Friday, May 25, 2007


seriously, i'm getting behind on the updating. i'm going to try to keep this short. also, note that i added some related links at right. one of my professors is posting his pictures on a flickr site, and one of my classmates is guest blogging for the star trib about our trip. also, i'll try to keep that google map site updated. the google map should help give some sense of the layout of the city and where everything is. at least, it's helping to do that for me.

on monday we went to the beijing planning committee's headquarters. on the way there, one of our professors passed around a newsweek that had an interesting article about how cheerleading is growing as a sport in china. i liked the article, but i thought that a certain diet coke drinking segment of this blog's readership would find the following article more interesting. you can click on the pictures to make them bigger.

outside the headquarters of the beijing planning commission was this sign, which can be found all around beijing. i'm not sure what it's actually saying. no horn playing? no music? no playing music on the streets to try to get money? oh that reminds me - on a completely unrelated note, there were a lot of street musicians in the subways by tiananmen square. what is interesting is that they all were playing what looked to be home-made instruments.

we were privileged to be able to attend this meeting, and it was really interesting to an amateur public policy wonk like me. the presentation described how the olympics fit into beijing's plan for the future. specifically, they wanted to prepare a green, high-tech, people's olympics as a part of beijing's plan to become a green, high-tech, people's city. the presentation got me thinking about a lot of things. first of all, and most simply, i loved how the tools they mentioned as being useful to a city planner in beijing were all programs that are installed in the computers in the geography lab where i work on the fourth floor of blegen hall - GIS software and photoshop.

secondly, it got me thinking (more than i already was) about the balance between china's economic liberalization, the controlling power of the communist party, modern public policy in china vs the us, and the modern public bureaucracy in china that puts policy into action (especially as compared with the civil service in imperial times and the possibly more party-loyalty/ideology-oriented bureaucracy of earlier communist times). i honestly didn't get the impression that the lower bureaucracy functioned much differently in china than it does in the us. i want to know more about how all of these things interrelate, but it's very possible that the only ones who really know these things are the ones who are actually a part of the public bureaucracy. furthermore, i'm positive that those relationships are not as static as they currently are in the us. i'm sure beijing's bureaucracy functioned completely differently 10 years ago, and the same can probably be said for the bureaucracy's function 10 years from now.

another thing i was thinking about was the extent to which china, or beijing, really wants to be green. to be sure, presenting onesself as green makes for good public relations, but i do get the impression that china to some extent walks the walk as well as talking the talk. for example, you rarely see recycling bins (off-campus) next to public on-street trash bins in minneapolis, but i've seen a lot of recycling bins next to public trash bins in beijing. i have no clue about the extent of private recycling, however. also, recycling must be encouraged monetarily, because there are a lot of poor people who will walk up to you and ask for your water bottle as you're finishing the last drops. i asked one of the beijing university students about this, and she said that they got money for collecting plastic bottles. also, while small public parks in beijing are few and far between by minneapolis standards, there are a lot of large green spaces, such as the summer palace and the temple of heaven. the problem is that there are so many people that these public green spaces are often as crowded as the streets outside. we were talking about china's being green one day, and people mentioned how solar powered lights were used in rural areas so that power lines wouldn't be necessary. also, some of the boats at the summer palace were solar powered, apparently. some streets also have tree- and bush-lined boulevards or shaded walking paths. the beijing planning committee presentation also focused on a large growth in the infrastructure and use of public transportation to try to alleviate the pollution problems that beijing has, not to mention the transportation congestion. seriously, beijing and chinese traffic deserves a paragraph or two of its own.

wow. haha. also, i only just noticed now that i have a really obvious typo in the spelling of spectacular above. i kind of like spectatular, though. maybe i'll keep it. anyway.

the beijing planning commission headquarters also had a gigantic scale 3D floor map of beijing, like the one planning museum had. the presence of this one is interesting though, because it's not something that the public generally gets to see. i assume it must therefore be for showing off the work of the commission to higher party/state officials, maybe potential business investors, and lucky visitors like us. there were also posters with info on the beijing region's watershed, average temperatures, average wind velocity and direction, and a bunch of other categories.

below is the site of the stadiums built for the asian games. these were at the very top/north of the map, and they are just to the south of the new olympic sites.

this is the temple of heaven. more on that in a few posts when we visit it.

the center of beijing again, with the lakes, the forbidden city, and tiananmen.

after that, the members of the beijing planning commission treated us to lunch at an awesome restaurant. it was by far the best, and most, food we'd yet eaten. there was so much to try, and we were continually surprised by the arrival of more and more dishes throughout the meal.

it was molly t's birthday that day, so she received a bowl of traditional noodles, whose length portends longevity for the eater.

after that, we said goodbye to the planning committee members and thanked them for the presentation and the meal. mr. ma, a researcher at the commission, who knows a little english and spent four months in minnesota, responded with, "you betcha." then we were off to try to catch a glimpse of the new olympic sites.

here's a pic of the bird's nest stadium from the highway. we were still a good distance away from it, and this picture somehow makes it look smaller. i don't know how big it looks to you here, but know that you're probably underestimating its size. it's really gigantic.

from another view. that girl in the blue? that'd be my roommate michelle kwan. don't ask even think of mentioning figure skating to her. this is about as close as we could get. remember, you're underestimating the size.

the sites aren't finished yet, which doesn't really worry me, but it makes a lot of people wonder how they're going to be done in time. but here's the thing - there is construction going on all over beijing at all hours of the day and night. i've seen construction at midnight and at four in the morning. here's some temporary housing that has been built for the workers.

that bubble building is the aquatics center

on the way back from the olympic sites we saw this accident, the first accident we'd seen. a taxi had run into a biker. we were all surprised that it took until monday to see our first accident.

that evening, harlan and i went to a supermarket in one of the malls along wangfujing to buy a cake and really cheap champagne/ sparkling wine for molly's birthday. no really, it was ridiculously cheap. a very large bottle for a little over 3 bucks. most of the food and goods in beijing are ridiculously cheap, but this supermarket sold a lot of imported (i.e., western) goods for almost western prices. discovering this supermarket was exciting for a lot of us because it sold more of the foods we are used to, but the relatively expensive price of everything kept me from buying a lot of it. so far i've been good about sticking to more traditionally chinese food. i did have a big mac the other day when i was short on time. also, it's important to remember that fast food chains are a big part of chinese culture for a lot of people. kfc in particular is really popular, and there are mickey d's everywhere.

by now we all know wangfujing street pretty well since it's a rare day that we don't walk along it at least once. also, it's well known throughout the city, so if you're lost, you can just ask a taxi to take you to wangfujing, and from there you can walk to the hotel. taxis are pretty cheap, too.

here are some pictures of wangfujing. it's definitely one of the ritzier areas of the city.

wangfujing is always busy, but it's especially crowded at night. it kind of reminds me of a lite version of times square, with the crowds and the lights. it's really not anywhere near as crowded as times square though, and it's a shopping district, not a theater district, although i think there are a few movie theaters. also, the street is always noisy. at all hours of the night there are generator running and jack hammers pounding away, and combined with the crowds, it's sometimes hard to hear what the person next to you is saying. the sidewalk of wanfujing looks like a different from day to day due to the constant construction and destruction.

i think that's all. so much for keeping it short. my cousins and brother are now probably currently sitting in the lakeville theater watching the first few minutes of pirates of the caribbean 3. it would be so much fun to be there with them, but i'm not sad to be in china. i'll listen to my pirates ringtone in solidarity.


lightning said...

i am posting to let you know that someone enjoys the updates on your adventure. also, i appreciated the diet coke note cuz i totally just read that article yesterday and am wondering if i'm allowed to enjoy cherry coke zero anymore since i'm not in the testosterone club.

Magnolia said...

Awesome post. Have you ridden in a taxi yet? That's an...adventure.