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Alberto Gonzalez :: Blog

July 18, 2010

Since there is not significant updates this week, this week I'm posting a special post from my personal blog on an minor icident that happened this week.

One of the other students today made a complaint about how he feels he is treated in China. He’s a white american and we’ve hung out a lot over the last few weeks. Chinese like to stare (it’s not impolite here) and he’s often run into problems with some of the locals. Here’s more or less the complaint:

“I’m tired of always being stared at and people thinking I’m a criminal.”

To which my reply was: “Welcome to my world.”

Like a ton a bricks, I could see his heart sink. I wasn’t trying to be mean, just introduce him to what Mexican American’s often have to deal with in the United States. He’s complaint soon turned to compassion (or sympathy?).

To me, China is no different than the United States. Everyone looks different than me. The food and culture are foreign and not what I grew up with. How people talk is different. Values differ, etc, etc. One of the main reasons I’ve had little trouble adjusting to the culture here is that I’ve spent my whole life living in another culture (White American Culture). It’s not a plea for pity, complaint or a desire for people to feel sorry for me. I’ve risen above road blocks society has put in front of me. I use my experience as a bi-cultural individual to be a person of understanding. As one of my colleagues put it last night, people open up to me easily.

My toughest task in China has been adjusting to the other Americans, not to the Chinese. Same thing happened on my trip to Egypt a few years back. I tend to be more frustrated with American culture than other cultures. But, my task is not to be filled with disgust or hatred for Americans, but to use the knowledge and experience I’ve gained to improve American culture. America is a good place with many opportunities, but it has plenty of room to grow. We each have a responsibility and a stake in that growth.

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July 11, 2010

On wednesday  we visited the great wall. Amazing views and really good climbing around. It was a bit of a hike to get up there but well worth it. 

Not much happened this week, most of the time was spent taking care of ourselves and making sure the last coughs and sneezes were done with (though some people got sick again, or food poisoning like me). Two of us stopped over for massages again, which was good because my back was killing me (from so much sitting and the quality of beds). The person assigned to me knew what they were doing and "realigned" me. I think one or two more visits and I should be back to normal.

Michael and I tried a few new Chinese places. Luckily that has menus with pictures so we could at least see what we'd be eatings. One place though didn't have any pictures, so it was blind eye picking. Fun and good food still.

Process on my project is coming along. Finding some trends and looking ahead toward the final write-up.

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July 04, 2010

Sick. That's what we were/are. Finally we succumbed to the bacteria that's been invading our bodies over the last few weeks. Only one of us has not gotten sick and that's probably because he's already on several regular medications. I'm at about 85% with the occasional coughing spell or rough voice.

The chinese pharmacy has been more than helpful in my efforts to find remedies for my conditions, which seem to work well at helping be "feel" better. 

Tomorrow I should be able to get back to work and back on my normal schedule.  

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June 25, 2010

Most of the week was spent trying to look for more papers and resources. But the network here has had some "restrictions". I've managed to find "pathways" to the resources I need. I've managed to start reading articles and critique them. I don't think I'm going to critique as much as I wanted to because it's getting really time consuming (with so little time left). Problem is that I critique not just the computer science aspects, but also the social science aspects of the papers and journal articles as well. Oh the life of an interdisciplinary researcher…
Bonn a Tsinghua student in the lab as been extra helpful in finding resources I need. He's got plenty of experiences and his english is good as well. I've also met a local foreigner (somehow that makes sense), who has been helpful with getting around and knowing non-touristy beijing. 
Post from my personal blog last weekend:

Saturday, June 19, 2010
Ass is the appropriate word to describe dinner. Donkey meat takes mostly like beef, is easy to chew, and really good in a sandwich. I would not have imagined that Donkey could take good. I mean just look at the animal, it doesn’t look appetizing at all. The restaurant can serve donkey on a plate, a sandwich, or as a soup. They also serve Donkey intestines and tongue, but we were not that adventurous. And while you are eating you Donkey, there are pictures of Donkeys you can stare at.

Sunday, June 20, 2010
Today we visited the Beijing Zoo. Oddly enough the first exhibit is just a bird pond with no cage. Swans come right up and say hello (or Ni Hao since we’ve confirmed with locals that the animals speak Chinese). We saw monkeys, tigers, pandas!, bears, pythons!, and chickens. There was a complete section in the zoo dedicated to “American Wildlife”. Sadly, I didn’t see any squirrels.

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June 18, 2010

As I reserve the right and wish to retain the copyright of all my material (ie. Photos), more OR less details & photos may be available at:

Mon-Wed was the Dragon Boat Festival, so it explains why it looks like we got no work done this week. Note: we worked the weekend to make-up. In the lab, I’ve spent a lot of time helping Rodney Owens with his computer issues. Downloading ISOs for various Operating Systems. We didn’t have a lot of luck getting the various OS’s to install or work right, his current computer crashes every 15 minutes. The current solution we got working today was to run a virtual machine on my computer and allow Rodney to remote login. 

When I first met with Dr. YANG, he suggested that looking into new input methods for Doctors/Nurses to quickly input information in EMR/EHR Systems might be a topic more fitting with my current field (HCI). If my current research goes fast enough I may choose to do the theoretical portion of that topic. 

Dr. WANG is also going to help me with my work, offering suggestions and ways of collaborating further.
Personal Blog Postings from the week... 
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
We did some awesome haggling today. And by awesome, I mean the best we could do with very little experience in negotiations and speaking Chinese. The guy was great, and we had a laugh at my desperate attempt to negotiate in Chinese.
    Bike Man: “280元 for 1 bike”
    Me: “Throw in another bike for 500元”
    Bike Man: “540元”
    Me: “500元”
   (He grabs a cheaper bike)
    Bike Man: “This Bike is 200元”
    Me: “All three for 60元”
   (Shocked Look and Awkward Pause)
    Me: “Ah I mean 660元”

In the end we got three new bikes and U-locks for around $100 US Dollars. Campus travel will be much more efficient from now on.

Monday, June 14, 2010
Who says we can’t have a little pampering. What should have been a simple foot massage ended up being a full-body massage. It was awesome! We’d been walking for 4 hours looking for used bicycles, to no avail. Needless to say my feet hurt by the time we got back home. We always pass by this little foot massage place on the way in, and we figured what the heck. I managed to catch the characters for student (学生) and for 58元 we got 90 minutes, including a full-body massage. Being my first ever massage, I was making all sorts of uggghs and ahhhs. Never felt so relaxed afterward.

We did manage to take a nice stroll through the parkish areas of Tsinghua University. (New Photo Album will be posted at the end of week.) They’ve really put a lot of effort and it seems a like a great place to just sit around and a not-so-hot day. Maybe later on when the weather is not a wonderful 95 degrees, I’ll try studying over there.

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June 13, 2010

As I reserve the right and wish to retain the copyright of all my material (ie. Photos), more details & photos may be available at:
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Actually slept and had a much better morning. For breakfast I had some bao (包)and pancakes (see photo). The lady at McDonald’s laughed at my combination of Chinese and American breakfasts. But at 1元 (7 US cents) a piece, those little white buns are amazingly good for being so amazingly cheap! Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner I’ll eat them!

Today we got settled into our work spots (cubicles) and then the Internet at Tsinghua University died (or rather broke to where only local sites were available). So today was spent writing emails and blogging.
Friday, June 11, 2010 
We had an official meeting with our advisors today. I introduced myself, with my Chinese name: 郭彬 (Guo, Bin), and spoke a little bit about me and the work I do in America. I also gave an overview of my proposal. HCI doesn’t have a perfect fit into what they are currently working on, but they gave me some new ideas for better incorporating my work into theirs. Doctors can spend up to 40mins inputing information on patients. If there was a way to reduce that time with better input mediums. Different from my proposal, but sounds like an exciting challenge (somewhat similar to what my students do in the HCI class).

Mon-Wed next week is the Dragon festival, so I’ll be working this weekend. Yeah!
Thursday, June 10, 2010 
Up at 6am, breakfast at McDonald’s (again!), and 2nd breakfast at the bakery for a donut and a pig-in-a-blanket. We helped the students who came in late to get pictures and get registered. More broken Chinese from the mouth of Berto, but we got through.

All the electronics in the apartments are in Chinese. The air-conditioning, the TV remote, and the washing machine great... We managed to translate most of the washing machines functions after an hour or two. Apparently the button to start the machine says: “AWAKEN MACHINE”, scary.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010 
Lotus Center: the Walmart of BeiJing. They had everything from Snake Cod Oil Lotion, to GoldFish Detergent, and even Seaweed Potato Chips. The workers were more than excited to help, even with my broken Chinese. Main problem was that everything looked like this “十二个卫生纸”. Our cans of tuna could very well be cat food for all we know! The prices are really low, so it’s definitely a place we’ll visit often to get supplies. A 1.5L bottle of water costs 20 U.S. Cents. 
Tuesday, June 8, 2010 
Our first meal was at a New York style restaurant, where they didn’t speak any English. All the practice paid off. We ordered pizza and we avoided the ice cubes of death (made from tap water). They really liked our (i.e. my) effort to try to speak Chinese. They speak really fast, but luckily I’m great at numbers and reading non-verbal behavior. While sometimes frustrating that I don’t understand entirely, it’s still fun speaking and exciting to accomplish tasks in a foreign language.

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