Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

I’ve been a little negligent about recording the activities that have made up some of my favorite moments in Beijing. April and May were my last two full months in Beijing and they passed so quickly with all of the birthday celebrations and music events.

April 12
The Beijing Olympic Stadium

I can glance outside of my living room window to see the Olympic Stadium (also known as the bird’s nest), but it took me about seven months to finally tour the stadium grounds. I spent a beautiful, sunny afternoon wandering around the structure, reading about the 2008 Olympics on plaques, and reading a book alongside the [fake] river.

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April 12
Teppanyaki birthday celebration

A friend within the group of people I usually hang out with in Beijing celebrated her 25th birthday by inviting everyone to a Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant. Although I have been to several in the U.S., it was a special treat to spend time with everyone around the enormous Japanese grill while watching the master chef at work.

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This is why these people are my friends :P

This is why these people are my friends 😛

May 17
I finally saw a PANDA

My friend Vicky and I decided that it was unacceptable to leave China without seeing a panda, so we wandered over to the Beijing Zoo to see the animals. It was almost as entertaining to see the crowds of Chinese people snapping their cameras and forcing their children to pose for endless pictures as it was to see the animals themselves.

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…and then Vicky touched the zebra

May 18
Surprising a friend on his 30th birthday

While a good friend, Christian, was anticipating (I think he actually used the word “dreading”) his 30th birthday, his girlfriend was scheming his surprise party with his roommates and closest friends. His best friends gathered everyone to create a music video for him. We spent a hilarious Friday night dancing around Beijing (and somehow ended up in a bathroom) to make the video. A friend who works as a sound engineer and another who is a master at video editing polished the whole thing. We presented the video to him after surprising him at his apartment and I could tell he definitely felt better about turning 30.

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May 25
Intro Festival

Although I missed out on seeing David Guetta at the Great Wall due to my Silk Road trip, I did get to experience this festival held at an abandoned steel factory. Although electronic music really isn’t the most played genre on my iPod, it was a unique venue to run around and enjoy the beautiful day and great DJs. My crazy friends even managed to make CCTV news in Beijing after they kissed, then picked up the anchor reporting from the festival. Watch it here (hint: it’s at 18:20)

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I <3 Beijing

ilovebeijing

As my time in Beijing is approaching its end (I now have less than a month left) I’m realizing each day what little things I’ll miss when I return to the U.S. Of course there are things that have bothered me immensely. My close friends and family members are fully aware of these irritations and on bad days, they’ve have heard about them in detail and on repeat. Bless their hearts. Despite the craziness that often seems to occur simply to irk me in this smelly and smoggy city, there are things I absolutely love about it.

The high likelihood that I’ll hear a mixture of English, Hindi, Chinese, French, German, and Spanish during any given stroll down the sidewalk in Sanlitun. The ability to get street food for about Â¥6 or less than $1. And then, on the other end of the spectrum, my ability to get amazing Japanese, Indian, or Thai cuisine for a lot more. The subway system that costs $0.32 per trip that will take me to almost any part of the city that my heart desires. My friends I have made here who are always willing to go out and enjoy a drink no matter what their status; single, in a relationship, it’s complicated, whatever. The cozy rooftop seating available in most coffee shops and restaurants. My potential to learn endless lessons from the abundant amount of cultures clustered together in this bustling place. Oh, and of course those T-shirts that declare your love for the crazy city.

It’s a weird mix of excitement and sadness to be thinking about my quickly approaching departure from a place I’ve called home for the past nine months. I fully intend to take delight in the little joys in each day during the rest of my time here.

The Year of the Snake

IMG_1244Another New Year’s Eve celebration?!

Apparently there is a second chance at a new year if you’re in a foreign country that uses a lunar calendar. Since China follows the lunar calendar, the first day of the new year was February 9.

I had heard comparisons between the grandness of Chinese New Year and Christmas in the United States, but from what I saw, the two are utterly incomparable. For starters, fireworks are the main attraction during the Chinese New Year (CNY) and last for two weeks. Two full weeks of completely sporadic, exploding chaos. Without any apparent restrictions on fireworks, Chinese locals buy huge boxes filled with fireworks and set the entire thing on fire, rendering any unsuspecting passerby subject to inflamed flying bits of firework remains. Yes, it’s a little scary, but exhilarating at the same time.

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My friends and I spent the frigid Friday night leading into the CNY wandering through the restaurant/bars surrounding Houhai Lake, staring in awe of the thousands of booming pyrotechnics, and narrowly avoiding the exploding boxes.

It is also a week of mass traveling throughout China, with millions (literally, 10 million) of Chinese families venturing across Asia to spend the CNY with their family in their hometown. With plans to travel to Hong Kong for the week I entered the CNY optimistic and excited for [another] new year.

Favorite Things

Here are some of the wonderful moments that filled my days last week.

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1. Solana Mall: Sometimes it’s nice to see “normal” things, like a mall. I never thought I’d be so excited to see American Eagle! It was a wonderful day walking around the courtyards that were illuminated bright lights on [super fake] trees with friends.

2. Jason Mraz in Beijing: While on the subway with my roommate Katie, we were appreciating the musical delights of a random guitar player who was hoping for an appreciative and generous audience. As he ended one Chinese song, he transitioned into a tune that sounded oddly familiar. As Katie began jokingly singing the beginning to “I’m Yours,” he actually started singing the words too! Although his Chinglish interpretation of the words was less than perfect, Katie and I squealed and sang along excitedly. We definitely received a few more stares than usual, but we were so surprised to hear Jason Mraz that we didn’t care.

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3. Rainbow Dumplings: I had heard great things about this rainbow dumpling restaurant and finally got to try it this week! The restaurant, Baoyuan Jiaozi Wu, served dumplings that had been boiled in eggplant and other foods to dye the outside. It was a fun way to break up an otherwise mundane work week.

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4. Inappropriate Shirts: There’s a store in my favorite area of Beijing that sells graphic T shirts with random depictions of, apparently, flashing. I can’t imagine a store in the U.S. selling clothing that is equally hilarious or inappropriate.

Pedal Practice

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Lorena trying her hand at DJing earlier that night

After pestering an old Chinese rickshaw driver (who spoke no English) during a night out, Lorena and I convinced him to let us pedal his bicycle and carriage down the street. I was able to get an awesome video of onlookers cheering and the driver chasing after her, but sadly there’s no proof of me navigating the bike. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

I must give those drivers kudos–the bike is much harder to get going than you’d ever expect!

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…

 

 

 

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.