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Back Again

It always feel so bizarre to come back to Beijing. The city has changed so much since when I was in school here, but it still feels like I just left yesterday. I met up with my old teacher Wang Jiangbo when I got in on Sunday morning, and he was kind enough to let me drop my tons of luggage off in his kitchen, which he apparently doesn't use anyway. We had brunch, wasted a bit of time scouting out housing around his block, and I bought toothpaste. He is always busy with work though, so after we got back and took naps, I packed up a day bag and went to meet up with my friend from Nanjing, Fred, and his friend from Beijing, Nick. We met up with some more friends who had also just come up from Nanjing and had dinner and drinks, and I managed to weasel my way into crashing on Nick's floor that night. And the next.

Yesterday I came back to my old school to see if they could get me a cheap dorm room for the week while I figure out something more permanent. I happened to run into a service lady who recognized me from four years ago, and told me that my old program director and head Chinese teacher happened to be there. I ran upstairs and had a little reunion with the director, Jin Laoshi, who was surprised and delighted to see me. She told me to come in the next day, and promised she would help me meet up with her real estate agent, and also get me in touch with some other alumni who were working in Beijing. She also hooked me up with a really cheap room in the ghetto foreign students' dorm on the other side of campus, where I seem to have a super-single for the moment, since my Mongolian roommate of one day has apparently gone back to Mongolia.

Today I bid Fred goodbye, took a shower and got down to business with my email and phone. I'm scheduled for an interview with a Beijing magazine, City Weekend, next Monday, although they asked me to bring printed copies of my writing samples, which I am not sure actually exist at this moment. I also got in touch with this guy Geoff, with whom I had had a nice phone interview two weeks ago, who works for Vertex, a film and media production company. He asked me to come in to the office on the spot. The office was in a fancy building, with an impressive modern looking reception area. I was greeted by one of their Chinese staff, who gave me a brief screening interview just to make sure that I was not completely turned off by the idea of a 9-6 job. Then I met Geoff, who led me into the boss lady's office. She was introduced to me as Mou Dong, which I suppose would be President Mou in English. It was fairly evident from her demeanor that she wasn't strictly a mainlander, and she soon told me that she was originally from Taiwan, and had lived for ten years in the States. The interview started off in Chinese, but she kept breaking into English, and I followed suit. She seems like an interesting lady. A bit of an intimidating presence, but then again there probably isn't much that isn't intimidating to an interviewee fresh out of school. She didn't seem particularly concerned with my qualifications and experience. The questions she asked me included: Why was I interested in the job? What area was I interested in most? (Uh, I dunno, says I.) What is my sign? (Ahh, Pisces, You like to do a little bit of everything, hmm? Answers she.) Do I like physical or mental work? Other than this, she spent most of the time telling me that the film business is hell. She compared joining her company to signing up for the army. There are three stages of work in this line, pre-pre-production, pre-production and production. The first two are somewhat safer, a good learning environment, where there are no bullets flying by your head, and if you make a mistake, at least you don't die. But once you get into production, you have to do it right. It would start off with lots of desk work, but as I learned, and was allowed to work on production, I would have more and more direct and physical interaction with the filming and producing process.

She explained that her intention was to scare me away from the job, but of course I didn't flinch. I told her that I like feeling useful, and would rather have a job that includes the possible extra shift now and then, than a stable and lucrative 40 hour-a-week job at Netscape where I basically don't do anything stimulating. The way we left it was this: I was to talk to Geoff some more, and discuss pay with him. I'm not quite sure how to take this, but I am getting the idea that the decision is more or less in my hands. Anyway, I left her office, and chatted with Geoff. He said that I would probably make what he is making, 6000RMB during a 3 month trial period, but that I should feel free to express my needs to Ms. Mou. This sounds maybe a bit low, but acceptable. I don't think I am likely to find a more interesting entry level job with such huge potential for development, so I plan to email her expressing my interest as soon as I am feeling more coherent.

I'm meeting with Jin Laoshi's real estate agent at 10am tomorrow to look at apartments. I think she has two single bedroom places for under 2000RMB in the area. I told her that I could probably sign a six-month lease.

Well, this has been a pretty exciting day. Oh yeah, and I had a bowl of zhajiangmian for dinner, in the old food court where I used to eat every day. It was completely rennovated, and the noodles were not as good. I ate them while I installed a new Beijing number in my cell phone. When I was in a cab this afternoon, I added an "r" sound onto the end of "lukou." And so it begins!

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