Tuesday, March 27, 2012

March 27, 2012

My deductive reasoning skills are developing at a rate possibly faster than that of my language skills. I think this is a trick deeply engrained in the human psyche, a survival skill finely honed and kept in the recesses of the human brain ready to be whipped out in a swim or sink situation. Although I would not say that I am near death I am constantly confused. Thankfully my body-language-reading skills and my inference-collecting talent is growing everyday. Today my dorm mom came in loudly exclaiming and pointing at our air conditioning, I finally deduced that I had left it on in the morning and that she was telling me I had to make sure and turn it off. A couple weeks ago I would have just appeased her with a couple well-placed nods and “hao, hao”’s, but today I probably understood. Of course she could have been saying something completely different and I by chance responded correctly.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

March 24, 2012

If I had to pick one place in Beijing to spend the rest of my life it would undoubtedly be the 798 art district. I mean, headless, six-uddered cows? Life size gender bathroom signs? Caged dinosaurs? 798 has it all.

The street art was also spectacular. Large sprawling and intricate designs, spotted with cute plaster monsters.

After a thorough immersion in Chinese modern art, we filled ourselves to the brink of explosion with fine Chinese dining. Look at this dessert!

It tasted like slightly sweetened baby food on a pringle, but the presentation made up for what it lacked in taste.

Music from 798

798 is lined with small high-end stores selling everything from welded figurines to gourmet vegan pizza. We stopped by many, including an instrument store. To advertise their product, two girls were playing the instrument along to popular Chinese music.

It was quite enchanting. I came away with a small one of my own, but I can barely squeal out a scale.

March 23, 2012, a couple thoughts.

1) Whenever my host mother drives the car she pulls the seat up really close to the steering wheel, so close that her elbows are pushed up against the back of the chair. I think that if we get in an accident the steering wheel will go straight through her rib cage with no time for the airbag to activate. That would be truly awful.
2) Yesterday was an incredibly windy day. Tall strong trees were bending at 45-degree angles and I was nearly picked up off the ground when I was walking to class.
3) I am surprised by how much the weather can affect my mood. Today the sky was a clear blue with powdered sugar clouds, and I was in an excellent mood.

Friday, March 16, 2012

March 16, 2012 continued

Back at school Sage, Orion and I went on a quest to sell our last eight America Day tickets. America Day is a celebration Sage (with help from many) is planning. The backstory is that we want to eat lots and lots of American style food but we don’t have the funds to pay for it all, so we are having an event where people pay to eat American food, and then we get to eat it as well! Very clever, I know. The party will have pizza (including a pumpkin and sweet-potato pizza), cake, apple pie, brownies, subway sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies, a photo booth, self made twister and pin the features on the face (at one point we were considering pin the flag or microphone on Bruce Springsteen but we decided that was a little far fetched for all the Chinese and Korean kids attending.)

March 16, 2012

Today we (the international students studying only Chinese) went on a field trip to Hohai and Nanluoguxiang. Hohai is a lake with eating shops around the edge and lots of rentable bikes.

Then we strolled down to Nanluoguxiang, a shopping street with everything from “ancient” Chinese paintings and leather-bound books to Oba-mao t-shirts. At some point different groups separated out and I ended up walking around with a group of mostly Koreans (including one North Korean), one Mongolian, one Brazilian, one Italian, one Kazakhstani, and one American.

We wandered around for a while but most of the shops were closed. At one point we found an outdoors Chinese fitness center. It looked like a combination of a children’s playground and a highly sophisticated torture chamber. Eventually all the groups came back together and we went to eat across the street. For dessert we had an amazing yellow sweet-potato desert. We had to skillfully pry apart chopped potato pieces soaked in a glistening coat of dark sugar and dip them in cold water to harden the syrup. It was crunchy then soft, very sweet then mild.

The bus ride back to school was a nice reminder of the amazing and long bus rides of elementary school. We played 20 questions and hand games. One of the Korean boys has a really amazing speaker, it has a special foam pad on the bottom and it turns whatever surface it is placed on into a speaker using vibrations. Our entire bus was a giant speaker.

Monday, March 12, 2012

March 11, 2012

A couple days ago we (Sage, Abby, Orion, Ariel and I) ventured to the fourth floor of Carrefour to a KTV salon. A fuwuyuan lead us through several classy cream tiled hallways, illuminated by rows of glass chandeliers, to a room equipped with a large screen and blaring speakers.

March 10, 2012

Chinese kids exercising:

(there may or may not be a video collection coming up of some of the strange exercises Chinese students are required to do)

This could be a fun game. Guess what each item on the table is!

Abby during art class:

Today was my host sister's older sister's birthday. For dessert I was served a brick of cake that resembled a giant dark chocolate truffle. It was incredibly thick, like nearly dried mud. My host father kept complaining about how bitter it was, while my host sisters’ and mother kept contradicting him. They were very pleased when I agreed with them that it was not too bitter.

Friday, March 9, 2012

March 5, 2012

A condensed summary of lunchtime with commentary on the food.
Everyday, spoonfuls of a sagging green vegetable, everyday white sticky rice. Mostly Korean food with the occasional American side dish throw in, examples include French fries, or like today, succulent cole slaw. The cole slaw was seriously delicious, thinly sliced cabbage and tomato rounds coated in streaky, sweet mayonnaise. The food is served buffet style. All the international students line up to receive our cold metal trays, we then progress to the spread of food, then to a “salad bar” with kimchi, individually-packaged seedful clementines, kumquats, cucumber wedges, and sautéed peanuts. Personal favorite dishes include pears, cabbage in a thin brown sauce, and diamond bread with spicy spices.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

March 4, 2012

I ate a burrito!!!!!!!!!!! It was hidden down a black, back-alley, over a greased and slick road, through a labyrinth of pirated movie shops, and up a narrow-stepped flight of stairs, but it was wonderful; slathered in cheese (real cheese!) and bathed in guacamole and sour cream (two dairy products in one meal!).

Admittedly it was not a heavenly masterpiece from Mountain West, or even a quickly crafted delight from Beto’s, but it was a burrito none the less.

On Saturday my host sister and I saw “War Horse.” We viewed it in a cinema that nearly puts the mammoth screen at Thanksgiving Point to shame. The auditorium was the size of a small stadium, with plush headrests, and assigned seats.

For dinner the whole host family and I went to hot pot. It was quite different than the Four Seasons Hot Pot: everyone had their own special pot placed in a deep impression in the table with a burner beneath, the contents were not buffet style but ordered before hand, and every person was provided a bowl filled with brown sesame sauce that served as the cooling spot for cooked bits of tofu skin, or thin strips of fish, or wilted stalks of vegetables.

Today we traversed through Beijing to the Silk Market. Among my few purchases I acquired these!:

They make me feel like I am walking in summer.

Over the weekend my friend went to an aquarium. She brought back footage of mermaids! Below is a short mermaid movie just for you:

Friday, March 2, 2012

February 27, 2012

I have been moved to a new room with a real live roommate (no more ghost presences.) I have not met her yet but she is very organized. Our door proudly wears the “I-got-all-A’s-on-the-cleaning-inspections-this-week” flag. I’m not sure if I can keep up with her tidiness. She has her own toilet brush, her own trashcan, and all the light switches are labeled. This is my side of the room right when I moved in:

This was her side:

No worries, since then I have managed to fit all of my belongings into the small dressers provided.

On Saturday I went “cartoon model shopping” with my host sister.

Have you guys heard of the TV show One Piece? She is thoroughly obsessed. The name of their internet is One Piece. Yeah. We met up with two of her friends, Echo and Wang at the store. Wang loves basketball, the NBA, and WOW.

Echo was very friendly, switching from Chinese to English and back to Chinese while talking to me. She lived in Boston and Virginia for a while.
Look at this GIANT FRUIT NINJA!!!!!!!

So cool.

While we were leaving the store we saw people ice skating so we jumped on the ice with them. Unfortunately we did not find anyone renting skates so we settled for using shoes.

For lunch we ate Cantonese fish. At the beginning of our meal we were eating boiled leafy greens when a waiter brought over a bag. Inside was a live fish feebly flopping. We inspected our freshly bagged lunch. Fifteen minutes later the fish was transferred from plastic grocery bag to a simmering box pot heated from beneath. Camouflaged beneath a syrup of spices including garlic, scallions, red peppers, sesame seeds, onions, and salt, cooked our white-fleshed fish.

Other Photos: