Thanksgiving in China

After speaking with a friend I realized this was the first year I have ever spent Thanksgiving away from my family. I felt okay about it…until I began scrolling past Facebook and Instagram photos of friends comfortably snuggled in their parents’ homes eating enormously juicy turkeys and garlic mashed potatoes. Sigh. That certainly made the Black Friday I spent at the office feel a little bit longer. Luckily, my expat friends felt the same pain and we all gathered on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to celebrate. We even ordered a turkey which was about $128 USD.

The men trying to strategize the turkey carving

Although nine of the 14 friends attending were either from Europe or Asia, they knew just how to contribute to the holiday. I can honestly say this was the most stuffed full of food I have ever been on Thanksgiving!

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Hipster Art District

As implied by the open-mouthed gasps I received when I told people I had not been to the 798 Art District, I had to go. An autumn leaf scent so crisp that it made me long for hot apple cider filled the sunny Saturday afternoon. It was perfect for wandering through the graffiti-ed back alleys, colorful art galleries, and quaint knick knack shops.

As I wandered through the exhibits and stores with my British friend Katie, I was consistently yelled at for taking pictures. Apparently I have no shame in pretending to be a clueless foreigner. In most of the shops there were signs, written in both Chinese in English, clearly stating you shouldn’t take pictures, but I was scolded on multiple occasions for ignoring them. So many cat trinkets and quirky displays made it difficult to fight the urge to take pictures. It became somewhat of a game to feign innocence about my ability to read the signs. At one point, Katie and I pretended not to speak Chinese nor English and she began speaking German, as I responded to her in Spanish.

We ended up sipping coffee in a small, dark restaurant booming with Spanish songs from a live band. The band members sat next to our table after their performance and I asked them about where they learned Spanish. “Spanish? Oh, we don’t speak it…we just sing it.” Oh, right. Only in China…

 

 

 

Good Friends and Goodbyes

It had briefly crossed my mind that I would have to bid my friends here in Beijing farewell eventually, but I didn’t think one of those goodbyes would come so soon. A girl who I have met here and [obviously] not had nearly enough time to get to know gathered her parents visiting from Guatemala with her friends she had met here in China for a farewell dinner. She gave such a heartfelt acknowledgment of her friends at dinner and gave us all each personalized gifts. It was probably one of the most generous and genuine acts I’ve experienced, and from someone who I had known only two and a half short months.

It was inspiring to see where she got her fiery passion for life from [her mom] along with the sweet and understanding attributes [her dad] that have contributed to several of our own moments bonding over trials of living abroad. Although I hadn’t gotten a lot of time to spend with María, I could tell if she were in Beijing for a longer time we would become even better friends.

María and me at Summer Palace in October

Since my roommate from the U.S. as well as a few others will be leaving before I do, I’ll have to go through the same kind of bittersweet last moments together here. But for now I will cherish my memories with María and appreciate the Spanish I got to soak up from hearing her mother speak as well as the delicious tequila her parents generously passed around. Momentos buenos con amigos buenos!

Made in China: Roller Coasters

It’s official: it is cold here in Beijing. From what I had heard about the weather, I anticipated similar temperatures to the Minnesota and Wisconsin climate I have barely survived put up with my whole life. But from recent wind gusts and warnings from people who have endured winters here, I can tell it gets way cold. As in, two-layers-of-long-johns-under-your-jeans cold. Yikes. Instead of focusing on fearing for my life this winter, I thought I would reminisce about a warmer day when I enjoyed theme park rides under sunny blue skies.

The Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park I went to just a few Saturdays ago was reminiscent of a weathered and deserted Disney world, but it was enjoyable, nonetheless.

It was day that made me feel as if I were back in the U.S. enjoying a typical Saturday outing with some friends, minus the usual fair food like corn dogs or mini doughnuts to gorge on before going on rides. I definitely felt a jolt of fear while waiting for a roller coaster that went upside down. My imagination ran wild imagining scenarios of me falling out of the roller coaster and the Chinese people just sweeping me under a rug to hide the incident. But it all ended okay–I’m still alive after going on several Chinese rides!

Buddha Bellies in a Speakeasy

I am by no means a history buff, but I got really excited this past weekend when some friends and I planned to celebrate a birthday at Fubar, which was a restaurant/bar modeled after a speakeasy.

The exciting part was being able to explain the American history that inspired replication of the kind of bar that was illegal during Prohibition in the 1920s. I found it interesting that I had to explain it even to my roommate from the U.S. This bar wasn’t mafia themed on the inside, but had the allure of a speakeasy due to its hidden entryway. A large brick wall disguised the door. In order to enter the bar you had to flip a light switch, causing the brick wall to slide away, revealing the entrance.

My admiration for this bar grew from love to slight obsession as I realized you could purchase a large, porcelain Buddha to drink from. Of course I had to buy him, even though the Buddha is heavy and will be cumbersome to take back to the U.S. with me. For now, he’ll sit on my desk and may or may not be used to hold an everyday drink when I need a giggle.

‘Merica

It’s bizarre being in a country that has such a different outlook on elections and government from the United States during this presidential election. I am decidedly not a political person, which I attribute to my mom and dad for never revealing their voting preferences when I was a young and impressionable kid. But for some reason it just feels appropriate to be sitting in the office in the middle of a hutong in Beijing listening to NPR updates and refreshing Huffington Post’s election results page with a few fellow American colleagues.

There are plenty of things I miss about the U.S. like hamburgers, a good cup of coffee, and, most of all, cheese. I’ve also come to appreciate things that I took advantage of such as the ability to speak freely in a forum environment about political thoughts and issues. This appreciation stems from an incident where I had to remove a tweet for the company for which I work because someone saw two words related to a hot-button issue here. It’s quite an eye-opening contrast.

I’m excited to see what these next four years will bring for the U.S.

Yeah ‘Merica!

Inspirational Thought of the Day

Right before leaving the U.S. to come to China I was really skeptical of what would come of the trip. I drove myself crazy, taking every single quotation or piece of advice I came across as a sign telling me I should or should not live abroad. Needless to say, that became quite mentally exhausting. I remember reading a blog that had a wonderful quote that stood out and, unlike the other “signs,” it has remained in my mind since arriving. It exemplifies the reasoning behind my curiosity and desire to live abroad.

Pretty lights illuminate a street in Beijing

“We live in a big world, capable of great love in varieties far deeper than that between two souls: the love of self, cultures, worldly beauty, language and how the human mind can unravel marvels once thought impossible.”

{Quote source: http://www.lovetwenty.com/2012/08/miss-independent-dont-let-her-disappear/}