Published: July 9th 2011July 9th 2011
3rd time is the charm (I hope). At this rate, there might be a 4th blog today. So sorry to the 4 subscribers who are getting spammed with emails. Last time, we saw (and by saw i mean read about) some flips, grooved out to karaoke, and got a melting pot of Sino-American culture. Well, let's keep this train rolling (which I just realized is kinda funny, seeing how we imported a ton of Chinese workers to build our railroads. God I am a Chinese history freak of nature. I should write a text book. "Robby Hanckel presents: A Sarcastic Review of Chinese History, a Fun Filled Romp Though the Largest History in the World without Chinese Censors - O God they Found Me.") (Sorry, went a little ADD there)
So Matt (Marn, Grandpa, and Coke: This is my Chinese friend from UNC that you met at the Pizza place) came to Beijing to sell Jewish magazines - this is not a joke. His host mother is an editor or some big time jewish magazine and they've been working on increasing sales, so Matt has been going to a bunch of Universities with Jewish studies programs and selling the magazine. He also apparently did really well here in Beijing, so props! - So Matt, Ross, and I went off to see the Bell and Drum tower. The Drum and Bell Tower are basically the old school equivalent to Big Ben, and is in a straight line (and due north) of the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. So we took the subway to the nearest stop by the drum and bell tower. Now what we didn't realize is we still had a 30 min walk ahead of us through, not slums (unless you make a wrong turn - we didn't, but when you climb the towers you can see how easy it would have been). So after a bit of getting worried, we finally found the towers. We hit up the bell tower first. And I have no idea why, but Ancient China is obsessed with REALLY STEEP STAIR CASES. Great wall, here, and the ones at the forbidden city weren't exactly fantastic. And this isn't just a "oh, it's hard to climb thing", even though each stair was almost up to my knee, but it's to the point of you feel like you could fall over, tumble and die thing. Not cool China, not cool. But seeing as I'm typing this, I didn't die - Whoo! So we make it up to the Bell tower, and it has a really big bell - shocker, which was used for time keeping. Y'all should google the myth behind it, it's kinda a cool one. The bell was alright, but the biggest part of the towers is the view you get - it's just a fantastic view of the city.
Then we went down the bell tower and then mountain climbed (not literally, but close) up the drum tower. If you couldn't guess, the drum tower has drums, but the drum tower was a lot more interesting because a) there were 25, including the remains of an original. Plus every hour on the 1/2 hour, they have a drum show, and that was really really sweet. So after seeing the drum show and view from tower number two, we rappelled down the wall (again, not really, but it felt like it - only without the rope) Afterword we realized we still had some time so we made our way over to the hai lakes (there are 3, and idk which one we saw). It's a bit of a tourist trap (esp. the restaurants, don't go to the restaurants!!!! too pricy) but it was cool to see the lakes, which are really nice, some people were swimming (which we think is illigal, but no one cares. Also gross) and there was a bit of a square where some old couple was singing (and not even Matt knew what they were singing about) and an old guy doing sidewalk calligraphy. By sidewalk calligraphy, I mean he had this huge brush (the size of a cane, with a sponge material at the bottom) and was doing calligraphy with water on the sidewalk. I talked to him for a bit, even did a bit of calligraphy myself (which is hard when the brush is 1/2 your height) and then we had a way to pricy pizza. We then walked by the square where there was a guy "dancing" (and by dancing I mean pretending to have a seizure) and took a taxi home. Good day.
I studied my butt off, didn't even get a chance to go out and get a burger (yet everyone else at CET did, how - I don't know).
So after academia happened, me and Robby the Dos went off to see the US embassy cause I was having problems with getting a Taiwan Visa and was thinking my government would want to help me (stupid, I know) and the Dos wanted to know where it was, since he's going to be here for a year. So we took the metro over there, and we talked about the possibility of camping 1 weekend while we were here - we'll see if we can find a place in time. So we navigate our way to the embassy and find that not only is the gate guarded by Chinese nationals, but most of the embassy workers are chinese nationals. Now I'm not going to say I'm an expert on embassies, but I figured that Americans worked in an American embassy. And it's not that I have anything against the Chinese (as if majoring in their language wasn't enough evidence) but lets say America does something really stupid and piss off the Chinese, and they decide that being American isn't kosher. My first instinct should be to go to my embassy, and I'll be safe and sound till things settle right? Well I can't do that if the place is guarded by Chinese who in this hypothetical situation are not being friendly to me. Furthermore, I couldn't even make it to the lobby of the embassy unless I had an appointment. And when they gave us a hot line to call, it took us 4 tries before we talked to an American. Again, nothing against the Chinese, but if we're talking about something they're not pleased about (like Taiwan stuff as we were) they're going to be less inclined to help us.
So after that fiasco, and further lack of faith in our government, we went to one of the international hotels a block away, and asked them if they knew where we could get help with a Taiwan visa. They pointed us ACROSS THE FRIGGIN STREET to where visa control was for China. How on earth does the American embassy not know that to deal with visa issues, to walk A BLOCK AND A HALF AWAY. Needless to use any more caps lock, Robby the Dos and I walked over there and talked with the people over there. Now I'm not going to sugar coat this, we used some English in this process, since we thought that me being able to get into the country where I'm suppose to spend the next year was a higher priority than the language pledge. So in the Visa place, we met a guy who said he studied/worked in NYC for 9 years, and his English was really good. So with him helping us translate, we learned that since I had a Mainland Visa, and Taiwan was apart of China, I didn't need a separate Taiwan Visa. Now for an American, we see Taiwan and China as 2 separate countries. However China will never have this view point, and at that point I realized that my quest within the Mainland was useless without an outside source. So Robby the Dos and I, having bonded a lot more over this experience, headed back to CET and started studying again, cause that's just what you do at CET: Study.
Ways I'm feeling like my chinese is getting better: I really like one of the teacher here at CET: he has that X factor that just makes you want to do the work and give even more than you thought you had for him. In class, we were talking about Chinese history, and not only was I able to show off my knowledge of chinese history, do it in chinese, but also have the teacher agree with my assessment (Topic was why Mao was so popular today when who would have been his next in life for power got semi overthrown and were taken to court). It was just an awesome feeling to talk about Mao's rise to power through rural china, and how that popularity with the common man still carries his name in the highest graces today. Grant it, it was much less elegant, but you get the point.
So after another test, we saw the Summer Palace. If you can't guess, it's where the Royal family chilled when they felt like the Forbidden City or the Temple of Heaven was too confined. First we had a boat tour of the surrounding area (which was kinda dull, since the river was too low to really see anything) and then we got to the South End of the Summer Palace. Now when I say Summer Palace, I'm talking about a full sized lake + the Summer Palace at the north end of the lake. This was very similar to the Temple of Heaven where I don't have a ton to say (mainly cause the actual palace closed 20 min before we finally got there). But this is another you have to visit place, just cause the lake is so dog gone beautiful. Megan (Robby the Dos's girlfriend) and I walked around the lake and loved every second of the view. At the very end, we got lost as there is no direct path to the north gate when the palace closes, but we finally found it. CET people went back home, and I hit the subway to meet up with UNC friends who are staying in Beijing. We had dinner at a Japanese place in WuDaoKou, chilled and talked outside for a bit, and then headed off for Sanlituan. Long story short, we ran into my CET friends and we went clubbing. And then all the CET'ers died and went back home. Cause we've been studying non-stop. Has that point been made yet?
And that is just about everything up till now. Next week will be weird as it is a) midterms, b) speech competition, and c) heading off to An'yang, home of the Oracle Bones (google it!) until then, things to think about
Can China build a staircase that has less than an 80 degree incline? or is building a normal staircase too mainstream for them? Silly hipsters.
CET, Y U NO LET ME CELEBRATE AMERICA'S BIRTHDAY?
Really American embassy? you're going to be like that? not even let me into the main lobby of my own embassy? well let me tell you something ...(10 min rant)