Thursday, May 24, 2012

Life in Shanghai

I love Shanghai!

I'm sure there will be things I don't like about it eventually, but for now it's great.  Ben and Seth rent a room in a house in a cool section of town with little alleys and shops and tree-lined residential streets.  Quite the opposite of our apartment in Beijing, which was off a main street with lots of big buildings everywhere and a lot of traffic.  It's been cloudy/rainy since I got here, which can get depressing after a while, I guess, but I love the rain and had far too little of it in Beijing, so that's another plus!

With the air mattress I brought, more than half the floor space is taken up by beds now.  We have a small table in the corner and a closet and a TV, but the rest of the apartment is mattresses and bedding.  Still nowhere near as crowded as a Chinese dorm room, but we can pretend we're living in cramped squalor. :)

My commute to work is about 45 minutes - 6 stops on the subway and a good walk on either end.  I work in the Shanghai World Financial Center, the second-tallest building IN THE WORLD!!!  We're on the 36th floor, which is very cool, even though I don't have a window in my office.

So I'm working for DLA Piper for 3.5 weeks.  They're an international law firm and the largest firm in the world, with thousands of attorneys and over 70 offices in over 30 countries.  They mostly do corporate/transactional work.  I've been helping do a little research and some editing over the past few days, and my main project is coming up with a framework for understanding the changes that will happen to foreign-owned property and businesses if the Chinese government were to collapse or be radically altered in some way.  Kind of cool!

This is a super nice building.  The toilets are the Japanese kind with a multitude of buttons, water jets, seat warmers, etc etc.  Our one conference room has glass walls that can be turned opaque at the flip of a switch.  My computer monitor is huge, and the internet is lightning fast and has a built-in VPN, so it's basically like being back in the States (or heaven, take your pick)!

I get off at 6:30.  Commuting is pretty painless here, even at rush hour.  It can be crowded, but the escalators and everything else move pretty quickly.  Very efficient.  Ben and Seth tend to get home fairly late, Seth later than Ben, so unlike in Beijing where we would hang out with people most weeknights, here they only do things on the weekends.  That might get monotonous after a while, but since I'm only here for 3.5 weeks anyway, I don't think I'll mind.  I probably won't try to get to know the branch/YSA very well in any case.

Food is really expensive here.  Maybe about the same as Beijing, but there are way more foreign restaurants that charge exorbitant prices, so it seems more expensive.  Especially where I work - there are no cheap places to eat around here, so it's pay up or starve.

Trip to Shanghai

Well, now that I've covered much of my time in Beijing, it's time to wrap up this catch-up series...

Last Sunday, the day after the marathon, I still had legs!  Which was a good thing, as I needed them to get to church and back and start packing.  I didn't leave myself much time to say goodbyes to people, but I like that sometimes - goodbyes can be draining.  Besides, I'll be back in Beijing for a couple days in June before I leave.  So I got home from church and frantically packed my bags.  I left my large suitcase there for Joel to deal with, and I gave Ben a duffel bag with clothes in it to bring to Shanghai for me, and then all I had was my small suitcase, an IKEA bag stuffed with my air mattress, comforter, and pillows, and my backpack.  Ben and I headed for the Beijing South Station, and we caught our respective bullet trains south, which left within 5 minutes of each other.

I arrived in Nanjing around 8:30, met Chandler and went back to his apartment.  We stayed up talking until around 2 am, even though I should have been exhausted from walking around and dragging luggage a day after finishing a marathon.  I woke up around 7:30, though, and I wasn't terribly tired.  We got breakfast and then headed to school.  Chen Laoshi and Dong Laoshi and Hong Xia were in the office, so we talked to them for a while, which was nice.  Chen Laoshi is one of the funniest men alive; he's obsessed with Nanjing history and the Utah Jazz and BYU, and he's always great to talk to.

After that, we got lunch with Xin Qiang (who had changed his name to Vincent!), Maryia, Jason, and two of Xin Qiang's friends.  Chandler had called Xin Qiang that morning and arranged for lunch, saying 中午见, but Xin Qiang heard 周五见 and thought we were having lunch at 11 on Friday!  But we ran into him randomly anyway.  Miracles never cease.

After that, I headed back and went to the train station to catch my train to Suzhou.  It's a very short trip on the bullet train from Nanjing to Suzhou, but it was pleasant.  The weather on Monday and Tuesday was fantastic - not hot, light breeze, sunny.  I took a taxi to Jonathan's office and went up to grab his apartment keys from him, dropped my stuff off, showered, and then Jonathan, Sisi, some other YSA's in the branch and I went out to an Italian place for dinner and then to a member's house for games.  He manufactures board games, so he knows most games intimately and owns plenty of them.  Jonathan, a guy named Ben, and I played a game called Power Grid, kind of like Ticket to Ride except you're building networks of power plants and lines.  I won - Jonathan was put out, but there was no helping it.  They had a large living room with a baby grand piano in it (that's where they hold church in Suzhou), so I played some Beethoven and Rhapsody in Blue on their piano afterwards.  It was a pretty terrible piano, but at least it was mostly in tune.

The next day, I went to 虎丘 in the morning, probably the most famous sight in Suzhou.  It's an old hill with all kinds of ancient buildings and historical sites on it, including tall brick pagoda over 1000 years old.  It leans to one side, so it's off limits to climb.  I was really tired after that, so I headed back to Jonathan's to take a nap.  Then Zach, Jonathan, Sisi, Ben (new guy I met in Suzhou, not Ben Hansen) and I had lunch at a Mexican place, which was great.  After that, I had another nap (soooo tired...) and then caught my train to Shanghai.

I got to Shanghai around 5 and then took the subway to Ben and Seth's stop.  Once there, I borrowed someone's phone to call them (my sim card broke Sunday morning, so I had been without a phone for two days - I borrowed phones 6 or 7 times in total); Seth didn't answer, but Ben did.  However, he was still at work.  He tried to get a hold of Seth, but Seth continued not to answer (turns out his phone was broken as well).  So I hung around the subway station and got dinner and waited for Ben, who showed up an hour and a half later.  I made myself at home at their place and started work on Wednesday!

And thus ends the story of the Sojourn to Shanghai.

Keeping in Touch

A few weeks before I left Beijing, I had the feeling that I should email my former investigators/recent converts that I knew were living in China to see what was happening with them.  I emailed a whole bunch of them.  Two of them emailed me back right away, 李小平 and George Wang.

I taught 李小平 for nearly 9 months on my mission.  He would come to church most of the time, but he was mostly interested in learning English, not in really finding a set of beliefs.  However, we had a good relationship.  He emailed me back right away and said he was working in Beijing at a hospital and wanted to see me, so we set up a time and I met him at his hospital on a holiday and we had lunch and went to an antiques market.  We had a great conversation; he's been in Beijing for nearly a year doing research while his wife and daughter are in Changsha.  He works 6, sometimes 7 days a week and long hours and rarely gets out, and it doesn't seem like he has many friends; he was really glad to see me.  He insisted on paying for lunch.  He also asked where the church was in Beijing and sounded serious about going again.  I'm still not sure if he's allowed to attend, but I will find out and let him know.  Just before I left Beijing, he gave me a piece of framed embroidered silk art.

George and his wife Karena were baptized in my last area, Hamilton, Ontario.  They are from Wuhan.  As I emailed George, he was Skyping with my friend Weston Packard, another elder from my mission who baptized Karena just before we opened the Chinese area and taught and baptized George.  It turns out Weston was coming to China for a week!  So a week before the marathon, Weston stayed at my apartment in Beijing for a few nights and we went touring - the wall, the Forbidden City, Jingshan park, hutongs, food, the summer palace, etc etc.  It was a blast.  I had been too busy/not interested enough to do anything touristy for the 2-3 months before that, so it was a perfect incentive to get out and see things.  After that, Weston flew to Wuhan and George gave him the royal treatment there, taking him all around, feeding him, and introducing him to his family and friends.  Weston doesn't speak Chinese, so it was all very funny.  Weston came back on Thursday and left Friday morning, just as Seth and Ben were getting in for the marathon.  I need to go see George in Wuhan one of these weekends; either the 1st or the 8th of June.  But really, there are no coincidences.  Just as I felt like emailing contacts from my mission, George was Skyping with Weston, and I had no idea Weston was even coming to Beijing two weeks after that.  Little miracles.


Here's a few tidbits on church while I was in Beijing:

  • I had two callings, as a branch missionary and a translator.  Joel and I would translate for sacrament meetings and for district conference - I consistently feel that my Chinese isn't good enough to translate, but it always seemed go okay, if not great.  I didn't translate as often as Joel, because I was gone several times and had to play the piano a few times as well.  But I enjoyed it, particularly translating testimonies because it feels like you're sharing your own testimony as you translate.
  • As a branch missionary, I was involved in teaching Leah Pickering, a friend from England, Armene Gasagara, an awesome 17-year-old guy from Rwanda, and a few other people, both the missionary lessons and in gospel principles.  It really helped me to feel the spirit of missionary work again, and I am determined to be a lifelong missionary wherever I am.  Armene just set a baptismal goal for June 15th last week, and I really hope Leah gets baptized soon, because she will be a marvelous member of the church!
  • I sang in the Easter program - the branch choir put on "The Garden", an oratorio by Michael McLean that is an allegory of the Plan of Salvation and the Atonement.  I was the ram in the thicket, and the music was fairly challenging for our little choir, but we put it together well.  It was a bit Broadway for a sacrament service, but I think it was a nice change for people, and it felt good to present something as a gift of sacrifice (several hours-long practices on Saturdays) and love.  I have a recording of it I made on my iPad - not the best quality, but something.
  • Institute every week at the Stratford's house was a delight.  The lessons were always insightful and made me think harder about my commitment to and understanding of the gospel.  Clara Stratford got to Beijing about a month ago, and she had us all play Just Dance on her Xbox one week, which was hilariously funny!  I will miss institute at the Stratford's house.


Seth, Ben and I signed up for the Great Wall Marathon at the end of February.  They had both run marathons before, and I hadn't, but I thought it sounded like a good goal and something to work for while I was in Beijing.  It ended up taking a lot of time and effort, but it was worth it in many ways.

It cost almost $300, steep for a marathon, but that was only more incentive to train and make sure the experience was worth what I paid for it.  Starting in early March, I began running about 3 times a week.  I downloaded an iPhone app, RunKeeper, that kept track of my location and speed and told me whether I was ahead or behind of my target pace, and I mostly used that when I ran.  I started slowly, only running 5-10 kilometers, but after a few weeks I was ready for longer runs.  I would always run on the roads, generally at night after work, often going north past Josef's apartment along line 5 of the subway so I could take it back if I got tired/twisted my ankle or something.  I got over my dislike of running, and although I didn't always love it, I became very good at making myself go, even at 9:30 pm after a long day.

I did stairs a couple times before the marathon to get ready for the wall.  I would go to an intersection by my house and run up and down and around the four-way circular overpass over the intersection.  Some people really got a kick out of watching me run stairs and around and around the overpass!

I only did a few long runs before the marathon itself - a few half marathons and then a 20-mile run two weeks beforehand.  On a few of my long runs, I developed blisters on my feet, right on the arch.  I don't really have an arch, and my feet are pretty flat, so my feet were rebelling against the constant pounding they were getting.  But by the race I had gotten pretty thick calluses on both of my feet and felt like it wouldn't be a problem.

Race day was Saturday, May 19th.  Seth and Ben took a night train from Shanghai Thursday night and arrived at 8 Friday morning.  Thursday was my last day of work in Beijing, so Seth, Ben, Joel and I hung out in Beijing on Friday; we got lunch at a great Greek restaurant with a buffet lunch, and Seth tried to apply for a Kazakh visa to go in July while Ben and I went shopping and saw Jingshan Park behind the Forbidden City.  We tried to get to bed early, and succeeded after watching a comedy skit that had us in tears!

2:30 am came way too early.  We left at 2:45 for the hotel parking lot where the bus would take us to the race.  The buses left at 3:30 and took until just before 6 to get to the section of the Great Wall outside of Tianjin where the race was held.  Then we still had an hour and a half to wait before the race started.  It was kind of chilly, so we sat there in the cold hating the organizers of the race for a good 45 minutes.  They started some aerobic exercises and stretches, which none of us really participated in.  There were about 2500 people there, running and watching runners for the marathon, 1/2 marathon, 10k and 5k, from over 100 different countries.  It was an interesting sight.

Seth and Ben were in the first starting corral for the marathon, so after a few speeches by county leaders and other luminaries (requisite at nearly every official and semi-official occasion in China), the gun went off at 7:31!  I waited 5 minutes for the second group to start and began the race.  I didn't think I would see either Seth or Ben along the course, since they're both good runners and had run marathons before, but I was hoping to still get a good time.  Ha ha ha!

The first 5 kilometers was a steep uphill slope, winding up a mountainside.  I was grateful for the cool air as we started running, and I kept a pretty good pace, passing some people and getting passed by the career marathoners with all their equipment and packets of energy gel attached around their waists.  After we reached the top of the mountain, we started the wall portion, which went for just over 3 kilometers.  If you've never been to the Great Wall before, it's intense.  The steps are irregular and there are sections with shorter steps and then sections of steep staircases with steps over a foot in height.  It slants at times, and occasionally there's only room for one person at a time with a steep drop to one side.  Nearly everyone walked the wall - running it only invites busted knees for the rest of the race.  But apart from the occasional traffic jam, I felt good.  The very end was a series of steep staircases going down to the valley floor to continue the race.

Following that, it was mostly flat for a good 10-12 kilometers.  I kept running, but around kilometer 17 or so I started getting a blister on my right foot, and it kept getting bigger and more painful.  I was really annoyed with my foot, especially since the blister was right where I had a thick callus.  I kept running until kilometer 20 or so and then started alternating a bit of walking with some running.  At that point, I thought I would finish at least an hour behind Seth and Ben, but I was determined to keep going, come what may.

There were water stations and places with bananas and sports drinks every few kilometers along the course - I probably drank a third of 20 water bottles, pouring the rest of it over myself and throwing the bottle into a basket or on the side of the road.  There were old ladies and men with scooters going along all day picking up water bottles and trash.  There were also a lot of kids on the course, particularly as it went through little mountain villages.  I high-fived at least 100 kids as I ran, which was fun but may well explain why I've been feeling a bit sick this week.

At one of the stations at kilometer 26, I came across Seth, sitting down at the side of the course.  I was so focused I would have passed him without seeing him if he hadn't yelled my name as I ran by.  I stopped for a bit, and he explained that his stomach had been hurting since the first wall portion, and he could only run for a bit, then walk, and stop to recuperate before running again.  We walked together for a kilometer or so and then ran until about kilometer 30 on dirt roads with lots of little rocks.  Perfect place to sprain an ankle.  Seth had to stop again after that, so I pressed on.  My blister still hurt, and it was filling with fluid and squishing unpleasantly, but it was bearable, and I kept up a light jog.

Around kilometer 34, the course went through the finish line and then retraced the wall portion backwards.  This meant that we had to first hike that huge flight of stairs going straight up the mountain before tackling the rest of the wall.  I thought to myself how perfect it was that they put the final wall section right where most runners hit the wall anyway.  By the time I got up those stairs, my legs were jelly and I had no energy left.  The entire wall section was very painful - I kept stopping to rest and then made myself get up and keep going.  Everyone around me was doing it, too - I lost track of how many times I would pass the same people only to have them pass me a minute later and then pass them again with a brief burst of energy.

Near the end of the wall section, I found Ben, sitting halfway up a staircase in a daze.  He didn't even recognize/look at me until I said hi.  I was very surprised to see him - Seth and I thought he was way ahead of us, but here he was on the wall.  His legs had been cramping up starting just before halfway through the race, and it got especially bad on the wall.  He could only climb 20 steps before stopping to rest, and he had a medic massage them for about 20 minutes before I got there.  I didn't want to stop for too long, though, so I wished him good luck and carried on.

After the wall, the last 5 kilometers going down the mountain road were comparative bliss.  I was near the end of my endurance, but gravity helped me totter down.  I got to kilometer 41 at the base of the mountain and started running for the finish.  I slowed to a walk before kilometer 42, but a woman I had passed while running came jogging up and so I ran with her to the finish.  I finished in just under 6.5 hours, and it was a glorious feeling!  Just to emphasize how brutal the wall was: I ran the 35 kilometers before the second wall section in just over 4.5 hours.  The wall took almost 2 hours the second time.

Seth wasn't there - I didn't know whether to expect him to finish the race or whether he would just stop there at the 34 kilometer mark.  They closed the wall before the rest of the course to ensure that everyone would finish and no one was left stranded up there.  But 15 minutes after I came in, Ben finished, and Seth came running in 15 minutes after Ben.  We all finished!  I was very surprised to have finished first, considering I had never done a marathon before, but then again this marathon was totally unlike any other.  And apparently I had trained much more than Seth and Ben, and that helped a lot.

After the Great Wall Marathon, I think any other marathon will be a piece of cake. :)

Suzhou trip

Right after I got back from Chicago, I decided it would be fun to meet Jonathan, Chandler, Seth and Ben in Nanjing for the weekend.  I also had Easter candy and some other things I had bought in America for all of them.  However, Jonathan had some things scheduled in Suzhou for Sunday, so we ended up deciding to go to Suzhou instead.  So I bought a sleeper car ticket for Friday and a bullet train back on Sunday, and everything seemed perfect, until...

...I remembered that I had completely spaced a meeting with Doug Hughes (the Nanjing Flagship internship coordinator) and Linda Larsen (flying in from America to discuss our internships) in Beijing on Sunday!  So lame.  So, although everyone else thought I should just ditch the meeting, I switched my bullet train ticket to Saturday evening.

I took the night train down from Beijing.  That was remarkably good - I got several hours of sleep until we got to Nanjing, since I was on a soft seat that was actually a sleeper and there were only two of us sitting on it, so I could lie down.  I got to Suzhou sometime before 8 in the morning and headed to Jonathan's apartment.  There I met Chandler and Jonathan, and we headed out to a football activity with the Suzhou branch.  I only had a pair of jeans and a polo with me, so Chandler and I decided to walk around the lake instead of playing football, and we had a good conversation.  Chandler got into Harvard's philosophy Ph.D. program, by the way, and he's great to talk with.  Very funny, too.

Then Seth and Ben showed up, and we went back out by the lake and flew kites for a bit.  We also got lunch at an Italian place.  Suzhou is a really nice city.  It's nearly all newly built, and it has beautiful waterways and gardens and parks and very efficient transit.  After lunch, we went over to old Suzhou, where we took a gondola ride and saw traditional old houses.  Ben was doing some poses on the front of the boat with a rope tied to the front, and he fell in the canal!  It was about the hardest I've laughed for a year.  He jumped back on the boat right away, but he was completely soaked, and the water was pretty filthy too.  Jonathan got the whole thing on his phone in a series of pictures that tell the story way better than I can...after that, we headed for TGI Friday's.  Ben stopped at a clothing store to try on a shirt, but the lady tried to rip him off so he tore it off and stomped outside shirtless.  His phone recovered the next day, but he also got pretty sick for a day or so and threw up several times.

And then my crazy trip came to an abrupt end.  Everyone else went to TGI Friday's, and I had to get a cab to the train station to leave, after only 8 or 9 hours in Suzhou.  They tried to call Doug and persuade him to let me call in to the meeting instead, and Seth threatened to tie me up, but all to no avail, so I went and got on my train and headed back to Beijing.

I was glad I got to go and see my friends after a few months of being apart, but it would have been nice to spend more time in Suzhou than I did on my two trains! :P

Law School - Trips and Decision (2)

...just kidding, I decided to break it up.  These things get so unwieldy otherwise.

I got back to Beijing, and I spent a couple days thinking and praying about my choices between Chicago and Stanford.  Harvard was basically out, mostly because their bureaucratic ways didn't appeal to me, and I thought a smaller class size would serve me better than a larger one.  So it was down to Chicago and Stanford.  I couldn't wait much longer, because Chicago's deadline was the 15th of April, I think, which was a week before I would have the chance to see Stanford.

That Monday I made the decision, and I've stuck with it.  I still don't know exactly why, but I felt really good about Stanford.  It was a load off my mind - I felt almost giddy all the rest of that day with happiness and relief that I was done deciding.  Over the next few weeks, I rejected all the other schools I was admitted to except for Harvard, which I kept as a backup in case the ASW at Stanford turned out to be disappointing.

It was not.  I flew out on the very same United flight to SFO that I had flown to go to Chicago, leaving Beijing at noon on Friday and arriving at 8 the same morning in San Francisco.  I spent a few hours walking around downtown SF and buying Ghirardelli (of course) before heading down to Palo Alto on the Caltrain.  It was perfect weather the three days I was there - I don't think I saw a single cloud the entire time!  People were complaining about it being hot, but I think it only got up to 85 or something.  Usually it's consistently in the 70's.

Every event I went to was great, and I was sold on the school due to many factors, one being the larger Chinese presence than at Chicago, but the biggest deciding factor was something else.  I'm still not sure I want to work at a big firm for life, and Stanford is so supportive of crafting your own career path and finding your passion.  30-40% of your classes can be at the business school or in economics or engineering or some other field, and that allows for flexibility and a wider range of application.  I find that so much more appealing than Chicago, where taking classes outside of the law school was rare and mostly for academic reasons rather than to enhance career options.  Also, the ward was great!  After the first hour, there were about 10 people who welcomed me into the ward during a special new member Sunday school class, and I felt right at home.  I saw a friend from junior high school, Cliff Crosland, and he'll be there next year, so that was nice too.  Ultimately, I felt completely comfortable and at home at Stanford, whereas I had been slightly on edge during my trip to Chicago.  Most of the LDS law students are married, but there were still a good number, and I enjoyed meeting them all.  I stayed with a young married couple my first two nights there - he's at law school and she's a full-time mother, and they have the cutest little girl.  It was my first real interaction with a little kid in a while, and it made me happy.  She would ask when I was coming home at night, and I don't doubt we'll be the best of friends in the fall.

I got to see John and Trudy, my mom's older brother and his wife who live in Redwood City.  I stayed with them Sunday night, and I'm really happy I'll get to go to school so close to them and see them more often.  Their family is great - he inherited a few of my grandpa's interesting quirks, but they are fantastic people and having family close is always a good thing.

So at this point I've made my decision - Stanford 2015!

Law School - Trips and Decision

Man, that title means I'm going to cover a lot of ground in this post.  So be it.

Last I wrote, I had just had my interview with Harvard, I think.  So, fast forward a bit.  Chicago offered me a large scholarship ($35,000/year), so my parents decided I should fly out and consider it at least.  I flew out at the end of March for their admitted students' weekend and stayed with my friend Benjamin Brown, who is just finishing up his first year there.

The trip itself was very eventful.  Here is a journal/blog entry I wrote about my flights:

"I'll sit here and go crazy if I don't get some of this out.  I got to the Beijing airport with plenty of time - as I thought - to make my plane to Detroit.  It wasn't leaving for 45 minutes when I walked up to the Delta counter and tried to check in.  Unfortunately, their system apparently closes an hour before takeoff, and they are helpless in the face of their own technology.  No was they could possibly check me in or let me on the plane that wasn't leaving for 45 minutes!  Their only help was to tell me to call a hotline that doesn't open until 8 am.

Having been here for a while, not much about China can bother me anymore, but this makes me want to weep with rage.  At any other airport, the person at the counter would whisk me to the desk and check me in, then make sure I got to the gate as fast as possible.  Here I have to wait an hour and a half to call a customer service line to change my ticket.  It's more China than Delta, although at the moment I'm very angry at Delta as well, and I plan to tell them in choice fashion.

Frustrated beyond all belief.

I just talked to a Delta rep, and she told me I would have to pay over $1000 extra(!) if I want to keep my return ticket.  See if I fly Delta anytime soon!  And the earliest flight she could find for me was tomorrow morning.  More rage...

Wrong kind of adrenaline rush, for sure.  Well, I ended up buying a ticket on United with Mom & Dad's credit card...I owe them a lot.  I had to take the bus to the other terminal and as I was buying the ticket on my phone, the website conked out.  I went to a United agent here, but th echeapest she could find was over $1500, way more expensive than the one I found.  So I got a wifi password at a kiosk and bought it on my computer for $1284, then checked in.  Now I'm waiting for some pad thai before I go through security.  Probably a poor choice, because now I'm worried it'll take twenty minutes to come and I'll be rushed for time again and waste a second ticket.  Not going to happen, but that would be truly awful.

Oh boy.  So I made it to San Francisco, only to find out my flight to Chicago was delayed from 10:32 to noon.  I went to customer service right away and got on the standby list, and I just made it on a flight leaving at 10:10.  I'm either the very last person or the second to last to get on the plane.  Phew.  Except I had to pay a $75 standby fee...this trip is getting more and more expensive.

I'm waiting for my plane to Newark now...this trip has been great!  I really like UChicago, and it's moved way up in my estimation.  I don't know what I'll decide, but whatever happens, it was worth the trip.  The flight story even has a mostly happy ending!  Delta refunded my original ticket!  As I told them, that goes a long way towards making me happy with their service.  I ended up spending $500 more than I would have, but better than $1300 more."

I didn't write about how United lost my luggage once I actually got to Chicago and took over a day to get it to me at Ben's apartment.  It was truly one of the most awful air travel experiences I've ever had.  But I really did enjoy the trip.  I'd never been to Chicago - I went downtown the morning after I arrived, and it was beautiful.  Nice spring weather, gorgeous architecture, a fantastic art museum, and great open spaces.  The school itself was also great.  All the professors seemed really involved in their students' lives, the campus was all big Gothic and modern architecture, and living costs were fairly low.  Except for the fairly lackluster YSA and frigid winters, it seemed like a wonderful place to go to law school...

Work and a Day in Court

Ok, here's the rest of the story on my job in Beijing.  My work went about the same as it had for the first several weeks.  I gave a couple English trainings, edited documents, translated emails and notifications and lists of evidence, and generally spent half my time surfing the Internet and the other half being a super efficient/effective translator and editor.  I eventually got to be pretty good friends with one guy who sat next to me, Michael Liang (梁硕), and we went to lunch together most days.

One experience in particular was kind of cool.  I asked 易律师 if I could attend a court case before I left, so a few weeks ago she helped me apply for and attend a case at the Beijing High People's Court.  It was a trademark violation  retrial case where we were representing a Hong Kong-based manufacturer against a mainland company that had basically copied their goods.  It took a few hours in the afternoon; I headed to the court early and waited around for the lunch break to be over.  The building itself was huge and imposing, like nearly every public building in China.  I had to leave my phone outside in a locker, and then we all went into a smallish courtroom.  There were three judges sitting in front; a woman and two men flanking her.  Then there were 蒋律师 and 左律师 and our three clients from HK on our side and two lawyers and the defendant sitting on the other side.  The two partners from our firm had stacks and stacks of documents, and they were furiously highlighting and scribbling notes before the hearing started; the lawyers on the other side had a noticeable paucity of materials and didn't seem very enthusiastic.

It took about 2 hours - there were initial arguments and discussion and counterarguments and closing arguments and questions from the judge (the two men didn't say much; they were there for show, it seemed), and we completely dominated.  The other side tried to make a few procedural objections - something about the wrong person signing a petition document and another objection about new evidence - but it was halfhearted and they didn't have any substantial arguments.  It was ridiculously hot in the courtroom.  I followed the lead of one of our clients in taking my jacket off about halfway through the hearing, and I nearly fell asleep from the heat once or twice.  The content of the hearing wasn't terribly interesting to me, but it was gratifying to understand a good portion of what was going on, and that kept me engaged.

The second-to-last day on the job, the senior partners all took me to lunch at a nice restaurant in the building.  They made me sit in the seat of honor and order nearly everything and eat first, and none of them drank because I don't drink, so we got this sweet warm corn smoothie stuff that was surprisingly delicious.  The food was great, and conversation happened, but it was slightly forced and awkward.  Still, it was a nice gesture.  易律师 gave me some nice pens on my last day at work, and 梁硕 wants to keep in contact; I was very happy to be done with that internship, but I learned a lot, and I'm grateful for the experience.

3 months in the life of 龙年生子

Ok, it's time to repent!  I just got to my new internship yesterday, and the Internet is super fast and has a VPN already built in, so I have no excuse not to update my blog anymore.  Here goes.  This will be a series of vignettes on my time in Beijing/trips I went on/life update.