It’s day five, and now I writing at nine in the morning as opposed to five, so I think that is a good sign. Here’s what I’ve been up to:
On Friday I wandered around Beijing for a long time, pretending that I was trying to find the Rendingliu Park (which is a small park in the north of Beijing) but really because I wanted to get lost and get a feel for the neighborhoods in Beijing. I sort of made a loop, walking up Xinjiekouwai Dajie, then back down Deshengmenwai Dajie to the Hucheng River, and then I wandered east until I hit Gulouwai Dajie. I never found the park but it was still an interesting walk. The neighborhoods were mostly a lot of high rises, but I also walked through one area where the buildings were only about three or four story apartment buildings, and the trees created an arbor over the road. There were a lot of people out on the street playing games and hanging out, so it had a nice communal feel.
At one point I accidentally tried to walk into an apartment complex, which led to my first brush with the Beijing
police. I saw that there was a gate with two policemen standing out in front of it, and I thought that maybe it was the gate to the park I was looking for. Just to make sure I stood there and waited while a father and his son walked through, and the policeman didn’t stop them or anything. But when I walked up to the entranceway the police officer raised his arm, and so I turned around and walked away. After that I realized that a lot of the apartment complexes have gates around them, and either the policemen only allow residents in or they don’t allow white people who obviously don’t live there to walk in.
This encounter was also interesting because earlier in the day, during the orientation thing for the Emory program, a Beijing policewoman came and gave a presentation about the laws in Beijing, and she was probably the most innocent and funny police officer I have ever seen. Basically, imagine a 25-year-old woman who giggles at every other thing she says and is giving a presentation where the slide about drunkenness has two bullets: men=fighting, women=rape.
And she kept saying “I’m afraid” before
every sentence. For example: “I’m afraid that you will not need to know the law about keeping dogs.” Suffice to say, it was funny and if I ever get arrested in Beijing (knock on wood) I hope that this lady is the one who does it, because she would probably handcuff me and bake me a cake at the same time.
On Friday our group also ate dinner with a group of Chinese graduate students who were incredibly up-to-date on their American pop-culture. When I told Aileen, the girl sitting next to me, that I went to school in Memphis, she immediately brought up the Memphis Grizzlies. At least she didn’t start talking about Hustle and Flow and “Whoop that Trick.”
Also, during that dinner I decided that Chinese food is the same as Southern soul food. So far during my time in China I have eaten cornbread, boiled corn, fried trout, watermelon, sorta-fried duck, home-fries, and a doughy mixture of eggs, butter (?), and sugar that any mayonnaise loving southerner would devour. It would probably make an interesting restaurant if someone tried to do a hybrid of those two styles.
Saturday we went to the Great
Wall along with what seemed to be every other tourist in Beijing. The part of the wall we went to was pretty close to Beijing, so it was packed. As you can kind of see from the pictures, the terrain around the wall is a lot of incredibly steep hills and rocky outcrops, and the wall was a lot steeper and harder to climb than I expected. The uneven and worn steps just kept going up, and by the end everyone was drenched in sweat. Unfortunately there was really thick fog, so the visibility was only about 100-feet at the top, but it was still a unique experience. Also, having been on the wall I don’t understand how anyone could have ever believed that it is visible from space. In most places it is really skinny, and even at the widest points that we walked it wasn’t much wider than a normal neighborhood road. Whoever came up with the idea that it is visible from space had to be either a really blatant liar or just stupid.
On the way up the wall it wasn’t that crowded, but coming down there were a lot of people speaking all different
languages, and all of them tired and sweaty from hiking up the wall. It is interesting the way Beijing is attracting tourists from some many different parts of the world. Maybe I’m just paying more attention to it because it is a foreign country, but you really see and incredible different amount of people. After the wall, a trip to a bland “government friendship store” (over-priced knickknacks), a tour of a silk factory (the tour was interesting, but the gift shop was too big and boring), and an accidental five-hour nap that caused me to miss dinner, we went to Sanlitun Lu (pronounced something like Suanlatuar), one of the bar districts in Beijing. I was with a large group of people from the Emory program, and we ended up just bar hopping which, given the low price of beer (around $2.50 at most places) and the interesting people watching, was pretty fun. There were probably more foreigners than native Chinese in most of the bars, but it was still a good experience.
So yeah, that’s pretty much what I have been doing. I’m going to try and avoid the five-hour naps, but everything else has been good. And if
you want to read more about our experiance on the Great Wall, you can go to my roomate Tony's blog
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