Its been a while people of the internet. I have not written something substantial for this blog for a quite a while. I apologize for not keeping you up to date on my happenings in Beijing but things have been really busy lately in a rushing to class staying up late doing homework kind of way. It’s true, my days of frivolous exploration and adventure have gotten fewer and fewer as I work my way deeper into the twisted labyrinths of this semester.
However, having lived in Beijing for a few months I feel myself feeling less like a traveler or visiter (like I felt like in Hangzhou) and establishing myself more permanently in this city in a variety of ways. I have a transportation card now, which lets me skip the lines in the subway or hop on a bus with a quick swipe of my wallet against the scanner. I never got one in Hangzhou and scrounged through my pockets every time looking for that last elusive 1 yuan. It makes things a lot more convenient and I laugh to myself walking past all the silly tourists fighting the lines while buying their one use cards
I actually have a gym membership here and most days walk the ten minutes to hop on a treadmill or lift some weights and get away from the claustrophobia of the campus. The gym is usually crowded with all sorts of old women walking on treadmills and yelling about their marital problems into their cellphone and huge Chinese guys struggling lifting these big stacks of weight at the other side of the gym. I am not sure if I am afraid of the old women or the other guys, It’s a really busy place and fun to go watch Chinese soap operas on the tvs they have in the walls while doing a little running.
I have also made an effort to try all the restaurants in the area; some of them performed better than others. One night a couple of friends and I were out eating dinner. We had just finished our meals and were finishing up our conversation before we returned to school. Suddenly the power went off and people began yelling out in the darkness. We got up, walked out, and noticed that no other stores in the block had lost power, it was just the restaurant that we were in. I guess they decided not to recharge their electricity card which people and businesses in Beijing must do. It was very strange and I have not returned to that restaurant again (UPDATE: went back tonight, power was fine).
I instead go to a Sichuan province restaurant not too far from campus practically every single day. This place is packed with students and workers from the area day and is staffed by 4 or 5 teenage girls of unknown age (they told us 16 but they look much younger) and really quickly turns out decent food. The food is cheap (about 1 dollar a dish) and usually isn’t covered in too much oil. It’s good stuff.
Aside from these day to day activities not much has been happening in good ol’ Beijing. We have been all been talking about the Chinese prisoner Liu Xiaobo who just one the nobel prize lately. He is a Chinese intellectual and writer and has been in and out of Chinese jails since the 1989 Tiananmen incident. He is in jail now because he signed the Charter 08, a document calling for political reform and the democratization of China in 2008. The government has been trying to keep the word about him winning away from the people of China. There was no news coverage of the event, blogs and sites are being filtered and you cannot send text messages with his name in them right now. It is really interesting to see how pervasive China’s censoring controls really are and this has been a great event to test them. It’s super super big news here and its pretty cool that I am here in Beijing and able to talk with my roommates and teachers about this (just don’t tell the government).
If I am gaining anything from my studies right now (other than getting better at Chinese) it is an appreciation and maybe blossoming obsession with recent Chinese history. Since the revolution in 1949 China has undergone unfathomable and borderline crazy transformations. It is so interesting the wild shifts that this county has gone through in the last 60 years. Just seeing people on the street and realizing they lived through the freaking CULTURAL REVOLUTION where high schoolers were sent all over the country by Mao to break, burn, torture, and destroy anyone and anything that had to do with the past, democracy, the bourgeoisie, pretty much anything, is insane to think about it. I’m now bent on reading every piece of information about this period of time leading up today. I’m hooked.
That’s it people…thats my life right now. I will be writing more I swear. Stay tuned