Scorpion, Anyone?


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September 12th 2015
Published: September 12th 2015
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Mao's MausoleumMao's MausoleumMao's Mausoleum

We didn't get to go in, but we saw it from across the street, which counts, right?
Hi everyone!

First off, I would like to report that Tanya (and Sabrina) made it safely to Japan! It sounds like they're in for a fun semester! (Unlike me, studying my butt off at all hours of the day here in Beijing...) Anyways, Friday marked the end of our first two weeks of classes! Us intensive students celebrated by having our first of many biweekly tests... so much fun, you know? The students not in the intensive language program only have the midterms and finals, but as an intensive student, I'm in for a lot of tests. The test was broken into a speaking and a written portion. The speaking portion was relatively easy, because we were allowed to choose a topic from those we have studied so far (four; one for each chapter we've completed) and were told to use five sentence patterns and ten new words. Other than that it was just a matter of writing a short paragraph, memorizing it, and reciting it one-on-one to the teacher. Not too bad. The written part, on the other hand, was pretty difficult. Because this was the first of many tests and I had no idea what to expect/how to
The Qianmen - South gateThe Qianmen - South gateThe Qianmen - South gate

The haze is starting to creep back over the city, but we were lucky we got to see Tiananmen on such a clear day.
prepare (it felt more like I should be studying for a midterm than a normal test, as we had learned so much so fast), I decided to more or less wing the test. It wasn't horrible, but it definitely wasn't much fun. There was a portion that asked for the different measure words for various objects, but I don't think we even learned most of them in class, so I'm not sure why those were there. (How was I supposed to know mountains have their own special counters?!) Anyways, now that I have a better idea what to expect, I think I will be able to study for the one in two weeks better.

After our wonderful test, we met up with the rest of the group and navigated the subway system to 天安門 (Tiān'ānmén guǎngchǎng - Tiananmen Square). In order to enter the square, you must go through an underpass with a security checkpoint. At the checkpoint we had to put our bags through x-ray machines (smaller versions of the ones you see in airport security; the same ones are also at the subway entrances), and show our student IDs. While my classmates were all able to just
TiananmenTiananmenTiananmen

The square is actually HUGE
flash their student ID cards, which look like mini passport booklets, the security guard took both Sarah (the other adoptee) and my ID card to look at more closely. Looking Chinese but being American definitely trips the locals up sometimes. Unfortunately we arrived too late to get tickets into the Forbidden City for the day, but the square itself was very impressive. Due to the recent 閱兵 (yuèbīng, review of troops), Tiananmen featured an impressive sod model of the Great Wall, framing the Monument to the People's Heroes. On the left was big block numbers reading 1945, while the right read 2015. I stopped with some classmates (two of them black and one of them white) to take a selfie in front of the display, and we were a bit surprised when a Chinese guy with a selfie stick positioned himself right in front of us, seemingly to do the same thing. However, due to past experience, we all knew that he chose that exact location because he wanted to get my foreign classmates in the picture with him. I think I've mentioned this before, but most of the Chinese at the touristy places we visit are tourists themselves from outside of Beijing, and for many of them it is the first time seeing people of color in person. Some of them try to be subtle about taking pictures of our group, but some don't even bother. Anyways, we were all laughing at how obvious he was being, but what surprised me most was when Yinka went right up behind him and smiled to take an actual selfie with him. My friends and I were definitely not the only ones surprised, as he kind of turned around, shocked, and then sheepishly ended up taking a selfie with her. His friends were off to the side, and the girl was definitely embarrassed by her friend's actions. The worst, however, happened a bit later, when our director had us all get together to take a picture of us as a group in front of the Tiananmen gate. By this point, we were more or less used to random people taking pictures whenever we get together for group photos. However, this time, a woman with her child jumped right in front of the group, totally obviously posing with us, while her husband began taking pictures. At first we were all just kind of
Group selfie!Group selfie!Group selfie!

From left to right: Jude, myself, Yinka, and Ian
shocked at how obvious she was being, and how rude that was, before we all kind of began laughing and joking about it. Then there was the guy standing next to the director telling us to wave our flags (previously bought for us) so he could take a picture. One of my classmates captured our feelings perfectly, with a "who even is he?" After our director finally managed to take a picture he was satisfied with, we all quickly dispersed, as other random people began coming forward to pose with us. Yinka basically spent the whole afternoon hiding behind various classmates, trying to avoid random peoples' cameras, and Jude (the other black person on our program) eventually ended up covering his face with his flag. Some of the other girls were asked if people could take selfies with them, and at one point Ian and I did the Asian peace sign pose and gave cheeky grins when we saw people trying to sneakily take pictures of him. This is where I point out that I don't have any problem with the tourists, as they are definitely not interested in taking pictures of/with me. 😉

After having our picture taken
... And there goes Yinka... And there goes Yinka... And there goes Yinka

I guess Jude got this shot right after Yinka left us to take the selfie with the Chinese dude
by way more people than intended, we walked for about half an hour over to 王府井 (Wángfǔjǐng), a nice pedestrian mall within the governmental district of Beijing. Wangfujing is well known for its snack street, the entrance of which looks like something you would see in a US Chinatown. My classmates and I agreed that it is basically the Chinatown of Beijing. There is a current trend going around China right now that Buzzfeed wrote an article on: http://www.oystermag.com/bean-sprout-hair-clips-are-a-weird-but-cute-thing-happening-in-china or http://www.buzzfeed.com/gyanyankovich/is-that-a-sprout-in-your-hair#.jupAwyDGQ6 and they are totally a thing we see here. We first noticed them while we were at the Summer Palace, and two of the guys really wanted to get them (I think they referenced some video game or something). Well, we found them in Wangfujing, and although we later found out we paid more for them than we should have (although not by much), a few of us got them. Yay for odd East Asian fashion trends! Anyways, down the snack street you can find oddities such as scorpion, seahorse, starfish, or what might possibly have been cockroaches on a stick. The scorpions are displayed alive, so as you stand staring at them, not believing that you are seeing scorpions on a stick, they start to wiggle frantically, trying to escape *shudders.* I am not the type of person to have any desire to try such exotic "food," but one of the classmates got a starfish, and a few others tried it. Some of them said it tasted like pork, others said it was so crunchy it didn't taste like anything, but I had no desire to try. The guy who bought the starfish has previously visited China, and on his last visit tried the scorpions (he has also apparently eaten lots of other weird food such as muskrat, cat, horse, lots of different bugs, etc. I officially don't trust that his tastebuds work). Apparently when he got the scorpions, they hadn't fried them all the way, so the one in the middle was still alive when he unknowingly tried to eat it. It pinched his tongue, so he bit into it very determinedly. In addition, apparently the pincers apparently don't unclamp on their own accord once the scorpion is dead, so he had to pull it off his tongue. Although I find bugs, spiders, scorpions-any of those-totally creepy, I couldn't help but feel bad for that poor scorpion. To be impaled on a stick, fried, and then eaten alive must have been very traumatizing.

On a completely different note, I went to get my hair cut at the small salon literally right outside of the international students' dorm. All of the people working there were men, which is very different from my experience with salons in the US, which seem to be made up of primarily women stylists. After lots of confused gesturing and head nodding (I've never studied any words that would have been useful to that situation, other than 染髮劑 (rǎnfà jì, hair dye), something I wasn't looking to get done today, I successfully got my hair trimmed. I'm pretty sure the guy cutting my hair kept trying to tell my I would look good with it curled, but I wasn't really sure where he was going with that. Was he trying to imply he wanted to curl my hair (he ended up blow-drying it straight)? Or just that I should curl it myself (which takes way too much effort to happen)? I'm not sure, but he mentioned it twice so... I've noticed that subtlety doesn't work when one person doesn't know the language. Or that could just be me, but when it comes down to it I feel like whenever people try to subtly tell me things they completely go over my head. I don't know enough Chinese to get those things; heck I'm still trying to figure out what people are saying when they are being straightforward most of the time! At the end he put something in my hair that smells SUPER good, and I have no idea what it is, but I want it. Partially because of that and partially just because, I am half debating going back at some point to see if I can get my hair redyed there (likely just purple again). I figure it will be super cheap, and I haven't really seen any drugstore hair dyes here... I also dragged Yinka along as moral support, and definitely caught her staring at the men working there multiple times. Did I mention all of them were super cute? On that note, there are so many cute guys on this campus. Why does UPS not have any cute guys?! I feel gypped, because holy cow, so many cute boys here. I will definitely miss that aspect when it is time to return home. Sorry, but that had to be said.

That's all for this week, talk to you all again soon! Bye for now!


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Jude, modeling his and Ian's new lookJude, modeling his and Ian's new look
Jude, modeling his and Ian's new look

The flag tucked behind the ear really completes the look, I think
Beijing sunriseBeijing sunrise
Beijing sunrise

[Edit: 9/13/15 2:30pm] I've now witnessed a sunrise in each of the countries I have visited. Of all of the ones I've seen so far, this has been the most beautiful. I guess the pollution is good for something, right?


14th September 2015

Scorpions, Lizards, and Fish Heads, Oh My!
Hi Katie, I'm going to bore you once again with memories from 2001. We first saw scorpions, dried lizards (sort of crucified on sticks) and fish heads galore - along with a lot of other animals and vegetables - at the Qingping Market in Guangzhou. It was a short walk from the White Swan Hotel and made for a very 'interesting' morning. We just couldn't figure out what someone would do with a bucket full of live scorpions. We just never found a recipe that sounded good. I also vividly remember the beautiful vegetable displays at the small market on the campus of China Southern Normal, as well as the 'petting zoo' of frogs, fish, whatever(s) at the restaurant close to your apartment. All this gives new meaning to the term 'fresh.' Glad you finally got to Tiananmen! It is big alright - built to accommodate 1,000,000 people (comfortably?). I know you'll enjoy the Forbidden City too. Again, back to 2001 - I got my prize Starbucks cup there - for a short time, officials (Starbucks lovers probably) allowed a Starbucks store inside the Forbidden City. Eventually attitudes changed and they were booted out (I have to say, I agree. As much as I love Starbucks, the Forbidden City is not really an appropriate location - same for Maidonglau, KFC, Pizza Hut, etc.). I hope the air stays clear for you a while longer. It sounds as if you're studying hard (way too much) and learning a lot! I look forward to photos of your new purple do - remember, the cutest guy may not be the best stylist...but then, you probably don't care. Terry

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