Tag Archives: Beijing

There’s always a song!

From: walt@jamaicaninchina.com
Subject: Jamaican in China!–There’s always a song…
Date: October 31, 2010 8:43:46 PM GMT+08:00

“All my bags are packed, it’s early morn,
taxi’s waiting, he’s blowing his horn….”

Those are the lyrics from the song, “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” by Peter Paul and Mary. Ok, so, in this case, it wasn’t a taxi, it was actually my friend, Cong, who was nice enough to drive me to the airport for my 9:00am morning escape from Beijing!

But, I digress. I have a point to make.

My point is that if this were a video biography, I would have certain relevant songs playing as the soundtrack. Why? Because I love music!

I’m sure I’m not saying anything particularly profound or revealing, here, so I’ll tell you a little about myself so you can appreciate that statement.

Once I landed on this planet many years ago, and started really appreciating the music here, I realized that there were a few decades of recorded music that I had “missed,” and that I needed to catch up on. So, while a youth in New York city, I would listen endlessly to every radio station I could, including WCBS101.1-FM, the “oldies” station, to catch up on the music of the 30s, the 40s, the 50s, the 60s, the 70s–every conceivable genre and artist from Ray Charles, Mose Allison, Frank Sinatra, George Jones, Ronnie Milsap, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and everything else I had arrived too late on the planet to experience first hand. Radio is man’s greatest invention! However…The most frustrating thing about the whole concept of radio, in my opinion, is that while I’m listening to one song on one radio station, there’s another 20 songs playing on all the OTHER stations that I’m missing!

The second most frustrating thing about the concept of radio is waiting all day to a specific station to hear a particular song, but because of my habit of listening to several stations at once, arriving back at that station only to hear the deejay say “….and that WAS Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry! Thanks for waiting all day to hear it!”

The third most frustrating thing about the whole concept of radio is arriving at a station to hear the final notes and lyrics of what sounds like a GREAT song, and then have the deejay NOT mention the artist and song title. Aaaarggh!

Music marks the memorable milestones of life and has the power to transport me back to certain moods and moments long forgotten.

I alluded to this in Jamaican on Saipan, upon discovering what now ranks as one of my favorite radio stations–KZMI-FM on Saipan–and all the happy memories that program director, Lewie Tenorio, and his choice of music evokes in my own life.

But, here too, I digress, and delay the final arrival of my point….which is that there’s always a song running through my mind playing as the soundtrack of my life. So, today’s episode includes a little soundtrack for your listening pleasure. (And yes, these are all some of my favorite songs!)

“I’m leaving, on a jet plane,
I don’t know when I’ll be back again…”
Leaving on a Jet Plane (1967/1969) by Peter Paul & Mary  (Lyrics: John Denver)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fa3h3pnhg8s

Chinese readers: http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMzE0NTYzNzY=.html

After a three-hour flight, I arrived in Kunming, in Yunnan Province, China at about 12:30pm. As I exited the airport, I was greeted by a blast of warm air, hot sunshine, and…..while others were hustling about, queuing to get a taxi, bus or meet their loved ones to depart the airport as quickly as possible (you can see them in the background)….

I found a spot directly in the sun, lifted my face to the life-giving rays, and just soaked it in for about half-hour!….

[Cue music….


“I look up to the Sun,
to see if the day is done,
to see my future that lies within…”

Elements (1983) by Black Uhuru  Anthem LP
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uK-tt2PWy6I
Chinese readers: no youku.com equivalent, sorry


So, the plan is to hang out here in Kunming for a few days, enjoy the sunshine, then I’ll be on my way. Cue music….

“We can sing in the sunshine,
We’ll laugh everyday,
We’ll sing in the sunshine,
Then I’ll be on my way…”
“We’ll Sing in the Sunshine” (1964) by Gale Garnett

And the beautiful ladies at the Spring City Star Hotel say hello! It’s such a lovely place…Waitaminit! Aren’t those the lyrics to Hotel California!!!????

“Welcome to the hotel california

Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the hotel california
Any time of year, you can find it here”
Hotel California (1977)  by the Eagles

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgLfoQfmSQ4
Chinese readers: If you can’t access youtube, try http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMTA5MTY5MTI4.html

Hmmmm…Now, how does the rest of that song go?

…You can checkout any time you like,
But you can never leave! “

uh-oh

>gulp<

Bye Bye, Beijing!

From: walt@jamaicaninchina.com
Subject: Jamaican in China!–Bye, bye, Beijing!
Date: October 30, 2010 5:44:19 PM GMT+08:00

To quote the words of famous Beatles song that I’ve always used as the prime directive for my life and my nomadpreneur adventure:
“…for tomorrow may rain, so….I’ll follow the sun!”

Yep, it’s a bit too cold for me here in Beijing, so it’s time to head south! Basically, the way I decide where to go is pretty simple, someone tells me about a city I should visit (Kunming, Jinghong, Dali), I look the city up on the getty.edu site (one of many that gives the longitude and latitude of any city in the world) and I choose the destination with the most southern latitude (i.e. the warmest temperature)

And, so the winner is….. Jinghong! Jinghong is in Yunnan Province, which is Latitude: 21 58 00 N degrees

For comparison:
Kingston, Jamaica is Lat: 17 58 00 N degrees minutes
Saipan, CNMI is Lat :15 degrees


So, Jinghong may not be EXACTlY as warm as what I’m used to, but if I go any further south, I’ll be in Myanmar (aka Burma), and that’s an adventure for another time!

So long, Cong (pronounced Tsong)

Before I leave Beijing, I must give “’nuff respek,” props and kudos to my friend, Cong!

She’s been a very, very key part of me getting acclimated to and enjoying Beijing to the degree that I have! She’s been a one-person welcoming committee, translator, tour guide, and good friend!
I met her on the couchsurfing.org site, we met shortly after I arrived, and since then, she’s been there for me to help me find an apartment, find a hotel, find vegetarian restaurants and more!

If I’m lost or having trouble communicating precisely what I want in a particular situation, I can always count on Cong to help me out. The scenario usually plays out something like this (this one actually happened): Say I’m on a bus looking for a particular station to get off so I can meet Hong for an event, but I have no idea where I am, and, since I can’t read Chinese characters to save my life (yet), I need some help. So, I call Cong. Then, I tap a complete stranger on the shoulder, smile, and hand the puzzled stranger my mobile phone. She and the stranger then talk in Putongua, while I wait.
I’ve never been quite sure exactly what she says when I do this, but I figure it must go something like this:

“Hello, complete stranger. My foreign friend in front of you is lost and only speaks enough Mandarin to ask for soy milk, and even then, it’s hit or miss. Could you help him, please? Could you tell him when to get off this bus so he can meet me at 123 Main street? Thanks. Now, could you hand the phone back to him so I can tell him. Have a nice day!”

Cong relays any necesary information to me in English, the stranger and I smile wordlessly at each other, and I continue on my merry way with the right type of fried rice on my plate, the directions to the hotel I’m looking for, or whatever!
I’ve done this to security guards, hotel managers, office receptionists waitresses in restaurants, and strangers on buses! So, thanks to me, Cong is pretty famous.


Anyway, Thanks, Cong! Beijing was a blast thanks to you!

To everyone else in Beijing, sorry for the short notice! I bought my ticket just last night, and my flight leaves 9am today! The plan is to spend a day or two in Kunming, then head further south to Jinghong!
Stay tuned!

Bye byyyyyyye, Beijing!

That’s MISTER Milk to you, madam!

From: walt@jamaicaninchina.com
Subject: Jamaican in China!–“That’s MISTER Milk to you, madam!” (Language Lesson #1)
Date: October 22, 2010 8:00:08 AM GMT+08:00

Tales of Dating and Cereal, (Cereal Dating???)

As I’ve said to many a friend when discussing inter-cultural and international dating, “Language is highly overrated.” You don’t need to share a common spoken language in order to meet, date or even marry! In fact, I had a friend in college who went to Brazil, fell in love, and married his new sweetheart all within a week or two, and he didn’t speak a word of Portuguese, and his bride didn’t speak a word of English!

Within a few weeks, he was speaking Portuguese and, while I haven’t heard from him in many years, I’ll attach my own “…and they lived happily ever after” (for as long as the relationship was destined to last) to that story. I’ve always believed that the right motivation is necessary to do just about anything–like learning a new language in two weeks. So, anyway, my point, as I’ve said, is that language is highly overrated!

In fact, in the dating game, I’ve found that NOT sharing a common language keeps the interactions between two people basic and uncomplicated. It forces you to get to the essence of the relationship more quickly when dealing with misunderstandings.

I’ve found that in a relationship with someone who speaks the same language (worse if they speak it well and have an advanced vocabulary) you can spend hours nitpicking every little detail and nuance of “what he said, she said, he meant, she implied, what did you mean by that?” until the cows come home!”

On the other hand, when you don’t have the luxury (or excuse) of hiding under layers of words, or behind shades of meaning, the discussions are brief, simple, and the end result comes quicker. You can forgive misunderstandings that are caused by differences in culture and language much more easily, and get to the essential questions, and answers (Do I love this person? Will I forgive this misunderstanding and move on? Is the essential attraction and commitment still there? In other words: I like you. You like me. Let’s go!)

Yep, it’s pretty basic, perhaps even simplistic, I’ll admit, but I never said I ever graduated to mature or sophisticated levels of dating interaction or romance. Functioning at a third-grade level is good enough for me!

However, with that said, there ARE some instances where being able to negotiate the subtleties of language are very useful.

So, I’m here in China, see, learning Chinese (Mandarin to you westerners, Putonghua to us Easterners), and like many foreigners raised with a foreign “ear,” the most challenging part is learning the tones of Chinese words. Very briefly, the meaning of a sound in Chinese is determined by the “tone” you use when speaking it. There are four tones to every “word” and whether you raise, lower, keep flat, or dip-and-raise the tone of the word affects the meaning–in other words, it becomes a completely different word. This is profoundly difficult for (former) westerners like me to grasp. Tones for us, affect the emotion behind a word, not the meaning. About the only similarity we have in English, is how we raise the tone of the last word when asking a question. Do you know what I mean?

Check out this link with sound clips for each pronunciation

http://mandarin.about.com/od/pronunciation/a/tones.htm

high level – first tone

rising – second tone

falling rising – third tone

falling – fourth tone

“Pinyin” is the system of roman character phonetic representation of Chinese characters

Pinyin

Chinese Character

Meaning

Sound Clip

mā (ist tone)

mother

audio

má (2nd tone)

hemp

audio

mǎ
(3rd tone)

horse

audio

mà (4th tone)

scold

audio

To a westerner, unaccustomed to differentiating such subtle tones, mā, má, mǎ, and mà sound exactly the same. To a Chinese person, the subtlety is detectable, and very confusing in trying to understand a foreigner. (So, using the example in the chart above, if you mispronounce “ma” you could end up saying: Have you seen my mother’s hoofs lately? She’s been grazing and galloping out in the fields for a long time. Do you think I need to re-shoe her?)

Similarly, to a Chinese person, the English words “bowl” and “ball” sound pretty much the same, and they might pronounce it as such. However, “I am looking for a bowl” and “I am looking for a ball would place you in very different locations, and produce quite different outcomes!

That’s “MR.” Milk to you, Madam

My friend, Cong (pronounced Tsong), is nice enough to help me practice precise Putonghua pronunciation. I shared with her some of the challenges I was experiencing during a recent shopping adventure. I had walked into a store and asked for soy milk. (I had learned that basic ability back on Saipan, for heaven’s sake! I thought I was an expert!) First a little language lesson.

Language Lesson:

Wǒ = I

yao = want (pronounced “Yow” like how)

dòujiāng = soymilk (pronounced dowjyang)

So, putting it all together, I thought I was saying:

yao dòujiāng

Which means “I WANT soy milk.”

However, when I practiced it with Cong, she explained to me that what I was actually saying was

Wǒ JIAO dòujiāng

Which means “I AM CALLED Soy milk.”

You see, what had happened was….jiao (pronounced “Jyow” like “how”) and

yao (pronounced “Yow” like how to the untrained ear (and that’s how I learned it), they are pretty close;.

Yep, sure. Go ahead, laugh.

Picture me as I stride confidently into a store, look the sales clerk/cashier straight in the eye, and announce:

“Hello. I am called Soy Milk!”

HER: [Blank stare. Perhaps a chuckle]
ME: “I said, I am called Soy Milk!”
HER: “um…pleased to meet you? um… Milk.”
“That’s Mr. Milk to you, madam!”
Hmmmm. Something’s not going right here.

The subtle difference between yow and zyow was lost on my foreign ears, so I confused the two hoping, as I always do, that any compassionate listener would at least be able to figure out what I was attempting to communicate in the context of our conversation. (I’ve found that to be a very optimistic expectation, unless the listener is motivated by virtue of being a good friend or a romantic partner!)

So, anyway, in such a situation, I have two choices. I can

1. leave empty-handed, go back home, and eat my breakfast cereal dry.

OR

2. start using foreign hand gestures and sign language to communicate the concept of soy milk to someone who already thinks I’m a bit strange to be named after a plant-based beverage.

um…hmmmm….well…

Dry cereal’s not so bad, really.

>sigh<

Next time in the Language Lesson Series: Foreign hand gestures and sign language!

The Embassy Girls!

From: walt@jamaicaninchina.com

Subject: Jamaican in China!–The Embassy Girls!

Date: October 7, 2010 9:01:21 AM GMT+08:00

Ok,Ok…Yes, I know these are sophisticated, adult ladies, I know, I know. I just think “The Embassy Girls” has a nice ring to it, like a television series, you know?  Like a Jamaican Charlie’s Angels…:-)

Anyway, YES! You guessed it from the subject line, I finally made a visit to the Jamaican Embassy in Beijing, China!

It was an unannounced visit, but Attache and Vice Consul, Christine Barker, was nice enough to meet me at the Jianguomen train station (# 1 and #2 line) and guide me back to the Embassy’s location on the 7th floor of a 17-storey building in the Jianguomenwai Diplomatic Compound! Thanks, Christine!

Welcome to our humble….um, office building

As this was during the Golden Week National Holiday, the Chinese staff at the embassy was out, and so was the Ambassador. So, it was just me and the girls getting acquainted during my short visit.

A long time ad campaign touted Air Jamaica,  the national airline, as “The little piece of Jamaica that flies.” Well, the Jamaican Embassy is the little piece of Jamaica that files…Just kidding, ladies!

Minister Counsellor Jacqueline Bell, Attache and Vice Consul, Christine Barker, and Administrative Attache Keera Clarke do much more than filing. They perform a wide range of tasks! There’s processing visas, renewing passports, providing support for Jamaican nationals, promoting a positive image of Jamaica abroad, as well as sensitive communication on behalf of the ambassador, plus a host of other duties I’m sure they DIDN’T reveal to me in the interest of Jamaican national security!

Jacqueline, Keera and Christine. The Embassy Girls (Weeknights at 8! Check your local listings)

Here are a few facts I learned during our chat:

1. About 600+ visas each year are processed for Chinese nationals and residents who wish travel to Jamaica. Too low! We have to do something about that!

2. There are only about 40 Jamaican citizens registered with the Embassy as “Living in China”! So, assuming there could be just as many who HAVEN’T actually registered, that still probably puts the total number of Jamaicans in China at less than 100. No wonder I haven’t seen any Jamaican beef pattie shops in Beijing! We’ll have to do something about that, too. (Of course, give me a few months by myself to um….check out the um….you know, the um lay of the land before you start sending any more Jamaican men. I think I can handle the, um, research on my own…I’ll let you know when I’m finished here.)

3. And finally, I learned that being so far away from home, friends and family back in JA, makes the girls a bit homesick at times. So, if you’re reading this and want to brighten up their day, do me a favour and send an email to a special address I’ve created that will forward your message directly to them! Send well wishes to embassygirls@jamaicaninchina.com

So, would that make ME “Charlie,” or “Bosley?”

Please note the colours of the Jamaican flag for future reference. I don’t want a repeat of last time. Ok, people?!!

This was definitely a high point of the week! Not just because of the new friends I’ve made, or the things I’ve learnt, but also because of something a bit closer to home that you may have to be Jamaican to really appreciate. I mentioned this in aSaipan Tribune article when I ran into my musician buddy and fellow Jamaican, Wayne Wright, on the island of Saipan, in the middle of the Pacific, 8,000 miles and 19 years away from where we last saw each other.

Every time you meet a fellow Jamaican somewhere overseas, you take a little trip back home before you even utter a word to each other. There is a knowingness, a tacit understanding of a shared culture, a shared experience, and what it feels like to be Jamaican in the wider world of people and places. And then, when we DO speak, to hear that familiar cascading Jamaican lilt and musical intonation,(The Trinis and the Bajans know it, too) and to be able to break into our trademark patois to further forge invisible yet powerful bonds of connection and camaraderie–because the sound and syntax IS a uniquely Jamaican creation–it is familiar and comforting in a way that no song or sonnet can capture.

Of course, I’m sure every citizen of every country can say the same thing, but, of course, we feel our story is just a bit more special, a little different. From the Arawaks to the Maroons, from Bob to the bobsledders, in our story we share a little secret between us that only Jamaicans know. Because of our relatively small size as a nation, as well as our pantheon of personalities and their relatively huge impact on the world,  there is a shared pride in our uniqueness and strength! We know what we are capable of. As we say in J.A, “we likkle but we talawah!”

Thanks for the trip home, ladies.

I’ll be back!

Walt

p.s.

And in a public but private “Jamaicans only” response to Jacqueline, who made a comment about my appearance,

I say:

‘ow yu mean mi nuh look like a regulah whatsitwhatsit?

Yu did wahn si mi inna sum dutty crep an’ tear-up gyanzie???? eee?

(My apologies to the non-Jamaicans in the audience. You’ll have to sit that one out!) 🙂

KEY:

Trinis = Trinidadians

Bajans = Barbadians

Bob = Bob Marley (Every Jamaican is duty-bound to quote “Bob” at least once in every serious discussion of politics, religion, or life in general)

Arawaks = indigenous (pre-Columbus) inhabitants of Jamaica

Maroons = Escaped slaves who mounted a successful 80-year resistance to British domination; and who granted the British government’s request for a peace treaty which is still in effect today.

Likkle = little

Talawah = Jamaican patois word meaning “brave, strong, fearless”

********************

My idea of a good day….

From: walt@jamaicaninchina.com

Subject: Jamaican in China!–My Idea of a good day (Option 1)

Date: October 2, 2010 8:44:45 AM GMT+08:00

Today was a good day.

A walk through the streets to blend into everyday life.


Parents take their kids to school

A stroll through the park to watch people exercising, dancing and doing Tai Chi, Gongfu, etc.

Girls and swords…Nice!

A few games of table tennis!

Table tennis tables in the middle of the sidewalk. Now, HERE’S  a country that’s got its priorities in order!

Making new friends…

Hmmmm….red paddle, black paddle. Wonder if there’s any subliminal message here?

And my idea of a “happy meal” All organic. All vegan.

A meal at Beijing Vegan Hut (Wo hen gao xin; translation: I am very happy!)

Lee Yu, owner of Beijing Vegan Hut. My new favorite spot!

Stay tuned for my review on www.happycow.net, Lee!

Doesn’t take much to make me happy, really.

Yes. Today was a good day. Hoy fue un buen dia. Jīntiān shìgè hǎo rìzi!

(I’m thinking of translating the posts to both Spanish and Mandarin. What do you think?)

The Value of an Education

Today’s adventure in thought inspired by life in China touches on an idea that most everyone can appreciate. It is particularly targeted to those in the midst of a pursuit of a formal education. I’d share it with you here, but this particular post was written as a special article for the Saipan Tribune, so that’s where you’ll have to go to read it! The first line reads:

“Not many things surprise me.”

Click here to read the rest! (opens in new window)

But wait! Because you’re special, you get to see a photo of some of the people I make reference to in the article that Tribune readers didn’t get to see!

How to Meet Girls in Beijing, China

This post is expanded with even more serious tips on dating in the Kindle/Nook edition of Jamaican in China: Guess Who’s Coming to Dim Sum! (see left sidebar) (Don’t have a Kindle or Nook? CLICK HERE to order regular, ol’ ebook and download immediately!

From: walt@jamaicaninchina.com

Subject: (resending) Jamaican in China!–How to Meet Girls in Beijing

Date: September 14, 2010 5:17:06 PM GMT+08:00

So, here’s the scenario: You’re a man. You’re not Chinese. You don’t look Chinese, and you’re planning a trip to China! Great! Congratulations!

“So,” you ask, “how are the women there?” (Yes, guys ask that question)

Good news:

thing is, as a foreign (Jamaican) guy, Beijing is probably one of the friendliest places I’ve ever experienced! If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll enjoy being here.

Here’s what you’ve got going for you. Here in China, there’s widespread curiosity about foreigners. People are advertising rooms for rent and “roommate wanted” situations with a preference for foreigners. Most everyone wants to learn English,and people are naturally friendly.

Bad news:

But, even so, there may be some challenges to maximizing your dating prospects. First of all, you’ll be a stranger in a strange land. It’s a different culture. There are different gender roles. You may or may not speak the language, and most people are probably going to assume that you don’t.

But, there are also a few other challenges to meeting girls. This is an unofficial survey, but I’ve already heard it many times from the girls here in Beijing that “I‘m afraid to talk because my English is not good,” or

“…many times we see a handsome foreigner, but we don’t know what to say.

You see, I’ve also learned that a prevalent perception of foreigners that Chinese have (among many) is that there are certain things that Chinese shouldn’t talk about with foreigners lest you offend them.

So think what a challenge it must be for the foreign-curious girl on the street who’s culturally shy, extremely self-conscious about how good her spoken English is, doesn’t know how to initiate a conversation, AND afraid she might offend you by saying the wrong thing?

So, what’s a girl-seeking foreign man to do????

Wouldn’t it be nice if you had some way of letting them know that you’re NOT an unfriendly, selfish foreigner? (I told you there were many stereotypes)

Wouldn’t it be nice if you had some simple way to show that you’re open to talk, that you respect the language and culture?

Hmmm….You’re probably thinking, “I wish I had a t-shirt that said, “Say Hello to me!” or one that said “Ask me anything!” That would be sooo coool!”

Well, you can thank me later, but here it is!

“Say Hello to Me!”

Check this out: An actual t-shirt that says:

跟我说“你好”   (gen wo shuo ni hao)

Mandarain for “Say hello to me!”

$14.99 plus shipping
Order Now
Long sleeve version
$28.99 plus shipping
Don’t like t-shirts? Well, check this out:
an actual button that says:
跟我说“你好”   (gen wo shuo ni hao)
Mandarain for “Say hello to me!”
$5.00 each; $19.95 for a 10 pack!
What’s that? Don’t like buttons or t-shirts? Well, check this out
an actual baseball cap that says:
跟我说“你好”   (gen wo shuo ni hao)
Mandarain for “Say hello to me!”
And the best part is (again, you can thank me later), they’re all ready to order at
So, will this t-shirt improve your love life? Well, it might get you a smile, lessen the fear of initiating a conversation, and “get you in the door,” so to speak…What you do after that is entirely up to you, your natural charm, personality and magnetism!
p.s. And you don’t have to be in Beijing to wear it. It’ll work just as well in your local Chinatown in the US or anywhere!. (And every city’s got one!) Wear it loud and proud!
p.p.s. Works great for women too!
p.p.p.s. Forward this email to someone who’d be interested!
p.p.p.p.s. Thanks to Ava Shang for her help with my research!
On another note, here’s something you might find interesting:

WANT MORE? Check it out

One Night in Ho Hai!

A few days ago, I met up with another couchsurfer and her friend for a tour of a famous little section of Beijing.

First, we strolled down a shopping district near to Tiananmen Square chatting about life in China… (I’m learning a lot about what Chinese think about Americans. It’s pretty interesting. I’m not American, but it’s giving me a business idea I’ll share with you at another time)

Then, took a bus to another area called Drum Tower…
even the ducks were out that night

and then on to Ho Hai. Great atmosphere, gondola-style, foot-powered boats cruise a lake surrounded by restaurants with solo performers.
Nice area to bring a date!
Jamaican-style cool in the streets of Ho Hai!
Traditional street performers
Sunny, Walt and Suzie

Life as we know it

Subject: SPECIAL Jamaican in China!–Life as we know it (a missive fi di massive)

From: walt@jamaicaninchina.com

Date: September 1, 2010 12:36:34 PM GMT+10:00

Dear friends,

I will make this brief.

This is a special email. It is being sent out of sequence to a select group of people to share with you what just happened on my second day in China (even though you haven’t received the first day’s chronicle yet), because the significance of what I’m about to share with you defies adequate description in words, and can not be overstated.

Life on the planet as we know it, has been irrevocably altered.

And, in the familiar Yin/Yang “good news-bad news”  construct:

First, the GOOD news:

Today, I found a VP2 style restaurant in Beijing!

For those of you who knew me in New York, you’ll recall the Chinese vegetarian restaurant, Vegetarian Paradise 3 (VP3), in New York’s Chinatown, which closed after Sept 11, and whose remaining sister location, VP2, is now thriving on West 4th Street in The Village close to New York University.

If so, you know what that restaurant represents to my life and gastric happiness, so you can already appreciate the earth-shattering, life-altering significance of what I’ve just shared with you.

The name of this restaurant is Tianchu Miaoxiang Vegetarian Restaurant (Chinese name: 天厨妙香素食(朝外店); found it on happycow.net). Out of courtesy to those who aren’t familiar, I won’t get into too much detail, but for those who know, it’s VP2 and then some! They’ve got a menu of about 20 pages, with all the mock meat, seaweed and veggie dishes we know and love, plus more stuff that exists here “at the source!”

menu

Sample of a page of the menu

The manager, Christina–as the only one on staff who speaks English–catered to me, explaining dishes, and making suggestions. (I think I’m in love.)

christine

Me and Christina

And finally, at the end of a sumptuous meal, which cost only 114RMB or about 16US, she refused to accept a tip–explaining Chinese culture and restaurant policy to me in the process. (A restaurant that won’t accept tips! Can life get any better than this?? Tell everyone you know: Heaven’s got a sign at the gate: “Cheapskates Welcome!“)

This in a city where everywhere I go, I’m besieged by friendly Chinese ladies who stare, smile, offer their numbers, and are making life quite pleasant. So, in any event, that’s the good news.

BAD news:

Now, the bad news.

um…today, I found a VP2 style restaurant in Beijing, China.

This means–my dear, sweet, close friends and family–you who’ve made my life special for all these years, and who mean the world to me–this means, you will likely never, ever, ever see me again.

Buh-bye.

whooooosh!

flap, flap, flap, flap, flap….

[the sound of a curtain fluttering in the breeze….]

Day 1. I think I’m going to like it here

Subject: Jamaican in China!–Day 1. I think I’m going to like it here

From: walt@jamaicaninchina.com

Date: September 1, 2010 1:29:00 PM GMT+10:00

on the flight from saipan
On the five-hour flight to China–the last charter flight leaving Saipan direct to Beijing

The minute I step of the plane, I get besieged by people who want to take their photo with me.

on the tarmac
Finally got some time to take a photo by myself

We hop on a bus to the terminal,

At the baggage-claim, I meet a mom and son who were returning from Saipan and exchange contact information. My first contacts in Beijing. I need a cell phone.

At the information counter, Jyang helps me contact the Embassy, we exchange email addresses, and she agrees to show me around Beijing once I get settled. Hmmm…I need a cell phone.

With the name of my destination written in Mandarin characters, I head down to street level, where I take a taxi to meet Les. I won’t show you the photo of the shiesty taxi driver who tried to charge me $70 US dollars for what should have been a $6US ride from the airport to the US Embassy where Les works.

Beijing buggy!

While on our way to get me a cell phone, we spot a young lady who happened to be walking with a pair of golf clubs, which gave Les an opportunity to strike up a conversation. Turns out–now get this–she’s Jamaican! Her name is Anna, and she says there’s about a 20-person community of Jamaicans here! I give her my email and she promises to connect and introduce me to the “massive!” (Jamaican slang for “a crowd of people!” I need a cell phone.

anna
Anna, one of the few other Jamaicans in Beijing!  Big up!
Les
Les bargains for a good deal for my new cell!

Ok. I got a cell phone.

So, now I’m set…I’ve already met a few contacts with whom I’ll need to share the new number for the Jamaican in China!

Yes, I think I’m going to like it here!

Les shows me around a bit more, then goes back to work, and I roam about town for a bit buying fruit and window shopping.

Last time I was in China, I had a few ok, but bland meals (prepared by chefs who I restricted to certain ingredients) and lived on cashews and raisins when I didn’t have a Chinese-speaking guide to instruct the chefs.  Similarly, when I want to Manila, I subsisted on lara bars and fruit for two weeks. (I didn’t find the vegetarian restaurant until the night before I left)

Tomorrow’s adventure: Finding a true vegan-friendly restaurant in Beijing!