Hanging out with Artists / Working

WOW! I’ve come a long way here in Beijing. Two weeks ago, I had hours of free time every day, was nervous about job prospects, etc. Now I’m out of the apartment for 12 hours a day, teaching anywhere from 2 to 6 hours of class per day, and going on all kinds of exciting adventures (mostly working though; I barely have time for adventuring!)

My friend Valery asked me if I wanted to go to an “artist village” today during the day. I had no idea what that was, but it sounded interesting so I said “sure”, and Holy Crap! I had no idea how awesome it would be. I finished a one-on-one tutoring job up at noon, and took the subway down to the Central Business District to meet Valery and our mutual friend, Mike. We almost ate lunch at Subway, which would have broken my two year streak of not eating there since I stopped working as a “Sandwich Artist”, but fortunately we couldn’t find it. (I’d like to stick to my guns, but I did used to make the best roast beef+pepperoni+bacon+chipotle mayo+jalapeno sandwich in the world; I wouldn’t mind eating it again). Instead we ended up eating some artisan bread from a bakery, which was very interesting. There was bread with pineapple in it, and bacon-bread, and well, all kinds of bread. All that bread only cost ¥12, less than 2 USD.

We caught a bus out to the suburbs of Beijing, and the further out we went, the closer to “real China” we got. I was taken back to my time in Jiujiang this summer. Dirty streets, no skyscrapers, etc. It made me realize how hyper-modern the city center of Beijing is, and how isolated that is from the rest of the country. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. After the hour long bus ride, we waited at the bus stop for about ten minutes for our ride to show up. Our ride happened to be a man in his early 40s driving a relatively new Subaru WRX. We got in his car and drove to his artist compound/mansion, which seemed totally out of place with the developing-nation China I had been in just minutes before.

His house was designed by world famous artist (and his personal friend) Ai Wei Wei, who also designed the Birds Nest stadium and who you may have read about in the news recently. We hung out with him for a couple hours, drinking tea, shooting the breeze, exploring his house, trying to feed his horse apples (his horse was really shy and wouldn’t take them). The artist, Wang Nengtao, spent about half an hour waxing about how Chinese girls are the best girls in the world, which was pretty hilarious to listen to. By the way, he spoke no English, so all of this was from what little Chinese I understand or translated through one of my friends. His home was undoubtedly the coolest house I have ever been in, check it out:

Valery, Mike, and Wang Nengtao

The coolest part is, he wants me to tutor his son in English! So hopefully I’ll be hanging around with him and other artists of Beijing a lot more. Also, if you’re in Denver, he has some pieces on display at the Robischon gallery located at 1740 Wazee Street. Here I am in front of the original version of his masterpiece:

Immediately after that, it was back to the CBD to teach an oral English class. The school I’m working at gives a topic which is to be discussed during the 2 hour class, but it being a discussion class, we rarely stay on that subject for long. I have six students in that class, the youngest being a 13-year old Singaporean kid who’s incredibly intelligent, and the oldest is a Chinese woman in her fifties. The assigned subject for today was “John Lennon”, but pretty soon we were having an in depth discussion about different schools of philosophy… it was probably the best class I’ve had yet.

Welp, that’s whats been going on in my life lately. I also want to give a shout out to my buddy and former coworker, Jordan, who is currently doing the teaching thing in Ghana. Check out his blog, he’s got a lot of interesting tales to tell.

PS – Continuing with my “hobby” of collecting encounters with foreigners, I’ve recently met Mexicans, a Bolivian, some Colombians, a Portuguese girl, a German, and a Mongolian/British guy. Oh, one other thing: I like to ask my students to guess which country I’m from… most of them guess France, Germany, or Russia, but they rarely say America the first time; I think that’s kinda interesting.

3 Responses to Hanging out with Artists / Working

  1. Dad says:

    Jake, I’m happy to hear that you are settling in and getting teaching jobs. Your trip to the artist’s house sounds like it was fun. Hanging out with artists will be fun, interesting, and intellectually stimulating. Have fun!


  2. Peter Zenger says:

    Damn Jake, that does sound pretty awesome.
    All the artists I got to meet in Beijing were the Trying-To-Sell-Me-Shit-Scam kind of artists. Guess you only get that kind of experience when you live in a place for awhile and know the right people.
    Consider me jealous.

    To your students credit, you don’t look American. And there are almost no American travelers.

    Not Dad

  3. Ken & Rita Brott says:

    Jake, We enjoy reading your updates. How exciting it must be to go to all those different cities and see how the people live and their different custums. What an education you are getting.

    Our thoughts and prayers go out to you. God bless you and keep you safe.


    The Brotts

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