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 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!