Friday, June 27, 2008

day 5

A lot of students graduated today. They all crowded around the taxi stop in clumsy lines outside of my dorm. I feel that their goodbyes are sad, because most students at my school are minorities, from all for corners - actually, the western two corners - of China. They probably won't be seeing each other again for a long time.

I just finished my last test for the week - feeling pretty fine. We have a written final and an oral final - I'm still waiting for my grades, but I'm pretty confident (= you jingshen).

Emily, William, Chris and I went to Maliandao this week - Tea Avenue. Consisting wholly of tea shops. We stopped by this place beforehand for food. A larger than life golden bust of Mao greeted us in the foyer - picture forthcoming.

Fatty braised pork was a highlight.

William had a little difficulty with the noodles, arousing the sympathy of a kind, toothless laotaitai at the next table.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


The Central University of the Nationalities caters to Chinese minorities, of which there are many. Many people I pass on the way to class look more Turkish then Han Chinese, and it's fun to see bright local costumes mixed in with jeans and sports jerseys. This is the view from my dorm room - the top of a restaurant named simply "Muslim Restaurant." I had my first dinner here and enjoyed it, although someone later confided to me that the guy in red is actually preparing food for the restaurant down below. There's so much that goes on behind the scenes. Oh well, I haven't gotten sick yet.

I've thankfully tested into second year Chinese, so I attend 6 hours of solid Chinese class every day. It's very draining, but exciting at the same time. I've never once come close to falling asleep, something that would easily happen if I had 8am classes in the US every morning. Our teachers know how to push us to the limits, and fire questions at each student regularly throughout the lecture. I feel like a goalie on the defensive, always ready to spring, desperately trying to repel everything that's thrown my way.

After class, I often go to the campus supermarket to buy more bottled water (.15 USD), mechanical pencils (.20 USD), or bottled Starbucks lattes (4.00 USD). China is turning me into a miser - I get indignant if I have to spend more than 5 dollars on almost anything.

At first, I thought this was a small shrine to Coca-Cola, but it's actually the entrance to the campus supermarket, which is in the basement of a large multipurpose building. Interesting.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

first week


Thank you for reading. This is my first post for my summer study abroad in Beijing. This will be a very visual blog about Beijing and the stuff I'm doing in it. Enjoy. Click on archives for life notes in Japan.


Through immigration, interminable bag shuffling, cramped bus rides, and a first-class traveler's head cold, I couldn't help grinning excitement during the first day. Beijing is a composite of two of my favorite things - metropolis and foreign countries.

I didn't sleep on the plane, but spent my time pretending to study flashcards or watch the little airplane tick it's way across the Pacific on the screen in front of me. It took its time. Finally, though, it was over. Swinging my bags around me, I gained momentum as, one after another, obstacles appeared but failed to stop my progress out of the Boeing and into the new city - officious state servants sniffing at my visa, baggage carousel, customs - nothing could touch me. Finally, grey sunlight from the enormous terminal windows hit my eyes. For the uninitiated, large Beijing buildings all smell vaguely like auto body shops - smog. Smog smog smog; get used to the word. Smog for breakfast, smog for lunch, smog for dinner. Smoggy dreams.

I found my classmates inside the terminal and dared each other to try to buy bottled water while we waited for everyone to disembark. We took a chartered bus to Zhongyangminzi daxue - "Central University for the Nationalities" - our new home. More on that later.