Missed you. It’s good to be back. I have had two feet firmly planted on the ground in Beijing since last Saturday, and boy, does it feel right again. In the past five days, I have arrived, moved, slept, translated, and spent a long-ass time sitting on a friend’s couch. The couch-sitting incidentally coincides with translating, so it wasn’t a total loss. I’m currently working on a team headed by the photographer Jonah Kessel for a multimedia project for ChinaGreen, a part of the Asia Society, as the translator for large segments of video interview footage, my first official translation gig.
More importantly, I have moved! Away from Line 1 of the Beijing Subway, aka the one thing I would change about all of China. Now I’m living in the heart of it all, within the Second Ring Road of Beijing, the old city. In the Qing dynasty, the area enclosed by the city walls (where the Second Ring is now) was restricted to the (many) members of the Manchu emperor’s court officials, scholars, and entourage. Many current residents of the hutong alleyways now are descended from that noble class. Now, the area constitutes the historical core of Beijing and is a living cultural heritage site. At the same time, the hutongs are often the target of overzealous government officials and developers, who see the land on which the courtyard houses distinct to Beijing sit as valuable sites for new construction to show off the rapidly modernizing city. This conflict between cultural preservation and progress is a multi-faceted issue that shall be revisited in another post, I promise. My new apartment, which not a traditional courtyard but a low-rise apartment building, is located in one of these hutongs, right off the restored, commercially-driven alleyway Nanluoguxiang (南锣鼓巷). Designed in the late 1980s by a professor in the Tsinghua University Department of Architecture, my building has a modern character lacking in many of the older Soviet-style high-rises populating the outer city. Instead of a nondescriptly-colored, flat-roofed skyscraper, we live behind a big green metal gate, in a courtyarded complex with pitched black-tile roofs. I live on the top floor of the three-story building in a little duplex unit with a roommate, a British artist. Our place comes with two terraces that will be amazing in the summer and a very friendly cat who goes by the name of Hotpot (火锅). It’s a very nice place to be, both my new apartment and Beijing.
In the next couple of days, I’ll be writing up some of the delicious and hilarious culinary and other experiences that was my trip back to the states. There will also be new photos of my place up on flickr imminently. On a final note, the weather has been gloriously clear and mind-numbingly cold here. Good for photos, less so for the bones.