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Day 47

Well, I’m officially on the downhill side of my time in Beijing. I feel like it will go fast (I hope) since I literally just have the whole month of July and two weeks in August then I’m out. I know thats the same amount of time I’ve already spent here, but something about it being confined to a calender month and two weeks makes it seem less daunting. I don’t know.

I did absolutely nothing yesterday, hence no blog. Seriously, I was woken up by the cleaning lady wanting to sweep and clean my room, so I went downstairs and messed around on the internet for awhile, had breakfast, and just as I was going to head back up, the cleaning lady finished and I finally got the wireless network. I came back to my room and pretty much watched TV shows all day. I discovered I can watch shows through my Comcast account online. Now if only I could access my DVR from the internet, life would be near perfect.

Today at work was the same old thing, working on my research project. And again finding article after article written by VLS faculty. I know I’ve said it a million times, but I think its really cool that I go to a school full of people who are the leading scholars in environmental law and many other things. Nothing like reading an article discussing 30 years of the citizen suit written by a guy that you serve coffee to almost everyday. The project is coming along better than I thought it would, I’m already up to 10 pages. Not sure how much more I can squeeze out, but I think thats a decent start. This is my last week on my own, and I have to say I’m kind of getting used to it. Hopefully I either get another big project or more frequent assignments once my boss is back, because I kind of enjoy not having her here. Not that I don’t like her, its just nice to be able to do my own thing.

It wasn’t too hot out today, but very muggy. Its been on the verge of raining all day. I guess because of that, or something else, everyone in the office suddenly realized we had AC. Seriously, normally when “someone turns on the AC,” they set it to like, 2 degrees cooler than it is in the room. Not that I prefer the frigid AC like in Florida, but I feel like if you’re going to turn on a machine and use the electricity, at least make it a little cooler than that. Anyway, I think every time someone walked by where they keep the remote the change the AC temp, they lowered it. I might get more of an impact from it since my desk is pretty much right underneath it, but it was definitely cooler in our room than it has been the whole time I’ve been here. Then, when I went to get lunch, I had to walk through the next room over, and they had the AC even lower! Seriously, it was SO cold in that room, I don’t know how no one was freezing! Kind of funny timing for everyone to want it to be cooler, because I was just talking about how weird they are with the AC here.

After work I headed to the gym and was able to get in a good workout. I love that I sat at my desk all day trying to talk myself into going. I never want to go, but once I’m there I’m glad I went. On the way home, it started to drizzle a little, but I had an umbrella, and it wasn’t raining that hard so it wasn’t bad. I stopped at the French bakery for dinner (I figured I worked off my lunch at the gym, plus when I walk home from the gym, I have to take a detour and walk further than normal to get to the bakery, so I figure all that walking balances out the food I get). I got this “garlic pastry”… and am I excited. I love garlic, and this thing is literally a piece of flaky crust, with like 7 garlic cloves on it. They are all mushy and smelly and it looks really yummy. Thankfully I likely won’t be seeing anyone, so no one will have to deal with my impending nasty breath.

Day 44

So happy for Friday, but I started the day with some not so great news. Nothing Earth-shatteringly horrible, but not awesome either. I had emailed the VLS alum at NOAA that I had been in touch with (who basically offered me an internship within the first 5 minutes of speaking to him) to get his opinion on which class I should take, between two that I couldn’t decide on. Well, he gave me some good advice about the class, and some not so good (for me) news that he is leaving NOAA General Counsel next week. Hmmm yes. I’m not worried about finding something else (even possibly at NOAA) in Florida or in St. Pete/Tampa, but I am bummed because this guy was highly recommended by my career services person, and he just sounded like a really knowledgeable and helpful person. Oh well, he gave me his personal email address so I will definitely be keeping in touch with him. Even just the 30 minute phone conversation we had in April was one of the most helpful things, so even if nothing else comes from it, at least I got a lot out of that.

I headed to work early again, I’m kind of preferring getting there around 9 (instead of 930) and then leaving around 530. Still a long day, but something about it makes it more manageable/bearable. I had been nervous about the big research project I’m working on, thinking that I won’t be able to make it as long as my boss wants, but I finally (really) started writing it today, and now I’m not so worried. I can’t find as much stuff about the laws in the EU, but even just writing a little about the US and Chinese laws, I’m already onto the fifth page, so hopefully it’ll turn out ok.

While at work today, one of the people there kept coming around with this weird little machine. After a few times through, I realized it was an air quality detector thing. This guy is always running around, making sure all the air purifiers are on and working, and that some idiot hasn’t opened the windows while the air purifier and the AC are both chugging away. He was saying that the room I am in has the best air quality in the office: coming in at a reading of 200 (FYI, 200 is the cut off line, according to the EPA, between “unhealthy” and “very unhealthy”). He said the hallway outside the office was reading at over 600, because people tend to smoke out there. At that point in the day, it was over 300 outside. Certainly explains why I can’t seem to shake this nasty cough. Right before I left, he stopped by again and our readings were the same, and outside it was edging close to 500. Awwwwesome. I headed to the gym anyway, most everyone else in the office grabbed masks before they left, but honestly I don’t think they really do much at that point. I’ll just take my chances and hope that spending three months here doesn’t infinitely increase my chances of lung cancer (among many, many other health issues I’m probably facing from breathing in this junk). Below is a picture of what it looked like outside. I don’t really have a good shot of the same area during a clearer day, but behind that last tree in the distance (right in the middle of the picture), there are several huge, tall buildings, and a giant, busy traffic circle, neither of which you can see here but you should be able to.

Beijing at 5:30 pm, with an air quality index reading of 455 (according the EPA, anything over 300 is considered "hazardous" and results in "health warnings of emergency conditions."

Beijing at 5:30 pm, with an air quality index reading of 455 (according the EPA, anything over 300 is considered “hazardous” and results in “health warnings of emergency conditions”).

After the gym, I started walking home, and got rained on a little bit. Nothing major, just enough to get coated in acid rain that will probably peel off a layer or two of my skin.. at least when I’m soaking wet from the rain, no one can tell how sweaty I am from walking. :) Now I’m back at the apartment, alone, eating some dinner and waiting on my laundry to finish. Definitely excited for the weekend, ready to sleep in. I’m starting to notice I get weird muscle cramps and twitched in my shoulders, once again again this sitting-at-a-desk-all-day, hunched-over-a-computer-thing is not for me.

Day 43

Well, once again I didn’t get as much sleep as I had hoped, but it was for a good reason. I was SO happy and excited to see the Supreme Court rule the right way on DOMA. It blows my mind that it has been in place since 1996, and no one has challenged it, at least not all the way to the Supreme Court. It seems to obvious to me that it cuts against everything the Equal Protection Clauses of the 5th (and 14th) Amendment stands for. As I expected, they stayed away from any big decisions in the Prop 8 case, but I have to say I was totally shocked by the Justices on the majority for that one… Roberts, Scalia, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan. Thats got to be one of the first times that line up has shown up on a case.

Anyway, I headed to work this morning, and of course read the opinion for the DOMA case. It was a long one, but I guess it was well written. I was kind of hoping Ginsburg would write the majority… she is my favorite justice, and I still think its cool that she started working for the ACLU and argued one of the major gender equality cases before the Supreme Court (I forget which one, but whatever). Plus, she is so little and adorable with her big ruffly lace thing that she always wears.  Naturally, Scalia’s scathing dissent was amusing, except for the fact that he actually believes (I think) the things he says. Which I don’t understand. Either way, its very exciting to know that such a landmark case has been decided, and hopefully in 50 years people will be just as appalled as my generation is that such things were banned not that long ago.

After reading that opinion, I set in on my final project. Its definitely an interesting project, but like I’ve said before, I’m not sure I’m going to get a 25 page paper out of it. It is still cool to search for stuff about it, and constantly see VLS professor’s names pop up.  Especially when reading an article about a major case on standing in environmental citizen suits, and having them constantly refer to your property teacher’s amicus brief.

It’s amazing the difference that humidity makes in the weather. Yesterday, I left the apartment to walk to work and my weather app said it was 72 degrees. I thought oh, that’ll be great, I won’t be too hot when I get there. I forgot to look and see that the humidity was over 85%. Yeah, definitely was a little sweaty when I got to work. Today, I saw that it was 81 degrees when I left, but luckily the humidity was a much more manageable 30%. Much nicer walk to work, that’s for sure. But the pollution was crazy high today (again). Its funny to look at the warnings the EPA issues in the US… yesterday there was an advisory or whatever for most of Maine… they expected levels to be between 100 and 150. Yesterday (and today), levels in Beijing were nearly 300. Definitely crazy to think of all the junk I’m inhaling on a daily basis. At least I don’t live here full time, I can’t imagine a lifetime of breathing this stuff. At least I know that sooner or later (well, specifically in 47ish days), I will be back in New England and breathing clean(er) air once again.

Day 41

Another rainy morning. I guess I was so concerned about walking to work in the rain that I got ready and left without really looking at the clock. When I did, I realized I had left half an hour early, so I got to work at 9 instead of 9:30.  Oh well, I figured I’d just leave earlier, which I did. More of the same at work, I was able to finish up my copyright/trademark stuff and mostly finished my other assignment about government information. Neither of those are really my areas of interest, but I just have to keep reminding myself (or trying to convince myself) that it will be helpful to everyone at Greenpeace. Not sure if I mentioned it before, but the copyright stuff was basically creating a handbook or guidelines for all the non-lawyers at Greenpeace who might run the risk of infringing on trademarks/copyrights/data privacy protection laws. So again, not my cup of tea, but hopefully I’m creating something that can help people avoid legal issues in the future. The other thing I was working on is looking at US and Chinese laws to see how each deals with “government information” and its disclosure. Again, the Freedom of Information Act is not my wheelhouse, but somehow I’m sure this will all be helpful.

I was starting to get nervous about being able to complete everything on time before my boss got back, but having 2 (almost 3) of my 4 assignments done at this point makes me feel better. I emailed my boss to let her know about some of my concerns about my other project, the biggest, but I still haven’t heard from her, which I was kind of expecting. Its a really interesting topic, about a new amendment to Chinese law that will (hopefully) make it easier for people to sue companies that are destroying the environment, but the amendment was just enacted this year and I’m not finding any cases or interpretations of the law yet.  I have found some interesting articles, so hopefully I can come up with something that is what my boss is looking for. One of my big concerns is she wants it to be a 15-25 page paper, and given the lack of information and my writing style (to the point), I’m pretty sure I’m not going to hit the 15 page mark. Oh well.

I left work early, and if it looked like 9pm when I left yesterday, it looked like the middle of the night today! It was SO dark out, and I was terrified that it was pouring rain outside. When I got outside, it was just drizzling, it had clearly been raining harder earlier. I made it most of the way without rain, then it starting raining harder. I was close to home, and it starting thundering and lightning. Luckily I made it home before it got too crazy. I skipped the gym today because I realized it messed with my internal clock, and while its always nice to workout after work, its throws me off and I end up eating later, staying up later, and getting less sleep. I’m still trying to kick this cold, so hopefully cutting back on the gym will let me catch up on sleep.

Day 33

I always thought the weather people in the US were kind of bad, but they have NO clue whats up here in China. I love the Weather Channel, but they clearly don’t have anyone posted over here updating the weather. I woke up before my alarm due to a pigeon shuffling around on my window sill, but sounding like he was in my room. Freaked me out and woke me right up. I had time to kill before I had to get up, so I just laid in bed and got online and checked the weather. According to Weather Channel, there was a 90% chance of rain this morning. I woke up to sunny blue skies. And no clouds on the radar. I get it, weather can be hard to predict, but it seems like they’d be more accurate if they just had someone here to stick their head out the window.

I headed to work earlier than normal, mostly because I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to get there. I took the round about way, there’s a more direct way, but I wasn’t sure how to take it and didn’t want to get lost. I got to work and settled in, moving over to my boss’s desk since she’s gone for 3 weeks. I spent the morning researching for my project, and finding a lot of good stuff. It is so weird for me to wrap my head around China’s system of government… As a US lawyer, I think we take for granted certain things, like the Supreme Court having the ability to rule a law unconstitutional. The court here is below the government, meaning that what they say doesn’t matter much, or at least not as much as it does in the US. Its so crazy to think about how things in the US would be different if our Supreme Court couldn’t do what it can.

In the afternoon, I got an email from my boss about all the things I have to do, and looking at it all written out, it looks overwhelming. But in reality, its not that bad and I should easily be able to finish it all. It is cool to be working on things that will have an actual impact on the activities of Greenpeace, or at least help inform the other employees there that aren’t lawyers what is legal/not legal. At one point today, someone came to my desk asking for my boss, and I was like “uh, she’s gone for 3 weeks.” And she was like “ok I don’t know what to do… I want to renew this contract, but we never put anything about renewing it into the original.” I was like, “uh well I don’t really have the authority or anything to tell you what to do, so all  I can suggest is to get in touch with my boss.” She was worried because it seemed like she wanted/needed to get the contract renewed quickly, and that waiting on my boss wouldn’t be possible. I’m hoping thats the only “crisis” that someone comes to me with… as much as I wanted to be like, well I don’t see why you can’t just renegotiate a new contract or extend this one, I didn’t because I don’t want to be held responsible from someone drafting a bad contract (which, from what I understand, happens a lot).

I left the office around 6, and skipped the gym so I could figure out the direct way back to the apartment. Its actually really simple: I leave the office, walk down the street to the second big intersection, turn right, and walk all the way home. Super simple, but I had never been that far down the road past the office in that direction, so I wouldn’t have known which road to turn on if I had gone that way this morning. Turns out I walk right by the giant market (with the KFC) where I met the bus for my Great Wall tour last week. Definitely will be tempting to get mashed potatoes every day, but hopefully I can resist. There is, however, a French bakery next door to the KFC that I may not be able to resist as easily. I was heading home at rush hour today, so there were a zillion people, so I didn’t stop, but I will definitely have to make a pit stop there soon.

Now I’m back at the apartment, and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one here. Though I guess that shouldn’t be too surprising: when I left at 8:45 this morning, the other two girls were still in their pajamas, so it makes sense that they would be at work later than I am. I’m going to go make myself a sandwich and hang out and watch a movie! I should have known to download more movies before I left… I have 10 movies on my computer, and 3 of them are Christmas movies. I’m already getting kind of sick of the others, so I may have to break down and hit up iTunes for something new.

day 30

Officially 1/3 of the way through my time here!

I could really get used to weeks like this: 4 days off, one day of work, and then another 2 days off. I like it. Today we had a guest lecturer at work, which was really great. He is a US attorney who has been in China for a couple years teaching. I had a good talk with him before he gave his lecture, and it was really interesting. He used to work really closely with one of the professors at VLS, who I will be taking a class from this fall. He also worked with litigation in the EPA and he litigated the first and longest Superfund case, so the guy clearly knows his stuff. I told him about my plans to do an internship at NOAA in the spring, and he thought it sounded like a great idea and seemed very positive about them.

He gave he really great talk about international environmental law, focusing on climate change. He basically thinks that, unlike what a lot of people are saying, we’ve already gone “too far” and regardless of what we do, we are still going to face serious loss as a result of climate change. He thinks we can do things to help stop climate change and turn back the clock so to speak, but even if we do that we will still face problems. He also thinks it doesn’t matter what any other country does, if the US and China can’t work together to come to an agreement about climate change, we’re totally screwed. It was a little depressing, but also very informative lecture. It was also really nice to talk to him beforehand and during the lecture he kept telling everyone “if you have questions about this, just talk to Kate.” Not sure if anyone will, but it was kind of cool nonetheless that he thinks that highly of VLS and the kind of education I’m getting there.

After the lecture I went and grabbed some lunch, then spent the rest of the afternoon reading up about my research project. When I got to work this morning, I found someone else’s stuff at my desk, and my laptop had been set on my boss’s desk, so today I was relegated to one of the back desks of a lady who was gone for the day. My boss is leaving tomorrow for a 3 week business trip, so I will be using her desk while she’s gone. No idea where I’ll go when she gets back, since now all the desks in the back room are full, but thats 3 weeks away, so I’m sure they’ll figure something out (or I’ll get stuck in the back back room… at least there are couches back there).

Now I am back at the apartment, hanging around waiting for Kira to finish up at work so I can move over to her place. I’m definitely looking forward to being able to settle in a little, it will be nice to know that for the next 2 months I’ll be staying in one spot. I’d love to stay here for the rest of the time, this apartment is amazing and in such a great spot, but Kira’s place isn’t too far away, and it will be nice to have roommates who can hopefully help me out with things that I’m struggling with (like eating normal food).

Day 24

Other than having to work on a Saturday, today was a pretty good day! Once I got to work, I settled in and started reading up on stuff for the big project/research paper my boss wants me to do while she’s away for three weeks on her business trip. Its pretty cool when you google search something, and the first couple things that come up (that are exactly what you are looking for) all come from VLS professors or VJEL.

For lunch, I met up with Kira and we headed to a restaurant down the street. On the way there we talked about my apprehension for meat here, and she totally understood. She said she tries to avoid it, but that there have been times when you just can’t, and she’s eaten some weird stuff. She told me about how her friend’s family was like “Oh i noticed you don’t really eat meat, so I made some fish for you tonight!” and it turned out they had cooked up some jellyfish and sea cucumbers. As someone who is completely appalled by slimey, mushy food, the thought of having to choke down either of those things made me almost want to skip lunch. But luckily I was really hungry, so I was able to eat. We got a bunch of dishes again: cucumbers, cabbage, cauliflower, and kung pao chicken. Kira said she judges restaurants on how good their kung pao chicken is, and she said she wasn’t impressed by this place. But I have to say, maybe since I don’t think I’ve ever had kung pao chicken, it was pretty good. The cauliflower was amazing as well…I am always so hungry but get limited by my food consumption because most of the food i’ve been eating is so hot (spicy and temperature). I could have eaten the whole bowl of cauliflower, but it come out literally still sizzling in the bowl and it had a good spic kick to it too. I had a little breakdown at lunch, telling Kira how overwhelmed I’ve been, but she said that’s totally normal. She said it is a weird place with weird people and she was totally overwhelmed the first year she lived here, and she spoke chinese before coming here. So that made me feel a lot better, and she said she would do a few things to hopefully help me out in the future (like write down phrases or things I might need to say, so that I can just show them to whoever I need to talk to). We made our way back to the office after a long lunch, and she (finally!) showed me how to make coffee using the crazy little machine in the office, so now I can hopefully be a little more lively in the mornings.

I spent the afternoon reading up more on Chinese laws. I know it shouldn’t but I still can help but be shocked and surprised at some of the thing that are or aren’t in Chinese law. The topic for my research paper will be super interesting, and will allow me to compare US/European/Chinese laws, which will be very interesting for me. Given the crazy confidentially agreement I signed (in which, among other things, I had to promise not to make a movie or write a book based on my experiences here… lame), I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say about it, but it will definitely be a good topic for me.  I got some feedback from my boss about an assignment I did concerning copyrights laws (after which I was more confused about what would happen than I was before I started it), but it turns out I ended up being right in my conclusion, so that always nice (and easy since my answer was “It depends,” which seems to always be right when it comes to the law). I also got some more explanation about my other big assignment, which will involve copyright, trademark, and other IP issues. Definitely not my wheelhouse, but it sounds like it could be every interesting and end up being helpful for the non-lawyers on the Greenpeace staff. Shortly after that, my boss ran over and told me it was supposed to start raining soon, so I should leave immediately to avoid it. I thanked her for letting me know and told her about how soaked I got yesterday in the rain, then I left.

I made it all the way home, even with a pit stop to pick up some dinner, without getting wet, so that was nice. Now i’m just sitting here, looking out the window and barely able to see the building across the street because its so foggy/pollution-y. After discovering that website that updates the PM2.5 reading every hour, I can’t help but check it a zillion times a day. It blows my mind how high its been today (over 250 most of the day) and even scarier are the “warnings” that come with each level.  According to that website, anything over 300 is considered “hazardous,” and EPA standards say that at this level, there are generally health warnings of emergency conditions, and the entire population will likely be affected. Awesome. Thank god I’m only here for 3 months, and not much longer because its scary the impact I’ve already seen, and its only been 3 weeks!

Anyway, I’m not looking forward to going back to work tomorrow, but at least I have four days off after that. I booked a tour to go see the Ming Tombs, the Great Wall at Badaling (the most popular section), and the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday. Should be a good trip, and it will help me cross a few more places off my unofficial bucket lists that I keep in my head (one is to see as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites before I kick the bucket, the other is to visit as many Olympic Stadiums as possible). Its also hard to believe that in a week I’ll be off to my next and last apartment here in Beijing. Like a lot of things, its been weird time-warp of sorts… sometimes I feel like I’ve been here so long, and other times I feel like I just got here.

Day 15

Another slow day.  My boss was in a meeting for the morning, so I just sort of hung around, not doing much again. I was really frustrated so I sent her an email letter her know I was feeling useless with nothing to do. Around noon, one of the other ladies in the office (I forgot her name, but she was the one that showed me where to get lunch on my first day at the office) was like “Kate! Come! We eat!” and I had no idea what she was talking about. Turns out there was a staff lunch at a restaurant down the street, a welcome/farewell thing they do each month for the people that join and/or leave the office. It was a Yunnan restaurant, which is one of the areas in China known for spicy food. We went into a room with a big table with a giant lazy susan sort of thing, with about a dozen dishes of food on it. No one else was in there, so we sat down and dug in. She explained what everything was, and even tried to convince me to eat the fish heads, which are apparently “the best part.” She asked what we did with the heads in the US (I think knowing what my answer would be) and I said we hardly ever eat fish whole like this, and that the chefs normally nicely filet and it and take all the bones out for us. She laughed, and helped me get a piece, not from the head. Some of the dishes were really good, like these cucumbers in some kind of sauce with peanuts, green beans with garlic, potatoes in a sauce, and some chopped up veggies that looked like cilantro or something. Needless to say, eating is still an adventure, and I really never know what I’m getting. One of the reasons i’m avoid meat, that plus all the crazy things they do to meat (passing off rat as mutton, pumping the meat full of chemicals, etc).

After lunch, I went back to the office and was able to sit down with my boss. She apologized for being so busy the last two weeks, and said she will look over the things I’ve turned in to her and we will sit down and go over them all next week. She seems disappointed that I don’t know how to do all the things the last intern did, but in my defense, I am a 2L and the last intern was an LLM with previous experience as a lawyer, so I’m not sure what my boss was expecting. Its a little disappointing to have her say she feels frustrated that she has to take time to teach me how to do things, things which I’m pretty sure most people don’t learn in law school. Theres obviously not much I can do to change that, but hopefully next week will be better. She also told me she is leaving for a three week business trip next month, so it will be even more interesting to be entirely on my own for three weeks while she’s gone. Again, this is definitely not how I expected to be spending my summer, but I’m a little far in now to ask for a do-over.

I spent the rest of the afternoon doing more of the same: nothing. I read up a little on the various Greenpeace campaigns and their publications and stuff (most of which I have already looked over), then dove into the new Five Year Plan for China. While I do have a background in international law, I have to admit, I know nothing about Chinese law. I was totally shocked (I’m not sure why really) when I found out that every 10 years, the government makes a big announcement and tells the people who their new President and government will be. Blame it on growing up in a democracy, but I just figured people would at least have some input into deciding who would be making decisions that effect their life. Anyway, the Five Year Plan I guess is basically just a outline of what the government plans to accomplish in the next five years (hence the name). I think it was partially a poor translation, but it was full of all kinds of contradictory statements and things that just don’t make any sense. I only got about half way through it, but I had to stop a few times to do a little more research about what exactly it was, because it was super confusing. At least with all this free time, maybe I can learn a little more about Chinese Law… and find a good apartment in St. Pete (FL, not Russia, like google wants) while I’m at it too.

Day 5

Man, what a difference a day can make.  Yesterday I was pretty down and just totally overwhelmed with being here.  I knew I just had to get through the weekend, even when i was in Berlin sometimes the weekends were tough. Today, I headed to work a little early, and ended up sitting around for an hour before my boss got there.  She was super busy with things, so she was only able to briefly explain what she wanted me to help her with.  Another day, and another 1L flashback.  This time, it was contracts. Since I did MUCH better in contracts than I did in CivPro, I figured this would be no problem.  However, she needed help basically explain to non-lawyers how to write a good contract.  Hard to believe that in just two years of law school, I have forgotten what it’s like to not have a lawyer’s brain.

I was supposed to meet up with the girl from Maine at the office, but somehow we missed each other at lunch time.  I ended up going out to eat with my boss and one of her coworkers, and a guy from Finland that splits his time between Beijing and the international greenpeace office in Amsterdam (or at least, thats what I think the situation is… i know he’s only here for a few weeks at a time). Anyway, it was nice to have lunch with them and talk about some things that I had been wanting to find out about. I had a good lunch of some kind of soup and fried rice with mystery meat and shrimp.  Thank god for the soup, other wise I would still be hungry.  As soon as i ordered the soup i though “oh god, HOW am i going to eat this?!” thinking that I would only get chopsticks.  Much to my delight, I got a soup spoon. Which i ended up hanging on tight to so that I could eat my rice at normal pace.  This caused my boss to laugh, but i told her i was so bad with chopsticks, this was my only chance.

After lunch, my boss, the Finnish guy, and I went to check out a place for gym memberships, as we had both discussed wanted to find an affordable gym.  We find a pretty swanky place, but its very close to work.  After a lot of haggling, thanks to my boss, we were both able to get the kind of membership we wanted a pretty good price.  I ended up paying 500RMB a month, which is about $80, but considering a normal membership requires a 1 year contract plus a joining fee and processing fee, on top of the 700RMB a month, i’m very happy.  Definitely more than i pay at home, but its also a nicer gym, with all the free classes I want to take.

Even more exciting than the gym membership, after lunch I finally secured my housing! I am going to rent my boss’s apartment for the next month (at a steal, which is so helpful), then i’m going to move into the girl from maine’s room as she is leaving in mid-June until sometime in August.   Thank God i finally got this sorted out, and not a moment too soon, as my hotel reservation ends after tonight.  So I get to spend my evening/night repacking my stuff (which will be no small feat) and then dragging it all to the office in the morning.  That part hopefully won’t be too bad, as I have to take a taxi there with it all… there is absolutely no way i could drag it all to the office by foot. Anyway, off to wrestle with my chopsticks and try to eat some dinner, then off to wrestle with my suitcases.  It is still weird for me to deal with the 12 hour time difference… I am adjusted to the time here, but its so weird to sit here all day and not get any emails, or anything, but then make up to a ton of new stuff online. Or to wake up to the Red Sox final score. So so strange….

Day 3 and 4

So, my first weekend in Beijing.  Not going how I planned, but what can you do.  I was hoping to check out the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square yesterday, but couldn’t figure out how to buy a subway ticket.  I figured out where i needed to go, which stops I had to take and which trains to switch to, but the stupid machine wouldn’t take my money.  The ticket was supposed to cost 2 yuan, and i had a bunch of singles and then a 100.  It wouldn’t take any of my singles and I wasn’t about to stick a 100 in there, just in case the machine decided to keep it.  So I turned around and grabbed lunch and headed back to the hotel.  The bed here is quite possibly the worst thing i have ever slept on, so even thought i’m getting lots of sleep, its not restful or helpful at all. I spent the afternoon lounging around, reading, and watching movies. I hate the feeling of not being able to communicate with people here, and it is really getting to me. There’s no one to blame for this but myself, but I wish people I spoke to before coming here hadn’t assured me that “everyone understands english.”

  I’m hoping that Monday and the rest of the week goes better, and I think it will.  Having something to do all day where there’s at least one person that does understand English is far less stressful.  Also having actual work to do helps as well.  On Monday I’m meeting up with a fellow Mainer who also works here at the Greenpeace office.  A former classmate from my Spanish days at UMaine messaged us both to let each other know about the other one, and I’ve been talking with her a little bit.  I think I might rent her room when she leaves in mid-June, and her room is actually the same one that the other VLS student (who did this internship last fall) rented while she was here.  Hopefully I can find somewhere to stay until then, but if nothing else turns up my boss offered her apartment for me.  Anyway, I’m meeting up with this girl on Monday for lunch or at least to chat, and find out more about this.  THen on Tuesday after work, my boss and I are going to this Public Interest happy hour at a bar not too far from the office.  Someone else from VLS, who works in the US-China Partnership, let us know about this and he will be there too, so hopefully I can talk to him and get his take on Beijing and life here. 

  Anyway, more about all of that when it actually happens.  Today I’m probably going to do more of what I did yesterday: nothing.  Every time I try to go out I get super overwhelmed and frustrated because I can’t communicate, so I think at this point its best to stay away from people so I don’t freak out on them… not that they would understand why I’m freaking out, but better safe than sorry. I’m really ready to be settled into a routine here, and I’m really hoping this renting works out like I have planned, I’d much rather live with someone than live alone. At least here anyway. 

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