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Hello from China!

Despite what you may think, a lot has happened since BurroFest ’10. First off, I am DONE WITH MY LAST FINAL EXAM EVER!! This past Friday & Saturday (May 8-9) brought about the last weekend of my 2-year, bi-weekly MBA program, with 3 long-awaited final exams. I still owe y’all a snapshot of what an average weekend was like at my Thunderbird/ITESM program, but for now you’ll have to live with this image:

Campus Santa Fe's Global MBA Class of 2010, posing like the rockstars that we are.

On Saturday evening, a few of my ambitious classmates coordinated a fantastic fiesta at a party room somewhere in Santa Fe, which brought together students from all 3 campuses in Mexico City. I will admit to being a bit skeptical of how much fun I was going to have talking in Spanish for several hours after taking two exams on Saturday & running on minimal sleep…(since exhausted + Spanish chatter = even more exhausted) BUT, I am happy to say, I was wrong & the party was a wild success!!

I mean, how could a party with drinks like these *NOT* be a success??

There was a DJ, loads of drinks, tacos de guisados, dancing, karaoke, AND mariachis– what could go wrong?? One of many highlights included the opportunity to sing Celos with a select group of my female cohorts. 😉 One of the lowlights was being pressured to sing El Rey after the official karaoke portion of the evening had ended (read as: without lyrics displayed on the wall) and realizing how few words I actually know when put under the gun.

After a brief recovery/packing period, I was off to the airport Tuesday morning at the crack of dawn to finally make my trek to China!! (Recall last year’s swine flu debacle & fallout.) I spent merely 8,000 hours on two flights with my knees jammed into someone’s seat-back, trying to prevent any further reclining into my lap. The monotony was broken up briefly on the SFO->PEK flight by spotting fellow passenger Tony Hawk, and discovering that the girl next to me is doing a masters in statistics at the University of NEBRASKA!! (Hi Jinglei!) What are the odds?? :)

What?!??! NO! This is NOT the first place I went, or a place I intend to go. After all, I have to save up all my Mexican cravings for when I get to Shanghai (ask me later about the agenda for our MBA interim...) :

My first day and a half in Beijing have been excellent, liberally sprinkled with eating amazing food. I’m sure you could have guessed that the first place I went is shown in the picture at right. I’ll be here through Sunday AM, when I head to Shanghai to meet up with the MBA crew for the actual week-long  interim. Then, off to Hong Kong from the 22nd -> 27th to round out my whirlwind tour of China’s biggest cities. (Would have loved to stay longer, but graduation week in Arizona beckons beginning May 30th!)

Tomorrow I am off on the requisite Great Wall tour, so I must head to bed to ward off the ever-lurking jet lag. But first, I’d like to share with you a few of the lessons I’ve learned in the brief period of time I’ve been here.

  1. If a taxi driver runs into a biker while gaping at you from his car, the best course of action is to walk away quickly as soon as you observe that the biker is not injured.
  2. In normal parts of town, Chinese people are either a) not as fascinated by my height/hair color as Mexicans are, or b) just as fascinated as Mexicans but since I can’t understand anything, I don’t realize they’re all calling me “shorty”/”chaparrita” behind my back.
  3. Lesson 2 does not apply at tourist sites.
  4. At tourist sites, if you allow one bold, daring Chinese person to take a photo with you, this action is the equivalent of ringing a “come to prayer” bell for all the meek Chinese tourists nearby who have secretly been dying for a photo with you. As soon as Photo #1 ensues, you will be instantly surrounded a zillion petite Chinese women and their cameras.
  5. The Beijing subway system is the one of the first subways I’ve been on where it is actually obvious what station you’re approaching/at.

    Love this lite-up Beijing subway map. The light turns green to signify which station you're going towards.

  6. Each time you see a wet puddle in your path, ask yourself the following questions: Did it rain recently? Was someone using a garden hose nearby? Is there a plausible sanitary source for that wet puddle? If the answer to all of those is “no”, you are probably encountering a spot where a mother just made her 3-year-old child pull down his pants and squat on the middle of a sidewalk in a major tourist site. Consider avoiding it.
  7. Despite Spanish being the only foreign language you know, responding to all Chinese queries in Spanish is really not effective. Even less effective than responding in English. Try to wean yourself from claro, baño, si and gracias, even though your pronunciation of their Mandarin equivalents sounds like a cat vomiting.
  8. Obsessively researching restaurants online & in free local expat mags is totally worth it when you end up eating meals like these:

These "Bridge Spicy Spare Ribs" from Karaiya Spice House were amazing. I was slightly embarassed when this massive plate was plopped down in front of me...

The embarrassment slipped away after I realized you could pick the meat off the bone with chopsticks. Soooo tasty...

Speaking of slight embarrassment, here's a shot of the mountain of food at my very first meal in Beijing (at Dali Courtyard). When they said a set menu of 8 courses, I thought they'd all be wee little dishes of 2-3 bites each. Instead, they were like 20 bites each. This was taken right before I gave up because I was stuffed. :)

9. Apparently all countries have something like the Panini World Cup Sticker Album. Instead of soccer players, though, they may just have emperors/dignitaries of ancient China. (the venue stickers still hold, though.)

I wonder if MBA students trade these stickers in China??

10. That whole thing about “China blocking Facebook” is in fact true. And Twitter. And several blogs I enjoy. So this will be the lone venue for riveting Julie-updates for the next couple weeks. 😉  Frank/Joy/Leah– FYI that your blogs appear to not meet Party standards. Lesley– you seem to be in the clear; good job on your support for communism. :)

More to come soon! Zai jian!

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  1. Leah Flinn says:

    Haha! – I suppose my preference to individual rights and limited government got noticed in the filtering out process. :-)

    Enjoy your travels in China! The food looks delicious.

  2. Hallie Wright says:

    Between the urine in the street, vehicular homicide, and the every man paparazzi.. sounds to me like you need to start marketing for the People’s Republic!

    Have a great time. Cannot remember the last time I had a “bridge of meat”.

  3. Lesley says:

    Well Julie, now that you mention it, there was something I was meaning to tell you about me and the Communists….

    They probably just love pictures of Mexican food.

    Looks like you’re having a blast — can’t wait to hear more about your trip!

  4. Jody says:

    I am still LOL rolling on the floor at #7. Been there, done that, too funny.

    So glad you are sharing your trip.

  5. Emily says:

    May the Bridge of Meat lead you back to Mexico soon, for John’s mental and emotional health is disintegrating in your absence. Actually, I’m just kidding. He waited until 10am to call me this morning, so he must be hanging in there fine. Of course I preempted this plan by unhooking the phone last night so I could sleep til 10:30. Mwaaahaahaaaaa.

  6. joy says:

    It must have been my post on Mexican coverage of the Chinese Olympics. Not everyone enjoyed racist hand puppets.

  7. Frank says:

    I can’t believe they’re holding that one drunken evening with Mrs. Hu against me. She came on to me – you can ask anybody.

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