Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Final Day of Adventuring

I ate a scorpion. It was scary. Oddly enough I didn’t think the scorpion tasted that bad, but what was bad was trying to swallow something that I was afraid of. Despite all the willing there was a point that I was very worried that no matter how much I willed my body wasn’t going to let it go down. For the normal, sane people of the world I will inform you that scorpions taste salty and crunchy with a bit of another taste to it. It truly wasn’t that bad, except for the fact that you could feel the legs and body in your mouth. YUCK! I am sure that you will have a good laugh when you see the video of me trying to eat it.

In addition to getting number 5 off my goal list (eat a scorpion), I also got number 13 off! (Buy a book in Chinese and try to read it) The book of choice: The Disney Princesses’ stories. I thought it would be a good book because not only do I know the stories, but as everyone knows I also love Disney. That makes the only thing that I didn’t check off my list to be number 4, understand my teacher. I would beg to differ though to anyone who tries to argue with me that I didn’t complete that item. As some of you may know, towards the end of the trip I decided that it was more beneficial for me to explore the streets of China by myself instead of attend class. With this switch, the people on the streets and in the market place became my teachers. Seeing that I had conversations with them and understood what they said, I think it is safe to say that I completed my goal list! Good thing too since today was my last chance to accomplish them!

Here is a video of me attempting to eat the scorpion. I know I am laughing at myself when I watch this movie! Sorry about the focus of the video, filming wasn't really our priority right then.We had much smaller, possibly dangerous things to conquer right then..

Also my mom asked what a subway in Beijing can look like. It was AWFUL today! I felt like 1.3 billion people were at the subway this evening.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

After Forbidden City - Rain

Seems that I got back in the nick of time! After about only an hour of being back to my dorm, this crazy weather started. I thought I would show you guys what it sounds like when it rains in Beijing.

The annoying static sound is how hard its raining.
The bird sound is car alarms.
The flashing is lightening.
The giant sound is thunder.

Walking Back Through History

Today I felt like Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris. I felt as if I had magically transported back in time. I was walking through one of the circles of the Forbidden City when I realized that this courtyard was the largest empty space that I had seen in China! It made me wonder why, and my wondering lead me to imagine the courtyard filled with the Chinese army all decked out in costume (thanks to the movie Hero which we watched in class). As I was looking down at the uneven bricks that floored the courtyard trying not to loose my balance and wondered if any of the soldiers positioned far in one of the back lines (where I was standing) had been looking down at their feet and scuffing these stones, were some more worn than others because the soldier standing there was bored? Although I doubt it, the idea was an interesting one to consider when I was walking.

The day was unbearably hot and humid, a great day to choose to walk around for three hours. Despite dying from dehydration, I really enjoyed today. My dad was right, exploring by yourself can be enjoyable. I got to go directly to where I wanted to go, the center of the Forbidden City, and see where the queen lived. It was weird to imagine what this place was like back then, but it kept my mind very preoccupied while I had to shove my way through the tightest crowds I have ever been in. A high school dance couldn’t even come close to this type of crowd.

Lauren Savett starring in Daytime in Beijing

The inner city for the Queen. Sorry its blurry, there was dirty glass in between.

The giant courtyard. Can you imagine all the soldiers?

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Market Daze

One thing that I have learned, nothing is what you expect in China. When I peg China to be one way, it completely changes to another. After an excellent evening of shopping at the Sanlitun market, my ATM account is feeling a little disappointed in me, but I am very proud. I haggled my way through the market speaking only Chinese and gaining three new friends. The bag lady, the shoe lady, and the suitcase lady – all of which greatly helped me practice my Chinese. Almost every single sales person today told me that I speak Chinese pretty well and one even thought I had lived in China for two years already! I was told by my friend at the suitcase shop, Zhang Xiao Li, that when I speak Chinese it catches people off guard and makes them want to give me better prices. She also said that I am surprisingly good at bargaining. She didn’t need to tell me any of this, I had already bought my new bright orange suitcase and was sitting in her family’s business waiting for my friend from Berkeley to meet me there. Also, very exciting, the girl I met who sold me two pairs of shoes is my new Chinese shoe dealer. Thank god, American shoes are a terror for me. Another very exciting thing that happened today was that I finally become comfortable enough that I thought in Chinese! I wasn’t trying to translate what I was saying from English to Chinese, but was just speaking! All in all, today was an incredible day and has made top three favorite memories of China.

The luggage girl! I even got all the girls business cards so I could keep in touch!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Time of Change

As I explore the city I am becoming increasingly aware of the conflicting presences of the past and future. It is evident when looking at the street-side bike shops with a brand new Audi A6 parked next to it, or the old man with mattresses on the back of his bike riding next to a black BMW. These images, which seem so contradicting and abnormal to an American, are incredibly common in the streets of Beijing. It makes me wonder what Beijing will be like in five years – I doubt I would be able to recognize it. What frustrates me the most is that I can’t figure out if I am excited for the modernization of the city or sad for the loss of the history. It is an interesting thing to consider: is modernization or preserving culture more important? Is it possible to have both at the same time? This question has haunted me for my stay in China and will continue to pester me when I return home.

I thought it was really interesting that a person was drying their laundry on a busy street.

Here is an Audi driving next to a bike shop. It is pretty common to have bike shops on the side of the road, but this one is a pretty large one.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Houhai For A Night

Tonight one of my friends, Nancy, and I went to Houhai, an area with
restaurants circling a lake. It was beautiful. I think if I could
imagine a dream date I think it would be located at this spot. The lights
were dazzling off the water, the food was incredible, and to top it off:
every place had a live band. We had a lot of fun. Nancy is
from Tawain originally and speaks fluent Chinese, but instead of saying
everything to the waiters she would tell me how to say things and have me be the one
to ask people! I finally learned how to ask someone to take a picture!
Overall it was a great night. Here are some photos so you can get a
glimpse at how beautiful it was.

The lake view.

Nancy and I at a scrumptious dinner.

Me in front of the dazzling lake.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lots of Talking

During a day of exploration I walked around Beijing for the first time alone, armed with my camera. In America people tend to laugh at me as I take photos of simple things at weird angles, you can imagine that a Chinese person watching a Waiguoren (foreign person) would have a similar reaction. It is interesting to realize that a few years ago I would have been punished for something like this and considered a spy, and still could be in other parts of the world. Instead of being labeled a spy, an older Chinese woman came up to me when I was taking pictures of a bike and started asking me all these questions about my camera and other things in very difficult Chinese. She had both a strong Beijing accent AND was using words that I have never learned, like bicycle. (At least I am assuming.. she was pointing at it?) It was an interesting conversation; one person babbling on in one language while the other repeats words to herself, then speaks in English to herself saying “Wait I am confused.. What’s this mean?” I would then ask her in Chinese what is the meaning of “____” only to get more words I didn’t understand. Even though I had no idea what this older Chinese woman was saying to me as she watched and talked to me for about ten minutes, it was a highlight of my trip. I did, however, look up one word and figured out she was telling me that these plants were "hot chili pepper" plants. Here are a few photos I liked from today.

The photo that got the woman talking.

Another photo that someone stared when I took.