Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pollution and my future career

So, I have a lot of updates. This past week brought with it horrible pollution, job interviews, apartment hunting and revelations about the cost of living in China! It has been hectic and I'm sure will continue to be hectic until we move and I find a job.

First, I'll jump right into the good stuff...The United States Embassy calls this weather hazardous and weather.com refers to it as “smoke”. Who knew that you could have smoke without a fire? Beijing has been plagued with the worst pollution I've ever experienced. My skin itches, my face is breaking out and my lungs feel like they are on fire every time I exert myself outside. And if that wasn't bad enough, the smog actually makes me sick to my stomach. Please Lord make it rain! We might be moving this weekend but even so...I would rather move in the rain than move in this smog infested hell! The picture above I took today at noon. I added the other picture above it so you can compare them with my normal view.

In more exciting news, I finally had a job interview that was worth my time! A global recruiting company has contacted me for an interview :) Yesterday, I went in for my first interview and met with my potential future boss. Tonight I have a second phone interview with his boss. Wish me luck! If I am hired, this will be my first real job! That being said...I am a little scared. My future as a career woman may be starting very soon and that means that my time as a stay at home wife has to end. It's bittersweet. Also, I forgot to mention that he is going to try and get me an American starting salary! In China that is a miracle!

This topic is a little late, but none the less very interesting. The snow that I posted about not too long ago was actually semi-fake snow. This region of China is in a drought, no doubt the reason for this is that the whole country is literally being stripped of everything natural to make room for industry growth...but anyway I want to educate you about snow rockets. In Beijing where we breathe in who-knows-what practically all the time, we had to breathe in a little extra chemical cocktail with the arrival of the snow. When China gets too dry, the Chinese launch chemicals into the clouds that cause precipitation. While this has positive effects on the lack of moisture, I don't even want to think about the draw backs in terms of my health. A more comical case of fake snow can be seen in the pictures I posted from my skiing adventure right before Christmas...the funniest picture by far shows the snowy white ski slopes in the foreground with the green hills in the background.

In other “what annoys Katie” news, Google maps is driving me nuts lately. For some reason it is stuck on my old home location in Norcross. Every time I search “Beijing”, Google informs me that it is actually just down the road from our old house...If that's the case I feel like a real idiot for moving all the way to China to get to Beijing when we could have just walked a little ways down the road and gotten there from Atlanta! Fix it Google...its making me crazy!

I almost had great news to give my blog readers and myself yesterday... We found an apartment! The complex has a gym, a pool, tennis courts and more...all free for residents! The place is clean, new and nice! The only problem is the landlord. Shortly after we made a deal, he decided he wanted more. When we bargained with him he decided that he didn't want to rent it to us anymore even if we agreed to his crazy demands. He told my real estate agent (who doesn't much care for him due to the way he treated her) that he doesn't want to rent to Americans and refuses to have a Chinese/English contract. He then told her that she was no longer allowed to call him because talking to her on the phone was a waste of time...she could email him in the future. What a gentleman. So our new dilemma is that because we thought we had that apartment, we stopped looking elsewhere. Now we have to move out of our current apartment in the next 9 days...that means we need to find an apartment, negotiate and sign a lease, and move in a little over a week. Thats doable...right? Hope everyone reading this is having a great week and enjoys reading the blog!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Apartment hunting, job searching and Inner Mongolia

The song Time's a Wastin' plays in my head a lot these days...the reason being pretty clear. Between looking for our next apartment and trying to find a job, I have been pretty busy. I have postings on the local expat site asking about different areas of Beijing and specific buildings and I also have job postings explaining my qualifications for potential employers. All of my postings and subsequent emails are very detailed. Yet what I have come to realize is that if people took the time to read my postings and emails from start to finish I would have a lot more free time. I have a very specific wish list for my next apartment because after we move (for the second time in 3 months) I would prefer not to move again until we leave Beijing. This is my list of CRAZY demands:
  • I want an apartment that is not 2 years old and already falling apart. The reason that this is an important point is that unskilled migrant workers from small villages in China build most of the highrises in Beijing. They also use plaster instead of drywall, so the ceilings and walls literally start to fall apart.
  • I want an oven. I didn't think I would really miss having an oven, but know that I don't have one I realize how nice they are.
  • I want a bathtub. Life is tough sometimes and all I want is to take a bath! Plus the pollution and the drought make my skin itch.
  • I either want an empty apartment for cheap so that I can furnish it to my standards or I want an apartments with an actual SOFA! Futons are very popular here, and while they might make a great crash bed in college, they are neither comfortable or stylish.
Everything on top of that is a bonus. I really don't think I'm asking too much, yet 80% of the apartments I see either have 1 thing on that list, or everything I said I didn't want! The walls are crumbling, the floor is pealing up, and the FUTON has a pattern on it you shouldn't find outside of your grandmothers knitting collection. It can make you crazy.

Then there is the job search. I am all about internships, but that term can also mean short term slave. Not that this would outweigh the benefits if you got hired afterward, but most internships here are three months of work with no training and then onto the next intern. I have already been offered a few positions in Beijing, but have yet to accept one. Here is why... One was for a position that would be part time, about 25 hours a week, and the pay is about 100 a month. If it were in my dream field I might take it, but as it is, I am not thrilled about the idea of working for free for an unknown amount of time. Then there is a Sales and Marketing Job that I was really excited about before the interview. The company was great and has locations all over the world. The man who interviewed me, who would be my future boss, was easy to talk to and seemed like a good guy...sounds great huh? Except he wants me to move to INNER MONGOLIA for a minimum of 2 years. Nowhere in the job description was that tidbit listed. I have been married for just over 6 months and he wants me to move away from my husband... “Don't worry”, he said, “It's hard for the first 6 months to a year, but you get to see him every other weekend”. That was apparently supposed to make it all better.

So now hopefully you can understand my frustration. Regardless, I had a fantastic Valentines Day yesterday with my wonderful husband and my Chinese class ended today! So I am blissfully happy with more time to waste. Pray for my sanity to stick with me!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Spring Festival and Lady Street

Spring Festival in Beijing has been...interesting. When our friends told us that there were going to be fireworks for 2 straight weeks, we thought they might be exaggerating. Turns out they weren't. The first night we expected that they were going to be crazy, and they were. They were also crazy on the second day, the second night, the third day, the third night...you get my point. On the sixth night at 1 am when my husband had to be at work the next morning and I just wanted to sleep, I had had about enough. Our best guess was that the fireworks stand right outside of our apartment complex was trying to empty their inventory. That is what it sounded like. There were no pauses for hours and they weren't even the pretty fireworks, they just shot up and made an impossibly loud noise, right by our 20th story window! My husband was saying last night that if there is anyone on earth addicted to fireworks, they need to be in Beijing during Spring Festival. They won't feel the same when they leave...I think thats called immersion therapy.

The one thing I have really liked about Spring Festival has been all of the decorations. I missed the heavily decorated streets of home during Christmas time, but now I realize that they decorate very similarly for Spring Festival. I love all the red and white lights! The only big difference is that along with the lights, there are tons of really beautiful lanterns. I haven't taken pictures yet at night, but I will soon.

Anyway, about Lady Street. My friend took my there today and I loved it. You walk to the inside portion and all you see are thousands of plants and every beautiful thing you could ever want. Glass blown vases, outdoor stone fountains, beautiful craved wood sculptures and TONS of plants and flowers. I recently watched an online video about how to "grow oxygen" inside your home to fight the awful pollution in Beijing, and it pretty much suggests that you tun your home into a greenhouse. So thats what I am going to do! As soon as we move into our new place and I buy all the plants, I will make sure and post pictures. I attached the link for the video so that anyone that's interested can watch it.  http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/kamal_meattle_on_how_to_grow_your_own_fresh_air.html

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Shoes

I wanted to do a little post about the Silk Street Market in Beijing. Silk Street is "the place" to find expats and knock off goods. The whole basement floor is nothing but aggressive women selling "Gucci", "Prada", "Coach" "Louis Vuitton" etc...it is great! The bargaining that goes on at this market is hilarious. They will start out at a price that is probably about 10 times what you should pay. I went to buy some t-shirts there the other day and the woman started off at 800 kuai (that's close to 120 dollars). I couldn't help but laugh. We bought them for 70 kuai in the end. Anyway, I have been looking for shoes in boutiques for weeks to no avail and then I went to Silk Street. I bought the shoes in the picture above within 5 minutes and paid about 30 dollars for them. I could have gotten them for less I think, but I liked them and I was ready to stop looking for shoes! If you ever find yourself in Beijing, make sure you visit Silk Street!