2/28/09

around people's square

shopping jaunt Westerner

(warning: i'm writing too much. so just skim a few sentences and if you're tired, just go to the post with pictures, above. it seems my blog is a combination of some blablabla and some interesting pictures. sorry to Monica for all my blablabla.) today there were some terse discussions between several people discussing my clothing situation. they made a few phone calls to see if my clothes could be returned soon from the laundry. they said they might deliver today, except i would not be at the apartment. i felt awkward when i saw the lady who works here. i'm sure she was upset at me for making a fuzz when she was trying to do her job. except no one explained to me that using the hamper meant sending things to a laundry. i think that there is an element of needing to have some comfort things so as to feel balanced when everything is changed through relocation. when kids travel across the world with their parents, it's good to bring a favorite toy and blanket. if you remove these things, you destabilize the psyche. i'm not attached to my clothes, except i'm not in a place where i can replace clothes quickly and easily. there are language hurdles, size differences, new costs involved, and stores are located far from here. i only brought enough clothes to look appropriately dressed for a week. those clothes are now away from here, along with my yoga clothes. one of those yoga pants was given the distinction, "fine wool pants".


so i took are a few photos from a short jaunt to the city today. i was trying to learn how to take the free bus from my community to the center of town. i was hoping i would learn where the bus picks up in the center of the city, by taking it there. but as i suspected, it drops off in one side of a giant square and picks up in another part. the square is gigantic. the instructions are to go pick up the return bus at the east of the museum. but guess what? the drop off is in front of one museum, which is on the left side of the park. and in the middle of the park there is a museum. the pick up could be on the east side of either museum. few people speak English and i haven't figured out how to ask where is the pick up point. last weekend a coworker and i walked the entire park looking for the pick up point.


as i was writing the last paragraph, a smiling man showed up at the door of the apartment with the laundry. it's 8:00pm on a Saturday. this is a secure building. there are guards at the entrance to this residential section. the amount is around 55RMB, about $7.50. still, i am not used to this. i don't want to take his work away from him, but it i have been washing and ironing my clothes for about 30 years, except for a few years when dry cleaning was super cheap in Texas.


i went into a gigantic mall. i took some pictures, but silly me, i took them while going up the escalator. so they're too blurry to post. in the sundries shop downstairs there were so many people that you would have to wait 10 minutes for a person to decide what to pick from a shelf, so as to have space to walk around or select your own product. i found these familiar products, but made for this market:

i also got lost, thinking i was heading west from the park, instead heading north. (to go west from the park, you have to go south west for a quarter of a mile, otherwise, what happened to me will happen to you.) i got far when i realized i was nowhere near the main shopping street. some kind people looked at my map and indicated the direction i should be walking in. that led me through some unusual neighborhoods. eventually i went back the way i came and found the main street.


at one point i saw a bank that had the words "exchange". to a Westerner that means where you can exchange foreign currency. i asked an attendant if they could change dollars for me. she smiled shyly and asked her manager what to do. she said sorry, it was past 4:00. that didn't matter, banks close very late here for the convenience of people. i guess they didn't want to tell me they didn't change money.


at one point i saw the a bank called Chinese Commerce Bank. that sounded like the bank that BofA has a relationship with, where you can use their ATM and not be charged transaction fees. the words "exchange" where also posted there, but i didn't want to have the previous experience, so i used their ATM. there was no warning of a transaction fee. the ATM gave me money. but, guess what? the correct bank whose ATM i needed to use is called Chinese Construction Bank. those two names are very similar. they both start and end with "Chinese Bank" and the middle word in both start with a "C". ha! i was probably charged steep transaction fees and not warned. well, i have to have patience because i will probably make mistakes like these until i know my way around.


luckily i learned which subway to get to close to my community. i had to ask the help of someone on which buttons to press. i had the name of the station i wanted to go. i think i will be able to do it by myself again tomorrow.


there are so many Asians around here that when there is a Westerner walking in the street, there are a few seconds of recognition that there is another Westerner. your head goes up, your mind says, "oh, look, another Westerner" then you go back into your abstract state. mostly i've seen French. i saw a few young Americans skateboarding, and a group of four 30-some talking very loudly on the street. hehe. you can spot Americans easily.


in the shopping district, there are Starrybuckes at almost every corner. i always find exactly 4 sugar substitutes packets in the condiment counter. those things are so rare that i'm almost forgetting their trade names. Splendid? it's very hard to find that here, so i'm taking my coffee with one sugar cube, thank you. tomorrow i may go to Best Buy Shanghai to find a Chinese-English translator, after yoga class.

in memory of Tyler

i smiled at this dog today and he seemed to smile back. his owner appears to live at the end of a newly landscaped riverwalk, just before a pedestrian bridge. later i was glad i took the picture because it reminded me of Karen's and The Cop's loss of Tyler yesterday. may Tyler be in doggie heaven.

2/27/09

clothes suchi cushi

i'm sorry if my posts are long. this evening i had my first "emergency". i hope to laugh about it. there is a hamper in the room in the apartment where i'm staying. since i am accustomed to washing and ironing my own clothes, i had hidden away forms that are used in the case you want to send the clothes to an outside laundry. to me, a hamper is where you stage and sort clothes you are going to wash. this apparently means an instruction to someone to send the clothes out. i had put all of my dirty clothes in it, including PJs, jeans and underwear, with the intention of washing them this evening. when i arrived home to start the laundry, all my clothes were gone, except for socks. there was a form filled nearby. the clothes are not due back for 5 days. before this happened, i had been planning on going to buy a pant or two tomorrow. now i must do so, and include underwear in my purchases. i made a frantic call and apparently someone will be here in the apartment tomorrow and i may need to request of her to call the laundry to put a rush on the clothes.

i haven't found my yoga self-practice vibe yet. i'm there at the mat, this morning an hour and 45 minutes, but don't ask me what i did; it's embarrassing. in Buddhism there is a saying, "don't set up standards of your own. if you don't know the way right before you, how will you know the path as you walk?" i don't intend to mess with the practice. maybe, although it's not my inclination to do so, i should practice with a DVD on so as to keep the pace, because i'm not practicing in community during the week. personally, i'd like to find my own vibe without the DVD.

my mind entertained me during practice with an attempt to say in Chinese, "here is my business card." it came up with this Chinese-French-Spanglish version (i'm speaking all 4 languages daily.) "wo de mon suchi cushi" things like that are distracting my practice, along with thoughts like, "i need pants! i need brown shoes!" you see, i could not bring everything in the suitcases.

today was my first local Chinese lesson, where i was reminded of the correct way to present the business card: "wo de ming pian" at least i had the first two words right. i also solved the mystery, by asking, about the word that is said constantly around me. it was bothering me because it's a word used in the street lingo in SF and in rap music. the word is not allowed in my English vocabulary so that is why when hearing a local word that sounded similar to it it bothered me enough so as to want to know what it means. it quite innocently means that. and that, as they say, is that.

2/26/09

simple purchases

simple purchases at the market: hangers in a rainbow of pastel colors, juices, a black soybean milk, jasmine tea by Lipton, Dove chocolate made for the Asian market, the fancy bag the cell phone came in. my colleague introduced me to a fruit that is a local version of grapefruits. this one has a giant, i mean 2 inch thick giant rind, then inside is grapefruit-like sections that you take out with your hands and peel the skin off before eating the fruit. the taste is sweet, more towards an orange than a grapefruit.
it's not all over-sugared meringue fluff in my life over here. i am reading "finding the Buddha within" in the mornings during breakfast. in San Fran there were a lot of practice centers where i would learn the paths to the word that shall remain unmentioned but which starts with an "E". now that i'm more by me-self, this book, which spells out the path to buddhahood, is very helpful. not to mention that Tibet is around the corner. someone in our office is going to find out for me meditation centers where English speaking people can go to round these parts.

amazonian cash purchase

OMG, i went fishing in the Amazonian River, the Chinoise version, and i can't believe the convenience. with the help of the colleague who is going to give me Chinese lessons, we set up my account and ordered a textbook and workbook online. well, they had the choice of paying when they deliver and the delivery is free. Hello? did you fall off the chair? i'm like falling off mine. of course you have to have the cool cash ready when the bogey delivery man shows up - but have you heard of those options stateside? no, it boggles the mind! maybe that can happen for an established busy-ness. of course, because it's cash only you can't be running up credit card balances. you can use a local debit card. i'm still shaking from an enthusiasm jolt. it could be caffeine, though.

the only thing is that the confirmation of my purchase is in Chinese, which when i use the translator yields the following, posted here for Liz' confusion enjoyment:

for change orders (including unsubscribe out of stock) of the user, provides that "You have successfully submitted orders, such as you have requested to unsubscribe from some of the goods after delivery, resulting in reduced orders, and should not meet the needs of our orders in accordance with the original the amount provided in whole or in part, on favorable terms, we will change according to your orders or cancel the amount of adjustment after the discount for your shipment, please understanding. Again, thank you for shopping.
well, at least psycho-socially speaking, you get the message. oh, and by the way, ahem, i practiced yoga this morning. the front end of Second Series was the meat of the sandwich. i wish i had a bit more time but in an hour and a quarter i can't squeeze more asanas, so it's going to have to be a running series of poses in between standing and closing sequence.

2/25/09

cybershalamates take a chance

the cyber shala mates and teachers arrived in China safely - Springy Sitarist, Seven Petal Lotus, Owl and DonutsZenMom. I will have to find home-grown plushies to represent Alfia, Boodi and others.

in the box was something i saved as i prepared. first, i wrote down some quotations as i packed my books on quotations. my fingers first stopped at some advice being given by a cardinal to some bishops in medieval Europe: "rebeldia- si los lideres se rebelan, los que le siguen no tienen direccion." - rebelliousness- if leaders go on strike, those who follow them have no direction. hmm, i thought at the time, what does that have to do with me now? i wasn't sure. my going across the world was not an act of rebelliousness.

then i came across a quote by Cervantes: "Por la libertad, asi como por la honra, se puede y se debe aventurar la vida." For liberty as well as for honor, one can and should take on an adventure." now that felt close to home. going across the world is an adventure that enables freedom and honor. but how is honor meant here, in the renaissance sense? maybe honor in the sense of duty.

then i came across this gem which really hits home: "take a chance", by Walt Disney, motion picture producer.

i wonder how many times these sturdy old words have been used in graduation speeches each year. they take me back to my own high-school days, when i had my first pair of while flannel trousers and the world ahead held no heartbreak or fear.

certainly we have all had this confidence at one time in our lives, though most of use lose it as we grow older. perhaps, because of my work, i've been lucky enough to retain a shred of this youthful quality. but sometimes, as i look on how tough things were, i wonder if i'd go through it again. i hope i would.

when i was about twenty-one, i went broke for the first time. i slept on chair cushions in my "studio" in Kansas City and ate cold beans out of a can. but i took another look at my dream and set out for Hollywood.

foolish? not to a youngster. an older person might have had too much "common sense" to do it. sometimes i wonder if "common sense" isn't another way of saying "fear." and "fear" too often spells failure.

in the lexicon of youth there is no such word as "fail" remember the story about the boy who wanted to march in the circus parade? when the show came to town, the bandmaster needed a trombonist, so the boy signed up. he hadn't marched a block before the fearful noises from his horn caused two old ladies to faint and a horse to run away. the bandmaster demanded, "why didn't you tell me you couldn't play the trombone?" and the boy said, "how did i know? i never tried before!"

many years ago, i might have done just what that boy did. now i'm a grandfather and have a good many gray hairs and what a lot of people would call common sense. but if i'm no longer young in age, i hope i stay young enough in spirit never to fear failure-young enough still to take a chance and march in the parade."

2/24/09

college like

i'm staying with several other architects in a nice apartment. it feels like being in college, with an upbeat outlook on our creative work. last night there was a thunderstorm with lightning, something i had not experienced since living in Florida. as i woke up early at 4:30am to eat so as to have energy for yoga later, i noticed that two architects had woken up to see a soccer game. another architect woke up to progress on a drawing he needs to hand in later on today. maybe i'll blog in the mornings and leave an hour prior to going to bed for Mandarin studies. sorry if i haven't been reading other people's blogs as much as i used to. i also cannot comment on some blogs because only those hosted by this service provider are fully accessible.

my practice was usurped by having to reschedule a LEED licencing exam. i can only meditate today.

buddha carmen linda

my left derriere has been tight the last few weeks. i don't know if it's an SI - joint area issue or that pain travels in yuga. my practice was nice though short this morning. it's great to have a heater. i also have a new Buddha statue i bought in the old part of the city on Sunday, in what i think it's the French Concession area. at first i saw a carved Buddha statue in a blond wood, but the vendor would not accept the number i offered. in another shop there was another which was also carved and painted dark red, for less money. i bought that one, although the cheeks of the Buddha seemed fuller than I like. I checked the rest of the body to make sure this Buddha was trim. we're calorie restricters here. the second vendor explained that the Buddhas carved in the blond wood are more expensive because the wood takes longer to grow. huh? i may go later and buy the blond wood Buddha. Sorry, i'm going on and on about silly stuff. it's just that i learned that unless you are in a department store or grocery store, you have to bargain to get prices down 30% to 50% because there are no marked prices and for foreigners, a higher price may be quoted. so you learn to walk away, then they go after you and reduce the price.

did i talk about yoga? yes. well i have about an hour and forty five minutes to do it in the morning. i think my goal is to do parts of Second Series during this week.

there are some pools with fountains i pass by on the way to work daily. they are tiled with exquisite Italian mosaic tiles. they were looking kind of moldy the last few days. today i observed how two people drained the water from them. then around lunchtime, an army of about 10 workers, all in matching blue outfits arrived with boots and brooms. when i went back home, all of the pools, which are really quite large, where sparkling clean. wow, that says a lot about how dedicated and organized these people are. i think this would have been a two day project somewhere else. Again, my mind is playing games with what i think i'm listening to, trying to make some sense. i thought one of the workers said, "Carmen Linda esta alla abajo", or Carmen Linda is down there. maybe Carmen Linda is a mermaid living in the pools. another word that keeps getting repeated in the office sounds like the name of a country. it gets repeated a lot. well, i hope that with study, all of these mysteries will be resolved soon.

2/23/09

snapshots of Beijing

i plan to visit Beijing soon, since a colleague of mine returned to live there last October. my coworker went on a visit last weekend and took some snapshots. i asked his permission to post a few of them here. the focus of these pictures is, you guessed it, new architecture in the city. i don't know what effect this has on you, but it makes us architects scream. it's hard to be blasse about this stuff. and you guessed it, these are impressions you get while driving around the city and clicking away with the camera.

take me to this address

to get to the shala yesterday, someone wrote in Chinese for me, "please call a taxi for me, thank you." they also gave me the ping ying if i wanted to say it myself. so the guards in the community called the central office, which called a taxi for me. then i gave the address of the class location, also in Chinese, to the driver. today i learned how to say, "take me to this address" prior to handing the card, "quing dao zhege dizhi." when i practiced that at lunch, it made me laugh for a good 15 minutes. the lady cleaning the apartment seemed happy for me that i was laughing a lot, although i don't think she imagined what was so funny. what is funny is that it sounds like saying in Spanish that you're ___, well let's say you're in trouble, which is kind of how you would feel if the driver misses the destination. so you hope you are providing the driver with clear directions. i'm still laughing now.

shout out to Bob P. in Kansas: you write about carrying a heavy backpack as a way to exercise the body, by providing resistance which will strengthen the bones against osteoporosis. well my laptop bag is doing the honors for me daily. it weighs me down a lot. and i have a feeling i'm not in Kansas anymore.

2/22/09

shala digs city

water fountains greet you at 8 Park Avenue
the entrance to the clubhouse in the distance, where yoga classes are held.
the lobby of the clubhouse
the door to the back patio. that is an exquisite contemporary entrance with expensive glass detailing.
mama mia - there where two of these stairs in the club house, with fountains and reflecting ponds
structure over the pool
we didn't eat there, but was funny to stumble upon it,
as was stumbling upon this gem, where i had some coffee
the zig zag bridge
the front of the museum in People's Square

teacher adjustment essentials

today was my first class with Stanley. I need to come up with a blog name for him. i took a taxi to get to the shala, since it was too early for the bus that takes people from this community to the center of town on Sundays. Teacher is holding classes at the moment in the clubhouse of a residential development. he says that eventually he plans to find something closer to the metro, a walk up property with wood floors, where he will feel OK with placing Guruji's photo on display. the current classes are held in an facility that made me feel like I died and arrived in an architectural heaven. the details and materials where a contemporary architect's dream. i will post pictures later. when i arrived, Teacher recognized me because of my picture in the blog. we were moved temporarily to a function room because the practice room did not have heat. the function room was carpeted. i actually found the extra cushy-ness under the mat helpful, although i understand that it's not the norm for a yoga floor.

Teacher is very caring. he wanted to know where i'm stopping in my practice. today i only did primary. his adjustments were very expert and careful. i know this seems woo-hoo, but during the first adjustments i felt a bit of the transference of adjustments from Guruji and Sharath. does that make sense? this tradition is passed on from teacher to teacher. and i just felt in the first few adjustments the transference of that knowledge. yeah, woo-hoo. he gave me a great adjustment in UHP, which reminded me of many things that need to be in place to do this correctly. he also helps in Supta Kurmasana, getting me beyond where I was comfortably. the same with Marichyasana C. at one point i must have looked spaced out so he said, "the next one is Supta Padangustasna," not knowing if i had forgotten the sequence. at that point i told him that despite my years, i had not yet come to standing on my own in Urdvha Danurasana. a little ditty went in my mind like this, "i confess to almighty God, and to you my cybershala brothers and sisters, that i have never come up to standing by myself in Urdvha Danurasana. mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa." so he assisted me with dropbacks. my lower back has been tender from all of the moving the last few weeks, but i think it will grow strong with my daily practice.

i know you're not supposed to shower afterwards, but i did, since my coworker was going to meet me to visit places in the city. there was a sauna in the men's changing area. it was a gift to step into it. when my colleague arrived, we went to a Thai restaurant and ate a pineapple salad, rice and curried veggies. i drank tea and she drank coconut water. then we went walking down a business street where i was able to buy some essentials, such as an electric toothbrush, the bathroom scale, and a program to learn Mandarin interactive that is so fun it will be a delight to use it. a kind saleslady explained it to me and really, it is a very delightful interactive program. i'm repeating myself.

we then went to a historical district which has a lot of shopping. it would be a good place to find gifts for the family for the holiday. the only bothersome thing where the great number of sales people saying "watch bags" who try to get you to small warehouses where they have imitation goods. these people are very insistent. by the end of a long walk, after having some Starbucks coffee, i was crabby when one vendor interrupted a conversation between my coworker and i and i told him sternly, "i am talking to her." that's when i realized i was too tired to continue. i should have had patience, since the vendor must keep hawking and it should not bother me.
we walked around a square looking for the bus back to the community. not finding it after much walking, i took a subway to the end of the line, then a taxi to the community. believe me, everything here is an adventure and requires preparation, when you're just learning the language, and when you're one in a handful of foreign born residents.

for Bindi - my new scale

for new bathroom scale, which Bindi would approve. i'm happy to report that i haven't gained weight. i'm at 61kg, 134lb. if i gained any weight yesterday i lost it with the yoga and walking all over the city today, carrying my yoga mat and purchase of essentials.
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