6-30-04 First week in Beijing

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

(see the pictures at the bottom)


Ok I’m in China and it’s very neat!!  I’m writing this in my room now so I can just copy paste when I get to a computer with internet! (we don’t have internet in our room).

We left Singapore Friday at 1:30am (technically Saturday morning) and we got to Beijing around 6 or 7am.  They had these sensors I guess to detect SARS, that was a bit weird…some of us took Tylenol a little before we got there to ensure that we didn’t have a fever (so we wouldn’t be quarantined!!- when Erin got sick a couple weeks ago in Singapore they took her fever right when we got there –which was very high-and put her in a special room alone!!).

So when we were on the bus on the way back, our teacher got a call from someone in our group….oh who we left at the airport…at least he speaks some Chinese.  Anyway when we got here we learned that some of our rooms wouldn’t be ready yet (we’re staying in a hotel) AND that we were going on a tour of campus…we were thrilled because we hadn’t eaten since on the plane at 6am, and most of us (especially me) didn’t sleep AT ALL on the plane (my ears got soooo stopped up on the plane and didn’t pop until Tuesday in class-I got Sudafed from the health center in Beijing but that didn’t even help).

So we walked around and it was sooooo hot and hazy and we were soooo mean (at least I tried to warn our tour guide - a Tsinghua student who knew some English - that we were going to be mean).  We finally ate in a canteen (they have a LOT here) and my food was sooo disgusting and after that we talked about how we would all be 30 lbs lighter on the Asian diet.

We finally got to go to our rooms and Erin and I slept for 6 ½ hours.  Nighttime we ate at another canteen and everything was in Chinese (with no pictures) and luckily we had a few of the people in our group that spoke Chinese and they helped us out SOOO much (they are awesome) - my meal improved a little bit.  That night we went out to celebrate a guy in our groups birthday and I ended up leaving early because I was sooo tired and we were with like 20 people!!

Sunday morning we were going on a tour at 9am maybe (who knows why they made us go so early again!) to the Summer Palace…it’s really close so we just walked there.  We walked around and it was sooo hot and hazy and we saw lots of ruins (we went to some ruins rather than the real Summer palace part I think?).  I dropped my camera right before we went in and it  was broken until the nighttime (the zoom got hit in and was crooked and I finally figured out I had to pull it out…but I was afraid I was going to break it).

We then got bikes (I got an orange one-which means that it will be stolen - 3 people got theirs stolen Monday during class….I’m just waiting for mine to).  We rode down the street to this electronics place and about 13 or so of us bought mp3 players for about $35 US each.  I really wanted to buy a new camera because mine doesn’t compare with everyone elses so I’ve basically stopped taking pictures because I can get the same ones from everyone else.  Do you know what a good camera to get would be??  I looked at the ones there but was trying to figure out what normal prices would be and what to try and bargain for (or get a Chinese speaker friend of mine to help me!).

I haven’t seen the sky once since I’ve been here (and I don’t think we will!).  I couldn’t breathe when we were riding around because of all of the pollution (I think smoking would be better for me) and the sky is always white or grey or yellow-not sure how to explain the color.  Yesterday we were going somewhere and I looked out the window and saw an outline of MOUNTAINS!!!  I was so confused! - it’s weird that they’re around us but we can’t see them at all.

That night we went to a restaurant on campus that was really really good and had about 7ish dishes for 7ish people.  You have all of your dishes on a thing that spins around and you have a little plate and your chopsticks and you go around and pick up stuff from the moving part and put it on your plate.  It’s deceiving because you have no idea how much you’re eating because you have a little plate and keep putting stuff on it because you think everyone else is going to eat it all. We went to the grocery store and bought our friend a cake for his birthday…but getting it back was so difficult and confusing....we finally put it on top of my basket and I just held it there while riding.

Monday morning we had class from 8am-12pm and then 1pm-5pm.  We have “free” breakfast every morning which is OK - they’re fixing better things now.  It’s so cute because we all ride our bikes to class and it’s scary because you always almost die from other bikers or cars or anything else you can imagine.  Our teacher is really good and I like our class so far.  He goes around with us and is as lost and confused as we are, it’s really neat.

Monday night we ate dinner at Pizza Hut I think??  We rode our bikes there (at one point going the wrong way on the street and passing a bus or bikes or something and having a bulldozer come towards us.) and Pizza Hut had an HOUR wait!! It was an up scale restaurant!!  We  sat outside and I ate a LOT of lychee (a fruit here) which was very good.

Tuesday we had class from 8am-12pm (really 1pm because we had some assignments) and ate lunch in the hotel, then I got my flat tire fixed and we went to the grocery store and I bought more lychee and another berry which is sooooo sooooo good…Erin put it the best “if this was in the United States it would be my favorite fruit there”.  We came back and went out for Kim’s birthday to eat at Longhorn (she wanted American food) at this place downtown - we took the subway which was confusing but finally got there and ate. Afterwards we were walking around and this kid attached himself to a guy in our group - wrapped his body around his leg and finally he got pulled off, and then this little girl did the same thing to a different guy and me and his girlfriend pulled her off - took a while.

Today we went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden city.  We left around 7:45am and got there whenever and were standing outside (our entire group) and we found out that you couldn’t wear flipflops or sandals to go in to see Mao’s tomb - which is weird because you can see him - they preserved his body and you can see him!!…and most of the girls were wearing them (I had my chacos on so I got away with it).  So the people with shoes went in (including me), then came out and switched shoes with the people with flip flops-meaning lots of guys were wearing girls shoes and lots of girls were wearing guys shoes…it was very funny!!

It rained the whole time, and afterwards a bunch of us went to the Forbidden city which is across the street.  It was neat..hard the appreciate because of the rain but I’m sure it was better in the rain then if it was scorching and couldn’t breathe (at least we could breathe and was wet because of the water not because of sweat).  But we went through and then went to the same street we were on the night before and wanted to eat Peking duck because our professor told us the duck we had at school was bad.   We ate at this Chinese hotel restaurant-there were 12 of us and we got 7 or 8 dishes and then TWO ducks.  The ducks took an hour to make (we could see them put them in the oven and they brought the duck out and carved it in front of us).  It was sooo good!!  I ate so much…I need to eat a little less and exercise some because I think I’m gaining weight and need to be good for soccer!!  (I tried to run the other day-only made it 9 minutes before feeling like I was going to die - I couldn’t breathe-so much pollution).

We walked around that street some more looking at the shops (expensive!) and of course randomly ran into the rest of our group (so weird that this always happens).  We came back to our room and now I’m writing this…I have to study though because we have our first test tomorrow morning.

Friday we’re going to the Great Wall and we’re leaving at 6am to get there.  That should be really neat..I’m looking forward to seeing it and hopefully some blue sky (unless it rains again!).  We’re thinking about going to Shanghai in a couple of weeks and definitely going to Xi-an to see the Terracotta soldiers sometime.  I’m learning more Chinese…I learn new things everyday and try them out…it’s funny because I’ll be learning from my friend or my teacher and the people around me laugh because we always say the same thing over and over.  I know “I want…” water, sprite, tea, chicken and rice ok, incorrect, correct, bathroom, sorry, don’t want, hello, how are you, my name is Katherine, thank you, Tsinghua west gate (near where we live)…That might be it…but it’s fun learning-I wish I knew more before I came!!

I’m pretty used to the toilets-just a hole with some footholes…You have to carry around your own tissues because they don’t usually have toilet paper..at least in Beijing you get napkins more frequently than Singapore (in Singapore you NEVER had napkins!).  The food in China is also SOOO much better than in Singapore..I miss the fresh juice though that I had everyday in Singapore (lime, mango, pineapple, you name it).

I got my charger!!  ThANK YOU!  It’s great!! I love having a working computer I don’t have to worry about (although it’s only use now it to put pictures on it).

Ok I wrote a lot…I’ll talk to you later!! Let me know how everything is!! I’ll respond to other emails eventually…when I have a lot of time in front of a computer (hopefully tomorrow after class!). I tried to write some emails in class…but they always turn everything I write into Chinese characters and I can turn it off but it’s tricky sometimes.!!






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