Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 19, 2012

Yesterday, our explorations took us first to a snack 地方 and then to an acrobatic show.

We ordered many pastries filled with red bean paste, some of which were even palatable. We also ate peanut sauce drizzled thick noodles with shredded cucumber, funnel-cake-esque donuts holes, zong zi, a holiday rice triangle with cooked jujube fruit inside, and straight up donuts.

After our merienda, we took the subway to the Chaoyang Amazing Acrobatic Show. It was truly amazing. The show began with a nimble woman balancing on first one then eight chairs. She easily contorted her body this way and that as if she had no bones, only very strong and elastic muscles.

The show was filled from start to finish with feats of strength and agility that made my eyeballs shrink back into my skull. Women juggled unfurled umbrellas using only their feet, eight men resembling Chinese leprechauns juggled a plethora of hats, women twirled multiple plates on long metal poles while twisting their bodies back and forth, eight women rode three bicycles creating a pyramid, and eight men rode motorcycles inside one giant metal hamster ball at the same time. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

June 16, 2012

This weekend is my last one with my host family. As a goodbye, we went out to eat at a nice restaurant with the grandparents. We ate eggplant (they know it is one of my favorites), fish swimming in mouth-numbing oil, fried-shrimp, boiled-shrimp, thick green stocks with limp leaves doused in soy sauce, tofu bricks, and an unidentified white food (it could have been vegetable or fruit) drizzled with purple syrup.

As a thank you gift I gave them a wall hanging made by Kif/Mom. They thought it was very 利害 lihai. Happy Birthday shout out to Mom! Hope it was fun and that Isabel’s ice-cream with candles was delicious!

June 15, 2012

 (Zhao Yulong) effortlessly springs into the air, freezes with leg and fist extended in an angular attack as if gravity is a force he chooses to obey on occasion, then silently alights back on the ground.  is our Shaolin Kungfu teacher for the day. During our two-hour lessons he coaches us through stretches, self-defense, jumps, and eventually flying kicks. He was very patient and applauded our often disastrous attempts to imitate his perfectly poised motions.

For lunch we ate authentic Greek food! Feta cheese, yogurt with dill, hummus and pita.

After lunch,we took a bus to the Science and Technology Museum. The bus stop was lined by a thick median strip filled with deep purple lilacs. The Science and Technology Museum was very interesting, filled with interactive exhibits. Abby and I wandered through a warped-mirror labyrinth, played a game akin to quidditch with a Minnie Mouse patterned beach ball and an ancient air shooter, and swung on a pendulum bench. One of my favorite areas was called “The Room for Color.” Inside, blue, green, red, and white lights alternated illuminating a normal living room. Each light greatly changed the hue of every object. Abby’s red shoes flashed from orange to black to deep blue.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

June 14, 2012

Graduation is over and so are regular classes. For the rest of our stay, we will be on an “adjusted schedule” during which we explore the sites of Beijing. Today, we navigated on buses to the Summer Palace. Lush weeping willows, lily pads and silver waters filled the landscape between red pagodas with intricately painted roofs in brilliant blues and greens.  Finger sized koi swarmed through the glistening water.

Earlier this morning I walked into the dorm hallway and saw this:

I speculated on what was going on, and after 10 seconds decided I must still be dreaming and went back in my room.  Five minutes later, upon re-exiting, the toilets were still there, so I re-pondered my previous conclusion: this could not be a dream. I touched a toilet seat, and yes, it was cold, white, and very real plastic, no dreamlike element to be found. Turns out every semester all the toilets are swapped out for new ones. I have no idea why it is necessary to change them so often.

June 12, 2012

Beijng Opera!

Monday, June 11, 2012

June 11, 2012

With the graduation performance looming in the near future (June 12th) and the Gao Kao break behind us, we have one more day of official school, then 7 days of exploring Beijing! We (除了Jazzylin and J-Bert以外 all American students) will create a guide book. During our adventures, I am official photographer, budget manager, and writer for both the 798 Art District and Kungfu lessons.

On Friday I had dinner with Carol Ann and two of her friends at the Colored Dumpling restaurant.

Saturday, Kimberly organized a student + host family event, but my host sister was sick so I went stag. In groups of four (Abby, Sage, Sage’s host sister, and I) we completed a silly scavenger hunt including a pyramid with a stranger, teaching Chinese children how to sing happy birthday, and posing with a bride and groom.

After the scavenger hunt, we rode rollercoasters, my favorite of which was a giant circular pendulum that spun and swung at the same time. I basically flew.

At 7:00, we went to Sage’s hip-hop dance performance then I took the two-hour trip back home. This morning, my host sister had school so we left the house very early, arriving at school before eight. I climbed the six flights of stairs then fell asleep for another two hours.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

June 6, 2012

My friends and I found a hidden ping-pong table tucked between a pink school building and the high fence to the outside, set up next to the domed roof of the dusty observatory. We played several games while eating mangoes. Sometimes, the ping-pong ball would land in the grass near our skinned mango peels and be camouflaged by the identical oranges.

Yesterday, I went to Froggy’s house (a little Japanese girl in the class above me.) She lives in the residential section of the Grand Millennium Hotel.  We went-ice skating at a nearby mall with terribly dull skates, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.  Several private lessons were being taught on the small rink, some with ferocious yelling teachers. Somehow, the students managed to keep a level head and swirl over the ice elegantly while their coach’s harsh screams followed their loops across the rink.

For dinner, we had thin-crusted pizza, shrimp (Abby had a hilariously difficult time de-shelling the shrimp), edamame and chilled cauliflower/broccoli. After dinner, I took the subway then the public bus back to my host family's apartment. I am now confident in my skills in navigating Beijing public transportation, but my host mother is still nervous and constantly calls me to check where I am in my transit back home.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

June 3, 2012

The Chinese government fabricates rain. It uses a technique called cloud seeding in which silver iodide is introduced into existing clouds (or dry ice is used if no clouds are already present) then the water condenses around these super cold chemicals, then it rains! Today there was a monstrous rainstorm, though I think it was naturally created because it was accompanied by thunder, which I don’t think the Chinese government can yet create (but I guess they could use really giant speakers.)

The streets were flooded to above my ankles. Cars driving by raised sheets of water as tall as me.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012

May 10, 2012

Today, Abby and I ventured to the post office to send letters. My teacher gave us a little handmade map, which we followed over a river and through a gate. Once in the post office, we were completely clueless as to our next move. After some awkward standing, we were pointed to a woman who kept asking us “How many?” in English. Finally we got envelopes and filled out the addresses. Earlier we had seen people handing papers to a woman to our right so we decided to try it as well. After handing her my letters, she looked over each one carefully then gave us a quizzical look. When we did nothing but smile back, she said with a raised eyebrow, “Go put them in the mailbox on the street corner,” in Chinese. We both laughed at how ridiculous she thought we were. We slid the letters into the mailbox (which looked suspiciously like a trash can) then walked back over the river to a hot pot dinner.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

May 5, 2012

Today was quite the marvelous day. It started off with a trip to the Forbidden City to meet with Lee Satterfield (a U.S. government official, who is part of Hillary Clintons group to China right now.) My host family was the only family with all members present, which they were shy and uncomfortable about, but was fun nonetheless. Like at most tourist locations we Americans attracted a lot of Chinese people with their cameras raised, and flashes snapping. Sage in her turbaned head was a big attraction to middle-aged Chinese women; Abby and her curly hair were a magnet for split-trousered toddlers. After the sweaty tour of the son-of-heavens expansive living-quarters, several Americans, my host sister, and I went by subway to the only restaurant in 北京 (Beijing) that serves (jiao zi) in brightly colored skins. We ordered meat in purple, shrimp in orange, and vegetarian in green.

            After lunch, my host sister went home to study, but we continued on to Sanlituaner (pronounced San-lee-twar) a very international, and rich, section of 北京。We almost did KTV (karaoke) but the waiter was annoying and trying to over charge us, so instead we got mango milkshakes!

            We strolled to the center of Sanlituaner, slurping our milkshakes in the glaring sun. In the main plaza there was a huge photo shoot for Converse, with flashing lights, a mammoth screen projecting the going-ons, and many beautiful high-tech cameras. Normal, street walking people were lining up, donning clean black Converse shoes and having their photo taken for the big campaign. Sage and I hopped in line, signed the permission forms and waited as the line slowly crept forward. About 5 minutes in, a worker came over to us and told us to follow him. He led us to the front of the line and told us to change our shoes. Both Sage and I were really thrilled, but we both thought that giving foreigners special treatment is not a good way of furthering Chinese-American relations. After the photographs they gave us a free t-shirt and bag that say “I <Converse symbol> 北京.” Sage and I immediately pulled ours on and a street fashion photographer asked if he could take our photo! Today was a day full of snapped photographs in all directions.

            For dinner we went to “First Floor,” where I ordered Salmon Pasta. Cheese! The fish was fresh, pink, and moistly flaky. As we were wandering side allies we bought a little jar of yogurt. It tasted exactly like the yogurt we make at home, sweet, tangy, and runny.

            As it was getting dark we went to The Bookworm, a cozy, two-roomed café with pink walls, dimmed lights, a piano for open use, and shelves and shelves filled with glorious books. At a glance I saw Neil Gaiman, Shel Silverstein, Qiu Xiaolong. On the shelf of books by authors who had visited The Bookworm was “The Joy Luck Club!” Amy Tan visited The Bookworm! We sat in the back reading Shel Silverstein poems, many of which were surprisingly morbid (but painfully true.) A personal favorite:

She had blue skin.
And so did he.
He kept it hid

And so did she.
They searched for blue

Their whole life through,
Then passed right by –

And never knew.

            Since I had never gotten home on the subway before, and the nearest subway stop to my house is still quite far, I decided to take a taxi. Unfortunately, the taxi driver did not think my written address was enough, so he had me call my host mom twice, which she was very gracious about. Once arriving at my apartment I realized I didn’t have enough money to pay him, so my host mom came down and paid for me. Needless to say, I was absolutely mortified, but again, she was sweet and laughed it off.

May 5, 2012 Photos

Enjoy the (mostly chronological ordered) photos.

Our three lead teachers, the one in front is mine.

A group picture with Lee Satterfield at the Forbidden City:

My host parents looking like top secret agents:

Motion picture with subway!

Purple and green 子!

Flowers in Sanlituaner:

I *> 北京  


Thursday, May 3, 2012

April 28, 2012

The Great Wall! It is amazing that I walked on a creation SO OLD (It was started in 220 BC).

As a class we walked, ran, and climbed (on the outside and inside) of the Great Wall. Many, many Chinese people wanted to take their pictures with us, we were nearly a bigger tourist attraction than the Great Wall.

Tuesday is a national holiday (unfortunately I’m not sure which one, other than ”May 1st.” Maybe they are celebrating Jacek’s birthday! BIRTHDAY SHOUT OUT!!!!) Sunday, Monday, Tuesday we have school off, but on Saturday we have school in order to make the break only three days long. I like this unconventional way of rescheduling the week, but, imagine the cries of outrage that would undoubtedly be raised if a similar plan were suggested in the United States.