News from Langfang/Beijing

Hi everyone!

The Olympics are nearly upon us – 16 days to go, I think? Beijing is visibly different with all the changes. There are flowers on every street, neat (uniform) facades newly affixed to every store front, new malls opening, fake merchandise stores shutting, fancy buildings nearly completed, new subways lines finally open (the Airport link and the new line going past the Olympic stadium opened this weekend), “Olympic lanes” on the ring roads (complete with full colour Olympic flags painted on the bitumen), new Beijing 2008 signs on EVERYTHING, and lots and lots of security checks.

Speaking of security checks, I spent 50 minutes of a 2 hour trip into Beijing on Sunday morning sitting in a queue to go through the mandatory police check on the highway (a three lane highway that widens to 12ish toll gates cut down to two inspection lanes 100m from the tollgates. Mass frustration…) Our church is also required to do security checks every Sunday until after the Olympics. It’s been happening for a few weeks but this Sunday was my first time through – get rid of all liquids, show your passport (that part’s normal) and then get swept with a metal-detector wand. Slightly bizarre.

Back in University City, all 30 campuses are finished for the summer and nearly all the 50,000 students who attend them are gone. Most mornings when I go to work there is a thick pall of humid summer fog, which, combined with the lack of people everywhere, makes it all feel a bit eerie. Cicadas are out in force, so loud that sometimes I can close my eyes and believe I’m a child enjoying high summer in Sydney… The cicadas here are not the greengrocers of my childhood, however, but a darker blackish colour.

The big problem at the University City now is that it, along with several nearby compounds, has no hot water. It went off on the 14th of July and won’t be back on until the 20th of September, or so I’m told. Not only this, but there is no gas connected so I can’t even boil water. I have hot water from my drinking water dispenser and I have a microwave… okay for cooking but not so helpful for bathing. The upshot is that I’ve been having cold showers. It’s not as bad as it sounds – the weather has been consistently hot (35 on average, I would say, with 50% humidity) so even if I take an air conditioned taxi all the way home, climbing the four flights of stairs to my apartment gets me hot and sweaty enough to nearly enjoy the cold water! It’s so hot, in fact, that the AC in our office has struggled to keep up lately. When we arrived at 8am today and turned it on, it was showing 29 degrees. It took over an hour to get down to 25. Yesterday we didn’t turn it on til after lunch and it took 2-3 hours to cool down.

I’m starting to feel a little more balanced physically. I finally worked out that I’ve been iron deficient due to the change in diet since moving to Langfang. I’m taking regular iron supplements now and it’s definitely helping my energy levels. I’m not 100%, but all in all I’m doing much better than I was – I’ve even adjusted to the early-to-bed and early-to-rise schedule I need to keep. Well, mostly ;)

A fun piece of news is that I have a new roommate. His name is Mark. He’s a real night owl, a little agoraphobic, kinda shy, but affectionate once he gets to know you, has big blue eyes, and is very, very white. Oh, and he’s also a cat. McRae’s family has 5 cats, which is a lot for one apartment, so they’ve given one of them, Mark, to me. I know it’s not a very pet-like name, but it’s for the mark on his head (looks like someone smudged a dirty finger on him!) McRae reckons I should give him a new name, but we’ll see. So far I’ve been calling him elastikitty, snakeykitty, commandokitty, scaredykitty, prettykitty, kittykitty, and Marcus.

Well, that’s the news! I’m including some other tidbits and, of course, photos – some pics of Mark, and some pics from a beautiful weekend in Beijing (the weather was AMAZING!) I was leading at the bilingual service so I came in VERY early on Saturday (left the house at 6:30am) and as we drove up the highway I watched the morning fog lift, revealing a glorious sunny Saturday complete with clear blue skies. That made two weekends in a row with a perfect day – so unusual it sort of creeped me out…

Hope you’re enjoying the weather where you are – wherever in the world that is!

love Tanya

Music you should check out: Margaret Helen King
http://www.triplejunearthed.com/Artists/View.aspx?artistid=1239

Most exciting new skill:
Eating chunks of stir-fried fish with chopsticks – the skill being that I can now efficiently eat around all the little bones!

Most exciting purchase:
Blackcurrant liqueur – I’ve been looking for it for YEARS!

Most exciting new place:
The new mall by 21st Century (Solana). Not only do they have a Coldstone (think Goodberrys) but it is NOT a big shoebox! There are outside walkways, trees, fountains, and lots of stone. See how little it takes to make me happy??

Most proud of:
My parents – as of July 18th, they have put all three of their daughters through university. Yay team! (PS – thanks!!)

Number of overseas calls in the past week:
3. (Becky in Vancouver, Esther in Canberra, and my family in Canberra)

Number of friends no longer living in Beijing who randomly appeared at church in the past two weeks:
2. (Rita from 2004, now in Portugal; Codi from 2006-07, now in the US).

Number of episodes of Prison Break that McRae and I watched in just over 24 hours:
22. (All of season one).

What (else) I’ve been watching:
Alias, Stargate Atlantis, and some MASH (thank you, Nugents!!)

What I’ve been reading:
“Notes From a Small Island” (Bill Bryson)
the Twilight saga (Stephenie Meyer)

Albums I’ve been listening to a lot :
How To Save A Life (The Fray)
Knows No Other Name (Margaret Helen King)
Minutes To Midnight (Linkin Park)
Final Straw (Snow Patrol)
Chillout Sessions 9

10 songs from the 25-Most-Played list on my iPod:
A Million Lights (Tree63)
Chasing Cars (Snow Patrol)
Fly (Jars Of Clay)
Give It Back (Gaelle)
Noticed (Mutemath)
Only One (Yellowcard)
She Will Be Loved (Maroon 5)
Teardrop (Massive Attack)
Tension Is A Passing Note (Sixpence None the Richer)
Twenty-Six Summers (Vicky Beeching)

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