China 1999

Written by Al Wong (Write to me)

This is my experience in Beijing, China in the Summer of 1999. If you came to this webpage first, it's better if you start from the beginning of the story.

Sunday, July 4th
Xidan Bookmart, Getting Shoes

Happy July 4th for those in the USA!

Last night I didn't get enough sleep again because of a low buzzing sound coming through the walls of my room. This noise was particularly loud in the bathroom. Because this is the second night that this noise occurred, I decided to find the source of it. It turns out the noise is located in the utility room down the end of the hall. Some idiot was using the washing machine at 1:30am. This washing machine not only does the wash but it also is a clothes dryer so it runs for a long time. I was going to pull the plug on this machine but decided to wait until morning to give fair warning to people. If it happens again tonight, I will pull the plug!

I have also discovered my toilet has started leaking around the floor. I will have to complain about this. And they still have not fixed my bent door handle or the toilet flushing problem.

Today's activities include:

  • Class Session. Today we learned how to discuss the weather, date, and time. We also learned how to describe our whole typical day on a given hour. Also, also, we learned how to describe situations of other people.

    I just realized last night that there are only 12 class sessions for this trip! And we are one third of the way through it already!

  • Xidan Bookmart. We took the minibus to another commercial part of town and walked a little ways to the bookmart. The store is in a huge building by itself and has at least four stories. They sell all kinds of stuff besides books. CDs, VCDs and DVDs were being sold here too. CD players, VCD players, calculators, batteries, etc. were also for sale.

    We were looking at Chinese-English dictionaries and I happen to find the dictionary our Chinese teacher, Liu Lao Shi, uses at the language academy! It costs $27.00RMB which is a bargain. I also found a series of cool picture booklets that will help me improve my vocabulary (nouns mostly). The whole series consist of 14 booklets covering all kinds of stuff including fruits, animals, furniture, clothes, general knowledge, etc. The cost was $53.20RMB (less than $7.00US). A pretty good deal, I thought.

    Other stuff. I picked up a notebook at take notes in Chinese class (I forgot to bring one) and a business card holder. I also got 6 calculators that look like miniature cell phones!

    I should mention here that the larger stores in Beijing do not have a cash register in every department. This is the way you make a purchase:

    • You bring to the nearest clerk the items you want to buy.
    • The clerk makes out a receipt for you but keeps the items until you pay for it.
    • You go to a special cashier to pay for your stuff. The cashier stamps your receipt.
    • You bring back the stamped receipt to the clerk who then hands you your items bagged and ready to go.

    To make things a little more complicated, there are some items that you bring up to other cashiers to pay for them like a regular store. Very bizarre organization.

    A couple of the guys and I wandered into a sports store nearby. I wanted to get a pair of Nike air cushioned shoes to help me walk the hard pavement. I asked for my size and it turns out it was too small! I asked for a bigger size and they didn't have it. In fact, it was very hard to find my size which I found very funny since I am of Chinese descent and I am in Beijing, China! I ended up getting a pair of Adidas shoes because they had my size and the shoes were fairly comfortable.

    Then Cathy took part of the group to get fitted in traditional silk Chinese dresses and traditional silk garb for men too. I decided to pass on this as I didn't think I would have a use for these clothes back in the USA.

  • Later That Night. I decided to take a taxi cab to the cyber cafe and update my web page. I also wanted to develop 3 rolls of film. The taxi driver evidently was confused about where I wanted to go so we got there in a round about way. It was kind of funny.

    When I got there I went find to the film development places. The Kodak place was already closed but the Fuji place was still opened. To develop 3 rolls of film, they wanted $46.80RMB. The film will be ready tomorrow.

    Then I went to the cyber cafe. I should really describe this place. It is literally underground. You have to walk down these stairs which pass by two doors of two different kitchens to get there. In fact except for a paper sign in Chinese on a certain door, it doesn't look like there's computer place down there. And it smells going down the stairs because of the kitchens and the mops and buckets they keep down there.

    Checking into a computer was no problem. This time I only made a $20.00RMB deposit. I got the same computer as last time (#8). While I was uploading my pages, I noticed another Chinese student next to me trying to learn English! I struck up a conversation with him but wanted him to speak in English while I spoke in Chinese. It was interesting. He was studying for a graduate test so he could go to graduate school in the US.

    After sending a few email messages out, it was past 10pm and I decided to get back to the language academy. This time I tried to strike up a conversation with the taxi driver while coming back. Once he started, he kept going. He told me about all his problems! It was funny actually. I also think he overcharged me $1.00RMB but I let it go.

    When I got to my room, there was that familiar buzzing sound from the washing machine again. Needless to say, I unplugged the washing machine. Then I noticed there is a huge noise coming from the hot water machine! I closed the door leading to it. It's quieter than before.

The Next Day China 1999 My Writings Al's Wild Web Page

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Last updated : November 8, 1999
Copyright 1999 Al Wong, Los Angeles, California, USA
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