing two more dresses... they very appropriately said in the e-mail its their "perfect excuse to buy both colors" sale... so I did. I bought two different dresses that I already own in 2 different colors! You know what? The price was right and dresses are a must for walking around the city in the heat.

I bought this dress from my OOTD the other day, this time in a dark pewter color (the one in the picture is lighter than it looks in that picture):

And I already own this dress in navy, but bought it in this heather grey color:

That's about it! It rained and made the air quality improve a LOT so we are going out today to explore!

If you own any of these MAC Shadows - what other colors do you typically pair them with? Whats your favorite way to wear them? Any tips for using my first paintpot?

When you find something you love, do you buy it in more than one color, especially if the price is right? I try not to because I feel like its so boring, but these are really perfect for here!

Talk soon!!


Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Forbidden City & a walk through Beijing's hutongs

This post will be slightly picture heavy... its so hard to just choose a few.

First, I just want to share this music video with you. Its a song you may or may not have already heard. It was made for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. BUT - I love this song. I think its really special, and so beautiful, and I think that comes across whether or not you understand what they are saying. I think you can feel what they are saying... I feel it when I just listen, let alone watch the video (and this has English subtitles). I hope you enjoy it, and it can also give you an idea of what the Chinese language sounds like.

Yesterday we decided to take a walk through the Forbidden City. This is easier said than done - I think going on a Saturday wasn't the smartest thing to do, it was packed! When we took the subway there yesterday, I actually let the first two trains pass by because they were so packed... when the third one rolled around and I realized there weren't going to be any less people, I got on... lol.

Briefly, the Forbidden City was the Imperial Palace during the Ming Dynasty through the Qing Dynasty. Starting in 1420, the emperor and his household lived here. It's huge.

Our first glimpse as we walked in (and some soldiers? in formation walked past)

Notice the smog? I thought the food was going to be the biggest adjustment, but I think its actually going to be the air quality issue. Here is what I want you all to do for me. After reading this post, I want you to walk outside, look around you, take a deep breath of that wonderful, beautiful, refreshingly clean air, and be consciously thankful for it.

After we walked through the Forbidden City, we took a walk through some of Beijing's hutongs. These hutongs are lanes or alleys, and these lanes or alleys are created by the walls of traditional Chinese courtyard houses. Here is a drawing of what these would look like from above.

According to my guidebook, the wall not only adds privacy, but keeps out spirits as they are unable to turn corners. As prescribed by feng shui, the entrance is at the Southeast corner.

We actually stopped in one of these hutong areas because we saw a sign for China Mobile. We bought a SIM card for our new cell phones... it was fun speaking to the shopkeeper in Chinese. After we first walked in, we said a simple Chinese sentence like "I want to buy a SIM card." She was showing us a few different ones and telling us about them and when she realized we were understanding everything she was saying, she was really happy and gave us a better deal than she originally intended to. When we could read the information in Chinese, she was even more impressed!

Me on the way back to the subway and back to our hotel. I was only asked to have my picture taken twice today.

Just another word on those split pants for babies that I mentioned earlier... I found an interesting article on it. Apparently split-pants-trained Chinese babies are usually fully potty trained before they turn 1! Not only that, but its not uncommon to see Chinese mothers whistling to their babies on the side of the street - this is because the babies "go" on the command of the whistle!

I thought it was interesting to learn more about the practice, and if you are interested in the article, you can read it by clicking here.

I wanted to include some new MAC shadow purchases and a review of Benefit's Hoola Bronzer and High Beam - but decided to make it into a separate post, so stay tuned for that.

What did you think of the song?