Monday, October 17, 2011

Day-to-Day Life

As I've been roommateless for a non-trivial amount of time now, I rearranged my room! I was deciding between stacking the two mattresses on top of each other, thus creating one... possibly even 4-inch mattress(!) or forming a Chinese version of Megabed by putting the bedframes side-by-side. I eventually settled on Megabed and now have what is essentially a king-sized bed... just with a two inch mattress. D:

Earlier, my mother requested to see more of my surroundings, so I am obliging her. When you enter the east gate of my university (there is in fact a gate for each of the cardinal directions), the first thing you are greeted with is this lovely rock. It says 北京语言大学, which is the name of my school. Weirdly enough, these type of signs (red calligraphy on random rocks) seem to be a trend or something as I've seen them in a number of locations throughout China.

Behind the sign, you can see the main building of the university. This is where I have all my classes, where I get my books, talk to the main office of my department, etc.

Anyways, there's a lot of tall, concrete, Soviet-looking apartment blocks throughout the entire city and honestly throughout all of China. If you've looked through my photos of 西安, you can see that's it not just limited to 北京. They are literally popping up every couple of feet at an insane rate. And one of these lovely buildings happens to be my dorm. It's interesting to note that my building happens to be adjacent to another dorm which I think is for Chinese natives (while my building is strictly international). What leads me to believe this is you can see the rooms through the windows outside, and in the other building, the rooms are exactly the same size, but host four people instead of two. Specifically, everyone's bed is lofted with their desks underneath, and they really have zero space for themselves.

Behind my dorm is a little Muslim (?) Middle Eastern (?) cafe. I eat there a lot mainly because well, it's right there, and it has delicious 15块 sandwiches. I'm pretty sure the people know me personally by now.

Anyways, it's kind of bizarre because the cafe is also host to... a really large assortment of random animals. Including this little guy. :)

Things that remind me of Poland:
This kiosk is also located immediately behind my dorm. Great for late night snacks. :)

And this is the sight that greets you every ten feet in Beijing:
Another sign that there are just a ridiculous amount of people in Beijing. Not only are the streets always full of traffic and the subways and buses crammed to the point where you have to shove people to get in, but there are still crazy amounts of bikes and scooters everywhere. Plus there are apparently very strict regulations on where you can and cannot lock up your bike, so what ends up happening is that once space runs out on these bike racks (which is crazy because there are SO MANY OF THEM), people just leave their bikes off to the side with a lock on the wheels. Apparently, there are so many bikes that the likelihood of yours in particular getting stolen is pretty low, especially if your bike is not especially shiny. So people just kind of leave their bikes around...

This internet cafe is right around the corner from where I live as well, and I frequent it so much that the waitresses DO actually all know me by sight. It's at the point where they don't even bother leading me to a table or giving me a menu or anything. I just kind of walk in, grab a menu, and tell a waitress "Oh I'm gonna go sit over there." It's great. The food isn't the worst thing in the world either.

Anyways, despite the general concrete-Communist-pollution-filled-city-feel of Beijing, they do seem to make an effort to have SOME green spaces still around. Namely, right outside my dorm there is this cute pond/waterfall/green park area. It's super small, but still kind of nice if you want to pretend you're actually in nature somewhere. haha.

On another note, I finally read Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Gilman, which was on my list of books to read before coming to China. Basically, it's the memoir of a girl in the late eighties who sets out on a trek around the world with a friend from school, beginning with a seven week stay in China, travelling through Shanghai, Beijing, Guilin, etc. Quoting the review, the title and even first couple chapters of the book make it appear to simply be "a saucy account of international sexcapades." However, it's actually not a terrible book, and it was certainly a good break from the George R.R. Martin books (this book took me two days to read, as opposed to the 2 weeks or more I spend trudging through every "Song of Ice and Fire" book. haha). On the other hand, MAN AM I GLAD I did not actually read this before coming here.

No honestly, I would have been terrified. The truth is the China of 1986 is so drastically different from the one of 2011, it's not even funny. These days, I know plenty of people who do not even make the effort to learn Mandarin in Beijing or even in smaller towns because it's not necessary. The cities are becoming more and more westernized every year. That's not to say there aren't still major cultural differences, but they're much more manageable, and if things ever get overwhelming, you can always retreat to your nearest Starbucks and order a freakin Grande Caramel Frappuccino in English. The China described in this book seems barely manageable, although to be fair, the main characters were... also woefully unprepared and ignorant (not to mention one of them may have been schizophrenic/experiencing a psychotic break at the time). I don't know. In 25 years, China has progressed what seems like centuries, and with the power of the Internet (yay!), even the most foreign of elements can be researched and made familiar without even stepping foot in the country.

Anyways, this weekend I'm going to Seoul, baby! First tour of the rugby season, and I am OH SO excited. :)

hearts and stars,

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