So at the moment I’m at a coffee shop across the street, which has great internet, but of course my VPN doesn’t work… because it never does. However, it is possible that as a result pictures can be uploaded and my procrastination of homework can continue.
Oh I have recently found out that AU Abroad yet again has decided to make my life super complicated. They changed the picture number for South Africa to six, which I cannot submit electronically. Being in China is making this very difficult. I am pretty dead set on South Africa at the moment due to some friends I have met here, so much crying will ensue if this impedes me from going.
So as I mentioned in my last post, last week was actually pretty fantastic. A lot had to do with finally seeing some tourist destinations I was dying to see, but also I got to meet a lot of pretty fantastic people both within and outside of my program at Beida. I have gotten much more comfortable going and doing things by myself, something this summer trained out of me after living with some of my best friends who I had access to 24/7. It’s been a lot of reflecting on myself lately, which I feel is a big part of going abroad anyway.
Anyways, I met a lot of people through going out this week, which kind of sickens me a little that it takes beer to get people together in such a way. However, that is how it was, and I don’t regret a single part of it. Lush Rush is such a strange bonding experience for ex pats primarily. My first event was a power hour (please parents block your ears) that we went to rather early to ensure a table. I was there with three boys from the program and saw two boys walk in and sit by themselves. Being the most socially awkward human being on Earth, I, of course, walked over, plopped myself down at their table and completely failed at guessing the country that they’re from. The twins, Zach and Abe, are from South Africa, the country you all know I am desperately trying to get to, and have hyped up the experience so much for me. They also turn out to be fantastic human beings along with Nat, an australian, and Pedro, a Brazilian, none of which were too disturbed by my social awkwardness. I spent most of the week with them and a variety of Beida people, depending on whether or not class was had in the morning.
I find it a little odd that all the new people I’m meeting here are from virtually anywhere but China. Lots of Americans, Australians, French, Indonesians, South Africans, Danish, Brazilians, Irish, Mexicans- so basically put your finger on the map and I’ve made a friend from there. However, I am still struggling to reach out and talk to the Chinese. I am not sure whether this is due to my extreme discomfort with the language or not, but I think this will be my new goal for the next few weeks.
Outside of meeting some great people, getting extra points for our Pub Quiz name (props to Lars for Quizlamic Jihad), watching Trey and Charlie dominate at beer pong, and getting super close to the owners of Pyro and Lush, this week was also a great tourist experience. On Saturday we went to the Forbidden City. Tianamen Square was probably a key moment in realizing just how foreign I am in this country. Due to the fact that everyone there, Chinese or foreigner alike, is a tourist- everyone has a camera. Take pictures of the gigantic group of westerners was definitely the game of the day. Anytime we took a group picture we had a swarm of Chinese taking pictures of us, often awkwardly inserting themselves into the picture. I grabbed an old woman who was hovering, because I figure might as well get a good picture if you’re going to do that.
Subsequently, the Chinese also like to take pictures of individual white people or, even better, with individual white people. I walked around with Victoria (crazy red hair) and Brian (heavy metal, full beard, and piercings). We were in a photo trap for a good five minutes. A line was forming.
Alright, so other than the craziness that was getting our pictures taken and being harassed by every vendor you could possibly imagine, the Forbidden City is amazing. It just kept going and going. I’m pretty sure we stopped looking into the halls around the third Hall of Harmony. Brian liked to call each separate square a “realm”. We lost count after the fourth. Everything was so beautiful. I thought my dad would really appreciate the Hall of Ceramics. There was a lot of pictures of old kilns and the pottery was even up to my father’s standards. The architecture is absolutely amazing and you could only imagine what it was like to build this kind of structure.
It was also fascinating to read the amount of times each Hall had been renamed under different governments. What’s in a name? Apparently a lot.
The last part is this crazy graden. The trees were so large, and there were “man-made” rock structures that were also at the Summer Palace. I will eventually find out the deal with those. We then took the bus back to Beida. I was a bit too exhausted at that point to do anymore exploring.
On Sunday I was pretty desperate to check out the Silk Market, where you can get a knock off of virtually everything. I went with Victoria and Eric. Eric is fluent, which is nice because we thought that he could help with the bargaining. We found that it was actually a bit difficult when it’s two insanely white laowai’s and one fluent screaming chinese male. However, I have found that I love the bargaining aspect of it. It’s such a game and we know how much I love competition. Eric helped me get a wallet, which we equally decided we got a little ripped off for, but I’m using it a lot and it’s pretty sturdy so I don’t mind that I ended up paying what was equivalent to $11.50 for it. I bargained myself for a pair of Fraybans (thanks Poppy for that term) and Victoria and I got a decent deal on some bags. I also bargained that one by myself. The roughest part of the bargaining is not really knowing what’s a legitimate price to start at. Always start ridiculously low and let them be mad at you for a bit.
After that was my favorite part of the day. Wangfujing（王府井) was more what I expected to see when going to China. The foods were all bizarre looking but tasty. I ate scorpion, which was super crunchy but you could mostly just taste the seasoning on it. I ate the really little ones, I’m working my way up to the big black one. I refuse to eat the pill bugs. The look of them is just a bit too much. I also ate a kabob, which Eric told us not to get the spicy kind (辣的）but I kind of wish we did. Victoria got some really yummy baozi (包子）and for the end I got these fried dough-esque balls that were covered in sugar. The rest of Wangfujing is a big shopping center, with every Western store you can imagine, but that one street is one of my favorite things in China so far.
Oh! Victoria and I also checked out the old palace ruins one metro stop away. That was beautiful. Sometimes I can’t believe where I am. One metro stop is this bustling metropolis and the next has gorgeous lakes.
My internship is really interesting as well. They had me do a glossary of terms the other day for the website. Granted, I was not too excited about that task it gave me a better understanding of a lot of Chinese politics and how the government system actually works. It’s also strange because I get an inside view as to what is being reported in Chinese news that has not reached Western news at all. The last article I edited had to do with this phenomena of patients attacking doctors when there is dissatisfaction with a surgery.
Love to all! And Good Luck to AUWRFC against Towson this weekend. You’re all badasses.
Watch out for news of the birth of my nephew as well! He’s due any day now!