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…
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!
I’ve developed this quasi-adventurous system of exploring in Beijing. I usually head to an area I’m somewhat familiar with and set out a little further past my everyday boundaries. This past Saturday I wound up in a hutong down the street from my work. It was chock-full of trinket shops and tiny cafes. My favorite was definitely a bar that had a sign on the door saying, “Please close door behind you. Large cats inside.”