There are 9*10^6 bicycles in Beijing.

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There are 9*10^6 bicycles in Beijing.

Postby jotabe » Tue Aug 21, 2012 11:49 pm

So, you might or might not know that i have become an alien!

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Uh... no. A legal alien. A Spaniard in Beijing. :thumbs:
After becoming a doctor past February, i was frantically applying for postdoc positions all over the world. Finally, my best option became the Beijing Computational Science Research Center, under a prof. that actually works most of the year in the UC Santa Barbara (so this postdoc could open the doors of the US research groups for me, if things go well). I will be working on the same topic, but now with better tools and a different focus!

So, i'll be sharing some of the pics i take out. Hope you enjoy!

My first pic is from the wall around the hotel-complex on which the research center is found.
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Now this was surprising. The Rothschilds here? in "communist" China?
I've come to realize that the communism in China is... very strange. The Chinese have a very commercial and enterprising personality. Maybe a bit too much, hehe. So the streets are full of shops, open every day, even sundays (what is surprising for an European like me). But you also see poverty, and people resorting to all kinds of jobs to make ends meet.
This happens alongside typical communist bs: the central heating is turned on or off according to a govt schedule (well, i hope it's decided, at the very least, by the city council, and not directly from some central govt. dpt. Also, water distribution and drainage are terrible: it's not advised to drink tap water, even though they renewed the water treatment plants this past month of June... why? because the problem were not the plants, but the very old water distribution pipe system.

Anyway, it's a very big city... and i'm just a village guy! :mrgreen:

*not sure if the image is showing, most pic sharing sites are blocked and it doesn't show for me :lecture:
**works now, thanks Nomi! :D
Last edited by jotabe on Sun Aug 26, 2012 9:31 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: There are 9*10^6 bycicles in Beijing.

Postby Gravity Defier » Wed Aug 22, 2012 8:40 am

It's not showing for me. :(

But the rest of the post was interesting to read, so I don't mind too much. :P
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Re: There are 9*10^6 bycicles in Beijing.

Postby Jayelle » Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:00 am

Welcome back, Jota! Congrats on becoming a doctor and congrats on moving to China!
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Re: There are 9*10^6 bycicles in Beijing.

Postby steph » Wed Aug 22, 2012 11:56 am

Yeah, no pic for me, either.

But YAY!!! It's Jota!!
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Re: There are 9*10^6 bycicles in Beijing.

Postby Claire » Wed Aug 22, 2012 3:37 pm

AHH can't believe you're in Beijing NOW. I'm jealous! Have fun!

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Re: There are 9*10^6 bycicles in Beijing.

Postby Dr. Mobius » Wed Aug 22, 2012 4:03 pm

Welcome back, Jota! I love the thread title and subtitle and look forward to reading more about your adventures in China.
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Re: There are 9*10^6 bycicles in Beijing.

Postby jotabe » Wed Aug 22, 2012 8:13 pm

Thanks all for the warm welcome :) there will be more coming... i have a few pics waiting for release, hehe

Oh Claire, it's true, you had been to Beijing a few years ago. Do you know Chinese? i am trying to learn in my free time... just a little bit lol
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Re: There are 9*10^6 bycicles in Beijing.

Postby jotabe » Fri Aug 24, 2012 6:51 am

So, imagine you get out of the airport, you grab your luggage, go through customs (incredibly painlessly, i have to say, the controls were minimal other than having me show my visa, stand for a pic and press my fingertip against a reader), look for the taxis, queue for a taxi, wait for a taxi, travel in the taxi for more than one hour (Beijing is huge, and the traffic...). Then the taxi stops. Of course, the taxi driver didn't speak Spanish nor English, so the communication was fairly fluid.

Fluid like a rock. Inyourface! :faceplant:

So, the taxi stops, and has you pay (they take care of using western numbers) and you arrive here:

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[Thanks for your help, Nomi! :)]*

Yes.
I know what you are thinking. I was thinking it too.
"Dude! I'm proud of you, the first thing you did when you arrived at Beijing was visiting a brothel!". That's what one of my friends back in Spain said when i showed them this pic.

It's apparent we have very different visual cues in the west! XD
This hotel (Green Tree Inn) was, despite the appearances, moderately comfortable. This kind of door, or absence thereof, is actually quite common in the buildings open to the public in Beijing. Never asked, but i imagine the rationale is that it helps keeping the cold air from the A/C inside without having to depend on people to close the door, or having automatic doors... which would mean, in periods of high flux that the door would be open all the time.

Anyway, the room itself was quite small, but this was only a warning. Livable spaces are very small in Beijing, unless you are one of those lucky expats whose company has nothing better to do than throw money at them by renting a villa.

Maybe what bothered me the most was the lack of washing room. Nor washing service. I was like "dudes! in your customer's guide here, in my room, it says that there is a washing room!" To no avail. I explored the whole place and there really was no washing room. And the "restaurant" was only open from 7:30 to 9:30 and from 11:30 to 14:30. Which means i never got to have any meal in it.
At least the staff was very helpful. Unable to understand English, but they tried. Oh when i was using the cell phone dictionary, that was hilarious :grumble:

There was this girl, though, she knew a little bit english, she had been taken lessons quite recently. Even though we barely could communicate, mostly through written english, she helped me a great deal with the papers i needed. Whenever i approached the lobby, the other workers would begin to smile and call for her.... poor girl, i wish i could have invited her to something in gratitude... i would have if it wasn't bound to be misunderstood in a place where nothing could understand me... :bash:

*if the pic is not there, please wait for Nomi to upload it :)
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Re: There are 9*10^6 bycicles in Beijing.

Postby Gravity Defier » Sun Aug 26, 2012 10:59 am

Hmm, I honestly didn't get the brothel vibe from those pictures but I'm wondering if I would have if you just showed them to me and asked me what I thought they were without first telling me.

They just look like some of the cheap apartments and pay by the week hotels I've seen around AZ and IL.


Now, by washing room...do you mean laundry facilities or a bathroom? Because I've heard people call bathrooms wash rooms -which I've had the reasoning explained and it made sense during the explanation but not once I forgot the reasoning...- but I'm thinking you mean laundry. I hope.
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Re: There are 9*10^6 bycicles in Beijing.

Postby Claire » Sun Aug 26, 2012 1:39 pm

Thanks all for the warm welcome :) there will be more coming... i have a few pics waiting for release, hehe

Oh Claire, it's true, you had been to Beijing a few years ago. Do you know Chinese? i am trying to learn in my free time... just a little bit lol
I was actually there this time last year! Where are you living? I don't speak much Chinese but I took lessons when I was there (in Sanlitun) and if you're interested I can pass along contact info for my teacher, who was great.

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Re: There are 9*10^6 bycicles in Beijing.

Postby jotabe » Sun Aug 26, 2012 8:33 pm

Yup, Alea, laundry :D it would be scary otherwise. I was thinking on the washing machine when i wrote that word. There are scary things about chinese toilets though, don't fear, i will share them! XD
Well yes, i didn't get brothel impression either, but my ex lab mates are funny like that :monkey:
What you said is precisely the impression i got at first "oh wow, where did i get myself into..." because it was supposed to be a 3-star hotel!

Thanks Claire... i just don't think i have much time for lessons, i'm at work most of the day. And getting to Sanlitun takes more than one hour! :O (i had to go because i wanted to register as a resident in the Spanish embassy). I'm using a computer program to learn a bit when i get home in the evening.
I'm living near Wudaokou area, in the Haidian district, very close to my workplace. Donhwangzhuang... i think it's the name of the neighbourhood.
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Re: There are 9*10^6 bycicles in Beijing.

Postby Claire » Mon Aug 27, 2012 2:53 pm

Oh wow you're in wudaokou? Thats basically another city!! I got out there a couple of times to visit friends that were students at Beida. I hope you enjoy your work though, and I'm super jealous of you!

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Re: There are 9*10^6 bicycles in Beijing.

Postby jotabe » Tue Aug 28, 2012 1:14 am

This is my bike. Revel on the image of speed and awesomeness it exudes. It's the Rainbow Dash of the bikes.

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Yes, it's a girl's bike :P so sue me.
It was the cheapest model in Walmart, and it had place to stick a basket... and i wanted a basket over any other feature: Beijing is so large that even the closest shop might not be in walking distance, specially if you want to buy large things to outfit a house. So biking there is almost a necessity. (Now i just need a rear basket...)

Thankfully biking in China is much easier than in my city. I don't know how it goes in the US, but in Spain, only a handful of cities have a proper circuit of bike lanes. In Beijing almost every road and every street has a bike lane. Or two. There's just one small trouble.

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Chaos.

Traffic in Beijing isn't too bad. In fact, it's not worse than in my hometown (a city of 100,000 people, barely). Since having a car and using it to conmute is quite uncommon, there are many less cars than you'd expect in a city of the population density, and size, of Beijing. A significant chunk of the traffic is taxis, actually (i am still amazed that you don't need to phone for a taxi... no matter where you are, you just need to get close to the traffic lanes and extend your arm).
So what's the problem? What has me whining?
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ok, no more ponies in this post...

In this city, traffic lights are not actual traffic rules. They are mere suggestions, helpful hints. If the traffic lights are red, cars keep going, unless they feel that they should have the deference of allowing the mounting pedestrian and bikes to cross. If the light is green for cars, but they have slown down a bit, it doesn't mean that fast pedestrians and bikes can squeeze among them. If you see a bike symbol in the bike lane, it doesn't mean that you can't ride on it on your motorbike or your car (i accept that electric motorbikes ride in the bike lane, they go slow enough... but an internal combustion motor motorbike?
If you are biking on the very edge of the bike lane, with the intention to cross the street to the other side, you better watch out. There might be a motorbike from the bike lane switching to the regular lane to overtake you... if you are unlucky enough that this biker didn't realize your intention to cross... there will be a colision.
:faceplant:
Yes it happened to me.

I seriously need rear mirrors...
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Re: There are 9*10^6 bicycles in Beijing.

Postby Gravity Defier » Tue Aug 28, 2012 9:02 am

Geez, I'm glad you're okay! It tends to be dangerous to collide with anything while on a bike. The whole suggestive nature of the traffic lights instead of actual, followed rules would unnerve me to no end. You are brave, my friend.


I'd say in the US, there are certain cities that are very pedestrian and bike friendly (I believe Portland is one of these) but that the average is not very friendly to those groups at all (Phoenix, for instance).
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Re: There are 9*10^6 bicycles in Beijing.

Postby LilBee91 » Tue Aug 28, 2012 11:12 am

That sounds like a city I would never dare venture outside in. Scary!

Most places I've lived are not very bike friendly. A lot of the big roads back home have bike paths, but once you leave those you're lucky if you have a couple feet of spare pavement, let alone a sidewalk.
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Re: There are 9*10^6 bicycles in Beijing.

Postby jotabe » Tue Aug 28, 2012 11:52 pm

The good side is that because traffic is so chaotic that cars more often than not will brake if they see you crossing when you shouldn't. They go slow enough so there aren't many serious hazards. I still have to see a traffic accident, which, given how crazy things are.

In a way, it reminds me of my own city, just on a bigger scale. I mean, traffic being chaotic in streets with one or at most two lanes, in a city with less than 100,000 seems ok.
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Re: There are 9*10^6 bicycles in Beijing.

Postby jotabe » Fri Aug 31, 2012 3:47 am

BCD* warning
bad China day

While i usually whine and complain about my adventures in a cheerful, amused way (at least that's how i really feel about it), BCD means i am truly annoyed. Well, maybe not truly truly annoyed... an annoyance that lasts between 30 mins and one hour, or until i talk to someone, whatever happens first.

I had read, a few weeks ago, about a common expression that is often used in China: Mei Banfa. Well, today i had my first Mei Banfa experience. Mei Banfa can be roughly translated as "it can't be helped", "i can't do anything".

So i had to pay my rent. Originally i should have paid 6 months in advance (plus 1 month for deposit, and another month worth as agent fee) :| but i didn't have that much money so my landlady allowed me to pay 3 months when i entered and other 3 months on the first of September. Tomorrow.
Well, being the prudent and sensible person i am, i decided to do it today (Saturdays banks are close). Yay me. So i go in the morning to my bank, and try to do the transfer to my landlady's account. It didn't work, neither in the ATM nor in the desk... apparently i needed the branch number of my landlady's bank account. They told me i could do it if i went to an office of my landlady's bank, and that there was an office of that bank next to Tsinghua University. I was like "hey! my workplace is next to Tsinghua, i'll go there." Ha! when i arrived at work and checked the ubication... it was on the other side of Tinghua, like diametrically opposed. Oh well, i'll go after lunch. I need to work from time to time, too, specially now that i have a young padawan. :jedi:

So, i go to that bank. I got lost, first, but thankfully i had a gps in my mobile. I get to the place 2 hours before they close. Plenty of time. I try to do the transfer in the ATM again... and surprise! it doesn't work. Wrong card number. :-? So i go to the counter, and the guy that is helping people get their turn ticket tells me "well, probably your card doesn't have that service activated". Whoosh... i had to be told that by a guy from a different bank...
So, what can i do? "You can pay in cash, take the money out from the ATM and pay in a counter". Sounds easy enough, right? 10k+ yuan... did i mention that the largest bank note in China is 100 yuan (15$)? Ok... so i grab the bill stack and start slapping people with them.
No wait... that didn't really happen.
So i grab the bill stack, put it in my wallet, which turned morbidly obese and would not fold anymore. And go to the counter. In the counter things seem to be going fine, i even give the girl the money, and then she asks me "passport?". Sure, here you go. I have a photocopy of my passport, the visa, the residence permit, and the expert's certificate. "No, i'm sorry, it has to be the original" what? "We can't receive payments of more than 10000 yuan without identification." :roll: really? do you expect me to carry my passport around, which contains the documents that separate me from being an illegal alien... to make a payment? I mean, i only exceed the limit for like 500 yuan... "I'm sorry, it can't be done". Ok tell you what, what if i make 2 payments? of less than 10k each? "I'm sorry, that's not possible." :shrug:
I look at the clock, it's 4pm, the bank closes at 5... and i don't have material time to get home, grab the passport and be back. Even though this was the closest office to my home. Did i mention that Beijing is fudging huge?
:bash: :bash: :bash: :bash: :bash: :bash:

Oh well, i told the landlady i couldn't make the payment till monday, but i had the cash, if she wanted i could pay her right now or tomorrow, in hand. She said she could wait till monday without problem.
It's going to be fun, on monday i have to pay the phone and probably the water, too.
Ugh i need a (non alcoholic, non tea) drink... :limeaid:
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Re: There are 9*10^6 bicycles in Beijing.

Postby Luet » Fri Aug 31, 2012 10:16 am

*hugs Jota* That sounds so frustrating!
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Re: There are 9*10^6 bicycles in Beijing.

Postby jotabe » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:50 pm

Thanks Nomi :)

It's ok, the frustrated feeling doesn't last long for me. Luckily some bank offices are open on saturdays, so i just paid the rent :D
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Re: There are 9*10^6 bicycles in Beijing.

Postby Mich » Sun Sep 16, 2012 11:36 pm

So, uh, riots. How's that going, Jota?
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Re: There are 9*10^6 bicycles in Beijing.

Postby jotabe » Mon Sep 17, 2012 12:36 am

Amazingly, i learned of the whole thing from a Spanish newspaper. I guess that maybe there's more activity riot-wise downtown, or around the japanese embassy, but Beijing seems to be very quiet. Japanese cars travel as usual... and there's no shortage of japanese cars in China.

Of course, there are some (heated) arguments about how to deal with the situation, even at my workplace. I think the discussion sparked after a postdoc lunch, in which a guy had a completely normal (in appearance) convo with a Japanese postdoc. I stress the uncertainty of my assessment on the situation, because it's in Chinese XD and i have no bleeping idea what they are saying. They speak very loud as baseline.

I have read that it's way worse in the south and in the coast (demos in Shanghai, and Xian, where i heard there was an incident about a guy driving a japanese car being beaten into coma while people was trying to destroy the car he was driving). In any case, it all comes either from hearsay or from foreign news sites.

The officialist press (ie any press in here) has a tough job. They want citizens to protest against Japan, but also keeping them under control and sane, tacitly acknowledging that the protests have been happening disorderedly:
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2012 ... 761165.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
while encouraging a hard line against Japan that would make the toughest hawks of western conservatives proud:
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/20 ... 760047.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

What reassures me is that both countries have way too much to lose in a conflict over... an uninhabitted archipelago.
But when we have right hardliners in both sides, any spark is hazardous.
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