Out of the Well: A Frogs-Eye-View of China and the World

Random Jottings on China, History, Culture, and Life as seen by an American student in Beijing.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Sympathy for the RMV photographer

The organization I work for decided last spring that all of it's doctors should wear the same lab coats, and that these lab coats should be equipped with a loop from which to hang their snazzy ID Badges. The only problem was, they had no snazzy ID badges. That's where I come in. I just spent the last month searching a fairly disorganized collection of professional photographs our doctors and nurses, and turning them into fancy ID Badges. So far, this was a great job. I got to manage a database, do new and interesting work every day, and generally have had a good time doing it.

This week I began phase two of my job. The rest of my summer will be spent traveling taking not-so-professional pictures of the rest of the staff. It seems that if you don't have a degree affixed to the end of your name, it doesn't matter if you look like hell on your ID. That is not to say I am a bad photographer, it's just that I am in a less than ideal situation.

I spent the day photographing a series of very nice people, most of whom wanted nothing to do with me. No one likes the guy taking their picture if it wasn't their idea to have it taken. A large number of people also believe that they look better if they do not smile. This is a fantasy. You always look better smiling. You always look better smiling.

I have gained sympathy for the photographers at the Registry of Motor Vehicles (as we call it here in the great state of Massachusetts). It is not their fault if the picture on your drivers license sucks, it is yours.

Ah well, things are looking up anyway. Sarah seems to have gotten herself a job. In fact she will be in the same organization as I am. Perhaps she will smile when I take her picture.

Happy weekend all...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Peter Weiss

Yesterday the world lost a truly unique man, Peter Weiss. I did not know him as well as some, but I was proud to think of him as a friend. He was the father of a dear dear friend, and he left us to soon. While I met peter on several occasions, I really got to know him when he and his family adopted me for a week when we were both in Beijing last summer. Peter put me up in a hotel, fed me every meal, and took me to climb the great wall of china. My week with the Weiss's let me get to know several sides of Peter. I met the Peter Weiss who was a respected lawyer. I saw this Peter grin proudly when he was publicly singled out by the Chinese Minister of Technology and information at a banquet following a conference he was attending. I got to know Peter Weiss the devout Buddhist, when we visited many of Beijing's famous temples. Mostly I will remember the Peter Weiss who gleefully jumped out of a van to talk to some bee farmers on the side of the road.

We were coming back from climbing the great wall when Peter saw some bee keepers living in a tent on the side of the road. After getting me to stop the driver we got out, and peter began pantomiming to them that he too had once been a Bee Keeper. I do not know if they understood him, in fact I am pretty sure they were nothing but confused by him, but they could tell he was trying to tell them something nice, and that he was a good person. He climbed back in the van with a water bottle full of unrefined honey, which they had decided to give him. I can still see him smiling ear to ear.

Goodbye Peter. I wish I had gotten to know you better. I hope everything is better wherever you are now.

That summer Feeling

The summer feeling has led to a lot of laziness on my part, and thus I have neglected this blog. My apologies. As always thanks to Dan for busting my chops to keep writing.

Speaking of Dan, he is not a bad example of one way to live a life. He just graduated with a degree in computer science, something which landed him a decent paying job in a major accounting firm for the fall, with a signing bonus hefty enough to let him spend his whole summer traveling. The man just took my backpack and hoofed it off to Europe. When I discussed his future career with him, he told me that it was not that he loved accounting, but that he wanted a job he could leave at the office. My girlfriend Sarah has expressed similar thoughts. My history major background does not exactly make me a hot ticket for an accounting firm, but I could work my way into happy career in business.

The other big development in my process is that I have found a cool grad school that would help me keep my options open. The Fletcher school Tufts University offers a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy. This degree would allow me to pursue business, international policy studies, or academics. Another big advantage is that my girlfriend lives about a mile from there.

Hope your summers are all going well. Mine is actually pretty good, excepting some unfortunate news that I will include in a separate post momentarily.

Also, a program called PlecoDict, a Chinese dictionary program for the Palm Handheld OS, has changed my life. It basically turns a palm pilot into a Chinese dictionary, and allows you to look up characters by writing them on the screen.

Friday, July 01, 2005

So, I just graduated with a degree in history. I spent the last few months of my life convinced that I wanted to go on to a degree in Chinese history and devote my life to the study of early seventeenth century East Asia. I was all set for the life of the mind. Now I am out in the wider world and my options seem a little more open. I am not saying that I don't want to study history, but perhaps I want to do something more practical. Perhaps I want to use my interest in China for business purposes, or maybe I do want to continue in academia, but study something more recent. Either way, I have until sometime before next spring to make up my mind if I want to go to some sort of grad school.

So what is the plan for now until then? This summer I am working for a successful business in suburban Boston. Surprisingly, life in the office, though tedious at times, is not so bad. Starting in September, I will be in an intensive language program in Beijing. This Blog will serve as a chronicle of these two different experiences and how they affect the decisions I will make for next year.