Monday, July 18, 2011

直率 says who?

[Written like ... two weeks ago? Hey, I have a legit excuse! (See previous post)]

Apologies for not writing in forever. My excuse isn’t that I’m hardcore studying everyday (work ethic is SLIPPING), but that I’ve been thoroughly exhausted from sightseeing, planning for traveling after HBA, and probably most stressful of all – finding somewhere to live in Japan (although my Japanese apartment lexicon now includes all the random landlord fees – do I really not get even half of my deposit back??).

Guess where this is? 北大!Now if only Yale had a massive park and a few lakes for its backyard. 

Nonetheless, I’ve made it through the first “semester” of HBA. And Beijing is definitely growing on me – the cement-like air, the wafting smell of garbage, and the oily food certainly hasn’t gone away, but at the same time, I feel like I don’t have as many restrictions as I do in "developed" American society. What I mean is (warning: this might sound really crude), the fact that people don’t give a second look to what might be considered "low class" behavior – if guys can go around half-naked drinking with friends in front of the 小摊儿 at 4 in the morning – then you don’t have to care as much about the way you carry yourself outside (although I admit tank tops and running shorts are still pretty rare among females here). Our specially made HBA textbook has a chapter on how the Chinese people, with their “refuse twice before accepting” rule, consider Americans too 直率 (straightforward), but I tend to think otherwise. At 秀水街(Silk Street Market), one of my friends got sucked into bargaining for a purse she didn’t want and got it down to a ridiculously cheap price. Alas, my friend didn’t want it (what she’d been telling the shopkeeper from the start), so as we were walking away, my friend took a pretty fair hit from the shopkeeper’s calculator. Not to say that the Chinese 直率 -ness is all rudeness – I find it a lot easier to strike up conversations with complete strangers, some who are just as curious as you are. On the sleeper train to Zhengzhou a couple days ago, one guy noticed the gaggle of foreigners we were and joined the conversation, playing around with one of our Iphones at one point. Simply put, I don’t feel as judged here, even as a foreigner.

Kimbap from a street vendor! Except I forgot the cooked vegetables only rule ... slight stomach upset followed.

Maybe, though, this is just because there are tons and TONS of people, and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. Despite the arrows and lines marked on the subway boarding area, it’s really just one big mob jostling for some breathing space, let alone a seat. Even the sidewalks and bike lanes (rather a hybrid of both as they seem to go either way) are a constant mass of people. Having an “Asian face” makes you blend in even more (I’m still pretty grateful about this, after seeing my blonde-haired friend Keren get asked for a picture every time we venture out of foreigner central 五道口). Either way, I feel more comfortable here in more ways than one.

Pics of 北海 - pollution sucked that day, but it was still amazingly beautiful.

Ah, something to add to my checklist of experiences overbroad – slept in a KFC overnight. The place we’re staying at in 北语 (our university) wouldn’t let one of my friends visiting Beijing crash for the night, so instead of letting her wander the streets at 3 in the morning, we decided to stick together at the all-too convenient 24-hour KFC. We were far from being the only overnighters there – at least 10-15 other college students were also crashing. The staff had no complaints - these definitely weren’t homeless people, but I still wonder if this is a common trend in Beijing. I’m pretty sure most American restaurants would kick you out after a while, especially if you didn’t buy anything (like we did after we realized the milk tea had run out – darn). Perhaps another example of the do-whatever-you-want lifestyle … or rather I-don’t-really-care-because-there-are-just-way-too-many-people.

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sparks said...

wow, staying overnight in a KFC... that's something i'd never heard of!

Alan B said...

An empty KFC bucket would make a mighty fine 枕头!
I'm glad to read that you're getting out around the city a bit, and not staying huddled up in the Beiyu cradle.

Great photos, by the way. Keep them coming!

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