Back in Beijing

Beijing Sky

It’s always a bittersweet feeling flying back into Beijing. Immediately, I’m confronted with swarms of Chinese people rushing through the airport trying to collect their five pieces of luggage from their four-day trip. Loud voices come creeping in through my headphones as people light cigarettes in the taxi line. “Welcome back!” my friends will tell me - to which I usually just say thanks instead of going on a rant of how much I loathe coming back here after a relaxing vacation. Regardless of my feelings, I’m back to work and back to my routine, which has its benefits. I like going to the gym at the same time every day, I enjoy riding my scooter instead of having to negotiate taxi prices, and it’s nice to use my computer again (which I typically don’t bring when I travel.)

On the other hand, ending a vacation sucks - a word my father deplores - but it pretty much sums up all my feelings about coming back home. I miss the weather, the new culture, the food, the ocean, the fact that when I wake up, I have no responsibilities. Traveling is great, but getting back to the ‘constants’ in my life is also nice. Perhaps one day I’ll figure out a way to combine them.

Me as a comic

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I should have noped right out of this one when she said, “I write comics about weird guys I go on dates with.” Well, here is me as a comic after two dates with this girl in June 2018. Guess it took her awhile to get me just right. The comic is in Chinese and it’s largely about how I told her my idea for a picture book about the funny things that farmers do in China. I guess she didn’t find it as amusing as me.

After this was brought to my attention, I thought “next time someone asks me about Beijing, or the people here, I should just keep my mouth shut.” However, after thinking about it, I shouldn’t let the fear of being turned into a comic again deter me from speaking my mind.

We didn’t kiss, cancel plans, or even fight when we went out. But I guess she needed some content for her site and I ticked the boxes. I didn’t know I could look like an asshole in comic form, but here you go, for your viewing pleasure. Oh, and my name in the comic is “迪克” - “Di Ke” - sounds like “dick” — very clever.

I Wrote An Article for International Travel and Study Institute

The Twitter Challenge

I’ve never been one for social media, but I thought it would be interesting to see how fast I can amass followers on Twitter. So from August 1, 2019, until August 1, 2020, exactly one year, my goal is to get 10,000 followers on Twitter.

Here are the rules:

  • Minimum of 1 post per day

  • Follow less than I have following

  • All followers must be real - no bots / may not purchase

My friends in Beijing have told me this would be impossible, but I’m going to go for it and see what happens. If you’re interested in joining the adventure, follow my twitter, which will go live in two days.

@degen_11

Hu Da Restaurant

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Glass Bridge outside of Beijing

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Cool Shirt

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Where do people even get shirts like this?

Hutong Life

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The Chinese says “My House”

The Tales of Hoffmann (Les contes d'Hoffmann)

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The Tales of Hoffmann (Les contes d'Hoffmann) is an opéra fantastique by Jacques Offenbach. The French libretto was written by Jules Barbier, based on three short stories by E. T. A. Hoffmann, who is the protagonist of the story.

I’m pretty sure this was my first opera and probably my last. I was really confused the entire time and had a hard time understanding the translated subtitles. I was impressed that the actors/singers were able to memorize 3.5 hours of dialogue/songs and the set design was incredible. However, pretty sure opera isn’t my thing.

However, I was pretty excited to go inside the National Centre for the Performing Arts, which is super cool looking building surrounded by water.

Dating in China 2

After going on so many “bad” dates, it’s tough to get the willpower to go back out there. Sitting at home alone half-naked under my air con watching Netflix and eating Chinese Cheetos has started to sound a lot more appealing than going out to dinner on a date.

“Pressure”

This is our first date

Her: So, you want kids?

Me: I’m not opposed to having them

Her: What about living in China the rest of your life?

Me: Definitely not

Her: So, you hate China?

Me: Not at all, I just don’t want to live here forever

Her: Then this isn’t going to work

Me: Sorry what?

Her: I need someone committed to me, and that means living in China forever

Me: Should we just get the bill now or…?

 

“The Classic”

A typical WeChat conversation

Me: Hey any plans for the weekend?

Her: Sleeping

Me: You’re going to sleep all weekend?

Her: Yes, so tired from work.

Me: Do you want to grab a drink or something?

Her: No, sorry, I’ll be sleeping

This is also a super common response from colleagues I work with. ‘Sleeping’ is often replaced by the word ‘resting,’ which for most Chinese means laying in bed playing around on their phone and not leaving their apartment all weekend. 

 

“Better Salad”

We go to a nice Mexican restaurant around 6pm and both get food and drinks. We both get a substantial amount of food plus chips & salsa (which are not free in China) and no, she’s not fat. After we pay, this happens:

Her: I want a salad

Me: Why didn’t you order one?

Her: Well, I don’t want one from here, I want one from this little café I know

Me: You’re still hungry? I mean, I guess we could ride my scooter there

Her: Great

I just rode 12km to get to the Mexican place, and now I’m taking this girl 10km to some café because “they have the best salads.” We get there, she wants to sit on the rooftop, but their lights aren’t working, so we’re literally sitting the dark while she’s munching away on a salad and I’m drinking a beer. I’m not super excited to be in this situation. After she finishes her salad, she makes it abundantly clear that she wants to go home, so we walk outside.

Me: Well, that was super weird, but nice to see you! Are you going to get a Didi or take the subway home?

Her: You’re not going to drive me back to where we met?

Me: My battery is running low, plus I’d have to ride back here and I’ve gotta be getting home

Her: That’s so rude

Me: You chose this place

Her: Ya but it’s your responsibility to take me back

Me: I’m sorry?

 

“The Vegetarian”

Before the date, she explicitly told me she was a vegetarian and she’d only go out to dinner if I took her to a vegetarian restaurant, but not Indian. I love demanding girls, off to a great start.

Me: I don’t usually eat vegetarian, but I thought that was pretty great!

Her: Huh…

Me: You didn’t like it?

Her: It was terrible

Me: What didn’t you like about it?

Her: I just didn’t like it

We did get separate dishes, but we also shared pita bread and veggies with hummus. She also ate all of her food, so I’m a little confused at this point.

Me: My fault then, I’d never been here before but it has good reviews online. Next time we go out, you can take me to a place that you like

Her: There won’t be a next time

Me: Why?

Her: Because you took me to the worst vegetarian restaurant I’ve ever been to

Me: Are you serious?

Her: You’re a bad restaurant chooser

I think I dodged a bullet on that one

China's Hutong Renovations: Yay or Nay?

You ever get so busy that you forget to update your blog? Ya, happened to me. I leave for Egypt on July 30, so expect lots of photos of me with my hands in the air surrounded by sand.

Here’s an article I just recently wrote for Expat Guides.




Broken Bikes

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Scenes from Beijing

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Colorful Beijing Sunset

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Yonghegong - Llama Temple

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2019 Beijing Burger Festival

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Around the 京

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Dating In China

Since I broke up with my ex in October 2016, I’ve given the dating game in Beijing a shot and it’s been a whirlwind of funny/awkward situations, and moments where I can’t even think of how to respond. Here are some of the more “interesting” things that have happened while on a date

 “Already Ate”

Her: Let’s grab dinner at 6 on Saturday

Me: Sounds good!

In the restaurant on Saturday

Me: I’m starving, you hungry?

Her: No, I ate an hour ago

Me: Umm, I thought we had dinner plans

Her: Ya, but I was hungry an hour ago and didn’t want to wait. It’s ok, I’ll watch you eat

Me: …

 

 “Oh, Actually”

Me: So, drinks on Friday?

Her: Ya, perfect.

At the bar

Me: I think I’ll grab a beer. You?

Her: Oh, actually, I don’t drink, but I am so hungry, I think I’ll get Pho

So I sit there, drinking beer, listening to her slurp up Pho while puffing on a vape every other bite and blowing it right across the table. Before I can even start to wonder how I get myself in these situations, she says:

Her: Do you want to buy a vape? I sell them, it’s my side business

Me: Thanks for the offer, but I’m all set

Her: No worries! Anyway, it’s so nice of you to buy me Pho

Me: Sorry, what gives you the impression that I’m buying your food?

Her: That’s how it works, guys always pay

I’ve gotta start vetting these girls better before agreeing to go out

“So Strong”

Her: Oh my gosh, this mojito is so strong

Me: You can order something else if you want

Her: No, it’s ok, I’m just feeling like so drunk already

Me: Alright, well just don’t throw up on me

So we keep talking, and between stories she keeps commenting just how strong the drink is and how’s she feeling drunk and laughing a lot. This is her first drink, so I’m not concerned, but find it odd that she keeps talking about it. After we finish, we head down to the bar and the bartender says “Table 10, one beer and one non-alcoholic mojito”, at which point I turn to the girl and say “Sorry, what the fuck?”

She looks at me and shrugs: I thought you’d like me better if you thought I was drunk

Me: …

 

“Don’t Do Scooters”

Me: Hey, so we can meet around 8 at the subway station and I can pick you up on my scooter and then ride to the restaurant

Her: Sounds great!

At the subway

Me: Hey hey, ready to go?

Her: Actually, do you know any places close to here? I don’t do scooters

Me: … I already made a reservation, I thought you said riding on a scooter would be fine

Her: Ya, but I don’t do scooters, too scary

Me: …

 

“Height Requirements”

Talking to Chinese girls on Tinder (which you need a VPN for) can be tricky, but there’s one thing for certain - they’ll ask you how tall you are

Her: How tall are you?

Me: 180

Her: Sorry, that’s not enough

Me: What do you prefer?

Her: 190+

Me: Out of curiosity, how tall are you?

Her: 150

Me: If you want to date a giraffe, go to the zoo

“Couldn’t Wait”

Me: Hey I’m outside of the KFC where we agreed to meet. Where are you?

Her: I’m inside, hold on a second.

Her: Hey sorry, I was hungry so I got a bunch of stuff.

Me: We are literally headed to a restaurant right now

Her: Ya, but I wanted KFC

Me: …

Italian Chamber of Commerce Event

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This was an event held by the Italian Chamber of Commerce and it did not disappoint. Meats, cheeses, wine, bread - it was perfect.

"Laborotics" Published!

Laborotics published by Degen Hill
 
Zealot Script - Emerging Worlds

My short story “Laborotics” has been published on Zealot Script - Emerging Worlds! You can read it there, or download a PDF copy for free here. You can follow their Twitter @ZealotScriptUK